Weekend Soup: Curried Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard
Wow. All I have to say is, it’s been far too long since I’ve had something curried…I had forgotten how much I love it. In the kitchen at our previous place, we had no vent hood over the stove — so curries sadly fell out of the rotation (there was something about smelling it for a week afterwards that wasn’t too appealing.) Thankfully, our current kitchen has a well-functioning hood, so curries are back!
I love lentils, but I’m not particularly crazy about traditional lentil soup — it might have less to do with how the lentils taste and more to do with the dull brown color that the run-of-the-mill common brown spanish lentils have when cooked. I’ve actually been thinking a lot about lentils lately, for some reason. Sadly, our current grocery store doesn’t stock many varieties of lentils, like I used to be able to get when I shopped at Whole Foods back in Boston. So, I just ordered a whole bunch of different ones from chefshop.com — the gorgeous tiny green-and-black-speckled French lentils (Le Puy), red lentils, harvest gold yellow lentils, and some tiny black beluga lentils. It’s a bit embarrassing how excited I get when I think about all these lentil varieties waiting for me in my pantry.
Seeing as I already had lentils on the brain, when someone was telling me this past week about a great curried lentil soup they’d had, it was all I could think about. So, for this weekend’s soup recipe, it had to be my version of curried lentil soup!
Believe it or not, I used the red lentils in this soup — they’re a beautiful orangey-red color dried, but cooked, they turn a sunny gold. Lovely! (That’s a stroke of luck for me, too; I would have felt bad giving you three bright reddish-orange soup recipes in a row.) And beyond the beautiful sunny yellow color, there’s a rainbow of other colors in this soup — orange carrots, bright red bell peppers, and emerald-green swiss chard. Plus, it has some coconut milk in it, which lends a silkiness to the broth…all of this together gives you a knockout of a meal. Oh, the colors! Oh, the nutrients! Oh, the taste! Can you tell I love this soup?
And one final note; I like a consistency that’s somewhere between a soup and stew. If you cook it a bit longer so that more of the liquid evaporates, you could serve this over rice as an Indian dal-like stew. We had it as is, with some crusty bread to dip in; pita bread or chips would be good to serve with it, too. I’m already looking forward to my next bowl!
Curried Lentil Soup with Swiss Chard
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, chopped
1 cup celery, chopped
1 cup red bell pepper, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 tbsp curry powder
1/4 tsp cayenne (optional; leave out if you don’t want it spicy, or use a little more if you like it really hot)
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger root
1 pound red lentils (about 2 1/4 cups), rinsed and picked over to remove any debris
8 cups water, vegetable stock or chicken stock
1 15-oz can coconut milk (stir well before using)
1 tsp salt
1 bunch Swiss chard, ribs removed and leaves torn into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots, celery, red pepper, garlic, ginger and spices and saute until the onion softens, about 5 minutes. Add the water or stock along with the salt, lentils and coconut milk, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils are cooked through, about 10 minutes.
While the soup is simmering, wash and prep the chard and chop the cilantro. After the lentils have finished cooking, stir the chard and cilantro into the soup — it will look like a lot of chard for the soup at first, but have no fear. The chard will wilt down as it heats up. Keep stirring until the chard is bright green and wilted, about another 2 minutes. Taste and season as needed with more salt or pepper, and serve.