Healthy Cooking Thursday – Curried Lentil Soup

By Chef Lisa
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Let's set aside deliciousness for a moment and consider why it might be a great idea to have more curry in your life.  First of all, curries are a great way to utilize vegetarian protein sources, perfect for a celebration of Meatless Mondays.  Secondly, many curries involve coconut milk, and it seems that everywhere you turn these days, nutritionists are talking about the myriad benefits of coconut; some Pacific Islanders even refer to the coconut palm as the "Tree of Life" due to coconut's presence in many of their traditional medicines.  Last but not least, the spices!  Oh the spices!!! 

I'm not saying your curry has to be hot, although a nice spicy curry can be a fantastic way to wake up and clear out cranky wintery sinuses.  (If members of your family like it hotter than others, I recommend keeping Sriracha hot sauce on hand, the sweet-hot "rooster sauce" found in most markets.)  I'm instead referring to the wonderfully anti-inflammatory properties of oft-used curry spices, such as tumeric and cumin.  These lovely flavor enhancers are touted by healing with food experts as helpful for your gut.  It certainly doesn't hurt that they are absolutely yummy in this soup, either.  I always prefer to grind the cumin and cardamom fresh for any recipe (it makes a HUGE difference), but if that keeps you from wanting to make this, just buy the ground stuff.  After all, we like to Keep It Simple, Sweetheart!

Speaking of keeping it simple…if you hate to use a knife, you can skip it by pureeing the ginger, garlic, onion, and carrots in a food processor, then proceed with the recipe as written.  The result will be a thicker soup.  :)

Curried Lentil Soupserves 4

1 T canola oil
1 T fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp fresh garlic, minced
1/2 an onion, minced
2 carrots, minced
2 T curry powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp tumeric
1 tsp ground cardamom (optional)
dash of cayenne (optional)
1 cup dried lentils
8 ounces lite all-natural coconut milk
1 T honey
water as needed
8 ounces baby spinach
1/4 cup fresh cilantro (outside of the US, coriander) leaves
salt to taste

In a pot over medium heat, sweat the ginger, garlic, onions, and carrots in the canola oil until the onions begin to become transluscent, stirring occasionally.  In the meantime, combine the curry powder, cumin, tumeric, cardamom, and cayenne.  Add the spice blend to the pot and stir for 30 seconds to toast the spices.  Add the lentils, coconut milk, and honey, and enough water to more than cover the contents of the pot.  Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are to your liking, 45 to 90 minutes (I like when lentils are overcooked and mushy, but I'll admit I'm a weirdo).  Stir in the spinach and cilantro five minutes before serving; add salt if necessary.  Keep in mind the flavor will intensify if this soup is refrigerated overnight.

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