Sunday, February 12, 2012

Red Lentil Coconut Soup

Lentils are a relatively new ingredient to me. I have had them in soups occasionally, but I have never prepared them until recently. They are a fantastic way to incorporate healthy meatless protein into you diet. Nutritionally, 1/4 cup of dried lentils has 170 calories, 0g fat, 28g carbohydrate, 3g fiber, 13g protein. That is actually less calories and fat, plus the same amount of protein as 2oz of chicken! Time wise, lentils do not take long to cook at all, especially compared to dried beans. Lentils are also very inexpensive, so I have been trying different types from the bulk bins at Whole Foods for less than $3.00. Now that I have been trying some different dishes (like this one) with lentils, I think I am hooked! And to think that I went to school in the town of The National Lentil Festival for four years and I never once went to festival or ate any lentils! 101 Cookbooks is a great site for lentil, meatless and natural ingredient recipes. I tried this lentil soup recipe from her site and I have another lentil dish with almonds and brussels sprouts from this site planned for later this week. This red lentil soup with coconut milk is flavorful and filling. The raisins add a nice burst of sweetness that you aren't expecting. If you are not a coconut fan, don't be afraid of this soup because the coconut flavor is very understated. Also, if you are someone who enjoys more heat in your food, chili paste could be added to contrast the sweetness of the raisins and coconut milk.  Enjoy!

Red Lentil Coconut Soup
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks

2 cups red lentils (the original recipe used 1 cup lentils and 1 cup yellow split peas, but I didn't see any yellow split peas when I was at the store)
3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups water
2 medium carrots, cut into a very small dice
2 tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and diced
2 tbsp cumin powder (original recipe uses curry powder which I don't really like so that's I why I used cumin instead)
2 tbsp butter
4 shallots, diced
2 cloves garlic, diced
1/3 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup tomato paste
1 14oz can of coconut milk (I used light coconut milk)
2 tsp kosher or sea salt

1. Rinse lentils and place in a large soup pot. Cover with broth and water and bring to a boil. Add carrots and the ginger. Cover an simmer for about 15-20 minutes or until lentils are soft.
2. While lentils are cooking, put cumin power in a small, dry skillet over medium heat and toast until fragrant- be careful not to burn. Remove from heat and reserve the toasted cumin. Add butter to the skillet and add shallots and garlic and saute for several minutes until fragrant. Add raisins and tomato paste and cook for another several minutes. Add the cumin power back to the tomato paste mixture and stir to combine.
3. Add tomato paste mixture to the lentils and mix together. Add coconut milk and season with salt. Simmer, uncovered for about 20 minutes. Taste and add more salt if needed (I added some garlic powder because I wanted a stronger garlic taste). Serve on its own, over rice or with fresh naan.

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