I wanted a bowl of congee for lunch but my friend E suggested lentils soup at her house. Er. The only lentils I eat is dhall gravy served with roti canai. How good can lentil soups be.
So good. So very good that I wanted to shout it from a mountain top. Delicious, nutritious and complete, this soup will from now on be a staple in my house, especially on cool days (some snow would be nice). The cumin, tumeric and curry powder gave this soup an exotic North African (or is it Middle-Eastern) flavor and I was reminded of a soup I ate in Melbourne last year although E's soup was wayyyy tastier.
Lentils, dried beans and whole grains are not big with the Chinese, or at least the Cantonese Chinese. I didn't grow up eating them. The only dried beans I ate growing up was red beans (azuki beans), black eyed peas/beans, green beans (mung beans) and black beans. I like to cook a mixed dried beans soup which my family loves and sometimes, when the weather is hot, a sweet mung bean lily bulb soup to cool the body. When I feel that my body lacks energy, I cook red bean soup because my mom said that red beans fortify the blood, likely because of their high iron content.
If your family is carnivorous like E's, you can add some chicken drumsticks or pork chops to the soup although without the meat the soup is just as good. Served with slices of crusty bread, this soup would make a very hearty, nutritionally balanced meal. The basic recipe is awesome but feel free to add veggies such as celery, potatoes and carrots. As with all long-simmered soups, this soup tastes better if allowed to sit for at least an hour and reheated just before eating. Perfect soup for those on a liquid fast.
Red Lentils & Barley Soup (serves 6 to 8)
1 T veg oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 t tumeric powder
2 t curry powder
1/2 t ground cumin
1/2 to 1 t chili flakes or paprika
6 cups water
1 1/2 cups veg or chicken stock
1 cup red lentils
1/2 cup pearl barley
400 g can diced tomatoes
salt & pepper to taste fresh parsley or coriander, chopped
optional but recommended : 1 kg meaty pork bones or chicken
note: 1) if you are adding bones, you can add another 2 cups of water and additional 1/4 cup lentils.
2) you can sub the can of chicken stock with a can of tomato soup, and use 3 to 4 large ripe tomatoes instead of canned tomatoes.
1. Heat oil in a pot, add onions and cook gently 5 to 10 min or until soft and beginning to brown.
2. Add garlic, tumeric, curry, cumin & chili flakes and cook, stirring 1 min.
3. Stir in water, stock, lentils, barley, tomatoes, salt and pepper to taste. Cook about 30 minutes. If adding bones, add the bones now and the lentils about 20 minutes later (because they break up faster) and simmer another 30 minutes. That means altogether about 50 minutes with bones. Switch off the heat and let the soup sit and develop the flavors. Reheat just before serving.
4. Garnish with chopped parsley or coriander.