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September, 2012

South Indian Orange Lentil Soup with Tomato, Ginger and Coconut

By Heidi Allison

Nature’s original fast food, lentils, require no overnight soaking or sorting like beans do, and the cooking time is shorter, making this your new go-to recipe for busy weekdays, as well as lazy weekends alike.

Lentils

This soup is a homage to South Indian Dals—those soul-satisfying legume soups that are not only easy on the budget, but also require very little of your attention while cooking. Nature’s original fast food, lentils, require no overnight soaking or sorting like beans do, and the cooking time is shorter, making this your new go-to recipe for busy weekdays, as well as lazy weekends alike.

In this recipe, the flavor profile is iconic South Indian; spicy, vegetarian fare at its best in a dish that showcases this local’s signature flavors— lentils, coconut, chilies, turmeric and ginger. But what makes this soup unique is the clever use of “corn stock” — the reduced water you repurpose from cooking fresh corn (use for another dish), which adds a rich depth of flavor and a subtle, sweet corn taste to the mix. Seasoned with turmeric, jalapeños, coconut oil, ginger and cilantro, this soup is a healthy comfort food that both adults and kids will love. Just make sure to finish this lentil soup with an acid (lime works best)— at the end of the cooking process— it’s the “secret ingredient “that “brightens” this soup into the realm of the sublime. To change up the flavor profile, top this soup with a fried spice. Fry 1 tablespoon of mustard seed in 2 tablespoons of sunflower or coconut oil till they pop; then pour this mixture into the soup right before serving.

Another good reason to add lentils to your culinary repertoire: they are not only good for your budget; these nutritional powerhouses are also great for your heart! A recent, large-scale study followed 1600 middle-aged men in United States, Finland, Greece, Yugoslavia and Japan, over the course of 25 years, and researchers found lentils were associated with an astounding 82% reduction in the risk of heart disease– even if the diet was higher in dairy (Northern Europe); meat (US); fish, soy or cereals (Japan); or vegetables, fish and wine (Southern Europe). It appears these high-protein, low-fat, and high-fiber legumes pack a two-way punch for heart health: lentils contain significant amounts of magnesium and folate (Folate lowers levels of lethal homocysteine, which damages artery walls and is a serious risk for heart disease; while magnesium helps blood vessels to relax.) Lentils also have two types of fiber (soluble and insoluble), which act to stabilize high blood sugar levels.

South Indian Orange Lentil Soup with Tomato, Ginger and Coconut
Serves: 6
South Indian Orange Lentil Soup with Tomato, Ginger and Coconut
Ingredients:
1 large Yellow Onion, diced
3 Tablespoons Almond Oil
2 teaspoons Coconut Oil
2 cups Orange Lentils
6 cups of Water
2 cups Corn Stock (see recipe below)
5 small Roma Tomatoes; cut in half, then into ¼-inch lengthwise slivers
3-inch piece of Young Ginger (aka spring, or ‘baby” ginger, or galangal), cut into thin matchsticks
½ teaspoon Turmeric
2 Jalapeños, seeded and minced (leave seeds in if you like heat))
1 teaspoon Kosher Flake Salt
1 large Juicy Lime: juice and half of zest
¼ cup Cilantro, minced

Corn Stock
8 ears of Fresh Corn, husks and silk removed
9 cups of Water

Soup Preparation:
Place 9 cups of water in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Place corn in water; and when the water returns to a boil, immediately cover the pot and turn off the heat. Let corn sit in the hot water for 15 minutes, then remove corn and reserve for another recipe. Heat corn water on medium high heat till it returns to a boil, then reduce until you get about 3 cups. Pour corn stock into a bowl and set aside.

Soup Preparation:
Place onions, almond oil, and coconut oil into a stock pot on medium heat, and sauté, stirring occasionally, until onions become soft and golden in color— about 5 minutes. Add water, corn water, tomatoes, ginger, turmeric, jalapeños, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook till the soup reduces to about half— approximately 2 hours, stirring occasionally with a slotted, wooden spoon. Add salt, lime juice, zest of half the lime and cilantro into soup, and then stir to combine. Ladle soup into bowls; then drizzle several additional drops of fresh lime juice over soup and serve immediately.

Notes from the Author: This soup freezes well.