I love Indian food. I just love its scents, aromas, vibrant colours. Its versatility. Its compatibility with veganism. Its richness and diversity. And to my dear former colleague from Sri Lanka (I know you will be reading this 🙂 ) : yes, of course I love the sinhalese food you have on occassion and in abundance prepared especially for me – what an honour – too! And you know I’m always open to receiving recipes :-).
Now lentils. Of course in traditional European cooking, especially the mediterranean kind, you’ll find plenty of wonderful lentil dishes. But their rather obscured status in everyday European cuisine is not equivalent to their first rank position they occupy in Indian cuisine, where they are virtually omnipresent.
The dal soup pictured above has become a Saturday staple at our house. Saturday, you know, the day which is crammed with grocery shopping, transporting kids to leisure activities, cleaning and ironing, etc (I think I am repeating myself here, but hell, these Saturdays repeat themselves all the time). Anyhow, to make it easy on myself, I usually cook some kind of filling soup for Saturday lunch, accompanied by some bread variety. And very often, I opt for this dal soup with naan. Sometimes spontaneously, sometimes because my husband hints that this is his favourite. I’ve been making this soup for quite some time, basing myself upon both some dal soup recipe which used to be in the database of a local Flemish vegetarian community (but no longer is) and also upon the curried lentil, squash and apple stew in Chloe’s Kitchen.
Lentil-spinach dal soup.
Yields 4 portions
- 1 finely chopped onion
- 2-3 garlic cloves, pressed
- 1 tsp turmeric (I used freshly grated turmeric in this recipe, as I happened to have it at hand, but more often than not I use turmeric powder)
- 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
- 2 tbsp curry powder
- pinch of garam masala (optional)
- salt and cracked black pepper
- 3 carrots, diced
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 3/4 cup split mung beans (small, yellow lentils which cook really fast); you can also simply use red lentils instead if you don’t find them.
- 3 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 sweet potato, diced
- 1 apple, diced
- 100 g spinach or kale, or another leafy green of your choice (I used frozen spinach nuggets this time, but often I use kale, or a mixture of kale and spinach)
- Optional and for garnish: chopped pistachios and plant-based cream, and/or some sprigs of cilantro.
- Sauté the onion until translucent. Add the garlic, but be careful not to burn it, and also the ginger and the spices. Sauté for a minute.
- Add the carrots, and after a couple of minutes, pour on the stock.
- Rinse the lentils and add them to the soup. together with the tomato puree. I usually have the stove on a high temperature during this stage.
- After 5 minutes or so, lower to medium heat and add the apple and sweet potato. Let simmer.
- When the sweet potato is fork tender, add the chopped kale.
- Garnish if you like, and serve.
Until recently I usually bought ready-made naan bread to go with this soup, but all too often, lately, this storebought version turned out way too crumbly and dry. So I decided to start making my own. First I reverted to Vegan Richa’s cookbook – one I can definitely recommend; I’m a huge fan of many of her dishes – but I wasn’t entirely convinced by the result. Something was lacking. And then last Saturday I found this recipe, and I am so glad I did! I will definitely be making this again, only adjusting the actual number of naan breads (dividing the dough into 6, rather than 4 pieces, which should make for equally large but flatter naans) and the saltiness (I am not the kind of person to overuse salt, but these naans could use an extra pinch).
I brushed one side of the naan with oil + pressed garlic, and also sprinkled nigella seeds on top. And on some I also had freshly chopped cilantro.