Curry Lentil Soup

A white bowl of a thick lentil soup next to a loaf of crusty bread.

This recipe is a great option when your vegetable supply is low. Have you heard the term “languishing” to describe our mental health during the pandemic? When I looked at the four homely sweet potatoes in my produce basket, “languishing” seemed like the right word to describe them. Definitely time to make soup!

As with all soups and stews, the vegetables here are flexible, though I think of this recipe when I have something orange like sweet potatoes, carrots, rutabagas, or squash. You’ll notice a lot of optional ingredients; all great additions if you have them on hand, but the spices are what make this soup work. The key to being ready to make this recipe anytime is to keep your spice cabinet well stocked and always keep green lentils and canned tomatoes in your pantry.

 
Four old sweet potatoes on a wood background

 

These somewhat sad-looking sweet potatoes didn’t have any mold on the outside, so I scrubbed, peeled, and cut into them to assess if they were usable. I immediately composted one, cut away dark spots on another, and determined that two were fine inside. I ended up with about a cup of diced sweet potato.

 

Big Picture

You’ll sauté all the vegetables first, except the tomatoes and optional leafy greens. Then you’ll add the curry spices, lentils, and water and cook everything together in a large pot for about an hour. Acids, leafy greens, and salt can be added toward the end. 

 

If you happen to have fresh or fresh-frozen turmeric root on hand, you can grate a little and add it along with the garlic. If you’re new to cooking with fresh turmeric root, start with a moderate amount, as it can be a little bitter.

 

A bowl and two jars of powdered spices from over head. Dries bay leaves are scattered near the bowl.

 

When using a lot of spices like this recipe calls for, it’s helpful to measure them out ahead of time and put them in a bowl. That way, you’re not sauteing onions and measuring spices at the same time. Holding jars of spices over a steamy pot can also lead to moisture in your spice jars. 

 

Ingredients (serves 8) 

Vegetables & seasonings

1 cup onions, diced 

4-5 cloves garlic, minced

1-2 cups orange vegetables, peeled and diced into bite-sized cubes

½ cup bell peppers, diced (optional)

½ cup celeriac, diced or 1 celery stalk, diced (optional)

2 cups kale or other green leafy veggie, thick stems removed, coarsely chopped (optional) 

1 can organic diced tomatoes or 2½ T tomato paste

 

Beans & broth

1 lb (16 oz bag) dried green lentils

8-10 cups water 

 

Seasoning

2 T olive oil

3 bay leaves

1 tsp coriander powder

½ tsp cumin powder

2 T garam masala

1 tsp fresh grated turmeric (optional)

4 T balsamic vinegar

2 tsp salt

Fresh ground pepper to taste

 

Wash and drain lentils and pick out any pebbles or odd pieces. Set aside.

 

In a big soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the orange vegetable cubes and cook for 1-2 minutes. Then, add onions, garlic, and all of the remaining vegetables except the leafy greens (if using) and tomatoes. Cook about 3-5 minutes.

 

Stir in the dried curry seasonings and bay leaves and cook for thirty seconds to release the flavors. 

 

Add the lentils and water. Cover and bring to a boil, then turn down to medium-low and gently boil for about 30-40 minutes. Note: lentils soften quickly, but can become tough if boiled too rapidly.

 

When the lentils are soft, take off the lid and add greens (if using) tomatoes and vinegar, and simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes or so until everything is soft and soupy and the flavors have combined. Add more water if needed. Add salt and pepper to taste.

 

What is this vegetable and what do I do with it?!

 

Sometimes at the farmer’s market or in a CSA box you may come across a vegetable you’ve never seen before. Or perhaps you know the name of a vegetable but you’ve never cooked with it and aren’t sure what to do with it. That’s where our Veggie Gallery comes in handy! CLICK HERE to visit the gallery.

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