We eat this soup often at our house. To make it creamy, without using any dairy products, I soak cashews, right in blender, while preparing the soup. Then I blend them to a thick cream before adding the soup to the blender. You can also use homemade almond milk, or regular cream or yogurt, for that matter. I like to set aside some tomatoes and add them, uncooked, at the very end, to give the soup a brighter tomato taste. Be sure to use a high quality kala jeera for this; I prefer what Penzeys sells to those at my local Indian grocer, which tends to be more bitter. The red lentils give the soup a good protein boost, so with freshly cooked roti and a green salad, it makes a great weeknight dinner. The soup keeps well in the fridge for a few days, and freezes beautifully, too. Wait until just before serving, however, to make the tadka. Enjoy! ;o) —AntoniaJames
¼ cup raw cashews (or ½ cup homemade almond milk, or yogurt or cream)
¾ cup red lentils, thoroughly rinsed and drained
1 large onion, coarsely chopped
3 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
Tiny (really tiny) pinch of ground cloves
3 tablespoons grape seed or olive oil, divided (1 tablespoon for the soup, 2 for the tadka)
3 cups, divided, of diced tomatoes in their juice (I use prefer Pomi. A high quality canned will work, too.)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons whole cumin seed, lightly crushed
2 teaspoons lightly crushed whole kala jeera (smoky black cumin, available from Penzeys)(See note* below.)
Juice of one large lime
Handful of cilantro leaves for garnish (and/or chopping and stirring in before serving)
In This Recipe
If using cashews to make this creamy, put them in a blender and cover with cold filtered water. Let them soak while you make the soup. (If nut allergies are a problem, raw pepitas also can be used.)
Put the red lentils in a medium saucepan with 3 cups of filtered water; cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the water starts vigorously to boil. Turn the heat down, stir the lentils and partially cover. Let them simmer, keeping an eye on them; add more water if they seem dry.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy soup pot. When the oil is good and hot, but not smoking, add the onions, a tiny pinch of cloves, and a small pinch of salt. Turn the heat down to medium and cook until the onions are soft, stirring frequently. Add the chopped garlic and cook for another 30 seconds or so.
Turn the heat up a bit and immediately add 2 cups of tomatoes and another pinch of salt, plus a good pinch of sugar, stirring to combine with the aromatics. Let the soup come to a brisk boil; then, turn it down to a low, just-bubbling simmer and partially cover the pot.
After about 20 minutes, add the lentils and their cooking liquid. Stir well and let simmer for at least another 10 minutes.
If using cashews, blend with the soaking water on high power for three minutes, scraping down the sides of the blender after each minute. Add the soup from the pot and the remaining cup of tomatoes and blend for at least two minutes, scraping down once or twice to make sure all of it is thoroughly blended. (If not using cashews, simply blend the soup with the almond milk, yogurt or cream, if using.)
6. Shortly before serving, make the tadka (oil scented with sizzling spices): In a very small skillet or saucepan, heat the oil until shimmering. Add the whole spices, which should start to sizzle right away, or within a few seconds. Start shaking the pan immediately and remove from the heat. Stir the spices in the oil until they cool a bit, to keep them from burning.
Test for salt and add more, if necessary. Grind over the pot some black pepper, too, if you like. Add the lime juice and cilantro (if using chopped) and stir well.
10. * If you cannot find kala jeera, a totally different but equally good tadka can be made using lightly crushed cumin and coriander seeds, freshly ground black pepper and finely chopped pepitas.
When I'm not working (negotiating transactions for internet companies), or outside enjoying the gorgeous surroundings here in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'm likely to be cooking, shopping for food, planning my next culinary experiment, or researching, voraciously, whatever interests me. In my kitchen, no matter what I am doing -- and I actually don't mind cleaning up -- I am deeply grateful for having the means to create, share with others and eat great food. Life is very good. ;o)