Make Ahead

Red Lentil and Cauliflower Soup

October  3, 2010
10 Ratings
Author Notes

Over the course of a year, I make this dish perhaps more than any other single recipe. Sometimes in the summer, I add chunks of summer squash and fresh peas right at the end, and in the autumn and winter, I often stir in a cup or two of thinly sliced cabbage, or of leftover roasted butternut squash or pumpkin. This tastes great the next day, but the lentils are pulses, which break down quickly, so try to eat any leftovers within a few days. This can easily be adapted for vegans by substituting oil for the ghee, using vegetable stock and stirring in some almond milk and an extra squeeze of lime at the end, instead of a yogurt-based raita. Enjoy!! ;o) - AntoniaJames —AntoniaJames

Test Kitchen Notes

The red lentil base here is a soothing blank canvas; one that AntoniaJames matches with the vegetable of the week, cauliflower, but also instructs cooks on how to make their own with an almost infinite combination of pairings, produce and preserves. I can attest to satisfying additions of roasted winter squash, spicy chutney and cooling cucumber raita and look forward to keeping this quick and easy base in my winter soup rotation. - cheese1227 —The Editors

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 1 hour
  • Serves 4, with some leftovers
  • 1 ½ cups red lentils or masoor dal
  • 2 tablespoons of ghee, or vegetable oil or butter (or a combination)
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • Salt
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ½ inch slice of ginger root, minced, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly toasted and ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled or scrubbed, and cut into ½ inch slices
  • 1 head of cauliflower, trimmed and broken into bite-sized florets
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
  • Juice of a lime
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • Consider stirring in:
  • Mint and/or cilantro chutney (There are several good fresh chutney recipes on food52.) (See note below.)
  • Cucumber Raita (or crème fraiche, sour cream, or Greek yogurt)
  • Or almond or cashew milk
In This Recipe
  1. Rinse the red lentils several times in cold water. In a large bowl, cover them by at least two inches of boiling water. Allow them to sit while you do the next two steps.
  2. Heat your soup pot, add the ghee or oil or butter, wait a few seconds, and then add the onion with a pinch of salt. Cook for a few minutes over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent the onion from browning too much or burning.
  3. When the onion is translucent, add the ginger and garlic and the ground spices to the cooked onion. Stir frequently as you cook over medium heat, for about 1 1/2 minutes.
  4. Pour the lentils and soaking water into the soup pot, then add the stock (or additional water, if not using stock) and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down so that the soup simmers.
  5. Add the carrots and continue to cook, stirring occasionally and taking care not to let the lentils stick to the bottom of the pot. Add more water if the soup gets too thick. The lentils will soak up the water and broth very quickly!
  6. After about ten minutes, give the soup a good, thorough stir, and add the cauliflower pieces. If you want to add some sliced cabbage or some roasted winter squash, this is the time to do it. Add more water if the soup seems to be drying out. Turn the heat to low, give the soup another good stir (but gently, please), then cover the pot, and cook for at least 20 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so.
  7. Check for salt and correct if necessary, taking into account that the chutney and raita, if you plan to use them, may also have salt in them.
  8. Turn off the heat and let the soup sit, covered, until ready to serve. (Refrigerate it though if you won’t be serving for several hours or more.)
  9. Stir in the lime juice and chopped cilantro. (I often don’t chop fresh cilantro when serving our favorite mint-cilantro chutney with this soup.)
  10. Serve with freshly ground pepper and Cucumber Raita. (My recipe for it is on Food52.)
  11. N.B. Sometimes I add a handful of small green peas right at the end of the cooking time, to give it a bit more color. Also, we often stir cooked brown basmati rice into this when eating this is for dinner.
  12. About the chutney: Search for “mint chutney” and “cilantro chutney” on food52 for some great fresh chutney recipes. Kitchenbutterfly's "Coriander Chutney" should not be overlooked!
  13. When adding roasted pumpkin or winter squash to this, I always add the juice of a full lime, even if I plan to stir in some chutney, to balance the sweetness of the roasted vegetables.
  14. About making extra for freezing: I often make a red lentil soup base for freezing by doubling the recipe, up through (and including) the addition of the roasted winter squash, if I plan to use it. The other vegetables get an unpleasant texture when frozen, so remove the portion you plan to freeze, before adding them to the batch you plan to eat right away. When you use the frozen base, thaw and bring the base to a simmer, and then proceed with adding the carrots and cauliflower, etc. I’ve also pureed the fully-cooked soup, with all the vegetables, and frozen that. It tasted great. Add in fresh cilantro and lime juice, or a good chutney before serving, if you do this. ;o)

See what other Food52ers are saying.

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Recipe by: AntoniaJames

When I'm not working (negotiating transactions for internet companies), or outside enjoying the gorgeous surroundings here in Boulder County, CO, 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)