Red Lentil and Lemon Soup

This is the kind of meal I could eat every week.Red Lentil with onionsFor such a flavorful soup, I would have anticipated a more elaborate ingredient list, but the spices – turmeric, cumin and yellow mustard seed – pull their weight beautifully. Finished with as much lemon as you desire to brighten the whole dish up, this soup had all the elements of being deeply satisfying and crisp and clean. A true Friday Night winner.

I really enjoyed the two-toned texture, created by sautéing the onions and mustard seeds separately and adding them along with fresh coriander after the daal has been pulsed (a bit of research suggests this is a defining feature of tarka daal). We were told by one guest, who moved from India to these islands only a few years ago, that the dish tasted like home-cooking and, with a bit of garlic and curry leaves, would be a classic Dal Tadka.onions and cilantroThis is another soup recipe from Heidi Swanson, who suggests serving this with plenty of warm brown rice, Greek yogurt and sautéed spinach. We charred some broccoli florets in place of the spinach, which offered a great bite and focus to this as our main dish. The recipe below is 1.5 the original, which provided a very hearty serving for six. You could refer to the original recipe, reduce the lentils by 1/3 or simply add more water-to-lentils to achieve a thinner, more soup-like meal if you prefer.

Regardless of whether we’ll add garlic, keep the hearty consistency or thin this out to a lighter soup, we will be making this one again.

Red Lentil and Lemon Soup

Red Lentil Soup with Lemon
Adapted from

Serves six as a hearty main course

3 cups (600g) red lentils, rinsed and any stones removed
1 1/2 Tablespoons turmeric
6 Tablespoons (85g) butter, divided
Sea salt
2-3 medium onions (~ 3 cups chopped)
3 teaspoons cumin
2 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
1 1/2 cups coriander (one very large handful)
Juice of 4-5 lemons

Warm brown rice (~1/2 cup cooked rice per person)
Greek yogurt
1 head broccoli, divided into florets and roasted until dark or 1 large bunch of spinach, chopped and sautéed in butter right before serving

Combine lentils, turmeric, 4T (~60g) butter and 2 teaspoons sea salt with 9 cups (2 litres) water. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer when covered for about 20 minutes. You are looking for the lentils to begin falling apart. Using an immersion blender, purée the lentils and add any additional water necessary to reach your desired texture.

While the lentils are cooking, prepare the onion mixture. Cook the chopped onion with the remaining butter, cumin and mustard seeds on a low heat until the onions are softened. Stir the onions occasionally to keep from browning unevenly. After about 10-15 minutes, when the onions have softened, add the chopped coriander, stir for a few seconds and transfer to the pot of puréed lentils.

Before serving, add the lemon juice, a bit at a time, until the soup has reached the brightness or desired level of ‘tang’. If necessary, add salt to taste.

Serve with a scoop of brown rice, dollop of yogurt and either charred broccoli or spinach.


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