While most people feel comforted when their fridge is packed with food, I get restless. I love going to the market and buy lots of fresh produce but over-crowded situations – trains, supermarkets, streets, closets – and fridges, stresses me out. Trying to find something in a crowded fridge is a bitch, a time consuming bitch.
Also, I don’t like to discover corpses of organic produce that once upon last week were firm and lively. It makes me feel guilty and spoiled. It’s not the money that went to the garbage that gets me, it’s the thought of how much effort and resources went into raising these veggies.
So, last Sunday, I didn’t rush to the farmers’ market like I always do. Instead, I used every leaf and root I could find in the fridge and improvised meals until Wednesday.
So many good recipes have been born out of my claustrophobia. This rustic soup, for example. Most likely I would never make it exactly the same again, however, I am definitely adapting the grated yam in other legumes soups to make them thick and sweet.
Shiitakes aren’t cremini, but they are mushrooms, and they’re what I had. And we all know that all mushrooms are equally earthy. (Well, not the deadly ones.) This is the beauty of recipes. They are adjustable and flexible like a Barbie doll (or in this case Barbie Dal). Even those elegant arrogant which seem unbendable. I won’t name names.
I had a hard choice to make when I made this soup: brown or red lentils? Brown seems more suitable, but the bag of organic split red lentils was already open and half full. I also had a dilemma about the seasoning. Indian-style would be delicious and fragrant, but do I feel like peeling and grating ginger and garlic now? Not really! Plus, parsley isn’t very Indian. If I had cilantro I might have considered the effort.
“What about adding coconut milk for creaminess?” I asked myself. “Just keep it simple,” my cluttered brain replied, adding, “You can make it half creamy in the blender.”
And this is exactly what I did, I listened to my lazy inner voice. I kept it simple, and it kept us warm and comforted. Now that my fridge is completely empty I will drive to the farmers’ market to bring home some new vegetables.
Red Lentil Soup with Kale
- Large soup pot or Dutch Oven
- 1 yam or sweet potato - peeled and grated
- 2 celery sticks - sliced or diced finely
- 2 slim leeks or 1 thick leek - sliced thinly
- 8 shiitake or any mushrooms - remove stems and slice
- 1 bunch kale - sliced thinly
- Small bunch of parsley - sliced thinly
- 1½ cups yellow lentils - or any type, rinsed thoroughly
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon white or black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 6 cups water or vegetable broth
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 dried Persian lemon - cracked – optional
- Put all the ingredients in a medium soup pot and stir. Put over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat to simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
- Let the soup cool down slightly. Remove the dried lemon and discard. If you have a hand blender, use it to blitz the soup a little bit. It’s nice when it’s half smooth, half chunky. Alternatively, put about 2 cups in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour the pureed soup back into the pot.
- Taste and add salt if necessary. Serve with a quick, light drizzle of olive oil and a few drops of lemon juice.