Saturday, March 28, 2009

Dal Shorba (Indian Red Lentil Soup)

Red lentils are always a good "welcome home" when Bill comes off the road. We ate this hearty soup with fresh, homemade naan. Hard to go wrong, really.

Adapted from a recipe by executive chef Vikram Sunderam of Rasika restaurant.

8 ounces dried red lentils (1 1/2 cups)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced (about 3 cups)
1 3-inch piece peeled ginger root, finely chopped (about 3 tablespoons)
4 medium cloves garlic, minced (about 3 tablespoons)
3/4 pound tomatoes, coarsely chopped (about 2 1/2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 cups water, or as needed
1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1/2- to 3/4-inch pieces
1 cup packed mint leaves (from 1/2 bunch)
1 cup packed cilantro leaves (from 1/2 bunch)
Lemon wedges and yogurt, for garnish

Rinse and drain the lentils; sort through them to discard any debris.

Heat the oil in a large (at least 4-quart) pot over medium-high heat until the oil shimmers. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 12 to 15 minutes, until they are golden brown; reduce the heat as needed to keep the onions from burning. Add the ginger and garlic and cook, stirring, for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, turmeric and curry powder; cook for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring to blend the spices. Add the water and bring the soup base to a boil.

Add the lentils to the soup base along with the bell pepper, mint and cilantro. Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low so the soup barely bubbles at the edges. Cook for about 20 minutes, until the lentils are tender.

Process the soup in batches in a blender until smooth, filling the blender no more than halfway; or use an immersion (stick) blender in the pot. Strain the soup through a fine-mesh strainer. Season to taste with salt; adjust the consistency with additional water as needed. Serve with lemon wedges.

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