A bowl of lentil soup with some vegetables like spinach, carrots, potatoes, onions and tomatoes thrown in makes it a wholesome dish in itself. Lentils are an excellent source of protein, especially for vegetarians and vegans. Lentils are quite versatile, they can be used in salads and pastas to add some nutty crunch, in soups, curries and stews to add volume and nutrients (look up: boiled spinach with lentils) or in chutneys and dips as taste enhancers (pepper chutney with roasted lentils).
There are so many varieties of lentils that it might be confusing for a person new to lentils. The yellow lentil is of 3 types: split chickpea that I have used here, split pigeon pea, or the split mung bean. The beauty of this lentil soup recipe is that you can use any of these lentils, you just have to tweak the cooking time. The mung lentil cooks faster, while the pigeon pea lentil takes longer to cook than the chickpea lentil. There is a slight difference in flavor, too. The chickpea lentil has a nuttier flavor, the mung lentil is creamier while the pigeon pea lentil is somewhere in between.
The advantage of dried lentils over dried beans is that they cook faster and don’t need to be soaked, though soaking them for 20 minutes and rinsing as mentioned in the recipe enhances the taste as well as helps in digesting the lentils better if you are not used to the lentils. If you have a pressure cooker or instant pot, try the chick pea soup.
This lentil soup can be cooked in a pressure cooker in less than half the time required for cooking in a soup pot, but slow cooking really brings out the flavors of not only the lentils but also each of the other ingredient. That being said, if you are in a hurry, it doesn’t hurt to cook this lentil soup in a pressure cooker or instant pot.
Onto the recipe-
- 1 cup yellow lentils
- 1 onion diced
- 3 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 1 potato peeled and diced
- 1 carrot diced
- 1 cup tightly packed spinach chopped
- 2 tomatoes pureed
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
- salt to taste
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- a handful of cilantro for garnish
- Rinse and soak the lentils in cold water for 20 minutes.
- Saute the onions and garlic in the oil in a soup pot for 5 minutes on medium heat. Do not let it brown.
- Drain the lentils and add them along with the vegetables and the tomato puree, except spinach.
- Add the spices, salt and 3 cups of water.
- Bring the soup to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.
- Add spinach and simmer for another 15 minutes or until the lentils become soft.
- If you want the lentils very soft and mushy, cook for another 10 minutes.
- Garnish with cilantro.
- The soaking step can be skipped, in which case the cooking time should be increased by 10 minutes and the quantity of water increased by half cup.
- If you’re using a pressure cooker, use 2 cups of water instead of 3. Once it reaches high pressure, simmer for 5 minutes and remove from heat. Wait for the pressure to subside, pour into bowls and garnish with cilantro before serving.