Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Indian Curried Lentil & Mung Bean Soup

It's been cold, windy, and/or raining for the better part of the last two weeks here in Austin.  It's that very brief time of year where we get to drag out our scarves, faux fur lined parkas and fingerless gloves, fantasize that a few days of constant drizzle will correct our multiple year-long drought, and slam on our anti-lock brakes one too many times.  

In other words, "Winter."  
[strong emphasis on the Michigan native finger quotes]

And while it does mean all those things listed above and more, for me, it's also a time for soup.  Lots of soup, particularly of the bean and lentil variety.  Like some people need a glass of warm milk before bed, I need to fill a mason jar with dried beans and water to soak overnight.  Beyond how delicious soup can be, nutrient-dense and able to warm the body from the inside out, there's also the ease of it.   When I use to make soups with my grandmother, it was always so leisurely and low-key.  And I also remember laughing a lot.  So what if we didn't have all the ingredients or so what if we fudge around with the recipe: You can always make it work, making it deliciously your own.  And the fact that it only gets better as the days pass, richer, deeper and more cohesive in flavor? Awesome, particularly for you busybodies like me who don't even sit down to eat a meal.

The Austin skyline veiled in fog.

Two things you don't see very often here: Leafless trees and rain puddles.

So today, as the temperature hovers between the uppers 30s and low 40s, I am sharing my riff on Indian lentil soup, aka daal, one of my favorite comfort foods.  It's actually in response to requests stemming from a picture I posted  the other day on both Facebook and Instagram.  It's funny, because most of the time I'm stressing about baking trials and testing cookie and muffin recipes for the blog, thinking that that's what people want to read about.  So when they ask for soup, it's a surprise, a relief, and a reminder that what's easy for me may not be as easy for others.  So if you were one of those bunch, or if you just want to learn how to make a fantastic soup that'll hit the spot amidst the Winter weather (whatever that may be for you),  get your mason jars and your beans ready.  

Soup's on.

Indian-Spiced Curried Lentil & Mung Bean Soup
Gluten-Free & Vegan

Active Prep Time: 5 minutes
Inactive Prep Time:  at least 8 hours
Cooking Time: 45-60 minutes
Yield: about 12 cups

1 c dried brown lentils
1 c dried mung beans
6-8 c filtered water
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar

1 large onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, roughly chopped
2 large carrots, sliced
2 medium potatoes, large dice

3-4 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 1/2 teaspoons Indian curry powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
2-3 teaspoons salt

6-8 c filtered water or vegetable stock

fresh lemon slices & olive oil, to garnish

1.  Rinse lentils and mung beans, sorting for stones or debris, and then cover them with water in a large mason jar or glass container.  Add apple cider vinegar and cover to soak at least 8 hours.  It's often recommended that you don't soak such small beans/pulses like lentils and mung beans, but in terms of maximizing nutritional value and digestibility, I find it's an extra step that is definitely worth taking.
2.  After beans are finished soaking and increased in size by up to five times (wow!), drain and rinse and set aside.
3.  Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Begin by gently frying the spices, beginning with the cumin seeds for about 1 minutes, then add curry powder and garam masala and fry for an additional 1-2 minutes, being careful not to burn the spices.  This step, also known as blooming the spices, helps punch up the flavor and aroma of the spices, infusing their flavor into the oil, and also helps you to avoid that gritty texture that can occur when using dried, powdered spices.
4.  Increase heat to medium-high and saute onions in the spice-infused oil for 1-2 minutes, or until they just begin to soften.  Add garlic and ginger and saute for an additional 1-2 minutes, or until pungent in aroma.  Add carrots and potatoes and saute for about 1 minute, or just to combine with the sauteed onions, garlic, and ginger and coat with the spice-infused oil.
5.  Add soaked lentils and mung beans, salt, and cover with water.  You want there to be about 2-3 inches of liquid covering the sauteed vegetables and beans.  And if you're worried about getting it "right," just err on the side of less - if you need or want more liquid, you can always add it later.  
6.  Increase heat to bring to a boil, skimming any scum that collects on the surface, and then immediately reduce to medium-low heat and cover.  Allow to actively simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring every once and a while.  
7.  As mentioned previously, this soup, as most soups would be, is really at its best in the next two days after you make it as the flavors come together.  So avoid the temptation to season to perfection on the day you make it - what tastes under seasoned on day one may be just right on day two.  
8.  Before serving, garnish with fresh lemon and a drizzle of olive oil.

Soaked and fit to burst out of the jar.

Ready to prep.

Warm Happiness in a bowl.

I realize that I haven't been posting as regularly as I have in the past.  And trust me, if I could make more time in my schedule to write, cook, and bake, I would do it in a fraction of a heartbeat.  But right now, with my plate having disappeared underneath all my current commitments, I'm truly coming to understand that doing my best, day in day out, regardless of what that 'best' is, will be enough.  If I don't post on the same day of every week at the same time, that will be okay.  If I don't have the energy and/or time to edit photos or proofread a post, then it can wait until the next day.  And if no one reads my blog anymore, the world will keep turning.

What we choose to do with our lives is just like making soup.  It's about relaxing, creating something that will inspire genuine smiles, gratitude for the gift of living, and laughter, in regular doses with gusto.   And with all those ingredients, mixed with love, faith, patience, and compassion, trust that it will only get better and more satisfying with time. 


  1. You do what is needed for you even if it means only posting once in a while. We've all done it before. :D Can't wait to try this for a Meatless Monday.

    1. Thank you, Debi! I appreciate the support and understanding. :) Can't wait for you to try it, too!

  2. Two of my favorite pulses/beans, mung and lentil; so this soup has my name on it =) The other I made a crushed green pea and mung bean soup with chopped organic basil, cilantro and spiced up with my own proprietary masala. One of the simplest recipes in my current repertoire. I may post it in the future. Making soup is so easy and quick to do and the rewards are beyond a satisfied full belly. You also get to feel the warmth inside of your soul and that's important on a cold day. I hope that we can enjoy a nice bowl of soup together; when and if you're able to visit within the next 2 months.

    1. I hope so, too, ading! Regardless of climate, a hot bowl of soup goes a long way during the shorter days of Winter. But for you in Michigan, especially so!


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