masoor dal

This isn’t precisely an Indian soup, but it’s still nice served in a kadai (traditional vessel) if you’ve got one…  Otherwise, bowls are fine!  Image credit: Aimee Rivers, via Flickr.

This soup isn’t a traditional chowder.  But we’re going to call it a chowder anyways, because it’s creamy and chunky at the same time.  Red lentils (masoor dal) cook quickly and melt into the base of rich coconut milk, bright tomatoes, and gentle spices. Shiitake mushrooms give you something to chew on, and you can add more than just shiitakes if you’d like: use this soup as a base for seafood, chicken, tofu, or even more veggies.

Don’t be afraid of coconut, because it contains a good saturated fats called medium chain triglycerides (MCTs), which provide easy-burning energy, protect the heart, and increase nutrient absorption.  MCTs don’t raise blood triglycerides like other vegetable fats.  Shiitake mushrooms strengthen our immunity. Ginger is warming and promotes digestion and circulation. And cilantro has its own health benefits — and even if you normally don’t like it, you will here, as it doesn’t overpower the dish.

Serves 4

2 C crushed or diced tomatoes 2½ C unsweetened coconut milk*
¾ C red lentils 1 med onion, finely chopped
1 C sliced shiitake or other mushrooms 1 C chopped cilantro
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped 2-3-inch piece ginger, grated
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil 1 Tbsp yellow curry powder
¼ tsp red pepper flakes ½ tsp ground black pepper
 1 tsp good salt, more to taste 3 C water

Gently warm olive oil in the soup kettle. Add onions and sauté until soft, 5-8 min. Add garlic, ginger, curry powder and pepper flakes. Cook, stirring until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add lentils, stir 1 minute. Add tomatoes, ½ C chopped cilantro, salt and pepper and 2½ C water. Bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat and add 1 C coconut milk. Cover pot. Simmer until lentils are soft, about 20 minutes. Taste and season. Stir in remaining coconut milk and top with remaining ½ C cilantro. Enjoy every spoonful! This soup keeps for some days, but it will thicken in the frig. You’ll have to thin it, and how you do that is up to you. More water, more coconut milk? A little of both?

*Make sure to use a full fat coconut milk without gums or fillers.  A lot of companies add guar gum to keep the cream from floating to the top.  That’s fine.  It’s not bad for you.  But it really takes something away from the soup…