Is anyone else feeling the pull to a more plant-based lifestyle? I grew up in a meat and potato family. Our meals were pretty predictable. There was always a starch, always a salad, always a vegetable, some sort of bread and a protein of meat, fish or chicken. I don’t remember as a child ever having a meal that contained no animal protein. Even a dinner of spinach salad had bacon in it. Many cultures use meat to flavor their food instead of as the main source of food itself.
I’ve always been fascinated with vegetarians and vegans. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to join their team because I love an occasional steak and I’ll never be able to relinquish cheese. However, I do believe that eating a high percentage of your meals from the garden can provide health benefits in many ways.
Some friends have told me that this isn’t something that’s feasible for them because the beans that would replace many proteins are two gas inducing. I promise you there are ways around that. Soaking beans before preparing them helps this greatly.
Today I’m working with red lentils and one of my favorite flavor profiles, lemon grass, lime and coconut milk mixed with the bold flavors and red curry paste. I’m making Thai Red Lentil Soup. It might be cold outside but it’s going to be hot in my kitchen.
The soup is incredibly easy to make. It starts with simply sweating the onions until they are tender and sweet. No you’re not taking the onions to the gym. The process of cooking onions on a low flame allowing them to soften is referred to as sweating.
Then the curry paste, lemongrass, lime peel and lentils are added with either water or broth, then cooked until softened for about 20 to 30 minutes. Once soft you simply remove the lemongrass and lime peel blend the soup then add the coconut milk lime juice and soy sauce, adding additional liquid to find the right consistency.
Let the soup simmer for a few minutes and it’s ready.
Lentils are low in calories, rich in iron and folate and are a great source of protein.
This recipe was adapted from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi. He is by far my favorite vegetarian author. I’ve simplified this recipe by using a store bought red curry paste and store bought chili oil. I also added extra coconut milk. I find the lentils can become very thick very quickly so you will need to adjust your water or broth level to suit your taste. I also adapted the recipe by using lime peel instead of kefir lime leaves which are much more difficult to find. I’ve had it both ways and I don’t find that there is a huge difference.
Thai Red Lentil Soup
- 4 ounces sugar snap peas, about 12
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced very thin
- 1½ tbsp red curry paste (or more if you like it spicier like I do)
- 1¼ cup dried, red lentils
- 2 stalks lemongrass, lightly crushed
- peel from 1 lime, peeled in strips with a vegetable peeler
- 3 cups water, vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 can coconut milk (plus extra for garnish, optional)
- 4-5 tbsp lime juice
- 2½ tbsp soy sauce
- cilantro, coursely chopped, for garnish (optional)
- chili oil or hot sauce for garnish (optional)don’t skip it!
- 4 lime wedges, for serving (optional)
- In a small pot of boiling, salted water, blanch snap peas for 30-40 seconds. Drain and rinse under cold water. Slice into thin strips on the diagonal. Set aside.
- In a large pot, heat oil on medium. Add onions and saute’ for 6-7 minutes to soften and develop sweetness. Add the red curry paste and saute’ for 1 minute. Add the lemongrass, lime peel and lentils. Stir to coat everything well.
Add water or stock and bring to a boil.
Lower heat to a bare simmer and cover pot.
- Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring soup once or twice. Lentils should be completely soft (soup may look a little thick at this point).
- Remove lemongrass and lime peels.
Blend soup in a blender or with an immersion blender until completely smooth.
- Put soup back into pot. Add the coconut milk, lime juice and soy sauce. The soup is too thick at this time at a little extra stock or water.
Bring back to a boil for 1 minute and remove from heat.
Taste and adjust soy sauce, salt or lime juice, if needed.
- Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with sugar snap peas, cilantro, drizzles of chili oil. Serve with extra lime wedges on the side.
About the Author
Photographer Sally Roeckell specializes in contemporary lifestyle portraiture with an emphasis on food photography. Her Blog, Table and Dish is a website devoted to celebrating and curating the many ways that food binds us. Sally hopes that her recipes and images will inspire you to gather your friends and family in the kitchen to make memories, use the time to connect with busy kids, chat over mixing bowls, get messy, laugh, sing, set the table, clear the table, pass the salt, debate the days topics and pray. You can follow her here as a weekly contributor to 365Barrington and Heinen’s as well as via Table and Dish on Instagram and on her website at TableAndDish.com.
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