Soup season is drawing to a close with the Vernal Equinox signaling the official arrival of spring next Wednesday. I wanted to close out the winter season with one more soup that was simple, yet full of flavor.
It starts with these beautiful red lentils which are combined with turmeric, cinnamon, a bay leaf, and fresh thyme to create a unique flavor. The soup is then topped with onions which have been sauteed in harissa and regular olive oils together with cumin seeds, crushed coriander and inner cardamom seeds, honey, and lemon juice for a sweet and earthy contrast. A dollop of yogurt adds a cooling element to complete the dish.
Red Lentil Soup with Honeyed Onions
makes enough for 4 main meals, although you might want to double the amount of the onions if you like more than a tablespoonful on top of the soup
250 grams red lentils, picked over and rinsed
1 ¼ liters cold water
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ yellow onion, diced finely
2-3 garlic cloves, diced finely
2 carrots, diced
¼ teaspoon turmeric
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 bay leaf (Californian)
2 fresh thyme sprigs
sea salt, to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 teaspoon harissa olive oil
½ yellow onion, sliced thinly
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (I used Kala Jeera – black cumin)
½ teaspoon coriander seeds
¼ teaspoon inner cardamom seeds
1 tablespoon honey
a squeeze of lemon juice
::yogurt (I use Brown Cow's full fat plain yogurt), for use as topping on soup
For the soup...
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a 4-quart soup pot over medium heat. Add diced onions and cook until onions soften slightly, 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic, carrots, turmeric, cinnamon, salt, and pepper and cook further, 3-4 minutes.
Add the lentils, water, bay leaf, and thyme sprigs and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, for 35-45 minutes. Taste soup as it cooks, adjusting the salt and pepper along the way.
Meanwhile, prepare the onions…
Using a mortar and pestle, crush together the coriander seeds and inner cardamom seeds. In a large frying pan over medium heat, warm the oils and add the sliced onions, cumin seeds, and the crushed coriander and cardamom seeds. Continue to cook over medium heat until onions soften and turn brown, 15-20 minutes. As onions start to brown, drizzle the tablespoon of honey and continue sauteeing until onions further soften and turn brown, another 15-20 minutes. Deglaze the pan with lemon juice during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
Spoon the soup into a bowl (I chose not to puree it), top with a tablespoonful of the honeyed onions, and spoon some yogurt alongside the onions.