Wednesday, 2 January 2013

a soup of simple constitution

because a good lentil soup begins with browning onions
the season of indulgence has come to an end. both o and i are suffering from the ill effects of excess. thirty-two is still heaving with chocolates, cake, marzipan and cheese but all i have been craving is a soup of simple constitution with some cleansing elements like astringent ginger and fresh chilli that flushes the skin and breathes openness into the nostrils. this recipe is culled from a combination of nigel slater’s but is deeply rooted in what i think is the most comforting pakistani food – dhal. it is a gentle yellow bolstered by turmeric and finished with a spoonful of crème fraiche with roughly chopped chilli and chive. i also included some olive oil croutons made from two languishing and very stale slices of poilâne country loaf. the oven crisped them to sharp crunch. large bowls of soup with a couple of episodes of modern family were the perfect way to end the festive season. and in o’s case it helped tide over a rather unforgiving hangover.

{preserved lemon lentil soup with chilli chive crème fraiche}

one large onion sliced into thin half moons
two tablespoons olive oil
a bay leaf
three or four peppercorns
three cloves garlic
a knob of ginger
three hundred grams red lentils, rinsed and drained
thousand ml water
a teaspoon of turmeric powder
the flesh and skin of two preserved lemons, finely chopped
salt to taste
a tub of crème fraiche (i use roddas)
a fresh red chilli
a small handful of chives
two slices of slate sourdough cubed and tossed in olive oil (optional)

start by sweating the onions in olive oil over medium heat. they should soften and become a light caramel in colour. in the meantime make a paste out of the garlic and ginger using a pestle and mortar.

when the onions are light caramel add the bay leaf and peppercorns. let them fry for a couple of seconds until fragrant. then add the ginger and garlic paste and cook for thirty seconds or so. just like the spices the roots should be fragrant.

then add the lentils, water and turmeric. raise the heat to bring the contents of the pan to a boil. once boiled skim the scum from the surface, reduce the heat to medium-low and then add the chopped preserved lemon and salt to taste. let simmer for around half an hour to forty minutes. i kept the consistency of the soup on the thin side. if you want it thicker just continue to simmer until the liquid has evaporated to leave the desired consistency.

place the crème fraiche, chilli and chives in the bowl of a food processor. process it using the pulsing action so that the chilli is roughly chopped.

place the cubes of sourdough tossed with olive oil into a loaf tin and bake in the oven at two hundred degrees celsius. the croutons are ready when the edges have darkened and the bread is crisp. the surfaces of the croutons will be shiny with the olive oil.

ladle the soup into large bowls, place a generous spoonful of chilli chive crème fraiche in the centre and finish with croutons. then retire to your couch with your favourite telly series.


  1. Sweety3.1.13

    Oh, how I love this recipe! Glad I found your site. :) Hey, is it okay to add more turmeric powder?

  2. I don't see why not. I find everyone has different ideas about how to season and spice so go ahead and tweak as you like.