A Delicious Winter Red Lentil Soup
I first learned to make a sambar from a lovely mother and daughter from Mysore, India who spoke little to no English at the time. They were visiting my home and a group of us gathered in our kitchen to take a cooking class. It was a wonderful exchange to communicate through the preparation of foods and spices both familiar and unusual to us, and to feel the free flow of our shared language in the love of cooking.
I have learned numerous ways to make sambar since that time. Given that I love to experiment and go with the flow when I cook, one day's sambar could take on a slightly different flavor profile from the next. That's the beauty of this lentil vegetable soup. It can stand up to a lot of interpretations.
If you like a thick, creamy, really nourishing soup, I think you will love this most current recipe. But, also feel free to experiment and shift the flavor in your favorite direction. I am leaving the amount of spicing free flow, so you will want to put your intuitive chef's hat on.
2 cups red lentils
5-6 cups water (depending on how thick you like your soup)
red chili flake
cinnamon (recommending just a pinch)
ghee or vegan or regular butter
a squeeze of fresh lime juice
toasted coconut (optional)
plain yogurt (optional)
mint or mango chutney (optional)
Recipe: In a large pot or pressure cooker warm the olive oil, adding the bay leaf and spices and stir in the warm oil until the mustard seeds begin to gently pop and you can smell the spices. Add chopped onion, stirring until the onions begin to get translucent. Add the celery and carrots and let the veggies start to brown. Add garlic is you wish, at this point. Add the washed red lentils and the water, Stir and pressure cook for 5-10 minutes. Make sure there is enough water in the pot. The lentils thicken a lot and you do not want them to burn in the bottom of the pressure cooker. Otherwise, if not using the pressure cooker, bring the lentils to a boil then stir and simmer and keep an eye on your pot.
Once the lentils have thickened, add veggie bullion cubes, sea salt, black pepper, a pad of butter. You can continue to layer the same spices you warmed in the initial oil to achieve the taste and level of spice intensity you desire. You could also add additional veggies if you like such as broccoli or greens.
Before serving add a little squeeze of fresh juice and toasted coconut to your sambar. You can also eat your soup with some yogurt and mint or mango chutney, much like a curry. Enjoy!