Yellow Lentil Soup with Cauliflower and Spinich
This vegan and gluten-free lentil and vegetable dish originated in Brickfields, Kuala Lumpur. Since 1881, Brickfields was famous for producing bricks and clay pots due to both the availability of clay and the skillful craftsmanship of the Indian immigrants who also prepared their dishes in the same type of clay pots in Malaysia as they had done in India. Up to today, Brickfields has become a popular tourist spot for authentic Indian cooking prepared in these traditional clay pots.
A dal or lentil dish is cooked with turmeric until it becomes soft and creamy— without adding cream, as is sometimes done in Indian restaurants in the U.S.. Chopped vegetables such as spinach and cauliflower are added at the end so that they retain all their vitamins. Finally, the oil infused with cumin and black mustard seed is added to complete the dal with robust flavor. Serve this hearty soup with naan, pita or wheat bread.
1 cup split yellow lentils (toor dal)
4 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
½ medium yellow onion, minced
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
8 ounces cauliflower, chopped into bite size pieces (about 1 inch)
4 ounces fresh spinach leaves
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 teaspoon unsalted butter
Spice-infused oil (Tadka)
2 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon black mustard seeds
2 sprigs fresh curry leaves, stems removed and coarsely chopped
1. Wash the lentils by gently rubbing them with your fingers in a bowl under cold running until the water runs clear. Drain the lentils.
2. Put the lentils, garlic, onions, turmeric and five cups of water in a large, deep pot. Bring the ingredients to a boil, partially covered over medium heat. Skim off any foam that may appear on the surface during the cooking process. Allow the lentils to cook until they are very soft when pressed between your fingers and have a puréed texture (about forty minutes).
3. Add the cauliflower and spinach leaves and season with salt. Stir gently, cover and cook on medium heat for three minutes, or until cauliflower appears tender. Taste; add more salt if needed. Keep the lentils on low heat while you prepare the spice-infused oil.
4. Prepare the spice-infused oil by heating the coconut oil into a small frying pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, and curry leaves and immediately cover with a splatter screen to prevent the mustard seeds from popping out of the pan.
5. When you hear the mustard seeds popping, after a few seconds, turn off the heat and pour the hot spice-infused oil over the lentils.
6. Add butter if desired, and stir well to combine all the flavors. Remove from heat and serve with warm brown rice or bread.
While I have suggested cauliflower and spinach in this recipe, you can also use potatoes, fresh pumpkin, butternut squash or eggplant for great variations.
When boiling the lentils with turmeric, you may add a drop of coconut oil or olive oil into the pot; this is traditionally done to prevent foam from over-flowing during the cooking process