A North African-style mix of coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper, and cayenne brought warm complexity in minutes as we bloomed them in our pot after sautéing an onion. Tomato paste and garlic completed the base before the addition of the lentils, and a mix of broth and water gave the soup a full, rounded character. After only 15 minutes of cooking, the lentils were soft enough to be pureed with a whisk. A generous dose of lemon juice brought the flavors into focus, and a drizzle of spice-infused oil and a sprinkle of fresh cilantro completed the transformation of commonplace ingredients into an exotic yet comforting, quick soup.
Red Lentil Soup with North African Spices [Vegan]
- 1/4 cup cold-pressed extra-virgin olive oil (see page 35)
- 1 large onion, chopped fine
- Salt and pepper
- 3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Pinch cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 4 cups homemade or low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth, plus extra as needed
- 2 cups water
- 1 1/2 cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 1/2 teaspoons dried mint, crumbled
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Heat 2 tablespoons oil in large saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in coriander, cumin, ginger, cinnamon, cayenne, and ¼ teaspoon pepper and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and garlic and cook for 1 minute.
- Stir in broth, water, and lentils and bring to vigorous simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lentils are soft and about half are broken down, about 15 minutes.
- Whisk soup vigorously until broken down to coarse puree, about 30 seconds. Adjust consistency with extra hot broth as needed. Stir in lemon juice and season with salt to taste. Cover and keep warm.
- Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in small skillet over medium heat until shimmering. Off heat, stir in mint and paprika. Serve soup, drizzling individual portions with 1 teaspoon spiced oil and sprinkling with cilantro.