Curry was never a staple in our home when I was growing up. I don't think I even had my first bite of curry or eastern European food food until my late high school or early collage years. But once I did, it became a favorite when dining out. Such an array of different spices I'd never tasted before, it was like a whole new food group opened up to me.
I say when dining out because early in my cooking days when I'd come to a recipe that had a very long list of ingredients it would usually get passed up for something simpler. It never occurred to me that that long list of ingredients was mostly made up of spices and for the most part was probably something relatively easy to make.
This is where making your own homemade curry powder or spice mix comes into great use. You can save a great deal of time mixing all those spices together in one go, rather than for just one meal. You also have a greater advantage over flavor preference. The curry recipe I've provided below is a pretty simple one using many of the spices I already have on hand most of the time. You can change it to be more spicy or add in cinnamon or fennel for another version. It's really all up to you, which is what I love.
Using whole spices and grinding them in a spice mill ensures the freshness of your spices. I used mostly pre-ground below, make adjustments as needed if you use them in their whole form. The most interesting part of this soup was the addition of pureed chickpeas, almost like a very basic hummus. It made the soup feel heartier and fuller, without the addition of cream. I gave each bowl an extra good squeeze of lemon before serving, I love the way lemons add that perfect twist to lentils and spices.
Curried Lentil Soup
adapted from Bon Appétit
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, chopped, divided
2 tablespoons curry powder (recipe below)
1 cup French green lentils
4 1/4 cups water, divided
2 cups cooked chickpeas or 1 15oz. can drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 green onions, thinly sliced
additional lemon for serving, optional
Homemade Curry Powder
makes about 1/4 cup
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 tablespoons coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
In a spice mill or food processor, combine all the spices. Process until everything becomes a fine powder. Store in a tightly covered container.
for the soup
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large pot over medium heat. Stir in the onion and carrot and season with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook until the onion is translucent, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Add half the chopped garlic and cook until the carrots have softened, about 4 minutes longer.
Add 2 tablespoons of the curry powder, stirring until everything is coated and becomes fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the lentils and 4 cups water. Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, puree the chickpeas, lemon, 1/4 cup water, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and remaining garlic in a food processor.
When the lentils are tender, stir in the chickpea puree. Season with salt and pepper to taste, adding additional curry powder if desired.
Serve soup warm, garnished with chopped green onions and extra lemon wedges. Store any left over soup covered in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Reheat before serving.