5 October 2010

Curried Lentil Soup and Beyond

~ Menu ~

Curried Lentil Soup with Crisp Poppadoms 
Sparkling water – what! 
A palette cleansing crispy and crunchy Granny Smith Apple

Last night I had a simple dahl for my dinner. I made quite a lot of it as I had plans which, I have to admit, included this soup for today.

dahl-soup

I have made curry from scratch many, many a time; grinding and blending my own spices, but when just cooking for myself (my man can’t abide spice) in a small caravan a curry paste is the way to go and Patak’s Madras Curry Paste is an excellent choice. Red lentils are wonderful things, they are healthy, delicious, cheap and quick and easy to cook. I make the dahl in 2 parts and then mix them together. The following quantity makes enough dahl for at least 3 meals for one person (or 2 small meals for 2 people or 1 meal for 3 and a bit people).

Red Lentil Dahl


250g red split lentils 
cold water to cover plus hot water as needed 
2 medium onions 
1 tablespoon olive oil 
4 teaspoons Patak’s Madras Curry Paste or to taste 
Salt & Pepper 
small bunch fresh coriander – chopped

Cook the lentils ...

~   Put the lentils into a medium sized saucepan and add enough water to cover by a depth of ½” or so.~   Bring to a boil, stir, turn down the heat and simmer till the water is absorbed and the lentils are softening.
~   Keep an eye on the proceedings and top up with hot water as necessary, continuing to simmer till the lentils have softened completely and break down into a purée when stirred, this only takes about 20 minutes or so.

Simultaneously cook the onions …

~   Peel and thinly slice the onions.
~   Heat the oil in a small pan and stir in the onions till coated with oil.
~   Add a little salt, turn down the heat, press a piece of foil or a butter wrapper directly onto the surface of the onions to cover completely.~   Put a lid on the pan and cook slowly, checking and stirring occasionally, till the onions are utterly tender.~   Stir in the curry paste and cook for two of three minutes to fragrant.

Combine ...

~   Stir the lentils and the onions together, taste, season and then stir in the coriander, keeping back a bit to garnish.

So that’s what I had last night with some basmati, poppadoms, a little yogurt (plain, not strawberry), mango chutney and a small salad. Anyhoo - today, for lunch, it was a simple matter to add a little vegetable stock to some of the leftover dahl and heat and stir together to make my soup topped with some frazzled poppadoms – see end of this post.

The rest of the dahl I shall freeze for future use. Another way I like to serve it is as a fritter, formed into a cake and fried to crisp, speaking of which … My sister and I had this on our first menu in our first restaurant back in the 70s (we were somewhat ahead of our time) and it was one of those dishes that it is impossible to take off the menu – people ordered it anyway – but we did vary it slightly over the years. Here is a menu from the early 80s showing it evolving …

spicy lentil fritters

A similar dahl can be made with split peas but they need several hours soaking before cooking which leads me on to ...

Pease Pudding from Up North


This dish is originally from the North East of England and, my man being of the Geordie diaspora, is something we eat fairly frequently. For a very cheap and simple dish it is delicious and makes me wonder if perhaps its not as grim Up North as we’ve been led to believe.

Soak 250g yellow split peas for about 8 hours in cold water. Meanwhile gently simmer a gammon joint till tender. Drain the peas and use some of the resulting gammon stock to cook them exactly as above to a soft purée, adding more stock as necessary. They take quite a bit longer than red lentils – say 45 minutes. 

Just this with no additions or perhaps, if you like, a little butter and black pepper ( don’t salt without tasting – the stock is usually sufficiently salty) is absolutely delicious served with the hot ham, new potatoes, fresh veggies and a drizzle of honey mustard salad dressing; the salt and the sweet are brill together. Pease pudding is also good formed into patties and fried to serve with the next day’s ham or in ham sarnies with or without the honey mustard dressing. Oh yes – you could also add some cooked onions, shredded ham and stock to make a great soup. And so we go almost full circle!



how to make pease pudding

A word on poppadoms …

Although it might sound romantic; one’s poppadom floating up into the blue, wafted on a tropical breeze, it’s actually quite irritating. In the Caribbean a lot of eating is done al fresco whilst enjoying the glorious sunshine or the wonderful resonant, warm and caressing night, cooled by the delicious trade winds. These same trade winds can play havoc with light and aerodynamic food, poppadoms being a case in point. For this reason I started cutting them into strips before frying – this way they not only make a very attractive garnish they are also less likely to blow away.


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1 comment:

James and Maggie said...

How long have you had to eat off of a red plastic spoon. Nice dish though.
Maggie