Monday, November 28, 2011

Post-Holiday Red Lentil Soup

I’m having a slow start to this week. We’ve just returned home from Washington, DC where my brother, Tim, and sister-in-law, Kristen, hosted an incredible Thanksgiving dinner for us, my parents and my brother, Mike. We all enjoyed a long holiday weekend together with sightseeing, walks in the sunshine, football and good food. Watching my sons with their sweet younger cousins warmed my heart and I’m feeling particularly thankful to have had this time with my family since next summer Tim, Kristen and their children are moving to Hanoi (Tim is in the Foreign Service). Sigh. A bit more difficult to spend time together but we look forward to Thanksgiving in Vietnam sometime.

For now, though, it’s time to transition back to life here. So far today this means pulling sleepy boys out of bed for school, throwing a load of laundry in, picking up our dogs and running to the grocery store. Time to ponder what to make for dinner...

A simple soup is a welcome meal after a holiday weekend of indulgent eating. This red lentil one is quick and easy to pull together with pantry staples (and no pureeing involved). A bowl of warm nourishment. I love opening my tin of Indian spices to inhale the scent of cumin seed, ground coriander and turmeric - all of which flavor this soup. The tomato base creates a fresh, hearty taste, crushed red chile peppers give a spicy kick and a splash of lemon juice pulls it all together (you can also add a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt if you prefer some creaminess).

Stirring a pot of soup is a time for reflection and evokes warm feelings of the past few days for me. I am grateful for time spent with people I love and that we could gather around the table to celebrate a holiday together. I hope your Thanksgiving weekend was enjoyable and shared with loved ones, too.

Red Lentil Soup
Adapted from Pasta & Company in Seattle, WA
Serves 8

2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 medium onions, peeled and diced
4 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon crushed red chile peppers (or more to taste)
8 cups water
2 cups red lentils, rinsed and picked over
28 ounces canned (or homemade) tomato puree
6 ounces tomato paste
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
Sour cream or Greek yogurt to dollop (optional)

In a large soup pot, warm the oil over low heat and add the cumin seeds, coriander and turmeric. Stir for a few minutes until fragrant and the seeds darken. Add the onions, garlic and red chile peppers. Increase the heat and sauté until the onions are soft.

Add the water, lentils, tomato puree and paste, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, stir again and simmer uncovered for about 25 minutes. The lentils should be very soft and the soup thickened. Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the lemon juice. Taste for seasoning. If the soup is very thick you can add a little more water or lemon juice. Serve warm with sour cream or yogurt.

(This soup can be made a few days ahead and it freezes well.)


  1. I'm glad you had such a nice Thanksgiving! I've got to get myself back into the routine of cooking dinner...

    The soup looks lovely and I like that it doesn't require any puréeing because I'm lazy! I also like the whole freezer-friendly thing, because...I'm lazy! :-)

  2. @Lauren
    I'm with you, Lauren - I love soup recipes that don't require pureeing (although since getting a stick blender I don't mind so much anymore). Hope you had a lovely Thanksgiving!

  3. This is such a perfect post Thanksgiving dish. I'm feeling very uninspired food-wise this looks a perfect dish to get me back in a food mood!

  4. This soup looks just perfect. Warm and hearty but healthy.

  5. @Lisa (this litttle piggy)
    Thanks, Lisa! I hope you enjoy it. I understand that post-Thanksgiving uninspired feeling...whenever I host I experience it. This year, though, I didn't cook since we visited my brother and his family.

  6. @Katherine Martinelli
    Thank you, Katherine! It's my favorite lentil soup, and definitely a healthier one (always a nice bonus!).

  7. This looks wonderful. I am definitely in a soup mood lately. I haven't cooked with red lentils in ages. I'm going to have to see if I've got any in the pantry...

  8. @Brooke
    Thank you, Brooke! I love red lentils since they cook so quickly. This is soup weather, for sure - these cold, dark evenings have me craving it.

  9. The whole "dark at 4:30" thing is just wrong... Still light at 10 pm? I'm OK with that. Dark at 4:30? Not so much... =)

  10. Made this for dinner tonight! I subbed port for the vinegar and added 2 C of butternut squash puree to sweeten it up. My 3 year old who steadfastly refuses to eat anything remotely resembling soup LOVED it! w00t!

  11. @Brooke
    Thank you for letting me know, Brooke! I'm especially happy to hear your 3 year old ate it up. And I like your addition of squash puree - yum.

    Yeah, dark at 4:30 is a bit much - and I do love those long summer evenings!

  12. Sounds like a wonderful Thanksgiving :) I adore lentil soup, actually my Mum's lentil soup is my favourite all time soup, and this one sounds wonderful with all this lovely spices.

    1. It was a marvelous Thanksgiving! I'd love to know your Mum's lentil soup recipe if you'd ever like to share it. One can never have too many good soup recipes up their sleeve.


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