Carrot, Fennel and Red Lentil Soup
2 Tb sunflower oil
1 fennel bulb, sliced thinly
5 carrots, sliced thinly
2 leeks, sliced thinly
2 stalks lemongrass, minced
1 ½ in. large piece of ginger, grated
½ in. fresh turmeric, grated (or 1 tsp. dried)
1-4 bird’s eye chilies, depending on heat desired (Moonrise herbs carries them)
1 c red lentils
3 quarts water
1 Tb coriander seed
1 ½ tsp cumin seed
½ tsp brown mustard seed
1 tsp black peppercorns
¼ tsp fenugreek powder
1 tsp salt
5 cloves garlic, crushed
1 lemon, half juiced, the other half cut into wedges for serving
¼ c cilantro, chopped
You’ll need a mortar and pestle, a food processor, or clean coffee grinder. Otherwise, substitute pre-ground coriander, cumin, and black pepper and use the brown mustard whole.
Heat up a soup pot on medium heat with the sunflower oil. Add the fennel bulb, carrots, and leeks and simmer, stirring occasionally until soft—about 12 to 15 minutes. While cooking, peel outer layers of lemongrass, and finely chop the tender base of the stalks. Grate ginger and turmeric, and finely chop the bird’s eye chilies. Stir in lemongrass, ginger, turmeric and chilies and cook for 2 minutes. Add lentils and water, bring flame to high and bring to a boil. Drop flame to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes.
While soup is cooking, prepare the spice mixture. Heat a small skillet on medium flame. Add coriander seeds and gently agitate pan until you can smell them (1-3 minutes). Transfer them to a mortar and pestle or food processor, and return pan to burner. Do the same for the cumin, mustard, and black peppercorns, toasting each separately. Add fenugreek powder for a few seconds, and add along with salt to the mix. Grind ‘em up, and toss in with garlic to soup when the 30 minutes are up. Cook for 15 more minutes and add lemon juice. Salt to taste. Serve soup topped with cilantro. A lemon wedge on the side is good. This soup is also surprisingly good at room temperature.