False Spring + Pumpkin Red Lentil Soup

false spring
A few weeks ago we were treated to unseasonably balmy weather with temperatures reaching the mid to high 20’s.  The cherry blossoms in High Park bloomed 3 weeks early. Yesterday it snowed, today there were mini ice pellets.

I was glad to rediscover this recipe for Pumpkin and Red Lentil Soup that I must have written about 4 years ago in an old notebook sandwiched between my husband’s mockery of a New Year’s resolution, and a note from when I was trying to convince him we should get a puppy (it worked).

pumpkin red lentil soup
This is really good rainy/snowy day food. The colour is like sunshine. Pumpkin and red lentils are cooked with lemongrass and coconut milk. The pumpkin falls apart in the soup giving it body and sweetness. Ginger, cayenne, and red chili give it a kick. You can up the spice if you want it hotter.

pumpkin and red lentil soup

Red lentils don’t need to be presoaked or preboiled; they cook very quickly. Do pick them over for debris and rinse in several changes of water before adding to the soup.

Regarding soup stock, of course you can make your own, but I use a low sodium vegetable bouillon cube from the health food store. Cut it into small pieces before adding it to the soup to help it dissolve better. I find the tetra packs of broth too distinctly flavoured and coloured. I generally only use the tetras for risotto, but even then I dilute with water.

To prepare the lemongrass trim and discard the dried out grassy part of the stalk, plus a thin slice from the base to freshen it up. You will be left with the fresh lower portion, which will be lighter in colour and roughly 4 to 5 inches long. Make a single slit down the length of each stalk to help release the flavour.

Pumpkin & Red Lentil Soup

1 medium onion, small dice
2 celery stalks, small dice
1 dried red chili, broken up
2 medium carrots, diced
2-3 inch piece of ginger, peeled and minced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp curry powder
dash of cayenne (to taste)
6 cups water
2 stalks lemongrass
1 cube of low sodium vegetable broth, broken up
4 cups pumpkin, peeled and roughly chopped
1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
165 ml coconut milk
salt & pepper
olive oil

For garnish:

cilantro, picked from stems
green onion sliced
jalapeño pepper, cut in half, seeds removed and sliced or chopped
lime wedges

In a large soup pot sauté onion, celery and dried red chili in olive oil over medium low heat without browning till soft, about 10 minutes. Cook with lid on, and stir often to make sure the onion and celery doesn’t stick or burn. I like to really melt down onion and celery in soup so it adds flavour, but disappears. I don’t like any crunch of undercooked onion.

Add carrots, ginger, crushed garlic, curry powder, and cayenne. Cook for 1-2 minutes.

Add water and lemongrass to the pot. Bring to a boil. Add bouillon cube, pumpkin, lentils, and coconut milk. Bring back to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Some of the pumpkin and lentils will fall apart thickening the soup. Simmer with lid ajar for 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve with a lime wedge on the side, and top at the last minute with cilantro, green onion, and jalapeño.

pumpkin red lentil soup oscar

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