Red lentil soup with curry roasted cauliflower topping

I know… I’m bad, bad, bad. I don’t bake anymore. I haven’t baked in months. I just don’t have time… I need to make time. I am going to make time. Don’t go just yet, I will bake again! Now, what’s that for a New Year’s resolution?

After all the food in the Christmas and New Year festive season, we are trying to be good and eat healthy food. We’re nowhere close to a proper detox (I had a glass of wine no later than last night), but we’re not eating meat and have loads of soups. But, as you may know if you’re trying to be healthy too, soups can quickly become boring. I mean, I love a bowl of stilton & broccoli soup; peas & ham; carrot & coriander; etc. but.. you know… after a while I need something a little more tasty, with a little more “hoompf” like they say on telly.

Yesterday I was therefore looking for a tasty-looking but healthy soup to make. And I came across a recipe of red lentil lemon soup by chefmo73 at http://mobitesfood.com/ Red lentils, cumin, chili, now that’s what I’m talking about! It became obvious that this was going to be last night’s dinner.

I was also looking for something else to serve along the soup (notably because we have 2 boys at home and a big chocolate stash; and if I want the latter to survive the night, I need to ensure the boys are full). And this is when I came across a second gem: So Hungry I Could Blog‘s recipe for curry roasted cauliflower.

I put the two recipes together, and this is how this red lentil soup with curry roasted cauliflower topping was born. Tadam! This is truly the perfect January dinner: tasty, warm and hearty, no meat (well, if you don’t count in the chicken stock), cheap ingredients, incredibly easy.

Red lentil soup

Here’s how to proceed.

Curry roasted cauliflower topping (serves 4)

  • 1 cauliflower cut into bite-size florets
  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp of lemon zest
  • 1 tbsp of curry powder
  • 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 1/2 tsp of turmeric
  • salt and black pepper

In a bowl, mix together the olive oil, lemon zest, crushed garlic, spices, salt and pepper. Add the cauliflower florets and toss so that it os well-coated in the curry mixture. Spread the florets on a baking dish and roast at 375c (gas mark 5) for about 1 hour (or when the cauliflower have crisped up and the smell in your house is to die for). Reserve on kitchen paper to drain any remaining oil.

Curry roasted cauliflowers

Spicy red lentil soup (serves 4-5)

  • 3 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 white onion, chopped roughly
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 1 tsp of ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp of salt
  • 1/4 tsp of black pepper
  • Ground chili powder to taste
  • 1 litre of chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 cup of red lentils (I did half red lentils and half green lentils, only because I didn’t have enough red lentils. It was still delicious, but I’m guessing the colour wasn’t as attractive as 100% red lentils would have been.)
  • 2 carrots, peeled and diced roughly
  • The juice of 1/2 lemon

In a stock pot, heat the olive oil and cook the onion and garlic until soft and golden. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, salt, pepper and chili powder and sauté for 2 minutes longer.

Add the stock with an extra 2 cups of water, the lentils and the chopped carrots. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat to medium-low and simmer until the lentils are soft (about 40 minutes). Taste and adjust seasoning.

Using an immersion blender, partly purée the soup: you want the lentils to be smooth, but to keep some chunks of carrots. Stir in the lemon juice.

Serve the soup drizzled with a little olive oil and topped with the curry roasted cauliflower. I guarantee that if you make that soup once, you will be making it again.

Spicy paste for chicken dishes

Chicken can be a little bit bland depending on how you cook it. So here’s an ingenious spice paste that you can easily rub you chicken with before roasting, BBQing or (like I did last weekend) slow cooking in a tagine dish.

Mashing garlic with coarse salt

Mashing garlic with coarse salt

Blending in hot smoked paprika and curcuma powder

Blending in hot smoked paprika and curcuma powder

You need:

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • Coarse salt
  • Hot paprika powder
  • Curcuma powder
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • Olive oil

In a pestle and mortar, mash the peeled garlic cloves with a pinch of coarse salt. We add salt here for two reasons: 1 – to help release the liquids in the garlic and 2- to create a texture that is easier to mash thanks to the resistance of the salt crystals.

When you have a smooth garlic paste add a spoonful of hot paprika powder and a spoonful of  curcuma powder and mash together until all blended, adding a little bit of olive oil if the mix is too dry and sticky. Add the peppercorns and mash until all ground in and you have a smooth mixture.

You can then adjust the amount of paste and its texture to taste with olive oil, making sure you mix everything together well and the paste doesn’t split.

Gently rub that spicy paste into your raw chicken to give a delicious twist to any cut of chicken.

What I most like about this, is its versatility: you can use it to massage chicken meat before slow cooking  the Moroccan-way in a tagine dish with slices of lemon and tinned tomatoes; you can rub it on chicken skin before grilling to create the tastiest spicy crispy skin; you can use it as a simple marinade; etc. 1 recipe, many many possible uses!