I’ve had an extremely prolific season in the kitchen. Winter does that to me. It brings out all those nesting instincts. One sniff of the chill in the air and poof! just like that, I’m craving soups, stews, casseroles and the rest of that warm/comforting catalog. Also, if you’re me, that includes a lot of warm desserts, but we’ll save that for another post.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been blogging nearly as much as I’ve been cooking, or eating. Which is a shame. But somewhere between dropping off/picking up a toddler and trying to put an infant to nap fifty five times a day, actually taking the time to WRITE about what I’ve been cramming in my mouth hasn’t happened. But this soup has the best of intentions to help remedy the problem. It’s got vegetables and protein, color and crunch. And – cherry on top – it tastes like Thai food, which should be an immediate win in your book. Because there’s only one thing better than hot soup on a cold day, and that’s Asian-ish hot soup on a cold day. The only annoying ingredient to locate here is kaffir lime leaves. But they’re worth hunting down for this recipe, and as I’ve discovered, freeze amazingly well.
Since this is yet another Ottolenghi recipe, yes, it’s tad on the fussy side with garnishes and such. Some days, even I wonder if it’s really necessary to make yet another shallot infused oil to drizzle over something. But in case you’re wondering, like I was, if you could just add shallots and chili to the soup instead of making an extra component…well, you could, but it would produce a soup that’s a bit of an also ran in as opposed to a winner. Which one do you want to be? (Side note: these bragging and competitive tendencies are in no way a reflection of the kind of parent I hope to be. Ahem.)
Thai Lentil Soup with Sugar Snap Peas and Chili Oil
4 oz sugar snap peas
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 1/2 tbsp vegetarian red curry paste
2 lemongrass stalks, gently bashed with a rolling pin
4 fresh Kaffir lime leaves (or 12 dried)
1 1/4 cups/250 g red lentils
1 cups/250 ml coconut milk (I added a bit more but used light coconut milk)
1 1/2 tbsp lime juice
1 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
1 cup/15 g cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup/180 ml sunflower oil
2 shallots, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic, coarsely chopped
1 tsp peeled and coarsely chopped fresh ginger
1/2 red chili, coarsely chopped
1/2 star anise pod
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp tomato paste
grated zest of 1/2 small lemon
First make the chili oil. Heat 2 tablespoons of the sunflower oil in a small saucepan. Add the shallot, garlic, ginger, chili, star anise, and curry powder and fry over low heat for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the shallot is soft. Add the tomato paste and cook gently for 2 minutes. Stir in the remaining oil and the lemon zest and simmer very gently for 30 minutes. Leave to cool.
For the soup, bring a small pan of water to a boil and throw in the sugar snap peas. Cook for 90 seconds, drain, refresh under cod water, and set aside to dry. Once cool, cut them on the diagonal into thin slices.
Heat the sunflower oil in a large pot and add the onion. Cook over low heat, with a lid on, for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring once or twice, until the onion is completely soft and sweet. Stir in the red curry paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the lemongrass, lime leaves, red lentils, and 3 cups water. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to low, and simmer for 15 minutes, until the lentils are completely soft.
Remove the soup from the heat and take out and discard the lemongrass and lime leaves. Use a blender to process the soup until it is completely smooth. Add the coconut milk, lime juice, soy sauce, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and stir. Return the soup to medium heat so all the flavors come together. Ladle into bowls, scatter the snap peas on top, sprinkle with the cilantro, and finish as much chili oil as you’d like.