Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Curried Lentil and Potato Soup

Some disasters are worse than others. I accidentally bought a new cookbook - really, it is possible. Browse randomly on amazon and you may not necessarily be invited to supply a password or other details before your vague curiosity is rewarded with a debit from your credit card and a book in the post. Lesson - always sign out of any site that holds your details before you shut down. Upon its arrival I decided that the book was probably okay (it was a cup half full kind of day) - I would simply prove that I was not intergalactically stupid by rustling up a few of the interesting sounding recipes and all would be well. Cunning plan, no?


Lentil and sweet potato curry sounded promising. Fry off onions then make a paste with chilli, garlic and ginger with what seemed like a lot of lemon juice but hey it was in the recipe. It would probably evaporate to a proper flavour. Cooked that down till fragrant then added vegetables, lentils and a litre of stock. Very liquid looking but it had to simmer for a while. Covered. Hmm - probably at this point I should have been more nervous than I was but I was pretending disaster was impossible. Forty minutes later it was still pretty liquid looking but the vegetables were nearly cooked. Nothing for it but to keep it bubbling merrily for a while longer, uncovered -then serve it in bowls. At this point it was a long way from great. Watery consistency with a too sharp acidic back note from all the lemon juice but nice potato bits bobbing about and a good level of chilli heat with a long finish. Sprinkled with coriander it was still a very disappointing supper.

I wanted to throw it all away and pretend it never happened. My sweetheart, being cheese to my chalk, thought it could be rescued, and suggested making soup. I could see adding coconut milk might soften the flavour and reducing the lot to a rough liquid with the blender stick would sort out the texture. What a genius he is.

Supper next day was fabulous.

Curried lentil and potato soup

Spice Paste
6 large fresh green chillies, seeded and chopped
30ml lemon juice
6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons ginger, grated
1 cup fresh coriander, leaves, stalks and roots, chopped

Put all the ingredients into a processor and blend until well combined.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 onions, roughly chopped
1 litre/1.75 pints vegetable stock or water
500g/1.1lbs orange sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 3cm cubes
500g/1.1lbs waxy potatoes, unpeeled but chopped into 3cm cubes
200g/7oz dried green lentils, rinsed
1 teaspoon salt
400ml/14oz can coconut milk

Heat oil in a large saucepan and cook onions gently until softly translucent. Add the spice paste and fry for 3 or 4 minutes until aromatic. Add the remaining ingredients except the coconut milk and simmer for about 40 minutes till the potato and lentils are soft. Blend to the desired consistency, adding a little water or stock if it seems too thick. Stir in the coconut milk and warm through. Check seasoning - it may need a little more salt - then serve in large bowls topped with fresh coriander leaves.