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Is anyone else feeling the pull to a more plant-based lifestyle? I grew up in a meat and potato kind of family, so our meals were pretty predictable. There was always a starch, salad, vegetable, some sort of bread, and a protein of meat, fish or chicken. I don’t remember as a child ever having a meal that contained no animal protein. Even a dinner of spinach salad had bacon on it. Many cultures use meat to flavor their food instead of using it as the main source of food itself. I’ve always been fascinated by vegetarian and vegan diets. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to join their team because I love an occasional steak and I’ll never relinquish cheese; however, I do believe that eating a high percentage of your meals from the garden can be beneficial in many ways.
Some friends have told me that this kind of eating would never be feasible for them because the beans that replace protein are too gas-inducing. I promise you that there are ways around that. Soaking beans before preparing them actually helps greatly.
Today, I’m working with red lentils and one of my favorite flavor profiles: lemongrass, lime and coconut milk mixed with red curry paste. I am making Thai Red Lentil Soup. It might be cold outside, but it’s going to be hot in my kitchen.
This soup is incredibly easy to make. It starts with simply sweating the onions until they are tender and sweet.No, you are not taking your onions to the gym. The process of cooking onions on a low flame, allowing them to soften, is actually referred to as sweating. Then, the curry paste, lemongrass, lime peel and lentils are added with either water and broth and are cooked for about 20 to 30 minutes until softened. Once soft, you simply remove the lemongrass and lime peel and blend the soup, then add the coconut milk, lime juice and soy sauce, adding additional liquid until you find the right consistency. Let the soup simmer for a few minutes and it’s ready in no time.
This recipe was adapted from Plenty More by Yotam Ottolenghi. He is by far my favorite vegetarian author. I’ve simplified this recipe by using store-bought red curry paste and store-bought chili oil. I also added extra coconut milk. I find the lentils can become very thick very quickly, so you will need to adjust your water or broth level to suit your liking. I also adapted the recipe by using a lime peel instead of kefir lime leaves, which are much more difficult to find. I’ve had it both ways and I don’t find that there is a huge difference.
Thai Red Lentil Soup
- 4 oz. sugar snap peas ( about 12 snap peas)
- 3 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 medium onion, sliced very thin
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. red curry paste ( add more if you like it spicy)
- 1 1/4 cup dried red lentils
- 2 stalks lemongrass, lightly crushes
- Peel from 1 lime, peeled into strips with a vegetable peeler
- 3 cups water, vegetable stock or chicken stock
- 1 can coconut milk ( plus extra for optional garnish)
- 4-5 Tbsp. lime juice
- 2 1/2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
- Cilantro, coarsely chopped or garnish ( optional)
- Chili oil or hot sauce for garnish ( optional)
- 4 lime wedges, for serving (optional)
- In a small pot of boiling, salted water, blanch snap peas for 30-40 seconds. Drain and rinse under cold water. Slice into thin strips on the diagonal. Set aside.
- In a large pot, heat oil on medium. Add onions and sauté for 6-7 minutes to soften and develop sweetness. Add the red curry paste and sauté for 1 minute. Add the lemongrass, lime peel and lentils. Stir to coat everything well.
- Add water or stock of your choice and bring it to a boil.
- Lower the heat to a bare simmer and cover the pot.
- Simmer for 20-30 minutes, stirring soup once or twice. Lentils should be completely soft and the soup may look a little thick.
- Remove the lemongrass and lime peels.
- Blend soup in a blender or with an immersion blender until completely smooth.
- Put the soup back into the pot. Add the coconut milk, lime juice and soy sauce. If the soup is too thick, add a little extra stock or water.
- Bring back to a boil for 1 minute and remove from the heat.
- Taste and adjust the soy sauce, salt or lime juice, if needed.
- Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with sugar snap peas, cilantro and a drizzle of chili oil. Serve with extra lime wedges on the side.