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Esurientes - The Comfort Zone

Monday, September 26, 2005

IMBB19: Persian lentil broth with fried onions and lime

This month's Is My Blog Burning, hosted by Becks & Posh has a really interesting theme of 'trick someone to eat a Vegan meal'. I was left thinking, "geez vegan..what the hell can I make?!" I don't know why I thought this, when I eat entire meals sans animal prodcuts a lot of the time. For some reason I have a real mental block between vegetarian and that step to vegan. Vegan conjured up images of the hessian-clad, beaded students who hang around the food co-op at my uni and eat beans and dandelion tea. Somehow I imagined that cooking vegan would involve multi-evening preparations of soaking and sprouting legumes, and that I wouldn't have time to make an entry. And I don't know why I thought this. Was I confusing veganism with Michelin starred sauces, perhaps??

But, then out of nowhere I remembered a recipe I clipped out of a Gourmet Traveller magazine about 3 years ago. I had a feeling it was vegan (well, it had lentils in it, didn't it??), and if it wasn't I could alter it to make it vegan (see previous post for my inability to follow recipes...)

Gratifyingly, it was completely vegan and I cooked it up for my dinner tonight. Essentially it's a light, tomatoey lentil broth, spiced with cumin and coriander seeds and sparked up with fresh coriander and lots of lime juice. I really enjoyed it, particularly as I really needed light, refreshing flavours tonight after a weekend of leisurely cooked breakfasts, kebabs and cakes in Canberra.

I thought I had the brown lentils called for in the recipe, but no. No, I have two bags of red lentils, but no brown. So, I used red lentils. I also used canned tomatoes instead of fresh (it is the end of winter here...) and bottled lime juice rather than fresh (see previous point. Plus limes always cost an absolute fortune, even in summer!) (Goodness, there are a lot of brackets in this post...) And right at the end, instead of spending time frying up another onion, I used some of the crispy fried onion you can buy in packets at Asian grocery shops. None of these substitutions seemed to have an adverse effect on the recipe, and I really enjoyed it. It's not a thick, hearty, meal-in-a-bowl lentil soup, this one, but a light, refreshing meal. Nigella Lawson would call it Temple Food. I think it's perfect for a hot climate...or a body in need of a cleansing tonic.

As for tricking someone; I offered my mum a bowl of this and I think she had some and enjoyed it. However, I don't think she'd be put off by the fact it is vegan. It's just a lovely recipe that anyone would make, vegan or not! I'd happily make it for a dinner party of the most enthusiastic carnivores without any qualms.
Actually the tricking may be destined for me;I actually used cumin seeds, which long-time readers know is my most HATED, REPULSIVE thing around. It seriously smells like dirty underpants that haven't been washed!!!! But, I was a dutiful recipe follower and added the teaspoon of cumin, all the while holding my nose. And, you know, yes I could detect the cumin in the soup but it wasn't so awful. I actually could tolerate it without thinking of the toilets at my all-girls' high school. Yes, I may have even tricked myself into enjoying cumin...... :-)
Read on for the recipe:

Persian Lentil Broth with fried onions and lime
Olive oil, for cooking
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoons chopped coriander stalks
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground (preferably in a mortar & pestle, rather than ready-ground)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted
2 x 5mm slices fresh ginger
1 long red chilli, sliced
1 cup brown (or red) lentils
2 flavoursome tomatoes, peeled and chopped (or 1 can diced tomatoes)
8 cups (2 litres) water
juice 4 limes (~3 tablespoons lime juice)
1 onion, sliced (or a few spoons of crispy fried onions)
1/4 cup coriander leaves

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil and gently cook the onion and garlic until soft. Add the coriander stalks, ground coriander seeds and cumin seeds and cook for another minute. Add the ginger, chilli, lentils, tomatoes and water. Bring to the boil, reduce heat then simmer, partly covered for 10-15 minutes, skimming off any froth, until the lentils are tender.
Remove from heat. Discard the sliced ginger. Add the lime juice and season the soup with salt to taste (I found it needed quite a bit of salt for my taste). Quickyl brown the sliced onion in a hot pan with a little olive oil. Serve the soup in hot bowls and the fried onion and coriander leaves to add separately.
Serves 4.

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  • The soups is beautiful, Niki. Definately something I would like.
    Some people really are close minded at hearing the word "vegan", even if they eat non-animal dishes. Language makes people strange sometimes.

    By Blogger Nic, at 9/26/2005 11:40:00 pm  

  • This soup looks incredible Niki, so vibrant and pretty. it also sounds like it has just the right amount of flavour impact too. I love lime, red chilli and coriander (I used sll three of them in my own vegan picnic coleslaw).

    thanks for taking part


    By Blogger Sam, at 9/27/2005 08:04:00 am  

  • Sounds (and looks) wonderful! I love lentils and red lentils are great because they cook SO fast.

    By Blogger Cathy, at 9/27/2005 09:51:00 am  

  • Nic - For me it seem a real stumbling block between vegetarianism and vaganism. Vegetarian is easy - just no hunks of meat in your meal, but veganism creates more difficulties. What? No cheese? cream? EGGS??? Oh dear. And as Jeffrey Steingarten says, cooking vegan actually requires more skill in the kitchen than regular cooking.

    Sam - The flavour impact was excellent. The lime juice really lifted the flavour and made it something quite different and exciting. I've brought some more for today's lunch, so I'm looking forward to how it developed in flavour overnight

    Cathy - I only discovered red lentils in the past year, and I love them too! They are the best thing for a quick, healthy, filling snack. Just boiled up with a bit of water and some vegetable stock powder. Yummmmm!

    By Blogger Niki, at 9/27/2005 10:06:00 am  

  • LOL! You ate underpants! And liked it!;-P But I can understand why - the soup looks gorgeous!

    By Blogger Cerebrum, at 9/27/2005 05:43:00 pm  

  • Great looking soup! I consider myself an omnivore...so I will eat anything (from great hunks of meat to vegan dishes) as long as it tastes good :) I also love lentils...must try this!

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 9/27/2005 11:49:00 pm  

  • I like the look of this, sounds like it would be a good light lunch soup for making the rest of the office feel really hungry.

    I know what you mean about cumin (seeds) - those little fellas smell really SWEATY!

    By Blogger AnnaW, at 9/28/2005 12:01:00 am  

  • Sounds delicious but a bit on the delicate side - do you think the brown lentils would have made it more substantial or would they have taken the edge off the lime-chili-coriander combination?

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/03/2005 08:01:00 am  

  • Owen - I was a bit doubtful about the brown lentils, from the perspective of cooking time. In my experience brown lentil are not nearly cooked in 15-20 minutes. However, if they were cooked down the I think the soup would have a thicker, richer texture. Not such a cleansing tonic for the soup to cure a 'crise de foie' ;-)

    By Blogger Niki, at 10/03/2005 04:17:00 pm  

  • Yes, sounds like it was just right for the context.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 10/08/2005 05:20:00 pm  

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