Curried Lentil Soup with Mango & Apples

Many years ago we were eating a winter dinner at The Snake River Grill in Jackson, WY. I had a curried lentil soup that was outstanding. It was so great, that after I returned I wrote a letter to the chef there and asked if he might share the recipe with me. I didn’t hear back for a few months, so assumed I would not get my wish. Long after I’d forgotten about it, one day in the mail came the hand-written recipe from the chef for the soup. I still have his original recipe, and it’s one of my favorite soups.

This recipe can be completely vegetarian if you use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock, and you can substitute all vegetable oil for the butter and oil. I often make it this way and my kids are none the wiser. The french green lentils called for in this recipe are getting easier to find than they used to be. They hold their shape unlike the more typical lentil does. An important part of cooking them though is the quick saute they have before you add the stock to the soup. This helps to seal the outside shell of the lentil I was told. This recipe makes a lot, so there’s plenty to have for a meal and freeze some for another day.

Curried Lentil Soup with Mango & Apple

2 pounds French Green Lentils DuPuy (rinsed, but not soaked)
1 large yellow onion, finely diced
2 large carrots, peeled & finely diced
4 stalks celery, finely diced
2 mangoes, peeled and diced
2 granny smith apples, peeled and diced
4 tablespoons good curry powder (I used 2 tbsp. hot curry powder & 2 tbsp. sweet pineapple curry powder)
1 to 3 teaspoons red Thai curry paste*
½ pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
2-1/2 to 3 quarts chicken or vegetable stock

* Red Thai curry paste can add a lot of heat, quickly. Start with 1 teaspoon and adjust up, slowly, if you find you’d like a little more heat to the soup.

Sweat all ingredients in butter and olive oil except for lentils for 10-12 minutes on medium heat in a heavy-bottomed stockpot.

Add lentils, stir for 2-3 minutes.

Add 2-1/2 quarts stock, bring to a boil, and reduce to a very low simmer.

Simmer for 40-45 minutes, season with salt & pepper and add additional stock if the soup needs thinning.

This makes a great meal. Serve with a good, crusty bread.

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Curried Carrot Soup with Spiced Pepitas

I am picky about what vegetables I eat readily. I’ll admit it. Carrots are one of them. I love raw carrots, and so does my dog, Bullet. Whenever I eat them he’ll sit next to me and we’ll share it. Don’t worry — I break off pieces for him, we don’t gnaw on the same carrot together. However, I’m not a huge fan of cooked carrots. My friend Justine made some oven roasted carrot fries for me one day that were great, and roasted but not overcooked to the point of being mushy carrots I can eat. Well, you get the point. I’m picky.

I would not order a carrot soup in a restaurant. However, I recently bought Fine Cooking’s Soups & Sandwiches special interest publication, and there are some mighty tasty looking soups in there. One of them is a Curried Carrot Soup with Cilantro. Now this actually looked like a carrot soup I would like. First of all anything curry flavored is good to me, and add cilantro and it’s just about guaranteed I’ll like it. The original recipe called for using 1 teaspoon of sweet curry powder, but I wanted my soup to be a little spicy, so I used a spicy curry powder , and the teaspoon didn’t seem nearly enough, so I ended up using 2 teaspoons. The original recipe also called for using chopped peanuts as an optional garnish. However, in the front of this same publication were some recipes for soup toppers, and one of them was for roasted pepitas. You roasted raw pepitas (hulled pumpkin seeds) in the oven with olive oil and then toss with ground coriander and dried dill. I thought this sounded like a more interesting garnish for this soup than chopped peanuts. When I made my pepitas though I decided to add a 1/2 teaspoon of ground cumin as well.

The recipe also called for fresh carrot juice. Normally I can find this in my grocery store but of course when I needed it they didn’t have it. This gave me the perfect opportunity to drag my seldom-used juicer out of the basement which was kind of fun, and the carrot juice was certainly fresh and beautiful. The chickens enjoyed the peelings and juicer leftovers too.

I thought this really came out great. While it’s not a soup that qualifies as a meal, it’s a good lunch soup or a starter soup for a dinner. It was refreshingly different from what one expects of a carrot soup. Hey, even I ate it.

Spiced Roasted Pepitas

Original recipe from Fine Cooking’s Soups & Sandwiches, altered slightly by Crafty Farm Girl, 2011.

Yields 1 cup.

1 cup large raw pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1 tsp. olive oil
1-1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. dried dill
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Pinch cayenne (optional)

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 325°F. Toss the seeds with the olive oil on a baking sheet large enough to hold them in a single layer. Spread in an even layer and roast the seeds in the oven, stirring occasionally, until golden, 13 to 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and immediately put the pepitas in a bowl and toss the seeds with the coriander, salt, dill, pepper, and cayenne, if using. I put them back onto the baking sheet again and baked for an additional 2 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.

Transfer to a small serving dish or two and serve. (If you’re working ahead, refresh the pepitas for a minute or two in the oven before serving).

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : per Tbs.; Calories (kcal): 50; Fat (g): 4.5; Fat Calories (kcal): 40; Saturated Fat (g): 1; Protein (g): 2; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 1.5; Carbohydrates (g): 2; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2; Sodium (mg): 90; Cholesterol (mg): 0; Fiber (g): 0;

Curried Carrot Soup with Spiced Pepitas

Original recipe from Fine Cooking‘s Soups & Sandwiches, altered slightly by Crafty Farm Girl, 2011.

Serves 4 to 6

2 Tbs. vegetable oil
1-1/2 lb. carrots, cut into 1-inch chunks (about 4 cups)
1 large yellow onion, cut into 1-inch chunks
3 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tsp. spicy curry powder
3 cups lower-salt chicken broth (I ended up using about 3-1/2 cups to get it thin enough)
Kosher salt
1-1/2 cups carrot juice; more as needed
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a 10- or 11-inch straight-sided sauté pan over medium-high heat until hot. Add the carrots and then the onion. Cook, stirring very little at first and more frequently towards the end, until the vegetables are golden brown, 6 to 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and curry and cook, stirring, for about 30 seconds. Add the carrot juice and cilantro.

Add the broth and 1/2 tsp. salt and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, 10 to 15 minutes.

Now I messed up here. That’s what happens when you don’t read the recipe carefully. It seemed to have worked out just fine, but I’ll tell you what I did. I added the garlic and curry and cooked for 30 seconds. Then I added the salt and chicken stock. I did not add the carrot juice and cilantro at this point. I didn’t add it until after I pureed it, which was stupid because then in order to not have big cilantro leaves in there I had to re-puree it in the blender after I added the carrot juice and cilantro. What I probably would do next time is add the carrot juice and cilantro after I had simmered the stock and before I pureed it. Lesson learned.

Purée the soup in a blender, working in two batches and making sure to vent the blender by removing the pop-up center or lifting one edge of the top (drape a towel over the top to keep the soup from leaking).

Return the soup to the pan, heat through, and season to taste with salt and pepper. If necessary, add more carrot juice to thin to your liking. Ladle into bowls and serve, sprinkled with the spiced pepitas.

nutrition information (per serving):
Size : based on six servings; Calories (kcal): 140; Fat (g): 6; Fat Calories (kcal): 50; Saturated Fat (g): 1; Protein (g): 4; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 2.5; Carbohydrates (g): 21; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2.5; Sodium (mg): 230; Cholesterol (mg): 0; Fiber (g): 4;