Spicy Red Lentil & Okra Soup
I love hot and spicy soups, the kind that make your taste buds come to life and your appetite kick into gear. Some soups take a long time to cook, need elaborate preparation and a good stock as a base. Now I am not one of these people who insists that you boil your own stock from scratch... life is too short. And I know a couple of good tricks to get a lot of flavor into a soup at a fraction of the time.
This here little bowl of fire took all of 20 minutes to make... and this is how I did it.
I prepared all the flavor giving ingredients and spices first- about a tablespoon each of chopped shallots, ginger, fresh chili and celery. I put these into my mixer with a clove of garlic, the zest and juice of 1 lime and a teaspoon of cumin seeds. I whizzed these together until I had a small amount of very flavorful paste.
Next, I heated up 1 cupful of coconut milk in a saucepan, bringing it to the boil and then turning it down to a simmer. After about 3-4 minutes, the coconut milk will "split" and you will see the fat separate from the juice and float on the surface.
And thanks to my old Thai friend Tuanjai for the tip!
Because if you add your seasoning into the milk before it splits, it will simply boil, but by adding it now, the coconut oils effectively "fry" them and it gives you a fuller aroma. Excellent!
Add a good tablespoon of tomato paste and allow this a minute or so to fry and develop its full aroma before continuing. Now you can add your lentils and okra and enough boiling water to cover them- you don't want to stop the cooking process by using cold water. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar to taste. After only 4-5 minutes, the lentils will have taken up most of the liquid and swollen up in size and at the same time, the okra will have started to soften and bind everything into a rather compact mass. So now you need to add water carefully until you reach a consistency that you like.
I served it up with a little plain coconut milk and some finely chopped spring onion greens as a garnish. My beloved chili threads and a few extra cumin seeds were the finishing touch. And there it is- spicy, fiery, fresh and all natural! Fasten your seatbelts and let your taste buds take you for a ride!