Red Lentil Soup with Carrot & Ginger
An elegant first course in a cup or a hearty satisfying main course in a bowl, you can go either way with this Carrot & Ginger Spiced Red Lentil Soup.
Red lentils, carrots and ginger are the main players and with a few spices, this red lentil soup is surprisingly flavorful and this soup is ready to serve in less than 45 minutes.
Red lentils are lentils that have had the outer hull removed and they are most often found split which is why they cook up really fast, usually in 20 minutes. Red lentils which have not been split also cook up fast, maybe 5 minutes more than the split. They should be rinsed prior to adding them to the pot. During cooking, red lentils will fade in colour to yellow, but the carrots and red pepper will bring some of the orange hue back to the soup. Red lentils are almost always available in the bulk section of a well-stocked grocery store and also found already packaged in the rice and beans section of most grocery stores.
Carrots for the Red Lentil Soup
To keep some of that beautiful orange hue in the finished soup, try to find carrots with the deepest orange colour. Carrots from the Farmers market are beautiful these days. Orange carrots are the best for this soup for both taste and colour. Purple carrots, while orange inside, are not a good choice as they will make the soup grey in colour and they are not as sweet so they don’t balance the flavour the way orange carrots do.
Don’t skip the Red Pepper (paste, jarred or fresh)
Mild or sweet red pepper paste will also bring back some of the bright hue, and deepens the flavor. I have made with and without red pepper paste, but far prefer with the red pepper paste. Red pepper paste can be found at Mediterranean markets, Spanish markets and specialty grocery stores. The terms mild and sweet on the labels are the same in that the peppers don’t have any piquante or heat (some labels call it mild, some call it sweet). I find mild/sweet the best as the “hot” is overpowering for this recipe. If you can’t find the red pepper paste, jarred whole red peppers are a good replacement. Be sure to read and compare labels for the sodium content to find the most appropriate for you (sodium levels range from about 40mg to 400mg per tablespoon). When red bell peppers are in season, a blended fresh red bell pepper adds a wonderful taste and colour too.
Ginger for the Red Lentil Soup
I have used both older ginger (the ginger typically found in the grocery store) and young ginger found at the Farmers market for this soup and they both flavor up the soup nicely. Old ginger is identified by the outer skin which is about the color of a russet potato and very opaque. It gets more opaque and tougher as it ages and becomes more piquante.
The skin on young or freshly harvested ginger is more translucent and sometimes has magenta and green hues in parts. Young ginger has more moisture, a brighter flavor and is less fibrous. When using older ginger, be sure to remove any long fibers before adding to the soup. If the ginger seems really tough instead of grating the ginger, you can cut crosswise into 1/8in coins, then blend in a hand bender or smash with a pounder.
Cook the Potatoes Separately
The potatoes are cooked separately so they don’t get too soft and it gives an opportunity to add more flavor. Yukon gold potatoes, purple potatoes or purple yams (if you can find them) are a great choice for this Red Lentil & Carrot Soup. Potatoes add an extra texture that plays nicely with the dahl-like soup. The spice quantities used on the potatoes are estimated because sprinkling ground spices gives a better distribution then pouring them on the potatoes. I add the potatoes to the individual cups or bowls, but you can certainly add to the whole pot once they are cooked through. I keep the potatoes separate when I know there is going to be some leftover so the potatoes don’t become too soft for the next day.
Brighten up the Red Lentil Soup
The splash of apple cider vinegar and the extra grated ginger really wakes up the flavors and adds a brightness. For color and an extra hit of piquant, a little sprinkle of the Aleppo pepper is a nice touch on the individual cups or bowls.
Tools Used in this Recipe
- salad spinner
- scrub gloves or vegetable brush
- prep bowls
- chef knife
- cutting board
- white plate
- Dutch oven
- wooden spatula
- measuring cup
- hand blender