When Autumn arrives, the first thing I make is Rice Pudding. For Ottolenghi it is this Thai inspired soup that he makes when the arrival of autumn is officially announced. And what a way to celebrate Autumn! It is fresh, creamy and loaded with flavour. Great choice, Ottolenghi!
Making this soup with split red lentils (masoor dal) will give you a brighter coloured, but it can also be made with whole red lentils. The recipe does not specify which one. Whole lentils provide a deeper flavour and darker colour, and they won’t blend to as smooth a soup, but are just as fine to use if you prefer to. I have made today’s soup with whole lentils.
This is an Ottolenghi dish from Plenty More. It is Ottolenghi day on the blog – one of two days per month where we publish all the latest posts of recipes we have tried in our project of cooking from Ottolenghi books – currently we are cooking from Plenty More, but not ignoring his other books completely. Note that I often massage the recipes to suit what is available from our garden and pantry. For the original recipes, check his books and his Guardian column.
Browse all of our Red Lentil dishes and all of our Soups. Our Ottolenghi dishes from Plenty More are here. We have written about our experiences cooking through this book. Or explore our Mid Autumn dishes.
Thai Inspired Red Lentil Soup with Aromatic Chilli Oil
the chilli oil is optional. Serve without or use your own chilli oil if desired.
120g sugar snow peas (omit if you prefer a smooth soup)
3 Tblspn vegetable oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 Tblspn vegetarian red curry paste, or to taste
2 lemongrass stalks, bashed and bruised with a rolling pin
4 kaffir lime leaves
250g red lentils – split or whole
250ml coconut milk
1.5 Tblspn lime juice
1 Tblspn soy sauce
15g coriander, washed, picked and roughly chopped
optional chilli-infused oil
180ml sunflower oil
1 banana shallot, roughly chopped (50g)
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 tspn peeled and roughly chopped fresh root ginger
½ red chilli, roughly chopped
½ star anise
2 tspn curry powder
1 tspn tomato purée
grated zest of ½ small lemon
If making the chilli oil, heat 2 Tblspn sunflower oil in a small saucepan. Add the shallots, garlic, ginger, chilli, star anise and curry powder, and fry over a low heat for 5 minute, stirring occasionally until the shallot is soft. Add the tomato puree and cook gently for 2 minute. Stir in the remaining oil and the lemon zest, and simmer very gently for 30 minutes. Leave to cool and then strain through a muslin line sieve.
To make the soup, heat the vegetable oil in a large pot and add the sliced onion. Cook, covered, over a low heat for 10-15 minutes, until the onion is completely soft and sweet.
Stir the red curry paste into the onion, cook for a minute, add the lemongrass, lime leaves, red lentils and 750ml water, and bring up to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 15 minutes, until the lentils are lovely and soft. Whole red lentils will take longer, perhaps 30 mins. Add more water if necessary.
While the soup is cooking, cut the snow peas on an angle into long, thin slices, and set aside.
When the lentils are cooked, remove the soup from the heat and discard the lemongrass stalks and lime leaves from the soup, then blend the soup until it is smooth. Add the coconut milk, lime juice and soy sauce and sea salt, and stir. Put the soup back on a medium heat and bring back to just under a boil.
Ladle the hot soup into bowls, scatter the snow peas on top with fresh coriander with a drizzle of chilli oil.
recipe notes and alternatives
If not using snow peas, increase the amount of coriander leaves and add 1 Tblspn deep-fried shallots (available from Asian groceries) per bowl of soup.
Whole red lentils will give a darker colour and won’t give you as smooth a soup as if you use split lentils.
Quite frankly, whizzing your own chilli jam or chilli paste with some oil will provide a great oil for drizzling, without going to the fuss of making one especially for this dish. But if you do make it, make enough to keep in the fridge and inject into any meal that needs a lift.