Spicing up the day
I'm not much into spicy dishes. Anything hot is usually too hot for me but I'm learning to adjust my taste to "new" flavours, and my cooking experiences (for instance with chilies) to my (mild) tastes... I guess the spice girl in me is not overly spicy or (anywhere) hot!! Which brings us to a soup. What were you thinking?? ;) But this is no ordinary soup. This is one of the best soups I had in a while. Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries is not just an adorable voyage in his daily kitchen but a very good recipe book. This is the soup Nigel made in New Year's, and it's not just a good start for a book. It's a darn good suggestion for a hearty soup.
Dal and Pumpkin Soup
Adapted from Nigel Slater's The Kitchen Diaries: A Year in the Kitchen
Makes 4 good-size bowls
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
A walnut-sized knob of ginger
225 grams split red lentils
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground chili
250 grams pumpkin
small bunch coriander, roughly chopped
For the onion topping:
2 medium onions
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 small hot chillies (or chili flakes, if fresh chilies aren't available)
2 cloves garlic
Peel the onion and chop it roughly. Peel and crush the garlic and put it with the onion into a medium-sized, heavy saucepan. Peel the ginger, cut it into thin shreds and stir that in too. Add the lentils and pour in 1 1/2 litres (6 cups) of water. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to an enthusiastic simmer. Stir in the ground turmeric and chili, season and leave to simmer, covered, for twenty minutes.
While the soup is cooking, bring a medium-size pan of water to the boil. Peel the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and fibre, then cut the flesh into fat chunks. Boil the pumpkin pieces for ten minutes, until they are tender enough to take a skewer without much pressure. Drain them and set aside.
To make the onion topping, peel the onions and cut them into thin rings. Cook them in the oil in a shallow pan until they start to colour. Cut the chilies in half, scrape out the seeds and slice the flesh finely. Peel and finely slice the garlic and add it with the chilies to the onions. Continue cooking until the onions are a deep golden brown. Set aside.
Remove the lid from the lentils and turn up the heat, boiling hard for 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, then add the drained pumpkin. Blend the soup through until smooth, then pour it into a bowl. Stir in the roughly chopped coriander and check the seasoning. Serve in deep bowls with a spoonful of the spiced onions on top.