Carrot and Lentil Soup (Spicy option)

When this
recipe for a pureed carrot and lentil soup by The First Mess appeared on my Google page, I quickly followed the link. After reading the ingredients, I knew I would have to try it.  Off I went to the store, but life interfered. I ended up headed to NYC before I could make it.  Fortunately when I returned all they were still good.  It was time.

I always make small changes to recipes based on the ingredients I prefer to use, or the time I have to spend.  I had the spice seeds, but not the time to roast and grind them, so added them to the onions when I was sautéing them. They pureed just fine in the blender, but you do lose that roasted flavor note.  I always use a sweet onion when cooking. I like the milder bite.  The original recipe used a yellow one. I also added homemade almond butter instead of tahini, and soy sauce instead of Tamari. As my husband does not like his food spicy, I left out the chili.  And I topped my bowl of soup with a dollop of sour cream

Overall these are minor changes, but the made the final soup was one that was fine tuned for my family. I served it with slices of focaccia that I brushed with olive oil and then broiled until crisp. YUM. If you try it, let me know what you think.

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Carrot and Lentil Soup
4-6 servings depending if main dish or part of a meal. 

Ingredients -

1 tsp                Cumin seeds (or ground)
1 tsp                Coriander seeds (or ground)
2T                   Olive oil
                     Sweet onion, chopped (medium or large)
1 tsp                Ground chilies or chili flakes (omit if you don't want spicy)
2 cloves           Garlic, minced
2" piece           Ginger, peeled and minced
1 ½ lbs.            Carrots, scrubbed and chopped
Sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
½ C                  Split red lentils, rinsed
5 C                   Vegetable stock
¼ C                   Almond butter, tahini or peanut butter
1½ tsp               Toasted sesame oil
1 tsp                  Tamari, soy sauce, or coconut aminos
1                        Lime, juiced

Instructions - 

Set a large soup pot over medium heat. If using the whole spices, add the cumin and coriander seeds to the pot and toast, stirring them up often. Toast the spices until very fragrant, about 45 seconds to a full minute. Dump the seeds out onto a small plate and allow them to cool completely before grinding up to a powder in a spice grinder. Set the ground spices aside. If using pre-ground spices they are added later. Note - I was in a hurry, so while I had the seeds, I didn't have time to roast and grind them. I added them to the pan with the onions and sautéed at the same not. Not the same flavor, but worked. When I pureed the mix it ground them up fine enough. 

Return the large soup pot to the stove over medium heat and pour in the olive oil. Swirl the oil around a bit and then add the onions to the pot and stir. The onions should be sizzling, but on the quieter end of sizzling. Lower the heat if necessary. (this is where I threw in the spice seeds). Keep cooking the onions, stirring occasionally, until very soft and translucent (but not browning), about 7-8 minutes.
If using ground cumin and coriander, add them to the pot now along with the ground chilies if you want the soup spicy.  Omit the chilies if you want it mild. Stir and cook along with the onions for one full minute. Then, add the minced garlic and ginger to the pot and stir. Keep cooking until the garlic is very fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add the carrots to the pot along with big pinches of salt and pepper. Stir the carrots to coat them in the spices and sautéed onions. Then, add the red lentils to the pot and stir once more. Finally, pour in the vegetable stock and give it a final stir. Bring this broth-y carrot, lentil, and spice mixture to a boil and then lower your heat to a simmer. Simmer this mixture uncovered, stirring here and there, until the carrots are quite soft, about 30 minutes.

To a large blender, add the almond butter, sesame oil, soy sauce and juice of one lime.  Carefully add the broth-y carrot, lentil, and spice mixture. You might need to do this in two batches. Blend until you have a completely smooth puree. If too thick add a little bit of water. 

Pour the pureed soup back into the pot and re-heat, then remove from burner and stir in the lime juice.
Give the soup a taste at this point to see if you need to adjust some of the seasonings - salt, pepper, chili, lime etc. Ladle into serving bowls and add toppings if you like. I put a swirl of sour cream on mine which I loved, but you could top with cilantro, chili peppers, nuts, etc.