Coconut...curry….avocado...lime….cilantro. These flavors complement each other nicely, and here they mingle together in a lentil soup. This is a nice spring meal to have in your back pocket when the days can turn from warm and sunny one minute to cool and rainy the next. This is not a Dal, but it's a lentil soup with an Indian twist; toothsome lentils are cooked in a coconut curry broth and finished with fresh lime juice and a generous mound of avocado relish. And it all comes together in 25 minutes.
This time of the year spring onions, with their small slender bulbs and delicate green stalks, are abundant. These seasonal young greens are mild and delicate and are perfect enjoyed raw. They add a mellow onion flavor to the relish which, when heated ever so slightly by the steam of the soup, provides a perfect counter to the sweet curry and coconut milk. If you want to add more spring greenery to the soup, you can throw in a few handfuls of peas or chopped asparagus during the last 5 minutes of cooking.
I used Puy lentils, a small, sturdy, slate-green lentil from the Puy region of France. I like them because they have a distinctive peppery flavor, and they hold up to cooking without turning to mush. But they are costly and more of a delicacy than an everyday pantry staple. So more often than not I use the generic French green lentils or black beluga lentils which also hold their shape well and are perfect substitutions here.
Green Lentil and Coconut Soup with Avocado Relish
Notes: Any lentil that holds it's shape when cooked, such as French green lentils or black beluga lentils, can be substituted for the Puy lentils.
2 Tbsp. coconut oil (or mild olive oil)
1 Tbsp. mild curry powder
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
2 tsp. coriander
1/4 tsp. ground chili (cayenne pepper)
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1 inch piece ginger, chopped (optional)
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
4 cups/ 1 quart water (or vegetable stock)
1 1/2 cups (300 g) Puy lentils (preferably soaked overnight, rinsed and picked over)
1-2 tsp. salt (depending if using stock and how salty it is)
1 can coconut milk
Juice from 1/2 lime
Small handful fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)
Heat the coconut oil in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the next 4 spices (through ground chili), and stir to coat with oil. Toast until fragrant and color begins to deepen, stirring often and taking care it does not burn (about 30 seconds). Add garlic and ginger, pinch of salt and black pepper, and cook for another 30 seconds, then stir in tomato paste to heat through.
Add water, lentils, and salt. Bring to a boil, lower to simmer, cover and cook for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are al-dente. (While lentils are cooking, prepare the avocado relish)
Once the lentils are cooked, stir in the coconut milk, lime juice, and fresh cilantro (if using) to warm through. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
Ladle in soup bowls and serve with a mound of avocado relish dolloped on top.
Notes: If you prefer your relish spicier, use the entire red chili.
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp. mild olive oil
1/2 tsp. honey
2 spring onions, chopped
1/2 red chili, finely chopped
1/4 cup coriander, chopped (~1 large handful)
1 large avocado, diced
In a medium mixing bowl whisk together lime, oil, and honey. Gently stir in remaining ingredients.