Before posting a recipe I sometimes ask myself whether it is something that will be useful for all of us to have in our repertoire. And then sometimes I think, well we may not need it but it's kind of fun and certainly can't hurt to have another variation on hand. This is how I, and I'm sure many of you, feel about lentil soup. There can never be too many versions, and I hope this version with cumin and apricots also finds a cozy place in your recipe files.
This is a lazy lentil soup because it predominately relies on pantry items and can be made pretty quickly on a weeknight. I buy a 1-pound bag of carrots that last for several weeks because they are easy to throw into soups like this when I want to add vegetables to a meal but have not been to the market in a while. And the yellow split peas add bulk and textural interest, but in a pinch you could substitute more green lentils.
And in case you're wondering, yes cumin and dried apricots go very well together. For me cooking is all about highlighting the yin and yang of flavors in a balanced way. Here, the sharp, floral notes of dried apricots pleasantly contradict the smoky, earthiness of the cumin. And for a full meal, serve the soup over basmati rice (recipe below).
Lazy Lentils with Cumin and Dried Apricots
Notes: Soaked lentils and split peas cook quicker and are more easily digested. Soak them in separate bowls for approximately 8 hours. I usually do this first thing in the morning and they are ready to be cooked in the evening. Recommended cooking times below assume lentils and split peas have been soaked.
Knob of ghee (or coconut oil or butter)
1 heaping Tbsp cumin
2 tsp. mustard seeds
2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground chili (cayenne)
1 inch chunk ginger, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
3 carrots, chopped
6 cups water
1/2 cup yellow split peas, rinsed and drained (soaked, if possible)
1 1/2 cups green lentils, rinsed and drained (soaked, if possible)
1/3 cup dried apricots, halved
2 tsp. salt (or more to taste)
2 Tbsp tamarind paste (or lime juice, to taste) + more to pass at the table
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat ghee over medium to medium high heat. Add cumin, mustard seeds, turmeric, cayenne and saute until fragrant (~ 1 minute). Add ginger and garlic and stir to coat in spices. Stir in tomato paste and cook out for a minute.
Add carrots, water, and yellow split peas, bring water up to a bowl, lower to simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes. And lentils and cook for another 15 minutes, adding apricots when there are 8-10 minutes left. Add salt, taste, and adjust for seasoning.
Remove from heat and add tamarind or lime, to taste. Serve over basmati rice with cashews and currants (recipe below).
Basmati Rice with Cashews & Currants: In a medium size pot, pour in 1 1/2 cups of basmati rice, just shy of 3 cups of water, a few big pinches of salt, and a handful each of raw cashews and dried currants (or golden raisins). Cover, bring water to a bowl, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 15 minutes, or until water is absorbed (occasionally shaking the pan the last 5 minutes to make sure rice is not sticking). Fluff with a fork and serve.