When the cooler weather starts setting in, I start craving soup. Dal soup is a favourite with everyone: creamy, satisfying and infinitely adjustable to suit taste, spice and available vegetable. This version features cauliflower and winter squash along with a healthy dose of Jamaican-style curry powder (recipe provided: since home-made curry powder is just so much better than anything from the store!).
Yield: 6-8 servings as a side, 4-6 as a main + lots of extra curry powder to use in everything
What you need for the curry powder:
- 1/4 cup whole coriander seeds
- 2 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons whole mustard seeds
- 1 tablespoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 tablespoon allspice berries
- 1 tablespoon whole black pepper
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 5 star anise pods
- 5 tablespoons ground turmeric
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger
- 2 teaspoons ground mace
What you do for the curry powder:
- Toast the coriander, cumin, mustard, fenugreek, allspice, black pepper and cloves in a dry cast-iron skillet over medium heat until everything smells divine and the colour is slightly darker. Stir constantly and when ready, empty immediately into a large, shallow plate or dish to cool.
- Grind the toasted spices with the remaining ingredients in a spice grinder.
- Use as desired. The mix is very aromatic, but not very spicy so it’s great to add flavour without a ton of heat. If you want the heat: just add some cayenne pepper or a bit of another hot pepper you like to the dish you’re making.
What you need for the soup:
- 1-1/3 cup masoor dal (red lentils), washed in several changes of water until it runs relatively clear and well drained
- 1 small cauliflower, cut into spoon-sized florets and stem pieces, about 3-1/2 cups
- 1/4 of a small winter squash (butterkin is shown), small dice, 1-1/2 cups
- 1 large onion, finely diced, 1 cup
- 1 tablespoon (or as little as 1 teaspoon) virgin sesame or olive oil
- 1 tablespoon Jamaican-style curry powder
- 6 cups water or unsalted vegetable stock
What you do for the soup:
- Heat a 4 or 5 quart Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the oil and onion. Sauté the onion until translucent, lowering heat as necessary to avoid browning.
- Add the cauliflower, and continue to sauté until it loses the raw look some, 5 minutes or so.
- Not it’s the squash’s turn to join the party. Add it and give it a chance to mix in with the other guests for a while, another 5 minutes.
- Now add the drained dal and curry powder and stir to mix the lentils and spice throughout the vegetables.
- Add the water or stock and salt to desired level. For most people, that’ll be in the 1-1/2 teaspoon range, although it could be less or more depending on taste and inclination.
- Bring the soup to a boil and then lower heat to a simmer, cover, and let it go for 30 or 40 minutes, until the lentils are falling apart and the vegetables very tender.
- Serve as is, or remove 2 cups of the soup and purée using an immersion blender or regular stand blender, returning it to the pot to thicken.