14 July 2011

curried carrot & lentil soup with minted eggplant

So yesterday's post was a bit of a rant about the media harping on about the astronomical prices of tomatoes and capsicum - in the middle of winter.  Go figure!  And then I put in my two cents worth about food budgeting.  So it only feels right to follow that post with one on a carrot and red lentil soup.

Carrots and lentils are cheap at any time of the year.  So its easy on the budget.  This one has been adapted by a recipe I found on another blog.  I made it once exactly like that recipe and then the second time, I changed it a bit and curried the carrot and lentils - not so much that it was overly spicy, but just enough that it say nicely warming my tummy on a cold winter's night.  And it's a breeze to make, so pretty perfect for a weekday dinner when you've had a long day at work and don't want to fuss around in the kitchen too much.

Eggplant is expensive right now because it's off-season.  But if you can afford it, go ahead.  If not, I found that substituting onions for the eggplant worked really well.  But you'll need 2-3 onions, depending on their size and cut them into thick-ish slices because they do cook down a lot.  The caramelisation of the onions with the mint and paprika works a treat!

And for those of you voracious meat eaters out there - you ought to give this a go.  It's a very 'big' and tasty dish, especially if you enjoy a bit of spice kick every now and again.  And its pretty filling as well.

This has become one of our favourites at home.  Hopefully you'll like it too!

If you want to read my rant on off-season produce and what we do for food budgeting - check this post out.

Curried Carrot & Lentil Soup with Minted Eggplant
Recipe adapted from My Darling Lemon Thyme

1 large onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground tumeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup red lentils, rinsed well under cold water
2 small carrots, grated
1 large tomato, chopped
2 green chillies, finely chopped
1 cup coconut milk (if you're using coconut cream, use 50g mixed with 1 cup water)
3 cups vegetable stock or water
Juice from 1/2 lemon
2-3 tablespoon light oil (I use rice bran)

Optional additional seasoning*:
2 tablespoon light oil
1 more large onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
Handful of curry leaves (optional)

Minted Eggplant:
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large eggplant (about 500g), cut into 1cm dice
2 tablespoons salt (sea salt if possible)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 teaspoons dried mint
2 1/2 teaspoons sweet paprika
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oil over medium heat and fry the onions until soft (not brown).  Add the spices and fry for another minute until fragrant.
Add the lentils, carrots, tomato, chillies, coconut milk and water, and bring to boil.  Skim any scum from the surface and lower heat and simmer for about 25 minutes, or until lentils and carrots are cooked and become a soft mush consistency.
At this point, add the cooked additional seasoning* if you're using it.
Add the lemon juice, and salt and pepper to taste.

Additional seasoning:
Heat oil over low heat, add the cumin and black mustard seeds, and allow the seeds to pop.
Add the onion and curry leaves, and fry until golden brown.
Stir into the simmering lentil soup.

Minted Eggplant:
While the lentils are cooking, sprinkle 2 tablespoons of salt over the diced eggplant in a colander. Set aside for 20 minutes in the sink to let the juices run out of the eggplant.
Rinse eggplant well under running water, drain and dry thoroughly on paper towels ( I lightly squeezed the eggplant with the paper towels to help the drying process).
Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan over medium heat. Add the eggplant and cook until soft and golden - stir often.
Add the garlic and cook for a further few minutes.
Add mint and paprika and cook until fragrant.

To Serve:
Ladle lentil soup into bowls and top with the minted eggplant and drizzle with the paprika stained oil.  We LOVE the minted eggplant, so heap quite a lot of it on our soup!


  1. Yum, your curried version sounds great :-)

  2. Perfect soup for now :-), yep eggplants are expensive, but every now and then I need to buy them... I love them!!! They tend to be cheaper in the Asian veggie stores.


  3. This is a very good example of unexpensive ,nutriciou and delicious meal.Well done;)

  4. A - yeah I know. Like you, I love eggplants. I use it often in both European and Chinese cooking. Sometimes I just pretend I don't see the price and just hand my money over quickly! :))

    Dzoli - thanks! You have an amazing bi-lingual blog. :)

  5. I've never tried lentil/carrot soup but this is the second such recipe I've come across today, so it must be my destiny.

    And yes, it's funny that people complain about the price of summer veggies in winter. We should be thankful we can get them at all. It just ain't natural! :-)

    When I was living in Japan I was amazed at how much the culture celebrates seasonal things. Cherry and strawberry season seemed to start on a given day, and end on another, like clockwork. When things were in season, they were plentiful, and when they were not, hey were entirely absent. It made me appreciate the coming of the seasonal fruits and vegetables in a really positive way.

  6. Jarod - I agree about being thankful! I wonder how paying an arm and a leg for Californian peaches during our Winter, help with our quality or life and health? The money you save from buying off-season imported produce could go into more NZ-grown seasonal stuff! Supermarkets could do their part at being socially responsible and only sell seasonal produce, and not imported off-season produce from overseas. It could help people budget better, promote buying NZ-grown produce and support NZ producers. But then, I don't own a supermarket and I'm sure those who do would argue that it's not sustainable for BUSINESS to do that. Sigh...

  7. Love eggplant! Love these winter meals!

    The good thing about lentils is they store all year round. Great for winter when you need to spread out your fresh ingredients, don't you think?.

  8. Rohan - totally! I always have lentils, can tomatoes and can beans (butter, cannellini & barlotti) in my pantry all year round and more so during winter. These are great for bulking up meals!

  9. Sigh, can't wait for eggplants to come back properly into season again! Lentils are so good though - this sounds like a seriously awesome winter dish. Especially with a little summery mint!

  10. Laura - eggplants are my produce guilty treat in winter. It finds its way into my grocery list every now and again! :)

  11. Go the carrot soup...this sounds delicious & love the idea of minted eggplant...may have to splurge :)

  12. Mairi - almost bought eggplant at the market but had to talk myself out of it due to the price. Planning to make this soup again soon, this time with caramelised onions. Cheaper option for now! ;)


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