Are you a fan of Yotam Ottolenghi? If not, you should really think about becoming one. First, subscribe yourself to the RSS feed of his weekly recipe column in The Guardian. Second, crack open his archive of contributions to Bon Appetit magazine. Third, read this wonderful profile of him from 2012 by Jane Kramer in The New Yorker. (Bonus points for reading Kramer's all-around wonderful new book of essays in which it is included, "The Reporter's Kitchen.").
I set out to make Yotam's Curried Lentil Soup from last month's issue of Bon Appetit straight up, and you'd be fine to do this. I, however, find out myself low on some key ingredients and in possession of an aversion to red pepper flakes, and had to make some modifications. Call this my Yotam-Inspired version. Andy declared it a rousing success, "restaurant-quality," and I think what started as a slapdash improvisation is going into regular rotation. But this is what happens with a Yotam recipe.
While I do not like the heat that comes from peppers, I do like the heat that comes from paprika. I will chalk this up to my partial Eastern European bloodline and abandon any further justification. I also included some additional vegetables, making this a hearty and nutritious vegan one-pot meal. One day for lunch I topped it with some crumbled, fried sausage and made it less vegan, and it was delicious this way as well.
Paprika Red Lentil Pumpkin Soup
2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon paprika (I used Spanish but Hungarian will do)
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground ginger
¾ cup red lentils
1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 15 ounce can pumpkin puree
3 handfuls baby spinach
½ cup finely chopped cilantro, plus leaves with tender stems for serving
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
0.5 13.5-ounce can low-fat coconut milk, shaken well
Heat oil in the bottom of a soup pot. We, as always, used this Le Creuset pot that we cook nearly everything in. We have the 3.3 Liter in red, and it's brilliant.
Add onions to hot oil. Cook until translucent and beginning to brown.
Add spices and toss with the onions. Cook another 2-3 minutes until your kitchen smells amazing.
Toss in the lentils and stir into the seasoning. Toast briefly.
Add can of tomatoes. Stir. Add can of pumpkin. Stir.
Add water for consistency of your choosing. We used about 3/4 of the empty tomato can filled with water, but Andy likes a thicker soup so this will give you something firmly in "stew" territory.
Simmer for 25 minutes, covered, stirring periodically.
When lentils are cooked to your liking, add the baby spinach and mix into the soup. The existing heat will wilt the spinach.
Taste. Determine the level of heat you're after and add coconut milk 1/4 cup at a time until the balance of heat and spice is where you'd like it to be. I used about 2/3s of the can myself. You can use full fat coconut milk or coconut cream. We used low-fat because I had a can of it and I don't like it for other purposes, but for this it worked great. Do not use coconut beverage, which is disgusting.
We served with cilantro, or, as I mentioned, crumbled sausage.