I always cook dried lentils for this soup because, well canned lentils are unappetizing. Plus, it is significantly more economical to buy a bag of dried lentils instead of the usual can of slimy, salty lentils.
It really depends on you how spicy this soup will be, my four year old who will randomly change her mind about her favourite foods really loves this soup and it is totally adaptable. Play with it.
1 cup of lentils
1 cup of stock
500 mL of coconut milk
1 tsp. dried mint
1 tsp curry paste
onion, sliced thinly
tbsp creamed coconut
1. Heat a pot on medium heat (you could just as easily use a pan but since this recipe calls for using two pots already, why bother with the extra dishes?) and toss in the butter when sufficiently hot. Add the onions and caramelize. This will take about 3-5 minutes unless you want to do it properly and turn the heat down really low to allow the sugar in the onion to really come out and cook. If you are in a hurry, or just feeling lazy feel free do a quick and dirty job of getting the onions browned.
2. To liven up the onions splash some balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with sugar. Reserve the onions.
3. Boil your lentils in the stock until soft. The stock will no doubt boil down, this is okay because the cocunut milk is filling the role of liquid. But, you already knew that. Use the pot that was used for the onions so that you don't inadvertently mar the colour of the coconut milk.
4. Simmer the coconut milk with the curry paste. You do it this way so you don't have little devils of curry paste scattered in the finished soup, the paste will completely break apart as you simmer. The longer you let it simmer the more the curry will come forward and just bloom into a really rich flavour ... that also means it will get hotter. This step is somewhere in between the onion an boiling of lentils stage. Since the heat level is up to you, use your judgment. I'm helpful like that, just do it whenever you want.
Oh! You should definitely add a few sesame leaves to your coconut milk. They add this beautiful smokey citrus flavour. I bought mine at Pete's Frootique and they were mis-labeled as curry leaves. So, if from Halifax and at Pete's, apparently you will be looking for curry leaves. Unless of course, Mr. W.P. was mistaken when he was squinting at the google images page.
5. Combine it all. Stick an immersion blender in it for a couple of seconds the mix up the texture. Soup! *
6. Eat. Enjoy. Repeat.
*Reserve some of your caramelized onions for presentation, you can also add a little sprig of mint.
The orange bits in my soup in the picture above (they might be hidden by the general yellow hue of the picture) are carrots! I added some chopped carrot to the lentils when they were almost done boiling. This way, the carrots retain their crunch, colour and nutritional value. Hm. The alliteration kind of stumbled on that one.. :)
You can add anything you want to this soup, any vegetables. Just don't boil the hell out of your vegetables, I beg of you. We can't be friends if you over cook your veggies. Seriously. Add them when there is about 3 minutes left of boil time for the lentils.
Alternatively, you could add tomatoes and even straw mushrooms to the cocunut milk so they are immersed in those flavours. Add the tomatoes early if you want them broken down and really soft. This is not an exception to the overcooked vegetable mandate as tomatoes are fruit. Kind of. It depends on who is asking.