By now you have probably noticed my adoration for soups, stews, curries and dhal’s runs deep and this blog will no doubt showcase this. The lentil is a staple in my diet. This is partly due to my personal constitution; I tend to gravitate towards ‘warming’ foods, only easing off slightly in the 30 degree Celsius and above summer weather down here in Australia. Whether blended into a sweet potato and carrot soup or left whole as done here to appreciate it’s flavour, lentils are incredibly versatile, inexpensive and an amazing source of plant-based protein. This dhal is perfect to serve at a dinner party, served alongside bowls of toppings that each guest can customise to their desires.
One of my goals and something I’m absolutely passionate about is breaking the barrier between plant-based foods and the current perception that they cannot be satiating, delicious or easy to prepare. As always there will never be any judgement over one’s eating style on my blog and I only hope that my project (So Matcha To Love) brings to light all the amazing foods we can enjoy rather than banish whole food groups. I’ve become more conscious of my role as a nutritionist and a big sister, that reducing foods to its composites rather than embracing food in its entirety is a recipe for disaster, especially in a society where there is always a new fad, trend or diet. Therefore, as ironic as it may be as I’m always highlighting star constituents of ingredients, I want to take this space to highlight that eating wholefoods as well as treating yourself with balance is way more peaceful than worrying about every little morsel. Food provides us with nourishment, strength, rituals, experiences and memories.
The specific memory this dhal/soup brings me is my Saturday night swims at the Sea Baths followed by hydrotherapy. We frequent the organic health food store and cafe after, which serves this amazing split pea, chickpea and coconut curry (I always choose a side of kale & carrot slaw, kimchi, dukkah and scrambled tofu – magical combo). I wanted to recreate dhal but under my own terms, including beta-carotene rich sweet potato and oven-roasted capsicum…cue love-heart eyes emoji. This soup is inspired by so many cultures, a fusion of sorts. My secret, and totally not a traditional inclusion, are dried porcini mushrooms. They’re quite easy to find in Australia so if you can get your hands on them, this will change your dhal experience, bringing out that elusive umami flavour. But don’t overdo it, these little guys are powerful. If you can’t find them, do not let this deter you from making this soup.
The Beautiful, Humble Lentil
High in soluble fibre, plant-based protein and phytonutrients, the lentil boasts an impressive nutritional profile. Several studies, referenced below, have explored the cholesterol-lowering effect of viscous fibres such as lentils. They decrease both serum total and serum LDL cholesterol, stabilise blood sugar through their high fibre content, and contain significant amounts of folate and magnesium. Despite being moderately high in iron, the jury is out regarding their level of phytic acid, with sources claiming they may inhibit non-haeme iron absorption whilst another source claims that lentils are very low in phytic acid. Despite this, soaking the lentils as I have done in this recipe will help, even slightly to remove phytic acid. The addition of vitamin C in the form of citrus (lemon), vegetables and a variety of toppings (see below) will also aid absorption of non-haeme iron significantly.
Du Puy lentils are also called French lentils in Australia and have a dark green colour. I have used them in the dhal as opposed to red lentils as they hold their shape and bite much better than red lentils. I highly recommend soaking your lentils for a few hours or overnight to improve digestibility as well as shorten cooking time. I’ve served this dhal alongside Zeally Bay Seed & Sprout organic sourdough bread that I buy (made in Torquay) spread with genmai miso paste and avocado – a match made in heaven. I really love quality sourdough.
Du Puy Lentil Dhal with oven-roasted capsicum & sweet potato
Serves 6, soak the lentils for a few hours (see below)
– If you cannot find dried porcini mushrooms, omit them and just add an extra cup (250ml) of water when adding the stock.
– This feeds a lot of mouths, halve the ingredients or you will have leftovers if you aren’t feeding a lot of people. 😉
- 1 ½ cups Du Puy/French lentils (300g), dried
- 20g dried porcini mushrooms + 1 cup hot water (250ml)
- 1 red capsicum/bell pepper (approx. 300g), diced
- 1 sweet potato (approx. 350g), cubed
- 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 brown onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 red chilli, seeds discarded and diced
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 tomatoes, diced
- 1L vegetable stock
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 lemon
- sea salt and pepper to taste
- alfalfa sprouts, to serve
- watercress, to serve
- olive oil, to drizzle
The night before or the day you plan to make the recipe, begin by rinsing 1 ½ cups (300g) of Du Puy/French lentils in a colander and place in a bowl. Cover with enough water to cover the lentils and some more to account for the fact that they’ll absorb some water. Leave on the kitchen counter overnight or for a few hours.
Drain the water and rinse the lentils. Set aside the drained lentils in a bowl. Place the dried porcini in another bowl and pour 1 cup of hot water over them, and let them soak for 20 minutes – they should be soft. Remove the mushrooms from the liquid, trying to squeeze any excess liquid out of the mushrooms and chop them. Set the chopped mushrooms aside as well as reserving the liquid/mushie stock as I like to call it.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the diced sweet potato and red capsicum on a lined baking tray, drizzle with about a tablespoon olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and place in the oven for 30-35 minutes until the sweet potato is tender.
Meanwhile, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a pot over medium heat, add the diced onion, red chilli, minced garlic, chopped porcini mushrooms and cumin. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the onion is soft and translucent. If it starts to stick, add a little water. Add the diced tomatoes and drained lentils to the pot and give this a stir. Add the vegetable stock, reserved mushroom liquid and bay leaves – stir again. Bring to the boil.
Once boiling, reduce heat to a simmer. Simmer partially covered, until the lentils are tender, about 30 minutes. You don’t want mushy lentils for this dhal. Turn the heat off and take out the bay leaves. Take your veggies out of the oven and tip them into the dhal, including the olive oil and veggie juices. Zest the lemon peel of one whole lemon (using a microplane grater/zester) ensuring that you only take off the yellow skin, not the white pith. Cut the lemon in half and juice both halves, adding the juice and zest into the soup. Give this another big stir and season to taste.
Serve hot, garnished with alfalfa sprouts, watercress, sesame seeds, fresh cucumber & red capsicum, a little lemon zest, and sliced chilli/chilli flakes if you like it hot. See below for more serving options. As this soup sits it may thicken so you may need to add more water if there are leftovers the next day. The flavour definitely develops, making the dhal tastier the next day. Enjoy!
More serving options:
- spring onions, fresh red capsicum, pomegranates, brown rice, wild rice, quinoa, chilli flakes, dukkah, sesame seeds, pepitas, fresh tomatoes, cucumber, steamed cauliflower, rocket, chopped parsley/coriander, lemon/lime juice, jalapenos, tofu, tempeh, feta, yoghurt, nutritional yeast, sourdough bread…
- Britton, S. (2015). My new roots. London: Pan Macmillan.
- Karakoy, T., Erdem, H., Baloch, F. S., Toklu, F., Eker, S., Kilian, B., & Ozkan, H. (2012). Diversity of macro- and micronutrients in the seeds of lentil landraces. Scientific World Journal. doi:10.1100/2012/710412
– Click here for article.
- Linus Pauling Institute. (2012). Fiber. Retrieved August 19, 2017, from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/other-nutrients/fiber
- Linus Pauling Institute. (2016). Iron. Retrieved August 19, 2017, from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/iron
- Migliozzi, M., Thavarajah, D., Thavarajah, P., & Smith, P. (2015). Lentil and kale: Complementary nutrient-rich whole food sources to combat micronutrient and calorie malnutrition. Nutrients, 7, 9285-9298. doi:10.3390/nu7115471
– Click here for the pdf.
- The World’s Healthiest Foods. (n.d.). Lentils. Retrieved August 19, 2017, from http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=52