Curried Lentil, Tomato and Coconut Soup

December 14, 2017



One of the best things about the holiday season, without question, is the appearance of those oh so special, once-a-year kind of culinary delights. Cookies dusted with sparkly sugar, Grandma’s famous fudge, from-scratch dinner rolls and coffeecakes, succulent roasts of expensive cuts of meat, all the potatoes, in all incarnations.

Those things are certainly worth waiting for, and when we see them on the holiday table, it’s hard not to feel like a little kid again. Those treats also remind us of who we are and where we’re from. Some of those recipes have been passed down from generation to generation, and they say as much about us as our birth certificates do, if not more.

You’ve seen those advertisements for Ancestry DNA on television? How about I save you some pennies, folks. Go dust off you grandmother’s and your mother’s recipe boxes, riffle through some old cookbooks, stained and battered with use. That’s where you’re from, my friends. No need for pomp or science.

Mama made several kinds of Christmas cookies that only graced our house once a year: Mrs. Hagerup’s crescent cookies (a buttery walnut cookie, shaped like a crescent, rolled in powdered sugar), Dusseldorf cookies (two butter-almond cookies sandwiched together with raspberry jam and rolled in granulated sugar) and my favorites, toffee bar cookies, smeared in a generous bath of chocolate ganache and a smattering of pecans.

They are all nostalgia-packed little sugar bombs and absolutely delicious and I look forward to them, but herein lies a cautionary tale.

As I’ve grown older, and had to have a few decidedly age-related procedures done like the removal of a certain gall bladder, I’ve learned that eating these things with my old childish gusto and verve isn’t such a smart idea.

In fact, I am so downright dangerous with a platter of those toffee cookies sitting around that I make them the night before Christmas, serve them at Christmas dinner, and then pack up each and every leftover and send them directly home with guests.

Alas, this is my old lady fate. Limited to three toffee bar cookies on Christmas. I could be bitter, but it makes better sense to just enjoy the damn cookies and applaud myself for wise restraint.


Not really a sexy thing, is it?

And to be honest, the holidays should be about family, tradition, gratitude, love, kindness, and peace on Earth first. And then cookies and candy.

I ain’t a-gonna lecture you about what you ingest this holiday season because holidays are meant to be fun, and food is fun, and it’s none of my business what you cram into your pie-hole while nobody’s looking.

Also? The girl who ordered a Honeybaked Ham bigger than a Prius for her Christmas buffet table has no business sniffing at anyone for seasonal overindulgence. There will be mucho consumption of pork product, butter, potatoes, alcohol, cheese, gluten and maybe that fourth toffee cookie at my house. And it’s going to be good. I’m going to enjoy it immensely.

And then, there will come a time when the guests have bade farewell, the scattered ribbons and wrapping paper tidied, the holiday garb jettisoned for my favorite ratty pair of flannel pajama pants, and I’ll sink into the couch in a warm, fuzzy puddle and I’ll think, “You know? I think I’d like to eat something simple.”

It almost always happens to me after a period of party food and rich fare. Suddenly I just want a plate of scrambled eggs. Or a salad, even in the dead of winter.  Or if I can’t quite get myself to salad territory, a cozy bowl of soup.

Is it just me?

Somehow I doubt it.

So if you’re one of my kindred souls craving soup after a hectic season, allow me to recommend this one. It’s incredibly easy to make, it doesn’t call for fancy ingredients, it’s chock-full of warm, fragrant spice, and…bada boom! It’s good for you.

This soup is vegetarian (vegan, even!), protein-packed, adaptable and delicious.

It’s funny, because even with such simple ingredients, the soup ends up tasting like something fairly complex. I think it’s from allowing the spices to bloom for a couple of minutes, so they become fragrant and toasty, and from the garlic and ginger, which add warm heat. The coconut milk makes everything round and luscious and takes the sting out of the red pepper flakes.

It freezes well, if you have any left over, and if you want to bulk it up a little, feel free to stir in some cooked basmati rice or quinoa.

Then cuddle up with a bowl and toast yourself to a season well done.

Happy Holidays, dear Readers!





Curried Lentil, Tomato and Coconut Soup

serves 4

slightly adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi


2 tablespoons virgin coconut oil or extra-virgin olive oil

1/2 teaspoon cumin seed

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon medium curry powder (such as S&B)

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 (2 1/2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3/4 cup red lentils

1 (14.5 ounce) can crushed tomatoes

1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish

kosher salt and pepper

1 (13.5 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk, shaken well (do not use low-fat, please and if you can get your hand on Chaokoh brand, use it here)

Lime wedges, for serving


Heat oil in a large-ish saucepan over medium heat. Add the cumin seed, ground coriander and curry powder cook until fragrant, about a minute or two. Add onion and cook until golden, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until fragrant and spices begin to bloom, about 2 minutes.

Add lentils and cook for a minute. Add tomatoes, cilantro, a generous pinch of salt and a few grinds of pepper and 2 1/2 cups water.

Set aside 1/4 cup of the coconut milk for serving and add remaining coconut milk to the pan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for 20 to 25 minutes or until lentils are tender.

Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Serve in bowls, topped with a drizzle of coconut milk and chopped cilantro with lime wedges on the side.


{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Summerlin December 14, 2017 at 7:37 am

As soon as my mouth is healed, WANT. I feel like I need to do this as much as possible to mitigate my incessant holiday eating (and let’s be real, milkshake habit post-surgery). Question: Cumin seed — ground or whole for this recipe?


Dana Talusani December 14, 2017 at 10:56 am

What is wrong with your mouth? Ouch! I use the whole cumin seed but I think ground would work just fine! Feel better!


Kel December 14, 2017 at 8:25 am


Not really a sexy thing, is it?”

Well…I mean…it CAN be…if you’re into it and do it right…


Dana Talusani December 14, 2017 at 10:57 am


You always make me laugh :)


Kel December 15, 2017 at 6:07 am

Good. We all need that with the holiday stress! =)


Annie December 14, 2017 at 2:29 pm

This sounds great! My mom is avoiding dairy right now and tomato soups are usually full of it so this would be perfect. Wish I could hang with you this Christmas!! Xoxo


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