Tomorrow is the first day of spring, and it couldn’t have come sooner. While there’s an official change of season, I can tell you that though the sun is showing its face more often it can still be f-ing cold. This soup, then, is not so much a celebration of all the bounties of spring, but rather how warm and invigorating a meal can be when the weather report refuses to budge.
There’s something that a bowl of soup does to a person under the weather. The Danish have a word, hygge, that gets much closer at describing this effect than English does; it’s hard to translate, but it’s in the realm of “cosiness,” “warmth” or “a hug on the inside.” As an alternative version to the Danes’ word, I now endorse the use of soup belly to describe this phenomena. Besides, it’s already got a definition on urban dictionary so it’s begging to be used.There’s a whole slew of emotions and concepts that are much better articulated by foreign languages than our own tongue. A personal favourite has to be Germany’s “Kummerspeck“, which is excess weight gained from emotional overeating – literally translated as grief bacon. (Words for your personal googling pleasure: Backpfeifengesicht and Bakku-shan.)
If you are in a habit of eating your emotions, though, at least say goodbye to the grief bacon and give this a try. Lightly spiced, sweet and creamy, I’d say I probably eat this soup – or a version of it – once a week. Not only does it amaze me how cheaply the ingredients can be found, it’s unbelievably quick. This is the kind of dish I’d make on the weekend and freeze in single servings, too. If you or anyone you know is a poor student, let this soup be proof that healthy, speedy and dirt-cheap need not be exclusive.
CURRIED KUMARA AND COCONUT SOUP
For a Southeast Asian variation, the curry powder + mustard seeds can be replaced with a tablespoon of Thai red curry paste. A squeeze of lime juice at the end will take this to a whole new level too.
1 onion, diced
1″ fresh ginger, grated
1 tablespoon of coconut oil or ghee
a pinch of salt
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds (optional)
a good grind of fresh black pepper
3/4 cup red lentils
1 medium orange sweet potato/kumara (~140g) diced into 1-2cm pieces
200ml coconut cream
Heat a saucepan over a medium heat with the oil or ghee. Once melted, add the onion, ginger and salt and fry for a couple of minutes until the onion begins to soften. Once soft, stir in the curry powder, mustard seeds and black pepper and heat through for a few minutes until fragrant – you may need to add a splash of water every now and then to stop it from burning or sticking to the bottom.
Add the red lentils and diced kumara to the pot, then cover with two and a half cups of water. Bring up the heat, then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to stop the lentils sticking to the pot. It’s ready when the lentils and kumara can be easily crushed with a fork.
Pour in the coconut cream and blend until smooth (an immersion blender is ideal, but it can be done carefully in a regular blender in small batches). Salt to taste, and serve.