Monday, February 20, 2017

When my Soup became Dinner!!

Scenario one:
Is that lentil soup?”
No- it’s sambhar ”
What’s it made of?”
Lentils, tomato, onions, water, spices…..
So…it IS lentil soup”!

Scenario two:
What do you do to get everyday protein if you don’t eat eggs or meat”.
All our meals have a bean or lentil dish. That’s protein”.
What kind of lentil dish?”
I cook lentils with water, saute onion, tomato spices etc, add to lentils…
So you make soup
No….it’s a dal. To eat with rice or bread
But it IS a soup”!

Over time, I figured it was easier to to consider my dal as “lentil soup”when eating lunch with colleagues in US.  But, somewhere, at the back of my mind, a soup was a starter- served at the beginning of a meal. The mere mention of soup takes me back to my mom’s  soups- restricted to tomato soup; carrot & tomato soup or spinach-carrot-tomato soup; all spiced with ginger, cumin and salt. She cooked her vegetables, pureed them and then strained them before serving. We’d all get a small bowl of it about 30min before dinner during winter. They were all clear liquids, meant to enhance appetite.Soup as main course; or a full mean was an alien concept.

A couple of years ago, I went on a low- carb diet. Eating salads was fine in summer; but I craved for warm food during cold winter months. It didn't take long for me to start sliding the diet regimen. Which is when, I decided to explore the chunky soup as a meal option. Tried a few in my office cafe; and then started playing around with my own. Now, these stews or chunky soups are my lifeline. I usually make them in my slow cooker, which makes it even easier. If you don't have a slow cooker, you can definitely make these on stove-top; just simmer them a little longer on low.

Southwestern Style Vegetarian Stew
Slow-cooker Version

  1. Lentil Soup mix (store bought)- 1/2 cup
  2. Chopped vegetables 1 cup (I had green and yellow squash, spinach, onion and carrots)
  3. Frozen sweet corn 1/4 Cup
  4. Frozen Peas 1/4 Cup
  5. Salt 1Tbsp
  6. Roasred Cumin powder 1tsp
  7. Red Paprika powder 1/2tsp
  8. Stock 1 cup ( I used vegetable stock)
  9. Tomato juice (2 Cups)

Shell pasta 1/3 Cup
Water to boil Pasta

How I did it:

  1. Washed the lentil mix in water a couple of times. My mix had red, green and brown lentils, blacke eyed pead, lima and navy beans as well as red kidney beans.
  2. Chop and wash the vegetables: I cubed the squash and carrots into largish chumks, slivered the onions and roughly chopped the spinach.
  3. Combine Ingredients 1-9 in the slow cooker. Cook on High for 5 hours.
  4. Boil the shell pasta in water until almost done. Drain, and mix it with the restof the soup.
  5. Cook for another 40 min on high, for the pasta to absorb flavors.
My two cents: I did the soup over night; added the pasta in the morning. For the first time this past week, my whole family took this for lunch at work or school. Even the pickiest one didn't complain!! 

The pasta is optional. When I was just making thesse soups for myself, I'd add barley instead- to add a little more sustenance. Brown rice or quinoa are other options. Definitely a healthy, no-oil, low-carb, protein rich meal for vegetarians.

Another similar soup recipe can be found here.