These lentils are a winter staple in my house. They are cozy and warm, easy to make, and very healthy. They definitely have an Indian twist, but seem to be appealing to a range of palates.
Begin by rough-chopping a white onion and sauteing it with 1 teaspoon of curry powder and 1/2 teaspoon of tumeric (there are rough guesses on the spice measurements — feel free to experiment based on what tastes good to you). Cook until the onions become translucent and the spices are very aromatic. Remember that tumeric has tremendous anti-inflammatory properties and onions offer lots of flavioniods, antioxidants, and immune-boosting nutrients.
Next, rinse one cup of red lentils and add them to the onions along with three cups of water or broth. I also add either chopped fresh tomatoes or frozen tomatoes to the pot. The tomatoes will break down naturally as the lentils cook and will become part of the thick soup. Lentils boast one of the highest protein contents found among legumes, as well as essential amino acids, which are particularly important for vegetarians or people limiting their animal protein intake.
I usually serve this dish with brown rice and begin cooking the rice immediately after getting the lentils started. I always make my brown rice with a sprinkle of arame seaweed and a slice of astragalus in the pot.
Arame (black squiggly things in the photo below) is a sea vegetable high in calcium, iodine, iron, magnesium, and vitamin A and is a terrific nutritious addition to many dishes. Sea vegetables offer an extremely broad range of minerals and can be up to 60% more potent than their land-growing counterparts. In addition, sea vegetables contain significant amounts of ligans, which are plant compounds that can help prevent cancer.
Astragalus (tan woody sliver in the photo below) has a slightly different story. It is an herb (a root to be precise) that boosts immunity by increasing the production of stem cells in bone marrow and encouraging their maturity into “germ-eating” white blood cells. Astragalus is a primary energy tonic in traditional Chinese medicine and is safe to be consumed daily as part of a healthful diet. You don’t eat the astragalus itself as you do with the arame. Instead, it releases its goodness while cooking and infuses the grains and broth it is cooked with. Simply discard the astragalus when cooking is complete.
Combine the lentil soup with the rice, add salt and pepper as needed, and enjoy! I hope you find this dish as satisfying and healthful as I do.