To create a garlic paste, finely chop the garlic, then sprinkle with a little kosher salt (to act as an abrasive) and crush with the side of a large chopping knife over the mixture until garlic breaks down and becomes paste-like.
No fresh tomatoes? You can substitute with 1 cup of canned crushed tomatoes.
- 1 cup red lentils (yellow lentils will work as well)
- 3 cups water
- 3 plum tomatoes
- 2 teaspoons vegetable oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped white or yellow onion
- 2 medium cloves garlic, finely chopped and made into a paste (see Recipe Note)
- 2 teaspoons Bengali five spice mix (panch phoron) OR 1/2 teaspoon black (or white) sesame seeds, 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds, and (if available) 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more to taste
- 1 lime, juiced (about 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice)
- 8 sprigs cilantro, de-stemmed and chopped
- Cooked basmati rice, optional
1 Cook the lentils: Place 1 cup of red lentils in a metal sieve. Rinse well with cold water.
Pour cleaned lentils into a medium sauce pan. Add 3 cups of water. Bring lentils and water to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until the lentils are soft.
2 Blanch and chop the tomatoes: While the lentils are cooking in step 1, bring a separate small pot of water to a boil.
Score the peel of the tomatoes with a sharp knife in the shape of an "X". Place the tomatoes in the boiling water and blanch for one minute.
Remove the tomatoes to a bowl to cool. Once cool, peel the tomatoes and cut out and discard the tough stem end. Chop the tomatoes, or mash them, and set aside.
3 Sauté the onions with seasonings: After the lentils in step 1 have cooked at least 5 minutes, start preparing the onions and spices.
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onions. Cook until translucent, about 3 minutes.
Add garlic paste and cook for 1 minute more, stirring continuously, making sure that the garlic does not burn. Add the Bengali five spice. Cook and stir for another 2-3 minutes. Add bay leaf and turmeric. Stir.
4 Add cooked lentils: To the onions and spices, add the cooked lentils along with the lentil cooking water. Add salt. Cook for 10 minutes.
5 Finish the soup: Add lime juice and tomatoes. Cook for 3-5 more minutes. Adjust salt if necessary.
Stir in chopped cilantro and remove from heat. Garnish with more chopped cilantro.
Serve with basmati rice or naan bread.