Lentil Soup with Coconut

MAKES: 4 servings

TIME: 11/2 hours, largely unattended

I use regular brown lentils here, but you can use red lentils, which actually cook faster, or the more traditional split pigeon peas, also known as tavoor dal (available at most Asian and Indian markets); they’re all good. The lentils melt into the background, with soft vegetables and shreds of coconut left swirling in the complex golden broth.

Use whatever vegetables you love, in any combination, from cooked winter squashes, turnips, or sweet potato to cauliflower, spinach, eggplant, or green beans.

3 tablespoons peanut or other neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon minced garlic

1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

3 tablespoons curry powder (to make your own, Fragrant Curry Powder or Sambar Powder)

1 cup chopped tomato (canned is fine)

1/4 cup sliced or shredded coconut

1 cup sliced okra

1 small zucchini, roughly chopped

1/2 cup dried lentils or split pigeon peas (tavoor dal), washed and picked over

1 quart vegetable stock or water

2 cups homemade coconut milk or 1 can, slightly less than 2 cups, with a little water

12 fresh curry leaves, if available, or fresh basil leaves

01 Put the oil in a deep skillet or medium saucepan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another minute. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are golden and beginning to melt together, about 20 minutes.

02 Turn the heat back up to medium-high and add the turmeric and curry powder. Cook, stirring frequently, until darkened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Stir in the tomato, coconut, okra, zucchini, and lentils. Add the stock and coconut milk, then bring to a boil; turn the heat down to medium-low so that the soup bubbles gently.

03 Cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils and vegetables break apart, 30 to 40 minutes; add water as necessary to keep the mixture brothy. Stir in the curry leaves, stir once or twice, then taste, adjust the seasoning, and serve.