Immunity Boosting Indian-Spiced Lentil Soup (Gluten Free, Vegan)
Is it just me, or is everyone suddenly sick? My dad, two of my friends, half the people I run into on the street – they all have one of those colds that comes with the three-in-a-row sneezes and a deep, chesty cough. This is also the week that I have six photo and video shoots over the course of three days, and – in case that wasn’t enough – Zack and I are moving back to New York. He’s already settled in Brooklyn with the bulk of our things, and on later this week, I’ll take the trip with the cat (who, despite having lived in London and New York by now, really hasn’t gotten super on board with the whole flying thing). Bottom line: this is not a time I can afford to get sick.
This soup is one of my absolute winter staples. It hits it out of the park on all fronts:
- it’s super easy to make
- it requires only that which I typically have in my pantry
- it’s packed with immune-boosting superfoods
- it’s filled with fiber and good fat (ideal for kick-starting the de-bloating and weight loss many of us are interested in post-holidays)
- it tastes absolutely delicious
There are a few secrets that make this one pack such a potent health punch. The first is the spices, a mix of staples in Indian cuisine that have been used for thousands of years in ayurvedic healing. We’re talking turmeric (my absolute favorite anti-inflammatory spice), ginger, cinnamon, cayenne. Spices are a favorite of chefs healthy and traditional alike: less than a teaspoon packs both a flavor and nutritional punch, with potent anti-oxidants, as well as antiviral, antibacterial, antifungal and cancer-fighting benefits. This soup waltzes the line between sweet and savory, with a gorgeous flavor profile that takes your tongue straight to an exotic vacation.
The second secret is the coconut milk base, which not only lends the whole soup a wonderful richness and depth, but contains a compound called lauric acid. Beyond coconut, the main source of lauric acid is mother’s milk, evidence of its mega-health boosting properties. It’s one of the most potent antiviral and antibacterial substances around, and I love to fill my diet with it as a preventative and curative for all the colds and flus that circulate during these winter months.
Finally, we have garlic. Whoop dee doo, I bet you’re thinking, I use garlic in tons of recipes. Most recipes have you add garlic at the beginning, sauteeing it in a bit of oil before you add your other ingredients. This not only often burns the garlic, turning its flavor from fragrant to bitter, but it completely eliminates its health benefits. In this recipe, the garlic is chopped and left to sit for 20 minutes, which activates it (you can read more about this process here). It’s then added at the very end, after you’ve turned the heat off of the soup. This allows it to cook long enough to soften its sharp edges and take on a gentle sweetness, while leaving its myriad health benefits (it’s been shown in many studies to be more effective against bacteria than many antibiotics on the market) fully intact.
The flavors of this soup only get better with time – I love making a big batch on Sunday and eating it throughout the week. The lentils also make it one of the more filling soups I’ve ever had – I often will eat this (and only this) for dinner and feel perfectly satiated.
- 1 onion, peeled and minced
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp mustard powder
- 1 tsp curry powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp ground cayenne
- 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 cup dried red lentils (you could also use green lentils if they're soaked overnight and then drained, because they're tougher)
- 2 cups of vegetable stock
- 1.5 cups or 1 13.5 oz can of coconut milk
- 3 cloves of garlic
- First, peel and mince your garlic and set aside, so the compounds have time to activate. In a medium pot, cook onion till translucent; add spices and cook for 3 more minutes or until fragrant. Add lentils, vegetable broth and coconut milk. Bring to boil then reduce heat to low and simmer uncovered for 30 - 45 min, or until lentils are very soft and have absorbed most of the liquid, then turn off heat and add the garlic immediately and stir (this cooks the garlic enough to mitigate the intensity of the flavor while preserving all of its health benefits). For some bonus probiotics, top with a bit of yogurt (I used coconut). Serves 4.