This soup comes from some macrobiotic cookbook, but I've made it so many times that I don't need the recipe. It is very simple to make and guaranteed to be a hit. There are some macrobiotic ingredients that you may not have in your pantry, but in my opinion they are worth having around.
The first is kombu, which is a form of kelp or seaweed. Sea vegetables are extremely nutrient dense foods and are used in macrobiotic cooking to add vitamins and minerals to ones diet. I think of kombu as being like a multivitamin that you add to the cooking water of beans. Because the minerals are cooked into the food, they are more readily absorbed by your body. It also serves to add flavor, like a vegetable broth would. Believe me, it doesn't taste fishy at all like you may imagine seaweed broth might.
The second odd ingredient is umeboshi vinegar, which isn't really a vinegar but a brine. It is the salty liquid leftover from pickling umeboshi plums. Umeboshi plums are actually a form of apricot that grow in Japan. They are incredibly nutritious and really tasty when pickled. Umeboshi plums and vinegar are some of my secret weapons in cooking. They have such a unique, salty and sour flavor that goes well in so many dishes. I blend umeboshi plums into hummus and eat it in sushi rolls. I add the vinegar to guacamole, salad dressings, soups, and toss it with boiled vegetables.
This red lentil soup could probably be made without these ingredients. You may be able to make it just as flavorful substituting salt and a little apple cider or wine vinegar, but it wouldn't be as nutritious. This soup serves 4-5
CURRIED RED LENTIL SOUP
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils, sorted,rinsed and drained
3 inch piece of kombu, wiped clean
5 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
4 1/2 cups water (I use 5 cups because I like it more soupy, but use less if you want it to be more dal-like)
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 cup umeboshi vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh ginger juice
Freshly ground black pepper to taste1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro for garnish
1. Bring the lentils, kombu, garlic, and water to boil in a large pot, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Stirring occasionally, simmer for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and have the texture of puree. Skim off and discard any foam (This practice helps make beans less gas-producing and should be done whenever you cook dried beans). Remove and discard the kombu.
2. Stir the curry powder, vinegar, and ginger juice into the pot, and simmer an additional 5 minutes.
3. Garnish with black pepper and cilantro before serving.
-Add any combination of finely chopped vegetables to create a red lentil vegetable soup.
-Add 1/2 cup of tomato paste to Step 2.