Here is a simple yet delicious soup that highlights the classic spinach and lentil combination. Instead of using plain vegetable broth, I made my own version infusing it with a combination of indian spices that gives this dish an exciting complexity.
2 bags baby spinach (8 cups)
8 cups vegetable broth
1 cup moong aka mung dal (green gram dal), washed until there is almost no muddled water that washes out
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 dried bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
3 tbsp coriander seeds
3/4 tsp red chilli powder (this gives a slight undertone of heat at the back of your throat. This is optional)
zest from one lemon
juice from one lemon
1/2 tsp + 1 1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
Heat 8 cups of vegetable broth over medium heat in a dutch oven. Add cumin and coriander seeds, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaf. Let the broth come to a boil and drop the heat to medium and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and pour the spiced broth back into the dutch oven.
In the meanwhile, in a heavy bottomed pan add the cup of washed/soaked moong dal along with 2 cups of water, turmeric powder and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring this to a boil over high heat. Then drop the heat to low and cook covered with a lid for 25 minutes. Keep checking on it every 5-10 minutes to make sure the water doesn’t overflow and the dal is cooking in a simmering boil. If the water is boiling over through the covered lid, then leave the lid very slightly open to let some of the steam escape. Adjust heat accordingly and complete cooking the dal completely.
Using a blender, puree the spinach in batches. You may need a few tablespoons of liquid to make a smooth puree. Use the spiced broth rather than plain water, it will add a lot of flavor. Pour the pureed spinach back in along with the spiced broth. Add the remaining salt and chilli powder. Mix evenly and bring this to a boil over medium heat.
Simmer the soup for 15 minutes until the spinach is cooked and goes from a bright green to a darker color. Now add the cooked lentils into the soup, mix well and let simmer for 15 more minutes. Add 1 tbsp of lemon zest, lemon juice and chopped cilantro. Let it simmer for 10 more minutes and turn off the heat.
Check if you need more seasoning. Serve with crispy croutons. It’s easy to make your own croutons – just cut the edges of any bread you have, spray it with butter spray and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Spread on a baking sheet and toast in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes, flip over and toast 5-6 more minutes on the other side. Carefully watch the bread, it can easily burn.