We've had an odd winter, with fluctuating temperatures and not a lot of snow. (As much as some would want to deny it, climate change is real, and if you're tuned into the Earth, you'll sense something definitely feels out of whack.) According to Ayurveda, it's exactly when the weather fluctuates or seems "not right" for the season that our bodies get confused and lose equilibrium. Ayurveda - the "sister science of yoga" - believes that food is medicine. Thus, eating nourishing, grounding winter veggie soups right now is a great way to help maintain balance of mind and body.
I make this soup for lunch, at least once a week all year long, using seasonal produce so that it's appropriately balancing whatever time of year it might be. It’s quick, taking less than 20 minutes from start to finish, and perfect when you want to feel deeply nourished and satisfied, but not full or bloated.
This seasonal "Winter Warming" version is rich, hearty and stew-like, and helps to balance vata dosha, the air and space elements of our bodies, which are easily sent out of whack during this wildly fluctuating New England Winter weather. I’ve included chopped carrots and fennel, and chopped kale. The colors are lovely, sunny and bright. Served with or without basmati rice, it’s a perfectly satisfying, delicious meal!
Winter Warming Chick Pea & Red Lentil Soup
3 TBS olive oil (alternatively, you could use ghee if you’re not vegan)
1 1/2 Tsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 Tsp coriander seeds
1 1/2 Tsp cumin seeds
1 Tsp ground turmeric
Pinch of hing or asaphoetida
2 TBS tomato paste
2 carrots, cut into thin slices or 1/2 inch cubes
5-6 inches of leek, cleaned and chopped into short ribbons (omit if you’re avoiding alliums - but if so, double the hing!)
1/2 of a medium head of fennel (chop the delicate fennel fronds if you have them, to use as garnish!)
1 cup red lentils, rinsed well in several washes until the water runs clear, then drained
1 can chick peas, rinsed well and drained.
4-6 cups of water, depending upon how thick you like your soup.
1/2-1 tsp salt to taste
Black pepper to taste
1 cup chopped fresh greens like spinach, chard or dino kale
1/2 a can of coconut milk
Dried unsweetened organic coconut, for garnish
In a warming dutch oven or heavy bottomed pot, add oil or ghee, then leeks, carrots, and fennel., and sweat for a bit until they take on a shine, 2-3 minutes. Heat should be medium-low, and make sure that the leeks (if using) don’t char. Meanwhile, place coriander, fennel and cumin seeds in a mortar and pestle, and grind until they’ve broken down considerably (they need not become a powder, but you want to break up the coriander seeds fairly well; if you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can use powdered versions of these spices, but reduce to 1 Tsp each.)
Add spices to the cooking veggies, along with the turmeric and hing. Stir for 2-3 minutes, then add tomato paste. Stir again for 2 minutes to coat veggies, then add rinsed red lentils and chick peas and salt. Stir to coat everything for 30 seconds, then add water, scraping the pot well to incorporate everything.
Bring to a low simmer, cover the pot and cook 20 minutes, or until the red lentils have begun to disintegrate. This soup is really hearty enough on it’s own, but if you want to make it even more rich, add up to a half a can of coconut milk about halfway through, and stir to combine.
Check to see that the soup is not getting dried out or boiling down too quickly—add more water as necessary to maintain a stew-like consistency. Root veggies should be cooked through, but not mushy. Once the red lentils and carrots are cooked, if desired, add a cup of chopped greens and stir.
Take the pot off the heat once they greens are bright and heated through. Adjust salt & pepper to taste, and serve topped with a scattering of the dried coconut (which in this picture looks a lot like parmesan, but truly isn't!) the fennel fronds if you’ve got them (I've added a big dash of Herbal Salt from Burlington, VT's excellent Railyard Apothecary) plus a tiny pinch of turmeric. Enjoy!
Michelle Ryan, yoga practitioner and teacher.