From “Soup Swap” by Kathy Gunst. Control the amount of heat by adding more or less of the chile in the soup and the topping. Gunst adapted the recipe from cookbook author and Indian food expert Madhur Jaffrey.

Makes 8 full servings


3 tablespoons lightly salted butter

¾ teaspoon black mustard seeds


¾ teaspoon cumin seeds

1/8 teaspoon ground cumin

1/8 teaspoon garam masala

1 dried red chile pepper, crumbled

2 tablespoons finely chopped scallion

1 small ripe tomato, finely chopped


Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper


1 tablespoon canola oil

1 tablespoon butter

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped


One (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped

2 scallions, chopped

¼ to ½ tablespoon finely chopped fresh jalapeño chile, with or without seeds

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cumin


1 teaspoon garam masala

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro, plus ½ cup

1½ cups split red lentils

8 cups chicken stock

1 cup canned whole coconut milk, preferably organic


2 to 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup plain Greek yogurt or whole-fat yogurt

TO MAKE THE TOPPING: In a small skillet over low heat, warm the butter. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, ground cumin, garam masala and dried chile pepper and cook for 2 minutes. Add the scallion and tomato, season with salt and pepper, and cook for another 3 minutes, or until the mixture is bubbling and fragrant. Remove from the heat. (The topping can be made several hours ahead. When cool, store in a small covered glass jar.)

TO MAKE THE SOUP: In a large stockpot over low heat, warm the oil and butter. When the butter is bubbling, add the garlic, ginger, and half of the scallions and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the jalapeño, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the cumin and garam masala and cook, stirring, for 1 minute more. Sprinkle the flour over the mixture and stir it into the spices until blended; cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the 2 tablespoons cilantro and turn the heat to medium-high. Stir in the lentils and cook for 30 seconds. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are soft and tender. Remove from the heat.

Using a food processor or blender and working in batches or using a handheld immersion blender, purée the soup. Return the soup to the pot. Taste and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if needed. Add the coconut milk, lemon juice, and ¼ cup cilantro and simmer over low heat for 5 minutes.

Ladle the soup into mugs or bowls. Drizzle each with a tiny bit of the hot topping (it can be quite spicy), sprinkle with the remaining cilantro and scallion, top with a dollop of yogurt, and serve.


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