This has become my standard vegetarian contribution to potlucks. It manages to be both comforting and (to American palates, at least) exotic; it always gets raves, and I have been asked for (and promised) the recipe more times over the years than I can count. The trouble is that while I do have a recipe, in a cookbook, I don’t follow it, and I don’t measure what I do. So I couldn’t simply copy down what’s on the page; it would be like those recipes you got from your grandmother that don’t work when you make them, and you’d never be able to figure out why.
The soup combines red lentils with sweet potatoes and a bloom of spices that will transforms a rich but otherwise rather bland soup into something utterly magnificent. I can say “magnificent” because the idea wasn’t mine: it comes from Lord Krishna’s Cuisine by Yamuna Devi, a wonderful book of Indian vegetarian cuisine. But I had some technical problems with her recipe, and I’ve made a number of other changes based on my own preferences and what ingredients I’m likely to have available. Devi’s version called for pumpkin, for example (it was “golden pumpkin dal” originally), I use whole butter instead of ghee, and I make this far thicker than she does, like pea soup where hers is watery. I won’t claim that it’s Indian at this point; it’s just good, whatever it is. Read on