Cathy’s Kitchen Prescription LLC
Chana Cauliflower Soup
The other day I discovered a bag of chana dal in the pantry and the image of a thick, creamy soup began to take shape in my mind. Chana dal, also known as gram dal or Bengal dal, are a split, hulled variety of Indian chickpeas, smaller than its Mediterranean cousin with a delightfully sweet, nutty character. I picked up a beautiful golden cauliflower and a couple of bunches of bright spinach from my greengrocer that morning, and this South Asian-inspired soup was born. Thick and creamy like a good split pea soup, with the heady aromas and intoxicating Indian seasonings, this soup is both luxurious, soothing and exciting.
You can find everything you need in a South Asian grocery or online. Enjoy a cup as an appetizer or a big bowlful or two for supper.
Prep time 30 minutes Cooking time 1 ½ hours to precook the dal + 45 minutes for the soup
An immersion blender for ease (though you can blend the dal with a blender or food processor, taking care not to overfill them as the hot liquid expands as you blend it)
A coffee or spice grinder for ease (though you can use a mortar and pestle)
2 pounds chana dal, rinsed
2 Indian bay leaves
2 Indian bay leaves
1 large sprig of fresh curry leaves (8-10 leaves)
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 Tablespoon coriander seeds
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds
¼ teaspoon ajwain (carom) seeds
⅛ teaspoon white peppercorns
4 large shallots or 1 large onion, medium dice
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1” fresh ginger root, peeled, minced
2 small green Thai chilis or 1 serrano chili, minced
1 large cauliflower, yellow or white, cut into bite-sized florets
1 quart no-sodium veggie broth or pot liquor from having steamed greens if you have it on hand
¼ cup tomato paste
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne powder or to taste
2 big bunches, about 1 pound, spinach leaves, washed well, long stems removed, torn into bite-sized pieces, or baby spinach
1 Tablespoon amchur (ground green mango powder)
3-4 Tablespoons shiro (white) miso paste or powder •
Paprika (or cayenne if you like more heat), finely diced tomato, finely diced scallion, shallot or onion, small cilantro leaves
• Miso is a good salt alternative shown to lower heart rate and not elevate blood pressure
Cook the Chana Dal
Add the rinsed dal to a soup pot and cover with water by 1-2 inches. Toss in 2 large Indian bay leaves. Boil for a few minutes. Then extinguish heat, cover, and steep for 30 minutes or longer to fully hydrate the dal. They should all sink as they absorb water. (This step has the same effect as soaking them overnight.). Drain. Refill with the bay leaves. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover, and allow to cook slowly until the dal is very, very tender and when you stir it, some of the dal has already disintegrated. This should take about 1 ½ hours.
Use an immersion blender to blend the dal.
Toast the Indian bay and curry leaves for a minute or until they are dry and crisp. Combine with the other spice blend ingredients in a coffee or spice grinder and run for a minute to create a fine, greenish powder. Set aside.
Cook the Soup
Heat a large stainless soup pot with a heavy bottom over a medium-low flame for 1-2 minutes before adding the shallots or onions, sweating them for a few minutes until they soften.
Add a tablespoon of the ground spice blend and the minced garlic, ginger, and green chili, stirring. If the mix is dry, add a little broth.
Cook for a minute and then add the cauliflower florets with enough of the veggie broth or pot liquor to almost cover the cauliflower. Cover and cook over medium heat for a few minutes, just until the cauliflower is cooked but still firm and intact.
Incorporate the blended dal, stirring, adding broth if you need it to create a creamy consistency. Cook for 5 minutes on a gentle simmer, stirring to prevent sticking.
Stir in the tomato paste and cayenne to taste. And after a minute, stir in the torn or baby spinach.
Add 2 teaspoons of amchur. Add 3 tablespoons of the miso. Taste and correct seasonings as suits your tastes, adding more amchur for its sourness, cayenne for heat, the spice blend if you can’t perceive it, or miso. You should perceive a symphony of flavors though none should dominate.
Serve hot in warmed bowls. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika or cayenne, and a spoonful of diced tomato and scallion/shallot/onion for a delightful meal.
Hint: This recipe makes a lot of soup so unless you feed it to a crowd you’ll likely serve it at more than one sitting. It will thicken as it cools, so add water or broth to achieve the right consistency again. I find the liveliness of the soup becomes muted over time, so each time you reheat it, remember to taste and correct seasonings to wake it back up.
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