I may have lamented about the explosion of condiments, but I am positive Rob was perplexed by my fascination of his hot sauce collection. Coming from me, the Queen of Non Spicy.
Before we moved in, I kept interrogating Rob.
Do you have sweet chili sauce? Yes. Followed by, I put it on anything! It is my favourite condiment!
The next day…
Do you have sriracha? Is that the rooster sauce? Then, yes! But I think that’s too spicy for you…
Do you have sambal oelek? No! That stuff is too spicy even for me!
The next week…
Do you have harissa? What’s that?
By this time, I had my heart set on making this lentil stew with roasted carrots, harissa and mint from Love Soup. My usual go-to substitution of all things chili is my beloved Aleppo chili flakes that I bought in Turkey, more flavourful than spicy.
Then I investigated harissa, a Tunisian pepper paste, and found that it seemed more savoury than spicy with roasted red pepper combined with coriander, cumin, cinnamon and caraway. While you can purchase harissa, the bonus, of course, of making it yourself, is that you can change the recipe to your own palate. While a mixture of hot and mild chilies, like Ancho and New Mexican chilies, are suggested for harissa, I based my version on Bon Appetit‘s recipe since it focused on chili flakes, not whole Ancho chilis. In fact, while modifying the recipe, I was quite bold as I doubled the Aleppo chili flakes, as they are known to not be too spicy. I also substituted cumin for the caraway, added a dash of cinnamon and omitted the sugar. All the spices were toasted and freshly ground. Since I was a bit hesitant how I would handle it, I only made a 1/4 of the recipe the first time.
But I did not need to worry: this zingy but savoury red pepper blend is delicious. It works really well with this soup and while you could make the soup without the harissa, I think you would be missing out on its complexity.
So about the soup…. caramelized, roasted carrots and onions are combined to create a silky sweet soup with lentils. That alone would be a nice soup, but the twist comes from the lemon and mint, and of course the harissa. With my mild-mannered harissa, the soup easily handled 2 tbsp but add with caution because harissa can vary from mild to incredibly spicy! Sweet, sour and spicy… we know this is a winning combination.
And that is how I contributed to the spicy condiments in the new house.
This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s Veggie/Fruit A Month with carrots, to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring hot peppers, to E.A.T. World for Tunisia, to Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice for this week’s Magazine Mondays, to this month’s Simple and in Season and to Ricki’s new Summer Wellness Weekends.
Roasted Carrot and Lentil Soup with Harissa and Mint
1.5 lb carrots, peeled
1.5 lb onions, peeled
2 tbsp coconut oil (heated), or olive oil, divided
1/2 lb green lentils (I used French lentils but green or brown would be fine to0), rinsed
4 cups water
1/2 tsp salt
4 cups vegetable broth
1.5 tsp dried mint (or 1 tbsp chopped fresh mint)
2 tbsp lemon juice (from half a lemon)
harissa, to taste (I used 2 tbsp, but my harissa is mild) – see below for recipe
1. Preheat oven at 375F. Cut the carrots and onions into fairly large pieces, about an inch long for the carrots, and half-inch wedges for the onions. Toss the carrots in a bowl with a tablespoon of oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, and spread them on a baking sheet lined with a silpat. In a separate baking sheet, do the same with the onions with the other tbsp of oil. Roast the vegetables at 375F for about an hour, or until they are soft and browned, stirring and turning them a few times during the roasting. The onions will need more stirring and will be done sooner than the carrots. When the vegetables are ready, let them cool a little, then turn them out on a board and chop them very coarsely.
2. Meanwhile, combine the washed green lentils in a soup pot with a quart (one liter) of water and the salt. Bring the water to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer, covered, for about twenty-five minutes or until the lentils are tender but still firm. Add the chopped, roasted vegetables, four cups of vegetable broth, the mint, lemon juice and the harissa. If you are using a different chile sauce, be sure to add it a little at a time, tasting as you go: you’re aiming for a subtle undercurrent of spiciness, not a scorcher.
3. Simmer the stew for about ten minutes to marry the flavors, then taste and correct the seasoning with more salt and pepper or a little more lemon juice, as needed. If you want a soup rather than a stew, add a bit more broth. Remove the stew from the heat, stir in two tablespoons of fruity green olive oil, and serve. Garnish each bowl with another few drops of olive oil.
1 large red bell pepper
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 large garlic cloves, unpeeled
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp Aleppo chili flakes
1. Roast the red pepper, by placing underneath the broiler until blackened on all sides. Enclose in paper bag; let stand 10 minutes. Peel, seed, and coarsely chop peppers and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, stir coriander and cumin in small skillet over medium-high heat until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Grind in a spice grinder to create a powder. Cook garlic in same skillet, covered, over medium-low heat until tender, turning occasionally, about 10 minutes. Cool. Peel garlic; add to food processor. Combine with round spices.
3. Add roasted pepper, oil, and chili flakes to processor. Puree. Season with salt and pepper. Store in the refrigerator with a thin film of olive oil overtop.
Makes around 1/2 cup.