Lentil Soup with Homemade Paneer “Croutons”

4

January 30, 2013 by Meg G.

In the middle of a cold snap like we had last week (I’m talking negatives and single digits), all I want is a hot bowl of soup and an excuse to crank up the oven to 400F. So, last Wednesday, I decided to make a loaf of homemade no-knead bread (more on that another time), paneer (Indian cheese), and this lovely lentil soup. I realize that having the time to do this in one day is both a privilege of my underemployment and a sign that I may have lost my mind. However, I like to think that all of you lovely people benefit from both of those realities. You do, right? (Affirm me!)

This is not your typical lentil soup. It is enhanced with bright Indian spices and a chickpea puree that is added to the broth for texture, flavor, and protein. The addition of paneer was inspired by another lentil soup recipe that I found here. I like to think of them as homemade cheese “croutons” – yum! Here goes!

Curried Lentil Soup – adapted from Bon Appétit – makes about 4 servings

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (we only had 1/2 an onion, so I threw in some leeks)
  • 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 large garlic cloves, chopped, divided
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons (or more) curry powder
  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 4 1/4 cups (or more) water, divided
  • 1 15- to 16-ounce can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter

Veggie Prep - Lentil Soup

Method

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add onion and carrot; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook until onion is translucent, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes.
  2. Add half of chopped garlic; stir until vegetables are soft but not brown, about 4 minutes longer.
  3. Add 2 tablespoons curry powder; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  4. Add lentils and 4 cups water. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Increase heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium; simmer until lentils are tender, about 30 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, puree chickpeas, lemon juice, 1/4 cup water, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and remaining garlic in processor.
  6. Add chickpea puree and butter to lentil soup. Season to taste with salt, pepper, and additional curry powder, if desired. Add water by 1/4 cupfuls to thin to desired consistency. 

Lentil Soup

Heather, the more health-conscious of the two of us, didn’t see the need for the additional two tablespoons of butter. I think it’s hard to know if it really added to the dish, but it’s probably safe to assume that it won’t drastically change the flavor if you leave it out – and that omission makes the soup vegan.

Homemade Paneer – from Dianna over at From Scratch Club

Ingredients:

  • 1 gallon of milk (we used 2%)
  • 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar

Method:

  1. Place an ice cube at the bottom of a very large (room temperature) soup pot and let it melt. This prevents you from scorching the bottom of your pot. Add the milk on top of the cold water and bring to a rolling boil.
  2. Once it reaches a rolling boil, turn off the heat and shock it with the vinegar.* Stir for a few minutes until the curds begin to form.
  3. Line a large colander with fine cheesecloth (or triple layered normal cheesecloth). Pour the curds and whey into the cheesecloth and let it drain for a few minutes.
  4. Tie the ends of the cheesecloth together with a piece of kitchen twine and hang the ball of cheese over the sink to drip for about half an hour.
  5. Remove the paneer from the cheesecloth and cut into bite-sized pieces.
  6. Heat some butter or oil in a large skillet. Pan fry the paneer until golden and crispy.

Milk

*Once again, I had a tense cheese-making moment. I thought that the milk would start boiling and large bubbles would come to the surface, like when I made ricotta. This time, however, without almost no warning, the frothy milk starting creeping up the top of the pot. I don’t know how to explain it – it was sort of like it just started growing! In a state of mini-panic, I turned off the stove and moved it off the burner, but not before it overflowed onto the hot electric stove. Sigh. (That was fun to clean up.)

Burnt Milk

But! All was not lost. I simply threw in the vinegar and stirred and kept on with my cheese-making business. Curds still formed. Magic still happened. It was worth the moment of stress, I promise!

Paneer Draining

Since I made the paneer before I made the soup, I actually used the whey in lieu of water in the soup recipe. If I had made the cheese before I made the bread, I could have also used the whey in the bread dough.

Whey

Ball of Paneer

Paneer Slices

Diced Paneer

Pan Fried Paneer

Dianna adds the following tip for cleaning your cheesecloth:

“Soak it for an hour or so in a pot with a little hand dishwashing soap. Swish around and rub lightly to get the clumps of cheese stuck to the cloth to dislodge. Rinse well, then boil in clean water. Squeeze out excess water and hang to dry. DO NOT WASH IN THE WASHING MACHINE WITH DETERGENT or your cheese will taste like laundry detergent.”

Heed this tip, folks! Unless, of course, you prefer mountain-fresh-clean-breeze-spring-meadow-april-fresh-lavendar cheese.

Paneer, Lentil Soup, Bread - Small World Supper Club

Enjoy!

 

4 thoughts on “Lentil Soup with Homemade Paneer “Croutons”

  1. g says:

    YUM…this looks so good my stomach is growling!!! Paneer looks pretty easy (as easy as yogurt) ??? what does it taste like…looks great! AND you made the bread!!!! Do share…my brain hasn’t been able to process it yet…but think if I wasn’t using whole wheat flour that is why it doesn’t constantly come out looking like your photo! Congrats!!!

    • Meg G. says:

      Thanks, Ginger! Paneer is a very mild cheese. It’s squeaky in texture and tastes mostly like milk, if that makes any sense. The bread was a whole other story – full of tense moments. But it also magically came together! I’m hoping to try again before I post, but I did use white flour.

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