Roasted Red Lentil Soup

1 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp asafetida
1 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp black or brown mustard seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 cup white sesame seeds
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
2 cups raw red lentils
1 cup finely chopped onion
2 cups finely chopped celery
2 cups finely chopped carrots
5 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 cups water
1 cup canned diced tomatoes with juice
1 tsp salt

Combine the curry powder, cumin, asafetida, ginger, and pepper in a small bowl, stir to mix well and set aside.

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds and stir almost constantly until the seeds pop, 1 to 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and add the sesame seeds. Cook, stirring, until the sesame seeds are golden brown,
1 to 2 minutes.

Add the garlic and the small bowl of spices and stir well for about 30 seconds to toast the spices. Add the lentils and cook 5 minutes, still over medium heat, stirring often. Add the onion, celery and carrots and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute. Add the broth and water, bring to a rolling boil and reduce the heat to maintain an active simmer. Cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are soft and easily mashed.

Add the tomatoes and continue cooking 25 minutes to mingle the flavors, stirring occasionally. Stir in the salt and taste, adding a little more salt, if needed. Serve hot or warm.

[I added a splash of balsamic vinegar about 5 minutes before the end of cooking time. A little bit of acid at the end seems to perk up a lentil soup. But you don't want
to add it earlier in the cooking process or it will make the lentils tough. Also if you don't have asafetida just skip it.]

-Nancie McDermott, The Curry Book