Lemongrass was never something I kept in my kitchen, until lately. Over the summer I had a few delicious soups, curries and thai dishes flavoured with the zesty herb. This piqued my curiosity to try cooking with the green at home. When a friend pointed me towards Sprouted Kitchen, I came across Sara Forte, who shares savoury and sweet recipes on her blog, social media platforms and in her books: 2012’s Sprouted Kitchen: A Tastier Take on Whole Foods and 2015’s Bowl + Spoon. Forte describes her love of food in its most natural form using lots of seasonal fresh produce. She also divides recipes out by season, in addition to the typical categories such as salad, soup, and entree selections.
I naturally gravitated to her fall and winter categories where the Spiced Lentil Soup with Coconut Milk caught my eye. Lo and behold, I saw lemongrass combined with some of my favourite flavours, such as cardamom, cinnamon, curry, and turmeric, to make a creamy and hearty meal. I usually make modifications to recipes I find online. So despite Forte’s recommendation to use green lentils, I used green mung dahl, as I find it easier to digest and wanted to see how it would work out, and avocado oil instead of coconut oil. The recipe called for minced lemongrass from the bottom part of stalk. When I went to my local organic grocer I didn’t find long stalks like I was expecting. Instead, the lemongrass was already cut up and packaged. Uncertain how to equal two stalks of lemongrass, I decided to mince four pieces that were approximately five inches long.
I started off by boiling the mung dahl first, and was surprised to discover it absorbed most of the four cups of water. To compensate I added three more cups, and increased my cardamom, cinnamon and curry powder to heaping spoonfuls. Forte does not usually measure ingredients for her recipes. She provides estimates and recommends that readers adapt flavourings according to their taste. I interpret this to mean that you cannot go wrong.
After 30 minutes or so of cook time to soften the dahl, I added the last ingredient – lemon juice – to complete the soup. My palate loved the tart, fresh taste of the citrus and lemongrass combined with the heavier flavours of the spices, mung dahl and coconut. With the combination of the full-fat coconut milk and mung dahl, this soup is very filling. Compared to green lentils, the cooked green mung dahl did start to break apart which gives the soup a puree-like texture, as Forte said would happen. I personally love that texture and would make it again using mung dahl. However, I would like to add slightly more lemongrass, and perhaps use light coconut milk to see how the flavours and texture would differ.
After looking through some of Forte’s other recipes, I found that with my dietary restrictions of no dairy and most grains, there are some recipes that I cannot make work for me, but still quite a few that I can easily adapt. I really enjoyed looking through the recipes she provides for each season. I have selected her Mexi Squash Salad to make next, along with this veggie burger recipe from her social media feed. I am looking forward to enjoying the warm flavours during these colder months.
Joy Elkayam is the Executive Director of Parvati Magazine. She is also a volunteer at Parvati.org, dedicated to realizing the Marine Arctic Peace Sanctuary. Before a pivot to teaching in a kindergarten, her career started out in health care as a coordinator in research and cancer screening. She lives in Toronto, Canada with her husband.