I found this recipe in a long-forgotten cookbook and made it once before years ago. The problem with the last time I made it was that I used the slicer disc on my food processor and ran the squash through it without peeling it. I ended up with thin squash moons inside hard, inedible strips of rind. It tasted delicious but was messy and laborious to eat as you had to remove the rind from each bite.
This time, I peeled the squash first and just chopped up the squash and zucchini (could I let an opportunity go by and not use zucchini? No!) without getting out the food processor with much better results. I also added a half of eggplant I had in the fridge (this would be a great recipe to use with those Japanese eggplants!) and a handful of fresh spinach leaves that needed to get used.
The verdict: an addictive, hearty soup with too much heat for my kids to stand, although they bravely downed a few bites before they gasped for air. Next time, I might halve the amount of cayenne because they do love Indian flavors and would eat up this soup if it were milder. I did try to mix in some sour cream when serving to cut the heat for them, but it wasn’t enough.
The adults in the house thought the amount of heat was perfect, however. The combination of Indian spices, toasted slightly in oil, are invigorating and satisfying, and the massive amount of vegetables and lentils fill the belly. It’s a great meal with whole wheat pita bread or crackers.
Turmeric, an orange relative of ginger often used in curries, is known for its anti-inflammatory properties. This or any dish with turmeric is what I reach for when I suspect that something is off inside and fear that it could be an swollen nerve caused by the multiple sclerosis. I ingest as much turmeric as I can handle and I always feel better the next day. Turmeric is a great remedy for any inflammatory disease, including arthritis.
Taj Mahal Soup
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 med onion, peeled and minced
1 1 1/2-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and minced
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 cup dried lentils, rinsed and drained
3/4 lb. yellow squash or zuchini, thinly sliced
1 10-oz pkg. frozen spinach, partially thawed
4 cups chicken broth
1 1-oz can whole tomatoes
1 1/2 cups shredded cooked chicken (optional. I did not include chicken this time)
In a large, heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion, ginger, and garlic and cook until soft, 3-5 minutes. Add cumin, turmeric, coriander, and cayenne and stir to blend. Add lentils, squash, spinach, chicken broth, and tomatoes and heat to boiling. Reduce heat and simmer 50 minutes. Add chicken, if desired, and heat thoroughtly. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a dollop of yogurt, or as seen here, with a squash blossom!