Shorba, simply is another term for soup. A popular word used in India for soups or gravies. Shorbas are also widely popular in many European, Middle Eastern and Asian cuisines. This soup is my very own creation from my flavour kitchen. A production of some culinary creativity, one afternoon in the middle of a mundane week. It is a hearty, filling and nutritious soup, loaded with fresh vegetables and deep flavours. I started by making spinach the star ingredient. But slowly, added more vegetables, as I dug deeper into my fridge. Carrots, celery, shallots, potato and bottle gourd. Bottle gourd is a simple, unassuming, but very nutritious vegetable popular in Indian vegetarian cuisine. Interestingly, I’ve also seen a lot if it in our local Chinatown produce markets. A dash of protein in the form of green lentils, a last minute addition to this delightful and healthy vegetarian soup.
Let me not forget the Shimeji mushrooms. They are small, thin mushrooms native to East Asia. Nowadays, they are cultivated locally and found in most supermarkets everywhere. In fact they are pretty inexpensive and popular in a variety of dishes and cuisines. Also known as beech mushrooms since they typically grow on beech trees. The key is to cook them well. In this case, I sautéed them in a little ghee or clarified butter, with a tempering of cumin seeds and red chilli powder, for a subtle Indian touch.
One of my favourite kitchen tools, my handy immersion blender, does the final job of bringing the soup together. Served piping hot, with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, slurp it down with some crusty bread or even good ol plain rice.
Fresh spinach leaves – 6 oz or 200 grams
2 small carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 shallot or small onion, chopped
1 small potato, diced
1 garlic clove, minced
100 grams organic Shimeji or beech mushrooms
2 tbsp. green lentils
1/2 tsp.chopped jalapeño, deseeded
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1/4 cup whole milk
4 cups water
1 tsp. ghee or clarified butter
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
1/4 tsp. red chilli powder
1 tbsp. olive oil
Salt and black pepper powder, to taste
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat. Add the chopped onions, carrots and celery and sauté for a few minutes. Add little salt. Add jalapeños and garlic. Add the bottle gourd, potatoes and spinach. Add the lentils. Add the turmeric. Stir well to combine. Add water. Bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes or so, till the veggies are soft and lentils are cooked. Let cool. Blend the soup in a lender or use an immersion blender, till smooth. Bring back on stovetop. Add milk, salt and black pepper to taste.
In a small fry pan, heat the ghee. Add the cumin seeds. When they start spluttering, add the mushrooms and sauté for 5-7 minutes till cooked. Season with salt and red chilli powder. Before serving the soup, add the mushrooms. Serve hot with a dash of freshly squeezed lemon juice.