Monday, 12 January 2015

Tovve Soup

We've wanted to make our own version of this because we greedily suck it down every time we go to Shivalli in Leicester. It's hot and simple and incredibly gratifying on a cold winter evening. Or the middle of a hot summer, y'know.

It will also drive out that bastard of a cold that you've had since two days before you finished work for Christmas and is still hassling you.

Tovve Soup as such doesn't exist - I couldn't just *oogle up a recipe because, typically of Indian recipes, there are myriad versions of any one of them, with subtle differences, and most will be passed on verbally, handed down through families. This particular one seems to be unique to Shivalli.

So, this was a case of trial and error. The 'error' was OK, but I burnt the spices so had a smoked vibe we didn't really enjoy that much. This soup is simple, with relatively few ingredients, but you need to get the order that you do things in right, I discovered.

Here are your ingredients.
(In the tradition of an Indian family recipe, I have used Indian-style measurements - pinch of this, some of that, few of those.)

Quarter cup of urad dal (black mung beans)
Masson dal - split red lentils (if you want to know about the incredible nutritional power of the lentil, go here. We're not exaggerating).
Each gives a slightly different taste but I wanted the yellowy look of the original, so prefer the latter.
You could try both!

1 white onion
A small piece of ginger
3 cloves of garlic
A bunch of fresh coriander leaves 
Two or three oyster mushrooms (optional, but I fancied the addition of a little something to get my teeth round)
Three tomatoes (I used sun-dried for their richness but fresh would be good too, chopped fine)
Couple of little green chillis - hot ones! Take out the seeds and slice lengthways.
Salt as needed
Vegetable or sunflower oil (not ghee, yucky yuck)


Half teaspoon cumin
Half teaspoon chilli powder
Half teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon coriander powder
PINCH (no more) asafoetida

Here is a close up of the spices, lined up for work! The asafoetida is in the glass teaspoon.

What to do:

If using urad dal, soak overnight.
If using red lentils, no need to soak.
Bring dal/lentils to the boil in plain filtered water (filtering REALLY does make a difference! to your kettle and the taste) and boil till soft. This should only take about 15-20 minutes.
Here's what cooked red lentils look like through steam:

Meanwhile, cut the ginger and onion and garlic nice and fine.
Not too fine though, nice to have a few little chunks.

Start heating your oil gently in a wide-ish pan.

Add the cumin, ginger, chilli powder and asafoetida. Heat gently - you don't want these to brown or catch, just to turn transparent and give off an orgasmic 'Christ almighty what's cooking?' kind of scent.

When this happens (and watch those spices closely) add the chopped onion. Fry for a few minutes.

Add the tomato, chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric and salt, and stir till soft.

You can see the mix of all these things in the oily pan here, Oh, yum.

Pour the mixture INTO the cooked lentils/dal:

Add the sliced oyster mushooms, three-quarters of the fresh coriander leaves and the green chillis. (Remember: slice the chilli lengthways - lengthways seems a very South Indian thing to do whereas chopping into slices always feels Chinese!)

Add enough water to the mixture to make it like a thin soup (as opposed to a rich dal which is more porridgey), add more salt to taste if necessary and simmer for about ten minutes, or till ready to serve.

When put into bowls add the rest of the fresh coriander leaves!

We highly recommend Yours Supermarket in Leicester (which will get its own blog soon but does not have a website of its own) for their bewildering array of Everything. A massive international supermarket where you can buy multiple food nationalities, you will never bother with a crap packet of Painsbury's over-priced coriander powder ever again.

Go on then - get in the kitchen!

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