After a lifetime of reading cookbooks and making dishes from them, it is rare that an unknown cuisine takes me by surprise. But that’s exactly what happened when I opened “The Food of Oman” for the first time. I cook Persian and Indian cuisine fairly frequently so the food in Felicia Campbell’s new book is somewhat familiar yet wholly different from anything I’ve ever seen. Aromas leap off the pages. The evocative photographs really make you want to start shopping. I wanted to cook the book from start to finish.
This Omani lentil soup is a good place to begin. The recipe calls for about a dozen spices but the soup is otherwise simple to make. It is a tasty, satisfying meal eaten solo or with warm pita bread. If you’re hungry to learn more, Felicia writes beautifully about her initial time in Omani kitchens in the book. These experiences proved so seductive she moved there and is now the executive features editor for the Times Of Oman.
Felicia Campbell’s Omani Lentil Soup
The warming flavors of the Sultanate—black lime, coriander, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon, along with a pinch of nutmeg and clove and a final drizzle of melted ghee—make this simple lentil soup utterly distinctive and delicious.
Yield: Makes 8 cups
2 dried limes (also called black limes)
3 tbsps ghee, melted plus more for serving
3 medium red onions, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
A ½”-piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
3 plum tomatoes, cored and diced
2 tbsps tomato paste
¾ tsp ground coriander
¾ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground cardamom, plus more for serving
⅛ tsp ground nutmeg
⅛ tsp ground cloves
5½ cups water
1 cup red lentils, rinsed in water a few times
2 tsps kosher salt, plus more for serving
For the limes: Scrub the limes and soak them in water for a few minutes to soften their skins. Using a paring knife, pierce the skins to make a small hole in each one.
For the soup: Melt the ghee in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions in the ghee until they begin to brown, 10 to 12 minutes. Add the minced garlic and ginger and cook for a few minutes. Next, add the tomatoes and cook for a few minutes longer. Stir in the tomato paste, dried limes, coriander, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom, nutmeg and cloves. Cook for 3 minutes.
Add the water, lentils and salt to the saucepan and stir. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil; then decrease the heat to medium and simmer until the lentils are thoroughly cooked, about 20 minutes. Remove the dried limes and, in a blender or using an immersion blender, purée the soup until smooth.
To serve: Drizzle with melted ghee, a pinch of ground cardamom and more salt, to taste.
From “The Food of Oman” by Felicia Campbell / Andrews McMeel Publishing
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