Red Lentil and Kabocha Squash Soup with Harissa Oil – Sneak Peek Recipe From The Cookbook

Red Lentil and Kabocha Squash Soup with Harissa Oil
Red Lentil and Kabocha Squash Soup with Harissa Oil 

I’m going to start slipping you guys the occasional sneak peek at a recipe from the upcoming cookbook. This one is a two-fer: a warm and hearty soup, and a quick way to make spicy harissa oil with which to spike it. Stay tuned! In a few weeks, I’ll also be able to share some of the videos we shot for the extended e-book. Sign up for my email list and I’ll send you each new recipe as it comes out. 

This is a great soup to serve when there are kids at the table, because it is quite mild if you leave the harissa oil off their portions. With the garnish, the flavors come alive, and you’ll want to mop up every bit with a good artisanal bread or toasted pita. Red lentils are nice for soups and purees because they basically dissolve when cooked, leaving a silky smooth texture. Don’t try to make this recipe with green or black lentils! If you don’t have kabocha squash, you can make this with a cooking pumpkin (such as a sugar pie pumpkin) or butternut or acorn squash. You won’t need a whole squash, so it is also a good way to use leftovers from an earlier meal. If using previously cooked squash, simply heat it through in the first step.

Harissa is the classic spice paste of North Africa, used in stews, as a rub, and as a condiment at the table. Oil infused with harissa is terrific for grilling vegetables, and I like it drizzled on soups. You can also use a small amount of this oil to spice up a vinaigrette for dressing salads or dipping bread. If you happen to have harissa paste, you can make harissa oil by simply pureeing the paste with olive oil and straining. If not, you can make a quick approximation using this recipe. It will keep in the refrigerator for a few days.

Sumac is an intensely maroon powder with a mild tangy flavor. Look for it at a Middle Eastern market or online retailer.

Red Lentil and Kabocha Squash Soup with Harissa Oil
Serves 4 to 6
Vegetarian, vegan, and gluten free

For the quick harissa oil:

  • 1⁄2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons sriracha, sambal oelek, or similar thick Asian chile sauce
  • 1 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 teaspoons ground sumac
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  1. Combine all of the ingredients in a small saucepan and warm over low heat for about 5 minutes. Do not allow the spices to sizzle; you don’t want them to cook, just to get warm enough for their flavors to infuse the oil quickly. Remove from the heat and let sit for 5 minutes more.
  2. Puree all of the ingredients with a stick blender or a mini food processor. Strain through a fine-mesh strainer. The oil is ready to use.

For the soup:

  • 1⁄4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 1⁄2 cups peeled, seeded, and cubed kabocha squash
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 1⁄2 cups red lentils
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 6 cups water
  • Juice of half a lemon (optional)
  • Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish
  • Quick harissa oil for drizzling
  1. Heat the olive oil in a 3-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the kabocha squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 3 minutes.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the garlic, coriander seeds, and hot red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, for 30 seconds. Do not let the spices burn.
  3. Warm your soup bowls in a low (200°F) oven. Add the red lentils, salt, and water to the saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until the lentils have mostly fallen apart, about 30 minutes. Carefully puree, very thoroughly, with a blender or immersion blender. (See page 89 for safety tips on pureeing hot soups.) Taste and adjust the seasoning, and stir in the lemon juice, if using.
  4. Divide the soup among the warmed bowls. Garnish with the cilantro leaves and a generous drizzle of the harissa oil, and serve immediately.
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Posted by Michael Natkin on Wednesday, February 15th, 2012 in Cookbook Project, Gluten-Free or modifiable, Recipes, Sauces and Condiments, Soups, Vegan or Modifiable.

15 Responses to “Red Lentil and Kabocha Squash Soup with Harissa Oil – Sneak Peek Recipe From The Cookbook”

  1. Reply
    February 15, 2012 at 7:45 am #

    Kabocha squash is great–roasts nicely without falling apart too. This soup is a beautiful departure from the standard autumnal squash soup.

  2. Reply
    February 15, 2012 at 8:53 am #

    Kabocha squash is so wonderful and sweet!. I an only imagine how good it is mixed with lentils and harissa. I’m going to give this one a shot. Here is a roasted squash soup with ras-al-hanout that turned out beautifully: link to

  3. Reply
    February 15, 2012 at 8:54 am #

    I love lentils and the sound of that harissa oil. I still haven’t yet overcome my distaste for squash and I think that this soup would be a good way to start. Looks great!

  4. Reply
    February 17, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    Mmm…that just sounds delicious. I can’t get enough soup when the weather’s cold, especially when it comes to lentils!

  5. Reply
    February 20, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    Lentils + squash + harissa = I’m sold. 🙂

  6. Reply
    February 25, 2012 at 5:18 pm #

    Absolutely great. I made about a 1.5x recipe, but with about 2x squash, because my squash turned out to be larger than I thought. Lacking the sumac, my harissa wasn’t as red as yours. I found the soup a little thick (comparable to “soft peaks” egg whites in its form-holding ability), but everyone else in the family said “No…this is really good. Don’t thin it out.” We used more cilantro leaves than you did because everyone here loves the stuff. Clearly it’s a recipe where exact quantities aren’t all that critical. But I know than in a week or two I’m gonna hear “Dad, you remember that soup that I liked? Could you make that again?”

  7. Reply
    March 16, 2012 at 3:29 am #

    I like that soup. Were can i buy the cookbook?

  8. Reply
    March 16, 2012 at 3:32 am #

    Hello Peter, Do you want to buy this cookbook really? Please contact blog author for the purpose.

  9. Reply
    Cheeku Bhasin
    April 17, 2012 at 6:07 am #

    Love the soup and harissa oil recipe and love your website. Your style reminds me of my favourite chef Yottam Ottolenghi. I won’t be able to get your book in Kenya at the moment but I have friends coming over from the US later this summer and will order it from them, though there will be lots of improvising as we don’t get a lot of ingredients here.
    Here is a red lentil soup from my website
    link to

  10. Reply
    October 25, 2012 at 11:28 am #

    Just made the outrageously wonderful kabocha/redlentil soup. The texture is heavenly and it is the creamiest soup – and, there’s no cream in it! Enormous depth of flavor. Next time I will toast the coriander seeds in a pan, then grind them before adding to the soup as my stick blender didn’t puree them up really well. Probably more of a comment on my pureeing talents than a fault of the recipe. Like John, we had a lot of squash and so did 2 1/2 times the amount. We will can three pints for winter and eat the rest!

  11. Reply
    January 20, 2014 at 10:29 am #

    Love all your recipes. I’m moms caregiver, she has AZ, and therefore don’t have much time to view internet much. But your emails are my must. Love all the great recipes you present, am not always able to find all the goodies you present. But I make adjustments for mom and because of availability. Thank you so very much for being so generous with your talents.


  12. Reply
    Keith Larson
    July 14, 2014 at 10:28 pm #

    Made this recipe and I still cannot stop thinking about it. I used a whole butternut squash with great success. Rather than using electric blender, I used a hand mashing tool that yielded terrific results. I served the delicious creamy soup with sesame flatbread. We cannot wait to make this meal again, although it might be a while as I am working my way through Michael’s amazing cookbook. So far, I can honestly say this is one of the best veggie cookbooks in my kitchen!

  13. Reply
    January 24, 2017 at 5:34 pm #

    This is on our winter “short rotation”, and I’ve optimized a bit. Here are some tips for those who have enthusiasm but less time: 1. Halve and seed squash; microwave about 4 min, cut-side down. 2. While it’s microwaving, set up a pressure cooker, pour in some oil and start heating, measure out all other ingredients, with garlic, coriander, & red pepper all in one bowl, and salt and water in a large measuring cup or something. 3. Slice squash into half-rings, perhaps 1.5″ wide, and then slice off skin. Toss a few half-rings into the pressure cooker to brown while you’re cutting peels off the next few. Brown all rings on the top and bottom sides; you may have to remove some from the pressure cooker to make room for the others. 4. Add the garlic and coriander, and then the remaining squash half-rings. You can cut them in pieces if you like, but there’s no need. Cook garlic-mix for 30 sec, then pour in the salted water. Let things settle, and pour the red lentils over the top, so that they mostly rest atop the squash rather than on the hot bottom surface of the pressure cooker. Close the pressure cooker and cook about 7 minutes. Cool under a cold-water tap until you can safely open the cooker, and test that the lentils are done; if not, re-seal and reheat for a couple more minutes. 5. While that’s cooking, mix the spices and oil and garlic and sriracha in a bowl and microwave for about 30sec to a minute. The sriracha will “boil” beneath the oil. Don’t bother straining — the seedy crunchy stuff at the bottom is a wonderful addition. 6. Let soup cool a bit, and then process it in a food processor or blender until smooth. 7. Serve, with a spoonful of the harissa-mix atop, and cilantro if you have it, and perhaps a tablespoon of Dukkah as well, if you’re feeling enthusiastic. Start-to-finish time for me: about 25 minutes, tops.

    • Reply
      January 24, 2017 at 5:38 pm #

      Love me some pressure cooker action. Thanks, John!

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