Pumpkin Dal Soup Recipe, from The Kitchen Diaries, by Nigel Slater

Pumpkin Dal from The Kitchen Diaries on http://www.theculinarylife.com

– One Superlative Pumpkin Dal Soup Recipe, from The Kitchen Diaries, by Nigel Slater –

I’m very excited to review a book by one of my all-time favorite food authors, British food writer Nigel Slater. In his newest US release, The Kitchen Diaries, Slater chronicles twelve months of cooking and eating, sharing every step of his simple, flavorful cooking style. Here you’ll find all sorts of recipes, from breakfasts to dinners to sides to desserts, and every one of them is worth making. I don’t say that very often about a cookbook.

The Kitchen Diaries
I’ve seen several cooking “journals” on the market, which many of them list a recipe for every single day that is logged. They’re often gorgeous, generously-timed affair, but in reality, who cooks like that every day? I’d dare say most of us do not. Slater, on the other hand, does not necessarily include a recipe for every day of his year-long journey; rather, many  passages are actual journal entries, simply describing what he’s cooked that day, with enough insight to allow you to recreate your own version at home, if you’d like. Like this particular entry on October 19th:

Still haven’t made the vegetable soup I promised to make almost a week ago to clear out the vegetable rack. And now, where there is every opportunity to make a pan of creamy parsnip and carrot soup, I am distracted by half a dozen of the most meltingly ripe tomatoes on the vine, their skins ready to burst with juice. I slice them thickly, then toss them with black olives and pieces of thick toast torn into chunks and drizzles with unfiltered olive oil. No basil, no garlic, so seasoning; just the peppery rush of thick, green oil, ripe tomatoes, and black-edged toast.

The Kitchen Diaries
What I love most about Slater’s food–and you’ll see this in his other books as well–is that his dishes are the exact opposite of pretentious. He’s not opposed to making something unique and interesting out of whatever’s hanging out in the pantry, and it’s his inherent talent for coaxing impressive flavor out of ordinary, everyday ingredients that keep readers glued to his dishes.

The Kitchen Diaries
Think Asparagus-Lemon Risotto, Baked Mushrooms with Tarragon-Mustard Butter, and Roast Chicken with Cheese Mashed Potatoes and Garlic Gravy . Not a single one of these dishes requires any more than basic ingredients and basic cooking skill. Slater’s relaxed cooking (and teaching) style make this book a refreshing experience among a glut of fancy-shmancy gourmet cookbooks currently saturating the market. My own included. 😉

The Kitchen Diaries
His lack of pretense permeates even the recipe titles in The Kitchen Diaries , with approachable dishes like “A wonderfully moist, fresh plum cake” and “Fava beans in their pods with dill and yogurt.” Slater even takes his own photos, and their down-home style far outshines many of the glossy color gastro-shots you see in most books these days. You know why? Because they’re real. The lack of upstaging in his books, especially this one, puts us all on the same level when it comes to kitchen.

I highly recommend The Kitchen Diaries to my readers.

4.6 from 7 reviews
Pumpkin Dal Soup Recipe
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: Indian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Nigel Slater has a tradition of making soup on New Year’s Day. This is a warm ochre pumpkin dal soup recipe, soothing, capable of releasing a slow build-up of heat from its base notes of garlic, chili and ginger; it's a bowl of soup that both whips and kisses.
  • For the soup:
  • 1 small onion
  • 2 clovesgarlic
  • 1 walnut-sized knob ginger
  • 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons split red lentils
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 small pumpkin, about 3 pounds
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (or parsley, if you're cilantro-averse)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • For the onion topping:
  • 2 medium onions
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 small, hot chili peppers
  • 2 cloves garlic
  1. Peel the onion and chop it roughly. Peel and crush the garlic and put it with the onion into a medium-sized, heavy-based saucepan. Peel the ginger, cut it into thin shreds and stir that in too. Add the lentils and pour in 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to an enthusiastic simmer. Stir in the ground turmeric and chili powder, sea- son and leave to simmer, covered, for twenty minutes.
  2. While the soup is cooking, bring a medium-sized pan of water to a boil. Peel the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and pulp, then cut the flesh into fat chunks. Boil the pumpkin pieces for ten minutes, until they are tender enough to pierce with a skewer without much pressure. Drain them and set them aside.
  3. To make the onion topping, peel the onions and cut them into thin rings. Cook them in the oil in a shallow pan until they start to color. Cut the chili peppers in half, scrape out the seeds and slice the flesh finely. Peel and finely slice the garlic and add it with the peppers to the onions. Continue cooking until the onions are a deep golden brown. Set aside.
  4. Remove the lid from the lentils and turn up the heat, boiling hard for five minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, then add the drained pumpkin. Puree the soup in a blender (for safety, a little at a time) until smooth, then pour it into a bowl. Stir in the roughly chopped cilantro and check the seasoning. I find this soup likes a more generous than usual amount of salt.
  5. Serve in deep bowls with a spoonful of the spiced onions on top.

The Kitchen Diaries
The Kitchen Diaries

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Comments from other ninjas:

  1. Ola says

    I must have this book! I grew up not far from London, though I was born in Germany. These photos are beautiful.

  2. nancy@jamjnr.com says

    Hi Stephanie I came across your website over at FBP. Nigel Slater is one of my favourites and I totally agree with you – his recipes and approach are totally unpretentious. I didn’t realise he took his own photos though – kinda gives me hope! Thanks for sharing this recipe I’ll save it for a colder time of year.

      • nancy@jamjnr.com says

        Not sure if you know this or not, but he writes weekly for The Guardian if you want a fix in between books.

  3. Caroline says

    Stephanie, this soup is gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! I love soups like this. Perfect for fall. I’m pinning now to make soon!

  4. Regina Regan says

    Hmmmm, I find this soup a bit disappointing, a little bland. Perhaps I used a marrow (overgrown zucchini) instead of a pumpkin? Or not enough spice/ seasoning?

    • Stephanie Stiavetti says

      It’s possible – I found this soup to be a mouthful of flavor. :) Are you normally a fan or more spice and seasoning? Or perhaps you’re right that your squash was just not terribly flavorful? Given the mass qualities of seasoning in this dish, I’d think that adding more might be a bad idea.

    • Cat says

      I don’t think that’s a good sub as Marrows are largely water, Butternut or Acorn squash would be better in my opinion :)


  1. […] Pumpkin Dal Soup Recipe, from The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater – Nigel Slater chronicles 12 months of cooking, sharing every step of his simple, flavorful cooking style. His Pumpkin Dal Soup recipe is an Indian treasure. […]