Chef, author, TV host and global culinary ambassador Aliya Leekong is a Food Republic favorite. Leekong sources techniques and ingredients from around the world, and whether you’re making a recipe from her cookbook, Exotic Table, or just one off the top of her head (like this incredibly delicious spiced lentil soup), you’re in for an excellent meal.

This is a twist on my mom’s lentils, daal, which are spiced, nuanced and creamy. Daal was a staple in our household, and when I go home to visit, there is always some in the fridge to remind me of my childhood. In this soup, I make the lentils a bit more dilute and add in any greens I have lying around — kale, baby spinach, chard, a super greens blend — to take advantage of the cold-fighting vitamins. I sometimes add in a bit of coconut milk for silkiness, and if I need a bit more bulk, I throw in some cooked rice, bulghur or quinoa. Pickled shallots add the perfect tart balance and toasted cashews up the nuttiness factor.