Saturday, July 14, 2012

Simple curry with red lentils

I don't know much about Indian food. My first encounter with the notion was at an Indian restaurant in Macon, where after perusing the menu with much dissimulated understanding, I confidently ordered "Tandoori chicken," mostly because it was the only item that I could both pronounce and somewhat guess what it was. The aromas, though, have always mesmerized me. Whenever I'd sit close to my Nepalese friends in college, I could smell all these dazzling fragrances in their hair, on their hands, and I'd wonder what it was. A perfume? Incense? It was maddening.

Since I've had my own place and a kitchen that allows much experimentation, I've taken a special liking to creating curries. I not only like their flavor, but I also digest them well and I don't feel drained of energy after a meal. Indian and Thai curries are my absolute favorites. I especially like the way the house smells afterwards, once the potent fragrances have settled. It smells... mystical.

For longer than I'm willing to admit, I thought that turmeric was an insipid spice, only good to color your food yellow and permanently stain all your cookware. But since I've become more versed in making curries, I also learned that turmeric has many health benefits, as well as a very enjoyable flavor of its own. Turmeric is anti-inflammatory and antioxidant, which makes it especially effective in alleviating joint pain. In fact, turmeric has one the highest anti-inflammatory factor of all spices (1523 per 1 Tbsp), followed closely by ginger (1447 per 1 Tbsp). This makes it especially interesting for those on the Anti-Inflammatory Diet.

This week's recipe is featured in The Food Matters Cookbook, adapted by Joanne and spiced up by Kate with extra lentils and coconut milk. I love lentils and I happened to have some in my pantry, so I followed Kate's suggestion, only instead of black lentils I used red. This curry was marvelous. I could have this for lunch every day and not get bored. Here are the main items you'll need - nothing fancy:

And don't forget the lentils! While virtually fat-free, lentils are full of fiber and protein and are also a good source of iron. Half a cup of cooked lentils gives you 9 grams of protein for less than a gram of fat. And if you're counting, that amounts to a meager 99 calories. How about that?

Simple Curry with Red Lentils
~ serves 6

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp ginger root, minced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 Tbsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp brown sugar
5 small potatoes (or 2 large), peeled and chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
3 cups vegetable broth
1 14-oz can light coconut milk
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes
1/2 cup red lentils
1 small cauliflower, cored and chopped
fresh cilantro or parsley, for garnish

Put the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  When it's hot, add the onion, garlic, ginger and jalapeno pepper. Cook until softened, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Reduce the heat to medium-low and stir in the curry powder, cumin and sugar. Cook and stir continuously for about a minute.

Add the potatoes and carrot and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring for a minute or two.  Add the broth, 1/2 of the coconut milk and tomatoes with their liquid. Bring to a boil, then add the lentils and lower the heat so the mixture bubbles gently. Cook, stirring every so often, until the potatoes and carrots are soft - about 20 minutes.

Add the cauliflower. Cook until all the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes more. At the end, add the remaining coconut milk. Serve next to brown rice, brown rice curly pasta or couscous and don't forget to sprinkle some cilantro or parsley on top.

Original recipe by Mark Bittman, adapted by Joanne from Eats Well With Others, and perfected by Kate from Cookie and Kate.


  1. this has been awesome. I made it twice:) Check this site out:

  2. Yay! Glad it came out so well for ya! I like the VeggieBelly site and already bookmarked two recipes from there for my To-Do list ;)