Kick the shit out of your next Meatless Monday with these Curried Lentils!
*Recipe updated 7/31/16, added carrots and celery, switched crushed tomatoes for diced, remixed spice ratios
I’ve been trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into my diet, and I’ve fallen in love with lentils. They come in fun colors (Brown, Red, Green, Yellow, Black) and they’re so versatile. You can drop them into soups, sauces, or treat them as their own side dish.
I start the Curried Lentils by frying up some diced onions, green peppers, celery and thinly-coined carrots in a large frying pan with olive oil. To ‘coin’ something (must have a long, round shape – sausages, carrots, zucchini etc.) is to slice it across the round shape so that it resembles a coin. When those are almost done, I add the garlic. Recently, I read that adding garlic too early in dishes and letting it cook in the pan for so long can turn garlic into a bitter flavor. Same thing with black pepper, apparently. Since I’ve started these ingredients towards the end of the cooking process, I have noticed that I never get a bit of pepper that bites my tongue and garlic flavor is a lot brighter, more prominent.
In a separate pot, I prepare the lentils (whichever color, though I use red) according to the package directions. Look to my Great Grain Tip post for advice on rinsing/soaking the lentils before cooking them. Make sure that you really salt the water that the lentils will cook in to A) help the water boil by increasing its boiling point and B) give the lentils a little somethin’ to stop them from being too bland right from the get-go.Once the veggies are ready and the garlic is light and aromatic, I add a large can of crushed tomatoes, a can of tomato paste, and a shit ton of salt and sugar. Sugar cuts the acidity in tomatoes, so that you don’t have that odd, aluminum-esque taste hanging onto the sides of your tongue. Just a tablespoon or two of sugar will do the trick. Only use enough so that the acidity is broken, you don’t want this to taste sweet.
Then, I throw in the cooked lentils and start adding the spices -Curry powder, Ginger, Chili powder, Cumin, Cayenne, Smoked Paprika. You’ll need a lot of spice for this, the lentils soak up a lot of flavor. Feel free to adapt the spice ratios to your own tastes, but I like to focus mostly on the Curry and Chili powder and the ginger, they create a perfect blend of spice and freshness. I throw in the other spices to build the background flavor in the lentils, all nice and warm. I let that heat on the stove for about 15 minutes and then serve it over rice. I’d highly recommend Basmati rice to stick with the Indian aspect of the dish, but any kind of rice – including Minute – will do.
These lentils always turn out so flavorful. The Curry powder gets amped up by the other spices, making the whole dish feel super warm and rich, and the Ginger adds a lightness to the flavor that mellows the spice a tiny bit. The green peppers do a great job of adding a touch of sweetness, breaking up the deep flavors of the curry.
Bronson and I have been making these Curried Lentils about once a month in giant batches so that we can keep individual servings ready in the freezer. If we don’t have leftovers from last night’s dinner, we’ll whip up some Minute Rice in the morning while we’re getting ready and each grab a pack of frozen lentils on our way out the door. It’s so easy, it’s stupid.
These lentils are so good that you’ll want to pick this dinner over a meat dish, and you won’t miss the meat at all. For your next Meatless Monday or first ever vegetarian dinner, you’ll have an easy time making yourself an interesting and undoubtedly delicious meal with these Curried Lentils.
Recipe for Curried Lentils:
1 large Onion, diced
2 Green Peppers, diced
2 large Carrots, sliced into thin rounds
3 stalks Celery, split-lengthwise and quarted, sliced tceler
3 cloves Garlic, crushed
1 16 oz can Diced Tomatoes
1 6oz can Tomato Paste
1-2 Tablespoons Sugar
1 Tablespoon Salt
3 Tablespoons Curry Powder
1 Tablespoon Ginger
3 Teaspoons Chili Powder
2 Teaspoons Cumin
2 Teaspoons Smoked Paprika
3 Teaspoons Cayenne Pepper
Prepare lentils according to package directions. Cook onion, green peppers, carrots and celery in a large frying pan with olive oil and salt. When veggies are soft, add crushed garlic. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sugar and salt. Mix thoroughly. Add cooked lentils and mix thoroughly. Add other spices and cook together for 15 minutes. Serve over rice, Basmati if you’ve got time, Minute if you don’t.
If you want a tip for cooking lentils, click here…