I usually have had them in India restaurants, but I've also tried them in Ethiopian eateries. Since lentils are thought to originate in India, they are typically cooked spiced with curry. For my latest budget entree I'm going India vegetarian: Veggie Curry with Lentils.
You can use almost any vegetable you can find on sale: potatoes, carrots, broccoli, spinach and celery included. For my recipe I cooked with cauliflower and carrots. The other main ingredients are onion, garlic, a can of tomatoes and coconut milk (or plain yogurt.)
While the lentils are cooking just saute some onion and garlic, then toast some ground cumin, and finally, add coconut milk and canned tomato. I like to bake it instead of stove top simmering -- I prefer the flavor of roasted veggies and legumes.
I also use a simple curry mix of ground cumin and powered ginger. Cumin is the main flavor of a typical curry powder. You could also add 1/2 a teaspoon of ground cloves and cinnamon into the curry mix. If you have a favorite curry power, then use it. I like to serve my Veggie Curry with Lentils over brown rice. (I've also included a link to my Coconut Rice recipe at the end of this post.)
Ingredients (about 3 servings)
- 1/2 package uncooked lentils (8 ounces) - follow cooking directions (boil in 3 cups of water for about 20 minutes.)
- 9 ounce package of cauliflower florets - Okay to use frozen, or a whole head of cauliflower (break off florets.)
- 3 whole carrots - discard the knotty top. Chop into about one inch chunks. Okay to use cleaned packaged baby carrots or sliced ones (2-3 cups.)
- 1 onion - chopped
- 1 tablespoon garlic - chopped fresh or from jar.
- 1 can tomatoes (about 13 ounces) - chopped, crushed or whole
- 1 can of coconut milk, juice, or cream (about 13 ounces) - optional. Okay to substitute with a small (about 6 ounce) carton of plain yogurt.
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 tablespoon ground ginger - optional. Okay to use a tablespoon of fresh chopped.
- 2 tablespoons oil for sauteing onion and garlic.
- 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper - optional, as you may not like the heat. Can always add hot sauce to individual servings.
- Salt and pepper to taste
Start the half package of lentils boiling in 3 cups of water for about 20 minutes. Don't worry if they are not cooked all the way through, you will finish the cooking process in the oven, later.
While lentils are cooking, heat oil in a large saute pan, or pot, and add chopped onion. I use a large metal pot with a top that I can put directly into the oven. Saute onions about 5-10 minutes, over medium heat, until soft and just starting to caramelize to a light brown. Add chopped garlic, stir and cook for a minute.
Add a tablespoon of ground cumin and powered ginger. Sprinkle in a 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, optional. You can always add it at the end of cooking, a little at a time to desired heat level. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir dry spices into onions and lightly stir for about 3-5 minutes to rehydrate the spice flavors.
Mix in chopped carrots and cauliflower florets. Next add a can of tomatoes with the liquid. If tomatoes are whole then break them up - it should be easy to do. Pour in a can of coconut milk (juice or cream,) or plain yogurt. Mix well.
Lentils should be done enough by now. Remove lentils with a slotted spoon and reserve the liquid -- you may need the liquid for later, if lentil dish gets too dry in the oven. Add lentils to veggies and curry sauce.
I have a couple of India sides that would go well with my Veggie Curry with Lentils, just click on a name to see the recipes: Coconut Rice and Saag Paneer.