This started with a recipe I found online, but we’ve made some adjustments. The most interesting (though not authentically Indian) one is adding carrots, which turns this from just a high-protein main dish into a full meal. It’s easy and pretty quick to make. It’s vegetarian and can be made vegan, it’s gluten-free and nut-free, and it tastes good (and is safe) at various temperatures, so it’s great for potlucks of people with diverse dietary needs. It’s soft and mushy, a great baby food. It’s one of those spicy foods that makes you feel better in the summer without requiring a long time over a hot stove, but it’s also a comforting food for winter suppers. My mom told me she once made this recipe on a very hot day in her electric skillet on top of the central air-conditioning unit so that she could cook in her breezy back yard instead of heating up the kitchen!
The soaking step is optional. Supposedly it makes the lentils more digestible and less likely to give you gas. Our family eats beans several times a week, and we haven’t noticed any difference in our digestion of soaked vs. non-soaked lentils. What we like about the soaking step is that it saves 5-10 minutes of cooking time.
This is really good with rice, whole-wheat bread, or couscous. Some people like to top it with plain yogurt and/or cilantro and/or slices of raw cucumber. It also goes well with other Indian or Middle Eastern foods such as Loubie; if you put in the time to make a big batch of each and a big batch of rice, you can pack up tasty meal-in-a-bowls for several days’ lunches.
To make 4 servings, you will need:
- 1 cup dry red lentils
- 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 tsp. ginger (We usually use the powdered kind for convenience, but fresh ginger root gives an even better flavor.)
- 1/4 tsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or more or less, to taste)
- 1 Tbsp. butter or coconut oil or olive oil
- 1/2 cup diced onion (frozen and thawed is fine)
- 1 cup grated carrot (frozen and thawed is fine)
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
- 2 cloves garlic
About 12-24 hours in advance, mix lentils, lemon juice, and enough water to cover them, in a container with lid. Let stand at room temperature or in refrigerator.
When ready to cook, drain liquid off lentils. Combine in saucepan with 2 cups water, ginger, turmeric, salt, and cayenne. Boil, covered, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes or until lentils are soft. If any foam rises to the top (this is more likely if you skipped the soaking step), skim it off with a spoon and throw it away.
Meanwhile, saute onions and carrots in butter/oil until browned. Add cumin and garlic. Saute 1 minute more.
Turn off heat. Mix onions into lentils. Eat!
I was inspired to post this by Whole New Mom’s recipe for Indian Lentil Curry that does not actually contain curry powder 🙂 but sounds tasty!
UPDATES: After two years’ additional experience with this recipe, I updated the article and linked it to the Hearth & Soul Blog Hop of delicious, mostly “real food” recipes! After another year in which this continued to be one of my family’s favorite meals and we had a new baby who loves it, too, I linked it to Works-for-Me Wednesday and Meatless Monday.