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Thursday, June 11, 2015

Vegan Curried Lentils

I actually wasn't about to write about this dish, but when it turned out so well, and tasted so amazingly, I thought I'd just talk about it briefly.

It's basically just a standard lentil curry, but has a few tweaks; including a fair bit of tomato, onion, and even a surprise appearance of ginger.  

Plus, it's entirely vegan.

If you've read any of my posts before, you'll know that I enjoy making all of my dishes from scratch.  So that means I don't even like using canned lentils all that much.  I mean, many of them nowadays are pretty natural and pure, but there are still quite a few out there packed with added salt and stuff.

So, why not just use dried lentils, I ask?  Well, time is the biggie.  Dried lentils do require a fair bit of soak time.

And that's where I'll begin for this culinary spattering.

I took about 1/2 cup of dried black lentils, and rinsed them thoroughly in a large colander, just using cold water.  I like to make sure they're washed quite well, so I do this for about a minute, turning and rotating the lentils all the while.

When they've been washed, I put them in a medium-sized plastic container along with about a cup of fresh, filtered water, and some spices.

For the soak spices, I used fairly typical garam masala spices including cumin, cardamom pods, tellicherry peppercorns, nutmeg, and a small bit of cinnamon, cloves, and a pinch of salt.

Pop the lid on that and I stuck it in my fridge for what was intended to be just overnight, but ended up being almost 48 hours.

When the time came to cook these delicious legumes, I just dumped the whole mixture (liquid and all) into a large saucepan and brought it to a low boil, then covered it and turned down the heat.

After a good 20 minutes of simmering on low heat, and after most of the water had become incorporated or evaporated, I started adding a bunch of stuff.

I sautéed (in a separate pan) a fair bit (roughly a half) of a white onion, along with about 2 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger.  My oil of choice for this is coconut oil.  After the onion starts to get translucent (between 5-8 minutes) I stirred in a lot of spices.

I've mentioned I don't like to buy spice 'blends' commercially.  I don't know why, but I get an unique pleasure from making my own blends.  :)

I've talked about making my own chilli powder by freshly grinding my own cumin seeds and oregano leaves and then adding it to a sauté of onion, garlic and chilli pepper.  So good!  Well, the same goes for curry powder; also just a blend of spices, in case you didn't know that.  

For today's curry blend I mixed up, in order of volume, freshly ground cumin seeds, freshly ground cardamom (green) pods, freshly ground coriander seeds, ground turmeric, freshly ground mustard seeds, and cayenne.  Because cardamom pods can be a real pain to grind in a mortar and pestle, I actually like a coffee grinder for this.  Plus, I like to make it in batches, so I'll mix up a fair bit at a time, also easier to do in a dedicated, grinder.

Anyway, I dumped in a good 100ml or so of this fresh curry powder into my saucepan of onion and ginger and coconut oil.  After giving it all a good stir or three, I let it cool slightly and then scraped the whole mix into my immersion blender and puréed it smooth.

This purée (such concentrated flavour goodness!) I then added to the lentils, and added about two or three tablespoons of organic tomato paste (THIS I have talked about in the past, as being OK to use from a can sometimes.  Especially if the ingredients are literally just tomatoes).

The mixture shouldn't be too thick, and if it is, thin it out a bit with something like coconut milk, vegetable oil, or even just water.  If you're very sparing with it, you could also use something acidic like lime or lemon juice, or even wine or vinegar.

Personally I like peas in my curried stews as well, so I added about a half a cup of frozen peas to the mix and then simmered the whole thing on low for about 10 minutes.

That's essentially it.  It's delicious, simple and real easy.  Oh, and not to mention super good for you!



So good.  I like it kinda spicy but the wife likes curries to be mild-ish, so we often compromise and do medium spiciness.  You can always add more cayenne if you like.  Or even just fresh chilli.

But I recommend this.  A lot.

some fresh cilantro work great as a garnish if I had had some... even parsley... alas, no garnish today.

Ideally I would serve this with a big chunk of naan, but I just used some sourdough bread I had on hand.  It's helpful to have something bread-like with which to mop up the plate when you're done!

Yup, it's that good.

The best part about this dish is that it hits up pretty much all the nutrients you'd need in one single meal.  Plus it's very filling without having a particularly high glycemic index, which means it will keep you full for a long time, and won't spike your blood glucose levels.

Good in every possible way!

If you're old-school, not rigidly vegan, and/or looking for something richer, try adding a cube or three of unsalted butter to the simmering stew.  That would bring it a little closer to what you might traditionally find in a restaurant.

This stew is also EXCELLENT as a base upon which something grilled or baked could be served.  Tandoori chicken for example, would be excellent just served right on top.  Or a couple of pieces of lightly grilled paneer.  Yum!!!

I had some truly delectable braised lamb skewers served on a lentil ragout like this before, and it was absolutely mind-blowing.

But, the lentil stew, vegan as it is by itself, is more than enough to be completely nutritive, wholly satisfying, and immensely delicious all on its own!