Martha and Erica’s Lentil Curry

About 97 percent of meals I cook at home start with olive oil, garlic and onion, then veer in the Italian/Mediterranean/otherwise rustic direction. But tonight, I wanted to try something different, so I challenged myself to lentils. They look very stylish stored in a Weck glass jar on the kitchen counter, but could I actually make them taste good?

I did a quick search on Foodily for Indian-spiced lentils and landed on this Martha Stewart recipe for Lentil Curry. I did not have sweet potatoes or cauliflower that are called for in the recipe, but strip away the veggies, and you’ve got a basic instructions for lentils with curry, which is exactly what I wanted.

You can sub in any hearty veggies you have on hand. I used red potatoes, carrots and frozen peas.

Curry powder makes the dish Indian in an instant, but I added some tumeric, too — I know, who am I, with tumeric in my cupboard? — after seeing the spice listed in a few similar recipes. And, instead of using canned tomatoes, I used the leftovers of a quick tomato sauce. It had shallots and red pepper flakes only, so I didn’t think it would change the flavor of the lentil dish too much.

Aaaand I was out of olive oil — I know, it’s embarrassing to admit — so I used grapeseed oil instead. See how I came back from that by using a seemingly fancier oil?

The point is, don’t ditch a recipe just because you don’t have all the ingredients. See if you can make it work using what you’ve got.

By the time I got done swapping and omitting, it barely looked like Martha’s recipe. But it worked and it was delicious and I’ll still give her credit. For just a few ingredients and a relatively short cooking time, it’s amazing how complex this dish tasted. Does it stand up to my favorite Indian take-out? Probably not. But for a last-minute Monday night dinner that didn’t require a trip to the grocery store, I’m feeling pretty good about this recipe.

MARTHA & ERICA’S LENTIL CURRY
Makes 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 tablespoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon tumeric
1 pound potatoes, any variety, cut in 1-inch cubes
4 medium carrots, diced
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup brown lentils, picked over, rinsed and trained
2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes, or leftover pasta sauce
1-1/2 cup water
Salt
Plain or Greek yogurt for garnish, optional

1. In a Dutch oven or deep soup pot, heat the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion and cook until soft, about 10 minutes, stirring often.

2. To the onions, add the curry powder and tumeric, and cook for 1 minute, stirring frequently.  (Cooking the curry powder before adding the veggies depends the flavor, Martha says.)

3. Add the potatoes, carrots, peas, lentils, tomatoes and water, and bring to a boil. Season with salt.

4. Reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Simmer for 30 to 35 minutes, until the lentils are tender and most of the liquid has absorbed. Serve with a bit of plain yogurt on top, if you feel like it. (And you do. It’s so good.)

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