This a great detox dish if you’re fed up of heavy meals and roasts after Christmas. It’s naturally sweetened by the roasted sweet potatoes, and brightened with lemon or lime juice. My daughter happily scoops up this dinner with her tiny 4-year-old hands, relishing every bite. She even asked for it for lunch, declaring she hates sandwiches and needs lentils and rice. It is a perfect combination for young eaters – easy to eat independently once mummy mixes it together so the rice is coated.
I like the texture and sweetness that oven-baked sweet potato adds to this recipe, and the kids do as well. I’m usually the kind of cook that likes a one-pot meal, but the added baking dish is totally worth it for this. The bonus in the winter is the warmth to be gained from 45 minutes of a high temperature oven. Yes please! This recipe includes carrots, sweet peppers and peas in the rice, so it packs a veggie punch. No meat here, but you could add some tandoori chicken from my previous recipe if you feel like you need it. Lentils provide plenty of protein, though, so we don’t miss the meat. Serving it with a bit of Greek yogurt also adds protein, and creaminess!
I must admit that I don’t measure my spices – I add in dashes – so the measurements in the recipe are approximate. You can use a tandoori spice mix, garam masala or a curry powder that you like instead, but the below spices are those that I find work best with this recipe, so I dash them in. If you prefer, you can add about 1 tablespoon of your mix of choice instead of those below, but I encourage you to try your hand at a bit of dramatic flair and pinch, dash or sprinkle right into the pan.
This is best served with rice; I use jasmine rice because you don’t need to rinse it and it’s a straightforward 1 rice to 2 water ratio. For curry, I like to add frozen peas and a dash of Chinese Five Spice to cook with the rice for the aromatic favour it adds. Whether using a pot or rice cooker, I recommend layering the frozen peas first, then a tab of butter and sprinkle of five spice, then the rice and lastly the water. It saves the rice from burning to the bottom if, for a multitude of mom reasons, you can’t get to it right on time.
Even on its own, this lentil dish is delicious and can be spiced up with chili for braver tastebuds. My kids like it mild, so I don’t have chili here, but feel free to add it to taste.
- 1 medium sweet potato
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil of choice, high heat tolerant (olive oil isn’t recommended)
- 1 tablespoon ghee or veg oil
- 1 medium chopped white onion (about ¾ cup if using frozen)
- 1 cup/1 medium finely chopped or grated carrot (I use a cheese grater)
- 1 cup/1 medium finely chopped bell pepper (yellow hides really well)
- 1 cup rinsed red lentils (or yellow, but please rinse well)
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon cardamom powder
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
- ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon cumin powder
- ½ teaspoon paprika powder
- 1 cup roughly chopped coriander/cilantro (fresh is best, but use less if using those little tubes…)
- 3+ cups of warm water (additional water to top it up as needed to soften lentils)
- 3 tablespoons Greek yogurt (optional, but adds creaminess)
- If serving with rice, I use 2 cups jasmine rice, 4 cups water, 1 cup frozen peas, a tab of butter and a dash of Chinese Five Spice.
Begin with preheating your oven to 400F/200C for the sweet potatoes.
Peel and chop the potato into roughly the same size pieces for even cooking and add to the tray.
Toss the potatoes in a bit of oil and cover with aluminium foil for the first half of the baking time (20-30 minutes).
In a large skillet, add the ghee or oil, onion and carrots, and lightly brown over a medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes.
Measure and rinse your lentils, ensuring the water runs clear through a sieve. Add the lentils and the peppers to the onions and carrots.
Add your dry spices and coriander to the mixture. You can use a premixed dry curry spice if you prefer.
Give it all a good stir to coat the lentils well with your spices, and allow them to lightly fry for about 2 minutes before adding the water to cover the lentils.
Reduce the heat to med/low, cover your skillet with a lid and allow the curry to soften. You want to be sure the lentils are covered, so you may need to top up the water occasionally. This should only take 20 minutes, but it depends on the lentils.
After 20-30 minutes in the oven, remove the aluminium foil from the sweet potatoes and finish uncovered for an additional 15-20 minutes, or until lightly-browned edges show off the natural caramelisation.
Once the lentils are just about the desired texture, the sweet potatoes should also be done, approximately 45 minutes all in. Remove the potatoes from the oven and add to the curry. The potato pieces will naturally break apart into the curry as you stir them into the mixture.
At this point, I’ve usually started my rice. There’s a lot going on with this dish, but it simmers away without needing attention, so there’s plenty of time to get the rice going in time for serving. The curry will happily bubble away, reducing to your favourite consistency.
The roasted sweet potato thickens the dish, so you can mix it thoroughly or leave larger bits – it’s up to you! If you like the added creaminess, you can also add the Greek yogurt to mellow the spices and sweetness. If adding yogurt, be sure the temperature is reduced and you just bring the curry back to a light bubble before serving.
We enjoy this with just a bit of rice and a nice big ladle full of lentils. My husband and I usually add a dash of chili flake or a spicy chutney, just for the heat. My daughter especially loves this curry, and doesn’t even need rice. I hope you give this a try and enjoy!