Veggie Curry with Lentils recipe

This is a curry recipe with cabbage, and before you x out of this page, let me just say it’s neither smelly nor stringy. I must admit I was slightly scared of cooking cabbage; coleslaw is great, but I’m not a big bubble and squeak fan, so my main experience with cooked cabbage has been bland, smelly and limp. That being said, cabbage is really good for you, and I’m always trying to find new ways of forcing veg ingestion upon my children, so when they turned their noses up at coleslaw, I thought I’d trick them into the rest of the slaw. I bought a big bag of pre-shredded cabbage and carrot that you’re meant to add dressing to for coleslaw, but it ended up helping create to most delicious curry.

My daughter is my biggest food critic, but she’s also my biggest fan if I make lentils for dinner. At 4 years old, she’s determined to polish off any vegetarian meal I make, convincing me she’s going to refuse meat any day now. As long as I have a half an hour to allow the lentils to soften, I’ll make this type of dish for lunch or dinner. This particular recipe took about 45 minutes from start to finish, but I was faffing a bit. The depth of flavour that the spices and cabbage add are gorgeous – sweet and savoury, and a little bit creamy. I hope you’ll give it a try, even if you don’t think you like cabbage, because I was surprised by how sweet and tender it was in this curry.

lessons.png

 You’ll need:

  • 1 tablespoon veg oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup crushed or diced tomato (tinned is easiest)
  • 1 teaspoon dried mustard powder
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ginger powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried cumin
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • 1 cup dried red lentils (rinsed well)
  • 2–3 cups shredded cabbage (I used a coleslaw pre-shred with a bit of carrot)
  • 1 cup chopped coriander/cilantro (I use my scissors and just snip into the pot)
  • ½ teaspoon chicken (or veg) stock concentrate, or 1 dried cube
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 4–6 cups of water to cover and periodically top up until the lentils are softened
  • ½ cup Greek yogurt

Veg curry ingredients

The method:

First things first: find a wide, deep pan and add the butter and oil over a medium-high heat.

Melting the butter.jpg

 

Once the butter is melted and the oil is warm, add your dry spices and give them a quick stir before adding the tomato and incorporating into the oil and spices. This will allow the spices to lightly fry without burning, and the tomato to reduce.

Add the chicken stock concentrate or cube and mix it into the tomato and spices; you’ll add water later, so don’t worry if it’s not fully mixed in.

Ensuring you’ve thoroughly rinsed the dried lentils, add these to the tomato mix and stir well.

Lentils cooking.jpg

Cover the lentil mixture with the shredded cabbage and add about 1 cup of your water. I find keeping a full kettle on hand the easiest for eyeballing the water additions. Reduce the heat to a medium-low while covered to save scorching the bottom.

Keep the cabbage on top without stirring it in and just cover it for about five minutes. This gives you the perfect chance to start your rice, or pull out the pita or naan for serving. I usually cook jasmine rice with chicken stock and a little garlic and herb spice, but that’s just because I like my rice to have flavour of its own.

Cabbage in the pan.jpg

Once the cabbage has wilted, and created some of its own water, give it a good stir to incorporate the lentils and check the water level.

Sprinkle in the brown sugar and add the coriander, and mix into the curry before adding about 2–3 cups of water, or enough to cover the mixture.

Incorporate the water before covering and allowing to simmer on medium-low heat for another 10–15 minutes. The cabbage will continue to reduce as the lentils soften, so you shouldn’t need more water, but keep an eye on your creation.

Once you’re satisfied with the tenderness of your lentils, reduce to low (or switch off the heat if you’re serving straight away) and add the Greek yogurt. This will mellow the spices and add creaminess to the curry.

Serve this over rice, or with toasted pita or naan bread.  Add a splash of lemon juice to your serving for a citrus burst and enjoy!

Closeup plated veg curry

Roasted Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry recipe

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.

Sweet potato and lentil curry vertical.jpeg

You’ll need:

  • 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.

The method:

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.

Roasting sweet potatoes.jpg

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!
 

Sparkly Mummy

 

Tandoori Chicken and Coconut Lentils

Try this instead of a take-away. Great for kids too!

After a decade in England, I feel like Indian cuisine is a staple in my home. Since we don’t have our local delivery any more, I’ve taken to making my own favourite dishes, getting closer and closer to a curry house flavour. Luckily, my kids were very young when they were first introduced to tandoori and dahl (lentils), one of my preferred mild dishes too, so making it at home is very familiar and comforting to us all.

I usually make this when it’s a good day to grill. The chicken can be done in the oven (200C/450F for 20 minutes), but it tastes amazing if it’s been fired up. If you’re super organised, you can put together the chicken and yogurt to marinate all day or overnight, but giving it a good thirty minutes is still fine. I let the chicken tenderise in the yogurt for at least as long as it takes to finish the lentils and rice, so it’s nice and hot of the grill for serving. The lentils will just get better the longer they simmer, and you can top it up with a bit of water all day long.

Tandoori chicken on the grill.jpg

Now, it’s worth noting that in the UK, you’re more likely to find Tandoori Masala pre-mixed, but it can be achieved in the States, or you could make your own mix. Local Indian groceries are always well stocked with spices, ghee, rice and lentils at fabulous prices. They usually even have the coconut milk priced more competitively, and certainly bulk buying rice and lentils is an economic no-brainer. I found a brilliant little shop right here in my own Seattle suburb, so try a visit to the little guy and you may be pleasantly surprised at their selection and prices. Most pre-mix Tandoori will be mostly E-numbers to achieve that Tandoori orange, so feel free to simply mix dry spices (see below) for the same, additive-free, flavour.

You’ll need:

Chicken

  • 3 large boneless chicken breasts (or on the bone if you have more time to grill)
  • 3-4 TB Greek yogurt
  • 1 heaped TB Tandoori Masala or a dry mix of turmeric, coriander, ginger, paprika, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, salt and chili powder (a good shake of each into a small bowl usually does the trick and allows you to add more of the flavours you enjoy most)

Tandoori chicken ingredients

Dahl

  • 1 cup chopped white onion (frozen is fine) / 1 medium onion
  • 5 cups/800g red lentils/masoor dahl
  • 1 cup shredded or julienned carrot (approx. 1 medium carrot)
  • 1 heaped tsp minced/grated garlic (I buy large jars of minced garlic)
  • 1 heaped tsp minced/grated ginger (this really is best freshly grated)
  • 1 heaped TB Tandoori Masala or mix as above
  • 2 TB ghee (clarified butter) or 1 TB vegetable oil
  • 1 cube dry chicken stock or 1 tsp concentrated stock
  • 400 ml tin of unsweetened, first-pressed coconut milk (don’t bother with low fat versions, you want the cream)
  • 1 tsp brown or muscovado sugar
  • 2-4 cups water

Dahl ingredients

Rice

  • 2 cups/400g jasmine rice
  • 4 cups chicken stock (1 cube dry stock in 4 cups water)
  • 1 cup frozen peas (optional)

First things first, you can slice the chicken into large cubes, or buy chicken tenders to save time, but be sure the pieces won’t fall through the grill (if you’re using a bbq).

Mix the yogurt and dry spice together well in a large mixing bowl before adding the raw chicken. Give it a good mix to really coat the chicken, and then cover the bowl with cling film/plastic wrap and find a space in the fridge.

The longer the chicken has a chance to canoodle with the yogurt, the better. Don’t worry if it doesn’t look bright orange, you don’t need that much ‘stuff’ in your dinner.

Once your chicken is set aside, give your lentils a really good rinse. This is not a step to be missed, because the lentils will be ‘dusty’, and they will produce a bubbly foam when boiling if you don’t. (I usually use a small strainer inside a larger bowl to submerge the lentils and shake ‘em up under water 4 or 5 times, until the water I’m draining is clear.)

Next step, start your onions in the ghee or oil over a med-high heat. I suggest using a wide based pot or pan so you get more browning and less stewing. (I wouldn’t suggest trying to use normal butter if you can’t find ghee, it’s just going to burn.)

As the onions just begin to sizzle, add the garlic, ginger and dry spices and stir it pretty continuously to avoid the dry spices burning.

Add the lentils, carrots and dry or concentrated chicken stock and coat everything with the onion/spice mixture before adding about 1.5 cup of water and reducing the heat to med-low.

Coconut milkOpen the tin of coconut milk and, if you’re lucky, the cream will be separated from the water. Put a small whole on one side and larger whole on the other to drain just the water, holding your spoon in the way to keep back the cream. If it hasn’t separated, it’s no biggy, just add the whole can. If it has, keep the near solid cream for adding at the end.

The reason I try to keep the cream until the end, it doesn’t need to reduce with the rest of the water, and adds a smoothness to the dahl. Let me stress, though, that this isn’t a necessary step, just a texture enhancer.

Once you’ve added the coconut water, reduce and cover for about ten minutes.

Now is the perfect time to start your rice. I just make a standard pot of rice, but use chicken stock instead of water. This adds flavour, salt and fat in one step, instead of using butter, salt and water. I’ve also been known to add about a cup of frozen peas to rice from the beginning, as well as a pinch of cardamom powder, but these are optional. I try to use veg anywhere I can, and even the smallest bit of flavour cooked into the rice is very kid-friendly.

Stir your dahl occasionally to be sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom, adding a bit of water to keep it from getting too dry if needed. Once the lentils and carrots are nice and soft, taste test to add any salt and a teaspoon or so of the brown sugar. Allow the mixture to bubble a bit longer and then add the coconut cream if you’ve held it back. Mix in thoroughly and then turn the heat to the lowest heat, just to maintain the warmth. The dahl will stay liquid as long as the lid is kept on while you grill the chicken, but the moisture will escape and dry it out if you leave it uncovered for long.

Dahl in the pan.jpgTurn off your rice when it’s tender, but leave it covered until time to serve.

On a high grill flame, place the chicken pieces nicely spread apart onto a greased grill (I usually use a bit of veg oil on a paper towel/kitchen roll and wipe the grill before I turn it on). Keep the lid closed for about 5-7 minutes and then turn the chicken over and repeat. The less you move the pieces, the better you’ll be at getting crispy bits and a bit of yogurt char. Yum.

Depending on the size of the pieces, 10-15 minutes should be plenty, with one roll over in the middle and keeping the lid closed. Be careful not to overcook the chicken in pursuit of char, it’s better to have moist chicken. If in doubt, always cut open your biggest piece first to check it’s cooked through.

My kids can’t get enough of the coconut dahl served over rice, and I cut up a piece of the chicken into tiny pieces mixed in if they’re interested. I don’t worry if they aren’t up for the chicken, though, because lentils have protein and are super healthy. And filling! Our whole family love this meal, and it all makes for great leftovers. I love to nibble the cold chicken bites (if any are left) the next day, and a scoop of rice and dahl in the microwave makes for a two minute lunch/dinner!

Tandoori chicken and coconut lentils

Mummy in a Tutu