Until my mid-20s I didn’t care much for curries. Commercial curry powder has always tasted musty to me. But when I first made Indian curry from The Vegetarian Epicure, mixing the spices to make a unique curry flavor, I fell in love with it.
Recipes for Indian food can look daunting. The ingredients list is always long. But most of the ingredients on the list are spices. If you look at the recipe below, you’ll see that half the ingredients are spices—or more than half if you count sriracha and salt as spices, which I do. The veggie chopping prep is relatively little for a veggie recipe—just onions, garlic, tomato and cilantro.
I like to combine all the spices beforehand in a small container, as much as a day ahead, so that when I need them, I don’t have to fuss with all the individual jars at the time I’m putting together the meal. I served this wonderful masala over brown basmati rice with roasted cauliflower on the side.
Meatless Monday: Masala Lentils
- 3/4 cup brown lentils, washed and drained
- 2 cups water
- 2 to 3 teaspoons safflower or other neutral oil
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red or white onion
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon fenugreek leaves or 1/8 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
- 1 teaspoon sweet or hot paprika
- 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sriracha or other hot sauce, to taste
- 2 tablespoons water
- 1 1/2 cups chopped tomato
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, for garnish
- 1 tablespoon vegan butter (optional)
- Combine the lentils with 2 cups of water in a saucepan. Partially cover and cook over medium heat until the lentils are tender, 25-30 minutes.
- While the lentils are cooking, make the tempering. Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes.
- In a blender, combine the garlic, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, fenugreek, paprika, nutmeg, black pepper, sriracha, and 2 tablespoons of water. Blend to combine well. Add this paste to the onions in the skillet. Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and salt, and cook until the tomatoes are tender, about 8 minutes. Mash the larger tomato pieces.
- Add the tempering to the lentils. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust salt and spice. Garnish with cilantro and vegan butter, if using, and serve hot.