Coconut Lentil Curry
This recipe is designed to provide you with dinner, leftovers, and a few for your freezer. Cut the recipe in half if you're making this and don't need 6-8 servings.
Coconut Lentil Curry (adapted from the endless meal)
2 Tbsp coconut oil
1 yellow onion, diced
3 Tbsp concentrated hot curry paste
6 cloves garlic
28-oz crushed tomatoes
3 cups water
2 tsp salt
2 cups green lentils
15-oz coconut milk
1 cup chopped kale*
Heat the coconut oil in a large pot over medium-low heat.
Add the diced onion and saute for 15-20 minutes.
Add the garlic and curry paste, stirring to combine.
Add the crushed tomatoes and salt.
Cook for 5 minutes.
Taste. Add more curry paste or salt to taste**.
Add the lentils and water.
Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce the heat to low.
Cover the pot and let it simmer for 20-25 minutes, or until the lentils are to your liking***.
Once the lentils are cooked, add the coconut milk and greens.
Bring the pot back to a simmer, cooking about 5 more minutes to combine.
Serve with rice.
*I had kale in the fridge that I needed to use. Normally a curry like this would have cilantro. I found I really liked the addition of the kale.
**If it's too spicy, remember that the spice will settle down when the coconut milk is added. Additionally, you can enhance other flavors at this point. Add fresh ginger for a stronger ginger flavor, turmeric, or cayenne. This dish is really about making the flavors you like the most stand out.
***In more traditional Indian dishes, lentils are cooked longer and sometimes mashed a little. Cook them until you reach the texture you desire.
Recently on MasterChef, one of the team challenges involved cooking lentils. Joe Bastianich instructed the chefs to make lentils the Italian way. Joe showed that the lentils shouldn't be mushy but should retain their shape. It was this moment that I realized the versatility of lentils. I never thought about the difference between lentils in an Italian dish and lentils in an Indian dish.
Subha, a contestant on this season, commented that he could make lentils in his sleep. Sam made a comment that Subha's lentils would be too mushy because that's how they are in Indian dishes. Though his lentils would've been good if Joe wanted an Indian lentil, Sam was right: Subha's lentils were overcooked and a bit mashed. It was this discussion about lentils that made me aware of my own preference to Italian-style lentils.
But how does one cook lentils so they're not mushy?
I started researching lentils and the answer to this question became apparent: don't cook them as long. I was under the impression that lentils needed to be cooked until they absorbed a good amount of water--almost like rice. I have no idea where I got this impression. I decided to cook the lentils for 20 minutes, and then taste them to see if they were done. This is the obvious solution. Everything should be tasted along the way when cooking, so it made sense to me that I should cook the lentils for the shortest amount of recommended time and see if the texture is right.
This simple solution felt revolutionary. Although the lentils in this curry are not the way they would be in a traditional Indian dish, they're cooked just the way I like them.