Coconut Lentil Curry with Quinoa

I like to pretend like every day I plan some amazing meal and go all-out to cook it, but the truth is most of the time I’m excruciatingly lazy and like, whip something together out of whatever is in my house. (Or just eat omelettes. I eat a lot of breakfast for dinner. I won’t tell if you won’t.)  I was a little low on basics last week and as I desolately stared at the leftover vegetables, lentils, and coconut milk in my pantry, I remembered that Caroline posted a tasty-sounding lentil curry soup recipe a while ago, and I’d been all about some really tasty curried lentils I had at a dinner party a few weeks ago.  I was also craving Indian or Thai takeout, but all the options that deliver to my house are super oily and not great. I figured I’d wing it and try to come up with something similar to all those things, with whatever I had in the house. Miraculously, it turned out to be maybe one of the tastiest things I’ve ever made (despite the rather unflattering photo) and is definitely going to become a staple.

It’s also vegan, for those of you who care about that kind of stuff, and is super healthy and full of protein and fiber and other good stuff, and even my super-carnivorous other half (“Meg, all the food you make is basically vegetable mush, I want a steak”) admitted that it was damn good.  It’s also relatively cheap, and the huge pot that this recipe yielded fed me for like a week.  

SO! Onward! You will need:

  • Lentils (I cheat sometimes and get the already cooked ones from Trader Joe’s, so either those, or dry ones that you’ve already prepared/soaked.)
  • 1 piece fresh ginger root
  • 2 onions
  • lots of garlic (about half a bulb, or a whole one if it’s small)
  • oil
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • spices you like: curry, cumin, pepper, cinnamon, garam masala, etc
  • vegetables: I used zucchini, bell peppers, carrots, and spinach.
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • 1 large bunch fresh cilantro

Chop the onions and garlic and grate or chop the ginger. Throw them in a huge-ass pot with some oil (coconut would be nice, but olive’s fine) and sauté a bit, but don’t let it burn.  Dump in your lentils, like a cup of water, and a can of coconut milk. Stir.

Add spices: you can use a pre-packaged curry, or make your own, or add to an existing curry mix.  I used a West Indian curry powder I had, and then added cumin, tons of black pepper, cayenne pepper, a little bit of cinnamon, and a little bit of garam masala.  Hell if I know what that mixture works out to, but it was really tasty.  You could also use a Thai curry paste, if you’re the kind of person that keeps curry paste around.  Let this simmer for a while — not super long if the lentils are already cooked, but half an hour or so if they weren’t.  Go chop up the rest of your veggies while it simmers.

You can use whatever veggies you want, but as I was whipping this together out of stuff I had in my fridge to begin with, I used some zucchini, two red bell peppers, a ton of carrots. Other things that would be really tasty: butternut squash, pumpkin, cauliflower, miscellaneous root vegetables. Chop ‘em up, and toss them in when they’re ready.  Add a can or two of chickpeas.  Add some water if you need it, but mine didn’t, and I like having the texture be more thick and stew-like than soupy.  

Simmer for a little while longer, but not too long because you don’t want the vegetables to get too mushy.  Make some grains to eat it with. Couscous, quinoa, rice, whatever. Quinoa’s my favorite because of the texture and it’s super filling and more protein and all that, but whatever floats your boat.

Green stuff goes in last cuz super wilty greens are gross. I had some frozen chopped spinach which I stirred in at the very end, and then chopped up an enormous bunch of cilantro and stirred that in right before serving.  Voila! Serve with your quinoa, sprinkle with some more chopped cilantro, enjoy, and take a more attractive picture than I did here.