I am surprised that I have never tried cooking lentils before. I must have been intimidated by recipes that call for a long list of herbs and spices; I used to discard plenty of these, forgotten and expired. This happened a lot in the past when I tried out recipes for the novelty; cook once and never again.
It is actually my daughter’s idea to try a plant-based lentil stew recipe. It came with a long shopping list of seasoning and spices: garlic powder, onion powder, cumin powder, coriander powder, sweet paprika powder, ginger powder; none of which I have at home. It irks me to think that these ingredients might end up as food waste if we are only making the dish once.
To prevent wastage, I selected only two types of spices to buy: cumin and coriander, while substituting the rest with either fresh ones (garlic, ginger, onions) or skip them altogether. I am adding turmeric powder as I always have it at home. We have been making this stew dish at least four times, each time with different ingredients, but always with cumin, coriander and turmeric powder.
Recently, I have been cutting down the frequency of trips to the wet market. This means that I have to buy more fresh produce which doesn’t turn bad quickly, such as cauliflowers, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and carrots. These hardy vegetables are perfect for making lentil stews. I am also purchasing more dry food items such as beans, noodles, rice cakes from the dry provision section of the wet market. That’s how I learned that red lentils and spices (and curry paste!) are sold in bulk at the Indian provision stall. My CNY cookie container that weighs exactly 50g without its cover, makes it a breeze for the stallholder to measure my order, 200g of red lentils.
I will be exploring more vegetarian lentil stew recipes. In the meantime, here’s a quick sharing of how I make mine today, serves two:
1. Prep Ingredients:
- 1 small red onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 medium carrot, diced
- 1 sweet potato, diced
- 1 large potato, diced
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
- Olive oil, enough to cover and sweat chopped onions
- 2 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- Black pepper and salt, to taste
- Cilantro, as garnish
- Heat up oil in a pot.
- Add chopped onions and cook till softened.
- Add garlic, fry till aromatic.
- Add diced carrots, sweet potatoes, potatoes, and chopped tomatoes, stir to cook, around 3 minutes, add red lentils.
- Add cumin, coriander and turmeric powder, stir to mix.
- Add enough hot water (or broth, if preferred) to cover all ingredients and bring to boil.
- Cover pot, reduce heat, and simmer to cook, around 10 minutes.
- Remove cover, stir the mixture, add more hot water if it’s too dry.
- Season with salt and black pepper.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve immediately.
Do you have cooking, seasoning tips, or must-have ingredients, spices for your favourite lentil stew recipe? Share if you have, this late-comer to the world of lentils will be very grateful!