Category Archives: red lentils

Tomato and Red Lentil Curry

Red lentils

So, the honeymoon is definitely over. I walked out of the house on Monday and into a cold grey abyss of doom, bills, narky emails and never ending rain. I tell you, it’s enough to make a woman want to go into hibernation for the next few months.

Don’t get me wrong, I adore September. Autumn has always been my favourite season, a fact I put down to being a city dweller. As anyone who lives in a major British city knows, they always feel a bit quiet and jaded during Summer. It’s as though the urban landscape is holding its breath, waiting for people to return and for the business of living to start all over again. But when it’s continually pissing it down, and the third umbrella you’ve bought in the space of six months decides to break when you’re trying to walk home during the middle of a thunderstorm, and your feet feel as though they’ll never be warm again, and you’re wondering if it would just be easier and cheaper to laminate yourself…well, then desperate measures are called for.

I have a few recipes in my armoury that I always call upon when I need to fill my belly with something which is inexpensive to make, while also managing to be hot and tasty. One of these is this Tomato and Red Lentil curry, a dal-esque concoction which consists of red lentils stewed with some tumeric, and flavoured with tomatoes and an array of sizzling spices. I’ve adapted this from a recipe which I originally saw in Delicious magazine, and which over time has become a Monday night favourite. I tend to whip up a giant batch of this at the beginning of the week and dip into it for numerous breakfasts, lunches and dinners. Scooped up with flatbreads, spooned over brown rice or even shovelled down with an egg or top, it makes for a delicious, warming, easy meal – the perfect antidote to the squally September storms.

Tomato and Red Lentil Curry

TOMATO AND RED LENTIL CURRY (Serves Four)

Adapted from this recipe in Delicious magazine

You will need:

  • 200g red lentils
  • 500ml cold water
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 2 shallots
  • 3 fat cloves of garlic
  • 1 thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp Garam Masala
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • A large fistful of fresh coriander, chopped roughly
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Make It!

  1. Rinse the lentils, and pop them in a saucepan. Cover them with the water, and add the tumeric and a pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and skim off any scum which rises to the top. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer, and leave to cook for 20 minutes or so while you prepare the tomato sauce. Top the lentils up with some more water if the pan begins to boil dry.
  2. Put the shallots, garlic and ginger into a food processor and blitz into a paste. Fry this off in a tablespoon of olive oil for a minute. Then add the mustards seeds, fennel seeds and cumin seeds and cook for another 30 seconds until the seeds become aromatic and the mustard seeds begin to pop.
  3. Add the chilli flakes and garam masala to the paste and fry for another 30 seconds. Then, throw in the chopped tomatoes and simmer on the hob for fifteen minutes. When the sauce has thickened, add it to the lentils.
  4. Stir the tomatoes and lentils together thoroughly and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally (if you have a rice cooker, this is exactly the amount of time it will take you to prepare a batch of rice). Once cooked, stir in the fresh coriander leaves and lemon juice. Garnish with a sprig of fresh coriander and serve either over pilau rice or scooped up with naan breads.
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Red Lentil & Lemon soup with Harissa croutons

And so, December rolls around again like a tinsel-bedecked juggernaut. The big kid in me always loves this month, with the promise of Christmas (and the prospect of a week devoted to immense gluttony) just around the corner.  The part of me that appreciates not working to walk in the middle of a howling hailstone storm, however, isn’t as keen.

I always think that Bootle looks especially bleak in the Winter months, when not even the sight of the Seaforth docks, with its grain silos wrapped in fairy lights and cheap tinsel, can alleviate some of the gloom. I walked home last night in the rain; the slick wet pavements lit up by the sodium glare of streetlights the same dirty colour as the snood I’d bundled into, and decided that I needed three things to get me through a cold Monday night:

1) Tea

2) A hug from Mr. Cay

3) Soup. And plenty of it

One of my favourite soups to make when the weather take a turn for the worse is this Red Lentil & Lemon soup. I first read it about it on Orangette, who describes it (quite aptly in my opinion) as being ‘a quiet soup’. Indeed, there is something reassuringly simple and comforting about this combination of lentils, cumin and lemon juice – although it doesn’t smack you in the face with spice, there is a certain ‘something’ about it which makes it so much more than just another lentil soup. The dab of tomato paste also lends it a certain umami zing, which is just the thing to put some life back into cold bones.

Because I like a bit of crunch with my soup, I also whipped up some Harissa Croutons from the leftovers of a sourdough loaf I’d baked on Sunday. Whilst I am a firm believer in the benefits of making your own Harissa (Eat Like a Girl has an excellent recipe on her blog if you feel like whipping up a batch sometime soon), I am also terribly lazy. So, I just used the stuff from a jar which I’d recently bought from Steenberg’s Organics.

Warm soup, spicy croutons, hot tea and Masterchef on the telly. Winter may have hit Bootle with a vengeance, but so long as I have all of these things at my disposal, life will always be good.

RED LENTIL & LEMON SOUP WITH HARISSA CROUTONS (Serves four)

Soup recipe adapted slightly from ‘In the kitchen with a good appetite’ by Melissa Clark. Harissa Croutons recipe originally by Eat Like a Girl

You will need:

  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 large onions, finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 1 tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1 tsp ground cumin (I like to use whole cumin seeds, which are toasted in a pan and then ground in a pestle and mortar)
  • 100g  red lentils
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • ½ tsp  salt, or more to taste
  • A few grinds of black pepper
  • Pinch of red chilli flakes
  • 2 pints of chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken)
  • Juice of a lemon  to taste
  • A good handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped

For the croutons

  • 1 tbsp harissa
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g sourdough bread, cubed

Make It!

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C/300°F/gas mark 2. Combine the harissa and olive oil and season. Toss with the bread to coat. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp, shaking occasionally.
  2. In a large pot, warm the oil over medium-high heat until hot and shimmering. Add the onions and garlic and sweat for around 4 minutes  until golden.
  3. Stir in the tomato paste, cumin, salt, pepper, and cayenne, and cook for another two minutes. Add the stock,  the lentils, and the carrots. Bring to a simmer, then partially cover the pot and reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Continue to cook for around half an hour  until the lentils and carrots are soft. Taste, and add more salt if necessary.
  4. Once cooked, puree around half of the soup using a hand blender (or a food processor if you’re lucky enough to own one) . It should still be slightly chunky. Reheat if necessary, then stir in the lemon juice and fresh coriander. Serve the soup drizzled with good olive oil and topped with the harissa croutons.
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