Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Curried Red Lentils with Caramelized Onions

Curried Red Lentils

Source: A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen, by Jack Bishop

Serves 4 as a main course

For the Curried Red Lentils:
2 tablespoons canola oil
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced gingerroot
2 teaspoons curry powder
3 1/2 cups water
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk (I used one whole can and cut back on the water)
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed and picked over to remove any stones
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves (I skipped)

For the Quick Caramelized Onions:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (for a vegan version, use oil)
3 medium onions (about 1 pound), halved and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

For the Rice Pilaf:
1 1/2 cup basmati rice (or long grain white rice)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or canola oil (for a vegan version, use oil)
6 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed with the side of a chef's knife (or one cinammon stick)
2 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

(Note: I did the rice in the rice cooker. If you have a fuzzy logic cooker, you can set the rice cooker to "Quick Cook" and heat the butter or oil. Follow the directions for the cardamom pods and rice and when finished sauteeing, add the water and simply reset the cooker to the proper setting for whatever rice you are using.)

1. For the rice pilaf: Place the rice in a medium bowl and fill with cold water. Swish the rice around in the water with your fingers. Carefully drain off the water, keeping the rice in the bowl. Repeat the rinsing and draining steps until the water is no longer cloudy, 4 or 5 more times. Set the rice aside.

Heat the butter in a medium saucepan, preferably nonstick, over medium heat until foaming. If using, add the cardamom pods (or cinnamon stick) and cook until it (for cinnamon stick: begins to unfurl slightly and) is aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice smells toasted but has not colored, about 3 minutes. Add the water and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and cook (without opening the lid), until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and set aside, covered, for 10 minutes to allow the rice to finish cooking. Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.

(Note: In order to get the onions really caramelized, I started the onions first, then moved on to the lentils.)

2. For the lentils: Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the garlic, ginger, and curry powder and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the water, coconut milk, lentils, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring to boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, stirring once or twice, until the lentils have fallen apart, about 20 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat, and simmer until the lentils thicken a bit (they should be loose but not liquidy), about 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and adjust the seasonings, adding salt to taste.

3. For the onions: Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once the foaming subsides, add the onions, salt, and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften and begin to color slightly, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very tender and nicely brown, about 15 minutes. (If the onions start to burn at any point, reduce the heat)

4. To serve: Spoon some rice pilaf into individual shallow soup or pasta bowls. Spoon some lentils over the rice, top with a tangle of caramelized onions, and serve.

I talked about this recipe HERE.


  1. This recipe would convert me to lentils I am sure of it :)

  2. Bellini Valli - I think this recipe would be a great way to start liking lentils. My lentil-wary husband really loved this recipe. ;)

  3. I think it's safe to say this is now a staple meal in our house. We hate cilantro, so never include it. And I've used my stock of green lentils so far. Finally, I just realized after I began this round that I didn't have coconut milk. I used regular soymilk, and it didn't thicken as nicely, but tastes great. Thanks!

  4. Maggie - Definitely try it with red lentils sometime. Maybe it's just me, but the red lentils seem to have more flavor - they are definitely my favorite so far. Glad you enjoyed this dish as much as we did!

  5. Maggie8:06 PM

    Oh you're right! The red lentils are great, and the texture is much better. I was out of coconut milk again (I never remember to buy it), so this time i used a can of evaporated milk, and it was perfect. Your blog is just so full of recipes I LOVE!