Indian-inspired lentils are one of our family’s favorite recipes. My version is inspired by the traditional Indian dish Dal Makhani with a few alterations that make it much easier to prepare than the traditional dish.
Originally, I started making this meal out of necessity. When we moved to Miami for a spell we couldn’t find a decent Indian restaurant anywhere. And we missed it. So I started playing around with recipes and finally came up with something that was easy to make and really good. Eventually, we added the curry roasted cauliflower and peas for variety. And we always serve it with a big dollop of greek yogurt mixed with diced cucumber and lemon juice (think of it as not-quite-raita).
Amazingly my kids love this meal. Its truly one of their favorites. People are usually kind of amazed that they are open to such strong flavors. I think its because we’ve exposed them to all of these spices since they were toddlers. To them, its just part of our regular food line up. We keep the heat level pretty low and serve theirs with plenty of brown rice, yogurt and store-bought naan bread.
If you’re planning to make this meal for older kids who aren’t as familiar with Indian flavors, try mixing the lentils with a big helping of brown rice at first. That should cut the spice level and make it a bit less intimidating for the un-initiated. Or, perhaps start by offering the curried cauliflower as a side-dish with roast chicken, just to see how they feel about it.
Indian Spiced Lentils
1 cup green lentils
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced, fire roasted tomatoes
1/4 cup half & half
1 tablespoon butter
salt & pepper to taste
Garnishes: cooked brown, basmati rice, yogurt mixed with diced cucumber and lemon juice, fresh cilantro
- Pick through lentils and discard any rocks or debris. Rinse lentils under cool water and allow to soak in fresh water for at least 1 hour. Discard soaking water before continuing.
- Heat olive oil over medium heat in a large dutch oven. Add diced onion, garlic and ginger and sautéed until onions are translucent. Add cumin, coriander, garam masala and cayenne pepper and continue cooking for one minute more. Add lentils, kidney beans, fire-roasted tomatoes and enough water to just barely cover the contents.
- Bring mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and allow to simmer covered for at least 30 minutes, until lentils are soft.
- Once lentils have softened, use the back of a spoon to gently crush some of them to create a creamier texture. Before serving add half & half and butter and plenty of salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve over brown rice with optional garnishes.
Curry Roasted Cauliflower
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 lb. cauliflower florets, fresh or frozen
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup frozen peas
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Combine cauliflower florets, curry powder, cumin and salt in a medium bowl and toss to combine. Drizzle with olive oil and toss until evenly coated.
- Spread cauliflower on prepared baking sheet an roast in preheated oven for 30 minutes, tossing occasionally, until the cauliflower is golden brown.
- Sprinkle the frozen peas onto the baking sheet and return to the oven for the last 5 minutes of cooking.
- Serve immediately with lentils or your favorite meal.