Vegetable And Lentil Curry With Coconut
Everyone needs a reliable and foolproof curry recipe in their repertoire right? I’m excited to have perfected mine, and be able to share it with you. This is a fail-safe recipe which can welcome whatever vegetables you have in the fridge, meaning it is a great way to use up leftover produce. I love Indian food, and when I go out for this type of cuisine, I tend to order from the ‘sides’ menu, meaning I get a smaller taster of a few dishes (although let’s face it, the portions are never very small!) When left to recreate these dishes at home, however, it makes for a lot of culinary work! I used to pore over Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe books and attempt to recreate an authentic spread: dhal; sag aloo; gobi aloo and all the sides: poppadoms, chutneys, relishes, basmati rice and flatbreads. This was great, but would involve a start in the kitchen at around 4pm as I painstakingly followed every recipe down to it’s finest detail. I learnt that certain spices have to be added in particular orders, and that different cooking techniques applied to the onions would make for very different end results; some dishes called for a light fry until soft and ‘translucent’, whilst others demanded the onions to be ‘browned’. The result was always rewarding, but it definitely never instilled any confidence in my Indian cookery abilities, and I was reluctant to experiment on my own with these flavours. I didn’t understand the art of it, nor the intricacies of spice combinations and cooking techniques, and preferred to let someone else guide me (preferably an actual Indian chef). However, this four-hour, multiple-curry cooking spree was not sustainable, and hardly an ‘everyday option’. I finally stopped striving for authenticity, and accepted that I needed a recipe like this one: lentils, vegetables and loads of spices all thrown in to one big pot, and served with plain brown rice. Madhur Jaffrey might not be very proud, but it works for me.
Now, let us talk about veg. I always have frozen spinach and peas in my freezer (they’re much cheaper) and they’re great for throwing in last minute as they take only a few minutes to defrost. However, if it’s Spring, feel free to use fresh. As for the potatoes and carrots, there isn’t a month in the year where these two aren’t available to buy locally (in the UK), so it makes it both a seasonal and cheap meal. I have chopped up the carrots and potatoes in to fairly small pieces; this is to make it a ‘fork meal’ (one you can eat with just a fork; because there isn’t anything to chop up, the knife is banished in to redundancy). Although I think this combination is brilliant, and have accounted for the cooking time differences in the recipe timings and ingredient sizes, I will suggest a few substitutes if you don’t have these. Of course, cooking time will depend on the size you cut the vegetables, but here is an approximate guide:
Long cooking time (substitute for the carrots and potatoes): Turnip, swede, parsnip, celeriac, squash, beetroot
Medium cooking time: Sweet potato, cauliflower, aubergine, brocolli, green beans, cabbage, kale
Short cooking time (substitute for peas and spinach): Courgette, marrow, chard, sweetcorn
Credit where credit is due, I have to thank Rich for the assistance in developing this recipe. Whilst I tweaked the final quantities to my preference, the inspiration came from him. When we first moved in together, Rich had limited ideas surrounding what vegan food to cook for us and his go-to plan was always a curry. After many attempts, he discovered that an addition of red lentils gives a thick and hearty texture to any sauce (avoiding the feared thin, watery gravy) and that a hunk of creamed coconut thrown in the end adds richness and luxury. He also came up with this spice combination, and I hardly changed it, apart from to alter the amounts. Thanks man!
Finally, this freezes brilliantly, so cook in bulk and you’re set for a few more meals.
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 100g (1 medium) onion, chopped
- 7.5g (2 small cloves) garlic, chopped
- 1.5 tbsp ground cumin
- 1.5 tbsp medium curry powder
- 1 tbsp coriander powder
- 3/4 tbsp salt
- 1/2 tbsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tbsp chilli flakes
- 1/2 tbsp panch phoran seeds
- 1/4 tbsp ground black pepper
- 1.5 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 litre hot water
- 300g potato, cut in to 1-2 cm square chunks
- 250g carrots, cut in to 1 cm square chunks
- 200g red lentils
- 300g frozen peas
- 200g frozen spinach
- 150g block of creamed coconut, cut in to smaller chunks or grated
- In a big saucepan, heat the rapeseed oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and fry for 5-10 minutes, until soft.
- Add the cumin, curry powder, coriander, salt, turmeric, chilli flakes, panch phoran and pepper and fry for a further minute.
- Add the tomato puree, water, potatoes, carrots and lentils and bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, cover with a lid (slightly ajar to let a little steam out) and turn down the heat, so it is simmering. Cook for about 15 minutes, until the lentils and have broken down and the vegetables are just tender.
- Add the peas, spinach, and creamed coconut and cook for a 5 more minutes, until the vegetables have defrosted and the coconut has melted in.
- The curry thickens up as it sits. If you are leaving to eat later, you may need to loosen up with a little water as you reheat.
- Optional garnishes: chopped coriander, chilli flakes or slices, toasted peanuts or cashews, roasted chickpeas
- This is a mild curry; if you wish for more heat, increase the amount of chilli flakes within it.