Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Fantastic Curried Lentils (no turmeric)

My mother is an amazing cook. I never appreciated her cooking when I was a kid, but now-a-days I wish she'd be my live-in cook and just feed me breakfast, lunch and dinner every day. She has run her own bed and breakfast in our Alaska home when I was a teenager. She would bring home stray church guests almost every Sunday and feed them a big hearty Alaskan sourdough pancake meal with real Vermont maple syrup. Not to mention that she cooked us a full dinner from scratch every. single. night even though she worked as a school teacher. We always had a salad, a vegetable some grain and a main dish. When my dad was finally willing to retire they were asked to come run an Inn in Hawaii for two  years where they would cook a fancy breakfast about half of the time for people staying there. My dad became a master of Hawaiian fruit platters and my mom would whip up amazing casseroles, scones, killer oatmeal, apparently amazing gluten free things for her special needs guests as well. I visited them there once for about a week, just me and my little 1-year-old and I thoroughly enjoyed getting spoiled by her cooking and relaxing by the pool.

As you probably know by now we are Orthodox Christians and we fast for about half the year, this means that we eat a vegan diet on our fast days. (We are allowed shrimp, scallops and other shell fish as well on those days.) Needless to say, we very much appreciate the Internet and all the vegans out there in the world publishing their delicious recipes. It has given our generation a lot of access to the cuisine of other countries and their favorite recipes. I have discovered that we really love Indian and much of the Thai food in addition to the Chinese (obviously). Growing up my mom would make Curried Lentils, but I was never a fan, it had turmeric in it and I realized I just don't love turmeric. It's the classic bottle of curry powder that you buy at the store, it is always yellow. Once I realized that Indian food didn't have to contain turmeric I started enjoying it far more. (What Wikipedia says about curry.)

My mom brought out dinner to our house a few years ago on a fasting Sunday afternoon. She was cooking for my sister's family and my family. Our husbands tend to struggle with the amount of legumes, rice, potatoes and general non-meat dishes that us wives prepare. Of course, like any wife who cooks often, we fall into bad grooves and finally our husbands have to beg us not to cook that dish ever, ever again. She brought us Curried Lentils and of course my first reaction was the yellow lentils as a child that I would have to eat and endure and in my mind ask my mother never to make them ever, ever again. I think she sensed my lack of excitement and explained that this was a new recipe she'd found in Good Housekeeping (Jan 2014) and she'd even add some shrimp for the extra meat and protein. Well, we all fell in love with it, but none more than our husbands. My husband and my sister's husband were in fasting-food heaven. I asked for the recipe and have made it quite a few times. Coconut milk seems to be that amazing secret ingredient in so many of our new favorite recipes these days...It makes the most basic ingredients creamy and fantastic. I have started buying the canned goodness online by the case, because I get the best deal and can keep it on hand. It's not cheap at the grocery store, usually between $3-$4 per can.

Curried Lentils
Makes about 6 main-dish servings

Blend in food processor your curry spices paste:
2 med. shallots, quartered (I never have shallots, I always use onions)
1 can (6 oz) tomato paste
1 jalapeno chili, stemmed (I typically have jalapeno slices in a jar that I use)
4 thick slices peeled ginger (I buy the ginger in the tubes in the produce section, it's quick and lasts quite a long time)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp pepper
-Blend these until mostly smooth, transfer to a slow cooker or thick bottomed pot. Be sure to use an 8 quart if doubling this recipe.-

Then add:
2 c. Vegetable broth
1 1/2 c. lentils, picked over
1 can (15 oz) light coconut milk (I usually use reg, not light)
3 c. large cauliflower florets, placed on top nicely after everything else is combined
-let this all cook for an hour on the stove on low or 5 hours on high in the crock pot or 8 hours on low-

Before serving add:
1 c. frozen peas, thawed
1 Tbsp lime juice
1 lb of shrimp-optional
1/4 tsp salt (taste it, be sure it's enough)

Serve over rice, garnish with pistachios if you like. You could also garnish with shredded coconut...my mom just served me the curried shrimp with the turmeric powder when I was visiting her 2 weeks ago. She had chopped apples, shredded coconut, raisins and cashews to put on top, it was so yummy and fun to eat! I think that would be a fun addition to this recipe as well.

If you want to get really fancy you could sprout your lentils one or two days ahead. You won't need nearly as much liquid, so back off on the broth when you cook them. This seriously upps the protein in your grain and it's fin to eat little lentils with cute tails on them. It's also better for our bodies if we presoak our grains but especially when they're sprouted.


My last night in Hawaii with my parents.