Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Vegetarian Lentil Curry

A couple of weeks ago I went to a vegan restaurant on Saint-Laurent called Aux Vivres. (Among other places.) I had an amazing dinner there and after I stuffed my face I didn't feel bloated and heavy. It was great! And it got me thinking: maybe I should try to make something vegetarian sometimes to get a break from the meat. Maybe that would help me feel better. And if there's any culture in the world who knows how to cook good vegetarian food, it's the Indians and their multitude of spices and curries. So this weekend I decided to prepare a vegetarian lentil curry with basmati rice. I had a few hiccups while doing this recipe, such as the lentils becoming too soft and turning to mush, but I will still tell you how I did it and tell you afterwards how it can be improved after my experience.

On a side-note, a lot of people have told me about saffron and how it's so expensive for just a few strands and how hard it is to find. I really don't know what's the big deal. I have a huge container full of the stuff that I bought for $2.59 in a Lebanese grocery store. See? This is great in basmati rice and I always use it when I make some.


  • 4 small ripe tomatoes
  • 1 large regular onion, or 1/2 a Spanish onion
  • 2 small sweet potatoes or regular potatoes
  • 1 bag of frozen cauliflower, thawed.
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp grapeseed/olive/vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp curry paste (I used leftover Thai curry paste in a jar that I had)
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tbsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tbsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • a pinch of safran
  • 1 tbsp margarine
  • 2 cups red lentils
  • 4 cups of vegetable broth
  • 2 cups basmati rice
  • 6  cups of water


First off, wash, peel and cut the potatoes into tiny cubes about 2 cm wide (~2/3 of an inch). They have to be small in order to cook faster.

Next, peel and chop the onion. Man up and stop crying, you wuss!

Next, mince the garlic.

Then cut the tomatoes in small quarters. Don't need to chop them up too small, we're going to put them  in a food processor to turn them into a purée. Try to keep the juices in as much as possible.

I got this for cheap at Walmart. It's small, but it does the job.

Before cooking the lentils, it is very important that you wash them in cold water and make sure to check for small stones. Wash the lentils in a large bowl by soaking them and whisking them with a whisk. When the water is all dirty, use a strainer to drain the water and start all over again and repeat until the water is clean. If  you don't do that, your broth is going to turn all scummy and gross and it's going to taste bad.

What you need to wash the lentils.
Keep them close for later when you need to drain the rice.

Now here's where I start cooking the lentils. This was my first mistake. I started cooking the lentils before I started on the vegetables. And when I was supposed to add the lentils to the curry, it was too late. They had been sitting in their hot broth for far too long and turned mushy. So from my experience, do this step later while your vegetables are cooking and add them when the lentils are almost done. To check if lentils are ready, you do like you do with rice: you taste them. If they are tender but still whole, they are ready to eat! So we want to cook them until they start getting soft, which isn't very long, trust me. It's just a few minutes. So if you want to do this right, you may skip ahead to the curry preparation part.

To cook the lentils, bring 4 cups of vegetable broth to a boil. The way I did it is I boiled 4 cups of water with 1 tbsp of margarine and added vegetable broth powder as instructed on the package.

Once the broth is boiling, add the 2 cups of red lentils.

For the rice, bring 6 cups of water to a boil. Add 1 tbsp of margarine and a pinch of saffron and mix until margarine has all melted. Then add the rice and cook until the rice is tender, then drain and set aside.

To prepare the curry, first combine and mix the curry paste, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, chili, salt, sugar and grated ginger into a bowl until uniform an set aside.

In a large pot, heat up the oil on medium heat and brown the onions and the garlic until the onions start getting transparent.

Then add the mix of spices and toast the spices for about a minute. This will help bring out the flavours a lot more. Then add the tomato purée and mix well.

Bring to a simmer and then add to potatoes, mix and cover, stirring occasionally to make sure nothing sticks to the bottom. Let the potatoes cook until they start becoming tender, but are still a bit hard. (That's when you should start cooking the lentils.) Then add the cauliflower, mix, cover and let it cook until they start getting tender too.

When the lentils are just about done, transfer them with the vegetables, mix well and cover a little while longer. When the sweet potatoes, the cauliflower and the lentils are all tender, remove from the heat and let cool.

Dinner is done and is ready to eat. Just scoop some basmati rice in a place and cover with the lentil curry and enjoy!

Hopefully, if you follow my advice, yours should end up better than mine. It's a good think I documented this so that next time I want to do this recipe, I'll remind myself of the right way to do it!

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