Without question, I cook Indian-inspired meals more than any other ethnic cuisine. Embrace the magical power of masala (a mixture of ground spices) to turn your grocery scraps and pantry staples into a simple, but oh-so-delicious meal. Lentils are my go-to for this recipe but this curry base can be used with any veggie or legume combo!
I often make this dhal curry recipe when my fridge is totally empty and it is delicious with or without added veggies. Some of my favorite veggies to add if I do have them on hand are: potatoes (sweet or regular, cut into quarter-inch cubes), cauliflower, mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, celery and eggplant. Dhal is also the perfect way to use up greens that are on their way out (spinach, kale, chard and collard greens all work great!). This recipe is lovely with a couple of handfuls of roughly chopped dark leafy greens!
I use this same curry base for other legumes. If you don’t have lentils, you could easily swap in a 15 0z/425g can of chickpeas, kidney beans, black beans or even that can of mixed beans that has been sitting in your cupboard for way too long.
- Curry Base:
- 1 Tbsp olive oil or coconut oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 inch of ginger, grated
- 1 Tbsp ground cumin
- 1 Tbsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 1/2 tsp cayenne or chili flakes (optional for a little kick!)
- 1 small (15oz/425g) can diced tomatoes OR 2 medium tomatoes, diced
- 2 to 3 cups of whatever veggies need to be used, diced (optional, see notes)
- 1 cup dried lentils
- 1 1/2 cups water
- 1 Tbsp garam masala (optional)
- 1/2 cup coconut milk (optional)*
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Cilantro, chopped for serving (optional)
- Basmati rice for serving, if desired
Prepare rice according to package directions.
Start by preparing your curry base, using a medium or large saucepan (this is a one-pot wonder so make sure it’s big enough to accommodate!). Sauté onion with half of a teaspoon of salt in coconut oil over medium heat until softened and just starting to brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Use this time to cut any vegetables you might be using into bite size chunks.
Once onions are ready, add garlic, ginger and spices. Cook for one minute, stirring constantly to make sure garlic and spices do not burn.
Add tomatoes and stir to combine. Reduce heat slightly and allow the curry base to simmer for 2 to 3 minutes.
Add any vegetables (except greens, those will go in at the very end) and stir to coat with the spice and tomato mixture.
Add lentils and combine before adding the water and giving the mixture a good stir. Increase the heat back to medium-high in order to bring the curry to a boil. If using canned beans, add the beans, stir and then add a whole can of coconut milk (or simply add the 1 ½ of water if you don’t have coconut milk on hand).
Once the curry comes to a boil, reduce to medium-low heat and simmer for approximately 20 to 25 minutes, until the lentils and veggies have adequately softened. Note that red lentils will turn into (delicious!) mush whereas green or brown lentils will retain their shape.
Finish with coconut milk and garam masala, if available. Taste and season as required.
Serve in a bowl as a thick soup or over prepared rice. Garnish with chopped cilantro.