in pursuit of more

living with just a little less

Classic Red Lentil Vegetable Curry

I hope you all had a truly fab weekend soaking up the spring sun and taking it all in!

As for us, we’ve got a new layer of topsoil in the garden and a clean fresh outlook – here’s to the new season…and Easter coming up! Today’s post is (once again) dedicated to the simple easy pleasures in life. Healthy food made delicious by the addition of simple (and rich) spices! A vegetarian’s palette of inspiration is only as limited as the spice cupboard, and inexpensive staples can go from pretty meh to pretty mean in a few seconds with (just a little) bit of spice.

Indian spices in particular are so wonderfully varied, it’s almost impossible to go wrong with combos (but it can be done) – and there are a few easy ones that everyone should be familiar with. They would be (for me): cumin (both ground and seeds), ginger, turmeric, black mustard seeds, coriander, garam masala (so many kinds!), cardamom..there are a few others – what are your classic faves?

There are so many different spices to name but I’ve always had good luck preparing delicious veggie curries and bean dishes out of the ones listed above. They are known for being widely beneficial to digestion, and gentle and calming for the soul (maybe that part is just for me – anyone else?).

Side Note: Here in Vancouver – home to one of North America’s most widely celebrated Indian restaurants (Vij’s) – we are lucky to have a few high quality haunts (from budget to high-end) to frequent for a taste of the real thing. My recent (1st!) trip to London also brought me to Brick Lane, which was a very special experience, and I’ll never forget my 1st taste of that delicious lime pickle…amazing!

Alas, I don’t think a trip to India will ever be in the cards for me (but never say never), and I would never consider my home cooking a substitution for the real thing……but it isn’t all that hard, and cooking this way is: Delicious, cheap, and good for you. Straight up!

Red Lentil Vegetable Curry:

(2) tbsp olive oil, canola oil, or ghee
(2) tbsp black mustard seeds
(1) onion chopped (about one heaping cup)
(2) tsp salt
(2) tsp turmeric
(2) tsp cumin
(2) tbsp fresh chopped or grated ginger
(3) carrots, chopped (about one heaping cup)
(2) medium potatoes (about one heaping cup)
(1.5) cups canned diced tomatoes (1 398ml can)
(1) cup red lentils
(4) cups water
(1) lemon
black pepper to taste
fresh cilantro for garnish

The trick with this style of cooking is to have all of your spices ready and veggies chopped and ready to go. Everything happens pretty quickly and even for experienced cooks, it’s difficult to be prepping and measuring while the cameras are rolling. So be ready! In a medium-large pot, heat the oil on medium-high. When hot, add the black mustard seeds and stir until they start to pop – don’t leave the stove – this takes about 30 seconds only!

Once the little seeds start dancing (and popping!), add the chopped onion and salt and cook, stirring about 5-6 minutes, or until golden. Add ginger and remaining dry spices and cook, stirring for one minute on medium heat. When spices are fragrant, add tomato and stir all well for about a minute or two until well integrated.

Add lentils, chopped vegetables and water and stir all to well combine. Bring to a light boil on medium-high with the lid on. Once boiling temperature has been reached, turn the heat to medium-low and cook, covered, for 30-40 minutes stirring frequently to prevent the lentils from prevent sticking to bottom of the pot. Once ready, add the juice of lemon. Simple, zesty, and ready to serve! Serve with ground pepper, a dash of butter or olive oil, plenty of freshly ground pepper and chopped fresh cilantro – don’t forget the side of rice if desired and buttery naan bread too!

This will get more delicious the longer it sits in your fridge and I highly recommend making it a day before you serve it. I’ve been making this curry as long as I’ve been cooking it seems – it never gets tired, and it’s always incredible!

67 responses to “Classic Red Lentil Vegetable Curry

  1. A nice, healthy and delicious dal. This looks wonderful. I think red lentils would be in my top 3 curry recipes. I picked up some AMAZING spices this week on my trip away so I shall be blogging a curry or two VERY soon.

  2. I love the spice mix panch phoron, and cumin and coriander seeds are my “go-to” spices! Have you tried adding the spices at the end for this dish, like a daal? I’m definitely in the mood for some lentils–it’s been rainy here all weekend, and that’s the perfect time for some warming Indian lentils.
    **Side note, when I lived in London, I used to go to my local “ruby” (rhyming slang: Ruby Murray=curry) so often I received a Christmas card from them…

    1. Lovely! Nice spice recommendations – love freshly toasted and ground coriander!
      I had such a great experience in London….it must have been wonderful living there and enjoying it regularly as a local 🙂

      1. It was–I miss a lot about living in London, but meeting my husband right after moving home makes it all worth it!
        And toasting and grinding your own spices is the ONLY way forward. People who don’t really don’t understand what they are missing!

  3. I like your spice choices: I’m very fond of cumin and ginger, cardamom. Many Indian recipes also call for tomatoes, onions, turmeric and coriander seed. If I could only have my food cooked one way for the rest of my life I would choose Indian-style.

    1. IF you are looking for bonus points and good karma – (hey – who isn’t?!) – your roomie *might* just worship you if you make this…let us know how it goes! Happy Monday!

    1. If you haven’t tried cooking it (Indian) yet, this was the first curry I ever learned….you can see it has legs! You could try it without those two, but they really do add the character….but it would still be tasty! Good luck!

  4. As usual – amazing! BTW, yesterday I have taken shots of turmeric and ginger which look like yours – for my post after the next post on a chicken curry. Of-course not as vibrant as yours – but just telling you before hand..)))

    Did I tell you that you are in my blog roll?

    1. Yes – you did! that’s AMAZING (and ever so humbly flattering too) – THANKS! – if I did not thank you yet it was SOOOO on my list!! Love it – at least we know that great minds think alike – and I’ll be looking forward to your spice post! Always appreciate your wonderful comments – thank you! Have a wonderful day! 🙂

  5. Hello IPOM!

    I love orange. It’s my favourite colour in the WHOLE world – ergo, I love your post today!

    Not sure we’ll manage the lentil curry just yet… I always think of curries with pulses as winter food and the temperature hasn’t dropped enough yet. The mornings are very dark (for Sydney), though. Blech!

    I have made your lovely Lively Cilantro Sauce… (Do I get a prize for being the 1st?) It was lovely on lamb cutlets. Have to say, the kale pesto is still the winner for me (I had it AGAIN for breakfast this morning!)

    Talk soon, Jx

    1. You just know how to make my day – don’t you?!
      I simply adore that you love the pesto that much – it’s pretty darned good all the time! And especially for breakfast! I just get such a kick out of folks making my recipes – so happy you tried it (I’ve been eating on my fajitas like it’s the only sauce on the planet!)
      I am also happy to provide (just a little) color therapy for you! PS – the curry is delish cold too…might be good with a spot of sprouted bread and kale pesto….!
      Happy Day to you! xo

  6. I looove a good curry. Actually just ate some Indian food on the weekend but I went the lazy route and ordered in take out. Probably will just make it myself next time because this looks divine! I’ve always loved Indian food for it’s ability to take simple ingredients and create out-of-this-world flavour!

    1. Takeout is pretty sweet and often cheaper too! Nothing at all wrong the the lazy route (hehe – smart)! This recipe however is very economical and it keeps (and freezes) pretty well too, and not too many veggies to chop! 🙂 xo

    1. Aw, thanks! That’s so wonderfully kind of you! So glad I can be of service and make (just a little) difference in your day – that makes MY day! 🙂

  7. Love the pictures.. everything looks so vibrant! i have a 24 spice rack and another bunch of spices and mixes in the cabinet:) i cant live without fennel, nigella and carom seeds(Saunf, Kalonji, Ajwain in hindi). try one of these in combination with your current spices in any dish, and you might find some combinations worth using again and again!

    1. Hi Richa! Fennel is wonderful and the funny thing is I have box labeled ‘Indian Spices’ with all the delicious and slightly harder to identify spices in them…just waiting for the right recipe as I am not sure how to use them! I love these suggestions – thanks!

  8. This is my most favorite go to dish and so funny I made it this evening for dinner!
    I love making dhals one because it is so simple once you learn the process, two I almost always have the ingredients for it in the cupboard or the fridge, and three it’s just the bang this little budget tight couple needs in their buck – so affordable, so many nutrients, and so much flavor. Someday I’d love to do a tour de curries and taste all the different homemade versions! Cheers to curry!

    1. So true Hillery and also too funny! I agree this is the easiest and most resourceful style of cooking there is – there is no end to the uses and possibility for this knowledge – so happy to share that with you and others – and I hope your meal was wonderful! Cheers indeed! 🙂

  9. Shira, I’m loving your blog. Ridiculously, as much as I love to cook, I’ve yet to try making any of these amazing recipes. I’ve been a lazy chef and do my blog surfing after I’ve been to the grocery store.
    But enough is enough! I’m shopping for coconut chews and red lentil curry tomorrow!!
    BTW, do you have a cookie recipe that the kids can take to school (i.e. no nut products)?
    Hope to see you soon, Sarah

    1. Love this Sarah – and I am so glad! Julie mentioned it was tough sourcing both the lentils and the black mustard in Whistler…if you find them let her know or see how she made out in the end!
      You are such a terrific cook yourself – I’d be honored to have you cooking IPOM style!
      Working on the cookies….I’ll have something up for you soon! See you soon ,yes, it’s been too long!
      😉 xo

  10. Shira, I wish we were neighbors so we could cook together! I think we love a lot of the same things. I’m so sorry about your favorite budget Indian place–but at least you have Vij’s! We’ve only eaten there once but I think it was one of the best meals we’ve ever had in a restaurant. I haven’t made the cilantro sauce yet but I have all the ingredients! I had better do it tomorrow before the cilantro starts to get soggy. 🙂

    1. I know Emmy – I could not agree more with that! 😉 🙂 Glad you have experienced Vij’s too – a treat for sure and we are so lucky! We’ll find another haunt but what a sad thing when a restaurant burns down 🙁
      Have fun with the sauce – let me know how you like it!!

  11. Looks so yummy! My go to easy & delicious meal is definitely red lentil dal… it makes me so happy and satisfied. Playing around with different spices always makes the kitchen so fascinating. Love this recipe!

    1. It would be brilliant! I often use sweet potatoes with these lentils….it is divine!! Let us know how it goes! Cheers – and have fun with it!

  12. One of my fav clean eating meals which I now make on a weekly basis I just swap potato for sweet potato, use chopped really ripe roma tomatoes in place of tinned ones and sometimes add a bit of chicken when I need extra protein. I have also swapped lentils for black beans (turns a terrible colour, but tastes great) .. thanks for teaching me how to make curry!

  13. I read this recipe yesterday and it was on my mind all through yoga class : ) I made it as soon as I got home. I’m from Ontario and often fly out to Vancouver to ski Whistler – it brought back memories of stopping at Vij’s on the way over to the sea-to-sky! P.s. I didn’t have any cumin, but used coriander instead, still delicious. Thanks.

    1. Fabulous Amalia, thanks for sharing this! I love that you used coriander – it is SO good with lentils and that is great to know!

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