There are plenty of things I love about living in this beautiful province - the copious amounts of sunshine, even in the depths of winter; the endless, blue blue sky; the quirky, lovely people; the fact that we never, ever change our clocks forwards or backwards; how we call a hoodie a bunnyhug; and that we boast some of the most fertile, productive agricultural land in the whole world. Saskatchewan is a prolific producer of Durum wheat, canola, mustard, peas, and of course lentils. A whopping 61% of the world's finest lentils are grown practically in my backyard. Please forgive if I sound like a Sask tourism ad - I just really dig my little corner of the world.
Lentils are a pantry superstar; if you've got 'em, then you've got dinner. The thing to remember is to cook the right lentils for the right dish. Red split lentils were made for soup, as they fall apart when happily simmered. Green lentils have a seed coat, which helps them retain their lens shape during cooking. These little guys are nutritional dynamos. Bursting with protein and fibre, low in fat and gluten free, they make an excellent meatless dinner option. I think it's cool to eat more plants and less animals, so lentils are on a regular rotation in my kitchen.
Their adaptability to all kinds of flavours is insane - lemon, oregano and feta for a comforting soup; walnuts, herbs and bacon in a pilaf; and my favourite: all spiced up with curry and coconut milk in a super delicious one pot meal. Lentils, in all their nutritional glory, are also incredibly affordable, so if you're a girl on a budget like me, cooking lentils just makes good financial sense. We can always use some of that, right?
I've been making a variation of this curry for years and years - since my days as a rosie-cheeked art student in Montréal. It's great because you can add whatever veg you have in your fridge, though my fave veg in this are cauliflower and peas. The coconut milk mellows the spice and adds richness, and really, it is nectar of the gods, isn't it? Using curry paste makes it simple too, so you don't have to fuss with a bunch of spices, though I did pump up my mild curry paste with more cayenne and coriander. Most of the ingredients you have on hand, so it's an excellent meal to throw together when you just can't bring yourself to hit the grocery store, yet again. The recipe makes a rather large batch, but it freezes well. Don't forget to warm up some Naan bread - it's great for curry scooping!
One last thing about lentils then I promise to leave you alone for awhile. Apparently they are symbolic of luck and money due to their cute little coin shape. Some cultures cook them up on January 1st in hopes they'll bring financial prosperity for the coming year. Okay, I totally didn't cook lentils on New Years Day but I'm hoping it's not too late for the luck/money thing, as I'm procrastinating having to do my taxes hardcore and can use all the help I can get.
Lentil and Chick Pea Curry with Coconut Milk
3 tbsp canola oil
1 onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
2 medium carrots, diced
3 tbsp mild Indian curry paste
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
3 cups (750ml) crushed tomatoes
2 540 ml cans coconut milk
2 cups whole green lentils, rinsed and picked through
2 cups cooked chickpeas (540ml can) rinsed
3 tbsp honey
2 cups cauliflower florets
1 cup frozen peas
veggie stock (optional)
handful of cilantro, chopped
In a large pot, heat oil over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook until soft, a minute or two. Add the garlic and ginger, carrots, curry paste, spices and salt. Stir well and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the crushed tomatoes, coconut milk, lentils, chickpeas and honey. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium low so it's simmering. Cover. Stir every 10 minutes or so. Should take about 40 minutes for the lentils to cook. When they are tender, stir in the cauliflower and peas. Cook just until cauliflower is soft. If curry is too thick, thin it with a bit of veggie stock or water. Stir in cilantro. Adjust seasonings with more salt, pepper, and if you like it spicy, you can add hot sauce too. Scoop into bowls and top with plain yogurt and cilantro. Warm Naan bread as a side. Serves 6-8.