Curried Lentil Vegetable Stew

Our weather turned cold and rainy today, so it was a perfect evening to enjoy a nice comforting bowl of lentil stew.   Our family eats lentil or split pea soup at least once a week.  It is economical, hearty, and nutritious.  Lentils are a stellar source of iron, protein, and dietary fiber, and they also contain hefty amounts of folate and potassium, as well as a host of other minerals.  A one pound bag of lentils can be purchased for around $1.00 (give or take, depending on your location and whether they are organic), and cook up into a giant pot of stew that will not only feed a hungry family, but will provide a lot of leftovers.  Now that’s a good deal!

It seems that most of my vegan cookbooks have at least one recipe for lentil soup, and I’ve made them all.  Some are Italian-inspired, some French, some Indian, some Greek…some contain rice or barley.  Some use red lentils, green lentils, or brown lentils.  Once you get the hang of making a good lentil soup, you can forget the cookbooks and recipes and just use whatever spices are calling to you at the moment and the vegetables you have on hand.

Tonight I was in the mood for curry spices, so here is what I put together.

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seed
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 – 3 tsp curry powder*
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 1 medium yukon gold potato, cut into 1/2-1 inch dice
  • 2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 2 cups dry brown lentils, rinsed
  • 8 cups water or vegetable stock**
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional, not pictured)

Preparation:

Heat olive oil in a large, heavy based pan.  Add mustard seeds and cook until they begin to pop.  Add onion and garlic and sautee for 2-3 minutes, then add curry powder and cumin and stir to coat.  Add carrot, zucchini, and potato, and cook for about 5 minutes more.  Add tomatoes, lentils, and water or stock.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cook, covered, for 50-60 minutes.  Season with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste.

I didn’t have any cilantro on hand, but 1/4 cup of chopped cilantro would have made a nice garnish.

*  Use more or less curry powder depending on how potent it is.  Brands of curry powder vary tremendously.  I had one bag from an International food market that was so spicy and flavorful that I only used 1/2 or 1/3 the amount called for in most recipes, or my kids couldn’t eat it!  The powder I used today was a regular supermarket brand so I needed to use a lot to get any flavor from it.

**  I used Rapunzel vegetable bouillon and water for the stock.  I rarely make or buy liquid vegetable stock but I highly recommend keeping a good bouillon on hand, to add that extra bit of flavor to a soup or a stew.  You don’t need to dissolve the bouillon in water before adding to the stew, just add the water and then stir in the bouillon powder directly into the soup.  A heaping Tbsp of the Rapunzel powder for 8 cups of water is plenty.

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