Curried Red Lentils with Carmelized Onions and Basmati Rice Pilaf

Curried Red Lentils with Caramelized Onions and Basmati Rice Pilaf


From December 19, 2004:  this recipe is easy to prepare and pretty quick to put together.  the only substitution i made was using plain brown lentils instead of red lentils (i didn’t have red lentils in the pantry).  i mixed my own curry powder and will post that recipe below this one. this dish freezes well.

Curried Red Lentils with Caramelized Onions

Curried Red Lentils

2 tablespoons canola oil
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon minced ginger
2 teaspoons curry powder (recipe below)
3 1/2 cups water
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 1/2 cups dried red lentils, rinsed and picked over
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Quick Caramelized Onions
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 medium onions (about 1 pound), halved and thinly sliced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

Basmati Rice Pilaf
(see recipe below)

For the lentils: Heat the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the garlic, ginger and curry powder and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the water, coconut milk, lentils and 1/2 teaspoon salt and bring o a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring once or twice, until the lentils have fallen apart, about 20 minutes. Uncover, raise the heat and simmer until the lentils thicken a bit (they should be loose but not liquidy), about 5 minutes. Stir in the cilantro and adjust the seasonings, adding salt to taste.

For the onions: Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once the foaming subsides, add the onions, salt, and sugar and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften and begin to color slightly, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very tender and nicely browned, about 15 minutes. (If the onions start to burn at any point, reduce the heat.)

To serve:
Spoon some rice pilaf into individual shallow soup or pasta bowls. Spoon some lentils over the rice, top with a tangle of caramelized onions and serve.

Basmati Rice Pilaf

1 1/2 cups basmati rice
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or canola oil
6 whole green cardamom pods, lightly crushed with the side of a chef’s knife to release flavor
2 1/4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt

recipe source: “A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen: Easy Seasonal Dishes for Family and Friends” by Jack Bishop.

Place the rice in a medium bowl and fill with cold water. Swish the rice around in the water with your fingers. Carefully drain off the water, keeping the rice in the bowl. Repeat the rinsing and draining steps until the water is no longer cloudy, 4 or 5 more times. Set the rice aside.

Heat the butter in a medium saucepan, preferably nonstick, over medium heat until foaming. If using, add the cardamom pods and cook until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, until the rice smells toasted but has not colored, about 3 minutes. Add the water and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook (without opening the lid), until all the liquid has been absorbed, about 15 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and set aside, covered, for 10 minutes to allow the rice to finish cooking. Fluff the rice with a fork and serve.

Quick Curry Powder

2 T. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. ground cayenne
1 tsp. ground ginger

Mix spices together and store in an airtight container for up to 6 months.

To bring out the best flavor of the spices, toast the spices in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat until fragrant.


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