Curry Love: Curried and Spiced Lentil Stew







My mind’s eye gazes toward a distant land and I can hear the waves of the sea, lapping against the shore in the sultry heat of the day. Just up the beach, there’s a market full of people. Even at this distance, I’m assaulted by the joyful noise of their excitement, mingling with the jumble of exotic smells emanating from row upon row of strange and beautiful spices, nuts, roots and produce.

As I enter the market and take my first look, I’m astounded by the colors! Surely the full spectrum of the rainbow is represented in this place. I walk past warm and golden yellows, mellow ochres and bright oranges. A few steps further are blueish purples and rosy reds contrasting with the greens of edibles from land and sea.Β Then a startling array of pinks and salmons alongside the browns…from the palest of tans and reddish mahogany, to the deepest, darkest, burnt umber.

The bounty and variety of ingredients is seemingly endless. I jostle my way past the crowd, eyeing the smooth, cool fruits and round and rooted vegetables. Berries of every kind are displayed in one stall, and in the next are the wrinkled shells of nuts, some deeply textured barks used for spices, and a multitude of seed pods. I make my way to the fresh and dried legumes which share space with bright, shiny peppers of every shape and size and an abundance of fragrant, fresh herbs. My imagination runs wild and my senses are fully engaged…engulfed in a world of sight, smell and taste as I think of the many dishes you could create from ingredients such as these.


And that, my friends, is what curry does to me. The mere thought or smell of it has the power to transport me to another place and timeβ€”to open my mind to possibilities and experiences, and then bring me back again to the potential of the deliciousness in my grocery basket or the food my plate!

Is it love? Why yes, I believe it is.

In a dish, curry can enhance other ingredients and assert itself at the same time. I love it in everything from an American Southern rendition of a chicken salad, to Thai and Indian preparations. It’s also fabulous very simply swirled with a little mayo as a quickly made, but complex tasting, dipping sauce for fresh asparagus, artichokes or other veggies. If you haven’t already figured this out, it’s my favorite spice combination and I could eat it any way you can think of to use it!

This week, I used it in a simple and hearty stew to take the wet chill away. Starting with some pretty salmon-pink colored, dried and organic lentils, and inspired by thoughts of Indian Dal and Masala Dosa, this rich stew came to lifeβ€”a complete meal unto itself. It’s something to warm and awaken your taste buds, something to make you happy and nourish the soul…and something that I used to transport myself out of my stuffed-up head (I have a cold) and send me back on my way to wellness.

Yes, I feel MUCH better already!

Curried and Spiced Lentil Stew
Makes 6-8 servings

1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium to large red onion, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
5 cloves of peeled and minced fresh garlic
2 Tablespoons of peeled and minced fresh ginger
2 Tablespoons of good quality yellow curry powder
1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
pinch of kosher salt
several grinds of black pepper
6 cups of homemade low salt chicken stock, or you can use vegetable or low sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
1 1/2 cups dried red or pink lentils, picked over carefully and rinsed
3/4 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, skin on and diced
1-14 oz. can no salt added pure diced tomatoes and their juice
2 Tablespoons of chopped, fresh cilantro leaves, divided
5 oz. baby spinach leaves
1/2 teaspoon each of kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
Optional garnishes of chopped fresh cilantro and plain Greek yogurt (I use 2%)

Heat a large stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat and add the oil to the pan. Add the onion, carrot, garlic and ginger and cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are softened, about 5-7 minutes. Add the curry, cayenne pepper, a pinch of kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper to vegetables and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock or broth, water, 1 Tablespoon of the cilantro leaves, tomatoes with juice, potatoes and lentils, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and lightly cover, leaving an opening for steam to escape. Cook until the lentils and potatoes are done, about 20-25 minutes. Remove the lid and stir in the spinach and the remaining cilantro, allowing the spinach to wilt. Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve in bowls and garnish with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkle of chopped cilantro. With your first bite, close your eyes and see where it transports you! Naan served alongside this stew is very good.



59 thoughts on “Curry Love: Curried and Spiced Lentil Stew

  1. You’ve just painted the most vivid painting, complete with an aroma-track, and it’s one I want to slip into and be lost in for days! Come find me if you don’t hear from me by week’s end. (You’ll know where to find me, Betsy!!) My last act before I leave is to pin this luscious stew onto my bulletin board and thank you for it! x


  2. Ah, the sights, sounds and smells of a colourful far off land. I feel transported just reading this post Betsy! Your curry stew looks like it would definitely take the chill off. I don’t know about you, but I am so done with winter . . . even though I know you don’t get snow down in your neck of the woods. I’m in a hurry for my girls to like curry, but I think we are a ways off yet. Both my husband and I would love this dish!


    • I am pretty over winter, too, Barb! I don’t even remember the last time I had a cold, but a winter cold is all it takes for me to be well and done with the season…snow or no snow. I’m glad you enjoyed being transported…I could really use a beach fix about now. And I’m trying to remember when I first embraced my love of curry…I’m sure I was older than your ponytails, but have you tried it in a dip for them mixed with mayo or yogurt? Green grapes are good dipped in it, too, or you can wrap the grapes with some cream cheese mixed with a tiny bit of curry and rolled in nuts..also good and kinda fun to eat. Not trying to hurry the curry, though! πŸ˜‰


      • Thanks for the tips on how to introduce the girls to curry. I like the grapes, cream cheese and nuts idea. I hope that you feel better soon Betsy. We are heading to Jamaica on the weekend for a little warmth — wish we could bring you too. I’m sure that it would cure your cold!


    • Thanks! πŸ™‚ Now I’m on a curry kick…and wasn’t it you talking about making a curried yogurt sauce, or am I thinking of someone else? I’ve been reading about so much curry lately that it’s going to take me a while to get my fill of it! That reminds me that I still need to check out Ottolenghi’s cookbook(s).


  3. I love words painted on your canvass today. I felt like I was there with you walking through the markets. I hope you are feeling better soon and I know that a few delicious bowls of your curry, which is even better the next day, will get you back on the health track.


  4. Hope the curry helped you to get rid of your cold. A cold can make one feel so miserable and more so during the winter months.
    You curry lentils is so appropriate for this cooooold weather we are having.


    • I think the curry has me on the path to kicking this cold for sure, and perhaps even helped lessen the severity of it. Curry can cure anything in my book! πŸ˜‰ We’ve had a very cold wind and more rain blow in this evening…brrrrr. Stay warm, Norma!


  5. That was incredible, I actually began thinking.. when did she leave for a holiday and where is this? I loved your writing, the details and descriptions of the food and fragrance was really amazing! I hope you do this again, I was transported along with you! I love this recipe, I’d like to try it when we get back home (leaving tomorrow for a little holiday). xx


    • Wow, that’s very high praise from someone who is such a talented writer and wordsmith as you are, Smidge, and thank you so much for the terrific compliment! πŸ™‚ That was the idea, of course, and I need to hone my storytelling skills. Like everyone, it’s hard to juggle it all sometimes and I find myself pressed to post, so just chat and share the recipe. I hope you have a terrific holiday, and thanks again for your encouragement!


  6. This dish sounds delicious, Betsy, and so much cheaper than airfare to some distant land — or trip the Doctor’s office. Best of all, it seems so easy to prepare. You’re right, too, that this dish is perfect for this time of year. A bowl of comfort from the Sub-Continent. This is a wonderful post and recipe, Betsy. Thanks for sharing both and I hope you’re feeling better.


    • Thank you, John, and you’re right, far cheaper than either of those…I just got back from the doctor’s office, so I can attest to that! (my hand, not the cold, but the hand is healing). πŸ™‚ I do so appreciate your compliments on this dish and also your good wishes for feeling better. I do feel somewhat better and think I’ll be well later this week…must be the curry!


  7. Incredible, I love your story about how curry makes you feel, I actually walked along side of you. We call it ‘Happy Food’ and I’m sure you’ll agree.
    We’re expecting another 10-20cm of snow, sleet and rain this evening so this dish would be perfect. I’ve had this cold since the end if October and its a doozy! Hope you feel better Betsy.


    • Oh thank you so much, Eva, I’m so glad I transported you! Wish we could all be there actually experiencing this story…wouldn’t that be fun? πŸ™‚ We’re still raining here and then getting cold (for us) later this week. Hate that you have sleet, ice is the worst! A cold since the end of October? That sounds more like a lingering sinus infection! I hope you’ve seen a doctor about it. I am feeling better and think I may have kicked this by the end of this week…I just got it Saturday. You take care of yourself…that really is a doozy of a cold and sounds like you may need some meds, says Doctor Betsy! πŸ˜‰


      • Thanks for your concern “Doctor Betsy” but yes, Dr. JT and others had made me see my DR. about a month ago. I was on 10 days of antibiotics at which point my body decided it was allergic (nothing severe) and then about a week later on another two weeks of some new stuff. I had a sinus infection and that seems to have subsided, but the cold is on again and I’m told it’s just a waiting game. I’m trying to lay low (have spent a lot of time in bed watching TV, which is very unlike me). Hopefully, I’m in the home stretch like you. I just want to feel good again!


  8. Your Curried and Spiced Lentil Stew is beautiful. I love curry too and yes, curry does bring us to a far far beautiful place, doesn’t it? I really enjoy the warmth and flavors from it.


  9. What a beautiful post Betsy. I can just see and taste everything. This curry looks exquisite. I know what you mean about being on a curry kick. I keep craving my favorite Thai restaurant’s pumpkin curry. I’ll first have to give yours a go though!


    • Hi Geni, and thank you so much for your great compliment! I think Thai curries are truly my favorites, but the ones I’ve made at home have never been as flavorful as the ones at my fave restaurant! πŸ™‚ This style of curry seems so much quicker and easier, but I probably just need practice!


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  12. Hi Betsy – nice to find a fellow curry lover. I completely agree… the myriad exotic spices, colours… oh the fragrances – some so pungent, some so delicate – can really transport one. I adore curry and Indian cuisine. I’m absolutely terrible at making it usually, mainly because I’m lacking so many core ingredients. One day I’ll get around to building up a stock of decent, basic items and then I can start exploring the wonderful food the country and region has to offer!

    A lovely looking dish – rich, tasty and packed with flavour πŸ™‚


    • Hi Charles and thanks for your great compliment! πŸ™‚ Is it hard to find the ingredients for Indian dishes in Paris? Or perhaps more likely it’s a time issue, which I totally understand! πŸ˜‰ Anyway, it’s wonderful to know about so many fellow curry lovers out there. I don’t know why I don’t experiment with curry more often…need to remedy that!


  13. Count me in for a bowl o fthis, alongside a nice flat bread to scoop it up into Betsy! And ooooo Masala Dosas, no wyour talking !!!! Adore them, and have many, many happy memories of eating them in cafes in India – cheap, tasty and filling.


  14. My wife would especially love this. She has a whole array of cookbooks devoted to lentil cookery and she especially favors Indian (as do I). If you get a chance, try using some fresh fenugreek leaf in this type of dish too πŸ™‚


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