Our common brown lentils sold in America are not the main ones used in Indian cooking, but lentils of every type and color are eaten in Indian households almost daily. A great percentage of Indians are vegetarian, so the high protein content of lentils makes them invaluable. Lentils are full of nutrients, high in fiber and complex carbohydrates, and folic acid. Lentils are a low calorie, low fat, and cholesterol free food, and inexpensive.
While lentils are high in protein, they do not make a complete protein on their own. The addition of another grain, eggs, nuts, seeds or dairy products contain the missing proteins and for this reason it is common to find lentil dishes served with one of these other foods. The soluble fiber in lentils also cleans up the digestive system.
Lentils are often left behind in our diets, due to their earthy flavor. Indian spices make lentils much more palatable, and desirable. While this type of lentil is less common in Indian cooking than some, such as red lentils, black lentils and others, they are just as valuable and can be used the same way. This brought me to creating this delicious lentil stew, using Indian spices that make the whole house smell wonderful while they cook and the flavors so enjoyable when eating.
This can be made in a crock pot and left to simmer for 4 or 5 hours, or made in a soup pot and simmered for a half hour or until everything is tender.
Indian Spiced Lentil Stew
1/2 pound brown lentils, washed well
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon ghee, or olive oil
2 tablespoons finely minced ginger
3 or 4 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, chopped finely, use more or less to taste
5 to 6 cups water
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery stalks, chopped
1/2 pound sweet potato, peeled and diced small
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves, called Kasoori methi
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
3 inches true cinnamon, crumbled
2 black cardamom pods, crushed, seeds removed and pod discarded
1/4 teaspoon green cardamom seeds, from about 2 cardamom pods
1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
If making in a soup pot, heat the pot and add the ghee or oil. Add in the onions and sauté until a deep golden color. Add in the garlic, ginger and jalapeno, if using. Toss until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the lentils to the pot, with the water, then add in the carrots, celery, sweet potato, turmeric and fenugreek leaves. In a small spice grinder, grind together the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, black and green cardamom seeds, and grind to a powder. Add to the pot. Bring to a boil, lower heat and cover. Simmer for half hour or until the lentils and vegetables are tender.
If using a crock pot, place lentils in the pot, along with the carrots, celery and sweet potato and turn to high. In a skillet, sauté the onions, and add the ginger, garlic and jalapeno as above. Add this to the crock pot. Add in the spices, cover and allow to simmer for about 4 or 5 hours, or until the lentils and vegetables are cooked through.
Serve this stew in soup bowls over steamed rice or saffron rice. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve Naan bread on the side, if desired.
Thank you for taking the time to read my article. I hope it was informative and helped you along your own culinary journey.
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