This dish has been with us for about 7 years — a recipe given to me by my friend Cassia Kesler (of Tomato Pie Fame). When she gave me a printout of the recipe, that’s what she titled it: Curried Lentils, Kesler-style; not sure what recipe details make it styled as such, but we don’t care about that, we’re just glad to have it in our repertoire.
This is a workhorse of a meal — cheap, easy, filling, and humble. Cassia’s original recipe didn’t call for toppings, but we love to top ours with the same sort of stuff we use to garnish Curried Chicken or Tofu — coconut, raisins, pineapple, peanuts, etc. So, I guess that would make this dish more accurately named “Curried Lentils, Kesler and Carter Style.”
I’ve never been successful at my attempts to make homemade naan, so we just eat this over basmati rice. Back in Athens, circa 2004, when Bombay Cafe was still around, we’d occasionally splurge on take-out naan, the real thing, as a side. My favorite was kashmiri naan — naan stuffed with raisins and nuts — perfect to accompany the slight bitterness and heat of the curry. If you’re lucky enough to have a good source for naan, spend a few bucks on takeout, and make this dish shine.
Curried Lentils (Kesler-Carter style)
- 1 cup dried lentils (any color), rinsed and drained (pre-soaked if desired)
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 tsp salt, divided
- 1 onion, chopped fine
- 1 celery rib, chopped fine
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 3 Tbsp butter or ghee
- 1 1/2 – 2 Tbsp curry powder (depending on the strength of your curry powder, and your heat preference)
- 3/4 – 1 cup plain whole-milk yogurt (to taste)
- 2 Tbsp lemon juice
- 3 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)
Bring lentils and water to a boil. Add bay leaf, a handful of the chopped onion, celery, and 1/2 tsp salt. Reduce to simmer, and cook for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are tender and most of the water is absorbed.
In a large sauté pan, heat butter or ghee over medium heat until shimmering, and cook onion and garlic until translucent (about 6 minutes). Add curry powder and remaining 1/2 tsp salt, and cook another 2 minutes. Add cooked lentils (don’t drain, but remove bay leaf) and cook another 2 minutes. Stir in 3/4 cup yogurt and lemon juice, and cook just to heat through, about 30 seconds. Add more yogurt to reach desired creaminess. Remove from heat, and top with parsley. Serve over basmati rice, topped with any or all of the following: raisins (or chutney), diced pineapple, chopped peanuts, and dried unsweetened coconut. And if you’re lucky, a side of naan bread.