When you find yourself with 25# of lentils: make a new curry


Remember my food-hoarding habit? Right. Well, there is no small amount of irony in the fact that, now that I have a basement full of rolled oats, wheat berries, and rice, I am no longer eating grains.

Funny how that happens, something about the best-laid plans.

I’ve passed some of these grains onto friends, and am keeping ones the rest of my family still eats. But for the time being I’ve placed a moratorium on purchasing bags of grain that don’t fit neatly into a standard shopping bag.

So now when I hit my favorite fall-off-the-truck store, right after he gets a shipment from Whole Foods, it’s hard not to be a little forlorn at all the money I’d be saving, walking past those huge bags of oats and brown rice. But every once in a while, he gets a bag of lentils — and those, I’ll be eating in vast quantities over the course of 2012.

This time they were red — a lentil I’ve not used much in the past but am about to consume with a vengeance. By the time this bag is empty, I very well might never want to gaze on a red lentil for the rest of my life. So be it, because for now they are a star legume. Shine bright, little red pea.


And speaking of shining bright, don’t they look lovely on my shelf-o’-jars, with their punch of tangerine? It was their color that inspired my first attempt at a dish: a red curry studded with butternut squash — orange on orange, with orange.

With this curry, feel free to sub sweet potato — likely the more traditional choice but outlawed on my current diet due to high starch content. The most important thing when making curries is to make sure your spices are very fresh — a stale curry powder will not a curry make (true Indian cuisine wouldn’t use curry powder at all, but other spices along with garam masala — but I love the convenience of the powder, and when fresh it has a wonderful aroma and flavor). Smell and taste your spices — are they still pungent? If not, splurge on a new jar — but your best bet is buying in bulk from your local health-food store. Fresher, and likely cheaper too.


And if you need some lentils, I could perhaps spare a few…


Recipe: Red Lentil & Squash Curry

: The overnight soak of lentils is optional, but recommended. If you don’t soak, do rinse them well in a strainer until the water runs clear. It is important that spices are fresh and fragrant.

serves 6-8 as main dish


  • 2 1/2 cups red lentils
  • 1 small (1 pound) butternut or acorn squash, peeled, seeded, & cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 1/2ย  Tbsp red curry paste
  • 1 Tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp minced garlic
  • 1 tsp peeled & minced fresh ginger
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 Tbsp ghee or coconut oil
  • (1) 15-oz can tomato puree (or crushed tomatoes)
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • fresh parsley or cutting celery, for garnish


  1. In a large bowl, cover lentils with filtered water by 2″, let soak overnight (at least 8 hours). Drain and rinse well.
  2. Combine lentils and sweet potato in a large saucepan. Cover with water (just enough to cover), and bring to a simmer. Cover, reduce heat to low, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until lentils and vegetables are soft. Drain and return to pot.
  3. While lentils cook, in a small bowl combine curry paste, curry powder, turmeric, cumin, chili powder, salt, honey, garlic, and ginger. Mix with a fork until combined, and set aside
  4. In a medium saute pan, saute the onions in the ghee or oil until beginning to brown.
  5. Add the spice paste to the onions, and stir constantly for one minute.
  6. Add the tomato sauce to the onions, and stir to combine. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until lentils are done cooking.
  7. Pour tomato curry sauce & lemon juice over lentils, and stir well. Simmer for another 3-5 minutes to let the flavors meld. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt and/or lemon juice to taste. Garnish with parsley, and serve over basmati rice.

Copyright ยฉ Katy Carter, 2012.


15 thoughts on “When you find yourself with 25# of lentils: make a new curry

  1. I just recently used red lentils for the first time and now am trying to recall where the heck I bought them. Do you take online orders? ๐Ÿ™‚

    My soup recipe was SO simple but the results were stellar and even though that gorgeous red color was not quite retained; they are a far cry prettier than brown lentils and I’ll be making them again.

    1. Ha! I’d love to ship you some… though I have a feeling their weighty fare to Colorado would take them from bargain to splurge ; )

      Have you used french green lentils? They, too, are prettier than the brown.

  2. Sounds tasty and hearty. And, what do you know, I have all the ingredients in my pantry save the red lentils!

    hint, hint ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Gorgeous photos by the way. That vibrant orange/red/coral beauty is inspiring.

  3. Wish I would have been at that truck-stop. I keep a jar in my freezer and throw those little buggers in all kinds of recipes! An easy one is when I make my “kitchen sink” soup. I basically toss in lentils, potatoes of all sorts, cauliflower, zucchini, etc., cook in broth, then blend with a bunch of spices. Thickens the soup right up! Oh! and word to the wise, when the lentils are your only ingredient (like ethiopian-inspired), heat the spices in tablespoon of oil then mix into the lentils after their cooked. They seem to hold the spice better that way! Can’t wait to try this curry!

      1. So funny, I just googled it and it said not to store in your freezer. Doh!
        My reason stems from a pantry-moth crisis we dealt with while living in Portland. It was such an ordeal getting rid of them that, now whenever I buy anything in bulk, it goes in the freezer for at least a week. Guess I just kept the lentils in there! The good news is that they should be stored in a manner that adds lovely decor to your kitchen!

  4. I am so sad that no one in my family would eat this. Except maybe Alaina or Lucas. But not likely. Can we have a pitch-in and you bring this? ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Katie, I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a cookbook club instead of a book club, just so I can look forward to eating the standard meat/starch/boring veggie fare my family lives on. You and I need to mingle with some more adventurous folks!

      Katy, I couldn’t help but notice your lentils seem to be the very shade of Pantone’s Color of the Year, you trendy food blogger, you ๐Ÿ™‚

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