This is one of those recipes that are born out of necessity. After this September, I decided I need to really ease down on my meat consumption. For those of you unfamiliar with Jewsih holidays, they can all be summed up as something along the lines of “They tried to kill us. They didn’t succeed. Let’s eat.”
But really. Soooo much food. And September is loaded with four back-to-back holidays, so there wasn’t even a break in between. Think along the lines of Thanksgiving that lasts three weeks. Yeah. Too much food.
SO I resorted to eating salads, but we were in the East Coast visiting Mr. Graceful’s family, and whaddaya know? Autumn there is actually cold! This meant that after a few days of salads, I needed something to warm me up. Preferably something that can be made very spicy.
This is a great dish that’s easy and fast to make but still has a lot of flavor. I managed to make some on school nights (quite an accomplishment considering my major(s)) and because it doesn’t have a very demanding texture (it’s a curry, after all) it tastes just as awesome when re-heated in the campus microwaves.
A word about the ingredients: I’m sure that with the whole “Mediteranean-food-is-healthy” craze, you’ve all heard of tahini sauce. But have you guys heard of raw tahini? It’s simply roasted sesame seed butter. It looks runny in texture if you pour it out of the jar, but if you put just a spoonful in your mouth you’ll feel how thick it is – it’s like peanut butter on crack. It’s very, very healthy as it is high in iron, protein, and calcium, although it is also not without fat (sesame seeds have a pretty high fat content). They are very plentiful here in Israel, and when I was living in California I could always find it (go Diversity!), but after I had such a hard time finding it in Boston I now appreciate it so much more. Look in the ethnic section of your supermarket, or in ethnic stores. The Japanese also use it, under the name of nerigoma. So an Asian-foods store might be a good place to look. I use it in almost everything, from the regular old (homemade) tahini salad, to fruit shakes (to add creaminess and nutrients), to curries (in place of coconut milk, which is too damn expensive), to salad dressing, to cookies and ice cream. It’s really that great. Do yourself a favor and find your local source of raw tahini!
Funny story – and another proof of the great success of this lazy recipe: I actually felt sorry for one of my friends who was heating food with me since he only brought plain, white rice. So I scooped some of this curry into his Tupperware, and asked him to tell me what he thought of it the next day. The very next day, three different people walked up to me and asked for the recipe. Word sure spreads fast in the halls of The Hebrew University… Great success!
Lentil Tahini Curry:
Estimated Time: 8 hours soaking (or about 45 minutes boiling), 20 minutes actual cooking.
Kosher Classification: Neutral
about 250 grams dry green lentils
2 red bell peppers
1 medium onion
1/2 cup tahini
3 Tbs. soy sauce
1 Tbs. yellow curry powder
1/2 to 1 tsp red chili flakes
1 Tbs. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp granulated garlic
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp coarse sea salt
Okay, this is the one catch: the lentils have to be soaked for at least eight hours OR boiled until soft before using them (unless you particularly like breaking your teeth on hard legumes). Lentils are one of those cool, unique things between a grain and a bean, that don’t need to be soaked overnight and THEN cooked – they are perfectly good for eating right after soaking. They also don’t HAVE to be soaked before they cook (although that will cut down cooking time considerably), which is good news if you don’t have that time, or you simply NEED to have this curry NOW (a completely legitimate craving). Just rinse them thoroughly and then boil them. Change the water with fresh water after every time the pot comes to a boil, until the lentils are soft. Something to consider is that only-soaked lentils turn out more crunchy and fresh, while cooked lentils turn out soft and mushy.
Lentils are very easy to sprout and I do it all the time with the excess lentils since I only use about half the standard bags in which lentil are sold here. It makes a healthy addition to salads, stir-fry’s or just a snack.
From now on, we continue with the same method regardless of how you prepared your lentils.
Slice the onion and peppers into thin slices. Do you guys know of this really easy way to slice bell peppers? I can’t remember where I saw it first, but Mr. Graceful claims he’s been telling me this for months and I just haven’t been listening. Could be.
Anyways, you cut off the top and bottom of the pepper, so that it’s basically a cylinder:
Then you core it by running a knife around the inside surface:
And then, one more flick of the knife and, voila! you have a rectangular “sheet” of pepper to work with!
In the end, cut of as much as possible from the bottom and top. Much easier then any of the other ways I’ve done it before.
Slice the onion as well (I have a personal method for this, too, but I’ll save it for another post so as to not turn this into Vegetable-Cutting 101).
Heat a pan with very little oil, and throw in the sliced veggies.
Saute for a few minutes and then add the spices. Mix until completely incorporated.
Add the lentils and stir.
Meanwhile, but still stirring every once in a while, combine the raw tahini with the soy sauce and mix until it reaches a crumbly, natural-peanut-butter-like texture.
Add water, little by little, until it is thin enough but still a bit creamy (not watery).
If vegetables are still not soft, add some water to the pan – not more than 1/4 cup. The pan should hiss as the water turns to steam.
Add the tahini-soy mixture to the pan and stir until the sauce covers everything.
At this point, you can stop cooking if you want to keep the creamy texture. If you would like a more crumbly texture, keep heating for a few more minutes, until the tahini curdles a bit.
Serve hot, over rice.
In A Nutshell:
- Soak lentils for at least 8 hours, changing the water halfway through. Rinse thoroughly (If making right away, rinse lentils in a colander and then boil until soft, changing the water after every time it comes to a boil).
- Slice onion and peppers into thin strips and saute in a large frying pan with very little canola oil.
- Add the spices and stir until evenly combined.
- Add the lentils.
- In a cup, mix the raw tahini with the soy sauce until it has a grainy, natural-peanut-butter texture. Add enough water to make it thin, a little at a time, stirring between each time.
- Add the tahini-soy mixture to the pan and stir until evenly mixed. If the lentils are pre-soaked (not boiled), make sure they are soft enough for you.
- Remove from flame if creamy texture is desired, or leave on for a few more minutes if you would like the tahini to crumble a little.
- Serve hot, over rice.