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Jan 6, 2010 11:39 AM

Best Lentil Recipe?

I have a couple of standard recipes, but am looking to branch out. Thanks!

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  1. Here's a link to one of my favorite recipes from Madhur Jaffrey. I absolutely love it--cold, room temp., hot. It is a great side for so many different main course offerings. It is perfect for a picnic. And although it is an Indian preparation, it contains none of the hot spices, whole spices, or exotic flavors that scare so many people off Indian cuisine. In fact, I never mention that it is Indian when I serve it, and even the fussiest eaters enjoy it.

    Tip: I always use French green lentils, which hold their shape so well, and this makes all the difference.

    31 Replies
    1. re: nomadchowwoman

      So for the Jaffrey recipe, you really simmer and then eat unground cumin seeds?

      1. re: Bada Bing

        It's only 1/2 tsp., in what ends up being about 5 cups or more of the finished dish, and to be honest, I've never noticed them. If the idea bothers you, you could grind them first, I guess. But this simple dish is incredibly delicious.

        1. re: Bada Bing

          Whole cumin seeds are common in Indian cuisine.

          1. re: Rasam

            I just made this tonight. OMG, truly glorious in its simplicity. Thanks, nomadchowwoman!

            The seeds are fine -- they add just a tiny bit of crunch, but not much (I was going from memory on the recipe and added 1/2 Tbls instead of 1/2 tsp -- still delish -- but that might have made a difference in the crunch factor).

            1. re: weezycom

              I know. Every time I make this, I'm stunned at how much flavor comes from this simplest of recipes. I try to keep some on hand most of the time. A couple of spoonfuls alongside a sandwich or as a snack--so delicious, nutritious, and filling. It really helps, too, in controlling portions of more caloric things on the plate.

              1. re: nomadchowwoman

                Ok, I just made this and am loving it. I doubled it, and used homemade vegetable broth rather than water (which I had on hand ... I often use broth rather than water in recipes that call for water). I also probably spiced it up a bit more. But they just finished and are warm and comforting and delicious. I will be curious to try them at room temp as well. Thanks for this!

                1. re: Tom P

                  Funny, I'm cooking them right now too--using some leftover chicken stock this time.

                  1. re: nomadchowwoman

                    I have a lot of onion, and some fennel. So I may do them again this weekend, when this pot runs out, and try adding some chopped fennel with the onion...

        2. re: nomadchowwoman

          Those lentils are delicious. I halved the recipe, added one carrot (small dice), lightly crushed the cumin seeds, and used tobasco and pimente d'espellette (no cayenne). It's really good hot ... am looking forward to a room-temp snack later this evening. Thanks Nomadwoman. Oh - i put in a "ice-cube" of frozen chicken demiglace too. But I can see that you don't really need stock, which is nice for a change.

          1. re: nomadchowwoman

            Thank you for posting this recipe nomadchowwoman! I made a pot this weekend and ate practically the whole thing. So simple and yet extraordinarily delicious!

            1. re: nomadchowwoman

              Darn, for some reason I'm not able to open his sounds so good too!!!

              1. re: millygirl

                millygirl, the recipe is very simple. Heat 4 T vegetable oil and then add 1/2 t. cumin seed and sizzle for about 30 seconds. Add 4 cloves chopped garlic and stir fry until the garlic changes color. Add one med chopped onion and stir fry until the onion softens and begins to brown. Add one cup lentils and 3 cups water. Cover and simmer for about 1 hour or until the lentils are tender. Add 1 t. salt and 1/4 t. cayenne. Simmer for about 5 mins.
                At this point, I turned the pot off and let the lentil sit for about 15 mins so they were less liquidy and more creamy.
                The cumin seed makes a HUGE contribution to the flavor and I love the bite of the cayenne.

                1. re: janetms383

                  i have kind of antipathy to cayenne... is it highly noticeable? and do you think it would suffer if i halved it or even eliminated it? or used a little white pepper in its place?

                  1. re: Emme

                    I'm not a cayenne person either. I used tabasco sauce and a little pimente d'espellette (just b/c I had it) and it was delicious. But it would have been great just with tobasco. There are so many other pepper items that bring interesting flavour, besides just heat, that I don't even bother buying cayenne anymore. Plus it loses it punch pretty fast anyway.

                    1. re: cinnamon girl

                      what "pepper items" do you use that being interesting flavour aside from heat? i'm not a spicy fan, but a tad of heat with good flavour is always of interest to me. i particularly don't like the flavor of cayenne... something that developed after a week on the Master Cleanse... ugh.

                      1. re: Emme

                        I've never detected the flavor of cayenne in this recipe: in fact, if someone gave me a taste of this wnd I didn't know what was in it, I'm not sure I would be able to tell any of the ingredients save the lentils and maybe the onion. (I'd probably guess chicken stock--and there's none.) The flavors really meld that well, and they're very subtle. But if you're really averse to cayenne, try a splash or two of hot sauce, or just black pepper. Someone downthread mentions smoked paprika. Try that; it surely won't hurt it.

                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                          Oh absolutely - if I bought cayenne any more I could have easily used it and it wouldn't be about the taste.

                        2. re: Emme

                          Ha ha . . . I can understand why you'd be off it. I just find it one-dimensional and its heat dissipates so quickly that I could never count on it being fresh enough when I needed it. It depends on what I'm making. I've mentioned tabasco and pimente d'espellette. Also smoked and hot paprika (mentioned by KaryKat), ancho powder, Chinese chili paste (esp in winter when my garlic is crappy or i'm out of it), sirracha, allspice (both ground or whole) while not searing hot gives a bit of heat and amazing aroma, smoked pepper, red pepper flakes, brined green peppercorns, pickled peppers, whatever little chiles are in my market that day whether they're type called for in the recipe or not, dried poblanos (not super hot but good flavor and some heat), tinned chipotles. Each one doesn't go in each dish, interchangeably. And many of these aren't very hot. Again, it depends on the dish. These are some of the items I use to get out of buying cayenne. Btw, I find the flavour of white pepper pretty one-dimensional too; do you?

                          1. re: cinnamon girl

                            i don't really have a problem with white pepper, but the important caveat is that i usually only use it on vegetables or in simple preparations that aren't asking for complex flavoring... maybe i'll try it in the lentils, along with something else... we'll see.

                            thanks for the other recs!

                        3. re: cinnamon girl

                          How about trying allepo pepper? I am not sure if it is traditional indian, but plenty of Turks eat lentils with it.

                        4. re: Emme

                          I thought the cayenne was an important addition and yes, it was noticeable, but I like spicy.
                          You could sub, but then it's not the same recipe.

                          1. re: janetms383

                            Yes, but if it's just the heat level you're thinking of, it wouldn't have been any hotter with the cayenne. I like spicy too.

                      2. re: millygirl

                        Millygirl - they're also delicious with a small-diced carrot or two included. I just had a spoonful stone-cold. Just as good as fresh from the pot I made Monday.

                        1. re: cinnamon girl

                          Wonder how this would be with smoked paprika instead of the cayenne.

                          Seems like it would meld well.

                          1. re: karykat

                            I think the earthiness of it would go beautifully with the lentils.

                      3. re: nomadchowwoman

                        Thanks for sharing this recipe. I just made it tonight and served it with brown rice and some roasted carrots for color. Such a simple and flavorful dish. And best of all I can have it for dinner tomorrow too!

                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                          Okay, I just made this and it is truly remarkable how good something so simple can taste. I used ghee for most of the oil, and I added a very un-Hindu dollop of beef glace into the water. Oh, and the merest bit of fish sauce. Really terrific. Thanks!

                          1. re: Bada Bing

                            Believe me, I thank Madhur Jaffery quite often for this gift! I'm planning a duck dinner for friends next week, and those lentils will round out the menu. Asked to bring something vegan-friendly to a pot luck a couple of weeks ago--voila! And the recipe responds well to so many variations, as you've found.
                            (And it's so darned healthy!)

                          2. re: nomadchowwoman

                            Hey, except for the cumin seeds, this recipe is very similar to one in Jaffrey's World Vegetarian, the August 2011 COTM! I can't wait to try it.

                            She also builds on this recipe for one called "Lentils Topped with Gingery Spinach and Yogurt" and another called "Lentils Topped with Garlic Mushrooms."




                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                              Just made this, with the addition of 5-6 sliced garlic cloves, which I simmered in the oil until they were just colored. Awesome! I just need the self control to not eat it all now!

                              1. re: DrMag

                                So much better for you than eating, say, a whole pan of brownies ; )

                            2. I like this Red Lentil Curry. It's quick and easy to prepare and extremely tasty.

                              And this Mulligatawny Soup which is my own version of a Sarah Mouton recipe is the best I've ever had anywhere:

                              Mulligatawny Soup

                              • 2 tablespoon ghee or canola oil
                              • 1 large onion, chopped
                              • 6 clove garlic, chopped
                              • 3 tablespoon fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
                              • 1 jalapeõ chile, stemmed, seeded and chopped
                              • 1 tablespoon ground corriander
                              • 2 tablespoon ground cumin
                              • 1 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
                              • 1/4 cup all purpose or garbanzo flour
                              • 1 3/4 cup red lentils
                              • 9 cup chicken stock
                              • 3 tablespoon fresh cilantro, chopped
                              • 1 cup low-fat unsweetened coconut milk
                              • 2 teaspoon kosher salt
                              • 1/4 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
                              • freshly ground pepper

                              Heat the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and jalapeño and cook, stirring, until browned, about 12 minutes. Lower the heat to medium, stir in the coriander, cumin and turmeric. Cook until fragrant, stirring, for 45 seconds. Stir in the flour and cook for 1 minute more.

                              Pour in about 2 cups of broth and cook with the veggie until they're soft. Using a stick blender, whirl until as smooth as possible. Add the rest of the broth and bring to a boil while whisking constantly. Add the lentils to the thickened broth, lower the heat and simmer, covered, until very tender, about 45 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool a bit.

                              When the lentil mixture has cooled some, puree until about 85% smooth using an immersion blender. Stir in the cilantro. Return to the heat and bring back to a medium temperature.

                              Whisk in the coconut milk, lemon juice, and salt. Season to taste with pepper. Serve with lemon wedges and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro.


                              • Really delicious soup that improves with time and is also interesting served cold in the summer.

                              4 Replies
                              1. re: rainey

                                Bittman in today's NYT has a set of lentil recipes:


                                I haven't tried any, but many of his Indian-y ones in this group I feel would be improved by adding a souring agent: e.g. tomatoes, or tamarind.

                                1. re: Rasam

                                  I really like Bittman's lentil soup recipe from How to Cook everything making it with the spicy variation. It is spicy and gingery. Very good!

                                2. re: rainey

                                  This recipe so intrigues me! Thank you for sharing. It's very rare that a lentil soup gets bookmarked at my house.

                                  1. re: rainey

                                    This soup looks delicious - not unlike the mulligatawny in Madhur J's first book which had lamb instead of lentils. Except for the coconut milk that is. Is it a good texture before adding the coconut milk Rainey? I'd like to make this but am trying to avoid coconut milk these days.

                                  2. I love Ina Garten's stewed lentils and tomatoes. It is so, so easy to whip up and really comforting on a cold night.


                                      1. I'm rather keen on Ottolenghi's spiced red lentils at the moment. It calls for a long list of ingredients, but the dish absolutely bursts with flavour.