This quick, tasty vegan dish is great for meatless Monday
Need meatless savor in a hurry? Something nutritious and comforting?
Say hello to lentil and cabbage curry. The hearty umami of lentils will tickle the taste buds of even the most confirmed carnivore.
Chew on that.
Recipe: Lentil and Cabbage Curry
We generally eat this dish as a main course, but it would also work as a side. It’s hearty enough for a complete meal as is, though you could add rice or bread (we’d opt for using naan or another flat bread). Or you could start the meal with a salad.
Prep time for this dish is about 10 minutes. Cooking time adds 30 minutes or a bit more.
This recipe makes about 3 large main-course servings (double that number if served as a side). Leftovers keep for a few days if refrigerated in an airtight container. They’re great reheated for lunch (or breakfast).
- ½ cup lentils (we use the ordinary brown lentils, but see Notes)
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- 1½ cups water
- 1 medium onion
- 1 red bell pepper
- 2 cloves garlic (or more to taste)
- 1-inch piece of fresh ginger
- 1 to 2 jalapeño peppers (to taste)
- ~½ small green cabbage (about 10 or so ounces once trimmed)
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- salt to taste (see Notes)
- 1 tablespoon curry powder (or more to taste)
- garnish of sliced jalapeño peppers (very optional)
- Pour the lentils into a bowl of water, swish them to remove any dirt or grit, then drain them into a strainer. Add the lentils to a saucepan (use one that holds up to 2 quarts), then add turmeric and water. Bring the lentils to a simmer, then set a timer for 25 minutes.
- Meanwhile, peel the onion and slice it thinly or cut it into dice of ½ inch or so. Set aside.
- Wash and dry the bell pepper, core it and remove the seeds and ribs, then cut it into dice of ½ inch or so. Set aside.
- Peel the garlic and add it to a mini food processor. Peel the ginger, chop it roughly, then add it to the mini food processor. Whirl until the garlic and ginger are finely chopped. Set aside.
- Wash and dry the jalapeño pepper. Cut off the stem ends, then cut it in half lengthwise. Using a small spoon, scrape out the seeds and white membrane (the oil from these carries much of the jalapeño’s heat). Chop the jalapeño finely and set it aside; alternatively, you could chop the jalapeño roughly and add it to the garlic and ginger mix in Step 4, whirling it in the mini food processor. (We often reserve a few sliced jalapeño rounds for garnish.) Then wash your hands with soap and water to remove the spicy jalapeño oil from your skin.
- Remove the tough outer leaves from the cabbage half and cut away the core. Cut the cabbage half into quarters lengthwise, then cut across the width of each quarter (no need to shred as finely as you would for coleslaw; just cut into pieces of about an inch). Set aside.
- Place a large frying pan over medium stovetop heat. When the pan is hot, add the cooking oil. When the oil is heated (about 15 seconds; it’ll shimmer), add the chopped onion and red bell pepper. Add salt to taste (about ½ teaspoon for us). Sauté for 5 minutes, until the onion just becomes translucent. Push the onion mixture towards the sides of the pan, then add the garlic and ginger mixture to the middle. Add the chopped jalapeño. Sauté for 1 minute. Then add the curry powder and stir to combine. Let the mixture cook for 30 seconds or so, then add the cabbage. Turn the heat to high and sauté for 2 minutes or so, then add ~¼ cup of water and stir to combine. Turn the heat down to medium low and partially cover the pan. Let the mixture cook until the timer for the lentils goes off (Step 1).
- Test the lentils to make sure they’re tender, or nearly so (if not, continue cooking until they’re tender enough for your taste). Add salt to taste, then pour the lentils into the frying pan with the cabbage. Stir to combine and continue cooking until the cabbage is tender.
- Taste the lentil and cabbage mixture, adjust the seasoning if necessary, and serve.
- Sometimes we stir a handful of chopped cilantro into this dish right before serving.
- We often garnish each serving with a sliced jalapeño round.
- Speaking of jalapeños: They’re not the only option for this dish. You can substitute another type of small spicy pepper if you like.
- We always have ordinary brown lentils on hand, so that’s what we use for this recipe. But red lentils would also work well, as would other types of lentils. Just remember that different types of lentils cook at different rates, so you may need to adjust the cooking time.
- We sometimes add a teaspoon of whole cumin right before adding the curry powder (Step 7).
- In the past, we always made our own curry powder blends. We sometimes still do, but we’ve also found commercial blends that we like. We suggest trying a few until you find one that suits you. The flavor of some commercial blends is quite good, and using them makes for easier meal prep.
- We use ordinary green cabbage in this dish, but Savoy cabbage would work well too.
- BTW, we add water to the frying pan (Step 7) so that the steam it generates as it evaporates will help cook the cabbage. We often cook cabbage until it’s just al dente (we like the flavor, and shorter cooking time helps preserve some of its green color). You can of course cook the cabbage longer if you prefer.
- You can alter this recipe to suit your taste – and the ingredients you have on hand. We sometimes skip the red bell pepper, instead adding a 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes when we add the cabbage. You could also substitute cauliflower (or another vegetable) for cabbage. We think eggplant or zucchini would work. Or winter squash. Or green beans. Or . . . you get the idea.
- We use kosher salt in cooking. It’s less salty by volume than regular table salt (the crystals are larger and more irregular, so they pack a measure less tightly). If using table salt, start with about half the amount we suggest. But always season to your taste, not ours.
“Mmm, savory,” said Mrs. Kitchen Riffs. “And the lentils play so well with vegetables.”
“Guess you could say they’re the pulse of this dish,” I said.
“I’m not even going to dignify that with a groan,” said Mrs K R. “Sometimes I wonder about your lentil state.”
Maybe I’m just suffering from an exist-lentil crisis.
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