Aug 312014

Although I’m mostly vegetarian these days, I still have a lot of cookbooks that aren’t. I’m reluctant to get rid of them, however, because they have so many great recipes. Also, I love challenging myself to adapt recipes that contain meat. I know a lot of vegetarians are opposed to eating things that taste like meat, resemble meat, or remind them of meat, but I’m not one of those people. While I recognize that bacon is really bad for my body, I know that it’s very hard to replicate the depth of flavour it adds to some dishes.

This dish is one of those.

I tried my best. I think it’s pretty dang yummy, truth be told. The original — in an old Spanish cookbook — called for only 1 rasher of bacon.

Spanish Stewed Lentils

mmm lentils!

So I gave it my best shot. Here it is:


  • 250g. green or brown lentils
  • 1 medium sized onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, or more to taste, minced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 red pepper (capsicum), chopped
  • 1 plum tomato, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (this isn’t vegetarian, though you could make your own or buy one of the vegetarian versions out there)
  • 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce or more to taste — I probably used upwards of 2 teaspoons
  • 2 teaspoons salt (or to taste)
  • dash (or more, but you probably don’t want a lot) of liquid smoke

Soak lentils for a few hours, or use the quick soak method.

Put half the onion, the garlic, the pepper, and tomato in a large casserole or saucepan with the soaked lentils. Add the bay leaf, paprika, and 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Cover with water, cover with a lid, and simmer gently for 30-40 minutes until lentils are tender. Add a teaspoon of salt just before turning off the heat.

Heat remaining olive oil (1 tablespoon) in a frying pan, and add the rest of the onion. Fry until gently browned, then add the liquid smoke and a 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Fry for two more minutes.

Add the fried onions to the lentil mixture, and check for salt, adding the last 1/2 teaspoon or more if necessary. Add Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco to taste (amounts above are guidelines only), and a splash more of olive oil. Cover and cook on medium-low heat, simmering, for another 5 minutes. Check for taste, adjust accordingly, and serve piping hot when ready.

Serves 4-6.

(Goes nicely with potatoes or rice!)

Jan 112010

I have tried to cook versions of Indian dahl on more than one occasion and they usually turn out bland and blah — clearly, I have not gotten the spice combination correct. Until now! It is, hands down, the best recipe for dahl I have had! I even think it's better than some I have eaten in restaurants, if I may say so myself.

Most of this recipe was adapted from Lisa's Kitchen, but I made some adjustments after reading a recipe on a message board, and in a cookbook, Ayurvedic Healing Cuisine. I share it here not as my own, but as something compiled and recreated. The adjusted lentil recipe is vegan and gluten-free. It also uses brown rice syrup in place of refined (simple) sugar, which is healthier and better for your metabolism because it is a complex sugar.

This recipe yields a rather spicy version. As it was cooking I was a bit worried that it would be too spicy even for me (and I am very tolerant) but once the sauce mixed into the lentils it turned out to be perfect. However, if you're not big on heat, cut back the cayenne and fresh chili pepper considerably — or serve with lots of raita or yogurt. One thing – the asafetida will really stink up your kitchen. It is strong and pungent, so turn on the fans and open the window.

Spicy Indian Green Lentils

1 cup green lentils, soaked 4 hours or overnight
2 tablespoons safflower oil

½ medium onion finely chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds (yellow or black)
2 teaspoons of cumin powder
1 ½ teaspoons of sea salt
¾ teaspoon of cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon of asafetida*
1 teaspoon of turmeric
1 – 2 hot red or green chilies, depending on your tolerance (I used 1 rather large jalapeno)
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/4 cup of brown rice syrup (you could use brown sugar or jaggery)
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
1/2-1 teaspoon of yellow curry powder (curry leaves could also be used)

Put soaked lentils in a medium-sized saucepan and cover with 3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are very soft and tender — roughly 20-30 minutes.

In a frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the mustard seeds and cook until they begin to sputter and pop. Add the cumin, salt, cayenne, asafetida and turmeric, stir and immediately add the tomatoes, chili pepper, sugar, cilantro, and curry. Simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has a sauce-like consistency — roughly 10 minutes.

When the lentils and peas are done, mash a portion of the legumes with the back of a spoon. Add the sauce in the frying pan to the lentils, cover and continue to cook for another 5 minutes or so.

Serve with white or brown basmati rice, and some raita or yogurt on the side.

Yields 4 servings.

*Asafetida (sometimes written asefoetida) is a very pungent powdered gum resin with an oniony- garlic flavor. You can find it in Indian or health food stores, or in the spice section of your supermarket. To substitute, you may use garlic or onion powder.