Curried lentil and sweet potato stew

Serve this sweet and spicy vegetarian stew over basmati or brown rice and top with yogurt and lots of fresh cilantro for a comforting, hearty meal.

The Garden of Eating
Lentils are an unsung hero of the food world. Delicious, cheap, and filling, they do not require soaking.

This delectable stew is a little bit sweet, a little bit spicy, very hearty, and has a lovely, subtle creaminess from the coconut milk. Served over rice with whole milk yogurt and lots of fresh cilantro, it makes a perfect meal. 

Lentils are one of the unsung heroes of the food world. They're delicious, cheap, filling and remarkably nutritious. But perhaps most importantly, they do not require soaking! This makes them a boon to lazy people like myself, as well as those who do not excel at planning ahead.

Thanks to the overwhelming success of this summer's great sweet potato experiment, we have quite a lot of delicious, yellow-fleshed sweet potatoes. We do not have a root cellar (yet) so we've been storing them in paper grocery bags in our downstairs shower which we clearly never use. They're holding up nicely so far – no signs of softening or rot. But I feel some pressure to use them while they're still good. So I was intrigued when I saw this recipe on Food52 last week. It inspired me to create a similar soup with some modifications to suit my tastes and to make use of what I had in the larder.

As we were about to leave for a week-long vacation, I was practically gleeful about the chance to use up the two red onions and three cloves of garlic sitting out on the counter and finally put the tiny, wizened knob of ginger in the fridge to use before it dried up completely. I also liked the idea of freeing up a little room in the freezer which has gotten so full that the drawers are practically groaning. I could use up two quarts of my homemade vegetable stock (this is so easy to make, by the way) and one of the bags of kale I froze from our garden this summer. And, it would make good airplane food, too!

I began by defrosting the vegetable stock and the frozen kale since I knew that would take a little time. Meanwhile, I chopped up the onions, garlic and ginger and sautéed them in some oil in the soup pot. Once they'd softened, I added the carrots and sweet potatoes and cooked them for a few minutes before tossing in a can of organic coconut milk, the rinsed and drained lentils, half the cilantro and the spices.

Then I added the defrosted vegetable stock and let it simmer for about 45 minutes until the vegetables and lentils were just cooked through but still had good texture. I stirred in a few spoonfuls of lemon juice then served it over basmati rice (short grain brown would also be good), topped with whole milk organic yogurt and lots of fresh cilantro. Bliss!

Curried lentil & sweet potato stew
Serves 6-8

2 medium or 1 large red onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced or pressed
4 cups of cubed sweet potatoes or yams
3 carrots, sliced or chopped
2 cups of lentils, rinsed and drained
2 pints vegetable stock
2-3 teaspoons chopped or minced fresh ginger
1 bunch of fresh cilantro, leaves rinsed and chopped
1 bunch of kale or chard, ribs removed, leaves coarsely chopped
Juice of 1 lime
1 can coconut milk
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons curry powder or garam masala
2 tablespoons cumin
A pinch of red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive or coconut oil

1. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large soup pot or Dutch oven and sauté the onions, garlic and ginger for 10 or so minutes until translucent.

2. Add the cubed sweet potatoes, carrots, curry powder, cumin, and red pepper flakes and sauté for another 5 minutes or so before adding the lentils, coconut milk, kale or chard, vegetable stock and most of the cilantro (reserve a little to use as a garnish for the stew.)

3. Bring to a simmer then turn the heat down a bit and cook, covered, over medium-low heat for 40-45 minutes until the lentils and vegetables are just tender. Add the lime juice and stir well before seasoning to taste with the salt and pepper. You can also add a little sugar if you like. Serve hot over rice topped with whole milk yogurt and fresh cilantro. 

Related post on Garden of Eating: Mujadara - Seriously Tasty Lentil & Rice Stew

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