Living with Lentils

credit:  FelixLeupold

As a family and at A Rocha we try to eat real food from a bit lower on the food chain. It’s our meager stand of solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the two-thirds world for whom a locally grown, mostly vegetarian diet is the norm. Most long-term guests take our food agenda in stride, or at least they try to. In the beginning lentils are novel, and they feel noble eating like the rest of the two-thirds world. But after a week or two this wears off and there is a clamoring for meat—big chunks of it. In this regard I’m reminded of one of our first A Rocha interns, Martin Lings. I was in charge of the food during the early days of our Environmental Centre, and while I’m not a terrible cook, I was run a bit off my feet and my culinary craftings suffered as a result. I recall one particular day when I had morphed leftover lentils into their third incarnation. This simple little act of efficiency caused Martin, normally the height of English civility, to positively lose it. The scene went something like this:

 Me: Sauntering to the table with a child on my hip and casserole dish in hand—the very picture of female domesticity. “Dinner’s served!”

     Martin: Staring hungrily from the table. “Smells good, what’s for tea (read: supper)?”

     Me: Coyly. “Oh, just a little lentil thing I refashioned.”

     Martin: Face falling, eyeing the casserole dish suspiciously. “Huh?”

     Me: Smiling a bit too brightly. No comment as I lift the casserole lid.

     Martin: Wailing. “Nooooooo, not Lentil Goo again!”

Indeed, it was Lentil Goo again! But in the years since, I have perfected Lentil Goo into Lentil Dahl, which, if I do say so myself, is rather tasty. For a couple of years it became a weekly standard at the A Rocha table and was almost always appreciated even by the more carnivorous in the crowd. I offer you now, a rough sketch of that dish in case you want to try it in your own kitchen:

credit: mode
Leah’s Dahl

1. Sauté two onions in plenty of olive oil    

2. Add spices, salt and sugar: 
    4 T. curry powder
    4 T. cumin
    3 T. coriander
    2 T. garam marsala
    1 t. cardamom
    2 T. salt
    2 heaping T. brown sugar

3. Add water (aprox. 10 cups) and red lentils (aprox. 5 cups) – add more water if needed as it cooks.

4. Bring to a boil and then turn down to simmer for one hour -- stir every once and a while.

5. Taste and spice as needed (sometimes I end up more than doubling the spices and salt because I’ve just “eyeballed” it to start with).

Serve on rice with plain yogurt and chutney.

Serves 8
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