Recipe: Red Lentils (Sri Lankan style)

by Tsai

We served a variation on these lentils way back in summer of 2011 while we were still at the Dragon’s Den. This basic recipe comes courtesy of our good friend Jamin and his mother, and we are forever indebted to them for showing us how to make this dish that will knock your socks off, especially if you like garlic as much as we do.* Even if you never try any of our other recipes, try this one. There is very little prep work, and cooking time is under thirty minutes.

Ingredients: red lentils, water, turmeric, thinly-sliced onions, minced garlic, curry leaves, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, oil, chopped hot peppers, scallions

1. In a large bowl, combine lentils, a sprinkling of turmeric, onions, garlic (we like to use a lot), and a little more than enough water to cover all the ingredients. Allow these ingredients to soak for at least ten minutes. To start, try using approximately 1/2 onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic and 1 tsp. of turmeric for each cup of dry lentils.

2. In a wide saucepan, heat cooking oil along with mustard seeds, cumin seeds, hot peppers, and a few curry leaves.** When the mustard seeds start to pop, add the lentil mixture to the pan. Keep the heat on high.

3. When the lentils have come to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and cook for 12-15 minutes. Stir occasionally — you may need to add some vegetable stock or water to make sure the lentils don’t become too dry, as they will absorb a large amount of the liquid. The lentils are done when they are soft and start to meld together.

4. Remove curry leaves, salt generously, garnish with thinly sliced scallions, and serve with rice.

*This dish accomodates other ingredients well. When we served it last year, we used beet greens to provide a little more color and flavor, and have also incorporated mushrooms, spinach, sweet potatoes, and other vegetables in previous iterations.

**Curry leaves should be available at international food markets or anywhere that sells Southeast Asian produce.