I think I can probably say with certainty that I never ate lentils as a kid. I’m sure I didn’t even know what they were (and beans? I only remember eating them as sugar-laden baked beans!). As I started trying more international foods as an adult, I came across varieties of Indian Dal made with red or brown lentils and salads made with French green lentils. They were always good, no matter what the preparation, even though I leaned towards the spicy end of the scale. I didn’t even know what nutritional powerhouses lentils were then – I guess that’s the best way to discover something, isn’t it?
So of course I decided to make them a part of my cooking, since they were good tasting and good for you – and they cooked fairly quickly without needing to be soaked as many beans do. As a result, we eat the best sausage and lentil stew ever often at our house, and eat fast and easy curried red lentil soup a bit less – but only because it’s harder to find red lentils and they’re more expensive.
I’ve been wanting to make a curried lentil dish for awhile – one that had added turmeric (’cause you all know I pretty much think it’s a wonder, right?) and something a bit different, too…like bacon! I’m sure I don’t need to repeat the saying, but even Indian curry-flavored dishes can benefit from a bit of bacon, right? And since we’re cooking up a few slices of bacon, why not brown things like onions, garlic, and cabbage in the pan afterwards, scraping up all the browned bits? Yum.
I like using a hot curry in addition to red pepper flakes – I mentioned we like things spicy, yes? – so topping it all with fresh chopped tomatoes added that nice cool/hot aspect to the dish that many Indian foods have. Of course yogurt is the traditional accompaniment, and you could certainly add this as a side to the dish, too. Served with a flatbread and a green salad, you’ve got a meal – though if you’re like my family, having a couple of grilled chicken thighs available adds lots of mom-points!
Did you grow up with lentils? Do you cook with them now?
Curried Lentils with Bacon & Browned Cabbage
- 1-1/4 c. brown lentils, rinsed and picked over as needed
- 4 c. water or chicken broth
- 1 to 1-1/2 tsp. curry powder (I use a hot curry, if mild use the larger amount)
- 1 tsp. turmeric
- 1 tsp. cumin
- 2 tsp. salt (less if using a salted chicken broth instead of water)
- 1 tsp. black pepper
- 1/2 to 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- 4 pcs. bacon
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 c. roughly chopped cabbage (about 1/4 large head)
- 1 or 2 tomatoes, diced
- chopped parsley or chives for garnish (optional)
- Cook lentils: Slow Cooker Method: add all lentil ingredients to the bowl of a slow cooker, stirring to mix. Cook on Low for 4 hours or High for 2 hours until most of the liquid evaporates. Oven Top Method: add all ingredients to a large stockpot, stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer on medium-low heat, covered, for 40-50 minutes, until lentils are done.
- Cook vegetables: In a large skillet cook bacon until crisp; drain on paper towels, crumble and set aside.
- Saute chopped onion in bacon grease over medium heat 3-5 minutes. Add garlic and cabbage. Raise heat to medium-high and cook 3-5 minutes to brown cabbage.
- Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until cabbage is tender, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add a couple tablespoons of water towards the end of cooking to deglaze the pan.
- Scrape the vegetables into the lentil pot and stir well to combine. Season to taste with more salt and pepper, as desired.
- Serve topped with chopped tomatoes, crumbled bacon and optional chives or parsley for garnish.