Ever wonder what a lazy Saturday spent leisurely baking or picnicking with friends is like? Me too. By the end of our week, my husband and I are usually exhausted and already plotting our weekend procrastinating. Which chores will be ignored? What can we put off one more week? Coin toss for laundry duty. Rock-paper-scissors for who gives the dog a bath. Sneak in time for cooking, blogging and cuddling. Our weekends during the school year feel like a blink. Before we know it, 5:30 Monday morning has roared into the station at full speed and we are slapping our snooze buttons, cursing the time and dying for coffee. This is our life…and we love it. We are tired. We are busy. But, dammit, we keep on a’truckin’! The speed at which these weekends fly by makes it a little tough to spend half the day in the kitchen. As I’ve said before, my friends, you don’t really have to slave away to eat well. I spent a frenzied morning pondering today’s meal. I walked into the kitchen seeking answers. Hair piled messily atop my head, sans brazier, I took stock of what I had at my disposal. After a scatter-brained inventory of items that I already had on hand, I clumsily landed on curried lentil stew. It’s filling, easy and delicious. Not to mention you can pretty much put anything in this dish. I used every shortcut in the book. I encourage you to experiment with shortcuts as well as the scenic route – play with your food.
Curried Lentil Stew with Chicken Apple Sausage
1 lbs Sausage (any kind, I used chicken apple) sliced into 1″ pieces
1 C green lentils (or red, or French)
6 Cups (1 1/2 Quarts) Chicken Broth/Stock
1 medium onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
1 C frozen peas
1 C diced fennel
2 carrots, diced
1 C crushed tomatoes (or 1 tablespoon tomato paste)
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (or lemon juice)
3 tablespoons curry powder*
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 tablespoon coconut oil*
1/2 C mint, minced
1 C plain Greek yogurt
Heat oil in a large stock pot over medium/medium high heat. Add sausage and brown, about 4 mins, stirring occasionally. Add onions, carrots and fennel. Stir, cooking about 4 more minutes, til onions are a little translucent. Add garlic and red pepper flakes, cooking about a minute more. Add all remaining spices, herbs and peas, stir. Add chicken stock, tomatoes and vinegar. Stir well, bring to boil and cover. Drop heat to low, allow to simmer at least 15 minutes, then give a stir. Cover and continue to simmer for about 10 more minutes. Check for salt and spices. Add more spice if needed. Add more stock or water if too thick. Add that spinach that is about to go bad in your fridge. Add whatever you want. Serve up with a dollop of yogurt and sprinkle of mint on top. I served this with naan (Indian flat bread) from good old Trader Joe’s (frozen section). You can squeeze a little lemon on top, as well. Adds a little zing.
*Curry powder, as you may know, is a spice blend. It can consist of up to 20 different spices and herbs and varies widely by country of origin. Curry powder is originally Indian and almost always includes cardamom, cumin, coriander and turmeric. There are two main Indian curries: regular and Madras. Madras is much spicier. Bringing curry to Japan was the work of the Brits. There, it was made milder, sweeter and thicker. In Thailand, curry is divided into three types: yellow, red and green. Yellow being mild, red being spicier and green being holy-cow-blow-your-nose spicy. There are other variations, but these are your main players. If you don’t like spicy food then go for yellow curry and stay the hell away from my table. When buying curry powder, it’s good to know your spice threshold. I suggest trying them all. You may even try a mix of types. Also, curry powder loses flavor fast. If you’ve had yours for more than two months it may be time to toss it. In India, curry powder is made to eat. Ground fresh daily. If you have more time on your hands than I did, take a stab at making your own. You’ll be so impressed with yourself.
I am a huge fan of cooking with this oil. If you get it cheap, it may have a bit of a fragrance and the flavor of coconut, which I don’t mind a bit. The pricier versions are usually tasteless and some even odorless. If you’re not a fan of this oil you can use olive oil, vegetable oil or even bacon fat…whatever floats your boat.
-You can make this dish vegetarian by omitting the sausage and using vegetable stock in place of chicken.
-To make this dish a bit more Thai in flavor, try adding coconut milk, cilantro, kaffir lime leaves and a little chopped Chinese eggplant.
-For a thicker, smoother stew, you can puree a portion of the finished lentils (though it wouldn’t ruin a thing, you may want to exclude any sausage pieces from the blender). Once smooth, add to remaining lentils and stir.