There is very little in life more boring than lentils and potatoes. I speak from experience here. Plain boiled lentils and plain boiled potatoes are about as exciting as plain boiled rice. On their own, they don’t taste like much, and even eaten together, they’re more the type of thing you eat because you have to, not because you want to. Their plainness and boringness is also what makes these foods the most interesting.
“Maggie, how can that be? Wouldn’t that be counterintuitive?” you may find yourself wondering. Let me explain.
The plainest foods are the best foil to exotic or even everyday seasonings. You can give them southwestern flare with chili powder and jalapeño peppers or add Mediterranean zest with oregano, lemon juice and olive oil. You can turn them into a country style creation with bacon grease, onion and black pepper. Or you can do as I have done in this recipe, add some Indian heat with curry powder and red peppers.
The plainness of cheap, wholesome foods, is what allows them to be used by peasants and poor folks across the continents to give them regional flare, turning the cheapest foods into exotic ethnic creations that the family looks forward to eating. For my family, this is one of those dishes.
Curried Lentils & Potatoes
- 2 tablespoons margarine or vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup dry lentils
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 cups water
- 2 to 3 teaspoons curry powder
- 15 ounce can tomatoes
- 4 cups peeled & coarsely chopped potatoes
- 1 teaspoon salt or 4 bouillon cubes
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- Cooked Rice
First peel and chop your onion. Melt the margarine in a 3-quart saucepan. Add the onion and fry it about for about 5 minutes, or until it’s beginning to turn tender. Add the water, lentils and red pepper flakes. Bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat and allow the lentils to simmer for 20 to 30 minutes, or until they are somewhat, but not quite all-the-way tender.
While the lentils boil peel and chop your potatoes.
When the lentils are almost tender, add the curry powder, tomatoes, potatoes, salt (or bouillon) and sugar to the lentils. Return the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat again and allow it to simmer for about 20 more minutes, or until the lentils and potatoes are both perfectly tender.
Taste as you go. Add more curry powder, sugar or red pepper if desired. Curry is a personal dish, each cook must customize it to their own tastebuds and the heat tolerance of her family. I use 1/4-teaspoon red pepper flakes and 3-teaspoons curry powder. If you prefer your curry especially spicy then feel free to use up to 1-teaspoon of red pepper flakes. For a tangier flavor you may also add 1-tablespoon of Worcestershire sauce. If you feel really fancy then you may add 1/4 to 1/2-teaspoon of any or all of the following: cinnamon, ground ginger, cumin powder, dry mustard, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder and coriander.
Serve in deep bowls with hot cooked rice. Makes 4 large servings.