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Vegan Lentil and Sweet Potato Curry

If any dish deserves to be called global, it is curry. From Newfoundland to the Antarctic, from Beijing to Warsaw, there is scarcely a place where curries are not enjoyed.

Colleen Taylor Sen

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Curries are one of those things that are somewhat universal – I mean, different cultures in Asia have different types of curry: Thai Green or Red Curry, Japanese Katsu Curry and Curry Rice, both of which have been adapted into Korean culture, as well as of course Indian and Pakistani curries which I’m more familiar with. In Ireland, one of our favourite ways of having curry is on chips! It’s actually just a curry sauce but it’s amazing and will change your way of eating chips forever.

Anyway, this recipe came about when my sister was having her baby. As a result, we made her and her husband some meals to tide them over and make their lives a little easier. I had made a version of this once or twice before that but it wasn’t this definitive version nor had anyone else tried it at that point. Not only did my sister and her husband love it, but it was a hit with my Dad who generally doesn’t like anything I cook as it’s “too spicy”. His words, not mine. I wasn’t sure how he’d react as he’s not a fan of ginger or garlic. So the fact that he got seconds is the greatest compliment.

More fragrant than spicy, this curry is comforting, warming and moreish. It feels very autumnal with the sweet potatoes and seasonings, even though I actually made it in summer the first time I had it. The hardest part, or rather the most time-consuming, is preparing the spices. Grating ginger and turmeric takes a bit of time! You can use ground turmeric if you prefer. Therefore, I’ve included different options depending on what it is you have in your cupboard to try and make u your lives a bit easier. I tend to use bouillon cubes over homemade stocks, Oxo generally. However, I like this Delia recipe, and it’s not too difficult nor does it take much time. I sometimes make it in the morning before work and by the time I’ve gotten home, it has cooled and I can freeze it.

I’ve served it with the Carrot and Sultana Spiced Rice that I shared a few weeks ago for my housemate’s birthday. This rice, too, is quite a toothsome option as well.

Vegan Lentil and Sweet Potato Curry

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • Green or Brown Lentils, 225g – I use East End
  • 3 tbsp coconut oil or vegetable oil (not olive) or ghee, separated
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cardamom pods, cut a small slit into each
  • 4-6 garlic cloves, crushed or minced
  • 2 tsp of freshly grated ginger
  • 1 tsp of freshly grated turmeric or 1/2 tsp ground turmeric*
  • 2 onions, one diced for the curry, the other sliced for later.
  • 1 tbsp hot curry powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 600g sweet potato, chopped into largish chunks. You don’t want them small as they will turn into mush (see photo)
  • 600-700ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp table salt
  • 400ml coconut milk, I use Chaokoh or Thai Gold
  • 250-400g frozen spinach*
  • Coriander

Method

  1. Put the lentils in a bowl and cover with water. Pick through, removing any that are shrivelled. Set aside to soak while you peel the sweet potatoes and place them in water. Then prepare the rest of the ingredients.
  2. When you are ready, put a large pot on the stove top on medium heat. Once hot, add 2 tbsp of the coconut oil.
  3. After 30 seconds, add the bay leaf, cardamom, garlic, ginger and, if you are using turmeric root, add that here, too.
  4. Sauté for one minute, stirring frequently to release the flavours.
  5. Stir in the diced onion and cook until they are translucent and soft. This takes between 5-10 minutes
  6. Add the curry, garam masala and cumin as well as some freshly ground black pepper. If you are using ground turmeric, add it now. Cook for another minute.
  7. In the meantime, drain and rinse the lentils. Add them to the pot, stirring to coat with all the spices and onions. Set a timer for 5 minutes and let them cook, stirring occasionally.
  8. After 5 minutes, add the sweet potato and cover, just barely with the vegetable stock. Give it a stir, top with a lid and turn the heat up to medium-high until it boils. Then reduce to low and leave it to simmer for 20 minutes.
  9. After 20 minutes, check to ensure the lentils are soft, add about a tsp of table salt and the coconut milk to the lentils, stirring it in. If the lentils aren’t soft, leave another 5 minutes before adding the coconut milk.
    1. If you are not freezing the curry, add frozen spinach at this time. Bring the heat back to medium- high and stir frequently for the next 10 or so minutes until the curry has thickened and the spinach has heated through and is no longer in blocks.
    2. If you are freezing and using frozen spinach, add the spinach only when reheating the curry and add about 50g per portion. Instead, stir in the coconut milk, bring back to medium and stir frequently for 10 minutes.
    3. If you are using fresh spinach, stir in the coconut milk and bring the temperature back up to medium-high. Stir frequently over the next ten minutes. Turn off the heat and add the fresh spinach.
  10. Once you’ve added the coconut milk, add the 1 tbsp of remaining coconut oil to a pre-heated frying pan over medium heat.
  11. Add the sliced onion and cook until well browned.
  12. Serve with rice or naan and top with coriander and the fried onions.

Tips

*If you want to stretch the curry add 400g, otherwise 250g is plenty.

For children or those not used to spicy dishes, like my dad, add yoghurt on the side.

If you are using the Carrot and Sultana Spiced Rice, I recommend choosing which dish to add the fried onions to but I personally prefer adding them to both.

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