Getting to spring around here feels like a little game of two steps forward, one step back. This week we had the warmest day in the two months I’ve been here (38 degrees – watch out!) followed immediately by one of the largest snowfalls in the two months I’ve been here. As I see pictures go up on various social media sites from friends and family around the world, all of them excited about the first flowers, picnics, and cañas al sol, I can’t help but feel a little left out. Apparently this is the worst winter Canada has experienced in 20-some years. So, I’m just warning you, when it does arrive, I’m probably going to talk about it a lot (not that I don’t already talk about it a lot).
Cold weather requires warm food. Lentils are filling without being heavy so they are perfect for winter (or Canadian spring) when you need some serious food as fuel to stay warm out there. These coconut curry lentils are so savory and comforting, and a little sweet from the winter squash.
Start by letting the lentils soak over night, or if you plan to cook at night, you can let them soak during the day while you’re at work. You don’t have to soak legumes, but they cook much faster if you do. Soak them at least 8 hours in the pot you’re going to cook them in, covered by 2 or 3 inches of water. Then drain the water and fill the pot with fresh water, again covered by a couple inches. Then cook for 20 -30 minutes at a very soft simmer, so they don’t break apart, until they are tender. 1 and 1/2 cups dry lentils equals about 4 cups cooked, which will give you minimum 4 servings. I did this in the morning while I was having breakfast and getting ready for work, then I just drained the water and let them cool all day, but you can certainly do this while you make the remainder of the recipe.
Next, prepare the squash. I used one whole acorn squash, but, due to their irregular shape, they are kind of a pain to peel. Butternut squash or any other winter squash you like will work too. Cut, scoop out the innards and peel, then cut it up into 1 inch cubes.
Then, in a large pan, heat 1 & 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil and sauté 1/2 of a large onion and 1 clove of garlic, both finely chopped. Add 1 & 1/2 tablespoons of yellow curry powder, 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper.
Side note: I love these adorable little spice jars!
Once the onion is translucent, add the squash and cook for a few more minutes at a medium-low heat. Then add about 4 cups of fresh spinach. Give it a rough chop first so the pieces aren’t so big. That cooks down really fast, so once it does, add the cooked lentils, 1/2 cup of cashews, 1 whole can of coconut milk + a can-full of water.
And that’s all there is to it. Let that simmer gently for about 20 minutes, or until the squash is tender and a lot of the liquid has evaporated. The consistency should be thick, not brothy. Top it all off with about 1/2 cup of fresh chopped cilantro. I adore cilantro, but if you don’t feel as strongly about it as I do, leave it out, or substitute basil! That would be equally amazing.
It’s ready to serve right away, but also stores nicely. And now I’ll shamelessly plug my mom’s amazing ceramics! She gave me this bowl last time I was home, said it was a “mistake” and that the glaze somehow slipped off, but I love it! It reminds me of waves. Everything tastes better out of a pretty bowl!
Happy Saint Patrick’s Day everyone!! I heard Ottawa takes it seriously, so I’m going to get out there and have myself a green beer!
Coconut Curry Lentils – Recipe (Serves 4-6)
- 1.5 cups dry lentils or 4 cups cooked lentils
- 1/2 large onion
- 1 clove garlic
- 1.5 tablespoons yellow curry
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (or to taste)
- Salt & Pepper
- 1 acorn squash (or other winter squash) peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes
- 4 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup cashews
- 1 can coconut milk + 1 can full of water or broth
- 1/2 cup cilantro or basil, chopped