A light snowy drizzle was the first thing I saw out my bedroom window when my eyes fluttered opened Tuesday morning, and curry was the first thing on my mind. As the better half built a fire, I set up my slow cooker with lentils, black cardamom and curry leaves. The vibrant, warming aroma of the simmering curry along with the pop and crackle of charring firewood made the snow outside seem worlds away. The sounds and smells mingling between my fireplace and kitchen counter wrapped me in such a snuggle of sunshine that it kept the dreary day outside where it belonged. That’s just one of the reasons why cooking seduces me, it can lift spirits, change moods, comfort and heal all with a handful of spices and herbs.
Obviously, my cooking theme of late is “chase the winter blues away” and this curry definitely tasted like A Midsummer Night’s Dream. This recipe can also easily be modified to accommodate a vegan diet or you can toss in chicken, if legumes aren’t your thing. The essentials here, as always, are the spices. So, don’t skimp on those. Most importantly, never forget to taste and then taste again to perfect a dish that is tailored specifically for you. And whichever type of day you happen to find yourself in, whether it’s grey, cold and snowing or hectic, unraveling and stressful let it all slip away as you step inside your home. Grab a Dutch Oven or slow cooker, fill it with your favorite spices and herbs and then gently simmer away to your happy place.
1/2 cup Red Lentils
1 cup Yellow Lentils, divided
2 Carrots, trimmed and chopped
4 cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock
1 cup Whole Milk, optional
3 sprigs Curry Leaves, stems removed and discarded
4 Black Cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 tsps Penzeys Curry Powder
2 tsps Turmeric Powder
1 tbsp Garam Masala
1 tbsp Paprika
1/2 tsp Kashmiri Chili Powder, or to taste
1/2 tsp Ginger Powder
1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
1/2 tsp Ghee
1/4 tsp Fenugreek Seeds
1/4 tsp Penzeys Charnushka Seeds
1/4 tsp Raw Sugar
2 Thai Bird Chiles, left whole and stems removed (optional)
1/2 cup Baby Arugula, optional
Salt and Pepper to taste
Small piece of Cheesecloth
Garnish: Fresh Cilantro, Sliced Thai Bird Chiles
Prepare an herb bundle by placing the curry leaves and cardamom pods down on a small piece of cheesecloth. Bundle the cheesecloth around the herbs and secure with kitchen twine. Set aside.
Set a slow cooker on high and add in the 4 cups stock, whole milk, Thai Bird chiles, 1 cup red lentils and 1/2 cup of the yellow lentils. Stir in the mustard and cumin seeds along with the curry powder, garam masala, turmeric and paprika. Cover and cook on high 1 – 2 hours.
Carefully remove the herb bundle and Thai Bird chiles then set aside. With an immersion blender, pulse the lentils until slightly thickened. To the thickened curry, add back in the herb bundle and chiles, the remaining 1/2 cup yellow lentils and carrots. Stir in the Kashmiri powder, ginger powder, Fenugreek and Charnushka seeds. Switch to lowest setting and cook and additional 2 – 4 hours.
When the lentils and carrots are al dente, remove the herb bundle and discard. Remove the Thai Bird chiles and either chop up and add back to the lentils or discard. To finish the curry, stir in the Ghee, raw sugar, and then taste to adjust salt and pepper as needed. Garnish with fresh Cilantro and additional Thai Bird chilies, if desired. Serve with your favorite Naan or Basmati rice.