Five years ago I read the book ‘Eat to Live’ by Dr Joel Fuhrman. As a child born in New Zealand and raised on a dairy farm eating plenty of steak, pork, minced beef, lamb chops and sausages was part of the weekly menu. I thought nothing of it and remember musing that I could NEVER be a vegetarian. Eat to Live completely changed my mindset about vegetarian eating for health and I went vegan immediately after completing the book. It was a time of huge change for my body and my taste buds! My veganism only lasted for six months after which I added eggs and dairy, and I have been vegetarian ever since (every now and then I have fresh fish caught by our neighbour or mussels harvested from the beach). For many people the off-putting aspect of a vegetarian diet is the thought of eating ‘rabbit food’ at every meal. Even lentils have had a bad rap over the years but in this day of huge variety and availability of wonderful ingredients there has never been a better time to experiment with your weekly menu and insert a yummy meat free meal or two.
This is one of my all time favourites. It is so tasty and came about by accident. I was half way through making a ribsticking thick dal for dinner one Sunday when friends arrived unexpectedly so to make it go further I added a few ingredients and it became a soup. When cooking you’ve got to go with the flow and have confidence to experiment keep tasting your creation, adding seasoning and balancing flavours until you get it right and if doesn’t work then at least you have given it a go.
About lentils: I like using organic green lentils in this recipe but you could substitute with any other lentil type – note that they often have different cooking times so be sure to check the back of the packet. Lentils are an ancient superfood. One of the highest sources of vegetable protein (30% by weight) rich in vitamin B1, folate and dietary fibre.
1 cup green lentils
4 cups water
5cm thumb ginger, peeled and grated finely
1 medium onion sliced reasonably finely (not diced)
2 heaped tsp green, yellow or red curry paste (use a good authentic one or one you make from scratch – not a cheap nasty)
1 stalk lemongrass, bruised to release flavour – optional
4 cups vegetable stock
200ml coconut milk – use 400ml (1 tin) to make it richer if you like
fish sauce to taste about 2 tbs – use salt if you don’t have fish sauce, use 1 tsp and taste adding more if you need to
quarter cup of fresh lime or lemon juice
1 lime for squeezing to serve
finely sliced spring onions / green onions
sliced mushrooms – any kind
basil leaves / coriander leaves /chopped chives to garnish
Cook 1 cup of lentils as per instructions on the back of the packet. The green lentils I use are cooked by bringing 4 cups water to boil in a large saucepan, add the lentils when boiling and cook on a rolling boil for approximately 20 minutes until tender. Before taking them off the heat test a couple to make sure that they are just cooked – they shouldn’t be crunchy. Pour cooked lentils into a colander or sieve to drain and run cold water through them to stop the cooking process. Take a large saucepan and place over a medium heat. Into this put the curry paste, sliced onion and grated ginger (and optional lemon grass) and heat stirring gently for one minute to release the flavours – do not let these ingredients brown or burn. Then add vegetable stock and coconut cream and bring to a simmer. After five minutes of simmering gently add in the cooked lentils and stir to combine. Add fish sauce (or salt) to taste, lime / lemon juice and the mushrooms / spring onions if you are using them. Simmer gently for 5 minutes to infuse flavours and then turn off heat. Taste and adjust seasoning. Remove lemon grass stalk. Serve hot with garnish of your choice and a squeeze of lime juice.