This vegetarian fusion stew is great for a large crowd- so much of what goes in here (lentils, bulgur, spices) is sold dried and in bulk and can last a long time. Millions of people thrive on a high-lentil diet, and I can see why: it’s tasty, speedy, and cheap.
As of today, a new blogging policy has been instated: I’ll be recording where I purchase the ingredients that I buy. This way, anything strange- or rare-seeming item that I might use will be as accessible to yall as it was to me. For this lentil dish, all items were bought at the Hamilton Heights Super Compare Foods on 139th Street & Broadway, with the exception of the green curry paste, which was bought at Westside Market on 110th Street & Broadway, and the lentils, which were bought at Fairway (133rd St. & 12th Ave).
1 cup green lentils, rinsed
1/2 cup bulgur
1/4 cup green curry paste
1 tsp turmeric
4 cups water or broth, divided
1 stalk lemongrass
1-2 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp butter or ghee, divided
3/4 cup coconut milk
1 inch nub of ginger
1/2 onion, chopped finely
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp cumin
2 cups spinach
How to prepare lemongrass:
Cut off and discard whitish bulbous bottom. Peel off outer layer of stalk and discard. Slice the remaining stalk into 1 or 2″ segments, and then bruise them by bending them and generally giving them a hard time. This will release the fantastic lemongrass scent into your food.
Set lentils, bulgur, turmeric, curry paste, and lemongrass segments to boil with 2 cups of liquid. Once it’s boiling, lower the heat and add another cup of liquid. Stir occasionally.
Meanwhile, chop onions and garlic. Set to fry in a heavy pan with butter and cumin.
Once all cooking liquid is absorbed into your stew (about 15 minutes) add the coconut milk, grated ginger, and tomato paste. Stir until ingredients blend together and add fried onions. Stir and add liquid as necessary (if it looks dry- you’ll never ruin it by adding too much broth).
Taste to check that your lentils have reached your preferred state of firmness or softness. I myself am partial to a softer lentil, so I encourage you to let your stew simmer until it meets your satisfaction. Luckily the longer you cook the more melded your flavors will become! When you do turn off the heat, that’s when you’ll stir in your spinach. It’ll wilt pretty much right away. Serve as is or with plain yogurt on top.
Cost Index: $
Despite the fact that this recipe does call for a fairly extensive spice repertoire, I rate this recipe at only one dollar sign. I happen to be a proponent of expanding your spice cabinet’s horizons- I absolutely believe that using a wide variety of flavors enhances both meals and cooking confidence. It can seem intimidating and expensive to invest in these items, not to mention space-hogging. However, once you’ve made the purchases, these spices will last for a long time and (hopefully) encourage future food experimentation.
Many of the other ingredients are as cheap as they come- bulgur and lentils both come in multi-use packages and keep practically forever when stored in a cool, dry cabinet.
The coconut milk I bought was a steal of a deal at 2/$3, which is a great deal. This recipe doesn’t quite call for a whole can, which actually makes the cost around $1. I also bought my spinach for $3, and used about half the package, which puts the cost at $1.50. Buying ready-made broth or stock can get pricey, and the quart that I bought was $2.49. If you’re pinching pennies, I’d recommend using water. It really won’t make a noticeable difference in your final dish, especially with the creaminess of the coconut milk and the aromatic pizzazz of the lemongrass and curry paste.