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spiced red lentils with cucumber yogurt


You may actually faint when you see the length of the list of ingredients.  I PROMISE, it's totally worth it.  And I will help you through it.  I know I have warned encouraged you to get organized in the past, but this time, it's serious.  I'm sure you've all seen Rachel freakin Ray running around with her cute little tray, gathering up her ingredients and, that's actually the best tip she had ever passed along.  Get your rimmed baking tray out and let's gather up some stuff for your mise en place.

I don't mean to freak you out.  The dish, end to end, doesn't take much more than an hour.  It has so many layers of flavor: heat from the chili, floral from the curry leaves and cilantro, cool yogurt, earthy's pretty spectacular. I served it for lunch on a cold, gray day but it would be perfect anytime, paired with some grilled chicken or fish and a big, tangy salad.  The lentil lovers in your life will kiss you and the haters will turn into lovers.

I received Yotam Ottolenghi's incredible cookbook Plenty as gift from a very thoughtful friend and have been loving every recipe.  It's an amazing collection vegetarian dishes from Ottolenghi's weekly column in restaurant in London's The Guardian newspaper.  I highly recommend getting your hands on a copy.  Not to worry if you don't, I'll be cooking more from it soon.  Big kiss EF.

spiced red lentils with cucumber yogurt

slightly adapted from Plenty by Yotam Ottolenghi

Serves 2-4


1 c split red lentils

1 1/2 c water

rinse the lentils and soak then in the water for 30 minutes.


1 bunch of cilantro, divided into stems and leaves

1 small onion

3 cloves garlic, peeled

2 1/2" ginger, peeled (use a spoon to get around the curves)

1 green chili (I used 2 small bird chilis)

While the lentils are soaking, take the cilantro stems (reserving the leaves) and the rest of the ingredients and pulse together in a food processor until a paste forms.


1 1/2 t coriander 

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1/4 t sweet paprika

1/4 t fenugreek (optional-BUT I love the slight maple flavor it adds...)

1/8 t asafetida (optional)

10 fresh curry leaves, chopped (found in Asian markets)

Dry toast the coriander and fenugreek, taking care not to burn because the fenugreek will turn super bitter.  Grind together in a spice mill or mortar and pestle.  Add all of the dry spiced together in a small bowl and set aside.  Have your curry leaves chopped and ready to go.


1 1/2 t mustard seeds

1/4 c neutral oil, such as grapeseed


1 3/4 c chopped tomatoes (I used Muir Glen's fire roasted)

2 t sugar

salt to taste


3/4 c greek yogurt (I used 2%)

1 cucumber, seeded and finely diced

1 1/2 T olive oil

Mix all of the above together in a bowl, salt to taste and set aside.

lime wedges

reserved cilantro leaves, chopped

In a large heavy bottomed pot, toss in the mustard seeds and turn the heat to medium.  Once the seeds begin to pop, add the oil and the onion "paste" mixture.  Cook for about 10 minutes over low heat, stirring often.

Add the dry spices and the curry leaves and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the lentils, their soaking water, tomatoes and sugar.  Taste for salt, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or unit the lentils are done.

Garnish with the yogurt sauce, cilantro leaves and a squeeze of lime.

The author suggests adding 1/3 c butter to finish the (entire) dish but I don't really see the need.