I wasn’t too sure what to call this dish at first. I knew it had red lentils, quinoa and some veggies with warming spices – but it wasn’t really a stew, certainly not a soup, and it seemed like something of a cop-out to call it “red lentil and quinoa dish”. So I Wiki’ed it, and apparently it’s in the same vein as something called “Kitchari” (and goes by a zillion other names), which is “a South Asian preparation made from rice and lentils”.
Here I used quinoa instead of rice, and despite the addition of the Indian spice blend garam masala, I assure you this kitchari is far from authentic. It is, however, warming and filling, and makes a great main dish at about 350 calories and 20 grams of protein per serving, and is perfect accompanied by some dark leafy greens (but then, isn’t everything?).
Garam Masala is no longer elusive if you want to buy it pre-made – any well-stocked grocery store should have it. If you can’t find it anywhere, you can use a recipe like this one here. It’s definitely a spice worth having around, with a more complex flavor than curry, and a light brown color instead of a flashy yellow-orange one. It’s typically spicy, but if you mix it yourself, you can control the heat level.
The ginger flavor in this pronounced and pleasant, and I can’t imagine it offending anybody. However, I am a card-carrying member of the I Love Ginger club, so feel free to add a little less if it pleases your palate to do so. I’ve tried it with half a tablespoon as well as with the full tablespoon amount, and both ways taste great.
Gingery Red Lentil and Quinoa Kitchari
4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1 cup red lentils, rinsed and picked over
2 medium carrots, sliced into thin semi-circles (about 1 cup)
1/2 to 1 tablespoon peeled and grated ginger, to taste (about a 2-inch piece)
1 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1 cup frozen green peas
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt, to taste
Cilantro, for garnish (optional)
1. In a medium pot, bring the vegetable broth to a boil, adding the quinoa and lentils after washing, and then add the carrots and ginger as you prepare them. Stir in the garam masala, cinnamon and coriander, and simmer gently on low heat for 20 minutes.
2. After 20 minutes, give the mixture a good stir and continue to simmer until it’s thick and most of the liquid is gone (this shouldn’t take very long – 5 minutes, perhaps). Stir in the frozen peas, lemon juice and salt to taste, and remove from the heat. Garnish each serving with several cilantro leaves, either whole or minced, if desired.
This recipe is pretty much as quick and easy as it gets – throw some stuff in a pot for 20 minutes and it’s basically ready. I’ve made this three times in the last week, working on minor tweaks to the recipe, but each time it tasted like delicious comfort food. This kitchari also has the added benefit of making your kitchen smell heavenly.
One of my favorite things about red lentils is how they dissolve into whatever you’re making, be it a stew, soup, sauce, or kitchari. I imagine this to be a big bonus for folks who are picky about legumes, since you can’t actually detect them here, unless of course you’re already familiar with the ways of red lentils. And I’ve been using them in everything lately since I have a gigantic bag of ’em from The India Food Centre, which, if you’re in the Regina area, is my favorite local shop to buy legumes – good selection, fair prices, and I’ve never gotten a stale bean from them.
Tomorrow I’ll share the raw kale salad recipe, which is happily pictured alongside the kitchari. It’s a recipe that I learned at school with a few minor tweaks, and I love it dearly.