Here’s something I’ve been thinking about but never put down in writing: I do my best thinking, brain-storming, and “writing” when I don’t have the ability to commit my ideas to paper. Or to the notes app on my phone. I’ve heard many people say that they do their best thinking in the shower, and I agree, the shower can be a place for great idea formulation. My best thoughts seem to come to me as I’m on a long walk, listening to a podcast, enjoying the cool crisp air and sunshine on my face, and without the ability to record my thoughts!
Sometimes, I return home from my walk and force my nearly frost-bitten fingers to move about the paper or the keyboard, to jot down all that I’ve thought about and want to remember. Other times, by the time I’ve returned home, I’ve completely forgotten all that I was thinking about in the first place! Does anyone else have that problem? Luckily, during a walk earlier this week, I had a thought for a recipe - the one I’m sharing with you today - and I still had my ideas in my head when I got back to my house.
Here’s what I was thinking about: unused condiments. I know that sounds strange, it feels strange to even type those words. But I was listening to a podcast and the interviewer asked the interviewee about the items that can always be found in her fridge, and she replied with a long list of condiments. I know the feeling, my refrigerator is full of jars of all sizes, some very full and others nearly empty. Immediately, I thought of a jar that I had purchased several months ago, an essential ingredient in one of my favorite cookbook recipes. The problem, though, is that this recipe only uses 1 teaspoon from this jar, and I don’t regularly make any other recipes with this particular ingredient. So, I decided as I listened to this podcast, that I needed to create a recipe which would make good use of this unused condiment in my collection. The jar that’s the star of this recipe is Thai Red Curry Paste!
The premise of this stew was simple - to use up lots of ingredients in my pantry before leaving on vacation. I had a few onions and a head of garlic to use, along with some fresh ginger root. I always have lots of dried lentils and beans, they’re the workhorses of my dry pantry, especially in the wintertime. As I was looking at all of the jars of condiments in my fridge, I noticed the jar of Thai Red Curry Paste. Next to it, a half-empty can of coconut milk. In the vegetable drawer sat a huge head of cauliflower, which I had intended to roast a few days earlier, but never got around to making. These ingredients were the beginning of my recipe and not much more was needed to pull it together into a flavorful warming stew.
The stew was a cinch to make, I just sautéed some onions, garlic and ginger until aromatic, added some spices and the paste, the lentils, a container of vegetable stock and let it simmer away. A peeled and diced sweet potato got thrown into the pot, too. I decided to roast the cauliflower separately, though, in an attempt to keep it firm and with crisp edges, rather than simmer it away into a cruciferous mush! A little stir of coconut milk toward the end of cook time brought brightness to the stew, a squeeze of lime would’ve been another great addition, but I didn’t have a lime. My family enjoyed this warming stew over steamed Basmati rice and topped with some chopped cilantro.
As the weather gets cooler and the days get shorter, make yourself a meal which is easy to prepare and feels cozy, with bright colors and flavors to keep the senses awakened. I ate this stew several times over the past few days and can’t wait to make it again! As always, let me know if you make any of my recipes, I love to read your comments.
Wishing you a relaxing weekend, full of delicious food, health & wellness.
Winter-Warming Red Lentil & Cauliflower Stew
Ingredients: (note - use organic whenever possible)
3T sunflower seed oil, divided
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 T chopped ginger root
1 t turmeric
1/4 t black pepper, or more, to taste
1 t Thai Red Curry Paste, or more, if desired
1 C red lentils
4 C vegetable broth (or water)
1 sweet potato, cut into 1/2” dice
1 head cauliflower, chopped into small florets
1 t Harissa powder
1 t sea salt, or more, to taste
1/2 C coconut milk
to serve: steamed Basmati rice, chopped cilantro
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Coat a baking sheet with 1 T sunflower seed oil and set aside.
Heat remaining oil in a large soup pot. Once hot, add the onion and sauté until translucent, about 8 minutes. Reduce the temperature and add the garlic and ginger to the pot. Stir frequently to prevent burning. Add the turmeric, black pepper, and Thai red curry paste to the onion mixture and stir to coat, letting the spices begin to toast and become aromatic.
Rinse the lentils in a strainer under cool water, then pour into the pot, along with the vegetable broth. Bring pot to a boil, stir, cover and lower heat to simmer the lentils for 20 minutes. Add the diced sweet potato, cover the pot, and continue to simmer for an additional 15 minutes. If mixture looks dry or too thick, add additional vegetable broth or water, as needed.
Meanwhile, prepare the cauliflower. Toss the cauliflower florets with the harissa and pour onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake until the cauliflower turns golden and crispy, approximately 25 minutes, stirring frequently.
Season the stew with sea salt and add the coconut milk to the pot. Remove from the heat and stir gently to blend. Fold the baked cauliflower into the stew and serve over steamed Basmati rice. Sprinkle chopped cilantro on top, if desired.
recipe yields 6 generous servings
stew can be made 2 days ahead of serving; add the cauliflower just before serving
leftovers keep well in a covered container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days; gently reheat before serving. Freezing leftovers will alter the texture of the sweet potato and cauliflower.
adjust level of heat to personal preference by adding additional Thai red curry paste or Harissa