Last updated on December 4th, 2020 at 12:53 pm
With a super simple but delicious homemade curry paste, this vegan masala curry with red lentils and spinach is such an easy and wholesome family meal. Loaded with the goodness of lentils, tomatoes and spinach it is nutrient rich. But the best bit is, it's like eating a big old bowl of hugs.
How are you doing this week? How is your new normal treating you? We've been in "lock down" for about 5 weeks now and have a bit of a groove going on.
In the last few weeks we've set up our greenhouse, painted my daughter's teepee cubby and started plans for adopting some chooks and goats. We've also just started home schooling...so far so good. I am taking each day as it comes because each day is different with new information. I've stopped watching every news broadcast I can find. It isn't helpful for me to fixate on things I can't change.
I am focusing on things I do have power over. I can stay at home, spend time with my brood and cook delicious things. So, let's do that. Let's make some lentils.
So, what exactly is a lentil?
- Lentils are small legumes. Legumes are seeds that grow in pods.
- They come in a variety of colours including black, brown, yellow, red and green.
- Lentils are low in fat, nutrient dense and cheap.
- They are high in fibre, protein and are a good source of iron. One cup of lentils contains 6.6 mg of iron - almost one third of your daily requirements.
- They are a great frugal pantry staple.
Lentils also contain lectins—a protein in some plants like nightshades and legumes that has been linked to inflammation and upset tummies. If you feel unwell after eating lentils or other lectin-filled foods, it might be best to avoid them or limit your intake.
Source: Well and Good
Besides all that, lentils are a delicious and versatile addition to your rotation. Perfect in curries, soups and salads they are the ultimate all-rounder. Today I am using quick cooking red lentils to make a rich and wholesome masala bowl.
How to Make Masala Paste from Scratch
If making your own curry paste for this vegan masala curry seems a bit fiddly, fear not. This gorgeous and aromatic masala paste is thrown together in the food processor. I use toasted whole cumin and coriander seeds but I've also provided the measurement for pre-ground spices.
Once the paste is made you simply add your ingredients to your pan one and a time to fully develop the warming masala flavours.
And voila! A simple, delicious and comforting bowl of goodness made from scratch. This vegan masala curry is full of heady aromatics including garlic, ginger and cinnamon while garam masala, coriander, cumin and smoked paprika add depth and balance.
Can I use store bought masala paste?
Sure you can, although I don't find it as readily available. Use 3 tbsp of store bought or simply whip up the easy recipe below and use it all.
Would canned tomatoes work?
Totally. Use a full 400g (14 oz) can of chopped tomatoes instead of the fresh ones. The flavour will be slightly different but nothing to sweat about.
Can I freeze my red lentil masala?
Indeed. Allow the finished dish to cool completely before popping it in a freezer proof container and freezing for up to 3 months.
Can I use another type of lentil?
You can but you will need to pre-cook them first. I love red lentils because they don't require soaking and cooking quickly within the dish. I use them in my 5-ingredient pumpkin lentil soup with ginger. Win! If you wanted you could make this dish with canned lentils or chickpeas.
If you like this recipe, please check out my cookbook. Great Vegan Meals for the Carnivorous Family is full of simple, carnivore-approved family recipes.
Vegan Masala Curry with Red Lentils
For the masala paste
- 1 and ½ tsp cumin seeds or 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 and ½ tsp coriander seeds or 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 2 and ½ tsp garam masala
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- ½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 4 garlic cloves peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 inch ginger thumb peeled and roughly chopped
- 1 long red chilli chopped
- 1 onion half chopped for the paste, ½ finely sliced for the curry
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 tbsp sunflower oil or any neutral flavoured oil
For the curry
- 1 tsp sunflower or any neutral flavoured oil
- 4 tomatoes chopped
- 1 cup red lentils
- 270 ml coconut milk
- 400 ml vegetable stock
- 2 cups baby spinach or another leafy green
- pinch salt
For the masala paste
- To make the masala paste with seeds, add the cumin and coriander seeds to a dry fry pan and toast over low to medium heat for around 2 minutes or until fragrant. Watch the pan so you don't burn the seeds. Once toasted, grind the seeds to a powder in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle.
- Add the cumin and coriander to a food processor with the garam masala, smoked paprika and cinnamon. Add the garlic, ginger, chilli, chopped ½ onion, tomato paste and oil and process until the mixture becomes a thick paste. Remove from the processor and set aside.
For the curry
- Heat the sunflower in a large pan over medium heat and add the remaining ½ onion to saute for 3 minutes or until soft. Add the masala paste and stir together cooking for around 3 minutes.
- Throw in the chopped tomatoes and continue cooking for another 2 -3 minutes before stirring in the the red lentils.
- Add the coconut milk and stock and bring the mixture up to a simmer, stirring regularly.
- Reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring regularly, for around 25 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the spinach. Allow it to wilt before serving.