INDIAN SPICED LENTIL & SQUASH STEW

Back in August I posted a recipe for naan, with a promise to soon post the recipe for the stew that accompanied it.  Fast forward to November’s cooler weather and it finally seemed like the right time to make it again.  This is a fairly spicy dish, though that can be calmed by using less chile, or none, but if you’re interested in trying this at all you probably like the sweet/spicy mix of Indian and Thai food.  It has a rather long list of ingredients and requires a fair amount of chopping so plan to make it on a day when you’re in the mood for some quality kitchen time.  There are a lot of those days coming soon.  The smell of toasting spices alone is reason enough to make it! The flavor of this stew is very dependent on the quality of the spices used and the particular blend of spices used in the garam masala. It’s worth the time to seek out a source of really fresh spices and buy small quantities so they’ll be used up within six months or less.  If you can find them use cumin seeds and mustard seeds instead of the powders (same quantities as listed). Garam masala is carried by World Market if you’re unable to pick it up elsewhere, or mix it yourself. Pumpkin can be substituted for the squash, so use whatever took over your garden this summer.  Chop the pumpkin or squash in half and scoop out the seeds, then cut off the rind. Cilantro has lovers and haters.  Hopefully you’re a lover because it adds a nice herbal twist to the finished stew. I happen to love it and, true confession, have been known to eat my homemade cilantro pesto with a spoon. There have been years when we had so much in our garden it perfumed our whole yard.

This makes a filling meatless meal, but some chopped chicken can be added if there’s anyone in your family who just can’t call it a meal unless there’s meat in it.  Start a batch of naan before you begin the stew.  By the time the stew is cooked the naan will be ready to bake and you can serve it warm with the stew for some happy, warm bellies.

— Joan, 6 November 2015

Indian stew

INDIAN SPICED LENTIL & SQUASH STEW

Serves 6

1 Tablespoon butter
1 Tablespoon canola oil
1½  teaspoons ground cumin or cumin seeds
1 teaspoon dry mustard or mustard seeds
1 teaspoon garam masala
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green chile or other spicy pepper (I used a jalapeño), seeded and chopped
1 Tablespoon freshly grated ginger
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
grated zest of a lime
1-2 Tablespoons honey
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 cups pumpkin or squash (any variety), peeled and chopped into 1″ pieces
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and chopped into 1″ pieces
1 large potato, peeled and chopped into 1″ pieces
1 medium carrot, peeled and chopped into ½” pieces
1¼ cups dry lentils
1½ quarts vegetable or chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup coconut milk
fresh cilantro, finely chopped green chile, lime wedges, optional garnishes

Heat oil and butter in a large Dutch oven and toast spices until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.  Add onion, chile, ginger, tomato paste, lime zest and honey.  Stir over gentle heat for about 10 minutes.  Add garlic and stir for a minute, then add vegetables and stir-fry for a few minutes to thoroughly coat them with the spices.  Add the lentils and stock, bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer till lentils are soft,  1-1½ hours.  Stir in the coconut milk and salt and pepper to taste.  Serve with warm naan.

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