Red Lentil and Tomato Curry over Basmati Rice

Main, Vegetarian | August 26, 2016 | By

This is one of those recipes that I pull out when I don’t want to think.  Add it to my ‘brain dead’ meals collection.  When we’re in a rush, or when I haven’t gone grocery shopping, or when I know we should have something healthy and meatless, but I don’t have anything impressive in mind.  Step in red lentils.  With the added tomatoes and spicy flavours of a good curry, this meal always comes through for me.  All the ingredients are always in the fridge or pantry.  So, it’s a cooking life-saver kind of meal.

My sister-in-law passed on this recipe to me about 7 years back.  She’s vegetarian and was so happy with the ease of this recipe. The first time I made it, I wasn’t sure what Jim would think.  No meat?  Just lentils?  Will this fill me up?  But I did know his love of all things curry and heat, so that would make up for the missing meat, I hoped.  It did.  Yay!  Jim also loves basmati rice, so anytime I serve something over rice, whether it’s a stir fry, a ragu or goulash, even chilli, he’s a happy camper.

And I decided to add some crunchy cashews or almonds on top, for texture, and a little extra protein.  Not that the lentils aren’t already offering a great amount of protein.  So, it’s a great Meatless Monday meal.  

I have adjusted it a tad through the years, adding fresh tomatoes as opposed to a can of pureed tomatoes.  Over the years I’ve also added other veggies to the ‘stew’, whether its cooked carrots, zucchini, sweet potatoes, cauliflower florets etc.  So, feel free to play with this recipe to  make it your own.  It does come together pretty quickly, so if you do want to add additional veggies, like the carrots or sweet potato, make sure that these have already been blanched or steamed, and just add them towards the end.  

But for the recipe below, I’m sharing the recipe that Jim is quite happy with.  It has the red lentils which are quickly cooked up in a separate pot, and fresh tomatoes that are chopped and added to the simmering onions, garlic and spices.  Aren”t red lentils the best for quick meals?  Don’t get me wrong, I love green or brown lentils even more, but the cooking time needed to get them tender is a tad more of a commitment.  More of slow cooking meal.  Whereas red lentils are ready in 15 or so minutes, and can be added to soups or stews at the very end.  

And using Entube Harissa paste here for this recipe, makes it even easier, since it has all of the spices right in it that I would be adding one by one.  If you are making this in the dead of winter, feel free to use a can or jar of tomatoes.  Just don’t use pureed tomatoes as I was instructed originally, it’s nice to have the chopped quality as an extra texture.  Otherwise it will be too smooth.  Meh.

That’s what’s great about this recipe, it really is a year round recipe.  But right now it’s summer, so using all the fresh, sweet tomatoes we can is just the right thing to do!

Love Jen.

Red Lentil Curry

Red Lentil Curry

Red Lentil Curry

Red Lentil Curry

Red Lentil and Tomato Curry over Basmati Rice
Serves 4
Lentils, tomatoes, ginger, curry paste all get together to party. Short on prep time but long on flavour, this dish will come through for you every time!
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
25 min
  1. 1 cup red lentils
  2. 1 medium onion, diced
  3. 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  4. 1 tbsp olive oil
  5. 1 inch of fresh ginger, minced
  6. 1 tbsp plus 1/2 tsp Entube Curry Paste (to taste)
  7. 1 tsp crushed cumin seeds
  8. 1 tsp crushed coriander seeds
  9. 1 tsp ground turmeric
  10. 1 tsp chili pepper
  11. 1 tsp kosher salt
  12. 1 tsp granulated sugar
  13. 6 Roma or medium (not large) heirloom tomatoes, diced, keep the juices and seeds (alternatively, use a medium can of whole tomatoes, broken up with your fingers, and juices)
  14. Cooked basmati rice for 4
  15. 2-4 tbsp cashews or almonds, chopped
  16. 2 tbsp cilantro, parsley or mint (or a combo thereof), for garnish
  1. Place the lentils in a sieve and rinse under cold water until the water runs clear.
  2. Place the lentils in a pot and cover with water. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, covered. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until tender. If you need to add water while it is simmering, that's fine. Drain and set aside. The steps below can be started as soon as the lentils are reduced to the simmer.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and stir. Cook for about 10 minutes, till starting to soften. Add the garlic and ginger. Continue cooking another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the curry paste, the cumin, coriander, turmeric and chili pepper. Stir to coat the onion mixture. Cook another 2 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes and cook until they have softened, releasing all their juices. Stir in the lentils and warm through.
  6. Serve over rice.
  7. Garnish with chopped nuts and cilantro.
  1. This will serve 4 comfortably. If there are any leftovers, they can be stored in an airtight container. You may find that the leftovers have 'thickened'. That's what lentils will do- absorb all liquids. Once you reheat it should be fine, but if you find it is still too thick for your liking, just add a tsp of stock or water at a time till you are happy.
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