So, I was craving Indian food the other day, and thought I would try my hand at making something like a dhal curry.
I have to say, the end result may be one of the most delicious things I’ve made yet! I call this, Spicy lentil curry with roasted eggplant.
There were so many things I liked about this recipe. It was savory, slightly spicy, and so good with fresh cilantro and lime juice on top. I also decided to roast some fresh eggplant for this, which I think really added to the end flavor (more on this later). For now, let’s get on with the recipe!
Step 1: Roasting Eggplant
This recipe can really be broken down into two parts. The first one is to roast some eggplant! First, wash your eggplant and cut it into cubes. Spread them out on a baking tray with parchment paper and bake at 425 F for 35 minutes. No oil necessary.
Roasted eggplant is often used in baba ghanouj recipes to make a thick dipping sauce similar to hummus. When roasted, eggplant can often take on a smokey flavor, which this sauce is known for. That smokiness which was my main inspiration for incorporating eggplant into this dish. I was hoping I could replicate some of that flavor with the lentils.
This dish didn’t turn out quite as smokey as that Mediterranean dipping sauce I mentioned, but it did have slight smokiness, so I consider the experiment a success!
This is how your tray should look like coming out of the oven. As you can see, the eggplant shrunk down a bit, like most veggies do in the oven. It ended up being the perfect amount for my spicy lentil curry dish though. Note: I used an eggplant on the smaller side.
Step 2: Put Everything In A Pan
So, I wasn’t really sure what to call “step 2” of this recipe. Step 1 is roast the eggplant. Step 2 is… put every other ingredient in a pan and simmer, ha.
Before adding everything to a pan (in stages), you may want to prep a few of the ingredients first. For example, before I started heating up my pan I opened up all my cans (seen above) and measured out all my spices (seen below). Note, for this recipe I separated out the cumin and coriander in separate stages from the other spices, so set them aside in separate bowls.
Now it’s time to add all the rest of the ingredients – in stages.
Add 1-2 TBS of water to a pan and heat it over medium-high heat. Add the cumin and corainder to the pan first, and toast them for about 45 seconds. This helps the spices “open up” and become more fragrant/powerful in your dish. It’s a neat cooking tip that I recently learned! You can learn more about toasting spices here.
Next add the onion and saute for about 2 minutes until they start to become translucent. Then add the garlic, and saute for about 30 seconds. You have to be careful with sauteing garlic – if it’s left in contact with the pan for too long it can burn very fast!
Next add the tomatoes, ginger, turmeric, salt, and cayenne pepper. Stir everything together and cook for about 5 minutes.
Next, add the lentils and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer for about 40-45 minutes. Stir every so often to prevent burning. Once the lentils are soft add the coconut milk, cherry tomatoes, and roasted eggplant. Keep simmering for a few minutes just to heat those last few things up.
FINALLY, turn the heat off and stir in some fresh chopped cilantro. Then serve! Hopefully the image above provides a nice visual for what this process was like.
Spicy Lentil Curry
The whole time I was making this, I had it in my mind that I was inventing a curry dish. But after I was done making it, I realized, I didn’t actually use any curry spice in the dish at all! It became yellow from the turmeric, and while I did use a lot of known Indian spices, I didn’t actually use any curry.
I’m really ok with this though. Traditional curries aren’t always made using the curry spice, but sometimes a blend of the spices that I did end up using. Either way, it was seriously delicious too, so no harm done, right? 😉 Overall, all of the spices gave it a very powerful flavor. Mixed with the eggplant for smokiness, the hot cayenne pepper, and the creaminess of the coconut milk to balance things out, I think this dish had a lot of layers to it.
I should probably mention that I intended this recipe to be a “meal prep” recipe. The amounts listed below do make a lot of this spicy lentil curry, and I was able to eat them throughout the week. So if you plan to only eat them for a single night, or two, you may want to cut the ingredient amounts in half.
That pretty much sums up this post though! I’m pretty proud of this dish, and if you try it, I hope you like it too! Thanks for reading about my non-curry “curry” recipe for spicy lentil curry!
Spicy Lentil Curry With Roasted Eggplant
- 2 cups dry lentils
- 2 cans of diced tomatoes 15oz
- 1 can of coconut milk 15oz
- 1 small eggplant cubed
- 1 large onion diced
- 3-4 cloves garlic minced
- 1 TBS cumin
- 1 TBS coriander
- 1 TBS turmeric
- 1 tsp fresh ginger minced
- 1 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 bunch of cilantro chopped
- A few handfuls of cherry tomatoes
- Preheat oven to 425 F.
- Wash and cube your eggplant. Arrange on a baking tray lined with parchment and bake for 35 minutes.
- Heat 1-2 TBS of water in a large pan (with tall sides) on medium-high heat. Add the cumin and coriander and toast for 45 seconds.
- Add the diced onion and saute for 2-3 minutes or until they start to become translucent.
- Add the garlic and saute for ~30 seconds.
- Add the cans of tomatoes, minced ginger, turmeric, salt and cayenne pepper. Mix well and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add the dry lentils and 4 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer for 40 minutes or until lentils are soft (If the mixture starts to look too dry, you can add an extra 1/4 cup - 1/2 cup water).
- Once the lentils are soft add the can of coconut milk, diced cherry tomatoes, and roasted eggplant. Continue to simmer for a few minutes until those last ingredients added are warmed.
- Remove the pan from heat and stir in the chopped cilantro. Adjust seasonings such as salt if necessary.
- Optional: Serve with brown rice, extra cilantro on top, or a squeeze of fresh lime juice.
Hello, is there a way to substitute coconut milk, or you think the dish is definitely dependent on the coconut milk flavor? thanks!
Definitely! I often just use whatever plant milk I have on hand, whether it’s soy milk, almond milk, etc. I would just make sure you use the “unflavored” and “unsweetened” kind, with whatever you get.