Spicy Lentil Stew

The weather has turned cooler, the leaves are turning brilliant shades of red, orange, and yellow, and the days are noticeably shorter. While I am not a fan of shorter days, I love fall and winter cooking because they involve big pots of soup and stew that simmer all day on the stove and fill the house with warm, delicious scents. Give me a hearty stew and a think slice of bread and I am all set.

This is a great recipe I found on the Post Punk Kitchen web site (http://www.theppk.com/2008/10/ethiopian-spicy-tomato-lentil-stew/). They did not include it in the Veganomicon cookbook (an awesome cookbook by the way). I am not sure I would really call it spicy as in hot spicy, but it is full of spices that make it a brilliantly aromatic stew.

A word of warning about the spices. First, there are a lot of them. They are what make this stew so flavorful. Second, spices are kind of expensive. If you were to buy all of these spices at the same time, they would run about $50.00. I have been collecting spices, a few at a time so I have not had the shock of the cost all at once. Finally, fenugreek is hard to find. I found it a Williams Sonoma and you can find it online at http://www.thespicehouse.com/spices/indian-fenugreek-seeds-whole-and-ground.

1 cup brown lentils (these are the regular ones. Buy them in bulk (rather than in the pre-measured bags because bulk lentils are fresher and cook better)
1 yellow onion – diced
2 carrots – peeled and diced (or a couple of handfuls of baby carrots sliced into small circles)
4 cloves garlic – minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger – grated
¼ cup olive oil
10 plum tomatoes – chopped
½ cup tomato paste
2 cups vegetable broth
1 cup frozen peas

And the spices
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons Hungarian paprika (it is spicier than regular paprika)
1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
½ teaspoon dried thyme
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
? teaspoon ground allspice
? teaspoon ground cloves
? teaspoon ground cinnamon
? teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
½ teaspoon salt

There is a lot of staging (preparing groups on ingredients) in this recipe.

Start by cooking the lentils – place the lentils and 3 cups of water in a medium soup pot and bring to a boil. Cook at a low boil for about 45 minutes or until the lentils are tender.

While the lentils are cooking, chop the vegetables. Place the diced onions and sliced baby carrots in a bowl together. Place the chopped tomatoes in another bowl by themselves. Combine all of the ground spice in a small bowl (I actually use a teacup). Add the minced garlic and ginger on top of the spice blend. I use minced garlic in a jar to save time. I also mince the ginger rather than grate it. You can also find tubes of minced ginger in the produce section sometimes and that is a big time saver too.

In a large soup pot, sauté the onion and carrots in the olive oil until the onion is translucent and the carrots begin to soften, about 6-8 minutes. And the spice blend and continue to sauté for another 5 minutes or so. Add the chopped tomatoes and the tomato paste and mix all of this together. Now add in the vegetable broth and bring this mixture to a simmer. Add the cooked lentils (you may want to drain the excess water before you add them to the big soup pot) and the frozen peas. Simmer for at least 30 minutes, but this stew can simmer much longer and it lets all those flavors meld together. If you simmer all day, you will want to increase the broth by about a cup. Also remember to simmer with a lid on the pot.

Serve over rice and with a nice hearty bread.

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