Are you there Kitchen Mischief? It’s me, Josh.
I never really left you. I’ve been piddling about, doing some professional mischief for my day job at Taste of the South magazine, and some ramshackle weeknight mischief at home, which has been edible but just that; not necessarily remarkable. And then this “curry” happened.
I say “curry” because this dish has curry in it. No self-respecting person of Indian or Pakistani descent would dare call my cooking “Indian.” And that’s OK. Regardless of its authenticity, I can attest to the fact that this stew was durn good.
It was richly spiced but not hot as hell; creamy but not fatty, and vegetarian-ish but not obnoxiously so (I used chicken broth). Oh, and hearty and healthy, thanks to the kale, lentils, and sweet potatoes (thanks, Mom!). And the best part—it took right around 30 minutes.
Let’s get on to that recipe. I’ll ramble on a little more below if you’re still in the mood to read. ;)
Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry with Kale
Yield: 4 to 6 servings
Before we begin, a note on spices. Every curry powder is a little different. I would recommend starting with a mild curry powder, a teaspoon at a time, until you get to know each other. You can always increase the heat level to taste with cayenne at the end. If you’re really adventurous, start by toasting whole spices in the canola oil before adding the onion. (I used cumin seeds because I had them). Otherwise, just proceed as directed below, and get ready to have your house smell like Pakistan.
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 cinnamon stick
1 to 2 tablepoons curry powder* (see note)
5 to 6 cloves garlic, chopped
2 to 3 tablespoons chopped fresh ginger
4 sweet potatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus additional to taste
1 (48-ounce) container chicken broth
1 1/2 cups reduced fat coconut milk
1 1/2 cups dried lentils
1 strip lime zest
About 1 cup water
4 cups chopped fresh kale, firmly packed
¼ to ½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
Toasted naan bread, to serve
FIRST: In a large Dutch oven, heat the canola oil over medium heat. Add cinnamon stick, onion, and curry powder. Cook, stirring often, until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes more. Add sweet potato and salt, stirring to coat.
THEN: Add broth, coconut milk, lentils, zest, and water as needed. Increase heat to medium-high to bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 15 minutes. Gently stir in kale in batches; cook 5 minutes more. Season with additional salt, to taste. Stir in cilantro just before serving.
If you’re not familiar with Indian cuisine, let’s talk about naan (pronounced ‘non,’) which always confuses my father. I say, “Dad, we’re having naan-bread pizzas for supper,” to which he responds with a Southpark-like blink-blink, trying to figure out why I’m taking his bread away, and what the nether-hell I’m going to make the crust out of. Naan bread is an Indian flat bread, like a cross between pita bread and a pizza crust. There’s a version available in many supermarkets by Stonefire; it’s really tasty. Anyhoo, I brushed one flatbread with olive oil, sprinkled with seasoning (cumin and special salt, from Matthew), and baked at 350° for 10 minutes. This pretty picture was not taken by me.
Perhaps this stew was made all the better by the gifts that brought it into being. Mom brought over a bag of sweet potato discards from the garden, sweet little orange runtlings that were destined for the compost heap. After a good scrub and peel, and they were good as new. And Matthew (fresh from Paris) brought me a treasure trove of artisan-blended Parisian spices, which I used to flavor my naan bread. Best. Stuff. Ever. I’ll do a whole post on it later.
And of course it was made all the more mischievous because I was cooking in our new kitchen. You see, we’re trying to sell our old (current) house, and I’m not joking about the whole your-house-will-smell-like-Pakistan thing. It’s a fragrant truth. And it’s not that I have anything against Pakistan; I just think there’s a reason realtors tell you to whip up a batch of homemade cookies and NOT a pot of curry before potential buyers come over.
ANYWAY, cooking in the new kitchen is like camping—you get to improvise. So when it was time to transport the stew back to the other house for dinner and I couldn’t find pot holders, I had to get resourceful.
And yes, between coming up with my makeshift potholders and lucking into this delicious stew, I was QUITE pleased with myself. I hope that you have the same success with this “curry” as I did, and that it brings a mischievous smile to your face, too.
Happy Cooking, and light a candle! ;)