Table of contents       Previous VegeTale       Next VegeTale   
Lentils drawing

Having spent my childhood in East Africa, I was introduced to curries and spicy food at an early age so it is not surprising that curries feature regularly on our menu. Legumes, or pulses, are indispensable to vegetarians because they are one of the best sources of plant protein and split red lentils are probably the easiest to handle within this group. For that reason I use them when we go camping or hiking on the Bibbulmun Track and there is nothing like a good lentil and vegetable curry when out in the bush. The advantage of split red lentils is that they only need rinsing prior to use and do not require overnight soaking, which is essential for most dried beans and chickpeas.

Recently we introduced our 15-year-old grandson to the Bibbulmun Track and he accompanied us on a three-day hike. We took the bus down Albany Highway to pick up our starting point and did not start walking (in a northerly direction) until 11 am. This is rather a late hour to commence a hike and the October day was already starting to warm up. We had 18 km to walk to the first hut and, with little more than half a day at our disposal, we really had to keep going. Long rest stops were out of the question and even photography was limited in the knowledge that the following day should be considerably more relaxed. Our weary little group arrived at the hut just after five o'clock feeling very relieved and pleased with our achievement. At least we did not have to walk in the dark.

I set about putting together a curry from our dehydrated supplies: split red lentils, dried coconut milk, spices, dehydrated vegetables and (another great standby for hiking) couscous.

Ben, being a typical teenage boy, normally turns his nose up at most vegetables and anything produced by his vegetarian grandparents is regarded with suspicion, but that night he was so hungry he ate a huge helping and then cleaned up the leftovers. There must be a lesson to be learnt there!

Valerie Warren

Lentil and vegetable curry

This is an extremely versatile recipe as any sort of vegetables can be used and you adapt it to what is available. I often use it when bush camping (not hiking) because it is based on root vegetables which keep well.

2 tbsp ghee or coconut oil
1 onion, chopped
2 tsp root ginger, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp turmeric
chilli (dried or fresh) to taste or you can use curry powder instead of the above spices.
1½ cups stock (or water and a vegetable stock cube)
1/3 cup split red lentils, rinsed well and drained
Any vegetables, but use lots of eggplant if possible.
    These all work well: potato, sweet potato, carrot,
    butternut pumpkin, zucchini, eggplant,
    cauliflower, broccoli, kale, silverbeet, cabbage,
    green beans, peas
1 tsp garam masala
1/3 cup coconut milk (optional)

Soften ghee or coconut oil in a large saucepan and fry onion, ginger and garlic. Add spices and gently fry a little. Pour in the stock, add the lentils and bring to the boil. Put in the prepared vegetables and keep adding them until the liquid no longer covers them completely. Place the lid on the pot and allow to simmer very gently until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally. This takes about 20 minutes depending on size of vegetable pieces. I recommend adding the green vegetables a little later than the others so that they retain their colour. Towards the end, stir in a teaspoon of garam masala and some coconut milk if desired.

Serve with brown rice. Serves 2-3.