Somewhere along the line, lentils became the best deal ever. Comfort food at its finest. Satisfying, filling, and the easiest legume to cook, I should have jumped on this bandwagon way sooner. Truth is, I really only jumped on it while travelling throughout the UK with my sister in December.
Cooking in hostels can get pretty mundane and unexciting: spices are often limited or nil, it’s a true bonus if the kitchen has olive oil, and everything you buy has to come in small quantities unless you are staying in one spot for a long time or you want to carry it around. And no, you dont want to carry it around. Lets not talk about carrying more than necessary in those backpacks . . . Hummus and veggies had become our go to food, and we easily devoured at least 15 containers Of the stuff throughout the four weeks we were gone. Yes that happened. I told you I loved it. We made up this awesome stew recipe with sweet potatoes that was hearty and delicious and used minimal ingredients. We had our fair share of salads, surprisingly minimal pasta, given its mainstay nature in hostel life, and bought more bags of Tesco 1£ precut veggies than I can count.
But even this girl gets tired of hummus. With only one week left on the road, something had to change, and we both knew it had better be cheap, because the dollar to pound conversion was the farthest thing from kind to us. I credit my sister for entering the lentils. We bought a 50 pence bag of red lentils off the discount shelf and never looked back. And yes I carried them around. In fact, it’s those red lentils that ended up in this dhal. Totally worth every last bit of extra backpack weight. Actually, we also carried kumara around New Zealand and Australia for weeks. That though I blame on being novice backpackers and just being too in love with it to do anything else.
Don’t ever underestimate the greatness of lentils. Totally worth any extra labour and hardship, including carrying them around in a backpack throughout the UK for a couple of weeks.
Ingredients (2 servings)
1 tsp olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup red lentils, rinsed
2 cups water
2 tbsp tomato juice
1/2 cup each, diced kumara and diced butternut squash
2 tsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
3/4 tsp each, coriander, garam masala, cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup spinach
1/4 cup diced cilantro
- Sauté garlic and onion in a medium saucepan with oil until fragrant.
- Meanwhile, rinse lentils.
- Add water, lentils and tomato juice to pot with onions. Reduce heat to medium.
- Add squash and kumara.
- Add all spices, stirring well and reducing heat to a simmer. Cover and let cook until lentils and vegetables are tender. Remove lid to reach desired consistency as necessary.
- Near the end of cooking, add spinach and cilantro and stir in.
- Serve with rice, couscous, quinoa or other desired grain.