Saturday, March 30, 2013

Lentil, Okra, and Sweet Potato Curry

Okrahoma, where the slime comes slidin' 'cross the plate;
And those slippery greens, combined with beans
Make a spicy curry that is great...

It is a truth universally acknowledged that not everyone loves okra, but I'm not interested in talking to those people because I love it. Yes, it's slimy, but that's part of its charm! (Tell me that okra is the first thing you've encountered to which this description applies; yeah, I didn't think so.) It's precisely that uniquely...emulsifying quality that makes it such an invaluable addition to stews, gumbos, and curries, and while there are multiple and wonderful ways of cooking  okra that eliminate the slime entirely, this is one of those dishes that makes good use of its slippery je ne sais quoi. I always keep a few bags of frozen okra on hand for last-minute inspirations like this one, which incorporates the ever-popular (at my house, anyway) lentils and sweet potatoes for a one-dish supper that needed nothing more than a fluffy bed of rice and some spicy pickle to make five people happy - with leftovers for lunch!

Lentil, Okra, and Sweet Potato Curry
~ 1 tbsp. canola oil
~ 1 tsp. each: mustard seeds, cumin seeds
~ 1 large onion, diced
~ 1 large sweet potato, diced
~ 1 lb. sliced okra (I used frozen)
~ 2 tsp. each: fenugreek, curry powder
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, garam masala, chili powder
~ 1/2 tsp. each: turmeric, asafoetida, cayenne pepper
~ 1.5 cups brown lentils
~ 1 28 oz. can diced, fire-roasetd tomatoes
~ 3 cups vegetable broth
~ 2 cups chopped spinach
~ 1 tbsp. canola oil
~ 1 tbsp. panch phoran

~ In a large pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and stir a bit until they just begin to splutter and pop.
~ Quickly add the onion and cook about 2-3 minutes, until slightly browned.
~ Add the sweet potato, okra, and seasonings. Stir to combine and cook about 5 minutes; add a splash of water or broth if things get sticky.
~ Stir in the lentils and fire-roasted tomatoes and continue cooking for another minute or two.
~Add the broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer for 45-50 minutes, stirring occasionally, until you have a thick stew.
~ In a small pan, heat the remaining 1 tbsp. oil, and fry the panch shoran for just a minute or so, until the seeds begin to pop. Pour this mixture into the curry along with the spinach, stir to combine, and serve hot over basmati rice.

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