My mother lived in India for five years as a teenager; as a result, Indian food has become a part of our family-we eat big Indian meals for family gatherings, have a penchant for Indian lunch buffets, have even been known to make Indian food for Easter, and it’s not unusual to make a midweek curry in the pressure cooker. My family has never made a brown lentil curry, but the curry-heads in my family will certainly want to add this to the family Indian repertoire.
This curry is not a typical Indian lentil dish. I often make Indian lentils (dhal) with red or yellow lentils, which I find to be more subtle, and I serve dhals alongside meat or chicken curries. But I wanted something heartier for a rainy day, a midweek meal with some oomph that could stand on its own. But being midweek, I was tired and not in the mood to cook anything, certainly nothing complicated, time-consuming, or with multiple prep steps. And it was late, too late to defrost proteins because I heard grumblings from the peanut gallery, which meant I had exactly T-minus twenty minutes to get something stuffed into their little mouths or I would have grumpy “I’m hawngry” monsters hanging on my legs. I wanted to throw in the kitchen towel and order Chinese, but then I saw lentils and thought curry sounded nice, so I went for it.
I sweated some onions and then let them cook down a bit to get semi-caramelized and flavorful. While the onions were cooking, I rummaged the pantry and spice cabinet to find anything that would work in an Indian curry, all the while I avoided eye contact with the hawngry monsters because it’s game over once you acknowledge them. I decided to spice up my concoction with curry powder, garam masala, cumin seeds, and cardamom. Then I found some coconut milk, not typically Indian, but I thought it’d work nicely with the spices, so I poured two cans in alongside some lentils and broth. I got the pressure cooker and some rice going and then had time to distract the hawngry monsters while the pots did their things. A mere eleven minutes later and I had dinner. Done. And it was good! It was even hawngry monster-approved (the kids ate multiple helpings).
The curry packs a lot of punch for a twenty-minute meal. There’s sweet from the onions and coconut milk and lots of flavor from the spices. And with one-pot clean-up and leftovers, my future looked bright. The kids ate leftovers for lunch wrapped in a wheat tortilla and I froze some as well. And there you go: an awesome dinner, lunch the next day, frozen leftovers-not bad for a T-minus twenty situation.