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Here it is: our most inexpensive dinner ever, and the recipe that started the $5 Foodie experiment. Red lentils, shown here, turn saffron-hued in their brief cooking time, blending with a delicate balance of ginger, onion, garlic, curry, and—surprise—fresh lemon. Fragrant basmati rice complements the Indian flavor profile, though white or brown long-grained rice will be successful too. Lentils, which come in varied hues, are rich in iron and provide 12 grams of protein in each serving. We favor serving them with mint yogurt, crispy onions, or a fresh chutney—or all three.

Makes 4 Servings - 88¢ per serving Show Detailed Pricing

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger, (or 1/2 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced)
  • 3 tablespoons oil, (or half oil, half butter)
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 cup red lentils (dried)
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt 
  • pinches of black pepper, to taste 
  • 1/2 lemons, thinly sliced into rounds, then halved
  • 1 cup rice (basmati, white, or brown)
  •  
  • For the mint yogurt: 
  • 6 ounces plain yogurt
  • 1 sprig of fresh mint, stem removed and leaves finely chopped (or 1/2 teaspoon dried mint)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  •  
  • For the crispy onions: 
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  •  
  • For the optional fresh fruit chutney: 
  • * 1/2 mangoes, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces (or 1/2 cup of other fresh fruit like apple, banana, or pineapple)
  • * 1/2 jalapeños, finely diced, or 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • * 1 teaspoon vinegar, (rice wine vinegar, if you have it)
  • * 2 teaspoons onions, minced
  • pinch of salt 
  • * 1/8 red bell peppers, finely diced
*Optional ingredients are not counted towards pricing

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

  1. Place the small onion, garlic, ginger, oil (or butter) and curry powder in a large saucepan over medium heat and stir until the onion begins to soften, about 1 minute. Add the lentils, 2 1/4 cups water, salt and pepper, and lemon slices. Bring to a boil, then lower heat. Cover the pot and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the lentils are tender. If they look dry, add a bit more water as they finish cooking.
  2. Meanwhile, set the rice to cook in another saucepan, following package instructions.
  3. While the lentils and rice are cooking, prepare the yogurt sauce: place yogurt in a serving dish and stir with a fork to smooth it, adding a little water as necessary. Stir in the mint and salt.
  4. For the crispy onions: In a medium-size frying pan, place the thinly-sliced large onion and 1 tablespoon oil and cook over medium-high heat until onion slices are crisp and browned, about 5 minutes. If the oil starts to smoke, remove pan from the burner and lower heat before you resume frying. With a slotted spoon, remove onions to a paper towel to absorb excess oil before placing them in a serving dish.
  5. Optional fresh fruit chutney: Stir together all ingredients in a serving dish. 
  6. To serve, spoon the rice onto a plate and surround with the lentils. Top with the mint yogurt, crispy onions, and optional chutney, or place each accompaniment in a serving dish to pass separately around the table.


Notes:

  • An ancient source of nutrition, lentils vary in color from red, green, orange and yellow, to brown and black. You can use any type of lentils for this dish, but note that cooking times will vary. Red lentils are known for their mild, sweet flavor, while some brown varieties are nuttier. Other varieties, such as French green lentils, hold their shape well when cooked and are a good choice for salads.
  • A relish or chutney or some sort is traditional at Indian meals and not all are laboriously cooked for hours. This quickly made and bright accompaniment adds a few pennies—about 13¢—to the cost per serving.
  • When preparing the jalapeño for the chutney, take care to remove the seeds before mincing it as the seeds can be fiery. 

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