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Red Lentil and Winter Squash Dhal

I love fall! It's a foggy, misty morning and this is what I found on my walk this morning.

There are dinners that are quick to prepare, there are those that take a long time and then there is the occasional one that tastes like it took a long time to make but was actually pretty quick. Today’s post is about this latter category. This is not the quickest dinner in the world but it’s very doable on a weeknight if you have the ingredients (more or less) on hand. And on a side note, I am developing a two-part series on pantry stocking and really quick dinners–20 minute dinners–so stay tuned for those.

This recipe calls for a fair number of spices (some of which you can get away with omitting if you don’t have them on hand) but having a well-stocked spice rack is awfully useful especially this time of year. Whole spices like cumin and mustard seeds, called for in this recipe, keep really well so stock up once a year on those (or more often of course if you use them lots) and you’re set. Being well-stocked in general is also a big money saver. This topic deserves a whole series of posts but maybe we can consider this the introduction.

I think of being well-stocked as the foundation for the “cook with what you have” philosophy. For me this means that I rarely shop for a specific dish/menu. Instead I shop to restock the dry goods pantry, the crisper/fridge/freezer. This kind of cooking/shopping does not suit everyone but it can be fun, creative and is definitely a good way to trim the grocery budget, if that’s a goal of yours. And with practice, this kind of cooking really is so satisfying. To quote my friend Elizabeth who after a successful dinner of this nature, said, “I stared down the fridge and I won!” And you won’t need to go whole hog down this road, but try it for a few nights and see how it works. Most people have things floating around their dry pantry that in combination with some eggs or cheese or herbs or meat or veggies would make a wonderful frittata, soup, stew, gratin, . . .. Let me know how it goes!

And with that little challenge I’m going to commit to building up my recipe archive on this site to offer more of these kinds of recipes or ideas but thisthisthisthis, and this one all might be considered in such a category.

Red Lentil and Winter Squash Dhal

–Inspired by Dana Treat’s Red Lentil Dhal which was inspired by The Modern Vegetarian

Serves 6

Yes, list of ingredients is long but most of it is spices and the dish comes together quite quickly. If you use veggie bouillon you’ll need much less salt that the recipe below calls for. It’s extra delicious with the bouillon so by all means use it if you have it, or make it if you don’t:)!

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil

2 tsp. cumin seeds

2 tsp. black or brown mustard seeds (can omit in a pinch)

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 ½ inches of fresh ginger, peeled and minced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 jalapeno chili, seeded, finely chopped (can omit and just use more chili flakes/powder)

1 ½ tsp. curry powder

2 tsp. ground cumin

1 tsp. turmeric (can omit in a pinch)

Pinch of chili powder

Salt – about 2-3 tsp. kosher salt (it takes more salt than you might think unless you’re using veggie bouillon)

2 cups red lentils

2-3 cups diced winter squash (acorn, butternut, kabocha, pumpkin, etc.)

5 cups veggie bouillon or water

1 15-oz. can coconut milk

Juice of 1 lemon

½ a bunch of mint, chopped (can omit in a pinch)

½ a bunch of cilantro, chopped (can omit in a pinch or substitute parsley)

Heat just enough oil to coat the bottom of a large pan and add the mustard and cumin seeds.  As soon as they begin to pop (only takes about 30 -90 seconds) add the onion, turn down the heat to medium, and cook until softened – about five minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, minced jalapeno, curry powder, cumin, turmeric, and chile powder and fry for 3 minutes.

Add the lentils and stir to coat with the oil and spices.  Add squash, salt, water, and coconut milk.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the dhal is at a simmer.  Cover partially and cook, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom, until the lentils and squash have partially lost their shape and are soft – about 20 minutes.  Stir in more liquid as necessary for the consistency you want. Add the chopped herbs. Cook for a minute or two then season with more sea salt and add the lemon juice to taste.  Serve warm over long grain white or brown rice and with plain Greek or other whole milk yogurt if you’d like. This also freezes well.

And finally, if you’re itching for a cooking class or would like to give someone (or yourself!) the gift of a class, there are some fun options available.

Happy cooking and eating!

9 Comments Post a comment
  1. Jennifer #

    Thanks, Katherine! I am making this TONIGHT!

    November 2, 2010
  2. Let me know how it turns out. And if you’re in the neighborhood stop by and I’ll give you enough veggie bouillon for it!

    November 2, 2010
  3. aa #

    香港新界屯門時代廣場D座19樓4室Fong Ka Wai一家正屎忽鬼人揸仆街冚家剷,一家個個都冇人性冇文化唔死都冇撚用既食屎狗短命鬼死賤人,死賤種,死躝坦,屌你一家個老母個爛西,我日日都要上香求神咒燃衰過你一家人都不得好死呀,最好你冚家都齊齊慘死,一家大大細細冚家都慘,連同啲臭西麻雀躝坦腳性無能生愛滋生花柳生毒瘡生傳染病生到冇燃得醫,最好你一家永遠頭頭踫著黑冇運行,破產失業輸股票輸麻雀爭人周身債搞到要燒炭跳樓,出親街都踩蕉皮跣燃死,食豆腐都哽死,飲水都濁燃死你一家呀死仆街,女人既爛西,男人不舉,細路養唔大,成家臨老唔過得世呀冚家剷,你老母個臭西好生唔生,生你一班死賤種出嚟比人屌,你屋企個個老母都抵個西比人隊爆呀賤人,係要咒燃衰你一家,屯門時代廣場D座19樓4室一家一日未衰都要日日咁咒你一家呀,吹咩,你一家都就病燃到死架啦,不如快啲自行去跳樓死佢啦

    December 6, 2010
  4. I made this and loved it! Thanks for the recipe.

    April 17, 2013
    • So glad you enjoyed it Carrie. It’s a standby around here. And it freezes well.

      April 17, 2013
  5. Courtney #

    This was fantastic–made it for lunch. Big hit with everyone, kids and adults. I will be careful in the future not to have the oil so hot that it blackens the mustard seeds and cumin. I used a delicata squash–which was all I had–and it was fine.

    December 15, 2013

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