Tamarind and Turmeric Lentils (Gluten Free, Dairy Free/Vegan Option)

Until recently, I had never tried cooking with tamarind, nor did I know exactly what it tastes like nor appreciated what it brings to a dish. Recently, when I was buying spices online, I decided to add tamarind paste to my order, mostly on a whim and with no idea what I would actually use it for. When it arrived, it was eagerly tasted by my assistants (AKA the kids) and one in particular would probably eat from the jar straight if I let him. I duly started experimenting and this is what I have come up with for a first go – something delicious enough for my husband to ask me to make in big batches to freeze for quick lunches.

I first made this with dry lentils, but gluten free dry lentils are very hard to find in New Zealand (mine come from a dedicated farm in Australia) so I have adapted this final version of the recipe to tinned lentils – feel free to substitute dry lentils if you prefer, either to cook with extra water in the diced onion (and then drain and continue with the recipe as below) or cook and drain them first and treat then them as the drained lentils below. I think about a cup of dry lentils will make as much as I use here, but that is a guess – my first trial of a recipe is usually a throw things in and work out measurements later if the concept works!

This makes enough for about 4 people if served alongside flatbreads. If gluten is an issue for you, like it is for me, I’d recommend that you check that the spices you use have no risk of containing gluten, or specifically wheat, which is sometimes used to prevent caking. You’ll also need to check the other ingredients for possible gluten contamination.

What you need:

2 – 3 tablespoons of mild oil

1 onion, finely diced

3 teaspoons of garlic powder

1 ½ teaspoons of ground cumin

1 teaspoon of ground coriander

3 teaspoons of turmeric powder

2 tins of lentils, drained (tin sizes seem to vary, aim for one between 390 and 430 grams undrained weight)

250 grams of frozen chopped spinach

400 ml tin of coconut milk

2 tablespoons of tamarind paste

¼ cup of coconut flour

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ – ½ cup of thick yogurt (or dairy free alternative)

Generous handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped (optional)

4 – 8 flatbreads to serve (gluten free if needed)

What to do:

1. Heat the oil to very hot in a large frying pan. Add the diced onion, garlic powder, cumin, coriander and turmeric powder to the hot oil and fry until the onion is soft. If it starts to burn, add a little bit of water and keep cooking until the water has evaporated.

2. Add the lentils, frozen spinach, coconut milk and tamarind paste to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the spinach has defrosted fully and everything is fully combined.

3. Add the coconut flour to the pan and stir well to mix in thoroughly, and then simmer the lentil mixture in the pan for about 5 minutes, or until it reaches a thick sauce consistency.

4. Once the lentil mixture has thickened, add salt and pepper to the pan until you are happy with the taste.

5. Remove the pan from the heat and divide the lentils between 4 bowls. Top each bowl with generous dollop of yogurt and sprinkling of chopped fresh coriander. Serve with the flatbreads. If you aren’t ready to eat these straight away, either store in the fridge for a couple of days or freeze for later use. Either way, you may need to add a bit of extra water when you reheat them to ensure the lentils are a good consistency.

6. Enjoy!

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