Sunday, August 22, 2010

Curried Lentil and Coconut Stew with Veggies

Today as part of the mid day meal with my folks I made a curried lentil soup with veggies that I served over brown basmati rice and topped with cashew crème fraiche and cilantro. My parents are old (early 80’s) and are a bit stuck in their Midwestern meat and potatoes ways. It is always challenging to come up with food that is healthy enough for Dan and me but that my parents will also enjoy. Soup and salad is one of those ideas that seems to work for everyone so I do variations of it quite often.

We had not had anything curried in a few days and I love adding turmeric to our food for its antioxidant punch as well as its reported ability to kill cancer. I also add a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper to dishes with turmeric since the piperine in black pepper is said to greatly enhance (I have read anywhere from 100 to 1000 times) the bioavailability of the turmeric. Additionally since turmeric is fat soluble I also make certain to have it with a little fat, in this case the coconut milk and cashew crème had us more than covered. Here is what I made:

Curried Lentil and Coconut Stew with Veggies
Serves 8 as a main dish (assuming you have a little grain in with it)


2 cups mixed dried mushrooms
4 cups of water to soak mushrooms
1 yellow onion, peeled and diced (allow to stand 10 minutes so the thiopropanal sulfoxide can develop)
8 cloves garlic, peeled and finely minced (allow to stand 10 minutes so the allicin can develop)
2 cup brown lentils, sorted, picked through and rinsed
6 cups water or light veggie stock (add more if necessary as the stew cooks to achieve the texture you desire)
6 cups peeled, diced tomatoes (or 3 – 14 ounce cans)
1 tablespoon turmeric, ground
4 teaspoons black mustard seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed (ground is traditional I prefer whole)
1 teaspoon cumin seed (ground is traditional I prefer whole)
1 teaspoon ajowan seed
freshly ground black pepper, to taste (be generous the piperine in the pepper makes the turmeric more bioavailable)
13.5 ounce can reduced fat coconut milk (Let's Do Organic Brand)
1 zucchini, finely diced
4 cups frozen organic corn, carrots, peas and greens beans (from Costco)

Garnish ingredients:

cashew crème fraiche
fresh minced cilantro


Cooked grain of some sort (I used brown basmati rice but quinoa, millet or bulgur would all be good but less traditional)


Combine the dried mushroom and water and heat in your microwave until hot (a few minutes). Allow the mushrooms to soak for 30 minutes to give them time to soften. Then strain the soaking liquid to remove any grit (you will use the strained liquid in your stew). Chop the mushrooms into bite sized pieces.

In a very large pot (I used a 31 Le Creuset 6.314 quart) combine the strained mushroom liquid, mushrooms, onion, garlic, lentils, water, tomatoes, and the dried spices. Simmer until the lentils are tender (about 45 minutes but longer wouldn’t hurt anything). Add the coconut milk, zucchini, and veggies and simmer until the veggies are tender, about 15-20 minutes.

To serve place the brown rice in the base of the bowl, top with soup, fresh cilantro and a dollop of cashew crème.

Nutritional Information (without the garnishes or the brown rice):

Amount Per Serving
Calories - 417.69
Calories From Fat (13%) - 55.72

Total Fat - 6.16g
Saturated Fat - 2.93g
Cholesterol - 0mg
Sodium - 133.61mg
Potassium - 1366.69mg
Total Carbohydrates - 75.76g
Fiber - 18.09g
Sugar - 5.02g
Protein - 22.85g


This soup/stew tastes far richer than it is. Additionally it has a wonderful aroma that perfumed the house while it simmered away on the stove. Dan and I enjoyed this and even my parents (who are not overly fond of Indian food) liked this. It is very filling particularly when you serve it on a little bed of rice. I would describe this as one of those “stick to your ribs” dishes. If you like heat some crushed red pepper flakes would be great in this. I left them out since black pepper is pushing things with my mother. The leftovers will be getting some heat for sure. ;-)

Unusual ingredient from this recipe:

Ajowan is used mostly in Indian cooking and imparts a flavor similar to thyme with notes of anise, oregano and black pepper. It can be used with veggies, breads and beans. It is said be an effective antiflatulent. It is also used as a component of berberre.

Farmers’ market this week:

Wow did 6am come early this morning since we didn’t even think of going to bed until 11:30pm last night. I had to drag myself to the market this morning. But as always once we were there it as great. We even managed to be a little earlier than usual. We helped one of the organic farmers unload his truck. This farmer is a fascinating man who is also a biochemist. We talk about fun things like macrophages, the impact of vitamin D deficiencies and aminopyralid. Even though it is early and I am not completely awake I always enjoy talking to Rudy.

I swear it seems like I buy more produce at the market each week and somehow we still manage to eat it. This week I got: 2 bunches collards, 1 bunch Swiss chard, 4 pounds sweet potatoes, 6 poblanos, watermelon, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, beets, leaf lettuce (for lettuce cups), 2 eggplants, 1 basket apples, 1 basket peaches, 1 quart blackberries, fresh dill, fresh cilantro, and probably other things that I have forgotten. Our refrigerators are once again full of produce which makes me smile.

Food today:

For breakfast we had a big bowl of fruit containing cantaloupe, peaches and blackberries. I had expected to make something else to go with this but we were both full after we eat this.

We did decide that we needed a snack about noon and you know what Dan wanted, strawberry banana soft serve (again no oats since Dan has put on a couple of pounds).

Lunch was a big bowl of the curried lentil soup over brown basmati rice topped with cashew crème and pictured above. To accompany that I made a small side salad with shredded romaine, carrot, zucchini, cucumber, salsa, heirloom tomatoes and sunflower seeds.

Dinner we ended up skipping. We had such a big meal at 3pm that we just weren’t hungry later in the day.


I hope to have some time to catch up on my reading after I do a few things around the house. After that I really need to get caught up on my email which I am dreadfully tardy in attending to at the moment.

I hope everyone had a great weekend. Talk to you all again soon.


  1. As usual I am in awe of your knowledge of nutrition and the way you then apply that knowledge to the meals you prepare every day.

    I am currently reading The China Study which is pretty one dimensional in that it seems like it's message is 'animal protein bad, whole grains fruit & vegetables good' but it has inspired me to read more on the subject.

    And that soup looks and sounds so wonderful. You have definitely inspired me to try and eat more healthfully, so thanks.

  2. Carol,

    What a nice thing to say, thank you very much for the compliment, I really appreciate it. Nutrition is one of my favorite topics. I try to read about it everyday and share what I have learned.

    I would say that is the gist of The China Study. I was fascinated by the fact that they could turn cancer growth on and off with casein (milk protein). Have you read Dr. Esselstyn's book? That comes at nutrition from the heart disease angle. I found his chapter on fat and specifically the impact of fat on arterial function enlightening.

    The soup did turn out well, even my picky parents liked it. They are not the easiest audience to please so it must have been good. ;-)

    hope you are having a good Monday,

  3. As always, the soup looks and sounds so good. I love lentils and lentil soups/stews. Now if it would ever cool off so I could eat soup again ;-)

  4. Heather,

    Good Morning! You and Dan both love lentils. I guess that is one reason I make them so often. Of course it doesn't hurt that they are faster than other beans/legumes. ;-)

    This did turn out well and thankfully we have leftovers for a few days for lunch. You know I love my leftovers, LOL.

    I hope your weather cools off soon. It is glorious here this morning 75 and breezy. I love this unseasonably cool weather. Sorry it hasn't made its way to you yet.

    hope you have a good Monday,

  5. I've never heard of ajowan, what is it? That soup looks so yummy as usual. I love the coconut in it. My fav!

  6. Carissa,

    Ajowan is a small seed (smaller than cumin bigger than mustard) that smells exactly like thyme to me. The flavor is also very close so that you can sub thyme if you can't find it. It is an Indian ingredient that I buy in the ethnic section of our local grocery store.


  7. From: "Angel"
    Date: Aug 23, 2010 10:02 PM

    Looks really tasty! :)

  8. Angel,

    Thanks! I was having ISP problems last night and when I tried to post your comment using my phone I accidentally deleted it. *shakes head* Technology and I are not always friends, LOL.

    thanks again,


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