janet @ the taste space

Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala)

In Mains (Vegetarian) on December 2, 2012 at 9:18 AM

Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala)

Winter has arrived. Or least poked its head up. It was frigid as I biked to work on Friday. Cold and windy, a terrible combination. No snow at that time, but -11C with the windshield (12F for my American readers). Snow came later.

It is supposed to warm up again this week, although the city already dropped down the salt. Snow and more importantly, the salt, is what causes me to pack up my bike for the season. I was hoping to break 13,000km on my bicycle odometer this year. My goal used to be 12,000km but I surpassed that last month. I am 300km short of my goal. With a 20km daily commute, that would only take me 3 more weeks, basically right before Christmas holidays. The odometer has been ticking since I bought my commuter bike in October 2009. It followed me as I cycled to Cornwall, Niagara Falls and Kingston. Averaging over 4000km each year, it seems more impressive than it entails. This year, Rob and I did very little recreational cycling. My distance is purely based on a longer commute. It is amazing how quickly the extra distance can add up.

I will have to see how much rain we get before I decide how to get to work on Monday. Bike or transit?

In addition to the cold, one of the things I do not like about the winter is the limited amount of fresh vegetables. In the summer, everything is at my fingertips. Cheap local produce at its peak. Now I am not as excited by the grocery flyers… veggies rarely make it to the sales page.   I try to capitalize on anything veggie-like on sale. Mushrooms, greens, broccoli, carrots, anything.

This week spinach and red lentils were on sale. 4lbs of red lentils for $1.27. 3 bunches of spinach for $2 (last week it was 2 bunches of spinach for $1). What amused me most was seeing how many people were buying the spinach. So many people! The grocers kept wheeling in more spinach. Big bunches, too. Spinach for the win!

When Ella posted her Red Lentils and Spinach in a Masala Sauce, I knew it was destiny. Destined to be my dinner. Turns out it was also my parents’ lunch when they came to visit last weekend. A last minute change of plans had them staying for lunch. Thankfully I had something that everyone could enjoy.

I made my own curry paste with toasted cumin and coriander seeds and combined it with ginger, cilantro, smoked paprika and garam masala. Tomato paste and pureed tomatoes made this a bit more complex and the cashew butter a more luscious body. Red lentils cook down into a mush and the spinach added a healthy bulk. A nice, solid curry. Tikka masala without the tikka? Probably not… this isn’t a super creamy sauce. Cashew butter can only accomplish so much! Next time, I might add in tempeh, like Rob did with his Tempeh Tikka Masala.

What are your favourite vegetables in the winter?

PS. Is tomato paste always so sweet? I licked some from the can and it was so sweet! My can is definitely no sweetener added, so I wonder if it is a side effect from my sweetener-free challenge.

Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala)

This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Sukanya,  to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.

Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala)
Adapted from Naturally Ella

1 tbsp coconut oil
1 large red onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1.5 tsp cumin seeds
1.5 tsp coriander seeds
2″ piece ginger, peeled and cut into pieces
1/2 tsp Aleppo red pepper flakes
2 tsp smoked sweet paprika
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 cup packed cilantro leaves
2 cups homemade pureed tomatoes
1 tbsp cashew butter
1 cup dry red lentils, rinsed
1/2 bunch spinach, trimmed and coarsely chopped (150g prepped)

1. In a medium saucepot, add oil. Once hot, add onion and saute until softened, around 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes. Add lentils and 2.5 cups of water. Increase heat, cover and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes until lentils have softened.

2. Meanwhile, make your masala paste. In a dry skillet, toast your cumin and coriander seeds. Allow to cool slightly. Grind in a spice grinder and set aside.

3. In a food processor fitted with its S-blade, pulse ginger until almost a paste. Add chile flakes, smoked paprika, garam masala, salt and ground spices (cumin and coriander). Pulse to mix well. Add tomato paste and cilantro and pulse to incorporate.

4. In a small frypan, heat oil over medium heat. Add spice paste and cook for 1-2 minutes until beginning to brown. Add to cooking lentils.

5. Once lentils have cooked, add tomatoes and cashew butter. Stir and return to a simmer. Simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Stir in spinach, allowing to wilt around 2-3 minutes. Cover and remove from heat. Serve with rice, naan or bread.

Serves 4.

  1. I live for your recipes..thank you…

  2. This may be lunch for tomorrow! I already have red lentil dal recipe, but without the smoked paprika, tomatoes, and spinach—so yours is a healthier, more vibrant option. Had to laugh when you said red lentils cook into a mush—they definitely do—-but some people could be turned off by “mush”—-yet I can’t think of a better word!

    • I know, I couldn’t think of a more flattering word than mush… creamy porridge? Anyways, I love red lentils, mushy ones included. 🙂 I have so many versions of red lentil dals, it keeps me constantly amused. Although Rob and I still return to Dal Bhat every few weeks. Definitely our favourite of the bunch so far.

  3. This looks great!
    I think my favorite veggie in the winter is a sweet potato 🙂 I really like the root veggies.

  4. This sounds so delicious! I have some spinach on hand too so I may have to make this tonight 🙂 Perfect timing! Clearly everyone has spinach on the brain!

    So cool about the tomato paste! And I know what you mean- everything tastes so much sweeter, even carrots. I like these side effects 🙂

  5. This sounds amazing! Gorgeous pictures, too!:)

  6. I definitely find the lack of veggies in winter to be depressing also! Thank god most greens are still available. This tikka masala looks great!

  7. Looks great. But why Cashew butter? I thought Cashew is very fattening?! Also my preference would be to cut the ingredients in half to make it a bit lighter. This may be overtly spicy or rather heavy. The ingredients you used are of course lovely. Tomatoes work very well with red lentils. As does garlic and onions. Cumin seeds are a must and Garam masala just makes it complete. And freshly grated ginger is wonderful and adds an ethereal quality to this dish. So all in all very good. Love the Spinach part.

    • Thanks. You might prefer my Red Lentil Dal with Zucchini instead, since it is much more simple. I am very sensitive to spice and did not find this heavy or spicy. The original recipe had more spice and I decreased it, actually. 😉 The original recipe used coconut milk which I replaced with cashew butter to make it a bit more creamy. I only used a tbsp so it isn’t much to worry about. 🙂

      • Ha..I just made it and actually felt that next time I would increase the spice as it wasn’t spicy enough for me…

  8. Oh dear heavens yes, Lisa and I went out on Friday night and it was a massive mental obstacle for me to overcome, the “feels like” -11! Having never experience weather that cold in Australia, and knowing that “technically” it’s not winter… I was so fearful before heading out!

    A warming vibrant peppy dish such as this will be heaven in winter.

  9. Janet your Red Lentil Dall with Zucchini looks lovely. That was what I was looking for. I just made Red Lentil and rice soup with a teaspoon of ginger, salt,pepper, tumeric and garlic and tossed in some Bok Choy I had lying around. Feeling a bit under the weather. In Sri Lankan cooking we always put half a stick of Ceylon Cinnamon in any red lentil recipe. I also like the Hunt’s Tomatoes, which are vine ripened (not gassed red) and taste much better. Of course home grown non GMO tomatoes are still the best. But I see you know your stuff. 🙂

  10. This’s a pretty impressive biking total for the year–go you! These lentils sound so good–warming and spicy and creamy and delicious on all counts. 🙂 And I wish I could tell you about my favorite winter veg (okay, it’s kale) but there basically isn’t any winter in California, so the produce is similar all year. It’s boring, but does make cooking easier. On the other hand, we are getting the winter citrus in!

  11. This is how you eat lentils!

  12. We have grown English spinach for the first time this season and I think that this is just the recipe to try it with 🙂

  13. I like the idea of the cashew butter in this to make the sauce creamier. Such a great veggie-filled dish. Thanks for sending it to Souper Sundays. 😉

  14. […] Red Lentil Dal with Zucchini gives you 16g of fiber, or 65% of your suggested daily fiber intake. Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala): 18g of fiber or 72% of your suggested daily intake. This definitely helps keeping things […]

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  17. I like the addition of greens to a lentil curry. I’ll have to try this next time.

  18. I do like the look of this one Janet. I am a big fan of red lentil dishes and it would suit my vegan husband too. Thanks for entering it into Bookmarked Recipes.

  19. […] overall), almost half a million page views with my busiest day earlier this month when I posted Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala). My most popular posts are from the depths of my archives, though: Apple Strudel (my Oma would be […]

  20. […] you may have noticed, I am still on my smoked paprika kick. Here are other recipes I have […]

  21. […] Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka […]

  22. Yum, can’t wait to make the Tikka Masala!

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  24. […] I photographed this, I was worried it may look eerily similar to the Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala). Red lentils + tomato + spinach… This one has carrots, isn’t as red and is more […]

  25. this is one of the best things i have ever made! and i will make it again, and again, and again – it’s that good! thank you so much for this!

  26. […] Red Lentil and Spinach Curry (Vegan Tikka Masala) […]

  27. […] Vegan Tikka Masala (Red Lentil and Spinach Curry) […]

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