Working as a private chef has its drawbacks and its perks. One of the positives was that my clients would often pass along interesting dishes that I might not have otherwise tried, including this red lentil curry recipe with spinach.
When I was cooking for more than one family on a weekly basis, I would get completely burnt out. My biceps constantly ached from lugging groceries. I began resenting perfectly nice people who I’d built a relationship with over the years for being difficult to communicate with or making fussy, last minute requests. Worse, I was so exhausted by the time I got home that I rarely had the energy to give myself similar levels of self-care in the kitchen.
But once I was able to recognize my descent from Health Mountain for what it was, I quickly started taking measures to limit my professional cooking. This was no easy feat, considering I needed these odd food jobs to make a living.
Keeping this quadrant of my professional patchwork quilt to one client a week was necessary though for my own self-preservation. It allowed me to truly embrace some of those other perks, mainly using the time commitment as a way to structure my week, try new things in the kitchen and be creative on someone else’s dime. And by pairing back my professional cooking, I was able to create more time in my own routine to meal prep like a pro (more on my tips for that here).
This red lentil recipe from Naturally Ella was one of the dishes that my weekly client requested I make for her once, and it has become a lifelong fan favorite of this site. I’ve been following Erin’s work for years and love her beautiful aesthetic and eye towards healthy dishes. We were also both featured in Food & Wine in the same issue for our healthy takes on comfort food, so there’s no surprise that this simple lentil curry was such a hit for me and my clients.
I made the one pot red lentil recipe even easier by using ground spices. I’m really terrible about keeping whole cumin seeds in my spice cabinet, even though I know the ground versions aren’t as flavorful. One of my tricks, which I’m always teaching in my cooking classes, is to make sure you’re giving the dried spices a little bit of time to toast on the bottom of the pan before you add the liquid, in this case coconut milk. The direct heat will invigorate their flavor in a way that adding them directly to water or broth never will.
In this case, the end result tastes so great, I continue to go with convenience over authenticity for the masala spice blend. There’s an new video below showing you exactly how to make the lentil curry from start to finish. I can’t wait for you to try it for yourself.
My jar of red lentils has gone untouched for a few months since I’ve been off FODMAPs. But as soon as I reincorporate legumes, this masala red lentil recipe will be the first that I return to. Even with the wilted spinach, the dish keeps really well in the fridge as a make-ahead meal. I usually eat it alongside quinoa or veggie patties. It’s just the kind of stick-to-your ribs without clogging your heart comfort food that I love this time of year.
You know, when it’s supposed to be April 16th, but instead is January 57th.
With health and hedonism,
p.s. enrollment for 4 Weeks to Wellness is back open! If you want to join me for a little reset, you can grab one of the last few spots in this session here.
Red Lentil and Spinach Masala
- 1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil
- 1 small red onion, diced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1- inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
- 1 serrano chili pepper, seeded and minced
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- ¼ teaspoon coriander
- One 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- One 15-ounce can unsweetened full fat coconut milk
- 1 cup red lentils
- 5 ounces baby spinach
In a large stock pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil. Saute the onion over medium-high heat until soft, 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, serrano, cumin, garam masala, and coriander. Cook until very fragrant, 2 minutes. Carefully pour in the tomatoes and add the salt, scraping up any brown bits that formed on the bottom of the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid has reduced and the tomato chunks have softened, 5 minutes. Add the coconut milk and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in the lentils and reduce the heat to medium-low. Cook until the lentils are tender, 25-35 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the lentils from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Fold in the spinach and cook until wilted, 3 minutes. Serve alongside coconut rice.
This is a great make-ahead meal and can keep in the fridge for up to week.
Need help finding lifestyle changes that last? Let’s work together to find your path forward. My 4 Weeks to Wellness Course might just change your life. With 4-weeks worth of recipes that are gluten, dairy, corn, soy and refined sugar free, not to mention tasty AF, it’s a perfect way to explore your food sensitivities and heal inner and outer chaos.