Spicy Lentil Stew Recipe with Butternut Squash
This lentil stew recipe combines warming aromatic spices with lentils, yellow split peas, and seasonal vegetables for a subtly spicy, velvety lentil stew that will leave your house smelling amazing and your belly fully satisfied.
One of My Favorite Indian Cookbooks
I did not think my life or this blog needed another lentil stew recipe until I made this one. One of my favorite cookbooks about Indian cuisine for modern American kitchens is Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran. The author takes recipes from his childhood growing up in India and adapts them for the American kitchen, using easy to find grocery store ingredients. I made this stew for this Stew Social event, and it was a big hit! It’s perfect for a cozy weeknight meal or dinner party.
This particular version of the recipe calls for butternut squash (who doesn’t need another way to use it), and eggplant. Before you crinkle your nose and tell me you don’t like eggplant, I am here, as a fellow eggplant non-fan, to tell you that you can’t even tell it’s in this recipe. The eggplant melts into, and becomes the velvety texture that IS this stew. However, feel free to substitute other vegetables you have on hand. This recipe creates layers of flavor by adding a spice-infused oil at the end, adding a brightness, and complexity to the stew’s flavors. This stew is not overly spicy, but if you are sensitive to mild spicy-ness, leave out the cayenne and serrano chilies.
Garam masala is a warming spice blend used mainly in northern Indian cuisine, and is an essential part of this recipe. I have included the the cookbook author’s recipe that I used to make my own garam masala, and it is totally worth it. The recipe makes enough garam masala for several batches of this stew, and you will also be able to give some to your friends when they ask for this recipe. Believe me, they will.
Serve this spicy lentil stew with butternut squash alongside your favorite simply cooked grain, such as basmati rice, or roasted potatoes, and with plenty of bread, chapati, or roti for dipping. It is also delicious topped with a dollop of plain yogurt.
This is my version of the spicy squash, eggplant, and lentil stew from Suvir Saran's cookbook, Indian Home Cooking.
- 1 cup yellow split peas, or toor dal, picked over, washed, and drained
- ¾ cup brown lentils, picked over, washed, and drained
- 6½ cups water
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons garam masala (recipe follows)
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 to 2 fresh hot green chiles, such as serrano, minced (optional)
- 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
- 3 medium tomatoes, (about 3/4 pound), chopped
- 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 medium eggplant, skin left on, cut into 1-inch chunks
- 1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup corn kernels (fresh or frozen)
- 3 ounces fresh spinach leaves (about 15 large), stemmed, washed, and torn into bite-size pieces (you may also use baby spinach)
- 5 Tablespoons refined coconut oil (the kind with no flavor or odor)
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 1/2 lemon, juiced
Put the split peas and lentils in a large soup pot with 4 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne, cloves, bay leaves, chilies, and salt. Turn the heat down and simmer, covered, until the legumes are tender, but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking.
Add the tomatoes, butternut squash, eggplant, onion, corn, and spinach, and 2 more cups water. Bring the stew to a boil, turn the heat down, and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. Take the stew off the heat.
In a medium frying pan, heat the coconut oil with the mustard seeds, and cook 1-2 minutes, until the mustard seeds start to pop and crackle. Add the chopped onion and cumin and stir constantly, until the onion is browned on its edges, about 4 minutes. Turn the heat to medium, add the garlic, and cook for a few seconds. Stir in the cilantro. Add the lemon juice, and remove the frying pan from the heat. Scrape this final flavor layer into the stew.
Taste and adjust for salt and consistency. If stew is too thick add a few tablespoons of water.
This blend of warming spices is used often in northern Indian cuisine. Adapted from the cookbook Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness.
- 1 cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/4 cup cumin seeds
- 1/3 cup coriander seeds
- 1 Tablespoon green cardamom pods
- 1 Tablespoon black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoons whole cloves
- 1 whole dried red chile
- 1/8 teaspoon ground mace
Combine the cinnamon, bay leaves, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, cardamom pods, peppercorns, cloves, and red chile in a frying pan and toast over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Cool slightly. Use a spice grinder to grind into a powder. Stir in the mace and store in an airtight container.