Sweet potatoes! Lentils! Fall!
I based this curry off a recipe in Peter Berley's Fresh Food Fast. While this isn't my favorite cookbook--Deborah Madison has that market pretty sewn up--it's a great source of new ideas. In this case, I changed the requisite hot water to broth, and the random "curry" blend to actual individual spices, and got great results.
The finished product was really interesting, with a faint overtone of almost chocolate or mole. I think we'll have to try actually chopping a little bitter dark chocolate and using it to mount a batch in future. "Mount" just means "stir a fat in at the end to add an extra dimension of richness." Normally people use butter or olive oil, but here chocolate is definitely worth a try.
Sweet potato and red lentil curry
fresh ginger if possible, ground if not
turmeric, cumin, garam masala, brown mustard seeds
a bay leaf
a grain or flatbread with which to eat it
to serve: sriracha sauce, maybe some chopped cilantro
To start, either make or warm some vegetable broth. The heat of the broth will help your potatoes and lentils cook in a reasonable amount of time. I didn't have any broth on hand, so I instead turned to the giant stockpile of veg trimmings that lives in our freezer. I used several handfuls of frozen onion tops, leek greens, withered chard stems, previously slimy mushrooms, carrot peels, and what have you to fill a small pan, then submerged the contents in water and set it on to boil. After about ten or fifteen minutes, I had a good two or three cups of dark orange broth. Voila.
While your broth is simmering, you can start chopping up a yellow onion (I used half a big one) and several cloves of garlic. Throw the trimmings into your broth pot. In another, bigger pot, warm some olive oil, add the onion and garlic, and cook for a few minutes to soften.
Next: spice. If you have fresh ginger, peel a small chunk of it using the spoon trick. Just scrape a teaspoon against the skin, and it'll come right off, leaving you with plenty of usable ginger. Finely mince the resulting skinned ginger, and add it to the pot. If you don't have fresh ginger, use ground; it's fine. Add a couple good shakes of cumin and garam masala, a small handful of brown mustard seeds, and a smaller shake of turmeric. Stir well to distribute the spices, and let cook for a few minutes while you prep your sweet potatoes.
I used two small sweet potatoes, but one big one should work just fine here. Scrub and peel your potatoes, this time actually using the vegetable peeler. Add the peels and any trimmings to your broth pot. Dice the potato into smallish cubes, and then add it all to the main veg mixture. Stir it up and let cook for a few minutes, so the potatoes have a chance to absorb some of the oil and spice. Then cover with a few cups of hot broth, add a couple big handfuls of red lentils and a seasoning of salt and pepper, put the lid on the pan, and simmer until both the potatoes and lentils are cooked. This should take approximately twenty minutes. (Any extra broth can go in the freezer for future excitement.)
While you're waiting, put on a pan of rice, barley, or quinoa, and write out your recipe for stuffed peppers. Fun times! You could also warm up some pita or other flatbread, or even make some naan if you feel like it.
Is everything cooked through? Ok. Taste the curry to make sure the spicing meets with your approval; add salt and pepper as needed. Then take the lid off the pan and let the liquids evaporate until the texture also meets with your approval. Copious approval achieved!
While the finished curry is great by itself, I found that a number of little dots of sriracha sauce really brought the room together. I only wish we'd had some decent greens to add as well. Chopped kale or chard, wilted in over the last few minutes, would have been excellent; spinach kept raw and sandwiched between the quinoa and curry would have been great as well. A good handful of ripped cilantro leaves would be an excellent final garnish. Alas, we had none of these, and so I was forced to rely only on sriracha. TRAGEDY.