I got this curried spinach rice lentil recipe from my mother-in-law. It is one of our favorite lentil dishes. The spicy aromatic curry and rich creamy coconut flavor are completely absorbed in the lentils and rice; that makes the dish absolutely delicious with every bite. Whenever my mother-in-law has guests over who are on a vegetarian or vegan diet, she often serves this lentil dish. She always gets compliments on how good it tastes, even from the meat eaters. They never knew lentils could taste so good; even my one year old son screams with delight when he sees this dish.
I never saw dry lentils before until my husband, Brad, suggested we make lentil soup sometime for dinner. Lentils? What are they? I believe this is very new to most Chinese. I started making lentil dishes during my pregnancy and now I really like them. Lentils are very high in folic acid for prenatal care. They are also rich in iron, protein, and dietary fibers. Wow, I never knew they are so healthy. I also like it that they are easy to cook. Not like most legumes, lentils can be cooked in 30 minutes and no pre-soaking is necessary.
The original recipe uses yellow onion, frozen spinach, cooked lentils, basmati rice, and coconut milk. I substituted sweet red onions for the yellow, fresh spinach for the frozen, and brown rice for the basmati and it tasted even better yet. Oh, I have to mention that making this tasty dish is simple. Combine the cooked lentils with fried onions, spinach, and brown rice; then stir in curry powder and salt. Add coconut milk and transfer to an oven safe dish to bake at 350 ºF. After 35 to 40 minutes, you get a dish that provides essential nutrients for your body: good source of protein, dietary fibers, and carbohydrates. In addition, it offers vitamins and minerals.
I like to keep some homemade ready-made meals in my freezer and serve them on an as-needed occasion. I call them my “emergency food”. This dish is one of them. It tastes just as good as if it were freshly made.
*Recipe is updated on 05/20/2015
- 2/3 cup raw brown lentils
- 2 2/3 cups water
- 1 cup chopped onion yellow or red
- 1 bunch fresh spinach approximately 10 oz, finely chopped
- 1 clove garlic finely chopped
- 3 tbsp olive or canola oil
- 2 tsp yellow curry powder
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup brown rice
- 2 cups coconut milk
- Cook Lentils: Measure the lentils into a strainer, pick over and remove any stones. Rinse thoroughly under running water. Transfer rinsed lentils to a saucepan, add 1-1/3 cup of water to lentils. On a stove top, bring the water to a boil then set the heat to medium low to simmer for 25 minutes.
- In another saucepan, add brown rice and 1-1/3 cup of water. On a stove top, bring the water to a boil then set heat to low to simmer for 10 minutes.
- While lentils and rice are cooking, use knife or food processor to chop onions, garlic, and spinach into fine pieces.
- Preheat oven to 350 ºF. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add chopped onions and garlic; then stir until onions are translucent and softened. Stir in rice, curry powder, salt and pepper; cook 2 more minutes. Add chopped spinach, cooked lentils and coconut milk; cook for 1 minute.
- Transfer the lentil rice mixture to an oven safe dish; cover with oven safe lid or aluminum foil and bake 35 minutes.
1. For cooking lentils, the ratio of water to lentil is essential. Excess water will make the lentils too soft and break the shape of lentils. ½ cup raw lentils usually yields 1½ cups cooked lentils.
2. Keep extra top space in the oven safe dish for expansion while baking in oven. I normally leave 2 inches of unfilled space on top.
3. The assembled dish can be prepared one day before baking and stored in fridge. If the dish goes right from the fridge to the oven, an extra 10 minutes baking time is needed.
4.I have used Chinese brown rice and it takes much longer to cook. In this recipe I used American brown rice (Uncle Ben’s brand).
5. The consistency of different brands and packages of coconut milk are different. In this recipe I used full-fat coconut milk from a can.