Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Caribbean Curried Lentils

More than a decade ago, my husband and I honeymooned on the beautiful island of Saint Martin. Twelve years later, we threw caution to the wind and went back for a second honeymoon. It was better than we remembered. It's one of our favorite places on earth. 

We stayed in a secluded area on the French side, not far from the little fishing village of Grand Case. With no TV, no computer nor reliable cell phone service, it was just what we needed to shake off the excess stress of living and working in Boston.  

Our breakfasts consisted of fresh-baked, buttery croissants with berry jam and hot coffee. Our days were spent taking brisk walks past blooming bougainvillea and hot-pink hibiscus in all my favorite jewel-toned colors. We sat on white-sand beaches, swam in pool-blue water, shining silvery fish as our only companions. Lonely sailboats slowly drift by. 

Every night, we had dinner in Grand Case. Lovely dinners at French restaurants were a real treat. Other times, we enjoyed a cold Carib beer with West Indies grilled shrimp and curry rice at one of the locally owned outdoor lolo stands.

After dinner we browsed art galleries. It was nice to meet this artist and this one. We bought small prints of their work and told them how wonderful it must be to create   beauty in such a stunning place.    

Before leaving this colorful, friendly island, I bought some Caribbean curry powder. Last night, I used it to make rich and flavorful curried lentils with rice. The tastes of the West Indies brought back happy memories of our second honeymoon in the tropics. 

Caribbean Curried Lentil Recipe

Serves 6 with rice or quinoa and salad

Some Notes:

This dish is creamy, rich and satisfying. It's healthy too. A squeeze of lime adds some sparkle and freshness. There's a jalapeno for a bit of heat, but you could leave it out for a less spicy meal.      
I used this Caribbean Curry Powder for a mildly spiced dish. Use more curry powder or your favorite brand for a spicier dish.         

Nutmeg is found in Caribbean dishes such as jerk chicken. It's delicious combined with the lentils. Use it sparingly for a subtle background flavor. Just a little grating from a whole nutmeg or a pinch or two of ground nutmeg will lend a classic island flavor.

A touch of light coconut milk is added for another layer of island flavor and a creamy texture. Don't shake the can. Use most of the coconut cream that floats at the top of the can.

Pomi tomatoes are my go-to choice for fresh tomato flavor. I love this brand! If you cannot find it, use most of a 28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes.   

The lentils are cooked separately from the flavorful sauce, ensuring that they'll cook properly. Later the sauce and the lentils are combined. Add as much of the cooked lentils as you want to the finished sauce. Cooking the lentils separately gives you much more control over the taste of the sauce. You may decide to simmer the sauce a bit longer or add more spice. You can even stir in more coconut milk at the end too. Make it your own recipe and have fun.            

Like most stews, this reheats well. It forms a complete protein when served with rice. It's great over quinoa or my Perfectly Steamed Basmati RiceMy Middle Eastern Rice Pilaf is also a nice choice to go with this lentil curry too.  My Lime-Kissed Chopped Salad rounds out the meal with refreshing crunch.

You'll Need:

  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 large bell pepper, chopped. You pick the color. I used green.
  • 1 small chili pepper, minced. I used a jalapeno (optional).
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced. I used a microplane zester for this.
  • 1 tablespoon of minced ginger (optional)
  • 1 26.45 ounce box of Pomi chopped tomatoes or most of a 28 ounce can of chopped tomatoes.
  • pinch of allspice
  • a little grated nutmeg from a whole nutmeg or a few pinches of ground nutmeg
  • 2-3 teaspoons of West Indies/Caribbean curry powder or your favorite Indian curry powder 
  • 2 dried bay leaves, remember to remove them before serving
  • 2 cups dry lentils, rinsed and picked over for stones
  • A generous 1/3 cup of lite coconut milk, use most of the cream at the top of the can. I like Thai Kitchen brand.
  • drizzle of honey or a few pinches of sugar to balance the acid in the tomatoes
  • Neutral tasting oil or coconut oil for cooking
  • Sea salt or kosher salt to taste
  • To serve: fresh cilantro or mint for, fresh lime wedges, sprinkling of flaky sea salt or grey celtic salt 

The Rundown:

Place lentils in a pot with enough water to cover(about an inch or so over the lentils).  Turn up heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Turn down heat and simmer on low, partially covered, until the lentils are cooked and tender but still holding their shape. Don't overcook them into mush. Adjust the heat as you go, keeping a gentle simmer. Add more water if needed. Drain the lentils in a colander. Set the cooked lentils aside and toss them with salt.    
Meanwhile, in a medium pot, saute the onion, chili pepper and bell pepper in some oil, with a pinch of salt, over medium heat until soft. Add the tomatoes, ginger, honey, spices, garlic bay leaves and more salt to taste. Bring to a boil, cover, turn down the heat and gently simmer for about 20-25 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add as much of the cooked lentils as you'd like to the sauce. I add most of them. Simmer for 5 more minutes. Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the coconut milk. Adjust the salt. Serve with rice, herbs and lime wedges. Enjoy!


More Recipes From Jilly...  

For a tropical, chocolate dessert, try my Foolproof Coconut Milk Chocolate Mousse 

Creamy Curried Chickpeas 


  1. hi.. i likfe your beach photo.. act i am looking this kind of picture for my wall paper. Do you mind to share the photo for me ?

    1. Hi Phoebe, Sure you can use my photo as your wallpaper. Thanks for asking!

  2. We just came back from St. Martin this weekend and I'm craving the curried lentils and rice we had. Thanks for the recipe! Is your curry powder the one that says Colombo? Mine is -- and it's going in the pot!

  3. Hi Lisa, I love Saint Martin! My curry powder says Antillean Islands. I hope you like this recipe! Happy Cooking!