This curried lentil salad might be the easiest dinner recipe I’ve published to date. As my sister so candidly pointed out on FaceTime recently, most of my recipes take “like four hours” to make–and she’s quite the cook herself. Four hours might be a slight exaggeration, but I openly admit that my recipes don’t generally fit into the 30 minute meals category. It hasn’t taken me long to forget the frenzied weeknight dinner crisis that comes with an 8 to 6 job in an office, or with most other “normal” jobs, but I have this deep desire to publish way more accessible recipes for the general food-loving population. At the same time, I love to cook, explore new recipes, and teach myself fancy techniques, and a big part of this blog is documenting and sharing those experiments (albeit in the form of a polished, pretty blog post). As long as I’m true to myself, you’re always going to get a mix of the two on this site, but today, you get both in a single dinner-worthy salad.
Who but Ina could be behind a boozy curry dressing recipe? I had a lot of questions when I first pulled up this recipe on Food Network. What could I substitute for chicken? How easy is that? Why don’t you cook the wine off–is that even legal? What the heck is Major Grey chutney? I hate raisins! Oh wait, that’s not a question, but I generally frown upon sweet things, like raisins, in savory foods, curry chief among them. Like when Steve orders mango curry at a Thai place to keep me from eating his dinner–how rude. Also, I see no reason to ever eat a raisin. Give me a fresh grape or some much more sophisticated and substantial dried apricots or figs, not some measly little pebble of a raisin, that tiny box of which has no shot in the universe of filling me up and counting as a real snack. Unless, of course, it’s perched atop some peanut butter-slathered celery. In that case, I’ll eat raisins all day.
Whew…raisin rant over. I answered all my questions–and quite a few more, with this curried lentil salad recipe. The dressing is straight from heaven–as salty as is pleasantly possible, bright and acidic, not too sweet, with the aroma and complex flavor of the curry powder behind every bite. I did figure out that Major Grey’s is just a specific chutney formula. It’s perfect for a recipe like this. Much like I turned to BBQ sauce to flavor my recent veggie burgers, chutney is a powerhouse, multi-tasking ingredient that’s used in place of about 10 separate spices and other flavorings. Instead of spending your night measuring spices, grating ginger, and mincing garlic, you can spend it eating lentils and drinking what’s left (a lot) of the bottle of wine used in the recipe. For the record, lentils and wine basically equals my dream evening. You can buy the chutney online, or check for it at Whole Foods (where I found mine) or another grocer. The brand doesn’t matter as much–just check the ingredients for anything weird, like MSG or gluten in some form. I don’t do as much Indian cooking as I’d like, so this jar has lasted me a year so far. The only other time I used it? One year ago when I first tried this recipe.
At the time, I had just admitted defeat and pulled out the big old Nikon D90 to start my food photography journey. Looking back on these pics, I’m actually kind of impressed at my beginner’s prowess, er, luck. Clearly I didn’t know how to properly light my subject, but the composition isn’t revolting. Here’s a sample straight from the camera and with my current editing skills:
And we had it with Ina’s panzanella–YUM. I wish I made that this week, too!
By now I think you know the answer to what you’re eating come meatless Monday. In the meantime, have a great weekend, if you aren’t already. I’ll be spending most of mine making my first pastry cream for a ridiculous new (four hour) recipe to be revealed next week, with a little break for a movie date and cocktails with my feyoncé.
Lentils cook in just enough time to assemble the rest of this quick salad. Endless flavors and textures make it equally perfect for a party as for a Tuesday night dinner.
- 1 1/2 C green or brown lentils, rinsed
- 1 bay leaf
- Kosher salt
- Ground black pepper (optional)
- 1 1/2 C mayonnaise (regular or vegan)
- 1/4 C packaged chutney (I used Major Grey, at Ina’s recommendation)
- 1/3 C dry white wine (see notes)
- 3 T curry powder
- 1 C chopped celery (3 stalks)
- 4 scallions, white and light green parts, thinly sliced
- 3 dried figs, chopped small (or other dried fruit, for 1/4 cup chopped)
- 1 C coarsely chopped cashews (roasted and salted)
- Cook the lentils while you prepare the rest of the salad. In a pot, combine lentils and 5 cups water (or stock, if you have some on hand), 1 bay leaf, and 1 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes, until just softened. Drain and rinse, and let lentils cool as long as possible before assembling the salad.
- Whisk the mayonnaise, chutney, wine, curry powder, 1 teaspoon salt, and a pinch of pepper until smooth. Set dressing aside in the refrigerator until needed.
- In a large bowl, gently mix the lentils, celery, scallions, dried fruit, and 1 1/2 cups of the dressing. Fold in the cashews. Add more dressing as desired. Serve alongside greens and/or baked sweet potatoes.
Nutrition: the recipe is gluten free and can be made vegan with a vegan mayonnaise.
The dressing is even better made a day ahead. Store salad components separately until ready to assemble and serve. If you’re serving one or two, it’s best to keep the cashews separate and add them only to the amount you plan to serve, so they don’t become soggy when sitting in the dressing in the fridge.
I haven’t experimented with substitutes for the wine; however, I imagine a fraction of the quantity of apple cider vinegar would have similar acidic and sweet qualities. Start with 1 to 2 tablespoons and increase as needed, supplementing water or unsweetened apple juice for the missing liquid.
- Prep Time: 10 mins
- Cook Time: 20 mins
- Category: Salad
- Cuisine: Vegetarian
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