Monday, May 24, 2010

Spicy Lentils, and an alternative to mortar and pestle

I don’t have a mortar and pestle in this temporary kitchen. I never realized how much I relied on it until now, but improvising can be fun…well, sort of.

For this dish I gently toasted one tablespoon of coriander seeds in a pan. Then I wanted to grind them, and I had to do it in a bowl with a wooden spoon!!

Not so easy, I lost about half flying around the kitchen, and not so fine either, still, I was happy enough, and the smell was lovely.

I decided to use other spices, one teaspoon of ground ginger, one of curry powder, a pinch of smoked paprika, and a pinch of hot chilli (maybe it is funny to use both smoked paprika and chilli, but I have a limited selection of spices, and I like to try everything).

I sliced one small onion and sir-fried it with two tablespoons of vegetable oil. When the onion was translucent I added the spices and a pinch of salt. After a few minutes I added 250 g of small brown lentils, which I had washed and soaked for two hours, one carrot, sliced, and a cup of water. I cooked the lentils slowly, adding water often, and stirring even more often. Possibly with a taller pot I wouldn’t have needed to stir so often, but I don’t have many pots either.

I cooked the lentils for over one hour; they taste great with rice and with bread.

Photos by Alessandra Zecchini©


  1. Hi Alessandra! How about putting the spices in a plastic bag and tying it, then laying it on a board and whacking them with something like the back of the wooden spoon? Liked your reminiscences of London too ^^

  2. m'è venuta fame.
    ma la paprica affumicata la trovi in italia?
    vuoi che ti mandi un mortaio?

  3. @ Sasa: this is the best thing about blogging :-) getting ideas! XXXXX

    Enza, non ti preoccupare per il mortaio, potrei prenderlo, adesso vedo, ma e' che mi sto riempendo di accessori che poi non mi posso portar dietro, e allora e' meglio limitarsi :-).

    La paprica affumicata me l'ero portata dietro dalla Nuova Zelanda.

  4. You are a very clever gal with your improvisation. Using a plastic bag and a heavy skillet might work as well. I hope you are having a wonderful day. Blessings...Mary

  5. I love lentil soup, Alessandra, especially with a nice mix of spices like yours.
    I think if you put the spices on a breadboard and then crushed them using the bottom of a cast iron skillet, you would get a pretty good grind and, hopefully, they won't fly all over the kitchen!

  6. Alessandra, I have some red lentils, can I use them for this recipe?

    Thank you

    X =_+

  7. One of my instructors back at tech showed us a neat way of mortar & pestle-less grinding: grab two solid bowls, one slightly smaller than the other. Place your spices in the large bowl, pop the smaller bowl on top, then grind away to your hearts content! Once done, get your kitchen hand to clean up ;)

  8. Direi che ti sai attangiare egregiamente!Che buonele lenticchiatte!

  9. Jo, you can use red lentils, but they will mush this is why I really like brown lentils!).

    Wow, so many suggestions for grinding spices!
    I also like to add that I have very few pots and bowls, and no kitchen hand (Nigel, you are very welcome to offer me one of your kitchen hands - remember I am fussy, I want to see a photo first!) :-)


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