Main Meals

Cape Malay lentil curry

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4 to 6
15 minutes
1 hour

This is the food from my childhood, one of many of the home-cooked dishes my mom would make during the cooler months in Cape Town. You can opt to use raw brown lentils, but to cut down on cooking time, I have used the canned precooked version. This is one of those rustic curries that needs a starch slightly more robust than white fluffy rice. It’s served here with Tastic rice – a South African, parboiled, semi-brown rice.

Wine/Spirit Pairing
Woolworths Rustenberg RM Nicholson

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  • 2 T canola oil
  • 2 green cardamom pods, lightly bruised
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 500–700 g bone-in lamb pieces
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • salt, to taste
  • ½ cup water  
  • 2 ripe tomatoes, peeled and grated
  • 1 t turmeric
  • ½ T roasted masala or curry powder  
  • 1 t ground coriander
  • 1 T Amina’s wonder spice all-purpose curry paste
  • 1 T white sugar
  • 500 g brown lentils, soaked for 30 minutes and cooked until soft or 1 can (410 g) precooked lentils
  • 1 red chilli, sliced
  • red chilli 1, sliced

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium to high heat.

2. Add the cardamom, cinnamon sticks and onions and saut  for 5 minutes or until slightly golden.

3. Add the meat, garlic and salt and give it a good mix. Cook, covered, for about 5 minutes.

4. Adjust the heat to medium, add the water and simmer for 30 minutes.

5. Add the tomatoes, spices, curry paste and sugar and cook, covered, for 15 minutes.

6. Lastly, add the lentils and cook for a further 10–15 minutes.

7. Garnish with sliced red chilli and fresh coriander or parsley and serve hot with parboiled rice and Cape Malay tomato-and-onion relish.

Cook's note: Brown lentils can be bland, so you will have to season this dish really well. Ensure that you do a taste test during various phases of the cooking process and adjust the seasoning to suit your preference.

Find more curry recipes here.

This is an extract from Curried by Cariema Isaacs. It is published by Penguin Random House South Africa.

Photographs: Turhaan Samodien

Cariema Isaacs

Recipe by: Cariema Isaacs

Cariema Isaacs is a South African chef, recipe developer, food stylist and cookbook author based in Dubai.

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