This recipe, reprinted from Elizabeth Alexander’s “The Light of the World,” is a favorite from her late husband, Ficre Ghebreyesus.

Spicy Red Lentil and Tomato Curry

Serves 4 to 6.

Note: You can use store-bought vegetable stock (you will need 2-3 cups). Tomato passata is a tomato purée similar to tomato paste and tomato sauce — but the tomatoes in the purée are uncooked, with no ingredients added. You can substitute tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes for a slightly different flavor.

For the stock:

• 2 heads fennel

• 2 heads kale

• 1 yellow onion, cut into large pieces

• 2 large carrots, cut into large pieces

• 1 rib celery, cut into large pieces

• 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

For the tomato curry sauce:

• 1 (24 oz.) can tomato passata (see Note)

• 2 carrots, chopped

• 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

• 2 tbsp. curry powder

• 1/2 tsp. cayenne

• 1/2 tsp. paprika

• 2 c. dry red lentils

• 1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped

• Salt to taste


In a large, heavy pot, combine fennel, kale, onion, 2 large carrots, celery and 4 chopped garlic cloves with enough water to cover the vegetables by about a half-inch. Allow stock to simmer for 4 hours.

After the stock has been simmering for about an hour, you’ll want to start making the tomato curry sauce. Combine the tomato passata, 2 chopped carrots, 3 chopped garlic cloves, curry powder, cayenne and paprika in another large heavy pot and allow to simmer 3 hours.

Add lentils to tomato curry sauce and let simmer 20 to 30 minutes more, adding stock as needed to thin it out (about 2 to 3 cups). The mixture should be thick and creamy, not soupy or dry.

Stir in fresh cilantro and remove from heat. Season with salt to taste. Serve lentils alongside basmati rice.

Reprinted with permission from Grand Central Publishing. ©2016 Elizabeth Alexander