In my version of beef stew, I decided to infuse the classic dish with some of the Indian spices that I grew up eating. To make it extra hearty, I cook the beef with lentils (usually red lentils because they cook quickly) and stir in baby spinach at the end. I usually eat this on a bed of basmati rice with a dollop of tangy Greek yogurt. This is the kind of comfort food that I crave on a cold winter night. —Sonali aka the Foodie Physician
Soak the lentils in water overnight. Rinse and set aside.
Season the beef pieces generously with salt and black pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the beef to the pot and sear on all sides until browned. Don’t overcrowd the pot- sear the beef in batches if needed. Remove beef from pot.
Turn heat down to medium and add another tablespoon of oil to the pot. Add the onions and cook 6-8 minutes until softened. Add the ginger, garlic, curry powder, cumin, and bay leaf. Stir to combine then add the browned beef. Stir to distribute the spices. Add the diced tomatoes with their juices and the beef stock. Bring to a simmer then turn heat to low and cover. Cook 1 ½ hours or until beef is fork-tender.
Add the lentils to the pot. Cover and cook another 20-30 minutes or until the lentils are cooked. Add more stock as needed. During the last 10 minutes of cooking, stir in the baby spinach leaves, vinegar, cilantro, and salt and pepper to taste. Continue cooking with the lid off until done. Adjust seasoning as desired.
Serve stew alone or with basmati rice. Add a dollop of yogurt if desired. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
Note: Lamb or other meats may be substituted for the beef chuck.