Make Ahead

Curried Beef and Red Lentil Stew

February  2, 2010
4 Ratings
  • Serves 4
Author Notes

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

What You'll Need
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 2 pounds beef chuck roast cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • Kosher salt
  • Black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 2 1/2 cups beef stock
  • 2 cups loosely packed baby spinach leaves
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt (optional)
  1. Soak the lentils in water overnight. Rinse and set aside.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Serve stew alone or with basmati rice. Add a dollop of yogurt if desired. Garnish with fresh cilantro.
  6. Note: Lamb or other meats may be substituted for the beef chuck.
Contest Entries

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Sonali aka the Foodie Physician
    Sonali aka the Foodie Physician
  • AntoniaJames
  • Chef Capehart
    Chef Capehart
  • Amandadp

14 Reviews

Chef C. March 1, 2013
I prepare this dish for my client. She loves anything curry, but the spinach and yogurt made the dish. I added one teaspoon ginger powder and turmeric. Keep them coming. Chef C.
Amandadp November 25, 2012
This was fantastic! I did not plan ahead and didn't soak my lentils but just added them and simmered for about 25 minutes and it seemed to turn out great. Will definitely make this again.
Sonali A. January 21, 2013
Thanks for your comment, so glad you liked it!
Sonali A. January 9, 2012
Thanks so much, JenJack- I'm really glad you enjoyed it!
JenJack January 9, 2012
This was fantastic! I made this along with the Quick stir-fried greens and squid, rice, and flat bread. Really, really delicious. A keeper!
KLL5 February 6, 2010
About to attempt without beef... thinking of adding either butternut squash or potato or a yam... or maybe some shitake... and do a raita on the side.
KLL5 February 7, 2010
Last night I did this vegetarian style and made it a bit easier. I did not soak or precook the lentils. After sauteing the onion, aromatics and adding carrots and cauliflower I added the lentils dry. I let it all sizzle for about 5 minutes and then added broth (veg) and the canned tomatoes. It all cooked together for about 30 minutes and was delish! I made jasmine rice and raita. Note on raita- I watched a video online on making raita and they grated and drained the cucumber which I must say is key and not in every recipe I read.
Sonali A. February 7, 2010
Sounds delicious! I don't always soak my lentils if I'm short on time- that's why red lentils are great, because they have a relatively short cooking time. I might try your version next time!
AntoniaJames February 5, 2010
I made this without beef last night . . . . cooked the aromatics in oil, stirred in the spices until they sizzled (added a pinch of ground coriander), added a quart of chicken broth, the lentils and five carrots, in chunks, then cooked for a few minutes, stirring. Added another quart of water and cooked until the carrots were just tender (at which time the red lentils, which I had not soaked) were ready. I stirred in some leftover roasted pumpkin from the freezer, which I pureed first in the food processor, with the juice of a Meyer lemon and about half a small cauliflower, broken up. (I would have used a lime instead of the lemon, if I'd had one.) Corrected salt, cooked until the cauliflower was just tender, added chopped cilantro and checked salt again. Stirred a dessert spoonful of creme fraiche in each bowl. To die for!! Next time, I'm making this with chicken thighs (on the bone). What a fabulous, versatile recipe!
KLL5 February 4, 2010
Would this be good without beef??
AntoniaJames February 4, 2010
Yes! I can say that with confidence, because I make almost precisely this dish (see my Roasted Pumpkin and Red Lentil Soup), which has the same spices and aromatics, in similar amounts, but not the tomatoes, bay leaf, vinegar or spinach -- all which would add a lot to the dish overall -- but no beef. It's really tasty! I use that red lentil base alll the time, for a variety of different meatless soups. So, instead of using roasted pumpkin, I often put carrots in, which are cooked with the lentils until soft, then pureed. It's fabulous with cauliflower, too. I often put both in. So go for it!!!
Sonali A. February 5, 2010
I agree with Antonia- the lentil base in this dish is delicious on its own. Or you can substitute your favorite vegetables for the beef. Have fun experimenting!
Sonali A. February 2, 2010
Thanks Antonia! That's a great idea to freeze a batch of the base and then add the lentils to it another day for a quick meal. I also love one-pot meals!
AntoniaJames February 2, 2010
Gorgeous! Love this! What I like about it, apart from the yummy flavors, is that you could make a double batch of the stewed beef in the spices (before adding the lentils) and freeze half of it for another day. I'd use that frozen batch on a weeknight because finishing the dish would take so little time. And it's a one-pot meal, too! This one is definitely going into the queue. Thank you for posting it. ;o)