Anatolian red lentil and chickpea stew

For a while I’ve been thinking about adding one of Madhur Jaffrey‘s cookbooks to my kitchen bookshelf. She is, after all, the queen of Indian cooking. After paging through a well-worn copy of her World Vegetarian in the Green Gulch kitchen, I decided it was the one; I liked that it included a range of not only Indian recipes but also Middle Eastern, African, Caribbean, and more.

On my first flip-through back at home, a recipe for Anatolian red lentil and chickpea stew caught my eye. This very stew had made an appearance one evening in the Green Gulch dining room, and after savoring a chunky, gently spiced, chickpea-studded bowl (or two) I had jotted it down as a dish to recreate at home. Its belly-warming effects were conducive to my GG schedule of lights out at 8:30 pm to be well rested for 5 am zazen. It’s also my favorite kind of meal for cool, rainy spring days — like the ones we’ve been having in New York lately.
Jaffrey’s recipe is based on a dish served at the swanky Ciragan Hotel in Istanbul, where it’s thinned out and served as a soup. Her version is a thicker, heartier stew, and I followed suit. I made a few tweaks to her recipe, leaving out the eggplant since it’s not yet in season locally and substituting Camargue red rice for wheat berries since that’s what was in the pantry. After going to three stores still for the life of me I could not find dried mint (which I believe is one of the key components that makes this stew classically Anatolian…but bear with me) so I substituted a combination of dried thyme, basil, and coriander seed (this situation calls for a trip to Kalustyan’s so I’m prepared next time). For a more complex flavor base and to up the heat level I also included some chopped fresh ginger, garlic, and a couple of dried red chiles de arbol. 
Although it’s possible that I took the Anatolian out of the recipe along with the eggplant and mint, the stew turned out pretty darn tasty nevertheless — full of richly layered flavors, hearty, and satisfying. Everything I want in a one-bowl, plant-based meal. And even better reheated the next day. 
Anatolian {-inspired} red lentil and chickpea stew
Adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian
The original recipe calls for separately cooking the wheat berries before adding them to the stew; I instead added uncooked, soaked red rice to the soup and let it cook along with the lentils, which saves a step (and a pot).
I cooked the chickpeas overnight in my new slow cooker, which I am completely obsessed with. It turns out the creamiest and most tender — and evenly cooked — beans I’ve ever made at home. I will never again cook dried beans on the stovetop! If you don’t have time to cook the chickpeas from scratch, canned would work, too. 
And, as mentioned above, due to circumstances beyond my control I substituted dried thyme, basil, and coriander seed for the dried mint; if you have dried mint, though (lucky you!), go ahead and use 2 tablespoons of it in place of this mix. 
  • 2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
  • 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 1 carrot, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2- inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, roughly smashed with a mortar and pestle (or 3/4 tsp ground coriander seed)
  • 2 dried red chile peppers
  • 1/4 cup red rice, soaked for 8 to 12 hours and drained
  • 1 cup red lentils, picked through and rinsed
  • 1-1/2 cups cooked chickpeas (from 1/2 cup dried chickpeas, soaked and cooked until tender; or 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed) (Save 1 cup of cooking liquid if making the beans from scratch)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • chopped flat-leaf parsley, to garnish
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the onion and carrot and saute for 8 to 10 minutes until lightly browned. Add the ginger and garlic and saute for another minute or two.
Stir in the tomato paste and let it sizzle for a minute, then add the dried basil, thyme, coriander seeds, chiles, and rice. Cook for a couple of minutes more.
Add 4 cups of water, the lentils, and 1 tsp sea salt. Stir well, scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pot. (I also added a cup of chickpea cooking liquid to the pot at this point — but if you don’t have it, just add another cup of water.)
Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, for about 45 minutes until the lentils have broken down and the rice is tender. Add the cooked chickpeas and simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the lemon juice and season to taste with salt and black pepper. Sprinkle some chopped parsley over each serving, and drizzle with a little olive oil.

13 thoughts on “Anatolian red lentil and chickpea stew

  1. thanks, Maria!

    LB – I'm really liking World Vegetarian. I've also heard lots of good things about another of her books, Indian Cooking. I think you can't go wrong!


  2. This sounds so good. Your comment about cooking the chickpeas in the slow cooker makes me wonder if this whole recipe could be adapted for slow-cooker use for busy families? I may give it a shot sometime soon.


  3. I like your changes! I may resort back to wheat berries and dried mint though, since I have those… and don't use dried mint a lot.

    Pick up some of the beans when you go to Kalustyan's next! Gosh, that was the highlight of my NYC trip. 🙂


  4. thanks, Nancy! Interesting about the dried mint — maybe I didn't miss too much without it! I will make this again when eggplant is in season though.

    Thanks, Janet! I'm so overdue for a Kalustyan's trip. And the new-ish Eataly isn't too far from there so maybe I'll check that out too 🙂


  5. Hey Nancy, just a follow-up! I did make this in our slow cooker, with a few very minor adjustments, and I think it turned out pretty well. The basil and thyme seemed a little strong after all that cooking, though; next time I may omit and then use fresh herbs right before serving. Also, what's the texture supposed to be like? The red lentils cooked down and disappeared, making it very thick and creamy — delightful, as far as I'm concerned, but is that correct?


  6. Hi redroundorgreen – thanks for the update, and glad to hear the stew worked out in the slow cooker!

    The texture of the stew should is rather thick. Red lentils – unlike green or brown lentils, which stay intact when cooked – break down in liquid creating a thick, hearty soup or stew.

    If the soup is way too thick (which might occur in a slow cooker if more evaporation happens over the extended cooking time), just add more water or stock till you achieve a consistency you like and you should be good to go.


  7. Hey Nancy — threw you a link on my blog, since I wanted to share this recipe with my readers. Was so happy that it turned out well as a slow-cooker dish; when you've got a 4 and 2-year old running around, and work full time, anything that cooks itself and is super-healthy is appreciated!


  8. hi RRG – how sweet of you, thanks! I'm so glad the stew worked out for you. I finally got my hands on some dried mint so next time I'm going to play it closer to Jaffrey's original recipe. I love that it's such an adaptable dish 🙂


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