This tasty vegan Roasted Carrot & Red Lentil Ragout is a great way to use more turmeric in cooking. Turmeric has antioxidant, cancer-fighting properties, but when it comes to cooking, less of this... spice is more. This easy recipe shows you how to use small amounts of turmeric cooked in with lentils, similar to cooking Turmeric Dal, but this dish’s final smokey chipotle flavors tend very Mexican! The way the carrots and onions are cooked adds a ton of flavor and sweetness, and both can be prepared in advance. You can eat this ragout as a side with chicken or fish, or as the main event over Brown Rice for a meal with complete protein or even with an egg on top.
Toss the carrots in ½ tablespoon of the olive oil and lay out on a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and a few grinds of black pepper and roast for 15-20 minutes, depending on their size. Turn and roast for another 10-15 minutes or until the carrots are soft and caramelized. When cool enough, cut into a ¼-inch dice.
While the carrots are cooking, put the lentils in a large pot with the turmeric, whole garlic cloves, lemon peel, and bay leaf. Cover with the stock. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until the lentils are very soft but are keeping their shape and the liquid has thickened, about 20-25 minutes. Remove the lemon peel and bay leaf and set aside.
While both the carrots and lentils are cooking, heat 1 tablespoon of the remaining oil in a wide skillet over medium-high heat. When it starts to ripple, add the cumin seeds. Cook until they give off their aroma, then add the onions. Cook, stirring, for about 2 minutes or until the onions start to soften. Turn the heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden and have begun to caramelize, about 25 minutes. They should look almost like a jam. Set aside. By now, the onions, carrots, and lentils should be ready. It’s time to assemble them.
Heat the remaining oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When it starts to ripple, add the sliced garlic. When it starts to brown, add the carrots and heat through, stirring. Add ancho chili powder, chipotle, and cayenne, and cook for about 2 minutes, taking care not to let them burn. Add the onions, mix well, and add the contents of the pan to the lentils. Stir to mix well. Bring to a low boil and cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes. Adjust for salt. Take off the heat, cover and let it sit for a few minutes. Serve as a soup or with brown rice.
The red lentils we’re using are actually a rosy brown. If you can’t find them, use the more commonly sold green lentils. They cook faster than red, so if you use them keep an eye on them as they cook. Although we want the lentils soft, they need to keep their shape.
For a smokier flavor, you can add a whole unbroken dried chipotle to the lentils in step 3 along with the other aromatics. Just make sure to fish it out before assembling the dish in step 5.