I cannot say enough good things about this meal. It is delicious, nutritious, interesting–but not so interesting that it would scare people away. It might be too unusual to your typical Midwestern palate to describe as proper gateway Indian food (and indeed it is not properly Indian anyway), but I would describe it as good entryway food–for folks who know they are interested in Indian flavors. People who have already stepped through the door, in other words.
I found this casserole in Crescent Dragonwagon’s Passionate Vegetarian, an excellent book (see my initial review here) that has been unused by me as of late (because, ahem, I acquire cookbooks at a faster rate than I can use them). Despite that wonderful braised pork I made, the truth is that in January I start craving meatless meals (and no matter what it looks like on my blog, that pork was the first meal I made post-holidays–I am just woefully behind). So I started browsing this book, and opened exactly to “Curried Lentil-Potato Cobbler with Pumpkin and Tomatoes and Filo Top Crust.”
Now tell me you would not immediately start mentally ticking off which ingredients you had? Warm and filling for January, meatless and uber-healthy for New Year’s resolutions (which I, uh, resolutely do not believe in, but anyway). This is a run don’t walk kind of meal. And I promise it is way easier than its long list of ingredients would have you believe. Read through the instructions before beginning, and you’ll see that it all comes together pretty quickly and neatly.
A note about the lentils: Dragonwagon does not specify what kind of lentils to use, so I used all lentils du puy, which hold their shape. I was fine with this choice, but John I think would have preferred lentils that got a little mushier. If you prefer this as well, I recommend using half red lentils and half yellow split peas.
2 cups lentils (see note above), rinsed
6 cups water
1 bay leaf
1/4 t turmeric
1/4 t sweet paprika (use hot chile pepper if you prefer, such as cayenne)
1-2 T ghee or vegetable oil (or a combination)
1 heaping T dark mustard seeds
1 1/2 t cumin seeds
2 medium-large onions, chopped
2 T minced ginger
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t ground cumin
1 1/2 t ground coriander
1 1/2 t turmeric
1/4 t paprika or cayenne pepper, to heat preference
1/4 t cinnamon
1/4 t ground cloves
salt and pepper to taste
4 fist sized potatoes, scrubbed and chopped into 1/2-inch chunks
1 14-0z can of chopped tomatoes (preferably with green chilies but I could not find any)
1 15-oz can of pumpkin puree (or make your own, about 1 1/2 cups)
1 T maple syrup, to taste (can also use honey)
1 1/2 cups stock–I used chicken because it is what I keep but you can also use vegetarian, low sodium if storebought
5 sheets of phyllo dough, thawed
2-3 T melted butter or ghee (or use use 50% vegetable oil is you prefer)
Lightly grease a deep 9X13 pan (or less deep 10X15). Set aside.
Place the lentils, bay leaf, 1/4 teaspoons of turmeric and paprika, and the water into a large pot. Bring to a boil and skim the foam from the top. Reduce to heat to maintain a simmer while covered.
While the lentils cook, begin the rest of the filling. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat and add the ghee or oil. They will pop; when their popping slows, add the cumin seeds. Roast briefly, 10-15 seconds. Add the onions with a sprinkle of salt and saute, stirring occasionally, until the onions are browning, abut 10-15 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Then add the rest of the spices and toss to coat the onions evenly. Do not let the spices burn (at any point during this process you can always add some water if the onion mix starts to scorch or stick too much).
Add this onion mix to the lentils and add the potatoes as well. Simmer for 20-30 more minutes, which you work on the sauce. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Combine the pumpkin, tomatoes and maple syrup in a food processor or blender and puree. Add the stock to help more the mixture–it will all go in the lentils together. When the potatoes are just barely tender, pour the pumpkin-tomato blend gently into the lentils mix. Heat the whole thing through–when it is quite hot dump it gently into the prepared casserole dish.
Layer the phyllo sheets over the casserole, brushing each sheet with melted butter or ghee before layering the next sheet. Dragonwagon recommend lightly scoring the phyllo sheets with a knife before baking so I did but I am not sure it did anything. Use your best judgment.
Bake until the phyllo top is crisp and golden brown, 35-45 minutes. Serve hot with Greek yogurt on the side.