Mel’s Squash & Lentil Curry
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 30 mins
1 tbsp ground cumin or 1 tsp seeds
1 tbsp ground coriander or 1 tsp seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp ghee or oil
1 large butternut squash (about 1.2kg)
400g split red lentils, rinsed
1 × 400ml tin of full-fat coconut milk
1.5 litres vegetable stock or bone broth
1 1/2 tbsp tamari (gluten free soy sauce)
1 tbsp fish sauce or extra tamari
4 garlic cloves
2 onions, halved, or 3 shallots
1 lemongrass stalk or peel from 1/2 lemon (no white pith)
1–2 fresh chillies or chilli flakes, to taste
1 thumb of ginger, roughly chopped
1 handful of peanuts or cashews
2 garlic cloves
Juice and zest of 2 limes
1–2 fresh chillies, to taste, seeds included if you like
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 big handful of fresh coriander, leaves and stems
1 big handful of fresh basil or Thai basil, leaves and stems, plus a little mint if you like (leaves only for the mint)
Veg Portions / Serving: 2
Extracted from Eat Green by Melissa Hemsley. Photography by Philippa Langley.
This makes a huge batch, perfect for freezing portions for a rainy day. The flavour bomb comes from the topping, which is inspired by Italian gremolata, but here it’s made Thai-style with lime, basil and coriander. Don’t skip it!
Toast the peanuts or cashews for the gremolata for a minute in a large, deep-sided saucepan until golden and set aside.
Make the curry paste by blitzing the garlic, onion, lemongrass, chilli and ginger in a food processor – it doesn’t need to be totally smooth.
Add the spices to the pan you used for the nuts and let them toast for a minute, then add the curry paste and the ghee or oil and fry gently for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile chop the squash into 2cm chunks. I don’t bother peeling it, just remove the seeds, which you can toast or roast for another recipe if you like.
Add the squash and lentils to the pan with the coconut milk and stock or broth. Give it a stir, then pop a lid on and let simmer over a medium heat for about 25 minutes or until the squash is tender. Stir every 5 minutes or so, watching out so the lentils don’t catch on the bottom of the pan, and adding more liquid if it looks dry or if you like it soupier. Season with tamari, fish sauce or a little salt.
While the curry is cooking, make the gremolata. Add the toasted nuts to the food processor (no need to wash it out from earlier) with all the other ingredients and pulse until just chopped – it should be drier and chunkier than a pesto and full of flavour and tang. Serve the curry with a good dollop of gremolata on top.
Tip: Swap the squash for other roots like sweet potatoes, parsnips, swede or celeriac. And if you can’t find lemongrass easily, buy extra and keep it in the freezer.
Waste Not: This gremolata is a great excuse to use up coriander and basil stems, as well as half a leftover onion or scraps of spring onions or chives. If you don’t use it all here, it’s great on roast veg, fish or chicken or in noodle stir fries.
Kids who engage regularly with veg through veg-themed activities, such as arts and crafts, sensory experiences, growing and cooking are shown to be more likely to eat the veg they engage with. Encouraging kids to engage and play with veg is the handy first step to them developing a good relationship with veg and life-long healthy eating.
Kids in the kitchen
Get the kids blitzing in this recipe! Prep the ingredients for the curry paste and gremolata for them, then let them add them to the food processor and blitz it all up. Older children can chop the squash and stir the curry as it cooks.
While getting kids to interact with veggies for real and using their senses to explore them is best, encouraging hands off activities like arts & crafts, puzzles & games or at-home science experiments can be a great start, particularly for those who are fussier eaters or struggle with anything too sensory. Use these veg-themed activities as a stepping stone to interacting with the veg themselves. We have loads of crafty downloads here, puzzles here, and quirky science with veg here.
Once you feel your child is ready to engage a little more, you can show them how to explore the veg you have on hand with their senses, coming up with playful silly descriptions of how a veg smells, feels, looks, sounds and perhaps even tastes. Find ideas, videos and some simple sensory education session ideas to get you started here.
The moments before food is offered can be a perfect opportunity for engagement that can help make it more likely a child will eat it! Giving children a sense of ownership in the meal can make a big difference to their feelings going into it and the pride they take in it. You know your child best, but if you aren’t sure where to start, we have some fun and simple ideas for easy roles you can give them in the serving process over here.