Sweetened Lentils with Cumin and Tomato Served with Cracker Bread

Sweet Lentils with Cumin and TomatoLentils are really great when you need to cook something tasty in a relatively short time frame.  Although the folks that cook lentils a lot seem to draw relatively fine distinctions between different varieties, availability usually dictates which variety I use.  In this dish, standard brown lentils are flavored using a spice blend that includes cumin, mustard, cayenne, turmeric, and asafetida.  Brown sugar is added to lend just a bit of sweetness and tomatoes provide acidity to keep the dish from being cloying.   Green chili and cilantro add some finishing notes to the flavor profile.  Asafetida is a ground resin from a fennel-like plant native to the middle and far east.  It can be obtained at some middle-eastern groceries or from the folks at World Spice.

My brother in law seemed to appreciate this quite a bit.  As luck would have it, Brinn had prepared some really wonderful cracker bread the previous day.  As you can probably see in the photo, the cracker is topped with a broad variety of spices and seeds laid out in strips across the width of the bread; pretty fun way to add some interest to this basic bread.

The cracker bread is quite simple to make, so I have included a recipe for it below the lentil recipe.  It will be a great addition to your flat bread repertoire.  We have found, since the humidity in the northwest tends to be pretty high most of the time, that it is a good idea to toast the cracker bread in the oven prior to serving.  This step also serves to add some toasty depth to whatever spices and seeds you used to top it during the original production.  One of the nice things about the cracker bread is that, if cut into wider strips, it can be softened by spraying with water and used for roll-ups.

For such a simple pairing, there is a lot of flavor depth represented here.  The crispness and variety of toppings on the bread serve to accent the already complicated batch of flavors in the lentils.  I think that, if served with rice and a steamed vegetable, this combination would make and excellent simple meal.


Sweetened Lentils with Cumin and Tomato
Recipe type: Side
Cuisine: Indian
  • 1 cup split brown lentils
  • 2 Tbs. canola oil
  • 1 tsp. mustard seed
  • 2 tsp. cumin seed
  • ½ tsp. turmeric, ground
  • ½ tsp. cayenne, ground
  • ¼ tsp. asafetida, ground
  • 1½ tsp. salt
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Tbs. brown sugar
  • 1 green chili (such as Serrano), slide lengthwise, then halved
  • ½ cup cilantro, chopped
  1. Rinse lentils bring to a boil with 3 to 4 cups water. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until softened.
  2. While lentils are cooking, add oil and mustard seed to a small saucepan. Heat over medium-high until mustard seeds begins to pop. Add cumin and cook an additional 5 to 10 seconds until cumin is red-brown and fragrant. Add salt and remaining spices, stir to combine, then add the tomatoes and sugar. Cook over medium heat for about 8 to 10 minutes. The tomatoes should soften during this time.
  3. When lentils have finished cooking, add the tomato-spice mixture and the chilies. Cook over medium heat an additional 10 minutes or until the lentils have thickened to the desired consistency. Add cilantro during final 1 minute of cooking.

Cracker Bread with Stuff
Recipe type: Bread
  • 4¼ cups unbleached flour
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbs. fennel seed
  • 1 tsp. black pepper, coarsely ground
  • 1 Tbs. instant yeast
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1½ cups cool water

  • For Toppings
  • 1 to 2 tsp. of each, to taste
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • Poppy seeds
  • Flax seed
  • Cumin seed
  • Sunflower seed
  • Flaked chili (Korean-Type)
  1. If using a stand mixer, combine all except the toppings in the bowl and mix using dough hook for 1 minute on low followed by 10 minutes on medium. Dough will form a ball and be slightly tacky, but not sticky. If working by hand, knead about 15 minutes.
  2. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise until nearly doubled; about 1½ hours.
  3. Turn out on lightly floured counter and divide into six equal pieces. Round each piece into a ball. Cover and let rest 20 to 30 minutes.
  4. On a floured surface, roll one ball out until it is as thin as possible; paper-thin is ideal. Transfer to a baking sheet.
  5. Mist dough lightly with water and sprinkle with spices and seed in broad strips. Cut across these spiced strips at 3 to 4 inch widths so that each pieces of bread includes some of each seed/spice.
  6. Bake in oven preheated to 475 degrees F for about 5 to 8 minutes. Bread will bubble and brown. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet. Bread will continue to crisp as it cools. Repeat with remaining balls of dough.


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