Red Lentil & Mandarin Curry, 26p [VG/V/DF/GF]

The first time I stayed at my girlfriends house, all she had in the cupboard was Diet Coke, tinned mandarins and a sticky patch of something ominous that was possibly once soy sauce. Her hob hadn’t worked in over 2 years, and she stubbornly warned me not to try to change her.

Undeterred, over the course of the last 10 months, I subtly snuck in the odd ingredient to make microwaveable meals from, a couple of spices to pep up salad dressings, and a jar of ginger-garlic paste ‘just in case’. Turmeric and black pepper made it over the threshold as a cold remedy, and a tin of tomatoes for an emergency gazpacho that never materialised. I frequently joke with her that she keeps me grounded and my recipes where they are meant to be, conjured from dust and thin air and a couple of tins of nothing.

Last week, alone while she was out on a jolly, and armed with a youtube video, a dogbone wrench, a phillips screwdriver and a mission, I fixed the damn hob.

And last night, faced with just a literal handful of stashed ingredients, and disbelieving cries of ‘what on earth could you make with what’s in MY cupboard?’, I riffed on one of my most popular recipes, the peach and chickpea curry from A Girl Called Jack. Lentils in place of chickpeas, mandarins for the peaches, ginger-garlic paste, chilli powder, turmeric, pepper and tinned toms. (The paratha-looking-thing is my gramcake recipe, I bought the gram flour cheap to take home and it never made it as travelling 40 miles with a bag of flour is ill-advised.) Here’s to the next 10 months – what are my odds of sneaking in the bullet blender I bought her for Christmas but didn’t have the cahunas to hand over? 😄

Serves 4, generously at 26p each

150g red lentils, 27p (£1.80/1kg, Tesco)

1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste, 7p (£1.39/283g, Nishaan brand at Tesco)

400g chopped tomatoes, 31p (31p/400g Everyday Value at Tesco)

300g tinned mandarins, 35p (35p/312g)

1 tsp turmeric, <1p (80p/100g, Natco or KTC brand)

1 tsp cumin, <1p (80p/100g, Natco or KTC brand)

a pinch of chilli flakes or two, <1p (80p/100g, Natco or KTC brand)

a pinch of salt, <1p (35p/750g, table salt at Tesco)

and a few pinches of pepper <1p (80p/100g, Natco or KTC brand)
First pop your lentils in a saucepan that will easily hold double their volume, and cover with water. Do not salt the water as the lentils will seize and harden. Bring to the boil and reduce to a vigorous simmer for around 10 minutes, then drain and thoroughly rinse to get rid of the greyish scum that will have risen to the surface. Tip them back into the pan and return it to the heat.

Add the ginger-garlic paste (or finely chopped fresh ginger and garlic if you don’t have any, but I swear by this as a quick cheap fix and you can find it in the World Foods aisle in the supermarket). Add the spices – turmeric, cumin and chilli – and the salt and pepper, and give it all a good stir. Crank the heat back up high.

Drain the mandarins, reserving the juice. Some brands come in orange juice, which I neck greedily over the hot cooker, and some come in a sticky-sweet syrup, which I put in a jar in the fridge to use in a near-future salad dressing or a cake. Whatever you decide to do with the juice, tip the mandarins into the pan, and the tomatoes. Cook the lot for a further 20 minutes or longer – using lentils in place of the original chickpeas makes this more like a daal, and the longer cook lends itself to softer, swollen lentils with a comforting, creamy texture. 

Serve hot with extra chilli to taste – in my small household we all have wildly varying tolerance to heat, so I put a smattering in the curry and leave a small dish of chilli flakes in residence on the table for the bolder members to use with abandon.

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    • Hi Jack
      I have used many of your recipes in the past and just last night, I cooked your roasted Carrot, Chickpea and Garlic soup, my friend came round for our study session and she couldn’t resist a bowl (despite her hubby cooking her dinner at home). She loved it.
      I have popped a tip in your jar, to say thank you for all the cost saving and delicious recipes you have created and have been a success for me and enjoyed by others! Thank you, with all my heart 🙂 xx

  1. I would love to get recipes, but I’m using my LG Android smartphone & keep getting an alert that My storage is full & not enough space to download anymore! I don’t know how to send all the photos to the Cloud storage which is Free for unlimited space! What can I do? I don’t know anyone who could or would without being paid to help! How sad is that!!

  2. Hi, Jack. Have loved your recipes, but have to to all kinds of manipulating to get them into a readable, printable document for easy reference when I am cooking. Inasmuch as it does take me some time to translate the ingredients into U.S. measurements, it is really time consuming to then have to play with the printer aspect….I am 70, and have to enlarge all the print so that I can cook without my glasses. Can your webmaster include a “PRINT” option that will shape the recipe into an individual printable document?

    • I am my own webmaster (in the loosest possible sense) so I will have a look to see what can be done. 🙂

    • You can make the text bigger in your internet browser if that helps. It won’t solve the printing issue, but will probably help make reading text on webpages easier.

      To make the text bigger, press the “ctrl” button at the same time as the “+/=” button (“command” and “+/=” on a mac). You can do this multiple times until the text is big enough for you to read without your glasses. To set the text size back to normal, press “ctrl” button and “0” button at the same time (or “command” and “0” on a mac).

  3. Barbara, I copy and paste recipes into a word document, then change the font sizes to what works for me before printing my favourite recipes and adding them to my 3 ringed binder. This sounds yummy, Jack. I made your bean burger last week. So good the recipe is a keeper and fits right into my current way of eating pulses at least 3 times a week. Keep up your great work.

  4. So weird. I’m reading this waiting for some cousin cousin to cook to go with my own red lentil daal made from much the same ingredients in a ‘oh gosh what from from nothing now’ fashion. I guess I’ve been reading your recipes for so long I’m now intuiting them from the ether!

  5. Yum yum Jack! I use Nishaan garlic/ginger paste made by East End Foods, the largest producer of asian food ingredients besides Pataks. Any Indian supermarket will have it.

    A word of caution about the mandarins…..citrus and rheumatoid arthritis do not mix! I either miss the citrus or endure the pain.


  6. Kickstarter book arrived today .Why did you not mention the free gift ? By the time I had got to the store cupboard and equipment section the gift fell out .This book tells people they are not alone ,it is nicely produced and the recipes really are tempting and inventive too . I did not like the delays but I like very much the free gift of hope for the disenfranchised and the demoralised .
    I don’t care if you put this up or not , I just wanted you to know that, apart from the above ,I am an experienced cook with a lot of cookery books and can recommend this book on all sorts of levels .
    NB I have already covered it in clear plastic as I know its going to take a bashing .

  7. I know that you base your recipe costs on Sainsburys prices.
    I was concerned to note yesterday that they appear to be running down stocks of Natco products and replacing them with another brand (Fudco?) which is at least 50% more expensive.
    Still a lot better than buying those silly little spice bottles but a big shame nonetheless.

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