Dengu (aka Kenyan Lentils)

For Christmas this year, we were invited to celebrate with a wonderful group of Kenyans. One of my favorite dishes was a simple stew of lentils, tomatoes, cilantro and red onions. I asked the chef for the recipe, and then played with it a bit to make it my own (including following the general cooking guidance of the Creamy Dreamy Beans recipe). Hope you enjoy!

Here’s what you need:

1 pound lentils (I did black lentils)

1 tablespoon salt

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon curry powder or similar spice blend (optional)

1 teaspoon cumin

Leaves from 2 bunches of cilantro, divided

3 garlic cloves, unpeeled

7 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 red onion, diced

4 roma tomatoes, diced

Here’s what you do:

1. Soak the lentils in plenty of cold water overnight. The next day, drain and rinse the lentils.

2. Place the lentils in an ovensafe pot, and cover with cold water (about a finger or two above the lentils). Add the salt, the turmeric, and the curry powder, and place over medium heat, uncovered. Allow the beans to cook and the water to heat to just before boiling, stirring occasionally. This will take about 30 minutes. Near the end, preheat the oven to 335 degrees.

3. When the water is about to boil, turn off the heat. Stir in the cumin, the leaves from one bunch of cilantro, the three garlic cloves, and 5 tablespoons of olive oil. Cover and cook in the oven for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

4. When the lentils are done cooking, remove the pot from the oven. Squeeze the garlic out of the peel and discard the peel.

5. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat in a skillet or frying pan, and cook the onion until it starts to become translucent, about 4 minutes. Then, using a slotted spoon, scoop enough lentils out of the pot to fill the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook the lentils and onions until the moisture is all gone and the lentils begin to stick slightly. Turn off the heat. Use a potato masher to lightly mash the lentils, then return all the lentils and onion to the pot.

6. Next, turn the heat back to high and add the tomatoes and cilantro to the frying pan. Again, using a slotted spoon, scoop enough lentils out of the pot to fill the bottom of the pan. Continue to cook the tomatoes, cilantro and lentils until they just begin to stick. Turn off the heat, use the potato masher to lightly mash the lentils, and then return the lentils, tomato and cilantro to the pot.

7. Place the entire pot of lentils over medium-high heat until they come back to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

You can serve over rice, with chapati or naan, or just in a bowl.


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