Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Indian-Spiced Lentil Turkey Chili Recipe

Substituting spices commonly used in Indian food (like cinnamon and ginger) for typical chili spices and substituting lentils for kidney beans is the base for this sweet and spicy Indian-inspired chili.

1 lb. ground turkey
1 cup brown lentils
4 cups chicken broth (or turkey broth, if you can find it)
1 yellow onion, diced
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
1 tsp. curry powder, divided
1/2 tsp. ground ginger, divided
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon, divided
salt to taste
pepper to taste
(optional) jalapeno (seeded or unseeded, to taste), diced
(optional) raita (for garnish)
(optional) cilantro (for garnish)

You'll Also Need:

a cooktop Dutch Oven or other large pot


1. Pour 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil in the Dutch Oven over medium low heat. Add diced onion and cook until the onion starts to turn translucent.
2. Add the 1 lb. ground turkey and break it up in the Dutch Oven. Add 1/2 tsp. curry powder, 1/4 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste. Brown the turkey. Then remove the onion and turkey from Dutch Oven and keep warm.
3. Cook the cup of brown lentils in the residual turkey fat. Add the remaining 1/2 tsp. curry powder, 1/4 tsp. ground ginger, 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon, and salt and pepper to taste. If using a jalepeno, add it here.
4. Add the 4 cups of broth and the can of tomatoes (including the sauce). Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes.
5. Add the cooked turkey and onions back into the Dutch Oven. Add the 1 Tbsp. tomato paste. Stir through.
6. Cook with the lid off for about 10 minutes or until the chili reaches the desired consistency and the lentils are tender.
7. (Optional) Garnish with cilantro. Serve with naan (Trader Joe's has great pre-made naan options).

Serves 4.

The AHH Factor:
When I was in college, homemade chili was one of my go-to meals. It was so simple (pour everything into one pot), yet gave me the satisfaction of making my own dinner. The smell of the spices was terrific. Back then, I only made chili the typical way -- with spices like chili powder and cumin and with red kidney beans.

I preferred making chili to buying it because back then I could only find beef-made chilis for sale. But in recent years, that's changed. I find turkey chili everywhere, and I especially love the turkey chili in a can at Trader Joe's. It's perfectly seasoned and makes a great lunch, especially topped with some shredded cheddar.

While it seems silly to me to spend my time making a pot of turkey chili when I can easily buy it, I'm still a bit wistful for the days of homemade chili. So I started thinking of ways that I could make it unique -- something I couldn't easily buy in a can or at the deli. That's when I came up with the idea of making it a little bit Indian -- replacing the chili power and cumin for the spices I typically put in my Indian entrees, like cinnamon and ginger. Then I thought about replacing the kidney beans with lentils. (A quick Google search showed me that lentil chili recipes are rampant, which I took as a good sign that adding lentils to chili wouldn't be too weird.) And I wanted to top it off with bit of raita, as a replacement for the traditional sour cream.

The result tastes amazing, a chili that's a little bit sweet and a little more spicy, plus healthier than your traditional beef-and-beans variety. Plus, it'll make your home smell amazing.

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