Saturday, 26 June 2010

Celia's Rhubarb and lentil curry

I’ve been trying to get hold of a copy of Celia Brooks Brown 'New Urban Farmer' since it was published, but every time I went to the bookshops, even the mainstream ones – none of them had a copy. I know what some of you are thinking, why not order it. Well I am one of those people who actually likes going into bookshops - old and new. I like flicking through cookbooks, for ideas, inspiration and sometimes, dare I admit it - my dose of food porn through the colourful, glossy photographs. Then I completely forgot about it, until last week when I came back home from one of my overnight excursions, D presented the book to me. He had remembered it was on my ‘wish list’. What a treat for me and its not even my birthday.

Unlike the majority of her books, this one is not exactly a cookbook. It's much more than that, its an allotment - growing manual and journal. I've always liked Celia's friendly writing style, so was pleased to read about her personal experiences and observations on her allotment space, or lottie as she affectionately calls it. But she does not completely overlook cooking - how can she, after all it is one of her passions, so Yes, the book does contain a number of seasonal recipes. The ones that are leaping out at me are the spiced cornmeal crusted squash blossoms, green tomato curry and courgette jerky. I made Celia’s tofu jerky last year, so have no doubt that I will like her courgette jerky. I just have to wait a little until I get to harvest some of my own courgettes, but one recipe just got me curious, so curious I wanted to make it as soon as it could. It was the Rhubarb and lentil curry. I'm not the only one who wanted to try it, fellow blogger Fran of A Taste of Tottenham felt the same way too as you can see from her review of the book.
I must admit and perhaps you will concur that rhubarb in a savoury dish does sound rather bizarre, but Celia reassures us that the sharpness of the rhubarb marries beautifully with the lentils and the spices. Having tried and tested some of her recipes such as Asparagus Flecked Tart, Lavender heart scones and Roasted Teriyaki Tofu steaks, I knew I could trust her. So decided to make this. It was also a welcome change from all the sweet rhubarb cakes I’ve been making recently.
Well, how was it?! I am not sure how to describe the dish. It was not bad at all. In fact, it was really good. I can only compare the addition of the rhubarb to swollen sultanas in a savory dish, but in place of the expected sweetness there were subtle undertones of sourness, which I really I enjoyed against the nuttiness of the puy lentils and the bite of the celery.
Oh I did have to tweak the recipe a little. I couldn't find any local leeks, so I replaced them with some British Eschalon (long) shallots. I hope Celia doesn't mind.
Celia Brooks inspired rhubarb and lentil curryIngredients
Serves 4
2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
4 long shallots, sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
2 - 3 celery stalks, sliced
3 – 4 cloves of garlic
1 generous teaspoon cumin seed
1 generous teaspoon coriander seed
½ teaspoon coarse crystal sea salt
2 teaspoon paprika
¼ teaspoon turmeric
3 thick stalks rhubarb or equivalent, cut into 1cm chunks
150ml Puy lentils
700ml vegetable stock
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large pan over medium heat and add the oil. Add the shallot, and celery and cook, stirring frequently until soft.
Meanwhile place the garlic, cumin, coriander seed and course salt in a mortar and pound the garlic to a paste. Add this mixture to the pan with the softened shallots, along with the paprika and turmeric, and stir for about a minute, until fragrant. Next add the rhubarb, lentils and stock, cover and bring to the boil.
Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for half an hour. Add the sugar, salt and pepper to taste. Leave the pan uncovered and simmer for a further 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Serve with plain boiled Basmati rice, with a dollop of natural yogurt. Slightly adapted from Celia Brooks Brown The New Urban Farmer


  1. I too cannot get enough of cookbook stores. There is an incredible one here in Greenwich Village called Bonnie Slotnick's cookbooks and it's literally stacked from floor to ceiling with treasures. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed when I go in there it makes me nauseous:)

    This sounds really interesting. I put rhubarb in risotto once thinking it would be amazing and it was a little too on the sour side for me but I bet the earthiness of the lentils balance this out nicely.

    Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow! Thats a very delicious curry! Love the flavours in there :-)

  3. I can't believe you posted a recipe using rhubarb when I have been struggling with using two containers full of stewed rhubarb the last two days (one without sugar as I ran out but that was good luck). Never ever would I have thought of using rhubarb with lentils in a curry/stew or soup. Thank you so much for the recipe and..across the pond..I have never heard of Celia Brooks Brown))).

    My concoction today used three cups of the unsweetened stewed rhubarb for a chutney. I tried it because rhubarb chutney was a condiment for fish cakes at a girls lunch date out yesterday in Lunenburg, N.S. Of course..they wouldn't divulge the recipe..but hinted at frying the onions first..special seasonings and add to rhubarb. A quick look on the internet gave a few options but none that seemed to start with caramelizing the onions. Well had a go at experimenting (see...we both love doing that))))....One jar is gone already and the Captain is in love with this new food offering. Water Crackers..cheddar cheese and a dollop of the rhubarb chutney on cook the chutney down like jam..

    This is all to say...why isn't rhubarb more widely used in other dishes than pie and cakes?

  4. Wow, I would also feel 'strange' (?is this the right word?) pairing rhubarb with lentils...and curry...

    do you think that you will make it again?

    The UK was good, but cold....I forgot that it is still cold there in June, for an Italian that is!

  5. The consciousness directed me here to your blog. I had just cooked for a dinner party last night and I Informed one my friends whom is vegetarian I would prepare lentils with curry and here we are!

    It was meant to be! Thank you

  6. sounds interesting - I am not a fan of lemon and am finding that I prefer the flavour of the sourness of rhubarb in savoury food - have not got any celia brooks brown cookbooks but have been tempted to buy them often - I too prefer to buy books from a book shop - I don't like to buy cookbooks unless I have leafed through to check it really does have enough interesting ideas as I have enough basic cookbooks

  7. That is one of my favorite things to do also, to go to a good Bookstore and flip through pages for inspiration! The soup looks great, and I love lentils. That is a really interesting pairing to throw in the rhubarb...

  8. Rhubarb and lentil curry looks delicious.

  9. Bookmarked and printed. I got some rhubarb last week in the organic box and didn't really realize people used rhubarb for anything but desserts. I don't have much of a sweet tooth, which makes the rhubarb somewhat appealing as its sourness is a nice contrast to its usual sweet accompaniments. I ended up roasting the rhubarb and making a ginger ice cream to go with it. It was good, but this curry sounds MUCH more interesting. Fingers crossed I get more rhubarb in the next box. I really want to give this a try.

  10. Hello and Welcome Miss Meat and Potatoes.
    And Thank you so much.
    Thanks for letting me know of the cookbook store in Greenwich Village. Sould I ever find myself there, I may take the opportunity to visit Bonnie Slotnick's. I love these kind of old bookshops that are stacked from floor to ceiling, not many of them left unfortunately - so we should support those that remain.

    Oooh rhubarb in risotto intrigues me, but I don't think will try it, but do appreciate you sharing your experience of making it. I'd certainly recommend making this recipe.

    Thanks Rachana.

    Thank you so much for your lovely comment Gardeningbren.

    It sounds liek you had a lot of stewed rhubarb to get through.

    To be honest, I too would never had thought of using rhubarb in a savoury dish, especially with lentils in a curry/stew or soup. But it really works.

    Re: Celia Brooks Brown. Celia is actually an American. She was born in Colorado, USA but moved to England in 1989 to pursue a career directing plays in London. After coming to England, Celia discovered her passion for cooking and now runs a vegetarian cooking company popular with celebrities and has published a number of cookery books including two which focus on growing and eating seasonally.

  11. Gardeningbren.
    Your rhubarb chutney sounds good. I've had rhubarb and ginger jam, but never chutney, may have to give this some thought. Just wondering what veg it would accompany, as rhubarb chutney does tend to accompany oil fish and meat. Though it does sound good with water crackers and cheddar cheese. Thank you so much for sharing, it really is appreciated.

    Hello Alessandra,
    Good to hear from you.
    Yes, I would make it again.

    Re the UK weather. Would you believe it in Scotland it has been really hot, so hot that we all want some rain. But I guess by your comparison, you would say its mild.

    Thank you to you Natural Selection.
    What a wonderful way for you to be introduced to my blog. I am so pleased to make your acquaintance too. Thank you

  12. Johanna GGG.
    Having some insight into how you cook Johanna, I'd recommend that you look into purchasing some of Celia's earlier books such as Entertaining Vegetarians or World Vegetarian Classics, the most recent one is aimed at novice gardeners, and other than the collection of recipes, I don't know how much you would use the book. Please do forgive me if I am being presumpious here, in which case i do sincerely apologise.

    I am pleased to read that you too like to buy books from a book shop and leaf through the pages.

    Ah Morgan.
    So pleased to learn that you too like to check out books at a Bookstore and flip through pages for inspiration!

    The dish really is worth trying.

    Thank you Kiran.
    The Rhubarb and lentil curry was really good.

  13. Glad you like the sound of this MOnica.

    I like how you used the rhubarb simply. Sometimes its the best way to enjoy it with some good ice-cream and ginger sounds perfect.

    I think you will like this recipe. My fingers are crossed for you and if you do get some rhubarb in you veg box, you must let me know what you make of it. I do hope you enjoy!

  14. That sounds like a very unique combination, rhubarb and lentils, Mango. You have piqued my interest in that cookbook now. I think I would like that dish.

  15. I have the book myself - a great gardening guide plus I like the recipes after each section. I have a feeling that the courgette ones will most definitely come in handy!

    Another good one is Nigel Slater's "Tender" - a tome of a book with beautiful photos - he also gives some mouth watering recipes.

  16. Oh Barbara, I am so pleased you like the sound of this combo. Please do read the reviews on Amazon about the book to decide if the book is for you. I like it and would recommend it, but many of the reviews highlight that the book is primarily targeted at novice growers and I know that you are far from that, but like me you are a seasonal cook. You decide if its for you.

  17. Homebird.
    I am so glad to learn that you have the book. Yes I agree the courgette recipes will be appearing on our blogs soon.

    I don't have Nigel Slaters 'Tender'. I do have his kitchen Diaries though, which I really like and have started reading again.

  18. Rhubarb and lentil curry does sound interesting, but taking your word for the taste of it, it sounds more than interesting. It looks delicious.

  19. Thank you for trusting me Eve.
    Please do give it a go and see what you think of it.

  20. We had this for Lunch today...a fantastic combination of flavors...mildly sweet, hint of salt, delight of sour, incredibly enriched with the garlic etc...perfectly combined together to compliment each other. It is a keeper MC!!

  21. Oh Gardening Bren.
    I am so, so delighted to read that is was enjoyed for your lunch today. I am sure Celia, the author of the book will be delighted to. Ilove how you described the flavours!

  22. Ah...perfect for the rhubarb season! I never had a savoury dish with rhubarb, very exciting!

  23. Thanks Torwen.
    This was my first try of savoury rhubarb and I loved it. Makes sense when you know that rhubarb is actually a vegetable not a fruit. I'll be making it again.

  24. I made this for a family lunch today and we all loved it. Next time I will add more rhubarb to increase the sourness, although I might have cooked it a bit longer than needed and diluted the rhubarb taste. Served with a slight bit of sour cream topped with finely chopped mint and parsley, tomato, and chives over top. I am always looking for savoury rhubarb recipe. Thank you Mangocheeks.

  25. Hi Judith,
    So so pleased to read that you made this dish and 'loved it'. Its unusual but tasty. OOh your gonna add more rhubarb - brave you - I think the tartness is just right for me, but we all have different tastes.

  26. this sounds delicious shaheen! I didn't think of using rhubarb in a curry, but it sounds lovely!

    1. Shu Han,
      It really was Delicious, but you got to like the sourness.


If you’ve tried one of my recipes, Please let me know by leaving a comment below or tagging me social media with @SeasonalShaheen.

Thank You