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Red Lentils and Rice: Two Cooking Lessons From A Cheap and Easy Dish
Casual Kitchen: The 25 Best Laughably Cheap Recipes at Casual Kitchen

Here's another recipe that works great as a side dish or as a full meal. I'd say the cost of this meal will be around $2.00 to $3.00 tops (which means it qualifies for laughably cheap) and it'll serve 3-4 people even if served as a main dish.

And, as a free bonus, I'm throwing in two "kitchen life lessons" along with this recipe--see below.

Red Lentils and Rice
(modified without permission from the side of a bag of Goya red lentils)

1 lb red lentils
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tblsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon curry powder (prefer hot curry powder)
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
4 cups water and 1 bouillon cube (chicken, beef or veggie, it doesn't matter)
3-4 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Black pepper and/or cayenne pepper to taste

Heat oil, then saute onions and garlic in oil on medium high heat for ~5 minutes.
Add ginger, curry powder, cumin and saute another 2 minutes.
Add remaining ingredients and lentils.
Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for ~20 minutes.
Add a bit more water if lentil mixture seems like it's getting too dry.
Serve over white rice.

Serves 4.

There are a two things I want to teach you with this recipe:

1) Don't get rattled by upfront spice costs.
If you're starting up a kitchen and you're cooking some of your first few recipes, you may find your upfront spice costs to be disconcertingly expensive. If you DON'T find them disconcertingly expensive, then please send me some of your excess money.

Admittedly, spices are the worst ripoffs in cooking. Where are those low-cost Chinese imports when we need them? You'll have to grin and bear it with the upfront costs and know that the "1/2 teaspoon ground cumin" you just used is still basically free, even if it cost you $3.99 to buy the whole jar in the first place. You'll be using the rest of that jar of cumin in lots of other recipes, and don't worry, these spices will last for years.

2) Some of the best recipes come from the most unassuming places.
This is a critical lesson I want to convey to you: you can find really great recipes in the most humble places. I found the recipe above totally randomly. I was browsing around in the dried beans section of our grocery store (yep, the party NEVER stops over here...) and I picked up a bag of these weird looking orange colored lentils. I'd never really noticed or even seen a red lentil before. And on the side of the bag--again totally randomly--I saw this recipe.

It looked like it would taste good AND be easy to make, thus it would pass both litmus tests to get tried in my kitchen. What you have above is a slightly modified version of that recipe.

Sure, I've found great recipes in the usual places: in cookbooks, in magazines and on the Internet. But I've found some of our top favorite recipes in really nutty places too. I've already shared a house favorite recipe with you that I modified from the side of a Near East couscous box. I've also found great recipes on the side of a 28 ounce can of black beans, on the outside of a box of store-brand linguine, and even a real keeper of a recipe on a tag wrapped around a big bunch of collard greens (in tiny, tiny print no less!).

Now the side of a bag of lentils doesn't seem like such a weird place to snag a recipe after all, does it?