Red Onion, Ginger & Basil Lentils

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Preparation info

  • For


    Generous Side Portions
    • Difficulty


Appears in

The Sugar Club Cookbook

By Peter Gordon

Published 1997

  • About

This is an Asian approach to the lentil. Some chefs I’ve met have argued that the lentil is not an Asian ingredient, but then they probably haven’t been to India or gone trekking through Nepal. The lentil is wonderful because it absorbs whatever it’s cooked with, whether it be smoked bacon and red wine or ginger and basil. Prepared as in this recipe they’re good eaten at any temperature – as a hot side dish with roast chicken, dolloped on to crostini or even mixed into warm rice to serve with a curry. Brown lentils are perfect for this as they retain their shape, as do Puy lentils. Green lentils are fine but they don’t look as good.


  • 400g (14oz) lentils
  • 3 medium-sized red onions, peeled and sliced
  • 4 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 200g (7oz) fresh ginger
  • 2 lime leaves
  • 2 stalks of lemon grass
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 50ml ( fl oz) Asian fish sauce
  • 50ml ( fl oz) tamari
  • 2 loosely packed cups coarsely chopped fresh basil


Wash and rinse the lentils several times in warm water, then drain. Sauté the peeled and sliced onions in the sesame oil over medium heat for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally until they become soft. Add the lentils, cover with cold water and bring to the boil. Meanwhile, peel the ginger and dice it finely; add this to the lentils with the lime leaves and the lemon grass after bashing the grass a bit to release its aroma and oils. Peel and cut the garlic cloves finely and add to the simmering lentils with the seasonings; continue to cook for 30 minutes, making sure the lentils don’t dry out at all. Cooking time will depend on the type of lentil you have chosen, so test from time to time. When just soft, remove from the heat and stir in the coarsely chopped basil, check for seasoning and it’s ready.