There are many varieties of dishes called "curries." The precise selection of spices for each dish is a matter of national or regional cultural tradition, which are called by specific names that refer to their ingredients, spicing, and cooking methods. Traditionally, spices are used both whole and ground; cooked or raw; and may be added at different times during the cooking process to produce different results.

The main spices found in most curry powders of the Indian subcontinent are coriander, cumin and turmeric; additional spices may be included depending on the geographic region and the foods being included, for example, fish, lentils, meat, rice and vegetables.

Curry powder, of which I am not a big fan, is a commercially prepared mixture of spices, largely a Western creation, dating to the 18th century. Such mixtures are commonly thought to have first been prepared by Indian merchants for sale to members of the British Colonial government and army returning to Britain.

Crock-Pot Red Curry Lentils

2 c. regular brown lentils

1 onions, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 Tbsp. minced ginger

2 Tbsp. canola or peanut oil

2 1/2 Tbsp. red curry paste

1 Tbsp. sugar

1/2 Tbsp. garam masala

3/4 tsp. turmeric

1/2 tsp. salt plus more to taste

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

29-oz. can tomatoes, pureed

3 c. water

1/4 c. coconut milk

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Cilantro for garnishing

Hot steamed rice or naan bread for serving

Rinse the lentils and place them in a large Crock-Pot. Add the diced onions.

In a small bowl, thoroughly combine garlic, ginger, oil, curry paste, sugar, garam masala, turmeric and cayenne into a thick paste. Add to lentils and onions and mix thoroughly.

Pour in tomato puree over the lentils and add water. Stir to make sure the lentils are covered with liquid. Cover and cook on high for 4 to 5 hours or low for 7 to 8 hours.

Depending on how soupy you like it, check once or twice during cooking to add more water, if the lentils are soaking up all the liquid. Taste and season with salt. Lentils will be soft when they are done cooking.

Finally, stir in the coconut milk and sprinkle with cilantro just before serving. Serve over rice or with naan bread.

This curry dish needs a light, aromatic wine. Pair it with Lucas & Lewellen’s 2016 Santa Barbara County Gewurztraminer. Made from grapes carefully tended in a small section of their Los Alamos vineyard in Santa Barbara County, this gewurztraminer comes from old vines recently grafted to the variety. This vineyard produces grapes with the elegance, balance and intrigue suitable for making this dry, aromatic wine with great depth. This brilliant wine is crisp and delicate emitting distinct aromas of flowers: rose petals, lavender, gardenia and jasmine. The perfume of this wine is deepened by notes of sandalwood, nutmeg and lemon.


John David Finley is a freelance writer and author of the cookbook, "Sacred Meals from our Family Table," which features Santa Barbara County wines. He can be reached at