Vegetable Curry with Pepper and Cilantro Tadka

This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

This delicious vegetable curry is a favorite weekday main course. Tadka, a fried garnish often used in Indian cooking, is traditionally a mixture of spices cooked in ghee, a type of clarified butter. It is usually served over a large bowl of dal made from dried beans or lentils. I like the spicy finish the tadka adds to this mellow stew, but I prefer to pass it in a small bowl, allowing people to season to taste.

NotesTo clean leeks, fill sink full of lukewarm water. Split leeks in half lengthwise and submerge in water, swishing them around to remove all traces of dirt. Transfer to a colander and rinse under cold water.


Cooking Methodslow cooking



Total Timehalf-day

OccasionCasual Dinner Party

Recipe Coursemain course

Dietary Considerationvegetarian

Equipmentcrock pot


Taste and Texturegarlicky, herby, hot & spicy, savory

Type of Dishvegetable


  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) vegetable oil 
  • 2 large leeks, white part only, cleaned and thinly sliced (see Notes) 
  • 6 stalks celery, peeled and thinly sliced 
  • 6 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced 
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced 
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) minced ginger root 
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) curry powder 
  • 1 chili pepper, finely chopped 
  • 1 can (28 oz/796 ml) tomatoes, including juice, coarsely chopped (see Tip) 
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and shredded 
  • 2 cups (500 ml) lentils, washed and picked over 
  • 3 cups (750 ml) vegetable stock 
  • 2 cups (500 ml) green beans, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) pieces, or green peas, thawed if frozen 
  • 1 tsp (5 ml) cumin seeds 
  • 2 tbsp (25 ml) ghee, clarified butter or vegetable oil 
  • 2 green onions, white part only, finely chopped 
  • ½ chili pepper, finely chopped 
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely chopped 
  • ¼ cup (50 ml) finely chopped cilantro 
  • 1 tbsp (15 ml) freshly squeezed lemon juice 


  1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add leeks, celery and carrots and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

  2. Increase heat to medium. Add garlic, gingerroot, curry powder and chili pepper and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes with juice and bring to a boil.

  3. Place potatoes and lentils in slow cooker stoneware. Pour contents of pan over mixture and stir well. Add stock barely to cover, about 3 cups (750 ml).

  4. Cover and cook on Low for 8 to 10 hours or on High for 4 to 5 hours, until vegetables are tender. Add green beans or peas. Cover and cook on High until tender, about 15 to 30 minutes.

  5. Pepper and Cilantro Tadka: In a skillet, over medium heat, toast cumin seeds just until they begin to turn brown and release their aroma. Remove from heat, grind and set aside. In same skillet, heat ghee, clarified butter or oil. Add green onions, chili pepper, red pepper and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in cilantro, lemon juice and reserved cumin seeds. Spoon into a small bowl and serve as a garnish for the curry.

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