Tag Archive for fruticana

Vegan Lentil Curry

How far can $20 get you?

It seems like the answer is “not far” these days, but I’m really trying to be budget-smart these days. Budget-smart while still being health-smart, so I’m exploring different ways to make my grocery budget go further.

One way: shop smart. I almost never buy my produce, specifically, at the grocery store. I prefer to spend my money at small, locally owned produce stores. I find that, overall, the prices are cheaper, the produce is fresher, and often more local. Those are all things that make me feel good.

I recently checked out Fruticana for the first time, and went in with a challenge. I had a crisp, shiny, brand-new $20 bill, and I wanted to see how far it would get me.

This is how far it got me.

fruticana lentil curry

Not bad, eh?

Out of what I bought, I’ve so far created a cocktail recipe, an appetizer (both of which I will share with you soon), and this wonderful, warming, fall stew.

One way to save money on your groceries is to eat vegetarian, or, alternatively, to make dishes that stretch a small piece of meat a long way, like in a stew or a cassoulet.

This recipe uses lentils as the protein, instead of meat. It’s very filling, and lentils (which are a Canadian product–yay! more local!) are full of fibre, protein and iron.

vegan lentil curryVegan Lentil Curry

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1/2″ knob of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp cardamom
  • 2 tbsp tamarind paste or tomato paste (or both!)
  • 1 chile, de-seeded and de-veined, chopped small
  • 2-3 cups vegetable stock (canned or homemade)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 2 small sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks
  • 3/4 cup beluga lentils–rinsed (you can sub any kind of lentils)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Garnish: fresh chopped cilantro and a quartered limes


  1. In a large pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil. Add the onions and sweat them out for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, ginger, chile and spices, and stir well, to coat everything. Allow the spices to cook out for 2-5 minutes. This helps release the oils of the spices.
  2. Next, add in the sweet potatoes and the carrots, and stir them well, again to allow them to be coated with the spices and to start to caramelize. Give them 5-10 minutes to hang out, adding additional oil if they are sticking to the pan.
  3. Add the lentils, tamarind paste, and 1.5 cups of stock, all at once. The stock should cover the ingredients in the pan. Add the bay leaf and stir well. Turn the heat down to a simmer, and allow to cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, and checking to see if the pot is going dry. If it is going dry, add additional stock. The lentils and vegetables will absorb the stock. Continue checking, stirring, and adding stock if needed, until the lentils and vegetables are tender, and the whole has thickened to make a saucy stew. This should not take more than hour. If your stew is too liquidy, remove a ladle full and puree it in the blender and then return it to the pot. This will help to thicken.
  4. To serve: ladle into a bowl, and top with chopped cilantro and squeeze of lime.

Playing Tourist in my own Back Yard: Surrey

I’m a city girl. I live downtown. I work downtown, my son goes to school downtown. I do have a car, but I prefer to walk or ride my bike if possible. Take me over a bridge, and I immediately get lost.

I recently had the opportunity to get an insider’s look at Surrey, and it was a pretty amazing experience.

When Raj, Emily and I were in Seattle in September for IFBC, we were wandering around, checking out the food scene there. And we had a thought: what if each of us hosted the other two girls on a tour of our own neighbourhoods, and then we all wrote posts about the experience?

And we did. Here’s the first one.

raj thandi

Huh. She’s wearing pink.

Raj (@PinkChai) was our intrepid tour guide on this particular trip. She met us at the door with three cups of her (as you can well imagine) fantastic homemade chai.

chai tea

Cheers to road trips with foodie friends!

Our first stop was at Navraj Sweets for what were the best pakoras I’ve ever had in my life. If you’ve never had them, pakoras are fritters that are usually made from some kind of vegetable, battered with a chickpea-flour based batter and deep fried. These ones were made with cauliflower, and were served hot and perfectly seasoned with a mango-infused salt. They also came with two dipping sauces–a fresh cilantro chutney, and a sweet/hot tamarind sauce. By the way, this giant plate of pakoras was $5.


Next, after doing a little accessory shopping, we went for lunch. Our first choice for lunch was full up, and we had a time limit, so we decided to skip it, go to our next destination and see if we could find some food nearby.


What? We can’t think about food ALL the time. Sometimes we have to build an appetite. By shopping for bangles.

Our next stop was a grocery store, Fruticana. They are a large, locally-owned chain, but I’d never been to one before. I was especially impressed with the spice selection, and the beautiful, fresh produce. We had a contest to see how much stuff we could buy with $20, and the results were impressive!


I got some lentils, Indian Carrots and Indian Sweet Potatoes (which I’d never seen before), some spices, Tamarind, and the most beautiful mint I think I’ve ever bought. That night, after I went home, I made a gorgeous  Mango mojito out of it (recipe to come) and this mint-cilantro chutney. I also made a wonderful, warming, Vegan Lentil Curry (which I will share with you next week).


By the time we were done browsing and shopping, we were, of course, hungry again. We stopped at a neighbouring food cart for a quick bite called Golgappa. They are a kind of bread–almost like a small pita, and they are filled with a savoury mixture that includes vinegar, chickpeas, and chilies. You sort of shoot them down in one bite, and they are like an explosion of flavours in your mouth. 

chickpeas on samosa

Our last stop was a late lunch at Taj Sweets & Restaurant. We started with samosas covered with a chickpea curry, and followed that with a vegetable korma with rice. All excellent. The korma was sweet and spicy and rich with coconut milk. The naan was warm and pillowy and spiked with garlic. 


We finished the day with fresh, hot jalaibi, which were being made by the vendor just outside of the restaurant. Jalaibi are an Indian sweet–kind of like a donut. The sweet orange-coloured batter is deep-fried, and then when removed from the fryer, dunked into a vat of simple syrup. The final result is a crispy, warm, sweet, gooey bite of heaven. They must be incredibly bad for you, based on how delicious they taste. 

Three silly gals and their jalaibi!

Three silly gals and their jalaibi!

What an wonderful day! Filled with friends, wonderful food and new experiences. You can read Raj’s experience here, and Emily’s here. Look for future posts as we explore the West End and the North Shore.

Get out and explore your own backyard–it’s really fun to be a tourist in your own (or a nearby) city. You never know what you might discover!