• But when I moved away, I found myself craving those lentils, so I developed my own approximate recipe for them.
  • In lieu of my usual fast-food taste tests, I've started sharing easy, shelf-stable recipes for those stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • This pandemic-friendly version of Mama Aisha's lentils uses mostly shelf-stable ingredients for a simple and easy, yet unforgettably delicious lentil dish.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories .

There's a story behind this one.

Feel free to skip ahead if you just want the recipe.

A long, long time ago in a country far away Morocco, to be specific this taste tester lived with a circus in a former French slaughterhouse in Casablanca's meatpacking district.

My six-by-eight-foot room in a communal caravan, which makes my current New York room look irresponsibly spacious, didn't have a kitchen. For the most part, only families were allowed that privilege. So for most meals, I'd go out with some of the single men of the circus to small neighborhood joints.

We had our regular spots: the fish fry where you could get sardines so fresh and oily the flesh slid right off the bone, Bou Hassan's chicken-and-fries restaurant across the train tracks, another Bou Hassan's nooklet that sold chickpeas stewed with entrails, and, of course, Mama Aisha's 10-seater, which sold home-cooked chicken stew, fish meatballs, and lentils.

Mama Aisha's place was my favorite, not least because Mama Aisha herself was the only woman business owner in a very conservative neighborhood, but also because her food was good, cheap, and healthy. She also often sent up an extra plate of lentils for free, of course.

When I left the circus, one of the things I found myself missing the most was Mama Aisha's lentils. So I set to experimenting in my kitchen to create an approximate version. For this recipe, I've included ingredients that you likely already have on hand,so that you can make it in self-isolation without having to go to the grocery store.

You'll need:

  • Green lentils, dry (I used a little over a half cup to make two servings)
  • Three cloves garlic (adjust to your discretion)
  • Butter
  • Canola or vegetable oil
  • Cumin, turmeric, paprika, chili pepper, black pepper, and salt.
  • Milk or a milk substitute
  • Water

Yalla, let's cook!

The great thing about this recipe is it doesn't have set amounts. You can adjust everything to your liking more or less butter, garlic, spices, and milk.

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But my advice is: Take the amount of spice you think you need and double it.

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Start by mincing your garlic. If you have onions, mince a quarter onion at this stage.

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Set a medium-sized pot on a stove, turn the heat to medium-low, and cover the bottom with veggie oil.

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Once the oil is shimmering, add your garlic. Be careful not to let your garlic burn. If you have onions, add them before the garlic.

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After the garlic is soft, add your spices hold the salt. You'll add salt at the end.

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Once your spices are lightly toasted, add your lentils. You can sort and rinse them first if you're not sure about their quality.

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I learned to sort lentils through watching many a Moroccan mama do it. But most lentils sold in the States don't require that extra step, as they're less likely to contain random debris.

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Toast your lentils until they emit a warm, nutty aroma.

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It's time to add your water. Add about three times the volume of lentils you're making.

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I made about a half cup of lentils, so I added one and a half cups of water.

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Give it a preliminary stir, cover, and set heat to medium-low.

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Wait for the lentils to come to a boil. Once they do, wait for 10 more minutes.

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Once the lentils are soft-ish but not done, add a hefty lump of butter as much as your heart can tolerate. After it's incorporated, add milk.

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Wait another five minutes or until the lentils are almost done cooking and the sauce has thickened. Add a generous squeeze of lemon. Fresh if you have it, juice if you don't.

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Finally, once you've stirred in your lemon juice, it's time to add your salt.

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Stir in your salt, and when the lentils are soft to the bite, take them off the stove and serve with bread.

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I had some naan in the freezer, so I used that. But any crusty or flatter bread will do. You can also serve with a dollop of yogurt if you have it (an Indian-inspired addition, not Mama Aisha's).

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For the Moroccan eating experience, rip off an inch-wide square of bread and push the lentils onto it with your thumb.

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Warning: This is a good way to unknowingly consume unreasonable amounts of bread. I gained five pounds after eating regularly at Mama Aisha's. Oh well.

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BssHa w raHa! (Moroccan "bon appetit," or literally, "with health and comfort")

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See Also:

SEE ALSO: Here's an easy and delicious pasta recipe you can make with pantry staples while you self-isolate during the coronavirus outbreak