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Lasting Legacy Lentil Stew

Dianne Osei from United States

2 hours
Cooks in
90 minutes
Country of origin

Every dish has a journey. And along that journey, a story can be told. A story of the past melding with present, and future. This recipe originates from a farm village in my mother’s native Cameroon. My mother prepared this dish with her grandmother, whom I’m named after. Rural farm life forced her family to make do with what they had. And what they had were an abundance of red lentils and goat meat, which they use to make a hearty meal. My mother perfected this dish. When she left for America at age 23 in 1981, she didn’t take many things with her. But she brought a strong culinary sense and this recipe. Throughout the 1980s, she cooked this recipe and oscillated between the original version to that with an American flair, corned beef. Once the mid-90s hit, I encountered this recipe at age 9. I never asked how it was made, but I would watch inquisitively as mama diced each vegetable into perfection. And that unforgettable aroma would fill the kitchen along with the sound of Saturday morning cartoons blaring in the background. Once I left for college in Canada, it was my turn to take on the recipe. I failed miserably on my first attempts. A simple phone call would help me understand the subtle nuances. Once it did, I unlocked a piece of my lineage in Cameroon. I had finally learned how to make what my great-grandmother made. The traveling recipe hadn’t made its final round. When I left for London, I took many things with me and this recipe was neatly written in my mind. It was there for me when I struggled while writing my Master’s dissertation. It provided me the energy to sit countless 12 hour days in the library for months. Simply put, it’s resilient. The recipe survived its meager beginnings in rural Cameroon to the bustle of America, to Canada’s capital city, and to the ornate history of London. This generational lentil stew is a lasting legacy. A versatile recipe that leaves a lasting footprint and a new experience in each country it touches.


  • 3 cups dried lentils
  • 3 roma tomatoes
  • 1 medium red onion, diced
  • 1/4 olive oil
  • 2-3 carrots, diced
  • 3 celery stems
  • 8 oz tomato sauce (no salt added)
  • 1 tbsp garlic powder
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 tbsp Sriracha
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1/2 bunch fresh basil, chopped


  • Soak 3 cups of lentils overnight with equal parts water. The next day, rinse and strain lentils. Put lentils in a medium saucepan with equal parts water and boil over medium-high heat for 20 min or until they are soft to the touch. (You’ll know they’re done, when the lentils are wilted).
  • Once lentils have cooked down, strain and set aside in bowl.
  • Add diced red onion to saucepan and stir. Cook onions down until they are translucent in color.
  • Add diced tomatoes to the saucepan and mix well with onions. Season mixture with a single layer of salt and pepper. Add garlic powder, cumin and 1 tbsp Sriracha. Cover the pot, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer for 10-15 minutes to cook down tomatoes.
  • Pour the tomato sauce in mixture. Add cooked lentils, carrots, and celery; stir to incorporate ingredients. Season the mixture with 1 tbsp Sriracha, a single layer of salt and pepper, 1 tsp cumin, chopped basil. Cover pot and let simmer on medium-low heat for 30 minutes.


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