WHB: Minty Dal Two Ways


‘Tis the time for the hostess to do her bit! This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, this time hosted by me! It is only fit that my entry features one of my favourite herbs: mint.

I introduce you to my latest inspiration – Red Lentils Dal with Garlic and Mint (Geeli Sabut Masoor)! I was hooked as soon as I red the title of this recipe. Mint, lentils, garlic – gorgeous…. I was not disappointed: the dish was fragrant with mint and garlic, and comforting. Simple and yet interesting and different (at least to me). A dal with personality, so to say.

There are 4 main cooking stages in this recipe: 1. frying the garlic and cayenne, 2. adding the lentils and cooking them, 3. adding mint and green chilies, 4. making the tarka. Though I liked this dish, I am also suggesting another way of cooking it, to make the garlic taste more fresh, and mint more pronounced and ‘cleaner’. Read on to find out how!



Whole Red Lentils with Garlic

and Mint (Geeli Sabut Masoor)


Madhur’s recipe:


SOURCE: adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘The Ultimate Curry Bible


COOKING TIME: about 1 h


SERVES: 2 – 3



2 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee

2 cloves of garlic, crushed to a pulp

+ 2 cloves of garlic, sliced lengthways into 3 wide slivers

3/4 tsp cayenne pepper

185 g whole red lentils (or even brown or green lentils)

1/2 tsp turmeric (I used more, about 3/4)

1/2 tsp salt (reduced from 1 tsp, but you may want to add more)

3 – 4 tbsp finely chopped mint

4 fresh green finger chilies, sliced

1 dessert spoon ghee (Madhur uses vegetable oil).



1. Put the oil, garlic and cayenne in a pan.

2. When it starts to sizzle, stir once or twice, and add lentils, turmeric and 750 ml water. Stir, bring to boil, and reduce the heat and simmer for about 55 min or until the lentils are tender. (I talked here about the magical transformation that lentils undertake when cooking.)

3. After the lentils are nearly done, add salt, fresh chilies and mint. Stir and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Taste and adjust salt.

4. To make the tarka, put the ghee in a pan, and add garlic. When it starts turning golden, empty the contents of the pan into the pan with lentils, and put the lid on tight for a minute. Then, stir the dal for the flavours to combine. 



Delicious. I love the fact that mint and chilies are added late so their flavour is more pronounced in the dish. Also, I substituted vegetable oil in the tarka for ghee because I love that buttery flavour of ghee.

However, I thought frying the garlic in oil at the beginning made it taste a little heavy, which is why I decided to try it this way next time. Firstly, I would skip the first stage of frying the garlic in oil (which also reduces fat content). I discovered that red lentils (masoor dal) are fantastic with turmeric, so I decided to increase the amount of turmeric used to 3/4 – 1 tsp. Also, I decided to make tarka slightly differently by heating the ghee, then adding dried red chilies and garlic, and after that quickly adding the mixture to the lentils. So here’s the new recipe, this is what I’m cooking next:




Whole Red Lentils with Garlic

and Mint (Geeli Sabut Masoor)


My way:


SOURCE: inspired by a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘Ultimate Curry Bible


COOKING TIME: about 1 h


SERVES: 2 – 3



185 g whole red lentils (or even brown or green lentils)

1/2 tsp turmeric (I used more, about 3/4)

1/2 tsp salt (reduced from 1 tsp, but you may want to add more)

3 – 4 tbsp finely chopped mint

4 fresh green finger chilies, sliced

1 dessert spoon ghee (Madhur uses vegetable oil).

3 cloves of garlic, sliced or chopped

3/4 tsp cayenne pepper or 3 – 4 dried red bird’s eye chilies  



1. Put the lentils, turmeric and 750 ml water into a pan. Stir, bring to boil, and reduce the heat and simmer for about 55 min or until the lentils are tender. (I talked here about the magical transformation that lentils undertake when cooking.)

2. After the lentils are done, add salt, fresh chilies and mint. Stir and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Taste and adjust salt.

3. To make the tarka, put the ghee in a pan, and add garlic and chilies (or  cayenne if using). When it starts turning golden, empty the contents of the pan into the pan with lentils, and put the lid on tight for a minute. Then, stir the dal for the flavours to combine. 



For interesting dishes with mint and coriander, try this Coconut Chicken Masala and Hariyalli Chicken! 




Murgh Masala – Chicken in Onion Tomato Gravy

Some people bake to relax; I make curry. This has become my habit of late. It’s the stirring of the onion that I find so relaxing, their mellow smell so warming, and their shapes glistening beautifully at the bottom of the pan. Then come the exciting heat of the chili and the seductive aromas of the wet and the dry spices. When the time comes to leave the gentle heat of the hob to do it’s magic, at the very end of cooking, I feel like new.

Some days just seem to rush past me, and I feel all tense, stiff and nervous. On one such day, I picked up Julie Sahni’s ‘Classic Indian Cookery’ at the library. I started reading it on the bus home, and simply couldn’t put it down. I haven’t read the whole book, but what I can tell now is that the book is very informative and full of interesting recipes. Julie is a wonderful teacher, too, and for example, her instructions on how to fry the onions properly are invaluable! I’m seriously considering buying this book.

That day, when I got home, I made this lovely flavoursome dish. The cooking did it’s magic, and I felt great afterwards. And  best of all, it was absolutely delicious!

According to Julie, this is a classic Punjabi dish. What I particularly like about this dish is the interesting addition of freshly ground cumin along the coriander just before serving, the slight smokiness of black cardamom, and the rich sauce with lots of onion and garlic. The recipe is below. I made some changes to it, and I also rewrote it slightly differently, incorporating what I’ve learnt about making curry, of Julie, of a friend, from books and from experience. Enjoy!





Murgh Masala – Chicken in Onion Tomato Gravy


SOURCE: adapted from Julie Sahni’s ‘Classic Indian Cookery’



CUISINE: North Indian – Punjabi

SERVES: 2 – 3



600 g chicken breast, cubed (or better even, use chicken thigh)

ghee (Julie uses vegetable oil)

315 g thinly sliced onions

1 tbsp finely chopped garlic

1.5 tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger root

3 green finger chilies (my addition)

1 cassia stick, 7.5 cm long (Julie: Cinnamon)

2 black cardamom pods

1 – 2 green cardamom pods (my addition. J: use black or green)

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tin tomatoes (200 g), drained, chopped


250 ml boiling water


1/2 tbsp roasted ground cumin seeds

2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander leaves



1. Start with the onions. Peel the onions, and cut them in half, longitudinally. Then, cut off the tough ends at either end. Slice the onions finely. (They will look absolutely beautiful frying in the pan!)

2. Heat some ghee in pan. (I used my gorgeous new wide cast iron pan!)

3. Fry the onions on medium-high heat until they turn light brown, stirring pretty much constantly. This will take about 30 min. Do not skip this step, and don’t try to speed it up either, else you’ll burn the onions. This is really important. If the onions start burning, add a little water.

4. When the onions are light brown, add ginger, garlic and chili, and fry for another 5 minutes.

5. Add cinnamon and cardamom, until the spices are slightly puffed and begin to brown (about two minutes).

6. Add turmeric and cayenne pepper and stir rapidly for 10 – 15 s. Please be careful, turmeric burns easily.

7. Now add the chicken, and fry for a few minutes until the chicken is sealed and white all over. (There is a little water in the chicken, which will stop the burning of the spices. However, you may need to add a little water.) The onions will have started falling apart; this is the basis for the delicious, thick sauce that you’ll end up with.

8. Add tomatoes, salt and boiling water. Stir to mix, and reduce heat and simmer, covered, until the chicken is cooked, and tender, and the gravy has thickened. This takes about 40 minutes. Check the dish during cooking, making sure it doesn’t get too dry or else it will burn. If this happens, add a little water. The dish should have plenty of thick, pulpy gravy at the end, and the oil will have started floating at the top. (At this stage, the excess oil is very easy to remove.)

9. Turn off the heat, and let the dish rest, covered, for at least 1 hour, preferably 2 before serving. I skipped this step, because I had no time for it, but if you can, try and do this. This is one of those dishes where flavour only improves with time.

10. Just before you’re ready to serve, roast the cumin seeds. To do this, heat the pan until you can feel the heat rising from it when you put hold your palm above it. If the heat is comfortable, add the cumin seeds, and toss until you get a lovely aroma coming out. Be careful not to burn the spices. When the cumin is done, take it out of the pan and put it in the mortar to cool. When it cools down, grind it with the pestle into powder.

11. Heat the curry thoroughly. Then, fold in the freshly ground cumin and chopped coriander leaves. Enjoy!

I served it with a pilaf, but plain rice and/or naan/chapati would also go well with this dish.




I used chicken breast, because that was all I had on hand, but chicken thigh would work better with this curry.

Julie fries the chicken in oil before frying the onion, and adds it together with the tomatoes, but I skipped this step, and fried the chicken later on with the onions to make it a little leaner. However, since ghee/fat is easy to spoon off later, I could have done it her way.


 Because of all I said above, it’s easy to guess that curry has become one of my comfort foods. As Meeta said, the spices ‘hug me from inside’, and invigorate me. Therefore, I’m sending this entry to Meeta’s Monthly Mingle; this month, the theme is ‘COMFORT FOODS’. Perfect.

I can’t wait to see what other people find comforting, too! If you want to know too, check Meeta’s blog after 4th February!




Burmese Chicken Curry (See-Pyan)

There have been a lot of changes recently. I’ve started a new job, and as a result, I have a lot less time. I haven’t forgotten my blog, though devoting time to it has become more difficult. I will still be posting, but not as often as before.

Here’s the Burmese chicken curry, as promised.


Burmese Chicken Curry (See-Pyan)


SOURCE: adapted from Madhur Jaffrey: ‘The Ultimate Curry Bible’


COOKING TIME: 20 min marinating + 40 min

CUISINE: Burmese

SERVES: 2 – 3



454 g chicken drumsticks

2 tsp hot curry powder (I used Madras curry powder)

1/2 tsp garam masala


1 medium onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic

2.5 cm or 1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp paprika

groundnut oil

1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes (Madhur uses 2 medium tomatoes, peeled and chopped)

1 tbsp* fish sauce (nam pla)

1 stick lemon grass (use the bottom 15 cm, lightly mashing the bulbous end)

               or 1 tsp ground lemon grass



I. Marinating the chicken

1. Place the chicken in a single layer in a wide dish. Sprinkle the curry powder, garam masala and salt over it, and rub them into the chicken.

2. Set aside for 20 minutes or longer, covering and refrigerating if necessary.

II. Making the curry

1. Pt the onions, garlic, ginger, cayenne and paprika into a blender and blend until smooth, adding a few tablespoons of water if needed.

2. Put the oil into a wide non-stick, lidded pan, and set on a medium-high heat.

3. When the oil is hot, add the paste from the blender to the oil, and fry for 6 – 7 min until the paste has darkened and reduced. Stir occasionally.

4. Add the chicken, and continue frying, stirring, for a further 3 – 4 mins, or until the chicken has become lightly browned.

5. Add the tomatoes, fish sauce and lemon grass, and stir for another 2 minutes.

6. Then add 125 water and bring to boil. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and cook gently for 25 minutes.

7. Remove the lid, increase the heat and reduce to the desired thickness. The oil should have risen to the top.

8. I served it with rice, garnished with coriander.



Very simple and easy to make and very tasty! Will make it again! There was lots and lots of delicious juice that was great with rice!



* Madhur used 1 tbsp of fish sauce for 1.15 kg of chicken, and I used the same amount for 1 lb  of chicken. It tasted ok, but it might have been a bit much. I’ll stick to Madhur’s quantities next time!





Nigerian Red Kidney Bean Stew with a Peanut Sauce

I wasn’t going to post tonight, but I simply had to! I think I’m addicted to this:


Nigerian Red Kidney Bean Stew with a Peanut Sauce – Itiakiet Stew

SOURCE: adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian



CUISINE: Nigerian

SERVES: 2 – 3 (as a main course)



1 can of red kidney beans (undrained)

Groundnut oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

4 – 5 Thai green chilies, chopped

2 1/2 tsp of ground cumin

1 can of chopped tomatoes

3/4 teaspoon of cayenne

1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

1 1/2 tablespoons of peanut butter

2 teaspoons of sea salt


1. Heat the oil in a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and chilies. Stir and fry until the onions become translucent

2. . Add the cumin, stir, then add the tomato sauce, cayenne, lemon juice and a little water. Stir and then bring to boil. Then, turn the heat to the lowest setting and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes.

3. While the tomato mixture is simmering, put the peanut butter in a small bowl. Slowly add a little liquid from the beans, mixing as you add the water.

4. When the tomato mixture is finished cooking, pour into it the beans and and the peanut butter and stir. Bring to simmer, cover, and gently cook for 10 – 15 minutes.

It’s absolutely delicious served with some brown basmati rice, or with some bread.


Amazing! It’s a real winner! It takes very little time to make, it’s easy, inexpensive – and it tastes amazing! I am so happy I discovered this deliciousness! I loved it! The silkiness of the peanut butter was totally seductive and ultimately simply addictive! It was perfect with brown basmati rice. – Can you tell I really like this? 😀 Go on, make it now!  


I think I may try using a bit less peanut butter next time, to try and get a better balance between the peanut butter and the rest of the sauce.

Madhur says pinto beans can be used instead of red kidney beans. She likes to serve greens or green beans on the side.

This was my first attempt and even taste of African cooking other than Moroccan, so that was very exciting! I first saw this recipe over at Lisa’s blog, and then somewhere else, and then I got Madhur’s book from the library. The book is going straight to my wish list! The recipes are delicious, and the writing is very soulful and warm, so much that it’s hard to stop reading it.

My First Beef and Ale Pie

… is simmering on the hob right now. Can you smell it? There’s a fantastic aroma of beef, ale and mushrooms, with notes of Worcestershire sauce, emanating from the kitchen! Yes, this is my first beef and ale pie. No, it’s actually my first pie ever! …. Oooops actually – no. I did make a shepherd’s pie once or twice, very successfully, if I may add! It was delicious! 🙂 However, I’ve never made a pie with pastry, my own pastry. This is what I’m attempting to do now – make my own pie pastry, as well as the pie filling!

I must admit I was feeling pretty nervous before attempting it. Yes, I like pie, but what else do I know about it, apart from that? – Well, absolutely nothing! But, married to a Brit, I was bound to have to learn how to make one! Plus, it’s his birthday soon, so it’s time to be a good wife – for once! he he! It will make a nice surprise – hopefully!

As for my pie, so far, so good! The filling is simmering happily on the hob, smelling and tasting delicious! I guess the pastry will be the real challenge, since I know I can make a stew (for god’s sake!)! So because it tastes good, I decided to share the recipe with you. The photos will come later, together with my final verdict. I’ll also let you know about my fortunes with pastry making.

The recipe comes from The Dairy Book of British Food, but I adapted it slightly. I’m using a recipe for steak and kidney pie, minus the kidney. Not because I don’t like/won’t cook kidney, but simply because I don’t have any!

The book I’m using has over 400 recipes for every occasion. It contains chapters on regional food, describing the local dishes and produce, and lists annual food fairs and festivals. This recipe comes from the North of England, where the food is “based on dishes suitable for a hard-working community living in a bracing climate” (pg. 56). According the my book, oysters were originally used to flavour the dish, instead of mushrooms, which were the more expensive ingredient at the time. Times have changed considerably, definitely! I would love to know when the dish was first made.

Here’s the recipe! Stay tuned for pastry cronicles, pics and verdicts!

At the moment, it has a lovely dark brown hue and some gorgeous thick gravy that tastes delicious! Perfect for dipping bread in! – Did I say anything about dipping bread? Shhh, don’t tell my husband!

Actually, the recipe is coming later! The time has come – to make the wretched pastry!

Update 2o October: See below for verdict!



Beef and Ale Pie



SOURCE: adapted from The Dairy Book of British Food

PREPARATION TIME: 5 min for the filling, 10 – 20* min for the pastry

COOKING TIME: about 1h 30 min for the filling, + 30 – 45 min for the whole pie

CUISINE: British – a dish from the North

SERVES: 3 – 4 



For the filling:

15 g flour

500 g diced beef

1 tbsp butter

1 large onion

1 clove of garlic

85 g mushrooms (I used chestnut mushrooms) (See note 1)

200 ml beef stock (See note 2)

200 ml brown ale (I used Theakston Old Peculiar)

1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce (See note 3)

1 tbsp tomato puree (See note 4)

1 bay leaf

1 sprig of fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp dried thyme)


For the pastry:

200 g flour

100 g butter, chilled and diced




Making the filling: :

  •  Sieve and season the flour. Toss the beef in the flour, shake the excess and set aside.

  • Fry the onion, garlic and mushrooms in the butter, until the onions become translucent.

  • Add the beef, and brown.

  • Add all the other ingredients, and simmer gently for about 1 h 15 min. I used too much stock, so I had to leave it uncovered to reduce the liquid. The filling needs to be fairly dry, otherwise it will leak.

Making the pastry:

  • Sieve the flour and stir in diced butter. Rub the butter and flour until the mixture starts resembling to fine bread crumbs. Then, add 60 ml of cold water to form a dough. Mix until the dough is formed.

  • Divide the pastry in to two parts – one smaller and the other larger. Roll them out to fit your pie dish on a lightly floured surface. Rub flour into your rolling pin** to stop the dough from sticking to it.

Assembling the pie:

  • Roll the larger piece of dough gently on your rolling pin, and carry it over to your pie dish. Unroll the pastry over the pie dish, and put the dough inside the dish. Gently press the edges for the pastry to fit the dish.
  • Spoon the pie filling inside the dough.
  • Take a little water and brush the edge of the pastry. Then, put the ‘lid’, i.e. the other piece of dough, on top, and press lightly to seal the edges.
  • If you have some leftover dough, make some shapes and stick them on top of the lid. I had loads of dough left, and I made some leaves.
  • Brush the surface with a little milk. This gives the pie a lovely glaze.
  • Put in the oven at 200 C (Gas mark 6 / 400 F) for 30 – 45 min. That’s it! We’re having it with some mashed potatoes, parsnips, boiled carrots and peas!

* Probably less if you know what you’re doing, so that’s unlike me!

** Shame on you all you dirty-minded people! Like me… ehm…  


Our eclectic dinner. With beers of course!




Delicious! Both hot and cold. We both loved it! And…. I managed to produce a perfectly edible, functional pastry that didn’t leak, didn’t break, and it did taste good! Wow! – And it was so easy! I really loved the golden colour of the pastry!

 I amazed myself completely! I really thought making n’ rolling the pastry would be more difficult, but it really wasn’t! It was very easy and fairly quick to make. Rubbing flour and butter is a little tedious, but it was well worth it! I’m not a pastry wimp anymore! Yeay! Ok, maybe a bit, but definitely less so than before! 😀

I’ll be making this again, so here are a few cooking notes.


1. You can use a bit more mushrooms if you want it more mushroomy. If you like it meaty, like I do, don’t!

2. I think I used too much stock. It was rather watery to start with, but of course, after 1.30 h of cooking, it reduced nicely. Next time I’ll replace some of the stock with more ale! 😉

3. Can do with a bit more Worcestershire sauce.

4. Definitely less tomato puree – 1/2 tbsp next time. Perhaps even less, or none. You see, I like my pies meaty! However, if you’re making the filling as a stew only, then it’s fine.

– It’s quite filling, so bear that in mind!


Make the filling only and serve it as a stew!



I’m sending this post over to Susan at Well-seasoned Cook who is hosting this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging! This recipe features thyme and bay leaf, both of which I grow myself!



Other British recipes on this blog:


Date and nut loaf


Rhubarb Crumble







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