For the winter blues: Sri Lankan coconut dhal

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Hello! How are you, how’s the world at your end? Here in the UK, we’re cocooned in layers of snow of varying thickness, depending on where you are. When I was coming home tonight, around 6.30 pm, I felt this thick layer of snow under my feet is starting to freeze. I wonder what we’ll wake up to tomorrow. As idyllic as it all looks, us Mediterranean types are not faring to well in these conditions. All I want to do is hibernate until the sun shines back on us again. But though I refuse to believe it, the life goes on. There are jobs to do, people to see, dinners to cook… Yes… Dinners… Here’s what kept me awake and re-energised me this evening. Remember that delicious Sri Lankan dhal I was telling you about earlier? Here’s the recipe. Without the photos for now, until my camera awakes from its winter sleep. (I meant to take photos this evening, but my camera failed me.)

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This dhal is a serious contender for the title of my favourite dhal, so far held by the seductive Bengali Red Dal. It has a rich gutsy flavour of red lentils cooked with onion, garlic, chillies, and cumin and black pepper, imbued with the heady aroma of curry leaves, and with a squeeze of lime to heighten your senses. I normally prefer to eat my dhal on the same day I make it, but this one I find improves with time. That is if you can stay away from it and leave some for tomorrow. I’m proud to day that this time I managed to do just that. Not even I can eat this much dhal at one sitting!

Let not the long list of ingredients intimidate you. This dhal is really very easy to make, and you can leave it to look after itself while you’re doing something else. Like making Sri Lankan coconut rotis, for example. Yes, that’s a good thing to do. (Recipe coming soon.) 

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Sri Lankan coconut dhal

 

SOURCEJasmine’s recipe

PREPARATION TIME: under 5 min

COOKING TIME: about 45 min

CUISINE: Sri Lankan

SERVES: 3 – 4 as a side dish, or 2 as a main

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of red lentils

1/4 red (medium to large) onions, or 2 shallots

2 large cloves of garlic, sliced

3 green chillies, roughly chopped

a handful of fresh curry leaves, shredded

1/3 tsp turmeric

2/3 tsp roughly ground cumin and black pepper mixture

1 scant tsp of fenugreek seeds

1/5 – 1/4 can of coconut milk

Juice of 1/2 lime, or more to taste

3 – 4 dried red chillies

salt to taste

a handful of (preferably fresh) curry leaves

1 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee

1 tbsp tempering spices (mixture of brown/black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds – see Sri Lankan spices for recipe)

1 1/2 tbsp fried onions (or 3 – 4 shallots, shredded and then fried as below)

 

METHOD:

Place the lentils in about 2 – 3 cups of water. Then chop the chillies, onions, garlic, shred the curry leaves and add them to the lentils, together with turmeric, fenugreek and the cumin and black pepper mixture. Boil together until the lentils turn soft.

When the lentils are soft, add the coconut milk and stir through.

Before you’re ready to eat, prepare the tadka or tempering for the dhal. I usually don’t have fried onions at hand, so this is what I do. I heat the oil and then add the chillies and the curry leaves to it. when the curry leaves are starting to turn crisp, I pop in the onions/shallots, and cook them until they’re almost copper brown. Then add a few more curry leaves (if you want, which I invariably do), and the tempering spices. Stir for 10 s or until they release their fragrance. Now pop the contents of the pan into the lentil mixture, reserving perhaps some for the garnish. Stir, put the lid back on, and leave it for a minute or two for the flavours to mingle and make friends.

Don’t forget the lime. I sometimes add it before adding the tadka to the lentils, and sometimes after the tadka. Either way, don’t leave it out. It really does make all the difference.

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More dhals from this blog:

Bengali Red Dhal

Minty dhal (2 versions of  recipe)

 

Also:

More recipes with beans and lentils

More Sri Lankan recipes

 

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We’re at the 8th helping of My Legume Love Affair hosted and organised by the talented Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook. This is my entry for the event.  

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Cooking a hated vegetable dangerously

 

Image: Wikipedia Commons

 

Cooking a hated vegetable dangerously. This is what the Significant Someone would say if he saw me now. But my policy is: the one who is not here doesn’t get a say in what’s for dinner. So I do it my way. Or rather Madhur’s way. Dangerously cooking a plum purple aubergine on an open gas fire! Praying I don’t burn the house down (I suddenly remember that I was born a Catholic). Making baigan bharta, the Punjabi dish of aubergines, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, onions and chilies. Flavoured with a generous sprinkle of coriander. Yum!

Apart from the danger element, simplicity is the name of the game. Simple spicing and flavour, but utterly delectable results. This is my second try at it. I’ve got to admit that I didn’t have the nerve to cook it properly the first time around. Yes, I copped out, and baked it in the oven on high heat. And that was fine, but it didn’t have that characteristic charred taste. Still very nice, if you don’t have a gas hob.

And the danger? It really is not half as bad as it sounds. The first time I cooked this, I watched it like a hawk, but after I realised I wasn’t going to burn my home down, I relaxed. Still, be watchful and careful if you cook it on the gas hob.

This is my entry for my event Eating with the Seasons – July. Aubergines are in season in Britain at the moment. Enjoy them!

Beautiful flower, isn’t it.

Image: Aubergine flower (Wikipedia Commons)

 

Baigan BhartaIndian Aubergine Pate

SOURCE: Madhur Jaffrey’s ‘Flavours of India’, my wording

PREPARATION TIME: 5 min

COOKING TIME: about 20 – 30 min

CUISINE: Indian (Punjabi)

SERVES: 3 – 4 as a side dish

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 aubergine

1 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 medium onion

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 cm peeled and finely grated fresh ginger

3 green chilies

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (I tend to leave it out)

1/2 can plum tomatoes

1/2 tsp salt, or to taste

3 – 4 tbsp finely chopped coriander

 

METHOD: 

1. Wash your aubergine and wipe it clean. Remove the stem, and prick it with a knife a few times. Now this step is vital. If you fail to do this, you may have a hot and dangerous aubergine bomb exploding all over your kitchen!

2. Place the aubergine on top of a burning gas flame, and cook moving around until charred. Or simply bake it in the oven until soft to touch. Leave to cool, and then peel.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in the pan until it starts sizzling when you dip a wooden spoon into it. Then throw in the cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for a few seconds, and when they’ve released their lovely warm aroma, add the onions.

4. When they turn golden, add the garlic, ginger and green chilies. Fry for two minutes until the ginger and garlic mellow a little.

5. Add the tomatoes and cayenne if using it, and season with salt. Cook the tarka (the tomato and onion mixture here) until it becomes shiny dark orange and the oil starts oozing out.

6. Now add the chopped aubergine and cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables come together. You can do this for a bit longer if you wish.

7. Add the fresh coriander, stir and remove from heat.

I sometimes add a touch of garam masala at the end.

Serve it with any Indian meal, or even as a dip at parties, or a delicious spread on crusty bread.

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Verdict

This is a lovely way of cooking aubergine. Fragrant, and rather fresh tasting. Mildly spiced, so that the flavour of vegetables really come into their own.

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Other aubergine recipes at Maninas:

Ajvar – aubergine and red pepper relish  V

This lovely relish is probably the most popular condiment of the former Yugoslavia.

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My Morrocan-inspired chickpeas

Addicted to chickpeas? Who me? No…. OK maybe a little bit…. OK maybe a bit more…. 🙂

Here’s a confession: I played with chickpeas and my spice rack once more! And let me tell you, it was delicious! positively yummilicious! Which is why I’m sharing the recipe with you! But let’s not waste time! Here’s the recipe!

 

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My Morrocan-inspired Chickpeas

 

SOURCE: momentary inspiration, own recipe

PREPARATION TIME: 5 min

COOKING TIME:  30 – 45 min (not sure)

SERVES: 2 – 3

CUISINE: Morrocan-inspired

 

INGREDIENTS

 

1 tbsp cumin seeds 

1 onion

2 cloves of garlic

1.5 cm ginger

3 small carrots

2 tsp crushed red chilies

1 tbsp ghee (or vegetable oil)

 

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cinnamon

2 tsp ras el hanout

1/2 tsp allspice

1 tsp cayenne pepper

40 g harissa

a little water

salt and pepper

 

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

 

2 cans of chickpeas (East End is my favourite brand at the moment)

 

a small handful of raisins

 

METHOD

 

1. First, toast the cumin seeds until they start to release their aroma. When done, take them out of the pan and leave to cool. Crush them with pestle and mortar and set aside.

2. Now melt the ghee and fry the onions until golden.

3. Add ginger, garlic and carrots. Continue frying until the onions are brown.

4. Add the spices, including half the cumin, and fry for a minute. Then, add the harissa and fry for a few minutes again. Add a little water if necessary.

5. Add the tomatoes and cook until the fat starts to separate, and little specks of ghee appear on the surface of the sauce. The onions will have almost melted, and you will get a thick spicy paste. At this stage, adjust the spices according to your taste. Add a bit more of what you think necessary.

6. Add the chickpeas to the mixture and stir, adding a little water if necessary.

At this stage, I put the rice to boil, so I must have cooked them for another 10 minutes at least.

7. 5 minutes before the end stir in the raisins. At the end, stir in the rest of crushed cumin seeds.

Serve with couscouos or rice.

 

 

Verdict

Loved it! And would make it again! It was spicy though (with all the cayenne, crushed chilies, harissa…), so adjust the level of heat according to how hot you like it/can take it! 🙂 The lemon in the harissa gave it a lovely sour tang, which went well with the earthiness of the cumin stirred in at the end. Also, I loved the contrast between the structures of chickpeas, carrot and raisin. Speaking of carrots, I could have done with more carrot in the stew, so add some more if you wish. Add a bit more garlic, too.

I was going to serve it with a garnish of friend onions and garlic on top, but had no time. Try it, if you want!

You can have it as a vegetarian main course, and even as a side dish. Make loads and take leftover to work for lunch!

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Other chickpeas recipes at Maninas: Food Matters:

Chana Masala V

Catalan Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Almonds  V – my addaptation of Melissa’s recipe

Another twist on Catalan Chickpeas V

 

Catalan Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Almonds

The other day Melissa from The Traveller’s Lunchbox posted a lovely chickpeas recipe that I felt I simply had to try, and so I did! I made a few changes to the original recipe though, that gave a slightly different dimension to the dish. The main changes are using coriander instead of parsley, and adding cumin and paprika to the dish. I was more than happy with the result, and I’d like to thank Melissa for inspiration! Read on!

 

 

Catalan Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Almonds

 

Source: adapted from Melissa‘s recipe, who found it in The Essential Mediterranean by Nancy Harmon Jenkins
Serves: 1

Ingredients

1 (400g) can chickpeas, drained
 

extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion,  finely chopped
1/2 can (200g) chopped tomatoes
pinch sugar

pinch saffron threads
2 cloves garlic, chopped
25 g ground almonds
small handful coriander, chopped

1 1/2 cups (325ml) chicken or vegetable stock

a small dash of cumin

1/2 tsp paprika
salt

juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste 

Method

1. Boil the chickpeas in lightly-salted water and cook until soft. This can take about 10-20 minutes. Drain.

2. In the meant time, heat the oil over medium-low heat and sauté the onion until  golden brown and very soft,(about 25 minutes).

3. Add the chopped tomatoes and sugar, and fry until they melt into the onions and form a paste, about another 10-15 minutes. This is a sofregit, which forms the basis of many Catalan dishes.

  

    

I really looooove tomato sauce! Can’t you tell? 🙂

4. Combine the saffron, garlic, almonds and coriander and pound (or pulse) to a thick paste (add a little water if necessary).

5. Add the paste to the onion mixture along with the stock and the chickpeas, the cumin and the paprika, bring to a boil over medium-high heat and simmer until the liquid has reduced to a thick sauce, about 10-15 minutes. Season with salt and lemon juice to taste. Garnish with chopped coriander. Serve hot or at room temperature, as a side dish or on its own with some bread.

VERDICT

I started making this dish according to the original recipe, and though it was nice, I felt it was missing something, so I added a little cumin and paprika. The spices enhanced the flavour of the dish significantly, and it turned out so delicious that I was sad when I finished it off! I definitely recommend it to anyone to try! Make loads and keep it until next day! Melissa says that this is one of those dishes where the flavour keeps developing the longer it sits! It can be served as a side-dish, but I had it on its own, with some bread, and it was delicious! Perfect for your lunch box! Therefore, I am submitting it to Lindy’s Home-made Take-out Event, hoping I’m not too late!

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