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Feb 2010 12

Daal is the Hindi word for lentils, used to make the thick, soupy lentil dish that is also called daal. Daal can be made with most of the lentil varieties available at the supermarket. It makes a great side dish because it is a breeze to prepare and is packed with protein and fibre. In this recipe, tiny red lentils (masoor daal) are simmered until they thicken and fall apart, creating a stew with plenty of body and texture.  A tadka (infused oil) of onion seeds and onion is then used to garnish the daal and punch up its flavour.

You will need:

1 c masoor daal (tiny red lentils)
3 tbsp canola oil
1½ large onions
1 tsp garlic paste (or 1 large clove garlic)
1 tsp ginger paste (or minced fresh ginger)
1 tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp turmeric
1 pinch chili flakes
1 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2½ – 3 c water
1 tsp onion seeds (aka black caraway or nigella)

Over medium heat, heat one tablespoon of the oil in a medium-sized pot. Dice one onion and sauté it in the oil until the onion softens. Add the garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, turmeric and chilli flakes to the oil, stirring to infuse the oil with the spices.

Rinse the lentils and add them to the pot, followed by the water, salt and pepper.  When the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and cover. Simmer, stirring periodically, for about 20 minutes or until the lentils have absorbed the water and appear to have dissolved somewhat. Be careful not to let the daal burn at the bottom of the pot!

Meanwhile, prepare the tadka by slicing the remaining onion and browning it in a frying pan with the remaining oil. When the onions are a deep golden colour, add the onion seeds and allow them to release their flavour into the oil.

When the daal is ready, pour it into a serving dish and garnish the surface with a generous heap of the hot, savoury tadka. Serve daal over basmati rice, or use torn-off pieces of warm chapatti to scoop daal into hungry mouths.

Serves 4 (as a side dish)

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Feb 2010 05

What I love about this salad is that it’s potato, yes, but so light and refreshing and good for you that the potatoes themselves completely lose their bad-carb stigma. Chickpeas are full of protein and fibre, and their starchy plainness so well-matched to the potatoes as a blank canvas for the dressing, but don’t let that stop you from omitting them altogether on days when all you want is a potato salad – the lack of mayonnaise alone makes this “health food” in my book, chickpeas or not. If you’re not so into cilantro, feel free to substitute any combination of herbs you fancy. I’ve enjoyed this salad tremendously with tarragon, parsley, and basil, respectively. The only absolutes here are that you use Yukon Gold potatoes, and that the lemon juice you use is freshly squeezed: the bottled version from concentrate defies the whole point of this salad, which is the bright, sour flavour of the dressing and the grassy freshness of the herbs.

You will need:
3 large Yukon Gold (yellow-fleshed) potatoes
1 can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
¼ c. chopped fresh cilantro (coriander)
¼ c. chopped chives
Juice of ½ a lemon
¼ c. rice vinegar
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Peel and dice the potatoes into 1cm cubes, roughly (you don’t have to be perfect).  Drop them into the boiling water and cook between 5-8 minutes, or just until done. Be careful not to overcook these, or they will end up mushy! Drain the potatoes in a colander and set them aside to cool.
Meanwhile, toss the chickpeas into a large bowl with the cilantro and chives. Only when the potatoes are cool may you add them to the chickpeas (otherwise their heat will effectively “cook” the herbs), then dress the whole thing with the lemon juice, rice vinegar and olive oil. Toss to coat evenly, and taste it before adding salt and pepper, as the potatoes will likely already be somewhat salty from the cooking water. Add salt and pepper accordingly, and give it another toss. This tastes great the next day, as the flavours really marinate well together in the fridge.
Serves 6 as part of a meal

© Shaby Heltay, 2009

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Feb 2010 05

This bright yellow pilaf, embellished with a constellation of crunchy mustard seeds and toasted cashews, is a staple dish in many Indian households. Adding the lemon juice at the end gives the rice a fresh, sharp flavour. It also gives you the option of turning any plain leftover rice you have on hand into a colourful, festive side dish in minutes. If you’re feeling adventurous, you may substitute lime juice and zest for the lemon – lime rice is equally authentic in the realm of Indian nosh.

You will need:

2 c. basmati rice
2 3/4 c. water
½  tsp salt
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp mustard seeds
pinch turmeric
¼ c. unsalted cashews
¼ c. lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)

In a medium-sized pot, bring the water and salt to boil. Meanwhile, rinse the rice well in cold water, until the water no longer appears cloudy. Add the rice to the boiling water, cover, then turn the heat down to low. When the water has been absorbed (about 20 minutes), turn off the heat and fluff the rice with a fork.

In a larger pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the cashews and mustard seeds, stirring continuously – they should shimmer enthusiastically in the oil. When the seeds begin to crackle, whisk in the turmeric, then remove the pot from the heat so as not to burn the nuts. Whisk in the lemon juice and zest, then add the cooked rice and toss to coat. If you’d like, stir the chopped cilantro into the rice just before serving.

Serves 4

© Shaby Heltay, 2009

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Feb 2010 05

In thumbing through cookbooks — or searching online — for exotic Indian food, you will no doubt come across many curry recipes that would make the hair of any Indian, myself included, stand on end. So I felt it necessary to warn you all about the vast array of impostor curry recipes out there: the mere act of adding curry powder to something does not transform it into a curry!

Here’s the thing. You can’t make an authentic, true curry without your base aromatics: onion, garlic and ginger. Without those, your curry will be bland and will taste 1-dimensional. It’s like making an Italian tomato sauce without shallots, garlic and olive oil – no self-respecting Italian would do it! Cumin is also vital to a good curry – cumin is to curry what basil is to marinara sauce. Got it?

So with those 4 things – onion, garlic, ginger and cumin – you can punch up any old curry recipe and turn it into something that would impress even your Indian friends!  What follows is a recipe for a tomato-based vegetable curry.

~~~

Chickpea Curry

You will need:

2 cans chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
2 cups water
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1½ tsp chopped fresh ginger
1 tbsp garam masala (also available at Indian groceries)
½ tsp cumin
1 tsp mustard seeds (or ½ tsp mustard, in a pinch)
1 tsp curry powder
2 tbsp tomato paste
½ teaspoon salt
1-3 green chilies, chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp chopped cilantro (optional)

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onions and cook over medium heat, until the onions are soft and golden. Add all of the spices, ginger, garlic and salt. Stir-fry the mixture for a minute.

Add the chickpeas and 1 cup of water, and let them cook for 10 minutes or so. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, lemon juice, and green chilies, and allow them to cook together for about a minute. Add another cup of water and simmer the mixture until the sauce thickens, about 5 minutes. Serve over basmati rice and with a sprinkle of chopped cilantro, if you like.

Serves 6, as part of a meal

© Shaby Heltay, 2009

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Feb 2010 05

Okay, I’ll admit it, I’ve got no idea about Polynesian cuisine, but these little tropical kebabs make me feel like I’m basking in the sun on a paradisiacal island far, far away from slushy Toronto. I make these when I’m tired of gefilte fish and I want to serve something festive and a little spicy as the first course for Shabbos dinner or lunch. Besides being aesthetically attractive, they are easy to make – and that, to me, is the biggest draw. You can use any type of fish you like, provided it won’t fall apart when cooked; my favourite is Chilean sea bass for its rich, buttery texture. And you can cook the fish any way you like – blitz it on the barbecue, under the broiler, or just bake in a really hot oven – it doesn’t matter. The point is that, once cooked, it’s only a matter of brushing the fish once more with the stickily sweet, sour and spicy marinade, then rolling them in a pretty combination of coconut and black sesame seeds. Sometimes I switch things up by encrusting the fish with chopped cashews instead – I’ve found that either option yields delicious results.

You will need:

8 small bamboo skewers
12 oz (340g) skinless boneless fish, cut into 1-inch cubes
4 ½ tbsp honey
1-2 tbsp lime juice
1 ½ tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp rice vinegar
¼ c. water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
Salt to taste
½ c. unsweetened flaked coconut
¼ c. black sesame seeds.

In a small saucepan, over medium heat, whisk together the honey, lime juice, soy sauce, rice vinegar, water, garlic, ginger, chilli and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the sauce is thickened and reduced by about half. Set it aside to cool.
Meanwhile, place the bamboo skewers in a dish of water to soak for at least 5 minutes – this will prevent them from burning in the oven. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Thread the fish onto the skewers – you’ll want 3 or 4 pieces for each. Using a pastry brush, brush the fish on all sides with the cooled marinade, and line them up on a baking sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes per side, or just until cooked through.
Tear off a large square of wax paper and combine the coconut and sesame seeds in a pile at the centre. Alternatively, you could do this in a large rectangular container. When the fish has cooled, brush it again on all sides with the remaining marinade, then roll the skewers in the coconut/seed mixture so that the fish is encrusted evenly. I like to serve these, 2 skewers for each guest, on a bed of basmati rice.
Serves 4 as a first course
© Shaby Heltay, 2009

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Nov 2009 10

Pakoras are those tasty little spiced fritters consisting of vegetables dipped in batter and deep-fried –sort of the Indian answer to tempura. They can be made with individual whole chunks of veggies (cauliflower, onions, eggplant) or you can concoct a “mixed” pakora by combining several different shredded vegetables.  The flour used in the batter is actually not flour at all, but dried chickpeas ground into a powder. It is called besan, and is used quite frequently in Indian cuisine.

You will need:

½  c. besan (chickpea flour)
½ tsp salt plus extra to taste
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp baking powder
1½ tsp cumin
1 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped
½  c. plus 1 tbsp water
1 Yukon gold (a.k.a. yellow-flesh) potato
1 large onion
vegetable oil for deep-frying

In a large bowl, whisk together the besan, ½ tsp salt, cayenne pepper, baking powder, and cumin. Whisk in the water, beating well to form a smooth batter – it should be roughly the consistency of pancake batter, and should coat the back of a spoon. Stir in the cilantro, and set aside.
Grate the potato (medium or large-sized grate).  Finely chop the onion, so that the pieces are roughly the same size as the bits of potato. Toss the potato and onion together, then add them to the batter.
Heat the oil in a wok or a large heavy-bottom skillet – you want it to be about 1 cm deep. To test the oil temperature, drop in a small cube of bread – if it shimmers in the oil and browns in roughly 30 seconds, the oil is hot enough. Scoop little tablespoonfuls of the veggie mixture from the batter (if you’re using larger chunks of vegetables, simply pull out individual pieces), and carefully slip them into the oil. Fry them in small batches of about 3 or 4 at once, turning, until the pakoras are a healthy golden brown. Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer the pakoras onto a plate lined with paper towels, allowing them to drain. Immediately sprinkle the hot pakoras with a bit of salt, and serve at once.

Serves 4 as an hors d’oeuvre

© Shaby Heltay, 2009

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