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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

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.

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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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Nov 2009 10

I’ll let this dish speak for itself, save to mention that it has become an exceptionally popular add-on to my Shabbos meals, and is an easy, tasty option for Passover. In greater quantities it can stand alone as a main dish, when served alongside a mound of plain basmati rice – though I much prefer the cutesy presentation of the little lettuce boats, which give a crisp, refreshing contrast to the richness and sharp heat of the lamb.

You will need:

1 lb (450 g) ground lamb
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, sliced
2 red chillies, chopped (or 1 tsp cayenne pepper)
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. peas
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
1 head iceberg lettuce, or romaine heart

To prepare the lettuce, simply tear off the leaves, selecting the most boat-shaped leaves as your receptacles for the lamb. To further perk them up, after washing, submerge the leaves for several minutes in a sink full of very cold water, then drain well. They should be curved, crisp, and cold. Set aside (preferably in the refrigerator).
In a wok or a large pot, heat the oil on medium. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until they are soft and golden. Add the chillies, salt, ginger, and garlic, and stir well.
Increase the heat to high. Add the lamb and stir-fry for about 10 minutes, or until it is cooked through and most of the water has evaporated. Add the peas and tomatoes, then reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the mixture cook another 3 or 4 minutes.  Stir in most of the cilantro.
To serve, simply scoop the hot lamb into the lettuce cups, arrange them on a platter, and sprinkle over the remaining cilantro.

Serves 4-6, as part of a meal

© Shaby Heltay, 2009

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