by Kim Patrie
From the book The Best of India, A Cookbook, by Balraj Khanna
Published by CollinsPublishersSanFrancisco, 1993
Kim is one of my belly dancing buddies (yes, I have more than one). We originally “met” via an online unschooling forum. She and a couple of others from that group then came to spend a weekend with me. We hit it off in person, too, and enjoyed a couple of days of eating, laughing, drinking wine and yes, belly dancing (Kim is an instructor). We had a second visit at my house and one night in a local hotel, and also a few days together in New Orleans where the husbands joined in the fun, too. We’re hoping to do the NOLA thing again one of these days.
I had planned to try this recipe last night but David ended up having to go out of town so I postponed it to next week so he can enjoy it, too. I looked up the cookbook which this recipe is from and it appears to be out of print and very hard to find. I included the Amazon link above, though.
- 1 c. red lentils, rinsed and picked over
- 3/4 c. finely chopped onions
- 3 c. water
- 1/2 t. ground turmeric
- 1/2 t. ground cumin
- 1/2 t. ground coriander
- 1/2 t. chili powder
- 2 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
- 1 fresh hot green chile, seeded
- 1 2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- 1 T. ghee or unsalted butter
- 1 16 oz. can whole tomatoes, chopped, with juice OR 2 med. fresh tomatoes, diced
- 3 T. olive oil
- 1 1/2 t. salt
- 2 T. minced fresh cilantro for garnish
- 2 med. tomatoes, thinly sliced, for garnish
In medium saucepan combine the lentils, onions, water, turmeric, cumin, coriander and chili powder. Heat to boiling, reduce heat to low, and cook, covered, 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a blender, combine the garlic, fresh chile, and ginger; process until fine. In a small skillet, heat the ghee or butter over medium heat. Add the garlic mixture and cook 2 minutes.
Stir the garlic mixture, tomatoes, oil and salt into the lentils, cook, covered, 30 minutes, or until the lentil mixture is thickened. Serve garnished with the fresh cilantro and sliced tomatoes. Serves 4.
Kim’s Notes: I triple this recipe to feed my 6 guys!
I like to toast and grind my own spices; it really makes the flavor of this dish pop.
Sometimes the lentils cook down completely in that first 30 minute session, so for the second prescribed 30 minutes, I only cook it for about 10-15 minutes, to allow the garlic mixture to infuse well into the lentils. Add water if necessary to keep it from sticking; it should be the consistency of thick-ish soup.
I don’t use a blender for the mincing of the garlic et al; it’s such a small amount that it tends to get stuck down at the bottom of the blender. I just mince it all together very finely on a board. Remove the seeds from the pepper or it will be VERY spicy. (Unless you like it that way, of course.)
Because it is so soupy when it is done (it’s supposed to be that way!) I serve it in a bowl over brown basmati rice. White basmati is more traditional, but I prefer the nutty taste of the brown rice.
To complement the meal, I serve the following traditional tomato salad:
- 1/2 t. cumin seeds
- 4 T. olive oil
- 2 T. red wine vinegar
- 1 T. lemon juice
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 c. thinly sliced onion
- 4 medium ripe tomatoes, sliced
- 1 small cucumber, thinly sliced
- Pinch of freshly ground pepper
- 5 large fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and toast, stirring constantly, 20-30 seconds. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool.
In a large salad bowl, whisk the oil, vinegar and lemon juice until blended.
Add the garlic, onion, tomatoes, cucumber, pepper and salt to taste; toss well. Sprinkle with the toasted cumin seeds and fresh mint, toss again, and serve immediately. Serves 4-6.
Kim’s notes: This is a really versatile recipe. I’ve substituted white wine vinegar for the red, lime juice for the lemon, dried mint for the fresh (I add it to the dressing, so it has a little time to re-hydrate and spread it’s goodness throughout) and shallots or red onion for the regular onion. Don’t let it sit too long after you’ve combined the vegetables with the dressing; it will be a little wilty that way, but still delicious.