Saturday, February 09, 2008

February 3, 2008: Khatti mithi masoor dal plus leeks in chickpea flour with sweet red pepper

The Indian food is coming thick and fast at the moment with thematically appropriate meals for SBS's weekly Bollywood movies. This week the movie was Devdas, the most lavish and expensive Bollywood film of all time (full disclosure: it's also one of the longest and we're still getting through it on tape). To match, I went for a lavish meal: dal from our Oxfam calendar and a vegie dish from Mridula Baljekar's trusty low-fat Indian vegetarian cookbook.

The dal was nice and simple and was meant to be sour, sweet and hot. To be honest it was mostly sour (tamarind puree) and tangy (ginger), but that's probably mostly due to my lax measurements. Despite not quite measuring up on the 'hot' front, this was one of the better dal recipes we've come across - maybe not quite up to these standards, but then there's no can of coconut milk in this one to fill us up with creamy, fatty goodness. Anyway, this was basically all about the ginger and tamarind flavours, and from my point of view, that can only be a good thing.

The second dish for the night was much more complicated. While I was getting all the ingredients together, I realised I had no real idea of what this dish was even supposed to look like, let alone how it would taste. Indeed, even after I'd got about three-quarters of the way through preparing this, I thought it was going to be a complete failure. The thing to remember is: leeks shrink. A wok overflowing with leeky bits and looking pretty uninspiring, quickly became a dense and tasty mush of leek with generous splashes of capsicum-provided colour livening things up. Lucky. It's hard to describe how this turned out, it was kind of chewy and full of spicy flavours, with the leek flavour notable but not as overpowering as I'd feared. It worked really well as a side to the dal, but might be a bit much on its own.

It's worth noting that it works really, really well as filling in a pastry, as Cindy demonstrated a few days later.

So, the recipes:

Khatti mithi masoor dal

225g red lentils
8 cloves of garlic
2.5cm piece of fresh ginger (I think I used something roughly twice this size)
2 dried chillies
1.5 teaspoons cumin seeds
1.5 teaspoons tamarind concentrate
1 tablespoon brown sugar
400ml water
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoons fresh coriander, chopped

Put the lentils and the water in a pot and bring to the boil. Add turmeric and a dash of salt and simmer for 10 minutes or so.

Grind the garlic cloves, ginger, chillies and cumin seeds to a rough paste in a mortar and pestle.

Heat a little ghee or oil in a frying pan and add the spice paste. Fry for a minute or so (stirring) with a splash of water if things start to stick.

Stir the fried spice paste into the lentil mush along with the tamarind and sugar. Stir well and simmer until the dal has reached the consistency you like. We like it pretty mushy, so I simmered for maybe 15 minutes. You could get away with just a couple of minutes if you liked your lentils to retain a bit more texture.

When it's ready to go, stir through the coriander and serve it up.

Leeks in chickpea flour with sweet red pepper

4 leeks (seriously - I was sure this was going to be too many, but remember: they shrink!)
1 red capsicum
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
10 fenugreek seeds
8 cloves of garlic, peeled and chrused
1 dried red chilli, crushed
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves
3/4 cup chickpea flour (besan), sifted.

Trim the green bits and the roughest root sections off the leeks and slice them in half longways. Wash them thoroughly and then chop them finely.

Remove the seeds from the capsicum and chop it into 1 inch strips.

Heat the oil in a wok and add the mustard seeds. As soon as they pop, lower the heat and add the cumin and fenugreek seeds, plus the garlic. Stir-fry for about a minute.

Add the crushed chilli, the leeks, capsicum and salt. Increase the heat and stir-fry the whole lot for at least five minutes. It took us a bit longer because there was too much food mass for our wok - maybe 10 minutes.

Add the coriander and a splash of water and then sprinkle in the chickpea flour, stirring it evenly through the vegetables. Cook for another minute or so, stirring well.

We love our legumes, but none could be more devoted than Susan, the Well-Seasoned Cook! She's hosting a beany blog event this month, called My Legume Love Affair. Make sure to visit her website later this week for many more delicious dishes.

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