Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Mum's Red Lentils

This recipe was originally titled Mum's Everyday Red Lentils. No disrespect to Aarti (the chef/author), but I removed the everyday because I thought it made it sound super quick to make. And while it's simple enough, you can't just whip it up in like 10 or 15 minutes. To be fair, maybe Aarti and her Mum can and I'm just slow. But my blog, my call. Now I realize what she probably meant was everyday vs. fancy, but that didn't work for me either, because this is as fancy as I get with my lentils. All that being said, these lentils have great flavor and are totally worth making. Just not every day.

Yield: 4 servings

Lentils (dal):
1 cup masoor dal red lentils, picked through for stones
2 cups water
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 (1/2-inch) piece ginger, peeled and minced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 serrano chile, sliced in half (optional)
salt to taste

Tempering oil (bagaar):
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
generous 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika or bafaat powder
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
handful chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1.      Put the lentils in a strainer and rinse them under running water. Add them to a bowl, cover with water and let soak for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2.      In a medium saucepan, combine the water, onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, chile and the lentils (do not add salt yet—it will toughen the lentils, thereby lengthening their cooking time). Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim any scum from the surface. Lower the heat, cover the pot with a lid and gently simmer until the lentils are tender, almost translucent, and almost falling apart, about 30 to 40 minutes.
3.      Whisk the lentils, releasing its natural starch, and mash some them so the mixture becomes thick. Add salt, to taste.
4.      Tempering oil (bagaar): In a small bowl, combine the cumin and mustard seeds. In another bowl, combine the spice powders. Have everything ready because this will move very fast!
5.      In a small skillet, over a medium-high flame, warm the vegetable oil. Once the oil is shimmering, add seeds and immediately cover so you don't get covered in spluttering oil and seeds! Add the spices. They should sizzle and bubble a little - that's the blooming and it's exactly what you want. Don't let them burn. The mixture should bloom for about 30 seconds, no more.
6.      Pour the oil mixture into the lentils, standing back so you don't get hurt when the mixture splutters again. Stir to combine. Transfer the lentils to a serving dish and garnish with cilantro.

from Aarti Sequeira, 2010
knob of fresh ginger
As usual, I couldn't find a serrano, so I used a jalapeño.
already soaked lentils in the pan with the water
onion, garlic, ginger, jalapeño and tomato added
all stirred up
whisking (steamy)
adding turmeric and paprika to cumin and black mustard seeds
spices sizzling
stirring in the spices
Mum's red lentils

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