To continue with the Indian theme, here are two staples that make a meal all on their own but may be served separately.
Chana dal is my all-time favorite dal recipe and I’ve tried many versions. Chana dal (dried yellow split peas) creates a meaty, subtly-sweet dal. The end result is substantial and quite thick – you can dilute it with water, organic chicken or vegetable broth to make a fabulous soup or a slightly thinner dal if you prefer. It freezes brilliantly.
The yellow aromatic rice recipe is wonderful – the brilliant yellow color comes from the addition of turmeric and the rice is fragrantly spiced with cloves, cinnamon and bay leaves.
This is a great all-round classic rice dish and would also go very well with a baked ham or roast chicken; it’s certainly a lot more interesting than plain rice. It’s unsuitable for freezing because the rice grains become brittle.
I only ever use basmati rice when cooking Indian food as it has light, separate grains and a delicate nutty fragrance – and because it’s harvested at the base of the Himalayas, it’s the only option for me. You can use any long grain white rice but trust me, basmati is best.
If you have a rice cooker, simply add everything except the butter and let the machine do its magic. Fluff with a fork and add the butter when its done.
Next week’s blog will have a recipe for Saag (spinach with onion, ginger and chili) and a totally wonderful fresh mint and cilantro/coriander relish.
The following week I’ll post a recipe for chicken in a sweet red pepper sauce with almonds and ginger and by then you’ll have everything you’ll need to serve a fabulous authentic Indian meal that looks like this…..
If you can’t find spices such as garam masala, which is a combination of various ground spices and is generally used to ‘finish’ a dish…and you don’t have access to an Asian supermarket or Wholefoods, you can order Indian spices online from here:
8 oz (225g) of dried yellow split peas, picked over, washed and drained
2 pints (1.15 liters) of water
½ teaspoon of ground turmeric
2 thin slices of fresh ginger – unpeeled
¾-1 teaspoon of salt, or to taste
¼ teaspoon of garam masala
3 tablespoons of vegetable oil (I prefer grapeseed oil, canola oil, sunflower oil or peanut oil – avoid using olive oil in Indian cooking. You can also use ghee which is clarified butter; available from Indian supermarkets)
½ teaspoon of whole cumin seeds
2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and finely minced
¼ teaspoon of cayenne (or more, according to how spicy you want the dal)
Put the yellow split peas and water in a heavy pan with a lid. Bring to a boil uncovered and skim off any scum on the surface with a slotted spoon.
Add the turmeric and ginger. Cover the pan leaving the lid slightly ajar and turn the heat down to very low. Simmer for 1.5 hours and during the last 30 minutes, stir frequently to prevent sticking.
Add the salt and garam masala and stir well. If you think its too thick and the peas aren’t completely soft yet, add a little more water and continue to simmer, stirring frequently until the dal is soft.
Meanwhile, heat the oil (or ghee) in a heavy pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds followed by the garlic. Stir until the garlic is golden then add the cayenne. Turn off the heat and immediately pour everything onto the dal in the pan. Stir to mix thoroughly. Check the salt and dilute with more water or broth if you prefer a runnier dal. It’s excellent right away but even better on day two.
AROMATIC YELLOW RICE (Peelay chaaval)
Basmati rice measuring to 15 fl oz (425ml) in a measuring jug
1 pint (570ml) of water
1 ¼ teaspoons of salt
¾ teaspoon of turmeric
4 whole cloves
2 inch stick of cinnamon
3 large bay leaves
3 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
Note: some prepackaged basmati rice is ready-washed, in which case you won’t need to rinse and soak the rice first – I buy bulk rice from India that needs the starch rinsed off the grains…in which case, do the following: rinse the rice under running water in a strainer for one minute and then put it in a bowl, covered with 2 pints (1.25 liters) of water. Let it soak for 30 minutes then drain thoroughly.
Combine the drained rice, 1 pint (570ml) of water, salt, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaves in a heavy pan. Bring to a boil. Cover with a tight fitting lid and turn the heat to very, very low. Allow to cook for 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave completely undisturbed for another 10 minutes. Do NOT lift the lid to take a look as it hasn’t finished cooking.
After 10 minutes, remove the lid and add the pieces of butter – fluff everything gently together with a fork. Remove the whole spices before serving.
(Recipes courtesy of Madhur Jaffrey )