July 2004 Archives

Red lentils with onions

Red lentils with onions

A very quick, simple lentil dish. It's spicy, but the sugar and the whole shallots give it an unique sweetish taste.

  • 250g red lentils (masoor dal)
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 large pinch asafoetida
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 2 cloves
  • 4 dried red chilies, deseeded and crushed
  • 500g shallots, peeled, but left whole
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon tamarind paste
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • salt

Rinse the lentils thoroughly and check for stones. Then put them in a pot with twice the amount of water and bring to boil. Remove any froth that forms with a slotted spoon. Boil until the lentils are very soft, but have not disintegrated (approx. 10 minutes). Drain excess water, if any is left.

In a second pot, heat the oil. Add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the asafoetida, curry leaves, cloves and red chilies. Fry briefly for about one minute, then add the whole shallots. Fry them for several minutes, stirring constantly.

Add the sugar, tamarind, turmeric, salt and 1 cup of water. Let simmer until the shallots have become transparent, stirring occasionally. Most of the water should evaporate in the process (add some more water if necessary).

Add the cooked lentils. Stir well, adjust seasoning if necessary, then serve immediately with chapatis or rice.

Seekh kefta

Seekh kefta

I have only ever cooked these yummy Indian meat balls with ready-made spice mixes, so I'm really not sure precisely what spices they contain. Look for a standard kabab masala *); if you can get it and don't mind spending more money, Shan's seekh kabab mix produces excellent results.

*) You can try to mix the following ground spices for a somewhat decent kabab masala, but the readymade mixes taste better: 1 teaspoon each of paprika, salt, coriander, ginger; half teaspoon each of red chili powder, allspice, black pepper, cumin, black cumin, mace, clove; 1 ground bay leaf.

For the sauce:

  • 200g skinned tomatoes
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala

For the meatballs:

  • 400g fresh minced beef or lamb
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger (requires a 2-inch piece)
  • 1 tablespoon garlic paste from a garlic press (requires 4-6 cloves)
  • 4 fresh green chilies, finely chopped
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 3-4 teaspoons kabab masala
  • 1 tablespoon ghee

Whizz the tomatoes in a blender, put in a pot. Add the chili powder and garam masala. Let simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Mix the meat, ginger, garlic, chilies, onion and kabab masala. If you have the time, let stand for 2-3 hours.

Add the ghee, mix well. Form little balls and fry them in a pan over moderate heat.

Arrange on a plate with the tomato sauce. Serve with rice.

Murgh dopiaza

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Murgh dopiaza

A spicy Indian chicken curry with extra onions ("do" meaning "two" and "piaz" is "onion"). This is a variation that should more aptly be called "teen piazza" (three onions), because in addition to the onions in the sauce and the onion rings, it also contains whole shallots.

For the sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 4 fresh green chilies, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 125ml cold water
  • 150g skinned tomatoes

For the main dish:

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
  • 1 medium onion, in rings
  • 600g boneless chicken breast, cut in cubes
  • 5-10 shallots (depending on the size), left whole, but peeled
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves
  • 1 piece cassia bark (or cinnamon bark)
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
  • salt
  • 1 tablespoon methi (fenugreek) leaves
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 tablespoons fresh green coriander, chopped

For the sauce, heat the oil or ghee, then add the onion and fry until golden-brownish. Add the ginger, garlic and chilies, stir for a minute or so, then add the spices. Reduce heat to very low and let simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Put the water in a blender, add the contents from the pan and the tomatoes, whizz until very smooth. Put the sauce back in a pot, cover, and let simmer for another 15-20 minutes.

Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan, add the onion rings and fry until brownish, then remove them with a slotted spoon and put them aside.

Fry the meat until it is white on all sides and the pores have closed, then add the sauce, shallots, bay leaves, cloves, cassia bark, chili powder, cumin, coriander and salt. Stir well, bring to boil, cover and cook over low to medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally

Add the fried onion rings, methi leaves and garam masala. Stir well, then let simmer for another 10 minutes. If necessary, add some water.

Turn off the heat, add the chopped green coriander, stir, cover and let stand for 3-5 minutes. Serve with chapatis or boiled rice.