Wednesday, 13 February 2013

The Accidental Lentil

The Accidental Lentil

Who knew that Canada is the world’s most prolific producer of the lowly lentil?  Apparently our province of Saskatchewan supplies all kinds of lentils to the world, but the green lentil is the most commonly used lentil here. 
There’s something about the green lentil that is meaty, in the same way that mushrooms are meaty.  This little lentil satisfies, especially when involved in a masala, creating a tasty, nutritious and filling meal, despite its undeserved reputation for being a little tedious. 
Our Saskatchewan green lentil
In fact, one of the most interesting women I’ve ever known was told by her adult daughter that the lowly green lentil always reminded the daughter of her mother.  When the lady told me this, I gaped in astonishment, because it was true.  Somehow, someway, she was exactly like a lentil.  Yet she’s also a fascinating woman with excellent taste.  It’s all very complex.
Which brings me to the complexity of capitalising on accidents!  I was helping a friend with her butter chicken, which meant that I’d prepared a baggy of powdered anardana and jaggery to give her, among other ingredients.  She didn’t use it all, so she slipped it back into my stuff, and tonight, I somehow mistook it for fenugreek seed, and pitched it into the pot at the masala roasting moment.  As the jaggery started to melt, I realized the accident that was hurtling toward me.  I quickly added real fenugreek seed, and continued along.  Thus we have a new delicious recipe:

2 cups green lentils
water to cover and then another couple of inches
The jaggery is just beginning to melt, in the centre.
1 Indian bay leaf
1 teaspoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon black cumin seed
6 cloves
40 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon coriander seed
1 stick cinnamon or cassia
1 teaspoon jaggery and powdered anardana, mixed equally
½ teaspoon fenugreek seed

½ teaspoon turmeric powder

1 tablespoon mustard oil
1 teaspoon mustard seed
1 large red onion, diced
1 inch fresh ginger, slivered
5 large white mushrooms, sliced

5 unpeeled cloves fresh garlic
1 Thai chilli (or more to taste)
5 tomatoes
4 leaves kale, ribbed and torn to small pieces
salt to taste

Mary Braganza’s Lemon Pickle, or make that Pickle-Lila, or some other fictional yet real pickle
First, wash the lentils and make sure they have no weird stones or bits of Saskatchewan soil.  When I buy lentils from India, they are spotless, and require no cleaning, but Canadian lentils are a different story.  Cover them with lots of water, and set to boil for about thirty minutes.

Then move on to the masala, which is where my accident occurred.  I put the next nine ingredients into a pan on medium high heat to roast.  Just as the spicy fragrance and wisps of smoke began, I looked deeply into the pan to see --melting.  Just then I remembered the bag of anardana and jaggery I’d given to help with a butter chicken recipe and realized the remainder had been returned, and I’d mistaken it for fenugreek.  Honestly, I was planning to use kokum, a dried mangosteen product from Goa for the souring agent.  But I’ll have to save that for another day.
Mary Braganza aka Pickle-Lila fictional yet real...
Once I realized I had a small amount of anardana, (dried pomegranate seeds used as a souring agent) I knew I didn’t have enough souring, and there still wasn’t much salt, which is when I remembered my fictional pickles that are real.  If Salman Rushdie can change Mary Periera’s name to Braganza, just because she’s making a pickle, and if General Hospital can create a pickle in honour of a departed actress, I too can create a pickle of fictional name, but actual substance.  (More on this pickle later.)

So I quickly added the fenugreek seed, and let it roast for a few more moments.  I removed the bay leaf and then swept all the other spices into the grinder along with the ground turmeric.  I ground the spices and anardana and jaggery to a fine powder, and set them aside.
Using the same large pan I used for roasting the spices, I added the mustard oil, set the bay leaf back in, and added the mustard seeds.  When they turned white and spluttered, I added the onion and ginger, turning to medium heat, and cooked till they turned a gorgeous dark caramel.  (The bits of jaggery helped with that process.)  Then the mushrooms went in, but I made sure they had full contact with the pan so they would brown nicely.

While the onion and mushrooms were caramelising, I tossed the whole garlic cloves, paper and all, into the blender, along with the chilli and tomatoes to liquefy.  With the pan lid in hand, I poured the tomato mixture into the pan and slammed the lid down fast.  The tomato wants to volcano up so have the lid handy.  After about ten minutes, I peeked, and saw the tomato had settled down, so I removed the lid, and stirred and cooked till the tomato mix lost its moisture.  Once that happens it’s safe to add the masala that was set aside earlier.  Cook for a few minutes, then add the cooked lentils, and then the liquefied tomato.
Add the kale, cover the pot again, and cook for another twenty minutes.

Some might serve this with rice, but I wanted just lentils tonight.  Because I hadn’t used much salt, or souring agent, I added some of my lemon pickle, along with the pickled lemon juice as a garnish.  I will save this fictional but real pickle for another posting, so stay tuned.
Considering the strange start these lentils got off to, this dish turned out to be one of the tastiest I’ve made in a long time.  There’s something about the green lentil that will always endear me.  It’s local, vegan, delicious and super healthy.  What else can you ask for?

Have you had any crazy accidents lately?  Do tell!

No comments:

Post a Comment