Thursday, 11 April 2013

Split Green Lentil and Potato Masala

Split Green Lentil and Potato Masala

I’m back to the locally grown food tonight: masoor dal, the green kind, potatoes and greenhouse grown tomatoes.  True, other ingredients from places more distant also grace this dish, but at least the main ingredients are from around here.  This one takes under an hour, and it can be vegan if you don’t serve it with buttered up paratha like I confess I did…
We needed something spicy and filling, as the snow just keeps on falling and falling, preventing the innocent flower buds from blooming.  Everyone around here is beginning to tear their hair out, as we strain for non-existent bird song, hearing only the squish of car tires on snow.

I have a dandelion flower bud awaiting some warmth in the driveway against the house.  It’s shivering too.  At least we are warmed with a meal like this:
3 Kashmiri chillies
1 teaspoon cumin seed
½ teaspoon black cumin seed
½ teaspoon ajwain (celery seed)
1 teaspoon coriander seed
¼ teaspoon fenugreek seed
6 cloves
½ teaspoon black peppercorns
2 black cardamom, husked and bashed
2 green cardamom, bashed with husks
½ teaspoon fennel seed
1 cinnamon stick or the equivalent of cassia
1 large bay leaf

Regular dried chillies will also work.

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 red onion, diced
½ teaspoon cumin seed
8 curry leaves (optional)

3 ripe medium size tomatoes
6 garlic cloves
roughly sliced ginger root, about an inches worth

2 cups split green lentils
6 to 7 cups water
8 leaves kale, ribs removed, and leaves torn to ribbons
1 large potato, diced into cubes
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
½ lemon, juiced

Begin by roasting the whole spices in the large pot that you will be using for this dish.  With the heat on medium high, dry roast for a few minutes, till fragrant smoke lightly wafts up, then pluck out the cinnamon or cassia, and set aside.  Brush the rest of the spices into a spice grinder along with the ground turmeric, and grind to a fine powder.  Set aside.
Pour the oil into the pot, with the heat on medium high.  Replace the cinnamon or cassia and bay leaf into the pot, along with the next batch of cumin seed.  Curry leaves are available in Indian groceries, but they’re not always fresh and easy to find.  They add a wonderful taste, but they’re not absolutely necessary to this dish.  (Just a very good idea.) Add them at this point, if you can.

Once the cumin and cinnamon is fragrant in the sizzling oil, add the diced onion, stirring and lowering the heat to medium.  Cook till the onion is translucent and a bit golden at the edges, then add the ground spices.  Stir and let cook for a few minutes.
Put the tomatoes into a blender, leaving whole if you like, along with the garlic cloves, which can also be left whole and even papered.  Add the ginger pieces, and liquefy.  With the pot lid handy, add the blended tomato mixture, and smack that lid down in a hurry.  It boils up maddeningly, so you must be quick.  The blender won’t be absolutely empty yet, so set it aside for now. 

Meanwhile, take the time to clean, rib and tear the kale leaves to pieces. After about ten minutes, check on the tomato mixture.  It should be fairly thick and in need of stirring.   Add about another five to six cups of water into the blender, swish around, and pour into the pot, stirring well.  If the blender still has bits, set aside because you may need more liquid a little later.  
Lentils and potatoes make a delicious combo.

Meanwhile, add the lentils, and cover.  Cook for about twenty minutes, then add the kale, stir and cover again.  Kale needs to cook for at least 30 minutes, and the green lentils need at least another 30 minutes. 

Check on the pot when that time has passed.  When the lentils are tender, add the salt.  I’ve heard that lentils will be tough if salt is added before they’re tender, so be careful.  Add the potato, and see if the lentils require more liquid.  This dish should not be dry, but not soupy either.  A nice gravy is what’s wanted here. 

Once the potato is tender, the dish is ready.  Stir in the lemon juice, and serve.  As I adore lemon, I garnished with pickled lemon and served the lentils with paratha.  These lentils would also go nicely with basmati rice.  This is a humble yet delicious vegan recipe.  It’s guaranteed to warm you up on a chilly night.  What do you serve when the weather is miserable?
Of course these pickled lemons will brighten any day.

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