Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Probably India's favourite lentil recipe.

In an effort to simplify my life over the few remaining days before I go to NYC, I spent yesterday afternoon cooking something to eat for dinner each night before I go. I took the recipe from this book:

It belongs to my housemate, Rumpleslutzkin, and is pretty much his favourite cookbook. Rumpy makes a curry from this book every Monday night, and they are consistently delicious. I oughtta know, I've had the good fortune of tasting quite a few. Every Monday we go through a little pantomime where I say something like "oh hi Rumpy, what's for dinner?" and he opens the curry book and shows me what he's making and says there will be plenty left over if I want some. Then I laugh and shake my head and say thank you, but I couldn't possibly, I'm having blah blah, and mooch about the kitchen making then eating this blah blah. I do this because we both know that cooking curry takes a long time, and I usually get a little (read: totally) anxious (read: hysterical) if I don't get a feeding by 8pm. So I have my dinner and do my dishes and then get out of everyone's way until they are serving up, at which point I appear in the kitchen and silently take down the small bowl and place it in front of Rumpy while he silently fills it up and then we all eat our dinner and everyone acts like it's normal that I am eating a whole other meal with them.

Anyway, based on the deliciousness of the currys from this book, I thought I would look for a dahl recipe of some sort to be my dinner solution between now and NYC. I settled on something called Black Lentils, basically because of this awesome description:
"Probably India's favorite lentil recipe, this northern specialty features in all Indian restaurants of any standing. Rich, creamy, earthy, musky and fragrant all at the same time, it's one of the most wonderful dishes you could ever come across."
Yes please!
In addition to being one of the most wonderful dishes you could ever come across, it is very simple and does not require millions of ingredients or complicated techniques. It is spiced with chilli powder, garam masala, black and green cardamom pods and fenugreek leaves. The other ingredients are urid lentils, ginger, garlic, tomato paste, sugar, oil, butter and cream.
I know.
Oil AND butter AND cream.
But it is one of the most wonderful dishes you can ever come across! What's a girl to do?

Anyway, I scampered off to Aurora spice shop on Nicholson Street to get the special urid lentils and fenugreek leaves that I needed. What a great shop it is, readers. You must all remember them when you have spice needs. The shopkeeper and I had a lovely conversation. Did you know that back when Aurora was established, it was one of the only Indian spice shops in Melbs? People would come from far and wide to get their Indian spices there. Now, there are Indian spice shops all over Melbourne and not so many people come. So please go. They are so nice.

Back to the lentils. I soaked them overnight and then boiled for an hour until tender.

An hour is a lot of time to kill, so I did this:

I guess spending all that time with Don Draper took my mind of cooking a little, because I forget to take any photos of what followed until it was time to add the butter, which is the second last step. But honestly, the recipe couldn't be any easier. You basically start by frying cardamom pods and a bay leaf in oil until they crackle a little, then add the other ingredients one by one, giving them all a little bit of time to fry before you add the next. This leads to the formation of a rich red curry paste which looked fantastic but I can't show you because I was thinking about this:

Next, I added the lentils and their cooking water to the paste and mixed it all together. Then it was time for the butter and I remembered I should be taking some photos.
Even though I took a photo of the butter, I don't want to show you because it looks like a lot and I don't want to upset you/remind myself. The last step was to add the cream. Again, I took a photo, but who needs to know.

I was disappointed with how uninspiring the final product looked:

Geez Black Lentils, make a bit of an effort why don't you.
But as soon as I had my first mouthful, I realised that the joke was on my eyeballs. It is, hands down, the most delicious curry I have ever made. It is spicy in that deep, satisfying way where you don't really taste it at first but it builds and builds and before you know it your mouth is having a total heat party. Even though it is full of butter and cream it tastes light, but so very satisfying. I polished off a serve in the medium bowl in about 3.5 minutes. I can't wait to eat it again tonight.

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