The Red Egyptian Sisters: Red Split Lentil Curry

Red Split Lentils – Raw. Note that sometimes you will see the word dhal used when people talk of lentils.  Dhal is simply the Indian word for lentil.

Compared to other dried beans/legumes lentils are relatively easy to prepare.  Readily absorbing flavors, rich in fiber, in protein, in nutritional value, lentils are perfect for those who want to rely less on meat.  The green and brown lentils are more commonly used, but today we are looking at my favorite – the red sisters.

Want to cook lentils but want to get them done quick?  Split red lentils will do the trick.  Red lentils (sometimes called Egyptian lentils) are actually salmon in color and cook quick.  Their downside is that they don’t keep their shape if overcooked.  But overcooked lentils – otherwise called lentil mash – is a perfect base for a stew.  A versatile lentil, indeed.

For two cups of lentils, you will need 4 cups of water, 2 medium onions, 2 medium tomatoes, curry leaves, mustard seeds, turmeric powder, fenugreek (also called methi), pepper, salt, 2 cloves of garlic, and 1 cayenne pepper.

To piping hot oil in a pan add about 1/3 tsp of mustard seeds, couple fenugreek seeds, and a couple curry leaves.  Make sure you quickly close with lid to minimize spatter. (The fenugreek aids digestion, but don’t use too much as it will make your dish bitter.)  The mustard seeds will split and both mustard and fenugreek seed and curry leaf will infuse the oil.  Lower heat and add the 2 chopped onions, and once they have  sweated

Split red lentils and water added. All that remains for the lentils to absorb the water and turn yellow. Then dish is ready for your plate.

(glistening but not browned) add the two crushed cloves, pepper and salt to taste, and a couple pinches of turmeric powder.  After a few minutes add the chopped tomatoes and the cayenne pepper. After a few minutes of simmering add the washed lentils (sometimes they will have stones etc depending on the quality of your lentil source) and water.  Cook for about ten minutes.

Note that the amount of water you use determines how much of a curry your dish is like. If you don’t like too much liquid left when the lentils are ready to eat,  use less water.  Also, while lentils store well, the older they are the longer they need to cook and so water needs to be adjusted accordingly.

For those who don’t like curries:  You can do away with all the ingredients, and simply add salt and pepper to taste. Then the lentils become even easier to make too.

The dish ready to plate and eat.

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Chick Peas and Swiss Chard with Amaranth

This weekend I cooked chickpeas with Swiss chard and the end result was delicious, so I thought that I would share.

Ingredients: 1 cup of pressure cooked chick peas (can use canned ones if you wish), pepper, two green chilies, a handful of purple basil, salt, cumin seed powder,coriander powder, chili powder, tumeric powder, .25tsp of cinnamon powder, two small cardamon cloves, crushed ginger (not more than .25 tsp), three crushed cloves of garlic, large onion, large tomato, and 8/9 Swiss Chard leaves.

Chop up large onion and saute in oil, add spices to taste (Watch out for turmeric and ginger – how much you add of those as too much can make a dish bitter.  I would say it is ok to add up to a level teaspoon of cumin and coriander. Black pepper and chili powder add pungency=heat so add according to how hot you want it to be.)  Add chopped up tomato, and then chopped basil.  Add chickpeas and after cooking for about 10 minutes, add the chopped Swiss chard on top, and cook for another 5, turn off heat, and mix Swiss chard with chick peas and let sit for another ten.  Ready to eat!

I cooked the amaranth separately using a ratio of 2.25 cups of water to 1 cup of amaranth.  Bring to boil and then let simmer until cooked.

Chick Peas in a Spicy Tamarind Sauce

To a hot pot with oil add 2 small chopped onions, and after frying for a while add spices.  Add a tsp of cumin powder, a pinch of turmeric, half a tsp of black pepper, two tsp of chopped garlic in water, a pinch of crushed ginger, a tsp of chili powder, and 1/4 tsp of cinnamon powder.  Mix and let fry for 5 or so minutes before adding a large chopped tomato.  Then add 1 cup of chick peas (otherwise known as garbanzo beans), a tablespoon of Maggi tamarind sauce, two hot peppers, and a handful of chopped cilantro. Let simmer for 15/20 minutes so that the peas absorb the flavors.  Voila! You have spicy chick peas in a tamarind sauce.

Black Bean Xacuti Curry

There is no excuse not to make quick and delicious home cooked meals nowadays. And it’s very easy to make different dishes with the plethora of readymade spice mixes available. Today afternoon my spice was xacuti powder. I fried a cut onion, added a cut tomato, ginger garlic paste, pepper, a little salt and xacuti spice. Added black beans last and simmered. Dish in a nutshell!

Don’t like xacuti, or interested in other flavors? Use a different readymade mix and you can get a different dish. For example one, you can make cooking even easier, use an Italian tomato sauce instead of cutting a tomato and get an Italian flavored dish.

Black Eye Pea Curry

When I cook I use recipes as a guideline. I take the inspiration provided and make it my own. Just one ingredient can transform a dish. I made black eye pea curry today. It was good, then thought of adding tamarind sauce and wow! Nice tang on the palate! Too often we stop before taking that additional step that would lead us to transforming experiences. Maybe we should all try going beyond the usual more often. Anyway abbreviated bean recipe follows:

Soak a cup of beans, and then pressure cook until melting soft. In a pan heat oil and then add mustard and curry leaves. Add jeera/cumin seed and cook. Add a little fenugeek, but don’t cook long. Add onion and fry, together with black pepper, chili powder, turmeric. Then add tomato and garlic and cook. Add pressure cooked beans and mix. The dish is done. Can be had as is or add the tamarind for that tang!