Monthly Archives: May 2013

Triple Daal Dals

Dal: Pigeon peas (whole), mung beans, green lentils Additional veggies: Kale

Dal: Pigeon peas (whole), mung beans, green lentils
Additional veggies: Kale (kept it simple!)

I have a bean addiction. No matter how much storage room I have (or lack thereof), if there’s a dried legume that I haven’t seen before I pick it up. The weirder the better. Similar to my belief that stews are better with greens, why use one kind of lentil in a daal when you can use two? Or three? Sometimes more is just more, but sometimes more is better. This is one of those times.

Through experimentation, I have come across some favourite lentil/bean combinations. With the appropriate tempering and additional veggies, you can have a whole-meal dinner that is flavourful, hearty, and guaranteed to be unique every time. I love experimenting with dals, and I don’t think I’ve made the same version twice. I do have my favourites however, and this is the guideline that I will present to you.

In a dal, the all mighty lentil is the star of the show. Resist the temptation to use chickpeas – those have their time and place. A dal is where the lentil can shine. There are many types, some of which you will be very familiar with, and some are quite odd. Here’s the list of what’s been simmering in my pot in the past:

– Green lentils: These are what I would call “standard” lentils. They keep their shape when cooked, and have infinite uses. One favourite is mujadara.

– Red lentils: Another “standard”, these disappear when cooked in a stew, and make the consistency thicker. A tricky way to get more protein!

– Mung beans: Whole mung beans are pretty green beads. They are quite small, and cook in about the same amount of time as green lentils. They have a stronger taste then green lentils, but still subtle.

– Urad dal: Whole urad dal are very small black lentils. I picked these up by mistake trying to make dosas. A tip: use split urad dal for dosas! Whole urad dal can be used like black Beluga lentils, which (ironically enough) I have never found in the grocery store.

– Toor dal: A recent acquisition, these are like red lentils and split urad dal. They cook quite quickly and add thickness to your dal. I can’t pick up a distinct taste for them, and as such I think they could be substituted with red lentils in a pinch.

– Pigeon peas: Whole pigeon peas are about the size of a green pea and grey. I picked up whole ones by accident – I wanted split pigeon peas. However, whole ones are delicious too! They have a much stronger flavour, one that is unique to the bean world. When you want a change from chickpeas but are still craving the chickpea texture, I’d use these. I used them in the sambar, and they are delicious.

(The terminology used here is what is on my package/labeling at the ethnic grocer. I am sure there are many names for these lentils. A good guide as to what they may be called to you can be found here: The Cook’s Thesaurus: Lentils.)

For the tempering, I generally try to stick to guidelines from multiple chefs, with the occasional creative mix. I have noticed these general rules of thumb, and thus far they have served me well!

1) If there is no cumin, then there is coriander. Often there is both.

2) If there are no mustard seeds, then cumin seeds are used

3) Asafetida (hing) and anchoor (mango powder) bring a lovely sourness to the dish. They are worth the hunt to find! Rarely used together, you just need a pinch of one or the other. If you don’t have any, you can substitute with lemon or lime juice at the end.

4) Curry leaves heighten the dish to a whole different level. You can have the same tempering but with the addition of curry leaves it’s a whole new dish. Unfortunately, you cannot substitute curry powder for this ingredient. While hunting for asafetida and anchoor, pick up some curry leaves. I got mine by asking the man behind the counter at an Indian grocery, and he cut a fresh branch for me – for $0.99! I have also found them at Asian grocery stores, beside the lime leaves and pandan.

5) Don’t be afraid to experiment, but write down what you try!

Dal: Mung beans, toor dal, and green lentils Additional veggies: Kale and carrot

Dal: Mung beans, toor dal, and green lentils
Additional veggies: Kale, eggplant, and zucchini

Here is my current favourite dal. As I mentioned above, feel free to mix and match the lentils – you just need a total of 1 cup dry when you’re done. Enjoy!

Triple Daal Dal

½ cup mung beans, rinsed
¼ cup toor dal
¼ cup green lentils
4 cups water (plus more if necessary)

Tempering
2 tsp. canola oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
¼ tsp. asafoetida (hing)
1” piece fresh ginger, minced
⅓ cup onion, minced
1 large dried red chili, minced (or 3t. red pepper flakes, to taste)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2t. white vinegar
2 tsp. ground coriander
¼ tsp. turmeric
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Optional veggies:
greens, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, beans …

Directions:
1) In large pot, heat oil on medium. Add mustard seeds and sauté until they start to sputter (a lid is handy!)
2) Add asafoetida and curry leaves. Sauté ~30s.
3) Add onions and ginger. Sauté until onions are translucent, ~2-3min.
4) Add dried red chili, garlic, vinegar, and coriander. Sauté ~1min.
5) Add turmeric, tomato, and optional vegetables of choice. Stir, cover, and cook until tomatoes start to break down and get saucy.
6) Add all lentils and water. Mix, cover, and cook on medium-low for 20-30min, or until lentils are tender. Add water as necessary to adjust the gravy to your liking.
7) Adjust seasonings to taste. Add cilantro and optional greens. Cover and bring to a boil.
8) Turn off heat, stir, and serve with rice, roti, or naan.


Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Stew

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Stew

I’ve been saving this post for a rainy day. This is by far one of my favourite comfort soups of all time. Tied with Spicy Peanut and Eggplant Stew, this stew is the equivalent spending a lazy Sunday afternoon on the sofa wrapped in a comfy blanket watching movies like An Affair to Remember while it pours rain outside. And not feeling guilty about the pile of laundry kicked behind the door.

Compliments of the must-have Veganomicon by the pioneers of accessible, delicious vegan cooking Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, this stew was the feature dish at more than one family holiday gathering. It was so popular in fact, by the time my turn came to fill up, the pot was empty! I couldn’t blame them – who can resist the allure of roasted bell peppers, the delicious aroma of roasted garlic, and the creamy interior yet slightly crispy roasted eggplant chips? I know I can’t! The recipe takes some forethought due to the aforementioned roasting, but once that’s done it’s quite simple. Sauté the onions, add MORE garlic, add the tomatoes and build the spice base of thyme, tarragon, and a dash of paprika for heat. Add the roasted vegetables, some chickpeas for protein, and voila. A hearty stew that is so flavourful and delicious you may moan. My family has used the stew as a ratatouille, topping pasta with it (and quite clearly loved it that way!). I’m a purist – why waste stomach room with pasta when you can go for thirds?

I have made this multiple times, and as usual I have made some adjustments. I usually cut the oil called for down to 1-2tsp. to sauté the onions only. To roast the veggies, place them on your cookie sheet and lightly spray with olive oil (or pam). This works much better for me, as when I try to brush the surfaces with oil it never comes out even and things always get burned. Also, watch the veggies when roasting – my various rental ovens run hot or cold, so I have had both raw and burnt roasted veggies following the instructions. To combat this, I usually roast at 375oF, and check on them every 20min, with a max roast time of 45min. Whenever possible, I try to use dried chickpeas that are cooked instead of canned. I find that this is a firmer texture, and more delicious. However, when combating cravings, reaching for whatever canned bean you have on hand (or even lentils to throw in while it’s simmering) is also delicious. Finally, all stews taste better with greens! Don’t be shy – throw in spinach, kale, lettuce, swiss chard, whatever green you have on hand. It breaks up the soup colour, and adds an additional texture element.

If you only make one recipe from Veganomicon, this is it. Melt in your mouth eggplant, roasted garlic, roasted bell peppers, in a rich tomato stew. You can’t go wrong.

In addition to being found in Veganomicon, the recipe can be found here: Roasted Tomato and Eggplant Stew.


Sancocho and Chocolate Orange Dulce de Batata Cake

This Latin feast is compliments of Viva Vegan! by Terry Hope Romero. Once again, Terry delivers massive Latin flavour that will make you exercise all your restraint to not eat the whole thing before making it out of the kitchen. I am a novice to Latin food, but these recipes that I have previously written about (and with more to come!) have me seeking out Latin food wherever I can!

Sancocho

Sancocho: The Latin Sambar.

The Sancocho could be best described as a Latin Sambar – they are so similar in fact I often get the two confused! They are both soothing, spicy, comfort foods in a bowl. Sancocho is coloured the distinctive Latin Chorizo “hue” with Annatto spice, the Latin turmeric. The rest of the seasoning is the standard Latin combination of oregano and cumin, supplemented with some thyme and heaps of onions. The soup is loaded with veggies: carrot, yucca, green plantains, tomatoes, and corn. Lima beans add the protein element, and are deliciously creamy. For those with Lima issues, Fava beans, edamame, pinto beans, or even chickpeas would be a wonderful stand-in. I made some modifications to the recipe – I hate corn. With a passion. Thus I omitted the corn on the cob from my soup, and I think it didn’t suffer from intent at all! Although I will not deny – eating corn on a cob in a soup sounds pretty cool. I also added some spinach at the end, because greens in soups are never wrong! The resulting soup is soothing, delicious, and exotic enough to make you think you can cook any Latin dish you desire. (I may be delusional.) This is the perfect soup to usher in the not-quite-ready spring produce but tired of the winter standards of squash and potatoes.

The recipe can be found on p. 154-155 of Viva Vegan!, or on Google Books here.

Chocolate Orange Dulce de Batata Cake

Chocolate Orange Dulce de Batata Cake: Not too sweet, slightly spicy, and all around delicious!

The Chocolate Orange Dulce de Batata Cake is a surprise all in of itself. The frosting is actually Dulce de Batata, which is an orange-infused sweet potato pudding. Yes – sweet potato! I have never had sweet potato as part of a dessert before (or any non-savoury application after the Mashed Sweet Potato and Marshmallow experiences of my childhood – ick), and so I knew I had to try this cake just for that reason. To make the Dulce de Batata is relatively easy – basically boil sweet potatoes to a mash, and stir constantly to make sure it doesn’t burn the bottom of the pan. A helpful tip: use a lid when you reach pudding consistency, otherwise you will end up with sweet potato splatters all over your kitchen. The aroma from this dish was what really surprised me – it was very difficult not eating the entire pot as soon as it was made. The sweet potato taste isn’t pungent, and the cinnamon and orange pair wonderfully.

The chocolate cake is a typical chocolate cake, but with the addition of ‘spice’ cake spices and orange juice. It pairs well with the dulce de batata, and again isn’t a sweet cake. I used a combination of quinoa and buckwheat flour, and it came out wonderfully moist, and had a great crumb. The instructions say to cook the cake as one layer, and then cut the layers in two. I could foresee that disaster, and instead opted to cook two layers of cake separately, and reduced the cooking time. To “frost”, you smear as much dulce de batata as you can on the top of one half, add the second layer of cake, and frost with the remaining dulce de batata. The combination is phenomenal, and definitely something you could serve to company and bask in the compliments. Not too sweet, slightly spicy, and with the hint of orange, it is a chocolate cake you will crave. Especially so for people who are not partial to sweet desserts, and usually avoid chocolate cakes for this reason. I froze my leftovers and ate the rest like cake pops, and I think I liked that serving style even better than eating it fresh!

The recipe can be found on p. 236-239 of Viva Vegan!, or on Google Books here.

Sancocho and Chocolate Dulce de Batata cake – the latest Latin offerings that have continued to open my eyes to the delicious offerings of the Central and South Americas!


Green Thai Curry

Green Thai Curry

This green Thai curry is a staple. Once you make it, you will crave it. It has also successfully proven to self-professed tofu-haters that tofu shouldn’t be pronounced with a wrinkled nose. (Try not to gloat when they go for seconds!) The green Thai curry paste is made fresh and is very easy: just throw everything into a food processor. The heady combination of lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, lime juice, and heat from the hot chilis (to taste) win me over every time. The fresh cilantro is a must – it brings spring to the dish. I prefer ginger in this recipe to galangal as I think it matches better with the acid from the lemongrass and lime juice, but that is completely my preference. The best part about this recipe is that even though the list of ingredients looks very long, you probably have most of it already in your pantry, and since most of it goes into the food processor, clean-up is easy and cooking time is much shorter than you’d expect. This curry goes well with rice or vermicelli, but I won’t stop you from eating it straight up like soup!
After many trials and numerous iterations of this dish, I have compiled these rules of thumb for guaranteed success:

1) Sautéing the fresh curry paste makes all the difference. Like dry roasting spices for Indian curries, this is when the lemongrass and heat really start to come out. Once fragrant, you will have to have serious restraint from not eating the sauce as is!

2) When you add the tofu to soak up all the curry paste flavour, add the eggplant as well. Double the flavour with two different textures!

3) Usually I add all the coconut milk to the food processor to help the paste come together. If you have a better food processor than I, you could probably proceed with the recipe as-written. I find though that if I don’t add the extra liquid, I could do a better job making a paste by chopping things finely than my food processor.

4) If you don’t have coconut milk on hand, I’ve recently discovered that almond milk makes an amazing substitute! I am sure curry purists around the world have just gotten very angry with me, but when you need some Green Thai Curry a little matter of no coconut milk won’t stop me! This successful trial makes me believe that rice milk or hemp milk would also make for excellent substitutions.

5) The best suited vegetables for this dish are:
– Eggplant: A must!
– Zucchini: So lovely and tender
– One or more crunchy green vegetable such as green beans, snap peas, bell pepper, or asparagus
– A leafy green such as bok choy (spinach will also work)
– Cherry tomatoes: Or as I like to call them, Tomato Bombs of Flavour.

6) Add the cherry tomatoes at the very very end – with your greens. The “cherry bomb” in your mouth is so worth the restraint!

7) If you can find them, the kaffir lime leaves are a must. I store them in the freezer, and use as needed. They will transform your South Asian dishes from “really good” to “how can it get any better?!?!?”. They are the curry leaves of Asian cuisine. Add them with the green curry paste, and the lime flavour is heightened further!

This dish will turn your kitchen into a little taste of Thailand with its aromas and taste. Quick to make and quicker to devour, this is a classic!

The recipe can be found here: Vegetarian Green Thai Curry


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