Tag Archives: red lentils

Eggplant and Black Eyed Pea Curry

Eggplant and Black Eyed Pea Curry

I needed a break from the constant influx of zucchini this summer, and the cooler mornings have awakened the warming fall food monster in me. Pumpkins and butternut squash are just around the corner! I am not a summer person, and much prefer the cold winter landscapes. Snow, skiing, bright sunny days of -25dC … bliss. To celebrate the (hopeful) end to summer, I decided to make this eggplant and black eyed pea curry from The PPK as an introduction to the season. Warm and hearty, it doesn’t have winter squash, potatoes, or other typical ‘winter’ ingredients, but it does evoke feelings of being nestled up in a warm blanket by the fire with a light dusting of snow outside. If this doesn’t appeal at this time of year, it’s also a really good curry 🙂

This is my first use of two kinds of lentils plus a bean in a curry. No stranger to mixing my beans, I was curious to see what would happen with green lentils, red lentils, and black eyed peas. The red lentils make the curry very creamy, and disappear into the background – hidden protein! The green lentils and black eyed peas pair wonderfully, and give the dish different ‘protein eye candy’ while complimenting each other on the palate. The eggplant is meaty, and soaks up the curry flavour wonderfully. The bulk from the lentils also makes the eggplant almost float on the surface, elevating the vegetable to prominence. It’s a simple curry, made of curry powder, fennel, and cayenne. The cilantro and lemon juice add brightness, adding a bit of ‘pop’ to the end. If the beans are canned or pre-cooked, this is a fantastic weeknight dinner to whip up and impress yourself. If you’re inspired to up the ante, add curry leaves, make your own curry powder (toast the whole or ground spices before grinding/mixing for maximum flavour), and of course you can add more vegetables! Zucchini, green beans, greens, potatoes, or even winter squash would all be fantastic. Served with roti, naan, or a grain and a fresh green salad, and you are ready to embrace the season change with this tasty stew.

The recipe can be found here: Eggplant and Black Eyed Pea Curry


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.


Eggplant Tagine

Tagines, like curries, are a staple. A tagine is a slow-cooked stew hailing from Morocco. If you are lucky enough to have the kitchen space, they are to be cooked in a special clay casserole dish that acts like a mini-convection oven. The dome of the lid traps the steam and recirculates it within the dish for slow-roasted casserole perfection. I am limited in my galley kitchen however, and make due with a stock pot. Still delicious and worth making every time!

Moroccan tagines are sweeter than Indian curries, and generally less spicy. They often feature cinnamon with some citrus notes, adding a surprise twist to the cumin/coriander/turmeric “base” curry spice mix. Raisins or other dried fruit such as apricots (especially when the citrus is orange) are also common in the stew. Generally served with fancy (or standard) couscous, they are a filling meal that will transform your kitchen to a market in Casablanca. This particluar tagine is my base recipe, however there are a multitude of variations of this recipe that can be made based on what you have on hand. Components that you must have to consider it a tagine include: a meaty vegetable such as eggplant, a legume, a tomato-based sauce, and a spice combination that includes cinnamon and orange juice or lemon juice. Purists would also insist that rasins need to be added, but as I hate raisins I leave those out – I leave that decision to your disgretion.

Tagines are a nice change of pace from the Indian curries, but if you want an exotic stew and can’t decide on which curry to make, split the difference and slurp up a hearty warming tagine!

Eggplant Tagine

2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium onions, quartered and sliced thin
1 cup carrots, sliced into ½” pieces on the bias
1-2 serrano chilis seeded and minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground turmeric
1 tsp. ground coriander
5 cups water, vegetable broth, or a combination
2 tbsp tomato paste
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
several dashes pepper
1 cup dry red lentils

1 zucchini, sliced in half lengthwise and chopped into ¼” pieces
1 eggplant, cubed into ¼” cubes or sliced into quarter moons (like zucchini)
1 cup green beans, cut into 1” pieces
2 cups grape tomatoes
½ cup raisins (I never add raisins because I dislike them, but traditional tagines include them!)
1 tsp salt
1 bunch spinach, torn into pieces½ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
½ cup fresh mint, chopped
3-4 tbsp. lemon juice, or juice of one orange
lemon wedges to serve

Add-in/Substitution Suggestions:

Legumes: Red lentils give the stew a creamy base, but green lentils or chickpeas are also delicious. Or a combination of all! You want to end up with ~3 cups cooked legumes when you are done.

Vegetables: Green beans, sugar snap peas, asparagus, grape tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, butternut squash, and bell pepper would all be fantastic. For a double-tomato broth, add 1 (28oz.) can whole or diced tomatoes to stew with liquid.

Greens: Spinach, Swiss chard, kale, collard greens …

Directions:

1) In large stockpot, sauté onions in olive oil until translucent
2) Add carrots and chili and sauté ~3min.
3) Add garlic and ginger, sauté ~2min.
4) Add cumin, turmeric, and coriander. Stir and add water/vegetable broth, tomato paste, cinnamon, bay leaves, pepper, and lentils. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer uncovered for 20min.
5) Add all veggies except greens, raisins, and salt. Simmer 15min.
6) Add the greens, cilantro, and mint. If all the greens don’t fit in the pot, add in batches and stir until greens are wilted.
7) When all greens are wilted, turn heat off, stir in lemon juice, and let sit for 10min (or as long as you can last!)
8) Serve over couscous, tabouli, or with some flatbread.

Update: Winter Tagine

During the winter months, I found myself craving this savoury tagine. Thus, I adjusted the vegetables accordingly. Butternut squash, carrots, bell pepper, and frozen spinach worked wonderfully in this tomato-based tagine. I used chickpeas instead of lentils for the mouth feel, and was completly satisfied with this warm, hearty stew!

Winter Tagine: Butternut squash, carrots, bell pepper, spinach, and chickpeas

Winter Tagine: Butternut squash, carrots, bell pepper, spinach, and chickpeas


Roti and Hummus: Two Ways

On Plate: Left: Tamarind Hummus, Right: Red Lentil Hummus; with roti
And of course a nice selection of crudités!

When it’s too hot to spend copious amounts of time at the stove, my go to has always been hummus. I always have some form of a hummus dip/spread on the go, and this platter was no exception! I decided to do a side-by-side comparison of two different styles of hummus with two different beans. I made a chickpea based hummus flavoured with tamarind and tahini, in the style of the Arabian Gulf, as well as a red lentil hummus flavoured with tahini and lemon, a flavour combination most associate with hummus. This also gave me the perfect excuse to try my hand at making Rotis. The result of this taste test was a satisfied tummy, delicious hummus spreads, and the knowledge that I have mastered the skill set required for rotis and can make them in less than 30min!

*Note* The hummus recipes that follow are the ones pictured above. I follow a standard formula for all hummus attempts, and season on whim as I go. Beans I have used range from lentils, black beans, black eyed peas, navy beans, fava beans, and of course chick peas. I also make hummus without any oil, so if you prefer add 1 tsp. – 2 tbsp. of olive oil to any hummus recipe. Successful flavour combinations include: “Southwest Hummus” made with black beans, jalapenos, cumin, coriander, and chili powder; “Curry Hummus” made with curry powder, cumin, coriander, and a dash of turmeric and cayenne; “Fresh Hummus” with roasted bell peppers, fresh cilantro, parsley, basil, and lemon; and the lower fat varieties with pureed cauliflower or mashed sweet potato for bulk (delicious!).  These are not by any means the end of the combinations, so if interested I could post a hummus ‘primer’ for those out there!

Roti

Roti are one of those flatbreads that are all-purpose and appropriate for anything you could imagine. Of course there is the traditional use of a utensil in your daal/curry creation, but I have also made Roti PB&J sandwiches, roti chips, roti pizzas … I was scared off of making my own roti when I accidently set my oven on fire making chapati’s (roti’s cousin) a couple of years ago. But when the craving hit this time I was called to the kitchen – albeit with trepidation. I needn’t have worried! Rotis are super easy to make, and even easier to cook. All you need is a standard skillet, and you are ready for business. Just like cooking a 30s. pancake, you will have delicious roti’s faster than it’ll take for you to cut vegetables!

I used the following recipe: Roti/Chapati.  Initially I did have problems rolling out the roti’s to the desired thinness, which is why the ones above are such interesting shapes. However, on my last roti I decided to try and roll the dough out sandwiched between two pieces of parchment paper. Worked like a charm! To save on mess and frustration, I strongly recommend doing this, or using thick plastic wrap when making flatbreads like roti, pita, and na’an. My confidence in my flatbread making abilities has skyrocketed so much that I am thinking I may be ready to tackle gobhi parathas (cauliflower stuffed flatbread)!

 Red Lentil Hummus

Using red lentils in hummus makes a delightfully creamy spread. The picture of the hummus above is a bit runny because I forgot to adjust my liquid ratios with the bean – chickpeas require more liquid to puree than red lentils. The spread did thicken nicely in the fridge, but next time I will endeavour to take into consideration the type of bean used! As it was this hummus made for delicious dips and spreads in wraps. I used my standard flavour profile for this hummus, which works for any type of bean: chick pea, lentil, black bean, navy bean … my food processor has not met a bean it does not like! The base recipe is below, however with this standard hummus I encourage you to play with the spices, ratios, and flavours! Taste, add, blend, and taste again – that’s the secret to perfect hummus!

Red Lentil Hummus

1½ cups cooked red lentils
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. tahini
1½ tbsp. lemon juice
¼ tsp. ground cumin
⅛ tsp. cayenne
salt and pepper to taste

Directions:
1) In food processor, puree all ingredients until smooth. Taste for seasonings; adjust as necessary
2) Place in storage container and chill in fridge at least 1h prior to serving to allow flavours to meld. Tastes even better the next day!

 Tamarind Hummus

This was a new experiment for me. My tamarind paste lives beside my (store bought, and thus little used) red Thai Curry paste (Thai Curry Hummus? Experiment for the next batch!) and I wanted to use it. Tamarind gives a distinctive flavour to a variety of dishes; from pad thai to chilis to Middle Eastern tagines and couscous pilafs. Tamarind itself is a pod-like fruit that looks a bit like a broad bean and tastes almost a tangy lime molasses in concentrated form. It can also be found as a brick of compressed pulp from the fruit, which when chopped tastes fantastic in chilis. You can make your own concentrate from the pulp, but I usually buy a small jar at an Asian, Middle Eastern, or Indian grocery. A little goes a long way, so that small jar will last a very long time! Added to hummus and it creates a completely different flavour profile than the standard recipe above – one that is tangy and tahini like at the same time and completely addicting.

 

The recipe I used for this first attempt came from the cookbook Classic Vegetarian Cooking From the Middle East and North Africa, by Habeeb Salloom. The recipe is also posted here: Chickpea and Tamarind Dip (Hummus Bi Tamar Hindi). Enjoy!


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