I read somewhere…the spices in Indian food can purify and heal the body. I do believe this to be true. I can almost feel it, when I enjoy a warm, fragrant bowl of Indian dal. Maybe it’s the heat of the cayenne and ginger, or the smoky cumin and turmeric that seduces me into a state of near-euphoria. All I know is I crave Indian flavors and enjoy them whenever I can.
Our favorite spot for Indian delights is Bombay Cafe in Fort Lauderdale. We have been known to make the hour drive just to indulge our craving for spice!
There is great benefit to cooking Indian at home, though. You control the fat and the salt in your recipe. Restaurants are notorious for loading it on. So, once in awhile for a treat, we have Indian out, but the rest of the time I explore recipes and find great satisfaction in the dishes I create.
1 cup raw red lentils (masoor dal)
6 cups water
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon (scant) cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic
2 tablespoons peeled, finely chopped ginger
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup finely chopped tomato, fresh or canned
Handful of fresh leafy greens (whatever you have on hand: spinach, arugula, etc.)
Rinse and drain the lentils and combine with water in a large pot. Bring to a boil, skimming off the cloudy foam that appears on the surface as the lentils begin to boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, toast the cumin in a non-stick skillet on medium-high heat just until fragrant, stirring constantly. You may wish the slightly crush the cumin with a mortar and pestle beforehand to help release the flavor and soften the seeds.
Reduce the heat to medium, add the water and stir quickly to lift the cumin from the pan, then immediately add the chopped onions, garlic and ginger. Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add diced tomato and saute another 5 minutes to blend the flavors.
Add the onion mixture to the lentils and continue cooking 5 to 10 minutes. Roughly chop greens and stir into the lentils. Continue to stir until greens are soft. Test for seasoning and serve hot or warm.
This is an oil-free recipe. If you are accustomed to cooking with oil, I urge you to try leaving it out, substituting a bit of water or stock in a non-stick skillet. I think it gives foods a much cleaner, more vibrant flavor without that coating of fat on the palate.
I hope you will try this recipe and tell me how you like it!
Recipe adapted from The Curry Book by Nancie McDermott