Last week I reorganized my spice rack (as you are well aware, since I KNOW you’ve all read last weeks blog), which I understand to most people sounds about as interesting as watching paint dry. But with very few exceptions I’m not like most people – I loved it. Creating order out of chaos and all that.
I discovered that not only do I have an over abundance of spices, I also found inspiration for dinner the next night in the form of garam masala, fenugreek, and mustard seeds.
Half of the fun of going overboard when I go spice shopping is that I learn what would otherwise be esoteric spices are used for, where they come from, and their potential health benefits. Garam masala is a basic blend of spices that is common in Northern India and South Asian cuisines. While its ingredients vary from region to region, it commonly includes cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, nutmeg, and star anise. You’ll find it is used in a wide variety of Indian recipes. Fenugreek is native to the Mediterranean and Asia and has a host if health benefits, including reducing cholesterol in the blood, aids in digestion, relieving diarrhea and stomach aches. On top of all that it has a smoky, caramel like finish that is amazing in Tarka Dal, the dish I’ve decided to combine my fenugreek and garam masala to make, which is just one version of the many Dals served in India as quick, delicious, healthy vegetarian meal choices.
I haven’t made Indian food in a while, which is a shame not only because it tastes so good, but it affords me the opportunity to eat with my hands. So I decided to pick up some naan, make some chicken tikka masala too, and make a night of it. And what’s a great meal without a good friend and a good bottle? Not as much fun, so I’m going to open a bottle of champagne and call my friend Gretchen …
Courtesy of Practical Cookery – Vegetarian.
- 2 Tbsp ghee (clarified butter, can be found in most health food stores)
- 2 shallots sliced
- 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 8 fenugreek seeds
- 1/2 inch piece of ginger, grated
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup red lentils
- 1 Tbsp tomato paste
- 2 – 1/2 cups water
- 2 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- 4 Tbsp chopped cilantro
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp garam masala
- Heat half of the ghee in a large sauce pan and add the shallots. Cook 2-3 minutes over high heat, and mustard seeds and cover until the seeds begin to pop.
- Immediately remove the lid – add garlic, fenugreek, ginger, and salt.
- Stir once, add lentils, tomato paste, and water – bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
- Stir in tomatoes, lemon juice, and cilantro, simmer 4-5 minutes until lentils are tender.
- Transfer to a serving dish. Heat remaining ghee in a pan until melted. Remove from heat and stir in garam masala and cayenne. Pour over Tarka Dal, and serve.