Dal Makhani

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What pasta is to Italians is what dal is to Indians. It’s a staple across the country and when accompanied with rice it’s a dish considered to be the “bread and butter” of the cuisine. 

My cousins in India find my love of lentils a little odd. They often roll their eyes when their respective mothers tell them that “dal is for dinner”.  In fact if you asked my cousin Sahil what he thinks of lentils his response is a facial expression akin to that of the straight faced emoticon (yeah the one that has a horizontal line for it’s lips). He’d rather have a “McMaharaja” burger than masoor dal which is fair enough (Maccy D’s in India is pretty great) but I just don’t think he is giving it the chance it really deserves!

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For me, dal is quintessentially Indian. One of my fondest memories when spending summer holidays in India, was the sound of pressure cooker whistles going off at lunchtime throughout the neighbourhood. The aroma of pulses cooking away would fill the streets and I would immediately feel hungry. From moong and masoor to toor and channa, each household has their favourite dal and unique way of preparing it. I love how the amazing variety of lentils can result in endless flavours and dishes! 

Today’s recipe is one of my absolute favourites. Dal Makhani is silky, creamy and spicy all at the same time. Typically served with buttery chapatis or naans it’s utterly comforting and you are never judged for taking seconds (or thirds!). Enjoy…

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Dal Makhni
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup black urad lentils
  2. 1/4 cup kidney beans or rose cocoa beans
  3. 1/4 cup channa lentils
  4. 1 1/2 tsp salt
  5. 1 medium onion
  6. 3 large garlic cloves
  7. 3 peppercorns
  8. 3 cloves
  9. 1 black cardamom
  10. 1 bay leaf
  11. 2" piece cinnamon stick
  12. water
  13. 3 tbsp ghee or butter
  14. 1 tsp cumin
  15. 2" ginger, finely chopped
  16. 2 plum tomatoes & 2 tbsp tomato juice
  17. 2 birds eye green chillies
  18. 1 tsp coriander powder
  19. 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  20. 1 tsp garam masala
  21. 1/4 cup cream (optional)
  22. handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Instructions
  1. Place the urad lentils, kidney beans and channa lentils together in a bowl and soak in water overnight. Rinse and keep aside.
  2. To a pressure cookery, add the soaked lentils, onions, garlic, peppercorns, cloves, black cardamom, bay leaf, cinnamon and salt along with 4 cups of water. Carefully place the lid on the cookery and place on high heat. When the first whistle goes off, reduce to low heat and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Allow the steam to escape naturally before opening the lid.
  3. Mash the lentils using a masher until they are blended together.
  4. If you do not have a pressure cooker, place above ingredients in a sauce pan along with 5 cups of water and cook until lentils are tender. (This will take approx 45 minutes). If the water reduces before they are cooked, add more throughout. Once cooked and mashed, keep aside.
  5. Heat ghee in a non-stick pan. Once hot, add the cumin. When the cumin begins to splatter, add the ginger and for 2 minutes until slightly brown.
  6. Now add the tomatoes along with the chillies. At this point, add the coriander powder, chilli powder, garam masala and fresh coriander.
  7. Cook for 2 minutes. When you see the oil separating, add the lentils and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add cream and cook for another minute.
  8. Check for salt and adjust accordingly. Turn off heat.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/

Bhindi Dopiyaza – Spiced Okra & Onions

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Lady fingers, okra, bhindi. Whatever you call them…they tend to split the opinion polls! Some love them. Some hate them-well they think hate them…I am of the opinion that they just haven’t had them cooked well yet!  I am (obviously) a fan and a huge one at that. Okra tends to get a bad rep for it’s slimy texture but with the right recipe, this dish will become a favourite and a firm part of your culinary repetoire.

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Containing high levels of vitamin A & B and folic acid, okra is super healthy and quick to make. Layered with heat, tang and slight sweetness, bhindi dopiyaza is perfect gobbled up with buttery chapatis.

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Bhindi Dopiyaza
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Ingredients
  1. 3 tbsp olive oil
  2. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  3. 1 tsp nigella seeds
  4. 500g okra
  5. 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  6. 2 birds eye chillis, finely chopped
  7. 1 1/2 tsp salt
  8. pinch of sugar
  9. 1 tsp garam masala
  10. 1/2 tsp paprika
  11. 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  12. 1 tsp amchur (sun-dried mango powder)
  13. 4 cherry tomatoes, halved
  14. handful of chopped cilantro
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a non stick pan. Now add the cumin and nigella seeds.
  2. When they begin to sizzle, place the onions, chillis and okra in the pan and add salt. Mix well and cook on medium heat for approx 5 minutes, mixing every couple of minutes. You will see slime strands at this point.
  3. Reduce heat low and place lid on pan and cook for 5-7 minutes, mixing it every couple of minutes.
  4. Remove the lid and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes or until the slime strands begin to reduce and eventually disappear.
  5. Now add the spices and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and coriander and mix. Check for salt and adjust accordingly. Mix well and remove from heat.
Notes
  1. It's important to cook out the okras until the slime strands disappear. Slightly overcooked okra is perfect for this type of dish!
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/

Chingri Malai Kari – Bengali King Prawn Coconut Curry

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My brother and I grew up loathing fish. Strange really, as we grew up in a household of seafood lovers. Whenever Mum would fix up Dad’s favourites of fish pakoras, salmon tikka or king prawn curry, Aj and I would grimace and hold our noses pretending to make dying noises, as we walked past the kitchen. As I said… we were not fans!

Annoyingly we both really wanted to like seafood – especially my brother. So much so, that he even tried hypnosis (this actually proved to be quite successful until he had an undesirable experience with a fish bone but that’s another story for another time). I opted for the more traditional approach and began by trying the “least fishy” dish out there. Fish and chips obviously. Beer battered deep fried fish accompanied with chips and lashings of salt and vinegar (and to the disgrace of southerners, curry sauce)… what was not to like?? From then on, I slowly progressed and have now become more adventurous with my fishy choices. 

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Marrying into a Bengali family has also helped. Hubby’s family hail from West Bengal which is famously known as the land of maach (fish) and bhaat (rice). Bengalis share an irrevocable relationship with these two foods that are a staple in almost every household. My mother in law is an excellent cook (I’m not just saying that in-case she reads my blog) so it’s become even easier to embrace the deliciousness that is, dare I say it, fish!

Today’s recipe is inspired by dinnertime at the in-laws and is an absolute Bengali classic. Uber satisfying devoured with steaming hot basmati rice, Chingri Malaikari is a creamy, spicy, coconuty delight to eat. Oh and tip – the bigger and juicer the prawn you can get, the better. Enjoy! x 

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CHINGRI MALAIKARI – BENGALI KING PRAWN COCONUT CURRY
Serves 2
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Prawn preparation
  1. 12 King Prawns (de-veined and de-shelled)
  2. 1 tsp salt
  3. 1 tsp turmeric powder
  4. 1 tsp paprika powder
For the gravy/masala
  1. 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  2. 2 tbsp mustard oil (optional, can use vegetable oil)
  3. 2 tbsp ghee (optional)
  4. 1" cinnamon stick
  5. 3 cloves
  6. 4 peppercorns
  7. 1 bay leaf
  8. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  9. 1 small onion, finely diced
  10. 2"ginger, grated
  11. 2 cloves garlic, grated
  12. 2 bird eye green chillis, vertically sliced in halves
  13. 1 tsp salt
  14. 1/2 tsp paprika
  15. 1 tsp garam masala
  16. 1/4 tsp sugar
  17. 300ml coconut milk
  18. water
Instructions
  1. Place prawns in a bowl. Sprinkle on the salt, turmeric and paprika and mix well.
  2. Heat 3 tbsp vegetable oil in a non-stick pan. Once hot, add the prawns and cook on medium heat for 2 minutes. Turn the prawns over and cook for a further 2 minutes. The prawns should be firm and white. Remove from the pan.
  3. Heat the mustard oil and ghee in the previously used pan. Once hot, add the cinnamon stick, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaf and cumin.
  4. When these whole spices begin to splatter, add the onions and 1/4 tsp salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes until translucent. Now add the ginger and garlic and cook for a further 3-4 minutes until golden brown.
  5. Add salt, paprika, turmeric, garam masala sugar and 2 tbsp water into a bowl and mix together to make a paste. Add this paste to the pan along with the green chillis and mix well.
  6. Now add the coconut milk and 1 cup of water. Bring to boil and then immediately reduce the heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes or until it is thick enough to cover the back of a spoon. Check for salt and adjust accordingly.
  7. Now add the prawns. Allow to simmer for a further 3-4 minutes and turn off the heat.
Notes
  1. If you do not have all of the whole spices, it does not matter - you can still make the dish without them!
  2. Be careful not overcook the prawns once you add them in the gravy as they can toughen and become rubbery.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/