Tadka Dal

The first week of August has come to an end and it has rained every single day since the beginning of the month. Why hello British summer, so nice of you to join us! (Said no one in the past 7 days). To be fair, I do like me some precipitation. Not only does it provide much needed moisture in my garden, it also proves to be an excellent topic of conversation when you are a) trying to break the ice with someone and b) need a filler for an awkward silence. Very handy indeed.

If it continues like this however, it does mean that my summer dreams of cooking up seekh kebabs, paneer tikka, afghani chicken, masala corn on the cobs & tandoori tiger prawns  (I have been compiling this list since January) on the BBQ, are well and truly over. 

It’s not all bad though, monsoon season in India results in comfort food galore (there is always a silver lining!). For me, comfort food stems from simple dishes done well. That brings me to today’s recipe of Tadka Dal. A buttery & spicy classic lentil dish that is super simple but oh so delicious. The word “tadka” refers to the tempering of spices in oil which is then added to the cooked lentils. My tadka calls for ghee, cumin, ginger & garlic which works wonders to add the perfect amount of richness, heat and flavour all at the same time…that is of course in my humble opinion!

When you make this recipe, I urge you to devour with rice or chapatis and eat with your hands. That’s right….stay away from the spoon people! The satisfaction shoots up to another level. Believe me. I hope you enjoy it – keep me posted on your thoughts!

 

Tadka Dal
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To cook the lentils
  1. 1/2 cup masoor dal*
  2. 1/2 cup yellow split moong dal
  3. 3 ½ cups of water
  4. 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  5. 1 tsp salt
To cook the tadka
  1. 2 tbsp oil
  2. 2 tbsp ghee (you can just use 4tbsp oil if you have no ghee)
  3. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  4. 1/4 tsp asafoetida/hing powder (optional)
  5. 1 small onion, finely diced
  6. 1/2 tsp salt
  7. 2 cloves garlic, grated
  8. 1″ ginger, grated
  9. 1 tsp garam masala
  10. 1/2 tsp paprika or chilli powder
  11. 1/2 tsp amchur (mango powder)
  12. salt
  13. 4-5tbsp tomato passata (You can also use tinned plum/fresh tomatoes blitzed up)
  14. 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  15. Handful fresh chopped coriander
Instructions
  1. Wash lentils thoroughly. If you have a pressure cooker, add enough water so it is approximately 2” above the level of the lentils along with the turmeric and salt.
  2. Once the first whistle goes off, reduce heat to low and cook for 6 minutes. Then remove from heat, keep the lid on and allow steam to escape naturally.
  3. If you do not have a pressure cooker, place washed lentils in a pan along with salt and turmeric with 5 and cups of water. Once the water comes to a boil, reduce heat to bring to a simmer and a place lid on the pan. Simmer for 30-40 minutes until the lentils are soft and tender. If the water reduces before the lentils are cooked, you can add more.
  4. Whilst the lentils are cooking, heat the ghee/oil in a separate pan. Add cumin seeds, and asafoetida. When they begin to sizzle, add the onions along with the salt.
  5. Cook for 4-5 minutes until translucent and then add the garlic and ginger. Allow to cook until golden in colour. Now add the passata along with the chilli and cook for a minute.
  6. Lower the heat slightly and add the garam masala, paprika and amchur. Mix well and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until you see the oil begins to separate from the masala at the edges. Remove from heat.
  7. Once the lentils are cooked, add them to the masala sauce along with the water they were boiled in.
  8. Mix well and bring to a boil. If you think the dal is too thick you can add a little more water.
  9. Garnish with the fresh coriander. Taste for salt/chilli and adjust accordingly. Amchur adds tangy-ness. If you feel the dal is lacking slightly when you try at the end, add a little more! Remove from heat.
Notes
  1. *Measuring cups have been used here
  2. I have mixed two lentils here but you can use just one if you prefer. The masoor and yellow split moong variety do not need to be soaked before hand and cook quickly!
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/

 

Smoked Aubergine Mash (Baingan Bharta)

 

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I always think it’s funny how there are foods we used to hate as kids but now love as adults. Not that I consider myself an adult. I see myself more as a tall kid. Am I aware that 5ft 2 is not technically tall? Sure I am, but lets not ponder on that.

I was a good eater as a child (my childhood photos reveal that) and I’d like to think I wasn’t particularly fussy. Granted I had some weird foodie combinations that I loved but who didn’t? Crisp and coleslaw sandwiches were a must whilst watching cartoons on a Saturday morning. Any crisp would do, though crisps made from maize or corn were preferable. Mango pickle mixed with yoghurt was a regular “snack”, oh and I could eat mountains of black olives and pickled onions at any given time. Perhaps I was an odd child…please don’t judge me. 

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But I digress. Generally, I ate very well and there were just a few things I detested which oddly, I now love! Any sort of seafood was a no go, however Chingri Malai Kari is now one of my absolute favourite dishes. I found bitter melon revolting growing up but now regularly crave it. I couldn’t stand the smell of anything cooked in ghee but now it’s a staple in my everyday cooking. It’s odd isn’t it?

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Baigan Bharta also featured on the loathe list but now I can’t fathom how I lived so many years without it! Spicy, smokey (almost BBQ esque) and slightly sweet, baigan bharta is an utterly satisfying dish that’s perfect with hot buttery chapatis. The mashed consistency of the aubergine is akin to baba ganoush so it also works great as a dip, in wraps and smothered on crackers too (I’m thinking canapés at dinner partys people). I hope you like this recipe. It’s surprisingly easy to make and packed full of flavour. Keep me posted on how it turns out for you! 

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Smoked Aubergine Mash (Baigan Bhartha)
Serves 3
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Ingredients
  1. 1 aubergine
  2. 2 tbsp oil
  3. 1 small onion, finely diced
  4. 1 green chilli, finely diced
  5. 2 tomatoes, diced
  6. 1 level tsp tomato puree (double concentrate)
  7. 1 1/2 tsp salt or according to taste
  8. 1/2 tsp chilli powder or according to taste
  9. 2 tbsp peas, boiled (optional)
  10. Fresh coriander
Instructions
  1. Grease the aubergine with oil and roast it over an open flame till it is fully cooked. It should take about 5-7 minutes. When done, the skin should be charred all over and and the aubergine flesh will become soft.
  2. If you do not have a gas cooker, you can also cook the aubergine in the grill at the highest temperature until soft. Note, this will however not achieve the smokiness in flavour.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Then peel and discard the skin. Mash the flesh with a fork and keep aside.
  4. Heat oil in a non stick pan. Then add the onions and chilli and cook for 3-5 minutes until light golden brown in colour.
  5. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, salt and chilli powder and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
  6. Now add the mashed aubergine and peas and mix well. Reduce the heat and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add the fresh coriander. Check salt and chilli and adjust accordingly. Remove from heat.
Notes
  1. If you are roasting over a flame, use tongs to hold the aubergine and rotate every few minutes. It may also help to cover the cooker around the ring with foil so it is easy to clean once the aubergine is roasted.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/

Desi Chilli Chicken

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Whenever I make this dish, I’m reminded of a recent trip to India which ended in pain and tears. The good kind. Obviously. 

It was the night before we were due to fly back home when I decided to visit an Indo-Chinese street food cart next to my grandma’s house. I had passed this cart everyday and had been eyeing up the “goods on offer” carefully considering if I should do the deed. To clarify, doing said deed would involve purchasing a portion of their ever popular chilli chicken and hakka noodles. Sounds simple enough right? But deciding on whether or not you should get involved in an authentic street food experience in India is a dubious proposition indeed (concerns of the “aftermath” consumes much of the reason why).

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Fancying myself as somewhat of an adventurous foodie, I decided to go for it. I handed over my 30 rupees and minutes later, a piping hot mountain of noodles topped with a glorious looking portion of chilli chicken headed my way. I dug in. The first mouthful…wow. In fact every mouthful tasted better than the last. I couldn’t stop. I must have been at it for at least half a minute when I suddenly halted. I looked up and found streams of tears rolling down my cheeks.  Then came the immense burn on my tongue, followed by panting. In short, I was a HOT MESS. In hindsight, this should have been where this culinary escapade ended. But it didn’t and I couldn’t not have more! The burn became more painful but I ploughed on. I fought back the tears and carried on like some sort of deranged addict. The end soon came when the hyperventilating started and I started getting weird looks from, well, everyone. Quite possibly the most exhilarating eating experience of my life!

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Understandably when I returned home, I was itching to recreate this dish and did so successfully but without the cry-me-a-river effect! This recipe is a slight twist on the original but is packed full of flavour which makes it oh so good! Scooped us with hot chapatis or even spicy noodles you will want to try this. Give it a go and let me know what you think!

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Desi Chilli Chicken
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 400g boneless chicken breast, cut into thin strips
  2. 2tbsp gram flour
  3. 1 tsp black pepper
  4. 1 tsp salt
  5. 1/4 tsp red chilli flakes
  6. Egg white from 1 egg
  7. 4 tbsp sunflower oil for frying
  8. 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  9. 3” ginger, finely chopped
  10. 2 birds eye green chillis, finely chopped
  11. 2 tbsp tomato puree
  12. 1 medium onion, diced into 2” chunks
  13. 3 stems spring onion, cut into 1” chunks
  14. 1 small capsicum, cut into 2” chunks
  15. ½ tsp salt
  16. ½ tsp paprika
  17. ½ tsp coriander powder
  18. 1 tsp amchur
  19. 1 tsp garam masala
  20. Handful coriander, finely chopped
  21. Small handful fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
Instructions
  1. Place chicken in a bowl. Add the gram flour, pepper, salt, red chilli flakes and egg white. Mix well.
  2. Heat oil in a wide non-stick pan. Place chicken in the oil and cook for 3-4 minutes until it is white and slightly golden in colour on both sides. Remove from pan and keep aside.
  3. Using the same pan and oil, reduce the heat to low/medium. Now add the ginger, garlic and chilli. Sauté for a couple of minutes. Now add the tomato puree and mix well.
  4. Add the onions and sauté for 1 minute. Now add the spring onions and capsicum and mix. Add the chicken. At this point, add salt, paprika, garam masala, amchur. Mix well. Add the fresh mint and coriander.
  5. Check for salt and adjust accordingly. Remove from heat.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/