I met a very wise Hare Krishna on Saturday while my family and I were looking for our Hare Krishna cousin at the Hare Krishna festival in New York. He gave us that nugget of wisdom (see title) instead of telling us where our cousin was. I thought he was joking, but he wasn’t. Nevertheless we did find him in the end; I suppose it was meant to be.
We were coming from brunch so we didn’t partake of the free feast, but everything looked amazing and chickpea-ful and saucy and spicy and warmening. (Hare Krishnas are vegetarian; my cousin preached at us a bit. Then I had a cheeseburger for dinner.) So when I was deciding what to cook for the week, the only thing that appealed was something Hare Krishna-esque. I found this AMAZING website with tons and tons and tons of fascinating and beautiful vegetarian Indian recipes, and I might make nothing but recipes from this website for the rest of my life. (I hate summer, and never really want to eat anything; I am not big on salads. So I’m probably just going to cook recipes from hot countries all summer.)
After an extensive deciding interlude, I settled on Bengali red dal curry (you’ll have to scroll down). (It was between that and pear dal, which I had never heard of before and thus was really intrigued by.) I also decided to do a vegetable thing vaguely following the Aviyal #4 recipe.
I ended up using regular brown lentils instead of red—I’m a little out-red-lentiled lately—but, spoiler alert, it came out fantastic and it’s definitely my biggest success with brown lentils to date.
I chopped my jalapeños, first slicing the tops off and carving out the inside using my paring knife to remove the ribs and seeds. I put them in my bigger saucepan with the lentils, water, salt, and turmeric. (It is QUITE salty, which makes it taste really good. I don’t think I’ve ever made a recipe soon that actually specified the amount of salt, and this was a perfect amount for me. But if you’re not me perhaps you’ll want less.) I cooked it for a while while doing other cooking activities—I didn’t time it because the recipe was for red lentils and brown take longer, but it was probably somewhere around thirty to forty minutes.
When it was nearly done, I put the ginger and a can of diced tomatoes in a saucepan with one tablespoon of olive oil and one tablespoon of butter, to sort of approximate ghee. (Ghee is clarified butter, but I do not now and probably never will understand what that means.) I thought this would raise the butter’s smoke point, but this was a dirty lie and I don’t know why I thought that would work. (More on this unfortunate mistake later.) I also thought it would make a more correct texture, since clarified butter just looks like oil to me but I wanted some butter flavor.
I cooked the tomato/ginger mixture until the tomato water had cooked down and it was overall a sort of mush. I LOVE the description in the recipe: “Continue cooking until the tomatoes decompose into a mush (approximately 8 minutes.) Stir constantly so that tomato mixture doesn’t stick.” I don’t know that you really want your tomatoes to decompose.
I added the tomato mixture to the lentils once they were both done.
I was also cooking the vegetables by this point, which will have to be another post because I am tired of writing. But that’s part of the reason for the subsequent minor crisis—too many things were going on. I was supposed to make the spiced oil next. I was exhausted, if that’s relevant. Perhaps more relevant is that my sister and I had made breakfast sandwiches that morning and set off the smoke detector at least six times. (Well, at least once. The other five might have been us pressing the “test” button while trying to make it shut up. But either way it was loud and stressful.)
Anyway. I started the oil and butter melting/combining. I spent a very long time trying to open my asafoetida, which I had purchased that day at Kalustyan’s. By the time it was open, the butter was starting to burn; once I added it, the butter was full-on burnt. The smoke detector went off. I began to have a mental breakdown. Long story short I gave up on the spiced oil. (Also, the recipe never actually specifies when to use the asafoetida, which is annoying. And now that I’m consulting an explanatory article, it seems like maybe it should go in at the beginning of the recipe? But it has to be cooked in oil or it’s nasty. ARGGGGH.) I may never make the spiced oil. Last night I was all, oh, I’ll just do it later in the week… but that is so not going to happen. I may have bought it for naught.
I ate it today—minus the spiced oil—combined with some jasmine rice, which I HIGHLY recommend. I’d been hearing it was really good for a while but had been on a brown rice kick; I recently read an article, though, which says white rice is just as good for you as brown, and since this is personally convenient for me I have chosen to believe it, even though the rest of science seems to disagree. Anyway jasmine rice is awesome; it tastes like what you get in Indian restaurants, even though I thought that was basmati. And the lentils are really good. You should make these. I really like them. [I also like the fact that they are flavorful without having cumin—I am not the biggest cumin fan. In fact I like it best when I use my really old container of ground cumin, which I am sure has no taste by now. I don’t like the seeds. See upcoming post…]
Bengali red dal curry
Adapted from the Hare Krsnas Spiritual Practice
1 1/2 c red lentils (or brown!)
3 1/2 c water
6 serrano chilies or 3 jalapeños, chunked (this is confusing because I thought serranos were way spicier… I just used three jalapeños; it’s not very spicy but it’s good)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp ghee, divided (or 2 tbsp butter, or 2 tbsp vegetable oil, etc., etc.)
1 c chopped tomatoes (or 1 14-0z can diced tomatoes; I didn’t drain the liquid)
1 tbsp grated ginger
1 tbsp panch phoran
4 dried small red chilies
2 tsp asafoetida
Rinse the lentils and combine with the water, chilies, turmeric, and salt in a saucepan. Cook for about thirty minutes, until soft, partially covered. Cover and cook for another ten minutes.
Combine the tomatoes and ginger with a little oil (I was confused by this and just did two tablespoons of my mock ghee) and cook until the tomatoes have broken down, about ten minutes. Combine with the lentils.
Heat the remaining oil (I just added the other two tablespoons) and then add the panch phoran. (I added the asafoetida first. No idea if this was right. But then again I never got up to the part where you add the panch phoran.) Heat for about fifteen seconds, until seeds begin to pop; then add chilies and cook another fifteen seconds, until chilies darken. Stir the mixture into the lentils.
If you manage this last part, let me know how it is…
I think we need some Fitzpatrick up in here.