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Monday, May 27, 2013

Red Lentil Dal with Curry leaves

Here's my ultimate favourite dal recipe, and being the one that I have served up to a group of twenty or so attendees at a lunch gathering at work, it has definitely been given the thumbs up.  Once again, as with most of my Indian vegetarian dishes, simplicity is at this recipe's core.  From start to finish you should be able to whip up this dal in under 30 minutes and have a delicious dinner ready in no time.  And given that it is winter at the moment, nothing is quite as satisfying than this warm bowl of nutritional goodness to warm you up on the inside.
250g x Red Lentils, washed and drained
1.25 litre x Water
1 x Onion, chopped coarsely
1 x dried Red Chilli
1 tsp x Turmeric
1 can x Tomato
1-2 tsp x Salt
1 tbsp x Garlic, crushed (about 3 cloves)
1 tbsp x Ginger, grated
1 tbsp x Cumin powder
2 tbsp x Vegetable oil (or Ghee)
1 tsp x Black mustard seed
3 sprigs x Curry leaves, picked
Tip the washed lentils and water into a large saucepan
Place onto the stove on high heat and add the onion, chilli, turmeric, tomato and salt
Bring to a gentle boil, removing any froth that rises to the top
Combine the garlic, ginger, cumin and mustard seed in a small bowl
When the lentils have softened remove the chilli and discard, 
Now reduce the heat to a low simmer 
Use a stick blender to process the dal into a coarse and runny paste
In a separate frying pan heat the oil or ghee and add the curry leaves carefully
Follow quickly with the garlic and ginger mixture
Stir gently for a minute or two or until the mixture is browned slightly
Tip the mixture and oil straight into the dal, stirring well to combine
Taste for salt, adjusting more if desired
Allow to simmer for 10-15 minutes then remove from heat
Dal will thicken slightly on standing
Serve with flatbreads or rice add extra red or green chlli if desired
Can be stored in a freezer for up to a month  


Aloo Bhaji - Spicy Potato Curry

This is by far one of the easiest and tastiest dishes that comes from the most simple ingredients.  Aloo bhaji or simply a dry potato curry is another one of those Indian favourites found at many snack vendors.  This is my wife's recipe which gets made quite regularly as it goes well as an accompainment dish with most basic Indian meals.  Strange as it may seem, this dish actually enjoyed at breakfast time with some of my favourite style of deep fried Indian breads - the Puri or Luchi as my mother-in-law calls it.  The light and crispy puri goes perfectly with this spicy potato melange that is a perfect pick-me-up kind of breakfast, if you know what I mean!
Now, while the ingredients list for this dish is quite short, don't be fooled as it does pack a punch of flavour.  It is extremely easy to prepare, being a breakfast dish and the most tedious part is cutting the potato into fine matchstick lengths so that they cook evenly, and above all quickly.  
5-6 medium size x Potatoes, washed and sliced into thin batons with the skin on
2 tbsp x Vegetable oil
2 x Onions, sliced thinly
2-3 x Red or green chillies (less if you want to keep the hotness down)
1 tsp x Coriander powder
1 tsp x Turmeric
1 scant tsp x Salt
Small cup of water
Coriander leaves to garnish (optional)
Slice the potato finely and place in a bowl of water to prevent them from oxydising and turning black

Place a large frying pan or wok on medium heat with the oil
Add the onion and chilli and fry gently for a few minutes until the onions are softened and browned
Drain the potato and pat dry with kitchen towel then add to the pan 
Quickly add the spice powders and use a rubber spatula or spoon to combine the spices with the potato
Be very gentle with the potato as you want it to maintain the long thin batons as best as possible
Pour in a little water and mix through gently
As this is a dry dish you do not need a gravy but still want to ensure there is enough moisture so the potato does not catch or burn at the bottom of the pan 
Lower the heat and place a lid on the pan and allow it to cook for 2-3 minutes
The steam from the dish will cook the potato very quickly, keep stirring occasionally so that it does not stick 
Test  a few strands of potato to check if they are done 
Remove from heat and serve with a garnish of fresh corainder leaves   

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Curried Chick Pea and Potato - around 70 cents a serve!

It’s time to put up one of the easiest dishes that I know and love - Curried chick pea with potato is one of many snack dishes from India that fall under the collective name of “chaat” (pronounced chart).  I cooked it up as part of a lunch meal for 5 during my week-long challenge to Live Below the Line.  A group of my colleagues and I got together to cook for each other while sticking to a budget of eating for no more than $2 a day - that's all meals and snacks - all day!  It's towards a good cause to raise money for people in extreme poverty in countries like Cambodia and Papua New Guinea.  The money will help fund education and skills training to break the cycle of poverty in such countries.  Check out my page on the Live Below the Line website for all the details of this worthwhile charity and also to see how our team went each day.  Feel free to donate generously as the site will be accepting donations until July 31st 2013.
No more chatting, now back to the “chaat-ing”.  This dish was very inexpensive to say the least and has a surprisingly good kick of flavour too.  The dish costs just $3.06c – so that is a microscopic  61 cents per serve add 10 cents worth of flatbreads - and our bellies are nourished and filled thoroughly.
I have given the costs that incurred against the ingredients in the list that follows.  Try it, you won’t be disappointed – if anything, this dish is proof that we can cook up some really inexpensive meals, that don’t break the budget, and can still be nutritious and sustaining.

Ingredients, to serve 5
2 tbsp x Canola oil = 0.06c
4 x medium Potatoes = 0.40c
2 cans x Chick Peas, washed and drained (You can choose to use the dried ones but for the sake of time I have used the canned ones) = $1.79c
3 x onions, sliced = 3 x 0.5c (I got these at 60c for a kilo – so really cheap!)
2 x Garlic cloves, crushed = 0.10c
1 inch x Ginger. grated = 0.10c
3 tbsp x Tomato paste = 0.12c  
2 tsp x Coriander powder = 0.08c
2 tsp x Cumin powder = 0.08c
1 tsp x Turmeric powder = 0.04c
½ tsp x Chilli powder = 0.01c
1 tsp x Salt = 0.04c
3 Fresh chillies, deseeded and chopped = 0.02c
2 tsp x Coriander leaves chopped = 0.25c
Water as required.
TOTAL curry cost = $3.06
We ate these with home-made flatbreads which costed 0.50c for 500g of Wholemeal flour
TOTAL Meal = $3.56c
Place 1 tbsp of the oil into a heavy pan and heat on medium
Add the sliced onions and fry for 5 minutes until soft 
Place enough water to cover the potatoes into a saucepan and boil until potatoes are done
When cooled, peel and chop potatoes into rough cubes, reserve for later
Once onions are softened, add in the garlic, ginger and tomato paste and fry for 3 minutes, stirring constantly 
Place the cooked down mixture into a blender and allow to cool slightly
Process to a thick smooth paste - this is the curry paste
Clean out and dry the pan then return to the heat with the remaining tablespoon of oil
Add the dry spices and chick peas stirring well to combine 
Now add in the curry paste and a little water 
Stir through to completely coat the chick peas  
Add in the cooked potatoes from earlier
Stir through and allow to simmer on low heat for about 10 minutes
Add extra water as required to ensure that a thick gravy remains
Do not let the curry dry out
To serve place the curry into a bowl and garnish with chopped chilli and coriander

In India this dish is usually enjoyed with deep fried "purees" which are basically made up from plain flour mixed water into a dough then rolled flat and finally fried nice and crispy.
For the more frugal (as this week has been for us) I highly recommend flatbreads or "chaapatis" with this dish as they go together perfectly
Ingredients and directions
Take 500g of wholemeal flour (atta) and combine with boiling water into a workable dough - use a wooden spoon to do this
Knead the dough into a 25 equal balls
Use a rolling pin to roll these out to as flat as possible - thin but not see through
Heat a heavy frypan (unless you have an Indian "tawa" as in my pic) on medium to high heat 
Cook the flatbreads for a minute on each side but do not allow to burn
Eat them fresh with any curries or dahl dishes 
They are light and delicious and at 50 cents for the entire batch - a very cheap alternative to regular carbohydrate accompaniments - especially the ones that cost so much from a Indian restaurant!