Thursday, October 30, 2008
Packaged Indian Products, Part 1: Curried Red Lentils (Mr. Dave Cooks Vegan)
I am a big fan of Indian food. However, I pretty much only get it at restaurants or grab it takeout. I used to really like Gandhi down on Lark and Central, they even delivered! Shalimar on Central Ave. (and the one in Troy) are good as well. Most of my attempts at Indian home cooking have been fairly retched. I come from an Anglo/Irish food culture where seasonings in excess of salt, pepper, and butter throw me for a loop. The nuanced spicing of Indian cuisine is pretty much beyond me. One of the benefits of the recent influx of South Asians into the Capital Region is the appearance of prepackaged Indian foods in most local super markets. I am not really big on pre-made meals, but I will grab them if they are healthful versions of something I probably would not make myself. Because of this I have accumulated quite a collection of the stuff in my cabinets. I've got some naan and dhosi mixes (flat breads), some curry paste, spice mixtures, and some foil-pouched vegetarian curries (chickpeas, lentils, spinach, etc...). I decided to give the curry paste a whirl first, I have had some pretty Israeli red lentils (daal) lying around for a while just waiting to be curried.
This stuff is "Tiger Tiger" brand "Madras Curry Paste". I have had varying successes with curry pastes, so I was a little suspicious of this stuff. But I have to say, it had a very nice, spicy-curry smell to it when I popped the top. I started by soaking the red lentils for about 8 hours.
When they are done soaking you are going to want to wash them very well. Lentils need to be thoroughly rinsed, a lot of that funky lentil taste you get sometimes is from poorly washed lentils. I threw these in the oven with enough water to cover, a sliced onion, and 3 split green chilis (no seeds).
Into the oven at 350 went the lentils until cooked very well, you don't really want them to maintain too much lentil integrity. I like them broken down into a thick mush.
I then fished out the chilis and chopped them up along with some onion, garlic, and ginger. I kind of made a paste out of the finely chopped garlic and ginger with the back of my knife.
The veg gets sauteed until cooked through. I added about 3 nice spoonfuls of the curry paste and let this cook a little to release some nice flavor.
The next step is to add a can of tomatoes. I crush them up with my hands in a mixing bowl first. I like to cook a lot of the moisture out of the tomatoes, so I let this go until the consistency is kind of paste like.
The next step is to dump the drained lentils in with about a cup of their cooking liquid. I put this on low heat and let it cook down for about a half hour.
There you go, a nice and simple vegetarian dish. Very healthy and high in fiber, not to mention packed with spicy goodness. I usually eat this by scooping it out of a bowl with some naan or pitas, but it is equally good ladled over rice.
Curry Paste Verdict: The Tiger Tiger brand stuff had some very nice flavor to it. The lentils came out tasting like the curried daals that I have tried in restaurants so I believe it is at least pseudo-authentic. This curry paste is not as potent as some others that I have tried. The three spoonfuls I began with did not add as much flavor as I thought they would. I ended up throwing some more paste in towards the end of the cooking. All in all, about half the jar went into this one curry. At five dollars American a shot, the stuff was a little on the expensive side. It was pretty tasty in the end though, so I am not complaining.