Sunday, May 29, 2011

Meatless Monday- Red Lentil Curry Indian-style

The week before last was quite a busy week for me. I was busy planning my little sister’s surprise baby shower, working on various projects for my job, following up with personal matters concerning things like medical bills and finding a new place for my family to live seeing as we have just about outgrown our current address, and then dealing with all the daily excitement of taking care of Lily, my house, and myself (and my husband a bit here and there). Most of this busy-ness paid off with the shower being a success and us finding a new place to call home just 4 blocks away. So, as you see, squeezing in blogging was a little difficult.

I didn’t even really have time to experiment with any new and interesting meals, although I was in charge of making the iced tea blends for my sister’s shower. I made a nice black tea with honey, lemon and orange and an herbal mixed berry tea with raw sugar. All delish, but the berry tea was a favorite I gather from it being all gone by the end of the day.

Last Friday I did get back to the Healthy Mommy grind and came up with another quick, easy, tasty and healthy curry, this time Indian-inspired. Based on a traditional red lentil curry- or daal as they call lentil stews in India -I used what I had available to me to create this pretty satisfactory meat-free dish.

Red Lentil Curry

1 cup rinsed dry red lentils
1 large Yukon gold or russet potato, peeled and cubed
½ onion diced
1 cup tomato puree
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp ginger powder
1 tsp chopped garlic
1 tsp chopped ginger
½ tsp salt
½ tsp raw sugar
½ tsp cinnamon
About ¼ cup chopped cilantro for topping

Boil the cubed potato in a large pot with enough water to add the lentils to after the potatoes are cooked for about 5 minutes. Cook the potatoes with the lentils for another 5 minutes or until they are all tender, then drain and set aside. Heat the oil over low in a large skillet then add the onion and caramelize. Meanwhile, mix all other ingredients except for the tomato puree and cilantro in a bowl then add to the caramelized onions. Stir constantly over high heat for 1-2 minutes or until very fragrant, then stir in the tomato puree. Allow to simmer for a couple minutes, then add the lentils and potatoes and mix altogether until well coated. Serve topped with the cilantro over brown rice. A light side salad would go nicely with this as well.

This could also be served as a side dish, but I had it as the main course with the brown rice and it filled me up pretty well. It’s also a pretty mild curry, especially with all the tomato, so feel free to spice it up if that’s what you prefer. The recipe I based it off of, which you can find here, called for curry paste instead of tomato paste, but I didn’t have any readily available and decided to just use what I had. I also added the potatoes and cinnamon, and I think those were both good moves. Carrots, yams and/or squash would be nice in this as well. And if you want to pair it with something other than brown rice, you could bake some tofu or chicken tandoori-style (which I never tried myself, but when I do you’ll find that story here!) to keep the Indian-theme going, or else just make it however you’d like. I also haven’t tried to make any meal with paneer, which is an Indian-style cheese and staple to their diet, but that would be awesome as well.

I want to note that I didn’t add the cilantro topping to the curry I made this time, but I would’ve if I’d had some in my fridge. I really love cilantro; it adds a nice and subtle crisp, coolness to spicy dishes and pumps up a simple salad or soup. It’s actually the leaves of the coriander plant, which is a widely used seasoning in most Indian dishes (a seasoning I would’ve used for the red lentil curry had that been available to me as well). Probably the main reason cilantro and coriander are so often used in Indian cooking for reasons other than their delicious taste is the coriander’s aide in digestion. With the strong spices and beans used in many Indian dishes, it makes sense why they may need to ease their stomachs afterwards!  Cilantro also contains a large amount of fiber, magnesium and iron. I’ve also read evidence supporting its ability to help eliminate heavy metals and other toxins by binding with them.

So, if you rarely use the inexpensive and delicate herb, I suggest giving it a try- you will be amazed at just how much flavor it can add to normally bland meals, and also enhance the flavors or dilute the spiciness of flavorful meals.

When I was a kid, I hated Indian food, although my parents loved it. To me, it was so weird, not only tasting, but looking! The only thing I would eat was the naan, or Indian-style bread, that’s similar to a soft, buttery pita (doesn’t that sound good?). But, as I got older and my taste buds developed, I started trying other items off the local Indian restaurant menu, and now it’s my favorite type of cuisine. I’ve only recently become bold enough to actually try and cook it myself, but after this recipe and a couple others I’ve made in the recent past, I’m starting to see it’s really not that difficult at all. The main dilemma when cooking Indian or most Asian foods when you’re a typical kōkēśiyāna (pronounced ko-kay-shee-en, which is Hindi for “Caucasian”) living in the US, is finding some of the ingredients you need. But, everything I listed for the curry is easily found at any major grocery store, and quite possibly already in your pantry.

When I first offered the lentil curry to Lily, she turned her nose up at it and wouldn’t even taste it. But, then today I had some of the leftovers for lunch and she started gesturing towards my food. I asked her, “Do you want some of this?” and she nodded her head in the comical, vigorous way that she does. I gave her a few bits with the potatoes and she picked it up, but must’ve been thrown off by its stickiness, because then she dropped it with a semi-disgusted look on her face. But, then she got curious and gave it a try, and I guess she decided it wasn’t too bad because then she asked for some more. She ended up eating a good amount of it, and I was quite pleased :)

Proof she liked the curry

For baby:

1 tbsp smashed lentils
1 tbsp smashed peas or potatoes

For toddler (if they don’t like the seasonings of the curry):

¼-½ cup lentils and cubed potatoes

Top with grated cheese

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