Recipe: Chettinad Tomato Lentils

I have to recommend the recipes in The Curry Bible by Jacki Passmore; we’ve tried a few so far and they’ve been excellent quality and variety-wise.  The base spice mix for this curry (from pg. 90) is my favorite so far.  There are so many curries, and they go beyond the pre-bottled store curries for sure.  We have made this recipe several times, and it is a pleasant mix of hot and spice.  It could very easily be made hotter with more/other peppers.  We’ve modified the original to be less hot to work for both of our palates.  (I’m more of a heat fan.)   The original calls for chicken as the main ingredient, but I wanted to give lentils a try as an alternate option; it’s also a little more affordable.  The lentils also hold up well in the curry, even as they are already cooked. (I was a little nervous it would be mush.)

1 lb lentils, made according to package directions

3 dried red chilies, seeds removed (I used 1 each of guajillo, ancho, and mulato chiles)

1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

4 teaspoons cardamom

3/4 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 tablespoon salt

7oz dried coconut (unsweetened)

Oil (I used olive)

1 large onion

4 cloves garlic

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1 1/2 teaspoon star anise

6 oz tomato paste (I used the whole 12 oz can to use it up.)

2-3 cups water

2 tomatoes

1 fresh chili pepper (I used Poblano)

Additional salt to taste

Lemon juice

Make the lentils in a pot according to package directions.  (Ours were at medium heat – simmer/boil for about 20 minutes, and they were tender.)  While lentils are cooking, prepare the curry. (When the lentils are done, remove from heat and drain.)  Roast the coriander seeds in a pan on medium-low heat for a minute or two and remove from heat.  Put the deseeded peppers, roasted coriander, peppercorns, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, and salt in a blender and blend to a powder.  Add coconut and blend until fine.

Curry powder mix

Curry powder mix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heat the oil in a pan.  Chop the onion and add to the pan.  Let cook for a few minutes, stirring as needed.  (The onions don’t need to be completely soft.)

Onions in the pan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crush the garlic- (a garlic press works well) and add to pan with the onion.  Add the ginger.  Don’t let the garlic cook too long- you don’t want it to burn.  Add the star anise and tomato paste.

Tomato paste added

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stir in the cooked lentils slowly.  Add the water- you don’t want soup, but you don’t want it to burn.  Keep stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

Lentils added

 

 

 

 

 

I chopped and added the tomatoes and chili pepper at this point (you may want to wear gloves with the pepper), but depending on how cooked you would like them, you could add them earlier.

Tomatoes and pepper added

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost done!  I cooked the mixture with the added vegetables for about 5 minutes more, so they were not cooked completely through.  Keep stirring as needed, and add more water if needed so that the lentils do not stick to the pan.  Season with additional salt to taste, and top with a splash of  lemon juice.

Finished dinner!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy!!! Remember to have fun and experiment with curry!

 

Also, here are some quick general spice equivalents, if you have whole spices:

1 stick cinnamon= 1 teaspoon

1 pod cardamom= 1 teaspoon

1/4″ piece ginger= 1/4 teaspoon

1 star anise pod= 1/2 teaspoon

1 whole clove= 1/4 teaspoon

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Chia… It’s Not Just for Pets Anymore!

I had heard about some of the benefits of chia seeds, but was excited to find out more- such as a recipe for chia pudding!

(Another recipe mentions you can use regular milk.)

 

Or a recipe for simple chia jam:

 

While some claims (such as weight loss) have not been researched much, chia seeds do have some known benefits.  My wife was most excited that they are a source of omega-3s that do not involve fish and (convenience-wise) are available in bulk at our local food cooperative.

Meal Planning… (or the Sustainable Not-A-Diet)

planning

 

 

 

 

 

 

UW Health had recently posted an article on meal planning which got me thinking about the benefits behind our own meal planning.  My wife and I had made the decision to focus more on meal planning (which subsequently led to us eating increasingly healthier) sometime less than a year ago.  How noticeable has the change been?

We’ve noticed several benefits- not the least of which is some weight loss (my usually accumulated semi-substantial winter pounds have vanished this long winter).  Granted, we had been eating somewhat healthier/with more vegetables for a long while before this.   Occasionally, our pre-meal-planning conversations would go something like this around dinnertime, though…

Me: “What are you hungry for?”

Her: “I don’t know.  You?”

Me: “I could go for anything.”

(Cue trip to selected nearby fast food restaurant.)   And… scene.

Now repeat this on a somewhat-weekly basis, and we’ve added weekly fast food runs to our meal planning.  The aforementioned UW Health article refers unspecifically to a survey about increased fast food consumption.  While we weren’t at the 5 meals threshold they reference, the fast food adds up (but that’s not to imply that I have completely sworn off fast food, though…)

We have found that we don’t need to plan beyond the upcoming week, but planning, cooking a meal, and eating associated leftovers has helped our budget also.  We are not paying extra (with calories or $) for convenience and are still saving time.  Freezable foods are simple to store in our chest freezer for later, as well.  Give it a try- what do you have to lose?

 

A pantry staples reference/recommendation to get you started: http://www.uwhealth.org/files/uwhealth/docs/pdf4/GRFW_Prepare_Pantry_flier.pdf

 

The Inevitable Post about Kale…

Kale (Wikipedia file by Rasbak)

Kale       (Wikipedia file by Rasbak)

It was only a matter of time until I had a detailed post about kale.  And at what better time than to ring in the spring (with an impending St. Patrick’s Day!)  Seems like mostly everyone is talking about the health benefits of kale.  The ubiquitous term ‘superfood’ is thrown around quite a bit, along with smoothie after smoothie after smoothie.  And why not?

I happen to enjoy the richness in the flavor of kale.  Kale is the star in an article in Chef Fabio’s magazine.  While my wife feels that kale should be relegated back to its historical place as buffet decoration, I can say there will be some in our garden this year (for some kale chips!)  Kale chips are really easy to make and can be embellished with any number of spices.  I also like that kale holds up well in soups, as other greens don’t, and is simple to use as a base for a salad.   And that’s not all…  If you haven’t tried this veggie yet, now’s the time; make some space in the garden!

Pasta perfect

Bionaturae pasta

Photo from Amazon

We belong to a local food co-op that offers organic and other healthy food options; we do our best within our budget to maximize our options.  One of the products they carry is Bionaturae pasta.  They had a coupon available, so we thought we’d give their organic whole wheat spaghetti a try.  I have to admit that my expectations weren’t too high… I’ve tried some other whole wheat pastas from other grocery stores before, and they’ve tasted more ‘wheat-y’.

(That is a similar issue I have had when attempting to use whole wheat flour.  I used it for cookies before, and the wheat taste was very easily detectable…)

We were pleased to discover that Bionaturae had a taste like ‘regular’ non-whole-wheat pasta.  It took a little longer to cook than regular pasta, but it held up well in the cooking process and was pleasantly toothsome texture-wise.  It also paired well with sauce.

It is not available everywhere, but there is a store search feature available on their website and it is also listed on Amazon.com– (no specific recommendation implied).

Overall, this product holds true to its motto on the package: “Exceptional tasting whole wheat pasta! Enjoy the health benefits of whole wheat pasta without sacrificing great flavor.”