Time is a-ticking. Less than a week left in Houston. We have been balancing DO.ALL.THE.THINGS left to do in Houston and DO.ALL.THE.PACKING. Lots of pantry-friendly meals this month as we eat through our kitchen.
We stopped replenishing the red lentils months ago and begrudgingly started eating through the toor dal. Not that we don’t love it (WE LOVE TOOR DAL) but it just takes longer to cook and time is something we are lacking right now.
We left a few Houston must-dos until the end. I finally went to the NASA Space Center, lured by a private tour by an astronaut. An astronaut with a PhD in Cancer Biology, which was right up my alley, as she explained the medical complications of space travel. And let us touch and feel the space stuff. But not wear the space suits, sadly. Astronauts ARE a science experiment in themselves, did you know? They also do deadlifts and squats in space to maintain their bone density.
We also went to Chinatown to eat at one of the rival Malaysian restaurants, complete with the suggested one-hour foot massage for only $20-25 at the neighbouring reflexology spas. It is the thing to do, I swear.
That experience was also our first (and hopefully last) experience with Houston rush hour traffic.
Also, kudos to the American pharmacies. “Yellow Fever Vaccine Now Here”. I can easily obtain travel immunizations without an appointment or a puncture fee. Vaccines tend to be controversial but it is not controversial for me: I would rather not get infected. So I finally got my hepatitis A shots and re-immunized myself against typhoid for my upcoming vacation.
So, about this curry. It is simple, yet delicious. Lightly spices with all the great Indian spices (cumin, coriander, garam masala) and lightened with a splash of lemon juice, it is a nice hearty meal. An easy way to easily add more spinach, too.
I haven’t really gone into too much detail why I am pro-vaccine (the main reason is the ability to prevent serious diseases, some of which are incurable, which I believe outweighs the potential side effects from receiving the vaccine). Do you have strong opinions either way?
In our minimalism, we have made it difficult to host big parties. Unless it is standing room only or BYOC (bring your own chair). For now, we’re maxed out at 4. You see, we only have 2 kitchen chairs. When we move our table next to the couch, we can fit another 2 people. It actually worked pretty well for curry and games last weekend.
We have a large curry repertoire, but decided to play it safe and serve our favourite: Dal Bhat. Like most curries, this one tastes even better as leftovers, giving us the perfect excuse to make a big batch in advance and keep leftovers for the rest of the week.
I still haven’t figured out what makes our Dal Bhat a Nepalese specialty. When our friend travelled to Nepal and hiked up to Everest base camp, she told us our dal was superior to anything she ate there. Dal bhat translates into lentils and rice, and it could be spiced in any matter. Random vegetables are also added.
Before I left Toronto, I spotted this curry: a Nepalese curry with toor dal. I wanted to use up the last of my toor dal before the move and it looked perfect. I really enjoy the creaminess of toor dal and this curry had many of my favourite spices also found in our version of dal bhat, including cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and garlic. Is that what makes it Nepalese? No cumin or coriander, but this one includes tomatoes which I added to the tarka and cilantro as an (optional) garnish. How could this not taste good? Trust me, it was spot on delicious.
Have no toor dal? Red lentils or split peas would be good substitutes. Have toor dal and need more ideas? Here are other curries with toor dal:
Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango from 660 Curries
Plantain, Cabbage and Coconut Curry with Split Pigeon Peas (Indian Cabbage and Plantain Kootu) from 660 Curries
Butternut Squash, Coconut and Lentil Stew (Aarti’s Indian Summer Stew)
Mixed Lentil Stew from Flatbreads & Flavors
I think I know how to cook beans.
I do it all the time. All kinds of beans. Black beans, white beans, chickpeas, lentils…
I also don’t subscribe to many of the voodoos surrounding beans.
I usually cook my beans with a dash of vegetable broth and a couple of bay leaves. I don’t worry about salting them. Sometimes I may throw in some kombu if I remember.
Sometimes I cook my beans without soaking them. They just takes a bit longer to cook.
After 45-60 minutes (depending on the bean), I will taste them every 10-15 minutes or so. They can go from al dente to mush in 10 minutes, if you aren’t vigilant.
One of my newest favourite beans are split pigeon peas, also known as toor dal or toovar/tuvar dal.
When Rob and I discovered you actually buy green mangos (labelled as green mangoes) for some Indian curries, I immediately knew I wanted to make a simple curry with toor dal. I love the way it falls apart, becomes creamy and has sweet undertones.
I forged ahead with the dal. They were not done after 30 minutes, nor an hour. I added more broth. I kept cooking, I added more broth. I kept cooking, and I added even more water. These beans were just never melt-in-your-mouth tender like my previous toor dal curries.
I know what you’re thinking (because I would think it, too): It is your batch of beans. They are old.
Not so!! At the same time, Rob was making a ripe mango curry with toor dal (Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango) and he used the same beans. From the same bag. Within an hour, his beans were meltingly tender. With a glorious sweet and savoury curry.
While my curry was tart and somewhat crunchy. After around 2 hours, I think I gave up. I decided the curry was too tart so I added in the suggested sweetener and it tasted much better. With a dusting of garam masala, the flavours really popped. The toor dal, however, remained a bit on the plump side. This was still a nice curry, just not with the creamy, falling apart toor dal I was expecting. The beans kept their shape instead, just like when I toasted the mung dal in the Bengali Dal with Spinach.
I haven’t really paid much attention to whether I throw acidic foods with my beans, but since green mangoes are acidic, that must be the culprit. Maybe that specific urban bean legend is actually true. ;)
Next time, I will add in the mango after the toor dal has cooked sufficiently, though. ;)
Have you heard?
Rob stalks grocery stores once a year for it. Now they’ve arrived.
It is mango season. Not just any mango, though.
Alphonso mangoes have touched down from India. Thankfully, before our move away from Little India.
We picked up a case of nice Ataulfo mangoes last week because we weren’t sure when the Alphonsos would arrive. Lucky for us, it wasn’t long before they began popping up in Little India. On Thursday, they had a new shipment. By the end of the day, there were only 2 cases left. They are flying like hotcakes!
For the last two years, Rob and I have trekked out to buy these sweet and creamy mangoes. This is the first year it isn’t such a trek to locate them. We’ve made many mango dishes, both sweet and savoury, and now we’ve added another favourite to the list: this fabulous mango curry from 660 Curries which Iyer titled Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango.
This curry follows the key steps of toasting and grinding spices, simmering the dal with different flavours and tempering another set of spices in oil that are added in at the end. But first, you need to make your own garam masala. Trust me on this. I know you have garam masala already lurking in your spice rack. This garam masala is different: it has sesame seeds, peanuts and coconut. We decreased the chilis and it was fragrant and savoury without unnecessary heat. For those who don’t want more spice blends, the recipe below is exactly for one recipe, but you will want to make more once you get a whiff of the final blend. We wished we had made more, so don’t follow in our footsteps. ;)
While I just harped on this being Alphonso mango season, this mango curry does not need to be made with fancy mangoes. We used Ataulfos because we picked them up for cheap, but Tommy Atkins will work just fine, and frozen chunks, too. If Alphonso mangoes weren’t $2 each we’d gladly use them, though. Like the Mango BBQ Beans, the mango in this curry melts into oblivion leaving its sweet remains behind. Distinct mango flavour is camouflaged among the curry leaves, coconut and peanut. Everything works so well together. Sweet, spicy, savoury…
This is a delicious curry that you won’t be disappointed it. We’ve been eating at a few Indian restos recently and I still think the best Indian cooking happens in our kitchen. With this dish, there is no contest.
OK, things have turned around in my kitchen. My cooking rut is over!
I even have witnesses. :)
My own alfalfa sprouts grew, too!
It has been quite busy in the kitchen lately. In the span of a week, we celebrated Valentine’s Day, Rob’s birthday and our (2 year!) anniversary from our first date.
Rob has been a sweetie, picking recipes from my Top Recipes from 2011 post so he could make me dinner on V-Day and braved the elements on our anniversary for a special barbecue delight. However, I was positively cooking up a storm for his birthday party. I forged ahead with new recipes, and I can’t wait to share them all with you!
But first, let me share with you this delicious curry. I had bookmarked “Plantains and Cabbage with Split Pigeon Peas” after Rob had success with a Caribbean black eyed pea and plantain curry, when I first tried cooked plantains. Rob went a bit heavier on the curry powder, so the dish didn’t thrill me entirely but the plantains were neat. A starchy, sweet banana. This curry from 660 Curries had many of our favourite ingredients like coconut and cabbage, with new-to-me ripe plantains, and it had been a while since I had cooked with creamy toor dal. Plus, I was drawn to Iyer’s recipe blurb where he wrote: You will be eloquent in your praise and use highfalutin words like “yum”. Highfalutin! Yum! And no, he does not lie. This was delicious and possibly one of my favourite curries to date.
Did you know you can buy frozen coconut? It is a common ingredient found in Asian grocers – check it out! While you could substitute reconstituted dried coconut, I think that the frozen coconut played a key element of the success of this recipe.
In the summer, Rob and I had a fun time (literally) cracking open a fresh coconut. I used a big knife to shave off the outer skin, and then scored a circle to open it. I tried to smack it open with the heel of my knife but it didn’t work. Rob then took said coconut to the front porch and smashed it against the front step to crack it open. We then took turns sipping the coconut water through a straw. Bliss. I ended up using the coconut flesh for an Indonesian black eyed pea salad with a tamarind dressing.
But I like to plan for success. So in case we couldn’t open the coconut, I bought frozen coconut as a back up. Suffice it to say, it has been in my freezer since the summer. Since we have a move looming in the next few months, I have been trying to clean out the freezer. I finally busted it out for this recipe and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results.
This is a delicious curry, and as I made it, I couldn’t help but remember Aarti’s butternut squash, coconut and lentil stew that Rob made in the fall. I consider Iyer’s recipes quite authentic, so I was wondering whether Aarti’s was an Americanized version of the dish since it seemed so similar. Nope, the recipes are similar but quite different in their own merits. However, if you loved Aarti’s stew, then you’ll adore this version. Likewise, if you like this stew, definitely give Aarti’s stew a try, too.
Here, in this curry, you have a creamy broth from the toor dal. Cabbage and ripe plantains add bulk. Coriander, mustard and curry leaves offer multiple levels of flavour. And that frozen coconut? It reaches out and gives you a tropical hug. I went a bit tame with the chile as Iyer suggests using 2 red Thai chiles or cayenne chiles. This wasn’t spicy, so go nuts chile heads! This is a pretty labour intensive curry, dirtying up a few pots, your food processor and in my case also the mortar and pestle, but once you taste it, you’ll forget all about that… and start using highfalutin words like yum. :)
As I type out the ingredients, I realize that they seem so isoteric. For those in Toronto, a trip to Sunny’s (or your favourite Asian grocer) is all you need*. I can’t remember if I’ve seen Aleppo at Sunny’s, but any chile pepper will do. You may have to wait for your plantain to turn a macabre black, but trust me, this will propel anyone out from their cooking rut.
*While you are at it, pick up some canned young jackfruit in brine for my next (super awesome) recipe from Rob’s party!!
For all the raw foodies out there, do you know if the frozen coconut can be used for all the raw desserts that call for fresh coconut?
When I made the Chickpea and Chana Dal Curry with the Tamarind-Mint Sauce, I really liked how the chickpeas were still relatively intact but the chana dal melted into a creamy sauce. It got me thinking: I don’t tend to mix my beans that often. Although there was that Symphonic Mixed Bean Salad, but those beans came mixed in a can!
I have so many beans that Rob thinks it would be really funny if I put them all in one big bean salad. But they all cook at different times, Rob… Why not just save a 1/4 cup of cooked beans each time and then freeze them for the salad? Totally right on the money there!
But until I cook more of my heirloom beans, that salad will have to wait.
I originally spotted this recipe on The Wednesday Chef, as a Two Lentil Stew that she adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors when I was looking for more recipes with chana dal. In the comment section, though, it turned out it was actually a Five Lentil Stew that she had modified… and I had 4/5 of the beans: red lentil, chana dal, mung dal and toor dal. Not too shabby if you ask me, with only urad dal as the missing ingredient. And since they are all split beans, this stew cooks up quickly.
The mixture of beans in this stew creates a glorious effect. Some turn to mush, others keep their shape, more are half-way in between. The texture is unbeatable.
Only have two of the beans? Find a ratio that works for you. My ingredient amounts are a bit wonky because I wanted a total of 1.25 cups of beans. Any combination will still work, because the flavours of the stew are nice and soothing. Almost like a little hug for a cold and wet day. Or a nice warm oasis while slurping this up at work for lunch. This is a comforting tomato-laden stew with your warming Indian spices: cumin, garlic and garam masala. Add heat to taste, but with my mild tastes, I kept the chili flakes to a minimum.
And with that, we have an easy month of beans. They are so versatile, that I encourage you to continue to see how you can add them to your meals. Cathy wrote a wicked awesome round-up earlier this month with even more ways to incorporate beans that I encourage you to read. She even has ideas for beans in your breakfast and dessert, too!
Who knows, maybe next year for VeganMoFo I will plan ahead to do 31 days of DIFFERENT beans.. Not sure whether I have that many, but it would be close! ;)
Rob finds blogging to be a chore, at times. Me, I will gladly use it as a form of procrastination. Writing personal statements, now that is a chore!
This was another recipe I
pawned off suggested to Rob when I had leftover butternut squash. Aarti‘s Indian Summer Stew. Indian, check. Coconut, check. Butternut squash, totally up my alley… and a new kind of bean to try: toor dal or split pigeon peas. I actually originally bookmarked this recipe when I saw Anja using split yellow peas (my latest craze), but I’ve bought a few new split beans to facilitate more cooking from 660 Curries, Rob’s go-to cookbook. So toor dal, it was!
As expected, Rob adored this soup. Creamy and savoury. The toor dal melts into a thickened soup spiced with warming spices and thick chunks of dried coconut. There was a zippy undertone that was tempered by the cilantro. He promptly took photos and linked it up on Facebook, sharing his culinary success.
But as we ate the soup, we argued a bit. Freshly made, I thought the soup was a bit too hot for me (not Rob). Was it the mustard seeds or the Aleppo? Half a teaspoon is usually my max for the Aleppo chili flakes, and Rob swore he didn’t add anything extra or sneak in any of our garden chilis. Were my chili flakes more potent? We had finally returned to using my stash of chili flakes from Turkey, as opposed to the Aleppo from Kensington Market. Rob then described how he cooked the chili flakes, in the tempering oil. Oh yes, that must be why – the flavour oil explosion!
Turns out that the stew mellowed as leftovers, so it was now safe for me. Life got busy, though, and Rob lost his enthusiasm for sharing the recipe. I still wanted to share the meal, so here I am with Rob’s dish. Because while I used to only share food that I made, I can’t deprive you all of tasty dishes that Rob cooks up!
This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this month’s Healing Foods featuring coconut, to this month’s Veggie/Fruit a Month featuring coconut, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this month’s Ingredient Challenge Monday for coconut and to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring squash.