Thursday, November 10, 2011

Lentils with Cabbage

East Indian lentils with cabbage
This week I picked out an interesting recipe. Something outside my usual cuisine. I followed fairly closely the instructions inside an Indian Cookbook. I didn't have exactly the same ingredients due to my addled brain thinking that I did, plus the local grocer did not carry red lentils (they only had regular brown lentils/16 oz.). I substituted curry spice for the 1/2 teaspoon of ground turmeric you put into the pot of boiling beans after you first scoop out any scum that formed when they first boil. (How gross!) Fortunately, I didn't see any in my pound of legumes. Then instead of parboiling one large tomato and peeling it before chopping (really?), I just opened a can of organic chopped tomatoes. Basically it was a long process. I usually don't like spending too long on a cooking project. Honestly, I always enjoy other people's cooking more because I just like to eat good food, not really enamoured with the labor involved. Trying out a new recipe, it is rather risky business anyway. How do you know you are doing it right? Will the results match the high expectations? 

Cooking lentils from scratch does take a lot of care. The cook book advised to pick over the lentils, wash with several changes of water and drain them before you begin to cook with them. What am I looking for when I pick through them? (My brother thinks one has to look for small pebbles.) And should I waste so much water? Can't I just wash them quickly in a mesh strainer under the faucet, because that's how I did it. After they simmer for an hour, add 1 1/4 teaspoon salt, the 15 oz can of tomatoes, and 1/2 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger. Then continue cooking for 20 minutes. (I recall spying pre-cooked lentils in the refridgerator section of Trader Joes, which is probably where I will procure them in the future!)

In a separate skillet, you heat 5 tablespoons oil and fry 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds just a few seconds before you add the 4 cloves of minced garlic cloves. As soon as the garlic starts to brown, like one minute, you add the sliced onion, half a head of shredded cabbage, and 2 hot green chilies, seeds removed, sliced finely. Keep frying for about 10 minutes until the mixture begins to to brown and crisp. Salt as desired and set aside. When your lentils are done, stir this cabbage mixture into the pot for a few minutes until it is heated through. Serve immediately.

Now maybe your life experience has illustrated the gaseous properties of ingesting crucifix vegetables, one of which is cabbage. Certainly everyone knows the legendary effects of beans on ones digestion, right? Well, you put the two together and you are really asking for it! Having lived through that plate pictured above, I cannot recommend it to my worst enemy. But if you are sure you have an iron gut, the flavor was authentically Indian. Just need some warm naan bread on the side. 

1 comment:

  1. Hi - Little Old Lady here. I am also a writer who turned 70 this year, and I'm using my blog to explore what's what, now. I have what I call a guest house - which means I'm sharing my house - a great way to enhance income and have company. And for two years one of my guests was an Indian girl who cooked quite a bit. We had some wonderful parties. So, here is what I can add to our knowledge of lentil cooking. You don't need to worry too much about the lentils we purchase in our US markets - they are usually washed and picked over - I've almost never found a foreign object. So one rinse should do it. Then, in my experience, they cook up much faster than an hour - half and hour, or three quarters tops. Actually, she uses a pressure cooker and says everyone does in South India where she is from. Much, much faster. Also - smush a tomato and pop it into the lentil mix skin and all - canned organic is OK, but fresh is better. No need to skin it and all that. Lentils are their mainstay in South India. Also, I love to sprout those brown lentils - just soak them over night, drain them in a strainer and keep them moist. They're like fresh peas w/ little leaves in winter. and I love your idea of a one day Vegan.
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