Images of India haunt my daydreams. The idea of taking a year off to travel the length and breadth of this beautiful country makes my heart skip a beat. It is a culturally diverse county that has an amazing culinary tradition that’s thousands of years old…and let’s face it, there is nowhere better to learn about Buddhism and meditation. Three years ago I took part in meditation retreat here in Toronto. It allowed me time and space to take a peek into the inner workings of my monkey mind, which unfortunately jumps from thing to thing when left to its own devices 😉
Indian cuisine is my favourite. The use of spice is unique, the breads are fantastic and the desserts incredibly different from what a Jersey is familiar with. When you think of an Indian meal – you think curry. The curry powder that you buy pre-made in a store (for the most part, although I do enjoy Bolst’s and Lalah’s in a pinch) pales in comparison to a truly great Garam Masala. Indian cooking relies heavily on the use of Garam Masala which is a blend of spices that changes depending on personal taste. You also have wonderful sauces and sides – like chutney! Join us in a few weeks for my ginger apricot chutney recipe.
There is also a misconception that Indian food is heavy, greasy and generally fattening. NOT true! The use of spices and herbs such as tumeric, cinnamon, cloves, coriander,cumin, fenugreek, nutmeg, garlic, ginger, nigella and mustard seeds (to name but a few) have great nutritional and health related value. Indian cooking also uses a vast array of fruits and vegetables. Ahhhhhh. I could extoll the virtues all day long – but now let’s get to today’s recipe!
1 tablespoon ghee (semi-fluid clarified butter – you can buy this already made or do it yourself)
1 small white onion finely minced
1 inch piece of fresh ginger grated
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon Himilayan pink salt
1/2 cup dried red lentils
1 tablespoon tomato paste (preferably in a glass jar)
2 cups vegetable stock (I like to use fresh but cubes work too)
2 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 lime juiced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
* the original recipe calls for 3 cloves I took them out.
1/2 teaspoon hulled cardomom
1 teaspoon turmeric
* the original recipe called for 2 dried red chiles, I took these out bc of kids
1/4 cup creme fraiche
MMH’s experimental kitchen did little to change this YUMMY recipe. It’s healthy and delish! The first step is toasting the spices in a dry skillet to release their flavour. This will take about 5 minutes. Be sure to move them around in the pan to ensure they are evenly warmed. The spices should infuse your house with their warm fragrance. I removed the chiles from the original recipe and the cloves (I have never really enjoyed the taste of cloves and as for the chiles, I have kids so we keep things on the mild side). Use a spice or coffee grinder to blend toasted spices into a powder. Voila! Your own homemade curry powder.
In a cast iron skillet on medium heat melt the ghee and add the minced onion. Fry until soft and golden, then add ginger, garlic, tumeric, pepper and the ground spices to the mixture. Fry for one minute and then add tomato paste. I like to cook the tomato past until it has slightly darkened (about four minutes) as it adds a sweetness and depth. This can be tricky so watch the temperature and be sure to constantly stir the mixture to keep from burning it. I have to admit to adding a bit more ghee if the tomato paste looked like it was too dry.
At this point add the plum tomatoes, vegetable stock and lentils and bring to a boil. Lentils are pretty delicate, so quickly reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for approximately 20 minutes or until done. Toss in chopped spinach and cook for an additional 2 minutes. At the last minute I added a squeeze of lime. This dish can be made thicker or thinner with the addition of vegetable stock (thinner) or more tomato paste (thicker). Serve over a bed of basmati rice and top with a dollop of creme fraiche and chopped cilantro.