It has been amazingly hot here in New York City. “Heat wave” doesn’t even do it justice. It has only been yesterday and today that we’ve seen a reprieve from 100+ degree weather – today was high 80s, and tomorrow promises to be a cool 82 degrees.
A couple of weeks ago, however, when the weather was more tolerable I spent some time in front of a hot stove and made some Indian food. While I’ve made food from other cuisines like Chinese, Mexican, and Italian, I’ve rarely made Indian food, aside from that mango lassi I made in February. Perhaps I’ve been too intimidated by it – the exotic spices, the unusual breads, the aromas… The whole cuisine is almost other-worldly.
Based upon a Red Lentil Curry recipe from Allrecipes.com
- 2 cups red lentils
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- 3 Tbsp. curry powder
- 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- 1 tsp. ground cumin
- 1 tsp. chili powder
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. white sugar
- 1 tsp. garlic
- 1 14.25 oz. can tomato puree
- 1 pkg. firm or extra firm tofu, drained and cubed
Wash the lentils in cold water until the water runs clear (this is very important or the lentils will get “scummy”), put the lentils in a pot with water to cover and simmer covered until lentils tender (add more water if necessary).
While the lentils are cooking: In a large skillet or saucepan, caramelize the onions in the oil.
While the onions are cooking, combine the spices in a mixing bowl, and mix well. When the onions are cooked, add the curry mixture to the onions and cook over a high heat stirring constantly for one to two minutes.
Stir in the tomato puree and reduce heat, allow the curry base to simmer until the lentils are ready.
When the lentils are tender drain them briefly (they should have absorbed most of the water but you don’t want the curry to be too sloppy). Mix the curry base and tofu into the lentils, and serve immediately.
Recipe taken from Manjula’s Kitchen
- 1 cup whole-wheat flour
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water (use more as needed)
- 2 tsp. vegan butter
- 1/4 cup whole wheat flour for rolling
In a bowl, mix the flour, salt and water. Add more water if the dough is too hard. Knead the dough well to make a medium soft dough. The dough should be soft but not stick to your hand. Set the dough aside and cover with a damp cloth. Let the dough rest for at least ten minutes or more before you start rolling.
Divide the dough into eight equal pieces, and roll each piece into a smooth ball, then press flat. Take one ball and press it in dry flour from both sides and start rolling it into a six-inch diameter circle. If the dough starts sticking, dust it with more flour.
Heat the skillet on medium high heat. According to Manjula an iron skillet works best, but I used a non-stick skillet and it worked fine. To see if the skillet is ready, put a couple of drops of water on it. If the water sizzles right away, the skillet is ready.
Put the rolled roti in the skillet. You will see the roti puff in different places and change color. Turn the roti over. Flip again after a few seconds. Take a flat spatula and press lightly on the puffed parts of the roti. This will help the roti completely puff. Flip the roti again. The roti should have light golden-brown spots on both sides. Butter the heated side of the roti (the side that is facing the skillet).
Make sure to put the rotis in a container with a paper towel covering the bottom, and then cover the container after each roti is made. This will keep the steam in and ensure the rotis are soft.
Whenever I make a new recipe, I usually rely heavily on a paper version of it. This time all I did was watch Manjula’s very informative and helpful video.
I also have to say that I wouldn’t mind going to her house for some homemade Indian food, especially since she has some great vegan recipes on hand. ;)
Overall both recipes turned out really well. I did mess up and put way more tomato puree into the lentil curry than I should have. This dampened the taste of the spices, but not so much so that I couldn’t taste them at all. I also froze the tofu, which, if you have never done that, makes the tofu’s texture a little more spongy.
The roti was also very easy to make, which was a nice surprise. I had actually intended to make naan, but it was going to take a little more time than I had. Roti was an excellent, easy, and fast alternative.
Making this has made me realize that Indian cooking, so far, is not that difficult. I’ll need to make some other Indian food…but let me wait until it’s at least in the 70s again. :)
P.S. In case you are interested, I made this handy little image to let you know which spices are which.