Todd introduced me to Indian food almost 4 years ago by taking me to a restaurant in Madison (that’s in Wisconsin) called Maharaja. We went there probably 15-20 times during the 2 years we attended the University of Wisconsin – Madison, taking various roommates and friends from time to time. I did my best to try new things, but I’m terrible with spicy food, and Indian food is usually pretty spicy. When I say I’m terrible with spicy food, I mean that I will pick things on the menu that DON’T have the little flame indicating spiciness, and I end up chugging my glass of water or asking for extra sour cream.
So, I usually ask Todd to try things first and tell me if they are spicy. Every time Todd tries to make Indian food at home, the pre-made spice mixes he uses are far too spicy for my taste. He cuts back on the number of chiles and other spicy ingredients, but I always end up dousing everything in heaps of yogurt and eating way more naan and rice than anything else. It’s about time I step up and try making some Indian food.
When I found out that we were having a Farewell Party for one of my co-workers, I was very excited that she suggested Indian food as her ethnic cuisine of choice. In the office, we have a woman who is allergic to tree nuts and another woman who is a vegetarian, so I made sure I found something that everyone could enjoy.
I decided on Kaali Daal, a lentil-based vegetarian dish served best with naan. If you haven’t tried naan bread before, I strongly recommend that you do. If you’re not ready for Indian just yet, you can make naan bread pizzas to just try it out. We all have to start somewhere.
But on to the Daal! I made it in a bit of a hurry, so I didn’t take as many pictures as usual, but at least I’m back to my camera instead of my cellphone. So here we go!
You will need… 4 C. lentils, 3 Tbsp. ghee (or regular butter if you can’t find Indian cow ghee), 2 large onions, 2 tomatoes, a 3″ piece of ginger, 3-4 garlic cloves, 2 Tbsp coriander, 1-1/2 Tbsp cumin, 1-1/2 tsp red chili powder, and 1/2 C. heavy whipping cream. I didn’t take a picture because A. I was in a hurry, and B. Todd was out getting tomatoes and whipping cream while I got started.
If you can, soak your lentils over night. If not, it’s okay. I certainly didn’t. Boil your lentils with one thinly sliced onion and about a teaspoon of salt.
Keep this boiling while you work on the flavorful part. Heat up a deep pan and add 2 Tbsp. of ghee (or butter). When it melts, add the other onion (also thinly sliced) and let them cook until they are soft. Then julienne the ginger and mince the garlic and add them both to the pan for about a minute.
Next, cube the tomatoes and add them to the onion pan. (Don’t forget to keep occasionally stirring the lentil pot so they don’t stick to the bottom!) Add 1-1/2 Tbsp. of coriander, 1 Tbsp. of cumin, and 1 tsp. of chili powder. Stir everything together and let the mixture cook until the tomatoes are soft. WARNING: If one day we are able to use Smell-o-Vision, the picture below would be about a million times more awesome. Cumin and Coriander are really amazing, rich spices. They give your nose a hug every time you use them, and they make your husband give you compliments. Note to self: Put Cumin and Coriander on list of potential future baby names.
This is the part where I run out of time and stop taking pictures…
Check to make sure the lentils are soft and scoop them into the pan with the tomatoes and onions. Add the rest of the cumin and coriander, then salt to taste.
Next, whisk the cream and add it to the pan and remove from heat while you stir the mixture. Here’s where you can add more cumin, coriander, and chili powder according to your preference. I ended up shaking spices vigorously, not really knowing how much I was adding, until it tasted just right.
I don’t have a pretty picture, but daal doesn’t really lend itself to pretty pictures. It’s one of those tastes-a-heck-of-a-lot-better-than-it-looks kind of foods. But alas, here it is, ready to be whisked away to the Farewell Party.
Now doesn’t that look delicious?
It really was a big hit. We have a really diverse group of people in our office, so it went really well with the Filipino noodle dish, egg rolls & sweet chili sauce, and hummus that people brought. This is one of those things that you are just going to have to try to believe that it is good. This picture certainly doesn’t do it justice.
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Until the next taste,