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a blog from Eli the Bearded
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Spicy dal

A simple to make, if slow, simple dish. I eat it as a hot side dish, add something for crunch to make a hot soup, or cold as a cracker dip. Today's lunch was the hot soup version with some (packaged, store bought) fried onion for crunch. I adapted this from an old Madhur Jaffrey cookbook. There she basically says "Here's the how, adapt the spices to your taste." I'm going to pass that recommendation on to you.

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1" to 2" ginger

In a suitably sized sauce pan, start heating the water on full heat. While that's happening, give the lentils a good rinse to wash the dust off, it helps reduce the froth, then add to the heating water. Peel the ginger and cut into three or four good size hunks and toss those in the pan, too.

When it starts to boil, skim off the foam on the surface. Add

  • 1 teaspoon tumeric powder

Give it a good stir to mix in the tumeric, lower the heat to a simmer, put a lid mostly on, but leave a crack for some steam to escape. Then let that go for an hour to ninety minutes. If the heat is too high and the water has boiled off, add some more hot water to make it soupy. (And adjust the heat.) You can pretty much ignore it during this stage.

After hour to ninety minutes you can fish out and discard the ginger. Get a small fry pan heating.

  • a teaspoon or so of oil
  • a teaspoon of whole cumin
  • a teaspoon or two of crushed red pepper
  • a pinch of asafoetida powder (aka "hing")

Add the oil, let it heat a bit, then add the cumin, wait a few seconds and add the red pepper and asafoetida. Stir it in the pan a bit to get all the spices covered in oil and lightly toasted. The asafoetida may smell a lot, it really needs just five or ten seconds in the oil. The others thirty to sixty seconds. Then add the hot oil and spices to the lentils. Maybe add

  • a teaspoon or so corriander powder
  • a teaspoon or so salt

to the lentils as well. Stir to mix the spices in, turn off heat.

As a side, it's done now. As a soup I feel it needs something more. I've used crumpled crackers, broken chakli, crunchy fried onions, chopped cashews, etc.

Left over cold I use it as dip/spread for crackers. Or it can be reheated to be a sidedish / soup again. Easily made a day or two in advance.

It's boring and simple looking, so no photo.

Black pepper tofu, after Ottolenghi

I find the peppery sauce in this addictive. It's simplified (a bit) and moderated from the original in Ottolenghi's book Plenty. His recipes are good, but complicated.

tofu prepared, next to cookbook photo
  • 1 1/2 lb firm tofu
  • cornstarch to coat tofu
  • enough vegetable oil to fry the tofu

Cube drained extra firm tofu, roll in corn starch. Then fry in shallow oil in batches, turning frequently, until golden on all sides. Drain on paper towel.

  • 1/4 lb butter
  • 12 small shallots (figure an ounce each), peeled and thinly sliced
  • some chilli peppers, thinly sliced, quantity and strength to taste, I suggest two jalapeños
  • 1/2 head of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 to 3 inches of ginger root chopped

With tofu aside, reuse same pan to cook shallots, chillies, garlic, and ginger at low heat in the butter. Stir occasionally and when soft, 10 to 15 minutes, add

  • 2 tablespoons sweet soy sauce (kecap manis)
  • 4 tablespoons regular soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

Stir those in then add

  • 3 tablespoons black peppercorns freshly coarse ground

Ottolenghi calls for more soy sauce and pepper. I like his pepper quantity but it is too much for my wife. Stir again and add that tofu put aside earlier. Stir to coat on all sides as long as needed to warm the tofu back up. Finally garnish with

  • handful small, thin spring onions, cut into short matchsticks

Strothotte Soft Prezels

Recipe for authentic boiled then baked soft pretzels, this one does not call for malt syrup, so all the ingedients are easy to find. I've made these and they get my thumbs up. I recommend a double recipe. (Tip: don't grease the cookie sheet, but sprinkle course ground corn flour on it instead.)

dead link: http://strothotte.com/pretzels.html

Archived page: at archive.org's Wayback Machine