Meredith tells me the first time she became aware of lentils, was at the age of 35! They had not been part of her experience growing up in suburban Chicago in the fifties.
One of the first things I cooked for her was a dish I call “comfort lentils” (it’s in my cookbook Delicious Dishes for Diabetics).
Much has changed–Indian restaurants are common place now in the US.
Indian and Chinese restaurants and “take-aways” (my equivalent of MacDonalds–first outlet opened in the UK in 1974!) featured regularly in my life at college and in provincial theatre.
Affordable and open late–just the ticket!
This recipe is hands on for the first half hour or so, as it builds in the taste.
Then it chugs along on a low heat for fifty minutes as the lentils dissolve and the dal forms.
The finish involves sautéing a small amount of onion, garlic and dried red pepper to stir into the mix to lift it.
It’s adapted from a recipe in Ismail Merchant’s excellent and quirky cookbook Indian Cuisine.
8oz red lentils–rinsed until the water runs clear
1 small onion–chopped
2 tblsps olive oil
a short stick of cinnamon
1 tsp fresh ginger–grated
250ml/1/2 pint stock–I use organic vegetable stock cubes
250ml/1/2 pint hot water
1 tsp cayenne pepper
juice and the shells of a lemon
2 tblsps olive oil
1/2 small onion–sliced
1 garlic clove–chopped
1 tsp salt
1 small dried red chili–chopped
Cook the onion over a low heat in the oil until it is opaque–about five minutes.
Add the lentils, cinnamon and the ginger and mix in.
Cook these together gently for about ten minutes, keeping the heat low and stirring from time to time to avoid them sticking to the bottom of the pan and burning.
A nutty aroma starts to rise from the darkening lentils, as they cook.
Add the stock and hot water, cayenne and salt.
Bring to the simmer.
Cook on gently for a further ten minutes, then add the lemon juice and the empty lemon halves and stir it all together.
Cover the pan and continue cooking on a very low heat–use a heat diffuser if necessary–for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally to avoid sticking.
In a small frying pan heat the tablespoon of olive oil and add the sliced onion.
Let this color for five minutes over a medium heat.
Add the chili and the sliced garlic and continue cooking until the garlic begins to brown.
Add this to the lentils and mix it in.
We ate it yesterday as an accompaniment to spicy marinaded chicken breasts–(recipe soon).
It’ll taste even better today!