As frustrating as dealing with my landlord can be (“I’ll maybe fix the peeling ceiling after the holidays,” oh and there might be mice as evidenced by the large trap placed right by a hole in the back stairway, and one running through the bedroom, that trap seems super helpful), one of the things I love about where I live is the neighborhood. And specifically, the middle eastern bakery/grocery that’s a ten minute walk up the street. They do amazing, cheap hand pies that are great for lunch or breakfast, wonderful sides (dolma! baba ghanoush! pita!), they have a small fuckton of spices, and they have a lot of reasonably priced staples. Like say, the black lentils that are central to this recipe.

This is a simple, cheap, low energy, but amazingly filling recipe. I’ve been perfecting it over the last few months to my and boything’s taste, and the recipe as I have it currently is beyond perfect. My spices are a bit more haphazard than the ingredients list below suggests in terms of amounts, but I promise you you can adjust this to your own taste, easy. Throw this on the stove while a Destiny 2 or Overwatch session is going on, and voila.

Punjabi-Style Black Lentils
Makes enough for two and then a little meals for two

Ingredients

  • 2 T ghee (regular butter or oil also acceptable)
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • .5 T ground cumin (original says seeds, I went with what I have on hand for simplicity)
  • 1 in piece of ginger, grated (original says finely chopped, I go with the ginger grating trick mentioned earlier in the blog these days
  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 T ground coriander
  • 1 t ground tumeric
  • 1 T garam masala (usually more)
  • pinch ground chile powder
  • 1 can diced fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 t sea salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 c dried black lentils
  • 3.5 c water (reduced from original recipe bc now I just use a whole can of diced fire roasted tomatoes, which is an extra cup up from the original recommended amount
  • 4 t salted butter
  • 2 T heavy cream (can be omitted if people don’t like it)

Over medium heat, melt your ghee. Once warm, add the onion and cumin, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is lightly browned in places (pic 1). Add in the ginger and garlic, cook 1 minute more until fragrant, and then add the remaining spices (pic 2) and can of tomatoes (pic 3), and cook 3 more minutes, scraping up any bits that may be stuck to the pot. Add the salt, water, and then the lentils. Bring to a simmer, and then reduce the heat to low, and cover the pot. Cook 35 to 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are tender (see pic 5). If you want a looser dal, add more water. Adjust the spices and seasoning to taste.

To finish, ladle the dal into the bowl, add 1 t butter and .5 T heavy cream, and stir in to melt (see pic 6).

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Looking for a quick, simple meal? The above took a half hour to put together, and, other than the fire roasted tomatoes, I had almost all of it in my pantry already. The remaining ingredients you would need to pick up are mostly cheap. (I don’t know where OP shops that fire roasted tomatoes are so cheap, but the only ones I’ve found out here are an organic brand, and they run about $2.50 a can out here.)

Plus, I used a neat trick I just learned about. Have leftover tomato paste from something else? Take it out of the can, either freeze it in an ice cube tray or in a glass jar (I went with the latter), and when you need to use it again, just take it out of the freezer, let it warm up a bit, and boom, you’re good to go. I froze what remained of my last jar of tomato paste a while ago, so I just let the jar warm up for this, scooped out what I needed, and then tossed the rest back in the freezer. Works like a charm.

Smoky Tomato Soup
Lasts 3.5 meals as a main

Ingredients

  • 2 T olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced
  • 4 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 T tomato paste
  • .5 T smoked paprika
  • .5 t cumin
  • 2 15 oz cans fire roasted diced tomatoes
  • 1 c vegetable stock
  • .5 t dark brown sugar
  • pepper to taste (if you can get freshly ground pepper, great, but if not, your standard pepper works just fine)

Heat your olive oil in a pot over medium heat, and add your garlic and onion, cooking about five minutes until the onions are soft and translucent. Then, add your paprika, cumin, and tomato paste, and stir together and cook for about two minutes, to let the tomato paste caramelize a bit.

Then, add your remaining ingredients (fire roasted tomatoes, vegetable stock, dark brown sugar, pepper), stir to combine, and simmer for ten minutes to heat through. 

And then, no more than fifteen to twenty minutes after you started, you have your soup ready to go! Have some bread on the side to dip in it, or maybe a grilled cheese sandwich too.

I came across this dish a few weeks ago, and as I could find everything in it for relatively cheap this time of year, I decided hey, why not? This is a wonderfully spiced, fantastically vegetarian, and if you buy everything at the right time and have a well stocked spice cabinet, cheap recipe. Honestly, the most expensive part of this dish was the eggs, and that was because I bought them from the farmer’s market.

Don’t know what garam masala is, or your local grocery store is overcharging for the mix? No problem!  The blend that I used a while ago for making garam masala gingerbread (and still had leftovers of) mixed the following:

  • 1 T cumin
  • 1.5 t coriander, cardamom, black pepper
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • .5 t ground cloves, nutmeg

The above blend yields .25 c of spice mix, which means there’ll be plenty leftover for another day 

Indian Spiced Tomato and Egg Casserole
Lasts appx 4 to 5 lunches as a main

Ingredients

  • 1.5 lbs fingerling potatoes
  • sea salt and pepper
  • .25 c olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 T finely chopped peeled ginger
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 t garam masala
  • .5 t ground coriander
  • 1 28 oz can whole peeled tomatoes
  • (original recipe recommends fresh mint and cilantro or basil, I went with dried for both as it’s the dead of winter, probably about 4 T dried mint and 1 T dried cilantro)
  • 6 eggs

Place your potatoes in a large pot with heavily salted water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, and cook for twenty minutes, until your potatoes are fork tender.

While your potatoes boil, in another pan, heat your olive oil over medium high, and add your onion, cooking until it’s tender (about 5 minutes).  Then add your peppers, and cook another three minutes, followed by your ginger, garlic, cumin, garam masala, and coriander, cooking until fragrant (about a minute). Then, reduce the heat to medium low and add your tomatoes and a pinch of sea salt, and cook for fifteen minutes, using your spatula to break down the tomatoes as you cook. If you time this right, you should be able to time the fifteen minutes to the last fifteen minutes of the potatoes cooking. Remove from heat once they’re done, and stir in the mint and cilantro. As soon as the potatoes and tomatoes are done, preheat your oven to 375.

Once your potatoes are done, drain them and let them cool. Once cool enough to handle, slice the fingerlings into half-inch slices, and layer on the bottom of your casserole dish or 9" square glass baking pan in a single layer.  Pour the hot tomato sauce over the potatoes, and bake for twenty minutes.

After twenty minutes, make six wells in the tomato sauce, and crack your eggs into them. Season with sea salt and pepper, and bake for another 8 to 13 minutes, depending on how done you want your eggs. 10 minutes gave me set whites, and still runny yolks, which is just how I like them.

The final pic is how it looks transferred to a container for keeping in the fridge, and how it’ll look once served, but trust me, it’s still quite fantastic.

Shakshuka is something I never thought would go well in sandwich form. Yet, here we are, and Ive got enough for breakfast for at least a week or so.

Adding bell peppers heartens up the shakshuka even more, and it turns out that the pita is really good at holding the shakshuka and not making it too messy. I didn’t have za’atar on me, so I ended up mixing ground oregano, marjoram, sumac, and cumin (didn’t have any toasted sesame seeds, just raw); I should probably either buy or make it soon, because I definitely liked the flavor. 

Three Pepper Shakshuka Pitas With Feta and Za’atar

Ingredients

  • 3 T olive oil
  • half a small yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed, then minced
  • 2 to 3 bell peppers, cored and sliced thin (use any colors you like)
  • jalapeño, cored and sliced thin
  • .5 t cumin
  • 1 t smoked paprika (I used Spanish)
  • .25 t salt
  • 1 14 oz can crushed tomatoes (recipe recommends fire roasted if you can find them, I went with plain as they’re pretty expensive around here)
  • 6 eggs
  • .5 c crumbled feta
  • za’atar to taste (if you don’t have it, mix oregano, marjoram, sumac, cumin, and toasted sesame seeds)
  • pitas

Heat your olive oil in a large pan over medium high. Once warmed, add your onion and cook until it softens, about five minutes, followed by the crushed, minced garlic, and cook for another minute. Add your bell peppers and jalapeño and saute until they soften, about another five minutes, followed by the cumin, paprika, and salt, cooking for an additional minute.  Then, pour in your can of crushed tomatoes, along with half a can or so of water, and bring to a simmer.  Once simmering, reduce the heat to medium low and let simmer for about fifteen minutes, stirring occasionally and tasting to adjust the seasonings.

After fifteen minutes, make six shallow indentations in the sauce and crack your eggs into them. Cover and simmer for between 3 to 6 minutes depending on how you want your eggs; 3 to 4 minutes gets set whites and loose yolks, 5 to 6 for firmer yolks. Remove the cover and sprinkle with feta and za’atar.

If you’re going to eat these right away, warm your pitas, open them up, and scoop an egg and the surrounding sauce into the pita. If you want more garnish, add more feta and za’atar. 

If, however, you’re like me and you’re taking these to work, put the sauce into a container.  The morning that you’re going to eat them, put an egg and sauce in the pita, and reheat (either by warming up the sauce and pitas separately, or doing what I do and just tossing the thing in a microwave). 

venneh:

This was a quick little experiment that I did, as I had some leftover feta, and a desire to try it marinated. So, I cut it up into cubes, put in some cumin, coriander, oregano, marjoram, and crushed red pepper in the layers of cubes, and poured the olive oil over it. The result was quite tasty, especially with the roasted olives.

This is another one of the first dishes I learned to make living on my own, and it’s always been a staple for when I’m looking for something relatively simple, cheap, and spicy.  Realistically, the most expensive part of this will be the chicken, but if you can find chicken for relatively cheap and freeze it until you need it, I highly recommend going that route.  I will give you the given amount of spices for this recipe, but know that the version I cook now is a lot more approximate in its amounts, but the proportions are relatively the same.  🙂 

Butter Chicken
Lasts 5 to 6 lunches as a main

Ingredients

  • 2 lbs boneless chicken breasts, chopped into small (1 inchish) cubes)
  • 8 oz greek yogurt (you will realistically not find an 8 oz container, get 2 5.5 oz containers, and if you can’t find plain yogurt, look for honey or vanilla)
  • 6 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 t curry powder
  • 1 t coriander
  • 2 t cumin
  • 1 t chili powder
  • 2 t cinnamon
  • 5 T butter
  • 1 6 oz can tomato paste
  • 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 T honey
  • appx 2 t cardamom (original recipe recommends 4 cardamom pods, I’ve only ever had the ground stuff on hand)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 c heavy whipping cream

Combine your yogurt, garlic and spices that start with c (except for cardamom) so that you have a uniform spiced yogurt, and then stir in your chopped chicken until it’s coated.  Put in a container and let sit in the fridge as little as 30 minutes (up to overnight; I will typically go overnight, for maximum flavor). 

In a pot, melt your butter over medium heat, and as soon as it’s melted, add your honey, cardamom, tomato paste, and diced tomatoes, stirring until combined and bringing to a light boil before simmering for 20 mins, until thickened and dark red (see pic 3).  Then, stir in your whipping cream and yogurt marinated chicken, until combined into an orangeish sort of sauce  (see pic 4). Continue to simmer for another 20 minutes, until your chicken is cooked all the way through, and then season with salt and pepper.

Enjoy with some naan, or, if you’re like me, after assembling a night stand with a friend and while watching Hannibal!

I haven’t made this in a while, and frankly, one of my friends on Facebook making it again as I was making my shopping list definitely inspired this.  The meal itself is also pretty cheap, as all you need is a large can of whole tomatoes, half a dozen eggs, jalapenos and garlic, and a few spices.  

Shakshuka
Lasts 3.5 lunches as a main

Ingredients

  • .25 c olive oil
  • 3 jalapenos, chopped fine
  • 1 small onion, chopped fine
  • 8 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 t ground cumin
  • 1 T paprika
  • 1 28 oz can whole tomatoes (do not drain)
  • .5 c water
  • salt
  • 6 eggs
  • .5 c feta cheese
  • Naan, to serve (I bought garlic naan because I didn’t want to make it from scratch, lol)

Heat your olive oil over medium high heat in a skillet, adding your jalapenos and onion and cooking until soft and golden brown (about five minutes).  I accidentally didn’t add the onion until I added the spices, as you see.  Whoops.  Add your garlic, paprika, and cumin, and cook, stirring frequently until the garlic gets soft (about another two minutes).

Take your can of tomatoes and in a medium bowl, hand crush them.  Add the crushed tomatoes and the half cup of water to the skillet. Reduce the heat to medium, and simmer, stirring here and there, until the sauce has thickened slightly (about fifteen minutes).  Season with salt (whoops, forgot this too).

Crack the eggs over the sauce and cover, cooking the eggs just until the yolks set (about five minutes). Once the yolks are set, take a spoon and cover the whites in tomato sauce, making sure not to disturb the yolks. Sprinkle the feta over the shakshuka, and have a plate of warm naan on hand to dip in the sauce!