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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Again, another simple, quick, and depending on the state of your pantry, reasonably cheap side dish. Farmer’s markets have lots of tender new potatoes for good prices this time of year, and if you live near a good Indian market (or, say, within a short train ride of Little India in Chicago), you can find ghee for reasonably cheap. From there, just add sea salt and pepper, and the sage to infuse the ghee with. 

Pan Roasted New Potatoes Browned with Sage Infused Ghee

  • 1 lb new potatoes (I believe these were red or fingerlings?)
  • 4 T ghee
  • ~20 fresh sage leaves, torn, if you have them – otherwise ~2 T dried sage
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add your potatoes in, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes (I went with 15), until fork tender. Drain the potatoes. 

In a medium sized pan (original recipe recommends a cast iron pan, this works just fine with a normal pan if you don’t have one/don’t want to get it out), melt the ghee, adding the sage as it melts. Add the potatoes in a single layer once melted, and cook over medium, turning/stirring the potatoes every four to five minutes or so, until they’re browned on all sides (which should take around 20 minutes). 

Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, and then enjoy your crispy potatoes!