No meals out for me this week – September is a busy month, laden with birthday celebrations, weddings, road trips, and karaoke nights out. Hence not enough time or financial resources to devote to the eating, at least not alphabetically.
The following is a list of my favourite people born in September:
Sydney Freeston – who is not actually born in September, but in August, which is close, and I like her a lot too.
I can’t stop thinking about Bangladesh. I was very excited about that one, and feel a bit let down. Post-Brick Lane, I’ve done a bit more research (thank you, Wikipedia) and have come up with some thoughts about Bengali cuisine:
1) Beef. Eaten in Bangladesh, but not in the Hindu communities of India. An obvious disparity – someone should have told me this, when I asked.
2) Courses. In Bangladesh, they have them, whereas in other Asian countries food is served all at once. Traditional sequences are followed, which vary from region to region and between celebrations and day-to-day meals.
3) Dessert. Not really a focal point of an Indian meal – but in Bangladesh, sweets, or mishti, are a critical aspect of food culture. Heather and I saw a number of sweet shops on our Shoreditch excursion – but they looked sugary enough to make our teeth fall out, so we passed. I don’t have a dentist in this country.
As in India, daal is one of the most common dishes served and is usually the most substantial course of the meal.
I love lentils. Props to anyone who got the Anchorman reference in the title of this blog post.
The things you can do with lentils are limitless. Spag bol with red lentils? Shepherd’s pie with puy? Mmm, mmm, mmm. My favourite lentils are yellow split, I think. Or moong daal. Ohhh, the choices! Even my dad likes lentils. He might not know they’re lentils, but he likes ’em.
Last night, with a hankering for South Asian food, I decided to try making my own daal, using a simple recipe from my friend Mel’s Indian-themed food blog. I wanted to use chana daal, because they are oh-so-hearty, but am on a “use-what-food-I-have-in-my-cupboard-before-my-boyfriend-feeds-it-to-the-birds” rampage, so I used red lentils instead, which Mel recommended. Channa daal takes a very long time to cook – and it was a school night.
It was easier than I thought! And definitely something I’ll do again, and again, and again.
The best thing about a daal like this is that you can really use anything you want/have lying around, and it will work.
First, check out Mel’s blog – because really, I ripped this recipe off from her.
Crush up all of your spices in a mortal and pestle – I used coriander, turmeric, cinnamon, cumin and hot curry powder – with ginger and garlic and oil.
Indians/Bangladeshis cook with ghee – much like pork lard, it tastes good. When I make a curry, I usually use a mix of oil and butter, and I feel better about myself. Not by much, but still.
Heat up the oil and/or butter in a wok with some mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and whatever other seeds you want. Well, to a point. Really. Mel uses fennel but I didn’t have this in the house.
When they start to pop, add some onion and some chillies. Add your paste, your lentils, some water – I took a cue from Mel and used steeped black tea instead of plain water, or at least I hope it was black tea, because I don’t know much about tea…PG Tips?? – and a generous dollop of tomato paste, and melange. Bring to a boil, and simmer until soft.
I also added some asafoetida, and some mango chutney. Some being the operative word here – translated, means, well, a lot. I love chutney. It’s a whole course, in Bangladesh.
Serve with rice and naan.
Or on top of a pork chop. If you’re manly enough. (Ignore the dirty plate – this was a second helping!)
The verdict: The red lentils were perfect. I don’t know what I was worried about. Could have used salt, but otherwise a real delight. Daal, chutney, pork chop – I think I can check Bangladesh off my list now.
Or can I…
Thanks again to Mel Hadida for the excellent recipe. Bon appetit!