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Red lentil (dal) with a loooot of dairy, and herbs

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red lentil (dal) with coconut milk and milk

I went on a cooking spree today – it has been a while since we really cooked anything serious. We did have a Korean feast at one point, and some very good Vietnamese noodles at another, but I’ve been either too lazy, or thought that it’s nothing to document. Korean and Vietnamese food come to me quite easily, I don’t have to think much about it. Vegetarian Indian food, or just vegetarian in general, is a beast, and whenever I make something vegetarian with an Indian flair, I consider it an achievement. Also have to document it, because I will have no idea how to make it later! This is why I gave up after a month of trying to be vegetarian. I learned a ton from my Indian landlord, but if I’m hungry, I want my food NOW. Cooking something you’re ill-equipped for, knowledge and pantry-wise, is like…abstaining from sex when you’re ovulating. It’s hard.

This is an adaptation from “Red lentils with aromatics” in “Vegetarian cooking for everyone” by Debora Madison. I don’t think she understands that, uh, “soaking beans a week in advance” or “cooking the lentils for 3 hours” is something *everyone* would like to and have the ability to try. It’s a good book nonetheless. I didn’t have ghee, so I just used butter, cooked till brown and sort of clarified; also did not feel like doing a separate step of sauteing onion, mustard seed and bay leaf, so I threw everything in one pot. Also tried to roast the lentil a bit, even though not stated in the original recipe. Also did not use water but used milk all the way (the original recipe has 1 can of coconut milk and 3 cups of water). ***Interesting story/life lesson/mysterious science phenomena: I got some raw milk from a farming trip, tried to make yogurt, and it became separated into 3 layers: cottage-cheese like, yellow-water-butter-like, and heavy-cream-like. I strained the cottage-cheese-like layer for another dish, and used the mix of maybe whey? buttermilk? what the hell is it? butter-water and heavy-cream liquid instead of water and coconut milk. Think of this as the cliff-note of the original recipe written by someone high on crack (which is ironic if you know me, because I can never get high on weeds).

1 cup of red lentil, or any kind of dal (red is pretty)

2 tbs of butter (or ghee, if you’re the type who just HAPPENS to have ghee in the pantry [/eyeroll])

1/2 onion, sliced (more if you like, doesn’t hurt)

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

2 tbs of chopped herbs (I used parsley & basil)

1 bay leaf

2 tsp of mustard seed

1 tbs of tumeric powder

1 jalapeno chili, diced

3 cups of milk 

Salt & a pinch of sugar, to taste

1. Saute the onion, garlic, bay leaf, pepper and mustard seed in butter till onion is brown on medium-high heat.

2. Toss the lentil with this butter mixture, season with salt and tumeric, cook until some of the lentil looks roasted (slightly brown at edge).

3. Pour in the milk, simmer for about 20-30 minutes till lentil just about to turns soft. If you want softer, cook longer. Be careful because the lentil REALLY absorbs liquid. If your liquid runs out before the lentil reaches the doneness you prefer, add more liquid.

4. When it’s done, mix in the fresh herbs. The liquid should all be absorbed or become a thick sauce. If you like it as a soup that’s fine too – it’s quite good like that!


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