I trotted out to one of our local shops today to buy a bottle of sparkling water. As luck had it, a particularly well-stocked Indian shop was open so I raided the shelves.
First a bag of channa dal to make a spicy dal mix with onions and tomatoes.
Next pappadams. I bought a bag flavoured with cumin.
Then, I wondered if I could find a jar of chutney without added sugar. I've made chutneys before, usually a mango one, but as I didn't have any mangoes in, it seemed a good opportunity to try a bought one.
The first jar I picked up listed sugar as the main ingredient. It got put down very quickly. I headed for the savoury pickles instead, chilli, hot lime, vegetable ones or hot ones. They didn't list sugar in the ingredients, probably because there was enough sweetness from the fruit in the pickles. I looked at the three jars I had selected and reluctantly put two back. I settled for mixed pickle. Check out the Patak web site for recipes and products. I was pretty impressed by it which is a rare occurence. It's well-designed, easy to use, and very informative. The ingredients of each product are listed, and there is a guide as to how hot the product is. The mixed pickle was very hot apparently.
Back home I flicked through my excellent Indian book - Classic Indian Vegetarian Cookery by Julie Sahni - and settled on a coriander chutney.
So here we go.
Listed ingredients in the pappadams: urid flour, cumin, asafoetida, salt, sodium bicarb as raising agent, oil, and other spices.
Instructions for cooking are: 1) fry quickly in hot oil 2) microwave 3) cook over hot flame. Well as 2) and 3) are out here that left 1). But I've fried them before and not been happy with the result. A bit of lateral thinking and I figured the equivalent of a hot flame could be a hot grill.
Quickly grilled pappadams
And there they are. Quite perfect. Served as a starter with the bought pickle and the home-made chutney. (I'd had to try the pickle before we ate of course. Excellent.)
Served with pickle and chutney
Add large bunch of coriander leaves to blender container, plus green chillies to taste, some salt, a couple of slices of ginger, lemon juice or white wine vinegar, and 3-4 fl ozs of water. Mint leaves are optional and luckily I found a few in with my coriander bunch.
Whizz up and that's it. Takes no time at all. Next time I would use more vinegar and less water, but that's because we like vinegar here. I suppose it's similar to mint sauce with coriander added.
It keeps for a couple of days in the fridge.
Add lentils or channa dal or whatever to water, with a teaspoon of turmeric, and as many green chillies as you like. Let simmer away merrily while you get on with everything else. Channa dal takes longer than lentils but has more texture when finished.
Dal under way
Prepare the onion and tomato mix. Chop them all finely.
Add onions to frying pan with oil (I use olive). When golden add tomatoes and grated ginger.
When soft and pulpy, add to dal mix.
For spice perfumed butter, ie oil in my case, put oil in frying pan, heat, and add panch phoron to pan. This is a mix of seeds: fennel, fenugreek, black onion, mustard and cumin in equal proportions. Add around a tablespoon in total. Mustard seeds splatter so cover with a lid.
After not long at all, ie when cumin seeds are darkening, add a couple of bay leaves and some dried red chlllies. When they darken, turn off the heat, and add garlic if you are using it. Let garlic sizzle and then add the mixture to the dal.
For me, it is the addition of the ginger in the onion and tomato mix and the panch phoron that really lift this recipe so that it has so many sublime flavours.
The finished dal - not just another bowl of lentils at all
Boil potatoes, my recipe book says in skins and then peel when tender but still firm. Slice, and place in bowl with some general curry powder/garam masala. Turn them to ensure they are evenly coated and after they have cooled down, saute them. Can serve them at any temperature.
Couple of comments.
The pickle and the chutney went down faster than I expected. I thought the pickle was expensive at £3.50 but it is delicious and there is no junk in it. The coriander chutney worked out far cheaper.
Cost of rest of today's purchases, all of which were only about half used, if that:
Channa dal - around £1
Pappadams - around £1
Coriander plus three green chillies - £1
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