No apologies for another lentil recipe in such quick succession. It’s the blinkin’ weather, I’m afraid. We really should be flirting outrageously with the new season’s produce, but since none of them are up for it – being under the snow and all – we are still indulging in stews, roasts, crumbles and other wintry fare.
No matter. It’s a great excuse to eat potatoes. And spicy potatoes at that. Thinnish coins of scrubbed new potatoes; little hash-style cubes of plump, regal eggplant; hearty, toothsome obsidian-black lentils. All sizzled up in a heady fug of Indian spicing. Although I am still a bit cross that someone ordered a double winter, Asian comfort food provides needed warmth and welcome spice.
I made today’s recipe after preparing another, lovely sounding, dish for my family. We saw it – macher jhol – being prepared on the telly by a famous UK chef. This soupy fish curry, with a plethora of traditional Bangladeshi spicing (panch phoran, Kashmiri chilli, cumin seeds) sounded just heavenly: light, flavourful, crave-worthy. But it wasn’t. Well, it was light. Actually it was okay. Trouble is it promised so much, and we felt a bit let down. We were expecting wow and what we got was meh.
Perhaps we had built it up too much in our collective imaginations. I imagined it being made in an outdoor roadside cafe, with a cute Bangladeshi grandma at the karahi, and using bright, fresh ingredients plucked from a raucous, rickety market. I’m sure the versions one gets in Bangladesh are crave-worthy. I’m not doing down macher jhol. Just this unexpectedly lack-lustre version. So, after hot-footing it to get some fresh fish, and making it to the letter (none of the usual tinkering), we ended up stirring in tamarind paste, a pinch of sugar and some other culinary band-aids.
Anyway, the following day I salvaged the remains and doctored it up for my lunch. That was more like it. It wanted more fenugreek, coriander and cumin, as well as the addition of cinnamon and nutmeg. Those are the usual tandoori ingredients (along with a whack of artificial alarm-red food colour). I use an organic, additive-free spice mix from Steenberg’s, but it is easy to make your self. Try this recipe from food.com, but leave out the red colouring suggested, perhaps adding paprika instead. And just to say that the few images I have were quickly taken of the doctored version rather than the new and improved version. Not very pretty, but pretty tasty. You may see a few flakes of fish if you look hard enough.
Today’s recipe is completely different to macher jhol (and not even that it doesn’t have fish) – more a dry curry really, but it has the flavour punch that I think we were expecting. Not Bangladeshi, not macher jhol, but pretty good nonetheless. And it is super easy too. You don’t even have any onions to chop, just eye-friendly aubergines and potatoes.
I am popping this over to Laura at How To Cook Good Food and Nazima of Franglais Kitchen for their joint One Ingredient challenge, featuring chillies. Plenty of fiery recipes to choose from already, but still more time to pop over your own heat-tastic recipe. Thanks to them for this great round-up, as always!
Tandoori Lentil, Potato and Aubergine Hash
Miss R’s Track of the Week: Noah and the Whale – There Will Come A Time (just released)
Vegetarian Indian comfort food, without the ghee. I use urad dhal (split black lentils), but use any lentil that stays intact when cooked, such as the French Puy lentil. Just don’t use red lentils, or instead of hash you will get mash…
Yogurt, to serve
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan over a medium flame; add the potato slices. Saute until lightly golden on each side, adding the garlic and chilli when you turn the potatoes over. Scoop the potatoes out of the pan (and the flavourings) and set aside.
Add the lentils to the remaining oil (adding in a little extra if the pan is dry), as well as the tandoori spice mix, seeds, ginger and aubergine. Toss around a little to coat and let fry for a minute or so before adding the water and the browned potatoes, chilli and garlic. Stir gently then cover and simmer for 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the lentils just cooked.
Add the greens to the pan, cover and continue simmering for five minutes. Stir and serve with yogurt and lemon. Some oven-baked samosas wouldn’t go amiss either.
Variation: Add in white fish. Cut up a couple of fillets of skinned firm white fish, toss in turmeric and salt; fry in a little oil until just cooked. Set aside. Proceed with the potatoes as directed.