I received this cookbook, 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. Yeah, he's the same guy from the Betty Crocker Indian Home Cooking cookbook, which I have and also love. And he was recently featured in Cooking Light Magazine. (Yikes, now I'm sounding like a groupie!) I have to say, this cookbook was seriously intimidating for me. First, there were hardly any pictures so I didn't really know what things were supposed to look like. This really isn't too big of a problem, it just made picking the first recipe a little difficult for me. 660 is a lot of curries and it took a long time to single one out. Secondly, there are many ingredients that are hard to find in the middle of Nowhere, Ohio.
That said, I do highly recommend this cookbook. There's something for everyone really. It has many of the familiar Indian dishes, so you could ease into the Indian cooking experience. Mr. Iyer has clear and easy to follow directions, so even though there are no pictures you are able to tell that your dish came out looking correctly. Thirdly, there is a glossary of ingredients in the back, so that if you are like me and live far from the nearest Indian family, much less Indian grocery store you can figure out exactly what you need. And finally after the glossary in back, there is a list of online sources for spices and legumes as well as this link to finding an Indian grocery near you. Oh yeah, and he even has a website to discuss his cookbook with you.
Unfortunately there isn't an Indian grocery anywhere close to me (less than 50 miles anyway). So while I was at my mom's I went to a terrific Indian/Pakistani grocery store in Troy, MI called Subzi Mandi. The people were very friendly and helpful and I stocked up on loads of spices. The only minor glitch was I ended up with this bag of Takmaria (aka Tukmaria, aka Basil seeds) when I was hoping for Nigella seeds. They didn't know what Nigella seeds were. Consulting Mr. Iyer's cookbook, I found out that Nigella seeds are also known as black cumin seeds despite not really being cumin. If anyone knows what to do with Takmaria/Tukmaria seeds besides plant them and hope for basil please let me know!
Yeah, I am not sure if red lentils are hard to find out here because I got them in Michigan too. But I can tell you that I'm on the lookout for them here. I have enough to make this only one more time and I'm going to want to make it again and again. This is also my contribution to the annual Vegetables, Beautiful Vegetables 2008 event hosted by Eat The Right Stuff. This is a fun event celebrating National Vegetarian Week in the U.K. (May 19th through 25th) and even though I'm not a vegetarian this dish was tasty enough for me to stuff myself with completely on it's own last night and I'm sure vegetarians, especially British vegetarians will love it too. Incidentally, there are loads of vegetarian and vegan recipes in 660 curries, and I noticed at least one meat curry that gave the option of substitutions to make it vegetarian.
Gingered Red Lentils (Aadrak Lasoon Masoor Ki Dal)
Copied directly from 660 Curries
1 cup skinned split brown lentils (salmon-colored in this form, masoor dal), picked over for stones
1 small red onion, coarsely chopped (I used 1/2 a medium yellow onion)
4 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
4 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (each 2 inches long, 1 inch wide, and 1/8 inch thick), coarsely chopped
2 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or Serrano chiles, stems removed
2 tablespoons Ghee or canola oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 dried red Thai or cayenne chiles, stems removed
1 medium sized tomato, cored and finely chopped
1 teaspoon coarse kosher or sea salt
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1. Place the lentils in a medium size saucepan. Fill the pan halfway with water, and rinse the lentils by rubbing them between your fingertips. The water will become cloudy. Drain this water. Repeat three or four times, until the water remains relatively clear; drain. Now add 3 cups water and bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium heat. Skim off and discard any foam that forms on the surface. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentil are tender, 18 to 20 minutes.
2. While the lentils are cooking, combine the onion, garlic, and fresh chiles in a food processor. Mince the ingredients, using the puling action. (Letting the blades run constantly will yield a watery blend.)
3. Heat the ghee in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds and dried chiles, and cook until the chiles blacken and the seeds turn reddish brown, and smell nutty, 5 to 10 seconds. Immediately add the onion blend, reduce the heat to medium and stir fry until the mixture is light brown around the edges, 3 to 5 minutes.
4. Stir in the tomato, salt, and turmeric. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tomato softens and the ghee starts to separate around the edges of the sauce, 3 to 6 minutes. Stir in the cilantro.
5. Stir the sauce into the cooked lentils. Ladle some of the lentil mixture into the skillet and stir it around to wash it out; add this to the lentils.
6. Cover the pan and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the flavors mingle, about 5 minutes. Then serve.