Sunday, March 08, 2009

The cupboard is mostly bare

We have been very busy lately and haven't done a good Co-Op shop for over a month and the pantry cupboard is pretty bare, so when trying to decide what to cook today there was pretty limited choice. Some jasmin rice, lentils (chana and red), self-raising flour, potatoes from Kathleen's garden, two onions, a tin of tomatoes and of course we always have spices available. The fridge wasn't much better, manky dead veggies only good for the compost bin, so nothing of any use there. What to make, the dal and potatoes had possibilities and Indian was an obvious choice and I pulled out my favorite indian cookbook, Madhur Jaffrey's 'An invitation to indian cooking', the 1976 edition.

I learnt to cook seriously good indian food from this unexciting looking book when I was a student in Canberra and its never left my side all my peripatetic life. It hasn't a single colour photo, only some black and white line sketches at the beginning of each section and the writing is small and dense, but the recipes are pure gold. In here I found Hot Chana Dal with Potatoes (p.273) which was perfect for the ingredients I had available. Madhur gives two recipes, one for cold and one for hot chana dal with potatoes and I used the hot version, here's the recipe.

3 oz chana dal, cleaned and washed
1 tsp salt
4 tbs vegetable oil
1/4 tsp black mustard seeds
1/4 tsp whole cumin seeds
10 fenugreek seeds
2 fresh green chillies ( I used one and you can use an 1/8 - 1/4 cayenne pepper)
1 medium size onion, peeled and chopped
a piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated ( we had none so I used ginger powder)
4 new potaotoes, boiled (I steamed mine) and diced into cubes
1/8 freshly ground pepper
2 tbs lemon juice, or 3 tbs tamarind paste (I used lemon)

Put the dal to boil with 1 1/4 pints of water and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Cover, lower heat, and simmer gently for 1 hour. Drain and set aside.

In a 10" fry pan (I used a wok), heat the oil over a medium high flame. When hot, put in the mustard, cumin and fenugreek seeds. In a few seconds , as soon as the cumin and fenugreek seeds darken and the mustard seeds pop, add the green chillies. Turn them over once, only takes a second, then put in the chopped onion and grated ginger. Stir and fry onions until soft. Now put in the remaining ingredients, i.e. the boiled dal and diced potatoes. !/2 tsp salt, the pepper, cayenne and lemon juice or tamarind paste. Mix well and cook over a medium flame for 5 minutes, stirring frequently but gently.

Madhur suggests serving this with chapatis, bhaturas or parathas and a yogurt relish. We had it with her Rice with Whole Spices (p.240)

While I was doing this, 'the wife' was whipping up a batch of scones for her work breakfasts next week. She used her usual basic scone recipe taken from her 'The Australian and New Zealand Complete Book of Cookery', 1970's edition, an Australian classic and excellent for all the basics, we much prefer it to the 'Common Sense Cookery Book'. She added maple syrup and figs as she likes a sweet scone as a breakfast meal, me, my scones need to be plain and then I can lather them in good jam and cream.

These turned out to be seriously good, but very sweet, I reckon she should have left out one of the sweet things, but I don't have a big sweet tooth. They also turned out more like an American 'biscuit' scone, with a hard outer crust, but the insides are soft and scone like, perhaps the extra sugar did this? Not sure how many will last for her to take to work tomorrow though as she's munching through them at a rate of knots. Here's her recipe:

Heat oven to 225oC
I cup self-raising flour
2 tlbs butter
1 tlb raw caster sugar
Pinch of salt
2 tlbs maple syrup
2 dried figs, finely chopped
1/2 cup combined milk and soda water

Rub butter through the flour, mix in sugar and salt and chopped figs, add a little of soda water and milk to get the dough going, then add the maple syrup, mix in thoroughly, then add small amounts of milk and soda water mix till dough is firm but not sticky or dry. If it does get too sticky, just add a bit more flour. Cut into scone shapes, place onto a greased tray and glaze the tops with milk if desired and then bake in the hot oven for about 10 minutes or until risen and golden.

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