Monday, November 15, 2010

Sweet potato lentil dal

From this week: nothing! (EEEK)

From weeks past: lentils, sweet potatoes, mushroom stock, ginger, pickled jalapenos

Staples: onions, garlic, olive oil, salt, spices

660 curries. I've made 0. I love Indian food and would really like to learn to make authentic Indian dishes at home (hence the book), but the ingredients are so damn hard to find! Okay, yeah, I'm sure I could go to an Asian market and find a whole bunch of the stuff that this Indian food genius recommends for his recipes, but that would require actually getting out of my apartment and exploring Richmond and maybe even talking to some people, and I really don't like talking to people . For serious, some day I'll do it; but obviously, I really like usin' what I got, and I don't got the spices I would need to make even one of Raghavan Iyer's delicious-looking curries.

Fortunately, my undiagnosed social anxiety doesn't keep me from using the book altogether. So far, I've used it as a sort of encyclopedia. I look up recipes starring the ingredients I want to use, read Iyer's descriptions, peruse the recipes, and use them as a jumping off point. Upon the advice of a friend, I made a sweet potato lentil dal last year, and it was delicious. I couldn't find that recipe online, plus I like to feel like I made things up myself, so I tackled it anew. I liked Iyer's use of chiles, ginger, and bay leaves in a lot of his lentil recipes. I usually think of bay as a very European ingredient, good for hearty beef stews and soups and the like, but it worked so well in this (and apparently is a pretty typical Indian ingredient)! It and the mushroom stock gave the dal a really deep, earthy, meaty flavor that I loved.

Funny, the NY Times published this today. I'm not going to lie; I definitely used it as an additional reference. But I promise I was planning to make this dish before I saw the recipe. Honest! You saw last week's grocery list! Harumph. That NY Times, always one-upping me.

Sweet potato lentil dal
1 cup green or brown dried lentils, rinsed
1/2 lb (about 1 large) sweet potato, diced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1.5 inch piece ginger, peeled and grated or finely minced
1 jalapeno (I used freshly - and lightly -pickled jalapenos from my mom's garden and they were SUPER spicy), finely chopped
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
1 bay leaf
4 cups mushroom stock
salt to taste

Heat oil over medium heat. Sautee onions until translucent and soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, and jalapeno, and cook until soft, about 1 minute (longer if you're using a fresh jalapeno). Add garam masala and coriander and toast lightly, stirring, for 1 minute. Add mushroom stock, lentils, bay leaf, and salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add sweet potato and simmer covered for about 30 minutes, or until sweet potatoes and lentils are soft. If there's more liquid than you'd like, uncover, turn heat up to medium, and let bubble for about 5 more minutes, or until thickened slightly. Remove bay leaf. Serve with naan or any other flat bread.


  1. I LOVE dal! and I LOVE sweet potatoes! I'm gonna try this one. Is garam masala hard to find?

  2. no, it's not! other than plain old curry powder, it's the one indian spice mix that i've been able to find in almost every traditional grocery store.

    of course, being in manhattan, you should have no trouble!!