food, glorious food!

I’m cooking my way around the world!  Around Eid al Adha, the husband and I found ourselves in a used bookstore, and Varied Kitchens of India caught my eye.  He bought it for me as part of my eid present (the other part being the Squeakster – best. eid. ever.), and I’ve been cooking from it non stop ever since.  It’s pretty expensive just about everywhere online unfortunately.  It looks to be cheapest at Halalco, at $20.  I ordered from them years ago and they totally screwed up my order, so I haven’t ordered from them since.  Proceed with caution if you chose that route.

After college, my culinary skills were limited to boxed, processed crap.  Look, make some mac n cheese, chop up some hotdogs, nuke some frozen veggies, mix together and wa’la, it’s a meal!  Yeah, and the result 4 years later is high blood pressure and even higher than normal cholesterol.  Last year, I dabbled in vegetarianism.  It didn’t stick, but in the process, I was introduced to international cuisine.  Through Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking, I discovered the wonders of the curry, and a million and one things to make with beans.

Since picking up my Varied Kitchens of India book, I’ve decided to cook my way around the world.  Just about everything I’ve made from VKI has been absolutely fabulous.  There are a few things I’m not going to try – brain curry just doesn’t sound all too appetizing to me – but I’m steadily working my way through it.  I’ve made a number of recipes each week, and look forward to several more weeks of delicious indian food.

Every weekend, I prepare food for the week.  If I devote 3 or 4 hours on Sunday to cooking, my weekday evenings after work are free for other things (like working my way through Treatise for the Seekers of Guidance, discussing world events with the husband and cuddling with ma kitteh).  Here’s one of the recipes I’ve made recently:

Piaju, Two-Lentil Fritters – this comes from the Jews of Calcutta section of the book, which is the largest.  The author writes in his notes that this isn’t an exclusively jewish food, but that’s where he learned the recipe from.  My notes are in parenthesis.

  • 1 cup yellow lentils/chana ka dal
  • 1/2 cup red lentils/egyptian
  • 1/2 t crushed fresh ginger root (I just used powder)
  • 1 small garlic clove, crushed to a paste (out of garlic, so I used garlic powder)
  • 1/2 t chopped fresh hot chili ( don’t keep chilis on hand, so I used chili powder)
  • 1/2 t ground turmeric
  • 1/2 t salt
  • 2 medium onions, chopped, 1 cup
  • 1 T fresh coriander (didn’t have this, so I threw in some ground coriander seeds. Next time I may use parsley.  I can’t find coriander leaves at the local grocery store)
  • 1 c oil for frying (I used probably 1/3 c)
  1.   Soak the yellow and red lentils separately in water for 4 hours. Drain. Crush them to a coarse paste in a processor.
  2. Mix the lentils and the gingerroot, garlic, chili, turmeric, salt, onions and coriander together (I divided the lentils in half and put half the ingredients in with each half into the food processor)
  3. Heat the oil in a wok or skillet over moderate heat. Take 1 heaping T of the lentil mixture and shape into a 2 inch fritter about 3/8 inch thick. Continue to shape fritters with the rest of the mixture. Brown them in oil for about 2 minutes on each side. Drain on paper towels

Serve warm with lemon wedges (I just squeezed lemon juice into a bowl and dunked at will. Mmm, tasty.)

(When I make these again, I’ll only make up what we’re going to eat just then. They’re not as good reheated.  Also, I may try to bake them – brush a pan with olive oil, put the paddies on the pan and then brush the tops with olive oil.  The doctor told me no more fried foods, and oil is used liberally in this cookbook *sobs*)

More recipes to come inshaAllah.  I’m thinking about trying either Vietnamese or Caribbean cooking next.  Any cookbook recommendations?

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