Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A taste of freedom: Spiced Dal

Not much blogging going on around here, is there?
I asked a friend the other day how long she figured a blog had to languish without update before being considered "defunct." I am happy to say that she replied that her subscription to my blog (you can subscribe to my blog???) would tell her about a new post whether it were to appear one week or one year in the future - and that she would read it :)

One week later...
...I have put some thought into why this page has seen so little activity, and have a few theories. The core of these ideas is that I don't know quite how to write about the experiences I am having now, since they seem so out of place with the trajectory I thought that I was building (and blogging about) while on the road.

After 16 months of traveling, visiting friends and - well - pondering, I find myself in a cold northern city, sitting at a desk in an office in front of a computer and wondering where the inspiration is in this experience.

What about the dream of freedom I hatched in India.

I am fully aware, of course, that freedom is in the heart, soul and mind and can survive and flourish in the dankest dungeon - let alone at a desk in an office in front of a computer - as well as on the most pristine beach at sunset.

I'm still just a little disappointed, I guess...

A taste of freedom
To switch gears, the inspiration for this particular post is the desire to give my few remaining readers a literal taste of my time on the road.

Since returning to North America, I have conjured up a few Indian feasts that have ranged from poor imitations to genuine feasts for the senses. The most recent - prepared with the help of my visiting sister and consumed in the same good company - was by far the most delicious to date: spiced Dal (lentil stew), hearty Palak Paneer (spinach with white cheese) savory Chicken Curry and garlic naan to sop up the juices with.

Now when most people about Indian (or Nepali) food, they think about curry. But one of my discoveries in the land of spices was that Dal is actually the literal heart of Indian cuisine - being analagous to the Kimchi on a Korean table. The recipe below is by far the best I have tried to date, and I hope you enjoy it!

Spiced Veg/Non-veg Dal
1 cup red lentils
2 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp veg oil
2 tbsp minced fresh ginger
tbsp minced garlic
1 large onion, halved & slivered
2 tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp ground cloves
Pinch fresh turmeric
4 cups fresh veg/chicken broth
4 ripe plum tomatoes, seeded & cut to 1/4" pieces
1/2 cup coarsely chopped parsley
Salt/pepper to taste

1) Heat butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed pot on medium heat. Add ginger, garlic and onion and cook, stirring, for about 10 minutes. Sprinkle in teh cumin, cloves and turmeric.
2) Stir in lentils, add broth and bring to a boil on high heat. Simmer uncovered
about 20 minutes till soft - not mushy. Skim off foam as it rises and stir occassionally.
3) Stir in tomatoes and parsley and cook, stirring, for about another 15 minutes.
4) Season with salt/pepper to taste.

I have found that this dish benefits greatly from being prepared ahead of time and then heated up just before serving - it allows the flavours to mature and meld.

Bon appetite! I shall try to write more in the das and weeks that follow...