A couple of years ago my oldest daughter had a class project on culture. She had to answer questions about what holidays and food were part of her culture. She responded with Halloween and Mac and Cheese. Halloween is an awesome holiday for kids, and you can’t beat mac and cheese when it comes to comfort food, but I felt a twinge of guilt that she didn’t have anything more to add. Our family is a cultural melting pot. My husband was born in Greece. His dad is Greek and his mom is Peruvian. My parents are both immigrants from India. Between the two of us I felt that we were missing the mark on teaching our children our respective cultures.
So how were we going to start teaching our kids about their culture. For me food is the beginning of all things cultural, so my goal is to master Indian cooking. I grew up eating my mom’s Indian food everyday. I still crave it, and my last meal request would be a big plate of rice and chicken curry. As much as I love Indian food it always seemed so difficult to make, so we only ate it when my mom cooked for us. This is obviously not sustainable and at 40 years old it is time to start learning. My only rule is it has to be reasonably quick and easy. I am motivated to learn to cook Indian food not only so I can bring my kids up eating it, but also because it is the perfect cuisine for our lifestyle. We are trying to eat less meat and the Indian cuisine has so many yummy vegetarian dishes. Since my husband loves lentils my first dish to master was dal makhani, which is a creamy dish make of red kidney beans and black lentils. So Yum!
- 3/4 cup Urad Dal (black lentils) – Found at Indian grocery stores
- 1/4 cup red kidney beans
- 1/2 large red onion, diced
- 6 garlic cloves; minced
- 3/4 inch ginger; finely minced
- 2 green cardamon seeds
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
- 2 cloves
- 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
- Pinch of nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 – 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/4 cup cream (optional)
- Rinse and clean the beans. I do this by dumping into a strainer and running water over it and rinsing.
- Cook the beans and lentils. I use the instapot for cooking all my beans. It is so easy and quick. If you don’t have one I highly recommend investing in one. Without an instapot, or pressure cooker, you will need to cook the beans by soaking overnight and then cooking over a slow simmer until soft. With the instapot dump the beans and lentils in the instapot, and 4-5 cups water (water should be a couple of inches above the beans) and cook. Both the lentils and beans should be very soft when done.
- Roughly chop 2-3 large tomatoes in quarters. Puree in blender.
- Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium to high heat. Traditional recipes call for butter, but I use olive oil to keep it healther.
- Add cumin seeds, 1 inch cinnamon stick, cardomon seeds, and cloves to hot oil and stir until seeds pop (about 30 seconds).
- Add onion and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Sautee until golden (about 2 minutes). Stir continuously to avoid burning.
- Add garlic and ginger, 1.5 teaspoon garam masala, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Continue to stir. If you don’t want to bite into cardamon or cloves in your finished product carefully remove the cardamon seeds and cloves at this point.
- Add chili powder and nutmeg and give the mix a few good stirs.
- Add tomato puree and stir well for about 1 minute. Carefully remove the cinnamon stick. If you want a stronger cinnamon flavor you can leave it until you are done cooking it. I like it to be more subtle so I remove it at this point.
- Add the dal and kidney beans. Stir well so the tomato mixture coats all the dal and beans.
- Add 2 cups water. Bring to a boil and lower heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 30 minutes.
- Turn off heat. At this point you can add 1/4 cup cream and stir well. I definitely think this step makes the dish special, but if you want to keep it healthier you can skip this step. It will still be yummy.