an indian feast: curry red lentils, palak paneer, yellow basmati rice with cashews & spiced yogurt

One of my favorite cuisines, aside from Mexican food, potato chips and Nutella, is Indian.  I used to eat it often in California, but haven’t found a spectacular Indian restaurant in Portland yet, and I refuse to pay $47 for a meal to experiment.  So I’ve resorted to making my own.  Also, my dad likes it and requests “the Indian food” each time he visits.  So for more reasons than just one, it was important to have a staple feast recipe on hand.

Let’s start with the lentils.  Lentils are awesome.  Brown, red, yellow, black (also known as Beluga)… They’re all filling, full of protein, and they pack a fiber punch.  The other important players for this feast are paneer (a non-melting, mild-flavored Indian cheese that resembles firm tofu), spinach, yogurt, and a whole list of fragrant spices.  When I first attempted to cook anything Indian, I was intimidated by the lengthy list of ingredients each recipe called for.  It seemed that 9 out of 13 items was a spice, which deterred me every time.  This was before I discovered bulk spice bins.

Heard of cardamom?  It’s found in many Indian dishes, smells divine, and costs $50/pound.  My beloved New Seasons wants someone’s hourly wage for a 2-ounce jar, but the per recipe cost is in pennies (if purchased from the bulk bin).  I hope you don’t find this meal intimidating.  But do plan.  Always.

Let’s cook!

Materials and Protocols (serves 2-4, depending on hunger level)
Before I go on, a quick note: Kosher salt to taste in everything!

Lentils

1 Tbsp oil
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1 Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp mustard powder
1 cup lentils, any variety can be used (note: brown will require more liquid and a longer cooking time)
4 cups vegetable broth, or water and an appropriate amount of bouillon, or just water if you don’t have either
1/2 (8 oz.) can coconut milk (full fat or “lite”)

Heat oil in a large, heavy pot.  Add onions and garlic and cook until onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add spices, stir and cook for another 2 minutes.  Add lentils and stock/water, coconut milk and stir.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cover.  Stirring every 10 minutes or so, cook for 30-60 minutes.  NOTE: Cooking time of lentils depends on the type used.  Brown lentils contain a super high amount of fiber and usually take an hour to cook, whereas, yellow and red lentils are done in about 30 minutes because they contain slightly less fiber.

Palak paneer (palak = spinach, and paneer can be substituted with firm tofu to make the dish vegan)
1-2 Tbsp oil (I always use extra virgin olive, but go with the highest quality you have available)
1-1.5 lbs paneer, cubed
1 pound frozen spinach, thawed, blended in food processor
2 tomatoes, puréed
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp red chili flakes
1/2 tsp cumin
1/2 can coconut milk (I use full fat, but the “lite” works just as well)

Heat oil in a heavy saucepan.  Add paneer, cover and cook, gently stirring often, until most of the cubes have browned.  When cooked, place the paneer onto a few paper towels, and set aside.  Reuse the same pan to heat a teaspoon of oil.  Add tomatoes and spices, and cook for 2-3 minutes.  Add spinach, stir and cook covered, on medium heat, for 5-7 minutes.  Add coconut milk, paneer, stir and lower heat to a gentle simmer.  Cook for an additional 12-15 minutes.

Rice
2 cups basmati rice, cooked
1 Tbsp oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp curry
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 cup cashews, or peanuts, coarsely chopped

Heat oil on medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot.  Add onions and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add spices and nuts, stir and cook for another minute.  Toss into the rice, and stir well to combine.

Yogurt
2 cups plain yogurt (I use Greek, but it requires water to make it a bit runny)
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp cardamom

Put all ingredients into a bowl and whisk together.  Sprinkle with a bit of cardamom prior to serving.

 

Comments

  1. Kelly says:

    YUM! Thank you! I first checked epicurious.com, my go-to site for recipes, and came up with nothing when I searched for paneer. So I googled it and found your blog. I’m craving an Indian feast and will make this tonight!

  2. Lola says:

    Awesome!!! Thanks so much! I love leftovers, too! :)

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