Baking & cooking with an enthusiastic amateur
Last month, I took my partner out to The Helmand restaurant for his birthday. It was my first experience with Afghani food, and out of my usual price range, but it was immensely enjoyable! I got the mourgh challow, delicious chunks of chicken in a savory, thick curry sauce with yellow split peas. The rice it came with was really tasty too, studded with cumin seeds.
As is often the case after being exposed to a new food, I started to crave a repeat of my experience. I knew I couldn’t afford to go back there any time soon, and at this point, I probably shouldn’t even be buying a bunch of new ingredients. But I just had to try to recreate those flavors! And I did have lentils…
Well, yellow split peas are a legume, and lentils are a legume, and furthermore, I know lentils can serve well as a main ingredient for a dish. I had plain greek yogurt in my fridge (which is quickly becoming a staple), so all I needed to get was cilantro, which I found for $1 at Haymarket.
This has been written after my second making of this recipe (both times within three days – what can I say, it was tasty!). The first batch turned out very well, but I was able to tweak a couple of things slightly and ensure my measurements and steps were accurate.
1/2 medium sweet onion
1 tablespoon canola oil
3 cloves garlic
3/4 cup lentils, rinsed
2 cups water
1 tablespoon curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cayenne pepper (optional)
3/4 cup (6 oz) plain, nonfat greek yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
4 tsp toasted, sliced, unsalted almonds (optional)
Extra fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)
3/4 cup brown jasmine rice, rinsed
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp black pepper
1/16 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tablespoon canola oil
Bring rice and water to a boil in a saucepan. Stir in the cumin, coriander, cinnamon, pepper, and nutmeg; reduce heat and cover, simmering, for 35-40 minutes, or cooking time indicated on the package.
Meanwhile, heat the 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for about 10-12 minutes, until the onion is softened. Reduce the heat slightly. Add the garlic and cook for another 30 seconds, just until it starts to turn brown. Add the lentils, water, curry powder, turmeric, cinnamon, and cayenne. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 40 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and have absorbed all the water.
When the rice is done, stir in the canola oil. Transfer rice to a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for at least 10 minutes or until the lentils are ready.
Remove the lentils from the heat and remove the lid. Let them sit for a minute, then stir in the yogurt, cilantro, and salt.
Serve yogurt-curried lentils over the rice, garnished with extra cilantro and almonds.
Makes four servings of lentils and rice.
Cost per serving: $0.90
Nutrition per serving: 274 calories, 7g fat, 0.5g saturated fat, 48g carb, 9g fiber, 13g protein