Saturday, October 16, 2010

Basic Lentil Soup

1 cup lentils
4 cups water
1/2 inch ginger, chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seed
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp red chili pepper
1 onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
fresh cilantro

    Boil 1 cup lentils in 4 cups water. Add ground spices. Reduce heat and simmer covered, approximately 30 minutes until tender.
    In separate pan, brown onion, 10 minutes, then add tomato until just cooked, 5 minutes. Add finish to lentil soup. Salt to taste and garnish with fresh cilantro.

    Spices: Pulses

    Cook with spices so the lentils absorb the flavors.
    Aromatics include turmeric, ginger and garlic.
    Spice includes cumin seed.
    Hot spices include black and red chili pepper.
    Finish with browned onion and tomatoes.
    Variations include coriander, mustard seed, bay leaves, curry leaves, green chili pepper and garam masala.

    Cooking: Pulses

    Cooking Time
    Mung Bean, whole, soak 20-40 min, cook 20 minutes.
    Mung Bean, split, no soak, cook 20-30 minutes.
    Masoor, split, no soak, 20 minutes
    Urad, split, no soak, 20 minutes.
    Toor (yellow split pea), no soak, cook 25 minutes.
    Chana (chickpea), split, no soak, 30 minutes.
    Use 1 cup lentils with 4 cups water. Split lentils require slightly less, and whole lentils require slightly more.
    Bring to boil, cover and simmer. Can check water level.

    Refrigeration and Freezing
    Cooked lentils stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3 days, in a covered container.
    Cooked lentils may also be frozen.

    Preparation of Pulses

    Hulling and Splitting

    Lentils can easily be split using a food processor. Using the whole food keeps all of the original plant nutrition. Milling processes remove and discard the hull, which contains fiber. Whole lentils will hold shape better when cooked. Split lentils will mash and blend better.


    Whole and hard lentils should soak 2 hours or overnight. Split and soft lentils like split red dal (masoor) and split black dal (urad) do not need soaking.

    Ingredients: Selecting Pulses

    There are many, many different kinds of lentils. For variation in taste, texture and color, keep 3-5 different kinds of lentil. Red Lentils (Masoor Dal) These are quick to cook. The whole lentils is reddish-brown. The split lentil is orange or pink. Good for mashed or blended soups. Black Lentils (Urad Dal) Skins have strong flavor. Used in curries. Skinned and split are white, soft and mild or bland.

    Green Mung Beans

    Chinese lentils also popular in India.

    Toovar Dal

    Mild nutty. Whole lentil is tan. Popular side dish and ground as flour.

    Channa Dal (split chickpea)

    These popular lentils are sweet and nutty.

    Pantry: Storing Pulses

    Pulses are an staple pantry item.
    Pulses keep well. Dried pulses keep 6 months to 1 year. The ideal pantry should be cool, dry and dark.
    Buy only whole pulses. Whole pulses can be processed and used as either whole or split. By keeping your inventory items down, you increase your quantity turnover and freshness. The hull is also nutritious.
    Pulses can be purchased in 2 pound or 4 pound bags, and kept in dry good containers.

    Saturday, October 2, 2010

    Spices: How Much Heat?

    Preference for heat varies widely by individual. Heat comes from red chili pepper (hot), black pepper (medium) and ginger (mild). Using all three adds not only heat but complexity. To reduce heat, you can drop ingredients (for example, drop the hottest ingredient, which is red chili pepper) or you can reduce the proportions. I like to reduce the proportions, while keeping the complexity. Black pepper, like salt, can always be added at the table.

    These recipes are written with medium heat. Cut in half to reduce heat, and double to increase heat. With hot peppers, a little bit goes a long way. Use less than other spices like cumin and coriander seeds. Remember a typical dry goods to spice ration is 1 cup to 1 teaspoon.

    How Much Heat?

    • Hot: 1 tsp
    • Medium: ½ tsp
    • Mild: ¼ tsp

    Red Chili Pepper and Black Pepper, per 1 cup

    Black pepper and ginger were the traditional ingredients for heat for thousands of years, and India traded black pepper with the Middle East and Europe from at least time of Ancient Greeks and Romans. Black pepper is native to India, while red chili peppers where introduced relatively recent from the New World. Red chili peppers are (considerably) hotter than black pepper.