Spicy Mung Dal with Zucchini & Purple Carrot
It's funny how people get all "up in arms" about food being "authentic" or "traditional". People who really aught to know better acting as if there is no such thing as regionality or diversity in any particular dish. I mean people- unless it is a dish from your mother or grandmother- gimme a break! Life's too short and if it tastes good to you- it is good!
Even a Bolognese sauce for example, often and heatedly discussed... questions like, "is it still authentic if it is made with ground meat?", or "isn't the only true Bolognese a ragú?"... well think about it just for a second. Do you honestly think that every cook in Bologna makes their sauce in the same way?!?! And why in heavens name should they? Let's face it- when you eat Italian, do you actually sit down and eat the Italian way? Pasta first, then a meat dish, then a salad? Nah... somehow I didn't think so!
So I am not going to claim that my supper this evening was an Indian dish- it simply had Indian spices in it. I don't know the English name for these little yellow lentils- so I am using the Indian name on the bag. And I don't know what an Indian would have thought of it if he had tried it... but I like to think he would also have found it pretty delicious! I certainly did- and I hope that maybe you will too!
I started off by sautéeing the zucchini in a little clarified butter, with a bit of crushed garlic and a light sprinkle of cumin seeds. Once it was brown on the cut surface, I set it to one side and proceeded with the lentils.
I could have probably soaked the lentils first... if I had known I wanted to eat them this morning! But it was not the end of the world- they simply took a while longer to cook- but at a total cooking time of 30 minutes, I hardly think it is worth getting too hot and bothered about! In any case, into the pan they went, still hot and buttery from the zucchini. I added the spices straight away- garam masala, cumin and fennel seed, crushed garlic and a hint of cinnamon. Once the lentils were nicely coated, I added the carrot slices, about a handful of finely chopped parsley stalks (the leaves to follow later) and enough boiling water to cover the lot. I stirred it well, seasoned with salt, pepper and a little cayenne, reduced the heat to a simmer and let them cook with the lid on for 20 minutes, checking every now and then and adding a little water as required.
Whilst the lentils were cooking, I finely chopped the leaves of the parsley, as well as a Spring onion, and I sliced a quarter of a red onion, ready to add, along with the zucchini, to bring everything up to temperature and to finish everything at the same time. I stirred in the new ingredients, lay the zucchini on top, added a little more water and replaced the lid.
For me, it was ready but 5 minutes later, as I love the flavor of onion when it is just barely cooked, has a nice crunch to it and tastes incredibly sweet and rich. Of course you can wait until it is cooked through and soft... but don't! It really IS better this way!
I served up the lentils first and then lay the zucchini decoratively on top, gave it a generous sprinkle of chili flakes to add a little extra heat- and voila! No meat, hardly any fat, loads and loads of flavor and easy to boot! And again- who cares if there is nothing authentic about it? It is quick, inexpensive and healthy and it is my own idea- but one that I love sharing with you!