Monday, 1 August 2011

Egg and Lentil Curry

I know egg and lentil curry sounds like a grim dish served in some grim vegetarian café, served with fun-free zero fat yoghurt raita, and badly cooked brown rice (we all have our prejudices). But this is a regular favourite fallback recipe of mine. I don't think I've ever cooked it exactly the same way twice, what I have in the cupboard, what sort of mood I'm in all dictates how it's made. Sometimes I want something fiery, in which case I add more chilli and less coconut, and sometimes I want something altogether less challenging, and I might stir in some yoghurt at the end to make a creamier and more comforting dish. Even the eggs aren't strictly necessary, leave them out and have dhal. Here I've attempted to pin it down to a more exact recipe. I've also labelled it under 'Indian', although this is not strictly true as it comes directly from my kitchen. Hopefully it wouldn't seem too out of place amongst some actually authentic curries as part of a larger meal.

Ingredients-for 4
2 tbsp Oil or ghee
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
thumb-sized piece of root ginger 
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
2 cardamom pods
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp cumins seeds, ground
2 tsp coriander seeds, ground
chilli powder- quantity to your taste
1/2 tsp turmeric
pinch asafoetida (optional, but it does add a certain something)
1 tin tomatoes
1 tin coconut milk
250grams brown lentils
4 eggs
tbsp garam masala
2 tbsps yoghurt (optional)

Heat the oil or ghee in a heavy bottom saucepan saucepan over a medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook until golden and aromatic. Turn up the heat slightly and add the cinnamon stick, cloves, cardamom and mustard seeds. Fry for a minute, stirring all the time. Add the rest of the spices except for the garam masala, and continue to cook for a few more seconds. When the spices have released their scent tip in the tinned tomatoes. Cook, stirring, until the oil has separated from the tomatoes. Add the coconut milk and lentils, and water to cover. Turn the heat down to a simmer. Let the lentils cook, top up with water if necessary.
Meanwhile, boil the eggs for 8 minutes- you want them hard boiled, but still with a creamyish yolk, no tell-tale dark circles of overcooking in the middle. Once the time is up, run them under the cold tap for a minute to stop them cooking before shelling them. Cut them lengthways in half.
When the lentils have become soft, and the whole thing is looking nice and thick, turn off the heat and add the garam masala and salt. Taste, and do any adjustments- if you want yoghurt, stir it through now. Add the eggs, let it sit for just a minute to all come together, then serve.

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