Saturday, June 8, 2013

Garam Masala Amchoor Dal Poppadoms

North Indian Spice Mix and Sour Mango Spice Lentils on Poppadoms!

     Packages of pre-made sun dried poppadoms are available at Indian markets and they are a nice convenience.  Traditional Indian poppadoms are less than 1/16" thick  and they are about 5" in diameter.  Wheat flour and rice flour are sometimes part of a poppadom dough recipe, but gram flour (chickpea flour) is usually the main dough ingredient.  The thin pappadoms are shaped and then sun dried for later use.  Dried poppadoms are often crumbled into stews and used as a thickener.  Dried poppadoms can be served plain, but they taste bland. 
     Dal usually refers to split pulses of any kind (lentils), but dal can also refer to many kinds of beans or peas.  The word before dal specifies what kind of bean or lentil it is.  Toor dal is dried yellow pigeon peas.  Mung dal refers to mung beans.  Masoor dal refers to red lentils, but sometimes is refers to brown lentils.  Brown lentils are Spanish lentils.  Brown lentils are eaten in India, but red lentils are the most popular.  Brown lentils are more popular in western world cuisines.  There really is no specific word for brown lentil in the Indian language, so they are called masoor dal, brown dal or just plain old dal.
     Amchoor spice is ground dried sour mango powder.  Amchoor adds a tangy mango flavor to the lentils.  Garam masala is a popular North Indian spice mix that has a warm comfortable flavor.  Turmeric is sometimes added to garam masala.  
     Many Indian recipes are started by frying spice seeds in hot oil or ghee till they pop.  Once the seeds make a popping noise, the oil takes on the spice seed flavor.  Black cumin seed, cumin seed, mustard seed and fennel seed were popped in oil to start this brown lentil recipe. 

     Pan Fried Poppadoms:
     Pre-made packaed sun dried poppadons were used in this recipe.  Sun dried poppadoms can be cooked on a dry grill, brushed with oil or ghee and grilled and they can be pan fried.  Grilled poppadoms become crisp and the surface texture has lots of small dough bubbles.  
     Pan fried poppadoms are tricky to make, because the dried poppadom twists and curls in the hot oil.  Quick hand speed is needed to control the shape of poppadoms when pan frying.  A spatula is used to press the poppadoms flat in the hot oil to prevent the poppadoms curling and folding themselves in half.  After one side of the poppadom is cooked crisp, it is flipped.  As the other side fries crisp, the poppadom becomes a shallow dished out shape.  The dished out shape of a pan fried crisp poppadom is perfect for holding a thick stewed topping.
     Add enough vegetable oil to a cast iron skillet, so the oil 1/8" deep.
     Heat the oil over medium heat.
     Add 1 sun dried poppadom that is 5" in diameter.  
     Immediately press the poppadom with a spatula to prevent it from curling.
     Pan fry till one side becomes crisp and a few brown highlights appear.
     Flip the poppadom.
     Pan fry till the poppadom becomes crisp and toasted.
     Place the pan fried poppadom on a wire screen roasting rack to drain off any excess oil.
     Repeat these steps to make about 9 to 10 pan fried poppadoms.

     Garam Masala Amchoor Dal:
     Many lentil recipes specify that the lentils should not be cooked till they become mushy.  That is a good rule of thumb for recipes where lentils are sprinkled on a salad or rice.  Lentils are often cooked till they become soft and a rich a bean gravy is forms.  In Indian, Persian and Ethiopian cuisine, thick stewed lentils are scooped up with fingers or bread and they are nice for using as a simple topping.  No matter how long lentils are cooked, they lose no nutritional value.
     Brown lentils have a rich earthy flavor that is stronger than red lentils.  Brown lentils go well with Indian spices.
     There is no need to add pepper when using garam masala.  Garam masala has both white pepper and black pepper in the mixture.  Himalayan black salt is a mineral rich ancient sea salt that is mined in the Himalayan Mountain Range near India and Nepal.  Himalayan black salt actually has an opaque whitish pink or orange color and it is not really black.  Hawaiian black salt is the only salt that is naturally black.
     Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of coconut oil or ghee (clarified butter).
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of mustard seeds.
     Add 1 pinch of fennel seeds.
     Add 1 pinch of cumin seeds.
     Add 2 pinches of black cumin seeds.
     Pan fry the seeds, till a popping noise is heard.
     Add 2 minced garlic cloves.
     Add 2 tablespoons of minced onion.
     Add 1 minced green onion.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of minced ginger.
     Saut√© till the onions turn clear in color.
     Add 1 3/4 cups of brown lentils.
     Add enough vegetable broth to cover the lentils with 2" of extra liquid.
     Bring the liquid to a gentle boil.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Simmer till the lentils start to become tender.  Add water if the liquid level drops below the lentils.
     Add Himalayan black salt.  (Use sea salt if none is available.)
     Add 2 tablespoons of chopped roasted red bell pepper.
     Add 2 pinches of Chinese red chile powder.
     Add 1/2 tablespoon of amchoor.  (Ground sour mango powder.)
     Add 1 tablespoon of garam masala.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of turmeric.
     Simmer till the lentils become very soft.
     Mash 1/4 of the lentils in the pot.
     Reduce the temperature to very low heat.
     Simmer till the lentil mixture becomes thick enough to slowly drop from a spoon.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lime juice.
     Keep the garam masala amchoor dal warm on a stove top.

     Garam Masala Amchoor Dal Poppadoms:
     Place about 1 1/2 ounces of garam masala amchoor lentils on each pan fried poppadom.
     Garnish with small cilantro or curly parsley sprigs.
     Place the Garam Masala Amchoor Dal Poppadoms on a serving platter.
     Serve with goat milk yogurt, chutney and lime wedges on the side.

     Nobody ever said that vegan food has to be raw vegetables or boring.  Garam Masala Amchoor Dal Poppadoms have plenty of flavor and they can be served as a mezze platter, appetizer or entree.  Yum!  ...  Shawna

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