Friday, November 6th.
Burrrrr! I have officially pulled out my well-loved fuzzy socks from their long hibernation in the back of my closet drawer. While the mornings have already become bone-chilling, the sun has risen to warm the Earth... no longer. Now, the sun has turned cold towards humankind in their great stupidity.
Ok, I'm just kidding. But seriously...
Anyways, to continue... the sun had warmed the northern part of California where I live, and made the days a pleasantly warm temperature. For the past couple of weeks, and even yesterday, Thursday, I sat outside for lunch and some of my afternoon classes.
Today, the cold-spirited wind blew. Today, there was no sitting outside and enjoyment of beautiful weather. It was time to bust out my first highly anticipated warming bowl...
- Cauliflower and Red Lentil Dhal -
After a wholly crazy and upsetting week—a combination of my own life and the world at present—today brought a blessed blanket of tranquility and stability over my head. A little bit of sanity has been restored to my head... don't be surprised if it disappears just as soon...
Tonight, my schedule was even closer to Julie's than two weeks ago Friday. Actually no, correction: I started earlier, at 7:15 pm, the recipe just took loooonger. Time flies right through my fingers, I have realized, when I am cooking. Where did that hour and 45 minutes go? I was asking myself at 9:00 pm, with the rice and dhal sitting warm on the table in glass containers... what happened to it?
How was Julie able to wait to eat until so late? Hunger was screaming at me right in the face by 8:15 pm.
My dad had picked up some panda express for dinner. I kept telling myself not to eat that orange chicken... I mean... if I was spending all this time making a delicious meal, I had to save my appetite to eat it! What a whole lot of patience it took.
While my family was eating the fried chinese food, I was just starting cooking my rice.
In the recipe picture, it showed Ella eating her dhal in 1-1 proportion with brown rice. Yes, I'm extra. I had to make rice to go with the dhal.
My rice-cooking expertise: absolutely terrible.
2/3 of the times I have made rice I have burned it. 1/2 of those times it was inedible. 1/3 of those times it was modestly edible. What I have learned: the cooking time given on the back of the rice bag is not accurate. That's why, tonight I referred to the handy cooking chart of grains and lentils at the back of the Oh She Glows cookbook for cooking my basmati rice. The way she gave, the rice took 15 minutes to cook and didn't burn. The way the bag gave, the rice took 40 minutes to cook and burned. I wonder which way I will be using for future cooking of rice...
With the rice simmering, I skimmed through the dhal recipe. Adding up the cooking time for each step, I had a nasty realization... it wasn't going to be ready for at least 50 minutes, not including the time for prep work! I really wondered if I would be able to hold out that long...
Chopping the onion, carrots and garlic flew; and once they were in the pot and the cooking process was started, I felt a little better. These vegetables had to cook on their own for 15 minutes, before adding the spices to cook for another 5 minutes; and then finally the lentils, apricots and coconut milk to cook for a final 30 minutes.
I was worried that the minutes would drag on in waiting for it to be done cooking.
Turned out: There was absolutely no dragging.
I was kept busy preparing the ingredients to be added in the next step. And once everything was in the pot and cooking, it was on to cutting and roasting the cauliflower. Between intervals, glancing at the timer, I was amazed at how many minutes had gone by.
What I have learned: Once the cooking process has started, all track of time is lost and becomes insignificant.
After putting the cauliflower in the oven, I realized the dhal needed to be stirred constantly to prevent it from sticking to the saucepan. Stirring, and adding additional dashes of coconut milk along the way, I missed the ten minute mark on the timer that I had told myself I would take the cauliflower out at. Phew: It was totally fine, and after taking it out of the oven, I added it to the dhal. I had reached the final 5 minutes!
I always find it interesting watching the progression of the cooking process. By the final 5 minutes, the lentils had expanded and the texture had become really thick and sticky—it was difficult mixing the cauliflower into the pot—I had to add another slick of coconut milk in order for the cauliflower to be able to blend in.
It felt like a great accomplishment when the timer went off. I had made it. I had waited it out. I was so proud.
The perfectly done rice I had already fluffed and transferred to a container. The dhal smelled wonderful with its strong mix of spices. It's surprising that I had never made or eaten dhal before—this was my very first experience.
I loved it so much. It's a shame that I haven't eaten Indian food in a while. I love this cuisine; one of the reasons being the spiciness and heat of each dish. From the first bite, I felt an incredible warmth and tingling that spread all the way to my toes. The spice in this dish was relatively modest, and even verging more on the sweet side from the addition of apricots. This would be perfect for those with a low spice intolerance—like my dad, and maybe even my sister. It is a good meal for everyone. I can definitely see why this dish is one of Ella's staples.
My brother—who got home at 9:15 from gymnastics practice (right when I was sitting down to eat)—was the only other person to try the dhal. I wasn't actually there when he ate, since by the time he had showered and come down, I had already gone up to my room to write this post. In the morning, however, he told me, "That stuff was really good." That stuff. Haha. You bet it was! I am looking forward to my lunch today—the leftovers!
The rice went nicely with the dish—I really do love the nutty texture of brown rice—it was the perfect complement to this creamy, sticky dhal.
This is one of the first of a multitude of warming bowls I have planned to cook over the next couple of cold months. This one couldn't have been a better one to start off with, and my anticipation is high for the rest to come...
Also, there is another dhal recipe in The First Mess cookbook which I might just give a try as well after the success of this one!
Any lovers of hot spices and Indian food out there?