Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Dhal and Spicy Corn Cakes

The bleak weather continues in a most unspringlike fashion with gales and storms and nothing like sunshine ever brightening the day. Really needed something to cheer us up a little - and spicy is seldom a mistake. Dhal is a wonderfully comforting food - vaguely porridgey in its consistency it is good to eat hot, warm or cold - and somehow takes on a different guise at each temperature. I like to mix spinach and fresh chopped coriander through before serving to add another flavour and texture to the finished dish.

The corn fritters come from a recipe of Charmain Solomon's The Complete Asian Cookbook. I bought my copy of this book more than twenty years ago - and though battered and stained it is still one of my favourite cookbooks. Both dishes are essentially cupboard standbys - and the leftovers make for a lovely lunch when the next day turns out bleak again.

Dhal with Spinach and Coriander

250g/8oz red lentils
1 1/2 tbspns ghee or oil
1 large onion, finely sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tbspn fresh ginger, grated
1/2 tspn ground turmeric
3 cups hot water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 tspn garam masala
125g/4oz spinach
bunch of fresh coriander, chopped

Wash and drain lentils. Heat the ghee in a heavy based pan and fry onion, garlic and ginger gently for about 15 minutes, until the onion is golden. Add turmeric and stir well. Add drained lentils, stir fry for a minute to coat with oil and aromatics then add the hot water and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 15-20 minutes. Add salt and garam masala and continue cooking till lentils are soft and porridgey. Mix the spinach through and cook for a few minutes till wilted, then stir through the chopped coriander and serve.

Spicy Corn Fritters

375g/12oz whole kernel corn
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 cup ground rice (this adds crispness, but use plain flour if you don't have any)
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cummin
1/4 teaspoon laos powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
pinch salt
1 stalk celery
scant 1/2 cup water
1 egg, beaten
1/2 teaspoon dried shrimp paste (trasi) optional
squeeze lemon juice
oil for frying

Sift flour, ground rice, baking powder, salt, coriander, cummin, laos and chilli powder into a bowl. Quarter the onion and cut into very thin slices. Crush the garlic to a smooth paste with a little salt. Chop celery finely.

Mix together the water, beaten egg, trasi and lemon juice and add to the flour mixture, beating until smooth. Stir in the corn, onion garlic and celery. Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan to a depth of 12mm (1/2 inch). When oil is hot drop mixture by the large tablespoon into the oil, spreading with the back of the spoon to make a circle about 7.5cm (3 inches) across. Fry until underside of the fritter is golden then turn with tongs and fry the other side. Lift out and drain on absorbent paper placed on a wire rack. Keep warm in a low oven while you cook the rest of the batter in batches till it is all done.

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