confessions-of-a-cumin-junkie Recipes

recipes from a cumin junkie

Considering that I was on a two year extended Indian cooking kick before I started this site, I find it odd that I have included but one Indian-spiced recipe in the time since. I’m not sure if others do this, but I tend to go in and out of food crazes — currently, the absolutely only thing I want to eat after the gym is tofu pad thai, which doesn’t sound so horrible until you consider that I hit the gym three times a week, and no doubt reverse its effects just as often. I’ve gone through similar phases with poached eggs (atop anything), dinners of asparagus and roasted tiny red potatoes (only), dumplings, and for two torturous months of Alex’s life, a certain Belgian Endive and Grain Mustard salad of Nigella Lawson’s I fiended for, even first thing in the morning.

red split lentils with cabbage

The Indian cooking bender was no different. What I loved was that you would take the simplest ingredients and render them into hearty, filling and unbelievably healthy dishes, and blow your expectations of lentils out of the water. Their fiscal smarts also cannot be overlooked. Once we’d bought the six or seven spices we continually came back to, we’d stand flabbergasted at the register as our lentils, cauliflower, potatoes and peas came to a mere $5 — and created leftovers that were as good if not better than they were the first day. But the real Indian food addiction was those spices; once they got under my skin (and permanently stained several cooking implements), I couldn’t stop itching for more of them. I became, excruciatingly enough, a cumin seed junkie.

indian spiced cauliflower and potatoes

Two dishes from Sunday night brightly display cumin seed’s prowess. The former is actually the first Indian recipe I cooked for us; it was a undeniable hit and I’ve come back to it more than a dozen times since. I could eat it for days, and this week, with any luck, I just might. The second is from a Madhur Jaffrey cookbook I’m ashamed to admit I haven’t used more often in the two years I’ve owned it. I hadn’t liked the first recipe I’d tried from there, and avoided its space on the bookshelf since. Well, this nonsense was kicked to the curb Sunday night, because the red lentils and cabbage are phenomenal, and I might just cut off this entry right now so I can get to scooping up the leftovers. Eerily, this is a gym night — might it be good enough to rescue me from Pad Thailand, and perchance, bounce my logged gym hours back into the progress zone?

cucumber scallion raita

Why the gratuitous pomegranate picture? When hunting through the fridge this weekend in search of food to apply eyes to, inspired by Amy Sedaris’ Craft Challenge, (what? I have hobbies!) I found this sad rock of a pomegranate Alex bought months and months ago, but when I opened it up, it looked as bejeweled and stunning as new. Also, as delicious.

Red Split Lentils With Cabbage (Masoor dal aur band gobi)
Madhur Jaffrey, Indian Cooking

Serves 4 to 6

200 grams (1 1/4 cups) red split lentils (masoor dal), picked over, washed and drained
1.2 liters (5 cups) water
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 to 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 medium onion, peeled and cut into fine slices
225 grams (1/2 pound) cored and finely shredded cabbage
1 to 2 fresh, hot green chilies, finely sliced
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 medium tomato, peeled (ahem, Deb did not peel her tomato) and finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon peeled, finely grated fresh ginger

Put the lentils and water into a heavy pot and bring to a boil. Remove any scum that collects at the top. Add the turmeric and stir to mix. Cover, leaving the lid very slightly ajar, turn heat down to low, and simmer gently for 1 1/4 hours. Stir a few times during the last 30 minutes.

When the lentils cook, heat the oil in a 20 to 23 centimeter (8 to 9 inch) frying pan over medium heat. When hot, put in the cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for 3 to 4 seconds. Now put in the garlic. As soon as the garlic pieces begin to brown, put in the onion, cabbage and green chilies. Stir and fry the cabbage mixture for about 10 minutes or until it begins to brown and turn slightly crisp. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the salt. Turn off the heat under the frying pan.

When the lentils have cooked for 1 1/4 hours, add the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoon salt, the tomato and ginger to the pot. Stir to mix. Cover and cook another 10 minutes. Add the cabbage mixture and any remaining oil in the frying pan. Stir to mix and bring to a simmer.

Simmer uncovered for 2 to 3 minutes or until the cabbage is heated through.

Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes
Gourmet, February 2004

1 (1 3/4-lb) head cauliflower, cut into 3/4-inch-wide florets
1 1/4 lb Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 teaspoons minced fresh jalapeño, including seeds
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup water

Accompaniment: lemon wedges

Put oven rack in upper third of oven and place a shallow baking pan on rack. Preheat oven to 475°F.

Toss cauliflower and potatoes together in a bowl with 3 tablespoons oil, cumin seeds, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Spread in hot baking pan and roast, stirring occasionally, until cauliflower is tender and browned in spots and potatoes are just tender, about 20 minutes.

While vegetables are roasting, cook onion, garlic, jalapeño, and ginger in remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until very soft and beginning to turn golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Add ground cumin, coriander, turmeric, cayenne, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring constantly, 2 minutes. Stir in water, scraping up any brown bits from bottom of skillet, then stir in roasted vegetables. Cook, covered, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.

Makes 4 side-dish servings.

Cucumber Scallion Raita

1/4 cup finely chopped English (seedless cucumber)
1 thinly sliced scallion
3/4 cup yogurt
1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix!

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115 comments on recipes from a cumin junkie

  1. These recipes look amazing. I love Indian food. LOVE love love it. Thank you so much for this. I wonder if the lentil dish could be made with black split lentils. I have a bag of urad dal in my cupboard that I got to use in a recipe ages ago and ever since I’ve been trying to figure out what to do with them. DO you know if the color of the lentil has any bearing on the flavor, or is it completely aesthetic?

  2. deb

    Hi Grant — I feel like you could (it has a tremendously long cooking time, so I am sure it would be sufficient for even whole lentils; the red were split so broke down almost completely) but as I am just beginning to understand the subtle differences between all the glorious dals, I don’t feel I can say it with any authority. I hope someone else will pipe up!

  3. mary

    That lentil and cabbage recipe looks excellent! Hopefully it will increase my indian repertoire from 1 to 2 dishes! Instead of roasted potatoes and cauliflower, I made Aloo Gobi, except I add in chicken and diced tomato to make it more of a Tikka Aloo Gobi Masala. It’s INCREDIBLE! I got the recipe from this site:
    http://www.richardsnotes.org/archives/2004/03/29/aloo-gobi/

    Unfortunately I have to skip on the majority of things that make the dish spicy due to my boyfriend’s intolerance for it.

  4. Great recipes. I’ve been trying to learn to love cauliflower, and one of the ways that I can stand to eat it is with Indian spices and tomato sauce. I’ll try your recipe, too — maybe with some extra hot peppers to help me over the cauliflower hump!

  5. glad you tried madhur jaffrey again. that’s how i first learned how to cook indian, and it’s still a trusty source for yummy indian-inspired dishes (rather than traditional ones you get at a restaurant). i highly recommend green beans with mustard seeds and cabbage and peas dish (add carrots for color and sweetness)– i make those two often and they are always a hit.

    and jaffrey is a cumin seed junkie too. just put cumin seeds in hot oil for a few seconds, and add just about anything and it’s magical. i also recommend her recently released autobiography, under the mango trees, although i would strongly recommend you have some indian-inspired snacks with you (you will have a craving for indian food/spices). plus there are more (homestyle) recipes on the back.

  6. rob

    Deb, I know exactly where you’re coming from when you talk about what I call “streak eating.” I’m happy making/eating the same dish over and over, day after day, until I’m sick of it. This often takes months. My wife, unfortunately, is having none of that, so I’ve been reduced to eating something different for every meal. One of the few consolations of my wife visiting her parents is that I can make the same thing for dinner every night for several consecutive nights. Oddly enough, I’ve developed a Thai fixation lately, too: panang curry with tofu. Luckily, it’s close enough that I can zip by for lunch. Two or three times a week, of course.

  7. Deb…I’m not allowing B near this post. You’re a dangerous woman. If he saw those pictures of the Indian dishes, I wouldn’t hear, “Cook that now” as it was stated when you posted about Grapefruit Poundcake, it would be “Get in the car, we’re going shopping.” Thankfully, he’s out of town. I think I’ll surprise him with this dish next week when he’s back from training. Now, if you could just post about Na’an we’d be fine and dandy!

  8. You know what’s crazy is that just last night I made my first attempt at a very non-traditional Indian inspired dish: black lentils on one half of the bowl, cauliflower cooked with grains and nuts on the other. After enjoying what was an amazingly delicious and amazingly healthy (healthy beyond belief for the flavor) and amazingly simple dish to prepare, I vowed to learn how to cook Indian food…. if only I had the resources – and felt frustrated I couldn’t seem to remember the name of the author that wrote That Fabulous Healthy Indian Food Book I had heard so much about (Madhur Jaffrey indeed). Just goes to show you there’s cosmic order!

    Thanks for delicious recipe! Yum, will definitely have to try now

  9. I have made the Cauliflower and Potato dish before, and nearly burst a seam from loving it so much. I am a confessed Indian spice junkie too. When I bought the spices they permeated my spice cabinet intensely, making me swoon when I even got within 5 feet of it.

    I love the looks of that lentil and cabbage dish, and with all those ingredients on hand, I may just have to make this. My thought on red lentils was that they cooked quickly and this recipe shows a long cooking time. I imagine they are completely broken down and thick by the time they are done?

  10. Ani

    My brother made Indian for us on Sunday, and one of the dishes was similiar to your Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes. Mmmm! And Armenians eat a dish similar to Cucumber Scallion Raita but we put garlic in ours.

  11. I. Love. You. for this post.

    My boss came over from India when he was about 18 (25 years or so ago), and brings loads of spices back with him each year. I’ve been on an Indian food cooking kick for the last ten days or so, and when I mentioned it to him he asked me where I got my spices. I had to shamefully admit that they are from the local grocery store.

    He walked into my office the next day with four ziploc bags, each FULL TO THE BRIM of spices–tumeric, cumin seeds, and home-made-from-his-mother-in-India Garam Masala, each in a stuffed-to-the-brim sandwich-sized bag, and one GALLON-SIZED bag of ground coriander.

    My kitchen has NEVER smelled this good.

    And he’s bringing me saffron when he gets back from this trip.

    !!

  12. ann

    I see a binge of Indian cooking in my future too. I started Jhumpa Lahiri’s ‘The Namesake’ today. Whenever I read Indian lit (which I LUV) I always go on a curry bender. Good stuff, and good for you!

  13. Celeste

    If you ever want to go on a Spanish rice bender, let’s talk. It’s my most favorite thing and it starts out with cumin seeds in hot oil. To me that’s the single best smell in a kitchen.

  14. Cupcakes

    We call cumin the “sweaty mexican ” spice.

    Im a big fan of cumin myself. Although on the mexican side of cooking. Unfortunately living in this part of california im not exposed to a lot of Indian cooking.. which is ashame, im sure Id love it. I am going to make the cauliflower dish (try).. sounds totally yum.

    I do have 1 original pasta salad dish i make that has curry and yogurt in it.. does that count?

    Made the pound cake last night.. holy sh** was it good.
    Made the floppy pancakes over the weekend… I had a “guest” over.. he loved them.(sorry tim, ive moved on)

    Do you get Gourmet magazine? They had a broccoli custard /quiche kinda dish that looks AMAZING… I saw it and was like… ooo i bet Deb would like this.. (providing you like lil green trees)

    In closing, Id like to apologize to any sweaty mexicans reading this post. I meant no offense.

  15. First, I love Indian food. I went through a period when I at least talked about making curry at least once a week, bought several different types of curry and actually ended up making salmon curry. It was a crazy time.

    Second, food phases! Oh, yes. Food phases. Right now, it’s all about the cream cheese. Bagels? Yes, please. On toast with strawberry rhubarb jam? Oh, honey, yes. Before that it was my bread making phase, which, thankfully ended after two months and much too much flour used. But, as it turns out, one bread survived. The no-knead bread has now become “that bread you make that turns out well.” And so I make it often, and, yes, it turns out well.

    …now I want Indian food…

    Third, totally random, but I see a post from Sara, The Wine Maker’s Wife…so I have to sign-off as Sarah, Girlfriend to Wine Guy

  16. SLW

    Given the intricacies of Indian cooking, the enormous regional specialties and ingredients, as well as the variables in how and when to temper those ingredients, I am always left me wondering why this cuisine is not among the greats of the world, up there with the French, Italian and Chinese. Having said that, cumin also features prominently in North African cuisine, notably in Leblebi, a Tunisian chickpea soup that not only uses a generous amount of cumin in the stock, but among the many garnishes that adorn this hearty, easy dish. Thanks for the recipes and the great photos. The pomegranate seeds really rock.

  17. Alice

    After reading this set of recipes yesterday, I ran to the grocery store and then home to make the Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes. They were divine. I fancy myself an adventurous cook, but have always been intimidated by Indian cuisine. That fear is gone! In my humble experience, cauliflower has never tasted better!
    (I paired this dish with Lemon Oregano Roasted Chicken and a green salad.)
    Thank you for sharing and I love your blog!

  18. sparky

    I’m relatively new to the site, but I thought I would chime in about this recipe after making the lentils last night.

    Overall it was very good. It is realtively easy to make, and it calls for very simple and inexpensive ingredients. My main issue was the cooking of the cabbage. Based on the instructions, I was expecting a somewhat crisp/browned cabbage. However, I ended up with softer cabbage that was cooked through but not at all brown/crispy. I’m not sure it it was because I was cooking at too low of a temp (I was in the med-med-high range). It didn’t seem to impact the flavor of the dish, but I think a little bit of crispness would have added a lot to the dish’s texture (as an aside, keeping the onion slices thin but long add a nice texture to the dish as well).

    Also, I had to add a bit more ginger than the recipe called for in order to get the flavor to come through. For an indian dish, I didn’t find the spice flavors overpowering, but the subtle flavors of the cumin, chiles (I used medium-spiced jalepenos with the seeds removed), ginger, and turmeric all completement each other quite well.

    Any suggestions for a homemade naan or other easy carby side dish for dipping? I wish I would have got an order from the local indian place, as it would have gone very well with the dinner.

    Thanks for the recipe.

  19. deb

    Mary — Thank you. That recipe looks wonderful, and I bet Alex would love it if I added chicken. (Though I’m stubborn and probably won’t. Tsk.)

    Lydia — I’m moderate about hot peppers, like em but don’t want too much kick, so I use one seeded, minced jalapeno per recipe. I have no doubt a hotter or different chili would stand out more.

    Eunice — I am too! I know she’s wonderful. I fell in love with her when she was on Martha Stewart’s show on the food network in her pre-jail days, showing her/us how to “pop” spices in oil before cooking in a pan. I just didn’t care for her cauliflower dish, but you know what? I shouldn’t have tried it in the first place, considering how much I prefer the one above. I set her up for failure! I can’t wait to work my way through the rest of her lentil recipes, like, now. I must read her autobiography.

    Rob — I actually wish my streak-eating would come more often. I spend too much time not in the mood for quite anything. And damnit, I’m craving pad thai again. I think there’s no hope!

    Kate — We used pitas instead. I know, dull. Though, in my defense, I did make naan once and though I found the recipe lackluster (Bittman, natch) I will definitely do it again soon.

    Jenifer — Hahah. I get that too, all the time. “If you loved me, you’d make me that.” And “why haven’t you made ME mac and cheese with bacon? Huh?” Tiniest violins, I tell you.

    Kat — Hooray for food kick synchrony!

    Susan — Yes. I really love the variety of spices first, the heat second. The flavors are so complex, it gives you something to ponder. When people say they don’t like spicy food, I always want to clarify: serrano peppers or cumin and coriander? I think people usually mean the former, but the latter gets blamed.

    Rachael — Black lentils sound wonderful. I cooked something with them eons ago and now forget what. Obviously, it’s time to try them again.

    Kate — Yes, they are completely broken down. I have slackishly not added a description yet, but keep meaning to. It will mention that.

    Ani — I often do put garlic in, too! And/or herbs. Pretty much, whatever is on hand. Shoot, I forgot to mention that I pat the cucumber dry on paper towels. That’s two mistakes now!

    Bea — I can’t wait!

    GeminiGirl — I second the later comment that your boss is amazing. Much jealousy. Though, I do technically work in a part of the city affectionately called “Curry Hill” and am just steps from Kalustyans, the greatest spice/worldly ingredient store in NY. This makes up for a lot!

    Ms. Tabitha — You far overestimate me! That would be my husband who did it, also called “giving him work to do while he watches Sports Center.” He’s good, eh?

    ann — Oh, do you like that book? I picked her first book for it’s cover before I knew a thing about her and loved it. Shame on me for not reading anything since.

    Celeste — Ooh, Spanish rice? Tell me more.

    Cupcakes — I saw that, but all those packaged ingredients (though they’d be easy to work around) and then commenters saying it was bland (also could be worked around) made me drag my feet. That said, I’ve been itching to make something in this style for a weekend brunch for a while — any egg on a bed of shredded potatoes is awesome. Maybe after vacation…

    Sara, The Wine Makers wife — Thank you.

    Ombra — I am very unfussy about it; I know there are more complicated recipes, but I’m just looking for a dollop of something cooling to contrast the food. Also, it’s usually the last thing I make, thus we’re hungry and I’m rushing so I just throw it together.

    Sarah — I know this sounds ridiculous, consider my post above, but I haven’t fallen in love with curry (the spice) yet. What?! I know. I have two different blends and they’re good, but I only like it as a minority ingredient. Somehow, when things are only spiced with it, they taste a little flat to me. Obviously, it’s just me. A total aside, since you mentioned the bagels and jam: I’ve also fallen into an odd habit of poppy seed bagels on a Saturday with … oh god, I’m admitting it… strawberry cream cheese from the Murrays near us. It tastes like cheesecake. I want more now.

    SLW — I think it’s just perspective, or maybe too many Europeans writing our food tomes! But you’re right, it often doesn’t get the respect that other cuisines do in America — I think that Chinese food has a similar bias against it (that it’s rarely considered high fare), and I do think that it largely is just that — bias. It’s shifting, though; I work near both Devi (a very fancy Indian restaurant) and Tabla (not solely Indian, but it is the flavor focus) and nobody raises an eyebrow in either place about pay in the $20’s for good fare.

    Kitt — That looks delicious! I will have to try it soon.

    Alice — It cured my fear, too! I’m glad you liked it as much.

    sparky — Huh. Now, my cabbage did brown without getting really soggy — I believe I used a pretty high heat) but it did soften up in the lentils. Oddly, I felt it had a strong ginger flavor, but seeing as it’s not my favorite … root? I tend to notice it a lot more. I’m glad you liked it though. I will tackle naan again soon. (I mentioned in another comment that I have made it before, but didn’t choose my recipe well. Tasted good, but lackluster.)

  20. sparky

    Maybe I just need to experiment further with cabbage. I use it often when making dumplings/gyoza/spring rolls, and I’ve never really seen it brown. Usually it just softens/releases moisture.

    One other note about the recipe. I used a small can of crushed tomatoes (no added ingredients, just the tomatoes) in lieu of one fresh tomato with no problem. Useful to know during the many months when finding a decent fresh tomato is virtually impossible.

  21. deb

    Sparky — I should have clarified my answer better. I can absolutely see how and why it would get soggy, in fact, that was my first reaction when I read that step. I think it was more of an anomaly that mine didn’t than that yours did! Crushed tomatoes are a great idea; the tomato we bought was pitiful, and expensive.

  22. SLW

    Yes, it is perspective, and Chinese food does get a bad rap, too. It’s hard for the typical American to appreciate the cuisine as being one of the world’s greatest when most of us know little more of it than a quick pit stop at the ubiquitous take-out place. Fushia Dunlop’s NYTimes Select article of February 18 goes to great length to set the record straight.

    Susan

  23. Ah Madhur Joffrey – I’ve had a slim little volume of hers since the early ’90s, when I was dating an Indian man (and how old does that make me sound?). I’ve attempted the cauliflower recipe once…but it seemed to take all night and naturally I botched it anyway. I’ve had great success with her daals. BUT the one recipe you MUST try is the Dehli-style lamb. Oh. My. God. You will be licking the bowl when you’re done.
    As always, your photos are mouth watering and you could probably sell posters of the pomegranite seeds. And now it’s dinner time. Damnit. Why won’t my kids eat Indian food yet?

  24. Pomegranates are possibly one of the most beautiful foods known to man. It’s like eating rubies or garnets. So gorgeous.

    When I started getting into Indian food, I had to hunt the spices I needed down in the local Arab grocery stores. One day in December I was buying green and black cardamon pods (which actually can look a little like a very, very dark red), and raw cashews (for an amazing cashew almond garlic chutney). The cute Arab guy at the register looked at it, looked at me, and asked me if I were making Christmas potpouri (sp?). Sigh.

  25. firstly great site! I actually work for a billioniare(one of top 10 richest in world). I have only recently started using blogs for recipes and have found quite a few interesting ones here. I find that recipes are more original on blogs and that regular food websites just churn out large volume of mediocre recipes. I used this one while cooking for my boss on his yacht last week and he loved it! when he asked where i had learnt this i didn’t have the guts to tell him it wasn’t mine and just said it was from my repitoire! Sorry!! Feel kinda bad! Maybe steal a recipe from my site and cook it for someone and tell them it’s an old one of your own!! keep up the good work on the site BTW, very impressive!

  26. Chloe

    Deb, thanks for the great tip!! I received the Madhur Jaffrey book when I got married but although I used it a lot – the green pea soup is to die for – I always stayed away from the lentils and cabbage recipes. Not that I really have bad childhood memories about these ingredients but somehow, although I can be an adventurous eater, boiled lentils with cabbage and onions did not seem apetizing to me. Well I tried your whole menu last night and, as you predicted, I woke up this morning craving lentils and cabbage. Served with the raita, it is incredible!!! Thanks! Chloe

  27. Emily

    Thank you thank you thank you! I made both the red lentils with cabbage and the indian spiced cauliflower and potatoes tonight and they were outstanding! Fantastic! My husband declared it the best indian meal I’d ever made, and he was surely right — I liked that both dishes were well spiced but still let the flavors of the underlying ingredients shine through. Both were easy to make, and I can’t wait to have them together for lunch tomorrow. You rule!

  28. Susan

    Ok so I FINALLY made the spicy cauliflower & potato dish, after eyeing it for a year! It’s definitely something I would make again, I really love it (especially with serrano’s from my garden).

  29. Jenna

    oh no! I’ve been reading your blog for ages and ages and somehow missed this post, but I thought I’d found a food twin of sorts – everything I’ve made from smittenkitchen has worked out great and I seem to have pretty much exactly your taste in food. Except cumin. Indian is the only ethnic cuisine I don’t like because I don’t like indian spices! Other than that, I eat everything.
    I just find that cumin kind of tastes like vomit.

  30. ZEN

    Deb,
    I just recently started reading blogs – love all your recipes, and beautiful photos. I do a lot of indian cooking, and make a great cauliflower dish. I don’t know how to get it to you.. if you want to try it out let me know. Would be happy to send it over.

  31. lavande

    Hello Deb,
    I recently started reading your blog and this cauliflower curry is the first recipe I actually tried, in fact just now we finished our lunch and it was really very good. I wasn’t quite sure if I should thank my friend for giving me the link to your blog or scold her for tempting me, but now that I chose to yeild to the temptation and enjoyed it, I can express nothing but gratitude and love. Thank you and keep it going. Hugs

  32. EastBayCA

    Hello! First recipe attempt, first post! The kidney bean curry and this cauliflower/potatoes above. I love the kidney beans!. However, the cauliflower and potatoes didn’t work out so well :( Definitely edible, but kind of dry and didn’t taste full flavored. I tried adding a little extra water at the end and cooking a bit more, but that didn’t help much. After the fact, I realized that I’d misjudged my sizes and chopped both vegetables larger than called for, so I’m wondering if that might be to blame. I really want to try it again because there are so many rave reviews, but I want to know what to do differently. Any suggestions (anyone)?

  33. Ann

    Re the Cauliflower and Potato recipe – Madhur Jaffrey has a slightly different version of this from her Indian Cooking which I have had for about 20 years. It cooks on the top of the stove, uses precooked cold diced potatoes and takes the cauliflower from scratch ( I use a finer floret than Ms Jaffrey suggests). It starts with whole cumin seed which you throw into the hot oil in the frying pan (skillet) for 30 seconds before adding the cauliflower which has been soaked in water for 30 minutes and then well drained and dried before it goes in the pan. Cook on high for 2 minutes, then turn down and cook covered for 6 minutes. Add the potatoes with the spices (turmeric, cayenne, whole roasted cumin, ground cumin, ground coriander which have ground together with the salt and pepper)and green chilli (if you like it hot ). Cook for 2-3 minutes more. Serve.

    If you haven’t got precooked potato, I cook it on the day in its 1 cm dice so it cooks quickly, drain and cool in cold water and it works fine. I too am a cumin addict. Try adding it to the raita it just lifts it no end.

  34. Just made the lentils & cabbage and it was absolutely divine. Tossed a little plain yogurt on top… perfect. I’m trying to get away from meat, meat, meat all the time without losing the really hearty satisfying nature of all my favorite meals, and this absolutely fit the bill. Yum! This is definitely going into the regular rotation. :)

  35. I’m brand new to your blog. When someone recently told me about your Indian kidney bean recipe, I just had to check it out for myself. Ever since a friend and I had spent over four hours preparing a traditional Indian spread from her new cookbook (we must have made 5-6 different dishes plus rice) I’d shied away from cooking Indian myself. But after recently stumbling on a blog http://www.route79.com/food/ I’ve been finding that Indian doesn’t have to be too complicated.

    Your recipes (the lentils/cabbage and raita) were great! I think I accidentally used 1.5 L of water, and plus my stove on low might have been too low, so the lentils were a little diluted and soupy. Still, the flavors came through and were nicely balanced. Can’t wait to try the cauliflower!

  36. Carol

    I just made the Cauliflower and Potato recipe….I didn’t have any cauliflower so I substituted cooked peas. For the potatoes I had some leftover baked potatoes so I just cut them into cubes. So, none of my veggies were roasted but it was sooooo delicious. I’m anxious to try it with the roasted vegetables next time. Thank you so much for this recipe. I had been searching for weeks for a good Indian Spiced Potato recipe and I finely found it. :-) Thank you!

  37. I made the cabbage and red lentils last week using panch phoran spice blend instead of the cumin seed (though it includes cumin) and reducing the oil. It was healthy, yummy, and cheap. Thanks for highlighting the recipe!

  38. Esther

    Thanks for the picture of te Red split lentil with cabbage from Madhur Jaffrey’s book. I just finished making it and I was doubting the end result. The lentils went into a bit of a puree, but I see that’s more or less how yours came out too. I really thought I had to start a third time on the lentils, because the first time I cooked them in too much water (in the pressure cooker) and had to re-use them in a soup (luckily it’s the season for pea soup – typical Dutch). The second time I added just the amount of water the pressure cooker instruction said and the lentils came up in shape, but very soft. Next time I’ll follow the recipe, I swear :-)

  39. SN

    Esther, this reply may be too late, but FWIW dal lentils are supposed to cook up almost to a puree, and then we mash them further for good measure. If they are still “lentil-shaped” that means they need more water and cook time. At least, that’s how it is in my family–some people do let them remain round and firm.

  40. mischa

    Health shops that sell spices by the ounce are a great outlet for stocking up on tons of spices without the huge price tag. I get heaps of curry spice, cumin, and everything else for pennies. That way I can have my curry fix as often as possible without spending loads.

    I’ll be making the spiced cauliflower and potatoes asap!

  41. Rachel

    I LOVE CUMIN. The other night my boyfriend and I were hovering over a little pot of tasty lamb pilaf and trying to decide how much cumin to add. One of us pointed out “Have you ever eaten something and thought, ‘hmm, I wish there was less cumin in this’?” The answer was no. More cumin went in. We’re almost through our second little bottle.

  42. I think I get the most satisfaction out of cooking Indian food out of all cuisines – it feels like a bit of magic to be able to combine so many varied spices and end up with such harmonious dissonance. I clicked into this post after making your recent chana masala – too bad I didn’t peek sooner and fix these alongside. I love your blog – I can search for most anything I want to fix and find a reliable recipe, and your writing is infectious. (:

  43. Hali

    I made the rajmah and it is delicious!
    I could eat it for days, and I probably will since I
    am the only serious indian cuisine lover in the household.
    The next dish I am going to try is the red lentil and cabbage.
    I bought the lentils and cabbage but I forgot to get
    cumin seeds.
    Love your recipes and your blog!
    Hali in Ontario~

  44. I just discovered your blog and have been silently reading your postings. You do a great job and I am already a fan :)
    Last night I cooked your Indian Spiced Cauliflower and Potatoes dish. It came out perfect!
    Thank you!
    Lokuma

  45. emily

    i made this for the first time tonight as a(n uncharacteristically complex) midnight snack, and it was absolutely *phenomenal*. i am a south asian food fiend/purist, and you nailed this recipe. i was skeptical of the use of jalapeno but minced it finely, and the heat was perfect without lending unwanted flavor. hats off! can’t wait to make another of your indian food/cumin-lover recipes… hopefully next time *before* 11pm.

  46. Susan

    We had Tandoori style chicken tonight for dinner, so I added the cauliflower potato dish as a side. It’s really, really good, Deb. We loved the spice and the little afterburn from the jalapeno. I have never really cared for cauliflower. (You think you’ve got food issues? Meet, Me!) The roasting seems to really take that gritty, watery texture away and firm it up a little. Those creamy Yukons with it helped too.. Thanks for this. Delicious!

  47. fullheartandbelly

    Absolutely yummy! I tried to make a wetter, more intense version to have as a sauce with rice. I doubled everything except the cauliflower and potatoes, and threw in some yogurt at the end. I also tossed in one cardamom pod and a tiny sprinkle of fresh grated cinnamon stick. I substituted red bliss potatoes and habanero for the yukons and jalapeno because that’s what I had on hand. It turned out amazing! It would probably also make a great soup if you just pureed the whole lot in a blender, but there wasn’t enough left over to try that with. Next time! Thanks for such a versatile and forgiving recipe!

  48. Rebekah

    Oh my goodness. I just made the cauliflower (no potatoes, so I tossed in some peas instead for the last 5 minutes). Best thing to cross my tongue in a while.

  49. The Indian Foodie

    Hi Deb,
    Here’s my first comment ever…i’m used to hovering around food blogs…i know it sounds creepy…bt i never stopped by to comment..its almost lunch time and ur recipes r bringing water to my mouth…..ur recipes r quite similar to what i cook at home…..I usually skip the ginger garlic and add a chpped tomato and some garam masala to this…i’ll try ur version soon…will let u know hw it turned out….

  50. Hi Deb,
    Any suggestions for an Indian spinach dish? I have a favorite chicken tikka masala recipe that I do, and I always feel the need to make a complimentary Indian dish that involves greens. I’ve tried a couple random saag paneer recipes in the past but they are always turn out on the blah side. Maybe you know of a good one? Thanks!

  51. foodisgood

    If you want the same cucumber raita to have a smoky flavor, dry roast a tsp or so of cumin seeds (they’ll crackle and pop, which is fun, but turn off your smoke alarm), crush with a flat wooden spoon and sprinkle on top as a garnish. Alternately, you can heat a tsp of safflower oil, toss the cumin seeds in for a few seconds, and add the sizzling mixture to your raita. And you know what else can be really good as a garnish? Pomegranate (which my mother does all the time)! The colors will be gorgeous. One last thing: if you’re from the Tamil region of south India, there is no yogurt without rice. Mix in some cooked rice into your raita (red or black rice would be fun options) and make a meal of it on a warm summer day.

  52. Carrie

    I’ve been on a subcontinental rampage for the past couple of weeks (launched by your Chana Masala…I used too much lemon, but I think next time I’ll also add some bay leaf and cilantro…it wasn’t quite to my taste). I LOVE Indian, and I’m fortunate enough to live in Berkeley, CA so I have access to great restaurants and super-fresh, cheap spices (organic ground cumin, for example, is 80 cents an ounce).

    I’m very interested in finding good Indian recipes I can convert to vegan (and work with as little salt as possible). I can’t tolerate dairy the way I used to, but a little almond butter goes a long way towards making sauces creamy. I’m addicted to creamy, so it’s fantastic to find non-creamy Indian recipes I can get into, thank you.

    I (sort of) made the lentil and cabbage dish, and I’ve eaten almost half the pot all by myself. I did a few critical things differently:
    1) I didn’t have red lentils, and I needed to use up about a quart of chickpeas which were about to get opinionated, so I reboiled them with the turmeric and pureed them with enough water to fake it. I’m looking forward to trying it with real lentils, BUT this worked just fine for comparable texture and can probably be done out of cans in a pinch.
    2) I didn’t use any salt whatsoever. I got hooked on the white stuff back in the 80s; sometimes I salt my own bowl, but I never salt the pot because I am not to be trusted. This recipe is fabulous either way, and I intend to abuse it.
    3) I used 2 frozen Roma tomatoes. They thaw pretty quickly when buried in boiling goo, but they do require a little hunt-and-smash. I try to buy organic, so I buy sacksfull of tomatoes when they’re on sale and stick them directly in the freezer (saves time, skins keep them sealed from freezer burn). IMPORTANT NOTE: Do not drop on toes. That was an even worse idea than the time I wore an elastic waistband around a toddler who was trying to get my attention.

  53. toucan

    The lentils with cabbage was really good. The chana masala was good, but still not as good as when I go to the restaurant. Still searching for the right way to prepare this.

  54. emma

    I loved the cauliflower and potatoes! It was perfect- the baking caramelized the cauliflower adding the perfect flavour (I left them in longer than suggested). A definite repeat! Thanks!

  55. I love this so much!

    Just used a big old head of cauliflower without the potatoes, kept everything else the same. I didn’t have whole cumin seeds so used ground instead… not as good I know, but delicious all the same.

    I’ve made it with peas added at the end, also good!

  56. Kelly

    I made the lentils with cabbage, but I wound up ladling off an extra cup or cup and a half of the cooking liquid before adding the tomatoes and ginger as it seemed that is would essentially be a soup. In the picture, the texture seems thicker. Now I’m wondering what I did wrong. In the end it was delicious, but is it possible I used the wrong lentils. Or does is start out soupy and then tighten up with time?

  57. Beth

    I’ve been lurking for a while, but haven’t commented yet. I must comment on this, though! I made this menu for dinner tonight, and WOW, it was fantastic! Every other Indian dish I’ve attempted has come out tasting like an American trying to make Indian food. This was the first Indian meal I’ve made that came out tasting authentic – my husband is extremely picky, and he pronounced it delicious. Thank you so much, Deb! (I only made it because I took my 3 year old grocery shopping, and somehow managed to come home with three heads of cauliflower).

    You wouldn’t happen to have a good chicken tikka masala recipe, would you? I’d imagine it would be a bit of a pain, but it’s so yummy when done well!

  58. sarah

    FYI, the lentils freeze beautifully – even the cabbage keeps its integrity well enough. I made a double batch now we’ve got several lentils-for-two dinners waiting in the freezer for days when cooking isn’t feasible.

  59. Barb

    I live in a rural area and couldn’t find turmeric at the grocery store! I went ahead anyway and prepared a delicious meal that everyone thoroughly enjoyed. I stirred some tomato paste into the lentil/cabbage dish at the end of the cooking time to give it a bit of color; I thought the extra tomato flavor gave some added zip. The Potatoes with Cauliflower was scrumptious and the Raita was a perfect accompaniment. I served a store-bought Naan bread that was surprisingly good.

    Thanks for these great Indian recipes. More! Please, more!

  60. Veronica

    This dish is just amazing and comes out like totally perfect every. single. time. I, too, am slowly but surely becoming a cumin junkie – would love to see more Indian recipes around :)

  61. Janice

    This is so wonderful!! Thanks to you, I have enjoyed two fantastic Indian veggie meals this week! Thank you so much for sharing your beautiful recipes.

  62. Deb

    Hi Deb,
    I love the look of your recipes!
    I’m going to make the Chana Masala and the cauliflower and potato dish for a yoga potluck this weekend. I can’t wait to try them both.
    Thanks for sharing. :)
    Deb

  63. Yantar

    Nice. Easy to follow. Great mix of fried and roasted. Came out excellent. Made the chana masala yesterday, but tossed in some greens (kale) with the onions in a deeper skillet. My cauliflower and potato dish didn’t come out as creamy looking as in the picture, but I added nothing like cream or yoghurt, just stuck to the recipe as is. Really enjoyed it, spicy but not overly so.

  64. Lea

    Gahhhh! I just made the cauliflower potatoes and it was ridiculously good. It reminds me of my fav take out restaurants in Brooklyn, S’Nice, which does curry cauliflower wraps. Needless to say I will be eating this for lunch tomorrow in the form of a delicious wrap. Thanks for the recipe!

  65. Melissa

    When I make the roast cauliflower and potatoes, I use coconut oil in place of veg or olive and less. The slight nuance of coconut is brilliant with the rest of these ingredients.

  66. Fen

    Love, love, LOVE the cauliflower and potatoes! I made it a few weeks ago and barely stopped myself from wolfing down the whole thing in one go. Planning to make it again this weekend and I’m super excited!

  67. Mic

    I made both the lentils and the cauliflower for dinner tonight. My husband wolfed down two large bowls and declared “I think this is the kind of food I was meant to eat.” He’s Jewish, so go figure. I’ve made your roasted cauliflower with cumin seeds before but like this version the best.

  68. Elinor Dashwood

    I made these three recipes in December, and they were wonderful. I think I must have tripled them, because there was a ton of leftovers. After we snarfed leftovers for about three days, I froze the remainders to see what happened. The cauliflower and potatoes, defrosted and reheated, was kind of mushy and awful; the masoor dal was BETTER THAN FRESH. How weird is that? But it was true. I’m cooking the C&P (my favorite of the two) again today, but I didn’t think of it in time to make the dal again.

  69. Alex

    I made this last night for a dinner with family and friends. Honestly, I just needed to use up my cauliflower which is a small reason I chose this recipe. I’ve always loved indian food, but have never cooked any. This recipe was DELICIOUS. I received so many compliments from it, and will definitely be making this again many times. It was really nice to have the cucumber scallion raita with it to offset the heat. Thanks for the recipe!

  70. Melba

    Deb… I recently started my own Indian cooking binge and on your recommendations made the Madhur Jaffrey Red Lentils with Cabbage.
    Wow!!! and I mean Wow!!!
    Everything about this dish is a revelation. From the beautiful jewel like red lentils, to the scent of butter popped cumin seeds with garlic, the texture of the cabbage, cooked but still a bit firm in the daal, the entire dish plays on all senses. Serve with chapatis and yogurt.
    I too was a bit turned off to Jaffrey’s book when I first got it, but I realize now this was my own prejudice. There wasn’t a long enough ingredient list!!! Well fool I am because I happen to like her spice balances best of all.
    Thanks again for your website.

  71. Shellie

    Made both of these last night. In my opinion, I thought the red lentils with cabbage was just so-so, nothing too “wow” — though so many others in the comments have raved, so I’m gonna chalk that up to a fluke (especially considering that I didn’t follow the recipe precisely). But, on the other hand, the cauliflower and potatoes. OH, the cauliflower and potatoes. SO DELICIOUS. The flavor pops, the texture of the veggies is perfect, the color is gorgeous. This one is definitely going into the regular rotation. Note that I didn’t have jalapenos so I subbed bell pepper (a larger amount for extra healthy veggies) and upped the amount of cayenne. Deb, as usual, thanks for the phenomenal recipe!

  72. Liz

    For the cauliflower and potatoes, I just tried mashing up 4 Pakistani Dundicuts in a mortar and pestle and adding them instead of jalapenos. Fantastic! A bag of them is under $3 at Penzey’s, and mashing them up never makes my skin burn like cutting fresh hot peppers can.

  73. Cara

    I made the cauliflower/potato dish and it was SO AMAZING! I used one jalapeno but only used about 8 or so seeds and a teeny bit of the ribs. I’m a wimp and my love of all things hot/spicy sort of left my palate after my second pregnancy. So instead of 1/4 tsp cayenne I just gave a sprinkle of the stuff, and I used 5 cloves garlic instead of 2 (my standard thing to do whenever garlic is listed as an ingredient). It was so yummy and I will definitely make it again! Thanks Deb!!

  74. Jenny

    Hello! I’m planning on making the cabbage & lentil dish soon, but I don’t have red lentils, and can’t find them since I’m living abroad in a place where lentils don’t seem too popular. What changes do I need to make to substitute brown lentils? To be more specific, do I need to change the amount of water they cook in and will the cooking time be different? Thank you!

  75. HoS

    Hey Deb — you should add this one to the cabbage section of the recipes index! I often make a version of this recipe, but never arrive at it by looking at your index :) Thanks!

  76. Deb — this post/comment is about the lentil cabbage dal/curry. You must be thinking of the Tangy Shredded Cabbage Salad from the “everyday yellow dal” post, which, as I now see, is not in the cabbage section of the recipe index either. (Any prize for knowing your archives so frighteningly well? :)

    But since you bring it up — my mother always made that cabbage salad with shredded carrots and tomatoes added in, and it is fantastic that way. Another of her preparations that I love is finely sliced green beans, steamed and mixed with lemon and crushed peanut, and topped with the same tempered, hot oil. Shredded radish with yogurt and jalapeno also does well with the same tempered oil treatment.

    To complete the story, and as you probably know already, this tempered oil (the wiki entry is for chaunk) is the base for many Indian dishes and the garnish/topping for others. What exactly it contains is variable, of course, but you start with hot oil or ghee/clarified butter, add some combination of seeds (cumin, mustard, fennel etc.), and once they pop, you add some “powders” such as asafoetida, turmeric etc. and follow it up with your choice of garlic, ginger, onion, tomato and hot peppers. And all this is before you even get to the main vegetables or lentils. Over the top? Us?!

    It’s a bit insane, but one fringe benefit is that when I am walking along a street in America around dinner time, the Indian households are immediately distinguishable from the rest because the smell wafting out is so utterly distinctive.

    :)

    1. deb

      handfulofshadows — You are correct, I did mean the other entry (now properly tagged, thank you), however thank you also for teaching me the word chaunk! And it is the reason that the homes smell so wonderful (says a girl who grew up right near Edison, NJ).

  77. Glad to have taught you a new word :), even though it’s called something else in my native language, which is not Hindi. I’m pretty sure you knew the concept already, though, because how could you not. And if most of your readers taught you one new thing we could perhaps balance it with all the things you offer us through this site?

    Now that I’ve buttered you up (!) with (sincere) flattery, I have a request/possibly-too-early reminder. Pecan pie. I love it, but it’s always too sweet. But I was thinking about it recently, and pecans were on sale at the store last night, so my freezer is stocked. Pretty please with, umm, molasses on top?

    There is another topic I am curious to know more about, though I doubt very much you will address it in a post. It’s about ads, and ad blockers, and sponsored posts and people shutting down blogs (which I have noticed, of course). Is there an article or other source to get a sense of the full picture? Or to know more about how you are personally affected or what you are doing to “combat” it? In any case, I hope you know that you have a very loyal readership that wants (you) to be around for a few thousand more posts. Here’s hoping.

  78. deb

    handfulofshadows — You’re right, I should. To hold you over, here are a few very close things: there’s this black-bottomed oatmeal pie which is pretty much a pecan pie made with oats. There are also Ina’s most excellent pecan bars, which also have a pecan pie topping. And eons ago, I made walnut tartlets and nobody else did (pout) but I love that recipe very much.

    Re, ads and stuff, I briefly went off-topic about them here. I see both sides. I agree that ads have gotten terrible; ad creators have become greedy and aggressive with disempowered publishers are not able to do much about it (I used to strike all moving ads and popping-out from the mix; I now don’t have a choice if I want to have ads and just try to nix the worst of them). However, those ad-blockers will put medium-sized sites out of business. And they will lead to more sponsored content, which is not something I will ever do here because I don’t like it elsewhere. So, I think it’s important that people hear both sides before they use them.

  79. Those walnut tartlets look wonderful, as do the pecan bars, but I’m willing to wait for the pecan pie, because I doubt I will make two of these recipes in two months. Then again…

    Actually my question above reg ads etc. was originally prompted by that comment you referenced. I would totally expect you to find a way to thrive without giving in to the pressures of sponsored posts etc., given your creativity and loyal readership. I guess it will become clear in good time, but what I was curious about was whether you were looking into directions such as videos, podcasts, other things as a reaction to the changing landscape. In any case, good luck, and looking forward to the ride!

    1. deb

      handfulofshadows — I don’t know, it’s not a given that the site can survive if ad money continues to crash. I’m luckier than most, having enough traffic going in that things are still okay, but not having an income isn’t an option. (This would go back to being a hobby, in my free time, which now with two kids, basically doesn’t exist.) Love doing podcasts, like doing video, but am unfortunately spread too thin being the only staff writer/cook/photographer on this site and also writing a book to take on much more. I still hope someone will approach me with the perfect podcast or video idea; I need to outsource the production, and just show up for the taping. :) But yes, all of that will indeed come in time.

  80. Hi Deb — I found the comments section of this very interesting: http://diannej.com/2015/amateur-gourmet-shocks-fans-with-an-announcement/ Some comments talk about revenue from YouTube videos becoming increasingly significant, and others talk about blogging being “dead” or being harder to make a living off. Of course, I have noticed some blogs (effectively) shut down (e.g. Amateur Gourmet and Dooce to name two, though I was never really a reader of either) and others (101cookbooks) start side businesses. And in the political scene as well, we’ve seen blogs shut down (Andrew Sullivan) or change form. (I found this quite interesting: http://blog.longreads.com/2015/02/04/its-yours-a-short-history-of-the-horde/)

    Since you are an “insider,” I am sure you are already aware of all this. Maybe in some years’ time there will be studies about the rise and fall of blogging, I don’t know. I have no doubt that you could stay in food-writing, one way or another, for the indefinite future. But for now, I am expecting you to fight the good fight to keep going this labor of love/business enterprise that you have built, whether it is with books, videos, podcasts, or hiring help (yes, I do realize that this site has a personality that comes from it being a one person show, but maybe one day you’ll consider having others? Perhaps?). I guess this is all just a long-winded way of saying “Good Luck!” and I hope you stick around for a long time on this site.

  81. Vanessa

    We very much enjoyed the recipes in this post, and found the Raita was delicious! with the latkes from your cookbook. Thank you for always knowing what I want to eat and bake before I do!

  82. Brynn

    Well… my lentils went to mush after simmering half an hour. I pitched the first batch and started over, but ended with the same result! Resigned, I drained them of the remaining water as best I could and tried to avoid cooking them further, and the dish ended up with a thick, almost stew-like texture. Tasted fine, but what was supposed to happen? It’s hard to tell what the consistency is supposed to be from the picture. Maybe it was just my batch of lentils?

    Also, I’m surprised I’ve never had cabbage paired with Indian spices before, it seemed such and obvious and perfect match!

    1. deb

      Red lentils are usually split and do indeed fall apart — it’s not a mistake, it might just have not been your thing. It should come with more of a warning.