I’m taking a quick break from my travel posts to share a recipe for masala lentils and to give you the inside scoop on Richa Hingle’s new book, Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen.
I’ve been following Richa’s blog, Vegan Richa, for many years now. With gorgeous photography and innovative recipes, Richa keeps me tuning in regularly. Whether she’s making buffalo chickpea pizza or naan made with avocado, I can always count on her to bring something unusual and mouthwatering to the table. So I knew her cookbook, Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen, would be something special. When Richa asked if I’d like to take part in her cookbook blog tour, it was a no brainer. Obviously, yes.
Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen features 150 vegan recipes that run the gamut from breakfast through dessert with stops along the way for flatbreads, curries, and dals. The recipes put the focus on simple, whole plant foods, which makes the book very budget-friendly and especially nice during summer months when my refrigerator is overflowing in fresh produce. She lets the inherent flavors of the beans and vegetables shine, and then heightens their flavors with seasonings and spices.
Using her cookbook has been a good excuse to get to some of those lesser used spices on my spice shelf, the ones that I bought just knowing I would need them later, but have been lingering from disuse. (Now, why did I buy that mango powder again…) If you aren’t a spice collector like me, you may need to visit your local Indian market before you get started to pick up fenugreek seeds, asafetida, nigella seeds, and the like. But don’t let that dissuade you. The results are worth it, and spices in Indian markets tend to be very inexpensive. Plus, it’s fun to widen your culinary language and learn something new.
The Indian restaurants in my town are a little lacking, and so it’s so nice to have the tempting and full-bodied dishes I crave in my own kitchen. Plus, the variety of dishes in Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen far exceeds anything that I could find locally. Recipes include veggie balls in Manchurian sauce, black gram fritters, sprouted mung bean curry, and mango curry tofu. I’m looking forward to exploring this cookbook more, but here are some of the things I’ve made:
I have been really into chickpea flour pancakes (pudla) for the past 6 months or so. I love savory breakfasts, and chickpea flour pancakes are packed with pantry-friendly ingredients. Even if I’ve just gotten home from a trip and my cupboard is sparse, there’s a good chance I can make chickpea pancakes. (Plus, the beauty of vegan recipes means that I’m not counting on perishable eggs or dairy as ingredients.) Chickpea pancakes are substantive, filling, and flavorful.
What I like about the pudla in Richa’s cookbook is that it is thinner and lighter than many chickpea pancakes I make. I prefer pancakes with crisp edges, and with this recipe, you get that brown crispness all over. I’ve already made this recipe twice, and I know it’s one I’ll come back to regularly.
I made mint cilantro chile chutney to go with them. At restaurants, whenever the server comes to take the chutney tray away after appetizers, I often grab and hide the cilantro chutney at the far end of the table, so that they can’t take it. I like to add a little dollop to everything. However, the recipes I’ve tried in the past have been a bit of a letdown. I was hesitant about this one, because it uses equal amounts of mint and cilantro. I like mint, but only in small doses (i.e. a few leaves on banh mi or muddled in a gin and tonic). So I was worried this would be mint overload. I needn’t have worried. The cilantro still takes center stage, but with the mint rounding out the edges. With a pinch of black salt and mango powder, this cilantro chutney has all of that craveable chutney flavor and more. I could easily say this is my favorite version ever – in a restaurant or at home. I followed the variation of adding peanuts to the chutney for a thicker viscosity, and I liked how it added bulk without overpowering it with nutty flavor.
I’d gotten a big bag of spinach at the farmers market, and I was able to use all 4 cups in this Tofu in Spinach Curry (palak tofu). This is a vegan version of palak paneer with tofu standing in for cheese. The tofu is browned first with spices, and then a smooth spinach curry mixture is added to the pan. The recipe took no time at all to make, was packed with good-for-you ingredients, and is definitely one I’ll be making again.
Finally, these masala lentils are an inexpensive and quick lentil dish that is brimming with flavor and even better the next day after the spices have had a chance to meld. With cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, fenugreek, paprika, pepper, and sriracha, there’s a lot going on here, but not in a way that overpowers. It all comes together harmoniously for a tasty lentil dish. To save time, I served it with uttapam from the frozen section of Trader Joe’s and roasted broccoli. The whole meal was ready and on the table in under a half an hour.
Richa and Vegan Heritage Press have generously offered to share the recipe for Masala lentils. Plus, they’re offering a copy of Vegan Richa’s Indian Kitchen to U.S. readers. Leave a comment below, and please make sure I have a way of contacting you.
The giveaway ends at midnight on June 28, 2015. A winner will be chosen at random. Good luck! The giveaway has ended. Congratulations to Ree!