I realise the title is a little misleading. It is not autumn; although we've had some fabulous dry hot weather this week and I feel like this recipe is perfect for balmy evenings with a cool Spring breeze drifting through the house. The flavours are fresh, vibrant and the colours are just fabulous.
To set the scene; friends of ours were in India last year and offered to bring us back any spices that we might like. Now, I am not one to look a gift horse in the mouth and if anything gets me excited it is the idea of new and exciting ingredients to experiment with. I also can't deny that Kyle and I love Indian food regardless of the style so it was an amazing offer for us to have authentic spice mixes in the house.
Our friends' family are from Gujarat where the cuisine is vegetarian and from what I understand eating meat is forbidden. So, bless my Aunty Ji's cotton socks she went into the local spice market and asked for a meat masala, keema masala, fish masala and garam masala. The spice merchant also threw in a bag of Vindaloo spice for good measure. The thing I found the funniest about the story is the way she tells it. Apparently the owner of the store was so worried about selling her these taboo masalas that he whispered to her in a corner of the shop and handed her the spices under the counter as though the spices were prohibited substance and she was doing a shady deal. My heart beats with gratitude for friends who lug "contraband" across the globe just for us. Needless to say we now have enough masala to sink a ship!
As I am sure you all know by now I get a delivery of fresh vegetables on a pretty regular basis from Riverford Organic Farms. They are dedicated to sustainable, organic farming and their tag line is "Live Life on the Veg." I love my veg boxes and I get so excited to see what is new in season and what jewels the box holds for me. Each week you get a newsletter and a couple of suggested recipes for some of the trickier items in your box. I received a bunch of carrots in one of my recent boxes and this recipe along with them. The first time I made it Kyle and I polished off most of it in minutes, we needed to leave a little bit for Kyle to take to work for lunch. I even went back for seconds it was that good. I made it again this last Monday and it really did not disappoint, although I added my own twist with a delicious side salad of pickled fennel, Granny Smith apple and red onion. A revelation!
For all of you looking for a meat free option during the week; this is it. To Aunty Ji and the Dr. this one's for you.
With love and wishes of a wonderful Summer,
Indian Masala Roasted Carrots with Coconut Red Lentils and Naan
2 large onions
1 Tbsp garam masala
Ghee - clarified butter, you can get tins of this in your local supermarket or in an Asian supermarket
150g red lentils
1 fresh chilli
3 garlic cloves
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 Tbsp curry leaves
2 Tbsp medium curry powder - I used the fabulous and rather spicy Keema masala
400ml coconut milk
2 Naan - plain or garlic and coriander
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 220˚C/Gas Mark 8. Peel and wash the carrots. If they are large, split them in half length ways. Cut them into interesting, angled pieces. Peel the onions and cut them into quarters.
Place the carrots and onions in the roasting tin, add the garam masala and 2 tablespoons of oil. Season well with salt and pepper and roast for 25 minutes, until tender and coloured at the edges. Turn once or twice during cooking.
Meanwhile, rinse the red lentils thoroughly in the sieve under cold running water to remove excess starch. Split the chilli in half and remove the seeds. Peel and slice 3 garlic cloves. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil or ghee in the saucepan and add the halved chilli, garlic, mustard seeds and curry leaves.
Fry gently for 1 minute until the mustard seeds start to pop. Tip in the curry powder, followed by the lentils, coconut milk and 150ml of water. Bring the lentils to the boil, spoon off any scum that rises to the surface and leave to simmer for about 25 minutes, until the lentils have gone soft.
Add more water if they start drying out; you want a loose, porridge-like consistency. While the lentils cook, roughly chop the tomatoes. Add them straight into the lentils. Wash the coriander and shake it dry. Roughly chop it, stalks and all.
To warm your naan through follow the instructions on the pack. They usually only need 3 - 4 minutes at the most.
When the lentils have cooked, season them well with salt and pepper until you are happy with the taste. Fold in half the chopped coriander. Serve the lentils in a shallow bowl. Squeeze the juice of one lemon over your carrots and toss. Spoon the roasted carrots and onions on top and finish with the remaining coriander and the warm naan. To serve can always drizzle a little natural yoghurt over the top and if South African like us with a dollop of Mrs. Ball's Chutney.