Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/2/2019 (1065 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
The Netflix binge-watch is the go-to for the work-week weary. And for the demographic that wants to veg out in front the next instalment of a superhero movie, British murder mystery, standup routine, or yet another Monty Don garden show, that might be enough.
For the committed food lover however, a "binge-watch" simply doesn’t cut it. They want more emphasis on the "binge."
For those who are willing to "veg in" in front of episode after episode of food-driven kitchen spectacle, spatula at the ready... it’s not so much Netflix ‘n’ chill as Netflix ‘n’ feast.
Real food lovers don’t just live vicariously through someone else’s tastebuds. They’re looking for something they can actually sink their teeth into. That impulse hasn’t changed since the advent of the televised cooking show. The only difference between then and now is, instead of sitting perched on the edge of the couch, pen and paper in hand, frantically scribbling down ingredients, the ‘flixer and feaster can either google a recipe or order the cookbook based on the show.
A case in point: Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, a companion to the James Beard award-winning cookbook by the completely watchable Samin Nosrat. This series is especially good for foodlings (new foodies) who are just finding their way into the kitchen. Nosrat explains the titular four pillars of cooking in an accessible way. Watching the ‘acid’ episode, where Nostrat prepares a buttermilk-soaked roast chicken, I immediately planned the same dish for the weekend.
Watching superhero movies, however, I have no urge to sew a spandex costume à la The Incredibles or weld together a suit of Iron Man armour.
And yes, many cooking shows will certainly make you want to grab your passport and run for the airport, but even that urge can be made more affordable with a visit to any number of ethno-specific grocery stores. With the right ingredients, and a well-executed recipe, you can close your eyes and you’re there. It’s the thing that makes the ‘flix and feast a little less vicarious and a little more visceral.
Coming up on the Netflix menu (Friday, actually) is Asma Khan, chef-owner of Darjeeling Express. She will be the first British chef featured on the streaming service’s show Chef’s Table. Khan recently released her own cookbook, which give Chef’s Table viewers the chance to follow along.
Khan’s food comes down to her from her royal Mughlai ancestry. She retraces the rail journey of the Darjeeling Express — and her own immigrant story, arriving in England as a bride who could not cook. Longing for the taste of home, she began, as many home cooks do (and I did, myself), gathering up used cookbooks and reading. That love for something homemade is emphasized in her own cookbook.
These vegetarian recipes for two, perfect for a Netflix-and -feast date night, are excerpted from Asma’s Indian Kitchen, by Asma Khan, published by Interlink Books, $43.95.
Masoor Dal with Red Lentils
This basic dal recipe can be adapted to your own taste by adding extra ingredients to the lentils, such as handfuls of chopped spinach or chunks of fresh tomato. The tempering is an important final stage in making dal, since so much flavour is contained in that spiced oil, which is poured over the cooked lentils. This recipe makes a generous amount for two people with leftovers that can be reheated in a pan the next day: a smaller quantity of lentils would end up sticking to the base of the pan.
- 750 ml or 500 g (2 1/2 cups or 1 lb 2 oz) masoor dal (red lentils)
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) ghee or oil
- 3-4 dried red chilis
- 1 small onion, finely chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 7 ml (1 1/2 tsp) salt
- 5 ml (1 tsp) ground turmeric
- For the tempering
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) ghee or oil
- 2 dried red chilis
- 3 ml (1/2 tsp) cumin seeds
- 1 garlic clove, cut into slivers
- 4 fresh curry leaves
Wash the lentils in cold running water, then place in a bowl and soak for 30 minutes in fresh cold water. (If you do not have time to soak the lentils, then just wash them before adding to the pan — red lentils cook quickly and so do not need long soaking.)
In a heavy-based pan that has a lid, heat the ghee or oil over medium-high heat. Add the dried red chilis to the pan, followed by the chopped onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until they just start to colour.
Add the soaked lentils to the pan, then the salt and ground turmeric. Add 1.2 litres (5 cups) warm water to the lentils and bring to a boil. When the surface of the water is bubbling, cover the pan, lower the heat, and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally to ensure the dal is not sticking to the base of the pan. Once the dal is cooked, place it in a bowl and keep warm while you prepare the tempering.
For the tempering, heat the ghee or oil in a small frying pan over high heat. Working quickly so the tempering does not burn, add the dried red chilis, cumin seeds, garlic slivers and, finally, the curry leaves. Cook for a few seconds, then pour the tempering oil and spices over the warm dal in the pan. Next, take a spoonful of the dal and place it in the frying pan to absorb any remaining oil — take care while doing this since the oil may splutter — then tip the spoonful of dal from the frying pan back into the main dal pan.
Serve immediately, ladling the dal into separate serving bowls.
Tehri vegetable pulao
A meal on its own, Tehri is perfect served simply with yogurt or raita on the side or a crisp Kachumber or crunchy mixed salad. You can replace the diced carrots with any of your favourite vegetables, such as peas, sweet corn, chopped green beans, or a mixture of all if you wish. This recipe makes a generous amount for two. If there are any leftovers, allow them to cool within an hour of cooking, store in the refrigerator, and then reheat thoroughly in a low oven.
- 310 ml or 225 g (1 1/4 cups or 8 oz) basmati rice
- 30 ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
- 1 piece cassia* bark, 2 cm (3/4 inch) long
- 2 green cardamom pods
- 1 small white onion (approximately 50 g or 1 3/4 oz), finely chopped
- 3 ml (1/2 tsp) garlic paste
- 3 ml (1/2 tsp) fresh ginger paste
- 3 ml (1/2 tsp) ground turmeric
- 1 ml (1/4 tsp) cayenne pepper (adjust to taste)
- 500 ml or 75 g (1 cup or 2 1/2 oz) peeled and diced potatoes
- 1 small carrot (1 3/4 oz or 50 g), peeled and cut into 1 cm (1/2-inch) cubes
- 3 ml (1/2 tsp) salt (adjust to taste)
- Fresh green chilis, sliced, to garnish (optional)
Wash the rice in several changes of cold running water until it runs clear, then place in a bowl and soak for 30 minutes in fresh cold water.
In a heavy-based pan that has a lid, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the cassia bark and cardamom pods to the oil, then stir for a few seconds. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until it starts to colour. Continue stirring to prevent the onions sticking to the base of the pan.
Once the onions have started to brown, add the garlic and ginger pastes. After 1 minute, add the ground turmeric and cayenne pepper. Cook, stirring, for 10-20 seconds or until the "raw" smell of the turmeric has disappeared, taking care not to let the ground spices burn.
Add the potatoes and carrots, plus any other vegetables. The water content in the vegetables should add sufficient moisture, but if the mixture sticks to the pan, add a splash of water. Cook the potatoes and vegetables, stirring, for at least 5 minutes to sear them in the oil to prevent them disintegrating when cooked with the rice. The vegetables should be glistening and the potatoes starting to catch along their edges.
Boil a kettle of water. Add the soaked rice and salt to the pan. Stir for 1 minute to coat the rice in the spices, then cover with 900 ml (3 1/4 cups) boiling water from the kettle. Cook uncovered over medium-high heat until the water has been almost absorbed (about 4 minutes).
Cover the pan with the lid, lower the heat, and simmer for a further 15-20 minutes. Resist the temptation to open the lid. If you do, the trapped steam and aromas will be lost. After 20 minutes, check the rice — there should be no liquid at the edges of the pan — and gently run a fork through to lift and separate the grains. Replace the lid, remove from the heat, and leave for a further 5 minutes to allow any remaining moisture to be absorbed. To serve, garnish with sliced fresh green chilis.
*Cassia is sold as cinnamon.