Cooking lessons 3

This is going to get hopelessly out of order very quickly, as there are now two lessons I’ve missed out on actually posting. Never mind.

Yesterday I took Michael spice shopping. I was actually a bit unimpressed with where we went, so if anyone can tell me some good places to go spice shopping in London I’ll be really grateful. We bought ground cumin, ground red chilli, garam masala and (gasp) curry powder. I went for all powders because they’re a bit easier to work with to start with. Also because the selection of whole spices was crap. We can get on to the subtleties of spice usage once we’ve covered the basics, and once I’ve found a decent place to go shopping for them.

Here’s one of the first Indian recipes I ever learned to cook, about four years back when I was first trying out this ‘vegetarian’ thing and Tariq came into our kitchen and found my attempts at making a curry. They were umm… not very impressive. Ask nicely and I’ll tell you about it some time. Here is a very simplified and tinkered with version of the recipe he showed me.


  • One small bowl of lentils (about a serving size in order to make two to three servings). Preferably green, brown, puy, etc. Black or red won’t really work here.
  • One medium-large onion.
  • Sunflower oil.
  • One large spoon of ground cumin.
  • One spoon of garam masala.
  • A quarter of a spoon of curry powder.
  • Water.
  • Salt to taste.


Mix the dried spices and salt. Dry fry them on a medium heat for about a minute, stirring constantly, and then transfer to a bowl.

Add enough oil to the bottom of the pan to just cover it. Dice the onion and fry it on medium heat until soft, and then add the spices. Fry for a few minutes more.

Now add the lentils and fry for about a minute. Cover with boiling water (say two to three times as much water as you had lentils) and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer, cover the pot, and leave it.

It will probably take about half an hour to cook. Be more worried about undercooking it than overcooking, but check on it every now and then to see if it’s getting dry and needs more water. The end result can either be dryish or soupy as you prefer. If it’s going to be soupy you might want to consider adding more salt and/or (horrors) half a stock cube. When the lentils are soft to eat it is ready.

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