Sunday, January 4, 2015

Join Me on My 2015 Cooking Challenge? Plus a lentil recipe!

Happy First Sunday of 2015! I have had time to reflect about the past year and examine my hopes for the new one, I have my coffee and I feel ready to share my thoughts.

So, here's what I learned in 2014:

One of the things I let go off last year was this blog. I cooked because I had to feed the family. Well, the break was good for my cooking soul because I missed cooking for fun and talking about food with friends. I'm wholeheartedly back in the kitchen and I have already cooked my first Bengali meal of the year:

Use of this image without permission is a copyright violation.

And I have decided to combine two different cooking challenges to come up with one that's my own.

The 52 NewFoods Challenge (#52NewFoods), developed by Jennifer Tyler Lee, a mother of two. She came up with the challenge in an effort to make her family eat better and include more variety.  

How it works: You try one new food each week for a year – or try an unfamiliar preparation of an already-known food. Each week, the family jointly chooses one new recipe and commits to preparing it together. 

Take a Bite Out of Your Cookbook Pile Challenge (inspired by the awesome Take a Bite Out of Your Aged TBR Romance Pile 2015 Reading Challenge). Basically, I have an entire floor-to-ceiling book shelf full of cookbooks and this is the year I'm using them!

What I like about my challenge:

  1. Committing to cooking together once a week is doable even for a busy family like mine.
  2. It involves the whole family, which means the work is shared and the kids are more likely to learn and hone kitchen skills.
  3.  If the kids help make it, I know they’ll be more likely to taste it. So, less  power struggles at the table, more fun and family time in the kitchen.
  4. We'll actually use my cookbook collection and it'll help me sort my books into keepers and giveaways. My local library loves getting cookbooks for its annual fundraising sale, your might too. 
  5. We get to enjoy good, healthy home-cooked food in the end of all the work. Note: Okay, so some of the recipes we try might not be as healthy as others, but since we're making it we'll know exactly what's in it and that's healthy in itself.
So are you taking on a foodie challenge (anything food related, doesn't have to be healthy or involve diets) this year? Want to join mine?

And, yes, I'm returning to food blogging this year. Food -- cooking, sharing and eating of it -- is nourishing to my body and my soul. Wishing you good health and good eats in 2015!

Now for the recipe...

In the Bengali meal picture, many would assume the shrimp curry with pumpkin and green beans (actually I used Kabocha squash since I was out of the more traditional pumpkin) is the star. Not so. It's the dahl, golden lentils cooked with warm, colorful spices and flavorings. There's a Bengali saying: Dahl bhaat Bangali. It translates too: A true Bengali only needs dahl and rice to be happy.

Use of this image without permission is a copyright violation.

Since it was for the new year, I decided to cook a fancier version of the dahl instead of my usual everyday one. There as many ways of cooking lentils as there are lentils in a bag.

Masala or Moshla Dahl (yes, my mother coached me over the phone for this one)

1 cup mung dahl (pale yellow lentils)
3 cups of water (added in separate amounts)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced, divided
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon chili powder (in desi terms, this is ground red peppers. NOT a TX chili blend)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 serrano pepper, cut in half at the midpoint
1 or 2 tomatoes, diced
4 to 6 medium garlic cloves, finely minced or smashed
Salt (to taste)


1. Over medium heat, dry roast the lentils in a pot (basically, fry lentils in a dry pan or pot until you get a nutty aroma and the lentils turn a shade darker). 

2. Add enough water to just cover the lentils. Add in 1/3 of the onions and the spices (from turmeric to chili powder). Bring to a boil, lower heat to a gentle simmer.

3. Keep an eye on the lentils. When the water almost disappears, check the lentils. Mash them if you can, add more water to just cover and let them cook. Keep doing this until the lentils reach the consistency you want. I wanted it to be mostly creamy, but still with some shape to the lentils. When done, take it off the heat and set aside.

4. In a small frying pan, melt the butter.

5. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes. Add the mustard seeds and serrano pepper. Cook until onions are soft and browning.

6. Add the tomatoes and garlic, cook until soft. Scrape the cooked veggies and butter into the pot of cooked lentils. Add salt to taste, stir and serve with rice.

(Steps 4 through 6 is the bhagar or tarka process -- see glossary for more information.)



  1. I like the idea of trying a recipe a week from my cookbooks. Thanks for the suggestion. I'm going to try to do that this year. :) Thank you for the recipe, too! Does dahl count as a soup? It's always seemed a bit soup-like to me.

    1. Hi Laurie! So glad you're trying the cookbook challenge and keep me posted about your culinary adventures. Depending on the consistency, dahl could be counted as soup. This fancy version is thicker than the everyday dahl our family enjoyed. :)

  2. Rashda, I love cooking challenges.... when I'm in a country with choices. My husband will tell anyone who listens that the first two years of our marriage, he did not have a repeat meal. It's true. I love exploring cookbooks and local flavors. I can't wait to try this recipe. I happen to be in one of those islands that stocks international foods. So all is good. I'm in on the cooking challenge!

    1. I love the adventurous life you lead Nancy! So glad you're joining the fun :)

  3. looks fantastic! I try to cook a new recipe a week but don't always succeed. Do you know the Eat Your Books website? It has indexed thousands of cookbooks - you add the ones you own to your library and can then search by ingredient. Saves trawling through all your books for that recipe you know you've seen somewhere!

    1. Ooh, that sounds like a useful site, thanks! I'll be checking it out :)

  4. This lentil stew sounds so amazing. I must try this one. Welcome and fun doing Let's Lunch with you!