Pour encourager les autres

Well, we’ve got a few entries that have come in for the Paper Chef. I am going to post one as well even though I am NOT allowed to win, I would feel sorely done by if I couldn’t take part. Of course, it isn’t quite the pure experience it is for everyone else since I am the one picking the secret fourth ingredient and I know the list from which the three other ingredients get randomly selected…but, I still want to do it. So, here is a recipe for a sweet/hot/spicy side dish to go with indian/caribbean/african food.

This was inspired by making an indian meal for friends, the happy conjunction of the Paper Chef, and my love for Tarka Dahl. Tarka Dahl is one of the simplest and most profound indian dahl’s or lentil puree dishes. The way I make it, following the precepts of Madhur Jaffrey, is to make a thick lentil soup/puree of red lentils by cleaning them thoroughly, simmering them for 50 minutes with water, turmeric and salt. By then they really don’t need any pureeing. Then make a “tarka.” This is a spice and oil flavoring made by cooking very flavorful spices in hot oil and then adding the whole lot to the lentils and stirring it in a few minutes before serving. We usually use some combination of garlic, ginger, cumin seed, coriander seed and chillies.

So I decided to make a butternut squash puree with a tarka. Here it is…

Squash “Tarka”

One large butternut squash

Two large onions

3 cups stock

1 tsp salt

8 tbsps vegetable oil

piece of fresh ginger (2 by one by one inches)

2 tbsps lemon juice

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1/2 tsp red chilli flakes

1/2 cup toasted almond slivers

Carefully peel one very large butternut squash. I do this over a cutting board with a big chef knife by slicing strips of peel away from the squash. Then halve and remove the seeds and cut into half inch cubes.

I took a large, heavy pot and put oil in on medium heat and then added the squash. While it cooked I peeled and diced two large onions and added them and cooked the squash and onions stirring frequently for about fifteen minutes. Add the salt at this point, too. Then I added three cups of stock (I used chicken but vegetable would probably be a bit ‘cleaner’). I stirred, turned it way down low and left it to cook. After another thirty minutes it was pulpy and I mashed up any lumpy bits with a spoon. I added two tablespoons of lemon juice at this point but I think it may have been unnecessary. Meanwhile I took a piece of fresh ginger about two inches by one inch and peeled it and minced it up as fine as possible.

Then I made the tarka. I took a heavy cast iron frying pan and added four tablespoons of safflower oil. Then I heated it very high and added a tablespoon of coriander seeds, half a teaspoon of chilli flakes and the ginger and cooked until the seeds were popping and the ginger browned. Immediately add all the oil and spices to the squash, stir thoroughly. Sprinkle all over with toasted almond slivers (I just bought these).

It was described as really unusual and very good.

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