I had a really cool post on Cumin planned for today. It represented quite a bit of work and I should know to leave well enough alone. But I decided to edit it, and the editor ate over half of my post. AAAaaahhhh!
So today we have instead – Cucumber Curry. By no means a second-best post. But you will have to wait for the other one – until I am over my sadness and have the motivation to redo the research and writing.
Now, who would have thought of putting cucumber in a curry? Cucumber is a cooling, summer dish, right? Never cooked in the West. Shredded, diced, sliced, peeled or unpeeled. But NEVER cooked.
So today, I want to change your mind about that. Be brave. Try it. It is an amazing surprising dish.
Red Lentils (Masoor Dal)
In this dish, the lentils serve as a thickener for the coconut milk that the cucumber is cooked in, forming a yummy sauce base, and as a flavour addition. They are not really noticeable in the final dish, as they disintegrate into the sauce itself.
In this recipe, cucumber can be substituted with zucchini, or use a mixture of both. It works just as well
Available in Indian food shops and spice shops. Fresh is best, but dried will also work. If you can’t find curry leaves, leave them out. Bay leaves are not a substitute. Bay leaves ground a dish – giving it an earthy flavour. Curry leaves lift a dish, giving it a zing.
Black mustard seeds
Available in Indian food shops and spice shops. If you can’t find them, don’t substitute yellow. Better to leave them out – but do try to find them. You will be glad that you did.
Tarka (or Tadka)
A Tarka is a ghee or oil based spice mix added to a curry at the end of the cooking. It adds a wondrous taste to the dish, so do not avoid this step. Also, the spices used in a tarka are those that release their flavour in oil rather than liquid, like black mustard seed and curry leaves. Finally, black mustard seeds taste best when popped, a bit like mini popcorn, and the tarka provides a mechanism for this.
This is great with plain rice or rice cooked with a tspn of turmeric powder (it makes a lovely yellow rice). Add a salad, a dal, Indian pickles and chutneys, and maybe a yogurt dish.
Or just serve with rice and a great salad. Finish with a bowl of fresh fruit and yogurt.
As the dish is quite creamy in colour, you can go wild with visual appeal with chopped green coriander, Italian parsley or slices of green or red chilli.
Olan – Cucumber cooked with Lentils
50 g masoor dal (red lentils)
1.25 cups coconut milk, well stirred
500g cucumber (or cucumber and zucchini), cut crosswise into 2.5cm pieces
2 – 4 fresh green chillies, cut into half lengthwise
salt to taste
8 – 10 curry leaves
2 tspn black mustard seeds
1 Tblspn ghee
Wash the lentils in several changes of water, or place in a sieve and shake under a running tap until water runs clear.
Pour 1/2 cup of the coconut milk and 1.75 cups water into a medium sized pan. Add the lentils, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes. The lentils should be almost cooked at this stage.
Add the cucumber, chillies and salt. Cook over low heat for 5 – 10 minutes until the cucumber is tender.
Meanwhile, heat the ghee in a separate pan and add the black mustard seeds and curry leaves. Pop the mustard seeds and then empty the contents of the pan into the lentils and cucumber.
Add the remainder of the coconut milk, stir through and cook on a higher heat for 3 – 5 minutes until the sauce thickens.
Read some more:
- Simply Spicy has a lovely Cucumber Dal. “this preparation of moong dal and cucumber is simply irresistible in its taste.”