Robin Robertson, the prolific author of Vegan Planet and over a dozen other cookbooks, has just come out with a new one, and boy is it hot–literally. She recently contacted me to ask if she could send me a review copy of Vegan Fire & Spice, and being the heat-seeking eater that I am, I immediately said “Yes, please!”
Vegan Fire & Spice’s 200 recipes range from subtly spicy to tongue blistering, arranged by geographic region and labeled with symbols indicating the level of heat. But what may be most impressive about the recipes is that they don’t depend solely on hot spices for their flavor, so someone who doesn’t like spicy food at all can tone down or leave out the peppers completely and still enjoy a dish that’s deliciously seasoned. Most of the recipes are uncomplicated and don’t involve huge lists of ingredients.
Robin was kind enough to allow me to post a recipe of my choice, and deciding which one to make wasn’t easy, but Anshu’s Red Lentil Sambar had all the elements that I look for in a recipe: it was simple, low in fat, and full of vegetables. Though it requires more ingredients than most of the book’s recipes do, many of them are seasonings that are added all together. I’ve reprinted the recipe exactly as it appears in the book, but I have to tell you that you can get away with using much less oil than the recipe indicates. I used about 1/8 teaspoon to pop the mustard seeds, and that was all. Even with reduced fat, this recipe was rich and hearty, a delicious dish that my whole family enjoyed. I’ll be making it again–as soon as I check out some of the other tempting recipes!
Anshu’s Red Lentil Sambar
Sambar powder is available in Indian markets and online. Serve over freshly cooked basmati rice.
- 1 cup red lentils
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 2 tablespoons cold-pressed canola oil [I used 1/8 tsp.]
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 hot green chiles, seeded and minced
- 1 teaspoon grated ginger
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, drained
- 2 teaspoons sambar powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 1 cup chopped cauliflower
- 1 cup green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup diced eggplant
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
- Combine the lentils and water in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium, cover, and simmer until soft, 30 minutes. Set aside, do not drain.
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the onion, garlic, chiles, and ginger and cook until softened, 5 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the sambar powder, coriander, cayenne, cumin, salt, and garam masala. Add the carrots, cauliflower, green beans, and eggplant. Cover and cook for 5 minutes to soften.
- Add the vegetable mixture to the reserved lentils, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are soft, 20 minutes. Add the lemon juice and cilantro and cook 5 minutes longer.
Preparation time: 20 minute(s) | Cooking time: 1 hour(s) 10 minute(s)
Number of servings (yield): 6
From Vegan Fire & Spice. Copyright © 2008 by Robin Robertson. Reproduced with permission of author.