Monday, May 30, 2011

Couscous with lentils

What does the term "salad" mean to you? Something with green leaves, tomatoes and cucumber and radishes, perhaps with a dressing? That's what denotes a salad to me - even now, when I know that practically anything can be a "salad".

I have to say it used to puzzle me. What is pasta salad, anyway? Or - a very strange thing to a South Indian - rice salad? Could South Indian lemon rice or tamarind rice be classified as rice salad?

I'm still not entirely sure why something that is not a salad when hot becomes a salad when cold. Examples? Well, pasta. Eat it cold, and it's a pasta salad. Eat it hot, and it's... well, pasta. Rice, too, undergoes that transition - especially if there's wild rice in there. Take couscous, too. Pizza Hut has cold couscous in its salad bar. When is couscous a side dish, and when is it a salad? More to the point, why is it a salad when it's cold? And then those hot salads - how do THOSE come about without becoming not-salad?

I don't mean any disrespect to the West when I say that perhaps everything is a "salad" here because they don't know how else to classify the various cooked foods from other cultures? What do you think?

This recipe could be a salad, or not. It could be a side dish. Or merely a form of couscous upma. Here's a thought - perhaps we Southies call everything "upma" because salads aren't really in our culinary heritage?

Because I don't know what to call my recipe - salad, side dish, upma, whatever - I'm terming it "couscous with lentils". At least it has the virtue of literalness.

Recipe for: Couscous with lentils
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Ingredients:

1/4 cup green lentils
1 bay leaf
1 cup couscous
1 red onion, chopped finely
2 green chillies, chopped
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1 small tomato, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
a handful of fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
about 1-1/2 cups vegetable stock (or water)
1 tsp oil

Method:

1. Cook the lentils in salted water along with the bay leaf, till they're cooked but not mushy.
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Drain and reserve.
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2. In a medium size pan, heat the oil and add the chopped chillies, garlic and red onion. Stir well.
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3. Let the onions soften a little, then add the chopped tomato.
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4. Once the tomatoes are beginning to break down, pour in the stock and bring to a brisk boil.
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5. Now add the couscous and stir it well. Add salt to taste and bring back to the boil.
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6. Turn off the heat and cover the pan with a well-fitting lid. Let the couscous rest for 10-15 minutes.
7. Once all the water has been absorbed, fluff up the couscous with a fork. Add the reserved lentils and freshly ground pepper to taste, and toss to mix, or fork it through to mix.
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8. Garnish generously with shredded basil leaves and serve the couscous warm as a side with lamb dishes, or as a snack.

RECIPE: COUSCOUS WITH LENTILS

Ingredients:
1/4 cup green lentils
1 bay leaf
1 cup couscous
1 red onion, chopped finely
2 green chillies, chopped
1 small tomato, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
a handful of fresh basil leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
about 1-1/2 cups vegetable stock (or water)
1 tsp oil

Method:
1. Cook the lentils in salted water along with the bay leaf, till they're cooked but not mushy. Drain and reserve.
2. In a medium size pan, heat the oil and add the chopped chillies, garlic and red onion. Stir well.
3. Let the onions soften a little, then add the chopped tomato.
4. Once the tomatoes are beginning to break down, pour in the stock and bring to a brisk boil.
5. Now add the couscous and stir it well. Add salt to taste and bring back to the boil.
6. Turn off the heat and cover the pan with a well-fitting lid. Let the couscous rest for 10-15 minutes.
7. Once all the water has been absorbed, fluff up the couscous with a large fork. Add the reserved lentils and freshly ground pepper to taste, and toss to mix, or fork it through to mix.
8. Garnish generously with shredded basil leaves and serve the couscous warm as a side dish with meat dishes, or as a snack.

2 comments:

Inji said...

Interesting observation.. Until a few years ago, salad was something that was mostly raw, mostly vegetables and room temp/cold. I think you are spot on in that many foods are lumped into the salad category for lack of better classification. I had never considered coconut rice/lemon rice but you are right - they can be salads too!

Blessed Rain said...

I normally stick to calling things "sides" if they have been cooked rather risking a family argument (I am from the west and yes everyone has varying opinions.)