Split Pea Soup with Bengali Spices.

I’ve been meaning to share this recipe for a while now (pretty sure I’ve been making it for almost a year!). One of my best friends, who is an amazingly creative cook, gifted me a batch of her Bengali spice mix, called panch phoron. I started using it in split pea soup, and it is SO GOOD. The spices get toasted and give a really interesting and savory flavor to the already-wonderful classic split pea. This stuff is great fresh or as leftovers, and it freezes well, too, so you can definitely make a big batch and pop half in the freezer. Pair it with almost any garnish you can think of–my favorites include fresh herbs, grated cheese, toasty buttery croutons, or a poached egg. So without further ado, one of my favorite soups…Split Pea with Bengali Spices!

Bengali Spice Split Pea Soup| KellyintheKitchen | Ingredients: bacon fat or butter, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, Bengali Spice Mix (fenugreek seed, fennel seed, cumin seed, nigella seed), split peas, cooked ham, chicken stock, thyme, fresh parsley

INGREDIENTS
bacon fat (butter or olive oil will work also, of course)
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
4 stalks of celery, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tsp Bengali spice mix (see below)
2 cups cooked ham, chopped
1 lb split peas 5-7 cups stock or water
1/2 tsp dried thyme
salt and pepper to taste
optional: 1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

for panch phoron spice mix (equal parts of all spices):
fenugreek seed
nigella seed
mustard seed
cumin seed
fennel seed

DIRECTIONS

Add bacon fat to a Dutch oven or other large soup pot over medium low heat. Add onion, carrot, celery, and garlic, and stir. Cook until softened and just starting to brown. Use a large spoon to move all the vegetables to the side of the pan. Put a bit more fat in the pan and add the spice mix. Stir into the oil and cook until fragrant–just a few minutes–and be careful not to burn.

Bengali Spice Split Pea Soup| KellyintheKitchen | Ingredients: bacon fat or butter, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, Bengali Spice Mix (fenugreek seed, fennel seed, cumin seed, nigella seed), split peas, cooked ham, chicken stock, thyme, fresh parsley

When the spices are cooked, stir them into the vegetables. Pour in the stock or water, ham, thyme, and split peas. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and cook until the split peas are softened. When the soup is done cooking, taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the fresh parsley and serve hot!

Bengali Spice Split Pea Soup| KellyintheKitchen | Ingredients: bacon fat or butter, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, Bengali Spice Mix (fenugreek seed, fennel seed, cumin seed, nigella seed), split peas, cooked ham, chicken stock, thyme, fresh parsley

Though you may be tempted to eat it all up right away, this soup is PERFECTION as a leftover. The flavors get even better when they have a few days to develop.

Bengali Spice Split Pea Soup| KellyintheKitchen | Ingredients: bacon fat or butter, onion, garlic, carrot, celery, Bengali Spice Mix (fenugreek seed, fennel seed, cumin seed, nigella seed), split peas, cooked ham, chicken stock, thyme, fresh parsley

Inauthentic Chicken Saag.

I’ve written before about my family’s favorite Indian restaurant, Mt. Everest, in Evanston, Illinois. Most of the Indian dishes I cook at home are my own varyingly-successful gringa attempts at recreating our Mt. Everest favorites: chicken tikka masala, keema mutter, garlic naan, and this recipe, chicken saag. While this is absolutely not an authentic indian recipe, I stand behind it as an acceptable white lady home cook’s version for when you can’t get the real thing. The sauce has three components: spinach, which makes it green and gives it the “saag” part of its name; yogurt, of course, a quintessential part of many of the best Indian sauces; and a spiced onion mixture, which gives the dish a lot of its flavor. While I love it with chicken, this sauce is also great with vegetables or with paneer. Versatile, fairly quick to make, and even better the next day after a night in the fridge.

INGREDIENTS

3 chicken breasts, cubed
oil or butter
salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp coriander
1 onion, chopped
1 cup stock or water
2-3 cups fresh spinach, washed (or 1 1/2 packed cup frozen spinach, thawed)
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1 cup plain Greek yogurt (optional)

DIRECTIONS

First, brown the chicken in oil or butter with some salt and pepper. Set aside.

Then, over medium heat, add a bit more oil to the pan and stir in the cumin, garlic, and ginger, and cook for about 2 minutes, careful not to burn. Stir in paprika, turmeric, coriander, and the onion. Cook until soft and translucent. Add the water or stock and simmer, uncovered.

Allow the onion mixture to reduce, depending on the consistency of sauce you want (more/less liquid-y).

Meanwhile, put the fresh spinach in a colander and pour a kettle of boiling water over it, to wilt it. Then squeeze out as much of the water as you can. Set aside.

When the onion sauce is reduced, put it into a food processor with the spinach and blend until you’ve got a smooth, green-brown sauce. Put it back into the pan, add the garam masala, and heat to a simmer. Add the chicken back to the simmering sauce and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.

Remove from heat and stir in the yogurt, if you’re using it.

Great with garlic naan or a rice/biryani dish. Yum! Enjoy!

Potato and Lentil Curry.

This weekend, my little sister came down to the city for the night to have a sleepover at my new apartment. We walked around my neighborhood and then had an amazing dinner at a nearby Indian restaurant. Indian is one of our favorite types of foods, ever since we first tried it on a trip to London. I’m always meaning to cook it at home more often, because homemade Indian tends to be inexpensive and relatively easy—if you already have all the right spices, that is. This dish was a breeze because the ingredients are really easy to keep around all the time, and it’s a healthy lunch that will travel well to work. Maybe next time my sister comes to spend the night, I’ll save us our $50 and make our own Indian feast!

UPDATE: I tried replacing the potatoes with sweet potatoes and it was just as good. Yum.

INGREDIENTS

1 medium onion, chopped
olive oil
1/8 tsp turmeric
1/8 tsp ginger
1/8 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp paprika
red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to taste
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 small potatoes (about 2 1/2 cups), scrubbed and cubed
3/4 cup lentils, rinsed
1 1/2 cups stock

DIRECTIONS

In a Dutch oven or other large pot, heat olive oil and add onions. Sweat for 2 minutes, stir in the spices, and cook until onions are softened.

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Then stir in the potatoes and cook about 5 minutes.

Stir in the lentils and stock and bring to a boil. Simmer with the lid on until the lentils are tender and the potatoes are soft.

Garnish with fresh parsley. Serve over rice or with garlic naan and a dollop of sour cream.