Well, that was nice. I do like a lamb shank, hanging off the bone and fragrant with herbs.
Now let’s get to work on those stockpiles of rice and lentils. I did an official tour of the Wimmera wheat belt once – during the mice-plagued summer of ’84-’85 - and I guarantee there’s more grain in this larder than the Dunolly wheat silo. (No mice though, thank goodness.)
Lentils. How many lentils does one household need? There are red lentils, green lentils and lentils that I am not even sure are lentils at all. Toor dhal. Chana dhal. Urad dhal. Too many shopping trips to Desi Needs and not enough cooking.
Lentil rice with cardamom and fried onions.
A wonderfully fragrant dish, of which you’ll catch the aroma halfway down the hill if you happen to be trudging home from the train at the time, which was about six p.m. on a golden-skied April evening with a fresh southerly stirring the upper leaves of the yellow-tipped poplars at the end of the street.
The first time I made this dish its simplicity and ease of preparation astounded me.
You’ll need: one cup each of red lentils and long grain rice, two large onions, 2½ tablespoons ghee, 2½ teaspoons salt, ¼ teaspoon each ground black pepper, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg and 3½ cups boiling water.
Wash the lentils, removing any that float. Drain thoroughly.
Heat the ghee in a largish lidded pot or pan. Slice the onions into thin rounds and fry them until golden brown, stirring. Remove half the onions and set aside.
Add lentils and rice to pan and stir for a minute or two to coat in hot ghee.
Add water and spices, stir well, bring to boil, turn down to a very low simmer, lid the pan tightly and walk away. Have a drink and read the paper.
Come back in twenty minutes exactly and dinner’s ready. The just-softened lentils give the dish a creamy unctuousness that takes an otherwise ordinary rice dish into another dimension, a higher plane.
Serve immediately and garnish with the extra onions. Accompany with fenugreek roti (my personal favourite; spinach, garlic or plain will suffice), yogurt and coriander chutney - I used Laziza brand: its deep green colour looks innocent but it has a kick like a mule.