Tuesday dinner with Croque-Camille - Ann Mah | Ann Mah

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Tuesday dinner with Croque-Camille

By Ann | March 20, 2013

dal and rice

I know, it’s Wednesday. But I couldn’t wait another week to post this simple, satisfying, buttery and delicious recipe for tadka dal (a sort of spiced Indian lentil stew) from my friend and fellow Paris blogger, Croque-Camille.

Camille is an American pastry chef (with famous buns) who lives in Paris with her husband, Nick, and black-and-white cat, Snoopy. As you might imagine, her blog is very sweet, with reviews of Paris pâtisseries and recipes and tips to make them at home. In fact, Camille was my very first blog friend — the first time we met, we made xiaolongbao and we’ve since cemented our bond over ethnic food — tacos, pizza, mapo tofu — you know, all the stuff that’s hard to find in Paris.

camille nick


dal Camille

In our constant quest for spice, Camille and I have both become devotees of a fantastic Indian cookbook, Miss Masala (about which I’ve waxed enthusiastic here and here). So I was delighted but not surprised when she sent me this fast, healthy recipe for tadka dal, adapted from this very book. “I make it at least once a month,” says Camille. “It  is great any time of year, and I love that it can take just about any vegetable. I’ve made it with carrots, green beans, peppers, leeks, fennel, cauliflower, peas, potatoes, zucchini, salsify, turnips, spinach, onions, broccoli… It’s a wonderful trick for cleaning out the fridge of CSA leftovers on Tuesday night, since I get my new delivery on Wednesdays.

“My pantry is stuffed to the gills with rices, lentils, pastas, and grains, all of which can cook up on a moment’s notice to round out a meal or stretch out leftovers. I keep a steady supply of tomato products (diced, purée, and paste) for last-minute pasta sauces, and canned beans for adding protein to the largely vegetable-based diet we eat at home. Thanks to the CSA, we almost always have fresh vegetables and eggs on hand — topping a vegetable salad or soup with a poached egg makes it feel like more of a meal. And speaking of salads, I used to make vinaigrette à la minute, but now I try to make enough for a week’s worth of salads at once: chop a shallot and put it in a jar, add a spoonful of mustard and pour in vinegar to cover, twice that amount of oil, then close the jar and shake vigorously. Voilà! Who needs bottled salad dressing?”

Tadka Dal à la Croque-Camille 

Note from Ann: Soupy, spicy and buttery, this is the ideal comfort food, especially when ladled over steaming basmati rice. “When tomatoes aren’t in season,” says Camille, “I use a couple tablespoons of tomato paste instead. I’ve never weighed the vegetables I put in. I also salt as I go — a pinch in the lentil cooking water, a pinch when I add the vegetables, maybe more at the end if it needs it. I may or may not make rice to go with it, but if I do, I’ll crack a couple of cardamom pods and throw them in the pot with the basmati to further perfume it.”

200g / 7 oz. red lentils
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
Coarse sea salt
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
450-500g / 1 lb. fresh or frozen vegetables, peeled and cut into bite-size pieces if necessary
1-2 Tbsp. ghee or butter
Pinch of asafoetida
2 small dried red chile peppers, crumbled (I use Sanam peppers from India or pili-pilis)
1/2 tsp. chile powder (Not the mix, but chile peppers, ground. I use an Indian one, but cayenne also works)
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds

1. Rinse and drain the lentils several times, until the water is mostly clear. Combine these in a medium saucepan with the turmeric and a good pinch of salt, cover with water by about an inch, stir, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and skim the foam if any comes up. Cook, stirring occasionally to make sure the lentils aren’t sticking, for about 20 minutes. If the water level gets too low, add a little more.

2. When the lentils start falling apart, stir in the tomato paste and cook until it’s incorporated. Add the vegetables and another good pinch of salt and continue cooking until the vegetables are tender, about 10 more minutes. The texture of the dish at this point should be somewhere between thick soup and stew.

3. Measure the asafoetida, chile peppers, chile powder, and cumin in a small dish so you have them ready. Heat your very smallest pan (I actually use my metal 1-cup measure) over high heat with the ghee or butter (ghee is less likely to burn, so watch it carefully if you’re using butter). When it starts sizzling, add the spices and cook a few seconds until you can smell the toasted (not burnt) aromas. Pour this over the dal — it will sizzle — and stir it in.

4. Serve hot, over steamed basmati rice, garnished with plain yogurt, or all by itself.


Aren’t these lentils pretty? (All non-food photos from Camille Malmquist.)

P.S. If I haven’t yet convinced you to buy a copy of Miss Masala, check out her wonderful website for more terrific Indian recipes. (I myself own TWO copies of the book — one for DC, one for Paris. It’s that good.)

Topics: Free of gluten, Tuesday dinner | 22 Comments »

22 Responses to “Tuesday dinner with Croque-Camille”

  1. Bobbi Says:
    March 20th, 2013 at 7:04 pm

    Drool, drool. One thing I really, really miss living in Switzerland is all the ethnic food found in my Canadian homeland. This one looks a must-pass-on-to-husband-to-make-me dish.

  2. Shaheen [The Purple Foodie] Says:
    March 20th, 2013 at 7:54 pm

    And I make it almost every week! My favourite though is the black dal (aka dal makhani). If you liked this, the rich, creamy dal makhani will blow your mind.

  3. Voie de Vie Says:
    March 20th, 2013 at 7:57 pm

    I think I have most everything in the house for this dish (although I need to get some basmati and asafoetida – I’ve not used the latter and just plum out of the former). Hmmmm …

    BTW, I again made your pasta/zucchini/egg/parmesan dish. Very comfy. :)

  4. Loulou in France Says:
    March 20th, 2013 at 8:58 pm

    I plan on adopting this recipe and making it often. Very often.

  5. CK Says:
    March 20th, 2013 at 9:20 pm

    More evidence of the wonders of Miss Masala. Love that last picture of the lentils!

  6. kristen @thekaleproject Says:
    March 20th, 2013 at 10:23 pm

    fab! i make a different curry dish and my husband asks for it all the time but i’m so so tired of it. looks like now i have a great substitute! thanks camille & ann!

  7. Mallika Says:
    March 20th, 2013 at 10:43 pm

    This looks VERY good ladies, although now I am blushing! Dal is one of my all time favs for using up leftovers too! Pulao comes a close second…

  8. Betty Says:
    March 20th, 2013 at 11:28 pm

    Thank you ladies! Now I know what I am going to make with the bag of lentils that’s been sitting in my pantry waiting for a really good recipe.

  9. Camille Says:
    March 20th, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Thanks so much for inviting me over to your blog! I love the cilantro garnish you put on your dal – looks so fresh and healthy! And thanks, too, for introducing me to Miss Masala. It really is a necessary book in our house now. :)

  10. Holly | Beyond Kimchee Says:
    March 21st, 2013 at 2:26 am

    I am going to try this recipe soon. I would like to consume more lentils and I think this fits the bill. Thanks for the recipe.

  11. Lindsey Says:
    March 21st, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Ohhh this is delicious! I’m glad you didn’t wait until next week =)

  12. Ann Says:
    March 21st, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Bobbi — The beauty of this recipe is that all the ingredients are staples so your husband can whip up a batch any time!

    Shaheen — Ooh, I love makhani dal in restaurants but I never thought of making it at home. Thanks for the inspiration!

    Voie de Vie — I was out of asafoetida too, but I substituted a clove of minced garlic. Not quite the same, but still delicious.

    Loulou — It’s addictive!

    Kristen — I have those recipes too, the ones I’ve made ad nauseum until I’m sick of them (even though my husband still loves them). Miss Masala actually has a wonderful website with more Indian recipes (I posted the link above) so check it out for ideas.

  13. Ann Says:
    March 21st, 2013 at 3:34 pm

    Mallika — Ah, now I’M blushing! Thanks for stopping by. And now that you’ve mentioned the word pulao, I know what I’m making this weekend…

    Betty — Isn’t it comforting to have a big bag of lentils on hand?

    Camille — Thanks for a delicious recipe, one that is sure to become part of my weekly repertoire!

    Holly — This may sound crazy, but I honestly think this would taste good with a little kimchi thrown in.

    Lindsey — And the leftovers are gorgeous, too. In fact, it’s even better the next day!

  14. gillian Says:
    March 22nd, 2013 at 10:49 am

    My husbands favorite dish in the world in rice and beans. I really struggle to cook this for him. This recipe looks like just the sort of think I could tackle and please both of us!

  15. Emily Says:
    March 22nd, 2013 at 10:53 am

    I made this last night with a bunch of spinach we needed to use up before we leave on a trip. We didn’t have butter, so I threw in the spices alone and added a spoon of tikka curry paste. I usually have pre-cooked rice in the freezer, but we were out of that too, so I picked some up from the Chinese restaurant on the way home.

    Super easy, and would probably taste good served cold as a summer salad also.

  16. Anne Says:
    March 23rd, 2013 at 2:18 pm

    Just put red lentils on the shopping list…I have everything else.

  17. Ann Says:
    March 23rd, 2013 at 4:38 pm

    Gillian — Yes! This is an Indian interpretation of rice and beans (and you can always eat the beans as a soup, too).

    Emily — The butter adds a lovely, luxurious richness, but your version sounds much lighter.

    Anne — Let us know how it turns out!

  18. Bob Says:
    March 23rd, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    My favorite Indian comfort food. I like it with burnt garlic on top, with a little oil from the same pan.

  19. Bachelormum Says:
    March 25th, 2013 at 10:44 pm

    Delish. I reckon I cld leave just a couple of the spicy ingredients out and serve it to my lentil loving poppet too.

  20. Jill Colonna Says:
    March 28th, 2013 at 3:57 pm

    Love the sound of this and with the spices in there, it’s the heat we’re definitely needing in Paris just now! It took me long enough to find the red lentils here but at least they’re becoming more popular. Good to discover Camille through your new series, Ann.

  21. Matthew Says:
    March 31st, 2013 at 2:46 am

    You liked mine too right? Claire’s favorite food. I should start trying to squeeze in some veg too. Have I cooked you my chicken curry yet?

  22. Matthew Says:
    March 31st, 2013 at 2:47 am

    and I put a fried onion in it….

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