Saturday, April 10, 2010

Cleaning Up: Curried Legumes and Grains with Chard

My cupboard is a mess. I don't have the organizational skills of someone I know who has everything stored away in cute little glass jars, and thus when cooking, only needs to open the lids, pour and smile. No. I cut open a bag and then clip it with a mini alligator clip or tie an elastic band around it. Result? Many many bags, spillage, a cluttered cupboard, and worst of all, migrating tastes and smells. Example? I made granola awhile ago. When my partner bit into a piece, he said "Am I crazy, or do I taste cumin?" Cumin, one of my most favourite spices and the strongest smelling one in the cupboard, had infused the dried cranberries. Another example: I made mango coconut muffins the other day, and my mom complained that they tasted like Indian curry (she hates cardamom and cumin with a passion). Again, where did I find the bag of shredded coconut? Right next to the ... cardamom pods. Although my partner loved the hint of cumin (and apparently pepper) in the granola, my mom was less than impressed about the curry-scented muffins.

Oh dear! Am I going to change my ways? Am I going to organize my cupboard so that spices go on one side and dried fruits go on the other and everything is sealed in cute glass jars so that no mixing of flavours occurs? Probably not. But I'm working on it. One day, I will become organized, but for now, I'll just settle for a nutritious, quick dinner with all my favourite flavours while using up some grains.

I had a little of this and a little of that all still stored in their original bags, so to save space, I used them up. I mixed all the little bits of grains and legumes in my cupboard, cooked them with a healthy dose of spice, added some hearty green veg and made my favourite dish: curry with lots of cumin and lemon. It's the perfect "comfort in one bowl" type of dinner, but without the richness of restaurant curry made with butter and cream. Because I used barley and lentils, the liquid thickened up without me needing to add flour or corn starch. The spices were absolutely heavenly. With a dollop of skim milk yogurt on top, you've got a meal in one bowl with all the food groups. And a bonus: whole grain + legume = complete protein. Plus, it gets tastier as it sits in the fridge and the flavours meld. Perfect! A healthy, tasty, leftover-friendly meal that cleans out my cupboard.

Now ... if only I could get organized ... ;)

Curried Grains and Legumes with Rainbow Chard

a bunch of rainbow chard - stems cut up small, leaves cut into ribbons
1 large carrot diced
1 stalk of celery diced
2 cloves of garlic minced
1 small onion diced
a little chunk of ginger finely chopped
2 teaspoons of cumin
2 teaspoons of curry powder (I used Malaysian curry powder)
zest and juice of onelemon
2 lime leaves
4 cardamom pods
4 curry leaves
1 cup of mixed grains and legumes (I used, brown rice, pearl barley, yellow split peas and red lentils)
3-4 cups of water or vegetable stock
salt and pepper to taste

1. Saute the onions, chard stems, carrots, celery, ginger and garlic for about 3 minutes or until you start to really smell the ginger.

2. Add the lemon zest, cumin and curry powder and cardamom pods and stir. Cook for about 1 minute so the spices toast.

3. Add the mixed grains and legumes and stir until everything is coated.

4. Add the water or stock, lime and curry leaves, and give it a big stir.

5. Bring it up to a boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook, covered, for about 10 minutes, then add the chard leaves and more water/stock if needed. Cook for another 10-15 minutes or until the grains and legumes are at the texture you like. My lentils had melted away, rice and barley was nice and chewy and split peas had a bit of bite.

6. Turn off the heat and stir in the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Try your best to fish out the curry leaves, lime leaves and cardamom pods. Enjoy a bowl topped with skim-milk yogurt and an extra squeeze of lemon if you like.

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