Monday, December 10, 2007

Masala for Hope, or Menu for Hope IV

mélange du monde fig. a: l - r: Mélange du Monde: Caris et Masala, ext.; Mélange du Monde: Caris et Masala, int.; La Cuisine et le Goût des Épices, int. (featured recipe: Kakuluwo Curry, a.k.a. Red Crab Curry)

In a year that saw the release of quite a few impressive cookbooks (more on this later), I don't think there's any question that the cookbook whose release we were most excited about was Ethné and Philippe de Vienne's La Cuisine et le Goût des Épices. As many of you well know, we've been big fans of the de Viennes and their extraordinary line of épices de cru for close to three years now--so much so that they've inspired not one but two AEB interviews, which you can find here and here.

So when we heard there was a spice book project in the works late last year we got seriously excited--we knew from firsthand experience that their recipes were rock-solid, but we also had a feeling that this would be much more than a simple cookbook. And we were right. Part treatise on taste, part travelogue, part reference book, part memoir, and part cookbook, La Cuisine et le Goût des Épices is not only adventurous, it's a full-blown adventure, and the spice route that it traces stretches across the globe, from Indonesia to Andalusia, Sri Lanka to Oaxaca, Sichuan to la Louisiane.

We got our personal copy of La Cuisine et le Goût des Épices a few weeks ago, and since then we've been steadily making our way through its wide array of recipes, with special attention to all those recipes that hail from the Indian subcontinent, partially because we'd heard the de Viennes had made some great discoveries there earlier in the year and partially because we've just been craving South Asian cuisine recently. Hits have included everything from the Masala Mo Poro, an Indian-style omelette, and the Red Crab Curry you see pictured above, to the truly outlandish Kali Mas Curry, a Sri Lankan black beef curry, but one of the very best dishes was a humble lentil dish that the book lists as a recette d'inspiration, a recipe that was inspired by South Asian cuisine but that's not necessarily traditional. Just how good are we talking about? So good they chose to feature the dish on the cover of their book, so good that the two of us promptly declared it the best dal either of us had ever made.

de vienne cookbook fig. b: lentils with spinach, as featured on the cover of La Cuisine et le Goût des Épices

Lentilles aux épinards, a.k.a. Lentils with spinach

1 cup red lentils
1 package fresh spinach, rinsed
4 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

spices A
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 bay leaf

seasoning B
2 tbsp butter or ghee
1 tsp fenugreek
1 onion, diced
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1/2 " piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 hot pepper (a jalapeño pepper will do in a pinch), diced

finishing spices C
4 tbsp ghee or olive oil
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
2 dry cayenne peppers, roughly chopped into bits
1/2 tsp whole cumin
5 curry leaves (optional)
6 cloves garlic, finely minced
6 tbsp cilantro, chopped

Rinse the lentils well under cold running water. Drain the lentils and then place them in a medium-sized pot with 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to simmer the lentils genly, skimming the foam off the top. Add spices A, stir, cover and simmer until the lentils are tender and they begin to fall apart, about 20-30 minutes.

Prepare seasoning B. Heat the ghee or butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Sizzle the fenugreek in the butter or ghee gently, until they change color slightly, roughly 30 seconds. Add the onion and and cook until it becomes golden, about 5 minutes. Add the asafoetida, the ginger, and the hot pepper and cook for another minutes. Add to the lentils.

Add just enough water to the lentils to give them the desired consistency--they should be creamy but not runny. Salt and pepper to taste and simmer them for another 10 minutes.

Add the spinach and simmer for another 2-3 minutes. Add the lemon juice and pour the lentils into a large serving dish.

Prepare the finishing spices C. Heat the ghee or olive oil in a saucepan over medium-high heat, add the mustard seeds and the peppers and sizzle them briefly, roughly 30 seconds. Add the rest of the ingredients. Sizzle for a few seconds and then pour the finishing spices over the lentils. Serve immediately.

[recipe adapted ever so slightly from La Cuisine et le goût des épices by Ethné and Philippe de Vienne]

How's that for a teaser?

Now what does any of this have to do with Menu for Hope IV? Well, for those of you who might still be unfamiliar with the event, Menu for Hope is an annual food blogging extravaganza that strives to raise awareness and funds to help fight hunger and poverty. It was started by Pim Techamuanvivit of Chez Pim in response to the tsunami that devastated South and Southeast Asia in December 2004. Already by year 2, Menu for Hope succeeded in raising an impressive $17,000 towards UNICEF’s relief efforts in India and Pakistan’s Kashmir region following the earthquake of 2005. Last year Menu for Hope III raised an astronomical $60,925.12 for the United Nations’ World Food Programme efforts across the globe. And this year Menu for Hope is aiming to raise $100,000 for the World Food Programme.

We've been so inspired by La Cuisine et le Goût des Épices that we decided to make it the focus of this year's AEB Menu for Hope IV prize:

Spice lovers of the world, unite! [CA05]
The contents:
1 x copy of La Cuisine et le goût des épices* by Ethné and Philippe de Vienne [retail value: $39.95]
1 x Philippe de Vienne Mélange du Monde Curries and Masalas spice kit, featuring 12 premium spice blends [retail value: $28]
1 x Philippe de Vienne "Spice Islands" Curries and Masalas spice kit, featuring 6 premium spices [retail value: $18]
1 x limited edition DJ TV DiSKO "Eat to the Bollywood Beat: Music to Eat Curry By" special mix CD [retail value: priceless]

* Please note: this book is in French only. French reading comprehension is recommended for all those bidding on this prize, although the spice kits and the CD alone make this a rather substantial prize.

How does it work? Well, Menu for Hope is essentially an online raffle where participating food bloggers donate some kind of food-related gift, readers purchase online raffle tickets (this year a mere $10 (US) gets you in) towards one or more of the available gift packages, an impressive 86.65% goes directly to the World Food Programme, and, as if that wasn't good enough, a few weeks later winners are selected at random (regardless of the size of their contribution) for each of the aforementioned gift packages. This year's charitable raffle begins today and runs through to December 21st.

What do you have to do to participate? Well...

1. Go to the donation page at to make a contribution.

2. Each US$10 donation will give you one raffle ticket toward a prize of your choice. Please specify which prize or prizes you'd like by entering the prize code in the 'Personal Message' section in the donation form when confirming your contribution. E.G: A US$50 donation may be two tickets for UW99 and three tickets for CA20.*

3. Some companies will match personal charitable donations made by staff. If your company has such a program, please remember to mark the appropriate box and fill in the information so we could claim the corporate match.

4. Please also check the box to allow us to see your email address. We need this so we can contact you in case you win a prize. If you do not do this, we will be unable to contact you. Please be assured that we will not share your email address with anyone.

5. Raffle results will be announced on 9 January on Chez Pim. Draws will be conducted electronically, thanks to Derrick at Obsession with Food for creating the computer application used to magically select names.

* N.B: Canadian tax laws prohibit charitable donation receipts to be issued by registered Canadian charities for raffle or lottery tickets. The UNWFP is a U.S.-based charity; should any donation receipts issued, you will need to seek professional advice regarding applying them to your Canadian income tax return.

Sound simple? It is.

Now, while we whole-heartedly encourage you to buy a raffle ticket for our " endless banquet" prize package [again, CA05], and once again we guarantee 110% satisfaction, you should know that there are a whole lot of other great prizes to be had as part of Menu for Hope III (including another NY pizza tour [UE19])!. Check out the various regional hosts' pages here.

Consult Jennifer at Domestic Goddess or Pim at Chez Pim for any and all additional details.

Thanks for participating and good luck.


ps--Thanks also to Ethné and Philippe de Vienne for their generosity.


Tiny Banquet Committee said...

Je ne parle pas le français but I desperately want all of the above. Including the dal, which I haven't eaten more than 2 or 3 bites of since I spent a semester in India in college. I was certain I ate enough dal for a lifetime but mostly it was very bland, definitely lacking three layers of spice.

aj kinik said...

Salut TBC,
All of it can be yours, if the bid is right. Of course, the dal can be yours almost immediately. I'm sure all the necessary ingredients are readily available down in your neck of the asphalt jungle. For years my standard dal has been a riff on an old Anna Thomas recipe--it's served me well, but this recipe is a helluva lot more interesting and I love greens in my dal.