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Posted Nov 28 2010 9:39pm

Below is the wonderful comment I received from Jake Benson, who tried my recipe from Thai Chickpeas from GREAT VEGETARIAN COOKING UNDER PRESSURE and came up with some terrific variations. Thanks Jake!

This is my first post, and I have to say I’ve been using your books for nearly 15 years!! I have also made this recipe for years, after your vegetarian book first came out. Lately though, I’ve taken to adjusting the recipe a bit. In fact, I’ve wanted to write you about them for some time now.

Instead of chickpeas, I now often used red lentils. I also soak them for a little while first, mainly to reduce cooking time. I overcook the lentils with the coconut, onions, garlic, with added with fresh ginger, galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime leaves, and also some Thai curry paste. Once cooked, I release the pressure and scoop out the galangal, lemongrass, and kaffir lime, and then puree the lentils with a blender stick. I’ve also taken to adding silken tofu at this stage, and the tomatoes. Once blended, I add the Thai basil and cilantro, and adjust seasonings to taste.

This approach forms a luscious, thick, creamy base for a more traditional Thai curry with fresh green beans, peppers, and then either fried tofu or a quorn roast cut up into cubes added in, with more fresh herbs over top.

After thinking and experimenting with the recipe even further, I realized that sweet potatoes and red lentils make a great base for other dishes, but using different spice profiles. I make an Indian “mulligatawny” curried soup that uses this bases, with the coconut, but I start off by toasting whole Indian spices (ginger, fenugreek, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, coriander, turmeric, Madras curry powder, a touch of cardamon, clove) in oil, or a little ghee. I cook the base (not overcooked though), release pressure, but don’t puree it, and then add in some celery, fresh cilantro, basil, chopped fresh fenugreek, red and green peppers. It’s great paired with Chana Saag (Chickpea with greens), to which I sometimes add fried paneer cheese.

Another variation is similar to Turkish Mericemek Çorbası. Again, red lentils and sweet potato (which is not really a Turkish ingredient, but after making it, I find that it’s just TOO YUMMY, not to mention nutritious to ever leave out!!), but no coconut, and I use European spices like Bay leaves during cooking, and after releasing the pressure add fresh or good canned tomatoes, Italian Basil, oregano, a little rosemary, cilantro, even mint.

So thanks for this inspiring recipe, as I’ve certainly gotten a lot of mileage out of it!!

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