Dodi and Patricia Newman
In these COVID days, cooking together via video chat is a great way of sharing an experience. As we work away in our kitchens, hearing a desperate “I burnt the garlic!” or a deeply satisfied “Mmmm, that smells good,” we occasionally forget that we are not in the same kitchen.
From a recent experience with my daughter, here are a few tips on how to make this work well:
Choose recipes that minimize the need to go from shop to shop for unusual ingredients.
If you’re having trouble maintaining your internet connection, think about buying a repeater (a device that extends the reach of the wireless signal). The device (tablet, phone, or laptop) and app you use (FaceTime, WhatsApp, Signal, etc.) also make a difference. For us, a smartphone and WhatsApp worked best.
Bluetooth headphones allow you to walk around the kitchen and still hear the other person clearly, undisturbed by ambient noise. If the headphones have a microphone, then the other person can hear you clearly, too. If you wear hearing aids, check if they are Bluetooth-enabled.
Working at the same pace allows you to finish at the same time then, even continents apart (as in our case), you can sit down and enjoy the meal you prepared together.
The recipe we prepared last was Patricia’s mildly spiced Indian red lentil dish. Diverging from the recipe in small ways made it more interesting and it was fun comparing notes on the results. One of us went with the coriander at the end, while the other tried fennel and garlic. All three together taste best.
1 cup red lentils
3 cups water
1/4 rounded teaspoon turmeric
1 dried chili pepper, 8 to 10 cm long
2 tablespoons oil
1 cup chopped onions
2 teaspoons grated or very thinly julienned ginger
1 cup chopped tomatoes
Salt to taste
1 handful coriander leaves, roughly chopped
Rinse the lentils in several changes of water until the water is not so cloudy.
Over medium heat, bring the water and the lentils to a boil, skimming off the scum that will form on the surface. When the scum stops forming, add turmeric and pepper. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook for 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When it is hot, add the onions and fry, stirring constantly, until caramelized. Stir in the ginger, fry for another minute. Add the tomatoes and continue cooking until they have softened. Stir occasionally.
When the lentils are almost done, add the fried onion/tomato/spice combo and salt to the dal. Continue cooking at a low simmer for another 5-10 minutes to blend the flavours. Serve topped with the coriander.
Variation: Heat 1 tablespoon of canola oil in a frying pan, add 1/2 teaspoon crushed fennel seeds, fry for 20-40 seconds, take the pan off the heat and add a bit of minced garlic, fry for about 30 seconds, and then stir everything into the lentils.