You can approach this dish in two parts. The black lentil cakes can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator until you’re ready to brown them just before serving. The black lentils were cooked until tender which was about 40 minutes. They were then drained and transferred to a large mixing bowl in which they were mashed with a potato masher. Finely chopped onion was sauteed in a large skillet for a few minutes before garlic was added followed by cumin seeds, garam masala, ground coriander, and I added some cayenne powder. The onion and spice mixture was added to the mashed lentils along with some flour and salt and pepper. The recipe in the book suggests rather large bean cakes, but I divided the mixture into smaller portions. Each bean cake was coated with more flour, placed on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and the sheet pan was refrigerated until it was time to cook. For the curry, fresh ginger and garlic were pureed in a food processor to form a paste. The paste was cooked in a skillet with vegetable oil for about a minute before cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds were added. Finely chopped fresh red chile was added next. Starting with a five pound watermelon, half of it was pureed, and the other half was chopped into small chunks. The pureed watermelon was added to the ginger and garlic mixture, brought to a boil, and allowed to simmer and reduce for about ten minutes. It thickens surprisingly well. As the sauce reduced, the lentil cakes were cooked in oil in a skillet for about three minutes per side until browned and crisp. Just before serving, lime juice and the watermelon chunks were added to the curry, and it was spooned over the cooked lentil cakes.
As I mentioned, the result here is more than the sum of its parts. The cakes are crispy on the surface and tender in the middle while the sauce is a combination of smooth puree and chunkiness. Fruity sweetness, spicy earthiness, and some subtle fenugreek bitterness work together delightfully. Grab a watermelon before the season ends and try it in a savory dish like this.
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