Cooking with a conscience…
Muhammad Yunus, if you’ve never heard of him, is the founder of microfinance. He pioneered the concept of microcredit and created a bank in his home country of Bangladesh that would lend small loans to impoverished clients, most of whom were women, without requiring collateral. This allowed these women, who wouldn’t otherwise get approved by any other lending institution, to start their own small businesses and thereby support their families with enterprises such as basket weaving, sewing, etc. This notion of social and economic development on a smaller, local level was a novel idea at the time and gave families an opportunity where they otherwise would have no other option than poverty. His creation, the Grameen Bank, was so innovative and successful, that he and the institution jointly received the Nobel Peace Prize in 2006. I had the chance to see him speak in Chicago the following year and was nothing short of inspired.
Naturally, when I saw he had contributed a recipe for the Share cookbook, I had to try it! At the fair trade store I volunteer with, they were selling the cookbook as a specialty item and I quickly picked up a a copy. It is produced by the non-profit Women for Women International and 100% of the publisher proceeds go to the organization. They work specifically with women in countries where war and conflict have devastated local communities and give women the education and resources they need to succeed. The cookbook itself is filled with recipes from all around the world – Afghanistan, Bosnia & Herzegovina, the Congo, to name a few – and then a few from guest contributors like Paul McCartney and Ashley Judd. In short, these are dishes you cannot Google. I’d recommend it to anyone who loves to cook and is looking for some inspiration!
This particular recipe is a Bangladeshi dish accompanied by an Indian yogurt sauce.
*Recipe has been lightly adapted.
- ¾ cup dried red lentils
- Fresh ginger (2in fresh or 2tbsp powder)
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp cilantro, chopped
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 2-3 green chilies, finely chopped
- 2 cups of oil
- Wash the lentils and place in a bowl. Cover with hot water and leave to soak for 30 minutes. Drain and place in a food processor or blender with the ginger. Blend to form a thick paste and pour into a mixing bowl. *I used a coffee grinder and hand mashing technique.
- Stir in onion, cilantro, salt, turmeric and chiles. Mix thoroughly. Shape spoonfuls of the mixture into balls. Should make 18-22. *I let my “globs” sit in the freezer for 15 minutes before frying to help them keep their shape – perfect time to make the sauce, too.
- Heat oil in a deep fryer or saucepan to about 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Fry the piaju in batches for about 1 minute each or until golden brown. Remove from oil and place on paper towel to absorb excess oil.
- ½ cucumber
- 1 cup plain yogurt
- 1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 10 fresh mint leaves, shredded
- Salt and pepper
- Cut the cucumber in half lengthwise, scoop out the seeds with a spoon and discard them. Finely chop or grate the flesh and pat dry with paper towels. Put the yogurt in a bowl and stir in the garlic and shredded mint. *I used Greek yogurt.
- Season to taste, then spoon into smaller dish to serve.
And, voilà! I’m usually not the best at deep frying but these have to be the best yet!