Sambar (Indian Lentil & Vegetables Stew)

Sambar is an utterly popular slow cooked south indian lentil and vegetable stew which is served with idlis, dosa, vada or steamed rice. It is fragrant, nourishing and very comforting. Lentils form a huge part of indian cuisine and every region has its own speciality. Sambar is an everyday dish of the south indian region and over years because of its delicious taste and nutrient dense value, it has become one of the most popular dishes in India.

However, in our north indian family, south indian food was made once or twice a month. It was a special meal and the preparations started a couple days ahead with mom fermenting idli batter and making chutneys. Her sambar recipe is the best if you ask me. I dont claim it to be the authentic for it differs in the selection of vegetables and the way she tempered it. So unlike the drumsticks and squash loaded ones, I grew up on sambar in which went chunks of capsicum(green bell pepper) and green beans and sometimes okra or eggplant. It was a warming, soul satisfying and a beautiful medley of flavors of sambar powder and taste of vegetables.

I make sambar like mom, with the same selection of vegetables. Be it the contrasting sweetness of jaggery and sour of fresh squeezed tamarind pulp or the chewy pungency of black mustard seeds and a subtle citrus nuttiness of curry leaves, every single slurp rings comfort into my soul..

Mom used store bought sambar powder and I do the same. We have a few favorite brands and I stock up on those whenever I go to India or someone is visiting. I sometimes find it in our indian store as well, its a pretty easy thing to find. However, if you do not have ready to use sambar powder, leave a comment and I will write you a recipe.

Many people like to use a blend of lentils but I make mine with just arhar daal (toor/pigeon pea lentils). Sambar is a easy thing to make and tastes better next day or after resting if you are serving the same day. You can prep the vegetables and make tamarind pup while the lentils are cooking(I pressure cook them) and just temper everything and simmer it for about 10-12 minutes.

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Sambar

A flavorful,south indian pigeon pea lentil & vegetable stew. Best served with idlis, vada, dosa or steamed rice. Can be easily made vegan.
Course Main Course, Soup
Cuisine Indian
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour

Equipment

  • Pressure Cooker, Cooking Pot

Ingredients

For Boiing The Daal

  • 1 cup arhar daal (toor daal/pigeon pea lentils)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2.5 cups water

Vegetables (substitute with your choice of vegetables)

  • 1 small capsicum/green bell pepper cut into bite size pieces
  • 12-15 green beans cut into 1 inch long pieces
  • 1 medium firm tomato quatered
  • 6-8 sambar onions/pearl onions peeled

Tempering The Sambar

  • 3 tbsp oil/ ghee I use avocado oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 3/4 tsp chana daal (bengal gram lentils)
  • 3/4 tsp split urad lentils
  • 1/4 tsp hing
  • 2-3 dried red chilies
  • Pinch methi seeds
  • 12-15 fresh curry leaves
  • 2-3 tbsp thick tamarind pulp adjust to desired sourness
  • 2.5 tbsp sambar powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp jaggery powder adjust to desired sweetness

Instructions

Boil The Daal

  • Wash the lentils throughly 2-3 times under a running stream of water.
  • Place in the pressure cooker. Add 2.5 cups water and turmeric. Soak for 20 minutes.
  • Once soaked, pressure cook the lentils in the same water for 3-5 whistles on medium heat. Switch off and let pressure release naturally. While the lentils are still hot, add salt and using a wooden masher or back of spoon mash the lentils well so that no grain is visible. Set aside.
  • While the lentils are cooking you can prepare the vegetables and tamarind pulp. Keep everthing ready.

Make the Sambar

  • In a heavy bottom pot,warm up the oil. Temper the oil with mustad seeds. Once they crackle, add the hing, chana & urad dal. Cook till the lentils are browned in color.
  • Add the dried chillies and methi seeds next. Saute fo r5-6 seconds till they swell a bit.
  • Add curry leaves to the oil, they will immediatley splutter so be careful. Saute for 2-3 seconds and add all the vegetables that you are using at once. Sprinkle a pinch of salt. Saute the vegeatble for a minute or so with the spices.
  • Next sprinkle the sambar powder and red chilli powder (if using) and saute for 20 seconds.
  • Add the cooked mashed lentils next and mix well. If you feel that they are thickish, add water to thin out as per desired consistency.
  • Mix well and let come to a slow boil on medium heat. Reduce the heat and add the tamarind and jaggery. Taste and adjust the salt. Mix well.
  • Let simmer for 10-12 minutes on low medium heat stirring a bit in between. Initially you will see that there is a layer of foam on the sambar but as it cooks out, the color will deepen so will the flavors. Rest for 30 mins and serve warm!

Extra Tempering (optional but recommmended)

  • Heat 1 tbsp oil or ghee in a pan and add 1/2 tsp mustrd seeds,pinch of hing, 1-2 dried chillies and 8-10 curry leaves. Add on top of the cooked sambar and mix well.

Matar Kulcha (Delhi Style Matar)

Matar Kulcha is one of the most popular street foods from Delhi. Usually sold on carts in huge brass handis(pots), it is lip smacking vegetarian curry made with white dried peas and served with a flatbread(called kulcha). We used to call them ghanti vaale chole since the vendor came ringing a bell, handing them over in a dried leaf bowl (dona).

Safed or Sookhe matar are dried white peas and the same are used to make Mumbai street food ragda pattice. They are a dried version of the fresh green peas and gained popularity in dry parts of India as a way to preserve vegetables. A perfect meal for #meatlessmonday, the curry is not at all heavy and uses less amount of oil for cooking.

These dried matar are a great source of vegetarian protein and quite wholesome. They are very easily to make and just need a few steps. You need to start a little ahead and soak these overnight before boiling them next morning. The curry uses a fresh ground wet chutney paste and that is one the main flavor boost of the recipe. Pair with buttered kulcha or ladled over aloo tikkis or enjoy a warm bowl as it is garnished with onions, ginger, green chillies & chutney.

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Matar Kulcha

Famous Delhi street Food of dried peas usually served with kulcha (flatbread)
Prep Time 8 hours 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Servings 4

Equipment

  • Pressure Cooker, Cooking Pot, Blender

Ingredients

Boiling the Matar

  • 1.5 cup matar (dried peas) soaked in enough cold water for 8 hours and drained
  • 1 black cardamom
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oil

For the Matar Curry

  • 1 medium potato
  • 2-3 tbsp mustard oil/cooking oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp hing
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped ginger
  • 2 green chillies, slit adjust to taste
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric powder
  • 1 tsp corinander powder
  • 1/2 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1 tsp chaat masala adjust to taste
  • Salt to taste

For the wet chutney paste

  • 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1 tbsp tamarind paste
  • 8-10 fresh mint leaves
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1-2 green chillies adjust to taste
  • 1 inch fresh ginger

For Topping

  • ginger julinnes, chopped onions, tomatoes, cilantro etc

Instructions

Boil the Matar

  • In a pressure cooker, add everthing listed under "Boiling the Matar". Add 2-2.5 cups water and pressure cook on medium for 2-3 whistles until tender. These peas cook very fast so keep an eye. Let pressure release naturally. The peas should be soft when squeezed between your fingers.

Making the Matar

  • Peel the potatoes and cut them into small chunks. Set aside.
  • In a wet grinder- add everthing under "For the wet chutney paste" and make a fine paste. Add water if needed. Set aside.
  • Heat oil in a heavy pottom pot until a bit smoky.
  • Add the cumin seeds, hing, green chillies and ginger all at once and saute for a minute or so. Dont let burn.
  • Add the potato chunks next, add a bit of salt and saute the potatoes in oil for a few minutes to brown their edges.
  • Once the potatoes are slightly browned, immediately add the onions. Saute for a few minutes till the onions are transculent but dont brown them.
  • Add all the powdwered spices – corinader, turmeric, roasted cumin powder and chaat masala next. Add 2-3 tbsp of water and saute the spices with oil for a few minutes till you see little bubbles of oil seperating.
  • Add the boiled peas next along with all the liquid. Check and adjust the salt. Coved the lid and let the peas cook with everrthing for about 20 minutes on low medium heat till the poatoes are tender.
  • Once the poatoes have cooked, add the wet chutney paste, mix nicely, you can mash the peas a bit for a thicker consistency. Cover and let everything simmer for another 10 minutes.
  • Serve warm with kulchas. You can add chopped onions, tomatoes, green chiilies and fresh lemon juice on top.

Milai Ki Dal (Arhar Urad Mix Dal)

A very cozy daal recipe from my grandma’s kitchen. Indians are known to mix lentils always and this is a unique combination of lacey split urad and earthly archer(pigeon pea lentils). Both the lentils are mixed and cooked together in with lots of hing and ginger and then tempered with mustard oil browned garlic slices and dried chillies. You can vary the quantity of each lentil as per your liking. I love deals when they are creamy lacey as well as have a lot of texture, this daal fits so well in that variety.

I remember making faces at this daal growing up but surprisingly enough it is now one of my favorite with rotis especially.

A few things to be kept in mind when making these. Don’t soak the lentils for more than 20 minutes for the right texture. Make them on the thicker side, they taste better than soupy. If you cannot find mustard oil, you can use ghee to temper them and don’t skimp on the garlic. Lastly, dont add salt when boiling the daal, add it later, it keeps the grains soft.

Recipe

Ingredients(Serves 3-4)

  • 1/2 cup arhar daal
  • 1/3 cup split urad daal
  • 1 tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1/4 tsp hing
  • 1/2 tbsp mustard oil (or ghee)
  • 2-2.5 cups water
  • salt to taste
  • Lemon juice, cilantro( to serve)

Tempering

  • 3-4 tbsp mustard oil (or ghee)
  • 3-4 dried chillies, broken
  • 12-15 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp hing
  • 3/4 tsp hot red chilli powder (adjust to taste)

Method

Wash the lentils 3-4 times until the water runs clear. Add them to a pressure cooker along with ginger, hing and oil.Add 2 cups water and let them soak in the cooker for 15-20 mins.

Once soaked, put on the lid and pressure cook the lentils for 2-3 whistles on medium flame. Do not cook for too long else the lentils will lose their texture. Switch off the stove and let the pressure release naturally. Open the lid and add 1/2 cup cold water along with salt to taste. With the back of a spoon, mash the lentils for 1-2 minutes, gently so that they are creamy but the grains are not broken. Return to a low stove and cook for 3-5 minutes without stirring much. Take off the stove.

Tempering the Daal:- In a small saucepan or your tadka pan, warm up the mustard oil on low medium heat till its a bit smoky. Add the dried chillies and crisp them for 30 seconds, sliced garlic and cook them for 2-3 minutes until they are light brown. Add the cumin and hing next and sauté for 20 seconds. You will smell a nice aroma.

Take off the stove and add the red chilli powder. Add the tempering to the warm daal and mix well.

Serve warm with lemon juice and chopped cilantro.

-Enjoy!

Kali Masoor Ki Dal

As we are progressing through the week, I can only express my gratitude towards how much thought the staff at our school has put behind this entire virtual learning thing. I was quite overwhelmed on first day, and even though I consider myself quite technologically sound,I had a fair amount of doubt switching among multiple portals and galloping through so many google classrooms. Its mid week and I feel much better. We might be able to do this after all!

I needed my mid week comfort today. So one of my favorite, kali masoor ki daal happened.These are basically skin on whole red lentils,they are full of fiber and are super duper delicious. I often compare  dal preparation in Indian homes to the roasted chicken in the west. It is such a simple thing to make, comforting at the same time and each cook has it own recipe which without a doubt is delicious.

I make this dal very differently from the way I grew up eating. I like this recipe more than my family’s, something I worked on for a few years to get right. I don’t like this dal mushy or watery. More of a slurry like consistency, compare it to something you can ladle on your plate directly. The lentils should be holding shape, yet they should be soft, best way to ensure even cooking is to use fresh lentils which are not lying around for more than 2-3 months in your pantry . I temper this dal twice. It is so hearty and delicious that you dont need a side with it. Just some rotis and papad will do. Read the recipe below 🙂

Ingredients(Serves 3-4)

To boil the daal

  • 1.5 cup kali masoor dal(whole skin on red lentils)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 black cardamom, cracked open
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp ghee

First tempering

  • 4 tbsp mustard oil (or use ghee)
  • 2-3 dried red chillies
  • 3/4 cup chopped onions
  • 2 tbsp chopped garlic
  • 2 tbsp chopped ginger
  • 1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 – 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1.5 tsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp amchoor(or lemon juice, adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • Salt to taste

Second tempering

  • 1 tbsp ghee
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli powder

Cilantro to garnish

Method

Clean and wash the lentils under running water 2-3 times.Place the washed lentils in a pressure cooker, add 2.5 cups water and soak the lentils for 30 mins. Once soaked, add the whole spices (bay leaf, black cardamom and cinnamon), add ghee and pressure cook the dal for 2-4 whistles on high pressure. Let pressure release naturally, open the cooker lid, test a few grains of dal (they should be holding shape), press between your fingers, they should be really soft. Mix (not mash) the dal while still warm gently using back of a spoon for 30-40 seconds, it will be thick and creamy. Set aside.

While the dal is cooking, start making the first tempering. Add mustard oil to a shallow wide pan (I use my 12 inch) and let heat up till you see ripples on surface and its smoky (if using ghee, just warm it up).Temper with dried chilies and add onions, cook for for 7-8 mins on medium heat until onions start turning dark brown. Add the ginger garlic next and saute for 30 seconds. Then add the tomatoes and purée , sprinkle a little salt, add the red chilli powder and black pepper, cook everything for 5-8 minutes until the tomatoes are mushy and the oil starts separating. Add the pressure cooked dal. Mix it nicely with the onion tomato base and add a little water (about 1/2 cup or less/more) depending on the consistency you desire. Cover the pan, let come of to a slow boil and then let simmer for 15-20 minutes on low.

Once the dal has simmered, pick out and discard all the whole spices. Add the amchoor, cumin powder and garam masala and mix nicely. Let simmer while you make the second tempering. Simply warm up the ghee and crackle cumin seeds in it. Add the red chilli powder and immediately add it on top of the daal. Switch off the stove. Mix everything. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve.

Enjoy!

Lauki-Chana Daal (Bengal Gram Lentils With Summer Squash)

Each summer, last few days of school before the break started were hectic. Even after the vacations started, I remember going to school for extra classes during the high school year. By the time I returned home around noon, I was welcomed in the verandah of our house filled with the intoxicating aroma that emanated from the khus ki chik, a rustic kind of air conditioner made from reeds and laid in the form of window blinds, using the loo (indian summer winds) as a natural fan to cool the space inside. Clasping the finger numbing cold tumbler of rose sherbet that mom kept ready in the refrigerator, I stationed myself in the lobby to observed ladies of the house sitting on the jute chatai (mat) on the floor. There were all sorts of labelled containers of what is inside what around them and stained brass paraat (wide, shallow plates) infront. Sitting with legs neatly folded on top of each other, very immaculately, they picked the lentils, sometimes arguing teasingly or plainly gossiping about relatives and neighbors,their deft fingers, picking the little stones or unhusked bits all the time.They scanned through minute grains scattered in the shallow dish, separating one from the other, unmistakably picking out the hard inedible parts and segregating the cleaned portion towards the other side of the paraat. 

I guess ‘picking’ the lentils is a ritual followed in many indian homes, even though most of the lentils available in the markets these days are clean and processed. It’s a kitchen habit that is passed from a generation to other, more as a traditional than need. If it’s not an arduous number of hours to be spent, a vigilant scan of the beans and lentils is what I go through each time I am about to wash or soak. 

In those years, it was dal – chawal for lunch or dinner  everyday. The variety of lentil changed and so did its preparation and tempering but the menu, though a bit monotonous remained comforting. On bright, sunny summer evenings, chunks of fleshy lauki (indian summer gourd) were added to chana daal, slow cooked till the squash softened and then the turmeric hued boiled lentils were topped with a tadka (tempering) of slow caramelized onions & browned garlic, filling the kitchen with aroma of ghee & smoky cumin & green chillies. Fresh dhaniya (coriander leaves), exuberantly priced during summer months was especially purchased from our daily vegetable vendor, to be finely chopped and scattered while the daal was still hot. It did make a lot of difference.

If you know even a little about indian food, you would know that lentils are an everyday part of our meals, be it any time of the year. There are numerous ways of preparing and tempering them, native to each region of the country. The flavorings can vary from coconut, sugar, garlic to tomato based to curried to what not. This daal is my summer favorite. I guess every family has its own twist on it. Some temper it with just cumin, leaving out the garlic or onions, while some prepare it with coconut and mustard seeds. I had the opportunity to taste a variation tempered with curry leaves at one of my friend’s place. There is no right or wrong, just a choice. This is the beauty of indian food, it has no set rules. The same basic ingredients convert to a delicious outcome depending on who is handling them.Here, in my recipe, you could or could not add the squash even though it makes it hearty. Paired with rotis or steamed rice, salad and a dollop of chili achaar, it is such a satisfying complete meal for hot evenings.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

Cooking the Lentils

  • 3/4 cup chana daal (bengal gram lentils)
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (or use oil for vegan version)
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large tomato, finely chopped (yield about 1/2 cup)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped (optional, adjust quantity to taste)
  • 1/4 teaspoon hing powder (asafoetida)
  • 2-3.5 cups of water (adjust depending on the desired consistency)
  • 1 small bottle gourd (peeled and cut into 2″ batons)
  • Lime juice to taste
  • Chopped fresh cilantro to garnish

For the Tadka (Tempering to be added after the lentils have cooked)

  • 3-4 tablespoon ghee (or use oil for vegan version)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 small clove
  • generous pinch of hing powder (asafoetida)
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2-3 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2-3 dried whole kashmiri chillies
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (or to taste)

Notes

  • Replace lauki (bottle gourd) with your choice of summer squash (yellow squash is a good choice over green ones). You can skip the squash all together too.
  • The cooking time mentioned in this recipe are for split lentils. If you use whole lentils the cooking time would be more.
  • Hing or asafoetida is a strong, aromatic spice available both in crystal and powdered form.A little goes a long way. It gives a unique flavor to daal but can be skipped if you do not have it.
  • If you are vegan, use any oil in this recipe instead of ghee. Coconut oil might not be a very good choice since the spice selection in the recipe does not go great with it but any neutral oil or olive oil is fine.

Method

Thoroughly wash the lentils under running water 2-3 times. Drain and transfer the washed lentils to a pressure cooker and add 3 cups of water. Let soak for 30 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes,  ginger (if using), hing, ghee, turmeric and salt. Put on the lid and pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 3-4 whistles (This cooking time will depend on the quality of lentils, so adjust). Take off the heat and let sit on the counter till the pressure releases out of the cooker.

If you do not have a pressure cooker, use a heavy bottomed pot with lid and cook the lentils for around 30-40 minutes or till 95% cooked.

Once you open the lid, with the help of a whisk or a spoon, mash the lentils a bit so that they are chunky-smooth consistency. I like my lentils to have some texture, however you can mash them to consistency desired.

Add the chunks of lauki and return the pressure cooker to the stove. Cover with a plate or a lid and let simmer (not pressure cook) on medium heat for 15-20 minutes until the gourd is completely soft.  If you like a thinner consistency of dal, add a cup or more of water.If you add extra water, let simmer for another 5-7 minutes on medium heat. Ideally, for this kind of daal, once it’s cooked, the grain should be intact in its shape but completely soft or cracked to look at.

While the dal is simmering, make the tadka. In a small sauce pan, heat up the ghee. Add the cumin seeds & clove, let crackle, about 15-20 seconds. Add the whole dried chillies and let them turn darker in color. Lower the heat and immediately add the onions and garlic and let cook till they are golden brown, taking care not to burn.(Tadka can become very hot very quickly, take care that you act fast so that nothing burns.) Put off the heat and add the red chili powder. Immediately add this tadka to the simmered lentils and cover so that the aroma infuses. Let sit undisturbed for 10-15 minutes.

Scatter with chopped cilantro and serve warm.

Stay Spicy.

Dal Makhani – Creamy Lentils



You know I have made these lentils quite a few times in last months.We cooked and we ate, my instagram feed has showcased it a couple of times. But, somehow it is only now in the last week or so of winter that I am getting around to post it. Well, they say better late then never. Right? So while the weather is still cold and snowy make it. Put that pressure cooker to work (or the slow cooker if you want) because I have included both methods in the recipe.

Dal Makhani literally translates to “buttery lentils”. It is a hugely popular dish in the punjabi cuisine.Cooked with whole black urad lentils, red kidney beans, spices and butter, it was not a everyday thing growing up. It was a dish reserved for special occasions. Mom would make it on only on birthdays, anniversary and days of family gatherings. And I can very well understand why.These creamy, melt in the mouth lentils, they need a bit of work. It’s not your usual dump in the pressure cooker and doze off kind of lentils. For that smoky, creamy taste, a rich baghaar (tempering) needs to be prepared. The elements of the tempering are slow roasted on open fire for that superlative yet subtle aroma of spices, sweet – acidic hints of tomato, smoky notes of roasted onions and satiating comfort of butter & dairy. It needs planning and patience. You learn from experience when the lentils have cooked just about right. It took me some time to get a hang of it. Now, after so many years of making it, I can just tell by the look of them if they are perfectly cooked or not.

In our house and indian culture in general, when people host dinners, hospitality is showcased by serving something away from the usual home meals.It is one of mom’s signature recipe.It’s one of the recipes which she has cooked for dozens of guests in our family over the years and handed the method to many. When she visited me few months back here, I saw her making it, the eyeballing the ingredients come naturally to her, she didn’t pick a measuring spoon if I tell you the truth.

It is definitely not your everyday food. It is calorie laden and full of concentrated fats. But it so good. Oh boy! However, the way we prepare it in our homes is different from the restaurant versions, less use of dairy, less sweet, more spicy. Here, you taste the lentils, their creaminess and the warmth of ginger & kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) in each bite. Many people mash or churn the lentils to a baby food consistency, you can do that if you want but I like to keep that extra bite. It works better with my texture -in- food kind of  crazy family.

A lot of steps in this recipe can be done a day ahead. You can cook the lentils, refrigerate them and temper then when ready to serve. You can fire roast the onions and tomatoes one day ahead too. If you plan slightly, it makes the process quick and easy. Serve the lentils with hot off the griddle rotis (flatbreads) or warm fluffy naan and a salad.

Ingredients  (Makes 3-4 servings)

Cooking the Lentils

  • 1/2 cup whole black urad dal (lentils)
  • 2 tbsp red kidney beans
  • 2 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped ginger (from 1/4″ piece)
  • 1 fat garlic clove, chopped
  • tejpatta (bay leaf)
  • 1/2″ cinnamon stick
  • 1 black cardamom (skip if not available)
  • 1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida powder)
  • 3-4 cups water
  • 1/2 tsp salt

For the Baghaar (Tempering)

  •  1 medium onion (~yield 1/2 cup when blended )
  • 3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 2 large tomatoes (~yield a little more than 1/2 cup when blended)
  • 4 tablespoon oil(any neutral)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder (or paprika)
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (or cayenne, adjust to taste)
  • 2″ fresh ginger shoot, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoon kasuri methi (dry fenugreek leaves, available at indian grocery stores )
  • 1/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon amchoor (dry mango powder or squirt fresh mime juice at the end of cooking)
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 2-3 tablespoon butter 
  • 2-3 tablespoons heavy cream (or more depending on how creamy you want, optional)
  • Cilantro to garnish

Method

Cooking the lentils  (This can be done a day ahead)

Stove Top Method 

Soak the lentils and kidney beans in enough water for atleast 8-10 hours. Soaking the lentils reduces the cooking times and gets rid of inedible enzymes in them so it’s a important step. Drain the lentil and beans, add the kidney beans to a small pot of water and let boil for 20 minutes separately.Then add them along with lentils to a pressure cooker along with all the ingredients listed under ‘cooking the lentils’. Pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 2-3 whistles, then reduce to low and let cook for about 15-20 minutes. Put off the stove and then let the pressure release. Open the pressure  cooker lid and with the help of a spoon, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamom. Mash the hot lentils and beans. Decide how mushy or chewy you want them. If you feel that the lentils are slightly tough to mash, pressure cook for another 1-2 whistles on medium. You should easily be able to mash the lentils with a spoon. If not, let cook a little more.

Slow Cooker Method 

Add the cooked beans along with lentils to slowcooker along with all the ingredients listed under ‘cooking the lentils’. Set to cook for 8-10 hours.Once cooked, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamom.With the help of a spoon, mash the hot lentils and beans. Decide how mushy or chewy you want them.Let sit.

For the Tempering 

While the lentils are cooking, fire roast the onion and tomatoes. Roast them till the skins are charred. I use a small perforated pan but you can roast them on the stove directly. Once roasted,let cool and  peel off the skin of onion and using the food processor, make a paste. Try not to add water while making the paste. Separately, make a paste of tomatoes too.Set aside. (These pastes can be made a day ahead).

In a pot or kadhai(indian wok), heat up the oil on medium heat. Add the onion paste along with cumin seeds and let cook on medium heat till the paste is nicely golden brown. Next add the minced  garlic. Saute for another 30 seconds or so. Then, add the tomato paste along with red chili powder and chopped ginger. Cook the tomatoes for about 8-10 minutes on low heat till you see the fat starting to separate on sides and the color darkening to deep red. At this point, add the mashed lentils to the pot.Adjust the salt and also add some water if you feel that the lentils have thickened in due time. I add about 3/4 cup water. Adjust depending on the desired consistency of the lentils.Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about 20-25 minutes. The lentils will thicken up and the flavors will develop.

Once the lentils have simmered, add the kasuri methi, garam masala, nutmeg, butter and heavy cream (if using) and let simmer(not boil) for another 10 minutes.

Let sit for atleast 2-3 hours before serving. They get better as they sit.

Garnish with chopped cilantro, green chillies or ginger and serve warm with rotis (flatbreads).

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Dal Tadka – Tempered Yellow Lentils


If you ever chance upon a dinner or lunch in India, dal or lentils is a must thing on the meal table. In north indian states it could be a choice between kaali dal (black lentils) or dal tadka (the yellow ones) but in other parts, quintessentially, it has to be the yellow one. Generously tempered with a fat (ghee, coconut,mustard or sesame oil) &  the crackling spices – cumin, asafoetida, curry leaves or mustard seeds, it is further flavored with garlic, ginger, tomatoes, onions, chilies (both green & red),turmeric and even jaggery (sugar).Essentially dal is quite an aromatic and soul nourishing food.

I like to compare dal preparation in Indian homes to the roasted chicken in the west. It is such a simple thing to make but the taste of dal can vary easily between two cooks.Comforting and satisfying food compounded with warm, smooth texture and laced with hints of spices. Every home has its own way of making it and that recipe is no doubt the best, certainly better than how it is done in your home (in case we get into an altercation ever!). We eat dal on days when we are sick as well as on days when we want to feast.Mostly severed with a spicy pickle (green mango in our house) and dollops of ghee on top, steamed basmati rice is the best vehicle for dal. In India, dal sums up the daily protein chunk for majority of indians who are pure vegetarians especially the ones who refrain from eggs also.

Between me and the husband we are poles apart when it comes to a favorite dal. For me its the black lentils which, at some point, I could eat every day with rotis (flatbread) but he is more of a chawal (rice) – dal kind. Since I mostly lost a knack for lentils after my pregnancy (its both amazing & weird what giving birth does to you!), he is having it his way in the house now.I usually mix a couple of lentils whenever cooking and the toor/arhar (split pigeon pea lentils) are an important ingredient here. Sadly I haven’t spotted it in regular or bulk grocery stores here so you might want to visit an indian/pakistani store to get it.

 

Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)

  • 1/3 cup arhar/toor dal (pigeon pea lentils,husked & split )
  • 1/3 cup masoor dal (red lentils,husked & split )
  • 2 tbsp moong dal (golden lentils,husked &split )
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped onion (I use red onion)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped tomatoes (I use Roma tomatoes)
  • 1 fat garlic clove,finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp hing (asafoetida)
  • 1/2 tsp ghee, melted
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt
  • 3 cups water +more
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder, substitute with fresh lime juice to taste)
  • Chopped Cilantro

For Tadka (tempering)

  • 4 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2-3 whole dried kashmiri red chilies
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 2-3 whole red chilies

Notes –

  • The cooking time mentioned in this recipe are for split lentils. If you use whole lentils the cooking time could be more. Also keep in mind that you use either all split or all whole when choosing lentils for this recipe
  • Hing or asafoetida is a strong, aromatic spice available both in crystal and powdered form. It aids digestion & is used more often than not in indian cooking, also a little goes a long way. It gives a unique flavor to dal but can be skipped if you do not have it.
  • If you are vegan, use any oil in this recipe instead of ghee. Coconut oil might not be a very good choice since the spice selection in the recipe does not go great with it but you can use any neutral oil.

Method

Thoroughly wash all the lentils under running water 2-3 times. Drain and transfer the washed lentils to a pressure cooker and add 3 cups of water. Let soak for 10 minutes. Add chopped onion, tomatoes,garlic, ginger(if using), hing, ghee, turmeric and salt. Put on the lid and pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 1 whistle (This cooking time will depend on the quality of lentils, so adjust). Take off the heat and let sit on the counter till the pressure releases out of the cooker.

If you do not have a pressure cooker, use a heavy bottomed pot with lid and cook the lentils for around 30- 40 minutes or till completely tender.

Once you open the lid, add amchoor to the dal. With the help of a whisk or a spoon, thoroughly mash the lentils so that they are creamy. If you like a thinner consistency of dal, add a cup or more of water.If you add extra water, return to the stove and let simmer for another 5-7 minutes on medium heat.

While the dal is simmering, make the tadka. In a small sauce pan, heat up the ghee. Add the cumin seeds and let crackle. Also add the whole dried chillies and let them turn darker in color. Lower the heat and immediately add the garlic and let it cook for 30 seconds or so taking care that it does not burn.(Tadka can become very hot very quickly, take care that you act fast so that nothing burns.) Put off the heat and add the red chili powder. Immediately add this tadka to the simmered lentils and close the lid so that the aroma infuses. Let sit undisturbed for 10-15 minutes.

Top with chopped cilantro and serve.

Mangodi – Sun dried Lentil Nuggets

I have been spending a lot of time in the kitchen this week. I baked a cake after two years, cooked dum biryani for the first time, sprouted whole red lentils and I made mangodis.

For last few years I wanted to make mangodis .Where I live has the perfect sun for making these – crisp, dry heat. But, each year the summers passed by and I just sat on the idea. There is a particular variety I like from back home, mom sent me the quota with whoever was coming here. I survived.

This year, I ran out of my stock earlier than usual. With summers still far from over in my part of the world its a good excuse to make my own, right?

In my home, we make a soupy curry with mangodi and potatoes. It is then served with dal tadka (tempered lentils) and rice. I never really cared for these growing up. In fact, I did not understand why would any one want to turn lentil into a curry and then eat it with lentils again. Confusing.

Logics aside, I think my palate was not ready was for it then. Now, when I think of traditional home cooked food, mangodi-aloo definitely comes to mind.

Mangodi , Moongbadi or Mungwadi are small,spicy lentil nuggets which are sun-dried in indian households during summer months. Variety of lentils ( yellow, red, split green or urad ) can be used to prepare these. Depending on the region of India, they could differ in texture and taste. The lentil batter is like your blank canvas – keep it plain, add your own choice of dried herbs or spices, some people add garlic and ginger too. Mangodis are inedible on their own but once lightly sautéed in a teaspoon of oil, they can be used in curries or combined with different vegetables & leafy greens to make stir fries. Crush the shallow fried ones between palms and add as a topping on salads. Other than that, they can be soaked in warm water for few minutes and then added to your vegetarian soups, stews or rice pilaf.

Ingredients  (Makes little more than 2 cups of mangodis)

  • 1.5 cups split yellow mung lentils
  • 4 cups of water to soak the lentil
  • 3/4 tsp hing (asafoetida)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper, crushed
  • Oil to grease

Also Needed – Plates/thalis/cookie sheets/ plastic sheets- Any one of these to sun dry the nuggets.

Note – I use unpolished, organic yellow mung lentils from Whole foods, so I added turmeric powder for a nice yellow tinge. Turmeric does not add any flavor to the mangodis. The turmeric quantity in this recipe can be varied as per you lentil quality.

Method 

In a large bowl, thoroughly wash the lentils 2-3 times till the water runs clear. Soak the lentils in about 4 cups of water preferably overnight or for at least 4 hours.

Grease the plates or thalis with oil where you want to drop the lentil nuggets.Set aside.

Drain the water, give lentils another wash and tip them into a blender. Blend the lentils to smooth without water.

Transfer the ground lentils to bowl and add hing, black pepper and turmeric powder to it. Mix well.

Put the lentil mix in a piping bag fitted with plain/star nozzle, or a Ziploc bag (with cut out corner), squeeze it and pipe out small dots on a greased plate/ thali, about 1/8 inches apart. For the quantity of batter from this recipe, I used 6 dinner plates.

Keep the piped out mangodis in sun for at least 2 days or more till they dry out.

Once dry, these will be hard. Using a metal spatula, scrape them from the surface of the plate and store in an air tight container up to 8-10 months.

Make mangodi- aloo masala curry.

Enjoy and Thanks for stopping by!

Mung Dal & Edamame Salad

Hope all of you had a lovely 4th of July. We took a little vacation to LA and Malibu.It was our first road trip ever & could not have been more fun.We spent a lot of time on beaches, sun bathing, chatting and eating fresh seafood. A visit to botanical gardens and theme park rounded off  the trip. All in all, LA was definitely a respite from the over the top hot weather in Vegas right now. Its 113 F/45 C as I type this 🙁

Breaking loose from almost a perfect vacation, our car refused to behave a couple of times in the middle of Mojave desert while driving back. Being 4th of July and with everything closed, we almost reached a point when we decided to stay over in nearby town for the night. However, thanks to few God sent personnel at gas stations,we managed way back home.

I normally don’t binge during vacations,still all the outside food makes me want to eat simple, clean meals for the days that follow. I came home wanting just that. This salad is my go to recipe for those days.

Yellow Mung lentils (dal) are de skinned whole mung bean and have a very mild taste. I have grown eating them in this dryish preparation either as a side with flat breads or mixed with ghee & rice as well as salad. Since yellow mung lentils are quick to cook, this salad can be fixed in no time.Once you cook the lentils, it’s just a matter of chopping the veggies and tossing everything together with lots of lemon juice. I added a handful of ready to eat edamame beans & there it was – a hearty, protein packed salad which is so light & summery. And yup..so healthy!

Did I tell you..this is my 150th post…kinda feels good 🙂

Lentils form a big part of indian cuisine – meals are far from complete without them – soups, fritters, flat breads, stews, patties…you will find them used in all ways imaginable. India being a vegetarian country, we get our daily protein dose from them. I cook lentils daily in some way or the other. P is more of a lentil soup person, I enjoy them either way.

I was introduced to edamame after I came to USA. I did not care for them much initially but knowing how good they are, now I try to include them in our diet as much as possible.I am still away from eating them all on their own but have found a perfect way to eat them this way – overshadowed by earthy taste of lentils & crunch of fresh vegetables – hardly making their presence felt.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

  • 1/2 cup yellow mung dal, split
  • 2 cups water (for soaking)
  • 1 tbsp mustard oil (substitute with any oil of choice)
  • 1 tsp jeera (cumin)
  • 1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida)
  • 1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • 3- 4 tbsp water (for cooking)

For the salad

  • 1/4 cup each chopped red onion,cucumber, tomatoes (use any veggies of choice in any quantity you like)
  • 1/4 cup edamame (I used ready to eat, if using raw, see note in method)
  • 4-5 fresh mint/cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 green chillies, finely chopped
  • Red pepper flakes (to taste)
  • 1.5 tbsp fresh lime/lemon juice (or to taste)
  • Olive Oil (to drizzle)
  • salt to adjust

Method

Cooking Lentils – Thoroughly wash the mung lentils 2-3 times under stream of water. Soak the lentils in 2 cups of water for atleast 2.5 -3 hours. Once soaked, drain out the soaking liquid. Set aside.

In a medium pot with lid, heat the oil on medium. Once you see ripples on the surface of the oil, reduce the heat to low. Temper the oil with jeera & hing. Wait for 10-15 seconds till the jeera crackles & you smell the aroma of hing. Add the minced ginger & turmeric powder next & saute for another 10 seconds.

Next, add the soaked lentils and salt to taste. Stir well to coat the lentils in the tempering. Add 3 tbsp of water to the pot and cover. Let cook on low heat for 8-12 minutes till the lentils are thoroughly cooked but retain their shape. You need to check 1-2 times in between to see that the lentils are not sticking to the pot bottom, if so, add a tbsp of water. Dont peek too much while the lentils cook, the idea is so steam them slowly on low heat.

Note :- If using fresh edamame beans, add them to the pot towards the last 3-4 minutes of cooking, so that they steam with the lentils.This will ensure that they remain green & crunchy. 

Once cooked, put the stove off and let the lentils & edamame sit covered for another 5-8 minutes till they cool down a bit. Fluff gently using a fork and let them cool off completely. At this point, if you want to make the salad later, you can refrigerate the lentils in air tight containers for 1-2 days. 

Assembling the Salad – In a medium bowl, toss the cooled lentils & edamame with the chopped vegetables, mint, cilantro & green chillies. Squirt lemon juice, add red pepper flakes, olive oil (if using) and salt to taste. Combine well and serve at room temperature.

Bajri (Millet) Crackers With Chana Dal dip

A sense of rejuvenation entwines me as I hit the publish button.Being out of touch for more than 4 months, a part of me always felt incomplete,unfulfilled. While I was away, I realized the role of blogging in my life – I missed it. Thank you so much for all your kind emails, tweets & messages. I knew I had to be back in action soon. I am doing better than before & hope to update this space often now.

Last few months have been rough, less of ups, lots of down. Keeping health issues aside, my mind was irrational, loud & restless. I had loads to complain & challenge. I denied the things which came my way, I failed to handle them. Sometimes, life takes its own course and no matter how hard you try to tame it, it does not reciprocate. The very fact that I felt a certain way at that point in my life, I had no choice but to understand that this was meant to be.The sooner I did , the easier it got. The more I questioned : “Why me?”, the difficult it became. There was no force within me that could change the situation, no magic wand or a click of fingers to set it all right, all I  got was inner strength to sail me  through. When faith falters & hopes diminish, its best to reach out for that simmering potential inside to navigate, exactly what I want to do right now.

For long, I wanted to bake crackers at home,or let me put it this way-  I wanted to experiment with savory, whole grain flour baking with an indian touch.I tried the cracker recipe below with a mix of whole wheat & fine wheat flour a couple of times, but it left me wanting for more – something more healthy perhaps? and simple,crispy, spicy too at the same time.Not the most fancy looking crackers around- these are spiced similar to deep fried indian snack – mathri and I think I got what I was looking for this time. Bajri or millet is a gluten free, whole grain widely popular in India to make porridge, flatbreads or pancakes. I did not like it much the first time I ate it but now, its an acquired taste for me especially when I want a break from carbs.

The dip to go along is made with chana (split bengal gram) lentils, which is my new found way to eat them. Rated lowest GI (glycemic index) lentils, these score high when it comes to an earthy, nutty taste.Chana dal yields better amongst lentils to dip-making coz they do not turn into a slimy mush if cooked properly. Easily available in indian stores & tasting similar to garbanzo beans, these lentils are something you would want to stock on.

P,did not care much for the crackers but liked this dip.He polished it off with baked potato chips in the name of healthy food.I found myself snacking on these batch after batch. Somehow the combo is addictive – reminds me of the rajasthani meals at Dilli Haat – bajra roti & masala chana dal.

Yield – About 2 dozen

Ingredients

  • 1 cup fine bajri atta (millet flour)
  • 1/2 cup atta (whole wheat flour)
  • 2.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp ajwain (carom seeds)
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup + 3 tbsp water (or as required for kneading the dough)
Method
Combine all the ingredients except water in a big bowl. Rub with fingers till the mixture resembles grains.
Start adding water slowly & mixing with hands so as to form a soft, pliable dough. Cover the dough with a damp kitchen towel & let rest for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile preheat oven to 3o0 F / 150 C. Line a cookie sheet with parchment.
Knead the rested dough for 2-3 minutes and pinch into equal portions. Thinly roll out the equal portions on a flour dusted surface or between sheets of parchment.
With the help of fork, pick the rolled dough so that it does not fluff while baking. Using a pizza cutter or sharp knife, cut the rolled dough into desired shape.
 Transfer to the cookie sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes or until done & crisp. You will need to check midway & flip the crackers to ensure even baking.
Cool the crackers on a rack and store in air tight containers for upto 2 weeks.
Chana Dal Dip (Makes about 1.5 cups)
Ingredients
  • 1 cup chana dal (split bengal grams)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • salt to taste
  • 3 cups water
  • 4 cloves garlic,chopped
  • 1 ” fresh ginger shoot, chopped
  • 1 serrano chili, chopped (remove seeds to adjust heat)
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp roasted cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup olive oil + more to drizzle
Method
 

Soak the chana dal in water for atleast 6 hours or overnight. Pressure cook the dal along with turmeric powder & salt in the soaking liquid on high for 2 whistles. Alternatively you can cook the dal in a pot with lid (for about 40-45 minutes) till tender.

Transfer the cooked & cooled dal to the food processor along with garlic, ginger, cilantro chili & lime juice. Pulse 10-12 times slowly adding oil until smooth. You can further adjust the consistency using the reserved cooking liquid. Check the salt & adjust if required.
Drain & reserve the liquid (this liquid can be used as stock or to knead savory doughs).Let the dal cool to room temperature.
Transfer to the serving bowl, drizzle some olive oil, garnish with chopped cilantro & serve along with bajri crackers.(recipe above)
Store refrigerated in air tight container for  4-5 days.

Note : This recipe has a strong garlic flavor. You can reduce or omit garlic quantity as per your liking.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!