Red Bell Pepper and Pudina Moong Dal

For the days when a long shower feels like luxury, when simplicity is indulgence,

When the mind is happy with less and the stomach doesn’t ask for more,

When all one needs is a pot full of warm sunshine comfort, yellow lentils are a must.

Moong Dal or Split Yellow lentils are one of the most frequently used lentils in our house. I like it for its lightness, faint sweetness and also its cooling properties. Because it is so non-fussy and cooks in little time, it is by default a weekday favorite too.. Combine it with any veggies and it comes out delicious in any combination. No doubt it is our favorite.

And it was also the first lentil in cooked form, my little girl was introduced to when she started taking in her first solids. It makes for such a great baby food combined with some carrots or peas.

Shahi Jeera or Royal Cumin Seeds are slightly longer, darker and a tad bit sweeter than regular cumin/jeera seeds. While it is more commonly used in Biryani and Tandoor dishes, it adds a special oomph to a simple dal such as this.

Red bell pepper flavors intensify when roasted. I’d love to try with roasted red bell peppers at another time..

Is there a lentil you call your favorite? Tell me how you like to cook it.. 

Red Bell Pepper and Pudina Moong Dal Recipe

Printable Recipe
Things you’ll need:

To pressure cook:

1/2 cup split yellow lentils or Moong dal

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1 medium ripe tomato, quartered

1/2 red onion, diced

for the seasoning:

2-3 tsp peanut oil or ghee

1/4 tsp shahi jeera / royal cumin seeds or jeera / cumin seeds

2 stalks green garlic or spring onions, sliced thin

1/4 tsp grated fresh ginger

1/4 tsp turmeric

red chilli powder / cayenne pepper to taste

1 tsp dried mint or equivalent finely chopped fresh mint

juice of 1/2 a lemon ~ optional

sea salt

other:

Pressure cooker

How it’s done:

Wash and pressure cook lentils with diced red bell pepper, tomatoes, onion and a pinch of turmeric for 3 cooker whistles and keep aside to cool. Alternatively, cook on stove top until lentils are soft and are mashed easily.

When the cooker has cooled, whisk the cooked lentils for them to blend well.

Place oil in a medium pot over high heat. When the oil is hot enough, add shahi jeera or cumin seeds. When they start to sizzle, reduce the heat to medium-high and add sliced spring onion/green garlic followed by grated ginger and sauté until translucent or light brown.

Pour in the mashed lentils over this tempering onto the sides, carefully avoiding the sizzling oil and rising steam.

Add red chilli powder, salt and give it a good stir. Add more water if needed or if the dal is very thick. Bring it to a boil and simmer for a few mins stirring in between to avoid the lentils from burning at the bottom.

Finish by sprinkling dried or fresh mint and lemon juice.

Stir well and serve hot with brown rice or chapati/roti.

Note:

For a deeper flavor, roast the lentils before pressure cooking, either on stove top over low flame until golden brown and fragrant or microwave for 2 mins in 30 sec intervals on a microwave safe plate.

{Some cold water to quench your thirst after a wholesome dal meal}

Treat yourself to more:

  

Swiss Chard Dal Paanch Phoron

Swiss Chard and Spinach Lentils with Indian Five Spices

There is always a first time for everything. And this time for me, it is with Swiss Chard! Good news is, what seemed like an exaggerated courageous move of buying something unknown resulted in a pleasant tasty surprise. Better news is, I am sharing it with you, so you can enjoy too..
As important vegetables were to everyday food at home, a variety of leafy greens were also a must (still is), many of whom I hardly know the English names for. So I grew up not only eating my greens but loving them too in different forms – simply sauteed, cooked with lentils, in special spice powders, chutneys, stews and what not!
Even though there are many more leafy greens to Indian cooking than the only ever popular Spinach made famous through restaurant menus blistering with a single most common side dish – Palak Paneer, sparing the Spinach, Fenugreek and Dill, an occasional Amaranth is quite a luxury too, even on the fresh produce days at an Indian or world foods market here in the US.

Notwithstanding the dearth of variety in Indian leafy greens, I had decided to seek some random solace in the locally abundant chlorophyll rich produce. Having been unfamiliar with most American leafy greens such as Kale, Collard greens or Swiss Chard, I had taken the easy route so far – simply avoiding them. Until recently neither did I really show enough interest in the equally beautiful and nutritional Swiss Chard to bring it home and explore, nor did I have the tiniest clue that they are a cousin of the colorful beet root. Their vivacious bright red stalk and broad sheeny leaves must have made the calling for me, on the day I felt compelled to buy.

{Paanch Phoron – Indian Five Spices}

Yes, I know the Chinese have their five spices too!

Paanch Phoron (pronounced as foran), which literally translates to Five Spices is a whole spice mix common in everyday eastern Indian cuisine, consisting of equal parts of Fenugreek seeds, Nigella seeds, Yellow Mustard, Fennel seeds and Cumin.

Paanch Phoron is my latest obsession and I catch myself adding it to anything and everything possible from sides to chutneys. The aroma of the spices as they pop and splutter in hot oil has such an amazing effect on the olfactory system, that craving for more is not an option, but a must!

Paanch Phoron Dal being a speciality in eastern India is the inspiration behind my version, where I include Spinach as well for known comfort. Though Swiss chard is almost invisible in the final appearance, it is much like butter that it makes its presence felt in taste, blended with the aromatic spices. Combine it with hot roti or steaming rice and a spoon of pure ghee for a comforting meal.
I always wonder why I didn’t cook with Paanch Phoron earlier. Everything has its time, I guess. If you have never tried Paanch Phoron before, take this as your calling. I bet, you’ll be mesmerized as I am..
Hats off to whoever discovered the power of seasoning whole spices in hot oil!

Swiss Chard and Spinach Lentils with Indian Five Spices Recipe

Printable Recipe
Things you’ll need:
  • 1/4 cup toor dal / pigeon peas
  • 1/8 cup split yellow lentils/ moong dal (half the quantity of toor dal)
  • 1 stalk swiss chard, chopped
  • small bunch of spinach / about 1 cup chopped ~ optional
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, halved
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli powder ~ optional
  • cherry sized tamarind / juice of half lemon
  • salt
For the seasoning:
  • 4 tsp peanut oil /ghee
  • 1 tbsp paanch phoron or five spices
  • 1-2 whole green chillies
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
other kitchen equipment:
  • pressure cooker
  • whisk
How it’s done:
Soak tamarind in warm water and keep aside for about 15-30 mins, if using. Once soaked, squish tamarind into pulp.
To properly wash the leafy greens in a food-safe way to get rid of pesticides, bacteria and germs along with mud and farm residue, add some baking soda to a big bowl of water; dunk the leafy greens and give a good scrub/rinse. Rinse again or several times in clean water until visibly clean. Pat dry on a clean kitchen towel. Chop swiss chard separating the stalk from the leaf. If you do not prefer to use the stalk, refrigerate for later use in another dish. Else, finely chop the stalk into thin slices and then the leaf. Roughly chop the spinach bunch.
Cook lentilsWash toor dal and split yellow dal until water runs clear. Pressure cook the lentils with the tomato,turmeric and water enough and more to cover the lentils and tomato halves. When the cooker has cooled, whisk through the lentils and tomato to mash well for a uniform consistency. If not using a pressure cooker, cook the same in a pot stove top. Let the water come to a rolling boil and simmer partially covered until the lentils are soft and cooked or can be mashed easily.
For the seasoning heat oil or ghee in a heavy bottomed saucepan on high heat. When the oil is hot enough or shimmering, add paanch phoron, reduce heat to medium and let the whole spices splutter and crackle. Add whole green chillies, chopped onion followed by turmeric and sauté until onion turns translucent. Add chopped leafy greens and sauté until soft and cooked. Add salt, red chilli powder, tamarind pulp if using and mashed lentil mixture and simmer to a slow boil, about 10 mins. Do not bring to a rolling boil for the risk of losing the flavor of the spices. Once done, cover and set aside. If not using tamarind, squeeze lemon juice after setting aside and stir well.
Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with steamed rice and a spoon of ghee or fresh off the griddle Indian breads.
Note: Some find it very convenient to use ready made concentrated tamarind paste, use smaller quantity in that case.
Paanch Phoron is readily available in most Indian grocery stores or world food markets. If not, you could simply buy the five spices separately and mix them in equal parts. For best potency, be sure to store them in air-tight containers in a cool dark place.

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Zucchini and Carrot Garlic Rasam

To just tell you how inspiration can come from such least expected sources, would you think of your a.c vent as one? Neither did I until this lazy day came by and I was puttering around my kitchen all fuzzy on what to cook for lunch, a starting trouble in the kitchen so typical of me at times (even the best chefs might have faced this at one time or another, right?)
Unexpected as it was, my nostrils were tickled by a strong but fragrant waft of garlic and curry leaves in a South Indian tempering, probably from the other kitchen glued to mine. Things like these are not uncommon in an apartment setup, particularly when two apartments are stuck to each other on their sides.
The scent of sizzling garlic and curry leaves was intoxicating enough for me to immediately crave for something similar. I hope my neighbor is inspired from time to time too..
If you have followed at least a few of my posts you might have a hint on how crazy I am in sneaking vegetables into everything that comes together in my kitchen. If it were up to me, I’d even sneak some into dessert, you get the idea right.
Captivated by the waft that lifted me up by my sense of smell, I set out to make a Rasam with a similar tempering, enriched with a dash of green and orange hues courtesy of the sliced carrots and zucchini.

If you have no idea what or how Rasam is and why in the world I am kicking up such a racket on sneaking vegetables here, Rasam (tamil) is a South Indian lentil broth sans veggies flavored with spices and a characteristic tempering/tadka typically eaten with steamed rice and ghee optionally.

  

I eat my vegetables and he does very well too, it is only my three-year old who refuses to touch any. And that is enough reason for recipes such as this one to come to life on my hot stove.
Sounding oxymoronic, light yet hearty and deeply satisfying in a meal, this rasam is fit to be made any day. It sure brought a contended smile to my face. Life is all about simple pleasures indeed.
 Do you ever add veggies to your Rasam? What is the strangest veggie addition you can tell me about?

Zucchini and Carrot Garlic Rasam Recipe

Printable Recipe
Things you’ll need:
  • 1 zucchini, sliced into 1/4″ rounds (ends chopped)
  • 2 slender carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4″ rounds
  • 1/4 cup toor dal
  • 1/4 cup moong / split yellow dal
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder / ground cayenne pepper or per taste
  • 1 tsp jeera powder
  • about a tbsp seedless tamarind
  • salt
  • cilantro for garnish
  • 2 thin green onions, finely chopped ~ optional
for the tempering
  • 2 tsp peanut oil or ghee
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 tsp jeera
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 8 curry leaves
  • 1 green chilli, whole
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
How it’s done:
I make this Rasam in both ways – start with tempering and then bring cooked lentil broth and veggies with spices to a boil or vice versa, but prefer the first one as I don’t need multiple pots/pans and gets done at one stretch. The second method is rather ideal though.
  • Soak tamarind in warm water and keep aside.
  • Bring water to a boil in another pot and cook the sliced vegetables covered until tender and hold their shape well.
  • While the veggies cook, wash both toor and moong dal well until the water runs clear. Pressure cook the lentils along with turmeric with just enough water for 3 whistles or until well cooked.
  • When cooled, whisk through the cooked dal for a uniformly mashed consistency. Now add about 1-1/2 cups of water, stir and leave it undisturbed for 5-10 mins to let the dal settle down. We’d only need the dal broth for Rasam.
  • For the tempering, place oil/ghee in a medium-sized pot/pan over high heat. When the oil is hot enough and shimmering but not smoking (test by dropping one or two mustard seeds first), reduce the flame to medium-high, add mustard seeds and let splutter.
  • As the mustard seeds splutter, add in the cumin seeds, minced garlic, whole green chillies and curry leaves in that order and sauté until green chillies show white spots, garlic turns golden brown and curry leaves are crisp, then add turmeric making sure to not burn it. Add the cooked veggies to this along with the liquid. 
  • Carefully pour in only the lentil broth (without the dal). Be careful with the steam rising from the sizzling pot. Add tamarind pulp, red chilli powder, jeera powder, salt and bring the rasam to a gentle boil (never rolling). Simmer for a few mins and switch off or keep aside.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and green onions and serve super hot over steamed rice and ghee with your choice of vegetable side dish or papad.
Zucchini Carrot Rasam served with steamed Brown rice and microwaved Jack fruit papad made for a hearty lunch!
Note 
  • Other vegetables like beans, cucumber, sweet potato and even leafy greens like spinach can be used very well with the same recipe.
  • I usually store a good chunk of tamarind soaked in water in an airtight glassware in the refrigerator. Just microwave for 30 secs and use squished pulp as needed, always comes in handy. 
  • If you’d rather not deal with squeezing tamarind to pulp, ready to use tamarind paste is a good alternative. Because it is concentrated, judge quantity accordingly.
  • Do not discard the strained dal, it can be re-used to make regular dal tadka or with vegetables or sambar.
  • Substitute garlic with a pinch of hing/asafoetida.

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Sundakkai Molagu Shaatamdu

Sun-dried Turkey Berry & Black Pepper South Indian Rasam

[ soon duh kaayee, mo luh gu, shah tum du ] (Tamil)

More often than not we are so mesmerized with international cuisines (not saying it is bad!) that we forget good old recipes from our own backyard. Especially when we start to cook on our own, the tendency is even higher to prepare the most loved recipes, favorite dishes and popular restaurant style food, isn’t it? It is nothing to do with whether that is good or bad. Just that, the ingredients grandma or ma once used in her homestyle cooking (which we remember our childhood fondly for), much of those get lost somewhere in between. This post is a tribute to one such forgotten ingredient.
So, ever heard of Sundakkai or Shundakkai?
{spoonful of salted sun-dried turkey berries}
I found myself literally scratching my head on how to describe it, not knowing it by any other name in any other language. So, when I landed on this article about Sundakkai I was pleasantly surprised and happy that Wiki saved me from the awkwardness I was having to put myself into in order to explain what Sundakkai is, with my limited knowledge of it!
Now I can gladly say, it is Turkey Berry otherwise known as Devil’s Fig, Prickly Nightshade, Shoo-shoo Bush, Wild Eggplant, Pea Eggplant, courtesy Wiki.
I have no idea what it’s called either in Kannada or Telugu – never found the need to know until today! In case you happen to know, please share it with me.
As much as I hated the frigid weather over the past week and couldn’t wait for it to pass, I am even thankful for the same for providing me the opportunity (à la house arrest!) to think of Sundakkai for the lack of any vegetables in an otherwise stocked refrigerator. There are few times when no planning results in better things…and this is one of them.

Raw berries are bitter, I have never eaten fresh berries raw or cooked directly nor aware of recipes using them. The only way I have known Sundakkai is in its sun-dried form – soaked in salted buttermilk and sun-dried until shrunken crisp, similar to salted sun-dried green chillies.
Before we move on to the recipe, let me tell you that this is not the traditional way of preparing Sundakkai, but an easy way of incorporating Sundakkai into your meal on a frigid and gloomy day. There is no need for a custom-made spice powder nor that of a blender, just a plain simple recipe calling for not more than a couple of spices. The heat from whole black pepper keeps you feeling warm and comforted.
Traditional way of cooking Sundakkai though, would be more elaborate as in Sundakkai Vathal Kozhambu, which makes for a beautiful classic dish in itself.
Here’s a recipe I found that uses fresh Turkey berries:
http://anyonecan-cook.blogspot.com/2009/04/sundakkai-poritha-kuzhambu-pea.html

 

Sundakkai Molagu Shaatamdu Recipe

Printable Recipe

Things you’ll need:
  • 1/4 cup split yellow dal
  • 1/4 cup toor dal
  • 1 tsp jeera powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp whole black pepper, freshly cracked
  • lime sized tamarind, soaked in warm water
  • sea salt
  • water
for tempering:
  • 1 tbsp peanut oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp jeera/cumin seeds
  • 1/8 tsp hing/asafoetida
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 2 red/green chillies seeded and torn in 1″ pieces
  • 10 curry leaves, washed and dried
  • 3 tbsp salted sun-dried Sundakkai / Turkey berry
How it’s done:
  • Wash the lentils well until water runs clear. Add turmeric and more water than enough to cover the lentils and pressure cook for 3-4 whistles or until well cooked and mashable.
  • When the cooker cools, whisk the cooked dal well until mashed and stir in about 2 cups of water.
  • For the tempering, heat oil in a medium saucepan over high heat. When the oil is hot enough, add mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start spluttering, reduce heat to medium and add jeera, hing, torn chillies, sundakkai and curry leaves in the same order and saute until curry leaves are crisp and sundakkai berries turn brownish black and crumbly crisp.
  • Add turmeric, freshly cracked black pepper and jeera powder. Squish the soaked tamarind well and strain its juicy pulp into the saucepan. Discard the seed, fibre and pulp remainders.
  • Add the watery dal and salt. Bring it to a boil and then simmer for 10 mins.
  • Serve hot with steamed rice, fresh ghee and your choice of papad.
{Sundakkai & Karivepele (curry leaves)}
Note:
Salted sun-dried Sundakkai fried in ghee (known as Sundakkai Vathal) is good to be eaten by itself with hot rice. When eaten as the first morsel of the meal it is believed to improve digestion.
In Iyengar cuisine, Sundakkai vathal is an important part of the Dwadashi meal (Dwadashi is the 12th day of the lunar fortnight in the Hindu calendar or Panchangam)
The day before Dwadashi i.e, Ekadashi (11th day) is a fasting day for many. Such a fast is usually broken on the Dwadashi day and hence the menu for this day is specifically geared towards leveling the acidity and getting the digestive juices flowing.
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