Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Low FODMAPS Recipes vegan

Andhra-Inspired Mango Dal (Mango Lentils)

In my view, most fruit are pretty gross. This surprises people. The nicest honest description of my eating habits I have heard is from a friend of mine who called me “delightfully weird”. What really shocks people though, is the fact that I hate mangoes, despite the fact that every summer of my childhood, our house was almost literally inundated with hundreds of mangoes (this was because one of my uncles has a large mango orchard and also, because our house had one very prolific mango tree that I was very attached to)! Nearly, everyone in my family absolutely adores mangoes, and yet, I find these fruit almost inedible.

But now, I have found a way to enjoy them: by cooking them up in a dal! I used to eat mango pappu (the telugu word for dal) as a child and I’ve recently rediscovered how harmonious the combination of these two ingredients can be. It all happened almost by accident. My niece (who is vegan) was staying with us and I was running out of ideas in terms of what to cook for her. I’d already made three different types of dal that week! Then, I spied a mango in our fruit bowl. “Ah ha!”, I thought, “this could end up being a fun challenge in the kitchen: trying to make mangoes enjoyable!”

It turned out to be absolutely delicious and it is now my favourite dish! SO much so, that I’ve bought a tonne of mangoes, chopped them up, and flash frozen them, so that I can make myself some mango dal through the fall and winter, whenever I have a hankering for it 🙂

Indian cooking with Mango

If you think you’d like to try and sacrifice one or two of summer’s last few mangoes to an experiment, give it a go! I promise you it will turn out well, if you follow my instructions!

Ingredients:

(A quick note: You can adjust the level of spice easily. In the list of ingredients in the recipe below, I have provided a range of amounts for various spices; you can decide for yourself how much you’d like to use :))

1 cup lentils (I find that a mix of lentils is great for this recipe. I use Pesara Pappu (Moong Dal in Hindi); Toor Dal, and/or Masoor Dal)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3-4 cloves of garlic, skinned

1-2 medium mangoes (The number of mangoes you should use will depend on your preference as well as the flavour and size of the mangoes you’re cooking with: if you like a more intense mango-flavour, use two mangoes, otherwise, use less. Similarly, if the mangoes you have are small and/or not particularly tangy, you should use 2 mangoes. Also note that adding more mangoes changes the texture of the dal: it will become more pulpy with the addition of each mango)

2-3 tablespoons of oil (I use either avocado oil or sunflower oil)

1 medium-sized onions (red or yellow) chopped (I prefer red onions, they seem to have a nice balance of pungency and sweetness)

1 teaspoon grated ginger

3-6 fresh chilies, chopped or cut length-wise (You can reduce this amount if you don’t want the dal to be too hot/spicy)

1 – 3 teaspoons red chilli powder

Salt to taste

Ingredients for the popu/tadka/baghar:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

3-12 dried red chilies, torn in half (depending on how hot you’d like the dal to be)

2-4 peeled garlic cloves, halved

A handful of curry leaves

2 pinches of asafoetida (optional)

2-3 tablespoons of oil or ghee (You can get ghee at an Indian store. However, I would recommend making your own, if you have the time. Here is my recipe, if you’re interested. If you don’t have ghee, or want to make your dal vegan, you can use sunflower oil, vegetable oil, or really any oil with a high smoking point. DO NOT USE BUTTER, it will smoke and burn before the spices are properly fried).

Method:

1. The first thing to do is to prepare the dal (lentils). Even if you don’t live in India, you should be able to get most lentils at an Indian store. I normally soak lentils for about 30 minutes, drain the water out, and add fresh water in, before I cook the lentils (this helps them cook faster and apparently helps to reduce bloating and gas: I am still looking for studies to back this up, which I will cite here when I find them). If you don’t have the time to do this, you can skip this step.

2. Next, cube and skin the mango:

Cutting a mango

3. I tend to cook my dal in an instant pot. If you don’t have one, you can use a normal pressure cooker or boil the dal in water until it is cooked. Add a quarter teaspoon of turmeric, half a teaspoon of salt, 3-4 cloves of skinned garlic, and the mango cubes to the dal before you cook it.

IMG_9516

4. I like to purée the cooked dal-mango mixture in a food processor/blender/mixie in order to make it into a smooth paste. This makes the texture of the dal smoother and distributes flavour more evenly. This step is completely optional. You can skip it without much consequence to the taste of your dal if you do not have either the necessary equipment or the time.

Making dal at home

5. Next, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. When it’s hot add the chopped onions and sautĂ© them until softened and lightly browned.

Cooking onions in Indian food
Cooking onions for Indian food Sautéing onions
Cooking onions for Indian food
Sautéing onions

6. Now add the ginger and fresh chillies to the onions and sautĂ© everything again until the ginger is cooked (it should no longer smell raw). Then, add the red chilli powder, the remaining turmeric, and half a teaspoon of salt to the sautĂ©ed onions-ginger-chilli-mixture (hereinafter referred to as “stuff” :P) and continue to sautĂ© all of this for about 5 minutes on low-medium heat.

Onion-masala for dal

7. Add the dal-mango puree to the pan along with a cup or two of water, and bring it all to a boil. Let everything cook for about 8 minutes on high heat, stirring the pot intermittently to prevent the contents at the bottom from burning. You will see a foamy layer rise to the top of the dal.

IMG_0210

8. I like to scoop this out into a bowl and throw it out.

Reducing FODMAPS in dal; how to decrease bloating from dal

I have heard from some people who regularly cook with lentils in India that this helps reduce bloating and gas.

A note on FODMAPS for the lay person: FODMAPS can cause gastric discomfort in some of us. One may be sensitive to some or all FODMAPS to varying degrees. Symptoms can range from gas, bloating, abdominal pain and cramping, to, in my case, at least, acid reflux. For more general reading on this topic, this article is a great starting point.

The main FODMAPs that dal contains are oligosaccharides. Take a peek at this post about FODMAPS and how cooking legumes may help to reduce the FODMAP content in the food we eat. Of course, more research is needed to confirm this theory, but also, to determine the most effective/efficient ways of extracting FODMAPS from dal through cooking. I am not sure that my method of skimming the foamy parts off the top of the dal is effective in removing/reducing dissolved oligosaccharides from it. Anecdotally, though, I have found it helps. Therefore, I do it every time I cook dal.

In addition, onions and garlic contain fructans, which are also a type of oligosaccharide (see this article for more on this). If you are particularly sensitive to onions and/or garlic, you could sauté them in oil (in step 5 of the recipe, above) and then, remove the onions and garlic pieces, leaving just the oil in the pan. Subsequently, continue with step 6. Frying the onions and/or garlic in oil results in some of their flavour infusing into the oil. Since fructans are water-soluble not fat-soluble, by removing the onions and/or garlic, you are able to reduce the amount of fructans that end up in the dal (see this article for more on this). Also, remember not to add any garlic to the lentils whilst cooking them in step 3, above. In step 9 (below), you can add garlic to the tadka, but remember to remove it before pouring the tadka into the dal.

9. The baghar/popu/tadka:

Heat a tablespoon or two of ghee in a little saucepan on high heat. Let the ghee get hot. To test if it’s hot enough, throw a single cumin seed into the pan. If it begins to sizzle, add the mustard seeds and the rest of the cumin seeds and stir them about until they start to pop. When they start to pop, add the asafoetida and red chilies, followed by the curry leaves and garlic cloves about 30 seconds later. Once the red chillies darken, add the baghar to the lentils. Immediately cover the pot.

IMG_9800

10. The dal is now ready! Taste it and add some salt to it if you like. Serve it with some hot rice and/or roti, Indian pickle, ghee, and any other accompanying curries or vegetable sautĂ©. I like to eat it with brown rice (it’s more nutritious and has more fibre) and some dahi (Indian yogurt).

IMG_9523
Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Low FODMAPS Recipes vegan

Garden Fresh Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

We’ve had a very cool August this year, which has been disappointing. This has meant less paddle-boarding and fewer beach days. Moreover, our bougainvillea plants haven’t flowered quite as prolifically as they usually do.

Tropical flowers in Canada: bougainvillea

On the upside, however, this has meant that the second box of spinach we planted late this summer has been doing really well!

Growing your own food: spinach

I haven’t been cooking at all this week because on Tuesday, I had a fun adventure: I flew through an open door, towards a glass wall (I tripped on a sign right outside the door); my knee is what prevented me from crashing through the wall; as a result, it has been swollen and bruised. I am better today, though, so I thought that I’d cook up something delicious, using the “harvest” from our little urban deck “farm” and my partner as a sous chef.

Here is today’s produce:

Cooking with food from your garden

Given my life-long love affair with chillies, new found appreciation for home-grown cherry tomatoes, and inexplicable tolerance for spinach (despite my general dislike for vegetables), this was a truly exciting collection of delights! “Palak dal!!!”, I thought to myself, excitedly. And so, I cooked us up a big pot of the stuff:

Homemade Palak dal

If you’d like to give it a go, here’s what you will need:

Ingredients:

(A quick note:  You can adjust the level of spice easily. In the list of ingredients in the recipe below, I have provided a range of amounts for various spices; you can decide for yourself how much you’d like to use 🙂)

1 cup lentils (I find that a mix of lentils is great for this recipe. I use Pesara Pappu (Moong Dal in Hindi); Toor Dal, and/or Masoor Dal)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3-4 cloves of garlic, skinned

2-3 tablespoons of oil (I use either avocado oil or sunflower oil)

1 medium-sized onions (red or yellow) chopped (I prefer red onions, they seem to be more pungent)

1 teaspoon grated ginger

3-6 fresh chilies, chopped or cut length-wise (You can reduce this amount if you don’t want the dal to be too hot/spicy)

1.5 – 2 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved (you can also use two medium sized tomatoes)

1/2 – 1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 – 1 teaspoon coriander (cilantro) seed powder

1 – 3 teaspoons red chilli powder

1/2-1 teaspoon of garam masala (optional)

2 cups of baby spinach (250 g)

Salt to taste

Ingredients for the popu/tadka/baghar:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

3-12 dried red chilies, torn in half (depending on how hot you’d like the dal to be)

2-4 peeled garlic cloves, halved

2 pinches of asafoetida (optional)

2-3 tablespoons of oil or ghee (You can get ghee at an Indian store. However, I would recommend making your own, if you have the time. Here is my recipe, if you’re interested. If you don’t have ghee, or want to make your dal vegan, you can use sunflower oil, vegetable oil, or really any oil with a high smoking point. DO NOT USE BUTTER, it will smoke and burn before the spices are properly fried).

Method:

1. The first thing to do is to prepare the dal (lentils). Even if you don’t live in India, you should be able to get most lentils at an Indian store. I normally soak lentils for about 30 minutes, drain the water out, and add fresh water in, before I cook the lentils (this helps them cook faster and apparently helps to reduce bloating and gas: I am still looking for studies to back this up, which I will cite here when I find them). If you don’t have the time to do this, you can skip this step.

2. I tend to cook my dal in an instant pot. If you don’t have one, you can boil the dal in water until it is cooked. Add half a teaspoon each of turmeric and salt, as well as 3-4 cloves of skinned garlic to the dal before you cook it. Once it’s cooked it should look like this:

Cooked moong dal

3. I like to purée the cooked dal in a food processor/blender/mixie in order to make it into a smooth paste. This makes the texture of the dal smoother and distributes flavour more evenly. This step is completely optional. You can skip it without much consequence to the taste of your dal if you do not have either the necessary equipment or the time.

Making dal at home

4. Next, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. When it’s hot add the chopped onions and sautĂ© them until softened and lightly browned.

Cooking onions in Indian foodCooking onions for Indian food Sautéing onionsCooking onions for Indian food

Sautéing onions

5. Now add the ginger and fresh chillies to the onions and sautĂ© everything again until the ginger is cooked (it should no longer smell raw). Then, add the cumin powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder, garam masala (if you are using it), and half a teaspoon of salt to the sautĂ©ed onions-ginger-chilli-mixture (hereinafter referred to as “stuff” :P) and continue to sautĂ© all of this for about 5 minutes on low-medium heat.

Onion-masala for dal

Onion-masala for dal

6. Then, add in the tomatoes, cover the pan, and let it all cook for another 5-10 minutes, until the oil starts to separate out from the rest of the stuff.

Onion-tomato masala for Indian cooking

7. Meanwhile, rinse the spinach. I like to use kitchen shears or a normal pair of scissors and cut up the spinach in the bowl into slightly smaller bits. If you don’t like this method, you can, of course, chop the spinach on a cutting board with a knife.

8. Add the spinach to the sauce pan, then add the lentils.

How to make dal

9. Pour in a cup or two of water, and let everything cook for about 8 minutes on high heat, stirring the pot intermittently to prevent the contents at the bottom from burning. You will see a foamy layer rise to the top of the dal. I like to scoop this out into a bowl and throw it out.

Reducing FODMAPS in dal; how to decrease bloating from dal

I have heard from some people who regularly cook with lentils in India that this helps reduce bloating and gas.

A note on FODMAPS for the lay person: FODMAPS can cause gastric discomfort in some of us. One may be sensitive to some or all FODMAPS to varying degrees. Symptoms can range from gas, bloating, abdominal pain and cramping, to, in my case, at least, acid reflux. For more general reading on this topic, this article is a great starting point.

The main FODMAPs that dal contains are oligosaccharides. Take a peek at this post about FODMAPS and how cooking legumes may help to reduce the FODMAP content in the food we eat. Of course, more research is needed to confirm this theory, but also, to determine the most effective/efficient ways of extracting FODMAPS from dal through cooking. I am not sure my method of skimming the foamy parts off the top of the dal is effective in removing/reducing dissolved oligosaccharides from it. Anecdotally, though, I have found it helps. Therefore, I do it every time I cook dal.

In addition, onions and garlic contain fructans, which are also a type of oligosaccharide (see this article for more on this). If you are particularly sensitive to onions and/or garlic, you could sauté them in oil (in step 4 of the recipe, above) and then, remove the onions and garlic pieces, leaving just the oil in the pan. Subsequently, continue with step 5. Frying the onions and/or garlic in oil results in some of their flavour infusing into the oil. Since fructans are water-soluble not fat-soluble, by removing the onions and/or garlic, you are able to reduce the amount of fructans that end up in the dal (see this article for more on this). Also, remember not to add any garlic to the lentils whilst cooking them in step 2, above. Similarly, forego adding garlic to the tadka in the step below (step 10).

10. The baghar/popu/tadka:

Heat a tablespoon or two of ghee in a little saucepan on high heat. Let the ghee get hot. To test if it’s hot enough, throw a single cumin seed into the pan. If it begins to sizzle, add the rest of the cumin seeds in and stir them about until they start to pop. When they start to pop, add the asafoetida, garlic cloves, and red chilies.

Once the red chillies darken, add the baghar to the lentils.

Popu in pulusu

Immediately cover the pot.

11. The dal is now ready! Taste it and add some salt to it if you like. Serve it with some hot rice and/or roti, dahi (yogurt), Indian pickle, ghee, and any other accompanying curries or vegetable sautĂ©. I like to eat it with brown rice (it’s more nutritious and has more fibre).

Healthy, vegan spinach lentils

Low fat Indian recipes: spinach lentils

The ratio of dal to rice is up to you. My family jokes that my plate often looks like a swimming pool of dal with a few desperate grains of rice drowning to death in it 😛 Yes, some of my near and dear have a dark sense of humour 😉

Vegan spinach lentils

In the photograph below, it is served with white rice, roti, dahi (yogurt), some pickle (Gongura pacchadi, to be precise, which you can get in most Indian stores if you live in North America) and sautĂ©ed dondakaya (Indian Ivy Gourd).

Healthy Indian lunch with lentil soup

Categories
General Recipes

Drink your Vegetables!!!: A Healthy Carrot Beet Juice Recipe

I’ve started drinking fresh juices! If you’ve been reading other posts of mine, you know that I struggle with eating vegetables. I especially hate how crunchy they are. Which is why, if I ever eat them, I eat them very cooked. I have found, however, that I can “drink my vegetables”,  even raw vegetables, without too much difficulty.  A carrot, beet (beetroot), orange, and ginger concoction I made yesterday for instance, was actually pretty refreshing!

Healthy Carrot Beet Juice

Of course eating whole vegetables is so much better for you. If you’re simply not eating enough vegetables though, for whatever reason,  juicing is a good way to supplement your nutrient intake. Also, when it comes to people like me who dislike vegetables, I see juices as the opposite of a gateway drug, they’re a gateway to healthier eating. At least, I am hoping they are.

Anyway, it’s week 2 and I am still keeping at it. Every day, I make myself some juice, varying the vegetables so that I am getting a range of nutrients. If you’re looking to try your hand at juicing and haven’t done it before, this is a great starter juice. I use a juicer, but I have heard of people using a Vitamix and then straining out the pulp if they don’t like it.

Ingredients:

8 Carrots (with the ends cut off)

2 Beets (peeled, with ends cut off) (you can use just one beet if you don’t like the strong “root” flavour of beets and just use 2 extra carrots instead)

1 Orange (peeled) (you could also use an apple)

2 inch Piece of Ginger

Healthy juice Recipe

 

Method:

  1. Wash the fruit and vegetables well.
  2. Cut them as needed depending on the size of your juicer feeding tube.
  3. Feed the ingredients into the juicer.
  4. Pour the juice into a glass.
  5. Enjoy your juice 🙂

How to make your diet more healthy

P.s. You could use the pulp to bake muffins. I plan on trying this out at some point and will update this post, when I do.

Categories
Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Dondakaya Vepudu: A Delicious, Easy, Andhra-Style Vegetable SautĂ©

Tindora, Dondakaya, Indian Ivy Gourd, Low fat South Indian Vegetable Sauté

Dondakaya is a common vegetable in Andhra Pradesh (a State in Southern India). While I normally hate eating vegetables, this particular vegetable, prepared in the way my parents make it, I find absolutely delicious! If you’d like to try it, all you have to do is go to an Indian store and ask for “Tindora” which is the Hindi name for it. Once you get your hands on this vegetable, this is a fairly easy recipe to replicate.

Dondakaya Vepudu, Tindora fry, South Indian Veggie Sauté

Dondakaya or Tindora has a slightly tangy taste, and when sautĂ©ed in the manner I describe below, it turns out mostly soft, but slightly crunchy. Overall, it’s a flavourful vegetable with nutritional and health benefits. For one thing, according to WebMd it is “possibly effective” for helping manage diabetes by improving blood sugar control. It is also rich in beta carotene which can be converted by the body to Vitamin A (See Artemis C. Simopolous & C. Gopalan, Plants in Human Health, Basel, Switzerland: Karger, 2003) page 64-65).

If you’d like to give it a try, here is what you will beed:

Ingredients:

500 g Tindora/Dondakaya/Indian Ivy Gourd

1 small or medium onion, sliced (yellow or red)

3-4 dried red chillis

1 -2 tsp of red chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 – 3/4 tsp cumin powder (optional)

1/2- 3/4 tsp coriander powder (cilantro seeds, ground) (optional)

3 tbsp oil (I use avocado oil, but you can use any oil that doesn’t have a very strong flavour/fragrance)

 

Method:

1. Slice the Dondakaya either widthways into rings, or lengthways into strips.

2. Add about 1.5 tbsp oil in a pan and heat it at medium-high. Once the oil is hot, add the sliced Dondakaya to the pan.

Tindora, Indian Ivy Gourd, Dondakaya

3. Sauté the Dondakaya for a few minutes, tossing the slices constantly.

4. Cover the pan and let the Dondakaya cook on low heat for about 10-13 minutes until the vegetable is softened.



5. Move the Dondakaya into a separate bowl. Add 1.5 tbsp of oil to the pan again, increase the heat to medium, and add the red chillies and toss until they darken. Then, add the onions and sauté.


6. Once the onions are softened and browned, add the Dondakaya to the pan again, and toss. Season with turmeric, chilli powder and cumin and coriander (if using) and stir the contents of the pan about, for a few minutes, until the spices are more evenly distributed over the Dondakaya pieces.

7. Once the spices are well distributed, take the pan of the heat and serve the Dondakaya Vepudu!

You can serve it as part of a South Indian meal with Pappu (lentils) and/or Pulusu (a tamarind broth with vegetables) and/or Rasam and/or Sambar, rice, roti, and yogurt.

Dondakaya Vepudu in South Indian Meal

 

Dondakaya Vepudu; Tindora fry, Healthy Veggie Sauté

Sometimes though, when I am busy, I make just the Vepudu and eat it with yogurt 🙂

 

Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Healthy Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

I made chocolates today and I was going to sit down with a cup of Jasmine tea and write about them. When I looked at my blog home page, however, I realized that my last post was also about chocolate (in fact, a LOT of my posts are about chocolate). Also, Easter was just the other day, so it occurred to me that some of you are probably feeling a little stuffed, maybe even a little ill from all the chocolate eating. In thinking about how guilty and sick you might be feeling, I began to feel somewhat stuffed myself. I’ve been eating loads of homemade, cheese covered pizza and of course, tonnes of chocolate. It was time, I decided, to eat something yummy but healthy.

So, I made myself the healthiest lunch that I am capable of enjoying. It included one of my favourite dishes, palak dal (spinach lentils) and was served with rice and baked beets and sweet potatoes.

Palakoora pappu, palak pappu, palak pulusu, palak dal, spinach dal, lentil soup

In general, I hate eating  vegetables. The prospect of having to eat a bowl of crunchy and/or leafy vegetables makes me feel ill, miserable and hopeless. Yet, this lunch included tonnes of spinach and I still loved it! The spinach lentils shown above, are as flavourful, as they are good for you (I am no doctor or nutritionist, but I think you will all agree with me when you see the ingredient list). I think spices make vegetables not only edible, but enjoyable 🙂

Healthy Indian food, low-fat spinach lentils, palak dal

 

You can also include rotis and a light vegetable sautĂ© with the meal. I also like to eat some yoghurt along with my meal, but of course, this isn’t compulsory.

 

Indian healthy spinach lentil soup recipe

A quick note:  You can adjust the level of spice easily. In the list of ingredients in the recipe below, I have provided a range of amounts for various spices; you can decide whether you want to stay on the lower side of that range or be brave and add in the highest amount that I recommend.

If you would like to try to make the lentils, the recipe is below; I will write later about the sauté.

Ingredients:

1 cup Pesara Pappu (Moong Dal in Hindi; a type of lentil, native to India; you can also use Toor Dal, or Masoor Dal)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2-3 tablespoons of oil (I use either avocado oil or sunflower oil)

1 large onion or 2 medium-sized onions (red or yellow) chopped

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

3-4 cloves of garlic, skinned (you can also crush them if you don’t like having large pieces of garlic in your dal: I like the chunks :))

3-6 green chilies cut in half lengthwise (You can reduce this amount if you don’t want the dal to be too hot/spicy)

2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped

1/2 – 1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 – 1 teaspoon coriander (cilantro) seed powder

1 – 2 teaspoons red chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon of garam masala (optional)

About a medium-sized bunch of spinach (250 g) (I used organic baby spinach)

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (you can use white if you don’t have brown sugar) (optional)

Salt to taste

Ingredients for the tadka, baghar, or popu:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

3-12 dried red chilies

1 or 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves (optional)

2-4 peeled whole garlic cloves

2-3 tablespoons of ghee (You can get ghee at an Indian store. If you want to make your own, here is my recipe. If you don’t have ghee, you can simply use sunflower oil, vegetable oil, or really any oil with a high smoking point. DO NOT USE BUTTER, it will smoke and burn before the spices are properly fried).

Method:

1. The first thing to do is to prepare the dal (lentils). I use moong dal for this recipe. If you don’t live in India, you should be able to get most lentils at an Indian store. I normally soak lentils for a few hours before I cook them (this helps them cook faster and apparently helps to reduce bloating and gas; I am still looking for studies to back this up, which I will cite here when I find them). If you don’t have the time to do this, you can skip this step. This is how the lentils look soaked:

Moong dal (lentils native to the Indian subcontinent)

2. The easiest way to cook dal is to cook it in a pressure cooker. If you don’t have one, just boil the dal in water until its cooked. Add half a teaspoon  each of turmeric and salt to the dal before you cook it. Once it’s cooked it should look like this:

Cooked moong dal

3. I like to purée the dal in a food processor/blender/mixie in order to make it into a smooth paste. This makes the texture of the dal smoother and distributes flavour more evenly. This step is completely optional, however. You can skip it without much consequence to the taste of your dal if you do not have either the necessary equipment or the time.

4. In the meantime, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. When it’s hot add the chopped onions and sautĂ© them until softened and lightly browned. Now add the ginger, garlic, and green chillies and sautĂ© again until the ginger and garlic is cooked (their raw smell should vanish).

5. Add the tomatoes, followed by cumin powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder, garam masala (if you are using it), and half a teaspoon of salt. Cover and cook all of this for about 10 minutes on low-medium heat.

6. Meanwhile, rinse the spinach well.

Spinach for healthy lentil soup

7. Place the spinach in a bowl and microwave for a minute, until tender.  I like to simply use a herb scissors or a normal pair of scissors and cut up the spinach in the bowl (after it has been microwaved) into slightly smaller bits. If you don’t like this method, you can, of course, chop the spinach on a cutting board with a knife (before or after you microwave it.

8. Add the spinach to the sauce pan, then add the lentils and sugar (if you are using it). Let everything cook for about 5 minutes.

9. The baghar/popu/tadka:

Heat a tablespoon or two of ghee in a little saucepan like this:

Hot ghee

Let the ghee get hot. To test if it’s hot enough, throw a single cumin seed into the pan. If it begins to sizzle, add the rest of the cumin and stir the seeds about until they start to pop. When they start to pop, add the curry leaves, garlic cloves and red chilies.

Baghar
Tadka, popu or baghar

Once the red chillies darken like this:

Baghar, tadka or popu

Add the baghar to the lentils.

Making Hyderabadi Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

Immediately cover the pot.

The dal is now ready! Serve it with some hot rice and/or roti, dahi (yogurt), Indian pickle, ghee, and any other accompanying curries or vegetable sauté.

In the photograph below, it is served with rice , roti, dahi (yogurt), some pickle (Gongura pickle, to be precise, which you can get in most Indian stores if you live in North America) and sautéed Dondakaya (Indian Ivy Gourd).

 

Healthy South Indian lunch with lentil soup

 

Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Miriyala Pappu-Charu/Rasam (Low-Fat Peppery Lentil Soup)

Summer is clearly over, and as climate-change enthusiast Ed Stark has been known to say, ‘winter is coming’ (if you don’t get this reference, google ‘Game of Thrones’). In fact, I prefer the cold winter to these months of pre-winter anticipation otherwise known as fall; at least in the winter there is the hope of snow. And so, I woke up this morning feeling a bit peevish. It was a little chilly and I really didn’t want to leave the warm-coziness of my wonderful duvet.

Unfortunately, get up I had to, because a thesis does not write itself. I motivated myself with the prospect of a cup of rich Italian hot chocolate (the kind that is so viscous it takes about 10 minutes to empty a cup of it even when you are holding the cup completely upside down). But as I made my way downstairs to the kitchen, a new craving hit me: I wanted some spicy, garlicy steaming hot charu! Charu or Rasam, a famous South Indian creation, is best described in English as a spicy soup. One can make it with or without lentils, and various types of souring agents can be used in it, including tamarind and lemon juice. What I was craving was a particular type of charu that is a quite common in Andhra Pradesh: ‘Miriyala (pepper) Charu’. So I set about grinding some fresh spices and cooking up some hot (in every sense of the word) charu for lunch.

It turned out pretty well, and now I feel cheery, warm and ready to get to editing word-documents (otherwise known as thesis-writing) 🙂

Recipe for peppery low fat South-Indian lentil-soup

If you’d like to try making some, here’s what you will need:

Ingredients:

1/2 cup toor/tuvar dal (split pigeon peas) (for more on these lentils see this wikipedia entry)

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 large tomato, cubed

1 lime sized piece of dried tamarind soaked in a cup of water or 1.5 tsp tamarind paste

1 tsp brown sugar

10 curry leaves

Salt to taste

For Charu powder:

1 tsp toor dal

2 tsp pepper

2 tsp coriander seeds

1/4 tsp mustard seeds

3/4 tsp cumin seeds

1-2 dried red chillies

5-6 menthulu (fenugreek seeds)

For Popu/tadka/baghar:

1- 2 tbsp ghee (for more on ghee and my recipe, go here) or oil

4-6 cloves of garlic

2 twigs/sticks of curry leaves

2 pinches of asafoetida

1 tsp mustard seeds

4 dried red chillies

For garnish:

A handful of fresh cilantro or coriander leaves

Method:

The first step involves cooking the lentils (toor dal). If you have a pressure cooker cook the lentils in it; it’ll only take about 10 minutes. Otherwise, cook the lentils in a pot with 2 cups of water and a pinch of turmeric, until the lentils are completed cooked and soft.

Next, in a large pot bring 2 cups of water and the tomato, turmeric, tamarind (use only the water if you’re using dried tamarind), salt, curry leaves and sugar to boil.

While waiting for these ingredients to begin boiling, prepare the charu powder. Place all the ingredients for the powder in a dry grinder or blender and grind them to a coarse powder. You can also use a mortar and pestle, but this will require a little patience.

Once the ingredients in the pot are boiling, add the cooked lentils and charu powder, stir, cook for a few minutes, and then turn off the heat.

Now for the last step! In a small pot heat the ghee or oil and add the mustard seeds. As the seeds begin to splutter add the remaining popu/tadka/baghar ingredients. Fry until the chillies darken and the spices are fragrant. As soon as you think the spices are ready, pour the ghee and spices into the bigger pot (with the other ingredients) and immediately cover the pot with a lid. Your charu is ready! I must warn you though, this is a very spicy concoction.

You can eat it like soup:

Peppery low fat Indian lentil-soup

Drink it like a warm fall/winter drink:

Recipe for low-fat peppery lentil soup

Or eat it with hot rice and a peppery papad!

Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Heavenly, Healthy Hyderabadi Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

I made some absolutely delicious truffles today, and I was all set to write a post about it. Then I looked at my blog home page and realized that my last post was also about truffles. (In fact, a LOT of my posts are about truffles.) Also, Easter was just the other day, so it occurred to me that some of you are probably feeling a little stuffed, maybe even a little ill from all the chocolate eating. In thinking about how guilty and sick you might be feeling, I began to feel somewhat stuffed myself. I’ve been eating loads of homemade, delicious but cheese covered pizza and of course, tonnes of chocolate. It was time, I decided, to eat something yummy but healthy. And so, I made myself the healthiest dinner that I am capable of eating. I have difficulty eating leafy vegetables you see, they literally make me feel unhappy and hopeless. But this particular magical recipe for spinach lentils that I am about to share with you is as spicy and flavourful, as it is good for you. I am no doctor or nutritionist, but I think you’ll all agree with me when you see the ingredient list.

Hyderabadi Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils) with RiceOh and as you can see from the title, this is a Hyderabadi recipe. Hyderabad is the capital of a southern State in India: Andhra Pradesh. It was the seat of the Nizams, who ruled Hyderabad for about 2 centuries. The word Nizam or Nizam-ul-mulk means ‘administrator of the realm’ or ‘governor of the nation’ in Urdu. This is because the first Nizam was originally appointed by the Mughal emperor to oversee and govern Southern India on his behalf. As the Mughal empire began to crumble (for a brief overview of Mughal history go here), Asaf Jha who was a Mughal noble and a Nizam, declared independence from the Mughals and founded his own dynasty, the Asaf Jha dynasty, also known as the Nizams.

The history of the Nizams is of course more complex than this little paragraph intimates. It is full of battles, intrigue and all the other stuff that good history is made of. But this post is about food, also I am not a historian. I just wanted to give you this brief little background so you can understand Hyderabadi cuisine better. I would recommend reading more about the Nizams though, about their food, jewellery and architecture in particular.

Because the Nizams were essentially nobles from the Mughal court, their food was strongly influenced by Mughlai cuisine. But South Indian food, more precisely Andhra food, i.e. the food the locals ate (and continue to eat today) before the Nizams came to Hyderabad, is also delicious and distinctive. Typical Andhra foods include: spicy peppery Rasam; Chappala Pulusu (fish curry); and Erra Avakaya. So it isn’t surprising that Hyderabadi food blends Andhra and Mughlai styles. Andhra food itself can be broken down into several different types based on different regions of the State. There are also hints of Arab, Turkish, Parsi and other influences in Hyderabadi food. So you see, it is bastardized, pluralistic, and historically rich.

It is also amongst the most delicious cuisines on earth. I kid you not. It’s as spicy as South Indian Andhra food, its magnificence equals Mughlai food (like dal Makhani), and it’s as rich and flavourful as Italian food can be.

(And while I am not appointing myself final arbiter of the best food known to man, I think a woman who has a blog (mostly) about food, a woman who goes into raptures about food, a woman whose very mental stability depends on the availability of a delicious meal, in short a food-crazed woman, should be taken very seriously.)

Anyway, now that you’re sold on its deliciousness, here it is, a spicy palak dal- Hyderabadi style:

Ingredients:

1 cup of moong dal (a type of lentil, native to India)

1/2 teaspoon haldi/pasupu/turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic

About a medium sized bunch of spinach

1/2 tablespoon dried mango powder (Amchur)

5-6 green chilies cut in half lengthwise

2-3 sprigs of coriander/cilantro

Salt to taste

(The following are the ingredients for the tadka baghar or popu)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

5 dried red chilies

5-6 fresh curry leaves or about 10 dried ones

4 peeled whole garlic cloves

2-3 tablespoons of ghee (you can get ghee at an Indian store; if you want to make south Indian ghee, you can read my recipe here)

Method:

The first thing to do is to prepare the dal (lentils). I use moong dal for this recipe. You should be able to get these lentils at an Indian store, if you don’t live in India. I normally soak lentils for about 20 minutes before I cook them. If you don’t have the time to do this, you can skip this step. This is how the lentils look soaked:

Moong dal (lentils native to the Indian subcontinent)The easiest way to cook dal is to cook it in a pressure cooker. If you don’t have one, just boil the dal in water until its cooked. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric and some salt to the dal before you cook it. Once it’s cooked it should look like this: Cooked moong dalNext, heat one tablespoon of oil in a saucepan. When it’s hot add the ginger and garlic. Fry the ginger and garlic until cooked (slightly browned, but not burnt). Add the spinach to the ginger-garlic and let it cook, stirring occasionally. Once the spinach is tender, add the lentils.

Hyderabadi Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

Let this cook for about 10 minutes. Then add half a tablespoon of dried Mango powder (Amchur), the green chillies and the coriander sprigs to the pot and again, let the dal cook. After about 5 minutes we’re ready to add the tadka or baghar (tempering of spices in oil).

The baghar:

Heat a tablespoon or two of ghee in a little saucepan like this:

Hot ghee

Let the ghee get hot. To test if it’s hot enough, throw a single cumin seed into the pan. If it begins to sizzle, add the rest of the cumin along with the mustard seeds and stir them about until they start to pop. When they start to pop, add the curry leaves, garlic cloves and red chilies.

BagharOnce the red chillies darken like this:

Baghar, tadka or popu

Add the baghar to the lentils.

Making Hyderabadi Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

and immediately cover the pot.

The dal is now ready! Serve it with some hot rice, yoghurt and a papad.

Categories
Baking Chocolate Cooking Food Recipes

An Incredibly Simple Chocolate Mousse Recipe (It’s about as healthy as something chocolatey can get!)

I am somewhat infamous amongst my friends and family for my chocolate obsession (it’s not hard to see why). As a result, my friends often send me chocolate-related recipes by email, Facebook etc. I am always grateful for these messages from them, if nothing else because it means they thought of me. But last week, my friend Zoe posted a link for a chocolate mousse recipe on my Facebook timeline that has entirely changed the way I look at chocolate!

When I first saw the recipe, I thought it seemed too simple to be true. Despite my skepticism, my curiosity got the better of me and I decided to give it a try sometime in the near future. As it turned out, I woke up today to find I was out of the Cointreau chocolate truffles I recently made, so, desperately needing my chocolate fix, I decided to try the mousse recipe out. The method employed in this recipe was invented by Herve This, who is a French chemist and, well if you ask me, also a French magician! It turns out this truly is a miracle method/recipe! I am not just being hyperbolic; I mean it. Here’s why:

1. The basic recipe has only has two ingredients: chocolate and water.

2. Although this point is essentially redundant given point 1, I just want to emphasize the fact that the recipe does not call for cream, butter or sugar! So it is pretty low-fat and healthy, for a chocolate mousse recipe.

3. The process is fairly simply, all it needs is a bit of whipping.

You’re amazed aren’t you? Well give it a go, I promise it’s easy and the result is delicious! But before I go on, I just want to add a little caveat to all this. I say this recipe is low-fat because it doesn’t call for cream, butter etc. Having said that, it is still a chocolate mousse recipe. Even though it contains only chocolate and water, chocolate, even dark chocolate contains quite a lot of calories. So this mousse is still considerably more fattening than say just eating some fruit for dessert. So eat it in reasonable quantities.

(I know, I know, you’re calling me a hypocrite now, but YOU, my dear reader can, and should, aspire to a healthier, more sane lifestyle than I adopt, surely!)

I used Heston Blumenthal’s recipe as a base but changed the quantities a little, and added Cointreau for a little extra oomph. Here are the instructions for my version:

Equipment:

1 Saucepan

1 large bowl and 1 smaller bowl

Ice

A whisk

Ingredients:

250g good dark chocolate (I used Godiva chocolate with 72% cocoa solids)

220 ml water

2 tbsp Cointreau (you could also use Grand Marnier)

Cocoa powder and finely grated orange peel for decoration

(The exact quantity of water that you will need varies a little with the room temperature in the room and ice bath, and the particular chocolate you use, so you might have to tweak these measurements. Once you try the recipe out, you’ll get a sense of it and you might find you need to add another tablespoon of water, or reduce the water in the recipe by a bit.)

Method:

Chop up the chocolate on a cutting board into fine bits with a large knife. I have a food processor, so I just break the chocolate up into individual squares and then throw it into the processor. The reason you want the chocolate broken up into fine bits is because you want it all to melt easily when you heat it. Chocolate burns easily, so you’ve always got to be careful when melting it.

Take the larger bowl and fill it with ice and cold water. Place the smaller bowl in this bigger bowl on top of the ice. The bottom of the smaller bowl should rest on the ice.

Next pour the water into a saucepan, place the pan on the stove and turn on the heat/flame to low. Now add the chocolate and Cointreau. With the whisk begin mixing the chocolate, liqueur, and water. Once the chocolate is melted, pour it into the small bowl sitting in the ice-bath. Start whisking the chocolate fairly furiously. It will slowly thicken.

Watch the video below to get an idea of how much to whisk it and when to stop (the whisking bit is from around 1.15 to 1.45).

It’s important not to overdo the whipping; if you do, you won’t end up with a mousse-like consistency. I made that mistake the first time around 😩 and I ended up with a dry mess that looked like this:

If you overdo it, you can melt the chocolate again and repeat the whipping process.

When you have the right consistency, you should stop whisking immediately and serve the mousse. I used an ice cream scoop to gorge some out and then served it on a plate like this- lightly dusted with cocoa on top:

Another option is to scoop into little serving bowls like this. Again, I dusted the top with cocoa powder and then garnished with finely grated orange peel. I’ll probably take of the orange bits before I eat it though, so this is a purely decorative addition.