Bhaja Moonger Dal (Moong Dal)

 

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Bhaja in bangla means fried. Moong dal is first roasted with the tempering giving it a nutty aroma and its characteristic flavor and then cooked till mushy. Every Bengali household has their own version of this dish, this was how my Dida (maternal grandma) cooked it. Growing up we called it Didar dal to differentiate it from my Thama’s (paternal grandma) version. This was usually cooked on days in the year where the menu had to be Niramish (Vegetarian) and served with rice and Badhakopir Ghonto (Cabbage Ghonto).

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Moong Dal is one of the healthiest lentils with high content of fiber, minerals, proteins and Vitamin C, and a very low calorie count. Essentially its a dieters best friend! Its also light and easy to digest making it really good recovery food. Now add in some ginger, turmeric, flavors from the tempering of spices, carrots and green peas, and you have a wholesome and delicious lentil stew that you can enjoy as is or with some rice or quinoa. This is one of my go-to recipes for those days when I have long working hours and limited time to cook and need something light to eat.

Time for Prep: 5 mins     Time to Cook: 20-25 mins    Yield: 4-6 servings    Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup yellow mung dal
  • 3 cups water
  • 1 cup carrots, grated
  • 1/2 cup fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1 inch ginger, grated
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4-5 green cardamom
  • 7-8 cloves
  • 1 stick of cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp ghee/ oil
  • 1/4 tsp sugar (optional)
  • 1 tbsp cilantro, chopped for garnish
  • 1 tbsp grated coconut for garnish (Optional)

Process:

  1. In a soup pan, heat ghee over medium heat. Add bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, cumin and caraway seeds.
  2. When the tempering starts spluttering and you can get the aroma, add the moong dal. Saute for 2-3 mins, till they get a little fried.
  3. Add carrots, mix it in, then add ginger, turmeric and salt. Mix everything in, sauté for 3-4 mins.
  4. Add the green peas, fold them in. Add water, cover and cook, stirring occasionally till the dal is mushy. Add more water if needed, depending on whether you like dal to be runny or thick.
  5. Turn of the heat and sugar. Mix it in. Garnish with Cilantro.

Serve with rice or chapatis.

Notes:

  • You can use a pressure cooker instead of a soup pot. Just remember that moong dal cooks very quickly.

 

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Summer Squash and Lentil Stew

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Fall is my favorite season! The change of hue in leaves and the blue of the sky, the nip in the air, warm ciders, the festive feel around. With the chill also comes cravings for fresh warm food. My menu is usually dominated by parathas, stews and soups. Farmers market at this time of the year is all about squashes, pears, apples and cauliflower, so is most of the food I cook.

Fall is also the busiest time of the year for my artist career, prepping for the holiday season and my goal with cooking is to make wholesome quick meals. This is just that.

I used summer squash, you can get creative and use other vegetables too. This recipe calls for shallots, simply because I like how they punch in a lot of flavor and integrate easily and cherry tomatoes for the sweetness. You can use 1 regular onion and 1 regular sized tomato instead. The wine and vinegar is optional. The wine add a sweet fruity flavor and the vinegar a sourness that I like, but if you don’t have it handy don’t let that stop you from trying this, a pinch of sugar and some lemon juice will also work great!

I cooked the Lentil and Squash separately because the cooking time of the two is different. If you cook them together, all the squash will become mushy and pasty.

This goes great with Baguettes, rice, pulao or Quinoa Cakes.

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Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 35 mins     Yield: 4-6 Servings     Level: Easy

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (or any cooking oil you prefer)
  • 3-4 shallots, finely diced
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup sherry (optional)
  • 2 cups french green lentils, rinsed and soaked for 30 mins
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar (optional)
  • 2 cups summer squash, chopped
  • 2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 15-20 cherry tomatoes, halved or 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, chopped
  • 1 cup green peas, fresh or frozen
  • 6-7 basil leaves, rolled into a bundle and cut into thin strips (chiffonade)
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • Salt to taste

Process:

  1. Cooking the Lentil:
    1. Heat 2 tbsp oil in large sauce pan over medium heat. Add the shallots, garlic, 1 tsp cayenne and salt.
    2. Sauté until softened, about 3-4 mins. Add the wine and sauté till the onions begin to caramelize, around 4-5 mins more.
    3. Add the lentils, green peas and chopped carrots, stir them in and sauté for 2-3 mins.
    4. Add water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until lentils are tender. Around 20 mins.
  2. Cooking the squash:
    1. While the lentils are cooking, heat 2 tbsp oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the tomatoes, summer squash, 1 tsp cayenne and salt. Cook till tender.
  3. Once the lentils are cooked add the sherry vinegar. Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.
  4. Putting it together:
    1. Add the cooked summer squash to the lentil and start it in (Or)
    2. In a bowl fist ladle in the lentil, then top it with the squash.
  5. Garnish with basil leaves.

Hyderabadi Khatti (Sour) Dal

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A couple centuries ago Garam Masala and the famous Dum Pukht (slow cooking) style of the Persians met the sourness of tamarind and the sweetness of coconut of the local Telugus and the delectable Hyderabadi cuisine was born. While Hyderabad is most famous for its Biryani and Haleem, which is a staple for any kind of celebration, everyday Hyderabadi food is just as delicious.

Khatti dal is one of my favorites, add some steamed basmati rice, talahuva bhindi (fried okra) and we are gold!

Time for Prep: 10 mins     Time to Cook: 25 mins      Yield: 6 Servings     Level: Easy

Ingredients:
For the Dal:

  • 1 cup toor dal (pigeon pea)/masoor dal (red lentils)
  • 3-4 Green Chilli Peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 inch Ginger Root, grated
  • 4-5 garlic clove, minced
  • 2 plum tomatoes, finely chopped.
  • 6-7 Shallots, Cut
  • 1/2 tsp Salt (or more depending on your personal taste)
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp chilli powder/cayenne
  • 1/2 tsp tamarind paste (or soak 1 inch chunk of Tamarind in water)

For Tempering:

  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • 2-3 dried red chillies
  • 2-3 garlic cloves
  • 1 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)

For Garnish:

  • 2 tbsp fresh Cilantro, chopped

Process:

Cooking the Dal:

  1. Rinse and soak the lentils for 30-40 mins.
    1. Drain the water, transfer it to the cooking pot. To this add the half of  chopped onions and tomatoes, all of the green chillies, ginger, garlic, salt and turmeric. Add 3 cups of water.
    2. Cook on high heat till you get a boil, then reduce heat to medium and let cook till the lentils are soft. If the dal is too thick, you can add more water to get desirable consistency. Check salt and add more if needed based on taste. (or) use a pressure cooker and cook for 10-12 mins.
  2. Heat 1 tsp oil in a heavy bottom pan, add the other half of tomatoes and sauté for 7-8 mins.
  3. Add the tomatoes and chill powder, cook for another 2-3 mins, or till the tomatoes get soft.
  4. Add the cooked dal and tamarind paste/water and let it boil for 2-3 mins. You can add more water if needed to get desired consistency.

Tempering:

  1. Heat Ghee in a small pan. Add the curry leaves, cumin, mustard seeds and dried red chillies. Let it crackle.
  2. Add the Garlic and cook till you smell the aroma.
  3. Pour this entire tempering, along with the ghee in to the cooked dal and mix it in. You can also serve with the tempering on top of it.

Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

Notes:

  • I prefer plum Tomatoes for this recipe because of their meatiness.
  • I use Shallots because they integrate better and have a milder flavor, you can use 1 regular onion if thats what you have in your pantry.
  • Oil can be used instead of Ghee for the tempering.

Basic Yellow Dal – the best comfort food

Some food just gives you that instant calm and satisfied feeling, takes you to a place where you feel nurtured and confident. Growing up I remember getting back home from a long day at school, frustrated with something very silly and venting to mom while she cooked dinner. I would sit on the counter and snack on whatever it is she was using, onions, cabbage, green peas.,. and talk as if it was the end of the world. She would listen, give me a hug and say ‘Tomorrow is a new and better day, don’t worry”. And at that moment everything felt good. This dish takes me back to that moment, it is the ultimate comfort food in my book.
And in case your wondering, Yes, I was a very dramatic teenager!
FullSizeRender 3India has numerous regional cuisine and every region has its own way of making this basic yellow dal. My way is a hybrid of my mom’s Bengali cooking and my mom-in-laws Havyaka style. I cook it for almost 3 hours in low heat either in a Crockpot or a Tagine, but thats not necessary. I prefer slow cooking because it really enhances the flavors and allows them to mingle with each other. You can use a pressure cooker and make this a quick meal too.

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I use Shallots and Grape tomatoes in this recipe. But you can use regular red onion and tomatoes if thats what you already have in your pantry. Grape tomatoes have extra sweetness, which enhances the flavors of the ginger, plus the red ovals look nice on a plate. As for the Shallots, they integrate better with the dal and have a milder flavor when compared to a regular onion which maintains its shape even if finely chopped.

This can be served with plain white rice, cumin rice or roti.

Time for Prep: 20 mins     Time to Cook: 3 hours      Yield: 4 Servings     Level: Easy FullSizeRender 2 Ingredients:
For the Dal:

  • 1 cup Toor Dal (Pigeon Pea)
  • 2 tbsp Moong Bean
  • 2 tbsp Chana Dal (Split Chickpea)
  • 3-4 Green Chilli Peppers, finely chopped
  • 1 inch Ginger Root, finely chopped
  • 9-10 Grape Tomatoes, cut.
  • 6-7 Shallots, Cut
  • 1/2 tsp Salt (or more depending on your personal taste)
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric powder

For Tempering:

  • 1 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp Asafetida (Hing)
  • 4-5 Curry leaves
  • 2-3 Dried Red Chillies
  • 1 tbsp Ghee (Clarified Butter)

For Garnish:

  • 2 tbsp fresh Cilantro, chopped

Process:

Cooking the Dal:

  1. Rinse and soak the lentils for 30-40 mins.
  2. Drain the water, transfer it to the cooking pot. To this add the chopped onions, tomatoes, green chillies, ginger, salt and turmeric. Add 3 cups of water. Stir Well
  3. Cook on medium heat till you get a boil, then reduce heat to low and let cook for around 3 hours (Or till the lentils are soft). If the dal is too thick, you can add more water to get desirable consistency. Check salt and add more if needed based on taste.

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Tempering:

  1. Heat Ghee in a small pan. Add the curry leaves, cumin, mustard seeds and dried red chillies. Let it crackle.
  2. Add the Asafetida. Fry for 30 seconds.
  3. Pour this entire tempering, along with the ghee in to the cooked dal and mix it in. You can also serve with the tempering on top of it.

Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

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Notes:

  • I prefer Grape Tomatoes for the sweetness they add, you can use 1 regular tomato also.
  • I use Shallots because they integrate better and have a milder flavor, you can use 1 regular onion if thats what you have in your pantry.
  • This can be cooked in a pressure cooker as well. Let the cooker whistle 6-7 minutes or more, until the lentils are soft.
  • Oil can be used instead of Ghee for the tempering.