Showing posts with label peas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label peas. Show all posts

Nov 16, 2016

Lucknowi Chana Dal (Yellow Split Peas with Caramelized Onions)

Lucknowi Chana Dal (Yellow Split Peas with Caramelized Onions) recipe soup easy indian vegan vegetarian

Lucknow is a city in northern India steeped in the royal traditions of the Mughals. Chana dal is Hindi for split yellow peas. In this recipe the richness of caramelized onions gives humble yellow split peas a regal air in true Mughal tradition. A touch of cumin and green chili is just the right amount of spice in this velvety version of split pea soup. A surprisingly easy dish that can also be made vegan. Pairs perfectly with rice and chapattis or simply served as a hearty soup on a chilly Fall or Winter's day.

This recipe is adapted from one of my most recent cookbook acquisitions, Betty Indian Home Cooking by Raghavan Iyer. I think it's hilarious that good old American Betty Crocker did an Indian cookbook. I know Betty Crocker did some rather Americanized Mexican and Chinese cookbooks, but I had no idea there was an Indian one. Those of you who collect Indian cookbooks will probably recognize the author, Raghavan Iyer. Mr Iyer is the author of the much lauded cookbooks 660 Curries and Indian Cooking Unfolded: A Master Class in Indian Cooking, with 100 Easy Recipes Using 10 Ingredients or Less. He does do a good job of presenting recipes from all over India in this beginners' tome. The photos are nice and the book is very well made with high quality paper and binding we've come to expect from Betty Crocker.

Lucknowi Chana Dal (Yellow Split Peas with Caramelized Onions) recipe soup easy indian vegan vegetarian

This is the best recipe in the entire book. This recipe is so easy and the best split pea soup I've ever had. Even my anti-veg mutton-a-holic brother-in-law loves this dal! I initially had my doubts about this recipe as it had only four ingredients - but this has truly become a family favorite! I did make some adjustments to the recipe though. The original recipe called for caramelizing six onions in two tablespoons of ghee or oil and one cup of yellow split peas. Frying six medium sized onions in two tablespoons of any fat is wishful thinking. Even with a non stick or Teflon pan you're going to end up with a burnt mess. (This book was written in 2001 when America was still in it's fat-phobic frenzy so I'm sure Mr Iyer was told to keep oils to a minimum.) Plus that is A LOT of onions! Mughal and Muslim recipes tend to be a bit onion heavy but that's bordering ridiculous. So I decreased the onions, upped the quantity of yellow split peas to one and a half cups, and increased the cooking oil to three tablespoons. The result was perfection! I use a mixture of ghee or butter and cooking oil because I find that ghee or butter alone can get a scorched taste when frying onions this long. You could certainly skip the ghee or butter and use three tablespoons of cooking oil to make this dish vegan. The key to this dish is getting the onions properly caramelized. If you're in a western country that doesn't have the pinkish Indian onions just use the commonly available yellow onions for the same flavor. There is a little trick I've learned to speed the caramelization of the onions if you're the impatient type like me, I'll put that at the bottom of the page under Helpful Hints if you're interested. Otherwise simply slice the onions as evenly as you can and fry them over medium heat with a watchful eye. Then mix the caramelized onion mixture and cooked peas together to simmer for a bit and enjoy!

1&1/2 C yellow split peas/chana dal
6 C water
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt
2 TBS cooking oil
1 TBS ghee or butter (just use cooking oil to make this recipe vegan)
1 C onions, thinly sliced into half moons
1 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
2-3 green chilis, chopped finely (use less or omit for less heat)
chopped cilantro, chopped red chilis, sliced red onions (optional for garnish)

Here's what to do:
1) In a 5 quart pressure cooker or deep stock pot combine yellow split peas, 6 cups water, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon turmeric. Allow steam for 4-5 whistles if using pressure cooker. Bring to a boil and allow to simmer partially covered for 30 to 45 minutes if using stock pot. If mixture begins to stick or scorch add 1/4 C water, stir well, and reduce heat.

2) While peas are cooking heat cooking oil and ghee in a deep heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai. Fry onions for about 10 minutes or until a golden brown. Add cumin seeds and chopped green chilis to fried onions mixture, stir well and fry for 2-3 minutes. Remove skillet or kadhai from heat immediately. You want your onions caramelized not burnt, err on the side of underdone than over done. Burnt onions are bitter and will ruin the dish.

3) Stir the fried onion mixture into cooked peas. Partially cover and allow to simmer for 10 minutes to blend flavors. The fried onions will float upon the surface of the boiled peas at first. Then after about ten minutes they meld together.

4) Allow mixture to keep simmering until peas are to desired tenderness. You can leave the peas slightly firm and holding their shape or cook them down to velvety smoothness. It's all about what you like! Add a bit of water, reduce heat, and stir well until dal is to desired consistency. Salt to taste, garnish if desired, and serve hot with rice, rotis, or as a soup with buttered bread. 

Helpful Hints:
A little trick I learned on one of these food and science websites to speed up the caramelization of onions is to add a little baking soda while frying. You want to wait until the onions just start to turn brown at the edges, then add about 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of onions being fried. Raising the pH to a slightly alkaline level will cause the onions to caramelize faster so watch them carefully. The slightly alkaline pH will also cause the onions' cells to lyse so you'll end up with a sort of paste. A paste of caramelized onions is fine for this dish as we're going to simmer them in with the boiled peas until they disentegrate anyway. Now, if you're trying to make the onions that are fried to a delicate crisp called birista - DO NOT use baking soda. 

If you're in a western country where the pinkish Indian style onions I've shown in the above picture aren't available then use the more commonly found yellow onions. Do not use red or purple onions as they are too sugary and will scorch rather than caramelize.

Lucknowi Chana Dal (Yellow Split Peas with Caramelized Onions) recipe soup easy indian vegan vegetarian

Apr 18, 2016

Aloo Mattar (Curried Potatoes & Peas)

Sumptuously spicy and hearty enough to be served as a main dish this is my version of the classic North Indian menu item aloo mattar. Aloo means potatoes and mattar means green peas, both are combined with traditional warm aromatic spices and slow simmered to tenderness in a rich yogurt and tomato gravy. This popular vegetarian dish pairs well with rotis, rice, or naan. 

We had a bumper crop of potatoes this year, those you see in the photos are Yukon Golds from my garden. If you can't find Yukon Golds where you are Russets or any baking type potato will do. In this dish we first make the gravy and then add the peas and precooked potatoes. The peas we get here aren't the tender kind we get in western countries, they're a bit tougher and require some cooking so I use a pressure cooker for this dish. If you're using the tender green peas found in western countries you could simply use a heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai to make the gravy then simply stir the peas in at the same time as the precooked potatoes and allow the dish to simmer for an extra five minutes or so.

3 potatoes, boiled until tender, peeled and cut into one inch cubes
1 cup green peas/mattar, fresh or frozen
3 TBS cooking oil or ghee
2 onions, sliced finely into half moons
1 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
1 cassia leaf/tej patta
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves/kasoori methi
1 tsp salt
Grind until smooth for masala-
3 tomatoes, chopped roughly
1/2 C yogurt/dahi
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS ginger'adrak paste
2 tsp Kitchen King* masala (or garam masala)
2 tsp ground coriander/dhania seeds
2 tsp cumin/jeera, ground
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1/2 tsp cayenne plus 1/2 tsp paprika powder)
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
1-2 green chilis/hari mirch (optional, omit for less heat)
1 tsp salt

Here's what to do:
1) Boil potatoes until tender, then peel and slice into one inch cubes and set aside. Grind all ingredients listed under masala to a smooth paste and set aside. Heat oil in a pressure cooker, heavy bottomed skillet, or kadhai with one teaspoon salt and fry onions until beginning to brown.

2) Add cumin seeds, cassia leaf, and ground masala paste to fried onions, stir well and bring to simmer. Allow to simmer for about 7-9 minutes or until oil separates from sauce. If mixture begins to scorch or stick add 1/4 cup water, stir and reduce heat.

3) Add peas to fried mixture. If using pressure cooker add 1cup water seal and cook for 2 whistles. If using heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai add 1/2 cup water and simmer until peas are just tender. (The peas in South Asia are a bit tough and require a lot of cooking unlike the tender peas found in Western countries. If you are using the tender peas found in Western countries you might want to stir them in with the potatoes in step 4 to prevent them being overcooked. )

4) If using pressure cooker allow to cool and open, stir in boiled potato cubes and simmer until gravy is to desired consistency. If using skillet or kadhai stir potatoes in and simmer until gravy is of desired consistency. Salt to taste and serve.

Helpful hints:
Kitchen King is a popular North Indian premade spice mixture. My favorite brand is Catch but MDH is good also. If you can't get Kitchen King masala a good substitute is: 1/2tsp cayenne + 1/2tsp paprika + 1tsp cumin + 1tsp coriander + + 1/2 tsp fennel + 1/4tsp ground fenugreek +1/4tsp mace + 1/8tsp nutmeg 

Feb 8, 2016

Ingredient of the Week: What's The Deal With Dal?

Dal is any type of split or hulled lentil, pea, or beanThe word "dal" derives from the Sanskrit root "dhal" meaning "to split." It is a staple food across South Asia and most often cooked into a variety of regional soups and stews. Dal is usually served with rice and wheat flatbreads such as roti or chapatti. In combination with rice and or wheat, dal provides the essential amino acids to form a complete protein. "Dal Bhat" (literally translated from Hindi, Urdu and Nepali means "dal and rice") is a daily meal for most people in Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, and Pakistan. Dal is a healthy and affordable source of vegetarian protein as well as a good source of B vitamins, iron and zinc.

The famous dishes of the Subcontinent made with dal are many and varied- There's sambar, vada, ven pongal, and pappu in South India. Oriya and bori dried dumplings in East India. Dhansak, dal makhani, and dal paratha in North India. Mussyang is a popular Nepali dish made from several dals of different colors. Even sweets such as burfi and laddoos are made of certain dals.

The most common way to prepare dal- Simply boil it with a pinch of turmeric and perhaps some onion, garlic, asafoetida/hing, tomatoes, tamarind, or even green mango depending on regional and individual tastes. After the dal is cooked a fried garnish called a "tadka/tarka" or "chaunk" is often added. The chaunk or tadka/tarka is usually raw spices along with garlic, ginger and or onion which are tempered by frying and then poured over the dal. (In case you are interested "chaunk" is pronounced "tsonk" with heavy aspiration on the "ts.")

Common varieties of dal-

Masoor dal - hulled red lentils

Mmm...these are my favorite!
They cook down to a velvety soup.

Mattar dal - split yellow peas

Yep, they're split peas!

Urad dal- black or green mung beans, hulled or split

Split unhulled "urad dal" or mung beans
Hulled "urad dal"

Toor, toovar, or arhar dal- split pigeon peas

Sort of like split peas but with more of a nutty flavor.

Rajma- any sort of red bean from kidney beans to pinto beans

Kidney beans are "rajma"
Pinto beans are "rajma" too

Chana or Chole- Varieties of chickpeas from "kala chana" or "chhola boot" to "Kabuli chana." Chana dal can also be ground to a fine flour called "besan." Besan or gram flour is used in many things from sweets like laddoos and barfi to pakora batters. These South Asian varieties of chickpeas or gabanzo beans are a bit smaller than those seen most often in western countries. Very similar in flavor and texture though.

Dark colored "kala chana"  or "chhola boot"
Light colored "Kabuli chana"or chole
This is ground chickpea flour, also called "besan," "baeshun," or "gram flour." Besan is great for thickening soups & gravies, making crispy pakoras, laddoos, barfi, bhajis, frittters, noodles called "sev," chela, puda, you can even make cookies with it. It's gluten free and has 20 grams of protein per cup.

And that concludes my dissertation on dal for today!

Keep calm and curry on.

Jan 7, 2016

Mattar Paneer (Peas & Cheese)

"Mattar" means green peas and "paneer" is a deliciously soft and mild cheese. In this popular Punjabi vegetarian dish peas and delicate paneer are simmered in a richly spiced yogurt and tomato gravy. Protein rich and sumptuously savory this entree pairs well with naan, rice, rotis or parathas.

This classic combination is always a family favorite. With very little preparation this dish comes together in about twenty five minutes. The peas we have here in Nepal aren't like the tender peas found in Western countries, they require pressure cooking to soften them up. If you are using the tender green peas found in Western countries just stir them in at the same time as the paneer so as not to overcook them.

1 C onions, sliced finely into half moons
1 TBS ginger/adrak paste
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1&1/2 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
3 TBS oil or ghee
1 C green peas/mattar, fresh or frozen
1 C water
1 C paneer, cubed & fried
Grind to smooth paste for masala:
1 C full fat yogurt/dahi
1/2 C onion, chopped roughly
2 tsp Kitchen King masala (If you don't have Kitchen King masala see the "Helpful Hints" at the end of this recipe for a good substitute.)
2 tsp ground coriander/dhania
2 tsp ground cumin/jeera
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1/2 tsp paprika + 1/2 tsp cayenne)
1/4 tsp turmeric/haldi
1 C tomatoes, chopped roughly
2 tsp salt
Here's what to do:
1) Grind all ingredients listed under masala in mixie, food processor, or blender to a smooth paste. Set aside.

2) Heat oil in pressure cooker,  kadhai, or heavy bottomed skillet and fry the thinly sliced onion until translucent & beginning to brown.  Add ginger, garlic, and cumin seeds, fry for 2 minutes.

3) Add masala paste from step 1 to mixture in pan and fry for 5 minutes or until oil separates from sauce. Stir in peas. Seal pressure cooker up and allow to cook for 3-4 whistles or until peas are tender. If using a heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai add 1C water or stock, bring to simmer and cook until peas are to desired tenderness. (The peas here in South Asia aren't tender like the peas you get in Western countries, they are a bit tough and require a lot of cooking. If you are using the tender green peas you might just want to stir them towards the end with the paneer and just simmer them a bit.)

4) Remove pressure cooker from heat and allow to cool. When pressure cooker has cooled open it. If the sauce is too thin for your liking continue simmering uncovered until it is of desired thickness. If the sauce is too thick for your liking continue add water until it is of preferred consistency.

5) Stir the cubed, fried paneer into sauce. (If using tender green peas stir them in now) Bring dish to a simmer again uncovered over medium heat for at least 3 minutes to make sure the paneer is heated through. Salt to taste & serve.

Helpful Hints:
If you don't have Kitchen King masala use this combination of spices- 
 1/2tsp cayenne + 1/2tsp paprika + 1tsp cumin + 1tsp coriander + + 1/2 tsp fennel + 1/4tsp ground fenugreek +1/4tsp mace + 1/8tsp nutmeg 

Don't have any yoghurt? Use full fat milk or coconut milk.
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