about all things hot'n'spicy , sweet'n'crazy

Lentils/Daals

A sumptuous breakfast spread

Ven Pongal with Vada , Sambar and Coconut Chutney

A pot of boiling water with rice and lentil is a usual sight in every Tamil kitchen on the morning of their harvest festival, Pongal. This offering to God later finds it place on the breakfast table with the numerous other dishes to feed the Family who have gathered to celebrate. It’s very typical in India to have an elaborate break fast on special occasions. My memories of any festival are mostly associated to the specialities served on the day and Pongal is no different.

I wanted to join in the celebration this year by cooking up the traditional breakfast. This is my way to say a big thank you to Tamil Nadu for making me feel at home during my years there ,teaching me some great values in life and for giving me some wonderful friends.

So let’s get cooking .On a regular day you can just whip up a quick breakfast by serving pongal with coconut chutney.

Serves 4-5

For Pongal

Ingredients

  • ¾ cup raw rice
  • ¼ cup Mung Daal

For Seasoning

  • 1/2 tsp Cumin
  • 1 tsp Black Peppercorns
  • 1 Green chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped Ginger
  • 8 -10 Cashew nuts, halved
  • 1 tsp Oil
  • 2 tsp Ghee
  • 1 sprig of Curry leaves
  • Salt to taste

Method

Dry roast the Mung Daal for about 3-4 minutes or until it gives a nutty aroma.Soak the  washed rice along with the roasted daal in 4 cups of water for about half an hour.

Transfer the rice, daal and water to a pressure cooker and cook for about 15 -20 minutes on medium flame.

Heat oil in a pan big enough to hold the rice mixture. Fry cumin seeds, cashew nut and peppercorns until the cashew nuts turn brown. Add chopped ginger and green chilli and fry further for 2-3 minutes. Transfer the cooked rice mixture into the pan, add salt and  mix well.Pour ghee over the rice and mix well again. Remove from the heat.

For Vada

Ingredients

  • 1 cup urad dal soaked for about a minimum of 4 hours
  • 1 tbsp fine semolina
  • 1/2 cup of chopped Shallots or red Onion
  • 1 tsp finely chopped green chilli
  • 1 tsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1 tsp Black Peppercorns
  • 1-2 Sprig of Curry leaves roughly chopped
  • A pinch of baking soda (optional)
  • Salt o taste
  • Oil to deep fry

Method

Grind urad dal to a smooth paste .Use very little water for grinding.I use the chutney jar that comes with Indian blenders to make my batter and it works just perfect.If your batter becomes watery add about 1-2 tsp of rice flour.

Add rest of the ingredients listed except oil to the Daal paste and mix well. Semolina is my secret ingredient to get that crispy restaurant like vadas.If you dont fancy the idea of biting into whole pepper while relishing your Vada you can omit it from the recipe.

To shape your vada, wet your palm, take a lemon sized ball of batter, place it on your palm, shape into a ball, flatten it out and make that most important hole in the centre.You can even use greased plastic sheets or banana leaf to shape the vadas.

Heat oil in a deep pan ,slide  it carefully in to the oil. Fry on medium heat until it turns golden brown.

If  you find it difficult to get perfect shaped vadas , just  use an ice cream scoop or a regular spoon and drop small scoop of batter into the hot oil. Shape doesn’t matter as long it tastes great.

For Coconut chutney

Ingredients

  • 1 cup grated Coconut
  • 4  Green Chillies
  • 1 tbsp roasted Chana Daal (Dalia)
  • Salt to taste

For Seasoning

  • 1 tsp Urad Daal/Black gram
  • ½ tsp Mustard
  • 1 sprig of Curry leaves
  • 1 tsp oil

Method

Grind Coconut, green chillies and  roasted daal with salt to a smooth paste with about  quarter cup of water.

Heat oil in a pan and fry everything listed in the section “For Seasoning” until the urad daal is nicely browned. Pour over the ground coconut mixture.

To Serve

Serve the Pongal with vada and chutney on the side and a small bowl of Sambar. Recipe of Sambar to follow.

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The harmonious union of Spinach and Lentil

Spinach – Lentil curry with ground coconut.

I had the privilege to enjoy fresh home made lunch for about a month when my parents visited me last summer. I would impatiently wait for the clock to tick 12 to rush home to savour the mom-made lunch. No, 12’O clock is never too early for lunch especially when it’s cooked by mommie dearest. It was during one of those merrier days I had this curry that tasted very similar to my old favourite “Paruppu curry” but greener in appearance. I was told that it was  “cheera paruppu curry” , translates to spinach lentil curry,  and it featured often in our menu (!) during my growing up years in Kerala. I am not too sure about this claim and didn’t bother to care much as I was too busy wiping off every bit of the curry left on my plate.

Now lets move to the apparently not so new spinach with mung daal curry.

Serves 4 to 6

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of finely chopped Spinach
  • ½ cup Mung daal
  • ½ tsp Turmeric
  • ½ tsp Chilli powder
  • Salt to taste

To Grind

  • 2-3 Green chillies
  • 3 tbsp grated Coconut
  • ½ tsp Cumin seeds
  • 2-3 Shallots

For seasoning

  • ½ tsp Mustard seeds
  • A few Curry leaves
  • 1 tsp finely chopped Shallot
  • 1 Red Chilli
  • 1 tbsp Oil/Ghee

Method

Cook the Mung Daal in a regular pan or pressure cooker with the chilli powder, turmeric powder and enough water to cover.

While Daal is being cooked , grind all the ingredients listed under  the “To grind” section to a fine paste. Sauté the finely chopped spinach until it’s wilted. Once the Daal is soft add the spinach, salt and  coconut paste to the Daal and cook for another 5-6 minutes. Remove from the heat.

In a small frying pan, heat oil/ghee and add the mustard seeds. When it starts to splutter, add the rest of the seasoning ingredients and fry until the shallots are browned. Pour this over the curry and  leave it covered till it is served. My mom adds thinly sliced shallots to most of the seasoning and I can vouch that it definitely enhances the taste.

This tastes great when served with rice alongside an accompaniment of fried pappads and lime pickle.


Medley of Daals

A Daal curry  that has all the four common lentils available in an Indian pantry.

A busy Saturday after noon in the kitchen, after an hour long mental negotiation I decided on making Daal and rice.I chopped the onions, slit the green chillies, sliced the garlic and opened my cupboard to scoop out a heap of daal to the pressure cooker. Should I say I was disheartened to see just a spoon of daal where I was hoping for a heaped cup.I am sure there are many of you who would have found  yourselves in similar situations. I didn’t want to engage myself in another hour long process of deciding on an alternate dish for the lunch. I braved myself to proceed with the same recipe but with a mix of different Daals  to make up the amount of Toor Daal, the original recipe called for. This is how I did it.

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp Mung Daal
  • 2 tbsp Masoor Daal
  • ¼ cup Toor Daal
  • ¼ cup Chana Daal
  • ½ tsp Turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp Red Chilli powder
  • 3-4 Green Chillies , finely chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped Ginger
  • 1 cup finely chopped tomato
  • ½ tsp freshly roasted Cumin powder
  • 2 tsp Oil
  • Salt to taste

For Seasoning

  • 1 tbsp finely chopped Garlic
  • 1 tsp Cumin seeds
  • 1 sprig of Curry leaves
  • 1 or 2 Red Chilli
  • 1 to 2 tsp of Oil/Ghee

Method

Soak all the Daals for about half an hour and cook until soft with the turmeric powder, chilli powder and salt.

Heat 2 tsp of oil in a pan. Sauté the onion, ginger and green chillies for about 3-4 minutes until the onion turn translucent. Add the chopped tomatoes, mix in the Cumin powder and fry till the tomatoes are cooked through. Add the cooked Daal into the mixture and boil for about 5 – 6 minutes on low flame .Remove from the heat.

For seasoning, heat oil/ghee in a pan. Add the cumin seeds, when they start to brown add the chopped garlic, curry leaves and red chilli. Fry till the garlic turns brown. Pour the seasoning to the Daal , leave it covered with a lid until it is served.

This is going to be my entry for this year’s first edition of My Legume Love Affair hosted by Simona of Briciole , a popular blog event created by Susan of  The Well Seasoned Cook.