Savory Indian chickpea pudding

December 26, 2011 at 9:04 pm (Beans, C (2 stars, okay, edible), Indian, Madhur Jaffrey)

Even after my experiments with Socca I still had some chickpea flour left, so I decided to try this recipe from Maddhur Jaffrey’s World of the East.  She calls it a savory chickpea flour “quiche,” but then goes on to say that it resembles a quiche only in that it’s like a set custard that can be cut and served in sections.   Read the rest of this entry »

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Millet Pilaf with Carrots, Onion, and Cloves

February 25, 2008 at 9:23 am (Grains, Madhur Jaffrey, Quick weeknight recipe, unrated)

The flavors in this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East cookbook are simple, but very tasty. Unlike most of the recipes in this cookbook, this one does not say from which part of the world it originates, and I can’t really place the flavors into any one cultural bucket. Millet is eaten in many parts of the world, so knowing its geographical distribution doesn’t really help me place it either. Millet is a fast growing grain that requires little fertilizer and grows well even with limited rainfall, so its primarily eaten in arid parts of the world. Millet is an ancient staple in Northern China and Korea (rather than rice which is the staple in wet Southern China). In Western India millet is used to make flat bread, and it is also eaten in many parts of Africa.

  • 1.5 cups hulled millet
  • 3 Tbs. unsalted butter or oil
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned in 1.5-inch strips
  • 1 medium-sized onion peeled, cut in half lengthwise, and sliced into fine half rings
  • a 2-inch piece of cinnamon
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 2 Tbs. raisins
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  1. Heat a 7-inch cast-iron skillet over a medium flame. Put in the millet and stir to roast it. The millet is done when it emits a roasted aroma and when some of the seeds turn a light-brown color. A few of the seeds might actually burst open like popcorn.
  2. In a heavy 1 3/4 to 2-quart pot, melt the butter over a medium flame. Add the carrot, onion, cinnamon, and cloves. Stir and saute for about 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Add the raisins. Stir and saute another 5 minutes or until the onion just begins to brown at the edges. Add the roasted millet, salt and 2 3/4 cup water. Bring to a boil. Cover tightly, turn heat to very, very low and cook for 30 minutes.
  3. Have some boiling water ready. Pour in 1/4 cup boiling water over the millet, stir quickly with a fork, cover again and continue to cook on the same low heat for another 10 minutes. Turn the heat off and let the pot site, covered, for another 15 minutes.

My notes:

The millet ends up fluffy, sweet, and just a bit dry, so serve this dish with a soup and salad or some sort of saucy stew.

This dish has a nutty, sweet and savory flavor combination that I really like. I enjoyed the carrots and raisins and the clove flavor, but would probably increase the amounts a tad the next time. I couldn’t really taste the cinnamon, however. I know that when you buy cinnamon sticks they come from an inferior cinnamon species than the kind that ground cinnamon comes from, so perhaps it would be better to skip the cinnamon sticks and just add ground cinnamon instead.Jaffrey doesn’t explain the reason for this two-part cooking technique, but it seems to work well. I’d like to try it without the last step sometime to see how adding the boiling water affects the texture of the millet.

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Samosa Potatoes

December 27, 2006 at 6:36 pm (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), breakfast, Derek's faves, Indian, Madhur Jaffrey, Starches)

I really like samosas, but I don’t have the patience for rolling dough and deep frying. So I just make the potato filling and serve it as a side dish, or as a filling for dosas. This recipe, from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East cookbook, tastes very authentic to me–when I taste these I don’t think Indian potatoes I think samosa potatoes. Read the rest of this entry »

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Rice Flour Dosas with Onions and Black Mustard Seeds

December 27, 2006 at 6:19 pm (A (4 stars, love, favorite), Derek's faves, Indian, Madhur Jaffrey, Quick weeknight recipe, Starches)

This recipe is not authentic as it is made with pre-ground rice flour, and no lentils, but it is fast and super tasty. It’s based on a recipe from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East cookbook.

Makes eight 6- to 7-inch pancakes, each using 1/3 cup of batter.

  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup rice flour (also called rice powder)
  • 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion (or just quarter it)
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated coconut
  • 1 1/4 tsp salt (fine salt?)
  • 1 cup plain yogurt (the sourer the better)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1 Tbs. veg oil (plus more for cooking)
  • 3/4 to 1 tsp. coarsely crushed or very coarsely ground black pepper
  1. Put the onion in the bowl of a food processor and chop finely. Add the white flour, rice flour, cayenne, coconut, salt, yogurt, and water. Blend until smooth and pour into a bowl.
  2. Heat 1 Tbs. of oil in a very small skillet or pot over a medium flame. When hot, put in the mustard seeds. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop (almost immediately), pour the seeds and oil over the batter. Add the black pepper and mix thoroughly.
  3. The instructions for cooking the dosas is quite complicated and I’m not going to copy it here since I haven’t yet mastered the instructions anyhow. Jaffrey says to use a 7- to 8-inch nonstick pan, but I use my 12-inch pan since that’s the only nonstick one I have. She also says to use a spoon to spread the batter but I’m not skilled enough to make that work. Instead, I thin down my batter with water, and then just tilt the pan to get the batter to cover the bottom, as you do when making crepes. Note that you want the skillet to be hot, lightly oiled, and the dosa to be as thin as possible. Make sure to cover your skillet after placing 1/3 cup of batter in the pan, and cook until the dosas is no longer white in the center. Flip and leave uncovered when cooking the second side.
  4. To make these ahead of time you can wrap them in tin foil then reheat them later in a 400 degree oven for about 15 minutes (I haven’t tried this yet).

My Notes

I often add a bit more water to this recipe to thin the batter down and make it easier to spread in the pan, maybe 1 cup?  The thickness of your yogurt will affect how much water you need.  Since I add more water I usually get out more dosas, or bigger dosas, than the headnotes indicate.  Last time I made them I was able to make a total of nine 8- to 9-inch dosas in my 12-inch skillet.

Note that it’s essential to blend the batter in the food processor or blender to achieve the proper consistency. (A stick blender will work as well, but definitely don’t skip the blending step, even if you dice your onions very fine.) These dosas end up thicker than traditional dosas, but they have great flavor. The sourness and onion flavor are most noticeable. I like the onion so much I may try increasing the amount to a whole cup of onions.

I often serve these some subset of: coconut chutney, raita, samosa potatoes, garlic/ginger greens, and dal or sambar.

The recipe calls for using 6 Tbs. of vegetable oil when cooking the dosas, about 2 tsp. per dosa–1/2 tsp. in the pan before the batter, 1/2 tsp. drizzled over the pancake and 1 tsp. around the pancakes edges. I sometimes just oil the pan for the first dosa. They don’t turn out quite as crisp but they’re still very tasty.

Rating: A-
Derek: A

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October 29, 2006 at 5:56 am (A (4 stars, love, favorite), Beans, Derek's faves, Indian, Madhur Jaffrey, soup)

Sambar is a traditional soup that is eaten daily in South Indian, although the vegetables vary. It has a dark, dusky, roasted flavor that is very satisfying on a cold winter day. Read the rest of this entry »

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South Indian Green Beans (B)

October 28, 2006 at 5:59 pm (B_minus (2.5 stars), Indian, Madhur Jaffrey, Quick weeknight recipe, Summer recipes, Vegetable dishes)

This is a recipe from the cookbook From Curries to Kabobs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey. She says that the seasonings here are typical of India’s southeastern coast.

Serves 4.

  • 1 Tbs. salt plus 1/2 to 3/4 tsp.
  • 12 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • oil
  • 1/8 tsp. ground asafetida
  • 1 tsp. whole mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. urad dal
  • 2 dried, hot, red chilies
  • 8 to 10 fresh curry leaves, if available
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1//4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne powder

Bring 2 quarts of water to a rolling boil. Add 1 Tbs. of salt and the beans. Boil rapidly for 4 minutes, or until the beans are cooked through. Drain, and if not serving straight away, rinse under cold running water and drain. Set aside.

Just before serving, pour the oil into a large frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the asafetida, mustard seeds, urad dal, and chilies. As soon as the mustard seeds pop and the dal turns reddish, put in the curry leaves and then the beans. Turn off the heat. Toss the beans and mix well. Add the lemon juice, cayenne, and 1/2 to 3/4 of the remaining salt. Mix again. If the beans have not heated through, put them on very low heat until warmed through.

My Notes

This recipe, like many in this cookbook, has an error. She doesn’t include oil in the ingredient list. I used just a little. I steamed my beans rather than boiling them, left out the asafetida, and added more lemon juice. The dish was quite nice. The bright lemon flavors contrasted well with the dark roasted taste of the mustard seeds and urad dal. The curry leaves added their strong floral note. I’ll definitely try this again.

Rating: B

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South African Curried Kidney Beans

October 27, 2006 at 7:47 pm (Beans, B_minus (2.5 stars), Derek's faves, Indian, Madhur Jaffrey)

This South African dish from a Gujarati cook is supposedly sweet and sour feast food. I didn’t detect much sweet or sour but the flavors were well-balanced and delicious. This dish is based on a recipe from the cookbook From Curries to Kabobs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey. Read the rest of this entry »

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Curried Cauliflower “Bhaji” (B+)

October 17, 2006 at 6:17 pm (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Cruciferous rich, Indian, Madhur Jaffrey, Quick weeknight recipe, Vegetable dishes)

This is a quick, everyday dish, from the cookbook From Curries to Kabobs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail, by Madhur Jaffrey.

Serves 3 to 4

  • 1 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. whole brown mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. whole cumin seeds
  • 2 whole, dried, hot, red chilies
  • 1-inch piece of fresh ginger, first cut into thin slices, and the slices then stacked and cut into thin slivers
  • 4 heaped cups cauliflower florets, 2 inches in length and no wider than 1 1/2 inches (about 1 pound after removing core and leaves)
  • 1/2 cup peeled and finely chopped tomato

Pour the coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, and salt into a small bowl. Add 4 Tbs. of water and mix. Set aside.

Pour the oil into a large, lidded pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and chilies. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, a matter of seconds, put in first the ginger and then the cauliflower. Fry the cauliflower, stirring at the same time, for about 2 minutes, or until it picks up some brown spots.

Reduce the heat to low. Stir in the spice paste, cover, and continue to cook over low heat for about 6 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes. Replace the lid, and cook for a further 6 minutes, or until the cauliflower is just tender.

My Notes

This tastes a lot like the cauliflower recipe my mom used to make all the time, except it uses individual spices rather than curry powder. We used less oil, added frozen peas to add some nice green color, and I was too lazy to peel my tomato. I also used some grated ginger I had around, rather than the julienne slices, and kosher rather than fine salt.

It was delicious. I could have eaten the whole pan. My mom and I polished it off easily. If I make it again I will use the whole head of cauliflower, as this dish reheats well. I might make a few changes, such as slicing the cauliflower rather than breaking it into florets, and adding a bit of lemon juice at the end. It was also good with a bit of masala chaat powder.

I made it again with a relatively small head of cauliflower, and it was about 7 cups of florets, which made quite a lot of curry, but it’s good as leftovers and it all got eaten. I also added a few roasted potatoes, lots of peas, and canned dice tomatoes. I used 2 Tbs. of oil, and it wasn’t oily, but tasted rich.

Update Sept 2009:  I made this with 1.5 Tbs. oil, 1 pound of cauliflower, and no ginger (I was out).  I added 1 cup of green peas, and 1 tsp. of lemon juice.  It was very good, and not too oily, although perhaps just a tad salty.  My 12-inch skillet wasn’t completely full.

Rating: B+

Derek: B+

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Chaat Masala

September 10, 2006 at 11:28 am (Indian, Madhur Jaffrey, Quick weeknight recipe, unrated)

Chaat masala is a hot and sour spice mixture that is sprinkled on snack foods in India. This recipe is from the cookbook From Curries to Kabobs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey.

4 tsp. lightly roasted and ground cumin seeds
1.5 Tbs. ground amchoor
3 tsp. cayenne pepper (I used 1.5 tsp.)
1 tsp. finely ground black pepper
3/4 tsp. black salt (I omitted and added an extra 1/4 tsp. salt)
1 tsp. salt

Mix all the ingredients, breaking up any lumps. Store in a tightly lidded jar away from heat and sunlight. This recipe makes about 5 Tablespoons.

The recipe for zucchini sabzi calls for it, and Derek also liked it on the mung and toovar dal from the same cookbook, and on the okra and onions dish. My mom enjoyed it as well.

Derek: B+

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Okra and Onions

September 8, 2006 at 10:14 am (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Indian, Madhur Jaffrey, Quick weeknight recipe, Seitan, Summer recipes, Tempeh, Vegetable dishes)

This is a simple but tasty Pakistani dish based on a recipe in the cookbook From Curries to Kabobs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey.  The original recipe was tasty but very oily and salty.  I reduced the oil and salt and increased the vegetable quantities.

Makes 2 main-dish servings and 4 side-dish servings.

  • 1 pound fresh okra, cleaned and very dry, with tops removed and sliced in half lengthwise
  • 2 Tbs. oil
  • 2 small red onions (about 3 ounces each), sliced into fine half-rings
  • 2 tsp. whole coriander seeds
  • 1 whole hot dried red chili, broken in half, seeds removed
  • 1/2 tsp. fine salt or scant 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped cilantro
  1. Pour the oil into a 12-inch skillet and set over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the okra.  Fry, stirring frequently, for about 7 minutes, or until the okra is very lightly browned on all sides. Add the onions. Stir and cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the onions, too, begin to brown.
  2. While the vegetables cook make the spice mixture: Put the coriander seeds and chili in a clean coffee or spice grinder and grind to a coarse powder (or use a mortar and pestle). Add the turmeric and salt and pulse once to mix.
  3. When the onions are ready, add the spice mixture. Reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring for another 5 minutes. Taste for a balance of seasonings and sprinkle the cilantro over the top.

My notes

I used 2 Tbs. of oil (rather than Jaffrey’s 3 Tbs.) and 12 ounces of okra (as Jaffrey’s recipe calls for), and found the finished dish a bit too greasy.  Also, I think 3/4 of a pound of okra is not quite enough, and I might increase it to a whole pound. Likewise, a 3 ounce onion is tiny. I used 6 ounces. I also found 3/4 tsp. kosher salt to be a bit too much. Derek liked it of course, but I thought the amount of salt could be cut slightly, to slightly more than a 1/2 tsp.

The okra was starting to burn even with regular stirring after only 7 minutes, so rather than waiting the full 10 minutes Jaffrey recommends, I added the onions, and only cooked them for about 3 more minutes. The okra was a bit crisp–Derek and I both thought the texture was quite nice, certainly preferable to the cooked-to-death texture of bhindi in typical Indian restaurants.

Overall, we really enjoyed this dish. Halving the okra lengthwise was a new idea for me, and it made a very pretty presentation, with the plump okra seeds getting their 5 minutes of fame. The flavors were simple but very tasty, and authentic tasting. This is certainly a dish I’ll be adding to my repertoire.

Rating: B+
Derek: A-

Update August 18, 2009:  I tried adding 6 ounces of thinly sliced tempeh to this recipe, to make it more of a one pot meal.  I heated 2 Tbs. of peanut oil, then threw the tempeh in before the okra.  Unfortunately, the tempeh immediately soaked up all the oil, so when I added the okra it didn’t cook very well. My 12-inch skillet was extremely full (certainly not one layer), and the vegetables touching the bottom were burning and nothing else was cooking.  I had to add another 2 tsp. of oil to get it to cook.  Still, a number of the larger okra pieces never got cooked.  Because of the extra bulk from the tempeh I increased the coriander amount to 1 Tbs., and used 2 dried chiles, and 3/4 tsp. kosher salt.  It was quite salty (next time I’d use 2/3 tsp. kosher salt), and just a tad powdery.  The combination of the tempeh and okra was okay–it certainly looked pretty, but the tempeh wasn’t all that flavorful.  If I try this again, I will definitely cut the amount of tempeh and okra down, or cook it in two batches, and add the okra not the tempeh first.

Update Oct 3, 2009:  I used 2 Tbs. of olive oil, a full pound of okra, 3 oz. onions, and 3/4 tsp. kosher salt.  The okra was oily but not too greasy, and just a tad too salty for me (perfect for Derek).  When I added the onion I also added about 1 ounce of julienned seitan (Kittee’s).  Unlike the last tempeh fiasco, the seitan didn’t really effect the recipe.  The flavors didn’t blend, exactly, but the seitan tasted fine.  If I wanted a real one-pot dinner I might add more seitan next time:  maybe 3-4 ounces.  Other than being just a tad salty, and not having enough onions, I think the recipe was close to perfect. The only change I might make next time is to sprinkle on a little amchoor powder at the end.  I think this would make a lovely dinner with a side of dal and some raita.

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 1/4 recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 117
Total Fat 7.1g
Saturated Fat 0.9g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 303mg
Carbohydrate 12.9g
Dietary Fiber 4.7g
Sugars 4g
Protein 3.1g
Vitamin A 11% Vitamin C 72%
Calcium    11% Iron 7%

The macro breakdown:  49% from fat, 10% protein, 41% carbs.

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Tomato and Mint Chutney (B-)

September 8, 2006 at 10:10 am (C (2 stars, okay, edible), Indian, Madhur Jaffrey, Quick weeknight recipe)

This chutney is from the cookbook From Curries to Kabobs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey.

1 cup mint leaves
4 to 8 hot fresh green chilies, chopped
2/3 cup chopped tomato
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp. ground amchoor or lemon juice
1/8 tsp. salt or to taste

Remove the leaves from the mint stalks and wash well. Leave them with the water that clings to them naturally. Put the tomato into the blender first and blend to a paste. Now add the mint and all the other ingredients. Blend to a paste, pushing down with a rubber spatula whenever necessary. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.

My notes
I used my stick blender to blend this, which was extremely easy and fast. I felt the chutney was a bit too watery and salty, but the mint flavor was pleasant. I think I prefer the mint and cilantro yogurt chutney I’ve made from Madhur Jaffrey’s World of the East cookbook to this one though. It was fine, with a good spice level, but not exciting ultimately. Derek tried it once and didn’t want seconds.

Rating: B-
Derek: B-

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Carrot-Raisin Raita (B)

September 8, 2006 at 10:00 am (B_minus (2.5 stars), Indian, Madhur Jaffrey, Quick weeknight recipe)

This recipe may not be terribly authentic (at least according to my South Indian office mate), but it is refreshing and tasty. The recipe is from the cookbook From Curries to Kabobs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey.

Serves 4 to 6.

4 Tbs. golden raisins
1.5 cups plain yogurt (I used organic nonfat)
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. sugar
freshy ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/2 tsp. toasted cumin seeds, ground
2 mediumc arrots, peeled and grated

1. Cover the raisins in a generous amount of boiling water and soak for 3 hours. Drain.

2. Put the yogurt in a bowl. Beat lightly with a fork or whisk until creamy. Add the salt, sugar, cumin, black pepper, and cayenne. Stir to mix. Add the carrots and the drained raisins. Mix again. This raita may be covered and refrigerated until needed.

My notes
I made this last minute so I didn’t soak the raisins, plus I only had dark raisins not golden ones. I had Derek taste it and he said it was bland, but he didn’t know what to add. So I tasted it and thought it tasted sweet and tasty, but still a bit bland perhaps. I really thought it needed lemon juice, but I didn’t have any, so I added a tsp. of amchoor powder. It was still not that bright tasting, so I added a handful of dried barberries. I only used 1/4 tsp. salt but I still found it too salty. In the end, the recipe was tasty but not stellar. If I make it again I will use significantly less salt and add lemon juice and maybe barberries or unsweetened cranberries.

Rating: B
Derek: B-

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Mung and Toovar South Indian Dal

September 1, 2006 at 5:36 pm (B_minus (2.5 stars), Indian, Madhur Jaffrey, Quick weeknight recipe)

This traditional South Indian dal is from the cookbook From Curries to Kabobs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey.

Serves 4

  • 1/2 cup hulled and split mung dal
  • 1/2 cup hulled and split toovar dal
  • a generous pinch of ground asafetida (I omitted this)
  • 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 2 tsp. peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed to a pulp
  • 1 medium shallot, cut into fine slivers
  • 3 fresh hot green chiles, finely chopped
  • 1 to 1 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 to 3 Tbs. olive oil or ghee
  • 1/2 tsp. whole brown mustard seeds
  • 2 dried hot red chilies
  • 8 to 10 fresh curry leaves (okay if not available)
  • 3 Tbs. coarsely chopped cilantro
  1. Wash the two dals in several changes of water and drain.
  2. Combine the dals with 4 cups of water in a lidded pan and bring to a boil. Do not let them boil over, turning the heat down as necessary. Skim off the scum that rises to the surface with a slotted spoon.
  3. Add the asafetida, cayenne, turmeric, ginger, garlic, shallot, green chilies, and salt. Stir. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover with the lid, and simmer gently for 50 to 60 minutes, or until the dals are tender.
  4. Pour the oil into a small frying pan and set over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, put in the mustard seeds and red chilies. As soon as the mustard seeds begin to pop, a matter of seconds, crush the curry leaves lightly in your hand and throw them in. Quickly empty the contents of the frying pan, oil and spices, into the pan containing the dals. Cover immediately with the lid to trap the aromas. Stir gently before serving. Scatter the cilantro over the top when you do so.

My notes

I used only 1.5 Tbs. of olive oil and 1 tsp. of kosher salt. I was scared of that much cayenne and so only used 1/4 tsp., plus I seeded one of the green chilies. It turned out not particularly spicy, so I think next time I’ll follow the amounts given. I missed the instructions to only partially cover with the lid, and left the lid on tightly. I cooked the dal for 30 minutes, then had to go so just offed the heat and left for 2 hours. When I returned the dal was very soft and starting to fall apart, so I didn’t cook it anymore. However, the dal was too liquid-y, and needed to be reduced. I got 5 cups of dal, and I think I should have reduced it to 4 cups only (to make 4 servings). As Jaffrey says, this is a simple dal, but it tastes reasonably authentic. It’s pleasant, and even reasonably light. I don’t love it, but I’ll keep the recipe around until I find one I like better.

Rating: B
Derek: B

There’s a great picture of the different types of lentils at The image of the mung dal is quite accurate.


On a second try I left the lid cracked, and it was still quite watery, so for the last 15 minute or so I left the lid off entirely. Even so, we needed soup bowls to eat it. The next day, though, the dal was extremely thick and almost gelatinous, and I had to add water to it! I multiplied the recipe by 1.5, and used 1.5 times the amount of fresh and dried chilies, but didn’t multiply the cayenne. It was a good spiciness. Derek loved this dish with liberal amounts of chaat masala. I had cilantro this time, and it really helps the balance of flavors to add it at the end. I increased the amount of mustard seeds slightly, but still used the same proportion of olive oil as last time. I’m sure it would taste richer with more oil, but what I added was plenty in my opinion.

Third try: I used only 3.25 cups water. I should have stirred it midway though because it stuck to the bottom a bit. It seemed plenty watery at first, but as it cooled it thickened up quite a bit. I think 3.5 cups water would be perfect. I used all the green chilies called for, 1.5 Tbs. oil, 2 tsp. mustard seeds, 4 dried red chilies, and 1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt. I thought it was plenty rich but a tad too salty.

Fourth try: I ran out of toovar dal and so substituted chana dal instead. The dal was still good, but the chana dal wasn’t quite cooked enough I think–a bit al dente. Also, the flavor was better with the toor dal.

March 2012:  I doubled the lentil amounts and soaked them in very hot water for a few hours, then drained them and returned them to the pot with about 6 cups of water. A lot of foam came to the top.  I skimmed it off.  I used 2 tsp. of fine salt, and that was plenty.  The dal ended up restaurant-salty.  It tasted good but it was definitely salty.  I had to stir the dal occasionally to keep it from burning on the bottom.  For the fat, I used 60g of ghee (I think a little over 4 Tbs.)  I doubled the black mustard seeds to 2 tsp.  My store was out of cilantro, so I skipped that step.  The dal came out amazing!  I could have eaten the whole pot.  The texture was perfect, and it was very rich and very salty.  The next day, however, the dal had thickened up quite a bit, and when reheated in the microwave the dal wasn’t anything special.  It tasted fine, but I was perfectly happy to stop at one serving.  I don’t know why I had found it so addictive the day before.  Maybe the intoxicating aroma of the curry leaves dissipated over night?

Update July 2, 2016

Buttery pigeon peas: Derek chose this simple toovar recipe from our cookbook 660 curries. It says that this recipe is the first solid food fed to babies in south Indian homes. It is also the first course at weddings. You basically rinse the dal, boil it, then puree it, add turmeric, salt, and ghee. I halved the ghee and salt, but still it tasted quite salty and reasonably rich. Neither Derke nor I loved it, and Alma wouldn’t eat it. Maybe we would have liked it more with the full amount of ghee? Even if we did, I think I probably wouldn’t make it again. I can think of much better uses for ghee. There’s something about the textureless pureed dal that I just don’t love. Maybe we would have liked it more on top of rice. I served it on top of potatoes.

Update Apr 24, 2022: I made this tonight x1.5. I cooked the dal without seasoning except turmeric and salt, and took a bit more than a cup of plain dal out for Alma. In a separate skillet I added oil, then the black mustard seeds (more than the recipe said), the shallots, the ginger, the garlic and the dried chilies. I added some ground cumin and then half a can of whole tomatoes with some of their juice. I forgot the asafetida and cayenne, I didn’t have any curry leaves or fresh green chilies. I added cilantro to people’s bowls. My Mom and sister loved the dal. Derek said it was a little bland.

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Zucchini and Green Pepper “Sabzi”

September 1, 2006 at 9:51 am (B_(3 stars, like), Indian, Madhur Jaffrey, Quick weeknight recipe, Summer recipes) ()

This recipe is from the cookbook From Curries to Kabobs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail by Madhur Jaffrey. It is the perfect dish to make in September (or whenever your summer ends), since it calls for zucchini and green peppers. The dish is quite pretty. It makes a nice vegetable dish to serve with dal, since the long skinny, slightly crisp pieces of zucchini and peppers are a pleasant antidote to “vegetarian mush syndrome.” Read the rest of this entry »

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Sesame noodles (tahini style)

June 30, 2006 at 9:29 am (B plus (3.5 stars, like a lot), Cruciferous rich, Derek's faves, East and SE Asia, Isa C. Moskowitz, Madhur Jaffrey, Pasta, Quick weeknight recipe, Sauce/dressing, Starches, Tofu)

I love the cold sesame noodles at China Palace in Pittsburgh. This isn’t quite the same, but it’s rich and salty and complex all the same.  Serve it with julienned raw veggies and crispy tofu.  Based on a recipe from Madhur Jeffrey’s World of the East.

Bring a large pot of water to boil, about 4 quarts of water.  Meanwhile, prepare the broccoli and sauce. Chop

  • two small heads of broccoli, stems sliced thinly and tops broken into small florets (about 1 lb 8 oz. broccoli in total–after trimming any woody stems–usually around 7 cups of florets and 2 cups of stems)

In a large serving bowl, mix together with a fork until you have a smooth paste:

  • 3/8 tsp kosher salt (if you have fine salt use only a 1/4 tsp.)
  • 1/8 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 1.5 tsp sugar
  • 1 Tbs neutral-tasting oil or peanut oil (use the spoon you’ll use for the tahini to measure this)
  • 1.5 tsp. toasted sesame oil (you can leave this out and instead drizzle it over the noodles)
  • 3 Tbs. tahini (using the spoon you used to measure the oil)
  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 2 tsp. rice wine vinegar

When the water comes to a boil, salt the water (add 2-3 tsp salt), then add the broccoli stems, the broccoli florets, and then:

  • 1/2 lb. soba noodles, udon noodles, spaghetti, or Chinese egg noodles

Actually, the order will depend on how long the noodles need to cook.  My soba noodles are very thin and only take about 3 or 4 minutes to cook, so I add the broccoli first.  I let the broccoli stems cook for 1 minute, the broccoli florets cook for another 2 minutes and then add the noodles.  However, if your noodles take more than five or six minutes to cook you’ll want to add the noodles first.  The broccoli should take a total of about 4 to 6 minutes to cook, including the time with the noodles. (The exact time will depend on exactly how large your broccoli pieces are.)

While the noodles cook, roast in a small skillet:

  • 2 Tbs. sesame seeds (white, hulled seeds crisp up and look prettier than beige, unhulled sesame seeds, but both taste good)

When the noodles and broccoli are cooked, drain them and if using soba or udon noodles rinse under cold running water to release the extra starch, then add the noodles to the bowl with the sauce.  Sprinkle on top:

  • 2 Tbs roasted sesame seeds
  • 2 tsp. toasted sesame oil

Serve immediately.

This dish has quite a lot of broccoli, and sauce too.  It’s oily and quite salty, and filling.  There’s a mild but noticeable heat from the cayenne. Derek loves this recipe, and asks for it at least once a week.  I enjoy it as well, although I prefer to make it into more of a salad by adding lots of  raw veggies (partly because the noodles as Derek prefers them are quite salty).  I usually julienne about 4 cups of raw vegetables.  I like cucumber, carrots, red and yellow bell pepper, radishes, jicama, bean sprouts, scallions, kohlrabi, etc.  I usually keep the raw veggies separate from the noodles and broccoli so that Derek and I can mix in our preferred proportion of raw veggies.  Last time I made this I served it with cucumbers that had been marinating in a sweet, vinegary dressing, and Derek really liked the combination, much more than plain julienned cucumbers.

I would say that this recipe makes 4 generous servings, which should be enough for dinner for four people, but people always seem to want seconds.  So realistically I would say that by itself this recipe serves three, and if you serve it with a lot of raw vegetables and some spicy, crispy tofu cubes then it serves four people for dinner.  Usually I just make this recipe for Derek and I, and we split the leftovers into two small lunches or I give it as a big lunch to Derek.  Leftovers from this recipe make a nice lunch the next day (hot or cold). I never have any difficulty getting rid of the leftovers!

This recipe is very heavy on the broccoli.  If you’re not a huge fan of broccoli, you can reduce the amount of broccoli to 16-20 ounces and replace the missing broccoli with more pasta.  Try it with 10-12 ounces of pasta maybe.  If you like, you can add even more broccoli–around 1 3/4 pounds.  If you do, however, Derek suggests adding more sauce as well.  He thinks that even with 1.5 pounds of broccoli and 1/2 pound of noodles the dish is slightly undersauced, especially if you add more raw veggies and some tofu on top.

Derek likes this recipe with any kind of noodle.  I do too, but I prefer this recipe with soba noodles, because the flavor is more intense.  However, their dark brown appearance and generally sticky texture yields a dish that is not so beautiful.  The soba noodles are substantially less sticky if you rinse them before adding the sauce, but still the recipe looks a bit like brown congealed slop.  This recipe when made with wheat noodles is much prettier, and would make a nice potluck dish, especially if garnished with a variety of colorful raw veggies.

The sauce is also tasty on cauliflower and other vegetables.  The sauce can be made ahead of time.  Just cover it.  It’s fine at room temperature overnight.

Rating: B+
Derek: A-

Nutritional stats with all the sesame oil and broccoli, and 8 ounces soba noodles.

Macronutrient breakdown:  33% fat, 52% carbs, 15% protein

Serving Size: 1/4 recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 420
Total Fat 16.9g
Saturated Fat 2.2g
Trans Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 1178mg
Carbohydrate 60g
Dietary Fiber 5.6g
Sugars 4.5g
Protein 16.8g
Vitamin A 23% Vitamin C 256%
Calcium    16% Iron 22%

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