The simple things in life: Mung Dal [no onion-no garlic]


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When life begins to feel complicated, I take a moment to reflect on the meaning of happiness and what it is for me. Is it really a bigger house, more money, an expensive bag or things like that? Yes, I would be lying if I said these things didn’t make me feel good at all. It does, but for that moment and may be a few days more. The only problem is if I continue to seek happiness in such things, my definition of happiness will keep getting complex.. and there’s really no end to it. There is always a want for more… and more. Nothing wrong with it but I find it important to take a moment, think back and put things in perspective.

It’s always the simple things in life that gives me true happiness. I am sure it’s the same for you too. In my quest for happiness, I listed a few things (not in any particular order) that make me truly happy:
A hug from my 4 year old child
Being a Mom
A good cup of ginger tea (chai) early in the morning
An unknown, probably insignificant, little flower my child picked up from the roadside. Just for me.
A conversation with my closest friends
A breath of fresh air
Soaking the sun rays
Companionship
Recalling childhood memories
A simple home made meal: Dal-Chawal

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Dal-Chawal or Lentils-Rice. A combination which is a staple in India. It may be in different variations depending on which part of India or which home it has been cooked, but essentially it is lentils or Dal and Rice.

Every time I travel, I immerse myself in the food and culture of that place. It’s an unspoken rule that we never order Indian food when traveling [outside of India]. However, when I come back home, the first meal cooked, without fail, is a very simple Dal-Chawal.

I wouldn’t even want to call this a recipe considering this is such a staple in Indian households. I still choose to write the method down as every home has their unique way of cooking lentils. Dal is cooked in a lot of Indian homes, almost every day. And that is also the reason, why one gets bored of eating it ever so often. In order to bring variety to Dal, I like to rotate the kind of lentils I cook. My pantry is stocked with some 7 different types of lentils/beans. I don’t cook Dal all 7 days a week but it definitely finds it’s way to our dining table at least 3 to 4 times a week in various forms.

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This preparation is quite simple – No onions, No garlic. A simple Dal flavoured with cumin seeds, asafetida and tomatoes. The cumin seeds, asafetida and tomato are the main players in this act. Asafetida gives it a pungent taste and tomatoes add a mild sour flavour to the Dal. It’s a little tough to tell which one is more dominating – the asafetida or the tomatoes, but together, they rule the otherwise modest Mung beans.

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The process of making this Dal is two fold. Part one involves roasting the Mung beans and then softening the beans while infusing it with some fresh ginger. Part two is the tadka or tempering that will add the flavours to the Mung. The tempering is done in ghee or clarified butter with cumin seeds, asafetida, finely chopped (or grated) tomatoes and some Kashmiri chilli powder for a mild spicy touch.

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I am also sending this recipe to Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen for the 61st edition of MLLA. My Legume Love Affair (MLLA) was started by Susan of the Well-Seasoned Cook and is now being carried forward by Lisa of Lisa’s Kitchen.

Mung Dal with Asafetida and Tomatoes (no onion-no garlic)
Serves: 3-4
Time: 30 mins

Ingredients:
Yellow Mung beans / dal / lentils: ¾ cup
Asafetida (hing): ½ tsp
Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
Tomatoes: 2 medium sized (about 1 + ¼ cup of finely chopped)
Kashmiri Chilli powder: ½ tsp
Ginger (grated): 1 tsp
Turmeric: 1/8 tsp or roughly a big pinch
Salt: to taste
Water: 2 cups
Ghee: 1 tbsp

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Method:

  1. Dry roast the Mung beans. I do this in a pressure cooker to avoid getting too many utensils dirty. Keep stirring the beans constantly to ensure they are evenly roasted. I did this on medium heat for about 5-6 mins. When roasted, take it off the heat. Rinse with water 2-3 times.
  2. In a pressure cooker, add the rinsed Mung beans, 2 cups of water, a pinch of turmeric, ginger and salt. Cook the beans until soft while still retaining their texture. If you are using a pressure cooker, let the steam build up on high flame. Then lower the flame and let it cook for another 5 minutes until done.
  3. While the Mung beans are getting cooked, heat ghee in a pan. Add cumin seeds. When they are done, add the asafetida and chilli powder. Let it cook for a few seconds. Then add the chopped tomatoes and a pinch of salt. With the heat on high, cook the tomatoes constantly stirring it to ensure they are not burnt and until the raw smell no longer exists.
  4. When the tomatoes are cooked, reduce the flame. Add the Mung beans. Add water to a consistency you want and adjust the salt as per your taste. If you want to add chillies, add 2-3 slit chillies (a combination of green and red adds a nice colour.. You can add just green too and skip the drama). Let it come to a boil on high heat and then simmer for 3 minutes.
  5. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rice and any vegetables of your choice.

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Roasted Chicken with Rosemary

‘I don’t know what to cook tonight’ – a dilemma many of us face on a day-to-day basis. Every time, ok almost every time, you think of making dinner, you probably end up saying that to yourself. I do! A close friend has just initiated a group on Facebook by precisely that name – ‘I don’t know what to cook tonight’. She is a great cook herself and there are already some interesting recipes being shared there. Do hop on over there and join us:)

The first post in that group also happens to be a Rosemary Chicken. To see her recipe, check out the group. I promised to share to share my version as well, so here we go.

One warm, humid night in October last year, I made this absolutely juicy and flavourful chicken dish for the nth time. I took photos of the process, almost making the recipe dummy-proof. In case you are thinking how brilliant my memory is, just hold on to that thought. The reality is – it isn’t! The place where I live, is warm and humid practically most of the year 😉

Roasted Chicken with rosemary

So let’s rewind back to October 2012, I took out my [then brand new and now almost hammered phone], and clicked pictures of the making of this dish. Honestly, there are times when I really couldn’t be bothered with how the photograph turns out. And there are these other times, where I can go to any extent to get the photograph I want.

This Chicken is great for a weeknight meal, though you’ll need to do the marination before hand. 2 hours would be great but 1 hour will give you good results too. There’s no long list of spices for the marination. And other than the rosemary and the chicken, it’s ingredients which you’d most likely have in your pantry. The marination is an important step to give this dish that depth of flavour. The process of searing and then roasting at the right temperature is important to make the chicken juicy and packed with flavour.

For the printed recipe, click here.

Here’s how I did it :

Serves: 2-3
Marination time: 1-2 hours
Cooking time: 5 minutes for Searing + 20 minutes for roasting

Ingredients:

Chicken thigh (Boneless) : 230 gm each x 2 pcs (approx)
Dried rosemary herbs : 1 tbsp
Fresh rosemary stalk (optional) : You can skip this if you don’t have. I just added it while roasting because I had them this time : 2
Minced garlic : 1 tbsp
Olive oil : 1/2 tbsp to marinate + 1/2 tbsp for searing the marinated chicken.
Lime juice : 1 tsp
Coarsely ground black pepper powder : 1/4 tsp
Salt : to taste

Method:

1. Using a knife, make slits on the Chicken pieces. Marinate the Chicken for 1-2 hours with the above ingredients reserving 1/2 tbsp of oil for searing the Chicken. Make sure you rub the ingredients into the slits of the Chicken so that the flavours can go deep into the meat.

2. Preheat oven to 180 deg C.

3. In a skillet, heat 1/2 tbsp of olive oil. When the oil is hot and on high heat, sear the marinated chicken pieces on both sides for about 1-2 mins on each side. The idea is to give a golden brown colour to the chicken without completely cooking it.

4. Line a baking tray w aluminium foil. Place the seared chicken pieces on the aluminium foil and set it to roast for 20 minutes.

5. Remove from oven. Let it rest for 5 minutes before serving. We usually have this with some stir fried vegetables and a pasta or a pasta with vegetables in it.

Note: I have made this with Chicken breast meat as well and it tastes just as good. If using Chicken breast, roast for 15 minutes only or it will become very dry.

Step by Step

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Crispy Salmon with Garlic Coriander sauce

Crispy Salmon with Garlic Coriander Sauce
Crispy Salmon with Garlic Coriander Sauce

There are 2 kinds of people in this world: Those that love Salmon. And those that don’t. That’s probably true of most things, but I couldn’t come up with a better opening line. So, there you go!

I happen to be the former and so is little V. I hereby declare my eternal love for Salmon. R, on the other hand, doesn’t quite get what the fuss is all about! But we [V and I] find a way to work around it. We just make him eat it. 😉 And he does.

We especially love the crisp skin of the Salmon. The skin absorbs a bit more salt than the rest of the fish and that makes it even more desirable. When there’s Salmon on the dinner table, all else doesn’t quite matter, does it? 🙂

I have made this countless number of times for V and it’s quick and easy to make. If you are a Salmon lover like me, I won’t need to sell the recipe to you because you will probably love it anyway 🙂

In it’s simplest form, all you need is some crushed garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil marinade with the salmon. Pan fry (with minimal oil) and you are done. In this version, I added a slight variant – fresh coriander leaves or cilantro. If you have a particular dislike for coriander, feel free to omit the coriander leaves.

We usually have this Crispy Salmon for dinner on a weeknight when I don’t want to spend too much time cooking. This goes well with a simple vegetable pasta or just plain rice and stir fried vegetables.

To print the recipe, click here.

Crispy Salmon with garlic coriander sauce

Serves: 2
Total time taken: Under 30 minutes
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 7-8 minutes

Ingredients:
Salmon fillet with skin on (about 250 gms)
Garlic cloves: 1-2 (adjust to taste)
Fresh coriander leaves – a bunch. Discard the roots.
Black pepper powder: a tiny pinch
Juice of ¼ of a lemon
Zest of ½ a lemon
Olive oil: 1 tbsp
Sea salt: to taste

How I did it:

1. Squeeze the lemon juice and zest on the salmon fillet. Sprinkle sea salt to taste. Put a little less than required as we will also season the sauce.

2. Prepare a quick blend of the garlic, coriander leaves including stalk but not the roots, a tsp of olive oil and sea salt.

Preparing the garlic-coriander sauce.
Preparing the garlic-coriander sauce.

3. Rub the prepared coriander, garlic sauce (the marinade) on the salmon. Sprinkle a dash of black pepper powder. Let the Salmon marinate for about 15 minutes.

Rub the Marinade on the salmon.
Rub the Marinade on the salmon.

4. Heat a pan. Add the remaining olive oil (2 tsp). Make sure the the oil is hot before placing the salmon fillet in it. This step is important to prevent the fish from breaking and disintegrating.

5. Place the salmon fillet, skin down first. Reduce flame to lowest. Cover and let it cook for 5 minutes.

Heat a pan. Add olive oil and place the marinated Salmon, skin down. Cover & let it cook for 5 minutes.
Heat a pan. Add olive oil and place the marinated Salmon, skin down. Cover & let it cook for 5 minutes.

6. After 5 minutes, turn the salmon for another minute. Do not cook on this side for long as the salmon will start to overcook.

Turn the Salmon over and cook for another minute.
Turn the Salmon over and cook for another minute.

7. Serve w lemon wedges.

Crispy Salmon with Garlic Coriander Sauce
Crispy Salmon with Garlic Coriander Sauce

Beet root, potatoes and peas tikki / cutlets

It has been many months since my last post. A friend rightly pointed out that it’s that perfectionist attitude in me which is causing this inertia – I want the food to be perfect and the photographs to be styled and taken well (to the best of my ability!) However, to get all these things together, requires a lot of time and patience. With an extremely active 3 year old in the house, time is one luxury I don’t have.

As a result, I have been cooking and experimenting at home but unfortunately, I haven’t been able to post anything for the past few months. I feel a little selfish at this point so I definitely owe you all an apology. Many of you have been supportive over these past few months of silence – either by checking on me or by just by being connected through images that I have been posting on my facebook page (http://facebook.com/sublimepalate). A big thank you for that and sorry for being MIA.

So, I have decided to give that perfectionist in me a sorta break..  And post recipes and stories .. even though sometimes the pictures may not be perfect.. the recipes may…  – NO,  be rest assured – there will be no compromise on that front!:-) These photos are taken from my phone, so please excuse me if they aren’t nice enough.

So, starting off again, here’s a recipe of a healthy snack, I read on one of my favorite blogs, sinfully spicy.  This is a great snack for kids and adults alike! I took a portion of the tikki mix to make 3 tikkis for V. To the remaining portion, I added finely chopped green chillies.It is inspired by Tanvi’s beetroot tikkis. Ever since I saw that, I just had to make it! So for Tanvi’s recipe, check : http://sinfullyspicy.com/2012/06/27/beetroot-tikki/

Thank you Tanvi for this amazing snack! 🙂

Here’s how I made it:

MAKES 8 tikkis / cutlet:

You’ll need:

Beetroot: 1 medium sized
Potato: 1 small sized
Peas: 1 cup. Boil if using fresh. I used frozen peas and microwaved with a tiny pinch of salt for 2-3 mins to soften it so that it’s easy to mash.
Onion: 1 small size (or roughly 1/2 a cup of finely chopped onion)
Ginger: 1 small pc (adjust to your taste)
Garlic: 1-2 cloves
Green chillies – 2-3
Black pepper powder – 1 tsp (preferably coarsely powdered)
Bread crumbs – 4 heaped tbsp. (If you don’t have bread crumbs, use a slice of bread. Gently soften it by sprinkling a little water and mashing it separately first and then adding it to the mix).
Semolina (Suji) – 3 tbsp or more for coating the tikkis.
Oil – 1-2 tbsp.

Preparation:

  1. Boil the potato so that they are cooked but firm. A little undercooked is fine but mushy potatoes may not bind the mix that well.
  2. Finely chop onions, ginger, garlic and the green chillies.
  3. Finely grate beetroots. Squeeze out the juice by hand. Drink the juice (It was yum .. I strained it and had it without adding anything. But I think a squeeze of lime should go very well). Anyhow, coming back to the grated beetroots, keep it in aside and move on.
  4. Peel and finely grate the boiled potato. If you are brave, try grating it while it is hot! Just kidding – DON’T ! I almost burnt my palm. The inside of the potato retains a lot of heat so it’s advisable to take a little break and grate them when they have cooled off.
  5. Mash the softened peas.
  6. Start working on the next step (mixing) only before you need to make the tikkis. The salt releases a lot more moisture and makes it difficult to bind.
  7. In a mixing bowl, add the grated potatoes, beets, mashed peas, onions, ginger, garlic, bread crumbs, black pepper powder, chaat masala & finally the salt. Gently combine this mix without mixing it too much! The more you mix, the more moisture gets released and your tikkis won’t hold together.
  8. Make small cutlets / tikkis with this mix (oval or round shape can work). With this quantity, I ended up with 8 tikkis.
  9. In a flat plate, keep the semolina. Very gently press the tikki on the semolina mix to coat the tikki with the semolina.
  10. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a non-stick pan. I fried about 3 per batch in a small non-stick pan. Add more oil when frying the next batch, if needed. Make sure the oil is hot before you add the tikkis. On low heat, fry the tikkis for a few minutes on each side until crisp on the outside. Be gentle when turning the tikkis. If the heat is low, cook for a little longer to get a crispy outside while making sure the inside is cooked.
  11. I had these with my go-to green chutney!

Hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Dal Makhani / Ma ki Dal / Creamy Black Lentils

Black Lentils, Ma ki Dal, Dal Makhani, Kaali Dal or Urad Dal with skin – This Dal as you can tell has so many different names and that probably only indicates how widely loved and popular it is!

Growing up, this Dal did not hold an important place in my Mother’s pantry. I am not sure why. It isn’t a commonly made Dal in Eastern Indian homes for that matter. It’s associated with “restaurant” food in most Eastern Indian homes. For a long time, I had Ma ki Dal in dhabas and restaurants only.

No surprises here but like many of you, it’s one of my favorite lentils. I almost always never missed an opportunity to have this Dal during my years in Delhi and every possible trip back there. The creamy texture combined with the buttery flavor is enough to make anyone crave for Dal Makhani. It is very sinful and equally desirable due to the generous amount of cream and/or butter that goes in it. I am, not by any means, a health freak but over the years I started getting put off by the amount of butter that was used in it. A number of restaurants put so much butter and cream that you’ll have a tough time tasting any Dal in it. I craved for Dal Makhani without the indulgence.

And so… few years ago, I started my quest to make my own Dal Makhani.

I can completely understand if a lot of you will frown at the lack of lots of butter or cream, but my thought process behind this recipe was the following:

– Make it in a way that my family can have it on a regular day without feeling guilty.
– Make it quick without too much advanced preparation. (Unfortunately, I don’t plan my meals in advance most of the time)
– Keep as much of the creamy texture and taste without going overboard with the cream / butter.

Dal Makhani or Ma ki Dal is usually cooked with a small portion of Rajma (kidney beans). I make both versions of Dal Makhani (with only Black Lentils as well as a combination of Kidney Beans or Rajma & Black Lentils). If you are adding Rajma, replace ¼ cup of the Black Lentils with ¼ cup of Rajma. It tastes great in either combination! However, the use of Rajma requires advance planning and preparation.

Ensure your Rajma is soaked for about 8 hours. Alternatively, soak Rajma for 2-3 hours in hot water and then boil it separately until soft. I used Chitra Rajma (the smaller pale orange colored Rajmas) for cooking as they cook much faster. I soaked them for 8 hours in hot water, then pressure cooked them together with pre-soaked Black Dal for 20 mins. Black Dal was pre-soaked in hot water for 15 mins.

I skipped the Rajma this time as I hadn’t planned it ahead and it was a weekday dinner.

Dal Makhani / Ma ki Dal / Creamy Black Lentils Recipe

To print this recipe, click here.

Serves: 2-3

Ingredients:

Whole Black Lentils / Whole Urad Dal (with skin): ¾ cup [Can be replaced by: ¼ cup Kidney Beans (Rajma) + ½ cup Whole Black Lentils]
Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
Ginger finely chopped: 1 tbsp
Garlic finely chopped: 1 tbsp
Tomato puree: 1 cup (see step 2 below)
Chilli powder: ¼ tsp (or as per taste)
Cooking cream: 2 tbsp for cooking + 1-2 tsp for Garnishing
Kasoori Methi: 1 ½ tsp loosely packed
Garam Masala powder: ¼ tsp
Butter: about 1 tbsp
Salt: to taste

How I did it:

  • Clean and wash the Dal. Soak it covered in hot water for 30 mins.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the Tomato Puree: Put 2 medium sized tomatoes in a pot with sufficient water to almost cover the tomatoes. Bring the water to boil until the skin of the tomatoes starts to break. Remove from water, put in another pot with tap water and a couple of cubes of ice. When the tomatoes cool down, remove the skin. Blend it in a paste without adding any water.  This gave me roughly 1 cup of tomato puree which I needed for this recipe.

  • When the Dal is soaked (i.e. 30 mins later), throw away the water. In a pressure cooker, add the Dal with ¼ tsp of salt and 3 cups water. When the first whistle blows (or steam builds up), cook on low heat for 15 mins. If you are not using a pressure cooker, cover and boil in a pot until the dal becomes soft.
  • Meanwhile, wash the kasoori methi with a little water.  Soak it in ½ cup of hot water for about 10 mins.
  • When the Dal is cooked, let the steam from the pressure cooker come out on its own. If a lot of the liquid has evaporated, add more water. I didn’t have to add any. Now on medium heat and without the lid on, boil the Dal by stirring it continuously and mashing it gently against the pressure cooker wall using the back of your ladle (see pictures below). Keep doing this vigorously for about 8 mins or until the Dal starts to have a creamy texture. This step is important to get a creamy consistency.

  • Heat a heavy bottomed pot or non-stick kadhai. On low heat, add butter. When the butter melts, add the cumin seeds. As they begin to sputter, add the chopped garlic. When it starts to turn brown (Note: this happens very quickly), add the tomato puree, ¼ tsp of salt and the chopped ginger.
  • On medium heat, cook the masala for 6-7 mins. When the masala becomes like a lump, add the chilli powder. Keep stirring to ensure masala doesn’t get burnt. The masala should be done in another 2-3 mins. You will notice the color of the masala become darker and shiny due to the oil that surfaces on it. If the masala starts to stick, sprinkle a little water and scrape it off using the spatula.

  • On low heat, add the above prepared Dal to the pot with the masala. Stir the Dal and the masala well so that there are no lumps of masala and it’s evenly combined.
  • Now add the cooking cream. The color of the Dal will become slightly lighter. Cover and simmer for 10 mins, stirring every 1-2 minutes, gently mashing it with the back of the ladle to help achieve the creamy consistency.
  • Next add the kasoori methi along with the soaked water. Continue to cook for another 5 mins on low heat, stirring in between. By now, the Dal should have become darker in color than what it was when you added the cream.

  • Check for salt. Adjust if needed. Add garam masala powder and give it a good stir. Cook for a further 2-3 mins before turning the heat off. Let it sit for 5 mins to help combine all the flavors. It’s now ready to serve.
  • Garnish with some fresh cream and enjoy with hot Rotis / Parathas / Rice or any bread of your choice and some onions and green chillies on the side.

Notes:

  1. Dal has a tendency to become thick as it is left to cool. You may need to add some hot water (about ¼ cup) and make it warm before serving.
  2. Optional: Add a tbsp of butter just after turning the heat off. Tastes heavenly! I don’t do that usually unless I am feeling particularly ecstatic on a given day! 😉

[UPDATE 7th July, 2012] Sending this Dal Makhani recipe to My Legume Love Affair #49, the popular, legume-centered event that is conceptualized by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook. This month’s MLLA is hosted by Simona. Here’s the announcement for July’s MLLA. http://briciole.typepad.com/blog/2012/07/annuncio-legumi-che-passione-numero-49.html.