Curried Coconut Lentil Stew With Easy Rice Pilaf

 

Sorry for the break between posts.  We spent a long weekend at home with my parents and I hardly did anything in the kitchen but help my mom a bit.  I did make a big vat of Italian vegetable soup so that my parents would have some home-cooked soup for lunch for a few days.  The original recipe is from Canyon Ranch, if you’re interested.  It’s a very adaptable recipe and I frequently change out ingredients depending on my mood.  My only changes this week were substituting chick peas for cannelini beans, omitting the fennel and cheese, and adding a little ditalini to bulk up the soup into a one-pot meal.

Anyway, it was a long drive, we returned very late and I didn’t much feel like doing the grocery shopping or cooking the next day.  So, we ended up with a pot full of whatever I had in the pantry… which turned out to be some spicy curried coconut lentil stew and a simple basmati rice pilaf.

Ingredients

1 tbsp olive or canola oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, minced

3 tbsp fresh ginger, minced

2 or 3 serrano chillies

3 stalks celery, diced

3 medium carrots, sliced into rounds

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp red chilli powder

1 tbsp curry powder

1 1/4 cups brown lentils, washed

6 cups water or vegetable broth

1/2 cup frozen corn (or fresh)

1/2 cup frozen peas

1 15-oz can coconut milk

3 cups kale, chopped into thin strips (including stalks)

1/4 cup cilantro or parsley, chopped

Salt to taste

Directions

1.  Heat the oil in a 5-qt pot.  Add the onions, garlic, ginger, green chillies, celery and carrots.  Saute for a few minutes.  Add the cumin powder, turmeric powder, red chilli powder and curry powder.  Saute for a few minutes, until the spices become fragrant.

2.  Add the lentils, water or broth, and one tsp salt, and mix well.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.  Add the corn and continue to simmer until both the corn and lentils are cooked.  Add water or broth if the stew is getting too dry.

3.  Add the frozen peas, kale and coconut milk.  Still on low heat, allow the stew to reach a simmer, and continue to simmer for about 5 minutes.  Add salt to taste and stir well.

4.  Remove from heat, garnish with parsley or cilantro, and serve over rice or as is.  Can be stored in the fridge for up to two days.

For the rice

1 tbsp butter

1 tsp cumin seeds

8 peppercorns

4 whole cloves

1 stick cinnamon

2 bay leaves

3 or 4 cardamom pods

1 1/2 cups basmati rice, uncooked

Salt to taste

3 1/4 cups water or vegetable broth

1.  Melt the butter in a frying pan over medium high heat.  Add the cumin seeds, peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves and cardamom pods.  Saute until fragrant and cumin seeds just begin to darken.

2.  Add the rice and saute, stirring continuously, until much of the rice has turned opaque white (instead of translucent).  Do not allow any of the rice to brown.

3.  Remove from heat and pour into an electric rice cooker.  Add one tsp salt and 3 1/4 cups water or vegetable broth.  Turn on the cooker.

4.  When the rice is cooked, fluff and serve immediately.  Can be stored in the fridge for a day or two.

Customizable Coconut Chutney

Coconut chutney is a great accompaniment to many Indian foods, including dosa, akki roti, upma, idli and so on.  You can make white (plain) coconut chutney, green coconut chutney, red (tomato) coconut chutney… there are quite a few options.  Here’s the basic recipe, and a few customizations follow.  Adjust the spice level by changing the number of chillies.

Aama vadai bites with coconut chutney

Ingredients

1 cup coconut, grated

2 tbsp oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

2 tbsp urad dhal

2 tbsp channa dhal

2 or 3 dried red chillies

Pinch of hing

Salt to taste

 

Directions

1.  Put the coconut and salt in a glass blender jar.

2.  Heat the oil in a small frying pan.  Add the mustard seeds when the oil is hot.  When the mustard seeds start popping, add the urad dhal, channa dhal, red chillies and hing.  When the dhals begin to brown, remove from heat and pour into the blender jar.

3.  Grind all of the ingredients together, adding just enough water to help the grinding along.

4.  Serve with the dish of your choice.  Can be kept refrigerated for up to two days.

 

Variations

Green coconut chutney: Add 1/2 a cup of fresh cilantro to the blender jar before grinding.

Spicy green coconut chutney:  Omit the red chillies.  Add 3 to 6 green chillies, depending on how spicy you like your chutney, and 1/2 a cup of fresh cilantro to the blender jar before grinding.

Red coconut chutney:  Add one cup of chopped plum tomatoes to the frying pan once the dhals are brown.  Saute for about 10 minutes, until the tomatoes break down.  Add to the blender jar before grinding.

Nutty coconut chutney:  For some extra body with less coconut, substitute 1/2 a cup of walnuts or peanuts or cashews for half the coconut.

There are many variations.  Just use your imagination!

Boli! Poli! Obattu! A Rose By Any Other Name…

Boli or poli or obattu or other names, depending on which part of India you call home, is a type of paratha (flat, unleavened, wheat-based bread) with sweet fillings.  We usually make them on the first day of Pongal (harvest festival), and sometimes on other holidays.  This boli is filled with lentils and jaggery.  It can be a pain in the neck to make, so adjust the recipe proportionately to make just what you need (recipe below makes about 8 to 10, with some filling left over).  It is definitely worth the work, though.

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup wheat flour

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp salt

1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil

1 cup cooked and mashed channa dhal

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1 cup jaggery

1/2 tsp cardamom powder

Ghee (optional)

 

Directions

1.  Place the two flours, turmeric and salt in a large bowl.  Whisk together to distribute salt and turmeric.  Add the oil and one cup of water.  Combine by hand until the ingredients come together relatively cleanly.  Add water as needed.  Do not over-knead.  The dough should be soft and a little bit more wet than bread dough.  Cover with a wet dish cloth or several wet paper towels, set a plate over the bowl and set aside for at least an hour.

2.  While the dough is resting, place the jaggery in a medium saucepan with one or two tablespoons of water and set over low heat.  Allow the jaggery to melt.  Let the liquid jaggery thicken slightly and remove from the heat.  Pour through a fine mesh strainer to remove any impurities.

3.  Return the jaggery to the saucepan over low heat.  Stir in the cooked channa dhal, shredded coconut and cardamom powder.  Keep stirring until the mixture has thickened and much of the excess liquid is gone.  A spoon should stand up straight in the mixture.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

4.  When the jaggery mixture is cool enough to handle, roll it into balls the size of golf balls.

5.  After the dough has rested, roll it into balls about one and a half times the size of of a golf ball.

6.  Place a non-stick frying pan over a medium flame and allow the pan to heat. Lightly dust a clean surface with all-purpose flour and keep a small pile of all-purpose flour in a plate near you.  Press both sides of a dough ball into the flour, making a small disc.

7.   Roll out the dough into a 3 or 4 inch circle.  Place a jaggery ball in the middle of the dough and fold over the edges of the dough until it covers the jaggery ball.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

8.  Gently roll out the boli, dusting the surfaces with flour as needed to keep it from sticking to the rolling surface.  It’s okay if the surface breaks.  Simply dust with some extra flour.

9.  Cook the first side of the boli in the frying pan until small bubbles start to appear across the surface.  Flip it and cook the second side until it puffs up.  (It won’t always puff up like this… small puffs work too.)

10.  Remove from pan, spread a small amount of ghee on the surface and serve warm.  If you are making many at the same time, put them in a covered dish as you finish cooking them, replacing the cover between adding bolis to retain both heat and moisture.

11.  Allow to cool completely before storing in a tightly-lidded container.  These boli may be stored for up to a week.  To re-warm the boli, wrap in a wet paper towel and microwave each boli to 10 to 20 seconds, depending on your microwave power.

Easy Ulundhu Vadai (Crispy Lentil Fritters)

Vadai are, in a nutshell, fritters.  They can be plain dough or they can have other ingredients mixed in.  The dough can be made of flour, lentils, potatoes, tapioca, and so on.  These vadai are made with urad dhal (ulutham paruppu) and served with coconut chutney.

 

Ingredients

2 cups urad dhal

2 tbsp shredded coconut

1/2 tsp salt

10 to 12 curry leaves, chopped

2 to 6 green chillies, to taste, chopped

Canola or other vegetable oil for deep frying (at least 3 inches deep in frying vessel)

 

Directions

1.  Soak the urad dhal in water for at least 4 or 5 hours.

2.  Start heating the oil (at least 3 inches deep) in a deep vessel.

3.  While the oil is heating, drain off the excess water from the soaking urad dhal.  Add salt and grind to a rough paste using an immersion blender or grind in a regular blender.  Do not add too much water.  Mix in the coconut, green chillies and curry leaves.

4.  Keep a little oil next to you in a small bowl.  Spread a little oil on your palms, take about 2 tbsp of vadai batter in your hand and make it into a round disc shape.  Use your finger to make a small hole in the center (so it looks like a mini doughnut) and slide it carefully into the hot oil.  Fry in batches until the exteriors are golden brown and crispy, flipping as needed to fry both sides.

5.  Remove to a paper towel to drain some of the excess oil.  Serve hot with chutney, sambar or plain.

Four Rice Recipes to Fill Your Fridge… Well, Your Belly Anyway

Pongal (harvest festival) was just a few weeks ago.  Many people celebrate it as three or four separate days.  Each day has different purposes/meanings, different traditions/rituals and, most importantly, different menus!  I guess I’ll get most of the recipes online eventually, but for today I’ll focus on mixed rice recipes made on the third/fourth days.  The basic ingredients in these four recipes are quite similar, but a few different ingredients in each recipe make it eminently distinguishable from the others.  The ingredients should all be available at your local Indian or other Asian grocery store.  These can be served with any combination of veggies, salads, chutneys, pickles and papad/chips.

 

Coconut Rice

Ingredients

2 tsps canola or other vegetable oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tbsp urad dhal

1 tbsp channa dhal

2 dried red chillies

Pinch of hing (asafoetida)Handful of cashew nuts, halved

2 to 4 small green chillies (Thai or other hot green chilli peppers), to taste

7 or 8 curry leaves

1 cup shredded coconut

3 cups cooked rice (about 1 cup uncooked)

Salt to taste

 

Directions

1.  Put the cooked rice in a large, shallow bowl that is easy for mixing.

2.  In a small frying pan or saucepan, heat the oil until hot.  Add the mustard seeds.  When the seeds start popping, add the urad dhal, channa dhal, dried red chillies and hing.  As the dhals start to brown, add the cashews and saute until the cashews begin to get a golden color.  Add the green chillies, curry leaves and shredded coconut and saute for just a minute or two.

3.  Remove the pan from the heat and pour the coconut mixture over the rice.  Using a large, flat spoon or spatula, gently toss the rice and coconut mixture until it has combined.  Salt to taste.  Can be served warm or at room temperature.  Can be kept refrigerated in a tightly-lidded container for several days.


Lemon Rice

Ingredients

2 tsps canola or other vegetable oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tbsp urad dhal

1 tbsp channa dhal

Handful of peanuts, halved

1 tsp turmeric powder

2 to 6 green chillies, depending on taste

7 or 8 curry leaves

1/4 cup lemon juice, or juice of one large lemon

3 cups cooked rice (one cup uncooked)

Salt to taste

Cilantro, chopped for garnish

 

Directions

1.  Put the cooked rice in a large, shallow bowl and set aside.

2.  In a small frying pan or saucepan, heat the oil until hot.  Add the mustard seeds.  When the seeds start popping, add the urad dhal and channa dhal.  As the dhals start to brown, add the peanuts and saute until the peanuts begin to get a golden color.  Add the green chillies and curry leaves and saute for a few seconds.  Add the turmeric powder and lemon juice, saute for a few seconds, and turn off the heat.

3.  Pour the lemon mixture over the rice.  Using a large, flat spoon or spatula, gently toss the rice and lemon mixture until it has combined.  Salt to taste.  Garnish with chopped cilantro.  Can be served warm or at room temperature.  Can be kept refrigerated in a tightly-lidded container for several days.


Tamarind Rice

Ingredients

2 tsps canola or other vegetable oil

1 tbsp tamarind paste

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tbsp + 1 tbsp urad dhal

1 tbsp + 1 tbsp channa dhal

1/4 tsp methi seeds (fenugreek)

1 tsp coriander seeds

6 dried red chillies

Pinch of hing (asafoetida)

Handful of peanuts, halved

7 or 8 curry leaves

3 cups cooked rice (one cup uncooked)

Salt to taste

 

Directions

1.  In a small frying pan, dry roast 1 tbsp urad dhal, 1 tbsp channa dhal, 1/4 tsp methi seeds, 1 tsp coriander seeds, 3 dried red chillies and hing.  Grind to a fine powder using a coffee or spice grinder.  Set aside.

2.  In the same frying pan, heat the oil.  Add the mustard seeds.  When mustard seeds begin to pop, add 1 tbsp urad dhal, 1 tbsp channa dhal and 3 dried red chillies.  Saute for a few minutes and then add the peanuts.  When the peanuts become golden brown, add the turmeric powder, tamarind paste, 1/2 tsp of salt and 1/2 cup water.  Bring to a simmer and cook until the mixture becomes a little thick.  Add the spice powder from the previous step and the curry leaves and mix well.  Remove from heat.

3.  Put the cooked rice in a large, shallow bowl.  Pour the tamarind spice mixture over the rice.  Use a large, flat spoon or spatula to gently mix the tamarind spice mixture and rice.  Serve warm or at room temperature.  Can be stored in the fridge in a tightly-lidded container for a few days.


Curd Rice

Ingredients

2 tsps canola or other vegetable oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tbsp urad dhal

1 tbsp channa dhal

Pinch of hing (asafoetida)

2 to 4 green chillies, chopped

7 or 8 curry leaves, chopped

2 cups cooked rice (2/3 cup uncooked), cooled

2 tbsp minced ginger (fresh)

2 to 3 cups of buttermilk or yogurt

Salt to taste

 

Directions

1.  Put the cooked and cooled rice in a large, shallow bowl.  Add the ginger and 1/2 tsp of salt.  Using your hand, mix the rice, ginger and salt.  Squeeze as you mix in order to break down the rice grains.  Slowly add buttermilk or yogurt, mixing with your hand as you go.  Put the curry leaves and green chillies on top of the rice mixture and set aside.

2.  In a small frying pan, heat the oil until hot.  Add the mustard seeds.  When the mustard seeds pop, add the urad dhal, channa dhal and hing.  When the dhals become slightly brown, remove from heat and pour over the rice mixture.  Mix well with a spoon.

3.  Serve with spicy, Indian pickles.  Can be stored in the fridge for a few days, but really tastes best and has the best texture on the day it was made.