Want To Eat More Lentils? Make This Easy Toor Dhal.

Lentils are a big source of protein in vegetarian Indian diets.  Here’s a simple way to incorporate lentils into your repertoire.

Ingredients

3/4 cup toor dhal (AKA split pigeon peas) – Check out the link for a picture.

2 medium onions, diced

2 tomatoes, diced

1 tbsp canola or other vegetable oil

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp red chilli powder

2 to 5 green chillies, slit lengthwise (depending on taste)

Pinch of hing (asafoetida)

Salt to taste

Fresh cilantro, chopped (to taste)

Directions

1.  Cook lentils with 1/4 tsp of turmeric.  Toor dhal takes a long time to cook so the quickest method is pressure cooking.  You should also cook the dhal with extra water, which will be useful in making the dhal the correct consistency later on.  Mash the dhal and set aside.

2.  In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds.  When the cumin seeds start to get fragrant, add the remaining turmeric, red chilli powder, green chillies and hing.  Saute for a minute, and then add the onions.  Saute until onions become translucent.  Add the tomatoes and saute until tomatoes begin to break up.  If the mixture gets dry, you can add a few tablespoons of water.

3.  Add the cooked dhal to the saucepan.  Add water, if needed, to make the dhal somewhat creamy in consistency, like a thick, blended soup.  Add salt to taste.  Cook on low heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld.

4.  Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.  Serve over rice or with the Indian bread of your choosing (roti, naan, paratha, etc).  You can also serve it as a soup if desired.  Can be kept refrigerated for several days.

Note:  This is a basic recipe.  Feel free to experiment with different types of lentils and different levels of spice.  You can also add vegetables to make this more hearty and heart healthy.

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Two Types of Upma… Twice as Nice!

Rava Upma

Semiya Upma

Upma (uppama, uppittu) is another Indian dish that is highly amenable to experimentation in the kitchen.  Traditional upma is made with semolina (cream of wheat, rava, soji), but can also be made with semolina vermicelli (semiya, seviyan), rice vermicelli (sevai), poha (flattened rice, aval), cous cous, quinoa… well, with just about anything as a base.  I’m giving you the basic recipes for traditional rava upma and semiya upma.

 

Rava Upma

Ingredients

1 cup rava (cream of wheat)

1 tsp canola or other vegetable oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tbsp channa dhal

Handful of cashews, halved

2 to 4 green chillies, slit lengthwise

5 or 6 curry leaves

2 to 3 cups water

2/3 cup frozen peas

Salt to taste

1 tsp ghee (optional)

2 tbsp cilantro, chopped (optional)

 

Directions

1.  In a deep frying pan or saucepan, dry roast the rava on low heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning.  When the color just begins to change and there is a slightly nutty aroma, remove from heat, pour into a bowl and set aside.

2.  In the same pan, heat the oil on a medium high flame until hot.  Add the mustard seeds.  When the mustard seeds start popping, add the channa dhal.  When the channa dhal just starts to brown, add the cashews.  Saute until the cashews begin to brown.  Add the green chillies and curry leaves and saute a few seconds.  Add two cups water, frozen peas and salt to taste, and bring to a boil.

3.  Once the water has boiled lower the heat.  Slowly add the roasted rava, stirring continuously to keep lumps from forming.  Continue heating on a very low flame, covered, until the water is absorbed.  If the upma looks dry, add water as needed.

4.  Add a tsp of ghee and/or garnish with cilantro, if desired.  Serve hot as is or with chutney.  Can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.

Note:  Some cooks prefer to skip the first step of roasting the rava.  This imparts a slightly different flavor and color to the dish.

 

Semiya Upma

Ingredients

1 tsp canola or other vegetable oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tbsp channa dhal

Handful of cashews, halved

1 cup semiya (semolina vermicelli)

2 to 4 green chillies, slit lengthwise

5 or 6 curry leaves

1 1/2 to 2 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup diced carrots, cooked

1/2 cup frozen peas

Salt to taste

1 tsp ghee (optional)

2 tbsp cilantro, chopped (optional)

 

Directions

1.  In deep frying pan or saucepan, heat the oil on a medium high flame until hot.  Add the mustard seeds.  When the mustard seeds start popping, add the channa dhal.  When the channa dhal just starts to brown, add the cashews and the semiya.  Saute until the cashews and semiya begin to brown.  Add the green chillies and curry leaves and saute a few more seconds.  Add 1 1/2 cups water, carrots, frozen peas and salt to taste, and bring to a boil.

2.  Once the water has boiled, lower the heat.  Continue heating on a very low flame, covered, until the water is absorbed.  If the upma looks dry, add water as needed.

3.  Add a tsp of ghee and/or garnish with cilantro, if desired.  Serve hot as is or with chutney.  Can be stored in the refrigerator for several days.

Note that the only real difference in making these two dishes is the time when the base (rava or semiya) is added.  Experiment with different bases and vegetables and levels of spiciness for more varied flavors.  The next time I make sevai (rice vermicelli), I’ll post recipes for plain sevai, lemon sevai and the side dishes.  Enjoy!

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!

Akki Roti (Rice Flour Flatbread)

Akki roti, a specialty of Karnataka state in India, is a flatbread or pancake made with rice flour and a few other basic ingredients.  With the right seasonings, it’s yummy on its own, but is also a great vehicle for assorted chutneys (like the spicy coconut chutney in the picture), sambars or vegetable curries.

 

Ingredients

1 cup rice flour

2 cups water

1 tbsp oil

1/2 tsp salt

Pinch of hing (asafoetida)

1/2 cup onion, chopped

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/4 cup cilantro, chopped

2 or 3 green chillies, finely chopped

4 or 5 curry leaves, chopped

1 tsp ginger, minced (optional)

2 tbsp coconut, grated (optional)

2 tbsp peanuts, ground (optional)

Directions

1.  If using, grind coconut and ginger together and set aside.

2.  Boil 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan.  Add 1 tbsp oil, salt and hing.  Add rice flour slowly, stirring continuously to keep lumps from forming.

 

3.  Add all the other ingredients and mix thoroughly.  Continue cooking, covered, on a very low flame until the water is absorbed.  When you mix it, the rice flour dough should pull away from the walls of the saucepan.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.

4.  When the rice flour dough is cool enough to handle, knead gently for a minute or two.  Then, take a piece of dough the size of a plum (perhaps a 1/4 cup’s worth) and either roll or press into a 1/4- to 1/8-inch thick round.  I find it easiest and neatest to press the dough with my fingers on a sheet of either wax paper or parchment paper.  The thickness of the roti is personal preference.  I like mine thinner because they get nice and crispy and cook faster.

5.  Lift the wax/parchment paper and flip the roti onto a cold non-stick frying pan.  Heat on both sides, over a medium high flame, until the roti cooks through and starts to brown and crisp. You’ll get better results if you quickly rinse the pan with cold water between cooking each roti.

6.  Serve with chutney, sambar, curry, spicy Indian pickles or whatever floats your boat.  These are best when they are freshly made.  The dough can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days.

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.