Pumpkin Dal

Cause’ tonight is the night when two become one and its DALICIOUS!!!

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My fridge may not always be stocked up but my pantry always is! I make sure I am always fully stocked with dried herbs, spices, lentils, noodles, pasta, ghee, mustard oil and olive oil. These are few of my favourite things. In terms of fresh produce I always tend to buy fruits and vegetables that are in season. This way you get the best produce, for a fraction of a cost and there is hardly any wastage.

So one night when all I had in my fridge was half a pumpkin and curry leaves. I wasn’t sure what to do with them, until I looked in my pantry and found a can of brown lentils and black sesame seeds. Just like that this dish came together. Serve it with a side of steamed rice or naan bread or just eat it like a soup, it’s delicious.

Ingredients: 15  Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

  • Half a pumpkin, cubed ( I used kent pumpkin)
  • One can (400gms) of brown lentils
  • One red onion, finely sliced
  • One tomato, finely chopped
  • 8 -10 fresh curry leaves
  • Three to four garlic pods, coarsely chopped
  • Half a bunch of coriander (stem and leaves), coarsely chopped
  • Two to three green chillies, finely chopped
  • Juice of one lemon
  • One teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • Half a teaspoon turmeric powder
  • Salt to season
  • Two tablespoons of mustard oil
  • One tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (for garnish)

Heat mustard oil in a pan. Add garlic, once aromatic add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, green chillies and curry leaves. Once the mustard seeds begin to splutter and curry leaves start crackling, add onion, coriander stem and cook until onions are lightly browned.  

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Now add the tomato, cook on a medium heat until the tomato is soft. Then add pumpkin cubes and turmeric powder. Mix well. Finally add the lentils (rinse thoroughly before adding them to the dish), four cups of water, lemon juice and season with salt. Cover the pan with a lid and let the dal simmer for 15-20 minutes.  

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Now add the remaining coriander, stir the dal well. Let it simmer for another five to seven minutes.The pumpkin should now be really tender and the lentils broken down. This gives the dal a smooth texture.   

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Your lip smackingly delicious pumpkin dal is now ready to serve. Garnish it with toasted black sesame seeds and serve on a bed of steamed rice or with some naan or just devour it by itself. Foodgasm is guaranteed. 

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An Indian affair

An Indian Sunday Lunch, A Feast To Tantalise All Your Senses…

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Here I am again with my most favourite cuisine in the world, Indian! The colours, the flavours, the textures and the variety Indian food offers is par excellence. A balanced Indian meal will usually include a lentil dish, a vegetable side dish, whole-wheat roti breads, a yogurt preparation and other accompaniments such as pickles, chutneys and pappadums. Most Indian mothers and wives religiously prepare this feast for their families day in and day out. So now you know why we Indians proudly wear our pot bellies, they are a sign of all the love, warmth and lip smackingly delicious food we receive from our family.

My feast today albeit a simple one packs in oodles of flavour and is a perfect idea for an indulgent Sunday family lunch. In fact what looks like a feast actually stemmed from my sheer lack of wanting to cook lunch one Sunday afternoon. Remember the Curried Carrot Soup I had recently made?  As always  I made too much of it and had to freeze most of it. I know you are wondering why am I talking about the soup? Well it’s the soup that transformed into this finger licking good lentil curry aka dal. I served the dal alongside cumin and coriander crispy potatoes known as aloo fry, basmati rice and a kachumber salad. Bonus for you, you get four recipes in one hit!

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I would recommend making the Curried Carrot Soup midweek for dinner one night, make enough to have leftovers that will enable you to make the dal and all its accompaniments for your Sunday feast. The soup recipe can be found here.  

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Ingredients: 25  Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

For the dal
  • Approximately 750 ml of leftover curried carrot soup
  • 250 gms of yellow split lentils (Channa Dal)
  • One teaspoon of dried mint leaves
  • 1.5 teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • Four to five green chillies, finely chopped
  • Two to three pods of garlic, finely chopped
  • One tablespoon ghee 
  • One cup of water
  • Salt to taste
For the aloo fry
  • Six to eight medium potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1.5 teaspoons of cumin powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons of coriander powder
  • Three tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste
For the kachumber salad
  • One to two cucumbers depending on their size, cut in small cubes
  • Two tomatoes, cut in small cubes
  • One red onion, finely chopped
  • Half a bunch of coriander, finely chopped
  • One teaspoon chaat masala
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Pinch of sugar
For the garnish
  • One red onion, finely sliced
  • One tablespoon of ghee
  • Half a bunch of coriander, finely chopped
  • Toasted black sesame seeds (optional)

Begin by washing the lentils a few times under running water or until the water runs clear. In a pressure cooker add the leftover soup, lentils, one cup of water and season with salt as per taste. Cook the lentils for 20 to 25 minutes on a low heat or until soft. If you are not using a pressure cooker, soak the lentils for an hour prior to cooking, this will help them cook faster when using a saucepan. 

Once the lentils are cooked keep them aside and prepare the spice mix for tempering or as known in Hindi, the tadka. Tadka is what gives a lentil curry its flavour boost, it’s usually added at the start or end of a curry depending on this type of dish it is. For the tadka heat ghee in a skillet. Add cumin seeds, garlic, dried mint leaves and green chillies.  Once the cumin seeds begin to crackle and the tadka gets aromatic, add it to the dal and cover the pressure cooker or saucepan with a lid to capture those beautiful aromas.

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To make the potatoes, heat vegetable oil in a frying pan. Add cumin and coriander powder, followed by the chopped potatoes. Toss the potatoes to coat them with the spices, add more cumin and coriander powder if required. Cook the potatoes on a medium heat, tossing them intermittently to ensure they don’t stick to the bottom.

Once the potatoes are cooked, to crisp them up further you can transfer them on a baking tray and put them in the oven for seven to ten minutes at a 150 degrees celsius.

Finally season with salt as desired and toss the potatoes again to ensure the salt is evenly distributed.

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To make the kachumber salad, simply combine all the ingredients in a bowl. If you don’t have chaat masala, you can use cumin powder as a replacement. Toss all the ingredients and serve this salad chilled, it’s a refreshing treat and compliments the meal perfectly.

Lastly, to make the garnish for the dal. Heat ghee in a skillet, add the sliced onion and cook on a low to medium heat until caramelised. One tip to know the onions are caramelised, caramelised onions are dark brown in colour and have a sweet flavour, if you cook it past this point they become charred and taste bitter. 

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Finally, garnish the dal with caramelised onions, fresh coriander and toasted black sesame seeds and garnish the potatoes with fresh coriander. 

I recommend serving the dal, potatoes and kachumber with aromatic steamed basmati rice. You can also serve it with rotis if you are not a fan of rice. Either way the only way to enjoy this feast is with your family, using your hands to dig into the warmth, love and comfort of this meal.

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Palak Dal (Spinach Lentil Curry)

Never judge a book by its cover…

Palak Dal and I have crossed paths many a time, but it never really interested me. I think it’s because it didn’t sound glamourous enough to eat when dining out and didn’t sound simple enough to make at home. Moreover with so many varieties of dal that are my favourite, palak dal didn’t really stand a chance.

So just when I ruled out palak dal, it came back into my life. One night I had a massive craving for dal and rice and surprisingly not many options, I only had chana dal in my pantry. Some days to satisfy a craving you have to make do with the dal you may not necessarily eat on other days.

There I was cooking chana dal for dinner only to realise I had no fresh coriander!! This may sound like a first world problem but it is a really big issue when you don’t have fresh coriander to uplift the spirits of the dal you don’t really like. After ransacking my fridge and freezer, I found some frozen spinach. Turns out I ended up making Palak Dal!

The truth is this not so glamourous and seemingly complicated dal was so comforting, flavourful and easy to make that I have been kicking myself wondering why I did not try it earlier. My lesson learnt is never judge a book by its cover. Without further ado find this lip smackingly delicious recipe below and take my word it will become your go to comfort food on days when you crave dal chawal.

Ingredients: 16   Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

  • One cup chana dal (yellow split chickpeas)
  • One onion, finely chopped
  • Two medium-sized tomatoes, finely chopped
  • Three to four green chillies, finely chopped
  • Five to six pods of garlic, finely chopped
  • One cup of spinach, finely chopped (I used frozen)
  • Three tablespoons of desiccated coconut (or four tablespoons of coconut milk
  • One cinnamon stick
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 0.5 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 0.5 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • One teaspoon dried coriander powder
  • One teaspoon sugar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Two tablespoons of mustard oil
  • Salt to season

Start by rinsing the lentils a few times under water. Soak the lentils in water for an hour prior to cooking and if you have less time then soak it for 30 minutes in hot water. Drain the lentils and add them in a pressure cooker or saucepan with 3 cups of water and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Cook the lentils until they are soft.

To pack a punch in the lentils let’s make the tadka. In a pan heat mustard oil (mustard oil gives the dal a real earthy flavour but you can use ghee or olive oil) , smoke the oil for two minutes or so to get rid of the pungent mustard aroma. Now add cumin seeds, mustard seeds and cinnamon stick and let them sizzle.

Add onion, garlic and green chillies. Cook until the onions are lightly caramelised. Now add chopped tomatoes , cook the mixture on a medium heat until the tomatoes are soft. 

Now add coriander powder and desiccated coconut, followed by lemon juice. Mix all the ingredients well to distribute the flavour evenly. Finally add spinach and half a cup of water, season with salt and sugar and let the tadka paste simmer for 10 minutes on a medium heat.

Its time for the holy matrimony of chana dal with the tadka. Mix the boiled chana dal in the tadka paste, check for seasoning (add more salt or sugar as required). Cover the pan with a lid and let the dal simmer for five to seven minutes.

Your lip smackingly delicious Palak Dal is ready to serve. I served this beauty with a side of peas pulao (you can find a recipe for peas pulao here) and plain yogurt, truly a match made in heaven.

Reshmi Dal (Creamy Lentil Curry)

It’s smooth like silk…

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Growing up in an Indian household, it will suffice to say I have had a very spoilt upbringing. Not spoilt by material things, but by unconditional love, limitless care and utterly delicious food. While at home I never spared a thought on ‘whats for dinner?’ because there one of my favourite dishes was always simmering away on the stove. Moving away from home has not only got me thinking about whats for dinner, but also cooking it! Cooking and eating Indian food is second nature to me, therefore most weeknights it is my preferred cuisine.

I do have some tried and tested recipes, but my inherent curiosity  always leads me to try new recipes and flavour combinations. There are two things I look for in a recipe – loads of flavour and ease of cooking. After all the last thing one wants to do following a long day at work is slave in the kitchen. Today’s recipe definitely has my two pre-requisites covered, but there is another added bonus – this dish is low in calories and high in nutrition.

I have called this recipe Reshmi Dal because it truly is smooth like silk and Reshm does actually mean silk in Hindi. I use canned brown lentils for this recipe, so you don’t need a pressure cooker – the dal can be made with great ease in a saucepan. This recipe in particular is an ode to all my Australian friends who love Indian food – give this recipe a go, I promise you will keep coming back for more.

Ingredients:  9    Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4

  • 400 gms of canned brown lentils (I use the Annalisa brand)
  • One brown onion, finely chopped
  • Two inch piece of ginger, smashed
  • One cup of coriander, finely chopped (leaves and stems)
  • Three to four green chillies, halved
  • Two teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • 1.5 tablespoons of ghee
  • Salt to season
  • One tablespoon of light Greek natural yogurt to garnish

Heat ghee in a saucepan. Add cumin seeds and wait for them to crackle. Then add the finely chopped onions and cook until translucent.

Now add the smashed ginger, coriander stems and green chillies. Cook the onion mixture on low heat for four to five minutes.

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Rinse the lentils thoroughly, add them to the onion mixture and give the ingredients a good stir. Now add about three cups of water, salt to season, cover the saucepan and let the dal simmer for 10 to 12 minutes.

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Check the dal, as it cooks and the protein breakdowns the dal will transform into a creamy consistency. At this stage add half a cup of water, fresh coriander (spare some leaves for the garnish later), cover the saucepan and let the lentils simmer for another five to seven minutes.

Your dal is now ready to serve. Garnish with a dollop of natural Greek yogurt and coriader leaves, serve with steamed rice and simply dig in.

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Dal Makhni (Creamy Black Lentils)

It ain’t real dal if it ain’t dal makhni….

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Let me begin by wishing you and a family a very Happy Diwali and Prosperous New Year!! Diwali is the festival of lights celebrated across India and it holds different significance depending on which region and religious faith you come from. For simple people like me Diwali always meant and continues to mean only one thing – a celebration with family and friends with good food and lots of diyas, lamps and lights.

As I write this recipe I am thinking of my family back home in India, they are celebrating Diwali in the lap of the Himalayas with my Beeji (Grandmaa). The other side of my family is in Adelaide, which leaves just my husband, Viktor and I. This is such a special time, made even more special when you can share it with family and friends.

Being a North Indian, in my part of the world Diwali is celebrated in memory of Lord Rama’s victory over the demon king Ravana and his subsequent homecoming to Ayodhya after 14 years in exile. There is also a great significance behind making Dal Makhni on Diwali, particularly in North Indian households. It is believed that back in the day people did not have much wealth IMG_5169and therefore fancy foods were out of the question. Kaali dal being a staple food in the North Indian diet was available in every household, so people made Dal Makhni using Kaali dal and made it special by adding a geneorous amount of ghee. This holds true for most North Indian families even today, wealthy or not – Dal Makhni is a special treat for every Diwali.

Ingredients:  5    Cooking time: 2 hours
Serves: 4
  • One cup whole black urad dal
  • One cup red kidney beans
  • Two tablespoons ghee or olive oil
  • Two red onions sliced
  • One crushed tinned tomato can or fresh tomato paste (using three to four depending on size)
  • One table spoon grated ginger
  • Two pods of garlic
  • One or two green chillies (depending on how hot you like it)
  • One cinnamon stick
  • My top secret ingredient, fresh coriander stem (about 4 to 5 stems chopped)
  • 1.5 tea spoon cumin seeds (Jeera)
  • 1.5 tea spoon coriander powder (Dhaniya)
  • 1 tea spoon turmeric powder (Haldi)
  • 1.5 tea spoon garam masala
  • 1/2 tea spoon sugar
  • 1/2 cup skim milk (can be avoided if vegan or lactose intolerant)
  • 1/2 teapsoon asafoetedia powder (hing)
  • Two small black cardamoms
  • One bay leaf

Soak the lentils and the kidney beans over night if possible or atleast for four to five hours before cooking. You will notice the longer you soak the lentils and beans the more bloated they will get, which is good.

Transfer the lentils and beans into a pressure cooker and add the asafoetedia (hing) powder, which helps breaks the protein in the lentils making it easier to digest, add the black cardamom and bay leaf and cook the lentils for about 90 minutes (longer if using a saucepan) until they are soft. 

North Indian Red Curry Paste

In a pan add two table spoons of ghee (Sorry this recipe is notfor the faint hearted). Alright two table spoons of olive oil for my health conscious friends. Once you can smell the aroma of ghee (or olive oil), add the cumin seeds and wait until they start tempering. Now add the sliced onions and cook until translucent.

Once the onions are cooked add ginger, garlic, green chillies, cinnamon stick and coriander stems. Mix it all and wait until the onion mix has carmelised.

Bring on the colour and add the tomato paste, followed by adding coriander powder, turmeric powder and garam masala. Let the mixture simmer until the oil surfaces to the top. Add salt, sugar and skim milk. Add water if you wish to dilute the paste.

Let the mix cool slightly and blend it all up. TADA!!! Curry paste is ready.

While the dal is cooking, make your red curry paste and keep it aside. Once the dal is cooked mix it in with the curry paste and let it simmer. The reason this dal is called Makhni is not because it uses a lot of butter, ghee or cream. It is simply because it is cooked for so long that the lentils and beans become mushy and give the dal a rich creamy texture.

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