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Triple Daal Dals

Dal: Pigeon peas (whole), mung beans, green lentils Additional veggies: Kale

Dal: Pigeon peas (whole), mung beans, green lentils
Additional veggies: Kale (kept it simple!)

I have a bean addiction. No matter how much storage room I have (or lack thereof), if there’s a dried legume that I haven’t seen before I pick it up. The weirder the better. Similar to my belief that stews are better with greens, why use one kind of lentil in a daal when you can use two? Or three? Sometimes more is just more, but sometimes more is better. This is one of those times.

Through experimentation, I have come across some favourite lentil/bean combinations. With the appropriate tempering and additional veggies, you can have a whole-meal dinner that is flavourful, hearty, and guaranteed to be unique every time. I love experimenting with dals, and I don’t think I’ve made the same version twice. I do have my favourites however, and this is the guideline that I will present to you.

In a dal, the all mighty lentil is the star of the show. Resist the temptation to use chickpeas – those have their time and place. A dal is where the lentil can shine. There are many types, some of which you will be very familiar with, and some are quite odd. Here’s the list of what’s been simmering in my pot in the past:

– Green lentils: These are what I would call “standard” lentils. They keep their shape when cooked, and have infinite uses. One favourite is mujadara.

– Red lentils: Another “standard”, these disappear when cooked in a stew, and make the consistency thicker. A tricky way to get more protein!

– Mung beans: Whole mung beans are pretty green beads. They are quite small, and cook in about the same amount of time as green lentils. They have a stronger taste then green lentils, but still subtle.

– Urad dal: Whole urad dal are very small black lentils. I picked these up by mistake trying to make dosas. A tip: use split urad dal for dosas! Whole urad dal can be used like black Beluga lentils, which (ironically enough) I have never found in the grocery store.

– Toor dal: A recent acquisition, these are like red lentils and split urad dal. They cook quite quickly and add thickness to your dal. I can’t pick up a distinct taste for them, and as such I think they could be substituted with red lentils in a pinch.

– Pigeon peas: Whole pigeon peas are about the size of a green pea and grey. I picked up whole ones by accident – I wanted split pigeon peas. However, whole ones are delicious too! They have a much stronger flavour, one that is unique to the bean world. When you want a change from chickpeas but are still craving the chickpea texture, I’d use these. I used them in the sambar, and they are delicious.

(The terminology used here is what is on my package/labeling at the ethnic grocer. I am sure there are many names for these lentils. A good guide as to what they may be called to you can be found here: The Cook’s Thesaurus: Lentils.)

For the tempering, I generally try to stick to guidelines from multiple chefs, with the occasional creative mix. I have noticed these general rules of thumb, and thus far they have served me well!

1) If there is no cumin, then there is coriander. Often there is both.

2) If there are no mustard seeds, then cumin seeds are used

3) Asafetida (hing) and anchoor (mango powder) bring a lovely sourness to the dish. They are worth the hunt to find! Rarely used together, you just need a pinch of one or the other. If you don’t have any, you can substitute with lemon or lime juice at the end.

4) Curry leaves heighten the dish to a whole different level. You can have the same tempering but with the addition of curry leaves it’s a whole new dish. Unfortunately, you cannot substitute curry powder for this ingredient. While hunting for asafetida and anchoor, pick up some curry leaves. I got mine by asking the man behind the counter at an Indian grocery, and he cut a fresh branch for me – for $0.99! I have also found them at Asian grocery stores, beside the lime leaves and pandan.

5) Don’t be afraid to experiment, but write down what you try!

Dal: Mung beans, toor dal, and green lentils Additional veggies: Kale and carrot

Dal: Mung beans, toor dal, and green lentils
Additional veggies: Kale, eggplant, and zucchini

Here is my current favourite dal. As I mentioned above, feel free to mix and match the lentils – you just need a total of 1 cup dry when you’re done. Enjoy!

Triple Daal Dal

½ cup mung beans, rinsed
¼ cup toor dal
¼ cup green lentils
4 cups water (plus more if necessary)

2 tsp. canola oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
¼ tsp. asafoetida (hing)
1” piece fresh ginger, minced
⅓ cup onion, minced
1 large dried red chili, minced (or 3t. red pepper flakes, to taste)
3 cloves garlic, minced
2t. white vinegar
2 tsp. ground coriander
¼ tsp. turmeric
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

Optional veggies:
greens, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, celery, bell peppers, zucchini, eggplant, beans …

1) In large pot, heat oil on medium. Add mustard seeds and sauté until they start to sputter (a lid is handy!)
2) Add asafoetida and curry leaves. Sauté ~30s.
3) Add onions and ginger. Sauté until onions are translucent, ~2-3min.
4) Add dried red chili, garlic, vinegar, and coriander. Sauté ~1min.
5) Add turmeric, tomato, and optional vegetables of choice. Stir, cover, and cook until tomatoes start to break down and get saucy.
6) Add all lentils and water. Mix, cover, and cook on medium-low for 20-30min, or until lentils are tender. Add water as necessary to adjust the gravy to your liking.
7) Adjust seasonings to taste. Add cilantro and optional greens. Cover and bring to a boil.
8) Turn off heat, stir, and serve with rice, roti, or naan.

Sambar with Rava Dosa

South Indian “chicken soup” for the soul!

Sambar is a spicy clear broth soup from Southern India and Sri Lanka. It is very simple in composition, and may be considered by some (me) to be the Indian “chicken soup” for the soul. A scattered amount of vegetables and some toor daal (also known as pigeon peas in Latin cooking) make the dish a pleasing starter to a meal or even a meal in itself. This particular recipe has a nice balance of spicy and tangy, with copious amounts of whole dried chilis and spices offset by tamarind. Tamarind is an ingredient often found in Middle Eastern and Asian dishes, and gives the dish a lime-like tang. I also love to put it in chilis, as the “umami” ingredient. Tamarind pulp and tamarind concentrate can be found in any Middle East, Asian, or Indian grocery; or even a well-stocked grocery store. The base is easily adaptable, with other protein options like green or red lentils, chickpeas, white beans, fava beans, or whatever legume is speaking to you at the moment. The vegetable additions can also reflect the state of your mood/fridge: zucchini, carrots, celery, bell pepper, eggplant … even cauliflower would all be delicious! It is a comfort soup like chicken noodle, and would cure whatever ails you. With the added bonus of being extremely tasty, this soup should be a cold weather standby.

Sambar is often served with a Dosa, an Indian flatbread. After my dosa disasters, I tried another recipe that didn’t involve fermenting beans or rice – Rava Dosa. Rava Dosas are crepes made from semolina and rice flour and are extremely simple to make! Easier even than pancakes, they also taste fantastic and are quick to throw together. They are delicious by themselves, but also make a great dipping vessel for soups, stews, and curries. The jalapeno and cilantro in the batter act as accents to the main dish, almost like a baked-in chutney. They would also be fantastic instead of tortillas in breakfast burritos, omelettes, or anything else you would use wraps for! I will definitely be making these again.

The Sambar recipe can be found here: Sambar

The Rava Dosa recipe can be found here: Rava Dosa


Indian Curry Feast – Baingan Bharta, Green Mung Daal, Spicy Okra, Saoji Tempeh, and Spicy Squash with Dosa

Yes, that’s right. Sometimes I have no restraint. I couldn’t decide which dish to make so I decided to make them all!

Far Left: Baingan Bharta and Green Mung Daal
Far Right: Spicy Okra and Saoji Tempeh
Middle: Dosa

Spicy Squash Curry with Saoji Tempeh and Dosa

Too much for my IKEA bowls! Everything was fantastic, and easily put together with some prep work. To break it down, the full menu review dish by dish:

Baingan Bharta

This is the Indian equivalent to baba ganoush. It’s a delightful curry – almost a chutney – of roasted eggplant, tomato, and wonderful spices. Without the oil of baba ganoush! It would make a fabulous spread on roti, na’an, or toast, but I ate it right out of the bowl. It was time consuming to make, but only because you have to roast the eggplant. This step is definitely worth it. The roasted eggplant gives the dish a depth and creaminess that would be missing. I can see this dish entering the dip rotation in my fridge.

The recipe can be found here: Baingan Bharta

Green Mung Daal

This was a combination of two recipes that I found, because I couldn’t even decide which daal to go with! So it is spinach and roasted garlic spicy green mung daal, and is heaven. Definitely not work appropriate unless you come prepared with a travel-sized mouthwash bottle – you’ll need it! I am new to green mung beans, and I am a convert. I love lentils and these pretty beans add another option to my dried bean cupboard. They cook in about the same time as red lentils, and are just as easy. They are creamy in the daal, with enough whole beans left to not make you think you’re eating baby food. The daal itself has a depth of flavour from the spices and garlic that was a unique daal – definitely a departure from the standard red and yellow varieties. The spinach added an extra pop to the daal, just when you think you had it figured out! It comes together easily, and would be perfect for a weeknight meal.

The recipe that I followed *most* is this one: Green Mung Daal with Burnt Garlic Tadka

When I was cooking the mung beans, I put 1c. beans with 4c. water and added 0.25t. lemon juice and about 2c. of spinach. Cover and bring to a boil. Lower to a simmer and cook like you would lentils – the mung beans will expand and be mushy (to taste, of course!). I followed the rest of this recipe as-is.

Spicy Okra

I found fresh okra in my local Asian grocery store, and picked it up on a whim. Okra seems to be the vegetable that comes with issues – either you love it or you don’t. My sister had a roommate in University who would only eat okra. Personally, I’d had it once in some gumbo thing that I wasn’t a big fan of, but I’m willing to chalk that up to my kidney bean issues and not the okra. Plus, a slimy vegetable that doesn’t come from the ocean? I had to give it a shot to see where I sat on the fence!

As it turns out, I am not passionately for or against okra. The slime factor was really cool! When you cut fresh okra after washing, this slime appears from nowhere. It’s easily patted off with some paper towel, but it was kinda like the slime that slugs leave 🙂 The recipe that I chose to highlight the okra was a simple fried version, with a spice profile consistent with the other curries I was making. I never got the okra to be ‘crispy’, but it was a lovely side dish. The okra doesn’t have a strong flavour, allowing the Indian pickle spice mix to shine through. Do not skip the pre-roast and grind step. Making your own spice mixes is so satisfying, plus it makes your kitchen smell amazing. This particular spice mix will become a staple condiment in my kitchen. Delicious! The okra finger-sized shape properties make it perfect for snacking – I brought the leftovers to work the next day to nosh on, and cleared out the stash. Addictive for sure!

The okra recipe can be found here: Crispy Okra with Indian Pickle Spices

Saoji Tempeh

… the dish that started it all. Any recipe that has a spice list as long as my arm immediately goes onto the ‘must try’ list. And is it worth it! Every single spice on this list was found at Superstore or Bulk Barn, so it wasn’t even that difficult to stock the spice rack. I have never had the Saoji Chicken that this is an adaptation of, but this tempeh recipe is one of the best yet! I usually boil my tempeh for about 10min before marinating so the marinade really soaks into the tempeh. With this recipe, the tempeh is boiled IN the marinade, saturating it with flavour. The spice mix – again well worth the pre-toast and grind yourself – is delicious, and has a great kick. Warm and comforting, this dish is definitely one of the stars of the evening. Potentially my new favourite way to cook tempeh as well. Although the list is quite clearly from India, I think the tempeh would lend itself well to tacos, enchiladas, pita pockets, or other wrapped goodies. Add some cilantro-lime crema made with soy yoghurt and you’ve got a supreme pita pocket on your hands! This dish is the epitome of ‘worth the effort’!

The recipe can be found here: Saoji/Savji Tempeh

Spicy Squash Curry

I love squash. I didn’t use to – this is a recent love starting when I gained control of my own kitchen. I grew up with squash one way: Acorn squash cooked in the microwave, then mashed to baby food consistency and liberally sprinkled with brown sugar. This still gives me the shudders. So in my adult life, I am doing my best to explore all the various delicious ways to eat squash – and there are many! This Spicy Squash Curry is a super quick throw-together meal that makes a lot and is absolutely delicious. If I grew up with this as my squash dish, my love affair with these gourds would have started at a young age! The squash is indeed very spicy, and the underlying spices give it a nice warm flavour. I added some spinach to the pot, and it added a touch of green to the dish that made it look extra pretty. If you have squash issues like I did, try this recipe first! You will be blown away by what squash can be!

I served it with some of my dosa and some of the Saoji Tempeh, because I couldn’t get enough of it!

The recipe can be found here: Spicy Squash Curry

After this feast, my tummy was very happy! And because each recipe cooked 4-6 portions, I could enjoy the dishes throughout the week. I am now a convert of toasting my own spices and making my own to-order mixes. I think that extra step makes all the difference. Enjoy!

Spinach Tomato Curry

One cannot be prouder than I am right now to present to you this wonderful bowl of curry. This is my very first attempt at a recipe completely by scratch, and it was a smashing success! Sure, I frequently work off of 2 or 3 (or 4 or 5) recipes to create a dish, and I am no stranger to the ‘just dump it in’ philosophy, but usually there is some method to the madness. I have also never been ambitious enough to tinker with curry spice blends. I have over cumined before, and it was not pretty. But as I was staring into the depths of my freezer, the squash, spinach, and curry leaves were beckoning. Why can’t you combine these elements? I say go for it! I added some tomatoes because I prefer tomato curries to coconut milk curries (and I don’t care what Tom Collicchio thinks: squash + tomatoes = greatness), and this dish was born.

A quick note about curry leaves: These were a find at the Asian supermarket, and I now want to grow a curry leaf plant. I have seen them described as the Indian ‘bay leaf’, but I think this is an unfair description. I have yet to figure out what value bay leaves add to a dish, although I faithfully put them in every time. Curry leaves are aromatic, slightly oily to the touch, and give a nice sizzle when added to the pan. And they don’t taste like wood when you accidently eat them!

The curry leaves and fenugreek add that extra something to the spice mix, which you may only notice if you use them. I’m sure, having been curry leaf and fenugreek-less for the majority of my cooking ‘career’ that this curry would be fantastic without.  It comes together quickly, and the dry-roast of the spices at the beginning is definitely worth it. To save time, you can use a block of frozen spinach instead of fresh – just add it into the stew when you add the tomatoes. This dish tastes just as good as it smells, and the leftovers are sure to disappear quickly!

Spinach Tomato Curry

2t. ground cumin
1t. ground coriander
0.5t. fenugreek
0.5t. turmeric
1t. garam masala

Other stuff:
1t. mustard seeds
1t. canola oil
0.75c. onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1T. fresh ginger, minced
4 curry leaves
2-4 jalapenos, diced
1 butternut squash, cut into 1″ cubes (~4.5c.)
1-2c. water
1 (28oz.) can diced tomatoes
4c. spinach, roughly chopped
salt and pepper to taste

0) In saucepan, dry roast spices until fragrant. Set aside.
1) In same saucepan, saute mustard seeds in oil until they start popping (I find it helpful to use a lid otherwise mustard seeds go splattering everywhere)
2) Add onion, garlic, ginger, and curry leaves. Saute until onion is translucent.
3) Add chilis. Saute ~1min.
4) Add spices. Stir to prevent burning.
5) Add squash and water. Cover and bring to a boil.
6) Add tomatoes. Stir.
7) Lower heat to a simmer, cover and cook ~20min, until squash tender. (Stir occasionally to prevent bottom-burn!)
8) Add spinach. Stir in and cook until wilted
9) Taste for seasonings.
Serve with rice.

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