Delicious World of Chefette Spicy

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Mashed!

Okay, this dish is not literally “mashed” but the native word for this recipe (in Tamil), Masiyal, means exactly that. Me-kinda-thinks the name came about because the lentils and vegetables used in this dish are cooked very fine. Think borderline mashed-That’s how well cooked they are. This mixture is then combined with other flavorings and simmered until it reaches a very thick soup-like consistency. Masiyal belongs to the South Indian Sambar family, which means, it can be eaten with rice as a main dish,  as an appetizer in the form of a thick soup (accompanied by bread, of course) or as a side with Dosa, Idli or Upma. The options, as always, are aplenty.

MasiyalMy mother is an ace at making this dish. Give her any vegetable and she can make a bowl of the most delicious Masiyal ever. So it was only fitting that when I made my (long) list of food I wanted Amma to make when she got here, I included this one. She made it with some Senaikizhangu we had bought at the Indian grocery store a couple of weeks ago. This brings us to that wonderful question I’ve been dreading: what on earth is Senaikizhangu? Erm, well, it is called Elephant Yam in English but I am pretty sure that the rest of the world has no clue about the existence of this tuber. It tastes pretty earthy (duh, right?), has thick brown skin and many a person I know is unfortunately allergic to this yam.

So if you don’t find this vegetable, want to avoid taking a risk with your allergies that are probably playing a havoc in your life already this spring, or have tasted and detest this vegetable from the bottom of your heart, you can make it with carrot, zucchini, yellow squash or okra. But if you are a serious foodie and cannot wait to taste Senaikizhangu, I would suggest you go to a big chain like Patel Brothers (if you live in USA). If you are one of those lucky ones who happen to live in India, you probably know where to get it already.

Senaikizhangu (or any other veggie you fancy) Masiyal

Ingredients:
Two cups of the vegetable of your choice, diced into medium-sized pieces

One cup Toor Dal

Two Tbsps tamarind paste dissolved in two cups of water

Four Thai green chili peppers, slit

One tsp turmeric powder

Half tsp cayenne pepper powder

Pinch of asafoetida

Salt to taste

One Tbsp cooking oil

One tsp mustard seeds

A few curry leaves and a sprig of cilantro (optional but recommended)

To dry roast and grind:

One tsp fenugreek seeds

Three dried red chili peppers

Method:
Pressure cook the vegetables, Dal, turmeric and salt in six cups of water. When done, whisk slightly. Heat a pan with the oil. Add the mustard seeds. When they start popping, add the green chili peppers, curry leaves and asafoetida. Pour in the tamarind water. Add a little salt and let it boil on medium heat for a few minutes until the raw flavor of tamarind leaves. Add the Dal/Veggie mixture to the pan and mix in the cayenne pepper powder and ground fenugreek powder. Check for salt. If the consistency is too thick, add a little water. If it is too thin, whisk in some rice or AP flour. Off the heat and garnish with cilantro.

I had it with rice today and have some stored for breakfast tomorrow… and lunch. And hopefully for dinner again.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend, folks!

Masiyal2

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Everyday Dal

I think it is the quintessential South Indian dad thing: going to a “multi-cuisine” Indian restaurant with the family (whilst cribbing about the overwhelming flavor of Masala in every dish that rolls out of the kitchen). And raining on the parade by ordering a drab ‘ol Dal with his Phulka while the rest of us act specifically embarrassing, like kids in a candy shop, and drool all over the lengthy menu while trying to decide what to order. Oh, it gets worse. We would all ultimately end up over-ordering, thanks to all the excitement over the non-home cooked meal and would look towards Appa, asking him politely if he wanted some, subtly screaming for help with finishing off the meal. He would grimly shake his head and go on with demolishing his Dal, saving the proper dressing-down about wasting food (the take away box would never hold him back, no sir!) for later.

dal tadka3We’ve never been adventurous foodies at home, hence, we had a hand-full of restaurants that we would always frequent: Sree Ram Bhavan, Dhabba Express and later, Madras Race Club (where we set up camp and refused to go anywhere else since the late 90’s). Although the similarities between every restaurant we’ve visited were never stark, the plain Dal, I’ve noticed, were actual doppelgangers: it would always be Dal Tadka… which, as I grow older I find, is not as boring as I always thought it was. Tadka, in Hindi, simply means tempering. So Dal Tadka roughly means Tempered Dal.

It is my go-to Dal these days and we love it with Rotis, Phulkas (so that my dad’s spirit is happy) and Jeera rice. Today, I decided not to be lazy and went in search of a nice homestyle Pulao for the Dal. And as she has been for months now, Nags at Edible Garden came to my rescue. Her simple veggie Pulao, I discovered today, was the perfect compliment to my Dal Tadka. The only small substitution I made was using brown rice instead of white and my trusty slow/rice cooker came to my aid by cooking the best Pulao-worthy plain rice. So if you need the recipe for the awesome Pulao, you could follow the link to her blog and recipe on this post. As for the Dal Tadka, here is the recipe-

Dal Tadka

Ingredients:
3/4 cup red gram Dal (Toor)

3/4 cup Mung Dal

Six pods of garlic and a small piece of ginger, chopped

Four Thai chili peppers, washed and stalks removed

One huge head of onion and two Roma tomatoes, finely chopped (separately)

Two dried red chilis, broken into halves

Two tsps salt

A pinch turmeric powder

One tsp each Jeera, Mustard seeds and Nigella seeds (optional but recommended)

A pinch of Asafoetida powder

A tsp Am-Choor (dried mango powder) which you can substitute with fresh lime juice

Lots of fresh cilantro leaves

Method:
Wash the Dals together and soak them in warm water for half hour. Pressure cook/cook in your rice cooker or a saucepan with the Thai chilis, chopped ginger-garlic, turmeric powder, little salt until well-cooked. Fish out the chilis and whisk the cooked Dal. Heat oil in a pan and add the “Tadka” ingredients: Jeera, mustard, Nigella seeds and asafoetida. When it starts popping, add the onion and saute till translucent on med-low flame. Add the tomato now and cook until slightly mushy. Mix in the Dal with the Masala. When it starts boiling, switch off the heat. Stir in the Am-Choor/lime juice and garnish with cilantro leaves.

dal tadka

 


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Southern Comfort

If you stumbled upon this blog post thinking it is about some novel American Southern food, you are in for a disappointment. But if you do stay and read on, you will discover that it is about as much a novel Indian Southern dish. We love it, though it is just one of those normal everyday dish back home which with a little bit of alteration, can play double duty. And at the end of this post, I promise to share a little story like I always do.

So Kootu is a little like the Greek lentil soup which we eat with rice, a side-dish (like the Okra Curry) and Thuvayal. The dish is sometimes seasoned with coconut and cumin. In some parts of South India, it is even cooked in tamarind. The North of India has its own version of Kootu called Dal. It is made with a combination of Dals (lentils), cooked and fried with Masala. That dish deserves its own post which I will post soon. Here is how I made the South Indian Kootu:

Ingredients:

One Chayote (or two carrots, half a head cauliflower or cabbage, a bunch of green beans or a combination of all of these) diced

One cup Toor Dal (from the Indian store or the Ethnic food section in your grocery store)

Couple of Serrano peppers

One and a half tsp Sambar powder (back to Indian store or I will post the recipe soon)

A pinch of pepper powder

Salt to taste

One tsp mustard seeds

One tsp Urad dal

Two Tbsp coconut (optional)

A pinch cumin powder

A pinch Asafoetida powder (optional)

Two Tbsp oil

Cilantro for garnishing

Method:

Add the lentils, veggies, salt, Sambar powder, peppers, salt and pepper powder to two cups of water. Cook them. In a pan, heat the oil, add the mustard seeds, when they crackle, add the Urad dal, Asafoetida, cumin powder and coconut. Fry a little and add the cooked mixture to the pan. Switch the stove off when it starts boiling. Garnish with cilantro.

So the story. During one of dad’s health-kicks, my mother used to make a small portion of Kootu every morning for his breakfast. He used to mix in a splash of soy sauce, couple of tsps of vinegar, some green chili sauce and eat it. One Saturday, I woke up early enough to catch him eating his breakfast and he gave me a spoon of the Kootu. It tasted so yummy that my mother had to pour me a bowl of it just to get me off my dad’s!

Try it, it is addictive.