Sunday, November 22, 2009

Bhaja Moong Palak or Toasted Green Lentils with Spinach

As a child, whenever we went to a restaurant for dinner, we ordered the same thing, every time, Aloo Palak, Chana Masala. My parents are EXTREMELY tolerant folks, they ate the same thing, even if their taste buds screamed for a change. I don't remember when I actually sampled something new, probably at a wedding, probably at a friends, but finally, I did discover that there are different types of Punjabi curries and just as delicious as Aloo Palak, Chana Masala.

Every bite of this tasty curry made me wish my parents were here with us to share this simple yet absolutely and delightfully tasty curry with its roots in Bengali cuisine.
These days when ever I find a bit of time, I curl up with Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries.The book constantly fascinates me! I love the recipes and long to try all of them (the vegetarian ones).

Raghavan Iyer says,
Bengalis refer to 'toasted' or 'roasted' as bhaja. The process of toasting split green lentils in a dry pan not only creates a nutty flavor but also keeps the firm shape of the legume intact, no matter how long it cooks- certainly not the case of its untoasted counterpart, which breaks down to a mushy consistency very quickly. The spinach makes this dish colorful, but if you would like a slightly more bitter flavor - and a higher dose of iron -use mustard greens or kale instead.

Source :660 curries
Makes 4 cups

1 Cup Skinned green lentils/ Moong Daal
1/4 tsp. Turmeric
8 ounces Fresh Baby Spinach, well rinsed
1 tbsp. Canola oil
1 tsp. Fennel seeds (saunf)
1/2 tsp. Whole Cloves
2-4 dried red Thai or Cayenne chiles to taste
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1 tsp. Sugar
1 tbsp. Ghee

Heat a medium size saucepan over medium -high heat.
Add the lentils and toast them, stirring constantly, until they are reddish brown and nutty- smelling, 5-8 mins.

Gently pour in 3 cups of water, stirring vigorously to break any clumps that form. The water will immediately boil because of the heat of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan and simmer, stirring occasionally , until the lentils are firm-tender, 15-20 mins.

Pile the spinach in to the pan, cover it and let the steam wilt the greens, 5-8 mins.

While the greens are wilting, heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the fennel seeds, cloves and chiles and cook until they sizzle and are aromatic 10-15 secs. Remove the skillet from heat.

When the spinach has wilted, pour the contents of the skillet into the pan. Add salt and sugar.
Continue to simmer the curry, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the flavors mingle,5-8 mins.

Stir in Ghee and serve.
This goes to Sra of 'When my soup came alive' who is hosting MLLA(My Legume Love Affair)-17, started by Susan of the famous 'The Well Seasoned Cook'
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Monday, November 02, 2009

Hari Matar Paratha- Green Peas Paratha

Lisa groaned inwardly as the waiter set down my order on the table. As soon as he went she said, "please, promise me you will behave", I wrinkled my nose and uttered a "hummph" and turned and gazed sternly at the plate in front of me, "peas.....pheas, with a world FULL of a zillion vegetables, all they can find are pheas ". "Please", she beseechingly said. " Fine.... Only because you want me to". I did behave, I neatly lined the peas on the edge of the plate and ate the rest.
That roughly and mildly put, summed up my dislike for peas.
The only side dish I could eat with peas was 'Nimona,' at least, I think that is the name. I had eaten this at a dear friends' ages ago, her bhabhi (sister-in-law) is a fabulous cook and had transformed blah! peas into something spectacular. I am still waiting for Vandu to get the recipe from Bhabhi so I can make it.

I am not sure when I actually started eating peas, but it was because of blogging, that much I am sure of. My dislike came down a few notches and now I can eat peas, sometimes liking them.

I picked up Yamuna Devi's 'Lord Krishna's Cuisine' from the library sometime around Dec '08 with the general idea of using it to prepare food without onion and garlic for my visiting in-laws. One of the bookmarked recipes was Green Peas Paratha.

The filling is very tasty indeed! The natural sweetness of peas combined with a hint of jaggery and the gentle heat from the green chilies with a hint of lime make every bite enjoyable.

For the bread/ cover:
4 cups Chapati Flour
1/2tbs Salt
1/2 cup melted
1 1/3 cup warm water or as needed

For the Filling
2 tbs Oil
1 tbs finely scraped and shredded Ginger
1-3 minced hot Green Chiles ( +/- as needed)
1/4 tsp Asafetida
2 1/2 cups coarsely mashed cooked Peas
2 tsp Garam Masala
1/4 tsp cayenne
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tsp Lime juice
2 tsp Jaggery or maple sugar
3 tbs finely chopped Cilantro
Ghee / oil for cooking

Mix the Flour and salt in a bowl.
Drizzle in the melted butter ot ghee and rub it in the flour.
Add water slowly and make a medium stiff dough.

For the filling,heat oil in a large frying pan. Toss in the ginger and chiles.
Fry until the ginger starts to brown, add the asafetida.
A few seconds later add the peas.
Add the remaining ingredients and stirfry for about 2 mins.
Remove fom heat. Divide into 10 equal portions. Let it come to room temp. before making the paratha.
Roll out a portion of the dough. Spoon in the peas mixture.
Pull up the edges of the dough and seal
Flatten and dust with flour. Roll out a paratha.
Heat a griddle , brush with ghee/oil , carefully place the rolled paratha on the griddle, drizzle 1 tsp ghee around the edges and cook until the paratha has developed reddish brown spots. Similarly cook on the other side
Serve hot.
I did not use 1/2 cup ghee to make the dough, just a small drizzle.

If you do not have jaggery, substitute it with dark brown sugar

If the above method of making/ rolling parathas is not your thing, specially if you feel the filling will come out, try Musical's way of layering the filling. Works just fine!
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