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October 2102 COTM: 660 Curries -- Legume Curries, Vegetable Curries

Post here your reviews for these dishes:

Legume Curries …. 311-458
Vegetable Curries …. 459-646

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  1. I made p.366 Slow-Cooked Creamy Black Lentils/Maa di daal last week.

    A comment on the intro to that recipe is that I have seen maa di daal translated as "mother's lentil's" from Punjabi before, but I believe it really just means maash ki daal, as maash are called "maa" in Punjabi. Maash is the word of urad in some parts of North India and Pakistan. If Mr. Iyer reads this, he may wish to confirm that with a fluent Punjabi speaker.

    Also, this recipe made a lot more than 6 cups cooked.

    I wanted to try this recipe since it has channa daal in the daal medley (so it becomes classic maa chholeyan di daal, once again re-enforcing my suspicion that the maa here is maash and not mother), as I have seen that before and always wanted to see the difference in the results, as my normal recipe is just maash ki daal (whole black lentils) and rajma/kidney beans.

    I followed the recipe in terms of the seasonings, but for the cooking method I used a pressure cooker on the lentils, and boiled the rajma separately. The recipe recommends just using canned kidney beans, but I didn't have any on hand. That is a great suggestion though, as it saves time and energy.

    I used fresh tomatoes which I chopped in the food processor. I don't like using canned because I have noticed that they never break down into the masala. Though it is suggested in the book to use tomato sauce, I am suspicious of using canned tomato sauce, too. I know a lot of Indian restaurants do that, but that is why their curries taste like tomato bisque instead of curry. Tomato sauce is very sweet and I don't want any element of sweetness in my dishes.

    I can't imagine making maa di daal/daal makhni without a pressure cooker. I think in the olden days before pressure cookers people used to cook this dish for like 5-6 hours to get the right consistency (on a wood burning flame, too, imagine the gorgeous smokey taste!). But I use a pressure cooker, otherwise without a pressure cooker you would be stuck mashing and stirring for a very long time to get the correct creaminess. (That said I have had very un-fancy versions of maa di daal at people's homes and a few times at Sikh langars/communal meals and the dish was more watery than creamy, an not at all like the buttery and creamy version that is known as a rich and heavy party or restaurant dish.)The author suggests mashing some of the kidney beans to thicken the daal. I don't think that would make it thick enough, plus I love to see kidney beans studding my maa di daal, so I instead boiled away the excess water and mashed with the back of a spoon to get the creaminess I was looking for. It took about 40+ minutes even after using the pressure cooker.

    I used the suggested masalas, and found all worked well, but at the end of cooking I did feel there was a bit of flatness and added a tiny pinch of ground garam masala to finish the dish. I went ahead and used real heavy whipping cream and butter. Using the channa daal made the dish a bit paler than my usual recipe, but I didn't notice a huge difference in flavor, only that it was a bit lighter in taste and consistency. I suppose since maash is very heavy on the stomach, mixing in the channa makes it better for digestion as well.

    The end results were very good and were enjoyed by all.

    I plan to try the other version of maa di daal/daal makhni in the book on p. 364 (Whole Black Lentils with Ginger, Garlic, and Butter/Makhani Daal) because I do very much enjoy the dish and like sampling various versions. I will report back when I do get to that recipe.

    I served this dish with Kashmiri Dum Aloo (p.559-560, review below).

    Here is a pic from during the mashing stage:

    2 Replies
    1. re: luckyfatima

      Slow-Cooked Creamy Black Lentils w/Whole Spices (Maa di dal), p. 366

      My friend called this “la-di-dal,” when I described how the dish was made. I don’t know about fancy, but it sure was delicious, as she was quick to acknowledge.

      I knew when I saw this recipe, I had to try it as it sounded like one of my favorite dal dishes at a favorite Indian restaurant. And to my great delight, it turned out almost exactly the same although I wasn’t sure when I was shopping at our Indian market that I was buying the right lentils. The package of the only black beans/lentils on the shelf read “Urad Whole—Black Matpe Beans.” When I got home I added to a half-full pot of water 1 cup of these and ½ cup of yellow split peas (source of another confusion as while Iyer indicates that chana dal and yellow split peas are the same, packages at the market indicated otherwise. Since I already had the YSP at home, I used those). I swished them around and rubbed them between my palms and changed the water four times. This step seemed fussy, but the water did go from almost murky to pretty clear in the process.

      I added six cups of water and brought the lentils to a boil on the stove (don't own a pressure cooker), skimmed the foam from the top, and then added my puree of 8 garlic cloves, 2 (1 X 2-inch) ginger slices, and 4 Thai chiles (I had to add a little water to get this to puree w/my immersion blender) as well as my whole spices—4 black cardamom pods, 2 bay leaves, 2 cinnamon sticks. I lowered the heat to med.-med low, covered the pot, and simmered for an hour, at which point they were nice and soft, the YSP falling apart.

      Meanwhile, I heated 2 T. ghee in a skillet, added 1 tsp. cumin seeds and let them toast very briefly before adding 1 c. finely chopped red onion and cooking that about 5 min. and then adding 1 c. canned (whole) tomatoes, 2 tsp kosher salt, and ½ tsp cayenne. That cooked/reduced for about 10 min. and was set aside, later added to the cooked legumes. A cup of water is then added to the skillet, heated and stirred to deglaze; that too is added to the legume pot, along w/1 c mashed kidney beans (canned, which I drained and rinsed before mashing) and ½ c. heavy cream. Everything is stirred and simmered for another 5-10 minutes, and just before serving, 2 T each of chopped cilantro and ghee are stirred in.

      Of course we loved this—it’s full of cream and ghee. But this makes a lot, and I calculated (rationalized?) that I was eating less than a tsp. of cream per serving. This makes so much that I filled several small containers and froze them; we’ll have ready-made dal for many of the meals I anticipate from this book. I also think that this would make an excellent soup, thinned w/ veggie or chicken stock.

      This luscious dal could be a meal in itself, but we ate it as a small side to another curry (Spicy Lamb w/Yogurt, Cream, and Fenugreek, p. 207)—not an ideal match, as the lamb curry also contains cream, which I didn’t realize until I’d already gotten started; I think this dal would be better paired with a less creamy curry (maybe one of the ones made with tomatoes or vinegar?). Filling out the rest of our Indian feast was simple spiced rice, naan, and a salad.

      1. re: nomadchowwoman

        Forgot my photo, which isn't great. The dal was a bit darker than in the photo, but not as dark as I expected it to be, but as luckyfatima points out, the yellow split peas would lighten the color.

        I obviously didn't mash as much as luckyfatima did although I was satisfied with the dish: it had lots of distinctly whole lentils but also a lot of creaminess. (I am deducing from luckyfatima's post that they are meant to be closer to a puree.)

    2. Slow-Cooked Baby Potatoes in a Yogurt-Fennel Sauce/Kashmiri Dum Aloo p. 559-560

      I have never eaten this dish before at a restaurant or anywhere else, but I have always wanted to try it. It may put some people off because one is required to deep fry the baby potatoes. I don't mind deep frying, though. Since the potatoes are fried in their skins and then finished in a gravy, there is no hint of a greasy fried texture to them.

      I followed the instructions pretty precisely. I had to cook the potatoes in two rounds, and though I thought I had heated the oil very thoroughly, the first round of potatoes took a long time to cook to achieve the fried, crinkled skin look, while the second batch of potatoes cooked to that stage very quickly. That caused me to worry that half of my potatoes were more raw inside and the other half would cook through faster once I added them to the gravy, so I was afraid I had screwed up the dish right at the start. But somehow, miraculously and going against my cooking intuition, there was no difference in the potatoes. All cooked evenly and at the same rate. It is a scientific mystery how that happened.

      The gravy has the Kashmiri signature perfume of powdered fennel, and I was afraid that 2 teaspoons of freshly ground fennel would be extremely potent, but I didn't think it was too strong at the end, though the potency was there. My husband found the masala to be a bit strange or different though, and commented, asking which type of masala this was supposed to be, since it tastes markedly different from the usual garam masala-ey dishes which I serve. He did like the dish, though.

      I had some other cooking issues with this dish. I should have cooked it in a small vessel or a karhai/wok with a lid so that all of the potatoes would be steeped in the gravy and I wouldn't have to baby sit during the "dum" stage. Instead, I cooked it in a deep but flat casserole and had to keep stirring and basting to ensure that the potatoes cooked evenly since they weren't fully submerged in the gravy. The method recommends frequent basting, but actually, that makes it not dum anymore, since dum means that the lid remains closed during the cooking process.

      Also, the method recommends to cook for 1 to 1.5 hours. My potatoes were ready in about 30 mins or so. I can't imagine what would have happened if I cooked them for that long. The masala was also ready at that stage; the oil had risen up, the onions had broken down, and the gravy had thickened. I wasn't sure if I should dry out the gravy more or not, though, as I don't know how this dish is normally served.

      I don't know if it was from deep frying the unpeeled potatoes, or if was just the type of potatoes I bought that day, but the potatoes were so deliciously creamy inside. I really enjoyed the texture.

      I served the dish with plain basmati rice, naan, and Maa di daal (p. 366, review above)

      2 Replies
        1. Spicy Banana Peppers with a Coconut-Sesame Seed Sauce (Mirch Ka Salan), pg. 538

          I made this to go with Almond Chicken with a Yogurt-Mint Sauce, pg. 123-124. Very simple and delicious preparation for peppers! I used red bells, as I have an abundance of them for some reason, and added an extra hot pepper to my sauce blend as suggested. Even so, this was very tame - I might add a little cayenne or another serrano next time, because I think the sweetness of the bell peppers killed any heat there might have been.

          Anyway, you toast sesame and cumin seeds in a dry pan, then throw them in a blender and add peanuts, a bit of tamarind, coconut (I used reconstituted dry) and some water (plus a chile, if using). Blend until you've got a paste. Cut your peppers in half and take out the seeds (I actually cut mine into largeish bite-sized chunks) and saute them in hot oil (I used coconut oil) until they start to blister and brown in spots. Add the sauce, some additional water and salt and simmer until everything is tender, then garnish with cilantro and serve.

          I made a half recipe of the sauce for two bell peppers, which was plenty, although since it was so tasty I wouldn't have minded having more sauce. I ended up adding quite a bit more water than called for, as my meaty red peppers took a little more time to get tender than thinner-walled banana peppers would. Next time (and there will be a next time, as I love peppers and am always looking for interesting ways to prepare them), I would add more tamarind and an additional hot element, but otherwise, this was very tasty! Mr. Bionda also approved, although he concurred that he would have liked a little more tang and spice.

          1. I noticed that there are more pages of legume and vegetable curries in this book than poultry, meat, seafood, egg, and cheese curries put together!

            2 Replies
            1. re: blue room

              Yes - I'm actually a little disappointed in the low number of meat curries, as we are dedicated carnivores, but I know that the author is a vegetarian and that many, many Indians are vegetarian, so it's no surprise that there would be a TON of vegetable recipes. Besides, even with the "low" number of meat recipes, there are far more than I would get through in a year, LOL! I think a lot of the vegetable recipes can be converted for meat too.

              1. re: biondanonima

                Actually the book is reflective of how people who do eat meat in India also follow a balanced diet on a daily basis - we never plan our meal based on the protein focus - it invariably takes a sideline with all the other accouterments - vegetables and legumes are two of the most important groups at the dinner table. Good point on the conversion of dishes to accommodate a more meat-based diet.

            2. Hi all: I was not a very active chow member, and am returning after a long time to this site, and was drawn back in by the discussion of this book: 660 Curries.

              I love the book, though being Indian born and raised (though in America for ages now) with the same Tamilian background as the author, I don't like the term "curry". Every dish has been called a curry - dals are curries, sabzis are curries, paneer dishes are curries, meats are curries, although RI has a whole section in the introduction describing how this word came about and how he uses it. If you can't beat them, join them, I guess. Plus it makes for a snappy and familiar-sounding title when marketing to non-Indians.
              It reconciled me a lot when I saw that the correct local/regional names for every dish is given and I just use those names instead and try to shut off my negative reaction to the overuse of the term "curry".

              But that is a small point - because the main thing is that the recipes are great. OK, I have only tried a few of them so far, but all have been stellar. I love the fact that so many of the recipes are vegetarian. Though India has perhaps the world's best developed vegetarian cuisine and highest percent vegetarian, the majority of Indians are not vegetarian, and more and more people are becoming non-veg as Indians grow richer and want to show their affluence and "modernity". I love that at least a glimpse of the near-infinite variation of Indian vegetarian home cooking is shown here.

              It is also great that there is such a wonderful regional representation moving the reader WAY beyond the North / North West Indian restaurant stereotype food. Here are gems from regional home cooking.

              For many of us vegetarians who rely on dal as our main protein source dal dishes are a must at every meal. But, Dal Makhani is not a daily or even weekly dish, sublime though it is. It's more of an occasional treat, that too in the colder weather.
              Digression: Lucky Fatima - you are absolutely right that maah ki daal has nothing to do with mothers and everything to do with maash :) though mothers I guess are the ones who cook and mash the dal.

              So we loved the "Cumin Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango" (Ambyachi Dal, pp 427-428, a Maharashtrian dish judging from the name- Maharashtra is the state of which Mumbai is the capital). This dish pairs toor dal with chopped ripe mango, for a wonderful sweet and sour effect. It is spiced not only with cumin but also with Maharashtrian Garam Masala (that recipe is on p 28 of the book). That ingredient is key to it's subtle balance of flavours. Don't skip it.

              I don't have pictures (but some bloggers have pictures so search), but I soaked the toor dal (so it cooks faster and creamier), pressure-cooked it with haldi, peeled chopped ripe mango, the garam masala, and salt. The instructions call for cooking a lot of fresh curry leaves with the dal, but I moved these leaves to the tarka of cumin seeds, frying the curry leaves with the cumin seeds when the latter stop crackling. Then I followed the rest of the recipe.

              This recipe is so wonderful! It is lovely home cooking - simple ingredients, no cream, no heavy onions+ginger+garlic paste, all that stuff. The only semi-complicated step is making the Maharashtrian garam masala, but that's easy with a spice grinder. It has sesame seed in it.

              We have eaten it several times, sometimes with rice (which the kids like), sometimes chapatis (I like chapatis), and a simple vegetable sabzi (green beans or cabbage poriyal is what I often make), a chopped vegetable salad (e.g. kosumalli) and plain yogurt, to round out the basic desi meal.

              I love the combination of dal and mango as a souring agent, rather than tomato or tamarind, and look forward to trying the other dal+mango dishes in this book (maybe only one other - amchoor tamatar dal - two souring agents here!)

              I highly recommend this dish to anyone wanting a taste of home-style regional Indian cooking, you'll just about never find this dish in a restaurant outside India, and even in India you'll have to target a specific regional resto. A hot steaming plate of dal-roti or dal chawal (dal+flatbread or dal+rice) is about the best comfort food on the planet.

              7 Replies
              1. re: Rasam

                Welcome back, Rasam! I never realized you were from the Iyer community as well. So happy you will be joining in for a review of the book.

                I feel the same about the moniker "curry." Dal curry? Biryani curry? That threw me off.

                I also loved the regionality---finding Sindhi recipes and even a Bihari recipe I want to try, that's great. But many of the North-Northwestern recipes are given as restaurant recipes rather than home recipes, so the other regions shine, but the U.P.-Punjab-Northern Muslim cuisines' recipes are mainly restaurant staples and rendered as tomatoey from canned sauce, sweet, and creamy, when this does not represent the food cooked everyday at home. It really is very hard to find any book that gives non-restaurant style dishes and recipes for this genre of food since the resto style is so widely known and popular and perhaps more what people would be expecting. Husband's family is from U.P. (MIL from Lucknow) and he grew up in PK Punjab, they *never* use a cup of whipping cream in anything savory, hardly use ground nuts (it's more ground white poppy seeds/khashkhaash), and so on. I have found a few recipes which seem home-style to me, I am making one today (reporting in the meat section.) I guess it is OK to present recipes which represent what is found in restaurants, but I feel that the true home-style cuisine is lighter, healthier (although meaty and oily at least not also creamy), and is also a hidden gem.

                The toor with mango sounds heavenly.

                1. re: luckyfatima

                  Hi Lucky F: Thanks so much for the reply. I love reading your posts.

                  [Just FYI: I am not from the Iyer community - but am from the Iyengar community another group of Tamil Brahmins. Even between these two groups who share so much (region, language, caste, vegetarian tradition etc.) there are recipe differences - e.g. Iyengars use the word Sattumadu for the dish Rasam, that's too long for a screen name! :) But this is just a small side exchange between you and me, and nothing to do with the book. I wish chow had a way to do personal messages for these kinds of things..... ]

                  The toor with mango is so delicious! And it happens to be vegan :) for those who think that Indian vegetarian cooking can't happen without ghee. RI sings the virtues of Canola Oil.

                  And I really hear you about the 1 cup cream + 1 stick butter + ground cashews thrown into most N.Indian recipes. I would be lovely to get some representation of authentic sub regional Northern Muslim home cooking, have you found any good book on this, even though am vegetarian, I would love to read and learn. Maybe you write one? Does Pushpesh Pant's book get into this (I have not read it)?

                  Madhur Jaffrey in her memoir Climbing the Mango Trees gives a tantalizing description of how she and her school classmates in pre-Partition Delhi in the 1940s would exchange lunches, and how the same ingredients in her UP Kayastha family's cooking would taste different from those of her UP Muslim classmates - the order in which you put things in, and subtle differences in proportion, changed the result. But no recipes for these.

                  Yes, 660 Curries is a really good book. I guess he could not have called it 660 dal/sabzi/roti/biryani ..... :)

                  I will continue to lurk on the 660C threads and see what people make and what they dis/like.

                  1. re: Rasam

                    Cumin Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango.
                    - Delicious, as always. I love how the sweetness of the mango pairs with the creamy toor dal. The garam masala with the peanuts and coconut does wonders to this seemingly simple dish. :)


                2. re: Rasam

                  Made this Ambyachi Dal yesterday, loved it. The MH Garam Masala is surely the star, along with the Mango. A very unique dal. I only had 3/4th of a raw mango, which was more sour than sweet. Chopped it into little tiny bits, added half of it to the dal in the pressure cooker and rest of it when the dal was simmering in the pot with the MH-GM. The tarka of the cumin seeds and cilantro sizzled in hot oil fuses and brings this simple dal together. Goes very well with hot steaming rice and side of Mango Pickles. Very Good RI.
                  Next time, I would execute the MH-GM a little differently, by toasting the spices separately. Grind the Coriander, Cumin, Mace and Chiles in the coffee grinder to get a fine powder, the roasted peanuts, sesame seeds and coconut in the food processor to get a coarse powder, then mix them all together. The author's suggested method of roasting and grinding them all together just produced a very coarse powder, where the seeds were not completely pulverised. I bet no one likes to bite into a half a coriander seed.

                  1. re: Chowshok

                    I made the Maharashtrian Garam Masala last night for this dish (which was fabulous, and I think I will probably make it again this morning!). By the time the chiles were completely done grinding, the GM started turning into something very much like peanut butter. I thought I let the spice mix cool long enough but now I'm not so sure. Today the spices feel oily and are in little clumps. It's still fine for cooking, but I suspect it isn't supposed to turn out like this. Anyone have any thoughts or similar experiences? I might try chowshok's idea of grinding some elements separately in the food processor next time I make this GM. Meanwhile, I'm off to make another batch of dal. Yum, yum.

                    1. re: geekmom

                      Either try what Chowshok suggested, or grind the longer lasting ingredients first, e.g. red chillies, and put in the more delicate ingredients, e.g. peanuts, later.

                      1. re: Rasam

                        Oh, that's a good idea - I can easily fish the chiles out of the mixture & grind them first. Thanks!

                3. I have a few RI, 660 curries recipes on my blog. My question here is, for th COTM, do we have to make one curry/ recipe a day? or do we list/ discuss what we have made etc.?

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: pallavykulkarni

                    Hello pallavykulkarni, please feel absolutely without responsibility here! Comment, lurk, cook. Complain, laugh out loud, submit photos of your curry breakfast or banquet.

                    Personally, I make a dish from the current COTM book whenever it strikes me and then post about it. I read everyone else's posts and then sometimes comment or ask a question.

                    It's already obvious to me I'm going to learn a LOT this month.

                    Choosing a recipe from the book and then posting about it (your opinon, method, changes if any, pictures are nice) is how the COTM works and so stays COTM. There are posts set up monthly for each book. Here's the main one for this month http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/871611

                    1. re: blue room

                      Thanks! I just posted one :) I am so looking forward to reading about all the recipes people try!

                    2. re: pallavykulkarni

                      Hi Pallavy: have you tried making the Ambyachi Dal from 660C? If I guess right you have a Maharashtra connection, so would you be able to tell me more about this dal? As you can tell I just LOVED it, especially the Maharashtrian garam masala with the peanuts etc.
                      Thanks - Rasam

                      1. re: Rasam

                        Rasam, I have not tried Ambyachi daal.
                        my husband leans more towards South Indian cuisine and I have tried those wit a few other recipes from Gujarat, Bengal , Punjab etc.

                    3. I have a non-recipe specific question about substitutions in legume curries - I would love some advice from someone who is more familiar with this cuisine and legume cookery in general. Mr. Bionda and I have somewhat different tastes when it comes to legumes - for instance, he doesn't care for chickpeas, while I despise kidney beans and am lukewarm on black-eyed peas. Are there good subs for the various legumes in the book? We both like black, white, navy and pinto beans and lentils of all types. He said he's willing to try chickpeas again if I'll try black-eyed peas!

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: biondanonima

                        Truth be told every legume has a distinct flavor. You can easily execute any legume curry in that chapter by using a grain of your choice - keep in mind the cooking times vary dramatically as well as the flavors that are intended to go with a specific legume. Look for a similar-shaped legume for a closer substitution.

                        1. re: 660 curries

                          This is very slightly off-topic, but I noticed that in another thread smtucker posed the same question I have about cooking some of your legume recipes that call for a pressure cooker without one. Does cooking them longer on top of the stove achieve similar results, desired creaminess, etc.? I'm assuming one would start with more water for the longer stovetop cooking? I was looking at the Makhani Dal recipe on p. 364 in particular.

                          1. re: nomadchowwoman

                            Yes cooking them longer will achieve the same results and will require more water as well.

                      2. Cauliflower in an onion-chile sauce (Phool Gobhi Pyaaz), p480

                        Another big hit. I love cauliflower in curry dishes and this was no exception. I used very fresh cauli from the farmer's market and you could really taste it's mild and slightly nutty sweetness, enhanced by some lovely spicing.

                        To make, blend chopped red onion with water and cumin and coriander seeds. I used my mini KitchenAid for this. Heat oil and fry cubed onion and sliced green chillies - I used cayennes from the freezer - until the onion is slightly browned and the chillies blacken. Add the puréed onion mixture and some water and continue to fry until te water as evaporated and the sauce has begun to stick to the bottom of the pan. Pour in more water to deglaze and stir in salt and the cauliflower florets. Reduce the heat, cover and cook gently for about half an hour until the cauli is very tender. This is no place for al dente vegetables! Fold in a diced fresh tomato and some fresh coriander and simmer for another couple of minutes.

                        A lovely subtle but very tasty dish which I'll make again.

                        1. Chunky Potatoes with Garlic and Peanuts, p. 550

                          My first recipe from this book, I saw "garlic and peanuts" and knew it was for me. Both the peanuts and garlic are mixed (processor) with sesame seeds and chiles. Not smooth, still grainy, the mix is then cooked in oil. Turmeric is added. Then add chunked potatoes, a can of tomatoes (don't drain), some water & salt. Simmer for about half an hour (simmering pictured) until those potatoes are perfect and the sauce is thick and smells great. Garnish was cilantro -- book adds curry leaves too, but I didn't.
                          Yes, we liked this, would make it again, and the author's suggestion to put it in pita bread sounds just right.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: blue room

                            Oh I love this, it is Maharashtrian ( from the state of Maharashtra ). Tastes awesome with poori !

                            1. re: blue room

                              When ever I check in on this thread I can't help but click on the enlarged pic of that dish! Yum!

                            2. Skinned Split Back Lentils with Spinach (page 370)

                              Just picked this up from the library and haven’t had a chance to look through it yet, but I wanted an easy, vegan, supper with mostly on-hand ingredients and this fit the bill. It didn’t hurt any that the intro to the recipe says that this is what he makes for a quick dinner when he’s come home late and doesn’t want to fuss.

                              Rinsed urad dal is brought to a boil in four cups of water, a pound of spinach is stirred in and turmeric is added and that’s simmered for 20 to 25 minutes. Cumin seeds are cooked for a few seconds before a paste of fenugreek seeds (I used ground because that’s what I had), garlic, chiles (recipes calls for fresh but I used dried Thai which he lists as an alternate), and ginger is added and sautéed until browned. That mixture, a bunch of minced cilantro, and some salt (I used less than called for) is stirred into the lentils and spinach and cooked for about five minutes to meld the flavors.

                              I have just about zero experience cooking Indian food (odd, considering how much I love it) and had no idea what to expect. That said, I was surprised at how soupy this was, which I guess would make sense if you served it with rice as he suggests and which I did not do. Because I used dried Thai chiles, this was a really spicy dish. But not so much as to overwhelm all the other wonderful flavors of garlic, ginger, and cumin. Those may be my three favorite spices, so it’s no surprise I just loved this.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: JoanN

                                Hey, I also made a dal+spinach combination.

                                Bhaja Moong Dal Palak (p 388). I chose this recipe for the following reasons:

                                1) had to be very easy and quick (weekday night cooking).
                                2) I wanted a dal without a souring agent, as I already had a sabzi with tomatoes (caulifower with tomatoes).
                                3) I wanted to move out of the South India region (otherwise I would have made what any fellow Tamilian will recognize when I say keerai poricha koottu, which is also moong dal + spinach no sour ingredient, but with a very different spice and flavour profile).

                                I toasted 1 cup moong dal in the pressure cooker. This step was pickier than I had anticipated, because I rinsed the dal first, and the moisture made it stick to the pan in clumps. After some vigorous stirring and scraping, the dal dried out and got toasty.
                                Then I added 3 C water and pressure cooked it with haldi and salt, and 1 10 oz package of frozen chopped spinach (hey this is weeknight easy). This is very quick cooking - PC came up to pressure, then stayed on low for about 5 minutes, then turned off and let pressure come down naturally.
                                The tarka was easy peasy - coconut oil (I had to retrieve this from the bathroom where it had gone to be someone's bath lotion), and sizzle the fennel and cloves and dry red chillies (I used 4 as I like a good shot of hot). Then mixed this into the dal.
                                I forgot the sugar initially - it was really good even without, then I added it later, and it was equally good with.

                                Again - I really liked this dal. It is that utterly simple yet totally delicious Indian home cooking that is the polar opposite of the restaurant richness. The former is like your comfy blue jeans, the latter a brocade party sari. You can eat the former all day and every day, the latter once in a while.

                                The family liked it too, but the kids usually like my cooking and doctor it in their own individual ways. My son ate hot dal and rice with gobs of ghee, which he likes. Daughter mixed bites of dal and rice with potato chips (instead of papaddam/vadam) for a crunchy contrast. The weight conscious adults ate dal+less rice. The afore mentioned cauliflower+tomato sabzi, rice, and cucumber raita completed the meal plate.

                                With such recipes, there is no danger of children growing picky and refusing to eat vegetables or regarding spinach as the enemy etc. All ages love this. In fact son has lobbied to eat this dal and rice for breakfast, and why not? I share those tastes.

                                One caution: I am very accustomed to chewing cloves as a mouth freshener, have bought clove toothpaste, etc. The rest of the family - not so much. Even though I tried to pick out the cloves before serving, several remained behind and provoked an occasional yelp and much picking through the plate. I guess if you eat with your fingers, you automatically feel and filter out the bumpy ingredients, but eating with a spoon you can't do that. The cloves are not easy to see.
                                So, if you are making this, make every effort to remove the cloves before serving. Cloves down the kitchen disposal release a nice aroma. The dry red chillies are big and red, easy to see and avoid.

                                Another winner from 660 Curries! I love this book and now wonder who else I can gift it to and spread the wealth. (ETA: this sounds hyperbolic, but this book really appeals to people like me - who cook simple Indian food regularly and want to find lots of new-to-them regional recipes, plus some fancy new ones).

                                JoanN: you say you didn't serve your dal with rice. What did you serve it with? Indian dals are usually soupy (though there are some dry dal recipes). The folk wisdom or traditional custom of eating dal with either rice or chapatis/rotis is that the combination of legume and grain completes the proteins (though you don't have to actively seek to combine as your body does this anyway). I too like an occasional bowl of dal as a snack without roti or rice,

                              2. I made Tari Daar Aloo Kofta ( Pg 563) a few days ago for a farewell party to some visitors from India.
                                Like the author says, it is difficult to place this curry in the appetizer or vegetable curry section. Either way, it was a huge hit at the party and (sadly) no leftovers. In fact, All I tasted was what you see in the picture!
                                The koftas are addictive ( yes, i sampled a few as i was making them- hard not to). when trying RI's recipes, I do not make changes- why meddle with perfection? However, I do add in extra chilie(s), here and there. I always cook the spuds in a pressure cooker. I made them like 'batata vada' ( I have a batata vada fixation) / patty, instead of the egg shaped dumpling.
                                This curry was a good accompaniment to a Turkish Pilaf I made , the curry was more popular and everyone helped themselves generously! I was so glad I made this curry!

                                1. Chile-Spiked Bell Peppers [and Spinach] - p. 544

                                  I served these with the scallop dish with spinach, but miscalculated on my spinach and ran out while making the scallops, so I served this dish without. I enjoyed the mix of heat and sweetness from the bell peppers in this simple side.

                                  To make, cumin seeds are heated in hot oil and chopped bell pepper, chopped garlic, and chopped green chiles are added and heated in oil until the peppers blistered. I made a half-recipe of this dish and used 1 serrano chile. It was spicy without being overwhelmingly hot. Chickpea flour and turmeric are added to the mix and cooked until the flour browns. Water is then added and the mixture simmers until the peppers are tender. Here, you're supposed to add the spinach and cook until the sauce has thickened. I took the lid off and just simmered until it had thickened a bit.

                                  1. Baby Potatoes with a Garlic-Red Chile Sauce - p. 550

                                    I had plans to make some other potato dishes, but decided at the last minute to change my plans to avoid the need to make another spice blend, open a can of diced tomatoes, or chop the small blue potatoes that I had. The ingredient list for this recipe is long, but it doesn't require any pre-made mixes and the recipe comes together relatively quickly. I did use the suggested substitutes for bishop's weed (thyme + black pepper) and Kashmiri chiles (cayenne + sweet paprika). The potatoes came out nicely, but weren't anything special. They do however get extra for coming together easily on a weeknight when I was alone in the kitchen.

                                    To make, the potatoes are parboiled. While the potatoes cook, garlic and dried chiles are pulsed in a food processor. I made a half recipe and used 1 dried chile, the lower end of what Iyer suggests. Next time, I'd probably increase it to the upper amount or maybe even round up to 2 as the heat didn't permeate the potatoes too much. Some water is reserved from the cooking water when the potatoes are drained. Oil is heated in a saucepan and cumin, fennel, nigella, bishop's weed, and bay leaves are added to the oil until they sizzle. The garlic-chile blend is then stir-fried until browned. Off-heat, salt, the Kasmiri chiles, turmeric, and curry leaves are added to the mix. The reserved water and potatoes get added to the pan and everything is returned to heat, brought to a boil, and left to simmer until the sauce thickens. I should have stirred it more while the potatoes were simmering, because I would've liked them a little more coated in the sauce.

                                    1. Chickpeas with a Spicy Tomato Sauce (Chana Masala) p. 333

                                      This is my second recipe from this book and although the book is very large and intimidating, I am finding the recipes well written and very easy to understand.

                                      To help make this a quick dinner, I had cooked garbanzo beans in advance (time consuming, but head to head, I do prefer the texture of freshly cooked garbanzos to canned). I also had pre-made garlic paste and ginger paste.

                                      Sauté cumin seeds in ghee then add ginger and garlic pastes and cook 2 minutes. Add water, tomato paste, ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, mango powder (aka amchur powder- this lends a sour taste), cayenne and simmer to create a reddish brown paste. Add water, garbanzos, salt and chopped cilantro. Cook until the sauce thickens. Serve with finely chopped onion and cilantro and chopped Thai pepper (optional). I ate this with brown rice.

                                      This was dinner for one tonight. My husband opted for his classic peanut butter and jelly sandwich instead. Although I enjoyed the dish and suspect that tomorrow it will be even better, the version I discovered on the Wednesday Chef blog (http://tinyurl.com/9f4a9vn), despite being very similar, had a richer, tomatoey flavor. I also preferred the sautéed onions over 660 Curries’ addition of raw onions. That being said, had I not tried Heather Carlucci-Rodriguez’s version, I would have been very happy with this version.

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: BigSal

                                        I love chana masala, and am hoping to recreate my absolute favourite dish at our local Indian restaurant - chana puri - at some point this month. I am slightly intimidated by the idea of making the puris though, but I have every faith in the recipe in this book!

                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                          I look forward to reading your puri-making adventures. I may try to make a few breads this month too.

                                      2. Sweet and Sour Chickpeas and Kidney Beans, p. 336

                                        I used only chickpeas -- don't like kidney beans -- but we loved this dish! (The kind you eat, and have to make again the next day.)

                                        The flavor in this comes from red onion, garlic, ginger, hot chilies, cumin seed, coriander, fennel seed, turmeric, cardamom seed, sugar, tamarind paste -- phew! I have a feeling most of the recipes I choose will have a long list like that! I made ghee (easy!) for this too -- ghee is good stuff! I can see using it for a lot more than this book. A paste is processed from the aromatic vegetables (toward the front of the list) and mixed with sizzled-in-oil cumin seeds. Cook 'til browning at edges, and then mix in the sweeter and mellower ingredients like sugar, cardamom, etc. to cook a little more. Add beans, chickpeas, water, tamarind paste and simmer to thickish perfection. This is great -- I had only French bread or a spoon to convey it to my mouth and used both. Next time I make it I'll have proper scooping bread. Highly recommended!

                                        1. Minty Red Lentils with Cilantro and Raw Onion, page 402

                                          I made this to go with Vibrant Chicken Curry (excellent, reviewed separately) and I picked it rather randomly... it seemed easy and it seemed as though it might be a nice contrast to the very savory and browned flavors of the chicken. This is a dal which Iyer describes as "odd" in the headnote because it uses raw onions as a garnish and a lot of herbs. It certainly was different from any dal I've ever made or eaten.

                                          To make, Masoor dal is cooked in water. Cilantro, mint, garlic, fresh chiles and chopped in food processor. Ghee (or canola oil in my case) is heated in a skillet and cumin seeds added. The herb blend is then added and cooked until garlic is browned (3-5 minutes). The cooked herb mix is then added to the cooked lentils with salt and Punjabi Masala. Now, I had good intentions of making the punjabi masala, but somehow never got around to it. I sort of forgot that I needed that for this dish so when I got to that finishing part, I was left high and dry. I thought I might sub some strore bought garam masala but I didn't have any of that either. This is served garnished with raw red onion.

                                          It's interesting, when it came to eating, I felt like the poor dal was lacking something (probably because it was missing the finishing touch). My husband who knew nothing of the garam masala loved it and declared it his favorite dal (out of a rather limited experience, but still). This was much greener and "fresher" than most dals I've had and I plan to make it again once I have made the Punjabi Garam Masala (which seems like its getting a lot of love on this board). I'd be interested to see the difference it makes. Plus, it's pretty darn easy and I really l iked the cilantro mint flavor which was fairly pronounced.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: greeneggsnham

                                            the garam masala does round out the dish...

                                            1. re: greeneggsnham

                                              I made this tonight, mostly because I had a gigantic bunch of mint. I did make the Punjabi Masala, though with less cinnamon (not a fan). I found the dal delicious and loved the mint and cilantro. I liked the raw onion, but I love raw onions. It added a nice crunch.

                                            2. One thing that is confusing me about the legume chapter is there is no mention of whether you should soak the beans or not. For example, in the recipe on p363 (Chana Rajmah), I assume that you need to pre-soak the chickpeas and kidney beans, but there is no mention of doing so. Similarly the black lentil recipes, or the cowpea ones. If you're around Mr 660, I'd really appreciate your input on this.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: greedygirl

                                                For the dish I made, which had dried black lentils and yellow split peas, the recipe didn't say to soak them so I didn't (though I did do the rubbing/rinsing/water changing), and they turned out great (I thought). However, I notice that on p.312, he says whole beans (including blck lentils) *should* be soaked--so it sounds like your instincts on the CPs and KBs are correct.

                                                1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                  But then some recipes have soaking instructions, eg Whoe Yellow Peas on p410, various pigeon pea recipes.

                                                2. re: greedygirl

                                                  Personally, I always soak beans and never soak lentils including the black ones. Lentils cook fast but the beans are large and dense and if not pre-soaked will not cook evenly to the delicious creaminess.

                                                  1. re: greedygirl

                                                    well that recipe calls for using a pressure cooker, in which case you do not need to soak the beans. I believe there is a box in that chapter that talks about how to cook beans stovetop in case one does not have a pressure cooker - page 314 has a box on using pressure cooker to cook beans as well - so each recipe dictates when you soak them and when you don't. Black lentils (whole) and cowpeas don't require prior soaking - if you do, it certainly quickens the process. Hope that helps!

                                                    1. re: 660 curries

                                                      Thanks! I think it does say though in the introduction to the chapter that black lentils need soaking. Maybe that needs correcting?

                                                  2. Last night made Cinnamon-flavored black-eyed peas (page 323).

                                                    I had some beautiful fresh black-eyed peas from the farmers market and this was a great (and easy) way to prepare them. I made the fried onion paste this weekend, and cooked the peas while I prepared the sauce (fried onion paste, tomato paste, garlic paste, cayenne, turmeric, cinnamon sticks and cardamom). At the end the cooked peas go in the sauce for about 10 minutes. We ate it with cilantro and brown rice.

                                                    This was really, really good. Partly because fresh black-eyed peas are so creamy, but the sauce was more than a sum of its parts. I don't always love cinnamon in savory dishes, but it really worked here. I will definitely make this again.

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: pluralofcow

                                                      I can't wait to make this one - we don't like black-eyed peas so I'm planning to use black beans instead. Thanks for the review!

                                                      1. re: pluralofcow

                                                        Made this tonight as part of a veritable feast from this book, including the Pork Vindaloo version 3 on page 229, Nutty Rice with Cashews, Almonds and Fresh Mint on page 712 and Sweet Pineapple with Coconut Milk and Coffee from page 645.

                                                        Everything tonight was good but the Cinnamon-Flavored Peas were the winner. I made one major change in that we don't like black-eyed peas, so I used two cans of black beans. I just toasted the spices and added the sauce slurry per the recipe, then dumped in the rinsed beans and a little extra water to let it all simmer for a few minutes. I also halved the salt, since canned beans already have plenty, and used only one black cardamom pod because DH doesn't love black cardamom.

                                                        This was just AWESOME. I mashed a few beans to help the dish become creamy and it was just addictive - Mr. Bionda and I ate almost the whole recipe, despite all the other dishes on tonight's menu. I think it's that onion paste - it would make anything taste good, most likely. It was fabulous by itself or with the nutty rice. I will probably make it again this week, we loved it so much! I could see using it as a base for an Indian "chili" as well, or as a filling for Indian enchiladas or burritos. As pluralofcow said, WAY more than the sum of its parts!!!!

                                                        1. re: pluralofcow

                                                          I have been meaning to make this dish for such a long time! Happy to hear it was a winner. :)

                                                          1. re: pluralofcow

                                                            Made this finally. Cut down on the oil and salt which may be why it was a bit lackluster for me.

                                                            1. re: pluralofcow

                                                              Cinnamon-Flavored Black-Eyed Peas (page 323)

                                                              This has been on my to-do list since I first read your report, pluralofcow, and it did not disappoint. The cinnamon, which was much less intrusive than I’d expected, was a Mexican cinnamon from Ceylon (?!?) that I bought in an Indian market and looked nothing like my usual baking cinnamon sticks. Wasn’t sure I’d like it. I loved it. The peas are indeed creamy. In fact, I’m a bit puzzled by Mr. Iyers suggestion that it be served over rice. The dish I made would have sat like a lump on top of rice. In fact, this is the first dish I’ve made from the book that I wouldn’t have described as soupy.

                                                              I’m enjoying these recipes a great deal, but would have a very difficult time trying to put together a meal no less a banquet when I’m so unsure, without trying it first, how a dish will turn out. I guess it’s a good thing that I’ve just been cooking for myself this month.

                                                            2. Jeera Moong Dal.

                                                              Another very quick and easy dal to throw together on a rushed week night. Raced home, threw 1 cup rinsed moong dal + 3 cups water, + salt and haldi, into the pressure cooker. While it was coming up to pressure minced 1 Tbsp ginger. I turned off the pc after it came up to full pressure and let the pressure come down naturally. The dal turned out perfectly cooked.
                                                              Super simple tadka of cumin seeds, hing, 4 dry red chillies broken in half, and the ginger. Done! Literally 15 minutes from start to finish, most of that time waiting for the pressure to come down.

                                                              I am still in awe of how something so simple can be so satisfying and taste so fantastic. I mean, I shouldn't be surprised because I have cooked most of my adult life with recipes like this which people who regularly cook Indian home style can throw together without a recipe, without measuring, almost with just one hand. But I appreciate it every time. And this being friendly to just about every diet, I can eat multiple bowls of this dal and not see it on the scale tomorrow.

                                                              This particular spice combination was a little new to me (I tend to pair ginger with green chilies, not red), but it worked so well. Bright cheery yellow on a rainy evening, with the ginger, cumin, red chili hitting all the right notes. No need for souring agent.

                                                              Ate it piping hot with rice, sabzi, and yogurt. Kids gave this an 8 out of 10 (where 10=yummy and 1=don't do this to us again), husband gave it 7 because he liked yesterday's bhaja moong dal better.

                                                              This food is genius. Economical, almost cartoon-simple, and yet so lavishly tasty.

                                                              2 Replies
                                                              1. re: Rasam

                                                                Jeera Moong nu Dal, page 382

                                                                I have marked this recipe. Sounds wonderful.

                                                                1. re: Rasam

                                                                  I am still waiting for my library copy to come in, grrr.... Meanwhile, since I didn't want to miss out on the action I made this dal last night based on rasam's description and another blog post I found. I liked but didn't love this dal. Actually, I quite liked the plain cooked moong dal (cooked with turmeric and salt) but wasn't crazy about the tadka, which had a bitter quality I didn't love. Too much asefotida, or perhaps mine is too old? Anyway I ended up adding some chopped fresh cilantro, lemon juice and cayenne to perk it up.

                                                                2. Brown Cremini Mushrooms with Chives (Dhingri Josh), pg. 517.

                                                                  I made this along with the Chicken Thighs with a Peanut Sauce on pg. 159. This recipe requires the Punjabi garam masala from pg. 25. You toast cumin, black cumin, black cardamom, bay leaves, cinnamon sticks and chiles in a bit of oil, then add some onion and cook until honey brown. Add garlic and ginger and saute briefly, then add some crushed tomatoes, salt and ground chile and reduce. Add water and reduce again, then add mushrooms and a bit more water and simmer until the mushrooms are cooked. Stir in the garam masala and chives and serve.

                                                                  I followed this recipe to the letter except that I forgot to add the ground chiles. I also used garlic chives because they're growing on my windowsill! Unfortunately, this wasn't quite as successful as the other recipes I've tried thus far. I enjoyed the flavors (earthy, musty, smoky), but the texture of the mushrooms was a bit rubbery, and the tomatoes took over a bit. I will definitely add the ground chiles to the leftovers for a touch of heat. Mr. Bionda said there was some spice in it that he didn't care for, so I had him smell the black cardamom pods - bingo. He felt they were too acrid and lent an almost burnt flavor to the dish.

                                                                  All in all, I felt this was a dish designed to disguise mushrooms rather than to celebrate them (and the author does state that he doesn't care for mushrooms, so that makes sense). If I want to make an Indian mushroom preparation, I would probably look for another recipe that lends itself to subbing in mushrooms rather than make this particular recipe again.

                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                  1. re: biondanonima

                                                                    Very interesting Biondanonima. I grew up not liking mushrooms as I didn't care for the texture. That all changed for me the day my mother made a steak with mushroom sauce, instead of the rubbery unappetizing mushrooms she had in this case sauteed them vigorously till they cooked down and browned significantly. I have a been a convert since then, to well sauteed mushrooms anyway. I wonder if the mushrooms in this case could be sauteed separately and then added as a garnish, it might be un-Indian in some way but I suspect it might be better.
                                                                    On another note, I have been commenting without contributing as we have been very busy with some adoption related classes, but that should change soon hopefully.

                                                                    1. re: delys77

                                                                      Yes, as I was making the dish I thought "I have all this lovely spice-infused oil here, I should really saute these mushrooms in it before adding them to the dish," but I didn't in the interest of following the recipe (for once in my life!). I think a sauteed preparation would be delicious, although I will probably try to find a vegetable recipe that lends itself to subbing in mushrooms rather than making this one again. If you try it, be aware that the black cardamom is STRONG - I would cut it back substantially, and I enjoy its flavor.

                                                                    2. re: biondanonima

                                                                      I also saw that RI doesn't like mushrooms. I think he has only 2 mushroom recipes in the book? And neither of these is from regions of India that DO grow and use mushrooms very well (e.g. Kashmir, Uttaranchal, Coor, NE India etc.) and he has other recipes from these regions. There are other very good and unusual mushroom recipes out there, a little googling will unearth them.

                                                                    3. Pureed Mustard Greens with Clarified Butter - p. 522

                                                                      This dish isn't much to look at (a bright bowl of green), but it hit all the right notes for me with the creamy, slightly bitter, tart taste. Curiously, it was a bit more of a time commitment than the main dish I was making, but the extra time was worth it.

                                                                      To make, cumin seeds are toasted in oil, followed by garlic, dried red chiles, and fresh green chiles. Cooking the green chiles until they were blistered for me slightly burnt the garlic beyond what I would've liked, but I didn't notice it in the final dish. Mustard greens are added a handful at a time until wilted and then cooked until the liquid evaporates. Water is added and the whole mixture is simmered for 15 minutes. The greens are pureed in a blender and returned to heat along with some ghee and cornmeal. It's simmered for another 15 minutes until thickened and then lime juice is mixed in to finish.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: TxnInMtl

                                                                        I made this over the weekend. I really liked the consistency I got from pureeing the greens and adding the cornmeal. It was a little soupier than I wanted, but much smoother than other saag recipes I've tried. The lime is a neat touch too.

                                                                      2. Aloo Tiki Chaat
                                                                        ( pg 45)
                                                                        I usually have sprouted moong etc. on hand and so making these patties is easy! I had made these earlier and everyone loved it. Absolutely a crowd pleaser, but pays to have some prep. done in advance. Ex: sprouting the moong/mung beans. boiling potatoes and making the chutney(s) in advance.
                                                                        Kids and adults, both have enjoyed these patties.
                                                                        I make the tamarind chutney in bulk, it keeps well in the fridge and can be used in all chaat items, bonus:)
                                                                        I am thinking of making the patties and freezing the, after the assembly stage. Is that the correct method or should I 'toast' them on the skillet and freeze? Any tips?

                                                                        6 Replies
                                                                          1. re: pallavykulkarni

                                                                            Pan-fry them partly before freezing them.

                                                                            1. re: pallavykulkarni

                                                                              Wow -- *four* make-ahead sauces AND sprouting your own beans.
                                                                              Oh this Indian food -- I'm realizing I have to take a step back, order some ingredients, spend a day making some mixes, (wet and dry.) This book demands more preparation of that sort than any I've cooked from before.
                                                                              I have confidence that it will be worth it, slightly less confidence in my patience/resolve/attention to detail. It *does* look like many of the blends and pastes will keep well.

                                                                              1. re: blue room

                                                                                Hey blue room: there are lots of recipes in the book that are last-minute, if you have a pantry/freezer stocked with the desi basics.
                                                                                Though I admit as an Indian cook, I almost always have sprouted moong going and a fridge load of various chutneys .... :)
                                                                                Yes, the blends, pastes, and chutneys keep well, at a pinch you can freeze most of them (just remember to thaw thoroughly).

                                                                                1. re: Rasam

                                                                                  Thank you, Rasam. You see the problem,
                                                                                  "...last-minute, if you have a pantry/freezer stocked..."
                                                                                  But it's really not hard, just a matter of measure mix, measure mix, I can do!
                                                                                  Today I'm trying poori, hardly any ingredients at all, but fun.

                                                                            2. Toasted Spices and Onion with Green Lentils (page 378)

                                                                              Decided to try this dal because I had some whole green lentils on hand. Didn’t realize until I went to make the spice blend that I was out of coriander seeds so I used ground coriander instead. This was another fairly quick curry made from usually on-hand ingredients that with nothing more than a piece of whole wheat pita made a very tasty, satisfying, filling dinner.

                                                                              I’m cooking from a library copy since I just don’t have room on my shelves for a book this thick. This is only the second dish I’ve made from the book and I’m already beginning to think about what’s going to have to go to make room for it.

                                                                              1. Vengayam Avarai (Spicy Green Beans with Saucy Red Onions) p 509.

                                                                                Not love at first bite. The description and ingredients sound better than the end result, though it was still tasty and pretty good overall.

                                                                                Tarka of mustard seeds (whole), urad dal, ground mustard seeds+fenugreek, finely chopped green chilli (instead of diagonal slice to look like the green beans as described in the recipe), curry leaves, turmeric.
                                                                                When the spices are sizzling, then add sliced red onions. When these have sauteed for a while, then add green beans (I used frozen sliced gb) and salt.
                                                                                Add water, then cook till done. When done, then add 1 T rice flour to thicken it up.

                                                                                Ate with yesterday's jeera moong dal (still great), rice, chopped vegetable salad. Kids liked it. I thought it needed a little something, and next time I may add some diced good quality tomatoes.

                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                1. re: Rasam

                                                                                  Vengayam Avarai (Spicy Green Beans with Saucy Red Onions) p 509

                                                                                  This is our second green bean recipe in this book. It was okay, but we both preferred the aromatic green beans with pounded mustard and cardamom on p. 508.

                                                                                2. Savory Cinnamon Potato and Bell Pepper Strips (Urulikazhungu Molagha Bhajee), pg. 576.

                                                                                  I made this along with Spicy Ground Beef, pg. 182, for dinner tonight. Potatoes and bell peppers are cut into 1/2 inch strips and sauteed briefly with curry leaves. Water and salt are added and the whole thing simmers for 10 mins or so, until the potatoes are done. Meanwhile, you toast skinned split lentils, yellow split peas, coriander and cinnamon in a little oil, let cool and grind. When the potatoes are done, stir in the ground spices and a few fresh chopped curry leaves, plus some lime juice, and serve.

                                                                                  Simple, filling and delicious! I used russet potatoes, but I think I would use Yukon Golds next time, as the starchy russets broke down a little more than I might have liked. Maybe a little more cinnamon, too. I loved the pebbly crunch of the bits of toasted lentils, and the lime juice was just the thing to bring it all together. Very nice dish and a good accompaniment to the beef. Mr. Bionda won't be home for a couple of hours but I know he will love this!

                                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                    On a related note - what is the best way to store curry leaves? I bought a big package and it will probably take me the rest of the month to use them - I've seen all sorts of advice online, from "dry them" to "never dry them" to "wash and stick in a jar" to "wash and stick in the fridge." Advice appreciated!

                                                                                    1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                      I strip the leaves off the stems, separate into small batches, and store each in its own ziploc baggie in the freezer. They may lose a little aroma over time, but still work very well.
                                                                                      If you plan to use them within a month, you can store a couple of batches in the fridge, and as they get used up, start taking out from the freezer.
                                                                                      When I cook with them they go straight from the freezer to the stovetop. I have thrown them into tadkas, and also toasted them prior to grinding. All good.

                                                                                      1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                        Just wash, allow to dry completely, and put in the fridge in a large ziplock baggy, they will last you the month or more.

                                                                                        1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                          Thanks guys - I think I'll put them in the fridge and if they look like they're starting to go south, transfer to the freezer.

                                                                                          1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                            I store mine in the freezer as well. Each recipe only calls for a handful but you buy a big bunch. Totally worth the effort to scope out fresh curry leaves, though.

                                                                                    2. Carrot Slices in a Dill Sauce (Gajar Suva) pg. 476

                                                                                      This was a very easy recipe. Basically, you quickly (5-10 seconds) cumin in oil, lightly caramelize some onion, briefly toast spices (cayenne, coriander, turmeric) in that, then add water andsimmmer carrots and peas. Fresh dill, toasted chickpea flour, and salt (I used sea salt, pounded gently) is stirred in at the end.

                                                                                      This was delicious! It had the perfect heat level for me. I eat hotter food, but this was just where it kept my mouth warm, didn't compete with other flavors, and was very pleasant. It was flavorful but not too rich, and the sauce had some body but wasn't thick. The only thing I'd do differently is add more dill next time, as it seemed to disappear a little (and I'm not really a fan of dill in the first place).

                                                                                      1. Jairam's Potatoes and Eggplant in Chile-Garlic Sauce/Bihari Alu Baingan p. 568-569

                                                                                        I liked this recipe since it is different from my standard tomatoey alu baingan recipe, and also because it was passed on to the author from a Bihari man, and one really doesn't hear much about Bihari regional cuisines when discussing Indo-Pak cuisine, so I was curious to learn more about and cook from that region.

                                                                                        For this recipe, one makes a fresh ground green masala using fresh cilantro, whole red dried chiles, garlic, and ginger. This green masala provides the flavor base. I happen to have the tinnevelly chiles mentioned on p. 569 in Tips. I suspect that Jairam was just using them as he was a resident of Bangalore, and that if he were to cook in Bihar, that may not be the dried red chile of choice. I keep tinnevelly chiles on hand simply because they are easy to procure here in Northern VA with our massive S. Indian population, and because they resemble the type of round red dried chile used in temperings in some Pakistani cooking (though I believe these chiles are actually Dundicutts, not sure of the difference). They are pretty hot. I used 5 for the dish instead of the recommended three just because I was using a giant American eggplant. The dish didn't turn out too spicy at all.

                                                                                        I didn't have nearly as many potatoes as called for, so my dish resulted in being mostly eggplant studded with potatoes, instead of a balance of the two. I loved the masala, and I loved the way that some of the eggplant broke down, thickening the sauce, by the time the dish finished cooking. I followed the instructions and added water (a bit less than recommended as I had used less potatoes) since that was necessary to keep the spices from burning during the cooking and created the creamy mashy eggplant result when the dish was done.

                                                                                        I definitely like and recommend this dish.

                                                                                        I took a pic of the chiles and uploaded below. I don't think it would make a huge difference to use long chiles, although their fragrance is different. (The other thing in the pic was for another recipe.)

                                                                                        This will be served with white basmati rice, whole wheat flat bread, and tomato mungori (p. 297, review below).

                                                                                        1. Nutty-Hot Green Lentil "Drops" with Tomatoes/Tamaatar Mangori pp396-397

                                                                                          I had selected an eggplant dish for tonights meal, and wanted a thick tomato chutney type side to serve with it, but when I looked in the index and saw this dish, I knew I wanted to make it.

                                                                                          Mangories are made from soaked skinless split mung lentils which are soaked in water, ground to a paste, and then dehydrated. They are readily available from any Indo-Pak grocery. Note to author if he reads this, on p. 396 in the ingredient list for this recipe, readers are directed to Tips on p. 397 to learn more about mungoris, but there is no tip on p. 397. I discovered the Tip was on p. 396 itself, at the end of the preceding recipe. The Tip ascribes them to Rajasthan, but I believe they are used pretty broadly in the North, I know they are used in a lot of U.P. cooking as well, and I think varieties of dehydrated daal baris are used far and wide on into Bengal...

                                                                                          The recipe itself is very simple. I started by grinding the ginger, cilantro, and green chiles together, since these are added towards the at the same time. I kept this mixture aside. Following the recipe ran very smoothly. It is an asofetida-ginger type masala recipe, no garlic and onions.

                                                                                          The texture of the mungori was vaguely like a very wet Thanksgiving stuffing but with the crumbles having a bit of spongy firmness. It is a comfort food texture. I usually cook these with green beans or some other vegetable, but I really enjoyed them on their own, too.

                                                                                          I was a bit worried about the suggested salt in the recipe. Store bought mungories tend to be very salty and have a lot of seasoning in them, so I just added a pinch of salt at the recommended time and waited to taste to add more if necessary later. I ended up adding a tiny sprinkle at the very end of cooking. I think the dish would have been far too salty if I had used the recommended 1.5 tsps of salt, though.

                                                                                          I did like the ghee finishing on this dish. It was a nice touch.

                                                                                          The mungoris are sold as "moong vadi" (with some flexibility of spelling in both moong and vadi), and I included a pic if anyone is interested in seeking them out and isn't familiar with them.

                                                                                          As a food, mungories are one of those items that has me in awe of the vast variety and creativity in Indian vegetarian recipes.

                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                          1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                            Your photos of these ingredients are very much appreciated, luckyfatima. It helps to have some idea of what one is looking for!

                                                                                            1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                              I think your dinner sounds and looks wonderful. I wish I could take good pictures of desi food :)

                                                                                            2. We made Sesame-Flavored Green Tomatoes (pg 623) along with the Curried Beef Stew (pg 172.) The latter is review on the appropriate thread. Both were scrumptious!

                                                                                              I chose this recipe because of the many green tomatoes in my garden. Poor little things are never going to make it through the frost we are expecting this weekend. Now I am glad that frost prompted me to find a way to use them!

                                                                                              This was really nothing like I expected. The green tomatoes are sautéed with peanuts, sesame seeds and spices, then cooked in water until the sauce thickens a bit and the tomatoes are cooked. They retain some firmness but the tartness I expected the to have was really mellowed. My husband, aka The Old Man, doesn't actually like tomatoes, but liked this dish. I'm not sure he even knew what it was at first!

                                                                                              I would certainly make this again, provided I could find green tomatoes. I think it could be used in a non-Indian meal as a side dish.

                                                                                              5 Replies
                                                                                              1. re: bkieras

                                                                                                This is a really intriguing recipe, and I have just missed it until now. It's going onto my "must try" list. Does one even get green tomatoes in grocery stores / farmer markets or do you have to grow tomatoes and pick when green?

                                                                                                1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                  I don't know that I've ever seen them in a grocery store - I picked mine from the garden. He does say not to use tomatillos.

                                                                                                  You might have some luck at a farmers market this late in the season.

                                                                                                  1. re: bkieras

                                                                                                    We were at a farmer's market today where they had green tomatoes - late crop that they're sure won't ripen before the first frost, I imagine.

                                                                                                2. re: bkieras

                                                                                                  Shoot! I just turned all 16 lbs of green tomatoes from my plants into Green Tomato Relish. That looks wonderful.

                                                                                                  1. Gosh I am loving all of these peanut+sesame sauces many COTM participants have selected from this book. I really want to try one now.

                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                                      Hi LuckyF: The toordal with mango (Ambyachi dal) I made way above with the Maharashtrian garam masala also has that yummy peanut+sesame combination - very Maharashtrian - peanut cultivation is huge in Maharashtra.
                                                                                                      I agree with you that this is delicious, and "different" from many of the more commonly popularized desi ingredients.

                                                                                                      1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                        I am not versed in Maharashtrian cooking so yep, I am excited by the novelty.

                                                                                                        1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                                          The Maharashtrian garam masala might be my favorite thing I've made from the book so far - I'm eating it on EVERYTHING.

                                                                                                          1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                                            It's GREAT, innit? What else have you tried it on? What have you found it goes well with? As with LuckyF, it's kind of new to me too, not common in "my" area of the country.

                                                                                                            1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                              I've been using it on eggs - sprinkled on my omelettes, and I made a fabulous egg salad with it the other day. It's great just sprinkled on slices of rare grilled steak, or really any meat. I think it would also make a fabulous dip for crudites, mixed with yogurt or sour cream and mayo.

                                                                                                    2. Slow Cooked Onion with Pigeon Pea/ Dal Fry, page 432

                                                                                                      This was my first time using pigeon peas and I loved the creamy consistency of the split pigeon peas once cooked and pureed. This dal was very different from what I expected when I read the recipe. Somehow, when I read the recipe, I focused on the slow cooked onions and ghee and was expecting a comfort food type experience (think garlic mashed potatoes). The finished dish however is vibrant and humming with flavors from the curry leaves (my first time cooking with them and I was surprised by the strength of their flavor and aroma), mustard seed, chiles and cumin with a punch of cilantro as well. It is also a beautiful dish with green chiles and cilantro and red tomatoes floating in a creamy yellow background.

                                                                                                      Unfortunately, the dal didn't meld super well with the rest of the meal (vibrant chicken p. 137 and buttery basmati rice with spinach and onion). A lot of flavors competing on the plate. Still looking for the perfect accompaniment to the vibrant chicken, which I think will become a regular in our house.

                                                                                                      2 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: greeneggsnham

                                                                                                        Hi Greeneggsnham (book I still love):

                                                                                                        Dal does not do well as a side dish to a meat dish, because dal is also a protein (though it comes packaged with carbs). In fact, this dal sounds like a major item on its own, calling for its own veggie "sides". Dal is in no way analogous to potatoes.

                                                                                                        To complement the vibrant chicken and spinach rice (great combination) something made with cauliflower or potatoes or or green beans or bell peppers or ... would go very well. Then if the chicken has a wet sauce/gravy, you may want to choose a dry veggie recipe, you get the idea.

                                                                                                        Round out the meal plate with raita and/or a chopped fresh veggie salad (e.g. cucumbers+tomatoes or sprouted moong, etc,)

                                                                                                        1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                          Thanks Rasam!

                                                                                                          I am loving this book and definitely getting an education about Indian food, cooking and eating. Still feeling my way about a lot of things. Your advice is much appreciated!

                                                                                                          This dal was definitely a major item on its own, as you say.

                                                                                                      2. Shorshe Bata Diye Bhindi (Sweet Hot Okra in a Mustard Poppy Sauce) p 529.

                                                                                                        This is a Bangla okra dish with characteristic use of mustard oil, mustard seed etc. I am not experienced in Bangla cuisine and have long been wanting to try it and gave it a whirl today. Okra is one of my family's favorite vegetables and Indian recipes do full justice to this tasty and versatile pod.

                                                                                                        Washed, dried, and sliced (2 inch pieces) about 1/2 kg Bhindi (okra). Heated a little mustard oil in my wok and put in the sliced bhindi. stir fried for a few minutes till it started to brown.

                                                                                                        Earlier I had soaked 2 T mustard seed with 1 T white poppy seed. Now, I drained and ground (in spice grinder) this mixture with 1/2 a hot green chilli (less than the recipe called for, even though my green chillies were large and very hot). I didn't want to make it too spicy for the kids, which turned out ironic as you will see in a minute.

                                                                                                        When the bhindi were about 3/4 done I added this shorshe paste and continued to cook. When done I added salt and 1/2 t sugar (again, less than the recipe called for).

                                                                                                        The recipe called for adding 1 C water while cooking but the okra cooked just fine without that. The finished dish has a dry consistency, with the cooked paste clinging to the bhindi pieces.

                                                                                                        I personally liked this very much. I was surprised how mild it was, given the ground mustard and green chilli, which can be pretty pungent together. Not here. The dish was very subtle. I guess I should have used the full green chilli and sugar. Next time. DH liked it, because he likes the ground mustard flavour note. Kids, ironically, said they liked my regular bhindi recipes better because this was "too plain" for them 8-O !

                                                                                                        1. Tea and Ginger Simmered Chickpeas (Chai Patte Waali Chana) pg. 331

                                                                                                          I'm having fun this week -- not only have I never participated in COTM before, but I've also been using the approach of using what I have and buying as few ingredients as possible, so I've been making dishes that I normally might not, or at least would probably tend toward other ones. AND my SO is working during dinner time this week, so I don't have to worry about what he likes. Anyway, tonight's curry was on that theme -- I found a can of garbanzos in the cabinet, and only needed to get a lime for this recipe, so I was off!

                                                                                                          It was easy and fast. Brew some tea (I had teabags of English Breakfast, so that's what I used), cook cumin in oil, add ginger, garlic, and chile (I used red instead of the called-for green) and saute, add chickpeas, cilantro, salt, and turmeric, simmer, stir in lime juice. I added the lime juice in stages, because I wasn't sure what size a medium lime would be exactly, plus some limes are dry, etc. I made it fairly tangy, but not so much as to overwhelm the other flavors. Teaspoon measurements would have been helpful, since I didn't know what the final dish should taste like. I'm having it with rice.

                                                                                                          It's really good. I like the tang from the lime juice. The cumin and heat are there, but not overbearing. I couldn't say it's tea I'm tasting, but there is a different flavor there. I don't really notice the ginger specifically, but I'm sure it's adding to the overall flavor, just like the tea. This is a light, non-creamy, refreshing dish. It just now occurred to me that maybe I shouldn't have had tea/caffeine so close to bedtime. . . .

                                                                                                          7 Replies
                                                                                                          1. re: juster

                                                                                                            I like your approach, using what you have. I'm using up the ground spices I have before buying whole spices and letting the ground stuff sit even longer. Cumin and coriander mostly. (Everything is still delicious so far, and I'm learning what I like.) The grocery checker did look a little surprised when I bought 10 heads of garlic, though!

                                                                                                            1. re: blue room

                                                                                                              Yeah, that's a lot of garlic :) This approach is working well for me. I have had to buy a couple things, but am making good progress on clearing out the pantry and freezer, plus, like I said, trying new things. I think I will buy some curry leaves today because they're in so many of the recipes, and I've skipped some good one just because of I didn't have any. I know I could leave them out, but it sounds like they add a distinct flavor and aroma.

                                                                                                            2. re: juster

                                                                                                              The tea bags are actually to give color more than flavor. I suppose de-caffeinated could prevent any late night buzz :)

                                                                                                              1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                                                Ahhhh... The tea definitely soaked in and gave the beans a toasty brown color, yes.

                                                                                                                1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                                                  I wondered about the turmeric -- it has a taste, but not a lot -- is it mostly for color too?

                                                                                                                  1. re: blue room

                                                                                                                    Turmeric is added for color and health properties but not for taste. Actually, if one has added enough turmeric to a dish that one can taste it, the dish is pretty much ruined. It's used sparingly even though it appears in like, rough guess, 85-90% of dishes across the region. Although I noted when I was cooking that I chose several dishes from 660 Curries that did not contain turmeric even though they were diverse dishes.

                                                                                                                    1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                                                      I shook a little in my hand to taste it, was afraid it was old because the taste was barely there, so it's good to know. The cover colors of the book are so apt!
                                                                                                                      I'm loving this month of "660", very little in my past cooking is Indo, Indian at all.

                                                                                                              2. Tonight I made several things from this book.

                                                                                                                Fenugreek Perfumed Black-Eyed Peas, page 321. This was very easy using frozen black-eyed peas. There is a little box on the bottom of the page that gives you conversions when using canned or frozen peas (thanks Raghavan!). This could be a quick week night supper using frozen peas.I had not cooked much with fenugreek and I really enjoyed the flavor. Really different! I served it with some bread, tomato chutney and yogurt, a side of the Chopped Cucumber, Tomato and Onion salad on page 741. This salad added a nice fresh, crunchy lime kick to the plate. It was a great meal tonight by the fire pit outside with a G&T. Perfect.... light but filling.

                                                                                                                I also made the Skinned Whole Black Lentils with browned onions on page 365. I had not had black lentils before, these were very good. I put them in a mason jar in the fridge to design a dinner around later this week. They are quite "dark" and savory tasting, and would be delish with cilantro over the top and yogurt with maybe a chickpea flour pancake for a complete meal- or as a side dish to beef with a green salad. I haven't decided yet, but they are worth making again, and I will be trying more black lentil recipes for sure.

                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                1. re: sedimental

                                                                                                                  Fenugreek-Perfumed Black-Eyed Peas with a Tomato Sauce (methi lobhia) p 321

                                                                                                                  This was a quick and easy weeknight meal. Using canned black-eyed peas made it even faster. The curry was *quite* spicy and I wished I had some yogurt on hand to help tame the heat, or had thought to remove some of the seeds from my chiles before cooking them. The tomato sauce had a lovely depth of flavour, with a smoky pungency from the methi which we all loved. I served it with the buttery basmati rice with spinach and onion, which I will review in the appropriate thread.

                                                                                                                  I just love the huge variety of legume-based curries in this book. For some reason I have many, many black-eyed peas in my pantry that have been waiting patiently to be used, and here at last they have their chance to shine.

                                                                                                                2. Bengali-Style Green Papaya (Kanch Pepe Jhol), pg. 643

                                                                                                                  Wow, this one was a hit on many levels. First, cooked green papaya was new to us, and both for flavor and texture we loved it. Second, since I often have a half a green papaya left-over after making a sum-tom, having found a new use for green papaya is very handy. And the combination of flavors in the final dish, just so vibrant and bright yet complex, as Mr. QN put it "Real Indian home-cooking".

                                                                                                                  So, the dish-- cut green papaya into cubes, toss them in bowl w/ ginger paste, turmeric and chopped chilies. Heat some mustard oil in a pan, add Bengali Five-Spice to the oil, then some dried chilies, quickly add the papaya cubes and saute for a few minutes, then add water to de-glaze, reduce heat and simmer. Toward the end of simmering add chopped tomato and cilantro leaf. Serve.

                                                                                                                  1. Eggplant with a Tamarind-Chile Sauce p.490

                                                                                                                    It's such a shame that a gorgeously jewel-coloured raw vegetable can look so hideous and unappetizing when cooked to a chunky mash. Upon surveying the finished dish, I had to remind myself that it's the inside that counts! Luckily, the inner beauty (and taste) of the eggplant compelled me to forgive its appearance.

                                                                                                                    To start: urad dal, coriander seeds, and chiles are fried in oil unti the lentils become reddish brown, then removed to a plate. The dal gives off a nice toasty, nutty scent as it cooks. The dal/spice blend is then ground in a spice blender, but since I don't own one, I used my mortar and pestle. What a workout that provides! The fried dal is harder to crush than small rocks, and I spent the majority of the prep time for the meal on this task. Perhaps I will reconsider purchasing an electric grinder.

                                                                                                                    To the leftover hot oil in the pan goes mustard seeds. When they are all popped out, eggplant cubes, salt, and curry leaves are tossed in and stir-fried for a few minutes to brown. As per the recipe, extra oil is needed for brushing, but there is no mention of what to do with said oil in the instructions. I ended up adding a bit more to the eggplant as it was cooking, because it was sponged up by the aubergines in the pan upon contact.

                                                                                                                    Tamarind paste dissolved in water is stirred into the pan along with the ground-up lentil blend, the pot is covered and simmered until the eggplant is very soft. It is optional to further mash the eggplant with a spoon, but the mass was sufficiently dissolved to my liking.

                                                                                                                    I liked this dish very much. The tamarind gives a nice tartness, but just enough to round out the flavours really well. The lentil spice mix is something new for me, but it lent a subtle mellow note not unlike toasted flour or roux. This recipe is a nice addition to my eggplant repertoire. I reduced the salt a bit and it was just right. My curry leaves were dug out of the depths of the freezer, age unknown, so I picked the least-dry looking ones and doubled up on the amount. They were still pretty good all things considered, though a replacement is definitely in order. Despite my best efforts, all of the urad dal was not adequetely crushed in my mortar, and there were some crunchy bits in with the eggplant, but they had softened enough to leave my molars intact, so all was well.

                                                                                                                    I served this with basmati rice and Fenugreek-Scented Cheese (p.292) but because both dishes were much more dry than I had expected, they didn't pair well with the rice. Or each other, for that matter, but that's certainly not the fault of the recipe.

                                                                                                                    1. Brown Lentils with Cumin and Turmeric (Molu's Sabud Masoor) p. 374

                                                                                                                      I think this is probably one of the simplest dishes in the legume curries section of the book. My pound sack of lentils just says "Lentils" (no color specified) and is a store brand. I've used this kind in the past for lentil soup with spinach, I suppose I'd call the color khaki, a pic below.
                                                                                                                      I cooked these anonymous dots in a rice cooker. It's the "fuzzy logic" kind, which knows when the water is absorbed, so the lentils are tender, but needed more water after I added the flavoring (salt, cayenne, turmeric.) Then some ground cumin (book said seeds, so I adjusted the amount) and ghee was added. The book uses the phrases "meager spices" and "humble dal" for this, but we
                                                                                                                      thought it was just as good as could be! I used buckwheat crepes in lieu of Indian roti for the bread. Nice lunch!

                                                                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                                                                      1. Green Chile Potatoes, Karee Bharee Aloo, page 554

                                                                                                                        A winner for us! Unlike Mr. Iyer, we are not huge potato fans in our house and we can go months without cooking potatoes. But there are so many tempting, lovingly described potato dishes in this book that I though October would not be one of those potato-free months.

                                                                                                                        This is made with cubed Yukon gold potatoes (I skipped peeling out of laziness and thought the final dish suffered no ill effects). A paste of green chile(3-5, I used 2 because didn't want to burn up the kids), mint and cilantro (1 cup each) is made in the food processor. Heat oil and sprinkle in cumin seeds, then add garlic and ginger paste and diced red onion. Potatoes, water and the herbs paste go in as well as some salt (I cut the salt back to 1 tsp and thought it was perfect). Bring to a boil and cover until potatoes are tender (about 15 minutes for me). Prep was pretty easy and went quickly.

                                                                                                                        The result is a really pleasing potato preparation. The herbs make a deep green sauce with lots of flavor. Not too much heat in our finished dish. I am using cayenne peppers from my garden and I think they are not too hot to start with. This made a great accompaniment to leftover Vibrant Chicken and Cauliflower dish described below.

                                                                                                                        1. Cauliflower in an Onion Chile Sauce, Phool Gobhi Pyaaz, page 480.

                                                                                                                          This was a nice easy-going Cauliflower Curry. I picked this mainly because I had cauliflower and tomato to use up and wanted something with ingredients I had on hand. No special spice mixes required and the result was delicious!

                                                                                                                          Basically, a paste is made from onion, coriander, cumin and water. Onion and chiles are sauteed in hot oil until brown along the edges. Then the onion paste is added in and this sauce is cooked down to evaporate the water. More water is added in to deglaze the pan and cauliflower and water is added. This is simmered together until cauliflower is tender, 30-35 minutes. Once cauliflower is tender, tomato and cilantro is folded in and cooked briefly.

                                                                                                                          I have always like Indian Cauliflower preparations and this was no exception. The sweetness of the cauliflower and onion really melded well and contrasted the tomato and cilantro stirred in at the end. I guess evidence of how much we liked it is that it is supposed to serve 6 and my husband and I almost polished it all off with only minimal help from the kids.

                                                                                                                          1. Smokey Eggplant with Garlic and Red Chiles, Baingan Nu Bharto, page 492

                                                                                                                            We grilled last night and I threw on 4 big Japanese eggplants in preparation for making this dish tonight. Once the eggplants are grilled and peeled, the prep is pretty easy on this one. Salt, garlic, and red chiles are smashed together in a mortar and pestle and then mixed in with the eggplant flesh. Ghee is heated up in a skillet and the eggplant is added in and stir-fried for 10-12 minutes.

                                                                                                                            I loved this. Not much to look at (brown eggplant pate) but the flavor was great. When I was preparing it, I had to fight the urge to just pour some EVOO on the grilled eggplant and stir in the last of the home grown tomatoes. But the buttery, garlicky, slightly fiery result was a great treatment of smokey grilled eggplant. We ate this with buttered naan as an appetizer while I finished up the rest of dinner. I could definitely imagine it as described in the headnotes with crostini and a glass of wine!

                                                                                                                            1. Sweet Pineapple with Coconut Milk and Coffee from page 645.

                                                                                                                              This recipe caught my eye the first time I flipped through the book since it was so different from anything else I'd ever seen. I made it along with Cinnamon-flavored black eyed peas, pg. 323, Pork Vindaloo version 3 on page 229 and Nutty Rice with Cashews, Almonds and Fresh Mint on page 712. The recipe requires the Untoasted Sri Lankan Curry Powder from pg. 40.

                                                                                                                              Toast mustard seeds in oil and add a chopped onion. When that's browned, add the curry powder, some finely ground coffee and curry leaves and toast briefly. Add cubed fresh pineapple, coconut milk, salt and cayenne and simmer until the pineapple is cooked but still firm.

                                                                                                                              I made this on a lark because I simply couldn't imagine the combination of flavors, but I ended up really liking it! My pineapple wasn't particularly sweet when tasted raw, but cooking definitely perked up its flavor. The sauce was creamy and sweetish from the coconut, but pleasantly bitter from the coffee with a definite savory note from the various spices. It was kind of desserty, but also not. Very difficult to describe, but delicious. I would be interested to try it with the rice recipe Mr. Iyer recommends, but it tasted good with the rice I made as well. I think it would make a unique and refreshing addition to just about any menu from this book - particularly if you aren't really a dessert person but wouldn't mind a fruit course. It's also a good way to use up a less than stellar pineapple, because the cooking really did improve the flavor of the one I had.

                                                                                                                              6 Replies
                                                                                                                              1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                                                                I know I'll be too curious to leave this one alone!

                                                                                                                                1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                                                                  This sounds fantastic. I will have to add it to the list.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                                                                    I have long been curious about this one. I am familiar with a mango+coconut milk+spices dish and can easily imagine its pineapple counterpart, but the coffee element had me astonished. Glad to get a good report about it so I will try it the next time I get a pineapple.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                                                      One thing I would note is that you'll want the coffee VERY finely ground - I ground mine to a fine powder in my grinder and I could still taste the grit when I sampled the dish about 10 minutes into cooking. After the full half-hour simmer called for in the recipe, the gritty texture was gone, but definitely be sure to use very fine coffee and simmer for the full time. I think instant espresso powder would probably work well in this recipe too.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                                                                        Do you think the finely ground coffee could be replaced by actual coffee decoction (liquid)? That would eliminate the danger of grittiness?

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                                                          Yes, that would probably work - you'd want to remove the cover to let some of the liquid evaporate during simmering, maybe. I actually forgot to cover it entirely and had to add just a touch of water near the end to give it a little more sauciness.

                                                                                                                                  2. Makhani Dal, page 364
                                                                                                                                    Whole Black Lentils with Ginger, Garlic, and Butter

                                                                                                                                    Somehow I thought someone had already made this dal, but if so, I can't find it. I order this dal dish anytime I see it on a restaurant menu, which isn't often. In fact, I have had this in a restaurant exactly three times. It was a signature dish at Namaskar, which has closed. These days I can get it at the Dosa Palace. The best version I have ever had was at Rasika in Washington DC.

                                                                                                                                    Tonight's version was nothing like any of the three versions I have eaten before.

                                                                                                                                    The lentils are washed three times until the water is clear, and then brought to a boil. Any scum is scooped off, but no foam formed on mine. Garlic and ginger paste are added, and then you up the pressure, cooking for 45 minutes, once steam is coming out of the cooker. [Yes. I found a pressure cooked just so I could have this dish!]

                                                                                                                                    After the pressure cooker has released the pressure "naturally," a paste of yogurt, milk solids [I used cream], Punjabi garam masala, cayenne, and butter are beaten into the lentils.

                                                                                                                                    As one would expect from the Pujabi masala is that the spices are warm, with a kick from the Cayenne pepper. My first response was 'sweet' but of course the lentils aren't, but the cinnamon and cloves in the masala conjured sweet memories.

                                                                                                                                    This is a delicious dish, but I do plan to keep experimenting with other recipes I have seen, always searching for the most perfect version.

                                                                                                                                    Served with Aloo Chass [Mattar] and steamed basmati rice.

                                                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                                      Two of us actually did another version of this from the recipe on the next page, I think you are the first to do this one. Glad you liked the recipe, I have the intentions of trying it before the month ends. It looks great in your pic.

                                                                                                                                      Off topic...but Rasika sure is awesome, it's true.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                                        Hi smtucker: somehow I like Julie Sahni's (Classic Indian Cooking) version of Dal Makhani better, though I halve the amount of butter and cream she calls for :). Her version includes tomatoes and onions and a few spices. It's really good. But there are dozens of versions of this dish, so if you like this one, that's all that matters.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                                                          Really? This is one of my favorite books. Somehow I have missed this recipe. On my way to mark it!

                                                                                                                                        2. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                                          I made the Makhani Dal (Whole Black Lentils with Ginger, Garlic, and Butter), page 364 tonight as well. This was my first experience cooking whole black lentils and I'm not sure they're my favorite legume - however, I don't own a pressure cooker, and I think that might have been part of the problem. I added a little more water than called for and simmered the lentils for about 50 minutes. When I tasted them, they seemed done, but I think they probably needed to cook a good bit longer because they were definitely firm, not creamy. Also, the skins split - is that normal with black lentils? I am generally able to keep the skins on brown lentils from splitting if I cook them gently enough.

                                                                                                                                          Anyway, despite the undercooked lentils, I liked the sauce - the Punjabi garam masala is delicious, and I liked the heavy garlic and ginger emphasis (although I screwed up there, too - I missed that they were supposed to be cooked with the lentils and just added them to the finishing sauce instead). Next time I think I would skip the cream and use twice the yogurt, though - I thought the dish would have benefited from more tang. I might also use the sauce with brown or pardina lentils, since I think I generally prefer them.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: biondanonima

                                                                                                                                            The lentils are traditionally cooked for quite a long time until the daal is a liquidy mash and the separated skins just sort of blend in with everything, though there are usually some whole beans visible in the mash (it's not like a puree, though.) I wonder how the texture would be if you cheated and took out a cup of lentils, then pureed the remaining with a stick blender or in the food processor, then added the reserved cup of unpureed lentils back into the pot? I think that may be flaw in the instructions if someone who hasn't had this or made this before ends up with a pot of watery cooked but firm lentils based on the given cooking time.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                                                                              That sounds like a good idea and one I'll try next time. As for the instructions, I agree - it's a little frustrating that most of the dal and bean recipes assume that you have a pressure cooker. There may be alternate instructions for stovetop cooking somewhere in the book, but I didn't find it, and while I'm very experienced at cooking brown and pardina lentils, I've never cooked black ones and I didn't know what the final texture was supposed to be or how long it would take to achieve on the stovetop.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                                                                                Well, I made this again, accidentally - I meant to try a new lentil recipe, but as I was flipping through the book I saw this one and forgot I had already tried it. However, I made a couple of changes to what I did last time, and I ended up with something I like MUCH better.

                                                                                                                                                First off, I made the Whole Milk Solids on pg. 24 that are called for - they make a HUGE difference to the dish, and I will never substitute heavy cream again! The flavor is so delicious and complex, and they also lend a really incredible mouthfeel.

                                                                                                                                                I also decided to try the Cook's Illustrated method for cooking lentils - I brined them briefly, then cooked them in the oven at 350 for about an hour (covered by a couple of inches of water). After an hour, they weren't completely broken down, but I was hungry and impatient, so I pulled them, drained most of the excess water and added the yogurt sauce. For my taste, the texture is fabulous - they are soft and creamy but still whole - perhaps not authentically Indian but delicious to me!

                                                                                                                                          2. Aloo Chass [Mattar], page 547
                                                                                                                                            Chunky Potatoes with Buttermilk

                                                                                                                                            For me, this was a dish to make because all of the ingredients, especially real buttermilk, were in my pantry.

                                                                                                                                            Russets or Yukon potatoes are peeled and cut into 2" cubes and submerged into a bowl of water. Next you soak dried red Thai or cayenne chiles in boiling water. I substituted Tien Tien chiles since that was what I had! After the peppers have soaked for 15 minutes, the peppers, cilantro, garlic and salt are pounded in a mortar into a chunky paste. [Well, my paste was chunky.]

                                                                                                                                            The potatoes are drained while oil heats up in a pan. The paste is added to the oil and fried for 1-2 minutes. This smelled GOOD! Then the potatoes and tumeric are added to the pan and cooked, stirring to distribute the tumeric to cover for about a minute. The pepper soaking liquid is added and brought to a boil, which was almost instantaneous. The temperature is lowered and covered, cooking for another 15-20 minutes. When the potatoes are tender, you add buttermilk and cream and then simmer for 2-3 minutes.

                                                                                                                                            My dal was behind the potatoes so I waited to add the buttermilk/cream. During that waiting time it occurred to me that I wanted something green. Indian, potatoes, why of course, add some peas! I thawed some frozen baby peas and when it was time to bring the potatoes back to temp, I added them before the buttermilk/cream.

                                                                                                                                            We really like this dish tremendously. It was quite spicy but in a really good way. What had started as a throw-away dish became an integral part of the dinner. This will get marked as a keeper, and to be honest, I have no idea if an Indian grandmother would faint at the addition of peas, but I would do it again.

                                                                                                                                            2 Replies
                                                                                                                                            1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                                              Nope fainting grandmas, aloo-matar is a classic combination. When you indoctrinate your daughter in law, you can insist that this is an ancient tradition, handed down in your family starting from an ancestral demi god in the Indus Valley :)

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                                                                Sadly, my only child is a daughter and she prefers men. No daughter-in-laws to threaten with ancestral demi gods, but perhaps a granddaughter can be offered. :-)

                                                                                                                                            2. Aromatic Green Beans with Pounded Mustard and Cardamom - p. 508

                                                                                                                                              My bf was less than pleased to see green beans in our CSA box this week, so I decided to try this recipe to see if the spices would overwhelm the green bean taste for him. This recipe was definitely a success on that count. I like green beans quite a bit and didn't get much of their flavor in this dish. The combination of the cardamom, mustard, cilantro, lime juice, and coconut is excellent and the chiles aren't prominent at all. I'd be happy to repeat this one.

                                                                                                                                              To make, a pounded mixture is made by combining in stages rock salt, mustard seeds, cardamom seeds, and dried chiles, then cilantro, then shredded coconut, and finally lime juice, sugar, turmeric, and curry leaves. I used kosher salt in place of the rock salt. In a medium skillet, cumin seeds are toasted in oil. Green beans are then added and cooked until they blister. The pan is deglazed with water, covered, and simmered for 15 minutes or so. The pounded mixture is then stirred and the mixture simmers uncovered until the sauce thickens a bit.

                                                                                                                                              1. Kidney Beans and Chickpeas with a tart onion sauce (Chana Rajmah), p363

                                                                                                                                                I wanted to use my brand new pressure cooker and this recipe appealed to me. Unfortunately, I had a MASSIVE disaster using the pressure cooker so some advice would be much appreciated!

                                                                                                                                                I followed the instruction and rinsed half a cup of kidney beans and chickpeas before adding four cups of water and bringing to the boil. I put the lid on and once the whole thing was up to pressure I reduced the heat. However, this meant the weight stopped turning so I switched the heat back up again which helped but it was still spinning very slowly/ intermittently. After about 40 minutes I started to smell burning, and then the pressure suddenly dropped. So I took the whole thing off the heat and opened the lid - to find a burned mess of beans on the bottom of the cooker! Aaagh! Not sure what went wrong here - can anyone shed any light. If it helps, the beans had been hanging around for quite a while.

                                                                                                                                                Anyway, after this disaster, I decided to proceed with the recipe using canned beans and it went fairly smoothly. I heated oil, then added panch phoron (a bought blend) and cooked briefly. Added garlic, ginger and onion pastes and cooked until the oil began to separate - around 5 minutes. Stir in ground coriander, salt, chile and turmeric and cook. Add tomato paste and sugar, cook, then add water to make a sauce. I messed up here and added the water before the tomato paste and sugar.

                                                                                                                                                You then pour the sauce over the cooked pulses and simmer together for about ten minutes so the flavours meld. As I was using canned beans, I heated them through with some water first, as instructed in the tips.

                                                                                                                                                I thought this was just OK. It's tasty, but very mild. Comfort food, basically, as he says in the note. I think it will be nice for lunch in a tortilla or roti.

                                                                                                                                                I am now nervous about using the pressure cooker!

                                                                                                                                                15 Replies
                                                                                                                                                1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                  So sorry about the new pc disaster GG. What brand of pc is it? I am not familiar with the "weight spinning" thing that you describe, as neither my Fagor nor my Hawkins does this.

                                                                                                                                                  I have had this happen to me a couple of times but that was because there was not enough water. Your ratio of half cup beans to 4C water sounds safe.

                                                                                                                                                  The only other thing I can think of is that 40 minutes at high heat sounds very long. I have never heard of a pc taking that long. When I cook chickpeas / rajmah I cook 1-2 cups (dry, then soaked) at a time, and it takes about 20 to 30 minutes, after the pressure comes up and I reduce the heat ....

                                                                                                                                                  Cleaning that burnt mess out must have been a pain. But don't despair. Try again with the pc and you will get it.

                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                                                                    Thanks Rasam. Yes, cleaning the pan was not fun! It's a brand called Tower that's been around for ages. My Mum has one from the seventies! There's a weight that sits on the vent pipe and hisses and rotates when the pressure increases.

                                                                                                                                                    The recipe has you cook unsoaked beans for an hour to an hour and a quarter. I checked and the author said that it tells you in the recipe when to soak the pulses. However in the instruction booklet for the pc it specifies to soak chickpeas and red kidney beans for an hour in boiling water before cooking in the PC for about 20 mins. I'm thoroughly confused!

                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                                                                      Agree with 40 minutes being too much. I cook Rajma (kidney beans) for about 15 minutes after the pressure builds. Dals depend on type, but it usually also 10-15 minutes.

                                                                                                                                                      I know what you mean about the revolving weight. Those are the old fashioned cookers. My mom had one for years.

                                                                                                                                                      As for using a rice cooker to cook lentils, I have never tried it, but I can't imagine it cooking the lentils enough to make them mushy, which is what you want for most Indian lentil dishes. You want them falling apart so they turn into a purée of sorts.

                                                                                                                                                      1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                                                                                                        The ghing is, though, the pulses weren't remotely cooked - just burnt and hard.

                                                                                                                                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                          More pressure cooker woes. I tried to use it to cook chickpeas this morning, following the instructions in the booklet, and the blooming thing wouldn't come up to pressure. I rang the helpline, and was told that I'd probably damaged the fusible disc in the safety valve by over-pressurising the cooker yesterday. They're sending me some spare discs in the post, as it's easy to replace apparently.

                                                                                                                                                          So no I'm cooking the darn chickpeas the traditional way - having semi-cooked them in the pressure cooker! I will get the hang of this pressure cooking malarkey one day!

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                            Malarky indeed! Your story is an example of why I have never owned a pressure cooker. But now that I have taken the plunge, I am as determined as you are, to figure out how to use it correctly.

                                                                                                                                                            It is a bit of a black box since you can't see what is happening in there.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                                                              Ha -- this thread is steering me straight toward *not* getting a pressure cooker. Besides, where would I put it?

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                                                                Hi smtucker - if you can get used to the concept, the whole beauty is that you don't have to see what's going on inside the pc, no stirring, watching etc. In today's time and fuel crunched world, I can't imagine why anyone would prefer the long and vigilant hours of stovetop cooking for certain basic staples.
                                                                                                                                                                I think there is another member of chow who has written a book and has a web site all about pressure cooking (I wish I could remember), and if someone can recall who she is, maybe you could read her threads, or she could drop into this one and give the benefit of her experience.

                                                                                                                                                              2. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                                Alas, what a sorry start to pressure cooking. It's great that you plan to persevere, because those of us who are accustomed to this way of cooking can't imagine our kitchens without it.
                                                                                                                                                                Especially we whose food is so heavily bean and dal based, the savings in time, fuel, money, etc. with a pc are so great.
                                                                                                                                                                Some people love their slow cookers, but with a pc you can just make decisions right then, and have dinner on the table ~ 20 minutes later.
                                                                                                                                                                I hope it works out for you.

                                                                                                                                                        2. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                          I agree with Rasam's assessment of the length of time most likely being the problem. I know there are soak and no soak camps, but I soak large legumes like chick peas and rajma. Then I throw away the soaking water, and PC for maybe 15-20 mins. I use an old Hawkins and keep it on medium high till I get a blast from the whistle, then turn the flame down and let it simmer for a little while (maybe 10 mins), perhaps getting 2 more blasts from the whistle.

                                                                                                                                                          Glad the recipe worked out with canned beans. I hope it wasn't too hard to clean out the burnt bottom. Better luck next time.

                                                                                                                                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                            greedygirl, I've never had a pressure cooker, but first things first and safety is first! If I remember, you bought this just recently for 20 pounds, you said. Is it a used appliance ? (That seems like a low price.) If it isn't cooking correctly there is something wrong.

                                                                                                                                                            The fault is either with your actions or the pressure cooker, right? Please figure out what the problem is before you use the thing again!
                                                                                                                                                            Forgive me if I'm overreacting.

                                                                                                                                                            1. re: blue room

                                                                                                                                                              I'd also like to know if anyone else uses a rice cooker for beans or legumes? I tried some lentils recently and it worked like a charm. Not mushy, tender and separate.

                                                                                                                                                              1. re: blue room

                                                                                                                                                                I used my new pressure cooker last night for the first time with great success. But, cooking this way feels like a huge leap of faith. I have NO idea what is going on in there. I am not sure how much steam is the right amount for the optimum cooking pressure. Recipes that have been specifically written as pressure cooker recipes will at least give an estimate of time.

                                                                                                                                                                I am betting that there will be a learning curve. Well, at least for me there will be.

                                                                                                                                                                Whoops... I answered a question, but not the one blueroom asked!

                                                                                                                                                                1. re: blue room

                                                                                                                                                                  Hi Blue room: the rice cooker would work great for the quick-cooking split dals like moong dal, masoor dal, etc. Toor and chana dals I don't know (unless you soak them). I am also doubtful of whether the rice cooker will be able to handle the unsplit (sabut) beans like chana, rajmah, sabut urad, sabut moong, sabut masoor etc.

                                                                                                                                                                  The RC may work better for non-Indian recipes where dals are meant to be creamy in texture, not separate.....

                                                                                                                                                                2. re: blue room

                                                                                                                                                                  Blue room - it was brand new. Will try again using the instructed method and see what happens.

                                                                                                                                                              2. Tonight's dinner, again chosen with the priority of being very quick cooking and with ingredients in stock:

                                                                                                                                                                1. Moong nu Dal (Sweet Tart Split Green Lentils) p 383.

                                                                                                                                                                I PC's 1 cup moong dal with 3 C water, salt and haldi to taste. Moong dal is so quick cooking. When the pressure comes up really high, I just turn off the heat and let it cook while the pressure comes down naturally.
                                                                                                                                                                Tadka: little oil, then hing, cumin, mustard seed, red chilly powder, when the spices sizzle, add 1 T jaggery (Indian brown sugar). The recipe calls for adding 1 large diced tomato here, but I added 1 can diced tomato to the cooked dal. Dump the tadka into the dal, sprinkle lots of chopped cilantro, and done!

                                                                                                                                                                I very much liked the sweet and tart taste. The family is not used to the sweet touch in Gujarati cooking (not common in Tamil cooking other than a couple of specific dishes), and didn't take to this dal so much. All were OK eating it, no one disliked this, but I thought it was very good.

                                                                                                                                                                I just love seeing how many many ways you can take this most humble of dals, and turn out fantastically tasty, quick and easy, delicious and nutritious, dish after dish after dish. Never get tired of it. I just can't understand why people say they don't like beans or lentils etc.

                                                                                                                                                                With the dal we had:

                                                                                                                                                                2. Lotus root and yam (p 515).

                                                                                                                                                                The yam here is suran (elephant yam in India). Available ready diced frozen. Lotus root is uncommon in South Indian cooking though it grows widely. Odd because it has a very nice crunchy texture that can be compared to the widely used banana stem (pith). I personally like LR a lot and often look for new ways to make it, and this recipe is very practical and tasty.
                                                                                                                                                                BTW: LR is very nutritious according to the bag (74% RDA of iron! and has some Vit C and Calcium), and suran also has Vit C and Ca.

                                                                                                                                                                I had an 12 oz bag of yam and another 12 oz bag of frozen lotus root, and adjusted the spices accordingly.

                                                                                                                                                                Steamed the frozen vegs in the pc (in a steamer insert). Again, brought up to pressure and then let the pressure come down naturally. The end result was about 80% cooked, which worked out very well.

                                                                                                                                                                Diced together: shallots, ginger, green chillies. Sauteed in oil along with pine nuts. When these are brown and soft (not the pine nuts), added the pre-steamed suran and lotus root and turmeric. Covered, sprinkled a little water, and let it continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes. Salt to taste. Sprinkle 2 tbsp toasted besan.

                                                                                                                                                                Again, a very pleasant dish, if you have these ingredients in your freezer. The LR is crunchy like water chestnut and I think RI says you can substitute if you like. The suran has a slighly crunchier texture than potatoes, though it is cooked till just this side of soft.

                                                                                                                                                                Family was OK with it, I think they are a little disconcerted with all the experimentation going on. They liked this sabzi better than the dal.

                                                                                                                                                                I thought both were very very nice. Very easy and tasty weeknight food.

                                                                                                                                                                Ate with rice and plain yogurt on the side.

                                                                                                                                                                I would be happy to make these again.

                                                                                                                                                                1. A Potato Mix with a Cracker Peppercorn Sauce - p. 584

                                                                                                                                                                  We received sweet potatoes in our CSA box last week and truth be told, sweet potatoes are not my favorite vegetables as they bring back bad Thanksgiving memories of overly sweet side dishes. I thought adding plenty of spice might be the way to go and this recipe seemed appropriate for celebrating a non-traditional Thanksgiving. The sauce on this wasn't as spicy as I thought it would be given the description, but it did do an excellent job of offsetting the overly sweet sweet potatoes.

                                                                                                                                                                  To make, chopped regular potatoes and sweet potatoes are simmered in water. While they simmer, rock salt (I used kosher), black peppercorns, whole cloves, cardamom seeds, and cinnamon sticks are pounded together. I may've pounded for a bit longer than I needed to just because the aroma of these being mixed together was so intoxicating. Ground kashmiri chiles (or cayenne + paprika) are stirred into the mixture. I got distracted at this point and almost forgot to add these in! The potatoes are drained, reserving some of the cooking water and the saucepan reused to heat some oil and pop mustard seeds. Chopped tomatoes, curry leaves, and the spice mixture are then stirred in and cooked until the potatoes soften up a bit. The reserved water is returned to the pan along with the potatoes and the mixture is cooked until the potatoes are rewarmed. Stir in cilantro and serve.

                                                                                                                                                                  The book has a few more sweet potato/potato recipes and I have a few more sweet potatoes, so I may have to work my way through the rest of them, but this one was a winner for the evening.

                                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: TxnInMtl

                                                                                                                                                                    I liked his description of biting into a peppercorn morsel -- a "slap in the face" ! You found it a less physical dish, I guess that's good. And whenever he suggests wrapping potato concoctions in (thin flatbread) rotis, I want one.

                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: blue room

                                                                                                                                                                      I think I pounded the peppercorns a bit too much to get a slap in the face from them sadly! His descriptions of these recipes are great and I share his love of potatoes, so it's great to see the variety of potato dishes here.

                                                                                                                                                                  2. Chickpeas with Spinach and Mustard Seeds (Chana Saag), p334

                                                                                                                                                                    I hated this. Really hated it. I've just thrown away the leftovers. BUT, and it's a BIG BUT, I think this was down to the fact I used a pound of frozen spinach, rather than a pound of fresh. I don't think I like the taste of frozen spinach (which I hardly ever use). I found it overly strong, and it overwhelmed the other ingredients. So I would try this again, but using fresh spinach - especially as I have a ton of Sambhar masala left over.

                                                                                                                                                                    Once you've made the masala (report on appropriate thread), this comes together pretty quickly, as long as you have fried onion paste to hand. Heat ghee or oil (I used oil), then add mustard seeds and cover. Once they've stopped popping, add fried onion paste, tomato puree, sambhar masala, salt and chickpeas. Stir to coat well with the sauce. Add two cups of water and bring to the boil. Add the spinach, and continue to simmer until the sauce has thickened.

                                                                                                                                                                    As I said, this was unpleasantly bitter and I couldn't taste anything other than the frozen spinach. I served it with the Cayenne-Spiked Cauliflower on p479, which was delicious, thankfully, and some wholemeal chapattis bought from an Indian grocer.

                                                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                                      Oh no! Sorry to hear you hated it. Frozen spinach can be yucky, particularly as a main ingredient. I've made that mistake before, too.

                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                                        It's the frozen spinach :(
                                                                                                                                                                        I had made this a while ago I like how simple it is but, too bland for me and so I used a spicy brand of sambar masala ( store brought).

                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: pallavykulkarni

                                                                                                                                                                          That's interesting - I didn't find it very spicy either. And I have a lt of leftover masala. Maybe I could add extra cayenne/ chilli?

                                                                                                                                                                      2. Cayenne-Spiked Cauliflower, Masaaledar Phool Gobi, p479

                                                                                                                                                                        Another yummy cauliflower dish. This one's pretty spicy, as the title suggests.

                                                                                                                                                                        To make, stir-fry onion, garlic and fresh ginger until the onion is caramel brown and soft, around 12 minutes. Sprinkle in cumin, coriander, salt, cayenne and turmeric and cook for 30 secs. Add a can of tomatoes, cauliflower and a cup of water. Deglaze and heat to boiling. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer until the cauli is tender - about 15 minutes,

                                                                                                                                                                        To thicken, add toasted chickpea flour and simmer a bit more. I actually forgot to do this when I made the dish last night (flustered from the Great Pressure Cooker disaster), but added it tonight when I heated up the leftovers. It actually made the dish tastier, so I definitely wouldn't miss out this step.

                                                                                                                                                                        Loved this, and now I've got toasted chickpea flour in the fridge, will definitely make again. You can't go wrong with spiced cauli dishes, imho.

                                                                                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                                          Sorry about the spinach, but the masaledaar phoolgobhi sounds great. Having grown up with recipes such as this, I have always loved cauliflower and can't wrap my head around how many people claim to dislike it. I think they have been the victims of bad cooking.

                                                                                                                                                                          You could add potatoes to the dish too, and/or green peas. Sprinkle cilantro when done. This was standard in my college dining room rotation (as it probably was in countless similar across Northern India) and everyone liked it. Ate with pooris or chapatis.

                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                                            Cayenne-Spiked Cauliflower (page 479)

                                                                                                                                                                            I just loved this, too. And I'm so pleased I read your report, gg, before I went ahead with the dish because I wasn't going to bother with the toasted chickpea flour. Surprised at what a difference it made. I love Rasam's idea of adding peas to this. Will try it that way next time.

                                                                                                                                                                          2. Green Beans with Tomato, p. 511

                                                                                                                                                                            I chose this recipe principally because I had green beans and tomatoes that needed using, and it doesn't require any other ingredients than those, cilantro, water, and spices in my pantry.
                                                                                                                                                                            Nevertheless, it ultimately ended up a complex and really good dish that I will happily make again.

                                                                                                                                                                            I had 10 oz. of green beans, so I made half a recipe. They're meant to be chopped in 1/2" lengths, but I did more like 1" (just personal preference). Mustard seeds are popped in oil in a covered saucepan, the cover is removed and cumin seeds are added. The pot comes off the heat and ground coriander, cumin, cayenne, turmeric, asefetida (I didn't have), salt, and sugar are added, then the beans are added and tossed to coat in the spices. Back on the heat the pan goes, and water and chopped tomatoes added. After it comes to a boil, the pot is covered, the heat reduce, and it cooks until the beans are fork-tender. I uncovered it and turned up the heat at the end to reduce the liquid, and in fact let it cook down until there was just a small bit of sauce and the flavor was more concentrated. At the end cilantro is added before serving.

                                                                                                                                                                            In a tip at the end of the recipe, Iyer suggests subbing 1 1/2 T. jaggery or brown sugar for the 1
                                                                                                                                                                            tsp. granulated sugar for more depth. I used 1 tsp. turbinado sugar, so less than the 1 3/4 tsp. he suggests (for my half recipe) and that was a good choice, as I thought the caramel undertones worked very nicely with the spices and the heat from the cayenne. All in all, it was very satisfying and also good cold for lunch the next day with leftover cucumber raita.

                                                                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                                                                                                                                              Green Beans with Tomato, p. 511

                                                                                                                                                                              We had this for dinner last night and really enjoyed it too. Like CM I made a half recipe, I did have the asefetida and did use it, used plain old white sugar, but I can see how this would be very good with jaggery. My beans were hearty end of the season pole beans and they were just perfect for this dish. We both really liked the mustard/cumin/tomato dominated sauce and I left it pretty saucy as we were having it as a side to a fairly dry-sauced chix curry.

                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: qianning

                                                                                                                                                                                Kind of ridiculous, but I made this again tonight for some last minute company--needing something that I knew would taste good, and come together quickly without much thought on my part--and we still like it a lot, and so did the company, not a drop left.

                                                                                                                                                                              2. Mrs. Vakharia's Peanutty Spinach - p. 591

                                                                                                                                                                                This one just didn't do it for us. The problem may have stemmed in part from my substitution of kale for spinach, but I think our biggest issue is that we felt like we were eating spinach and peanuts rather than one side dish. The other problem may've been that we both loved the peanutty spinach topping for the scallops in this book and this recipe was quite different from that one.

                                                                                                                                                                                To make, the greens are wilted in boiling water, drained reserving 1 cup of the water, and chopped. Cumin seeds are then cooked in oil and a mixture of peanuts, coriander, ground cumin, sugar, salt, cayenne, asafetida, and turmeric is added very briefly before adding the reserved water, chopped greens, and ginger. I think we would've liked this dish more if the peanuts had been chopped or ground rather than whole. It would've eliminated the textural contrast Iyer mentions in the nice intro though and perhaps let the spices burn. With so many good recipes in this book though, I doubt we'll be experimenting further with this one.

                                                                                                                                                                                1. Subzi Dalcha (Pg. 632)

                                                                                                                                                                                  I must say I am very excited to make my first post for this month's COTM. It has been hectic this far this month so I have been a bit delayed in my start, but my first attempt was a resounding success. I have to say Indian cuisine can be a bit of a challenge around our house because my partner isn't always a big fan. That being said, we were able to travel to India twice over the past year and he has started to warm up to the cuisine overall, especially the richer Mughlai style dishes.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Because of his penchant for rich creamy sauces I was a little worried about this one, but it went over fabulously. Essentially this to me was much like a cross between a mixed vegetable curry and a dal (which is what I believe the name was implying), which made for a very nutritious and satisfying meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Yellow split peas are simmered before adding the main vegetable players (carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and green beans) which have a leisurely simmer until they are joined by some salt and turmeric. Meanwhile you are sauteeing, chilies, garlic, and cumin seeds in some ghee which will be drizzled into the dish in the last minutes of cooking before the subzi is thickened and garnished with a bit of ginger and cilantro.

                                                                                                                                                                                  Easy to put together yet very high on the flavour quotient. I must admit I was a bit of a wimp and I seeded the six chilies he called for. The result was a medium spice level for me, which I thought was very appropriate given the subtle flavours of the other players in this dish. Also, in the past I have not been very successful with the separate cooking of aromatics and the addition of these fellows at the end of cooking, to my western mind this seems counter intuitive as we almost always saute the aromatics at the very beginning. I have attempted this with a few other recipes from other books and I have often found it doesn't impart enough flavour to the dish. This time around that definitely wasn't the case. Mr. Iyer has lightly saute 6 chilies and 6 garlic cloves with the cumin seeds, which when combined with the main dish did a great job of seasoning it. The flavours blended in but remained slightly independent as they had only mingled for a few minutes at the end. Either way, I am a convert to this method of post seasoning with flavoured oils and aromatics. I did however simmer the aromatics very gently for closer to 6 minutes (he suggests 2).
                                                                                                                                                                                  Very happy with the results, my only quibble might be the addition of the ginger at the end. Iyer has you put in some finely julienned ginger which gets about 5 minutes of cooking, for me this wasn't quite enough as the ginger, despite being finely julienned, still had a bit of a raw edge to it.
                                                                                                                                                                                  I would definitely make this again.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: delys77

                                                                                                                                                                                    Such a nice post! I have to admit "Seasonal Vegetables with Yellow Split Peas" didn't inspire me until now.
                                                                                                                                                                                    Off topic, I've used buckwheat flour to sub for chickpea flour, it seems right.

                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: blue room

                                                                                                                                                                                      Thanks Blue Room, always easy to write about a good recipe. It was my first time thickening with the chickpea flour and it worked quite well. Always interesting using new products.

                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Yellow split peas with tomato and curry (Tamatar chana dal) p.420

                                                                                                                                                                                    I had intended to make Cumin-scented pigeon peas with mango on p.427 - I had the Maharashtrian garam masala made and the dal cooking then I cut into the mango and it was inedible. So quick change of plan and this one fitted what I had available. Garlic, green chiles and coriander seeds are pounded together with a pestle and mortar. I would do the coriander seeds first, tip them out, then do the garlic and chiles, then tip the seeds back in for a final melding as I found the seeds kept jumping out as the chiles really needed a good bashing to get broken down. This mixture is then fried up with some ghee, some chopped tomato added with turmeric and that fried for a bit then this is added to the dal with chopped cilantro.

                                                                                                                                                                                    At this point I was a bit confused. I have never made dal before and there was quite a bit of water still in the pan. There was no instruction to drain the peas and he said to add another 1/2 cup of water. I didn't drain them but I didn't add the extra water and I thought it was easily liquid enough. Tasted good, nice variety of flavors from spices and herbs.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: JaneEYB

                                                                                                                                                                                      Jane EYB, You do not have to drain the peas/ cooked daal.
                                                                                                                                                                                      Chana Daal/ split yellow peas daal will thicken as it cools, so if there is any additional water, no worries.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: pallavykulkarni

                                                                                                                                                                                        Thanks pallavykulkarni - but if I had added the extra 1/2 cup of water it would have been really soupy and I was eating it right away (without rice), not cooling it. I liked it anyway but I just wondered if it was meant to be very watery. I have saved most of it in the fridge so maybe I will need to add more water to the rest tomorrow.

                                                                                                                                                                                    2. Finally got around to making a couple things from the COTM!

                                                                                                                                                                                      Slow-Cooked Onion with Pigeon Peas (Dal Fry), page 432: you cook the dal until tender. While the dal is cooking, you pop some mustard seeds, then add sliced red onion and sliced green chillis. When the onion is browned, you add ground cumin, fenugreek, mustard seeds, turmeric and salt. When you add chopped tomatoes, cilantro and curry eaves and cook it a bit. You then purée the dal in a blender and then add in the onion tomato mixture.

                                                                                                                                                                                      We thought this was very good, but it really reminded us of sambhar without the veggies. Instead of pureeing the dal in a blender, I used a stick blender in the pot. I also felt it was very thick, so I added some more water to thin it out a bit.. I also omitted the cilantro as I do not like the flavor (tastes like soap to me). I would definitely make this again.

                                                                                                                                                                                      Cayenne Spiked Cauliflower (Masaledaar Phool Gobi), page 479: I thought this was good. You sauté sliced onion, garlic and ginger, then add your ground spices, canned diced tomatoes and the cauliflower florets along with a cup of water. Cover and cook until tender. At the end, you add some toasted chickpea flour to thicken the sauce.

                                                                                                                                                                                      I had to make use fresh tomatoes in this instead of canned as hubby came back with a can of stewed tomatoes instead of diced tomatoes. I also skipped the cilantro garnish. The recipe called for 1 tsp of cayenne, but my extra hot chilli powder from the Indian market is hotter than cayenne so I only used about .5 tsp, which was more than enough.

                                                                                                                                                                                      1. - Chickpeas with Mango Powder p. 330
                                                                                                                                                                                        This dish was simple to make. Basically chickpeas with a flavourful tomato sauce (without any garlic, ginger or onions!). I used passata instead of crushed tomatoes. Flavoured with cumin, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, coriander, chile flakes and mango powder (amchur). It seemed like a lot of mango powder, 2 tbsp, but I went with it and it was great. A nice depth of flavour. I chose not to add any sugar and I did not find this overtly tart, either. I was tempted to throw a handful of spinach in this and wish I had.

                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Brown lentils with cumin and turmeric/Molu's Sabud Masoor, p374

                                                                                                                                                                                          I really liked this one - and for those of you following the Pressure Cooker saga, finally, success!

                                                                                                                                                                                          It's very, very easy. Cook whole brown lentils in the pressure cooker (more on that later), then add salt, cayenne and turmeric to the cooked legumes. Simmer, stirring occasionally. Heat ghee or butter (I used butter as I forgot to buy ghee in the Indian store the other day), add cumin seeds and cook until they sizzle, turn aromatic and reddish brown. Add to the dal, along with some chopped cilantro, and stir once or twice. That's it.

                                                                                                                                                                                          In the note to this recipe, RI says it's a humble dal that balances hot, nutty and tart flavours. Writing that, I just realised that I forgot the lime juice at the end! No matter, there's plenty left over and I really enjoyed it. Amazing how a few simple ingredients can combine to such effect.

                                                                                                                                                                                          (For those interested, it turned out that the PC was missing a small, but vital component. I only realised this when they sent me some spare fuseable discs to fit in the safety valve, only to find that there wasn't one to start with. No wonder it wasn't reaching pressure - there was a hole in the safety valve for the steam to escape through! Anyway, it seems to be working fine now. My brown lentils cooked down perfectly to the required mushy consistency.)

                                                                                                                                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                                                            So glad to see this! No explosions, no scalding. It's the supper should be cooked, not the cook.
                                                                                                                                                                                            So now that's resolved, it's nice also to hear that it's easy to do and it gets the comsistency right too.
                                                                                                                                                                                            I didn't get at first that some of these dishes (vegetables too) are supposed to be cooked until they're really relaxed!

                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                                                              One, yea! So glad you have had pressured success. And two, a missing part obviously is important. Reminds me of trying to grind meat with a hand-me-down meat grinder with no success. Turns out you need a blade.

                                                                                                                                                                                              This dish sounds like something we would enjoy tremendously.

                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: greedygirl

                                                                                                                                                                                                That's awesome! I am so glad you persevered and are now getting good results with your pc!

                                                                                                                                                                                                And don't you just LOVE these super-simple recipes that produce such delicious results? I will never grow tired of dal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                It's interesting that this recipe asks you to add salt, red chilli, and haldi to the cooked legumes. Usually I just throw them into the pc with the dal, and cook all together.

                                                                                                                                                                                                And Allegra_K: dals are so wonderfully child friendly, especially eaten with rice with a little ghee mixed in (or butter if you don't have ghee). That will cut the spices a bit for the little ones while the adults can eat theirs 'straight'.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Blue room: crunchy al-dente has no place in dal - that's asking for a tummy ache. Dals should be cooked until creamy. Kala chana keeps its shape most out of all the legumes, but it is soft when you bite into it. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                smtucker: LOL on the blade.

                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Red Lentils with Chiles p.397

                                                                                                                                                                                                Made this on the fly after realizing that every other item on the menu was too spicy for the palate of a 4 year old (I'm working on it!) and we needed something mild to temper the heat. This recipe did the trick.

                                                                                                                                                                                                Red lentils are simmered with ginger and garlic pastes in water dusted with turmeric until cooked. Meanwhile, cumin seeds are fried with onion and fresh and dried chiles (I cut back on those dramatically for The Offspring) and then added to the pot of tender lentils w/salt and simmered to meld the flavours, about 10 minutes. Ghee is swirled in(used butter in a pinch) with cilantro and a generous squeeze of lime and Bob's your uncle.

                                                                                                                                                                                                I used a touch less water than called for, resulting in a nice thick mash to blend in with rice. It was a well recieved dish, very nice every-day comfort food fare for a blustery snow-filled day. I was in a rush to make this and it took less than 30 minutes from start to finish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                                                                                                                                                  This is too funny, I made this tonight for some last minute company. Chose it because I knew the masoor dal would cook quickly. Since chilies weren't an issue, I used the full amount, skipped the ghee but otherwise followed the measurements. It is a looser dal than some, but we all liked it well enough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                                                                                                                                                    I made the Red Lentils with Chillis for dinner tonight. I used 3 large serranos instead of 6 as the recipe called for, and it was just nice. I didn't want the dal to be overly spicy as I was serving it with white rice, a spicy chicken fry and a spicy/sour/sweet butternut squash. We really liked the dal - it was simple and complemented the other items well. I did add a little more water and simmered it for another 20 minutes after adding in the tadka as I wanted it to be on the thin side.

                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Cauliflower and spinach in a black-pepper coconut milk sauce (page 484)

                                                                                                                                                                                                    This is another quick-cooking, flavorful dish. You fry some mustard seeds and cumin seeds quickly and then add cauliflower florets and cook them until they are browned a bit, then add coconut milk, curry leaves and black peppercorns. Cover the pan until the cauliflower is tender, then toss in a bunch of spinach and steam it just a bit longer until the spinach has wilted. The recipe calls for some chopped tomatoes at this stage, but I skipped that as we ate this along with a chicken curry that had some tomatoes in it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    My husband is still raving about this two days later. I though it was good too, very soothing and pretty healthy, but maybe not spectacular.

                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. Gingered Red lentils with Garlic (Aadrak Lasoon Masoor Ki Dal), p. 398

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Photo notwithstanding, this is a lovely little dal, bright yellow with little flecks of red and green. I made only half a recipe, but should have gone for the whole as we had no leftovers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      You rinse 1 c masoor dal (slit brown/"red" lentils), rub, drain, and change water a few times, then cook them, covered, in 3 c water (skimming foam as necessary) until they're tender, suggested time 18-20 minutes. (I checked mine at 12 minutes, and I was a little surprised, maybe a tad alarmed, when they looked feathery, all but disintegrated, but I left them on another 4-5 minutes until the water disappeared.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Meanwhile, you make a paste by adding to a FP (I used a small one) a small red onion, 4 lg. garlic cloves, 4 slices fresh ginger (all peeled & chopped),and 2 stemmed fresh chiles (I used fresh cayennes). Then heat 2 T ghee in a small skillet. Add 1 tsp cumin seeds and 2 dried Thai chiles (I tripled the amt as mine are really tiny) and cook for about 20 seconds, until seeds color and the chiles start to blacken. Add the onion paste immediately, reduce the heat to medium, and stir-fry until the onions start to brown. Now add a tomato (med, peeled, & chopped), 1 tsp coarse kosher salt, and 1/4 tsp turmeric (I doubled this when I forgot I was making half a recipe, but didn't regret it as I loved the color of this dal--not brown, but a bright yellow). This all simmers for about 5 minutes. Finally, you stir this sauce and 1/4 c. finely chopped cilantro into the pan of cooked lentils; simmer another 5 minutes or so to meld flavors.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      Smile; you're done, and they're delicious.

                                                                                                                                                                                                      6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I made this over the weekend. It was super easy and one of the more successful dals I've made. Even my lentil-hating wife had nice things to say about it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        I found it pretty mild, but I did use only one dried chili because we have a toddler and I didn't want to overdo it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                                                                                          Gingered Red Lentils with Garlic

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I think I finally found the dal I've been looking for! I've been searching for one like I've had at Indian and Nepali restaurants. I have been assuming the flavor I'm looking for was lemon or lime, but I think maybe all along it was ginger! This also turned out the right consistency, something I sometimes struggle with. Anyway, highly recommend this one!

                                                                                                                                                                                                          I also want to add that I just love RI's instructions in this book. You can tell he's been a teacher. He tells you not only how long each step should take, but also describes how it should look in such great detail. That's so helpful when cooking an unfamiliar cuisine.

                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: sarahcooks

                                                                                                                                                                                                              Looks fantastic, saracooks! Isn't it wonderful to finally find something you've been seeking for a lengthy amount of time?

                                                                                                                                                                                                              I'll have to add this one to the list.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: sarahcooks


                                                                                                                                                                                                                Funny how we have something in our memories that we are trying to recreate. I am still in my quest to find that perfect Dal Makhani.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: sarahcooks

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  My husband got home pretty late tonight and is only just eating this and he really loves it. And he usually really dislikes dal and tries to think of ways to stop me making it (suggested we go out to eat tonight). He could hardly believe it was so good and wanted to know what I had done to it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Mashed Potato Curry with LIme Juice (Limboo Podi Maas), pg. 561

                                                                                                                                                                                                                Made this as part of our Indian-themed barbecue meal. The whole meal was great, this recipe included. This cooked up in no time while the ribs were grilling.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                You boil diced potatoes, drain (reserve some liquid), and coarsely mash. Pop mustard seeds in oil, add lentils and stir-fry for 15-20 seconds (I omitted the lentils), add turmeric, potatoes, reserved water, cilantro, salt, curry leaves, green chiles. Cook 8-10 minutes, stir in lime juice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                We liked the brightness of this compared to regular mashed potatoes. The mustard comes through nicely and there's a little bit of heat. I've only used curry leaves twice now, and am not sure I recognize their flavor yet. I will be making this dish often, not only when I'm cooking an Indian meal. Thumbs up!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Corn and Tomato Medley (Angrezi Bhutta), pg. 488

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The third and final hit from our Indian-barbecue dinner, with ribs (pg 663) and mashed potatoes (pg 561). So simple. This could very well be the simplest (curry) recipe in the book! Saute onion, stir in Madras curry powder and cook for 30 seconds, add chopped tomato and cook till slightly soft (2-3 min), stir in corn kernels, salt, water. Simmer till sauce thickens, about 10 min. Stir in cilantro.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  We started with farm-fresh corn, so that and the onion gave this a nice, sweet flavor. (Actually, now that I'm eating the leftovers, maybe just a little TOO sweet, not sure how to fix that, maybe not cook the onions as long, because I don't want to add sour.) A little heat, some zip from the tomato and cilantro. This sweetish dish, combined with the tangy potatoes, went great with the ribs, which were called sweet-sour, and were, but wree more rich and aromatic with sweet and sour in the background. I would make this corn again, like I said with the potatoes, with or with out other Indian dishes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Tonight's dinner:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Hyderabadi Wale Lobhia (Fresh Greens with Black Eyed Peas), p 320. Another example of questionable Hindi grammar.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The dish was quite good. Not one of the most sublime, but a very nice blend of BEP, chopped mustard greens and spinach.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Basically you pressure cook the BEP (I added salt and haldi here), then do a tarka of cumin seeds+chopped green chillies+hing+more haldi (why?)+chopped tomatoes (I used 1 can for 1 lb dry BEP).
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Then add a spice powder: karuvapilai podi aka roasted curry leaf spice blend, p 35.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Simmer and serve with the usuals. We ate it as a one-dish meal with rice and yogurt (I didn't bother to make a separate sabzi, salad, etc.)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    RI doesn't give any backstory for this dish so I don't know if it is one of his creations or an existing dish he learned from someone else. It tastes good, but none of us found it knock-your-socks-off good. Hyderabad is in Peninsular India. There are South Indian elements in the technique (adding that kind of spice powder) and tastes (curry leaves, toasted dals, etc). Other elements are more pan-Indian (cumin seed, hing, tomato, beans+greens combination, etc.) BEP is used in South India (karamani in Tamil), but mustard greens are not common in the South. I wonder why this is called Hyderabadi BEP, what is distinctively Hyderabadi about the ingredients or spices?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I began with dry BEP (soaked for a couple hours, which meant just about 10 mins cooking time in the pc) and fresh greens (a lot of trimming, chopping, rinsing, etc.). I had not been able to find frozen mustard greens. I imagine that with canned BEP, frozen greens, this dish will come together extremely quickly and can be a very good weeknight one-dish choice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It's very family friendly: the curry leaf powder was actually rather mild. I used 1.5T of each dal, 1/2 C curryleaves, 5 dry red chillies etc. toasted and powdered and I used it all for the 1 lb dry beans + 1 can tomatoes + 1/2 bunch spinach + 3/4 bunch mustard greens. The end result was not hot but had some nice layers of flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Family would be happy to eat it again, but they are not saying "you HAVE to make this again".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                    4 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Interesting comment about the Hyderabadi thing. I noticed in Indian pop cooking nomenclature there is a tendency to throw around regional names like Hyderabadi, Kashmiri, Kolhapuri, Chettinaad, and so on but the dish doesn't really match the region when one looks at the ingredients. I hadn't noticed that phenomenon so much in 660 Curries so much, but I saw this recipe on p. 693 (Jhinga biryani) and in the intro it says it is Hyderabadi inspired, but the city of Hyderabad is completely land locked and far from the coast and seafood dishes do not characterize the city's cuisine at all. I have a lot of Hyderabadi friends and even some in-laws, and it is my general impression of them that they don't care too much for seafood beyond the occasional mild tasting fish. So I was wondering why this recipe was linked to Hyderabad. Maybe the seasonings were inspired by traditional Hydro biryanis---though they seasonings don't seem to be either...? But this biryani contains mustard greens, too. Anyway, my knowledge is limited, but I had this chain of thoughts when I came across this recipe. I don't mean to nit pick on what is obviously a very good cook book, just saying though. It is my own tendency essentialize Indo-Pak foods based on regionality and ethno-linguistic and religious communities, but in today's modern India where people move around so much and you can get a wider variety of ingredients, especially in major cities, perhaps I need to get beyond that. I dunno.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Another shrimp dish with an into that mentions Hyderabad on p. 271. In this one the ground sesame-tamarind sauce does seem more characteristically Hydro, but once again, to me Hydro shrimp is like Arizona shrimp. Anyway, the recipe does look yummy, but I took note of the liberal invocation of Hyderabad.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        *Random google shows me a shrimp farm in the desert of Arizona and in Banjara Hills, LOL!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Are you serious?! :-O A shrimp farm in AZ and in Hyderabad which is also pretty arid?!! I wonder if it is the actual farm and not just the corporate HQ. Tauba!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But yes, the sesame-tamarind is more in line with one's ideas of a Hyderabad flavor note.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          How was the dish? Could it be recreated with cauli or such for us grass-eaters?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I didn't actually cook the dish, I just noticed the recipe. Sesame, cumin, dried red chiles, and a great number of curry leaves are toasted and then ground together for base of the 'saalan.' It is very different than a standard sesame-coconut-peanut mirchi ka saalan or baghaare baingan recipe, but I am picturing the end results sort of like that or maybe more like a til ki chatni...could def. be done with fried cauliflower, why not?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Dinner tonight was Rassedaar Karelay Ki Subzi from page 465 and the Chilke Aur Dhuli Hui Moong Ki Da from page 388.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        For the Subzi you cut and salt the bitter melon and set it aside. Since I was using the pale green Chinese bitter melon instead of the dark green bitter melon, which tends to be more bitter, I skipped the salting process. Then you fry the melon pieces in oil until light browned. Take those out and then sauté red onion, then add chopped tomato, cayenne, punjabi garam masala, turmeric, and sugar. Add the fried melong back with some water, and simmer for about 1 minutes. garnish with cilantro.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I used my own garam masala instead of making the one from the cookbook. I also skipped the cilantro since I'm not a fan. This was a very good recipe. Karela is one of my favorite veggies, but I will admit that I was very disappointed to see multiple recipes devoted to eggplant, cabbage, cauliflower, potatoes and spinach, but this was the only karela recipe. I wish the author wholly have given more space for karela recipes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        For the dal, you use equal parts skin on split moong and skinless split moong. It says to simmer for 30 minutes, but I used the pressure cooker instead. While the dal cooks, you heat ghee and add some dried chillis and cumin seeds. Then add curry leaves, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric, and salt. Mix into the dal, and garnish with cilantro.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I did tweak the recipe by mixing the ground spices into the ghee first instead of the dal as the recipe called for. I again skipped the cilantro too. This dal was good and simple.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I made fresh rotis to go with dinner, and we had plain yogurt and Achaar (Indian pickles) on the side. A nice simple Sunday dinner. I plan on using the leftover dal to make "dal Di rotian" tomorrow night fr dinner (roti made with dal instead of water,with chopped Onion, chillies, etc).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          boogiebaby, I'm again amazed at the knowledge behind your (and others!) posts. My 660 cooking is small scale, but still delicious. I'm curious about one point though -- is there a reason to put the spices into the butter rather than the dal?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: blue room


                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Googled up this nice article on "tempering." That's the English term for the process of cooking spices in hot fat, and using the seasoned fat to flavor the dishes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The article calls it "tadka" but that's not the term used in all Indian languages...better just to call it tempering in English, just wanted to point that out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: blue room

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Putting the spices in the hot oil/butter allows the favors to opening up, IMO. The flavors blend better into the finished product. We call it "tarkha" in punjabi, which is the step where you fry your onions, garlic, ginger,slices,etc and then add It to your other ingredients.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. Red and Yellow Lentils with Garlic and Curry Leaves/Moong Masoor Dal (page 405

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I prepared this as written except that I used my Asian Holland peppers instead of the ones called for because that was what I had in the freezer. This was very good, although again very soupy, even without adding the half cup of water to deglaze the skillet (which didn’t need deglazing anyway). But all these legume recipes are starting to taste more or less the same to me. I’m beginning to think of this book as 660 Curries, but only 330 flavors. Maybe it’s just time to step away from the legume chapter, but I’m finding this book overwhelming to deal with and I was eager to explore those legumes with which I have limited familiarity.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            And that lack of familiarity is, I’m sure, the cause of most of my problems. I’ve had to go to Julie Sahni’s book for explanations I can’t find here about how to decide what goes with what. For instance, I bought some beautiful house-made Paratha at Kalustyan’s and tried to reheat it to serve with this dish. Evidently this is a soupy dal and should have been served over rice, not with bread. I’m not sure how I should have known that. And when I went to heat up the Paratha, instead of having some body to it so I could use it as a scoop, it became all floppy. Not sure why; all I did was brush it with ghee and heat it for 30 seconds a side as he directs. May be too much ghee?. Oh, and am I supposed to eat the curry leaves or just push them aside? I’m really feeling rather helpless in the face of this book. The spiciness and heartiness of the dishes is making it easy to stay with a (temporarily) vegan/vegetarian diet so I’m enjoying what I’ve made so far, but I suspect I’d be enjoying it even more if the book had half the number of recipes with more information on how best each dish might be served.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                            5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I agree with many things you've said in this post! But I know that after a month (week?) or two I will be *craving* a hot cumin-y dish -- I just know it. Too much of anything in a short amount of time -- sometimes several days in a row of the same flavors and smells -- NOT good, and a drawback of some COTMs.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              A saying from the Tao Ching (Dao Jing?) "Guard the senses and life is ever full." Right!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                              And even though I'm learning that the beans and lentils should be quite wet and broken down, my rice cooker keeps them whole but tender, not a hint of tooth-halt. (Tooth-halt isn't a real thing I just made that up.) So if I have to add water later, I do.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: blue room

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                @ blue room: Love the Tao quote. And it's so true. True, too, that a few weeks from now I'll be craving something with cumin, garlic, and chiles and I will know just where to find it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                @ Rasam: Very helpful, and I appreciate it. I had thought, at first, that I was doing exactly what you suggest in looking for dishes with different flavor profiles. But thinking about it I guess most of what I've made so far has had onion, garlic, chiles, and cumin in addition to whatever else so no surprise that it's been a tad samey-samey.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Julie Sahni says there are soupy dals and thicker dals and that the former should be eaten with rice and the latter with bread. Interesting to have a different point of view and more importantly that I need not worry about it so much. And thanks, too, for the etiquette lesson. No more scooping in this house. At least not with Indian food.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I did eat a few of the curry leaves and thought they did indeed have a pleasant flavor. But a few were enough. Good to know that too is a matter of preference.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Hi Joan:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Scoop if it works for you. :) I was just giving you a description of options when your rotis are supple and bendy and don't lend themselves to scooping something liquidy. You might find a video on youtube.....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I think JS's rule re thicker vs soupier dals was more a rough guide than an absolute decree.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Most people discard the curry leaves. I happen to be an eater :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. re: JoanN

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                To rotate the changes in the dal flavors, try and select based on regions and/or spice combinations, e.g. Northern vs Southern (sometimes given in the backstory), garam masala/other ground blend, or just simple cumin or mustard seed mostly? Tomatoes or not? Onions/garlic or not? You'll get a variety of flavors that way.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Dal *IS* supposed to be soupy (though a few dishes are dry dals). Some of the whole bean dishes are firmer, but dal is a soupy dish. ETA: dal is usually served in small bowls (katoris) that are alongside the main plate (thali) that holds the roti and any other non-runny dishes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Yes, you can eat soupy dals with parathas, pooris, rotis, etc. instead of rice. Eating rice vs roti with dal is a regional issue not a soupiness issue.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                You tear off small pieces of the roti (right hand only). Don't use it as a scoop (from below the dal), but use it as a holder to pinch up a good amount of dal, using 2-3 fingers + thumb, (approach from above the dal). Or you could roll up the roti/paratha, take a bite, and them immediately use a spoon to put a spoonful of dal into your mouth. (One of the few no's is to mix dal and rice and then use roti to eat the resulting mixture).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                LIke eating with chopsticks, eating soupy dishes with fingers neatly and with grace, is an acquired skill. Feel free to use a spoon as needed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Whole curry leaves are edible and are said to have lots of digestive and medicinal properties (I eat mine) and a pleasant flavor - not too strong. But people often push them aside. So, do as you like :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Try cooking the dal a littler longer so the lentils break up a bit more ... Its unusually more of a purée with texture, if that makes sense. Then it wouldn't be watery as the water would be incorporated into it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I'm not a curry leaf eater. :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Shredded Cabbage and Carrots with Chilies (Sambhara) p467

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This is an easy one and a colorful, tasty side dish. My small cabbage was about a 4 or 5 inch diameter and I thinly sliced it with a chopping knife. Its a big pile of cabbage but it cooks down to at least 1/2 the original volume. I shredded the carrots on a box shredder. Short on green chilies, I augmented the heat with a half teaspoon of extra-hot cayenne powder.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: SplendidMonkey

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This sounds great, and I am marking to try..... I thin slice my cabbages on a ceramic mandoline, the only time I use that wicked sharp thing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  2. Yogurt Curry with Cumin and Curry Leaves--page 353

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I make yogurt soup often so I was curious to try this as a contrast. I used 6%MF yogurt and the finished curry was rich and about the texture of buttermilk. The chickpea flour means you don't have to worry about the yogurt curdling when it comes to the boil.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    I'll probably make this again, but I will simmer the hot chiles in the curry for longer to get more flavour and heat out of them and I'll cut the cumin in at least half, as I found it overpowered everything else. Or, I'll morph it with the recipe I already use (with garlic, ginger, fresh green chiles and mustard seeds).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: pavlova

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Thanks for the report; I've been curious about this one. What did you serve it with/how did you eat it?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: juster

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Well, I had the best intentions, but ended up just having a bowl of it! it would be great with rice and a vegetable side though. Oh, and I didn't put the sugar in and it wasn't missed at all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. re: pavlova

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Yogurt Curry with Cumin and Curry Leaves--page 353

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I had some leftover nutty rice in the fridge, so I decided to give this a try as a quick working from home weekday lunch. I've never had yogurt soup, so this was a new dish to me and it made a perfect lunch. I can't comment on how it is on its own, but it paired wonderfully with the nutty rice, giving me the tang of yogurt and surprisingly crunches of nut together. I made a half recipe and used 3 dried chiles which gave a nice mild heat to the dish for me. The cumin didn't seem too prominent, but I love cumin and the rice pairing may've helped that issue. My one word of caution is it can boil over very quickly, so keep a close eye on it. Mine escaped the pot while I was getting the ghee ready.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      3. Stewed Cauliflower in a Coconut-Cashew Sauce p.478

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        This curry, like most that I have made so far, was a nice dinner. I've been using that word a lot to describe the dishes that I've tried out of this book, along with 'easy', 'quick', and other synonyms within that group. Nothing has been blowing me away, but all the meals have been pleasant enough.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        To begin, fresh coconut (the frozen shredded stuff has been a wonderful time-saver) cashews, white poppy seeds are placed in a blender jar along with the usual suspects: coriander, cumin, turmeric, chiles and cinnamon. All of these are blended to a gritty paste. Because I was too lazy to clean my blender jar, I opted to use my mortar and pestle again. Sigh. That took a long, long time, with mediocre results. Coconut is especially difficult to wrangle to the desired consistency, I've since learned. Despite many poundings, it just would not co-operate. Note to future self: save time and calories! Use a blender.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Onion and ginger is then fried to a crispy light brown, and the paste is stirred in until coloured, then water is added to the blend and it's cooked down until the oil starts to separate from the coconut and the whole thing is a deep yellow-brown. Once the paste is sufficiently cooked, cauliflower florets and water are tossed in to coat, covered and cooked to fork-tender.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I found that I had to add much more water than listed in order to keep my paste from burning and to get the veg cooked. Due to the absurd lackadaisical approach above, my paste was more of a chunky consistency than what I would imagine the dish should be, with coconut shreds adding a lenghthy chew to the finished product. It was still a good outcome. The coconut gave a sweet flavour to the brilliant yellow curry, and all of the spices worked well together. The poppy seeds and the cashew were undetectable in the mass, but the author suggests an alternative of adding roasted cashews for a more pronounced nutty flavour. I liked this well enough. Leftovers were devoured, cold, straight from the container, and were of course much better.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Eggplant Curry with Apples, Fennel and Cumin, recipe here: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20...

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I chose this recipe be ause it was available online, quick, and used seasonal ingredients. To make, cumin, fennel seeds, and dried chilis are sautéed in oil (I used coconut oil), then cubed eggplant and apple are added, seasoned with ground cumin, coriander and turmeric. 1/2 cup water is added, then cover and.cook for 15 minutes until eggplant is tender. Add salt to taste and fresh cilantro. I also added some cayenne as it was very mild. I liked this well enough but probably wouldn't make it again as it was a bit sweet for my taste.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Cabbage and cauliflower in a spicy tomato-mint sauce, pg 468

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This dish didn't jump out at me when I first looked through the book, but I made this as part of my use-all-the-veggies-in-the-fridge mission. To make the dish, cook 1 small red onion and 6 dried red Thai or cayenne chiles in canola oil for 5 minutes or so, then add a can of diced tomatoes, salt, and turmeric. Let the tomato mixture cook for a couple of minutes, add the cauliflower and cabbage, then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. Stir in fresh mint, cilantro, and curry leaves, and you’re done!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I used fresh tomatoes instead of canned, as well as some fresh Hungarian carrot peppers in place of the of the dried chiles. I think I overdid it on the peppers, because the recipe said this dish wasn't very spicy, but mine certainly was! That's what I get for blindly swapping hot pepper varieties I guess. In fact, it was so spicy I couldn't taste the mint or cilantro, which was kind of a bummer.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I made this with saag paneer, but that ended up being two saucy dishes that didn't go very well together so I ate it more as two courses than one meal. I think this would make a great side dish next to a dryer meat dish like tandoori chicken. I also wish I had made rice instead of serving with naan.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Hubby isn't usually big on cabbage or cauliflower (I made this while he was out of town), but I would make this again if I ended up with both vegetables in my CSA box.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. Plantains and cabbage with pigeon peas, p. 442
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              - I was drawn to Iyer’s recipe blurb where he wrote: You will be eloquent in your praise and use highfalutin words like “yum”. Highfalutin! Yum! And no, he does not lie. This was delicious and possibly one of my favourite curries to date. Here, in this curry, you have a creamy broth from the toor dal. Cabbage and ripe plantains add bulk. Coriander, mustard and curry leaves offer multiple levels of flavour. And I used frozen coconut. instead of dried coconut. It reaches out and gives you a tropical hug. I went a bit tame with the chile as Iyer suggests using 2 red Thai chiles or cayenne chiles. This is a pretty labour intensive curry, dirtying up a few pots, your food processor and in my case also the mortar and pestle, but totally worth it.


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. Addictive Red Lentils with Gongura Leaves (Gongura Sambhar), pg. 400

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Made a half recipe of this to go with our dinner tonight, and it was a hit all around, we both liked it on its own merits, and it added just the right amount of tartness to balance a meal that had plenty of richness.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The massor dal is simmered in the usual manner with a little tumeric, after it has soften add strips of fresh gongura leaves in batches and cook for a bit longer. Then make a tempering oil flavored with mustard seed, galic, chilies, & fenugreek. Add the oil to the dal and gongura mixture, add salt, simmer a little longer. Just before serving add a topping of roughly chopped roasted peanuts. A wonderful combination of flavors and textures (that chopped peanut finish is brilliant!), and surprising to me how mellow the gongura becomes in this dish and how well it melds with the lentils. The dish was still a bit tart, and bright but in a very very good way. Not sure that we will become "addicted" to this one, but we will definitely be having it again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                16 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    It is sometimes called Roselle in English, but really I wouldn't know this plant except that it is a really common ingredient in Burmese food (called chimbaung in Burmese) and so we have it quite often, The flavor is tart, like a sorrel or a rhubarb, and the texture once cooked is a bit like a collard or a kale.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Russo's (stocked in the baskets in the area that has things like Thai basil, Viet Namese Cilantro & etc.); they usually have it late summer through early fall, so if you want to try it I'd look soon. Also, one of the Indian stores (not Patel's-although it is worth a look there too) in downtown Waltham sometimes has it, but I forget the store's name, as we don't shop there often, sorry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I used to grow it myself, at the time my veg plot was on some land at commercial building I rented, my landlord found this veg highly amusing and always referred to the garden as my "pot patch". But really, as RI mentions, it is a form of hibiscus. For anyone who wants to try growing it, Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds usually has the seeds available. it takes a long growing season, though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: qianning

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Literally LOLing here. Love the pot patch tale.....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: qianning

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Shoot. I was there yesterday. I even pawed through that basket!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: smtucker

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Shucks! They had plenty of it last Saturday when I was there. It is a fairly large fan shaped package they put it in, I brought two parcels, each weighed 1/2 pound. They had it labeled as "gongura".

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: qianning

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Wow, you learn something new every day. I have never seen this vegetable, not sure it's for sale anywhere in NYC, but I bet I would like it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            The places to look for it are markets catering to Burmese (is there one in Queens?) and to South Indian communities (there's probably someplace in Jackson Heights that sells it, as it seems to me we saw it during a visit, but I have no recall on the store name or location).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: qianning

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I haven't been to that area in a while and don't get there much anymore bc of the baby. There are quite a few Pakistani shops near me but they don't have great produce - no fresh curry leaves either, though they do at least have proper chilies and of course rice, dal and spices.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                As far as I know Pakistani cooking doesn't use gongura, ditto most North Indian communities. It is really a a S. Indian, especially AP (and maybe Kerala?) thing. Another place I've found it are Laotian stores, but I have no idea what name they use for it. Supposedly it also shows up in Thai cooking, but I've never seen it in my one and only local Thai store, nor have I seen recipes for it in any of my Thai cookbooks.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: qianning

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I've never seen it in the Thai shops in manhattan Chinatown either. I will keep an eye out next time I'm In Jackson heights. Is it only available this time of year?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Around here, I'm most likely to find it late summer to early fall. I would guess that if you posted an "iso" thread on the appropriate board for your neighborhood, you might get some good info on local availability. If we are getting it in Boston (and I've also bought it in Providence, RI !), would guess it should be available in NYC.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. re: qianning

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Oh! I think I know what plant you speak of now! Roselle and gongura were unfamiliar names, but a little wikipedia search filled in the blanks---it's sold here as Bissap in West African stores.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Never used it myself, but always happy find out uses for those new-to-me discoveries. Thanks for the info, as always, Le Q!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            ETA: Ah, darn. Further reading has shown that bissap is actually the dried flower calyx, not the leaves, aka jamaica, or sorrel. I remembered the name, mixed up the picture of it in my head. Sorry, got caught up in my own ridiculous enthusiasm for all things food. Next time I'll read all the way to the bottom before posting!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Now I know another place to look for it, thank you AK.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. re: qianning

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          This sounds really inspiring Qianning. Marking it to definitely try. I saw gongura leaves in my local desi store last week but didn't buy. Will pick some up on my next trip. Yes, it is a Southern Indian (mostly Andhra) ingredient, so Northern Indian / Pakistani / Bangladesh stores are not likely to carry it. But if it is a very big store that caters to the entire subcontinent, they may have it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        4. Squash with Mango Powder p 603

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I had half a butternut squash to use up, so I tried to find something that uses it in 660s Curries. I think I've looked before too, but aside from a few pumpkin recipes there doesn't seem to be any winter squash recipes. A real shame, because I really like winter squashes with indian spices. Anyway, this recipe actually calls for bottle gourd, and while that doesn't sound anything like butternut squash, I really thought it would taste good in this recipe. You cut the squash into pieces, then heat the oil and fry the cumin. You add the squash, turmeric and sliced chilies and cook it until it starts to brown a little. Then you add chopped tomato, amchur (mango powder), salt, and a cup of water and cook it until the squash is nice and soft. Super easy, and very good. It was pretty sweet and sour which isn't really my favorite flavor profile, but still tasty and I bet a lot of people would really like it. I was going to put a dollop of yogurt with it, but thought it was tart enough from the mango powder and I cut way back on the chili so I didn't need to tame the heat.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Cashew Nuts Stewed with Cardamom & Cloves (Kaaju Curry), pg. 456

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I stumbled upon this recipe because I was looking for something that seemed like it would be a good companion to the Gongura Sambhar, and went with it because I had everything on hand, and it looked pretty straight-forward and easy. All true enough, still as I was making it I was a bit worried, cashew curry seems like a strange concept to me for some reason. I shouldn't have worried, this was scrumptious. And very easy (although a little pre-planning is needed as the cashews need to soak for a while).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            So basically, boil raw cashews in water, then allow them to rest off heat for 2 hours in the water. Drain. Add the cashews back to the pan, and also add coconut milk, salt, turmeric, cayenne, curry leaves, cardamom pods, cloves, stick cinnamon, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover, cook 30 min., serve. Preferably with Muttu sambhar rice (reviewed in the appropriate thread). The only trouble this dish gave me was that once covered it wanted to boil over, even at a low heat, after the second time (slow learner today), I just cracked the lid a smidgeon, and all was well. The clove-coconut-curry leaf-cashew combination is just marvelous. It doesn't look like much, rather a dull yellow, but nothing drab about the flavor.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: qianning

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I looked at this last night, but wasn't certain I'd like the texture of the cashews after soaking and boiling. did they still have some crunch or were they soft? The flavours sound amazing.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: pavlova

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Zero crunch. It is nothing like a roasted cashew. Cashew flavor is still there, but texture is totally different. My take, if you like N. Indian sauces that use ground nuts+cream, or if you like cashew butter, then this curry is worth a shot, even though the cashews are left whole and the creaminess comes from the coconut milk. But if you find those concepts yucky, probably not. Also, the clove and cardamom flavors really shine through, so liking that combination is important too.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Half Moon Potatoes with Fenugreek Leaves p.570

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This is getting to be a rather lengthy thread. Took a while to scroll down to the very bottom!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Sunny-hued potato slices flecked with green fenugreek leaves were a lovely choice for dinner tonight, and they tasted even better than they looked, a resounding success all around. All the more appealing when you consider how little prep time is needed for this one (take note, TDQ!).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Potatoes are peeled and cut to half moons, and fenugreek is chopped up. Knife can now retire for the evening. Cumin seeds are fried in oil briefly to brown, and off the heat, asafoetida, turmeric, and chiles are sprinkled over. I had purchased asafetida long ago, but the unpleasant odor of the resin really turned me off, especially after it permeated my cupboards and then the entire kitchen. Eventually I gave up and sealed the jar within a glass jar and pushed it to the far reaches of the pantry. I nervously fished it out today, but shouldn't have worried. It really does add a lovely onion-like flavour to a dish without the work of cutting and frying the real thing! As with most strange-smelling pantry items, it was worth it in the end. The spuds and greens get mixed in, tossed to coat, and simmered with water, covered, until tender. That's all.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                The author suggests roti or poori to go alongside the curry, but since I had rice, I added extra water to thin out the dish a bit. The slightly bitter yet fragrant fenugreek goes so well with the creamy potato pieces. This was eaten with glee by all, and I am happy to find such an easy recipe to add to my repertoire. Served with Pan-Fried Cheese with Green Peas, p. 294, a good match.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Mrs. Joshi's Potatoes with a Fresh Coconut-Lime Sauce (Batata Bhajee), pg. 548

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I made this along with the Tart Chicken on pg. 135 for dinner tonight. Another winner, IMO! There is a note in the instructions that this recipe is also excellent with sweet potatoes, so I took it one step further and used butternut squash. Anyway, this recipe has you fry some cumin seeds in oil, add a bit of asafoetida and turmeric, then toss in cubed potatoes (squash), chopped green chiles and curry leaves. Saute briefly and add water, salt and sugar (I skipped the sugar because I was using a sweet squash). Simmer until tender, then add some coconut (I used dried) and cilantro, simmer briefly and add lime juice just before serving.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I was piddling around with my chicken dish and let this overcook a bit, but it was delicious nevertheless. The sour-hot-sweet combo is pretty irresistible. Not sure I would like it as much with regular potatoes, but I'll definitely make this again and since Mr. Bionda is a potato fiend, I'll probably try it that way eventually. I used 5 chiles (recipe called for 4-6) and I'd probably go 6 or maybe even 8 next time, but I like things spicy. This will likely be perfect for DH. I'd love to get my hands on some fresh coconut too, although the dry was ok. Highly recommended!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Double the Potatoes with Cumin and Chiles - p. 583

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    This is our second mix of sweet potatoes and potatoes tried from this book. We thought this dish was okay, but gave a slight preference to the Potato Mix with a Cracked Peppercorn Sauce on p. 584 as both of us preferred the sauce on that dish. This is a bit easier to put together though than the other dish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    To make, heat oil in a large skillet and add cumin seeds. Add chopped white and sweet potatoes and cook until they lightly brown. Add salt and ground Deggi chiles (I used the recommended substitute of cayenne and sweet paprika). Then add water, lower heat, cover, and simmer. To thicken the sauce, the heat is raised back up and the dish uncovered. Add chopped cilantro and serve.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    5 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: TxnInMtl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Really interesting combo. Sounds like pure comfort food. Where is Mtl, BTW? I am a diasporic Texan, too :D

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Well the handle is now misleading as I've left Montreal for San Francisco and been settled here for about a month now. I guess that's what I get for hastily registering a name so I could lurk more easily and then starting to join the conversation on a whim! Nice to see another wandering Texan on the boards!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: TxnInMtl

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          It took me a bit of thought to figure out "TxnInMtl" too, when I first saw it. And now you're TxnIeftMtl4SF!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Hey LuckyF: did you see my updated reply to your "serwa" query? If you spell it "serva" and search, it turns out to be a North Arcot region Nawabi dish (Tamil Nadu Muslim Royalty), and you'll get lots of recipes for it on google - mostly for eggplant with a rich Hyderabadi sounding gravy of peanuts, tamarind, sesame paste with lots of whole and ground garam masalas etc. Served as a side with biryani.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Oh, yes, I saw it on my phone and forgot to reply later. (I hate replying on my phone.) Great sleuthing!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Gingered Chickpeas (Adrak Lasson Waale Chana Masala), pg. 329-330.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Mr. Bionda is out of town so I took advantage of the opportunity to make a couple of dishes I knew he would hate. He's not a fan of chickpeas or of ginger, so I figured this was the perfect dish. Anyway, this recipe has you make a paste of tomato, onion, ginger, garlic, fresh green chiles, coriander, cumin, cinnamon and salt. You then saute more chopped garlic and julienned ginger, add the paste, then add some kashmiri chile powder, turmeric and cilantro and cook until the oil starts to separate. At that point you stir in some water and cooked chickpeas and let the whole mess simmer for 30 minutes. Just before serving, add more cilantro, lime juice and Punjabi garam masala.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I enjoyed this (I love chana masalas of all kinds) but the author was NOT kidding when he said it was gingery. I love ginger, but it felt just a little overwhelming. There are plenty of leftovers so we'll see if the flavor mellows overnight. I felt that the lime juice may also have been overkill, as there was plenty of acidity from the tomatoes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Chickpea Flour Dumplings with Spinach - p 349

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Spiced chickpea flour is mixed with yogurt and oil to make a dough, which is then rolled out into logs, boiled, and cut into bite-sized dumplings. These are then added to a richly spiced spinach and tomato curry.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I had a lot of chickpea flour left over from trying another recipe in this book, and a family member is starting a gluten-free diet so this seemed like an excellent choice for dinner. I haven't had good experiences in the past using non-wheat flours so I was happily surprised at how firm these dumplings were and how well the dough held up during the cooking process. When rolling out the dough logs I didn't really pay much attention to how they were shaped; if I had done that they might not have come out as square and chunky as they did (see photo).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The spinach curry was spicy hot, so if you aren't really into hot curries I would suggest using less cayenne. That said, my family agreed that though it cleared the sinuses nicely, it wasn't overpowering. We did wonder if the 1 cup of water called for during the cooking process might have been too much. It seemed too watery, so I let it cook down for an extra ten minutes to evaporate some of the liquid. In future I'd probably start with 2/3 cup or 3/4 cup of water and then only add the rest if it seemed to need it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: geekmom

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Very impressed that you made these gattas. I was eyeing this recipe and am tempted to give it a try. 660 Curries has a gatte ki biryani at the end of the book, too, but the instructions were kind of different than this recipe and involved peeling the boiled gattas, I think. Gatta sounds like gut, the stomach, with an -uh at the end, and I think of them as heavy on the gut. So they were pretty dense? They are vaguely like gnocchi.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Check out this youtube video of a Rajasthani village home chef cooking her gattas for gatte ki karhi (yoghurt and chickpea flour gravy instead of a greens gravy for the gattas), kind of cool that you made a similar dish:


                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Cool, thanks for this video, (and thanks for telling me how gatta should be pronounced. I had been thinking it sounded more like "cat" than "gut"). I love the simplicity of this woman's arrangements for cooking; everything organized so that all her ingredients are in easy reach. Quite a contrast to me digging through my overstuffed spice cupboard yesterday, trying to figure out what on earth happened to my dried thyme. And yet we were cooking the same dish, and the recipe I followed seems to be quite faithful to the one that the lady in the video is following (all in her head, of course). Very cool!!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              My dumplings were indeed dense but they didn't have that toothsome, chewy sort of quality you can get with gnocchi - they were less firm. Obviously this is my first attempt so who knows how close they were to the texture that I would get if I were a Rajasthani home cook who grew up making and eating gatte.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I was looking at another recipe for chickpea flour dumplings near this one, but with yogurt sauce instead of spinach (gatte ki subzi, p 346) - I might try that one. There seem to be a large variety of things one can do with chickpea flour, and I'm very keen to experiment with this new (to me) ingredient.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          2. Easy cauliflower and peas with a curry leaf sauce (Cauliflower pattani) p.481

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This recipe looked quite basic in the book and also in the pan while it was cooking but wow, it was so good when it was finished. I have to assume it was the Roasted Curry Leaf Spice Blend that made all the difference. It had such an wonderful depth of flavor for what is just a dish of cauliflower and peas with some herbs and spices. It actually tasted buttery but doesn't have any dairy in it at all. Highly recommended and I will be making it again (often).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: JaneEYB

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Jane and geekmom above, two more great sounding dishes that I now know are good. I admit it, I'm curried out for now. But wow both the book and all these posts, applause for these resources!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: blue room

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I'm curried out too. Ironically, I had planned to cook a curry today and so I am going to valiantly push through and cook a couple more recipes, then I'm going to order the book so that I have more time to work my way through it at a slower pace instead of worrying about only having 4 weeks with the library copy.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: geekmom

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  The book, the library, the Internet, -- none of them are going away. The Cookbook of the Month is actually
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  New Food Information for a Lifetime, Starting Now.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. Stewed Cabbage, Potatoes, and Peas (with a roasted chile-lentil blend) p.471

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I wasn't going to write up a review for this recipe. I have a very difficult time finding words when a dish turns out to be sub-par. But it is my duty as a chowhounder to report my results, and so I offer this review. Take it with a grain of salt, of course; if nothing I've learned that there are as many different taste preferences as there are people on this board.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The title of this dish is pretty self-explanatoy. I chose this as part of my meal because I was on a quest to empty the fridge of all produce. I was working with an ingredient limitation, too (no onions in the house! I even went digging around in the garden to see if there were any that had been missed), so this recipe came up as a suggestion.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Before the veggies are added, mustard seeds toast until they're hopping, then a small amount of urad dal is fried until red-brown. In go the spuds, then a ground mix of fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, and turmeric. Cabbage and peas are next, along with Sambhar Masala blend, salt and water. This is cooked to tender and liquid evaporates, then sprinkled with cilantro. I used a small amount of culantro instead, reduced due to the potency of that herb.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              The only other change that I made here was that of the Sambhar Masala blend. The masala calls for channa dal to be toasted, but I only had urad dal, so in it went. The single teaspoon of the spice mix that went into this curry was surely not enough to change its flavor so dramatically due of a substitution of lentils.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This recipe was just not for me. The sambhar masala provided little flavour to the dish. I tried adding extra, but it didn't help. Maybe I'm just used to the other recipes I've made from 660 curries having a lot of cumin in them, so this was rather dull in comparison. The author did call this dish comfort food, after all. Like most childhood comfort food dishes, you rarely see anyone truly relishing the recipe but the person who grew up eating it. I doubt many people would love my Oma's kielke with cream gravy, come to think of it.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I did serve it with the recommended Rice with Yogurt and Mustard seeds, and the tangy jolt of yogurt in combination with the dish did help it out a bit. This recipe made a lot, and I have a heap of leftovers.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Thanks for reporting on this Allegra K; I appreciate hearing about all experiences with recipes, good, bad, or indifferent. In a book of 660 recipes, there are bound to be a few we don't care for.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Broccoli and Carrots with Roasted Spices and Tomato p.467

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Another recipe selected for the available ingredients in my larder. I had the Sambhar Masala on hand from recipe above, so that was an added bonus.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Very similar method to the other recipe I made for the same meal: Toast mustard seeds, toast urad dal, add veggies, masala, salt. To this add tomatoes and curry leaves and cook until tender.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This was okay. An interesting way to use broccoli with indian spices, but not really something I'd make again. The masala spicing just wasn't strong enough for me. The flavours did improve by the next day, but still not enough to warrant a do-over. Maybe a different spice blend would be better?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1 Reply
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Allegra_K

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I enjoyed this more than you did, it sounds. I appreciated the tartness from the tomato, and would agree the flavor became better after a time.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. Mashed Grilled Eggplant with Tamarind and Chiles p.491

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  I enjoyed this recipe well enough, a nice puree of tart and spicy eggplant, and though it was more like a condiment than a main, it was the best dish from my indian feast as written above.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  For this one, eggplant is grilled (broiled in my case)until blackened, skin removed, and mashed to a pulp. Mix in tamarind paste, salt, turmeric, chiles and cilantro (I was out of that, so I picked some of the few leaves remaining from my countertop culantro plant; poor guy is nearly naked now). I hot oil, toast mustard seeds (I see a trend happening here), toast urad dal, add chiles, asafoetida, curry leaves. Add eggplant mash and fry until oil starts to separate, serve.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Again, this was pleasantly tangy and smoky with bits of crunch from the toasted lentils. I enjoyed the mixture more when it cooled to room temp, and it was nice blended with a bit of rice. I preferred the non-grilled tamarind eggplant dish on the previous page, and though both recipes have very similar ingredients, they were quite different.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Tart Red Lentils w/Tomatoes, Lime Juice, and Scallions (Ahomya bilahi dal), p. 399

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Not much to look at (so I didn't even bother taking a photo)--brownish and sludgy with a few limp chiles floating about--but, ah, looks can be deceiving: we really liked this dal, which was spicy and pleasantly, subtly tart. One of our guests liked it so much that as I was packing up some for him to take home and he saw how much was left in the pot, he shyly suggested that he'd take more if I didn't mind. Not at all, my friend (but he'd have had to fight my husband for the lamb curry!).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Anyway, the masoor dal get the usual treatment of rubbing, rinsing, etc. Lentils and 3 c of water are brought to a boil, skimmed of foam. Heat is reduced to med. low, pot covered, lentils simmered until tender (at least 30 minutes in my case, rather than the 10-15 suggested).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Once lentils are on, 2 tsp of Panch phoron (whole, untoasted blend of fennel, cumin, fenugreek, nigella, and mustard seeds) go into a skillet heated w/2 T canola oil to sizzle along with fresh chiles, stemmed and split (I used 1 serrano and 2 cayenne) for about 15 seconds. Then a mince (I used a small FP) of chopped red onion, ginger, and garlic are added, along with chopped scallions and another red onion, thinly sliced this time. This cooks until the onion is "honey-brown with a deep purple hue" (which took me about twice as long as the recipe's suggested 8-10 minutes). A cored and chopped tomato, 2 c water, 1 1/2 tsp. coarse kosher salt, and 1/2 tsp turmeric (never thought I'd use up my turmeric so quickly, but I'm almost out) are added to the mix and it's cooked another 10-15 minutes. I let my go longer than suggested as I wanted my way-less-than-perfect tomato to really cook down.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    The sauce is stirred into the cooked lentils; the dal cooks another 10 minutes or so. Just before serving, cilantro and lime juice join the party and really wake things up.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Although this was one of several dishes in an Indian feast for company, this dal would be wonderful, thinned with stock, as soup.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    7 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This is why I love COTM. I had just passed this recipe by, and it sounds like something I would love to eat. Thank you so much for reporting on this recipe.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I hope you like it, sm.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I just wanted to update on my tart red lentils. I woke up this morning famished as after we got home last night, I was too tired to stay up and share in my husband's fridge forage and fell into bed, after an exhausting week.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        First thing I spied this a. m. was what was left of said lentils. Aha! So I heated those in a little saucepan to evaporate a little moisture and cracked an egg on top and covered for a couple of minutes. Now, if you do this, you won't step away and risk your yolk getting just past the runny stage as I did, and yours will be even better.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        But this was pretty good, especially w/a toasted triangle of onion kulcha, which was this close to being pulled from its corner of the fridge and tossed.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I know I'm not the first to have had this idea, but after this hearty little breakfast, I was pretty pleased with myself, and, deserved or not, that is a nice way to feel on a Saturday morning while sipping a second cup of coffee,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          OK, just made this dal. I realized that it is similar to another dal that I made (can't believe I didn't see the resemblance while reading the recipe). The other dal is a mixture of chana (which adds a great creamy texture), masoor, and moong dals. Pressure cooked with salt and haldi. Then tarka of panch phoron, red chilli powder, sliced onion cooked down to almost nothing. Add chopped tomato and cook that down. Then add to the dal + cilantro.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          So, in comparison to the Ahom recipe, no ginger/garlic, no scallions, no green chillies, no lime.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          The addition of these ingredients, plus using only masoor dal, surprisingly didn't change the basic taste of the dal, it was still very similar to my recipe, though the lime added a great note.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          But we all like that dal and so we all liked this one very much too. The lime definitely woke things up. It's great to have a big pc full of this dal with lots of leftovers for tomorrow.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I wonder why we need to have sliced AND chopped onions (next time I will only use chopped), and what do the scallions add, by the time it is all cooked down and added? I think the scallions could be left out and you'd never notice. But the lime is a fantastic touch and I will always add this in future even to "my" dal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We ate this dal with rice, chopped spinach+collardstems+dal paste crumbles sabzi, and yogurt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Dal (just about any recipe) is one of the best foods on the planet :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            You know, Rasam, I'm glad you asked that. I had the same questions about the onions. I liked the dal, but wondered how that combination of onions all added at the same time and cooked down made much difference. But having very little experience in matters of dal (prior to "660 Curries," I had tried only two recipes), I am loath to second-guess!
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Agree that the lime juice really perks up this dish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Your dal sounds very good.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        2. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          Thanks for this recommendation NCW: I too had bypassed this recipe, but I will try it this weekend and report back.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          We are just coming out of the 10 day feasting of Navaratri and Dasara, with all the traditional foods and leftovers, so I had backed off 660 curries for that time. Now I am ready to start cooking again, and this dal will definitely be it. Will make it tomorrow (need to buy scallions and a lime).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Oh, Rasam, if you have time and are so inclined, you should start a thread on those feasts. I would love to hear about them.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: nomadchowwoman

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Me too! We hear about these holidays and that food is served, but never about the actual food. Please consider taking the time to give us a window into this feast.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        3. One-Pot Potatoes in a Red Lentil Sauce (Aloo Masoor Dal) Page 552

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          In under the wire with this one. Loved the way the lentils made a real gravy for the potatoes. It made a stand alone dinner dish for us (although, given our recent travel to Italy, we are looking to cut back a bit...). Author suggests variations...using turnips instead of or in addition to potatoes, and adding spinach. We tried the half-turnip version (rutabaga, if truth be told). I would do one or the other. The potato and the turnip have different cooking times and one of the pleasures of this dish is the texture. I supppose you could cook them separately before adding to the lentil mixture, but that would get in the way of simplicity, which is the other big feature of this dish. The spinach is a great addition...adds colour and complexity, especially for a one-dish meal. Like others, I have found some of the techniques in the book to be revelatory...in this recipe, it is the spice mix and the finishing lime juice.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Just wanted to offer an update on another couple recipes I tried last night. I don't have time to scroll through to see if there are any other reviews so forgive me if this is not in the right place.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Last night I made the Lauki Kofta Curry from 660. Tis was my first time making lauki Kofta - I usually make it as a sabzi with onions and tomatoes and vadis if I have them. This recipe was very good. I did make a couple minor changes to it, but I don't think they were far off.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            For the koftas, you grate your lauki (bottle gourd) after peeling and removing the spongy interior. Sprinkle with salt and set aside. In your blender, blend some red onion, green chilli, ginger, garlic and cashews to a rough consistency. Squeeze the lauki to remove the excess water. Mix in the onion chilli mix. Add some besan and rice flour, mix quickly as it starts letting off more water. Using one hand, you grab a tablespoon of mix and start squeezing it into a small bAll. It will let off more water as you squeeze. Add the balls to a wok of hot oil to fry. Work quickly as the longer the mix sits, the more water it lets out and it becomes hard to make the last few balls. Fry until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            For the sauce, yOu sauté chopped onion, cashews and green chillis and raisins (we didn't use the raisins). When the cashews are brown, you add a can of diced tomatoes and turmeric. (I used an 8oz can of tomato sauce). Put the whole mix into a blender and purée until smooth. Put the purée back in the pan, add some half and half and garam masala, then bring to a simmer. Add in your koftsas, cover for a couple minutes, then serve with a cilantro garnish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I used evaporated milk instead of half and half because I had some I needed to use up from another meal. It gave it a nice smooth consistency. I'm sure half and half would have done the same.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            This was served with some hot naan (the Trader joes frozen ones, which are delicious) and the Paneer Cauliflower dish, also from the book. I will post my review of that in that thread.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            6 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Raisins sounds weird. I wonder if the rice flour makes them lighter than if you just use besan?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              I keep reading on CH about those Trader Joe's naans. Must give them a try.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                TJ naan are very good, though obviously nothing compares to fresh made genuine stuff.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Bb: thanks for the report on the koftas. I have never made them myself though I enjoy them when others do. I agree about wondering what the raisins add (a sweet touch of some sort). I have always been wary of the labor involved in grating and making the balls and frying them. I am always worried that they will fall apart as they fry.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                Would setting the grated mix into a colander eliminate some of the water letting out issue?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I recall from the other thread that you didn't like the paneer cauli dish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This was actually the first time I made koftas. They didn't take as much time as I thought. The besan/rice flour helped hold the balls together. You had to work fast because the last few were in so much liquid that it was hard to scoop the mix out.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                2. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Raisins are used in many dishes. I've had malai Kofta stuffed with cashews and raisins before, ad also had them in pulao type dishes. Just not my thing though.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: boogiebaby

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Yep, I am familiar with the usage of raisins and sultanas in savory dishes. It just doesn't fit with lauki ke kofte IMHO. I would have left them out, too. I do make lauki ke kofte at home, but just use a simple tomato-onion gravy with no fancy stuff in it, will have to have a look at the 660 recipe. I do like raisins stuffed in malai kofte at restaurants.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I have made these koftas and the sauce from the book and blogged about it ( a cookatheart blogsopt dot com) it is fantastic! the raisins do lend a sweetness, but it is not unwelcome.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      I had never used raisins in a curry base and was very skeptical the first time, but in the end, as I tell myself, trust the chef!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. One-pot potatoes in a red lentil sauce with lime juice

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This is an interesting recipe. You cook some red lentils in a saucepan while simultaneously caramelizing some onions, ginger and cumin. I spent a lot longer than the 10 minutes the recipe suggests for the onions. Then you add powdered spices, cilantro and cubed potatoes to your onions, then a bit of water and cook the potatoes until tender. I used my immersion to blend the lentils into a smooth sauce. I was surprised how smooth they got. You add the lentil sauce to the potatoes, and before serving add the lime juice. I had a very juicy lime and didn't use all of it, but I think I could have, I didn't notice the lime very much. My husband really enjoyed this dish, and mentioned that several times. I thought it was just okay. You definitely want to serve it over rice as it's pretty saucy - we didn't because we're watching calories closely right now. That probably played a part in my feelings about the dish. I did add some peas to it - I thought it was a good addition.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Spinach-smothered whole green lentils (palak moong, pg. 380)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  We made this curry tonight and really enjoyed it. If I understand correctly, what he calls "whole green lentils" are whole mung beans.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Mung beans and spinach are simmered together. In the meantime, you make a sauce by stir-frying onion and ginger and the adding pounded cumin and green chiles, tomato (I used canned since decent fresh ones are not easy to find this time of year), and salt. Mix this into the mung beans and spinach.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This takes a while since the mung beans and spinach cook together for about 45 minutes, but it's not at all labor intensive. We had just this, with brown basmati, and it made for a very satisfying one-dish meal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  3 Replies
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. re: nonaggie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Sounds very good. I love mung beans.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: nonaggie

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Sounds good...makes me want to pull this book off of the shelf again. I have never tried spinach with whole green lentils before, either.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: luckyfatima

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Made this last night, was very good. I had soaked the Mung Beans in warm water for about 8 hours and pressure cooked them for about 20 minutes. Added them to the sauteed onion-ginger-pounded cumin mixture-tomatoes and simmered for 10 minutes with spinach. It was wonderful served with Jeera (cumin) rice. The Mung beans were cooked perfectly for us. I added juice of half a lime just before serving for some refreshing taste. Very Good!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    2. In a similar-but-different vein to the spinach smothered whole green lentils just referred to, I made: mungphali chana dal on pp 456-457 (peanuts, chana dal, spinach). I had some raw peanuts I needed to use up. If you don't have raw peanuts, maybe you can use some roasted unsalted or lightly salted peanuts?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      This was another very good home-style dish. I just added some of the ingredients in a slightly different order than RI recommends.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Cook chana dal with the raw peanuts, with haldi and salt in a pressure cooker. When done, add spinach and cook till wilted.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Tarka of: hing, mustard seeds, fresh minced ginger (the recipe didn't call for this but I added it because I thought it would go well and it did), then green chillies pounded in a mortar with tomato, a pinch of sugar.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Add the tarka to the dal, and it is done. This is very delicious, served with rice and green beans sabzi.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Definitely use as much (and maybe more) of the green chillies as the recipe recommends. I used less, about 3 hot green chillies for 1 cup chana dal + 1 cup peanuts (i.e. double RI's recipe quantities) then had to retrofit another 3 green chillies into the dish.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. Slow-roasted bell pepper with red lentils (bhuna hua simla mirch aur masoor ki dal), pg. 401

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        The recipe is online here, so I won't say too much about it:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I'm no expert in Indian food, but this recipe seemed unusual to me in having no onion, garlic, or ginger. The only bell pepper we had in the house was red, so we used that in place of the green bell pepper. I thought this was delicious, except that it turned out much soupier than I had expected. Next time (and there will be one!), I won't add the full 2 cups of water near the end.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Old thread, but I've been cooking from this book for the last 3 months. Tonight I made the Corn with Cumin and Chiles. Wow, this was delicious! So simple but flavorful. I used frozen sweet white corn from Trader Joes, but followed the recipe as written. Served with Chana dal with spinach, Methi chicken, and homemade roti. I'd eat the Corn as-is or over some romaine for a light lunch!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          1. Coconut-Smothered Black Eyed Peas, p. 318

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            I had some fresh curry leaves and a bag of frozen black-eyed peas that I wanted to use up -- I was hoping to combine them with coconut -- searched EYB and came up with this little gem. I didn't have quite all the ingredients on hand, so I took this recipe as inspiration but adapted it for quicker weeknight cooking. In the original recipe, you are to pressure cook 1 cup of dried black eyed peas with a sliced red onion and a green chili cut in half. Meanwhile you make a paste of chopped red onion, green chili, shredded coconut, cumin, salt and turmeric. When the black eyed peas are done, you stir in the paste, let cook a bit more, than add a tarka of black mustard seeds and curry leaves in coconut oil. This sounded pretty simple, but I wanted something easier that didn't require dragging out the blender. So this is what I did:

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            Sauteed 1 finely chopped onion in 1 tbsp coconut oil. When the onion was soft, I added a small spoonful of my chopped salted chilies, 1 tsp ground cumin, 1/4 tsp turmeric, and salt. Let the spices and onion cook for a couple of minutes, then added the frozen peas and 1 cup water. Stirred in 3 tbsp of organic creamed coconut (has anyone else discovered this wonderful product that is soooo much better than canned coconut milk?) and let it all simmer together until the peas warmed and the mixture thickened. Stirred in the tarka as set forth in the book. Served over basmati rice. This made a lovely warming curry that the whole family enjoyed. Yes!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            By the way, this was my first time using frozen black eyed peas. I used the Stahlbush Island Farm brand, and I thought this product was great. The texture was perfect and they were very convenient -- great for weeknight dinners and much tastier than canned.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              This sounds lovely! I've been re-reading all the glowing write-ups from this book and am inspired to take it out from the library again. Great review!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            2. This thread keeps going :)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Today I made Methi Mushroom Matar Malai (mushrooms with peas, fenugreek, cream, etc.) page 519 IIRC.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Again, this dish showcases one of the greatest strengths of RI's book: simple ingredients with a result that was much greater than the sum of its parts. I didn't have to grind any spices here, though I did have to use the FP.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              You grind cashews, garlic, and green chillies in a FP (I also added a little ginger) to a coarse paste. Then finely chop some onions.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Saute the above in oil for a few minutes - this is my one grouse with this cookbook and others like it. RI suggests you saute the mixture for 2-3 minutes - it takes much longer, more like 15 minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Then add sliced mushrooms and saute, again, for way longer than RI suggests.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Add about 1 cup water, scrape and mix. Add peas, and the soaked dry methi leaves. RI goes through some voodoo where he soaks the qasoori methi and discards the water, but I don't see the point. I just soak and add the whole thing in. Add salt and cream, and simmer till done.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Very very tasty. I served with rice and cauliflower sabzi and yogurt.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Lunch, and the prospect of yummy leftovers.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              1. re: Rasam

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                That sounds delicious Rasam.. Am gonna try it soon.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I have had no problems with his cooking times at all, may be the temperature settings on the individual cook tops? ;-)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I think he soaks the Kasoori Methi in water to rinse out the grit/soil that is usually stuck on the the methi leaves while drying them out. Just like what we do with the fresh methi leaves or any greens for that matter, to get rid of the grit.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              2. Whole green lentils with coconut and tomatoes (thenga paruppu), pg. 381

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                I've been trying to grow a small curry leaf plant for a few years now, and although it's still alive, it hasn't grown any bigger than when I got it. I finally gave up, found an Indian grocery store, bought some lovely curry leaves, and looked for a recipe to use them in.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This one is quite simple; cook the green lentils in a pressure cooker (I have a Kuhn Rikon and find that I never need to cook for as long as Iyer directs). Meanwhile, pop some mustard seeds, add some onion, then fenugreek seeds, turmeric, chiles, salt, canned tomatoes, shredded coconut, and curry leaves to make a sauce. (You are also supposed to add ground mustard and cilantro, but I omitted since I'm not fond of either.) Then stir the sauce into the lentils and cook for another 10 minutes.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                This was a lovely dal; a bit spicy and a great vehicle for enjoying the curry leaf flavor. The leftovers were great, too!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                1. Chopped Spinach with Dried Lentil Wafers p 592

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This was an excellent recipe--much better than I had expected for something so simple, and because the prep is so minimal, that made it all the better!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Mustard seeds are popped in a pan, then removed from the heat, and ground cumin seeds, ground coriander, dry & fresh chiles, and curry leaves get mixed in. Water is added to the mix and brought to a boil, and then roughly chopped spinach is mixed in and wilted. In go broken bits of uncooked pappadums and the lot is cooked a few more minutes, until the curry thickens and the lentil wafers are soft. That is all!

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  This made for the fastest, tastiest lunch I've had in a while. The spinach was still green and vibrant, and the lentil wafers had cooked up into what seemed like shards of thin pasta. There was the exciting crunch of the mustard seeds mingling with the softer textures of the pappadums, and the seasoning was just right. I really enjoyed this immensely. The recipe says this serves four, but I served it over a small pile of leftover rice and inhaled the whole thing by myself. I will definitely be making this again.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    1. re: Westminstress

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      Haha! I failed to mention the best part of this lunch--it was haphazardly thrown together with one free arm. A baby in one hand, a cleaver in the other! That's often part of the criteria these days....

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  1. Garlic-Infused Split Black Lentils [Lasoon Urad Chi Dal] (page 370)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Cumin seeds are cooked until sizzling, then minced garlic, a sliced chile, and thinly sliced red onion are added and cooked for 3 to 5 minutes before a cup of water is added and it’s cooked for 2 minutes more. This mixture is added to the lentils that have been cooked with a bit of turmeric and the dish is finished with lime juice and cilantro.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    Although I had the called-for urad dal, I decided to try this with beluga lentils; and I used a red banana pepper because that’s what I had. Oh. And I was out of cilantro. No matter. Another great dal from this book. I served it with Danny Chan’s Steamed Salmon with Lemon from “The Breath of a Wok.” Great meal.

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                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      1. re: JoanN

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Beautiful. Need to pull out this book again.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      2. Eggplant with a tamarind chile sauce (katarikai goshtu), p. 490

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I like this well enough, but felt it should have been more sour. The tamarind concentrate I used is a Thai product and it may be sub-optimal.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        1. Bolly Cauli (Aloo Gobi), p. 482

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                          I was surprised at how easy it was to make this, which comes off just as good as what one might get by this name at a competent restaurant buffet. Using canned tomatoes and having pre-cut florets, this was the simplest Indian prep I've tried.