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Sep 30, 2012 10:47 PM

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!