in India has evolved over the centuries and has one of the most elaborate
displays of entrees in the world. In a vegetarian diet, the primary source
of proteins is 'Dals'. 'Dal' is Hindi term for lentils, beans and peas.
The 'Dals', besides being protein rich, have the added benefit of being
high in fiber and naturally low in fat. Serve dals with bread and/or rice,
or pair it with a salad and vegetable to make a complete and nutritional
Dal is an integral
part of everyday cooking through out India. In the south, yellow split
peas are cooked with vegetables and a special spice blend to make a delicious
vegetable bean stew called 'Sambhar'. It is enjoyed with rice and bean
dumplings as well as Idli. In the north, chickpeas are cooked with
special garam masala to make a tasty entree called as 'Chole.' In the
western part of the country, a sweet and sour yellow split pea soup called
as 'Aamti' is enjoyed everyday with bread and rice.
Dal is roasted
before cooking in the eastern part of India. Each region has its unique
preference for certain dal and the spice blend that goes with it.
lentils or peas are quite bland and tasteless if you were to eat them
plain. Spices have quite an essential role in preparinging dals - besides
adding zest to the bland beans, spices also aid in their digestion!
There is a
unique technique that brings a dal alive. It is known as "tarka"
or spice infused oil which is added to the cooked dal. This is how you
make "tarka" - A teaspoon of oil is heated with spices as per
your liking, like cumin seeds, mustard seeds, ginger, garlic and curry
leaves. All are toasted together. (Personally, I just like to add cumin
seeds and garlic to this hot oil).
beans are notorious for the lengthy cooking time they take. Pre-soaking
the beans cuts down on cooking time considerably. Typically, I soak beans
overnight in large quantities and later freeze them in small freezer bags.
This way, instead of reaching for a can of beans, I just have to thaw
a bag of frozen beans. A pressure cooker is a very handy tool to use in
cooking Dals. In India, having a pressure cooker is equivalent to having
an oven in the western kitchen.
If you are new to cooking
dals , here are some helpful hints:
- As with any new food,
start with small portions so that you get used to it. Then gradually
increase the quantity.
- Improperly cooked
dal is very difficult to digest. It is perhaps better to over-cook the
dal but never under-cook it.
- If you are serious
about cooking beans or peas, a pressure cooker is a good investment.
It saves time and money in the long run.
- Spices are essential
to give flavor to dals as well as their digestion.
to US I have adapted various dal recipes to the western food style. Dals
taste delicious with rice or Indian bread. But I like to enjoy it as a
hearty soup with garlic bread or lentil vegetable stew with sour dough
bread. Sometimes I make a complete meal by adding ravioli or linguine
to it. So if you are thinking of tightening your waist or your wallet,
dal is definitely a healthy alternative to try!!
Beans with cinnamon
1 can kidney
1 teaspoon oil
1 tomato, diced
1 onion, diced
2 one inch cinnamon sticks
½ teaspoon red chili powder ( as per taste)
1 teaspoon ginger, peeled and minced
salt to taste
Heat a pan
and add oil. Throw in ginger and cinnamon sticks. Sauté for a
minute. Mix in tomatoes and onions. Cook on medium heat for 8-10 minutes.
Rinse kidney beans in water. Add kidney beans to tomato onion mix. Add
½ cup water. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes. Serve with plain
Misal (Bean soup)
cup kidney beans
½ cup black eyed beans
½ green mung beans
½ cup lentils
½ cup garbanzo beans
1 tablespoon oil
2 onions, diced
1 tablespoon ginger, minced
1 tablespoon garlic minced
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
In a big
bowl add all beans. Pour 8 cups of hot water . Cover and keep overnight.
Drain water and rinse well. Add 4 cups of water , cook on medium heat
for 40 minutes or cook it in a pressure cooker for 8 -10 minutes. Keep
In a thick
bottomed pan heat oil. Add ginger and garlic. Saute for a 2 minutes.
Throw in the chopped onions. Cook on medium heat till they turn a golden
brown. Add tomato paste, cumin and coriander powder. Mix in the cooked
beans and add 1 cup of water. Simmer for 15 minutes.
crispy chow mien noodles, chopped onions and cilantro.
1. You may
substitute any beans in this recipe.
2. For convenience you may use only canned beans
This is a
fusion between pasta and dal. Instead of the tomato sauce or pesto sauce,
I decided to use the cooked beans as the sauce