Thursday, February 07, 2008

Hello & a recipe for Makhni Dal

Hi everyone. This is L here and I am finally taking my first step into the world of food blogging!! A big thank you G - both for introducing me to food blogs and encouraging me to start writing myself.

Food back at home in India has been predominated by Punjabi and Tambram cuisine as my mom and dad belong to these two regions. Also as the family moved every few years to different places, my mom had the opportunity to sample and try make regional specialities in her kitchen. In short, I had a lot of fun eating a whole variety of yummy dishes (and now making them too) and through Vyanjanaa I want to share my experiences and recipes that have been given to me by my mom and extended family and recipes that are the result of experimentation [that's where G comes into the picture :)]

And moving on to today's recipe - Makhni Dal, this is a dish that my Mom makes during the winter months. It is wholesome, warming and delicious. With the prefix makhni attached to it, one would immediately start thinking about the oodles of butter and fat that one would expect to see in the dish, but surprise, surprise !! The only fat in the dish is the really miniscule amount of oil that goes into a tadka. Another surprise element - this dal does not use any of the dry masalas normally used in Indian cooking.


Whole black urad dal - 1 cup
Rajma - a handful
Onion - 1 large
Tomatoes - 2 small
Garlic - 6-7 cloves
Ginger - 2 inch piece
Green chillies - 6-7
Jeera - 1 tsp
Heeng - a pinch
Milk - 1 cup
Salt - to taste
Oil - for tadka


(1) Soak the two dals together overnight in about 4-5 cups of water.
(2) Grind the onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic and green chillies into a smooth paste.
(3) Pressure cook the dals until one whistle.
(4) Add the ground masala paste to the dal. Pressure cook for one whistle. Lower the heat to the minimum and cook for 20 minutes. At the end of 20 mins, switch off the heat and let the steam release from the cooker by itself.
(5) Do the heeng-jeera tadka and simmer the dal until it starts thickening.
(6) Add the milk and simmer again for about a minute.
(7) Add salt to taste.

Garnish with coriander and ginger juliennes.

Couple of points - the proportion of onions must always be more in the paste compared to the tomatoes, its always better to use fresh ginger and garlic for this recipe as these are the major flavour contributors and do not cook the dal too much after adding milk as it tends to split.

The dal goes well with naan, parathas and jeera rice. I love coriander chutney as an accompaniment. Refer to G's two-minute ginger pickle, it works well too. The dal is a little time consuming, but the results are totally worth it.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy 2008 everyone!


I hope everyone is doing well and looking forward to the new year! I have been MIA for sometime. There were some not-very-good reasons for that but I am now returning to blogging refreshed and full of ideas. Thanks a lot particularly to Shyamala for not only trying my recipe but also giving me a gentle nudge to re-join the blogging world!

Part of my blogging hiatus was because I started watching my carb intake and I was having a hard time dealing with it. I had always thought that my vegetarianism and sugar aversion ensured that I ate healthier than most people. It was only when I started controlling my carb intake did I realize how restricted my diet was - too much carbs and too little protein. It took quite a bit of time and effort to, essentially, restructure my life (no potatoes!!! arghhhhhhh! what does one eat?!). I feel better for it and I did manage to loose some unwanted pounds before

Which reminds me - I am married now! It was a wonderful experience and surprisingly, a whole bunch of fun. I was definitely not looking forward to the rituals etc........particularly since my mother had decided that instead of taking a subset of common rituals from 4 regions (Rajasthan, UP, Punjab and Tamland!), we would do EACH and every ritual from each and every region!!! Still, I survived, had amazing fun and totally reconnected with my extended family. Also, I discovered that things that you covet are not necessarily for you (toe rings, anyone?).

I begin this year by blogging about a simple lunch that we ate today. It is spicy and wholesome and very protein-eous (word?). Black chickpeas, stuffed baby brinjals, rice with peas, corriander chutney and yogurt. The 'kala chana' curry was wonderful and filling and so instead of the usual second serving of rice, one automatically went for the second and third serving of these.

For the chickpeas:
Black chickpeas----------------1 cup (soaked overnight, drained)
Oil ---------------------------1 tsp
Cumin seeds--------------------1/2 tsp
Heeng (asafoetida)-------------1/4 tsp
Green chillies-----------------4 (slit length wise)
Corriander pwd ----------------1 tsp
Tumeric pwd -------------------1/2 tsp
Red chilli pwd-----------------1/2 tsp
Tamarind paste-----------------1.5 tsp (dissolved in warm water)

1. In a pressure cooker, heat oil and sputter the cumin seeds. Add heeng, wait 30 secs, add green chillies, wait 30 secs, add the black chickpeas.
2. Add the powders & salt, saute 30 secs, add 3 cups water. Close the pressure cooker and give 3-4 whistles until chickpeas are tender.
3. Open the pressure cooker, put the burners on low and stir in the tamarind paste. Give a boil to the dish, garnish with fresh cilantro and you are ready!

A note on consistency: In many north Indian homes, this chickpea dish eaten with a thin-ish gravy which is what you will get if you follow the proportions above. In other homes/on other occasions/depending on accompaniments, you can reduce the amount of water so that you have a thick gravy wrapped around the chickpeas. This is especially good with puris/chapattis.

This dish is a great go-to dish for large gatherings (almost everyone I know has happy memories of eating this during Navratri!) and its an amazing stew to eat for lunch (along with a hunk of whole wheat bread).

On this note, I would like to introduce two new things to you.

1. A new theme: Nutritious, vegetarian, home-style, mommy-based Cooking For One. As you know, I have had issues cooking for just myself particularly wrt not wasting stuff, eating healthy, eating a variety of things etc and this year I will focus in particular on this issue.

2. A regular, guest blogger! L is a grad student, an avid eater, a HUGE helper and totally game for any crazy cooking adventure that I suddenly throw at her! She will be a regular contributor here. Also, she eats some sweet recipes might be coming up!

2.1 S (the husband) took umbrage that I did not invite him to blog here. So you might see him lurking around too. But seriously, having seen him through grad school..............i am a doubter.......... :)