Tuesday, 21 July 2020

Toor daal

You can find these glossy oil-coated split pigeon peas in most supermarkets here in London.  Many recipes exist as the lentil is used both in the north and the south of India.  I've seen different spellings on recipes that reflect the language or dialect spoken - tuar, toovar, tur, and its also known as arhar dal, but the most common spelling and word is toor, so I'll stick to that here.

I have used 2 different recipes frequently.  One was told to me by my mother, and the other is one I used to use from the side of the lentil packet! I copied it down because I realised I might one day have to get a different brand, or the manufacturers might change the packaging!  I have another recipe stashed away that's a Parsi recipe which I'll add to this blog at some point in the future.

This daal is usually a medium thickness and served with rice.

My Mum's version:

1 cup of toor daal
handful of redskin peanuts (unsalted)
1 whole tomato
1/4 teaspoon of turmeric
salt to taste.

Add the above to a small pressure cooker.  Add 2 cups of water and give pressure for 7 minutes.  Allow the pressure to release naturally to avoid it spitting and frothing at you, and then open the lid.  Now you need to add some jaggery/gur to the dal, to taste.  I have used muscavado sugar in place of this, but it doesn't have the complexity of flavours and is much sweeter than jaggery.

While the lentils are cooking, make a tarka (tempering) of 1tsp mustard seeds, 2-3 sliced garlic cloves, a pinch of asafoetida, a few curry leaves, 1 whole green chilli and one whole dried red chilli.

Add the tarka to the lentils and garnish with chopped coriander leaves (if you hate me.)

Serve with simple steamed basmati rice and a smile.



Packet side recipe


228g oily toor
114g chopped yam or sweet potato
75g redskin peanuts
2 tbsp ghee
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp asafoetida
3 chopped plum tomatoes
1 tsp ginger paste
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
salt to taste
1 tbsp jaggery
juice of half a lemon or 1 tbsp tamarind paste

Wash and drain the lentils.  Place in a pan and add 750 ml water, the peanuts and the yam.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 mins.  

Heat ghee and fry cumin until brown.  Add asafoetida, tomatoes, ginger and chilli powder and fry gently.

Add this to the dal mixture.  Stir well and simmer until the grains and yam are soft and fully cooked.  

Add water if needed, but be sure to cook it in.  Finally add the lemon or tamarind  and jaggery and stir well.  

Serve with rice.

Monday, 20 July 2020

Bengali style chana daal

I really never loved this daal when I was growing up. It's thick and sweetish, and the grains are still very slightly firm to the bite and separate, not completely liquid, like more well-known daals.  This is often eaten with luchi or puri - the small round deep-fried discs of featherlight bread often reserved for less day to day meals in Bengal.  Luchis are the plain white breads, that taste both soft and crispy, and taste like flaky, fatty, slightly chewy morsels of joy.  Puris are no less delightful, albeit made with the slightly more healthy partly wholemeal chapatti flour.  The taste is slightly less guilt-inducing, but just as delicious.  

I am not practiced at making these, so I am not making any attempts to blog recipes for the breads, but there are many recipes and videos for them out there.  So here is the chana dal recipe my mother taught me.  The main reason I used to eat this was for the sneaky nuggets of juicy fried coconut that hide in amongst the lentils, now I have learned to love the dish for itself.

Chana daal 

These are split polished chickpeas, NOT split yellow peas, but I have been told those work very well as a substitute if you can't find chana dal.  I have seen it in most supermarkets, however, so if you can get it, do try it with the correct thing.

First, boil 2 and a half cups of water in the pressure cooker.  Then add one cup of chana dal, half a teaspoon of turmeric, a teaspoon each of coriander, cumin, garam masala and salt and also a pinch of sugar.  Stir well and cover and bring to pressure.  Cook for 9 minutes.

While this is cooking, gently fry some finely chopped fresh coconut until it is lightly toasted.  Set aside.

When the dal is finished, and the pressure has released, open the lid, mix the dal well and keep it simmering.  It should be thick enough to eat with torn up flatbreads, it should not be so thin that it can mix with rice.

Now heat some ghee and fry a couple of bay leaves, a stick of cassia bark, 2 cardamom pods and a clove.  Pour this over the dal.  Finally, add the fried diced coconut.  

Serve with luchi and enjoy.  

Tuesday, 14 July 2020

Moong/Mung Daal - Yellow Mung lentil

When my mother fell seriously ill last year, she was in hospital for some months.  She really hated the food, and I tried to cook for her and take it to her in the evenings so she could eat home-cooked hot food at supper time.  There were no heating up facilities, so I used to either cook it freshly and put it in a food thermos and drive there at dinner time or I'd cook it earlier/ the day before, and heat it up and put it in a food thermos and drive to the hospital at dinner time.  We would also take a metal bowl and a plastic spoon for her to eat from and with, as the hospital only had plates in the evenings and the metal spoons they had were too heavy for her to use comfortably.

Doing this was an honour and a privilege and I will always be grateful that I could do her this one small service as often as I could.  I would honestly give anything to cook one more time for her or for my dad.

One day she asked me to make this specific daal, mung daal.  It is often given to patients and the elderly, as it is supposed to be easy to digest.  As it was never one I liked as a child, I had never asked her how to make it, so I sat with her and took notes as she described how she cooks this.  I'm glad I did that then because soon after that, she lost a lot of the capacity to have told me any more recipes, although she did not die for some months after.

Since that time, I've learned to love this dish and I often cook it now for my vegan and vegetarian friends and colleagues, as well as for the family.  The quantities below will serve 1-2 people and rely on using the measurement of the ubiquitous Asian "rice cup" - a plastic cup that comes with most rice cookers - I have since found that the volume of those rice cooker cups is the same as the volume of 2 rice-portion scoops from the Love Food Hate Waste campaigns.

Mung/Moong Daal

half a rice cup of yellow mung lentils
quarter teaspoon turmeric powder
half teaspoon salt
half an onion, roughly chopped
2 green chillies, one left whole, one broken in half
2 cloves of garlic, sliced.


First, soak the lentils for half an hour.

Drain well and put into the pressure cooker.

Add slightly more than double the volume of water. (About 1 and a quarter rice cups of water.)

Add the turmeric, salt, onion and green chillies.

Give pressure whichever way you normally do for 8 minutes.

If possible, allow pressure to release naturally - otherwise, a quick release will be ok, but messy.

Mix well to smash the lentils. I've seen some Indians use a really cool piece of very simple equipment to do this - it looks like a star on a stick, and the star is put in the lentils and the stick is spun between the palms to whisk up the lentils!



Fry the sliced garlic in ghee or vegetable oil until it just starts to brown.  Add to the daal.  Check the salt and the consistency.  If you need to add more water, be sure to continue to heat the daal or the water won't mix in properly.  If it pleases you, garnish with chopped fresh coriander.  This does not please anyone in my family.

Enjoy with rice or chappati.  Think of me and my darling mother.

Daal daal daal - starting with masoor (red lentils)

It came to my attention recently that tho I mention daal often, and I certainly used to cook it often, I don't have many daal recipes actually IN my blog.  This is pretty ridiculous as I'm from a south Asian background (my mother was Bengali, my father was Sindhi, I was born in north London) and I do love daal, and apart from the fact that one of my kids isn't always mad about daal - I did used to cook it often!

Since both my parents died very close together about 4 months ago, even my reluctant kid has asked for daal and rice - perhaps it's a link to the much-missed grandparents, a comfort connection, a taste from memories linked to the older generation, I don't know, but we've started cooking daal again recently and when I realised that my recipes are handed down from my mother, sister-in-law and grandmother, then I knew I must share them with the world so their love can continue to spread around the world.

You can spell it dhal, daal, dahl or however you want, the word just means "lentil".  There are probably as many recipes as there are cooks, but every family has their preferred way of cooking each lentil and there are definitely regional trends.  I'm not going to write an essay about this now, as many people have covered it far better than I could.

These are not cookbook recipes with measurements, tho I'm sure I will revisit them in the future when I have time to measure properly for the western cook, but for now, I want to get them down quickly for people to use the way they were taught to me.

Starting with the first I learned when I was at university and craving home-cooked food:

Masoor Daal (red lentil daal) (potentially vegan)

Take one large handful of red lentils per person and put it in a pressure cooker.  This will work the same in a traditional hob top or an electric type like Instant Pot.

I have very small hands, so I tend to do 6-8 handsful for 4 - 5 people.

Add 1 tsp of coriander powder (for this amount of lentils - less for less, more for more, you will learn your tastes over time)

Add a pinch of turmeric powder and a teaspoon of salt (see above for amount variations)

Add water from the tap until the surface is about an inch to an inch and a half above the top of the lentils in the pan.

Close the cooker and bring to the boil and then turn the heat down when the pressure is up and cook for 5-7 minutes.

If using Instant Pot, close the lid and use manual, 6 minutes.

If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can also soak the lentils overnight and then simmer for half an hour instead.

While the lentils are cooking, you make the "tempering".  This is a flavouring for the lentils, basically.  
First, slice one small onion and start it frying on a low flame in your oil/butter/ghee of choice.  When the onion is nice and soft, add 2 sliced garlic cloves and a finely chopped inch of peeled ginger.

When these are browned and the onions are sticky looking, add half a tin of chopped tomatoes, or 2 chopped fresh tomatoes if you prefer, and about a tablespoon of tomato puree.  Stir into the onions etc. By the time those are fully cooked in, the lentils should be cooked and the pressure can then be released if it hasn't already.  Now add the tempering to the lentils and stir well.  You may at this point want to add water, and perhaps salt, or if it's thinner than you wanted, allow it to cook without the lid to let it thicken.

If I'm serving this to guests, I often add cream and butter at this point, but then it's DEFINITELY not vegan, but there are obviously vegan creams or "butters" you could add if you want that richness.  None of it is necessary.

All you need now is some steamed basmati rice, a bowl, and a spoon if you want it.

Wednesday, 10 June 2020

Easy peasy creamy pasta

A very simple dish that I've cooked regularly but never blogged is so simple that I'm almost embarrassed to blog it.  But with Big'Un heading to uni in a few weeks, it seems important to note down even these obvious recipes so she can use them when she needs them.  This is one she loves and is easy and quick and satisfying.  I used to cook it whenever we stayed in a caravan or anywhere self-catering due to the simplicity and low number of ingredients.

1 pack of boneless chicken of choice
olive oil or butter to fry
1 pack of cream cheese (flavoured if you like - I used black pepper this time; I've used garlic and herb in the past too)
1 onion
half a teaspoon of garlic granules (optional)
1 heaped teaspoon of Marigold (yes, I always take this with me on self-catering holidays)
a splash of white wine
a bowlful of frozen veg of choice (peas, sweetcorn, a small bag of mixed veg, whatever)
(if you don't have a freezer, a tin of sweetcorn would also work)
splash of green Tabasco.
salt and pepper to taste
300 - 500g pasta shapes


Begin by getting the water on to boil.  Then chop up the chicken into bitesize pieces and fry them until golden in the oil or butter.  Chop the onion while that is frying.  Once they are done, remove with a slotted spoon and put the chopped onion into the pan.  Fry slowly until translucent.  

Once the water is boiling, add salt to the water and boil the pasta shapes for the time stated on the packet.

Once the onion is soft, add the chicken back in, with the garlic granules and the Marigold and finally the wine.    Stir it all well and add the veg and then pop a lid on and simmer until the pasta is done.

Once the pasta is cooked, scoop a mug of water out and reserve and then drain the pasta. While that is draining in the colander, add the pack of cream cheese to the chicken and stir it about and let it melt evenly through the chicken.

Carefully mix in the drained pasta and if needed add some of the reserved pasta cooking water to help loosen the whole thing to coat the pasta in the creamy sauce.  Season to taste with salt, pepper and the very important green Tabasco.  I haven't found anything that makes this dish quite the way that green Tabasco does, it's the sour tang I just love!  Honestly, I love the flavour of it almost as much as I love Marigold; I'm pretty sure my kids don't recognise foods cooked without one or t'other!!


Monday, 13 April 2020

courgette and bacon pasta

Well, we are a nation in a very different place than the last time I blogged.

Covid-19, lockdown, social distancing, queues for entering supermarkets, supply shortages. No pasta, no toilet paper, no flour, no eggs, no ketchup, no tinned tomatoes... Strict limits on purchases of the above if you CAN find them, as well as on hand-wash and hand sanitiser.

I'm lucky that I've always been a bit of a hoarder, and I like to buy in bulk anyway, and also I'm lucky enough to have a fantastically well-stocked local corner shop - so I can get a lot of basics practically on my doorstep when I need them.  Including pasta!

This dish was quick and simple, and veg packed and frugal.  Everyone enjoyed it, including Papa who is usually very mistrustful of courgettes.

I used:

2 courgettes
1 medium onion
125g bacon
one teaspoon of butter
half a teaspoon of salt
half a teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper
one teaspoon Marigold powder
splash of white wine if you have it, otherwise just splash in some water
50-75g plain cream cheese

400g pasta 
grated cheese to serve


First I chopped up about half a pack of unsmoked back bacon from the corner shop and dry-fried it until golden.  This is the point that Papa filled a large pan with water and put it on to boil for the pasta.  We used 400g of mixed fusilli - half wholewheat and half tricolori, basically because wholewheat is a bit more filling so goes further and the tricolori is interesting and also its what I found in big bags in Sainsbury's a few weeks ago.

Next I topped and tailed and halved and quartered 2 courgettes lengthways and then sliced the quarters up thinly.  They weren't at their best, but this didn't really matter.  I then halved the onion and sliced one half very thinly and chopped the other half finely.

Once the bacon was nicely golden, I removed it from the pan with a slotted spoon, and tipped in the courgettes.  I left it to brown slightly and soften, and then added the onion and the butter and sprinkled in the salt.  I turned the heat down slightly and left it to soften.

Meanwhile, at some point the water came to the boil, and so Papa put the pasta on to cook around when I was taking the bacon out.  Papa asked me if the sauce would take as long as the pasta, and I wasn't sure, but both were done around the same time in the end!

Once the veggies were nice and soft, I added the Marigold powder and the splash of wine.  Honestly, water would be fine, or cider, or dry sherry if you happen to have it!

Once the pasta was cooked, I put the bacon back into the pan with the courgettes and also a ladleful of the pasta water.  Finally, I stirred the cream cheese into the courgettes and bacon.

Tiny had at least 2 helpings, not-so Littl'Un loved it, not-really BigUn enjoyed it too and added it to her plan of things to cook at Uni....



Thursday, 5 September 2019

Some kind of fried rice thing



Life has been crazy hectic recently. Both my elderly parents are unwell, one in critical care in hospital, and I’m running in circles to support them both and also keep the kids fed and watered.

Meals have to be quick to put on the table, but nutritious and filling and satisfying. 

On my way home I asked Papa to chop up some mushrooms which had been languishing in the fridge and once home I took a pack of bacon lardons and a bag of sliced kale which had been bought but not yet used, and created a sort of improvised fried rice.


I cooked 2 cups of rice in the microwave (I have a sistema microwave rice steamer currently, but I’ve used microwave rice cookers for as long as I can recall.)

While that cooked, I fried the bacon in a very hot wok.  When starting to crisp, I removed the bacon using a slotted spoon and then I proceeded to fry the chopped mushrooms in that oil. I then added a handful of frozen chopped onion and a shake or two of frozen chipped garlic.  Not the purée or paste, but the roughly chopped garlic so as to keep the flavour at the correct level.

When these were nicely softened and cooked, I added the bag of chopped kale.  Of course at first it looked like it wouldn’t fit in the pan, but it soon “melted” down.  

By this point, the rice was cooked and I added it to the wok, breaking up any lumps and mixing everything very thoroughly so that no clumps remained.  I then added the bacon back along with a little black pepper. 

We all enjoyed this dish. Some added a little soy sauce and some added hot sauce of choice, but everyone enjoyed it!


Ingredients used:

1 large pack of lardons
1 bag of sliced kale
1 punnet brown mushrooms
1 onion, finely chopped, or a handful of frozen chopped onion
1 or 2 cloves of garlic, chopped.
Ground nut oil if wished
Salt and pepper to taste.