Sheveed Polo (Persian Dilled Rice)

1 large bunch dill, trimmed and finely chopped
3 tablespoons dried dill
2 cups white basmati rice, rinsed
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt

Set aside 1/4 cup of the chopped fresh dill. In a bowl, combine the rest of the fresh dill with the dried dill.

Place the rice, butter and salt in a medium pot. Add 3 1/2 cups water and bring to a boil over high heat. Give it a stir, reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the water has been absorbed, about 12 minutes. (It’s O.K. to lift the lid to check.)

Fold the dill mixture into the rice. Wrap the lid in a kitchen towel to catch the condensation, ensuring that the kitchen towel is secured up top so it doesn’t catch fire. Firmly place the lid back on the pot.
Cook until the rice is cooked through and fluffy, about 15 minutes. Gently fluff with a spoon, then transfer to a serving platter, scattering the reserved 1/4 cup fresh dill in between spoonfuls of rice.

Bengali Cholar Dal

250 gms Chana Dal/ Bengal gram
1.2 litres water
2-3 cloves
1 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1 heaped tsp sugar
2 tbsp mustard oil or vegetable oil
1 bay leaf
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 green chillies slit lengthwise
30gms grated coconut
1 heaped tbsp raisins
1 tbsp chopped coriander for garnish

for the spice mix:
1 inch cinnamon stick
5-6 cardamom pods seeds only

Add the lentils and water to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over a medium heat stirring often. Simmer and add the cloves, turmeric, salt & sugar. Continue cooking for a further hour and 15 minutes until the dal is soft stirring often making sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat off and mash roughly with a potato masher or back of a fork.

To make the ground spice mix; heat a frying pan over a low flame. Break the cinnamon stick and chillies to smaller pieces. Add the cardamom seeds along with the cinnamon and red chillies to the pan. Keep the heat on low giving the pan a few shakes every couple of minutes. Roast the spices for 7-8 minutes. Cool slightly and tip it in a coffee grinder to make a fine powder. Set aside.

n a heavy bottom non stick pan heat the oil over medium flame; add the bay leaf and cumin seeds cooking until they sizzle for a few seconds. Now add the green chillies and stir for 2-3 seconds. Add the coconut frying for a minute or so until it start to turn light brown

Slowly pour in the cooked chana dal stirring well. Bring it to a boil, add the raisins and the ground spice powder. Simmer on a low heat cooking for 10 minutes with a lid on. Stir a few times as it simmers making sure it doesnt stick to the bottom of the pan. Check seasoning and garnish with fresh coriander. Serve parathas, luchis or steamed rice

Parippu Curry (Sri Lankan Dal)

8 oz. red lentils (masoor dal)
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 onions, chopped
4 leaves curry, thinly sliced
1/4 teaspoon saffron powder
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
2 whole cloves
1 cup coconut milk
1 1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/2 lime
1 green hot pepper
Salt

Wash the lentils well by changing the water at least three times.

Boil them in the water with the saffron, chili powder, turmeric, curry and cloves.
After about 15 minutes, when the color of the lentils changes from red to yellow, remove from the heat and pour into a large bowl.

Heat the oil in a very large skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard, fenugreek, and cumin seeds and fry for 20 seconds.
Add the onion and garlic and mix well for 20 seconds.

Add the boiled lentils and mix well. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the coconut milk and salt to taste. Cook until the curry begins to boil.
Remove from heat and add the lime juice.
Add the raw or fried green hot pepper on top (optional).

Serve hot with rice or bread.

Coconut Rice

Rice – 2 cups (any long grained or fluffy white rice variety)
Water – 3.5-4 cups or enough to cook the rice
Coconut – 1 cup, shredded (fresh, not desiccated)
Oil – 2 tbsp + extra for frying cashew nuts
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Black pepper corns – 8-10
Whole dry red chilies – 3
Urad dal (split black lentil) – 1.5 tsp
Curry leaves – a few
Salt – to taste
Cashew nuts – for garnish (optional)

Prepare rice as usual. Fluff with a fork or spoon.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large pan.

Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, red chilies and curry leaves.
When the mustard seeds start sputtering, add black pepper corns and urad dal. Saute till dal turns light golden in color.

Add coconut and saute for a couple of minutes. No need to roast the coconut, just saute till the moisture is gone.

Add the cooked rice and salt to taste. Mix well, taking care not to mash the rice.

Heat some oil in a small saucepan and fry the cashew nuts till golden. Add to the rice and serve hot.

This rice goes well with just about anything. It is absolutely delicious with fried/grilled chicken or fish or any other spicy curry.

Vegetable Pulao and Raita

You will need: (* – Refer notes)

Rice (Basmati or similar long-grained) – 2 cups
Ghee (clarified butter)* – 2 tbsp + 2 tsp
Whole spices like cinnamon stick , cloves, cardamom and black pepper corns**
Onion – 1 medium-sized, finely chopped
Vegetables like carrots, peas and green beans – 1 cup (total)
Lemon juice – 1 tbsp
Water – 3 cups
Cashew nuts and raisins for garnish (optional)

Wash the rice in water. Drain well and keep aside***.

Heat 2 tbsp ghee in a thick bottomed vessel (I use a pressure cooker). Add the whole spices and allow it to sputter and become fragrant.

Add the chopped onions. Saute till they turn translucent.
Add the vegetables and saute for a minute.

Add 3 cups water****. Add enough salt and bring to a gentle boil.

Add the washed rice and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Mix well and check seasoning.

Cover and cook till done.

If using a pressure cooker, cook on medium high till you hear a whistle, lower the heat and cook for 5 more minutes. Else, cover the vessel with a heavy lid and cook till done.
This dish can easily be cooked in a rice cooker too. Do the sauteing in a pan and transfer to the rice cooker along with rice, water and lemon juice.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the remaining ghee and fry the cashew nuts and raisins till golden.

To serve, fluff pulao well, garnish with nuts and serve hot with raita or your favorite curry.

Notes:

* Substitute with oil, if ghee is not available or you are extremely health conscious!

** For 2 cups of rice, I use a 2-inch piece of cinnamon stick, 3-4 cloves, 2-3 pods of cardamom and 3-4 black pepper corns.

*** The washed rice can be roasted in a little ghee. I usually skip this step (read the title!) and it turns out okay.

****Typically, the Basmati rice I use, needs 1.5 cups of water per cup of rice. Some rice types may need up to 2 cups of water. This information is usually available on the rice packet.

Now on to the raita. The following is the recipe for a simple tomato and onion raita with a surprise garnish!

You will need:

Thick yogurt – 1 cup
Onion – 1 small, finely chopped
Tomato – 1 small, de-seeded and finely chopped
Green chillies – 2, chopped
Grapes – for garnish (the surprise!)

Whip yogurt well with a fork or whisk.

Add onions, tomatoes and green chillies.

Season with salt.

Garnish with green or red grapes cut in half. This is kind of a family tradition at our house. I playfully added a couple of grapes to raita one day and my husband was hooked! It adds a playful sweetness.

You can use cilantro and mint leaves also for garnish.

You can add finely chopped cucumbers and carrots to the raita too. Don’t forget to de-seed the cucumbers.

Tomato Rice with Cucumber-Carrot Raita

Rice – 2 cups (any long grained or fluffy white rice variety)
Water – 3.5-4 cups or enough to cook the rice
Oil – 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Whole dry red chilies – 3
Curry leaves – a few
Onion – 6-8 small shallots or 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
Tomato – 3, chopped
Green chilies – 1-2
Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tsp
Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp and coriander powder – 1 tsp; or sambar powder* – 1 1/2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Fresh cilantro leaves – for garnish (optional)
Roasted peanuts or cashew nuts – for garnish (optional)

Notes: * – Sambar powder adds a unique flavor to this rice. It is easily available at International grocery stores here. If not available, use a combination of red chili and coriander powders.

Cucumber-Carrot Raita:

Yogurt – 1 cup
Cucumber – 1/2 cup, de-seeded and chopped
Carrot – 1/2 cup, chopped
Green chili – 1, chopped
Salt – 1/2 tsp
How to:

Tomato Rice:

Prepare rice as usual. Fluff with a fork or spoon and keep aside.
Heat oil in a large pan. Add the mustard seeds, whole red chilies and curry leaves.
When the mustard seeds start sputtering, add the onions and green chilies, and saute till the onions are translucent.
Add the ginger and garlic paste and saute well till the raw smell is gone.
Add the masala powders and saute for a few seconds.
Add the chopped tomatoes and 1/4 cup water. Add salt to taste. Cover and let the tomatoes cook.
Open the lid and mash the tomatoes lightly with a spoon. The consistency should be that of a thick gravy so as to coat the rice well, but not too watery.
Add the cooked rice. Mix well, taking care not to mash the rice.
Garnish with the nuts and cilantro. Serve hot with raita or chutney.

Cucumber-Carrot Raita:

Take the yogurt in a bowl and beat well with a fork or whisk. Use a couple of tablespoons of water to thin it, if desired.
Add the chopped cucumber, carrot and green chili and salt. Mix well and serve chilled.

Raita can be made with onions and tomatoes too.

Papaya-Mango Yellow Rice

Oil – 2 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Dried red chilies – 2
Curry leaves – 5-6
Ginger – 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Asafoetida – a pinch
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Green or unripe papaya – 1/2 cup, grated
Green or unripe mango – 1/2 cup, grated
Coconut – 2 tbsp, grated
Rice – 3 cups, cooked
Salt – to taste
Roasted peanuts – 1/4 cup

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dried red chilies and curry leaves. When the seeds begin to crackle, add ginger, asafoetida and turmeric powder. Saute for a few seconds on low flame to fry the ginger.

Add grated papaya and mango and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. When papaya and mango are soft, tip in the coconut and saute for a few more seconds.

Now add the cooked rice and gently fold in to combine. Season with salt. Add the roasted peanuts. Serve hot with a side of raita, pickle and pappads.

NOTES:
1. Though filled with nutritional goodness, unripe green papaya is somewhat bland, but still great at absorbing flavors. So green mango is added here to give the rice a tangy flavor.

Paneer Dahi Pulao

To marinate:
Paneer – 250gm, cut into small cubes
Yogurt – 1/4 cup
Ginger and garlic paste – 1 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Red chili powder – 1 tsp
Garam masala powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt – 1/2 tsp

For Pulao:
Basmati rice – 1 cup
Ghee – 2 tbsp
Cinnamon – 2″ stick
Cloves – 2
Cardamom – 3 pods
Bay leaves – 2, dried
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Red onion – 1 large, finely chopped
Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tsp
Tomato paste – 1 tsp
Water – 1 1/2 cups
Salt – to taste
Cilantro leaves – 1 tbsp, chopped

For garnish:
Ghee or oil – 2 tbsp
Cashew nuts – 5-6
Golden raisins – 8-10
Onion – 1/4 cup, thinly sliced

Marinating paneer: In a small bowl, mix together paneer and other marinade ingredients. Set aside while you prep the pulao.

Making pulao: Wash and soak rice in water for 15-20 minutes.
In a large pan or pressure cooker, heat ghee. Add whole spices (cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, bay leaves and cumin seeds) and allow them to sputter.

Now add onions and saute till lightly golden. Then add ginger-garlic paste and saute till raw smell goes away.

Add tomato paste, if using, and saute for a few more seconds.
Now add the paneer cubes, shaking off excess marinade and mix well.

Add drained rice and mix well to coat with the spices.
Add water to the bowl with leftover marinade and mix well. Add 1½ cups of liquid to the pan along with salt and cilantro. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and cook covered till rice is done. This takes around 20 minutes for a covered pan. If using a pressure cooker, cook on medium-high heat for 2 whistles and allow steam to be released naturally before opening the lid.
Open the lid and gently fluff the pulao.

Garnish: In a small pan, heat ghee. Add cashews and raisins and fry till golden. Drain and set aside. Then add onions to the ghee and fry them a dark brown color.

Garnish prepared pulao with fried cashews, raisins and onions just before serving. Serve with raita or curry of choice.

South Indian Dal

3 tbsp. ghee (or vegetable oil and you’ll keep the whole thing vegan)
2 small red onions or 1 large one, roughly chopped
1 tbsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. chili powder
Pinch of ground cardamon
3 dried red chilies, chopped into 1/4? pieces
1 tsp. salt
A few dashes of pepper
8 cloves garlic, minced
1-inch nub ginger, minced
1 1/2 cups masoor dahl (orange lentils)
4 medium sized tomatoes, roughly chopped
3 cups water
1 1/2 cups coconut milk
Juice from 1 lime
For garnish: Lime, cilantro, toasted cashews

Heat ghee on medium heat and add spices and onion, stirring continuously for about five minutes.

Add garlic and ginger and cook for another one or two minutes.

Then, add lentils, tomatoes and liquids. Crank up the heat to medium-high and stir continuously, until all liquid is absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes.

Serve hot with rice, naan or a crusty roll. Garnish with toasted cashews and cilantro, and extra lime wedges for squeezing on top, as well as extra salt and pepper.

Lemon Rice

2 cups raw basmati rice
4 cups water
1 tablespoon salt
6 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed
2 teaspoons urad dal (black matpe beans; see headnote)
2 teaspoons chana dal (split chickpeas; see headnote)
20 raw cashew pieces (optional)
1/4 teaspoon ground hing (asafetida, see headnote)
15 curry leaves, or as needed
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
6 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Place the rice in a fine-mesh strainer. Rinse under cool water twice, to remove excess starch. Drain.

Bring the water to a boil in a deep pot over high heat. Add 2 teaspoons of the salt and 2 tablespoons of the oil, then stir in the rice. Cook uncovered for about 15 minutes or until tender, stirring a few times. Remove from the heat and immediately drain off any excess water in the pot. Transfer to a large bowl.

Heat the remaining 4 tablespoons of oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers, add the mustard seed, which will begin to crackle and pop almost immediately. Add the urad dal and chana dal. Cook undisturbed for a minute or two, until the chana dal turns light brown.

Quickly stir in the cashew pieces, if using, the hing, curry leaves and turmeric, then remove from the heat, continuing to stir until the cashews are lightly browned and the curry leaves begin to dry and curl.

Pour over the cooked rice, taking care to evenly distribute the spices so the rice is colored yellow, then stir in the lemon juice and the remaining teaspoon of salt. Serve warm; or cool, cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Source: Adapted from Vikram Sunderam, executive chef at Rasika in the District.

Moong Dal with Coconut, Ginger, and Peas

1 cup dry moong dal
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup frozen peas – thawed
~1/2 inch cube ginger – thinly sliced sticks
lemon juice (optional)
3/4 cup fresh grated coconut – I use frozen and thaw it out
chopped cilantro

Chaunk (spices fried in oil that you pour over the dal at the end)
2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 whole dry chili (optional)
1/4 teaspoon of chana dal, urad dal, mustard seed
pinch of hing

Wash the moong dal in water, until the water is almost clear and drain. Add 4 cups of water to the dal and soak for a minimum of 3 hours. I usually soak this overnight so that I can just cook the dal whenever I want the next day.

Drain the dal and get 1 cup of water ready.

Combine coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne (optional) and 1 tablespoon of water.

Heat the oil over a medium flame and when it is hot put in half of the ginger sticks and a few seconds later pour the spice mixture from the cup and stir once. Quickly put in the drained dal and mix it all up. Add the salt and 1 cup water. Once the dal is boiling, cover it and turn the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. The dal should be tender. To this add the peas, coconut and ginger and cook for 5 minutes or so. If you want the dal to be thinner, just add some warm water while cooking. Turn off the heat and at this point you can add some lemon juice (I highly recommend this, but I just can’t have lemons right now!).

Heat 2 tablespoons of oil with the seeds and optional chili. Let the urad dal brown a bit and pour this over the moong dal. You can also fry onion with this, but this adds acidity as well. Garnish with cilantro.

I like to eat this dal with rice and yogurt.

Yellow Peanut Rice

1 cup basmati rice
2 cups water
1/8 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon oil + 1 tablespoon oil
1/3 cup raw peanuts
pinch hing (asafoetida)
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon urad dal
1/2 teaspoon chana dal
1 dried red chili, broken in two (alternative is chopped green chilis which adds more spice)
4 fresh curry leaves
juice of 1 lemon
handful frozen fresh grated coconut, thawed
cilantro for garnish
salt

Cook the rice in a rice cooker or on stove with water and turmeric mixed in. To make the rice not stick I sometimes add a little oil. Set cooked rice aside.

In a small pan heat 1 tablespoon of oil and put in peanuts under medium heat. Fry peanuts until they are fragrant and turn golden brown. Put peanuts aside. (They will get crunchier as they sit out.)

In a wok, heat 1 tablespoon of oil under medium heat. To test the oil is hot put in a couple mustard seeds and they should start sizzling. Then add the rest of the mustard seeds and hing. Shake up the pot and cover (this is so the mustard seeds don’t pop out of the pan and burn you!) Once they pop for a few seconds, lower the heat and add the urad dal, chana dal, dried red chili and curry leaves (rub leaves between your hands a little before putting in pan to release oils). Coat them with oil and fry for a few seconds. The urad dal and chana dal should turn a brownish hue. Add the rice into the wok and mix well. Fry for a few minutes.

Turn the heat off and mix in the lemon juice and coconut. Add in the peanuts and salt to your taste. Garnish with cilantro and serve with yogurt raita.

Vangi Baath (Eggplant Rice)

2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seed
pinch of hing or asafoetida
2 fresh curry leaves
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 small eggplant, cut into 1 inch long strips (can use different varieties)
1 green pepper – same size as eggplant
1 small red onion
2 teaspoons vangi baath powder (recipe below)
1 cup cooked and cooled rice
juice of 1/2 lemon (or tamarind extract)
fresh frozen coconut – optional if not in powder

In a frying pan or wok under medium heat, add oil, mustard seeds and hing. Wait for the mustard seeds to pop and then add in the curry leaves and coat with oil. Add in the onion and fry until translucent. Add in the eggplant and green pepper and the turmeric and stir well.

Cook the vegetables until the eggplant is half-cooked. Add in the vangi baath powder and stir fry thoroughly so that the spice mixture is on all of the vegetables. Turn the heat down to cook through and stir periodically.

Once the vegetables are cooked, add in the rice and stir well. Turn off heat. Squeeze lemon and mix together. Top with coriander leaves and serve with yogurt, raita or majjige huli.

Notes: This was a rice for long car rides or on picnics. It’s quite hardy and since it’s so flavorful, you can just eat it as is. Traditionally, vangi baath is made with eggplants, but it can be made it with cauliflower too. You can also fried peanuts to the mix which was really good. Serve it with plain yogurt, raita or majjige huli.

Mosaranna (Yogurt Rice)

2 cups white basmati rice, cooked
1 1/2 cup thick whole milk yogurt
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
pinch of asafetida or hing
1/2 teaspoon urad dal
1/2 teaspoon chana dal
2 green chills, chopped (to taste)
1 dried red chili
3 curry leaves
cilantro
salt
optional – fried peanuts or pomegranates

Method
In a bowl, combine the cooked rice and yogurt.

In a small sauce pan, heat the oil under medium/high heat. Put in hing, mustard seeds, urad dal and chana dal. Shake up and wait for the mustard seeds to pop and the dals to start browning. Next add in the red chili and chopped green chili, stir to coat with oil. Next add the curry leaves and coat with oil. Turn off the heat and pour the fried spices over the rice and yogurt. Mix all together and add more yogurt to your taste or you can also add a little bit of milk if you want it to be a looser consistency. Add salt and freshly chopped cilantro.

Eat plain or add some spicy Indian pickle.

Tamarind Rice

1 cup basmati rice
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 cup dried tamarind or 2 teaspoons tamarind paste
1 1/2 tablespoons untoasted sesame seeds
3 tablespoons Indian sesame oil or peanut oil, divided
1/4 cup raw peanuts, preferably with skin – can sub in roasted, unsalted peanuts
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon chana dal? (split desi chickpea)
1 dried red chili pepper, broken in half
1 sprig of curry leaves
1 heaping tablespoon granulated jaggery or brown sugar
1/2-3/4 teaspoon salt to taste

Tamarind Rice Powder **
Indian sesame or peanut oil for frying spices
1/8 teaspoon asafetida (hing) powder
1/2 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
2-4 dried red chili peppers, depending on heat tolerance
4 curry leaves

*To save time, you can cook the rice a day ahead and store it in the fridge.

**You can multiply this quantity to make the powder in bulk if you plan on making the recipe more frequently.

Prepare basmati rice with turmeric powder according to your own method. Spread cooked rice on a sheet pan to completely cool.

If making your own tamarind paste, submerge dried tamarind in 3/4 cup of boiling water for 30 minutes or place tamarind and cold water in the microwave for 1 minute. Loosen up the tamarind with your hand. Place fine-meshed colander on top of a bowl, pour tamarind and water over sieve so soaking water is in bowl and tamarind is in sieve. With a spoon or your hand, press the tamarind pulp through the mesh of the colander into the bowl with the rest of its soaking water. Periodically scrape tamarind pulp from the bottom of colander into the bowl. The stems and seeds should be leftover in colander.

Heat a small cast iron frying pan or heavy pan on a medium-low flame. When warm, add sesame seeds. Roast them until fragrant and golden brown, a couple minutes. Set aside on a plate to cool. When completely cooled, grind in a spice or coffee grinder.

In the pan, add a few drops of oil. Turn the heat to medium-low and fry tamarind powder ingredients in the following order until fragrant, a few seconds: asafetida, black peppercorns, black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds. Transfer to a plate to cool (separate from sesame seeds).

In the same pan, add a few drops of oil. Toast coriander seeds until fragrant and then add the chilies and fry until you feel a tickle in your nose. Transfer to plate to cool with tamarind rice powder ingredients. Add curry leaves to the pan and roast until they start to dry up. Transfer them to plate to cool with other tamarind rice powder ingredients.

When all tamarind rice powder ingredients are cooled, grind in a spice or coffee grinder.

In a wok or large frying pan, heat 1 teaspoon of oil under medium heat. Add peanuts to the wok, stirring around until peanuts are fragrant and turn golden brown, a few minutes. Set peanuts aside to cool in a bowl lined with paper towel.

Coat the bottom of the wok with 2 tablespoons of oil and heat to medium. When oil is hot and shimmering, add in one black mustard seed. When the seed sizzles and pops, add in the rest of the mustard seeds and asafetida. Keep a lid handy to cover the pan when the mustard seeds are popping. When the popping starts to subside (few seconds), immediately add in chana dal. Stir to coat with oil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Continue to stir dals so they evenly roast and until they turn a reddish golden-brown color and smell nutty. Rub curry leaves between your fingers a little to release their natural oils and drop them and dried red chili pepper into the oil. Cover immediately as moisture from curry leaves will cause the oil to spurt. Then stir to evenly coat everything with oil for a few seconds.

Next add in tamarind pulp and soaking water. Turn the heat to medium. If you are using tamarind paste, add a couple tablespoons of water to the wok as well. Boil the mixture, add jaggery or brown sugar and mix until dissolved. Add salt and boil until you get to a thick paste and the raw smell of tamarind is no longer, 2-4 minutes. Add in the roasted spice powder and 2 teaspoons of oil and mix well. Turn of the heat.

Transfer rice to a serving bowl. Once cooled, start adding the cooked tamarind paste to the rice, a spoon at a time, mixing it with your hand gently. Per your taste, mix in as much of the paste as you like (I love tamarind so I usually add it all)***. Mix in the ground sesame seed powder and fried peanuts. Taste the rice; it should be sour, spicy and a touch sweet. Add paste, jaggery and salt accordingly. Let the flavors soak into the rice for about a half hour before serving.

Serve plain or with yogurt raita.

***If there is any tamarind paste left, you can store it in the fridge for a couple of weeks.

Yellow Pea Curry

1 cup dried whole yellow peas, soaked overnight
4 cups (pressure cooker); 7 cups (without pressure cooker)
2 tablespoons ghee or oil
1 teaspoon cumin seed
pinch of hing or asafetida
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, grated
1 green chili or jalapeño, minced
1/3 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garam masala
juice of 1/2 lemon
cilantro, chopped
salt
yogurt

Wash dried whole yellow peas in water and cover them with 2 inches of water to soak overnight.

Drain the dried whole yellow peas and put them into a pot with 7 cups of water if you are cooking cooking in a pot and 4 cups of water if you are cooking in a pressure cooker (instructions for using pressure cooking are below). Turn the heat to medium high heat. You will get some foaming on the top so skim that off with a spoon. When the foaming stops, mix in salt and the turmeric powder. When the peas are boiling, start to simmer them at lower heat until they are soft, about 60-90 minutes. If you are using a pressure cooker, you will cook them for about 10 minutes. If they are not completely soft at this point, boil them for a bit more but they will be close at this point.

In a separate pan, heat the oil under medium heat. Add in the cumin seed and asafetida. When the cumin seeds starts to brown and get fragrant, throw in your chopped onions. Let the onions cook until they are translucent. Add in your garlic, ginger and green chili and give a good stir. Cook for a few seconds and then add in the garam masala. Stir the pot well so you get the smell of the fried spices.

Add to the pot of fried onions and spices, the cooked dal. Mix well and add more water to get to your desired consistency and salt to taste. Cook together for 5 minutes at low-medium heat.

Turn off the stove. Add lemon juice and chopped cilantro and stir.

Serve in bowls with a dollop of yogurt with rice or roti on the side.

Lemon Dill Rice with Cashews

2 cups basmati rice
2/3 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 bunch of dill, chopped
1/2 cup cashew, chopped in half
1/2 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons vegetable oil + 1 teaspoon oil
pinch of hing asafetida
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon urad dal
1/2 teaspoon chana dal
1 dried red chili, broken in half
5 curry leaves
1 tablespoon vangi baath powder (can sub in sambar or curry powder)
juice of half a lemon
salt to taste

Mix turmeric with rice and water and cook (If you have day-old rice this is best so the rice does not get mushy).

In a small pan under low heat, add in 1 teaspoon of oil and the cashews. Fry them for a few minutes, until they start to brown a bit and you can smell them roasting. Put the cashews aside in a bowl.

In a non-stick pan, under medium, heat oil. Put in the asafetida, black mustard seeds, urad dal and chana dal and shake up the pot. When the mustard seeds start to pop and the dals start to brown, add in the dried red chili. Turn the heat to low and add in the curry leaves (the oil will spurt so watch out). Coat the red chili and curry leaves with oil.

Add in the onion and dill and cook for about 20 minutes. You want the onion to be fried a bit and the dill to be cooked down. Add in the vangi baath powder at this point and mix well. Cook for about 2 minutes.

Next add in the yellow rice and salt to taste and mix well. Mix in the cashews (and save a few for garnish). Squeeze the lemon juice on top and mix. Garnish with the rest of the cashews. Serve hot or room temp at a picnic.

Red Currant Chitranna

1 cup basmati rice
1/4 cup red currants, few more for garnish
2 cups water
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon oil + 1 tablespoon oil
1/4 cup raw peanuts
pinch hing (asafoetida)
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 dried red chili, broken in two (alternative is chopped green chilis which adds more spice)
4 fresh curry leaves
juice of 1 lemon
handful frozen fresh grated coconut, thawed
cilantro for garnish
salt

Cook the rice in a rice cooker or on stove with water and turmeric mixed in. To make the rice not stick I sometimes add a little oil. Set cooked rice aside.

In a small pan heat 1 tablespoon of oil and put in peanuts under medium heat. Fry peanuts until they are fragrant and turn golden brown. Put peanuts aside. (They will get crunchier as they sit out.)

In a wok, heat 1 tablespoon of oil under medium heat. To test the oil is hot put in a couple mustard seeds and they should start sizzling. Then add the rest of the mustard seeds and hing. Shake up the pot and cover (this is so the mustard seeds don’t pop out of the pan and burn you!) Once they pop for a few seconds, add the dried red chili and curry leaves (rub leaves between your hands a little before putting in pan to release oils). Coat them with oil and fry for a few seconds. Add the rice into the wok and mix well. Fry for a few minutes.

Turn the heat off and mix in the lemon juice and coconut. Gently mix in the peanuts, red currants and salt to your taste. Garnish with cilantro, few more currants and serve with yogurt raita.

Chana Masala with Feta and Herbs

Ingredients
1 cup dried chickpeas, preferably soaked at least 4-6 hours (equivalent to 2 15 oz cans of chickpeas)
3 cups water
2 tablespoons ghee or oil
1 stick cinnamon
1 bay leaf
2 cardamom pods, cracked
2 cloves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
pinch of asafetida
1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon grated ginger
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon Indian chili powder or cayenne (or to taste)
feta, cubed
1-2 tablespoons lemon juice
cilantro, chopped
salt to taste

If you have soaked your chickpeas, drain them and then add 3 cups fresh water to the chickpeas. Put the stopper in the sealed position on top and pressure cook on high for 12 minutes and then let the pressure naturally release (meaning do nothing). If you have not soaked the beans, just add the chickpeas and water and then press the Bean setting with the stopper on the sealed position on top. When the chickpeas are finished cooking salt them generously.

While the beans are cooking, heat ghee or oil in a pan under medium heat. Add in cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamom pods and cloves. When they start to sizzle, add in the cumin seeds and the asafetida. Shake the pan so everything mingles. Once the cumin seed starts to brown, put in the onions and mix them around. Add the the turmeric powder and and fry the onions until translucent.

Next put in the ginger and garlic and mix and fry for a few seconds. Next add in the diced tomatoes and cook until it separates from the oil. Add in the coriander powder, cumin powder, garam masala, chili powder and salt and mix well. Cook for a few minutes.

When the chickpeas are done cooking, add them and the cooking liquid (as much as you like if you want it drier or more of it if you like it to be more soupy). Simmer for about 10 minutes and then add the feta and simmer for a few minutes until softened but not breaking apart. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and taste. You want just a bit of tang. Add more if needed. Taste for salt.

Garnish with a sprinkling of garam masala and cilantro (or herbs of choice).

Serve with rice, yogurt (or sour cream if you are feeling decadent), and achaar.

Swat Valley Varjaley: Wild Garlic, Dill and Spinach Rice

1 1/2 tbsp. ghee or 1 tbsp. unsalted butter and 1 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp black cumin seeds or cumin seeds
½ large red onion, chopped finely
2 handfuls of baby spinach
2 sprigs of fresh dill
1 large handful of ramson/wild garlic
200g basmati rice, rinsed and soaked in tap water for 1 hour

To serve:

100 g natural full fat yoghurt

Rinse and soak the basmati rice in water for about 1 hour maximum and drain.

Heat a saucepan (lidded). Once hot add ghee (or butter and oil). When melted, add cumin. Allow it to pop and add the red onions.

Chop the greens, (if using garlic instead of wild garlic leaves chop finely).

When the onions are light brown from the edges add all the greens (or garlic with greens) and toss until wilted. Add the drained rice and stir through until all combined.

Top with a little water (enough to lightly cover the rice, but not cover it totally). Place the lid on and turn the heat to low. Cook for 5-7 minutes, check if rice had absorbed the liquid, if still raw, add a few more splashes of water, cover and cook until done. Puff up the rice using a fork. There should be no liquid remaining.

Serve with plain natural full fat yogurt.