Dal Makhani – Black Lentils in Spicy Cream Sauce

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Dal Makhani is one of my favorite dish in North Indian Restaurants. I love its nutty taste in tangy cream, flavored with pungent garlic. I never bothered to try it at home. Didn’t even know what type of lentils is used to make this dish. Later on only when I checked it with one of my Indian friend, I got to know the type of lentils used to make this awesome dish.

I’m glad I like lentils and legumes, as it’s a good source of low fat protein for vegetarians. Quinoa is the best protein source for vegetarians and vegans. However I’m still not that fond of quinoa, even though I’ve tried them on salads and soups I really didn’t like its taste. Second best protein source is tofu, which is a very versatile product. You can use them in fried rice, noodles, soups, salads and stir fries. Stir fried tofu in spicy chili sauce would be a wonderful dish. You can apply the same method I used to make stir- fried eggplant and cook tofu.

My preferred protein sources are lentils, legumes and dairy instead of tofu or quinoa. But lentils are not a complete source of protein, you always have to combine number of lentils or consume dairy to get complete protein. Black lentils, red lentils and chickpeas are my favorites. Black lentils are also used to make Dosa – Indian Crepes.
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Ingredients:
Serves 3-4
100g Black lentils (black urad dhal), wash and soak in water overnight

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Grind below ingredients to paste using food processor
6 garlic gloves
Small piece of ginger
1 large tomato
1 large onion
3-4 fresh red chili
Few curry leaves (optional)
Handful of coriander leaves

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2 tbsp of vegetable oil
4 tbsp tomato puree
2tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp chili powder
1tsp fenugreek leaves
½ tsp turmeric powder
Pinch of Asafoedita powder
150ml thick cream (vegans can use coconut cream)
1 tsp Garam masala for fragrance
1 tbsp lemon juice
Salt to taste

Method

Pressure cook black lentils. Add water and salt to the pressure cooker, and cook for few minutes and once it starts to whistle, continue to cook for further five minutes. Turn off heat and leave it aside for 15-20 minutes till all pressure is gone. Then remove the lid.

Alternatively boil black lentils in a sauce pan, covering the lid for 40-45 minutes till they are soft and mushy.

Seperately in a large wok, heat oil and stir fry ground paste till it turn into brown color and oil seperates from the mixture.

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Add tomato puree, chili powder, curry powder, turmeric powder, asafoedita and fenugreek leaves. Stir well till all spices are combined and forms into a thick paste.

Add cream, and 200ml water. Mix the gravy well, close the lid and cook for 5-10 minutes. When gravy starts to simmer open the lid leave it to thicken. Add cooked black lentils and stir well.

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Season with salt, garam masala and lemon juice.

Note: Use of Asafoedita and fenugreek leaves are optional. Asafoedita helps to ease digestion of legumes and gives a pungent flavor. Same with fenugreek leaves, as it gives a pungent north Indian flavor to this dish.

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Green Chili Chutney (Green chili Pesto made with Indian Ingredients)

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I always prefer shopping fresh vegetables on my own, but sometimes I do have to delegate it to my DH. He is ok, I would not rank him bad, compared to some other spouses I know ;) but he would sometimes buy things like 250g of long green chilies. He is one of those people who can eat raw chilies. But you can’t have them on a daily basis right? I only use green chilies to season curries or for salads, but what do you do with so much green chilies in fridge? If you get enough sun light you can also marinate them in yogurt and salt and sun dry, once it’s completely dried you can store them and use as curd chilies.

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Luckily he bought less spicy chili, so I made chutney with them. I sauteed green chili, so it becomes much milder in spiciness. Added dry roasted fennel and coriander seeds to infuse aroma and tamarind pulp to balance all flavors with its tangy sour flavor.

Green chili chutney is such a versatile side dish, you can spread it in your bread or wraps to make sandwiches, mix it with pasta, have them with nacho’s, take it as a side for rice, or Indian crepes – dosa or Indian rice cake –Idly.
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Ingredients:
Serves 4-6
2 tbsp canola oil
250g Green chili, roughly chopped
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 garlic cloves
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
50g Shredded coconut
Small piece of ginger
1 tbsp Tamarind pulp

Method
Heat oil in a pan, sauté green chili, onion and garlic for few minutes till green chili skin becomes translucent

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Separately dry roast coriander and cumin seeds till aromatic. Into the same pan add shredded coconut and roast till it’s slightly brown.
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Add ginger and tamarind pulp. Mix all ingredients together and add to dry grinder / blender and grind till its smooth in consistency. Depending on your blender capacity add them all together or in batches. Alternatively use food processor to grind them into coarse sambol. (spicy chili paste) I used dry grinder.
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Spicy Legumes & Tomato Soup

Spicy Legumes & Tomato Soup

We have been on a constant battle with our weight. We both feel if we lose couple of stones, we’ll look and feel much greater. Somehow this realization strikes in front of the scale and seem to disappear in front of food. Hence we are on a constant battle.

Some time back I used to have notebook jotting down everything that went inside and calorie counting, rigorous exercise and having soups and stews for dinner. But after having soups very regularly I’ve lost appetite for them. I’m bored doing the same type of exercise repeatedly. Now I’m looking for new suggestions to help me conquer my weight. (All your suggestions are most welcome)tomatosoupspicy
My DH still likes taking soups for dinner. This is one of soups I made for him. It had to be mildly spicy for which I added coriander and chili powder, tanginess from juicy pulp of tomatoes, and of course wholesome – by adding three type of legumes i.e. red lentils, Black beans and Garbanzo beans. You can try it out with your own preferred legumes.

Legumes are a good source of protein for vegetarians. They are low in fat, good source of fiber, and are rich in vitamins and minerals. It’s always recommended that vegetarians combine legumes because one legume can compensate certain type of protein lacking in other and vice versa.

Ingredients
Serves 2-3

50g red lentil washed
Pinch of turmeric powder
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion diced
3 garlic cloves diced
4 large tomatoes
1 vegetable soup cube
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp chili powder
800ml water
1 dried bay leaf
Pinch of cinnamon powder
100g boiled garbanzo beans
100g boiled black beans
Coriander leaves, diced for garnishing

Method

Wash red lentils till water runs clear; add them to a sauce pan with turmeric powder and 250ml water. Cook for 20-30 minutes till lentils are fully cooked and mushy in texture.

While lentils are being cooked, in a separate pan, heat oil sauté onion and garlic till aromatic. Add tomatoes and stir fry for 2 minutes till juice starts to form. Add soup cube, coriander and chili powder. Stir for few seconds till you get spicy paste texture. Add 800ml water, bay leaf, stir well, close the lid and cook in medium heat.

When soup starts to simmer add boiled garbanzo beans, black beans and cooked red lentils. Mix well and season with salt and drizzle cinnamon powder over the soup. Turn off heat and add lemon juice.

Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle diced coriander leaves and serve hot.

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Soy Marinated Curry Chicken (100% Vegan & Vegetarian)

This curry is deceptive; because you can make them (non-vegetarians) believe that it’s real meat. I always make this curry when I’m entertaining non-vegetarian guests. Some of them think that I’ve prepared a meat curry especially for them.

Mock chicken, lamb, chicken breasts, prawns and fish are some of the popular fake meats available here in Southeast Asia. They are made with soya, mushroom stems and other preservatives. Its texture is very much like meat.

It’s a very popular delicacy among Chinese served in restaurants. Some Chinese practice vegetarianism on 1st and 15th of each month of Chinese lunar calendar.

It’s not one of my favorite, as I’m used to being a vegetarian for 18+ years and even when I was non-vegetarian I only liked sea food and didn’t really enjoy meat. But my DH loves mock meat. But I only cook them during special occasions. It’s not advisable to consume mock meat regularly as they are highly processed.

Ingredients:
Serves 4-6

To Marinate
250g Mock Chicken chunks
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp tandoori powder
2 tbsp yoghurt (optional) or vegans can use water

To Make Curry
1 large onion
Few curry leaves
4-6 garlic cloves
1inch piece of ginger
4-6 fresh red chilis
1 tomato
Handful of cilantro leaves with stem
(Blend all of the above ingredients using food processor)

100ml Indian sesame oil (or any preferred vegetable oil)
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp chili powder
1tsp Tandoori powder
Pinch of Asafoedita
2 tbsp tomato puree
200ml coconut cream
400ml water
1 tsp garam masala
Salt to taste

Method:
Mix all ingredients in “To Marinate” section; leave it aside for minimum of 30 minutes.

Heat oil in a large wok, add marinated mock chicken, and stir fry for 5-10 minutes stirring occasionally. When it turns slightly brown and crispy, remove using slotted spoon, and let it dry in kitchen towels.

100_1824In the remaining oil, add blended paste and sauté for 4-5 minutes till raw smell evaporates. Stir in curry powder, chili powder, tandoori powder, pinch of asafoedita and tomato puree, mix well till all spices forms into a thick paste.

 

 

 

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Note: Color of this spice paste is derived from tandoori powder and tomato puree. I only used 1 tsp of chili powder hence its not so hot in taste.

Add coconut cream, water, mix well, and close the lid and cook for 5-10 minute till gravy starts to simmer.

Add garam masala, salt to taste, turn off heat. Add stir fried mock chicken into the gravy and mix well.

I served this curry with vegetable biryani, my aunt (guest) also liked it with bread, you can also serve it with any type of Indian flat bread.

Bitter Melon Salad

I grew up seeing my grandma eating fresh bitter melon salad, juice and bitter melon curry to control her diabetics. As it is in the name it is very bitter in taste. My mom would soak them overnight in coconut water and cook them with tamarind pulp and pinch of sugar to reduce bitterness. Memories of my mum’s delicious bitter melon curry is making me salivate as I’m writing about it.

There are different variety of bitter melons, dark green small ones, green long ones and light green long ones. Some of my Chinese friends like it just in a stir-fry dish with tofu. Small dark green one’s are much bitter compared to other two varieties. Hence I guess you could stir fry other two varieties i.e long green and light green ones. You can also find bitter melon juice in all fruit juice joints in Southeast Asia.

This vegetable is rich in iron and its calcium content is said to be twice that of spinach. Even the beta carotene content in bitter melon is double the amount nutrient in broccoli. It is also a rich source of potassium, phosphorous, dietary fiber, etc.

One of the most important health benefits of bitter melon is its blood sugar lowering properties. So, it is said to be best for diabetics. Bitter melon is also said to be beneficial for those with intestinal parasites. Other benefits of bitter melon is it is useful for cleansing blood, boosting immunity and balancing hormones.

This recipe is something I learnt from mom, when bitter melon is fried with salt and turmeric it’s crunchiness and savory taste overpowers its bitterness. It’s also a very popular side dish served with banana leaf meals in Malaysian Indian Restaurants.

Bitter Melon Salad Ingredients:
Serves 3-4

4 small darkgreen bitter melons, thinly sliced
200ml canola oil for deep frying
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tsp turmeric powder

For salad:
2 tbsp low fat yoghurt (optional)
2 red chilies, diced
Handful of curry leaves, diced
1 red onion, thinly sliced
4-5 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 tsp lemon juice (optional)

Method:

Mix thinly sliced bitter melon with salt and turmeric powder and leave it in a colander for few minutes.
Heat oil in a pan to deep fry, when oil hits smoking point, add bitter melon is batches and fry till its golden brown. Remove using slotted spoon, and leave it to dry in kitchen towels.

Add fried bitter melon and other salad ingredients into a ball, mix well with a wooden spoon. Serve with rice.

Vegetarian Spaghetti

Serves 2-3
Ingredients
100g-150g Spaghetti
2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium size red onion, thinly sliced
¼ of each red, yellow, green peppers, thinly sliced
200g zucchini, halved, thinly sliced
Handful of yellow and red cherry tomatoes, halved
Handful of black olives, roughly chopped
100g boiled kidney beans (if using canned rinse beans before adding to pasta)
50g parmesan cheese, grated (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

To make sauce:
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp chili flakes
1 vegetable soup cube
200g canned tomatoes, diced
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp capers

Method:

Boil water in a sauce pan, when water hits boiling point, add salt, spaghetti and cook for around 20 minutes till it’s soft. Drain water and set them aside.
Heat oil in a large non-stick pan, sauté onion for 2 minutes till it’s translucent. Add 3 color peppers, zucchini and sauté for 2 minutes. Add cherry tomatoes and turn off heat. Season with lots of ground pepper and set them aside.

In the same pan to make the sauce, heat oil and sauté garlic for a minute, add soup cube, chili flakes, diced tomatoes, tomato puree and capers. Stir well for 2 minutes, add spaghetti, and mix well with sauce.

Add sautéed vegetables, olives, kidney beans and stir well. Serve them in a plate and sprinkle grated parmesan cheese.

Note: You may also add button mushrooms (@step 2) and basil leaves / spinach (@step 4) to the above meal.

Pasta Vegetables

Soy Meat Curry (Textured Soy Protein)

Textured soy protein is available as dry flakes or chunks. It will keep its structure when hydrated. Hydrated textured soy protein chunks have spongy texture similar to meat. It can be used as a meat replacement, its low in cost, high in protein, low in fat, and has a longer shelf life.

Soy meats spongy texture enables maximum absorption of flavors. It could be replaced like meat balls or minced meat to make Bolognese sauce or vegetarian cutlets.

Ingredients:
Serves 3-4

300g Soya meat
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
100ml sesame oil
1 onion diced
1 tbsp minced garlic and ginger
Few curry leaves
1 pandan (Rampe) leaf tied into a knot
1 tsp of each fenugreek, mustard and cumin seeds
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp chili powder
200g low fat yoghurt / 200ml reduced fat coconut cream
200 ml water
1 tsp garam masala
Method: 

Soak soy meat in water for 10-15 minutes, till they are soft. (Alternatively you can microwave for 4-5 minutes) Squeeze and drain all water. Marinate with soy sauce and tomato puree, set aside for 30 minutes.Heat oil in a large non-stick pan, add soy meat stir for 5-10 minutes till they turn into slightly crispy texture. At this stage you may add more oil and sauté onion, garlic ginger, curry leaves, and pandan leaf. Stir till onions are translucent.

Add mustard, fennel and fenugreek seeds, when it starts to splutter add curry powder and chili powder. Add yogurt and stir till soy meat is coated with all spices.


Add water and bring to boil closing the lid. When gravy starts simmering add garam masala and salt to taste.
Serve with rice/ roti/ bread/ pittu/ string hoppers.


Oyster Mushroom Stir-fry

Mushrooms have become a staple in my cooking. Different types of mushrooms carry different health benefits. Some, like the red reishi, increase longevity and can even help you live longer! These oyster mushrooms are packed with protein, vitamin B and C. These mushrooms are also rich in mineral salts that our body needs. The iron, phosphorous and calcium in these mushrooms is double that of chicken, pork and beef. It is also believed that vitamin B3 in these mushrooms is five to ten times higher as in any other vegetable.

Ingredients:
Serves 3-4
500g Oyster Mushroom (wash them in water, squeeze water, then tear them into thin strips including stems. Cut off edges of the stems)
1 Large onion thinly sliced
1 tbsp minced garlic and ginger
4 tbsp vegetable oil
Few curry leaves
2 tbsp pepper
1 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tbsp dark soy sauce
½ lemon juice

Method:
Heat oil in a large pan, add onion, curry leaves, garlic ginger, and oyster mushrooms. Sauté for few minutes.
When mushrooms starts to wilt, add turmeric powder, salt, pepper. Cook stirring occasionally for 10 more minutes.
Once mushrooms are cooked and turns to crispy golden brown colour, add soy sauce, curry powder and mix well. Turn off heat sprinkle some lemon juice.
Serve with rice / noodles / choice of main meal.Oyster mushrooms are packed with protein, vitamin B and C. These mushrooms are also rich in mineral salts that our body needs. The iron, phosphorous and calcium in these mushrooms is double that of chicken, pork and beef. It is also believed that vitamin B3 in these mushrooms is five to ten times higher as in any other vegetable.