This recipe for very tasty spiced potatoes is from Manjula’s Kitchen.  By happy accident, I reached for the coriander I’d just crushed for another recipe instead of the cumin I was putting in this one.  I looked at the coriander in the pan, said, “ah, what the heck” and added the cumin anyway (just a little less) and hoped for the best.  The hit of coriander ended up being really nice.  Manjula’s suggestions for variations include adding 2 Tbsp of shredded carrot or green peas.

Use this as a filling for dosa (like an Indian crêpe).  We found them tasty enough to act as a side dish.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large potatoes
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • pinch of hing (asoefetida)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds (I used yellow, since I didn’t have black)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 finely-chopped green chili
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro (I used parsley)

Instructions:

  • Wash the potatoes and put them in a large pan with enough water to cover.  Boil until tender enough to easily insert a fork.  Set aside to cool.  *Don’t rinse potatoes with cool water to cool, or they will absorb the water and get soggy.*  When they’re cool, peel them, then dice small.  Set aside.
  • Heat oil in a saucepan on medium-high heat.  The oil is ready when a cumin seed will crack right away when you drop it in.
  • Add mustard seeds, cumin seed, (and coriander seeds if you’re klutzy like me) and hing.  (Give a quick stir and then get the cover ready – when the mustard seeds crack, they’re like popcorn and will just fly across the room.  You don’t want to get hit with one!)
  • As the mustard seeds stop cracking, add the turmeric, potatoes, chili and salt and mix well.
  • Stir-fry for a few minutes, until the potatoes are nicely finished but not over-done, and everything is fragrant and well-cooked together.
  • Add lemon juice and garnish with cilantro. (or parsley)

I found this made enough to fill 8 dosas nicely.

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This is a riff on this recipe I found at Redchillies for Moong Dal and Vegetables with Chole Masala.  All I was able to find at the store was Chole Chaat Masala, which isn’t the same thing, but it does share some of the tangy/sour qualities of chole masala, with ingredients like amchoor (mango powder), ginger, and black salt.  It ended up working fabulously, and this has become my favorite recipe to make with moong dal.

Moong dal is a very small yellow split pea, graced in English with the unfortunate name of Mung Beans.  They’re easily found in Indian/Asian markets, and are nutritious, tasty and versatile. Because they’re so small, it doesn’t take too much time to soak and cook them.  Make sure you put the moong dal in a mesh sieve and rinse really well before soaking and cooking, until the water runs clear.

(It’s important to note that moong dal, while being a yellow split pea, is not the same thing as “yellow split peas” that you can easily find with the dried beans at your everyday supermarket.  Moong dal is smaller, with a more intense color.)

After rinsing the moong dal, put them in a bowl and cover with water, and let soak for about 30 minutes.  Then put them in a pot with enough water to cover, and cook on a simmer for 30-50 minutes, being sure to add more water as needed so that they stay covered.  When done, they should be soft and mushy and easily mashed.  This dal will comprise the bulk of the sauce in the dish.

You can play around with the amount and type of vegetables used.  I’ve used as little as 1 cup and as much as 2.5 cups.  For veggies I’ve used kale, cauliflower, broccoli, bell peppers, potatoes, chard (not all at once) – if it makes a good curry, it could probably find a home in this dish.

Ingredients:

  • Veggies of choice, cut/chopped medium-small, 1-2 cups
  • 3/4 C moong dal, soaked and cooked
  • 3/4 C  onion, diced or sliced, your preference
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp grated or minced fresh ginger (try to use fresh, it tastes much better in this dish than ground)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp chili powder, according to your taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp Chole Chaat Masala
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Parsley for garnish
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • pinch of salt

Instructions:

  • Cook the dal as mentioned above, mash it until smooth, and set aside.
  • Cook the veggies separately, by steaming or briefly sauteeing until tender.
  • In a good-sized saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.  When hot, add the cumin seeds, fry for a minute until the seeds have cracked and become fragrant.
  • Add onion and sweat until translucent.
  • Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt; stir well and cook for another minute.
  • Add chili powder and chaat masala and stir well.  If the mixture is very dry, add a little bit more oil.
  • Add the vegetables and a little water.
  • Add the dal, stir well, and season to taste (a little salt, a little more masala, whatever you like).
  • Simmer the mixture for a few more minutes, until all the ingredients are well-blended.
  • Garnish with parsley.  Serve with cumin rice and a spoonful of raita.  Yum!

Garam Masala is a wonderfully spicy addition to curry dishes.  It is often added near the end of cooking, and even sprinkled on a finished dish. Like all masalas, there are as many versions of garam masala as there are dishes in which to use it.  You can buy it, but why not make your own the way you like it?  I like mine with less coriander than many, and no fennel or fenugreek.

Toast each of the spices, then cool, before combining them together.  Raw spices just don’t have the same oomph to them.  Some spices are significantly transformed by the cooking process.  Take the time; it’s worth  it!

Toast:

  • 4 parts black pepper
  • 2 parts cloves
  • 4 parts cinnamon
  • 3 parts black cardamom
  • 2 parts cumin seeds
  • 2 parts bay leaves
  • 1 part coriander seeds

When cool, grind together with spice grinder or mortar and pestle.  Keep in an airtight container in a cool, dry place out of sunlight.

In the US, we’ve come to think of a thick, sweet tea drink with spices as “chai.”   But “masala” is what actually distinguishes “masala chai,” tea with spices, from plain tea.  “Chai masala”  refers to the powdered spice mix used, and you can put a pinch of it in a cup of tea for a quick alternative to cooking lots of masala chai in a pot on the stove.  Like all masalas, most people have their own version of it.  This is how I like my chai masala, without any anise or other licorice-y flavors, and a small hit of pepper.

You’ll need:

  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper

Mix well and store in a cool, dry place away from sunlight, in an airtight container.  Add a pinch to a cup of brewed black tea, and add milk and sweetener.