Easy Moong-Masoor Dal

This hearty recipe is all you need to warm up during these cold, grey and drizzly evenings bringing a fuzzy feeling of warmth from the inside out.

Dal (lentil curry) forms an integral part of the staple Bengali diet and is present at most mealtimes in a every traditional household. Surprisingly simple, yet nutritiously satisfying, dal can also be enjoyed, guilt-free, as a protein-rich soup if you prefer a lower carb meal.

Prep Time: 10 mins

Cooking Time: 55 mins

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • ½ cup split moong dal
  • 1 cup masoor dal
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground coriander
  • ½ ground cumin
  • ½ tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 green chillies, split lengthwise (optional)
  • 1 tbsp oil

For the tempering

  • 1-2 tbsp oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp panch phoron (Bengali five spice mix*)
  • 1 tsp crushed red chilli (optional)
  • 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

Method

  1. Dry roast the moong dal over a gentle flame until the aromas are released, stirring constantly. This will take about 3-4 mins and the lentils will change colour very slightly. Set aside to cool.
  2. Combine the cooled moong dal with the masoor dal and rinse until the water runs clear.
  3. Place the lentils in a medium saucepan and add 3 cups water with the salt. Bring to boil, removing any foam which is formed.
  4. Add the onions, garlic and ginger paste, the dry spices (turmeric, coriander, cumin) and the oil. Stir well, cover and simmer on low until the lentils are cooked. This will take no more than 30 mins.
  5. Remove the pan from the heat and run a whisk or hand blender through the cooked lentils to create a smooth, rich consistency.
  6. Return the pan to the heat and add the last cup of water. Add the green chilli (if using) and turn up the heat and bring back to boil. Lower the heat and cook on a medium flame for approximately 10 minutes, to achieve a less watery consistency. The dal should still be runny. Turn off the heat and cover the saucepan.
  7. For the tempering, place a small wok or frying pan over a medium flame. Heat the oil, then add the bay leaf and garlic. Cook off for 1-2 mins until the garlic begins to brown.
  8. Turn off the heat and stir in the five spices and red chilli flakes, if using.
  9. Remove the lid from thevsaucepan of cooked dal and pour in the tempered spices. Scoop a spoonful of the dal into the tempering vessel and then gently scrape the dal back into the saucepan again to capture all the flavours from the tempered spices.
  10. Place the lid back on the dal and allow the flavours to infuse through.

Your dal is now ready!

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Sabut Masoor Dal (Whole Red Lentils)

One of my favourite lentil curries often made at my in-laws, I have just reduced the use of oil to the bare minimum 😊 Enjoy with naan, boiled rice or fragrant zeera (cumin) rice for a wholesome, healthy and heart-warming dish on a cold winter’s day.

Prep time: 5 mins

Cooking time: 45 mins

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole red lentils
  • 3 cups water + plus a more during cooking
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1-2 green chilliest ( optional)
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste, or 2 cloves finely minced
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp salt or to taste
  • Handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped
  • Fresh ginger slivers and lemons wedges (optional garnish)

How to prepare

  1. Rinse the lentils and pressure cook until tender (about 20 minutes).
  2. Heat the oil gently in a saucepan and add the cumin. Wait till they change colour.
  3. Add the onions and green chilli; cook until the onions have softened.
  4. Add the garlic and cook off for 30 seconds.
  5. Stir in the tomato with the salt, cover and cook until softened completely.
  6. Add the dry spices and sauté for 1-2 minutes.
  7. Add a little water and continue cooking to create a semi-dry mixture – ‘bhuna’.
  8. Add the cooked lentils to the pan and mix well.
  9. Add 1/4 – 1/2 cup hot water, stir again and bring to boil.
  10. Simmer the dal until the desired consistently is achieved – add more water if you preferred a runnier curry.
  11. Stir in the coriander leaves and remove from the heat.
  12. Top with the ginger slivers and lemon wedges, if using.

Gobi Bhuna

A delicious yet simple semi-dry dish, best enjoyed with traditional roti or in a wrap for a satisfyingly healthy meal!

Prep time: 5 mins

Cooking time: 25 mins

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 medium cauliflower, separated into florets
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 1 tsp level curry powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped

How to prepare

  1. Rinse the cauliflower and leave aside to drain.
  2. Heat the oil gently and add the cumin and mustard seeds. Wait till they change colour; stir in the dried chilli and curry leaves.

3. Add the garlic and curry powder and cook gently for 1 min.

4. Add the tomatoes, cauliflower and salt; turn up the heat and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.

5. Cover and cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes.

6. Add a splash of water, lower the heat, cover and cook until then cauliflower is tender.

7. Stir in the coriander leaves and serve.

Spicy Aubergine Stew

Last night I was ‘Desperately Seeking Spice’ and discovered a plump aubergine hiding out in my refrigerator 😊 I had 45 minutes to present something palatable and suitably spicy before it was time to break my fast. So I decided to cut out the elaborate prep and just throw it all into one of my dinky little woks and hey presto!

Prep time: 3 mins

Cooking time: 25 mins

Serves 1-2

Ingredients

  • 1/2 large aubergine, cubed
  • 1/2 bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp roasted ground cumin
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • Salt to taste

How to prepare

  1. Place all the ingredients, except the oil, into the wok and mix well.
  2. Drizzle the oil and stir in.
  3. Cover and allow to cook until the aubergine is tender.

Word of caution: Those normally adverse to aubergine may just be tempted to delve in so keep the dish by your side and only offer to share at the risk of missing out 😜

Cauliflower and Lentil Curry tempered with Fennel, Cumin and Mustard Seeds

Where do I even begin! I have been run down most of the week struggling to teach my yoga class on Wedneaday and not able to go to the gym since Monday 😱 I was determined to make the day count so at the first sign of recovery I felt my creative juices flowing again. So here we are, a popular vegetarian curry which I have just added a bit of this and that to and adapted to my own liking; gluten-free, sugar-free, vegan, low fat and rather delicious 😜 Perfect for my yoga students 🙏🏼

Rich in protein with a good balance of veg and just a tablespoon of oil this is a nutritious meal in itself. Of course if you need your carbs just pour two generous dollops over some boiled rice.

I actually made it to the gym this afternoon and helped myself to two bowlfuls upon my return. Guilt-free pleasures of my simple life 😊🙏🏼

Prep time: 10 mins

Cooking time: 30 mins

Serves 4-6

INGREDIENTS

2 cups red lentils

6 cups water

2 tbsp ginger purée

1 small cauliflower, separated into small florets

1 medium onion, chopped

1 large tomato, chopped

2 green chillies (optional)

1 tsp turmeric

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cumin, roasted

1/2 tsp chilli powder

Salt to taste

Handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped (optional)

For the Tempering

1 tbsp veg oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 tbsp dried curry leaves

HOW TO COOK

1. Wash the lentils and place in a medium saucepan with the water.

2. Add the ginger, onion, dry spices and salt.

3. Stir well and bring to boil.

4. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes until the lentils are soft.

5. Strike in the cauliflower, tomato and green chillies, if using).

6. Cover and cook on medium heat until the cauliflower is tender – about 10 minutes.

7. To prepare the tempering, gently heat the oil in a small wok or frying pan.

8. Add the cumin seeds, fennel seeds and mustard seeds. Allow them to sizzle.

9. Stir in the garlic and cook until browned.

10. Mix in the curry leaves.

11. Pour this mixture over the curry. Stir in and cover the pan to allow the flavours to infuse through the dish.

12. Garnish with coriander leaves before serving.

Chinese Fusion Vegetable Curry

Once you have prepared your curry sauce, shop bought or homemade, making this dish is so very quick and simple; deliciously satisfying too. I of for one knocked this up in less than 30 minutes on a Sunday morning to take over to my in-laws for lunch where my father-in-law had prepared his awesome egg fried rice special 🙂

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins
Serves: 4

Chinese Veg Curry

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 12-15 fresh broccoli florets
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 read pepper, chopped into chunks
  • 1 medium onion, cut into chunks)
  • 1 tsp mild Madras curry powder
  • 1 batch homemade curry sauce or shop bought curry paste (made up to 1 pint sauce)
  • cup water or as needed
  • salt to taste

How to cook

  1. Heat the oil over a medium flame the cook the onions until softened.
  2. Meanwhile wash the broccoli florets and drain. Place in a microwaveable bowl with one tablespoon water. Cover with cling film and pierce twice. Cook on high power for three minutes.
  3. When the onions have softened, add the brocolli and stir fry for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Add the mushrooms, peas and peppers. Continue to stir fry for another 2-3 minutes.
  5. Stir in the curry powder and cook for another minute.
  6. Slowly add the pre-prepared curry sauce and stir well.
  7. Cover and cook until the vegetable are cooked through with the sauce but not mushy.
  8. Add a little water if the sauce appears to be too thick and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
  9. Adjust seasoning as needed.

Serve with simple Jasmine Rice or Egg Fried Rice.

Aside

 

Curry pastes are readily available in the ‘World Food’ isles in most large supermarkets nowadays or from food retail wholesalers. They are easy to use as the paste simply needs to be dissolved and cooked to your desired consistency. The sauce can then be used to create a variety of meat, poultry, vegetable or seafood dishes.

However, if you are having trouble sourcing the paste or would simply rather make your own, this simple recipe guides you through the steps for making a batch of Chinese Curry Sauce for up to four portions.

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cooking Time: 15 mins
Serves: 4

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil or coconut oil (if obtainable)
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 1 medium onion (cut into chunks)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic (depending on size)
  • 1 star anise
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1/2 ground cumin
  • 1/2 ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp Chinese five spice powder
  • 2 tsp mild or hot Madras curry powder
  • 1 tbsp soya salt
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • salt and pepper as needed

Chinese Curry Sauce

How to cook

  1. Gently heat the oil and cook the onions until slightly browned.
  2. Add the garlic, star anise and chilli flakes. Stir fry until the garlic is slightly browned.
  3. Add the flour, cumin, ginger, five spice powder, curry powder, salt and pepper and cook gently for 30 secs until a paste starts to form.
  4. Gradually add the water whilst stirring to make a lump free sauce.
  5. Bring to boil and simmer until the mixtures has thickened slightly (no more than 10 minutes).
  6. Remove from the heat and blend the mixture with a stick (hand) blender. If the sauce it too thick, add a little boiled water and simmer for another 1-2 minutes.
  7. Adjust the seasoning to taste.

Your sauce can now be used immediately or cooled and refrigerated for up to three days or stored in the freezer for 3 months.

Chinese Curry Sauce

Chicken Jalfrezi

Chicken Jalfrezi (or Jhal Frezi – ‘jhal’ meaning spicy in Bengali) is typically a ‘bhuna’ dish which means the sauce is thicker and drier than a usual curry. I often mention the word ‘bhuna’ during my classes as it is an essential state which needs to be achieved during the initial stages of cooking, where the ingredients are cooked in their own juices, in order to intensify the flavour of the final dish.

The focus on this recipe is therefore to produce this ‘bhuna’ sauce which can also be stored and used as a base for other curries. Nice 🙂 So you can see why this makes a great recipe for my upcoming demo at New Malden Farmers Market.

Cooking Time: 30-40 mins

Serves: 4

Ingredients

For the chicken marinade (OR just use precooked chicken tikka to toss into the sauce when its ready)

  • 2 medium chicken breasts, cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 heaped tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp roasted, ground cumin

For the curry sauce

  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 1/2 large onion, very finely chopped + another 1/2 finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2 inch piece ginger, finely minced
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1/2 green pepper, chopped
  • 2-3 green chillies, sliced lengthwise & seeded
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp roasted, ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1-2 tsp salt or to taste
  • approx. 1/2 cup warm water

How to cook

  1. Mix the ingredients for the marinade and set aside while you prepare the sauce.
  2. Heat the oil over a medium flame and cook the onions until softened.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to cook until the mixture is lightly browned.
  4. Stir in the turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin and salt, adding a splash of water if needed. Fry for 2-3 mins until the oil has separated from the spices – this is known as the ‘bhuna’ stage.
  5. Stir in the tomato puree and continue to cook for another 30 secs.
  6. Add half the water and bring to a boil. Cover and allow to simmer for about 5-7 mins until the ‘bhuna’ state is achieved again.
  7. Add the marinated chicken and cook on a high flame until the chicken pieces are sealed and evenly covered with the spiced sauce.
    (If using pre-cooked chicken skip this step.)
  8. Stir in the onions, peppers and green chillies, then add the remaining water. Bring to boil; cover and simmer until the chicken is cooked and the gravy has thickened.
    (If using pre-cooked chicken, stir in the vegetables, then add the water. Cover and cook until tender. Add the chicken and cook uncovered until the gravy has thickened.
  9. Sprinkle the garam masala and add the tomatoes. Cook uncovered for another 2-3 mins, just until the tomatoes have softened and then remove from the heat.

Serve with basmati rice or naan.

 

My Chicken Curry

I used to love my Mum’s simple chicken curry with its distinctive flavour of green peppers and whole spices. Ironically though, when visiting my parents’ home, Mum would often ask me to make ‘my’ chicken curry to give her respite from her own cooking.

Now let’s get this right, my version of chicken curry is based on a combination of ingredients from two different cultures. As with many of my recipes, my Bengali roots call for the use of  ‘panch phoron’ (five spice mix), which (to me) lends the curry a nostalgic flavour, vaguely reminiscent of my grandma’s cooking. However, the use of fried onions and yoghurt is more akin to a Pakistani-style Korma, very much influenced by my mother-in-law’s cookery which I was introduced to more than some 20 years ago…

I have replaced the whole spices used in my Mum’s original recipe with my home ground garam masala (owing to the somewhat fussy eating habits in my household) and substituted the green peppers with red ones to lend the curry a subtle, yet natural sweetness. It is a simple recipe, surprisingly bursting with flavour, blog-worthy for it classic simplicity.

Ingredients

  • 1 large chicken breast, cut into chunky piecesMy Chicken Curry
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 tomato, chopped
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp fresh garlic paste
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1/3 cup fried onions (store bought or home made)
  • 1 tsp panch phoron
  • 1/2 tsp roasted ground cumin
  • 3/4 tsp coriander powder
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp – 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp -3/4 tsp salt or to taste
  • 4 tbsp natural low fat Greek style yoghurt
  • 1/3 cup hot water

How to cook

  1. Heat the oil gently then add the panch phoron.
  2. Wait for the seeds to sizzle, then add the chicken.
  3. Stir the chicken over a medium heat until the pieces are all sealed.
  4. Stir in the garlic and ginger and continue to cook for 5 mins.
  5. Add the cumin, coriander, turmeric and chilli and saute for another 5 minutes or until the oil separates from the spices (add a little water during this stage if the mixture becomes too dry).
  6. Add the tomatoes and peppers and turn up the heat a little. Allow to cook uncovered for another 2-3 mins.
  7. Meanwhile, pour the yoghurt into a small bowl, add the fried onions, salt and garam masala and whisk the yoghurt until smooth.
  8. Lower the heat and slowly stir in the yoghurt and onion mixture into the pan.
  9. Turn the heat up again and cook for another 2-3 mins.
  10. Stir in the tomato puree and cook for a minute.
  11. Add the water and bring to boil.
  12. Stir and cover and leave to cook for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is tender.

Serve with steamed rice or a fragrant Zeera Rice like I have here.

Bengali Fish Curry

The simplicity of this basic Bengali fish curry is its greatest appeal. It is mouth-wateringly flavoursome and when served with boiled rice is indulgently reminiscent of my mother’s cooking…

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Cooking Time: approx. 45 mins
Serves: 4

Ingredients

FOR THE FISH

  • 6-8 medium pieces white fish
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder

FOR THE CURRY

  • 1 large onion
  • 3 tbsp oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp ginger paste
  • 1 heaped tbsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder (optional)
  • 1 tsp paprika powder
  • 2 green chillies cut lengthwise and deseeded (if not using chilli powder)
  • 1 large tomato cubed
  • 4 medium new potatoes cut lengthwise
  • handful of fresh chopped coriander leaves

How to cook

  1. Place fish in a large boil and rub in the dry spices. Cover and set aside.
  2. In a large skillet heat the oil gently and add the onions. Cover and cook on low heat for 5 minutes.
  3. Stir in cumin seeds, then add bay leaf, salt and ginger. Stir and cover. Allow to cook until onions are softened.
  4. Add tomatoes, potatoes, turmeric, coriander, paprika, chilli powder (if using) and green chillies. Stir well for 30 seconds.
  5. Add 1/2 cup boiled water, stir and cover. Cook until onions and tomato are mashable and potatoes are cooked through.
  6. Meanwhile place the fish under a medium grill and cook for 10 minutes, turning over once. Be careful not to overcook the fish to avoid drying out.
  7. Check the gravy mixture and mash the onions and tomato with the back of a wooden spoon. Add a little more boiled water if necessary to create a runny gravy and bring to boil.
  8. Lower the heat to a simmer and add the fish with a fish slice, a piece at a time. Carefully pour in the juices on the grill pan. Immediately turn over the each piece of fish.
  9. Add more boiled water to create more gravy if desired. Turn up the flame and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  10. Garnish with chopped coriander and cover to allow to set.