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.

Chickpea & Rocket Salad

I just love this salad as a healthy, high protein, low-fat zingy variation of a desi chaat. Completely versatile as either a quick lunch or a starter dish, you can be as imaginative with the ingredients as you wish!

Prep time: 10 mins

Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 480g chick peas (2×400 tins, drained)
  • 1 medium or large tomato, diced
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • Large handful of rocket leaves
  • 1 tsp amchur (mango powder)
  • 1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper

How to prepare

Simply mix all ingredients together in a bowl. Chill if desired and serve!

Gluten-free Besan (Gram Flour) Rotis


Prep time: 10 mins

Cooking time: 30 mins

Serves 4

Posting on demamd, this is a healthy,  gluten-free easy alternative to regular chapatis which I have adapted from the mum-in-law – the inspiration behind much of my creative cookery 😊

A runny batter ensures the rotis are spread thinly and cook inside out without burning.

Enjoy with your tea as breakfast or some yogurt and any side dish of your choice as a complete meal.

Ingredients 

  • 3 cups gram flour
  • Handful fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1tsp cumin seeds or carom seeds
  • 1/2 tsp garlic granules
  • 1/4 tsp ground ginger
  • 1tsp crushed red chilli
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • Salt as needed
  • 2.5 – 3 cups water (enough to make a runny batter)

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients to make a runny batter.
  2. Gently heat a tava or wide shallow frying pan. Spray with oil – to ensure the roti does not stick.
  3. Pour enough mixture to fill the base of the tava or pan in a thin layer.
  4. Cook over a low heat until the mixture has set – about 6-7 mins.
  5. Flip the roti with a slotted spoon and cook the other side until completely cooked – another 5-6 mins.
  6. Repeat steps 2-6 until all the mixture has been used.

Note: The number of rotis this recipe yields will depend on the size of your pan. I used a pan with a 21cm wide base and made 4 rotis.

Fish Kofte


These super healthy, gluten-free Fish Kofte taste delicious with a fresh mint raita and can be served either as an appetiser or a side dish with any meal.

Prior to cooking, the fish balls were rolled in rice flour and then coated very liberally with olive oil to give a light golden and slightly crispy outer finish. They were then cooked in my air-fryer for 15 minutes. Equally they can be oven-baked at 180 degrees.

Here is the recipe, but feel free to try combining any vegetables – just steam and mash first before mixing into the fish and spices.

Prep time: 15 mins

Cooking time: 15 mins

Serves: 4-5 (makes approx. 18 golf-sized kofte)

Ingredients

160g tuna chunks in brine, drained

6-8 new baby potatoes, steamed and mashed

2 handfuls baby spinach leaves, roughly chopped

2 tbsp olive oil

1/2 rice flour + 3 tbsp more for coating

1 medium onion, finely chopped or minced

1 heaped tsp garlic granules

1 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp roasted ground cumin

1 tsp coriander powder

1 heaped tsp paprika

1 tsp anchor (mango powder)

1 level tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1 tsp chilli flakes

2 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped or 1 tsp dried mint

1 tsp salt or to taste

Method

  1. Place all the ingredients, except the oil and the 3 tbsp rice flour, in a medium bowl and mix well.
  2. Knead until it all comes together into a smooth mixture.
  3. Work 1/2 tsp of the olive oil well into the mixture.
  4. Take a small bowl of warm water and moisten the palms; divide the mixture into the desired size and shape (I made golf-sized balls). Keep moistening the palms to prevent the mixture from sticking.
  5. Place the remaining rice flour on tray or large platter and roll the fish balls in the flour until evenly coated.
  6. Place the remaining oil in another bigger bowl; transfer the fish balls into this bowl and swirl the bowl until they are all coated in the oil.
  7. Cook in an air-fryer or heated oven for 15 mins at 180 degrees.
  8. Serve with your preferred dip with pride 😊

Tagine-Steamed White Fish

Steamed FishIn keeping with our Bengali traditional, but much to my parents’ disapproval of my aversion to eating fish, it was often a case of “Eat your fish!” at the dining table. More so than the proverbial peas.

Ironically, as a Mother of two teens, I now find myself cooking fish in a variety of ways. The versatility of cooking with fish, whether it’s a fishermen’s pie, a curry, a grill or even a biriyani (!) makes it quite effortless to get those all-essential Omega-3’s into our daily diet in the most natural way.

Last night I chose to steam these basa fillets, but not quite the conventional way. I seasoned the fillets and simply arranged them in a single layer in my glazed ceramic tagine. I then placed the tagine on the stove over a heat diffuser to ensure even cooking.

The build up of steam in the pot creates condensation and the resulting droplets ensure the fish is left beautifully moist with all the flavours sealed into the fish. Simply lushalicious :p. So here’s how it goes…

Cooking Time: 20 mins

Serves: 4  

Ingredients

  • 4 white fish fillets (such as cod, haddock or basa)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • juice of a quarter lemon
  • 1 tsp crushed red chilies (or more if you dare!)
  • sprinkle of course black pepper
  • salt to taste
  • handful of chopped parsley
  • a lemon twist and sprig of fresh coriander to garnish each piece

How to cook

  1. Mix all the ingredients well and season the fish. Set aside for 10 mins.
  2. Gently heat a large wok, karahi or tagine placed in a heat diffuser (you can use a tava or frying pan for this purpose).
  3. Arrange the fish onto the vessel a single layer and place a tight fitting lid (or the tagine lid if using a tagine).
  4. Allow to cook over a medium heat for 15-20 minutes.
  5. Remove each piece carefully and garnish with a twist of lemon and a sprig of coriander.

Serving Suggestion: Serve with seasoned, steamed new potatoes and beans or spinach. Or for a touch of Indian, serve with a portion of boiled rice topped with a tadka-free lentil curry as shown here 🙂

Basa fillet with lentils and rice

Spiced Lentil & Carrot Soup

Following a healthy diet doesn’t have to mean missing out on a good old bit of spice. You can always add some punch to the simplest of recipes by dry roasting some basic spices to bring out the flavours without the use of oil.

Spiced Lentil & Carrot Soup

Here’s a very simple soup recipe which I threw together for my family one evening, based on the ‘Tadka Dal’ recipe I teach in class but minus the ‘tadka’. It makes a completely healthy meal in its own right, low in fat whilst high in fiber and protein.

Cooking Time: 30-40 mins

Serves: 2

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (240ml) split red lentils (masoor dal)
  • 1 medium tomato, cubed
  • 3 medium carrots, grated
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1″ piece fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp dry ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 3 cups water
  • sprig of fresh coriander leaves for garnishing

How to cook

  1. In a small frying pan or karahi, dry roast the cumin and chilli powder until the aromas are released (2-3 mins). Set aside.
  2. In a larger vessel combine all the other ingredients, except the coriander leaves along with the water. Bring to boil, cover and simmer for 30-40 mins, until the lentils and vegetables have softened.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and run a hand blender through the mixture until smooth.
  4. Return the pan to the heat and add another 1/2 cup water if the soup appears too thick. Bring back to boil.
  5. Lower the heat and stir in the roasted spices.
  6. Simmer for 3-4 mins until the desired consistency is reached.
  7. Garnish with coriander leaves just before serving.

Gluten-Free Braised Ginger Chicken

This is a quick and easy recipe which can be whipped on any week night and served with plain boiled rice to make a delicious, low fat meal.

Cooking Time: approx. 40 mins
Serves: 2

IngredientsGinger Chicken

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 chicken breast, cubed
  • 1/2 red pepper, julienned
  • 1/2 green pepper, julienned
  • 1 small onion, cut into eights
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1″ piece fresh, grated
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp madras curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

How to cook

  1. Heat the oil in a medium sized lidded pan.
  2. Add the chicken and cook on a high heat until sealed.
  3. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Remove chicken with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  5. Add the onions and peppers to the pan and saute for 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add the chicken pieces and stir in curry powder, black pepper and salt.
  7. Cover and cook until chicken is tender.