Sunday, July 29, 2012

A South Indian Meal; Basic Recipes

A South Indian meal can be as simple as Sambar and Rice or as elaborate as a 10 -15 item 4 course meal. These are the recipes for a basic weeknight Indian supper. Check back often as I will be continuing this series, My Indian Kitchen, with more dishes and variations on the types of dishes presented here.

Usually a meal will consist of a soupy type dish like Sambar or Kuzhambu, vegetable or dal side dish, rice, and yogurt. After the main dishes are taken many Indians will follow-up with a bit of rice mixed with yogurt and a pickle (not the kind that comes with vinegar and dill, these pickles are waaay more interesting) Enjoy!

Vegetable Sambar, Kuzhambu
Many vegetables can be used. I love radish because of the sweet bite they add but, cauliflower, okra, chayote squash, pumpkin, or potato can be used.

½ Cup Toor Dal
2 Cups Filtered Water
Lime sized piece of Tamarind Pulp
3 Cups Filtered Water
2 Cups Vegetables, chopped to ½ in pieces
2 Green Chilis, broken in half
½ tsp. Turmeric
1 Tbsp. Sambar Powder
Kosher or Sea Salt, to taste
½ Cup Coriander Leaves, chopped


1 ½ Tbsp Ghee or Oil
1 tsp. Black Mustard Seed
½ tsp. Asafoetida
½ tsp. Fennugreek
½ tsp. Cumin Seed
1 Dried Red Chilli, halved
5-7 Kari (curry) Leaves

Rinse the Toor Dal in a few changes of water. Place in a bowl and cover with filtered water, let soak for about an hour. Drain and put in a sauce pan with 2 cups filtered water. Slowly bring to a boil. Turn heat down to medium-low and let simmer partially covered for 1 ½ hrs, stirring several times and checking for water so the Dal does not cook dry and burn to the bottom of the pan. Dal is finished when it is slightly mushy when pressed between 2 fingers but not completely soft. Set aside.

While Dal is cooking, soak the Tamarind Paste in 1 cup of hot water for 15 minutes. Squeeze the paste with your fingers extracting as much of the flavor into the water as possible. Strain off into another container and pour ½ cup hot water over remaining pulp. Squeezing again through your fingers, strain off into previous container for approximately 1 ½ cups tamarind liquid. Discard remaining solids.

Heat ½ Tbsp Ghee or Oil in a deep sauce pan. When hot, add the Green Chillis and Vegetables. Cook until they begin to soften a bit then, add the reserved Tamarind Water, 1 ½ cups Filtered Water, Turmeric, Sambar Powder, and Salt to taste. Simmer until the Vegetables are tender.

Heat remaining Ghee or Oil in a small fry pan. When hot add Black Mustard Seed and allow to pop, using a splatter screen 'cause these babies pop ALL over the place. Once the popping has subsided a bit, add the rest of the Tempering ingredients. Fry for a few seconds until the spices darken some in color. Add to the Vegetables. Pour in the reserved Dal and simmer a few minutes longer. Taste for Salt and Spice, sometimes I add another tsp or two of Sambar Powder if I' m feeling extra spicy! Sprinkle with the chopped Coriander Leaves and serve.

Cabbage Poriyal
Another dish that can contain almost any type of vegetable. My favorite is brussels sprouts or cabbage, but beets, carrot, sweet potato or cauliflower are equally as delicious. Experiment to see what vegetables best suit your tastes.

2 Green Chilis
1 lb. Cabbage or Brussel Sprouts, shredded
2 Tbsp. Filtered Water
Kosher or Sea Salt, to taste
3 Tbsp. Shredded Coconut, fresh or frozen


3 tsp. Ghee or Oil
1 tsp. Cumin Seed
1 tsp. Urad Dal
1 tsp. Channa Dal
1 Dried Red Chilli Pepper, halved
½ tsp. Asafoetida Powder
3-5 Kari (curry) Leaves

Heat 1 tsp Ghee or Oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shredded Cabbage or Brussel Sprouts. Cook for a moment till vegetable softens a bit. Sprinkle with Filtered Water and cover. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until fully soft.

In a small sauce pan, heat remaining Ghee or Oil over medium-high heat. Add the ingredients for the tempering and fry until spices darken in color, about 15 seconds. Pour over cooked vegetables and stir to incorporate, add Salt to taste. Mix in the Coconut and serve.

Basic Dal
Dal on its own is comforting and filling. I love to have it on a cold afternoon the way many would eat a bowl of soup. It is also quite tasty mixed into rice for a heartier meal.

1 ½ Cups Channa Dal
½ tsp. Turmeric
1-2 tsp. Grated Ginger
2 tsp Kosher or Sea Salt (optional)


½ Cup Ghee or Oil
1 tsp. Cumin Seed
1 med. Tomato, chopped (optional)
2 Tbsp. Chopped Coriander Leaves (cilantro)

Rinse the Channa Dal in a few changes of water. Place in a bowl and cover with hot filtered water for about and hour to soak. Drain.

Combine Dal in a sauce pot with Turmeric and Ginger, cover with 4 cups filtered water. Slowly bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Lower heat to medium-low and cook, partially covered for about 45 minutes. Stir occasionally and check for water to make sure the Dal does not cook dry and burn to the bottom. After 45 minutes take a few pieces of Dal and squish between your fingers, if they mash well then they are ready for the next step, if not then check for water and cook a bit longer.

When fully cooked, whisk the Dal until pureed. The result should be a slightly thick, soupy consistency. If it is too thick, add filtered water in small amounts until they are the right consistency. Stir in the Salt (optional) and set aside for the moment.

In a small pan heat the Ghee or oil over medium-high heat. Add the Cumin Seed and fry until they turn dark brown, about 10 seconds. If using the Tomato, add now and fry for another minute or so until the Tomato releases its juice and softens up, you may want to lower the heat a bit for this step.

Pour over the cooked Dal and stir to incorporate. Sprinkle the chopped Coriander Leaves over top and serve.