Spinach and Lentil Soup

Here is a simple yet delicious soup that highlights the classic spinach and lentil combination. Instead of using plain vegetable broth, I made my own version infusing it with a combination of indian spices that gives this dish an exciting complexity.

2 bags baby spinach (8 cups)
8 cups vegetable broth
1 cup moong aka mung dal (green gram dal), washed until there is almost no muddled water that washes out
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 dried bay leaf
1 cinnamon stick
5 cloves
3 tbsp coriander seeds
3/4 tsp red chilli powder (this gives a slight undertone of heat at the back of your throat. This is optional)
zest from one lemon
juice from one lemon
1/2 tsp + 1 1/2 tsp salt

Heat 8 cups of vegetable broth over medium heat in a dutch oven. Add cumin and coriander seeds, cinnamon, cloves and bay leaf. Let the broth come to a boil and drop the heat to medium and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Drain and pour the spiced broth back into the dutch oven.

In the meanwhile, in a heavy bottomed pan add the cup of washed/soaked moong dal along with 2 cups of water, turmeric powder and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring this to a boil over high heat. Then drop the heat to low and cook covered with a lid for 25 minutes. Keep checking on it every 5-10 minutes to make sure the water doesn’t overflow and the dal is cooking in a simmering boil. If the water is boiling over through the covered lid, then leave the lid very slightly open to let some of the steam escape. Adjust heat accordingly and complete cooking the dal completely.

Using a blender, puree the spinach in batches. You may need a few tablespoons of liquid to make a smooth puree. Use the spiced broth rather than plain water, it will add a lot of flavor. Pour the pureed spinach back in along with the spiced broth. Add the remaining salt and chilli powder. Mix evenly and bring this to a boil over medium heat.

Simmer the soup for 15 minutes until the spinach is cooked and goes from a bright green to a darker color. Now add the cooked lentils into the soup, mix well and let simmer for 15 more minutes. Add 1 tbsp of lemon zest, lemon juice and chopped cilantro. Let it simmer for 10 more minutes and turn off the heat.

Check if you need more seasoning. Serve with crispy croutons. It’s easy to make your own croutons – just cut the edges of any bread you have, spray it with butter spray and cut into 1/2 inch pieces. Spread on a baking sheet and toast in a 400 degree oven for 5 minutes, flip over and toast 5-6 more minutes on the other side. Carefully watch the bread, it can easily burn.

Aaloo Palak

This recipe is very special and one of my favorites. I am thrilled to share my simple , easy to follow recipe of this traditionally  slow cooked laborious process, all without compromising on an ounce of flavor.

My home made version is not doused with cream and butter which often is the reason for flavor in many restaurants. I like to rely on the natural taste of the ingredients and add to the deliciousness with perfect combination of spices and stay away from the cream.

Much like for me,  this will quickly become one of your favorite weekend meals.

1 pound of baby potatoes, boiled and peeled (around 10-12)
3 bags of baby spinach (about 12-13 cups of fresh spinach)
1 large red onion, peeled and diced
3 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled
3 green chillies (substitute: 1 serrano)
3 cloves
1/2 inch stick of cinnamon
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsps salt
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp coriander powder
3 tbsps cilantro, washed and finely chopped
In a large saute pot, melt 2 tbsps butter and add the oil and heat for 30 seconds. Add the cumin seeds and just when it starts turning light golden brown,  add chopped onions. Keep sautéing on medium-high heat until the onions are golden brown, around 10-12 minutes. Drop the heat to low.

In the meantime, using a blender, make a puree of roughly chopped tomatoes, garlic, ginger, cloves, cinnamon and a pinch of salt. No extra water needed since the tomatoes will lend a lot of water.

Add this pureed tomato mixture to the simmering onions. Make sure you are on low heat, there will be some spluttering. Mix well and let cook covered for 15 minutes until the tomato puree and spices are cooked and infused together with the onions and cumin.

Uncover and let the tomato sauce simmer on low heat. In the meanwhile, puree the baby spinach in a blender with few tsps of water. You will have to do this in batches. Make sure the spinach is a puree and not too watery. It is raw spinach at this time.
Add the pureed spinach to the simmering tomato sauce. Mix well and let simmer over medium heat for 30 minutes, while mixing every 10 minutes. You will notice a change from a bright green to a darker and earthier green as an indication of being done.

Add salt, coriander powder and garam masala. Mix well, add the halved cooked baby potatoes to the spinach sauce. Let simmer over medium heat for another 20 minutes. Check for seasoning, sprinkle cilantro and turn off the heat. Tastes great with any indian bread or basmati rice.

I like to serve this the day after because the baby potatoes have more time to absorb all the flavors. Tastes quite divine!

Spiced Lentil and Bean Stew

Inspired by the classic Ethiopian dish, and with my inclination towards indian spices came about this hearty and ‘warm your belly’ lentil stew. If you love earthy, warm spices, this will hit the right spot. Just the perfect bowl of dinner for the winter.

You will need:

3 cups lentils (regular brown or puy)
2 cans dark red kidney beans (pre-cooked)
1 bay leaf (fresh or dried)
1 large onion, finely chopped (yellow or white)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2″ piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp butter
2 large tomatoes, chopped ( for plum tomatoes, use 4)
1/4 cup tomato paste
4 cups vegetable stock (you can substitute with water)
1/3 cup cilantro, chopped
1 sprig, fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp lemon juice

For the Spice mixture:
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds (optional)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 tsp cardamom (i use whole ones)
4 cloves
1/2 stick cinnamon
2 tbsp crushed red pepper
1/2 tsp salt

In a dry skillet, add all the above spice mixture  ingredients. Toast over medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Keep tossing making sure the spices don’t burn. Powder these ingredients in a blender along with the chopped ginger with no liquid. It has to be a dry powder. Frying whole spices and freshly grinding them adds immense flavor to the stew. If you don’t have access to fresh whole spices, as a substitute, you could use the pre-powdered version of all the above spices and just mix them together in a bowl.




In a large pot, add 6 cups of water along with the lentils and bay leaf. Boil the lentils for about 45 minutes. Around the 30 minute mark, check to see the doneness and adjust amount of water and cooking time accordingly. The lentils after 45 minutes, should be cooked but not mushy. It should be firm and al dente since it is going to cook a bit more while putting together the stew.

Drain the lentils, also drain the can of kidney beans and set aside.

In a large pot, add the butter and vegetable oil. Once the butter is golden brown, add the onions and garlic. Sauteé for 10 minutes until the onions soften.

Add the ground spice mixture and cook for 7-8 more minutes making sure the spice powder is mixed evenly.

Add the chopped tomatoes and salt , cook 5 more minutes.

Add tomato paste, mix well and then add the vegetable stock.

Simmer over medium heat for 25-30 minutes.




Now add the cooked lentils and beans, simmer 20 more minutes.

Check for salt, top with the chopped cilantro, mint, lemon juice and turn off the heat.

I prefer this stew just on it’s own with a little extra squeeze of lemon, but you could also serve it with your favorite bread.

Lima Bean Biryani

This is another one of my crazy kitchen sink recipes. Kitchen sink recipes are ones I have no plan or recipe for. I just make it up as I go along, with whatever ingredients I have at that moment. Most of the times it works well and the times it doesn’t, you don’t hear about it!

I love lima beans and I think these classic flavors go very well together and jazz up the usually challenging lima beans. It’s just another way of using the yummy beans.

2 cups lima beans, thawed ( I used frozen)
2 cups basmati rice
1 large white onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 large red tomato, roughly chopped
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1″ piece ginger, peeled
3 serrano chillies, roughly chopped ( I use the whole peppers. Feel free to adjust this as you please)
6 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder ( Optional: don’t let not having this ingredient discourage you from trying this recipe!)
1tbsp + 1tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp salt
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tbsp butter

In a blender, add garlic, ginger, serrano chillies, cilantro, 1 tbsp cumin seeds, coriander seeds, 1 tsp salt, tomato and onions. Blend this mixture together, with no added water. The watery tomatoes yield just enough. Make this into a smooth paste and set aside.

Heat a largewide non-stick pan over medium heat with canola oil and  butter. Once the butter has melted add the remaining 1 tsp cumin seeds  and asafoetida powder.As I mentioned above, asafoetida is one of those things that not every one may have available. But don’t let not having  this one ingredient discourage you  from making the dish. It will taste great either way.

When the cumin seeds start spluttering, remove the pan from heat and  add the blended mixture. Doing it on heat will make a mess, there is a lot  of spluttering. Make sure you reduce the heat to low before returning the  pan to heat. Cook over low heat partially covered for 20-25 minutes,  stirring every  8 or so minutes. This will remove the raw smell from the  onion and spices and give room for all the flavors to meld together. Your kitchen must smell heavenly just about now!

Add the lima beans, the measured water and remaining tsp of salt. Increase the heat to medium high and cook uncovered for 10-12 minutes. Add the basmati rice, mix and let it come to a boil.

Just when it comes to a boil, cover and drop the heat to low. Cook for 20-25 minutes until the rice is perfectly done. Remove and gently fold or fluff using a spatula. Do not over mix or the rice will break and become mushy.

Garnish with cilantro and serve this dish hot with a cup of cool raita.

Methi and Potatoes in Coconut Curry sauce

100_7041

2 potatoes, washed and boiled until just firm and cooked

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced lengthwise

1 cup methi leaves, washed

1 tsp cumin seeds

3 tbsp cilantro, finely chopped

1 cup light cream
1 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp salt

Paste ingredients :

1/2 cup coconut

1 cinnamon stick

3 cloves

1 inch piece ginger

3 garlic cloves

1/2 -3/4 cup water

1 tsp salt

5-6 indian green chillies

Blend the above paste ingredients together until smooth and set aside.

potmet1

Heat a pan with oil over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and saute until golden. Add the onions and cook until soft.  Pour in the blended mixture and let cook for 20 minutes over medium-high heat.

potmet2potmet3

Add the methi leaves, remaining salt and cook for another 10 minutes. Slowly drizzle in the cream over low heat and let cook for another 5 minutes. Peel the boiled potatoes and crumble it gently into  bite size pieces and add to the simmering curry.

potmet4potmet5

Sprinkle cilantro on top and let simmer for another 10 minutes. Sere hot with rice or with any indian bread.

100_7045

Chickpeas and Methi leaf Curry

Methi(aka Fenugreek) Leaves and Seeds are common ingredients in Indian cooking. They have a slightly bitter but intensely nutty and savory flavor. Added to any gravy or vegetable curries, it adds a great depth. Herb combination of Methi leaves and Cilantro is just a great flavor treat!

Using chickpeas or potatoes with methi leaves is most common. Here is a version of methi leaves with chickpeas in a tomato/onion masala.

100_6792

1 32 oz can Chickpeas
1 cup Methi leaves (aka Fenugreek leaves) cleaned & washed
5 tbsp canola oil
2 tsp salt
1 tsp garam masala
1/3 cup cilantro

To make into a paste:
1 stick Cinnamon
4 cloves
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
8 Indian green chillis (use 4-5 for a milder version)
1 ” Ginger piece
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
1 large tomato
1 medium onion
1/2 cup shredded coconut
1 cup water

Add all of the above paste ingredients to a blender. Add the cup of water and blend everything together to make a smooth paste. Set aside.

100_6732

100_6734

Prepare the methi leaves: pluck the leaves from the stem and discard the stems. Put all the leaves in a bowl and fill it with cold water. Let it sit for 5 minutes, all the dirt and grit will sink to the bottom. Gently pick the leaves out the water, pat dry with a paper towel and rough chop the leaves and set aside.

100_6724

100_6729

In a pan heat 5 tbsps canola oil over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Remove the pan off the heat and pour the blended spice mixture into the pan stirring the mixture and the oil together. If you pour the mixture into the oil while still on heat there will be a lot of splattering. Put the pan back into medium heat, sprinkle 1 tsp of salt and cook this masala for 15-20 minutes stirring ever 5 minutes. The raw flavor and smell of the spices will mellow down as it simmers. Your kitchen will smell insanely good by now!

Add remaining salt, garam masala powder and the chopped methi leaves. Mix throughly. Let this cook for another 2-3 minutes.

100_6748

100_6750

Add the chickpeas and cilantro making sure the chick peas is really coated well in the masala. Cook for another 7-8 minutes, remove from heat and serve hot. I served it over a bed of hot basmati rice and with Chapatis. Naan would be great too!

100_6758

This curry tastes even better the next day when the chickpeas has completely soaked into the masala sitting in it all day! In fact I always make this dish in the morning and serve it for dinner. The flavors intensify and marry better the longer it sits.

100_6777

whb31

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Haalo from Cook (almost) Anything At Least Once. Here are the rules if you want to participate and  here’s Who’s Hosting Weekend Herb Blogging if you’d like to join the weekly celebration of cooking with fresh herbs.

Coconut-Coriander Rice

2 cups basmati rice washed, soaked in water for 30 minutes and drained
4 cups water
1 tsp jeera( aka cumin seeds)
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder 
1 red onion, finely chopped 
2 tbsp butter 

To make into a paste:

1 big bunch coriander leaves( aka Cilantro), washed and drained
20 curry leaves( approx 3 stems of leaves), washed and drained

4-5 Indian green chillies
2″ ginger piece
5 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbsp butter
1/2 cup grated coconut( frozen or fresh, just make sure the frozen coconut is thawed and soft at room temperature)

Melt 2 tbsp butter over medium-high heat in a nonstick pan. Add in the cloves, cinnamon fry for a few seconds until the cloves just start popping. Now add in the cilantro, curry leaves, ginger and green chillies. (None of these are chopped because they are going to be ground into a paste). 

After a few minutes of wilting transfer into a blender, add the coconut and grind to a smooth paste with 1/3 cup of water. Set aside.

In a pan melt the remaining 2 tbsp butter, add in mustard seeds, cumin seeds, asafoetida and fry for a few minutes until the mustard seeds start spluttering. Now add in the onions and fry on medium-high heat until crispy and brown. 

Stir in the rice and keep stirring until it starts turning opaque. 

Pour in the ground coriander-coconut paste, add salt and stir for a few minutes.

Add the measured 4 cups of water drop the heat to medium-low and cook covered for 20-25 minutes. Uncover and stir gently and transfer to a a serving bowl let cool for 5 minutes before serving. Serve with Raita.