Top 5 Indian recipes – dals rock and rule!

One very important part played in Indian diets is by the dried version of peas and beans called pulses. Pulses as well as lentils, legumes, beans and peas have been part of daily diet for times immemorial. The traditional Indian diet is healthy and nutritious and revolves around dal, bhaat (rice), sabzi (vegetables) and chapati. Moong ki Dal and Kali Dal are popular fare in homes in North India.

Pulses, as we all know, are the edible seeds of the legume family. Pulses include peas, beans and lentils. Some, as green French beans, papdi, green peas and broad beans are eaten fresh. Others, like moong, urad, chana and masoor are eaten dried or sprouted. Regardless of their place of origin, most of the pulses are available world-wide and have become widely naturalized outside their native regions. But greens combined with dal are also healthy preparations. Something like Methiwali Dal.

Beans are dried as quickly as possible after picking to preserve their flavour and texture. There used to be a time when most of the pulses were sundried, but now in the present days of automation, most of it is artificially dried. Most pulses are widely available and the lesser known can usually be found in specialized stores in wholesale grain market. Pulses keep well and are easily reconstituted but should be stored in a cool and dry place. The normal shelf life of dried beans and pulses is six to nine months, then they begin to harden and shrivel.

All types of beans and lentils are high in protein and 30 per cent more is released if they are eaten with a cereal. That is why, in India, dal is eaten mostly with rice or roti. Most pulses need soaking and cooking, the exact time depends on the particular type and quality of the bean. Beans and lentils should be picked over before washing and soaking to remove any stones or pieces of grit.

In the Indian kitchen, dal is ubiquitous. Egyptian lentils called masoor, black eyed peas called lobia and mung beans called moong are worth mentioning. Dishes like Sambhar and Rasam use split pigeon peas, Dhansak uses meat and lentils. Dosas also have rice and lentils like black gram or urad. Up north, urad is a favourite as is rajma and chana.

Latest diet rules for us

All those who read must have come across the latest findings on the new diet rules for Asian Indians splashed in the national dailies today.

High time we got to read all the data, because what is measured then gets corrected! I am not sure how many of us are keen about following the suggested recommendations, but it pays in the long run to take some pointers from these studies. It is better to be careful about our diets so that we can live for longer with less disease.

First thing that strikes is that, Indians are recommended to stay off saturated fats – because the urban and semi-urban person is becoming more and more sedentary. That is why the expanding waistlines. Next, is to include complex carbohydrates like cereals and pulses in the daily diet. Also, fibre needs to be taken seriously and made a part of the diet. That means including more fruits (with peel!) and vegetables. Protein too has to come up so look at soya, whole grains and milk. Lastly, and the most important, salt intake is to come down.

All the lifestyle related diseases like diabetes, obesity and heart diseases have precipitated in the last decade. So if you were thirty then and now looking at the forties with some fear, take heart because if we pick ourselves now, the fifties will be fighting fit!

I have been a staunch supporter of homemade food. My recipes are brought across to you in such a way that even a novice cook gets the confidence of ‘I can cook’. Have one healthy homemade meal a day for your heart’s sake…and then increase the number to two and then three.

For some starters, here are some vegetables cooked the traditional way…

Aloo ka Bharta

Bhare Baghare Tamatar

Lauki Manpasand

Till I write again.

Sanjeev Kapoor

There’s goodness in my soup!

Half of 2010 gets done today. It seems like yesterday that we were all wishing our friends some good wishes for the new 2010! Anyway, time to take stock and see where we are and where we want to reach and then change tracks or pick up speed if on the right track!

Taking stock also reminds me something little that we do at home in the rainy season. Keep a stock of food and essential pulses, masalas, tins and milk in tetrapacks. Never know when you need them on a rainy day. We also enjoy a variety of soups in the rainy season. They need not be hot, can be cold – something like Gazpacho.

Secret of a good soup is its foundation – a good stock. Thin soups in general are lower in nutritive content as compared to thick soups. Chicken sweet corn and green pea soups are especially valuable for their protein content. A bowl of spinach soup provides one third of an adult’s daily iron requirements. So if it is protein you are looking for try chicken, fish, egg, meat, lentils and beans as main ingredients in your soup. If you are wanting a vitamin and mineral rich soup make soups using vegetables like spinach, celery, carrot, peas, sprouts, cabbage and lettuce. South Indian rasam and saaru, the saar from Maharashtra and the osaman from Gujarat are light soups. Not only are they low in calories but are also a good source of vitamins and minerals.

A mixed vegetable soup is a clever way of giving vegetables to your young fusspots. It not only has vegetables but also the goodness of wheat flour and milk. As it is fibre rich it is good for the elders in the house too. Serve it with wheat and soya breadsticks and rest assured there will be no leftovers!

Cold soups are incredibly healthy form of soups, basically served chilled or at room temperature and they are as good as hot ones in terms of nutrition, taste and flavour. Just that one has to develop a taste to relish the subtle taste steeped in the cold soups while preparing them. There are simple tips which when followed would yield elegant and delicious cold soups.

  • Use fresh and ripe ingredients for brilliant results.Heavily season cold soups than hot ones, because the cold temperatures lessen the spice taste.
  • The soup can be served immediately, or you can cover and chill it so the flavours blend. For a colder soup that’s ready instantly, replace some of the liquid with crushed ice.
  • At the same time, the longer the soup sits in the refrigerator, the spicier it will taste. Four to ten hours is the optimal chilling time.
  • Before serving, chill the serving bowl and the individual soup bowls or mugs. Place them in the freezer for ten to fifteen minutes. And if using fine crystal ones, place in refrigerator for twenty to thirty minutes.

So are your soup spoons ready?

Chicken and Prawn Laksa
Cream of Vegetable Soup with Spinach
Dal Soup with Tomato

Till I write again
Sanjeev Kapoor.