Sunday, November 09, 2008
Of the cookbooks I love, one of my oldest favorites is a simple, very unpretentious little one called Entertaining Indian Style, by Vimla Patil.
Patil's name is a familiar one in India. She was one of the country's first well-known woman journalists, and led the magazine Femina for many years. While Femina has since deteriorated into a rag with its only dubious claim to fame being a beauty contest it puts up each year, it saw better days under Patil who, I think, left during the '90s.
I worked for a few years at a newspaper, The Independent, published by the Times of India group which also owned Femina, and our office was on the fifth floor of the lovely old Gothic building in front of the Victoria Terminus, often referred to as the Old Lady of Bori Bunder. Riding up and down the elevator, I'd sometimes see Patil. I was then a painfully young, very green journalist and a little awe-struck by her, but she always had a kind smile and a hello for me.
Anyway, Patil is also an avid cook, and has published quite a few cookbooks. One such gem is the Working Woman's Cookbook, of which I had a well-thumbed and well-used copy. I lost it, however, during my transition to the United States, and have never been able to find another since. Sigh.
Patil's style of cooking is highly influenced by her Maharashtrian roots, but she also manages to put a lot of creativity and originality into her recipes. The recipes I am going to share here, Daalonka Pulav and Subzi ka Meetha Stew, are two great examples of this.
Daalonka Pulao, or a Rice Pilaf made with three kinds of lentils and spices, is a delicious, nutritious dish all by itself. Paired with the Subzi ka Meetha Stew, or Sweet Vegetable Stew, it makes - I think - for an extraordinarily special meal. I did change the amount of the ingredients in the recipe, based on my family's taste. I also cut down quite a bit on the amount of oil.
Daalonka Pulao (Lentil Rice)
1 cup rice
1/3 cup masoor dal (pink lentils)
1/3 cup mung dal
1/3 cup chana dal (bengal gram)
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/4 cup of grated coconut
4-5 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp red chili powder
2 tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
Salt to taste
Cook the lentils until they are quite soft.
Heat the oil and fry the onions until golden.
Add the powdered spices, the garlic and the coconut. Stir together.
Add the tomatoes and stir. Then add the rice and salt to taste.
Add 2 cups of hot water. Bring to a boil, cover with a tight lid, turn the heat to medium-low, and cook for 15 minutes.
Add the lentils and mix well.
Heat through. Check the salt, add coriander leaves, and serve hot.
Subzi ka Meetha Stew (Sweet vegetable stew)
1 1/2 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
2-3 green chilies, minced
1/4 cup grated coconut
3 small sticks of cinnamon
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 red potatoes, diced
2 carrots, cut into thin circles lengthwise
(Cook the potatoes and carrots in a microwave with a few tablespoons of water until just tender)
2 tomatoes, diced
1 tbsp sugar
Salt to taste
Heat 1/2 tbsp of the oil and fry cloves, cinnamon and coconut until lightly golden.
Transfer to a blender.
In the same pan, roast the all-purpose flour until light brown. Add to blender and, using just enough water, grind together the flour, coconut and spices to a smooth paste.
Heat remaining 1 tbsp of oil and add the onions and chillies. Fry until the onions turn golden.
Add the potatoes, carrots, sugar, salt and tomatoes.
Stir and cook until the tomatoes soften.
Now add the coconut-flour paste and enough water to make a thick gravy.
Simmer for 5 minutes. Add coriander leaves.