mung bean dal pilaf

by Stevie on May 27, 2010

This recipe comes from the Ajanta: Regional Feasts of India cookbook. I made it by special request as Heguiberto wanted it to go with his Kashmiri eggplant dish from the same book. I’ve never cooked with mung bean dal before. Hegui tells me that “dal” means “split” so “split peas” would become “pea dal” for example. Instead of the whole mung bean, these were dried, peeled and split in half. They cook very fast.

mung bean dal pilaf

The rice came out really well. It has a subtle flavor and because of the mung beans has more protein. I didn’t quite follow the original recipe as I cut it in half then added a little more mung bean dal. It didn’t call for mustard seeds at all but I like them.

mung bean dal pilaf

1 cup basmati rice, picked over and rinsed well
2 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/3 cup mung bean dal
1 tsp. salt
2 cups water
Cilantro for garnish

Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over high. When hot, add cumin and mustard seeds and toast in oil about ten seconds until seeds pop. Add rice and stir in oil until it is coated. Add mung bean dal, salt and water. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer until water absorbed, about fifteen minutes. Remove from heat but keep covered for five more minutes. Fluff into serving dish. Garnish with cilantro.


I’ve been thrilled lately to be cooking from Najmieh Batmanglij’s Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey. Her rice dishes all turn out exciting and quite different from things that I’ve ever made before. This Susa polow is no exception. The book says that Susa was the capital of Elam, an ancient bronze-age kingdom in what’s now part of Iran. Najmieh suggests that this rice dish might have been packed for travelers on a famous highway that went 1,500 miles. I don’t know about that (and I wonder how she would know that?) But this dish is filling, aromatic, and tasty. Hegui thought it a bit too sweet. However, Heather at my office, whose husband makes a lot of Persian food, seemed to like it a lot.

Susa polow with lentils, currants and dates

I did use less sugar than the book recommended. Also I had beluga lentils, which I ended up cooking longer than the mere fifteen minutes recommended in the original recipe. It took about 35 min before they tasted tender to me. I sprinkled some chili flakes on the rice at the end, too.

some key ingredients for Susa polow

Susa Polow with Lentils, Currants and Dates

2 cups basmati rice, picked over and rinsed
1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 cups water
2 ½ tsp salt
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 2-inch cinnamon sticks
2 cardamom pods
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups currants
2 cups dates, pitted and cut in half (I used Majool)
Zest from one orange
1 tbsp sugar
½ tsp black pepper
3 cups vegetable stock or water
1 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water

Boil lentils in three cups water with ½ tsp salt until tender (15 to 30 minutes). Drain.

Heat ¼ cup vegetable oil in large skillet or wok on medium heat. Add cumin, cinnamon and cardamom. Cook for 20 seconds. Add onion and fry for 15 minutes until golden brown. Add rice, currants, dates, orange zest, sugar, 2 tsp salt, pepper and 3 cups water or vegetable broth. Bring to boil then simmer covered until water absorbed.

Add lentils and mix gently. Mix remaining oil with saffron water then drizzle over rice. Cover and cook for 15 minutes more. Remove from heat and let stand covered 10 minutes. Transfer to serving platter and enjoy.

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I’ve been inspired by the success of my recent attempt at Georgian pilaf with tart cherries to try some more recipes from Najmieh Batmanglij’s remarkable book, Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey. Most of her rice recipes are unfamiliar to me and use ingredients that I’d not thought of putting in rice before. Last time it was the tart cherries; this time it’s the yogurt. I rarely use yogurt in anything and have generally considered it something to have with fruit as a dessert or as a “healthy” snack. Hegui is a bit skeptical about this key ingredient, too. But you cannot learn without trying new things, so there we are.

Madras mustard seed and yogurt pullao

This dish was very easy to make. Really it’s just cooking rice the “conventional” Brazilian way then putting the spices, yogurt and fresh cilantro on top for a bit. Then toss and serve. I loved the final product. The yogurt gives the rice a rich creamy white color, which looked great with the almost pearlescent whiteness of the rice. And the mustard seed and cilantro offered the dish some interesting splashes of color. I thought it tasted wonderfully, too. It’s creamy and a bit sour, which seemed exciting in a rice dish. Hegui grudgingly admitted that it was “good” but wouldn’t add more.

I didn’t really measure the rice but put it in a 2 to 3 ratio with water as the original directions recommend. Also, I used less oil than Najmieh says. Next time, I think that I’ll add more mustard seed and not remove all of the ribs and seeds from the Serrano chiles. That will heat it up a bit.

some key ingredients for Madras mustard seed and yogurt pullao

Madras Mustard Seed and Yogurt Pullao

2 cups basmati rice, rinsed and picked over
3 cups water
2 cups plain yogurt, beaten
4 to 6 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 Serrano chiles; stems, seeds and ribs removed, minced
4 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 inch piece ginger, crushed
1 bunch fresh cilantro, coarsely chopped (reserve a few leaves as garnish)
2 tsp salt

Add two or three tablespoons oil to medium pot. Once hot, add mustard seeds and fry about 10 seconds. Add garlic, ginger and Serrano chile. Sauté about one minute. Pour spices and oil in a small bowl and set aside.

Pour remaining oil in the same pan. Add rice and salt. Sauté for a minute or two. Add water. Bring to boil then reduce to simmer, covered, until water absorbed (about 15 minutes). Remove from heat.

Pour spices with oil over top of rice in pan. Pour yogurt evenly over rice. Cover with fresh cilantro. Cover and allow to sit for 15 minutes so that the rice can absorb the flavors and some of the liquid from the yogurt. Toss, garnish and serve.


Georgian pilaf with tart cherries

by Stevie on December 31, 2009

Georgian pilaf with tart cherries

I made this rice dish over Heguiberto’s objection for Christmas dinner last week. He objected not because it was a non-traditional dish (which he doesn’t care about) or because it was a rice dish (he loves rice). Rather, he didn’t like the idea of the tart cherries. Though he’s from Brazil where there is abundant fruit throughout the year, and he’s been cooking for decades, he still can’t wrap his mind around the idea of fruit in a savory dish. Silly thing! After eating this Georgian pilaf, he’s now a true believer, and you will be too!

I found the recipe in Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey by Najmieh Batmanglij. We’ve had the book for years but only tried a few of the dishes. She excels at rice dishes, so I’d recommend that you get the book to try these for sure. That’s the advice that I’m planning to take.

I’ve modified the recipe slightly as I thought that it would go better.

key ingredients for Georgian pilaf

Georgian Pilaf with Tart Cherries

2 cups basmati rice
3 cups water
½ cup vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
1 medium onion, finely sliced
1 inch piece peeled fresh ginger, grated
2 two inch cinnamon sticks
2 cups pitted tart cherries. (I used Morello cherries in a light syrup from Trader J’s. Just rinse them before use.)
1 Serrano chile; stem, seeds and ribs removed; minced
½ tsp saffron threads, ground and dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water
½ cup blanched, pan toasted almond slivers
½ cup shelled unsalted pistachios

rinse the basmati rice thoroughly before cooking

Rinse basmati rice thoroughly with cold water before cooking.

saffron and sour cherries make this dish exciting

Put two tablespoons vegetable oil in a pan over high heat. Add salt and rice. Sauté for about a minute. Add water and cover tightly. Bring to boil then lower to simmer. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. Remove from heat when water is absorbed (about fifteen minutes). Set aside.

While rice is cooking, pour remaining oil into a large non-stick pan on medium-high heat. Add onion, Serrano, ginger, cinnamon sticks. Sauté until onion turns a golden brown. Then add cherries and saffron. Stir to warm. Add nuts. Mix well.

Fold rice into cherry mixture. Cover to warm through. The book recommends cooking for another fifteen minutes. I added a bit more water and let it cook a bit longer but to me it seemed done.
Plate and serve. We had this with a remarkable fish dish that John made from a recent Saveur magazine issue. Hegui wants me to make the rice again sometime!

Georgian pilaf with tart cherries

Thanks for sharing this video, Jack! Happy Holidays, everyone! Welcome 2010!!!


carrot cumin basmati rice

by Heguiberto on August 13, 2009

finished cumin carrot basmati rice

finished cumin carrot basmati rice

Some people would say bread and potatoes are their favorite starchy foods but at our house, it’s rice and pasta all the way. I grew up eating rice virtually every day. Steven humors me. In his family, they ate pasta a lot. He used to say rice was boring and did not have much taste. But I think that’s because he hadn’t tasted many kinds and learned how to discern the differences. I admit that it can be subtle compared to bread and often you need to add flavor to rice to make it shine. Finally, he’s begun to see things my way, and seems to enjoy rice dishes more. It’s only taken a decade plus!

Rice is very easy to prepare. It’s economical and nutritious. And you can add virtually anything to it during the cooking process to have a fabulous meal. Different types of rice have different textures and flavors, so it’s varied. Rice can be creamy, nutty, grassy, earthy, sticky or fluffy. And I’m not talking about ‘wild rice’ either, which is something totally different and not really ‘rice’ at all. We always have several kinds of rice in our pantry. Most commonly, we use Thai jasmine or Indian Basmati rice; mainly the polished (white) kind but more often lately, the brown versions (unpolished). I used Arborio rice the other day to make my kabocha risotto. We used to have a lot of the forbidden black rice from the Himalayas but we’ve used it all up and need to go shopping for more.

Rice isn’t that great for the environment in that it requires a lot of water to produce. So in California, the home grown varieties may not be that PC. Oh well, I cannot live without it for more than a few days in a row, so what can I do? I’m a rice-a-holic!

Rice is easy to cook. This dish can be a meal in itself or served to accompany another Indian or really any kind of savory main course. We ate it with an Indian inspired spicy chick pea dish.

Carrot Cumin Basmati Rice


1 cup rinsed basmati rice
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp kosher salt
1 & ¾ cup water (or vegetable broth)
3 tbsp olive oil
2 medium carrots, cut into chunks

How to:

Using a deep sauce pan sauté carrot and cumin seeds (don’t bother using the powder, it is not the same) in olive oil for few minutes till oil turns slightly tinted with carrot pigment. Stir continually to prevent cumin from burning. You’ll know when to add the rice when you start to smell cumin, carrot and olive oil. Add salt and rice. Sauté rice mix for further 1-2 minutes before adding water or vegetable broth. Next add water, stir then cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low cook and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes or till juices are absorbed. Make sure to stir rice 3-4 times during the simmering process for even cooking as well as to prevent sticking. Remove pan from burner but keep lid on for 5 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork and serve. The subtle flavor that cumin, olive oil and carrot impart to the rice is just singular. Enjoy!

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a homemade Indian banquet

by Heguiberto on April 28, 2009

Have you ever wondered about cooking Indian food at home? Well it’s not as hard as you think, though it does take a little planning. At this Indian dinner, I served six traditional dishes from southern India. That probably sounds like a lot and it did take a few hours to prepare everything. Fortunately, many Indian dishes improve with sitting, so they can be made early. Also, these are relatively inexpensive dishes because they’re all vegetarian.

some Indian spices

some Indian spices

I’ve cooked Indian before so already had most of the spices that were needed. These can be found at many conventional supermarkets and specialty food stores. I like to go to an Indian market in the San Francisco Mission area at 548 Valencia Street called Bombay Bazar for hard-to-find Indian ingredients. That’s where I got the paneer (Indian cheese) and the pre-made mango chutney that I served as a side dish. For the rest of the fresh ingredients, I went to one of the many local Mexican markets in the same neighborhood.

Heguiberto frying stuffed peppers

Heguiberto frying stuffed peppers

I found the recipes I used on a variety of web sites and modified them to suit my taste. For a party of seven we had: an Ayurvedic recipe of mixed bean sprouts and corn salad, an Andhra garlicy tomato curry, an eggplant curry, mirchi bajji or stuffed anaheim peppers deep fried, a cabbage vepudu (a type of spicy cooked cabbage salad) and paneer byriani (a rice dish with marinated paneer, green beans and rice). I offered mango and date chutneys as condiments. Because many of the dishes are fairly spicy, they were served with champagne, rose and a Spanish red brought by two of the guests that could stand the heat. For dessert we had a chocolate cake brought by another guest with tea and a sweet liquor.

paneer byriani

paneer byriani

The meal was tremendous; and the company, wonderful. My highest compliment came from the one guest of Indian descent. She had grown up back East with many of these dishes served to her by her mother. She thought that the food was “amazing.”

I highly recommend that you venture out of your comfort zone into Indian cooking. It’s not that hard, really fun and the results are worth it.

homemade Indian banquet

homemade Indian banquet

Garlicky Tomato Curry Recipe

10 fresh ripe skinned Roma tomatoes chopped fine
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
5 fresh curry leaves
10-12 garlic cloves, crushed
pinch of turmeric powder
1 tsp red chili powder or more for spicier finish
1 tsp coriander powder
salt to taste
1 tbsp grated jaggery (palm sugar) or substitute with dark brown sugar
½ bunch of chopped cilantro
2 tbsp canola oil

1- Heat oil in a large pan. Add mustard seeds and let them splutter. About 2 minutes. Add
crushed garlic and curry leaves, sauté for further 10 seconds.
2 Add onions, sauté until translucent. Add chili, turmeric and coriander powders as well as salt. Stir to combine.
3- Add chopped tomatoes, plus sugar and cook uncovered on high heat stirring constantly for about 10-15 min. I used a non-stick pan for the job.
5- Garnish with fresh coriander leaves

Mirchi Bajji (stuffed deep fried green peppers)

9 Anaheim peppers, cut lengthwise seeds and ribs removed.
Canola oil for frying


1 tbsp oil
1 chopped onion
½ tsp grated fresh ginger
½ tsp chaat masala (spice blend of dried mango, cumin, salt, coriander, black pepper, asafetida and hot paprika/chili)
3 medium potatoes cooked in salted water and roughly mashed
¼ to ½ tsp chili powder
½ cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tbsp tamarind pulp

Heat oil and sauté onion for 4-5 minutes, add ginger and spices, stir. Add the rest of the ingredients. Cook for 3 minutes more stirring constantly. Set aside


1 cup chick pea flour (gram flour)
¼ cup rice flour
Pinch baking soda
½ tsp cumin
Black pepper
1 cup water

Wisk all ingredients together, it should have a pancake consistency

Stuff peppers with the potato mixture. Dip one by one into the batter coating them well on all sides and drop
them gently into hot oil (3 at the time). Fry each batch for about 5-6 minutes.

Mixed Sprouts Corn Salad Recipe

1 cup mixed legume sprouts of your choice (chick peas, beans, pigeon peas)
1 cup of steamed sweet corn (from 2 ears)
1/2 tsp minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp walnut oil
1/2 tsp of freshly pan roasted cumin powder
pinch of black pepper powder
Juice of 2-3 limes
Pinch of chili pepper powder
½ bunch of chopped cilantro
1 container of sprouts (pea or daikon)

1- Steam legume sprouts for 8-9 minutes or longer if you like it softer, let it cool to room temperature, add corn and daikon/pea sprouts

2-Prepare cumin seeds as follows: Add cumin seeds to a hot pan and roast it till fragrant (few seconds) Careful not to burn them. Transfer to a mortar or food grinder. Grind into a fine powder. It makes a big difference in flavor

3- Prepare dressing by mixing together ginger, salt, chili, cumin, black pepper, lemon juice and walnut oil

4- Pour dressing over sprouts mix, adjust seasoning and serve with cilantro

Cabbage Vepudu Recipe


3 cups chopped cabbage
1 onion, very finely chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chili powder (adjust)
1/2 tsp coriander powder
big pinch cumin powder
chopped cilantro
2-3 tsp oil
½ tsp cumin seeds
2 minced cloves garlic
4 fresh curry leaves (optional)

How to:
1-Boil a quart of water with a pinch of turmeric, add cabbage and cook for a couple of minutes just to wilt it. Drain and reserve.
2- Heat oil in a pan, add the cumin seeds and toast them (about 1 minute). Add chopped onion and sauté it until translucent. Add garlic and curry leaves keep sautéing for few more seconds.
3-Stir in chili powder, cumin powder and coriander powder, add cabbage, mix well cooking for further 2 minutes. Garnish with cilantro

Paneer Biryani

1 and 1/2 cups basmati rice, rinsed till water runs clear

3 and ¾ cups of water
1 cup paneer (Indian cheese) in cubes

1/4 cup fresh/frozen pea
1/4 cup green beans
1 tsp chili powder
a pinch turmeric powder
3-4 strands coriander leaves
5 tbsp Canola oil
1/2 cup yogurt
2 cardamom pods

1 bay leaf
3 green chilies (Serrano or Jalapeño), seeded and ribbed
½ inch of fresh ginger
2 cloves of garlic
few strands saffron


Spice (grind into powder):
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
5 cloves
½ inch of a cinnamon stick
1 tsp poppy seeds
5-6 peppercorns


1-Using a bowl mix 3 tbsp of yogurt, turmeric, 1tsp of spice powder and salt. Add paneer cubes and marinate for about 2 hours

2-Heat 3tbs canola oil, add cardamom pods, bay leaf, rice and salt, sauté rice mixture for 3 minutes. Add 2 and 1/2 cups of water let it boil, reduce heat to minimum, cover the pan and let it cook till water has evaporated about 10-15 min, remove from heat. Let it rest, covered, for 5 min.
3- Heat 1 tbs of canola oil, transfer paneer to pan and brown them a bit (about 5 minutes), put aside in a bowl.

4- Using a food processor or a mortar grind into a paste the green chilies, garlic and ginger.

5-In the same pan used for browning the paneer, add 1 tbsp of canola oil, the paste, the vegetables and sauté till the raw smell is gone (5-10 min). Add yogurt and any leftover juices from marinate plus some salt and stir. Sprinkle about ½ tsp of spice powder and cilantro over it.

6- Assemble the Biryani on a baking dish (Pyrex) layering half of the rice at the bottom, followed by the paneer and veggies. Cover with remaining rice and sprinkle saffron threads over it. Poor 1 cup of water over rice, wrap the dish with aluminum foil and bake it in the oven for 30 minutes at 300F

Eggplant pulusu (eggplant and tamarind pulp)

1 very large eggplant
1 onion, finely chopped
¼ cup of thick tamarind pulp
2 green chilies, finely chopped (leave the seeds and ribs out if you don’t want it very spicy)
1 and ½ tbsp of brown sugar or grated palm sugar (jaggery)
Chopped cilantro to taste
1 1/2 cups water
salt to taste

2 red chilies (Italian pepperoncini) broken into pieces seeds removed
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp asafetida– (called hing or ingua in India)
5 fresh curry leaves
4 tbsp canola oil

1- Grease the eggplant with part of the oil and roast/bake it in the over till it collapses. Rotate it few times just to ensure even baking. Remove and let it cool down. Peel skin off and mash eggplant into a pulp.
2-Add to eggplant pulp the chopped onions, green chilies, tamarind extract, sugar or palm sugar and salt. Combine well to form a thick paste.
3-Heat remaining oil in a pan, add mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add cumin seeds, red chili (pepperoncini), and asafetida and curry leaves followed by the eggplant pulp, stir it for 3-5 minutes and serve garnished with cilantro leaves
Recipes adapted from blog:

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