Basanti Beans

Still on my Sholay kick (with the Sholay chole), another bean recipe. Who doesn’t love Basanti? Plus, these beans are yellow. I experimented with mixed beans, and this was very tasty. Try it – yunki accha hai!

You need: 1/3 cup each black beans, red beans (rajma), and chickpeas (chana); 1 large yellow tomato; 1 medium red onion; 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste; 1 tbsp Kitchen King masala; salt to taste; 1 tsp jeera.

How to: Soak the beans overnight, or for at least four hours. Rinse and boil until soft (or pressure cook for five whistles). Drain, rinse, and set aside.

Cut the onion and tomato finely.

Heat 2 tbsp oil. Add the jeera. When it splutters, add the Kitchen King and turn the heat down to medium. Stir.

Add the onion. Stir well.

After 3-4 minutes, add the ginger-garlic paste. Stir briskly, and wait for 1-2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes and stir again. Cover and cook on medium heat until the tomatoes are well blended. You will not need to add water if you have a tight-fitting lid and keep the heat on medium.

When the tomatoes are done, add the cooked beans. Stir well. Cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. You may need to add a little water to thin it out a bit.

Garnish with cilantro (dhania) and use in place of a regular dal – over rice or with roti.


A Simple Dal for Everyday Eating

For a saatvik, even simpler dal, try the Paruppu.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: About 20-30 mins

You need: 1 cup dal (toor/arhar, moong, or masoor); 1/2 tsp turmeric (haldi/manjapodi)); 1/2 tsp red chili powder (lal mirch); 1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera); 1/4 cup onion; 1/4 cup tomato (vegetables are optional); 1 tbsp ghee or oil

How to: Wash the dal well and drain. Add at least two cups of water. Add turmeric and salt to taste and stir well. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium/simmer. Cook the dal until soft. If it starts getting too thick while cooking, stir and add a little water. Turn it off when it’s done.

For the tempering: Heat the ghee or oil. When it is hot, add the jeera and let it sputter. Turn the heat to medium if needed. Add the onions and cook well. You can add the red chili powder at the same time. Add the tomatoes. Stir and cook about 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat, add the dal and stir well.

Eat over rice.


Kadambam is a spicy rice dish cooked with vegetables. It has the consistency of porridge, sort of. The spicier it is, the better it tastes!

You need: 1 cup rice; 1/3 cup arhar (toor) dal; a pinch of turmeric; 1/2 tsp Tamcon or some other tamarind paste; 1 cup diced vegetables – carrots, green beans, onions, cauliflower, potatoes (1 smallish), zucchini, squash, peas, corn – no spinach or cabbage; 1.5 heaped tsp sambar powder (use pre-packaged, like MTR); 1/2 tsp mustard seeds; 2-3 curry leaves; 1 dried red chili; salt to taste; oil; ghee

How to:

Cook the rice and dal in a pressure cooker with 4 cups of water, salt and a pinch of turmeric (4 whistles). If you’re not using a pressure cooker, cook till well-done (slightly mushy).

Dissolve ½ tsp tamcon in ½ cup hot water.

Boil the vegetables together. Drain. Return to heat and add the dissolved Tamcon. You could add a little more water if it gets too dry.

Add 1.5 heaped tsp sambar powder to the mix and boil for two minutes. Turn off the heat.

In a large pan, heat 3 tsp of oil and 1 tsp of ghee. Add mustard seeds, curry leaves, and the red chili.

Add the dal and rice, salt, and the vegetables. Mix well and let it cook for two more minutes. Turn off heat.

Four-dal medley

Traditional recipes for mixed dals seem very involved, and I confess I have neither the time nor the patience for them. This is my very simple and quick-ish version.

You need: 2 tbsps each of urad (white) dal, masoor (red) dal, moong (yellow) dal, and the green lentils (I don’t know if they have another, proper name) – but they’re green; 1/2 cup finely chopped stems of green onions (not the onion part itself, but the greens); 1/2 cup finely chopped tomatoes; 1/2 tsp each of coriander powder, cumin seeds (jeera), mustard seeds (sarson), and red chili powder; 1 bay leaf; oil; salt to taste; cilantro for garnishing

How to: boil the dals (all together) with salt. Heat the oil, add all the spices and the bay leaf. When they begin to sputter, add the onion greens and tomatoes. Cook for about 4-5 minutes. Add the cooked dal, mix well. If it’s too thick you can add some water. Turn the heat off, add the cilantro. You could also, at this point, squeeze in the juice of half a lemon for added flavor, OR 1/2 tsp ghee.


Kootu is traditional South Indian fare, dal with vegetables, but very different from sambar. For one thing, it’s a lot milder. The vegetables used seem to be those that mix well with dal. This is hard to explain, but you can use things like cabbage, knol-khol (kohlrabi), greens, potato, beans, turnips, squash, etc.

You need: 1 cup dal (moong or toor dal is best, but masoor is just fine as well); 1 tsp kootu podi (kootu masala – I’m going to tell you how to make it, don’t fret); ghee.

I’m listing three different recipes for kootu podi here. Pick any one and run with it. The first two recipes are adapted from recipes courtesy my aunt (Thanks, Prabha Periamma!). The third is my own.

Kootu podi 1:

You need: 1 tsp urad dal (this is small white dal available at any Indian grocery); ½ tsp black pepper; 1/3 tsp jeera.

Dry-grind the lot together and bottle in a dry glass jar.

Kootu podi 2:

You need: 1 tsp garlic; 2 small green chilies; 1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera); 1/8 cup shredded coconut; 4-5 curry leaves (kadipatta); 1/2 tsp ginger; and 1/2 tsp turmeric powder (haldi), if you haven’t already added it to the dal.

Blend all ingredients together (I think one of those tiny little blenders is a must for every kitchen. I use a coffee grinder for dry masalas).

Kootu podi 3:

You need: 1 tsp coriander seeds (dhania dana); 2 red dried chilies; 1 tsp peppercorns; 1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera); 1 tsp urad dal; 1 tsp dried curry leaves (you can briefly toast them, don’t let them burn).

Roast the ingredients in the following order (that means a dry pan with no oil, on a low flame): dal – 1 minute by itself, then everything else except the curry leaves. If you smell burning, toss it out and start again. When the dal turns nice and reddish-brown, take it off the heat. Add the curry leaves and grind it all to a fine powder. Store in a dry glass jar.

How to:

Boil the dal with turmeric and salt. I usually eyeball it when it comes to water, but let’s say you can add 3 cups of water to every one cup of dal. Add more if needed. (If it becomes glutinous, you need more water).

When the dal is half-cooked (before it gets mushy), add the vegetables and salt to taste.

When the vegetables are cooked, add the kootu podi and bring to a boil. Turn off heat. Add ghee. Eat with rice/chappatis.


Circumstances dictated that I eat soft food for a while, and I grew tired of mashed potatoes and yogurt after the fifth such meal. Suddenly, it came to me – khichdi!

Khichdi is a dish made of rice and dal boiled together. The British turned it into a fishy dish called kedgeree, which is not the same thing at all. Khichdi is soft, nutritious, and intensely flavorful, and it tastes quite different from regular separately-cooked dal and rice.

You need: 2/3 cup rice; 1/3 cup moong (small, yellow) or masoor (red) dal; half a large onion, finely chopped; jeera (cumin seeds); a bay leaf or two; 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp red chili powder (or less); 1/2 tsp ground cumin; 2 tbsp oil; ghee and salt to taste.

How to: Put the dal and rice in a bowl and wash it. Heat the oil. Add the bay leaf, jeera, turmeric and red chili powder. Add the onion and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently. Keep 5 cups water handy. Add the rice and dal mixture to the onion. Give it a quick stir and add the water. Add salt to taste.

Bring to a boil and let it cook until rice and dal are soft. They will get sort of mashed together and the whole thing will have the consistency of really thick porridge. You might have to keep adding water. Keep an eye on it and add water if it either looks dry or if it “catches” on the bottom of the pan. Stir frequently.

When it is done, take the pan off the heat and add ghee. If you like, garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.

This tastes really good with achar (which is pickles, Indian style – available at any Indian grocery or major grocery with an “ethnic food” aisle).

For variation, you could replace half the water with milk OR vegetable broth. I haven’t tried either, but I think it would work.


Sambar is basically dal (lentils) with vegetables and tamarind water. I’ll explain. There are varying ways this can be made, and this is how I do it. (Quick-ish and easy). Eat with steamed rice.

You need:

1/2 cup toor (arhar) dal. In a pinch, I suppose any other dal will do, like moong or masoor, but try to use toor.

1/2 tsp Tamcon or some other tamarind paste, dissolved in 1/2 cup water.

1 cup frozen veggies such as cauliflower, peas, carrots, peppers, pear onions. Boil these till tender but not squishy. You can also boil potatoes. Pretty much most veggies except things like eggplant and okra will do.

2 tsp MTR sambar masala and some grated coconut, if you like.
Assorted tempering spices as below

How to:

Cook the dal with salt and 1/4 tsp turmeric powder. Mix it up nicely when cooked.

Heat some oil. Add 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds, 1 dried red chili, a few curry leaves, and let it sputter a bit. Remember, don’t let the fenugreek burn.

Add the boiled vegetables and some salt. Stir quickly and add the tamarind water. Bring to a boil and let simmer a couple of minutes.

Add the dal and sambar powder and mix well – take care not to mash the veggies. Add the coconut and bring to a boil. Turn off heat.

Add a tsp of ghee if you like, it adds brilliant flavor. Spoon over rice and eat.

There’s a long-winded, more “authentic” way, but given the constraints of American vegetables and the grad student lifestyle, this is as elaborate as I usually get.