My Amazing Vegetarian Indian Experience

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I am trying to increase the non-animal protein component in my diet for health, and my cholesterol levels.  Because I love Indian cuisine and I love Madhur Jaffrey’s cooking (two of her recipes on previous posts: her garam masala spice blend and Lentil Soup, a Lovely Soup), what could be better than to delve into her new cookbook, Vegetarian India, A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home Cooking.


At first, I read the cookbook like a novel. She writes in a friendly manner, like she is actually talking to me.   There are introductions to each recipe with notes about the origins of the dish and cooking tips.  It has opened my eyes to a larger variety of dals (lentils) and other ingredients, such as poha, a flattened rice product that I have never used before.  Besides researching the internet and trying to memorize all the different choices and ingredients for new recipes, I visited my local Indian supermarket, Vaishali’s, off Carling Avenue on Wylie Avenue in Ottawa.  This is my favourite go-to store for everything Indian.  The owners are helpful in giving me cooking advice and even recipes!  If you are shy about going alone your first time, contact me and I’ll be more than happy to introduce you and show you around.


So many amazing products packed into that store.  An aisle with an unbelievable variety of lentils (dals) and beans.

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And another aisle just for sauces and Indian pickles (left) and the spice aisle (right)…what can I say?  It’s a field trip every time I go shopping.

Below is my dal take home cart just to stack my shelves for my vegetarian Indian experience.

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Besides Madhur Jaffrey’s book, here are more resources to learn about lentils:

  1. A Guide to Indian Dal, Lentils, Beans, and Pulses,
  2. Indian Pantry, on, or
  3. You can always ask me!

I have tried a few of the recipes in the book, so far:

  1. Spicy Paneer Slices, page 9.  These paneer (Indian cheese) slices were crispy and spiced with chili powder & turmeric and a delight to serve as part of my dinner.
  2. Chickpeas in a Simple Northern Style, page 132.   Ginger, garlic and green chilies combined with tomato and ground spices and chickpeas.  Delicious way to serve chickpeas.
  3. Mixed Dal, Marwari-Style, page 154.  This dish was so aromatic with the union of the spices and four different dals.
  4. Flattened Rice (Poha) with Green Beans and Ginger, page 207. Among other flavours, the poha is a most welcome addition to my pantry, as it is ready in 5 minutes and a real time saver instead of rice.

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    Poha – flattened rice

  5. Simple South Indian Tomato Sauce, page 345.  If you would like a change from Italian tomato sauce, this is one for you.  Mild or spicy, I have omitted the chilies in some batches, this sauce can be used on eggs or on grilled vegetables.  I have shared the recipe below.  The sauce is thick and aromatic.IMG_1513 (1024x793)Gather all the ingredients first — I used plump Roma tomatoes and a large white Spanish onion (any onion will do, this is what was in my fridge).

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The teaspoon above with the dark paste on it, is tamarind paste, the sour  fruit from the pod of a tamarind tree.  Check out my much used container of concentrated paste. It can also be found in compressed blocks (like pitted dates) but they sometimes have seeds that need to be removed and this is simpler to use.IMG_1579 (778x1024)

This was my spicy batch.  Two hot green chilis, chili powder, turmeric powder and salt.IMG_1508 (1024x867)

Two newer ingredients are fresh curry leaves and urad dal.  This dal has a bit of a glutinous texture, which adds to the consistency of the sauce.IMG_1509 (1024x1019)

And the subtle additional flavours of black mustard seeds and cumin seeds.IMG_1510 (684x701)

Simple South Indian Tomato Sauce

printed from Vegetarian India, A Journey Through the Best of Indian Home Cooking, by Madhur Jaffrey

This is a wonderfully spicy sauce that can be thrown over pasta or rice noodles, spread over grilled eggplant or zucchini slices, or used as a dip for a variety of crisp and crunch Indian fritters, chips and pancakes.

Makes about 2 3/4 cups

1 1/4 lbs ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 onion, peeled and chopped
1-2 fresh hot green chilies, sliced crosswise into thin rounds
Generous handful of fresh cilantro tops, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon tamarind concentrate
1/4-1/2 teaspoons nice red chili powder
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons olive or peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon urad dal
1/4 teaspoon whole mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoons whole cumin seeds
8-10 fresh curry leaves, light crushed in your hand.

  1. Put the tomatoes into a bowl and crush them as much as you can with your hand to release their moisture. Add the onions, green chilies, cilantro, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, the tamarind, chili powder, and turmeric.
  2. Set a medium pan over medium heat and add the oil. When really hot, add the urad dal. As soon as it starts to turn reddish, add the mustard seeds. When they start to pop, a matter of seconds, add the cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for a few seconds, then throw in the curry leaves (take care, as these will splutter). Add the tomato mixture, reduce the heat to medium low, and bring to a gentle simmer. Simmer uncovered, stirring now and then, until the sauce has thickened, about 20-25 minutes. Taste, adding the other 1/2 teaspoon of salt if needed. Cool a bit, then blend to a thick sauce and serve.


One comment

  1. […] piece of the tamarind with a little water to make a paste.  I have used this ingredient before in My Amazing Vegetarian Indian Experience. Becoming a more popular ingredient in international cooking, it can be found in Asian or Indian […]

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