I love vegetables. I LOVE vegetables. Though I eat meat, I could probably go vegetarian but I could never live without eating a lot of vegetables. What are some of my favorite vegetables, you ask? Where to start? I love me some brussels sprouts, halved and roasted with garlic in olive oil and finished off with shaved Parmigiano. Or my mother’s eggplant cooked in a heavenly sauce thickened with shredded coconut and flavored to perfection. Oven roasted kale “chips”. Fresh potatoes or cabbage sautéed with onions and a few spices and topped off with fresh cilantro and tangy lime. I could go on but I want to share a very simple recipe to cook up vegetables in a South Indian style that is easy, forgiving, and flexible.
There is a common misconception that all Indian food is very complicated to cook and takes a lot of time. Many Indian dishes do take a lot of time but there are many simple recipes too! From chopping vegetables to cleaning up, this recipe should take you 30 minutes tops.
This same recipe can be used with lots of different vegetables. I love to make potatoes this way (The Divine Dosa kit uses this technique). For those of you that subscribe to a produce box, this might be a great way to cook up some of the produce. Some vegetables that work really well with this recipe are:
potato (cut into 1/2 inch cubes and boiled. Peel if you like)
bell pepper (combine with potatoes)
beans (finely chopped)
eggplant (cut into thin 1 inch long pieces)
Apart from your choice of 1.5 – 2 cups of vegetable, you will need the following ingredients.
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1-2 green chilis, finely chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
3 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
5-10 curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon dry split chickpeas (Ask for chana dal in Indian stores. Adds some protein to the dish and also some crunch but leave it out if you can’t find it)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
2 tablespoon shredded coconut (unsweetened and preferably fresh but you can also use frozen. Leave it out if you can’t find it)
1-2 teaspoon lime juice (or to your taste)
3/4 teaspoon salt (or to your taste)
Have all your ingredients ready to go. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Don’t let the oil overheat and get too smoky as you will have to start over. If the oil is not hot enough, your spices will not cook properly. You know when the oil is just hot enough when you drop in a mustard seed and it sizzles. At this point, add the rest of the mustard seeds. In a few seconds, they should start to ‘crackle’. It is good to have a lid handy to prevent a mess. Along with the crackling, the mustard seeds are cooking and imparting their flavor to the oil.
At this point, add the cumin seeds, split chickpeas, curry leaves (be careful as the water in the fresh leaves will make the oil splatter), asafetida, and green chili. Stir for a few seconds or until the flavor of the asafetida turns from stinky to almost aromatic! Don’t allow the chana dal to blacken.
Next add the diced onion and a bit of salt. The salt brings out the water in the onions and helps to cook the onion faster. Stir regularly to prevent burning. Cook till the onion pieces are translucent and just starting to brown.
Add the vegetable and the turmeric. Stir well. If you use eggplant, you might need to add more oil. ‘Hard’ vegetables like potatoes will need to be cooked prior to adding. If something starts sticking to the pan, add more oil, turn down the heat slightly, or add a couple tablespoons of water.
When the vegetable is cooked, turn the heat down, add lime juice and salt to taste. Mix in the fresh cilantro and shredded coconut. If your shredded coconut is frozen, leave the heat on for another minute or two.
And you’re done! When I have time, I make whole wheat chapatis to eat with the vegetables, a heavenly combination in my not so humble opinion. When I’m really busy, I use store-bought chapatis, naan, pita bread, or tortillas with the vegetable. Or I’ll eat the vegetables with yoghurt rice (cooked rice mixed with yoghurt and a bit of salt). Any way I eat it, this is comfort food for me.
I hope you enjoy this simple recipe and let me know how it turns out for you. Do you have a simple way of cooking up vegetables? I would love to hear about it! Do share!
Writing this has made me hungry! It is time for lunch.