20 January 2010

Indian Comfort Food: Parsi Spicy Squash and Legume Stew

The love affair with Indian food continues...

I originally had this dish way back in June, when my sister prepared it as part of our vegetarian Indian feast.  I was hooked.  I remember telling her that I didn't want any rice on my plate because it used up valuable stomach space that could be used on this stew (and the delicious cauliflower and potatoes).  My feelings for this stew are no different today after making this dish for myself.  I ate it for dinner, and I immediately knew I would be eating it again the following night for dinner.  In fact, it was so delicious that I invited friends over to dine on my leftovers!  I feel quite confident that they loved this stew as much as I did the first time I had it.

The stew is full of nutritious vegetables.  Feeling more and more confident with Indian food, I did make some changes to the vegetable ingredients based on what I had on hand.  I really think you can adapt the vegetables to anything you have available, as long as they can stand up to some simmering.  Lucky for me, Laura had given me some of the spice mixture she ground for this stew back in June.  It was quite convenient having the pre-made spice mixture in my cupboard from her.  But I know that it really isn't all that hard to grind and blend your own spices if you have a spice/coffee grinder.

I am submitting this post to Shelby over at the Life and Love of Grumpy's Honeybunch who is hosting January's round-up of Family Recipes.  Since Laura originally made this dish for me, and I think I owe most of my knowledge of Indian cooking to her, it seems like an appropriate entry.  I hope to continue cooking and loving vegetarian Indian food with Laura only a phone call away for assistance as needed.  Be sure to check out Shelby's blog for the round-up and details on future Family Recipes events.

Sabzi Dhan Shak (Parsi Spicy Squash & Legume Stew)
Adapted from Julie Sahni, Classic Indian Vegetarian And Grain Cooking and The Spiced Life Blog

This is not at all a complex recipe, although it does take about 1 1/2 hours (including cooking time) to prepare. However, unlike Western soups and stews, it is built by adding layers--first the legumes are cooked, then the veggies are added, and then last the flavoring ghee is added. So while the directions may look complex, as though you are making 3 different dishes, you really are not.

For the legumes:

3/4 cup yellow split peas
1/4 cup split and skinned yellow mung beans (moong dal)
3/4 cup pink or red lentils
4 1/2 cups water (you could add more if you like stews thinner)
2 T minced ginger
1 T minced garlic
2 t Parsi dhanajeera powder (see below; you could sub garam masala)
1/4 t ground cloves
1 1/2 t turmeric
1 t paprika or cayenne, to heat preference
2 bay leaves (I forgot these to no detriment)
2-8 fresh, hot green chilies, minced (I seeded because of kids)
pinch of salt

For the vegetables

3/4 lb chopped tomatoes (I used ~1 cup halved grape tomatoes)
3/4 lb winter squash or sweet potato (I used 1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1" chunks)
2 zucchini (grocery store size), cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes (I omitted)
1 yellow squash (grocery store size), cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes (I omitted)
1 large red onion, cut into thick slices
1 sweet bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks (I used 2- 1 red and 1 yellow)
1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernals
I added about 1 cup frozen peas
2 cups water

For Flavoring Ghee

5 T ghee
1 1/2 t black/brown mustard seeds
2 t cumin seeds
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 T minced garlic
juice of half lemon
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

Start the legumes: Put all of the legume ingredients into a large (at least 5 qt, I used 6 qt) pot and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and briskly simmer, partially covered, until the split peas are fully cooked but not mush. This will take about 35-40 minutes.

Add the vegetables: Add all of the prepped vegetables along with 2 cups of water to the boiling legumes (I missed that at first and thought they cooked separately). Continue to briskly simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes until, until the veggies are fully cooked but still hold their shape (Josie requested softer veggies, so we cooked ours longer). When they are done, turn off the heat and add the flavoring ghee (see next).

Meanwhile, make the flavoring ghee: Measure out the all of the ghee ingredients and have them ready by your cooktop (in separate piles). Heat the ghee in a small frying pan over high heat. When it is very hot, add the mustard seeds and cover with a lid. Let them pop for about 30 seconds or until they slow their popping and then add the cumin seeds. When the cumin begins to darken, add the chopped onion and cook it, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until it turns brown (mine took longer as I was working from too small of a burner). Add the garlic and let it cook an additional 20 seconds. Add the lemon juice and coriander and immediately pour the contents of the pan into the finished stew. Mix gently to distribute the seasoning. Salt to taste.

Parsi Dhanajeera Masala
Julie Sahni, Classic Indian Vegetarian And Grain Cooking

3/4 cup coriander seeds
2 T cumin seeds
1 1/2 t black/brown mustard seeds
1/2 t fennel seeds
1 T white poppy seeds
1 T black peppercorns
1/2 t whole cloves
3 inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1 T whole green cardamom pods
5 bay leaves
1/4 t saffron threads
1 t freshly grated nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 225 F. Put everything except the saffron and nutmeg in a large roasting pan and spread them out to make a single layer. Place the pan on the bottom shelf of the oven and roast for 30 minutes or until the spices are lightly browned. Mix and turn occasionally to prevent burning. During the last 5 minutes, add the saffron and nutmeg.

Remove the spices to cool. When they are cool, grind the spices in a spice mill, mortar and pestle or coffee grinder. Store in a cool, dry space up to 3 months.  (Obviously I kept the spices longer than 3 months, and it tasted fine.)


HoneyB said...

I love Indian food too! Don't you love it when you have something that is so good that you want to eat it over and over? It sure helps with meal planning! ;-) I think this is an awesome submission! Your photos are great too!

Laura said...

I love this post! I'm so touched!

PageRank Check said...

love indian food and think this will be amazing