Category Archives: Lunch ideas

[Sibling Rivalry or Taste Preferences?]: Spicy Lentils Soup aka Masoor Aamti

I love lentils. I should clarify. I love lentils now. My sister S adores lentils – masoor aamti along with (as she would say it), “hot hot” rice. One of our favorite family story is when she was 6 years old she woke up in the middle of the night crying. Apparently she forgot to eat masoor aamti with rice! Since then whenever my mom cooked masoor aamti she made sure S ate it with rice to her heart’s content!

I, on the other hand, loved sprouted vaal usal (field beans curry). It deserves a separate post since it is a popular regional speciality. Tedious prep work but still my favorite! S hated it.

Around the same time (I was probably in 3rd or 4th grade) I stopped eating masoor aamti. I can’t seem to remember the exact reason besides the fact that we each had our favorites.

Few years later I finally gave in and went for a cup of masoor aamti. The tomatoey-spicy concoction has a meaty and rich flavor that was and still remains memorable. I couldn’t believe it — I stayed away from it for years!

Now that I’m a genetic counselor by profession I am intrigued how genetics plays a role in our taste preferences. I came across an interesting article on the Smithsonian website called, “The Genetics of Taste”, that concludes genetics, nature and of course nurture play pivotal roles in what we enjoy and avoid!

My favorite the sprouted vaal usal (field beans curry) I have to say has a mild bitter taste. Our tongue carries a receptor called TAS2R, some people carry a ‘sensitive’ form of this receptor and are able to taste bitter chemicals. The TAS2R gene might explain whether we enjoy certain veggies with open arms or  move them to the side of our plate. A version of the gene in turn can play a role in our sweet preferences!

My masoor aamti dilemma though was not resolved. If we have “bitter genes” and “sweet genes” I’m sure we have “sibling rivalry” one as well!!

Masoor aamti is a perfect weekday recipe! Any kind of lentils need some time to soak in water to speed up the cooking process — doesn’t have to be too long. To work smarter I typically soak it in the morning before I head out to work and cook them in a pressure cooker (2-3 whistles) or use slow-cooker in the evening. The cooked lentils then get mixed with the spiced onion-tomato mixture I describe in detail below.

The recipe I’m sharing uses a slow-cooker (crockpot) – the thought of lentils simmering in the spices is comforting and perfect as a soup for the wintery months ahead!

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Origami Kandil (Lantern) for Diwali by my sister S!
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Rangoli (art using powdered colors) for Diwali by my talented & artistic sister S!

To learn more about genetics and taste check out:

  1. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-genetics-of-taste-88797110/?no-ist
  2. http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060918/full/news060918-1.html
  3. http://www.monell.org/news/news_releases/sweet_genes
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We both have paternally inherited “travel genes”
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“Not all those who wander are lost” JRR Tolkien – birthday cake for S from Love, Sugar, Dough bakery in Mumbai!

Adapted from: myMom’s recipe

[recipe title=”Masoor Aamti” servings=”2″ cooking time=”2 hrs (slow cooker recipe)/30 mins (pressure cooker) Prep ~2 hrs (soak) + 20 mins” difficulty=”easy”]

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups whole lentils (whole masoor daal)
  • 1.5 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1.5 cup finely chopped tomato
  • 2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 finely chopped green chillies
  • 1 pinch asafoetida
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tbsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin-coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • cilantro (finely chopped for garnish)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Water

Directions:

  • Rinse and soak the lentils in water for minimum 2 hours.
  • In a medium-size slow cooker — add the pre-soaked lentils + 3 cups water + turmeric powder. Set on high for ~ 1 hour.
  • In the meantime, heat a pan, add olive oil followed by asafoetida, mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Once the seeds start to splatter add curry leaves, green chillies and ginger-garlic paste. Stir well and add onions.
  • Cook for few 5-8 minutes until the onions are nice golden brown.
  • Add the tomatoes, stir and add all the spice powders.
  • Stir until the tomatoes soften and you can see oil coming out from the sides (~5-8 minutes). Turn off the heat.
  • Once the lentils are cooked in the slow cooker for an hour — add the spiced onion-tomato mixture. Stir well and set the slow cooker on high for another hour.
  • Check if the lentils are cooked. Add salt, adjust spices, garnish with cilantro.
  • Enjoy warm-hearty masoor aamti as soup or with “hot hot” basmati rice. [/recipe]

[Halloween Special] Rustic meal: Bajri Roti and Spicy Lasun Chutney

After all the summer craziness and travels I’m enjoying the relaxing Fall season. I love the crisp cool air and all combinations of red-orange-yellow colors around. The weather inspired me to make my mother in law’s mini-meal bajra roti and lasun chutney. Bajra is perfect for cooler weather since it is considered “heat-y” and the spiciness of the chutney ties in well with it’s nutty flavor. V grew up eating it for breakfast during not-so hot months in Mumbai (aka winter) but it is a great combo on a weeknight. This meal can be planned ahead – doesn’t need a lot of prep time and includes ingredients that you either already have in your pantry or have a longer-shelf life (such as flour or frozen grated coconut).

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If you are not a fan of coconut the bajra roti can be a good substitute for breads/wheat rotis and can be enjoyed with any curry or vegetable. Bajra is considered very nutritional, gluten-free and if you skip the ghee the recipe is dairy-free as well.

Are you wondering about my non-traditional Halloween post? The roti’s natural dark grey/black color and the chutney’s orange color remind me of Fall and Halloween. That’s not it — the number of dried red chillies and the spiciness is for the brave-hearted only! Scary ha? Just kidding — enjoy!

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Something to warm you up this Fall. And spiciness that sounds scary. Trust me you need it after all the candy-consumption!

[recipe title=”Rustic meal: Bajra Roti and Lasun Chutney” servings=”2″ time=”45 mins Prep 20 mins” difficulty=”moderate/difficult”]

Ingredients:

  • BAJRA ROTI
    • 2 cups bajra flour (black/pearl millet flour)*
    • 1 cup warm water + 1/2 cups for sprinkling
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • Sea salt to taste
    • Extra flour for rolling
    • 2 tbsp Ghee (optional)*
  • SPICY LASUN CHUTNEY
    • 6-8 garlic cloves
    • 8-12 dried red chillies*
    • 1 tbsp tamarind paste*
    • 1 cup freshly grated coconut (or thawed frozen coconut)*
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • pinch of asafoetida*
    • 1/2 cup water
    • Salt to taste
  • *ingredients available at an Indian grocery store

Directions:

  • In a bowl (or kitchen aid with dough hook attachment) mix bajra flour, salt, olive oil and warm water. Knead into soft dough. mytip: Add water gradually, starting with only 1/2 cup first and the rest as needed.
  • Let the dough rest for 10-15 mins.
  • In the meantime let’s make the chutney, in a pan add olive oil, asafoetida, roughly chopped garlic cloves and dried red chillies. Roast for few minutes. Once you get a nice aroma of garlic and the chillies add in the grated coconut. Roast for additional 2-3 minutes. mytip: Certain red chillies can be really spicy so please use caution and use according to your spice level. I used the byagdi variety from South India that is spicy and imparts a nice orange color to the chutney.
  • In a blender grind – roasted coconut, garlic, red chillies, salt, tamarind paste and water to make a fine paste. Roasted garlic chutney is ready!
  • Back to the bajra dough — the consistency of the dough should be soft. If it is sticky it will be difficult to roll and if it gets too firm it will be easy to roll but the final product might be too hard to eat! Add flour or water and adjust the dough.
  • Make ~8 small balls and flatten them like a crab cake.
  • Individually roll into a flat bread either with a rolling pin or with your finger tips. This is the most tricky part — you will need some practice and some patience but use flour generously or roll mini-ones.
  • Bajra flour is gluten-free so can break easily. Handle the flatbread with delicate hand if it sticks use a flat spoon to remove the sticky parts.
  •  Place the roti on a hot non-stick pan, sprinkle some water on the top no oil is required.
  • Once both sides are cooked remove on a plate. Smear some ghee while still hot (totally optionally but certainly enhances the flavor). If you do not apply the ghee this recipe is gluten-free and dairy-free.
  • Serve hot with the chutney!

[/recipe]