When I cook, I use many varied ingredients and spices, yet I like to keep the process of preparing food as simple as possible.
With my busier schedule these days, I’ve started using frozen vegetables without shame. They can really help make a veggie-ful dish happen fast without lots of washing/peeling/cutting.
I love Indian food, especially when the weather turns brisk. The spices and rich flavors are so satisfying on a cool fall day.
So today, I would like to share with you two of my favorite (and very easy to make) dishes: dal and vegetable biryani.
There are more elaborate ways to prepare both of these dishes, and any Indian auntie could make these way better than I can, but oh well!
I use one pot for each dish and then one shared frying pan. I omit all the extra steps you might find if you follow more traditional biryani recipes in order to cut down my prep time and the number of dishes/utensils to wash. I am fairly efficient (a.k.a. lazy!) in the kitchen.
The red lentil dal and vegetable biryani go together quite nicely, making a complete meal that gets better after a day or two so I like to make enough for leftovers.
Simple, spicy, and nourishing!
Red Lentil Dal Recipe:
2 cups of red lentils
4 cups of water
3 TBs of ghee
2 tsp brown mustard seeds
2 tsp grated ginger (keep it in the freezer for best grating results)
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp chili powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp “Indian masala” or curry powder
1 tsp sea salt
¼ tsp hing (asfoetida)
½ tsp cinnamon powder
a dash of ground black pepper
1 bag of frozen chopped butternut squash
1 can of coconut milk
dash of ground black pepper
Soak lentils for at least an hour, then drain and rinse.
In a pot, boil water and add the drained lentils.
Cook for 20 minutes.
In a frying pan, heat ghee (or coconut oil to veganize). Add mustard seeds and stir ’til they start to pop, then add in other spices, ginger, and salt. Fry the spices for a few minutes in the hot oil to enhance their flavors.
Add spices to lentils as well as the entire can of coconut milk. Stir well and then add the bag of butternut squash.
Cook for another 10 minutes.
Vegetable Biryani Recipe:
2 ½ cups of jasmine rice
6 cups of water
1 tablespoon of good salt
¼ tsp of each: mustard seed, cumin seed, fennel seed, hing and black peppercorns
½ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp hing
1 tsp coriander powder
1 stick of cinnamon powder
1 bay leaf
5 cardamon pods
3 threads of saffron
¼ cup of raisins
¼ cup of raw cashews
1 stalk of celery
3 small tomatoes or 1 larger one
1 bag of mixed organic vegetables (carrots, peas, beans etc.,)
½ of a large zucchini
Soak rice for at least an hour then drain and rinse.
In a large pot, heat a small dollop of ghee or oil. Then add the rice in and stir around for a few minutes until the rice is coated in oil. Add water, bring to a boil, cook for 15-17 minutes.
After 15 minutes, add in a whole bag of mixed vegetables and 1 bay leaf, stir well and allow them to thaw in the hot pot.
In the frying pan, still seasoned from the dal, add the rest of your ghee/oil and then begin to heat all your spices minus the saffron.
After a few minutes of frying spices, add in the thinly sliced celery and zucchini. Sautee for 3 or 4 minutes and then add these vegetables and spices into the pot of mostly cooked rice.
In the same frying pan, lightly brown the cashews and raisins before adding to the rice pot.
Once all the ingredients are in the rice pot, add the saffron threads and then turn back on the heat and stir gently and occasionally for 5-7 more minutes to give everything time to meld.