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Indian Accident|Spice-and-Herb-Laced Split Peas

Hoo boy this stuff is good!  And to think, we almost never had it…

Garbanzo beans were supposed to come home from the grocery store, not yellow split peas.  But a reshuffling of the store inventory and a well-meaning but not-so-legume-knowledgeable shop guy caused us to get the wrong thing – and thank goodness!  I’d never really even heard of yellow lentils.  Over to the bookshelf and the staple Indian cooking tome, Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni and a recipe for Masala Dal was found.

It is delicious.  Really delicious.  Like good enough to eat on its own with some rice.  But you don’t have to!  Sahni’s excellent book also has several recipes for easy and quick breads, one of which, Phulka, or Baked Whole Wheat Puffy Bread, is yummy and fun to make!

Both recipes are fairly quick in actual cooking time; the split peas need to be soaked for an hour before they are cooked, and then need to be cooked for about an hour, but it doesn’t need much tending and it’s not fussy.  The peas only have a couple of ingredients for the cooking and their tadka (flavored oil that is added at the finish), has only three or four ingredients, depending on your taste.

I’m including the recipes here, but the entire book is on Google Books and completely searchable.  I’d love it if you used my link and bought a copy for your home (I really do recommend it as a staple Indian cookbook), but if you’re out of space, don’t want to spend the money, or have an abhorrence of paper printed and bound books, just look through the recipes online.  While we have modified many recipes made out of this book, not one of them has been less than good and most have been really spectacular.


Phulka/Baked Whole Wheat Puffy Bread

Makes 24 six-inch phulka
For 6-8 persons

3 cups chapati flour* (or 2 cups whole wheat flour mixed with 1 cup all-purpose flour), measured by scooping the flour with measuring cup and leveling off with a spatula or knife
1 cup warm water (90-100 degrees F)
1/2-3/4 cup chapati flour or all-purpose for dusting

1. Place chapati flour (or mix wheat and all-purpose) in a bowl.  Add water, pouring it fast at first, to moisten the flour enough that it adheres into a mass; then slowly, little by little, until the dough is formed and can be kneaded.

2. Place the  dough on the work surface and knead for 10-15 minutes, or mix and knead the dough in the food processor.  This will be a very soft and pliable dough, quite sticky to the touch.  Put the dough back int he blow, cover with a moist towel or a sheet of plastic, and let it rest, preferably in a warm place, for a least 1/2 hour. (Dough may be made a day ahead and refrigerated, tightly sealed in foil.  Remove from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before you are ready to roll it.

3. Put the flour for dusting in a plate or a shallow bowl and keep it close to the work surface where you are rolling the dough.  Knead the dough again for a minute, and divide it into 2 equal portions  Using your hands, roll each into a rope, cut into 12 equal parts, and roll the small pieces into smooth balls (or pinch off small pieces of dough from the rope, and roll them into 1 inch balls).  Dust the balls lightly with flour to prevent their sticking to each other, and put them back in the bowl.  Keep the bowl covered loosely with a damp towel or a sheet of plastic wrap to prevent the dough’s drying out.

4. Start heating the griddle or frying pan over medium heat.  Working one at a time, pick up a ball and place it on  the dusting flour.  Press the ball lightly but firmly, both to flatten it into a round pillow and simultaneously to coat the underside with flour.  Turn and repeat, to coat the other side with flour.  Pick up the patty with your fingers, shake it gently to release any excess flour, and place it on the work surface.

5. Roll the patty into a thin 6 inch circle, pressing and stretching with the rolling pin with a brisk back-and-forth motion, going from edge to edge to keep it circular.  Dust the dough from time to time to prevent its sticking to the work surface or rolling pin.  This process is similar to forming tortillas.

6. Lift the bread gently, place it on the hot griddle, and bake until the side in contact with the griddle is cooked and several tiny brown spots appear.  Flip the bread, using a pair of unserrated tongs, and bake the other side the same way.  Generally, when the griddle temperature is right, the first side of the bread will take about 20-30 seconds and the second side 8-10 seconds.

7. Take the baked bread and put it directly on a stove burner (MUST be gas!!) with the flame on high.  The bread will puff up, releasing steam.  Leave it about 5-10 seconds, when brown spots appear.  Flip it and let brown spots form on the other side.

8. Serve in a basket, either immediately puffed up, or they can be deflated, brushed with oil or ghee, and wrapped in foil to wait for a couple of hours.  To reheat, place the sealed foil package in the oven at 300 degrees F for 12 minutes.


Masala Dal/Spice-and-Herb-Laced Split Peas

For 4-6 persons (or just a couple if you really like it!)

1 1/2 cups yellow split peas
1/3 tsp turmeric
2 tsp kosher salt**

For the tadka:

1/2 cup Indian vegetable shortening or light vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 cup chopped onion
1/4 tsp red pepper (more or less to taste)
2 tbsp finely chopped coriander leaves

1. Wash the peas.  Put the peas in a bowl and add enough hot water to cover by 1 inch.  Let soak for 1 hour.  Drain

2. Put the peas in a deep pot along with the turmeric and 4 1/2 cups water.  Bring to a boil, stirring well to keep the peas from lumping.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 45 minutes, *** or until the peas are thoroughly cooked and tender when pressed between your fingers.  Stir now and then to ensure that they do not stick to the bottom of the pan.  Turn off heat, and beat the split peas with a wire whisk or wooden spoon for a minute or until finely pureed.  Measure the puree.  There should be about 5 cups; if not, add enough water to complete the measurement.  Stir in salt, and set aside. (The split pea puree may be prepared and kept refrigerated for up to 4 days.  It also freezes extremely well.  Defrost thoroughly before proceeding with the recipe.)

3. When ready to serve, simmer the puree over low heat until piping hot.  Check the consistency of the puree if you have made it ahead of time; keeping often thickens it considerable and you may need to add water.  Transfer the puree to a warm serving bowl and make the spiced butter (tadka).

4. Heat shortening or oil over medium-high heat in a frying pan.  When it is very hot, add cumin seeds, and fry until they turn dark brown (about 10 seconds).  Add onions, and fry until they turn dark brown (about 20 minutes)****, stirring constantly to prevent burning.  Stir in red pepper and immediately pour this perfumed butter with its spices and onions over the split pea puree.  Garnish with chopped coriander.

*This recipe cuts down nicely – I made it with just one cup of flour, which was plenty for two people – not sure you could make it/knead it in the food processor with such a small batch
**I actually use about 1 1/2 and it’s pretty well salted
*** I had to cook mine a bit longer – a little over an hour
****You can see in the photo how dark the onions are – they get very brown. They are very sweet and crispy this way and well worth the 20 minutes it takes to fry them

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