Legumes or dried beans and peas have been a part of the ancient Indian culinary tradition and the generic name for all members of the dried pea and bean family is dal. Containing enzymes, fiber, minerals, and vitamins, dal is easily digested and highly nutritious, and is an accompaniment of almost every Indian lunch. The repertoire of dal dishes is indeed extensive, from liquid soups and thick purees, stews, fried appetizers, crispy pancakes and crepes, sauces, and chutneys to sprouted salads and delicious sweetmeats.
Always wash legumes four or five times under cold running water prior to cooking. Some varieties of legumes should be soaked overnight to tenderize and save cooking time, as indicated in the recipes of my cookbooks.
Dal is always prepared in combination with pungent herbs and spices, such as garlic, ginger, onion, black pepper, chilies, mustard seeds, asafoetida, cumin, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, onion seeds, salt, and oil or clarified butter.
Alasandra Black-Eyed Peas (Lobia)
When Alexander the Great marched across the northern plains of India in 327 B.C., his army discovered the cowpea and named it after the young general.
1½ cups black-eyed peas
¼ teaspoon baking soda
3 medium onions, peeled and chopped
1-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped
7 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 fresh green chili, chopped
¼ cup water
¼ cup corn oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1½-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped fine
1 fresh green chili, chopped fine
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon onion seeds
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt to taste
8 cups water
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped fine
3 medium tomatoes, sliced
Soak the peas overnight in a bowl of cold water and baking soda. Rinse and drain the peas.
In a food processor, puree the onions, ginger, garlic, chili, and ¼ cup water.
Heat the oil in a wok. Add the cumin and onion seeds, and sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the cumin seeds change color to a darker shade. Add the onion paste and sauté for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.
Add a little water to prevent the mixture from sticking.
Add the coriander, turmeric, and salt, and stir for 1-2 minutes.
Add the yogurt, stirring continuously, until the oil separates from the mixture.
Add the peas and mix.
Add 8 cups water and boil. Cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender.
Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and sliced tomatoes. Serve hot with basmati rice or roti, chicken kebab, vegetables, and yogurt salad.
Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at www.feastofindia.net.