Himalayan fennel swiss chard Creamed lentils

2014-07-31 17.32.21Himalayan mountains are not just heavenly. People who live in the mountains are very warm, hospitable and generous. Maybe it has to do with being so close to nature. Imagine sniffing pine leaves everyday or walking in woods or climbing up hills. Its got to bring out your inner cheer.

These swiss chard leaves and fennel fronds came from our workplace terrace garden planter What was I going to make? A facebook question to friends got so many creative responses, that it brought a smile to my face.

Since the past couple of days has been quite chilly, my mind kept returning to the mountains. Wayside stalls serve the tastiest dals and breads. My childhood vacation trips to the beautiful Himalayas are the inspiration for Himalayan fennel swiss chard creamed lentils.

1/2 cup yellow moong beans
1 cup washed and cut swiss chards, including stems
½ cup washed and cut fennel fronds
½ cup red onion, chopped
1 tbsp fresh garlic, minced
1 tbsp fresh ginger minced
1 tomato, diced
1 tbsp fresh lime juice
Spice Mix
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 dry red hot pepper
½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coconut oil
Pinch hing
Salt to taste



• Wash and drain moong beans thoroughly. Cover with 1 cup water and pressure cook till lentils are soft. Set aside to cool.

• Wash and cut fennel fronds into smaller bits, including tender stems. Wash and cut swiss chard into smaller bits, including stems. Cut onion, ginger, garlic, tomato. Set aside.

• Heat coconut oil in pan.

• Add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the cumin seeds, onions, hot chili peppers, ginger, garlic and hing

• Stir everything till cooked and lightly brown.

• Add diced tomatoes and let everything cook.  Add turmeric powder.

• Add fennel fronds and swiss chard and saute till fennel is soft.


• Mash up the cooked lentils till creamy and then add to the pan

• Stir everything together and let come to a boil. Take off stove.


• Add salt to taste and freshly squeezed lime juice.

I served the Himalayan fennel swiss chard creamed lentils with chapati. Don’t worry if it isn’t a perfect round. its mountain food, so keep it simple, delicious, a bit carefree. I can even see it paired with steamed basmati rice for an equally satisfying meal. Doesn’t it look just YUM. and it was soo finger lickin’ good!! You have to try it. Remember : no fennel no worries, just use swiss chard, but if you have fennel, don’t throw away the fronds, they add a light and delicate flavouring..


— charuyoga —


Keeraithandu Sambhar-Amaranth Stem Stew

Sambar is the classic southern stew. Every kitchen has its own recipe. Amaranth stem provides a nice texture, dals add smoothness and sambar powder(the famous spice mix) add the necessary spices to this wonderful dish. I first tasted amaranth stem sambar in my aunt’s home and never forgot its mesmerizing taste.. For years now I’ve been trying to duplicate that fragrant aroma while still maintaining texture and nutrition. Finally tonight I think I got it, I this recipe is just like my aunt’s. It IMG_0318might be the fresh turmeric that a coworker brought in for me thinking I would put it to good use that did the trick!!. I love this sambar so much I simply had to share my recipe with you..

1 ½ cups amaranth stem, chopped
½ cup toor dal (pigeon peas)Seasoning Mix
1 tsp mustard seeds
¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
5 curry leaves
1 tsp coconut oil
Spice Mix
½ tsp fresh turmeric root
¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp yellow split peas
1 tsp coriander seeds
¾ tsp tamarind paste
¼ tsp cumin seeds
10 curry leaves
½ tsp urad dal
1 dry red chili
Pinch hing
Salt to taste
Serves 4

Pots n pans
Wok or fry pan
Spice grinder or coffee grinder

• Wash toor dal. Add ¼ tsp turmeric, cover dal with 1 cup water and cook in pressure cooker or in saucepan. Remove. When slightly cool add about ¼ cup water mashing with a spoon to make dal smooth without any lumps,

• Finely chop Amaranth stem. Set aside.

• Heat oil in fry pan. Add the seasoning mix in this order- mustard seeds, when they splutter, add fenugreek and 5 curry leaves.

• Add chopped amaranth stem and sauté lightly.

• Add 2 cups water to cover amaranth stem. Add tamarind paste and water & let come to boil. This is the first boil which does 2 things : 1) cooks amaranth stem 2) boils tamarind so any raw flavours are gone.

• While water is boiling, in skillet dry roast these spices together: split peas, coriander seeds, urad dal, fenugreek seeds, turmeric, cumin.

IMG_0312• Transfer to spice mill. Dry roast the red chili & curry leaves and also transfer to spice mill. Grind to a fine powder. Set aside this spice powder. Your sambar powder is ready.

• Add 1 tsp sambar powder to boiling water in saucepan and let come to 2nd boil. This boil is to round off the sambar powder & bring it together with amaranth stem.

• Add cooked dal and let come to 3rd boil. This boil will round off the dal with sambar powder & amaranth stem.

• Remove from fire. Serve hot with rice.

About sambar powder
Sambar powder is a unique combination of a few primary spices. Feel free to alter the ratio of spices to your own taste using my proportion as a guide. I kept the heat factor quite low as I wanted the other spices to shine through. You could if you like, easily add a red chili during the mustard seasoning step.


My grandmother, grand aunts, mother and aunts roast their unique sambar spice mix at home. Grinding is barely ever done at home, instead taken to spice mills which do a fine job of grinding various spices together and very fast. My mom does something quite interesting—knowing that many women bring their spices to be ground in the mill, she takes a few grains of rice to the millman who first passes the rice through the mill, removing any fragrances caused by spices alien to my mom’s sambar mix and then he grinds her spices –so she has her spice flavours intact without any other competing flavours from other spices.

Turmeric-don’t fret if you can’t find fresh turmeric. Its quite a luxury and I just got lucky. You can easily make do with dry turmeric or turmeric powder.

Tamarind-Fresh tamarind yields a rich red hue to sambar, but who has the time to soak it in water & squeeze out the pulp. Tamarind paste works equally well, it will give a deeper hue to sambar.

Vegetables-I used amaranth stem as I had that remaining from my amaranth leaf soup recipe.. Onions, okra, radish, eggplant, turnip are all great substitutes.

Spice mix-The portions I suggested would make slightly over 3 teaspoons of sambar powder. Reserve the remaining powder in an airtight bottle for another time. It will stay fragrant for months if you store in the freezer compartment of your fridge.

In all our runaround to find new and tantalizing recipes, its always good to see how classics come right back into fashion.. Amaranth has been used for hundreds of years in southern indian cooking. I really hope you’ll give this sambar a try to get a taste of an amazing past.

–soul of spice–

Kootu-Southern Coconut Stew

 photo 3 (4)

I’ve been a bit off weather for a few weeks now.. and was reminded about blogging from a friend who texted, .where are your posts, I’ve been watching out but long time no writing? What’s with that.. Sorry about that.. Rib dislocation takes a little time to heal, and it does mean discomfort..But then what better way to satisfy body and soul than to make a stew. Kootu is a southern stew or soup, depending on who you talk to. Some like it thick & some like it thin. Today I was in the mood for a thin stew, but I’ll share tips on making it thicker.

When I finished making it and tasted a spoonful, I was truly in seventh heaven, I had forgotten all about the delicacy of winter melon, the sweetness of coconut, the light spice of green pepper and ginger.

What about protein you ask. Patience… I’m coming to that. I think we as a society place an overemphasis on protein while at the risk of neglecting minerals our body needs that only vegetables can deliver. Anyhow that’s a topic for another post. The protein kick in this stew is delivered by split yellow chickpeas.. And the light green colour may remind you that spring is around the corner, or so we all hope here in the great white northern country of Canada.

4 cups washed, peeled and cubed winter melon
¼ cup yellow split peas
Spice Mix
¼ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fresh ginger
1 tsp green hot pepper
2 tbsp grated coconut(fresh or dry)1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad seeds
8-10 curry leaves
Pinch hing
Salt to taste1 tbsp coconut oil
Serves 4

Pots n pans
Wok or fry pan
Food processor

• Wash, rinse and then soak the yellow split peas in double the quantity of water in a large enough vessel. They will swell slightly so pick a large enough vessel for soaking. Set aside.

photo 1 (2)
• Meanwhile let’s start prepping. Wash, peel and cut winter melon into cubes, set aside.

photo 3 (3)
Coconut spice paste – Chop ginger and green hot pepper thinly. Grind with cumin and grated coconut in food processor.

photo 2 (3)
• Heat fry pan. Add soaked split peas, water and all. Let cook about 10 minutes with lid on.
• Test that the split peas are cooked, al dente or cooked and yet slightly crisp. They should have absorbed pretty much all the water.
• Add the cubed winter melon, ½ cup water and salt. Give everything a stir and let cook with lid on about 5 minutes or even sooner. (SOS-want a thicker stew, add any thickening agent you like, southern Indian cooks usually use rice flour to maintain the gluten free nature of food).

photo 1
• Check the doneness of winter melon, again slightly crisp.
• Add the coconut spice paste and let come to a gentle boil.photo 4 (2)
Spice oil – Heat 1 tsp coconut oil in skillet. Add mustard seeds. When they splutter, add urad and then curry leaves and hing.

photo 2 (4)
• Pour spice oil over stew.
• Serve with some rice.

Health benefits
This delicate gourd comes loaded with nutrients. Its a great source of Vitamin B1(thiamine), vitamin B3(niacin) and vitamin C. Also rich in minerals like calcium. And its high in potassium(those of you who have leg cramps can maybe consider including it in your diet). With almost a whopping 96% water, its a weight watcher’s delight. Given that it has so much water content, exercise caution while cooking. Overcooking will end up in a mushy stew, so just lightly cook it.

In Ayurvedic remedies its used to increase appetite plus its fresh juice is used to cure kidney stones. The charaka samhita and Ashtanga Hridaya Samhita, both ancient ayurvedic texts praise winter melon for its nutritional and medicinal qualities.

Wow! Who knew.. All I was going by was my instinct gravitating towards this elegant and lightly spiked with spice stew. If you’re wondering where to source it, try your local chinese grocery store. It’ll come packed in stryofoam.

Oh and lastly! I kept this stew as close to tradition as possible, so no turmeric this time.. Some homes make it without ginger, but I felt the addition would help everyone who needs warming up this winter. Feel free to experiment sans ginger but whatever you do, please do try this lovely stew.

Black Eyed Bean Stew

There’s nothing more satisfying than a hearty stew packed with goodies for your body – tastes delicious and looks pretty. Protein filled beans, Antioxidant nutrient rich spices, I promise- You won’t go wrong with black eyed bean stew, a timeless classic which I’ve detailed step-by-step. I used 2 spices.

Turmeric, the Golden Goddess is often called Saffron’s poor cousin. I picked this everyday spice for my comfort stew Turmeric is integral to my daily cooking – its been known to safely cure aches and pains Especially in cool weather flus and colds don’t stand a chance with this amazing spice.
Cumin balances all 3 body types. Probably the reason this stew is universally loved. Cumin makes digesting beans easy and helps reduce gas by stimulating digestive fire. Anytime you feel sluggish, think about adding a touch of cumin to your meal.

Black eyed beans-1 cup
Red Onion -1 medium sized
Juicy tomatoes-2 medium sized
Garlic-1 clove
Ginger-same quantity as garlic
Hot green pepper-1 sliced thinly
Fresh Cilantro-1 tsp washed & finely chopped
Coconut oil – 1 tsp (or your choice of a light oil
Cumin- ¼ tsp or even lesser
Turmeric- ¼ tsp
Salt to taste
Potato-1 small
Prep time
30 minutes with a pressure cooker, longer with a crock pot

Serves 4

Pots n pans
Large fry pan
Pressure cooker or crock pot


1.   Soak black eyed beans for about 1 hour after washing. Then pressure cook. SOS tip – I’m not a huge fan of having lots of pots and pans, but one pot serves as an all round multi-purpose tool. The pressure cooker. This workhorse easily steams veggies, cooks rice, lentils, potatoes, and is energy efficient to boot. A crock pot works equally well.

2.   While Black eyed beans cook in the pressure cooker or crock pot, start slicing and dicing other ingredients. SOS tip- Worried about garlicky hands? Don’t be! The easiest way to peel garlic is to press clove firmly with a knife. Skin comes out easily without getting your hands messy.

3.   In pan, heat coconut oil. Add cumin. quickly add chopped onions, ginger, garlic, hot green pepper.

4.   When onions are soft, add tomatoes & a pinch of turmeric. Let tomatoes cook till soft.

5.   Add cooked black eyed beans & let come to boil. Do a taste test. Salt check, Heat check.

6.   OPTIONAL-if your stew is too spicy, let a potato come to the rescue. Peel, cube and microwave potato about 1 minute and add to stew.. SOS – What a forgiving ingredient. Potatoes will take in extra salt, extra heat anything extra. side benefit, adds creaminess.

7.   Let stew come to gentle boil. Sprinkle chopped cilantro, transfer to bowl, serve with any bread. I made some ajwain roti(carom flatbread).

Fun stuff

Actress Thandie Newton uses turmeric in her daily skin moisturizing routine. Hmmm. Whenever I’m on a bus to Mylapore for my music lessons, the sight of women anointed with turmeric for a glowing skin confirms this. Not only is it good for you internally, it also beautifies. I do have easier ways to add turmeric to your beauty regime that I’ve been using since I was a teenager -might share in another post:)

Health benefits
Curcumin is found in turmeric, a flavourful yellow spice, a key ingredient in South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine. Turmeric has been used in India’s Ayurvedic remedies for 2,500 years. “We’ve shown that [curcumin] has well over 100 mechanisms of damaging cancer cells, particularly colon cancer cells,” said Professor Will Stewart, SOS -Thanks a lot for confirming with scientific evidence Professor!

Smart woman Thandie and scientific research may be on to something. Why shouldn’t you benefit from this powerful skin cleanser & all-in-one super spice in this recipe? Hope you enjoyed this nourishing stew. I’d love to hear your comments!