Before we get to the food, I just wanted to say thanks to Josie for all of the help while she was here. John has been gone, and that can get rough with 2 toddlers. She extended her stay until yesterday, when my parents visited, and she helped with dishes, dogs, kids, you name it. Aside from the fact that I just wish we lived closer to each other and she is my best friend, she was also just an awesome stand in for my husband. As weird as that sounds. Anyway….
There is no bigger compliment for outstanding flavor that I could give to a dish other than to say I forgot to put the tomatoes in and it was still spectacular. Seriously.
This Parsi Spicy Squash & Legume Stew is apparently a famous Bombay dish, made unique by its use of Parsi dhanajeera powder. She said that garam masala could sub, so I took a halfway route and kind of guestimated how much of various spices to add to my garam masala (the Parsi spice blend is much bigger than a basic garam masala). I will provide the full recipe for the powder below, but know that I did not make the powder straight out. However the legumes, which were cooked in the powder I approximated, were some of the best “plain” (no veggies or ghee flavoring added) lentils and split peas I have ever had. I highly recommend either making or approximating the powder, whichever works best for you. I plan to make some of the bulk powder (in a small quantity) to use in the future.
Josie and I both agreed that this stew was fantastic with tamarind and date chutney, although in retrospect that could be because I left out the tomatoes. If you don’t have any sweet and sour chutney around, you might add a bit more lemon juice and some brown sugar to taste. I liked this stew with rice, but Josie felt that was a waste of stomach space. The rice is traditional according to Sahni.
I am submitting this dish to one of my favorite regular blogging events, Susan’s My Legume Love Affair. The 12th helping is coincidentally and happily vegetarian this month. It’s being hosted by Annarasa: Essence Of Food, so head on over there early in July to check out the round up.
This is not at all a complex recipe, although it does take about 1 1/2 hours (including cooking time) to prepare. However, unlike Western soups and stews, it is built by adding layers–first the legumes are cooked, then the veggies are added, and then last the flavoring ghee is added. So while the directions may look complex, as though you are making 3 different dishes, you really are not.
For the legumes:
3/4 cup yellow split peas
1/4 cup split and skinned yellow mung beans (moong dal)
3/4 cup pink or red lentils
4 1/2 cups water (you could add more if you like stews thinner)
2 T minced ginger
1 T minced garlic
2 t Parsi dhanajeera powder (see below; you could sub garam masala)
1/4 t ground cloves
1 1/2 t turmeric
1 t paprika or cayenne, to heat preference
2 bay leaves (I forgot these to no detriment)
2-8 fresh, hot green chilies, minced (I seeded because of kids)
pinch of salt
For the vegetables
3/4 lb chopped tomatoes (I accidentally forgot)
3/4 lb winter squash or sweet potato, which we used, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
2 zucchini (grocery store size), cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 yellow squash (grocery store size), cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes
1 large red onion, cut into thick slices
1 sweet bell pepper, cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks
1 cup frozen or fresh corn kernals
2 cups water
For Flavoring Ghee
5 T ghee
1 1/2 t black/brown mustard seeds
2 t cumin seeds
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 T minced garlic
juice of half lemon
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Start the legumes: Put all of the legume ingredients into a large (at least 5 qt, I used 6 qt) pot and bring them to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and briskly simmer, partially covered, until the split peas are fully cooked but not mush. This will take about 35-40 minutes.
Add the vegetables: Add all of the prepped vegetables along with 2 cups of water to the boiling legumes (I missed that at first and thought they cooked separately). Continue to briskly simmer, partially covered, for 20 minutes until, until the veggies are fully cooked but still hold their shape (Josie requested softer veggies, so we cooked ours longer). When they are done, turn off the heat and add the flavoring ghee (see next).
Meanwhile, make the flavoring ghee: Measure out the all of the ghee ingredients and have them ready by your cooktop (in separate piles). Heat the ghee in a small frying pan over high heat. When it is very hot, add the mustard seeds and cover with a lid. Let them pop for about 30 seconds or until they slow their popping and then add the cumin seeds. When the cumin begins to darken, add the chopped onion and cook it, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until it turns brown (mine took longer as I was working from too small of a burner). Add the garlic and let it cook an additional 20 seconds. Add the lemon juice and coriander and immediately pour the contents of the pan into the finished stew. Mix gently to distribute the seasoning. Salt to taste.
Parsi Dhanajeera Masala
Julie Sahni, Classic Indian Vegetarian And Grain Cooking
3/4 cup coriander seeds
2 T cumin seeds
1 1/2 t black/brown mustard seeds
1/2 t fennel seeds
1 T white poppy seeds
1 T black peppercorns
1/2 t whole cloves
3 inch cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
1 T whole green cardamom pods
5 bay leaves
1/4 t saffron threads
1 t freshly grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to 225 F. Put everything except the saffron and nutmeg in a large roasting pan and spread them out to make a single layer. Place the pan on the bottom shelf of the oven and roast for 30 minutes or until the spices are lightly browned. Mix and turn occasionally to prevent burning. During the last 5 minutes, add the saffron and nutmeg.
Remove the spices to cool. When they are cool, grind the spices in a spice mill, mortar and plestle or coffee grinder. Store in a cool, dry space up to 3 months.