The Idiot’s Cookbook – Ed. 5

If you’re anything like me, then when you’re left to cook for yourself you would take the decision to choose ease of preparation over nutrition every day of the week. Nutrition already ranks below taste when I think of food on a daily basis itself so this could actually be a problem if it continues for a long period. Which is why the presence of pulses is a real blessing.

This was a trick I picked up from my dad. When you boil your rice in the pressure cooker, just place a plate over the rice dish and that gives you additional space on which you can keep a small container of either rajma (Just googled it and these are apparently also called “kidney beans”) or channa (“chick peas” it seems. Good luck telling that to a shopkeeper :P) or gram dal/parippu. It gets cooked properly with the rice itself and you can drain off the extra water. It’s that easy. Proportioning is simple as well because you can just refrigerate and use it later. The only pro tip was to add a teaspoon of salt to taste and/or turmeric powder for it’s characteristic colour and flavour (oh and some medicinal properties too I guess)

Now what do you do once it’s ready?

Naturally this can’t be your main course. But you could very easily just boil the pulse and fry with some chilly powder and have it as a side dish. Add some ground coconut and you have what is distributed as prasad at temples across India.

Alternately another old favourite of mine was when my mom used to make it in the form of a gravy. One standard way is to chop up 1-2 tomatoes and run it through the mixer-grinder for a couple of minutes until it forms a rich red paste. Transfer this to your cooking vessel along with the boiled rajma (or other pulse) and some chopped onions. Add a glass of water, mix it and let it simmer under a low flame until the gravy achieves a consistency you are happy with.

Now if you’re a South Indian like me though, there’s nothing that brings back memories of home than a lunch of steaming hot rice and sambar.

Once your gram dal is cooked, add it to your cooking vessel and add 2-2.5 glasses of water. At this time you need to add some tamarind (“puli” in Malayalam/Tamil). You could either do it the easy a small piece directly into the vessel or you could follow the recommended method of adding the tamarind to a small hot water dish (half glass of water), let it soak up the flavour for around ten minutes and then adding the water to your vessel.

In Prep

Bring the mixture to boil and then add two spoons of sambar powder. Now I don’t exactly know what they put in that stuff but it is both astonishingly consistent and at this point, comfortably familiar. I also know that the “real” chefs would prefer to make it from scratch but look at the title. I know I don’t have the skill to make it myself and this cheat code gets the job done which ticks all the boxes in my book. You can add cut tomatoes/potatoes and 1-1.5 teaspoons of mustard seeds depending on your taste and then let it simmer for ten minutes.

I’m sure that growing up I complained a fair few times about getting sambar rice for lunch again and again but having stayed in hostel and having mess food this proves a nice change these days. And hey, this series is all about alternatives to living off Maggi noodles isn’t it so why not go old school with your choices? 🙂

Mom herself would be proud 😛

Serve hot with rice or dosas (for instructions see here).

Pulses are a way of easily sneaking in some proteins into your diet if you’re a vegetarian and ensuring a well balanced meal. Plus the fact that they are so easy to prepare adds to their allure. Here’s a link to some more reasons why you should be eating pulses.

Happy Cooking 🙂



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