Sunday, May 18, 2014

Yellow Peas with stone ground masalas

I remember, before the days of the sumeet mixie and industrial size wet grinders, my mom used to grind masalas for her everyday cooking on an ammi and make idli, dosa, vada batter in an aatu kallu.  Here is a lovely picture of some of these old "appliances".

The ammi, was a flat surfaced block of stone and came with a cylindrical shaped stone kuzhavi. I used to offer to help my mom grind the masalas on this – always losing the battle, especially with wet masalas, because the water would run down the sides before I could make the masala paste. 
Recently, I saw a mini version of the aatu kallu in Costco – well, it was as close to a aatu kallu as I could get to.  It was a Mexican kitchen tool “molcajete”–   a mortar and pestle, used to make salsas and guacamole, but I could see myself using it to make various masalas in my kitchen.  So of course, I bought it.

I have used it several times to coarsely grind or powder ingredients for my cooking.  There is a distinct difference in the flavors of the masalas made using the mortar and pestle vs. the blender. The ginger and garlic seem to have a stronger flavor when stone ground.

I made my yellow peas curry recently with stone ground masalas and the result was fantastic!  


Here is what you need:

  • 2 cups dry yellow peas, soaked for 4 – 5 hours
  • salt to taste
  • ¼ tsp. hing
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric
  • 3 tsp. oil
  • 1 tsp. cumin seeds
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • 3 – 4 green chilies
  • 2 – 3 cloves garlic
  • ½” piece ginger
  • 1 tsp. red chili powder
  • 1 tsp. coriander powder
  • 1 tsp. cumin powder
  • chopped onion and cilantro for garnish
  • 1 tsp. freshly roasted and coarsely powdered cumin

Here is how I made it:

  1. Drain the water from the yellow peas.  Add more water, salt, hing, and turmeric.  Pressure cook this for about 6 – 8 minutes on low heat after the first whistle.
  2. While this is cooking, heat oil in a large pot.  Add the cumin seeds
  3. When the cumin seeds change color, add onions and sauté on medium heat for about 5 minutes.
  4. Place the green chilies, garlic, and ginger in the mortar and pestle and pound well till you have a coarse mixture. You can pulse it in a mini food chopper if you don't have a mortar and pestle.
  5. Add this to the onions and mix well.  Sauté this for a few more minutes.
  6. Add the chili powder, cumin powder, and coriander powder.  Let this cook on low heat till you can see the oil leave the sides.
  7. Add the cooked peas and adjust salt if necessary.
  8. Let this whole thing simmer for 10 – 15 minutes, adding water if necessary.
  9. Just before serving, add chopped onions, cilantro and the freshly roasted cumin powder.

Serve hot with rotis or rice.

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