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Bean in Black August 20, 2008

Posted by live2cook in Sauces and Gravies.

When I read the headline “For healthier foods, Turn to Black” in CNN, I was really impressed by the nutritional facts. Among the other foods, black beans and black teas seemed to be my pantry staples. Black beans attracted me more as I can get more meal ideas. So, I ventured to learn more about them.

We all know the protein and fiber content of legumes. But what makes these black legumes special? It is the Flavonoids that they hide in their black coating. Surprisingly, flavonoids are treated as foreign compounds by our body. While it tries to get rid of them, it generates an enzyme that also eliminates the cancer promoting substances called Carcinogens. Because of this ability of flavonoids to modify our body reaction to carcinogens and other viruses, it is called as “Biological response modifiers“. While I was reading these facts, it felt like the action movie, “Men in Black“.

Being aliens by themselves, these MIB agents direct alien activities on earth. In that process they save earth from terrorist aliens. Similarly the legumes hide the good flavonoids in their black coat and help save our body from cancer. Hence I coined the name “The Beans in Black“. Wouldn’t it be awesome to watch them in action? So, I got into action and prepared a recipe with my pantry staple Black gram.

Black gram is a pantry staple in most of the families in India. While southern people prepare crepes and steamed cakes with this legume, the people of North India are famous for mashed lentil recipes like this Malai Dhal (Creamed Black Gram).


2 Cups Whole Black Gram (soaked for 2 hours)
5-6 Garlic cloves
1 tsp ginger, minced
1 1/2 tsp Red chili powder
1 tsp salt
6 cups water
1 Tbsp ghee
1/4 cup Whipping cream (I used non fat dry milk powder)

For Garnish

1 tsp ghee
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 onion, cut lengthwise
2-3 green chilies, slit (optional)


1. Heat the ghee in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the garlic and saute for a minute.
2. Add the ginger and drained dhal.
3. Add the water, salt and red chili powder.
4. Boil or pressure cook until the dhal is cooked, approximately 15 minutes. If you want creamy texture cook the dhal for 10 more minutes and mash a little bit.
5. Add the cream or dry milk powder. Stir well and remove from heat.
6. Heat a teaspoon of ghee and add cumin seeds, onion and slit chilies.
7. Saute until the onion turns to golden brown.
8. Top the dhal with the onion mixture. Garnish with cilantro and serve with cooked rice or flat breads.

Creamed Black Gram

Creamed Black Gram

This my entry for the event “My Legume Love Affair – Second helping” , hosted by Susan – the well seasoned cook


Tangy vegetable medley August 16, 2008

Posted by live2cook in Sauces and Gravies, slow cooker recipes.

Have you heard about “Middle child Syndrome”?

I am a middle child among the three of us. I used to have this “ignored child” feeling through out growing up or at least used it to grab my parents’ attention. My mom used to find ways to satisfy me and to make me feel special. She used to buy small gifts, cute dresses and on top of all these used to cook my favorite meals at least thrice a week. But I never came down from my philosophy that “It is always bad to be in the middle”. Nothing could influence me to give up on my belief.

But, an incident really got me and made me to rethink about my belief. I joined a job that was 40 miles away from home and I had to drive to work. The first storm of the season hit New England. It was nearly 18 inches of snow. That was the first time that I had to drive back home at the peak of a storm and on a highway. I was quite scared and my manager who was an elderly and kind person, gave me an advice. He said, “You know what kid, try to get to the middle lane and keep maintaining it. It is always good to be in the middle”. I understood the truth in his words. Not just on the road but in my life too.

With first child, parents are always anxious and worried about everything. But when it comes to next child in the row, they know what to expect and how to handle the unexpected. Though it sounded like ignorance, it wasn’t. The experience they got from the first child helps them to find solutions easier and faster. Actually , I was lucky to be in the middle that I got the right things at the right time. We might think that the third child is even more luckier. Yes! They are luckier to get more experienced parents. But if the age gap is wider between the children, then the development occurred within those years leave the parents yet again with anxiety and worries.

When I decided to write about my favorite curries that my mom used to make specially for me, the recipe for Thalagam stood first with a hidden meaning. It showed that it is in the middle too. Though it has tamarind, dhal and spices like sambar, it wasn’t one. Though it has mixed vegetable like other stews, it wasn’t one either. It is in the middle of a sambar and a stew that it can be accompanied with cooked rice or flat breads.


I prepared this medley in the slow cooker and it really enhanced the flavor.


2 Cups mixed vegetables (Beans, carrot, potato, peas, squash)**, Chopped or cut lengthwise
1/2 Cup Toor dhal
Lime sized ball of tamarind
3 Tbsp Shredded Coconut
2 tsp Coriander seeds
2 tsp Chana dhal
1 tsp Urad dhal
1 tsp Sesame seeds
1 tsp uncooked rice
2-3 Red chillies
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 Pinch asafetida
1 Pinch turmeric powder
2-3 Curry leaves
2 tsp oil
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ghee

** Though we can use any kind of vegetable, those that has an earthy flavor will enhance the taste of this medley. Please try to include any one or two of these – Snap peas, Lab lab beans, Yam (Suran), Sweet potato, plantain


1. Soak the dhal in hot water for 1/2 hour. Drain the water and set aside.
2. Soak the tamarind in 1 cup water until soft. Mash well and extract the water. Discard the pulp.
3. Heat 1 tsp oil in a medium sauce pan. Add the coriander seeds, chana dhal, urad dhal, sesame seeds, rice and red chillies. Fry until the dhals turn golden brown. Grind to a coarse powder.
( Though we can add the coconut too, I avoid it because of the slow cooking)
4. Mix the spice mixture and salt with the tamarind extract. Set aside.
5. Heat the other tsp oil and add mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, asafetida, turmeric powder and curry leaves. Allow the mustard seeds to splutter. Remove from heat and add to the tamarind mixture.
6. In the pot of the slow cooker, add the dhal first and layer the vegetable in way that the ones that takes time to cook are in the bottom.
7. Pour the tamarind mixture on top of the vegetables. Cover the slow cooker and cook for 8 hours in low or overnight.
8. Heat the ghee in a small pan. Add the coconut and toast until golden brown. Add to the cooked medley and mix well.

Slow cooked Thalagam

Slow cooked Thalagam

** There was no need for thickening the medley with the given proportion. But if it is too runny for your taste, add a mixture of flour and water and cook for 10 more minutes in high.

Serve with cooked rice or Roti. This is my entry for the Curry Mela event hosted by Srivalli

Thalagam served

Thalagam served