Many people often think of “ethnic” foods when they want to eat on a budget. It is true that Indian food is often a bargain at your local restaurant. These days food prices are rising, so nothing seems to be a bargain. Three foods that are “cheap” that find their way into Indian cuisine are: chickpeas (senagalu), potato (bangaladumpa), eggs (gudlu), and toor dal/kandi pappu (a kind of lentil).
These ingredients are low-cost no matter what kind of cuisine you are preparing. Three recipes you can make using these ingredients are: chickpea & potato curry served with plain parathas, egg porutu served with parathas or basmati rice, and tomato pappu served with basmati rice. Most Indian homes will have most, if not all, of the ingredients needed for these recipes at any given time. They are basically pantry dishes.
Chickpea & Potato Curry
One of my favorite memories from childhood is having poori and potato curry for breakfast on Sunday mornings. My mom would get up early and fry up some pooris for us kids. Yum! These days, I don’t really feel like stinking up the house frying pooris, nor do I feel like eating deep fried dough. One way to to get a similar taste is by eating parathas instead of pooris. Parathas are a flat bread made of wheat flour. The dough is cooked on a pan instead of deep frying it like a poori. I didn’t have time to make parathas, so I bought them at my local Indian grocer. You can buy 5 plain parathas in 1 pack for about $2-3. Heat one up on a pan and you are good to go. Chickpeas were on sale at ShopRite 3 cans for $2. Potatoes are always cheap. I bought a 5 lb bag of Yukon Gold potatoes for $3.99. If I bought them by the pound, they were $0.99/lb. Canned chickpeas will obviously keep for a long time. The sign above the potatoes said they will keep for 2 weeks. In my experience, we have kept potatoes for up to 2 months. The keep well if stored in a cool dry place. Parathas probably won’t keep for more than a week in the fridge, but don’t worry – you will eat them up soon enough! I added chickpeas to the usual recipe of potato curry to add some protein to the meal.
Recipe is as follows: serves 6-8
2 15 oz. cans chickpeas/garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
8 yukon gold potatoes, boiled, peeled, and medium-small diced
7 small green chilies
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2t mustard seeds
3T canola oil
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2t turmeric powder
1t chili powder (karam)
salt to taste
3-4 curry leaves
1-2T split cashews
juice of 1/2 lime (optional)
Heat the oil on medium flame, then fry mustard seeds until they begin to pop. Add the onions, garlic, green chilies and curry leaves. Add salt to taste. Fry until onions are golden in color. Make sure the garlic doesn’t burn, or it will turn bitter and you will need to start over. Add the potatoes, chickpeas, turmeric, salt, chili powder and stir well so the potatoes get a coating of the turmeric powder. Cook for a few minutes and add water. You can add between 1-2 cups of water depending on how much ‘gravy’ you want. This is supposed to be more of a stiff curry so that you can pick it up with the paratha, so I keep it to about 1C. Stir and use your wood spoon to mush up some of the potatoes. This will help the potatoes to form a bit of a paste/gravy.
In a separate small pan, fry the cashews in a bit of oil until golden brown. Add the cashews to the potato curry and turn off the flame. Serve w/ poori or paratha.
Egg porutu is sort of an indian style scrambled eggs (but more cooked). This recipe serves 5. I am assuming 2 eggs per person. This recipe is super quick and easy to make.
2-3 yellow onions sliced
3 small green chilies, split lengthwise (optional)
1/2 t cumin seeds (optional)
1/4 t mustard seeds (optional)
3 curry leaves (optional)
2T canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2t chili powder
10 eggs, beaten
Heat the oil in the pan on medium flame. Add the cumin and mustard seeds. Fry until mustard seeds pop. Add the onions, curry leaves, and green chilies. Season with salt to taste. fry until golden brown. Add the chili powder to the eggs, season mixture with salt and pepper. Combine mixture well. Add the egg mixture to the onions. Let it cook and scramble. You will cook these eggs more than you would scrambled eggs which are often cooked until just beginning to set. You want these eggs thoroughly cooked, but not overcooked! Serve w/ basmati rice or paratha.
One of my favorite Indian dishes is Pappu. Pappu is a very important part of an Indian vegetarian diet because of its high protein content. Although my diet is far from vegetarian, pappu is still my favorite perhaps because it was one of my Mom’s specialties. Her pappu was famous! Once my uncle told her she needed to be more humble about her cooking after she referred to herself as a “pappu expert” hahaha. I never got her recipe, I had to ‘settle’ for my Aunt’s. Still, it came out pretty good. My mother would be proud.
1C toor dal, rinsed
2 plum/vine ripened tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 in dried tamarind (broken into 2-3 pieces)
salt to taste
pinch turmeric powder
3 small green chilies sliced lengthwise
2 1/2 C water
3 T canola oil
1t mustard seeds
1 1/2 t cumin seeds
5 dried red chilies
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
6 curry leaves (or leaves of 1 stem)
1 medium-large yellow or red onion, chopped
Add dal, tomatoes, tamarind, salt, turmeric, green chilies and water to the pressure cooker. Stir and cover. Place on medium flame. Once the pressure cooker starts to make noise, turn the flame to low and cook for 5-7 minutes. Once this time has passed, it will be time to make the talimpu. You can open the cover and look to see how the pappu is doing. If it is too much water (should be loose porridge consistency), then turn the flame on medium-high and cook uncovered and let it reduce to the desired consistency. Too little, obviously add more. You dont want the pappu to burn on the bottom especially since there is no oil added at this point. You can always reduce the amount of water by cooking it longer.
Talimpu- this is the seasoning you will add to the tomato pappu. In a separate pan, heat the oil on medium-low flame. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and red chilies. Fry until the mustard seeds pop. Then add the garlic, onions and curry leaves. Stir and fry until light brown. Don’t let the garlic burn or it will become bitter.
Once the pappu is the desired consistency, add the talimpu, stir and serve with hot rice. Serves 4.