Spring (Apr-Jun) Quarter Cookbook of the Month: DAKSHIN

Welcome to the reporting thread for one of our Spring Quarter 2024 COTMs, DAKSHIN: Vegetarian Cuisine from South India by Chandra Padmanabhan.

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To report on a recipe, put the name of the recipe in ALL CAPS and include the page number, if it’s available to you. If you are the first to post about a recipe, please reply to this post. If someone has already posted about the recipe, reply to their post so all the posts about each recipe are linked for easy reference.

To respect the author’s copyright, please don’t post photos or verbatim copies of recipes. Links to recipes online are welcome, and you may post ingredients and summarize instructions in your own words.

CAULIFLOWER SAMBAR - p. 13

I’ve had this book for many years and cooked from it a lot, but I decided to find some recipes in the book that I still hadn’t made. My go-to sambar from this book has been the “ordinary sambar” on p. 2. For this recipe, and any recipe in this book, I strongly recommend reading all the way through the recipe, not just before you start cooking, but before you go shopping. This recipe calls for half a coconut. Hmm, I thought. I really don’t want to buy and deal with a coconut. A quick read reveals that the coconut is grated, and 2 tablespoons of that grated coconut are put into a spice paste. The rest is for extracting the milk. Now, I have canned coconut milk in the pantry and grated coconut in the freezer, so the coconut could be struck from the shopping list. I was making this after a long day in the studio, so I also wanted to see how to make the dish most efficiently, time-wise. It calls for cooking the toor dal on the stove for 1.5 hours… hello, Instant Pot. I cooked my dal in the IP for 20 minutes, which was plenty. I used the full amount of water called for, because I wasn’t sure how much I could safely reduce it. But I would reduce the water in the future for the IP, as you don’t have the evaporation you would have on the stove. A sub-recipe for this dish is a sambar powder on p. 136, although the author does state that it is absolutely fine to use a good commercial blend. In my case, I had a jar of sambar powder already mixed up from an Anupy Singla recipe, so I used that. I have a lot of it and will continue to use it throughout this COTM or until it is gone. In addition to the sambar powder, you need to prep a paste. You fry some corander seeds, peppercorns, urad dal, and asafoetida, then put that in a blender/grinder with 2 tablespoons of grated coconut and a small amount of water and blend into a paste. There is also a mix of tempering spices that are used later in the process, but I prepped them early. They are mustard seeds, urad dal, 1 red chile (she means a dried chile here), and some curry leaves. The final thing to prep is a little bit of rice flour mixed with water.

Once all that prep is done, which really isn’t that much, assembling the dish is easy. Put cauliflower and a couple cut up tomatoes in a pot with some water, the sambar powder, turmeric, and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until the cauliflower is tender. Then mix in the cooked dal, the rice flour mixture, and the seasoning paste with the coconut. You then fry you tempering spices and add them to the pot, and finish by adding coconut milk. There is no specific amount for how much coconut milk you are supposed to have here. Well, it’s supposed to be half-a-coconut-minus-two-tablespoons worth. I just added an amount that felt right - it was about 1/2 a can.

This was a bit thinner than I wanted because of my liquid-y beans from the IP, though these dishes are supposed to be soupy. With only two chiles, this was pretty mild, heat-wise, but still well-seasoned. I served it alongside the green bean and dal poriyal from the book, and some rice.

cauli_rasam_green_bean_dal_poriyal_Dakshin

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BEAN DAL PORIYAL - p. 36

The beans in question here are green beans, so this dish combines fresh beans with dried ones. You start by soaking toor dal with 4-5 red chiles (dried ones) for an hour. Then drain the beans and put them with the chiles into a blender or food processor with salt and asafoetida and grind into a paste. Prep your tempering spices, which are mustard seeds, chana dal, urad dal, another dried chile, cumin, and curry leaves. Put the beans into a pan with a little bit of water, add some salt, and simmer until the beans are cooked (water should be evaporated, but beans should be charred at all). Dump the beans onto a plate, and in the same pan, fry your tempering spices. Then add your bean paste to the pan, and cook until it thickens and crisps in places. Add the green beans back to the pan and stir and cook until everything is throroughly mixed.

This was a spicy dish, thanks to the chiles blended in with the dal, which made it a nice counterpoint to the milder rasam we had with it. The green beans, which still had a bit of crunch, were also a nice contrast to the dal paste that surrounded them. Pictured above with the cauliflower rasam.

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@MelMM 's post reminds me - there are some pantry and frozen ingredients you will want to have in place if you intend to cook from this book. First and foremost, frozen grated coconut (more useful than coconut milk in these recipes), split dals - toor (aka toovar or pigeon peas), urad, and chana (bengal dal or yellow split peas), tamarind (preferably the moist pulp) , black or brown whole mustard seeds, asafoetida, I keep dried red chiles (like byudagi which are long and wrinkled and not too hot) and fresh green chiles in the freezer so I always have them. I dont think the very fruity chiles like scotch bonnet or habenero are appropriate to these dishes. A set of fresh indian spices - whole and ground coriander, ditto cumin, black peppercorns, ground turmeric , whole fennel and fenugreek seed; cinnamon stick. Full fat yogurt, fresh curry leaves and coriander in the frig. I thing those are the main items, to which fresh or frozen veg components, nuts etc for each dish are can be purchased added. I have enjoyed making her sambal powder, its a great start working with the spices and properly packaged they the spice mixes stay fresh in the freezer…

The dals might be cooked down, or fried and used as a seasoning/texture ingredient . Either way its useful to buy a fresh set as well a spices, since if you are like me, some of these items can hang around my pantry for many years, and a small investment at the indian store makes a big difference.

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Thanks for posting that, it should be useful. I’ll add a couple things.

Fresh curry leaves can be frozen, so get more than you need immediately and stash some in the freezer. If you have spice grinder, you can save on pantry space by buying all the spices in their whole form and grinding as needed. I never buy ground coriander or cumin, but I buy the whole seeds in large quantities.

Asafoetida… different brands are stronger than others. It is ground from a resin, so there it is ground with a flour to keep it from clumping. Often wheat flour, so watch out if your are GF, but sometimes rice flour. I suppose it’s this grinding medium that accounts for the different strengths. Anyway, the recipes in this book call for a larger than usual amount of asafoetida, so be aware of that, and how strong yours is, and cut back if it seems prudent. I forgot mention in my write-ups upthread that I reduced the asafoetida by 50% (and I like the stuff). It’s a very strong flavor, so better to err on the side of too little than too much.

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I think frozen curry leaf is vastly inferior to fresh though. Its better to let it age in the frig - it does last a couple weeks, or more, getting less fragrant as it dries out. I buy ground cumin and coriander in small quantities - really only grind myself if i am roasting the spices and the whole in the smallest packages the indian stores sell because of the degredation over time - I mean the amount of time it gets to for me to go through a large package of spice - is sizeable.
I have some lumps of asafoetida resin from india, but I usually use the vandevi compounded stuff in the yellow container with asafoetida as the third ingredient after rice flour and gum arabic, followed by turmeric and wheat flour. Using this stuff I havent found the amounts excessive in her recipes. so far. but often I just sprinkle, dont measure in this case so my measurement may be off!

I buy the curry leaves fresh, and freeze immediately without letting them dry, and don’t see that much of a drop off.

dont yours get limp when when they thaw? I havent felt like they fry very well. Maybe i should try again. But usually when I go on an Indian cooking streak I am able to get to the stores regularly.

Not too limp, no.

ORDINARY RASAM - p. 20

This recipe is my go-to rasam. The recipe starts with you cooking 3 tablespoons of toor dal. Which is… yeah. What I did was cook 1/2 cup, then divided it in three portions, putting two in the fridge for future recipes, because - spoiler alert - other rasams also call for this amount of dal. I cooked them in the IP, and this time reduced the water to 1 1/2 cups for 1/2 cups of dal. This recipe also calls for tamarind pulp. If you buy the tamarind pulp that comes in blocks, it often has fibers and seeds in it, so plunking into a soup is not the best way to go. I don’t buy that stuff. I buy whole tamarind pods, which keep well, and always have them on hand. I also always have a jar of tamarind concentrate in the fridge - not the thick sticky dark stuff, but a lighter, thinner slurry that is not unlike what I get from soaking the flesh from the pods. Normally I would soak the flesh from the pods for this dish, but I am super busy right now and trying to save time where I can, so I went with this concentrate. In either case, I guesstimate the amount (it was about 3 tablespoons of concentrate last night). This should be a pleasantly tart soup. I already had the rasam powder (p 138) made up, and this time it was the version in this book.

Once the beans are cooked, this is quick to make. Put diced tomatoes in a pot along with the tamarind, rasam powder, asafoetida, salt, and water. Simmer this for a bit, mashing up the contents of the pot a little. Add the cooked dal and some more water to get a thin soup. Fry your tempering spices (mustard seeds, cumin seeds, red chile, curry leaves) and add to the soup. Garnish with cilantro.

This is one of my favorite soups. It’s one of a handful of “good for what ails you” soups I make when I’m feeling less than 100%. I always seem to feel 1000% after eating it. And as I said, this is my go-to version, the one I keep coming back to, so obviously I love it. Served last night, even though I was feeling perfectly fine, alongside leftovers from the previous dishes plus the mashed potato poriyal from p. 36.

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MASHED POTATO PORIYAL - p. 36

You are supposed to start this recipe by boiling potatoes in their jackets, then peeling and mashing them. Because I’m trying to be efficient here, I peeled and diced the potatoes raw, and then microwaved them. They got mashed in the pan. You start the cooking with tempering the spices, so fry some mustard seeds, cumin seeds, urad dal, chana dal, a red chile, asafoetida, and some curry leaves. To this, you then add some fresh ginger and green chile. Sauté for a bit, then add the mashed potato, ground turmeric, grated coconut, and salt. I actually added the turmeric to the pan before adding the potato. I find it’s easier to incorporate if it’s dispersed in the oil. You cook and stir this for just a minute, until everything is well mixed. This is when I roughly mashed the potato. Stir in lemon juice at the end. Serve garnished with cilantro.

These potatoes are great. They are lemony and have a little crunch to them from the fried dal and mustard seeds. Only thing I would do different is mince the green chile. It is supposed to be left whole with a slit cut down the side, which would be a good way to go if you are using a hot chile. I was using serranos, so I cut them fully in half to get more for flavor, but mincing them would have been better.

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CABBAGE PORIYAL, page 35
This is pretty simple and basic dry vegetable dish, and I have been making it or its near relation for years, so a return to the original recipe was interesting. You start with the tempering here, soaked urad and chana dal, mustard seeds, red chile, whole cumin asafoetida curry leaves and then whole green chiles, then adding 1 lb finely chopped cabbage. I forgot the asafoetida initially (I was simultaneously cooking some kofta) and had to add late - realizing that my usual dose is a solid sprinkle not the 1/2 tsp the recipe calls for. i did my usual thing. the cabbage is cooked until tender, then I added 8 oz of frozen peas covered til tender and added thawed frozen grated coconut and a handful o cilantro (not in the recipe). Produced and ample quantity for 2 people ( recipe says serves 4, lets just say we like it a lot. Served with kofta and yogurt.

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