Four Clan Kitchen

What we eat everyday

Posts Tagged ‘quick meals’

Pongal (a savory rice and lentil dish from Southern India)

Posted by fourclankitchen on December 30, 2014

IMG_0808There was a South Indian temple opposite my childhood home.  All winter,  folks gathered here in the morning after their Prabhat Pheri, a form of exercise, music and prayer combined.  After singing for some more time, they distributed a prasad, sacred food eaten after being offered to the Gods.  This temple offered Pongal, a savory lentil and rice dish,  on small strips of banana leaves.  It tasted divine and my mother claimed that only prasad could taste this good because in fact it was blessed by the gods.  I can still taste this on my tongue and smell the banana leaf steaming under the hot Pongal.

I later learned that Pongal was a standard breakfast dish in many Southern Indian homes and that as with its north Indian counterpart (khichdi),  there are as many versions of it as there are homes.

Here is a version that is pretty close to what my tongue remembers from my childhood.

A note about some of the harder to find ingredients in the tempering.  The core ingredients are the ghee (or other oil), mustard seeds and pepper corns.  The other ingredients can be omitted,  but the flavor will not be the same.




1. 1 cup rice  (any long grain rice will do,  I used a combination of jasmine and basmati)

2. 1/4-1/2 cup hulled moong dal (skinned yellow mung bean lentils, the  kind available in Indian and Chinese grocery stores).

3. 3 1/4 cup water (more or less depending on your desired consistency and whether you use a pressure cooker or not).  You want approximately twice the amount of water as your rice and dal combined.

4. Salt to taste.


Tempering (tadka)

1.  2 tbsp ghee

2. 1 tsp brown mustard seeds

3.  1 tsp cumin seeds

3. 1 tsp. pepper corn

4. 1 tsp ginger  (I did not have this, but do not omit)

5. large pinch asafoetida (hing)

6.  1-2 tbsp. cashew nuts  ( I did not have this, but do not omit or substitute)

7.  1-3 dried red chillies

8.  10-15 fresh curry leaves  (do not omit)



1.  Dry roast the unwashed mung beans in a skillet until they turn color slightly and become fragrant.  You can omit this step, but it imparts a nutty flavor to the beans and ensures that the rice and beans cook evenly.

2. Mix mung beans with the rice and wash in several changes of water until the water runs clear.

3.  Place the rice and lentil mix in a pressure cooker and add water.

4.  Season with salt (the water should taste like sea water) and pressure cook till the cooker whistles once.  Adjust for your own cooker.  If you don’t have one,  cook in a large pot, until the rice and mung beans become completely soft, but still hold shape.  The water should have all been absorbed.

5. Temper the Pongal as follows:

Heat the ghee in  a small skillet.  When hot add all listed ingredients, saving the hing and cashews for last.  When the seeds sputter and release their fragrance, remove from heat and add to the Pongal.

Mix gently,  adjust the salt and eat plain, with yogurt, an Indian chutney or sambar.


Posted in Asian, Breakfast, Brunch, Indian Food, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Quick Cheese Bread

Posted by fourclankitchen on October 6, 2012

This is a wonderful cheese bread that tastes as good as a yeasted batter bread, but comes together  in a fraction of time.  Seriously.  You can make this loaf in the time it would take you to put together a batch of biscuits.  It tastes terribly good and very rich and would go with any meal: by itself at breakfast (no butter needed),  or with a soup or salad for lunch or dinner.  This recipe is from America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook.  I borrowed this from the library and absolutely love it.  If you are a reasonably good cook, this book could be your go to book. Everything I have made from it has been right on.  I tweaked this recipe a little.  I took out sour cream and replaced it with yogurt and the whole milk with 2% milk.  I also added the herbs de provence.  I did not have Parmesan, so I used a mix of asiago and cheddar.  When I make it again,  I will reduce the cheeses to make it less rich.


1 cup shredded parmesan cheese  (I used a mixture of cheddar and asiago, about half and half)

3 cups unbleached all purpose flour

1 tbs. baking powder

1 tsp table salt

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4-1/2 tsp black pepper, ground

1 tsp herbs de provence (you could use your favorite here: oregano,  sage, dill, marjoram)

1 cup asiago cheese, broken up into 1/4-1/2 inch bits (or use sharp cheddar)

1 1/4 cup milk (1 used 2%)

3 tbs butter, unsalted, melted

1 large egg

3/4 cup whole milk yoghurt (the original recipe calls for sour cream)


1.  Place a rack at the center of the oven and preheat to 350˚F.

2.  Grease an 8.5×4.5″  loaf pan and sprinkly 1/2 cup of grated cheese at the bottom (this forms a nice crust on the bottom, you want this).

3. In a large bowl,  mix together flour, baking powder, salt and spices. Add the cubed cheese and mix.

4.  In a medium sized bowl,  mix together, milk, egg, yogurt, melted butter.

5.  Mix the dry and wet ingredient until just combined.  The mixture will be thick.

6.  Transfer mixture into the prepared loaf pan.  Use a spatula to even out the top.

7.  Sprinkle remaining cheese on the top.

8.  Bake for 45-50 min, until an inserted tester comes out clean.

9.  Let the bread sit in the pan for 5 min, then transfer to a wire rack or a metal plate to cool for 45 min.

10. Slice and eat.

Posted in baked, Breads, Breakfast, Brunch, Side Dishes, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Quick Curried Okra (Bhindi)

Posted by fourclankitchen on September 30, 2011

This is the simplest of simple vegetables to prepare on a weeknight.  Its caloric content is low and its nutritional value is high.  Does this sound like a winner or what?  This version of okra is made without onions, in the style of Rajasthan, the desert state of NW India.  The Jain tradition is strong here and people of this community do not eat onions, garlic – or anything that grows under the ground or hurts an animal (even a lowly underground worm).

The dominant flavors of this dish are coriander powder and hing (asafoetida).  To extract the most out of this minimal amount of flavoring, the spices are rapidly fried in hot oil to extract their flavor.  Then the okra is added to the infused oil and stir-fried at high heat so that it has a nearly fried flavor (same concept as Chinese stir frying).

A word or two about okra.  It is not the slimy vegetable that you might associate with gumbo, but it can turn into a soggy mess in no time at all.  Remember water is the enemy of okra.  Therefore do not use frozen okra and dry your okra with a paper towel after rinsing.  Also use high heat while cooking it so it has no chance to turn soggy on you.


1 lb fresh okra, with the tops and bottoms cut off and slit down the middle.

2 -2.5 tbs cooking oil

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 heaping tsp coriander powder

1 tsp sweet paprika (increase heat by substituting cayenne as desired)

1 very generous pinch of asafeotida

1/4 tsp turmeric

Salt to taste.


1. Heat oil in a 12″ cast iron skillet or other large skillet.  When the oil is hot, add the cumin and stir around till it sizzles.  Then add the hing and stir until it gets fragrant- a few seconds.  Then add the coriander powder, turmeric  and paprika and fry the spices for another  20 seconds or so until fragrant. Do not burn your spices.

2. Now add the okra in a single layer (do not crowd) to the pan and stir to mix in the spices.  Add the salt. Continue cooking on high heat until the okra skin starts to brown.  This should take about 10 min.  When your okra is done, it should be crunchy as you bite into it.  Serve with any Indian meal.  Me?  I eat it as you would a French fry or potato chips as a munchie.  Very little actually gets to the dinner table!

Posted in Asian, Indian Food, Main Dishes, Side Dishes, vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Chard and Pea Soup with Cilantro-Mint Pesto

Posted by fourclankitchen on April 17, 2011

Our local farmer’s market is now showcasing early summer greens: chard, cilantro, basil and kale.  I overbought and worked late a couple of nights, resulting in a fridge full of lovely vegetables that needed to be eaten.  So I made soup.  I combined frozen peas with chard for the soup base and made a garlicky  cilantro-mint pesto (minus the chesee and nuts) for an intensely fresh-tasting summer, herby soup  (herbacious if you are a grammer maven).  See for yourself.


For the Soup:

2 tbs. oil ( or butter for a richer taste)

4 cloves garlic (sliced or minced in the food processor)
1 small onion, diced in the food processor
2 cups  peas  (10 oz frozen, use the petite kind, these are sweeter and less starchy)
6 leaves chard,  thick stems removed and coarsely chopped  (these were bought at the farmer’s market, use 4-5 store bought leaves)
1 heaping tbs. better than bullion (or replace with chicken stock and reduce the water)
4-5 cups water

Few grinds of black pepper (optional)

1 tbs. lightly beaten yogurt (optional)

Cilantro-Mint Pesto

2 cups cilantro, tender stems included
1/2 cup spring onions or scallions: green and white parts
1/2 cup mint, stemmed
salt to taste
4 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lime
1/4 cup olive oil


1. Set a pot of water to boil and blanch the chard and the peas for 3-5 min. Drain.

2. Add oil in a large soup pot.  When hot, add the cumin and garlic and saute for a few seconds, until fragrant.
3.  Add the onions and saute for about 5 min, then add the chard and peas.
4. Add a heaping tbs. of “better than boullion”, and mix thorughly so that it is fully incorporated, then add the water.  Alternatively, add chicken stock.

5.  Bring the soup to a boil and turn off the heat.

6.  While the soup is coming to a boil, make the pesto.

7. In a food processor, add garlic, cilantro, mint, olive oil, lime juice and salt to taste.

8. Pulse till fully pureed.  Remove to a small bowl.

9.  Scoop out the solids from the soup into the food processor and pulse briefly till it forms a coarse puree.

10. Add this and the pesto back to the soup pot.  Bring to a boil.  Taste and adjust the salt.  Add a few grinds of black pepper.

11. Ladle into bowls and garnish with yogurt if desired.

12. Serve with your favorite bread or with parmesan crackers (what we ate).  Mmmmm…

Posted in Brunch, Main Dishes, Soups, vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Chermoula (Moroccan cilantro pesto)

Posted by fourclankitchen on March 12, 2011

I count Moroccan food among the 10 great cuisines of the world.  I also love dips made out of fresh leafy greens.  So when I hear about Moroccan chermoula (a parsely-cilantro pesto of sorts), I had to try it.  This recipe was a consequence of web surfing and taken from a video posted by the chef of Tagine Dining Gallery in NY.  The chef, Hamid Idrissi, recommends eating this chermoula with steamed fish or  carrots.  I can vouch for chermoula and steamed carrots: they are absolutely marvelous.  I have also made chermoula by grinding carrots into it (this was  lovely).  I bet it would be great with any flat bread.  Finally, today was one of our first warm days.  So we had cold pasta with steamed vegetables and chermoula.  I have posted a photo below, but really no recipe is needed.  Just throw in whatever vegetables you have and dress the pasta with the chermoula and pine nuts.


6-7 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tbs. cumin

1/2 bunch parsley (about 3/4 cup)

1 large bunch of cilantro (about 1 cup)

Juice of 1 lemon juice (about 1 tbs)

2 tbs. white vinegar

1 tbs. olive oil

Salt to taste


Put all the ingredients in a food processor or blender.  Pulse till a pesto like paste forms.  Taste and adjust the salt and lemon.  You are good to go.

Posted in Brunch, Main Dishes, middle eastern, vegan, Vegetarian | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

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