Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Paatoli (Veggie-Lentil Crumble)

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It sat in its box at the grocer’s, tossed along with the other heads. As soon as I saw it, I knew what my next post was about – paatoli with broccoli, carrot for colour and dill for flavour. It’s a versatile dish I first tasted only a few years ago, but seem to have achieved an approximation of perfection with only in the last few weeks.
Paatoli (paruppu usili in Tamil - that's the only other name I know) looks very pretty with green and red capsicum (peppers) bits, nice and green with the traditional French beans or cluster beans and I even made a slightly magenta version once with beetroot and carrot! The broccoli version is a serendipitous find – made years ago to see whether an “English vegetable” goes with a very traditional Indian dish.
Here’s my recipe:

1 small head of broccoli, cleaned, separated into small florets
1 big carrot, diced small
1 bunch of dill, washed thoroughly, chopped
Turmeric powder – ¼ tsp
Oil – 3-4 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Green Chilli – 1, slit
Red chilli – 1, halved

½ a cup red gram
¼ cup black masoor daal
¼ cup green gram
All three lentils are to be washed and soaked in warm water half an hour in advance

3-4 green chillies, slit
Cumin – 1 tsp
Peppercorns – 1 tsp
Ginger – chopped, a tbsp
Coriander leaves – ½ a cup

1. Boil/microwave the broccoli and carrot with the turmeric and salt till just tender. They should not lose their crunch.
2. For the crumble:
Drain water from the soaked lentils, grind them in the mixer with some salt, slit green chillies, cumin, pepper, ginger and coriander leaves. Try not to use water – it should have the consistency of a coarse mixture - see centre picture, first row.
3. Put this mixture in a dish and steam it in a pressure cooker for about 12 minutes without the weight on – if you use the weight, you’re in for a watery paste and an irredeemable dish.
Make sure that the water at the base of the pressure cooker does not boil over into the dish containing the crumble. Keep an eye on the pressure cooker – it will emit steam only as long as there's water in it – as soon as it stops steaming, turn off the heat and put it in more water if the mix inside isn’t done yet.
4. Once it’s done, cool, crumble and set aside.
5. In a pan, heat the oil, put in the mustard, wait for it to pop, lower flame and then put in the green and red chillies. Add the dill, sauté for a minute or two.
6. Now add the broccoli, carrot and crumble. Fry for a while, check for seasoning and add salt if required.
7. The perfect paatoli will be powdery, light and not stick to the pan – but I find that this comes with practice. I also find that the veggies and lentils are disproportionate sometimes, but I don't see it as a failing unless the crumble obscures the veggies. You can always refrigerate extra crumble or extra veggies for another day!
8. This goes well with chaaru/rasam and rice, and is good to eat with a bowl of curds/yoghurt as well.


  1. What an unusual recipe! I love it!! We make something called Matvadi Palya where chanadal is soaked and ground & then fried with the vegetables and it comes out crumbly too (I've posted a short cut version of Matvadi Palya in my blog). I like the idea of steaming the dal mixture first. Will try your recipe sometime.

  2. Hey what a coincidence! My dad's been pestering me to cook something with broccoli. Will try your recipe out. Looks interesting from your clips.

  3. What a wonderful collection of dals and veggies,sra?! sounds delicious and so nutritious too.Thank you for this recipe!:))

  4. Hi Vani,
    Checked out your palya, may make it next time I get some methi leaves.
    Anu, Yes, it tastes nice, and the dill lends it an aromatic touch.
    Asha, the conventional dals were channa dal and red gram but I replaced that with my own combination.

  5. Dill and brocolli, have to try this and loved the pics!

  6. more great idea with dal
    and nice green veggies.
    OMG so many stuff to try out... am overwhelmed

  7. Shankari, hi, think you're one of the first to like my pics!
    Sandeepa, let me know how it turns out for you


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