Saturday, April 09, 2011

Unfried Green Tomatoes

I like my tomato pappu (dal) as red as a tomato. The yellow of the dal adds its own hue so ultimately it's like a burst of orange-yellow sunshine in a child's drawing.
(Okay, this picture is less sunshiney than I want, but do as I say, not as I show.)

Take two fistfuls of tur dal (red gram/pigeon peas), add a disproportionate amount of tomatoes to it, at least five, if not more, and boil away the excess water and it's ready.

When I saw some green tomatoes at the store a couple of weeks ago, I had to grab them. Of course, I had no clue whatsoever what I was going to do with them, but I had to have them. Looking at several recipes several days later on the Net didn't help either - I wanted to use them up quick and not have to buy extra ingredients to be able to use them up so I decided I would look for recipes for kootu - it would be like the dal I'm used to yet not quite, I told myself, and it would be a healthy and easy balance between my impatience to get on with using something and not wasting it and my desire to experience a new and unfamiliar taste.

But kootu recipes usually mean the tiresome processing of a coconut, which is the rarest of rare commodities in my home. I decided to tilt the balance in favour of the familiar - do away with the coconut, with the dal of choice (green gram) and use tur dal, with pepper and fennel to impart the novelty.

As the cooking hour progressed, I took a look at the pestle and it felt incredibly heavy. Never mind, the peppercorns will split when I splutter them in oil, I told myself, and got on with it. All they did was spit. And get shiny.The fennel didn't make any difference; I should have reached for that pestle, after all! I didn't add too much turmeric because I wanted the dal to look green, and added two or three round red chillies to add some contrast to the dal.

Here's how I think I made it:

In a pressure cooker (or pan),
- take half a cup of washed toor dal (pre-soaking will help it cook faster and softer in a shorter time)
- 6-7 quartered green tomatoes
- water
- a small onion, chopped up (optional)
- 1 or 2 green chillies, slit (optional)
- a pinch of turmeric

Make sure the dal is well covered by the water but not overwhelmed by it.

Let the pressure cooker whistle 2-3 times and then cook it on simmer for another 5 minutes. (Or just cook it till mushy in a pan)

Let the pressure drop on its own and mash it as much as you can.

Add the salt and some red chilli powder, if you like, at this stage.

If it's too watery, thicken it down by cooking it some more on medium heat, uncovered.

In a spoon of oil, pop 1/2 tsp each of mustard, cumin, peppercorns and fennel. A bit of asafoetida, if you like, or garlic. And 4-5 curry leaves and a couple of curry leaves. Chop up some coriander and garnish.

I'm sending this dal to Desi Soccer Mom who's hosting My Legume Love Affair, created by Susan.


  1. Here's how "I think I made it" made me crack up. But it is so true, I have a hard time remembering exactly how I made or how much I put in. But this approximation is as good a way as any. Thank you for the green entry. :)

  2. Haha I love your imprecise cooking methods...that's how I do so many things, but they just don't make it onto the blog. From now on, I should just post them and describe them the way that you do. :P

  3. Green tomato in dal. Why not? It looks good. With all my Andhra colleagues at work I am getting into this pappu business big time.

  4. That's what happened with the beetroot chutney that I posted. I had to write to my friend and get it again.

  5. "Make sure the dal is well covered by the water but not overwhelmed by it."

    Real good advice :-)

  6. Thanks, folks! I rarely measure what I'm doing and except for dal, can't cook the same recipe twice without looking at it.
    BongMom, I've learnt the hard way - the water spouts like a fountain and extinguishes the fire, not to mention wet everything around it!

  7. Thank you for this, Sra. I often cook on the fly (usually Italian) and greatly appreciate the freedom from exacting recipes. For me, the biggest drain of blogging is writing them out, whether original or adapted.

    Although I generally prefer my tomato dishes red, the greens must impart a sour tang similar to unripe mango without the pucker.

  8. Love the idea of using green tomato in dal. In fact we make a green tomato side-dish for rice.

  9. Susan, Sarah, hello! The green tomato is interesting for its colour, didn't really add any special tang!

  10. I love your title for the dal and what a great idea for Green Tomatoes:)

  11. Oh Sra,

    that was such an amazing write up...cracked me up quite a bit..."Do as I say, not as I show???" that was hard to miss. I love green tomatoes because of their tang and their nature to stand up to their own shape! Cook with tomatillos quite a bit!


    1. That line was adapted, ShObHa. I heard a chef on TV say 'do as I say, not do as I do'. :-D


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