This is a jumbo post that has not one or two, but three delicious recipes. All three work together to make a wholesome and delicious Indian meal, packed with both nutrients and flavor.
It all started with a big bunch of fresh spinach that I got on my last grocery shopping trip. I knew right away I would be making a simple lentil or dal curry with spinach in it. It is quite common all over India and an excellent way to pack more nutrition into what is already a wonderful curry.
I decided to use some of the spinach to make some parathas or whole-wheat, unleavened flat-breads. I also mixed in some mashed potatoes and ended up with delicious aloo-palak parathas.
I also had a large unripe mango sitting in the fridge. I’ve been buying one every week with the intention of making aam pana, a mango drink, but never really got around to doing so. I usually use it in some other preparation, like fish curry for instance. But the parathas and dal simmering on the stove gave me the idea to make a quick mango achar or spicy pickle.
Making achar or Indian pickle is usually a very elaborate affair, requiring lots of spices, oil, salt and prep work. If done right, some pickles can last years. Like wine, it only gets better with time.
This quick recipe will yield a delicious pickle, but it will need to be refrigerated and consumed quickly. Not that big of a deal in most Indian households. We love pickles with everything – rice, chapathis, rotis, pulaos; goes with everything!
Let’s get on with the recipes now, shall we?
ALOO-PALAK PARATHA (POTATO AND SPINACH WHOLE-WHEAT FLAT BREAD)
You will need: (Makes 8 small parathas)
For the dough,
- Oil – 3 tsp, divided
- Spinach leaves – 1 cup, chopped
- Potato – 1 large (or 2 small ones)
- Whole wheat flour – 1 1/2 cups
- Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
- Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
- Garam masala powder – 1/2 tsp
- Salt – 1 tsp (or as per taste)
- Water – as needed
For rolling and cooking parathas,
- Whole wheat flour – 1/4 – 1/2 cup, for dusting while rolling
- Oil/Ghee – a few teaspoons
- Heat 1tsp oil in a pan. Saute the spinach leaves till they wilt slightly yet retain the color. Meanwhile boil the potatoes, peel and mash them. Let spinach and potatoes cool slightly.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the dry ingredients together. Add the spinach and mashed potatoes and mix well to make a crumbly mixture. The vegetables will let out some water. Add 2 tsp oil and a little extra water till the dough comes together. Knead well for a couple of minutes to make a smooth dough ball. The dough should be soft and pliable. You must be able to sink your fingers comfortably as shown in the picture below. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 20-30 minutes.
- Divide the dough into 6-8 equal parts. Roll each portion into a smooth ball, flatten it slightly on your palm and dust flour on both sides. Place on a flat surface and roll with a rolling pin to 1/4 inch thickness. If it sticks to the pin or the rolling surface, dust lightly with flour and roll. Use a light hand while rolling so as not to tear the dough.
- Meanwhile heat a large skillet on medium-high heat. To cook a paratha, place the rolled dough on the skillet and flip it after a few seconds. Spread a few drops of oil or ghee over it, flip again and spread oil/ghee on the other side. Brown spots should start to appear on the paratha now, press lightly on it with a flat spatula, flip again and ensure both sides are evenly cooked. Since there is spinach in the dough, the parathas will be more greenish than brown. Once done, remove onto a plate or basket and keep warm by covering with a clean towel or foil. Repeat till all the dough is used up.
- Serve parathas warm with dal or any other curry, raita, pickles, etc.
PALAK DAL (SPINACH AND LENTIL CURRY)
You will need:
- Oil – 1 tbsp
- Small shallots – 6-7, chopped (or 1/2 cup chopped onion)
- Garlic – 5-6 pods, chopped
- Green chili – 1, chopped
- Tomato – 1, chopped
- Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
- Red chili powder – 1 tsp
- Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
- Asafoetida – a big pinch
- Tamarind paste – 1/2 tsp
- Spinach leaves – a medium bunch, chopped
- Toor or masoor dal – 1 cup, washed and drained thoroughly
- Cilantro leaves – a few, torn
- Salt – as per taste
- Water – as needed
- Oil – 2 tsp
- Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Curry leaves – a few
- Whole red chilies – 2-3
- Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large pot (or pressure cooker). Add the shallots/onion, garlic and saute till onions are translucent and garlic is aromatic. Take care not to burn the garlic.
- Add the chopped tomato and green chili and saute for a couple of minutes. Now add the masala powders and asafoetida and mix well. Add the spinach leaves and saute lightly till they wilt.
- Now add the dal, water, tamarind paste, salt and cilantro leaves. The water must come to at least an inch above dal ingredients in the pot. Cover and cook on low flame, checking in between to see if more water is needed. The dal is done when you can mash it with a spoon. (You can also cook it in a pressure cooker for 2-3 whistles, allow the pressure to release naturally and open the lid).
- Open the lid and check seasoning. Add more water if dal is thick, bring to a boil and turn the stove off. If it is runny, you can let some of the liquid evaporate.
- In a small pan, heat 2 tsp oil for tempering. Add mustard and cumin seeds. When mustard seeds start to sputter, add the rest of the ingredients and remove from heat. Add this tadka to the dal curry, mix and serve hot with rice or Indian flat breads.
QUICK AAM ACHAR (QUICK GREEN MANGO PICKLE)
You will need:
- Oil – 1/4 cup (do not skimp here)
- Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp + 1 1/2 tsp (for grinding)
- Fenugreek seeds – 1/2 tsp
- Asafoetida – a fat pinch
- Red chili powder – 3/4 – 1 tbsp (or to taste)
- Salt – 1 tbsp (it needs it to help in the preservation, pickle is rather spicy and salty after all)
- Curry leaves – a few, torn
- Green mango – 2 1/2 cups when chopped, leave the skin on
- White Vinegar – 1-2 tsp (optional)
- Gather all your ingredients first. Wash, dry and chop the mango. In a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, coarsely grind 1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds and 1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds.
- Heat oil in a large skillet or frying pan till it is almost smoking. Add 1/2 tsp mustard seeds and turn the stove off. The mustard seeds will sputter.
- Now add all the other ingredients except vinegar and combine well so that the mango pieces are coated in the spices evenly. Add the vinegar and allow to cook for a minute or two, stirring often. Remember the stove is still off, the pickle will come together in the residual heat of the pan/oil.
- Cool completely in pan, spoon into in a clean and dry bottle, cover tightly with the lid and store in the refrigerator.
- Enjoy pickle with rice, pulao, biryani or any flat bread like chapathis, rotis and parathas.
- Use a skillet or large, flat pan to ensure the mango pieces are not crowded and get evenly cooked in a short time.
- You can add sliced garlic to the pickle also. Add it after the mustard seeds are popped, along with the other ingredients.
- Use a clean, dry spoon to serve the pickle every time and this quick pickle should be good for at least a week.
Tell me, do you make stuffed parathas? What is your favorite kind?
How else do you add vegetables in your meal? Do share.
Try these easy, delicious and seriously good-for-you recipes (okay, maybe the mango pickle is really an indulgence!) and let me know what you think.
I am bringing this whole meal idea over to this week’s Fiesta Friday party at The Novice Gardener.