Brinjal Pulippu Kootu

Eggplant Kootu I say brinjal, you say eggplant, and they say aubergine. Whatever. It’s delicious, it’s my favorite veggie, and today I have for you one of the most delicious ways you can cook it up and eat it: Brinjal Pulippu Kootu, a tangy dal you might never have eaten before unless you’re a native of Tamil Nadu.

When I first started cooking up Tamil food, I was a little amazed at how Desi’s vegetarian family managed to cook up the same basic ingredients — lentils, curry leaves, veggies, tamarind, and spices like coriander seeds, red chillies, mustard seeds and turmeric– into very different-tasting dishes every day of the week. These “dals” (as lentil-based dishes are known through the rest of India), went by different names too: sambar or kuzhambu, kootu, and masiyal. Befuddled, I’d ask Desi: “How can you tell which is which?”

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Brinjal Kootu

Over time I learned. Here, if you are interested, are the most glaring differences: A sambar is tart with tamarind, whereas a masiyal is tarted up by souring agents other than tamarind, like green tomatoes or lemon or raw mangoes and may or may not include lentils except as a seasoning. Masiyals also typically use lentils other than tuvar dal or split pigeon peas, like moong dal. And then there is the kootu which is not tart at all-and is typically thicker than sambar. A kootu also often includes black pepper and coconut which makes it quite distinct and utterly delicious.

But exceptions, as you know, make up the rule, and today I have for you a recipe for the renegade Pulippu Kootu: the Kootu that’s tart like a sambar but is otherwise the spitting image of a kootu. Go figure.

If your head’s spinning by now, stop, get up, and go to the kitchen and cook up this kootu– that’s all you really need to do anyway, right? If you want to stick with tradition you should make this kootu with brinjal or eggplant, like I did, or with chow chow (available here in the United States as chayote squash). Or you can experiment with another veggie, although here’s a little tip: you really don’t want to stray from the deliciousness that eggplant brings to this dish.

TGIF, everyone, and hope you have a lovely weekend!

Eggplant Kootu

Brinjal Pulippu Kootu
Recipe Type: Curry
Cuisine: Indian
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
  • 1/2 cup tuvar dal or split pigeon peas
  • 9 small round eggplants, cut into a 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated coconut (you can use frozen, but thaw before use)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • A generous pinch of asafetida (hing)
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 tbsp tamarind extract. (or 1-inch ball of tamarind pods, soaked in 1/2 cup of water for 30 minutes. Extract the tamarind pulp by crushing with fingers and discard the dry solids)
  • [u]For ground masala:[/u]
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp udad dal or black gram dal
  • 1 tbsp chana dal or bengal gram dal
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, covered with water and microwaved for five minutes. Or you can bring them to a boil on the stovetop, lower heat, and let them cook 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated coconut. Again, you can use frozen but thaw first.
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  1. Mix the lentils and turmeric, add water and cook until the lentils are really soft and mashable. Pressure-cooking works best here — and the fastest– but you can do this on the stovetop. Use enough water to cover the lentils by an inch, bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook the lentils until they are soft and mushy. You will need to check frequently to ensure the water hasn’t dried out.
  2. Make the ground masala. Heat 1 tsp of oil and add the masala ingredients. On medium heat, saute the ingredients, stirring frequently, until the coconut turns a few shades darker. Be watchful because coconut burns easily.
  3. Remove the masala ingredients to a blender, add enough water to make a paste, and blend to a smooth paste. Set aside.
  4. In a large saucepan, place the chopped eggplant, add the tamarind, some salt, and enough water to almost cover the vegetables. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn heat to low, cover and cook until the brinjals are thoroughly cooked. Don’t take shortcuts here because half-cooked brinjal is worse than no brinjal at all.
  5. Add the cooked lentils, peanuts, and ground masala paste. Stir well, add water if the mixture is too thick, bring to a boil, lower heat, and cook at a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes.
  6. In a small saucepan, add the remaining 1 tsp of oil and then add mustard seeds. When the mustard sputters, add the coconut and curry leaves.
  7. Saute the coconut and curry leaves until the coconut turns lightly golden.
  8. Add to the lentils and mix thoroughly. Stir in the coriander leaves.
  9. Serve hot with some boiled rice and potato curry.

Potato curry



Cauliflower Wild Rice Pilaf

Cauliflower wild rice pilafMy Cauliflower Wild Rice Pilaf is a healthy and delicious one-pot meal that is quick enough to cook up for family on a weekday night and elegant enough to serve company. It also makes a great brown bag lunch.

In Indian cooking, a pilaf or pulao is a rather spare rice dish seasoned with a few spices. It’s  different — and less fussy — than other rice dishes like a biryani, say, where the spices are richer and where the ingredients are separately cooked and then put together. Since I don’t do fussy on weeknights, this worked just perfectly for me.

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Cauliflower WIld Rice PilafAll I needed to do was to chop up some onions and garlic and separate the cauliflower into florets, and the dish pretty much cooked itself.  Although pilafs are usually cooked up in one go– meaning that you would add all the ingredients to one pot and cook them together — I did roast the cauliflower separately because if I added the cauliflower to the same pot, it would end up all mushy and not firm and golden and delicious.

Wild rice is very easily found now, but in case you cannot find it you can try this dish with brown rice as well, or even another grain like quinoa. Be sure to adjust the cook times, because these grains will require less time to cook than the black rice does. Brown rice would need about 45 minutes, no more.

I know this is a rather matter-of-fact post but it’s early Sunday morning and honestly, do you really want me to be sitting at the computer when I could be sleeping in? :) 

Cauliflower WIld Rice Pilaf

Cauliflower Wild Rice Pilaf
Recipe Type: Main
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
  • [u]For pilaf:[/u]
  • 1 cup wild rice
  • 1 cup puy lentils
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp cayenne or paprika, for less heat
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cups vegetable stock or water
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • Juice of one lemon
  • [u]For roasted cauliflower:[/u]
  • 1 head of cauliflower, florets separated
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne or paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  1. Mix all of the roasted cauliflower ingredients together in a baking dish. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit and roast for 45 minutes or until tender but slightly al dente.
  2. To make the pilaf, heat the oil in a large pot and add the onions. Add salt, ground black pepper and sugar and saute, stirring frequently, until the onions soften and then turn golden-brown.
  3. Add the garlic, cayenne, ground cumin and salt and saute for a minute.
  4. Add the wild rice and puy lentils and mix thoroughly.
  5. Add the vegetable stock or water, bring it to a boil, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid, lower the heat to simmer and let it cook for an hour.
  6. When the rice is done, open the pot, fluff the rice and lentils gently with a fork, and mix in the roasted cauliflower and lemon juice.
  7. Serve hot or at room temperature.
Calories: 221 Fat: 4.2 grams Sugar: 2 grams Fiber: 15.9 Protein: 14.6


Slow Cooker Lentil Bolognese

lentil bolognese Desi often teases me (not seriously, he gets the vegan thing) about how, when we travel, I miss out on the best food.

In New Orleans, while he was enjoying the seafood this city is so famous for, I was scouring menu cards– often fruitlessly– for beans and rice made without meat stock. He won’t let me forget the day we traipsed a mile or more to get to a Greek restaurant where I could finally order some hummus and felafel and the usual vegan suspects.  As I devoured the tasty (albeit not adventurous) food, I felt like I hadn’t eaten in days.

When we go to India, it is he that my parents love to feed more because he will eat all that fresh fish they tend to gorge on in coastal Goa. When we traveled through Mexico, a food-lover’s paradise, I often had to make do with sides (delicious ones) or scour my Happy Cow list for veg-friendly restaurants and then get a bus or a train to get there.

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Lentil BologneseEating vegan when you travel is not always difficult, as my prelude might have made it seem, because more restaurants are vegan-friendly these days. But truth is, it’s not always easy either, especially for someone who loves delicious food as much as I do and hates the idea of salads for most meals.  I do remember a time I did do that — it was when we took a road trip through the south a few years back. The trip was wonderful but while Desi was out sampling all kinds of dishes that the south is famous for, I was picking at raw leafies and wondering if I’d ever see a decent meal again.

Of course, being vegan and eating out also makes for some great memories. Like the time we were in Lisbon, exploring the port neighborhood of Alfama. The winding, narrow streets are dotted with taverns where you can listen to Fado, the melancholic but sweet music that springs from Lisbon’s belly, and we came across a particularly beautiful one outfitted with what looked like wood parts of a massive, ancient ship.  As we stood outside, scouring their menu to see if I could find a vegan-friendly option, the cook — who happened to be passing by– offered to make one for me.

Happy as can be, we went in, listened to some beautiful music, and I ate a meal I will never forget– a delicious pasta with beans and herbs– made specially for me.


Lentil BolognesePasta and legumes are made for each other. Together they are perfectly nutritious and delicious vegan eats because they pack a huge protein and fiber wallop. And although you’d think — with all that olive oil floating around every pasta recipe you see– that you’d never be able to make one that was tasty and low-fat, truth is that legumes offer a perfect opportunity to create  pasta dishes that are low-fat or even fat-free and utterly flavorful.

My Slow Cooker Lentil Bolognese recipe today is a perfect example of a pasta sauce that’s meaty, delicious, healthy and — best of all– easy.  This is also a versatile dish that would  go great with not just pasta but also with quinoa or brown rice. I have a fat-free option for you in the recipe, but keep in mind that you are using just one teaspoon of oil for a recipe that makes eight servings, which means you get no more than 5 calories per serving from the fat.

To serve the bolognese, use a pasta that’s either broad– like pappardelle– or a shaped pasta like penne rigate, elbows, or shell pasta. You want something that’s wide enough to serve as a vehicle for the bolognese, or shaped so it will suck in and hold the sauce. The bolognese is gluten-free, so  if you are a gf’er you can make it with gluten-free pasta. You might want to first read my helpful hints on cooking gluten-free pasta.

Now for the recipe. Enjoy!

Lentil Bolognese

Slow Cooker Lentil Bolognese
Recipe Type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
  • 1 cup French puy lentils (brown lentils or masoor dal are a perfectly delicious substitute)
  • 2 carrots, chopped into 1-cm pieces
  • 3 sticks of celery, chopped into 1-cm pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups tomato puree
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 cups vegetable stock (use water if you don’t have this)
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dry oregano
  • 1 tsp dry rosemary
  • 1 chipotle chili in adobo sauce, minced
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh parsley for garnish
  1. Soak the lentils in enough water to cover and set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, in a crockpot turned to the high setting, combine the oil, onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Add 1/2 tsp salt and half of the ground black pepper. Give it all a good stir, cover with the lid, and walk away from it for 30 minutes. (You can make this dish fat-free by adding a couple of tablespoons of stock instead of the oil). I find this first extra step of “sweating” the mirepoix of onions, carrots and celery really helps build the flavor.
  3. After 30 minutes, take off the lid, give everything a good stir, and add the lentils, tomatoes, vegetable stock, dry herbs, chipotle chili, remaining black pepper and salt to taste.
  4. Mix well and cover the crockpot again. Let the bolognese sauce cook for two hours on the high setting or until the lentils are tender. The carrots will still have some bite, which is wonderful. Check salt and add more if needed.
  5. Cook the pasta according to package directions. Add to the crockpot and give everything a good stir. Add some of the pasta cooking liquid if the pasta is too dry.
  6. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve hot.
Calories: 123 Fat: 1 gram Carbohydrates: 21.6 grams Fiber: 9.1 grams Protein: 7.6 grams





Onion Sambar | Vengaya Sambar

Vengaya SambarIt’s almost a given that you cannot go to a Tamil home without being invited to stay for a meal. Tamilians love to feed as much as they love to eat, and when we go to Chennai on our visits back to India it is not unusual for us to have two lunches, two dinners, and umpteen snacks, all in a single day, as we make the rounds of our relatives’ homes.

When we lived in Bombay, we were not above exploiting all this hospitality. The mother of one of our friends, Malathy,  was a great cook. Luckily our home was not far from Malathy’s, and whenever we were craving a great homecooked Tamil meal Desi and I would just drop in for a visit, sure that we’d be well fed.

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Vengaya SambarWhile almost any meal you’d eat in a Tamil home would be special, we were never happier than when we were served Vengaya Sambar or Onion Sambar, a delicious dal made with tiny red onions. This dish, one of Desi’s favorites, fast became one of my favorites too because it is just so delicious. It was also one of the first types of sambar I learned to cook when I started to putter around the kitchen.

Many years — and hundreds of sambars later– I want to share with you this classic dish beloved in every home kitchen in Chennai. My version is made with fresh ground sambar masala that takes just minutes to put together. The red pearl onions (chinna vengayam in Tamil) are key to this dish because of their unique flavor. If you can’t easily find them in your grocery store don’t be tempted to substitute with the more commonly available white pearl onions because you just won’t get the same flavor. Red pearl onions are sold both fresh or frozen at Indian grocery stores and buy the fresh ones if possible because while the frozen onions are lower on labor (you don’t have to peel them),   they can sometimes be chewy. If you absolutely cannot find red pearl onions, I’d advise buying shallots instead and cutting them into small pieces.

Vengaya Sambar tastes best poured over some hot boiled rice with a side of crispy potato curry. And don’t forget to toast up some poppadums!

Vengaya Sambar

Onion Sambar or Vengaya Sambar
Recipe Type: Curry
Cuisine: Tamil
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
  • 1 cup tuvar dal or split pigeon peas
  • 1 tbsp of tamarind extract mixed with 1 cup of water. Alternately, if you’re using tamarind pods, soak a 1-inch ball of the pods in warm water for 15 minutes, then extract the flavor by crushing the pods with your fingers. Discard the solids and reserve the liquid portion.
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 3 tsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 1 tbsp chana dal or bengal gram dal
  • 1/4 tsp dry fenugreek seeds (methi)
  • 2 cups red pearl onions, ends trimmed and papery skins peeled. Tamil cooks sometimes soak the onions overnight which makes it easier to slip the skins off.
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves (about 12 individual leaves)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • A generous pinch of hing or asafetida
  • Salt to taste
  1. Mix the lentils and turmeric, add water and cook until tender in a pressure cooker. Or cover the peas with an inch of water in a pot and bring to a boil, then slap on a lid, lower to simmer, and boil for 30-45 minutes or until the peas are tender enough to mash. Add more water if needed as they cook.
  2. Prepare the ground masala by heating 1 tsp of oil. Add to it the coriander seeds, chana dal, fenugreek seeds and chillies and saute until the coriander seeds and dal turn a few shades darker and are lightly golden-brown. Remove to a blender, add enough water to keep the blades moving, and process to a smooth paste.
  3. Heat 1 tsp of the oil, add the pearl onions and stir-fry until the start to turn golden. Add the tamarind extract and let the mixture cook about 8 minutes.
  4. Add the ground masala and stir well to mix. Add the cooked tuvar dal and bring everything to a boil.
  5. Lower the heat to a simmer, add salt to taste, and let the sambar cook for 10 minutes so all the flavors have a chance to meld together.
  6. To temper the sambar– an important flavor-building step– heat the last teaspoon of oil in a small saucepan and add the mustard seeds. When they crackle, add the asafetida and curry leaves. Fry for a few seconds, turn off the heat, and pour over the sambar. Mix well.

Onion Sambar

Brown Rice Dosas

Brown Rice DosaMost South Indian cooks have a pot full of dosa batter sitting in their refrigerators which they can pull out at any time to make a quick and nutritious breakfast, lunch, snack or dinner. Dosas cook pretty quickly on the skillet so in no time at all one can have a pile of hot, steaming crepes ready to eat.And making a dosa batter itself is not difficult, although it does require some soaking time to let the rice and lentils soften so once they are ground up into the batter they can cook quickly on the skillet. I like making quick dosas such as my moong dosa or coriander adai because they require even less soaking time than a regular dosa. But when I get the craving for a traditional dosa, I have a foolproof batter that’s ready in about 4 hours. Not bad.

This time, I wanted to make my foolproof batter healthier by using brown rice instead of white, which I usually use. I have used brown rice in dosa batters before but I find it usually requires more soaking time. While wondering this past weekend, late in the afternoon, how I could get my dosa batter ready for dinner, I had a brainwave. Parboiled rice.

Now before some of you seasoned cooks out there scream, hey, that’s what Indian cooks usually use for dosa, hear me out. I am not talking about the parboiled rice you can buy off the shelf. Instead, I thought I’d parboil my brown rice for a few minutes and then soak it with the lentils, reducing the total soaking time. Get it?

So that’s what I did, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results. I needed just five hours of soaking time and the dosas themselves were perfect– I spread them thin and they were crispy around the edges and delicious with the nutty flavor of brown rice.

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy, all!

Brown Rice Dosa

Brown Rice Dosas and Coriander Chutney
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Brown Rice Dosas
Recipe type: Snack
Cuisine: Indian
  • [b]For the Dosa:[/b]
  • 2 cups brown rice
  • ½ cup poha (flattened rice). You can get a brown-rice version of this in Indian stores too.
  • 2 tbsp chana dal (bengal gram dal)
  • ½ cup udad dal (black gram dal)
  • ½ tsp methi seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • For the Coriander Chutney
  • ½ cup chopped coriander leaves and stems
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • A few drops of lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  1. Cover the brown rice with water in a microwave-safe bowl and nuke it for five minutes.
  2. Allow the rice to sit in the hot water for another half an hour.
  3. Now add the rice to the remaining ingredients, along with the water. Add more water to cover the lentils and rice. Allow them to soak for at least 5 hours and more if you have the time. Drain.
  4. Blend the rice-dal mixture, in several batches, adding enough water to make a smooth batter that's runny enough to spread into a crepe, but thick enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  5. Heat a cast-iron or non-stick griddle. The griddle should be hot enough that when you sprinkle a few drops of water on it, they sizzle and evaporate.
  6. Using a ladle with a rounded bottom, pour some batter into the center of the griddle and, in a quick but smooth motion, spread outward in circles. Don't be afraid if you make holes: just add a small drop of batter to patch it. If your dosa does not spread smoothly, it's possible your ladle is hot. Turn off or lower the heat, and try again.
  7. Pour a few drops of oil around the dosa's edges to help it crisp up. Once the underside is golden brown, loosen the dosa gently from the skillet and flip over. If your griddle was hot enough to begin with, this step will be very, very easy.
  8. Cook the other side for a few seconds, giving more time if your dosa is thicker. Serve hot with some sambar or chutney or both.
  9. Because I was pressed for time, I served the dosas with this super-simple chutney that requires just four ingredients but tastes just divine.
  10. To make the chutney, just give all the ingredients a whir in the blender until the cilantro is completely broken down. Check salt and serve with the dosas.

Brown Rice Dosas
Desi and I are being tourists in our own city this week. There isn’t a better place to live in than Washington if you want to do that– the city’s filled with great buildings, monuments and the most amazing museums and almost all of it is free.

Yesterday we were at the Museum of American History which is home to everything from Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the “Wizard of Oz” to Julia Child’s entire kitchen from her home in Massachusetts. It was the setting for almost all her television shows.
As we left the museum, exhausted, we caught this glimpse of the Washington monument, ethereal in the twilight.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.