Monday, June 10, 2013

Green Peas Curry (Vatana Rassa)

Behind the generic yet convenient word "curry" lurks an almost unimaginable diversity of dishes in the cuisines of India. Take just one region- Maharashtra, on the West coast of India- and just one vegetable- green peas. (I cook with green peas often because they are available to me year-round in their frozen avatar.)

We make many curried dishes with green peas (hirva vatana or mataar in Marathi). In my book, a dryish stir fry of green peas with an aromatic tempering would be an usal. A more stew-like preparation with a more liquid consistency would be an amti or a rassa. In Marathi, there's a very descriptive word for what I can only awkwardly, and rather unappetizingly, call in English a "liquid curry"- dabdabeet. And then green peas could pair with any number of vegetables in a fairly dry stir fry to become a bhaaji- mataar batata (green peas and potato) being a particular favorite of mine. By the way, these distinctions are quite personal- one man's usal is another man's rassa. And let's not even get started with other regions of India, where you might come across a vatana ambat in a Konkani household and a vatana shaak in a Gujarati one.

All this is a long-winded way of explaining that yesterday, I tried a long-pinned recipe involving green peas cooked in a Maharashtrian style. It is Anupama's recipe for mataar usal and a dish that I would describe as a rassa because of how much broth it has. Like I said, one person's usal is another person's rassa. I think we would all agree that call it what you will, this is a most delicious way to enjoy sweet green peas.

In this recipe, green peas are cooked in herbs, coconut milk and spices. The resulting curry just needs some soft buttered bread for dunking. I modified the recipe to add more onions, because I'm loving the sweet Vidalia onions available here, and to add mint, because I have an overflowing mint pot on the porch. Mint and peas are a classic combination, after all. I used frozen peas and they seem to cook in no time, so I did not boil them as the original recipe suggests.

My untidy mint pot- but hey, it's alive!
More than I can say about most plants I touch...

Vatana Rassa (Green Peas Curry)
(Recipe adapted from Anupama's Blog; makes 4-6 servings)


1. In a pan, heat 2 tsp. oil and temper with a tsp. mustard seeds and a pinch of asafetida.
2. Add 1 small minced onion and saute until lightly browned.
3. While the onion is sauteing, make a paste with 1 coarsely chopped onion, 1 hot pepper, 1 bunch cilantro and a large handful of mint.
4. Add 1 tsp. ginger garlic paste to the pan, along with the green paste, saute for a few minutes.
5. Add salt to taste, 2 tsp. cumin coriander powder and 1/2 tsp. turmeric powder.
6. Add 3 to 4 cups green peas and 1/2 cup water. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.
7. Add 1 can coconut milk and 1 tsp. jaggery. Add more water if required. Let it come to a gentle simmer and then turn off the heat.
8. Add a dash of your favorite garam masala (optional), juice of 1/2 lemon, taste for salt.

I served this dish with buttered bread, a lemon wedge and thin slices of raw beet. Raw onion slices would have been an excellent accompaniment. The bread soaking up the thick flavorful sauce, playing off against the sweet peas- oh, the whole thing was too irresistible. I enjoyed the leftover curry with rice today for lunch and the verdict is that this dish goes with everything.


Peas being legumes, I'm sending this post to My Legume Love Affair 60, hosted right here this month on One Hot Stove. MLLA was started several years ago by Susan, The Well-Seasoned Cook, and is now in its new home at Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen.  I hope you'll participate by sending in your favorite legume recipe- check this post for details.

* * *

A couple of hours every week, I try to make time to work on my sewing. Hobbies are supposed to be relaxing but it sometimes takes a painful learning curve before the hobby rewards you with relaxation. At this point, I would have to say that sewing is not relaxing for me. Right now, it involves a fair amount of swearing, hair pulling and other behaviors that are quite the opposite of relaxing.

But I have to say that when I do finish a small sewing/quilting project- or even, say, when I can rewind a bobbin without having to laboriously read steps 1 through 5 in the manual- I feel that mildly euphoric jolt that takes me right back to the blasted sewing machine. Want to see what I've been working on?

Apparently, there is something called a self-binding baby blanket, where you start with a larger square of fabric and a smaller one, and magically, the large square forms a wide, attractive border framing the smaller square. After looking at videos (like this one) and many, many tutorials (like this one), I sewed one myself. Some tutorials call it the 10 minute baby blanket, and to beginning sewists, I would say, hah. If you take 10 times 10 minutes to make it, you're not the only one. But yes, it is a clever pattern and after my first valiant attempt (below) , I want to make more of these.


While I take breaks to work on relatively instant-gratification projects, I've been putting together this quilt top. It is part-pieced (the zig zags are little pieces of fabric seamed together, based on this purl bee pattern) and part-appliqued (the flower rows I designed free hand and stitched on by hand using blanket stitch). Now comes the tedious part- putting together this top with batting and backing fabric, quilting to hold the layers together, then binding the edges to finish the quilt.


Our local quilt guild has a group that works tirelessly to make quilts for others. Their colorful quilts go to cancer wards and neonatal ICUs. They make unique, handmade quilts for children who are in foster care. It is such a worthy cause. This group put together kits with cut pieces of fabric and a simple pattern and asked for help in piecing the quilt tops. This is one I pieced for them. It was great fun (no, really!) and I hope to make more.

That's it for this rainy, muggy Monday night. I hope you have a good week, friends.

53 comments:

  1. The vatana curry looks wonderful!
    Kudos to you for persisting with sewing. I bought a portable sewing machine to just get started and gave up within 2 hours as I could not even get it to stitch a straight line. I am looking for sewing classes I thin that might jump start me. All I want to do is alter dresses and maybe make a Halloween costume or two.

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    1. That's just what I mean by the learning curve- the first few times are almost guaranteed to be frustrating but as you learn you get better quickly and that's very gratifying. I agree that taking on a simple project, or taking a class is a nice way to learn to sew. For simple projects, YouTube videos are as nice as in-person classes, IMHO and much more feasible.

      I've heard good things about Craftsy classes (both free and paid). Here's a free sewing class that looks like fun: http://www.craftsy.com/class/bag-making-basics-drawstring-bag-and-bucket-bag/149

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    2. Thank you for the links! I will definitely try them!

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  2. Wow, so many words to describe a curry -- I don't think we have quite as many in Telugu :-)
    My mint plants are growing like crazy, I don't think I can keep up with it's growth. I need my friends to take some real soon.
    That peas curry sounds awesome. I think coconut milk makes any dish delicious.
    I haven't used my sewing machine in years. You are getting good at it. I have to start learning it first :-) With just the baby and me at home during the day, I can't seem to find time to do anything these days.

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    1. Pavani- there are many MORE words to describe curries- I know only a handful of them :D

      I can completely see how being home with a baby leaves no time for anything else! The only time I can do things on my own is when my toddler is in daycare or after she goes to bed.

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  3. I like your version of the rassa better :) I had a question on how to grow the mint. I tried twice by putting mint sprigs with a few leaves in soil but they just turn brown in a couple of days.
    Loved the baby blanket. so cute! my husband bought a sewing machine few months ago and learned to make pillow cases for the sofa pillows. I don't touch it but just pile a bunch of clothes next to it for him to repair ;)
    must commend you on continually learning new skills.

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    1. I am the wrong person to give advice on plants- believe me. Plants try to run away from me. This mint is from a small mint plant I bought from the store.

      It is AWESOME that your husband can sew. Pillow cases are on my list of to-do sewing projects. Just being able to repair clothes is so much better than tossing away an outfit because of a minor problem that can be fixed.

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  4. Hi Nupur,

    I am longing to get into a hobby that uses my hands. I used to crochet years ago but can't remember anything now, to my shame. Are there are any good, online sites you can recommend for someone to learn the basics of knitting or crocheting? I also remember doing macrame at school and finding it very satisfying but never managed to pursue it.
    Love the green pea recipe. It sounds like it would make a satisfying dinner at the end of a long day! I am not a vegetarian but I do love my veggies and am trying to ensure that either lunch or dinner every day (and both if possible) are plant/legume based.

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    1. Amber- yd you know what, you'll have muscle memory for crochet. I guarantee you pick up a hook and needles and you'll be crocheting again in no time. There are tons of videos for brushing up on the basics- check youtube for starters.

      My sister and Dad do beautiful macrame but I never did learn. I can't say enough about a hobby that uses one's hands. Once you get into it, it adds such richness to life.

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  5. My favourite among the rassa is the cauliflower rassa with batata in it. Totally love the quilts, such bright colours and prints. Its really nice what the group does for little kids, such a sweet idea.
    You do have a lot of patience and talent, Nupur. I used to embroider quite a bit at one point, but just can't seem to get back to it now.

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    1. Ooh, cauliflower batata rassa is one of my all time favorites. In my parents' home, it is served for festive meals with hot puris and shrikhand.

      If you can't seem to get back into embroidery, that probably means it is time to dabble in something else :) I'd personally love to learn kantha work some day.

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  6. The dino baby blanket is oh-so-cuuute!!! and the quilts are beautiful, Nupur! I am sure they'll be treasured. I agree with you wholeheartedly about hobbies taking a painful learning curve before becoming relaxing. I am going through a painful learning curve at the moment figuring out cake tiering and types of frosting, at such times I am so thankful to have a hubby who's a great sounding board and knows how to calm me down and cheer me up.

    The muter usal/rassa sounds mouthwatering with all the great ingredients! You truly know how to welcome a reader, you share this delicious looking usal and then spread your blankets and quilts open, by the end of the post I felt so warm and fuzzy inside. :-) Thank you!

    - Priti

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    1. Priti- Cake decorating is another hobby that needs tons of practice before it become natural to whip out the frosting cone and start making rosettes! But what a wonderful hobby to make special occasions even more special with a custom cake. Thanks for your sweet comment!

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  7. Nupur,
    I am so surprised to see this post. Coincidentally, I made this exact same "matarachi usal" yesterday and I've brought it in for lunch today with some buttered hearty white bread! :)
    To my delight, my 2 year old boy also ate this "usal" with poli!
    Thanks for posting!
    Surabhi

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    1. LOL that's an awesome coincidence. My toddler also seemed to like the rassa, she scooped it up happily with her little spoon.

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  8. The green pea curry looks so yumm, i love that there is coconut in it too.

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    1. Yup- I add coconut every chance I get ;)

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  9. The usal/ rassa looks delicious. The coconut milk must make it creamy and delicious. I am not too fond of peas but with a tasty gravy, I can enjoy them.

    The dino blanket is wonderful! And so are the quilts. You are really talented.
    I cannot not knit, sew or do any lady like things ( I did those in school- strictly because we had some marks for it and I grumbled and groaned and moaned fit to wake the dead )

    I always wonder, HOW do you manage SO many things at the same time?

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    1. Manasi- feel free to switch out the peas and add something else, like lima beans, black eyed peas, even mixed veggies- this is a super versatile curry.

      Funny thing is, I had sewing and knitting et al in school but NEVER learned it at the time. It is just in the last few years (my late 20s and early 30s) that my interest is exploding. I guess there's a time for everything.

      I don't do all the things all the time :) just as and when I can.

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  10. I make dry usal with frozen peas all the time, but never tried making a thing gravy. Our helper in India is from Konkan and she's sending me home-made Malvani masala soon. I'm dreaming of making this rassa with it now!

    And fabulous art work as usual. My grandparents used to stitch quilts out of old cotton sarees - the softest fabrics ever - for us grand kids. I can imagine how happy the recipients of these beautiful gifts will be!

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    1. Malvani masala would be right at home in this rassa, Snehal! Old cotton sarees make the most luxurious quilts!

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  11. I like the saying - one man's rassa is other man's usal :)
    You forgot couple more important one - gargate, kalwaN :D!!!
    Also same thing goes for Zunka, pithale and assortments :) This is a wonderful recipe.

    Your sewing projects are beautiful! I used to make dupati with quilting patterns with my mom for baby gift sets. I have not done that in past few years. Your projects are making me think to restart :D

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    1. Oh yes, kalwan and zunka and pithale! I don't know what gargate is, though. The funniest one for me was something called "khadkhade".

      So what craft projects are you up to now?

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  12. Nupur, you are a 'Super Woman' in true sense. Can't image how you manage reading, quilting, taken care of a toddler, cooking to name a few along with a career!! Hats off to your motivation and time management.
    I have never sewn anything in my life. I hope someday I will be able to sew at least few basic things like tightening a loose button without it looking messy.
    The usal looks yummy.
    Reh

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    1. Oh no, I imagine a real superwoman would be out there saving lives and changing the world!! Truth is, I work only 3 days a week and my toddler goes to an excellent preschool, and both of those open up time for me.

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  13. The peas curry looks like the perfect comfort food. I will definitely make it and baby can have it too.I've never tried raw beets as a salad but it looks good. What kind of bread do you like to buy? I am always in a quandary in the bread isle. I like bread with seeds in it as opposed to plain wheat bread. Love your quilts. The fabrics are very pretty.
    Arpita

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    1. I hope you will try the peas curry, it is mild enough for the whole family to enjoy. My friend makes a truly excellent raw beet salad- I'll get her recipe and post it sometime. But yes, raw beets do taste wonderful in all sorts of salads.

      Bread- like you, I love seeded breads. In the bread aisle, I tend to do one of two things: I either go for the crusty breads like ciabatta or baguette if the bakery/store makes high quality breads, and in the supermarket/Trader Joe's, I buy soft sandwich bread- either whole wheat or multigrain.

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    2. Look forward to the beet salad recipe.Thanks for the bread suggestions.

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  14. That looks like such a balanced and yummy meal! I have grown up eating varied types of usals for every meal in my maharashtrian hometown. And this post has got me craving for matar usal. The one prepared with a simple tempering and some grated coconut is my favorite preparation of matar, paired with chapatis. Will try out the rassa too sometime!
    And mint is probably the only plant I have managed to keep alive too. Sad, but true :( I somehow have a knack of killing every plant I touch.

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    1. Some of us just don't have green thumbs- I've sort of come to accept that about myself! I do tend my kadipatta plant with TLC though :)

      There's nothing like a simple usal or rassa for a soul satisfying meal.

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  15. commented before reading the entire post! .. The dino blanket is super duper cute! I so wish I could do some sort of knitting/sewing. We never had knitting in school and I never tried it later. And now my current hobby (photography) of many years takes so much time that taking up anything new seems difficult. I do hope I get into sewing sometime in life..All this looks so pretty :)

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    1. Photography is a wonderful hobby and one that I hope to learn more of someday. There will be a time for everything...I myself didn't get into sewing until just this last year, in my mid thirties. My quilting teacher (who is amazing at quilting) learned it in her mid 50s!

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  16. I have a recent favourite pea curry that is fairly similar but has tomatoes in it as well - I love the green of your curry. And I love your quilting and your discussion of learning to sew is encouraging - I don't sew but occasionally I see things I would like to make if only I could

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    1. Tomatoes would be a nice addition, Johanna. I use them so much that it is nice to have something without tomatoes! If ever you wanted to learn to sew, it is not difficult, and it is very rewarding.

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  17. I've never seen this recipe before, and I have to try it on my son, who's mighty picky about peas (he picks peas out of a samosa's insides). I think the minty-coconut sauce is going to be a winner!

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    1. Well, if he's that picky about peas, you might try this dish with other veggies in place of peas! Or maybe blend the peas into the sauce, that might be nice too. Nice to see you here, Niranjana.

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  18. I love Marathi rassa. Have so many fond memories of eating them at my pachi's place. I am going to try this.

    Love love love your quilts and blankets Nupur, you have an eye for good designs. You are an inspiration for me. Ishaan asked for a dinosaur bed(crib) sheet, so I got some fabric and stitched a pillow cover and bed sheet for him. He loved them. I want to make a cozy blanket for him soon. I am hardly finding any time for sewing, don't want to sew when he is around, he has too much curiosity at this age. I also finished one curtain, yet to hang it to see how it works - I am terrified of drilling holes in apartment walls! The no-hole curtain rods don't work well for wide windows.

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    1. How sweet that you made him a custom dino bedding set! Curtains are on my to-make list too, but first I need to go to IKEA and get bedsheets which I am planning to convert into curtains.

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  19. Hi Nupur. Wanted to let you know I went way back in the archives to make your Aloo Gobi (http://onehotstove.blogspot.com/2007/01/is-for-aloo-gobi.html) and it was a hit at our house. Thank you so much for giving me a place I can come to and know I will get a get a tasty recipe. As you know, I didn't grow up eating Indian food so I'm happy to get recipes from an expert!
    Also, really enjoying getting to know my swap partner. Such a great idea!
    :-)

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    1. Hi Angela- so glad you're enjoying the swap, thanks for participating again in this round :)

      I'm very glad the aloo gobi recipe worked for you. I'm no expert but it is always a relief when a recipe on this blog works in someone else's kitchen!

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  20. Those appliqued flowers are so cute!

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  21. Hi Nupur, I tried the rassa and turned out great! Didn't have mint tho'...

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    1. Thanks for trying the recipe so quickly! The mint adds a different flavor but the rassa is tasty with or without mint.

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  22. Hi nupur I love your sewing attempts! My sister is expecting a baby, and I am valiantly trying to find a simple sewing blanket pattern! Any tips on where you source your fabrics? Love your prints! -Mekhala.

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    1. Hi Mekhala- I've been buying fabrics from the big box store- Joann. They seem to have lots of happy kid-friendly prints. Good luck!

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    2. thanks Nupur! I think I also saw some nice ones on ETSY

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  23. I am awed at how you can find time to do all this with a toddler around! And just opening your blog brings a smile to my face, it is just so vibrant!

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    1. Thanks for the kind words, Valli.

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  24. Hi Nupur,
    I absolutely love your blog and like Valli, I'm always amazed to see how you juggle your many interests! I recently took up crochet (you are the inspiration) and I find it very addictive. However my hands seem to get tired easily...have you ever faced this and if yes, how do you deal with it? Since you seem to have quite a few hobbies that involve the hands, I thought you might be the right person to ask for help! thanks so much!

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    1. Yes, hands do cramp painfully when one crochets for a long stretch! I don't know of any specific remedies other than stretching the hands and fingers periodically and putting down the crochet to do something else for a while. So glad you're enjoying your new hobby! Of all addictions, it is not a bad one to have ;)

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  25. Hi nupur,
    We are enjoying lots of fruits at the moment. Pineapple, cherries, mango, lychees, strawberries and water melon and fresh eggs from the summer farmer's market. Read a great crime classic: the beast must die by Nicholas Blake. Also doing a buddy read of all the Inspector Morse chronicles. Read trains and lovers (enjoyed) and currently reading an LM Alcott biography because we visited her house recently. Watching All Creatures Great and Small on Netflix. Also watched Tara Road recently. Looking fwd to a zoo trip soon because Mehuli's into lions at the moment :) have not read Rushdie yet.
    Arpita

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  26. The books I have read area all courtesy of my 9 year old. She has joined the summer reading program at the local library and I must say she has introduced me to some wonderful books!!! Where the mountain meets the moon, Nature girl and on to 13 treasures(trilogy) to name a few.

    But the real reason I'm leaving a comment is that I tried the curry with black eyed peas instead of green( since I had some soaked ones sitting in my fridge), added a chopped tomato, forgot to add the cumin/coriander powder:-( but it still came out FANTASTIC! This one is a sure keeper for me! The family LOVED it! Thanks sooo much as always for sharing your recipes!

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Thank you for taking the time to say hello!