Like in many Indian kitchens, my pantry shelves are home to a colorful array of dried lentils and beans and peas. Some are more versatile than others. The container marked "dried yellow peas" (also called safed vatana) is often shoved to the back because the poor yellow pea seems to be a one hit wonder around here. I use it for that most adored street food dish- ragda patties- but this week I decided to broaden the yellow pea horizon a bit and look for another recipe to use them.
Enter Shilpa of Aayi's Recipes with her wonderful sounding recipe for a Goan curry called tonak. I've eaten just such curries in Goa (in homes, not in restaurants) and the taste memory came flooding back. Like so many Konkani/Goan recipes, the ingredient list is short but the use of a thick paste of onions and coconut adds an abundance of flavor. This recipe is an undemanding one; everything I needed was already in the pantry. It is a good recipe for times when you are running low on fresh produce and need to cook from the larder. I used coconut oil to fry the onions for the curry which added another dimension of that beachy coastal flavor- so welcome in the dismal January gloom when there's freezing rain pelting your windows.
Garam masala (literally, "warm spices") makes all the difference in this recipe. Over time, I have used all different kinds of garam masala, some that I made myself from different recipes, others that were store-bought. This particular batch is the "family blend" brought over by my parents. It was made by the lovely woman who has worked as a cook in my parents' home for decades. Her hands are sheer magic and this particular garam masala is the best I have ever tasted. If you find a blend of garam masala that you like, hang on to it! It makes the simplest food come alive.
By the way, if these yellow peas are not available to you, I think this curry would be wonderful with fresh/frozen green peas, black eyed peas or brown lentils instead of the yellow peas.
Yellow Peas Curry
(Adapted from this recipe from Aayi's Recipes)
For curry paste:
2 tsp. oil
1 large onion, sliced
3/4 cup dried coconut flakes
2 tsp. coconut oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 tsp. red chilli powder
2 tsp. tamarind paste
1 tsp. garam masala
Salt to taste
- Soak the yellow peas in water overnight. Rinse and pressure cook until tender.
- While the peas cook, make the curry paste. In a pan, heat the oil. Fry the onion gently until well browned. Add the coconut and roast for a couple more minutes. Cool the mixture and grind it to a thick paste with a little water.
- Heat the coconut oil and fry the sliced onion.
- Add the curry paste, red chilli powder, tamarind, garam masala and salt.
- Add the cooked yellow peas and enough water to make a curry. Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust the balance of salt/sour/spice.
We truly enjoyed the complex flavors of this curry, soaked up in hunks of crusty rolls. The next day, I enjoyed the leftover peas curry with steamed rice. A wedge of lemon, a drizzle of amber ghee (freshly made; I was making a fresh batch of ghee that day) and a microwave roasted papad completed this utterly satisfying meal (pictured above).
Did you do anything exciting this weekend? The highlight of my weekend was a trip to the St. Louis Art Museum to see Monet's waterlilies. I am no art aficionado but I know what looks good to my eyes and I could have stared at the Agapanthus triptych for hours. It turns out that Lila is not fond of impressionistic painters- she slept on V's shoulder right through our visit. I'm guessing she prefers expressionism.
Have a lovely week, all!