Spicy Squash, Eggplant and Lentil Stew
This is my adaptation of a famous Parsi dish. At first, the lovely spices in the stew taste subtle and familiar. Then, as you keep eating they expand on your palate so that you get their full flavor and warmth. What I call the back heat-that is, the heat of the spices rather than the chiles-of this dish makes it hotter than any of the other recipes in this chapter. But it’s the kind of heat that invites you to keep on eating and eating.
This recipe is a perfect one-pot meal. You can change the vegetables according to your taste and to what’s in the market. You can also change the proportion in which you use them. You can make the dish with 1¾ cups lentils or split peas alone, but a combination of the two gives the dish a greater complexity of flavor.
I particularly like this recipe for fall; it lends itself to fall vegetables and the colors are wonderful fall hues. Serve this with Plain Basmati Rice to make the kind of hearty weekend lunch one would eat at the Bombay Gymkhana or any of the elite clubs in Bombay, or for a festive dinner party.
Serves6 to 8
Total Timeunder 1 hour
One Pot MealYes
OccasionBuffet, Casual Dinner Party, Family Get-together
Recipe Coursemain course
Dietary Considerationmain course
Taste and Texturehot & spicy, savory, spiced
Type of Dishvegetable
- 1 cup yellow split peas, picked over, washed, and drained
- ¾ cup lentils, picked over, washed, and drained
- 6½ cups water
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
- 2 teaspoons garam masala
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 to 2 fresh hot green chiles, minced
- 2½ teaspoons salt, or to taste
- ¾ pound tomatoes, chopped
- 3 cups skinned and seeded butternut squash chunks (1-inch), about 1 small squash
- 5 cups eggplant chunks (1-inch) with skin (about 1 medium)
- 1 medium red onion, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
- 12 fresh spinach leaves, stemmed, washed, and torn into bite-size pieces
- ¼ cup canola oil
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds (optional)
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Juice of ½ lemon
Put the split peas and lentils in a large soup pot along with 4½ cups of the water. Bring to a boil and skim well. Then add the garlic, ginger, garam masala, turmeric, cayenne, cloves, bay leaves, chiles, and salt. Turn the heat down and simmer, covered, until the legumes are tender but not falling apart, about 20 minutes. Stir every now and then to prevent the dal from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Add the tomatoes, squash, eggplant, onion, corn, spinach, and the remaining 2 cups of water. Return the stew to a boil, turn the heat down, and simmer, covered, until the vegetables are tender but still hold their shape, about 15 minutes. Take the stew off the heat.
For the tempering oil, heat the oil with the mustard seeds, if using, in a medium frying pan or kadai over medium-high heat. Cover and cook until you hear the mustard seeds crackle, 1 to 2 minutes. (Or heat the oil in the same pan over medium-high heat.) Add the chopped onion and the cumin and cook, stirring, until the onion is well browned around the edges, about 5 minutes. Turn the heat down to medium, add the garlic, and cook a few seconds. Now add the cilantro and stir. Add the lemon juice, remove from the heat, and scrape the tempering oil into the stew.
Stir dal well and taste for salt. If the stew is a bit thick (it should have a lightly thickened, velvety consistency), add ¼ to ½ cup water. Spoon into a serving bowl and serve hot.
2004 Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness