south indian cooking

bisi-bele bāth – revisited

13th April 2018

I thought I would revisit some of my favourite recipes, which I make weekly and update our personal preferences. This is one dish I love to eat in the cooler months (which in Sintra is the most part of the year).

Once I start eating a warm bowl of Bisi-Bele Bāth, a feeling of being present warms and soothes the system, satisfying all six tastes.

~ waiting for Spring

bisi-bele bāth

preparation time – 1 hour

serves 3 – 4 

This dish nourishes the body and suits all constitutions. It is recommended to consume in the colder months. During warmer months, it will be heavier for the body. People with vata disorder or digestion problems should not consume it very often.


½ cup/100g toor dal

6 cups/1½ litres water

1 medium/80g carrot

1 medium/110g potato

1 cup/80g cabbage/green beans

½ cup/100g white basmati rice

10 curry leaves

1 heaped Tbsp/15g jaggery/brown sugar

1 heaped tsp fine rock salt

1 tsp tamarind paste

1 tsp ghee

¼ cup/30g frozen green peas

¼ cup coriander leaves, chopped 

sambar-coconut paste

¼ cup/20g dried unsweetened coconut

1 heaped Tbsp/18g sambar powder (moderately spiced)

1½ cups/375ml water – divided

for the voggarane 

2 tsp ghee

¼ heaped tsp black mustard seeds

⅛ heaped tsp asafoetida powder

⅛ heaped tsp turmeric powder


1.  Cut the vegetables into small uniformed pieces. Measure out remaining ingredients – set aside.

2.  In a medium saucepan, wash the dal until water runs clear, drain, then add water, bring to boil, skim off any foam which accumulates on the top and simmer for 5 minutes.

3.  Add the vegetables, reduce heat to maintain a rapid simmer – simmer rapidly until the dal starts to soften – depending on the type of dal – approximately 15 minutes.

4.  Rinse the rice and add to dal, along with the curry leaves – rapidly simmer for 20 minutes or until the rice is sufficiently cooked. You may need to add more water.

prepare the sambar-coconut paste 

5.  In an upright blender, place the coconut, sambar powder and pour in 1 cup water  – blend on high for 1 minute.

6.  Pour into the dal, adding ½ cup water to swish the blender clean – simmer for 5 minutes, adding more water if needed.

7.  Turn off the heat, add jaggery, tamarind, salt, ghee and green peas.  Stir, cover and allow to sit undisturbed for 5 minutes. The bisi-bele bath will thicken as it sits.

prepare the voggarane

8.  In a small pan over medium heat, add the ghee and mustard seeds; when the seeds turn grey and pop, add the asafoetida and turmeric, swishing the pan around to allow the spices to fry evenly – add to bisi-bele bath.

9.  Add coriander, taste, adding more salt, sambar powder, sweetener or tamarind.

To serve, spoon into bowls with a scoop of yoghurt and a drizzling of melted ghee.

Goodness shared by Stacey

green bean palya

11th September 2016


This is a great dish to make in late August when you have a glut of beans that cannot be picked fast enough and are becoming quite tough and in need of that extra boiling time to soften and bring out the flavour.  The climbing bean would have to be one of my favourite vegetables growing in the garden.  Once they are at their peak they continue to produce at a fast and furious rate.  Here, in Europe I grow the runner beans which have proven to do the best, being most resilient and tough, in this odd unpredictable, misty, Sintra climate.  They also produce the most beautiful flowers of ivory and cream.

Before leaving for our Summer holiday, I planted a second round of climbing beans, planting in hope to extend the season, but alas only two came up, fortunately, I also threw in a bed of very old french beans to clean out my seedbox.  To my surprise all sprouted with robust enthusiasm and are close to picking in two weeks, I just hope the weather stays warm as we edge our way into early Autumn. This is the warmest and driest of summers we have had since arriving in Portugal and the garden is rejoicing in it.

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This dish may be used as a condiment or independently served with rice, chapati or poori.  It strengthens the body, is easily digested and is suitable for all constitutions, daily and throughout all seasons.  For a variation of taste, lemon juice can be added at the end of preparation.  This variation is recommended when eating with rice.


Green Bean Palya

The chilli, commonly used in South Indian cooking, is Byaadagi chilli and is known for its deep red colour; it is relatively sweet and less spicy.  If unsure about the level of spice of the chilli you are using, leave whole or cut in half.

Preparation 30 minutes

Serves 4

Recipe shared by our teacher Ganapati Aarya, as part of the Jivana Yoga Programme.  


4 cups /420g green beans

1½ cups/375ml  water

1 tsp fine rock salt

2 tsp jaggery/sugar

5 Tbsp/30g dried shredded coconut

½ cup coriander leaves, chopped 


¼ cup/60ml peanut/melted coconut oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 Tbsp split channa dal

1 tsp split urad dāl 

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 medium, mild dried red chillies, chopped

tsp hingu powder (asafoetida)

½ tsp turmeric powder

20-25 fresh curry leaves


1.  Wash, top-tail and chop the green beans into small uniformed pieces and measure out the spices for the voggarane – set aside.

prepare the voggarane

2.  In a heavy bottom skillet, over medium heat, pour in oil, add the mustard seeds; when they turn grey and pop, turn down the heat and add the channa and urad dāl, cumin seeds, chillies and asafoetida – fry until channa and urad dāl have turned golden-brown. Add the turmeric powder and curry leaves – fry for a few seconds.


3.  Add the beans, water, salt and jaggery – stir to combine and simmer rapidly on medium heat until the beans have softened – 15 minutes.  If wanting more of a firm bean, simmer for less time.


4.  Turn off the heat and stir in the dried coconut and coriander. 


5.  Allow to sit for 5 minutes in order to cool slightly and to enhance the flavours.  Taste, adding more salt or jaggery, as needed.


Goodness shared by Stacey

chickpea sambar with pumpkin and celery

1st December 2013


I love Autumn

 and I am taking every opportunity to relish in its rain and

vibrant green,

the early morning dew and it’s amazing,



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It is enough. 


I am enough.

chickpea sambar with pumpkin and celery

When I make this to serve with dosa, I leave out the dal and add another cup of chickpeas, as the lessened water makes it a thick consistency for dosa.


1 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight

½ tsp turmeric powder

1 Tbsp ginger, finely chopped 

1 cup ripe tomatoes, finely chopped

3 cardamom pods

¼ cup moong dal/red lentils, well rinsed

2 stalks celery

2 medium carrots

1 cup pumpkin, finely chopped

1 tsp jaggery/brown sugar

½ tsp tamarind paste

1 tsp rock salt

¼ cup coriander leaves, chopped

sambar-coconut paste

1 – 2 tsp Sambar powder, moderately spiced

¼ cup dried shredded coconut

1 cup water


1 Tbsp ghee

1 tsp black mustard seeds

⅛ tsp asafoetida powder

10 fresh curry leaves


1.   Drain the chickpeas and bring them to the boil in a deep pot of water – simmer for a 1 – 2 hours or until soft.

2.  Heat ghee in a heavy-bottomed pot, when hot, add the turmeric, ginger and tomatoes, lightly crush the cardamom pods and stir them in.  Cover and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning – the liquid from the tomatoes keeps everything moist.

3.  Add the dal, celery, carrots, pumpkin and drained chickpeas along with 3 cups water, bring to boil, then turn down heat and simmer uncovered until dal is soft – 20 minutes.

prepare the sambar-coconut paste

4.  Place in a blender, the coconut and sambar powder with 1 cup water, blend into a smooth paste -1 minute.

5.  Add to dal and swish the blender clean using the liquid from the dal.

prepare the voggarane

6.  In a small pan, heat ghee, add the mustard seeds; when they turn grey and pop, add asafoetida, fry for a few seconds then add the curry leaves – fry until fragrant.

7.  Add to sambar, stir in the tamarind paste, jaggery, salt and coriander leaves. Taste, adding more tamarind, jaggery or salt, if needed.

Serve with brown basmati or in winter, whole barley.  Drizzle lavishly with ghee.  Serve with a lemon-dressed green, leafy salad with steamed broccoli and a sprinkling of sesame and pumpkin seeds.


Goodness shared from Stacey

okra palya

21st October 2013




Enjoying the last of Summer’s okra!

okra palya

Serves 4, as a side dish

Recipe from ‘Mysore Style Cooking’ by V. Sandhya


500 grams fresh okra (lady’s finger)

1 tsp split channa dal

1 tsp split urad dal

1 Tbsp oil/ghee

½ tsp black mustard seeds

 tsp asafoetida powder (hingu)

1 large tomato, finely chopped

¼ tsp chilli powder/flakes

¼ tsp coriander powder

¼ tsp turmeric powder

¼ tsp jaggery/brown sugar

salt to taste

1 Tbsp dried shredded coconut


1.  Rinse the channa and urad dal, then cover with water and soak for 1 hour – drain and set aside.

2.  Wash and pat dry the okra with a cloth, the chop into 1 cm pieces – set aside.

3.  Heat the oil/ghee in a heavy-bottomed saucepan or skillet over medium heat, add the mustard seeds; when they start to splutter, add the channa and urad dal, stir and fry until the dal turns golden-brown, then add the asafoetida powder.

4. Add the okra, turn the heat to high and mix well – fry for 10 mins, stirring constantly to prevent the okra from burning or becoming soggy.  I try to get the okra charred a little on the edges.

5.  Turn off the heat, add the tomato, red chilli, coriander powder, turmeric, jaggery, salt to taste and coconut.

Serve with chapati or dosa, rice or quinoa and a simple dal.


Goodness shared from Stacey

spicy aubergine curry

3rd September 2013


Another weekend adventure in the foothills behind Quinta da Regalaria.  It was a glorious day. Everything coming together spanning sky and earth.  Beauty was everywhere.  It was almost dark by the time we made our way back to the car,  all of us exhausted from scrambling through brambly woods and overgrown paths, up and down hills, blissfully happy with nature’s gift and what we discovered.

And this is what we discovered,……our very own stage.  And what a show it was!



spicy eggplant curry

Serves 4

This is a lighter Summer version of the spiced aubergine and sweet potato curry I posted a while back.  A good way to use up eggplants in the garden.  A very quick and easy meal served with brown rice or quinoa and a garden salad.


¾ cup red lentils

1 medium aubergine

12 cherry tomatoes, finely chopped

2 Tbsp ghee/oil

3 cardamom pods

½ tsp turmeric powder

½-inch piece of ginger, finely chopped

2 -3 cups water


1 Tbsp ghee

1 tsp cumin seeds

6 curry leaves (optional)

1 tsp rasam powder

1 tsp tamarind paste

½ tsp jaggery/brown sugar

1 tsp fine rock salt

½ cup fresh coriander leaves


1.  Rinse the dal until the water runs clean, then refill and allow to soak while you prepare the other ingredients.

2.  First, prepare the aubergine.  Peel the skin from the aubergine and cut into 1 cm circles, and then into small cubes.  Place in a colander, salt well and set aside to draw out the bitter juices for 10 minutes, then pat the aubergine cubes with kitchen paper.

3.  Chop the tomatoes into small pieces.

4.  Place a heavy-bottomed cooking pot over medium heat, add ghee/oil and saute the aubergine until partially softened.

5.  Add the tomatoes, cardamom pods, turmeric powder and ginger – simmer for 10 min with the lid on, stirring occasionally until the tomatoes soften and the flavours in the tomatoes intensify.

6.  Drain the dal and add to the pot with 2 cups water – simmer for 20 – 30 minutes until the lentils are soft and broken down.  You may need to add water depending on the consistency you desire.

prepare the voggarane

7.  In a small pan, heat a little ghee, add the cumin seeds; when they darken a few shades, add the curry leaves and rasam powder.

8.  Pour the voggarane into the dal, add the tamarind paste, jaggery and salt, stir through the fresh coriander.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Optional to add a handful of spinach or kale and gently warm through.


Goodness shared from Stacey

gentle Indian spiced vegetable stew

4th August 2013


The weekend brought with it an adventure….the inspiring kind that leaves you refreshed, glowing, inspired and filled with awe and in love with Nature’s Greatness that is.


Praia da Ursa, Sintra, Portugal

a gentle indian spiced vegetable stew

Serves 3 – 4

This is a very clean, soothing and subtle-tasting dish, warming to the core.  I have been making it quite regularly, sometimes adding a beetroot palya or roasted pumpkin to serve with it.  Inspired ‘The South Indian Yogic Cooking Book.’ 

Channa dal is a split and husked relative of the chickpeas.  Urad dal, rich in protein, is a close relative of the moong dal. Both are found in Indian Stores. 


1 cup green beans, finely chopped

2 carrots

1 zucchini

1 small-medium sweet potato (peeled)

2 stalks celery, finely chopped

4 cups water

ingredients for the ground paste 

1½ tsp split channa dal

1 tsp split urad dal

½ cup freshly grated coconut or (2 – 3 Tbsp dried coconut)

1 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger

¼ tsp whole black peppercorns

½ tsp jaggery/brown rice

¼ cup chopped fresh coriander

1 tsp fine rock salt

for the voggarane 

1 tsp ghee

1 tsp cumin seeds

6 -8 fresh curry leaves


1.  Finely chop the vegetables into small uniformed pieces.

2.  Bring to boil 4 cups water in a heavy-based saucepan, add the vegetables and allow to simmer for 15 minutes.

to make the ground paste 

3.  Dry-fry the channa and urad dal until golden-brown in colour, then add whole peppercorns, turn off the heat and allow to cool slightly.    

4.  In a high-speed blender, combine the toasted spices, coconut, ginger,  and 1 cup water from the simmered vegetables.  (Do not worry if you accidentally scoop up any vegetables, as I grind these along with the paste as it adds to the creaminess).

5.  Grind until it becomes a relatively smooth puree, then add the puree back into the vegetables, adding broth from the vegetables to clean out the contents of the blender.

6.  Allow to simmer for 5 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

prepare the voggarane 

7.  Heat the ghee in a small pan, add cumin seeds and curry leaves; when the cumin darkens a few shades, pour the voggarane into the vegetables.

8.  Season with salt and finely chopped fresh coriander.  Allow to sit for 15 minutes for the flavours to come through.

Enjoy with brown basmati rice or whole barley and a drizzling of ghee.


Goodness shared from Stacey

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