Monday, September 24, 2007

Green Tomato and Lentil Stew: Thakali Masiyal

I’m not feeling particularly inspired to write thoughtful prose, so I’ll just lay out the important details regarding what prompted me to make this dish this weekend:
  1. It’s one of my favorite things that my mom makes.
  2. It can only be made in the summer/early fall because it requires green tomatoes.
  3. My tomato plants died (from root rot, it seems) and so I had a large harvest of green and pinkish tomatoes on my hands.
  4. I had no other produce in my house and sort of had to make this if I wanted to eat something remotely fresh.
I’ve been playing around with my camera and discovered a new setting that produces beautifully detailed photos – the ones of the lentils and tomatoes were taken this way, and, if I may say so, are really quite striking.

OK, I’ll expound on this dish a little more. It’s similar to
sambar, a traditional South Indian lentil and vegetable stew, except that masiyal (pronounced muh-SEE-yul) is thicker and made without (or with just a tiny bit of) sambar powder. By not adding too much of any other spices, the flavor of the green tomatoes (thakali) really shines. Like sambar, it is served mixed with rice and accompanied by papad. It’s simple, savory, slightly sweet, tart, tangy, and a perfect way to use up your late September crop of green tomatoes that will never get the chance to ripen.

Thakali Masiyal – Green Tomato and Lentil Stew
5 cups water
¾ cup dry toor dal (yellow split peas)*
4 heaping cups of chopped green and red tomatoes (about 2.5 pounds, I think - I don't have a scale; chopped into ½” dice) – I used half green and half that were red, but not fully ripe)

1-2 small green chilies, ribs and seeds removed and chopped - add at least one, and add the second to taste
1 cup water
1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon tamarind paste*
¾ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon sambar powder (optional; if I'm not using the stuff that has been brought back from India, I use MTR Madras sambar powder, because that's what my mom told me to use, so therefore it must be the best because she's an awesome cook)*
*all of these ingredients are available at Indian grocery stores; good supermarkets (such as Whole Foods) will probably have the Tamcon tamarind paste and the dal.
In a large stockpot, bring the 5 cups of water to a boil. Add the toor dal and turn heat down to medium-high. Cook uncovered until the dal is tender and starting to fall apart, about 30-35 minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes and chilies and water and cook covered for 10 minutes on medium heat.

Add the remaining ingredients and cover the pot, leaving the lid slightly ajar. Cook for another 20-30 minutes – the tomatoes should be very soft and falling apart, and the mixture should be thick and brownish/red and have reduced by about 1/3.

Mix with basmati rice (about 2/3 cup dry rice will make enough cooked rice to go along with this recipe) and serve with papad.


malini said...

Very well explained to people who do not know how to cook Indian meals. The pictures are mouth watering.

Meghan said...

i think im going to try this! i've never made indian food!

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