As a member of the foodie group Shhhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge I have been participating in our current project of cooking from the cuisine of each of the States of India, in turn. The theme for May 2018 was Himachal cuisine, so I sat down to search cook books and online references for a traditional Himachali dish to make. (More about how this group works, later on in this post.) Though I have visited Himachal and enjoyed the food there, it is only when I read up for this post that I understood the sheer variety of dishes that make up its wonderful cuisine. One set of dishes are made for the traditional feasts called Dhams. You may like to read more about these in this article that I came across online: Himachali dham.
The split Urad dal Vadi in Spinach Gravy is similar to the popular palak paneer in appearance, but the taste is very different as several spices, including fennel with its distinctive flavour, are used in the spinach gravy as well as while making the vadi.
This is the second time I have prepared a curry using fried lentil nuggets in a vegetable gravy. The first was when I made this awesome tasting Bihari Baingan Badi Sabzi.
Let me tell you a little from what I learnt about the vadi for the split Urad dal Vadi in Spinach Gravy. The badi (wadi/vadi) I made for the Baingan Badi Sabzi required the whole (sabut) urad dal (black gram dal) to be soaked overnight, ground to a batter and the little badis made from the batter to be sun dried and finally, fried and added to the curry.
For this curry though, ie split Urad dal Vadi in Spinach Gravy, I used split black gram (split urad dal) lentils, soaked overnight, and then ground to a paste along with spices, steamed and then fried and added to the curry. A totally different method of preparation and of course, taste, though I must say both the badi and this vadi turned out delicious in their respective curries.
When you make the vadi or urad dal fritters according to this recipe, you may have some left over - store the fried vadis in an airtight container and use them in kadhi or or in a curry.
I had fried the vadi in mustard oil, but if you are not used to the taste, you may substitute with a vegetable oil such as sunflower oil instead. Sesame oil, coconut oil and olive oil however, would not give you the authentic taste.
The vadi may be made with white whole (sabut) urad dal, but I preferred this version with the split dal with skin on.
The curry needs some time for preparation and cooking, including steaming the urad dal batter and deep frying the vadi in batches. You may make the vadi a day or two earlier as that needs the maximum time.
In earlier posts, I have talked about how the Shhhhh Cooking Secretly Challenge, works. Each of us is allotted another member as the partner for the month, and we give our partner the names of 2 ingredients, viz the secret ingredients, which will be suitable for the cuisine/theme for the month. We plan the recipe for the month around the secret ingredients and of course fitting into the theme, and then make the item. We post an image of the prepared dish on the group, and all the other members try to guess what could be the 2 secret ingredients. Its not just fun and camaraderie, though there is plenty of that! For each theme, we get to explore cuisines which we may not be familiar with and read about cooking methods used in different regions of India as well as ingredients specific to that region.
My partner for May is Shobana Vijay. We exchanged ingredient names and I requested her to give me as the secret ingredients, cumin seeds and cardamom, which are used in a number of recipes of Himachali cuisine. This fit right into my split Urad dal Vadi in Spinach Gravy.
Shobana blogs at ShobasDelight. I found it a lovely site to browse, with a line up of several recipes including traditional Indian recipes using a variety of vegetables and with step by step instructions. Please do visit her blog, as well as check out the delicious looking Channa Madra that she made using the two secret ingredients I gave her: mustard oil and chickpeas.
Sending this recipe to the following event:
Himachali Sepu Vadi - Split Urad Dal Vadi In Spinach Gravy
For Urad dal Vadi / Black gram Fritters
- ½ cup Split black urad dal/ split black gram lentils Soaked overnight
- ½ teaspoon Black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon Fennel seeds / Saunf
- ½ inch ginger
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- ½ cup mustard oil or sunflower oil
For Spinach Puree
- 1 -2 bunches Spinach leaves about 1.5 to 2 cups when pureed
- 1 tablespoon chopped dill leaves
- 1 green chilli
- 2 Cloves
- 1 green cardamom
- 5-6 Black peppercorns
- ½ inch fresh ginger
Spices Mix for Grinding
- 1 Bay leaf
- ½ teaspoon Cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon Coriander seeds
- ¼ teaspoon Fennel seeds
- ¼ teaspoon asafoetida hing
- ½ inch cinnamon
- 1 Black Cardamom
For Sepu Vadi - Spinach curry with Black gram fritters
- 1 ½ -2 cups Spinach Puree Prepared as per instructions below
- ½ cup Yogurt/Curd
- 1 cup water
- 1 tablespoon mustard oil or Sunflower oil or other vegetable oil
- Spice mix Prepared as per instructions below
- 1 tomato Diced into 1 cm pieces - optional
- ¼ teaspoon Turmeric Powder/ Haldi
- ¼ teaspoon red chilli powder
- ½ teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1 cup Urad dal Vadi Prepared as per instructions below
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice optional
To make the split black urad dal Vadi
- Time Required: 8 hours soaking + 5 minutes grinding + 1 hours fermentation (optional) + 15 minutes steaming + 20 mins frying Rinse and soak the split black urad dal (split black gram lentils) in 1 cup of water, overnight. After it is soaked, drain, rinse and again drain the dal. Add all the ingredients listed above for making Urad dal vadi (except the mustard oil) and grind it into a thick paste using as no water or as little water as possible - 1 or two teaspoons only, if required. Set aside for an hour to ferment (optional)
- Spread the spiced urad dal batter on an idli plate or other steaming plate, cover and steam over boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove from steamer, spread on a plate keeping the thickness to about ½ cm and slice into small squares or rectangles (about an inch long) Allow to cool Heat ½ cup of oil and deep fry the vadi in batches. Drain and keep aside till required.
- To fry the vadi as above, you may find these timings useful: Heat the oil till it is smoking hot. Drop the pieces of batter one by one into the hot oil, taking care to leave some space between each ( and take care while working with hot oil!) Reduce the heat to low. After about 3 minutes, turn (flip) each one carefully with a spatula so that the bottom side is now up. Increase the heat to medium or high. Another 3 minutes, and then again turn the badis. Remove after 1 minute and place in a colander to drain. Heat the oil again for the next batch. Set aside till required.
To Prepare the Spinach Puree
- Time: 5 minutes to blanch and drain + 5 minutes to puree Cut away hard stems and dry or rotten leaves from the bunch of spinach. Chop and then wash the spinach well. Heat water in a pan until it is boiling, and add the chopped spinach. Cover the pan, turn off the stove and blanch the spinach for 3 minutes. Meanwhile prepare an ice bath by adding ice cubes to a a basin of water. Drain and quickly put the spinach into the ice bath and drain after 1 minute. Squeeze gently to remove excess water. The spinach will then retain its bright green colour. 2. Rinse and drain the dill, squeeze away excess water and chop it.
- Puree the spinach along with the other ingredients in the list above for Spinach puree ie the dill, ginger, chilli and spices, without adding water during the process. Set aside till required.
To prepare the Spice Mix
- Time: 5 minutes Pound all the spices as in the Ingredients list above for Spice mix, into a coarse powder. The Black cardamom needs only to be slightly crushed so that it opens up a little. Set aside till required.
To make the Sepu Vadi - Spinach curry with fritters
- Time Prep 5 minutes + 20 minutes cooking time Beat the curd / yogurt/ dahi and add to the spinach puree. Add water as in the ingredients list for Sepu Vadi above, and whisk it all in. Set aside. Dice the tomato if using, into 1 cm pieces
- Heat the oil (see ingredients list for making Sepu Vadi above) in a medium sized pan. Add the bay leaf and then the crushed/pounded spice mix. Sauté for 1 minute Add the sliced tomatoes (if using) and sauté for 1 minute Add the turmeric and chilli powders, sauté for 30 seconds.
- Pour the spinach puree into the pan, stir and bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce heat and allow to simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt, stir.
- Add the fried urad dal fritters one by one into the gravy, about 8-10 small vadis should be enough for 1.5 cups of spinach puree without overcrowding the curry. Simmer the curry for 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Serve hot with a dash of lemon juice (if using), with hot rice or chapatis.