Pigeon Peas with Spinach

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I know, I know, I know.

This is not very seasonally appropriate. But seriously, I was wanting to try new things, and it’s too good not to share. How beautiful are these little guys? I love discovering new and awesome things to cook, and this time my experimenting worked out pretty well. Karla et all, meet Pigeon Peas! They also go by the names Gandule bean, tropical green pea, kadios, Congo pea, gungo pea, gunga pea, fio-fio, mgbụmgbụ, or no-eye pea, toor dal, kandi pappu. They’re a staple in vegetarian indian diets, and they’re super yummy.

When I first bought 660 curries, I went to the store and bought a bunch of ingredients I knew I would use at some point as I cooked my way through the book. Different kinds of lentils, frozen spinach, chickpea flour, frozen peas… you get the picture. One of the things I picked up were these pigeon peas. They looked kind of funky, but a lot of recipes used them, so I went for it.

So, about a week ago, I decided to dive in. One package of frozen spinach, one cup of pigeon peas, a pressure cooker, and a flawless spice mix later, I was enjoying one of my favorite curries to date.

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There are two things that make this curry awesomer than it looks. First is the coriander. This spice has never been so good! Make sure you use whole coriander seeds for this recipe. They’re easy to find in the grocery store, and it’s quite literally not as tasty without them. The coriander seeds never get ground down in this recipe. They stay hard little spheres. In a mushy curry, this totally stands out–but that’s a good thing. When you crunch into a coriander seed, you get a tiny rush of citrusy-coriander flavor that is completely surprising and very yummy. I can’t quite describe it. You just have to try it. You only get one every five bites or so, so it’s always something of a surprise.

Second is the ginger. The last thing you add to this curry is some julianned ginger. This ginger doesn’t cook down, like the ginger paste you add at the beginning, so every once in a while you crunch into a little stick of ginger. This is also a fun and tasty surprise and results in a burst of spicy ginger flavor. Score!

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Dried Pigeon Peas

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Mixing the spices, garlic and chiles in the mortar and pestle

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Cooked spice mix

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Pigeon Pea and Spinach Curry

Whole Pigeon Peas with Spinach (Sabud Toor Aur Palak Ki Dal)
from 660 Curries

Ingredients:
1 cup whole pigeon peas (sabud toovar), picked over for stones
1 1/2 pounds fresh spinach leaves, well rinsed (or 1  10-oz block of frozen spinach)
1 tablespoon Ginger Paste (pureed paste with ratio of 1/2 cup water and 8 ounces chopped ginger)*
1 tablespoon Garlic Paste (pureed paste with ratio of 1/2 cup water and 50 medium cloves garlic.)*
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 cup firmly packed fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons rock salt (if using table salt, use a little less)
4 medium-size cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
4 dried red Thai or cayenne chiles, stems removed
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons Ghee or butter
4 lengthwise slices fresh ginger- each 1 1/2 inches long, 1 inch wide, 1/8 inch thick julienned

1. Place the pigeon peas in a medium-size bowl. Fill the bowl halfway with water and rinse the peas by rubbing them between your fingertips. The water may become slightly cloudy. Drain this water and repeat three or four times, until the water remains relatively clear; drain. Now fill the bowl halfway with hot tap water and let it sit at room temperature, covered with plastic wrap, until the peas have softened, at least 8 hours or as long as overnight.

2. Drain the pigeon peas and transfer them to a pressure cooker. Add 4 cups water and bring it to a boil, uncovered, over high heat. Skim off and discard any foam that forms on the surface. Add the spinach, several handfulls at a time, stirring it in until it is wilted. (I used frozen spinach, so I just let it de-frost on the counter and added it all at once.) When all the spinach has been added, stir in the ginger and garlic pastes and the turmeric. Seal the cooker shut and allow the pressure to build up. When the cooker reaches full pressure, reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for about 1 hour. Remove the cooker from the heat and allow the pressure to subside naturally (about 15 minutes) before opening the lid

NOTE: It is very dangerous to open a pressure cooker if the pressure has not subsided. Make sure to follow all the directions that accompany your pressure cooker to make sure that it is safe to open.

3. Meanwhile, combine the cilantro, the 1 tablespoon cumin seeds, the rock salt, garlic, and chiles in a mortar. Pound with the pestle, scraping down the sides to contain the mixture in the center, until the blend resembles coarse-cut wet grass, feels gritty, and has large specks of red from the chiles. (If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, use a food processor, but the mortar and pestle method is easy and preferred.)

4. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle in the remaining 1 teaspoon cumin seeds and the oriander seeds. Cook until they sizzle, turn reddish brown, and smell citrus-nutty, 10-15 seconds. Add the pounded herb-spice mixture and stir-fry until the garlic in the blend forms a thin brown layer on the bottom of the skillet and the medley smells pungent-hot, about 1 minute. Set the mixture aside until the pigeon peas are done.

5. Once the pigeon peas and spinach are ready, add the contents of skillet, and stir in the ghee and the ginger. Pour some of this mixture into the skillet and scrape the bottom to deglaze it, releasing every bit of stuck-on herbs and spices; add the washings to the curry.

6. Simmer the olive-green curry, stuffed with nutty-brown pigeon peas, over medium-high heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the flavors meld, about 10 minutes. Then serve.

*Ginger and Garlic Paste: These pastes can be made and then frozen to use in a number of recipes. They’re very useful! When making the paste, make sure you add the water and THEN the garlic or ginger into your food processor or blender before pureeing. Raghavan Iyer has his reasons, but to read about them, you have to BUY THE BOOK!

This is great with rice or on bread, and it’s ESPECIALLY good with roti or naan.

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1 Comment

Filed under Vegetarian

One response to “Pigeon Peas with Spinach

  1. Wow, this looks so yummy. I love trying different kinds of beans, and Im always up for a little more spinach. Gotta try this asap when the weather cools down a bit. Heat wave… 90s today!

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