Over the last few years veganism has been growing and growing in popularity, with major celebrities such as Beyoncé preaching the benefits, it’s been hard not to notice the increasingly popularity
Working in the food industry, we, here at Pure Punjabi, have noticed a major shift in consumer habits. At any market or food festival 5 years ago, a meat or poultry dish would be have the first to sell out – without exception. However, every show or festival, at which we have served food within the last year, it is the non-meat option of dhal / lentils (which is vegan) which sells out first, and this pattern shows no sign of ending soon.
And although veganism may be a step too far for some meat-eaters, there’s no doubt that adopting some of it’s philosophies would send your daily fruit and vegetable consumption closer to the quantity we all ought to be consuming!
Indian food is a fantastic choice for vegans, as there’s such a huge range of vegetables, lentils and pulses, as well as many different varieties of flour – all offering the range of flavours, but more importantly textures, which is something that many often fear they may miss with a vegan diet. So, lets run through some of the key food groups that Indian cuisine has to offer for satisfying and delicious vegan eating.
Lentils & pulses
The list of lentils and pulses used in Indian food is extensive to say the least, and each one offers a different flavour and texture, from the delicate red split lentil to the hearty chickpea.
Here are just a few:
Red split, green and brown lentils
Red split lentils, green lentils and brown lentils are, in my opinion, most delicious when cooked as dhal (Indian lentils). If you are looking for a light but utterly satisfying taste, choose red split lentils. If you want the same delicious flavour with a little more bite, them opt for either green or brown lentils. Just make sure that if you use green or brown lentils, that you parboil them first.
My favourite way to eat mung beans is to sprout them before cooking them. It is believed that if you sprout beans before eating them, that makes them more nutrient dense. It’s so quick and simple, you just need to make sure you remember to do it in advance.
Want to add a little ‘lift’ to your lentils and vegetables? Click here to buy our hand-ground Garam Masala
Delicious with Indian spices for a hearty dinner, or mashed down with garlic, ginger, fresh coriander and a little flour to make chickpea burgers or blitz in the food processor to make hummus (my favourite flavour is preserved lemon and garam masala hummus!).
This lentil is black before being split and skinned, after this process, you are left with a small yellow lentil – which is what we refer to as ‘urad dhal’ (sometimes spelt ‘urid dhal’). This yellow jewel is used to make dhal (Indian lentils), as well as a type of kofte (“meatball” or dumpling). Although it is fairly small, it requires overnight soaking before using. So simply put a cup of urad lentils in a dish and cover with water. In the morning, drain off the water and use as desired – either to make dhal or to blitz them in a food processor and add lots of other delicious flavours to make kofte!
A meal of dhal and rice contains a complete set of amino acids. Every cell is in our bodies is made from amino acids and some cannot be made by the body, so we have to get them from our diet.
Aubergines are so versatile, whether it’s charring them and blitzing with garlic, lemon juice, pomegranate molasses and tahini to make a satisfying and flavoursome dip or making stuffed aubergines. You can stuff them with a spiced onion mixture with finely chopped pink peanuts (also called ‘monkey nuts’, these are the peanuts that haven’t been roasted and still have the skins on), bake in the oven and voila! An essential vegetable to have in your arsenal.
Karele (known as ‘bitter gourd’ in English) have a naturally bitter taste which is remedied by soaking them in salt before cooking with them. Cut them into chips and deep fry along with carrots sticks and add them to a spicy tomato sauce.
This white marrow can either be chopped up and used to make ‘saabji’ (vegetable Indian dish – think Indian version of ratatouille) or finely grated and used to make a different type of ‘kofte’ (“meatball” or dumpling). When grated and mixed with turmeric, this vegetable gives a very meaty texture, so is a perfect dish to cook if you are hosting a meal and your guests are meat eaters, as they probably won’t even be able to tell that it’s not meat!
This vegetable is a relative of the cabbage and brussel sprout, I do not know of the English name as I haven’t seen it available outside of the Asian grocers. It is similar in size to a small cabbage, and it sold in tins (just look for the name ‘patra’ on the label). In the region of Gujerat (which lies to the South of Punjab) they make a spiced gram flour batter, coat the drained patra in the batter and fry in about 5cm of sunflower oil till golden. It makes for a delicious snack!
Another reason why Indian food IS a vegan’s best friend is the variety of flour that we use.
Besan/ gram flour / chickpea flour
Used to make the world famous, as well as my favourite Punjabi snack, onion bhajis (pakore in Punjabi). It is also used to make a delicious, crumbly Indian dessert (named ‘besan’ as well!) – it is very similar to fudge and always popular with children as it is fairly sweet!
Chakki atta/ chappati flour
‘Atta’ is the word for ‘flour’, as well as the word for ‘dough’ in Punjabi and Hindi. The word ‘chakki’ refers to the flour being stoneground. Simply mix the atta with water to make the dough for roti (chapattis). Cook over a hot flat plate until you get little brown spots on one side.
Bajra rotis can be made using the same method as for the chakki atta. You can also make bajra rotis by doing a 50/50 mix of bajra and chakki atta, and again, following the same method. You can also make potato cakes using mashed potato and bajra, along with garlic, ginger and spices, and fry or bake till cooked.
Makki di atta / cornmeal
Makki di atta (or cornmeal) is mainly used to make a cornmeal flatbread called ‘makki di roti’, which is traditionally served with saag (spiced mustard leaves). Or you can use makki di atta to make a delicious (but heavy) dessert called ‘churri’ which is cornflour flatbreads cooked with oil and sugar – yum!
So, whether you’re about to embark on a new chapter and begin a vegan lifestyle, or if you want to draw inspiration from the variety of plant-based ingredients used in vegan cooking, Indian food has so much to offer, so give some of these fantastic ingredients a try!
- Want to add a little ‘lift’ to your lentils and vegetables? Click here to buy our hand-ground Garam Masala
- Come and learn with us at our home near Salisbury and the New Forest and discover the tricks Indian families use to add heaps of flavour to their vegan dishes: See our cookery school
“It is quite possibly the best dhal I have ever encountered..”
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