“If you want to grow big and strong, you have to eat your usal”…….these familiar words kept ringing loud and clear in my head. Was it really my mom saying that to me, or, was I dreaming? Am I not way past the age where I have to be cajoled into eating healthy food?
Nothing made sense….except that the words couldn’t be truer. Finally, as the fog around my brain subsided, it hit me that “I” was the mom saying those exact words to my 3 year old. The circle of life was complete!
Usal, as they call it in my native language, is a savory and at times spicy preparation made from legumes/beans/lentils. It can be cooked like a soup/stew, or it can be made drier, like a stir fry. Any which way, legumes are an excellent source of vegetarian protein. When soaked and sprouted, they are one of the most nutritious foods – sustainers of the circle of life.
Usal can be eaten in a variety of ways – with white or brown rice, naan or roti (Indian flat breads), pita pockets, tortillas etc., The stir fry version can even be sprinkled into salads. Sprouting is very easy, soak the lentils/beans/legumes in warm water for 6 to 7 hours. When plumped up, drain the water, pack them up in a few paper towels and leave on a strainer for 3 to 4 hours when you will see them start to sprout. They will be ready to use when the sprouts are about a centimeter long.
Enjoy this easy and mouth watering usal recipe for good health!
- 3 tbsp vegetable/canola oil
- ½ cup water
- 1 ½ tsp ginger paste/finely grated ginger
- 1 ½ tsp garlic paste/finely chopped garlic
- ½ jalapeno, finely chopped
- 1 ½ medium sized onion, finely chopped
- 1 roma tomato, finely chopped
- 1 ½ tsp salt
- 2 tsp sugar
Following ingredients are available in local Indian stores.
- 1/8 tsp mustard seeds
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- 1/8 tsp red chilli powder
- 1 tsp black masala (if not available in Indian stores, substitute with garam masala)
- ½ tsp garam masala
- 3 cups cooked/boiled yellow vatana/dried peas
How To Make:
Soak and sprout the yellow vatana. Boil on stove top or in a pressure cooker until tender. Use enough water so that the vatana in fully submerged.
Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. Add the mustard seeds, ginger, garlic and onion. Fry till golden brown, Add the tomato, jalapeno, turmeric, red chilli powder and the masalas. Cover the pan and let the mix simmer for a few minutes until the tomatoes are are dissolved to form a puree. Add the ½ cup water, cooked vatana (along with any water it has boiled in), salt and sugar. Let the mix boil and then simmer on low heat for about 6 to 7 minutes.
- You can soak, sprout and freeze lentils for future use. They stay well in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.
- This is a basic recipe that can be used with other types of beans/lentils of your choice.
- Garnish with cilantro sprigs before serving.