WCL: Indian Slow Cooking

Author of "The Indian Slow Cooker" Anupy Singla gives us an introduction into Indian cooking ? showing us it's easy and delicious!

Yellow Split-Pea Soup with Burnt Onions and Yogurt

I describe this soup as spring in a spoon. It's sweet, refreshing, and deceptively easy to make. The taste is just a bit sweeter than its green counterpart, and the bright yellow color of this soup is a welcome change to ring in the warm months of the year?we seem to have too few of them in Chicago! This is not a traditional Indian recipe, but I do add a very Indian twist in the form of burnt onions and savory raita.

3 cups (603 g) dried and skinned yellow split peas, cleaned and washed thoroughly
1 medium yellow or white onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
9 cups (2.13 L) water
1 tablespoon (15 mL) salt, plus more to taste
1/2 cup (100 g) burnt onions (instructions follow)
1 cup (236 mL) plain Greek yogurt
Black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon (5 mL) ground, roasted cumin

1. Place the dried peas, onion, water, and 1 tablespoon of salt in the slow cooker.

2. Cook on high for 3½ hours. Reserve 1 cup of the soup, and using an immersion blender, puree the rest. (Alternatively, you can blend in batches in a regular blender.) Return the reserved cup of soup and cook everything for another 30 minutes.

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, salt and black pepper to taste, and cumin.

4. To serve, place a cup of the soup in a bowl and top with a teaspoon of the burnt onions and a teaspoon (5 mL) of the yogurt mixture.

Try This! Burnt onions are so fun to make and eat. Finely chop 1 medium yellow or red onion. Heat 2 tablespoons (30 mL) canola oil, vegetable oil, butter, or ghee. Once the oil is hot, add the onions and cook until completely burnt and crisp. Stir frequently so it doesn't stick. Store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

To make this dish in a 3½-quart slow cooker, halve all the ingredients and proceed with the recipe. A half recipe makes 5 cups (1.18 L).

Spices science is proving are no longer just to add taste to foods. They are also critical in helping heal common ailments including colds and fevers.

Research even shows that spices aide the body to fight chronic ailments including cancer and even Alzheimer's disease. Spices fight oxidation and inflammation ? two processes that lead to most chronic diseases.

Most cuisines ? including Indian ? use spices not just because they taste good ? but because they also help the body to fight disease. In India the ancient study of natural healing is Ayurveda ? using spices, herbs and a healthy lifestyle to help the body heal naturally.

It's the same tradition upon which Indian cuisine developed. And, it's not difficult to include in your day to day menus. In fact, it can be an incredibly delicious option to the traditional American diet that seems to go out of its way to avoid flavor through spice.

You only need seven key spices to make most Indian dishes. This includes: cumin seeds, turmeric, mustard seeds, coriander seeds, garam masala, red chile powder, and basic table salt.

You can purchase all of these spices at most grocers these days, or an Indian market.

Cumin: kind of a boring sort of seed, beige that bursts with flavor once heated in oil or dry-roasted and then ground. It has anti-inflammatory properties that not only help prevent cancer but also have been show to help fight diabetes. It's a key spice in North Indian cuisine.

Turmeric: is found everywhere in an Indian kitchen.

Its active ingredient: curcumin, which has been show to fight illnesses from cancer to Alzheimer's disease and improve circulation. Its effects are so powerful that scientists have found it incredibly effective in reducing bodily inflammation that can lead to cancer. It's even been show to be more effective than over-the-counter aspirin and ibuprofen in reducing inflammation. It can even reduce wrinkles when mixed into a paste as a facemask.

The studies with Alzheimer's disease are the most jarring. In the last 125 years, the rate of A has doubled in the U.S. and has increased everywhere else except in India, where it affects less than one percent of the population. Turmeric and is pChile Powder/Cayenne: the key component is capsaicin, which has been a proven pain killer, shown to burn fat, and help prevent cardiovascular disease. roperty curcumin may have something to do with this.

Mustard Seeds: Used primarily in South Indian dishes. Its properties have been show to help with cholesterol problems, heart disease and diabetes. Tip for Cumin and mustard seeds ? heat oil in a pan and add the seeds to bring out a deep roasted flavor. The source of mustard seeds is the mustard plant, which is a crucifer ? in the same cancer-fighting family as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale and cabbage.

Coriander: The seed is coriander ? the plant is cilantro. It's a commonly used remedy for tummy aches?coriander oil has been shown to reduce redness in skin diseases such as eczema and rosacea.

Garam Masala: This is a combination of coriander, cumin, turmeric, bay leaves, and various other spices.

Chile Powder/Cayenne: the key component is capsaicin, which has been a proven pain killer, shown to burn fat, and help prevent cardiovascular disease.

Anupy Singla is an award-winning journalist turned foodie turned author. Anupy began her reporting career as a business reporter for Bloomberg News in Princeton and then moved to cover commodities in Chicago. From there, she quickly transitioned from print to television, providing up-to-the-second market updates several times a day for Chicago's WGN-TV and Bloomberg Television. After several years reporting live from the Chicago Board of Trade and Mercantile Exchange, Anupy transitioned to local news coverage by working as an on-air reporter and anchor for Tribune-owned CLTV news. There, she eventually secured a spot as their early-morning reporter, helping the morning show boost its ratings and viewers with her friendly, bubbly, up-beat style ? even at 5 a.m.. Her duties included occasional reports for CNN on key Chicago-based stories including the effect of a thwarted terrorist attack in London on travelers at O'Hare Airport and the aftermath of a Southwest Airline crash that left a plane in the street. Although reporting is Anupy's first love and passion, she also comes from a family passionate about cooking. Born in India and raised outside of Philadelphia, Anupy grew up visiting her father's childhood village in India. Her first cooking lesson was with her paternal grandfather who schooled her in traditional, spicy Punjabi-style cooking. It was this passion that convinced Anupy to leave daily reporting to teach her young girls how to appreciate and eat good Indian food ? much as her mother had done for her through the years. Her quest to cook every Indian recipe she grew up with and her girls' reaction to it is a real-life experiment that she blogs about on www.indianASapplepie.com.

Through this culinary journey, Anupy also wrote her first cookbook, The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes (Release October 2010, Agate Surrey). She was introduced to the concept of Indian food in a slow cooker through her mother, and for years has been cooking in this manner ? first as a legislative assistant on Capitol Hill and then as a graduate student at the University of Hawaii/East-West Center. This book is the first to marry the concepts of a slow cooker with Indian cuisine.

Anupy has written about food-related topics for the Chicago Tribune, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Wall Street Journal. She has also teaches classes at Bloomingdale's, Sur La Table, and Chicago-based The Kids' Table. She has demonstrated her cooking skills on WGN-TV, WLS, and NBC10! Philly. She's one of a few cooks that is as comfortable cooking up a meal as she is in front of the camera.