A gravy based Maharashtrian side made with fresh or dried peas or beans is called usal. Dried peas or beans are soaked overnight and pressure cooked before being used. Fresh peas or beans do not need to be precooked. Though this dish can be added as a side to a fancy meal or thali it is basically a simple weeknight recipe.
This is my mother's recipe. She used to cook black eyed peas or chavli with a fresh coconut and cilantro gravy. This gravy can be used for mung or matar (green peas). I remember every Sunday morning when my Dad was not travelling he would go grocery shopping for vegetables. Sometimes I used to accompany him. We did not eat a lot of coconut but when this dish was on the weekly menu we bought fresh coconut. I remember cutting it open with a sharp sickle. I used to pull out the dry coconut fibers to give me a smooth brown coat. My mother insisted I should not pull the fibers on the edges. I would use water to paint a ring around the middle of the coconut. I truly believe that helped me cut the coconut exactly in half. I then used the sickle to break the coconut. I would collect the water in a cup and hand the coconut halves to my mother. The cup of coconut water was the reward for my efforts.
Back to the recipe
You wull need
1 cup dry black eyed peas
1/2 cup fresh shredded coconut (I used frozen)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
1 green chili pepper (adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds (optional)
1 tbsp. olive oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1/4 tsp. asafoetida
1 tsp. turmeric powder
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper powder
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. sugar
salt to taste
Soak the peas overnight in water such that they are completely submerged. Drain the water the next morning to get rid of the phytic acid. Pressure cook for 5 minutes. Keep aside to let the pressure subside.
Meanwhile grind to a paste the shredded coconut, cilantro, cumin seeds and green chili pepper in a grinder with a little water.
Heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. when they crackle turn down the heat to low and add the asafoetida and turmeric powder. Now add the ground masala paste and let it heat completely. Do not let it boil, cilantro paste does not do well when boiled.
Reserve the water the peas were cooked in and add the peas to the pan. Add just enough of the cooking water to form a thick gravy.
Let it simmer until the water evaporates and the gravy thickens some more.
Add the salt, sugar, garam masala and cayenne pepper. After a couple more minutes turn off the heat.
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