Indian cuisine has variety of recipes using legumes or pulses. Numerous types of pulses are available across Indian states. These pulses are typically dry/hard and needs overnight soaking. ‘Kala vatana’ or ‘Dry black peas’ is one such legume among many. And one of my childhood favourite recipe is Kala vatanachi usal or Kala vatyanacha sambar.
This particular recipe is common in state of Maharashtra, typically near western coastal region. Being speciality of the coastal part, this recipe is prepared using coconut based gravy. Slightly nuttier, sweet flavours of roasted coconut blends perfectly with earthy taste of black peas. The famous and classic accompaniment with kala vatana usal is soft-spongy aamboli. Aamboli is very similar to dosa which is prepared using fermented rice batter. In Konkan which is coastal maharashtra, this classic combo – Vatana usal with aamboli is prepared for celebrations or special occasions. A spongy dosa when soaked in this gravy, tastes utterly delicious. Not just aamboli but one can enjoy this gravy with plain rice or any bread as well.
Dry black peas are easily available in India but difficult to find in UK, even in Indian grocery stores. So, I always pick my stock of black peas during India visit. This recipe is relatively easy, basically it needs freshly grated coconut and few standard Indian spices. However, requires some preparations as these peas are dry and hard. Simply, soak them overnight and pressure cook it. Once peas are well cooked, further steps are straightforward. So let’s checkout step by step process of how I make ‘Kalya vatanyachi usal/sambar‘
1/2 cup kala vatana/dry black peas
2 medium sized red onions
1/2 cup of freshly grated coconut
2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1&1/2 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
salt as per taste
Water for cooking
Handful of fresh coriander leaves
Wash and then soak peas overnight or at least 7-8 hours. Transfer soaked peas into pressure cooker and add sufficient water with salt. Pressure cook it until 4 whistles.
Once pressure cooked, let it cool down. Gently press the peas between fingers, it should be soft now.
Optionally, you can gently crush part of these cooked peas which helps to thicken the gravy. I generally, take 1/4th of peas and quickly churn them in the grinder. But this step is totally optional.
Next start with making coconut paste. Roughly slice onion and fry them in oil on medium-high heat. Once onions are slightly translucent, add grated coconut into it. I have used frozen coconut, which I thawed before adding to onions. Coconut-onions mixture will turn slightly golden-brown then switch off the heat. Allow the mixture to cool down at room temperature.
Once cooled, add some water and grind it into thick paste.
Now, the final part of this recipe. Heat the pan on a high heat and add oil into it. Once oil is hot, add mustard and cumin seeds. Next goes in finely chopped onion, fry until translucent. I like to add salt at this stage which helps to soften onions. Add ginger-garlic paste followed by spices- turmeric, coriander, chilli powder. Cook everything until raw smell goes off. If required, just add little water so spices won’t get burnt.
Now, add coconut paste into the pan and mix it well. You can use entire paste or partially (rest can be saved in the freezer for next time), It depends on how much thick gravy you need.
Next add diced tomatoes into the gravy, I like big chunks of tomatoes in this gravy. Mix everything well and cook until oil floats on the top.
Once gravy is cooked, oil starts floating from sides of the pan. Add cooked black peas into it. Lastly add garam masala over it. Mix everything and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes. Sprinkle finely chopped fresh coriander leaves over the top.
Piping hot black peas gravy or kala vatana sambar is ready to indulge.
If you like potatoes then feel free to use boiled potatoes in this recipe. Serve it with your favourite accompaniment. This is such a versatile recipe – you can make it thick and serve with roti/chapati while gravy version goes well with rice or dosa/amboli.
I hope you like this recipe and let me know any feedback in the comments below. Happy cooking !!