Cook's Hideout: Indian Dinner in 30minutes

March 09, 2011

Indian Dinner in 30minutes

So now don’t expect to see a whole spread of Indian dishes made from scratch in 30 minutes. That’s not going to happen, it probably will happen in your kitchen, but not in mine. I had to take some short-cuts to make 3 dishes in 30 minutes. Bear with me, this is going to be a long post (I know it's kind of ironic that I've a long post for a quick meal).
I used to watch Rachael Ray’s “30 minute meals” very religiously few years ago. When I tried to make the same dish at home, it used to take more than 30 minutes and I wondered if Rachael was even for real.

Keeping with the theme of “30 minute meals” for blogging marathon, I wanted to challenge myself to make a typical south Indian meal with rice, rasam (pappu chaaru) and curry in 30 minutes. I used frozen toor dal (from past weekend) and store-bought roasted unsalted peanuts to make the gravy for the curry. To tell you the truth, 30 minutes whizzed past pretty fast and if I didn’t have my eyes on the clock and rushed around the kitchen like a mad woman, it might have taken a little longer.

Mirchi ka SalanHere’s how dinner was made in 30minutes:
6:40-6:45PM: Washed rice in a pressure cooker and left it to soak for 10 minutes. Heated a sauce pan (for rasam) and sauté pan for the curry on medium-high heat. Cut 2 red onions & 3 green chilies (need twice, chop once).
6:45 – 6:50: Added 2tsp oil to both the heated pans; added tempering (fenugreek seeds, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, curry leaves, dry red chilies & hing) in the saucepan for dal and let it splutter. Added half of the onions to the curry pan and sautéed the onions with ginger+garlic paste until onions were browned around the edges (about 3-5minutes). Added the remaining half of the chopped onions to the dal pan and cooked until they turned translucent (about 3 minutes).
6:50 – 6:55: Zapped the frozen dal for 2 minutes in the microwave. Chopped 15 mini-bell peppers and 2 ripe tomatoes. Started pressure cooking rice. Once the onions for the curry were done, removed them into blender jar and set aside. Heated 1 tbsp oil in the same pan; added mustard & cumin seeds and after they spluttered, added the peppers, covered the pan and allowed to soften.
6:55-7:00: Onions for the dal were ready by this time, so added the tomatoes; covered and cooked them for 3 minutes. Next added rasam powder, salt, brown sugar, tamarind paste, cooked dal along with 2 cups of water. Left it to simmer on medium flame. To the cooked onions in the blender jar, added roasted peanuts, bagara baingan masala (store-bought), red chili powder, ground cumin, brown sugar, salt, tamarind paste and tahini and blended them into a smooth paste with 1-2cups of water.
7:00 – 7:05: Added the peanut paste into the pepper mixture, seasoned with some salt; covered the pan and left it to simmer on medium flame. The cooker had whistled once already.
7:07: Second whistle and the rice was done.
7:08: Rasam simmered long enough, turned that off.
7:10: Curry simmered long enough and the peppers were tender but a little crisp, turned that off.

The next 15 minutes were spent in cleaning up the mess and some dirty dishes. By 7:30 we were ready to have dinner. Now for the recipes in a more leisurely pace.

Pappu chaaru (Rasam with dal)
Dal – 1 cup, cooked
Onion – 1 medium, thinly sliced
Green chilies – 3, slit vertically
Rasam powder – 2tsp
Red chili powder – ½ tsp
Tamarind paste* – 2tsp (see note 1 below)
Jaggery (or Brown sugar) – 1tsp (or to taste)
Turmeric – ½ tsp
Salt – to taste

Fenugreek seeds – ¼ tsp
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Dry Red chilies – 2
Hing – pinch
Curry leaves - 6

  • Heat 2tsp oil in a medium sauce pan. Add the tempering ingredients and once the seeds start to splutter, add onions and green chilies and sauté until onions turn translucent, about 3 minutes.
  • Next add chopped tomatoes and turmeric; cover and cook until tomatoes are cooked and turn into mush, another 3 minutes.
  • Then add rasam powder, red chili powder, brown sugar, tamarind paste, cooked dal and salt along with 2 cups of water.
  • Bring to a simmer on medium-high heat; lower heat to medium and simmer until all the flavors combine, about 10 minutes. Serve hot with steamed rice.
Mini Peppers in Peanut Gravy This dish is a 30 minute spin off on the very famous Hyderabadi mirch ka salan and bagara baingan.

Mini Sweet Peppers – 15, chopped
Red onion – 1 large, chopped
Ginger+garlic paste – ½ tsp
Roasted peanuts (preferably unsalted) – ¼ cup
Bagara Baingan masala powder (or garam masala) – 1tsp
Red chili powder – ½ tsp
Jaggery (brown sugar) – 1tsp (or to taste)
Tamarind paste* - 1tsp (see Note 1 below)
Ground cumin – ½ tsp
Tahini (Ground sesame seeds paste)** – 2tsp (see Note 2 below)
Mustard seeds – ½ tsp
Cumin seeds – ½ tsp
Salt – to taste

  • Heat 2tsp oil in a sauté pan; add onions and sauté on medium-high heat stirring frequently until browned around the edges, about 3-5 minutes.
  • Add ginger+garlic paste and cook for 1 minute.
  • Remove onions from the pan; heat 1tbsp oil in the same pan; add mustard & cumin seeds and once they start to splutter, add the chopped peppers; cover and cook until half way cooked through, about 5-8 minutes.
  • In the meantime make the peanut gravy, to the onions, add peanuts, tahini, masala powders, salt, tamarind paste and brown sugar and blend into a smooth paste with 1-2 cups of water.
  • Add the gravy to the peppers, cover and cook until peppers are tender, about 6-8 minutes.
Mirchi ka Salan
Note1 : Tamarind Paste - I make tamarind paste at home with tamarind that my mom sends me from India. Take about 2 cups of tamarind with 2 cups of water in a saucepan, bring the mixture to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the mixture cool. Then blend it up into a smooth paste. If you have time and energy, use a strainer to take out the strings so the paste is really smooth. Use as needed.

Note 2 - I recently found that I can add tahini to gravies instead of making my own roasted ground sesame powder. Both of them are basically the same but tahini has some oil in it and is a liquid. If you don’t have tahini, then add some roasted sesame seeds to the peanuts when grinding.

Lets see what my fellow marathoners have cooked up for the 6th day of our 7 day marathon:
30 Minutes Meals:


  1. u go girl!!....well if we dont take lots of short cuts like Rachel, we wont be done in 30min....more over our cooking from start to finish takes longer since we need everything well done....but American cooking is more half done and everything put together like salad, or a sandwich or pasta....
    u did good and a great job!...everything looks awesome!
    Smitha's Spicy Flavors

  2. Whoa that was fast!! I usually spend on an average about 30-40 min from start to finish everyday. I have a cooker which cooks super fast (dal cooks in under 20 min) and use an electric rice cooker to cook rice.

  3. American food is half/not cooked as Smitha mentioned. Great job to whip up an Indian meal in 30 min dear!

  4. Wow thats really fast, personally pressure cooker helps a lot for super fast cooking, that pappu chaaru & peppers in peanut gravy looks comforting and yummy..

  5. wow...good start and finish....lovely pic.....

  6. I can make a very decent meal under 30 mins and ofcourse I prefer simple curries,fry or some pulavs..u did a very decent job dear..:)
    ur meal looks perfect..:)

  7. Pavani, that was superb!..I made a similar meal with pappu chaaru, arbi roast with rice in 30 mins. really a marvelous job

  8. Wow this is cool...looks so yum n love to have fast meals

  9. superb and quick fast meal :)

  10. Good job there! Reading you post felt like I was watching iron chef on food network... :)


  11. That was super fast, Pavani. I know those TV show hosts seem to make everything look easy and quick. :) And half of our time would be gone in prep work alone.
    However I think south Indian style cooking can be managed under 30 minutes if rice and dal are cooked at the sametime in the pressue cooker.


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