Indian Cuisine

Indian Inspired Split Pea Soup with Spiced Yogurt

I taught a class on February 4th and asked the students at the end, “About which recipe would you like me to blog?”

They overwhelmingly replied, “The Soup!”

This delicious soup lasts five days in the refrigerator, and is packed with healing spices that can have a salutatory effect on the body when used regularly.

  • Cayenne pepper has been given credit for lowering cholesterol, fighting infection and acting as a natural anti-inflammatory.
  • Turmeric has been given credit for preventing cancer, acid reflux, inflammation, and Alzheimer’s.
  • Cumin has also been given credit for preventing Alzheimer’s.
  • Ginger has been given credit for aiding digestion and circulation, lowering cholesterol, and acting as an anti-inflammatory. It also speeds the recovery of a cold and sore throat and settles an upset stomach.
  • Beans are a great source of iron, fiber, and protein and also help lower cholesterol.

Karen Lee Secret: Roasting cumin enhances the flavor. I like to roast ¼ cup cumin seeds in a small iron skillet over low heat for a few minutes or until the seeds are a little darker and smell good. Let cool then pulverize in a Krups electric coffee mill or use a mortar and pestle. Store in refrigerator in a covered brown glass jar. Roasted cumin will keep its aroma for three months.

Split Pea Soup with Spiced Yogurt © Karen Lee 2014

Split Pea Soup with Spiced Yogurt © Karen Lee 2014


  • 1 2/3 cups organic yellow split peas
  • 6-7 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic (green stem removed if any), sliced
  • 2 cups diced sweet white onion (such as Vidalia) or half onion and half leek
  • ½ cup carrot, scrubbed but not peeled
  • ½ cup diced celery
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/3 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/16 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 cup diced ripe tomatoes
  • Garnish
  • Spiced yogurt
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Chopped cilantro


  1. Wash split peas, drain and simmer in 5 cups of the stock for 1 hour, cover askew, or until almost soft. Stir every fifteen minutes. Remove from heat; set aside.
  2. Pour the olive oil in a heated skillet over low heat. Sauté garlic and onions for 4 to 5 minutes until they just begin to color. Add carrots and celery, ginger, and continue to sauté for 2 minutes. Add the turmeric, cumin, salt, and cayenne; sauté over low heat for another 3-4 minutes until spices get a little darker and their aroma is released. Take care not to burn the spices. Add the tomatoes and simmer a few minutes. Then add the cooked peas and the remaining stock. With cover askew, simmer until the split peas are soft, approximately 20 minutes.
  3. To serve the soup, place one cup of pea soup in a bowl. Add 1½ teaspoons of lemon juice. Sprinkle with cilantro and a dollop of spiced yogurt.

The Spiced Yogurt recipe is adapted from The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison and can be made two days in advance and stored in refrigerator. Yields four to six portions.

Spiced Yogurt

Spiced Yogurt


  • 1 cup plain whole yogurt, hung, or use Greek yogurt
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon paprika
  • ½ teaspoon cumin, ground
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • ¼ teaspoon salt


  1. If using plain yogurt, cut a piece of cheesecloth about an 8-inch square. Rinse in cold-water; squeeze dry. Line strainer with cheesecloth and drain yogurt in strainer for a few hours.
  2. Place the yogurt in a bowl. Using five chopsticks (Chinese wooden whisk), stir in the spices.

Chicken Vindaloo

Chicken Vindaloo

Chicken Vindaloo

 Karen Lee’s adaptation of a Julie Sahni recipe.   Julie Sahni is the author of Indian cookbooks.

You can get a good butcher to cut up the chicken.  If the chicken is 3 pounds or less then leave the thighs whole.   I like to slip the skin off the legs as well.  Easy to do.  I prefer to skin the chicken as the sauce is less fatty this way.

This braised Indian dish is wonderful and flavorful.  A lemon rice pilaf (next week) , mint chutney (soon) and the saag paneer (see table of contents) would make a delicious dinner.

A good opportunity to use healthful Indian spices.  Chicken Vindaloo reheats well and lasts in frig for 3 days.

Julie Sahni says:  “A specialty of Goanese Christians of Portuguese descent, Vindaloo is a very hot and spicy curry flavored dish with cayenne and green chilies.  The Vindaloo sauce by itself may be used over meat and fish.  Combined with an equal portion of tomato sauce it makes a delightful barbecue sauce.”

One 3 to 3½ pound chicken (organic if possible) cut up, skin removed (remove legs and wings then skin the chicken, cut thighs in half and cut breast in 4 pieces)

¼ cup olive oil

2 cups chopped onion

1 Tbsp. chopped garlic, green stem removed if any

2 Tbsp. minced ginger

2 tsp. mustard seeds

1½ tsp. cumin

½ tsp. turmeric

½ tsp. cinnamon

¼ tsp. ground cloves

¼ tsp. cayenne

2 tsp. paprika

½ to 1 cup chicken stock

1  full tsp. tamarind paste

1 Tbsp. rice vinegar

1 tsp. dark brown sugar

1 tsp. salt

Garnish: 2 to 4 jalapeño finely diced, no seeds, no membrane; and cilantro leaves

Wash chicken by submerging and lifting the pieces in a bowl of cold water.  Dry each piece well.  Remove the kidneys if they have not been removed (they look like the color of liver and are lodged in the cavity near the rear end).

Place a 12–inch skillet over high heat for 1 minute.  Add ¼ cup olive oil and then the chicken pieces; spread them out in a single layer with a wooden spoon.  Turn the heat to medium.  Let them build a crust before turning.  Sauté about 8 minutes or until brown. Remove to a plate.

Turn the heat to low and add more oil if necessary; add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes; then add the onions and sauté for one minute; then add the ginger and continue to sauté for 5 minutes.  Add the cumin, mustard seeds, cinnamon, clove, turmeric, cayenne and paprika.  Sauté for about 3 minutes; then add the tamarind paste, sugar and vinegar and stir a minute; then add the chicken pieces and any resting juices from the plate.  Stir to mix, then add 1 cup of chicken stock.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat, and cook cover askew until the chicken is tender and the sauce has thickened, about 20 minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the chopped hot peppers and cilantro.

Indian Cooking Class

Indian cooking is so delicious and so good for you.  Recently I have had many requests from students who are interested in preparing Indian food at home so I scheduled an Indian class on February 19th.


When you add Indian spices such as turmeric and cumin to the oil and onions and slowly sauté them this enhances their flavor and health benefits.

Recommended companies that sell spices are:

Simply Organic and Penzeys.

Spices stored in the refrigerator in glass bottles will maximize their fresh scent.

For our Indian cooking class we made:

  • Indian Inspired Split Pea Soup with spiced yogurt
  • Chicken Vindalou
  • Saag Paneer
  • Lemon Rice
  • Raita
  • Mint Chutney
  • Baked Custard with fresh strawberry sauce

Here is the recipe for the Saag Paneer.


In a few days I will post the Chicken Vindalou recipe. It is adapted from Julie Sahni.

SAAG © Karen Lee 2013

(Indian method of preparing Spinach)

  • 1 ¼ pounds fresh spinach
  • 2 medium potatoes or 4 new potatoes, scrubbed and sliced (no more than 12 ounces or ¾ pound) (If using organic  do not peel)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup diced combination of onions and leeks
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, minced
  • ½ teaspoon blonde or black mustard seeds
  • 1/3 teaspoon turmeric
  • Pinch of cayenne
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • ½ tablespoon butter, broken into small pieces.

Remove stems from spinach in one motion and  discard. Wash spinach by submerging and lifting as many times as necessary to remove all sand and grit.  Place spinach in a bowl, not necessary to spin dry.

Have some boiling water ready in a separate pot.

Bring 1 ½ cups of water to a  boil in a 12- inch skillet.  Add the potatoes spreading them out into a single layer.  Cover and simmer until almost done, about 15 minutes.  Keep checking to make sure the water does not entirely evaporate.  Add spinach, cover and cook another 2 minutes.

When the potatoes and spinach are cooked they should have no more than a few tablespoons of liquid at the bottom of the skillet.

While the potatoes are cooking:

In a second skillet over medium low heat sauté the onions, leeks,  garlic, and  ginger for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the mustard seeds, turmeric, cayenne and salt; sauté another 2-3 minutes. turn off  heat.

Add the cooked spinach, potatoes and all the remaining cooking liquid.  Mix then place mixture in a bowl or a bain marie (tall stainless steel utensil) and zap it using an emersion blender or you can use a food processor.

Add lemon juice and more salt if needed.  Saag can be made one day in advance and reheated.

If making the Saag and serving immediately or within a few hours you can reheat in the same skillet in which the Saag was made.

When eating dot with Paneer and little bits of butter. Paneer is Indian cheese. You can substitute ricotta or mozzarella.




Chick Pea Stew

Chick Pea Stew   ©Karen Lee 2011

Today I made for lunch:  Roasted potatoes, braised kale and Chick Pea Stew. I love having a vegetarian lunch. It is light, low in calories and gives you a boost of energy.  Chick Pea Stew is a good way to have your turmeric/cumin fix of the day.

Chick Pea Stew


    For the Stew:
  • 1 cup of cooked chick peas (preferably dried, soaked, and simmered; see recipe below); you can substitute canned
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic (green stem removed), sliced
  • ¼ cup diced leeks or onion
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1/16 teaspoon cayenne or a tablespoon of finely diced fresh hot pepper (no seeds no membrane)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 2/3 cup diced ripe tomato
  • 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil for finishing
  • For the Chick Peas:
  • 1 cup of dry chick peas
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 bay leaf


  1. Rinse a small saucepan with water and then dry over low heat. When water evaporates add the 1 tablespoon of olive oil and then the garlic; sauté for 2 minutes or until the garlic just begins to take on a light color.
  2. Add the leeks; continue to sauté for another minute.
  3. Then add the salt, cayenne, cumin and turmeric; slowly sauté for about 3 minutes stirring with a wooden spoon every once in a while and taking care not to burn the spices.
  4. Add the tomato; simmer for 5 minutes or until it has made a sauce.
  5. Add the chick peas; simmer another 2 minutes.
  6. Dish then drizzle extra virgin olive oil over all. Taste for salt.
  7. For the chick peas
  8. Measure and wash 1 cup of chick peas. Drain.
  9. Place in a large glass bowl and cover with water generously (about 7 inches).
  10. Place a plate or loose cover over the chick peas and allow to soak for 8 hours.
  11. Drain and discard the water.
  12. Bring 2 cups of water to a boil in a medium size saucepan. Add the chick peas, return to a boil. Add one bay leaf.
  13. With cover askew simmer one hour checking every 15 or so minutes; simmer until soft. You may need to add more water. The finished chick peas should just have a few tablespoons of water in the pan. Add salt at the end of the cooking time.


Anything left over can be stored in the frig for 5 days.

When the Indian spices are allowed to sauté slowly in the oil over low heat it brings out the flavor and health benefits.

½ cup of cooked beans a day is a good goal to have in your diet.  Beans provide protein without fat and they add fiber.  They have been given credit for lowering cholesterol and helping prevent heart disease.  Additionally, chick peas are good for the kidneys.

If you choose canned chick peas, always rinse before using.

I love to have cooked chick peas in the frig ready to go because they are great in salads, soups, or to make hummus.

Never throw out the chick pea liquid:  you can use it in soup or rice or as a substitute for stock in vegetarian cooking.

Cooked chick peas will last for 5 days in the frig.

Lentil Minestrone Soup

Tips: Do not let the soup boil at any time. Just a lazy simmer. Measure the dried spices level. I prefer to make my own stock but if you wish to buy stock choose one without salt, msg, or chemicals. I like to use a combination of vegetable and chicken stock. Gently heat the stock in a separate saucepan before adding it to the soup.

If possible use organic lentils and vegetables. My first choice lentils are Shiloh Farms black beluga lentils, second choice is  French green lentils, but you could use any kind of lentils. Spread the lentils out on a white plate and look them over for stones and shaft. Then wash them like rice, i.e., you put lentils in a bowl, cover them with cold water; let any dirt particles float to the top and then pour them off along with the water. Soaking lentils over night is not necessary.

For the pasta my first choice is the tortellini made by a company in Bologna, named Bertagni. Their pasta is sold in N.Y.C. at Fairway and Zabars. Or you could use a short dried pasta of your choice. You can store the soup in the frig for 5 days. Great to come home to.

Lentil Minestrone Soup

Serving Size: 4-6


  • ½ cup lentils, washed and drained
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra to finish
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced (green stem removed, if any)
  • 1 cup diced onion
  • 1 cup diced leek (white and light green parts)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1/3 tsp. cumin
  • 1/3 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/8 tsp. cayenne
  • 1/2 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 cup diced ripe tomatoes (or substitute canned tomatoes)
  • 8-9 cups combination of vegetable and chicken stock
  • ½ bunch Swiss chard, washed and cut finely
  • 1 cup fresh tortellini, boiled and drained
  • Rosemary oil (see recipe on blog) to add at the end or a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup (or more) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
  • Chopped parsley for garnish


  1. Bring 1½ cups of water to a boil. Add the lentils and bring back to a boil. Add the bay leaves; cover, turn heat to low and simmer 35 to 40 minutes; taste to see is they are soft. Turn off heat.
  2. Place a wide pot 10 to 12 inches preferable stainless steel or enamel over high heat for one minute. Turn the heat to medium-low and add 3 tablespoons of oil and then the garlic. Sauté for 2 minutes, then add the onions and leeks and continue to sauté for 3 to 4 minutes. Add the salt, cumin, turmeric, and cayenne; continue to sauté for another 3 minutes. Add the carrots and celery and sauté another minute. Add the tomato paste and move it around with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes then add the tomatoes. Turn the heat to high and add 8 cups of stock, bring to just below boiling and then turn the heat to low and simmer 10 minutes with cover askew; then add the cooked lentils and simmer another 10 to 15 minutes, cover askew.
  3. In a separate 12-inch sauté pan, sauté greens in olive oil for 3-4 minutes adding a little stock as you go. Taste for salt just before serving, add the greens and the pasta to the soup; check the thickness and add more stock if necessary and bring back to a simmer. Serve with extra virgin olive oil drizzled into each bowl, or rosemary oil and grated Parmesan and chopped parsley.