Healthy Dishes

Achari Vegetables; Methi Dhal’ – more food, less guilt

by: admin


Solar cooking is also not an unusual occurrence in my household growing up; rather, it was the daily routine. Large bowls of beans, lentils, and grains would be positioned to face the sun rising in order to cook slowly. My grandma would rotate the cooker every hour to capture the sun’s rays. The sun’s rays would finish cooking the beans in the afternoon, making them tender and flavorful. Discarded food scraps went into a compost pit, where they were slowly decomposed by earthworms and other natural forces once they were ready to be repurposed as fertiliser for the kitchen garden’s many growing plants and flowers. Rather than being drilled into me by well-intentioned, but formal, sources of knowledge, I grew up in a household where recycling and reusing were the norm.

My main gripe with living in the United Arab Emirates is my ecological food footprint. When Sarah spoke about the difference between organic eggs with flying tickets and non-organic and local highway weary chickens she hit the nail right on the head. As a result of the enormous amount of plastic waste I generate every time I go grocery shopping, my ecological “foodprint” has all but crumbled. As well as canned goods there are packaging options like shopping bags and little tote bags that you may use to pick up veggies. No, I don’t produce my own compost again for four and a half pots of plants I grow at my window ledge. There aren’t any homegrown vegetables, therefore my 0 and 100 mile food philosophy is out of the question.

You may have heard of the term “100 mile diet,” which refers to eating food farmed or obtained within a hundred kilometres of where you live, but what exactly does that mean? Instead of relying on a web of intermediaries, manufacturers, shippers, and retailers to connect the world’s farmers and customers, local food systems do so directly and directly with the people who need them. Consumers can once again connect with producers through a “relationship” when local food ecosystems are in place, encouraging quality control in both the product and its manner of production. As a result, consumers in the United Arab Emirates must recognise and support local growers. Creating a market for ethically and organically grown food is possible if local growers are supported.

Importing food by plane has an environmental footprint six times bigger than if it were transported by road. This makes it tough for me to choose a side. Most of the time, the ingredients I use to prepare traditional Emirati dishes come from more than three or four different nations. However, living in the harsh desert temperatures, it is an uneven war that we must fight. However, even the tiniest of modifications can have a positive impact on our surroundings and our own well-being.

Make the switch to a plant-based diet (of sure I would recommend this!) Eating less or just no meat is the single best thing you could do to lessen your food’s environmental effect. Producing one pound of beef consumes 50 times more energy than producing one pound of soybeans, among other startling numbers. For those of us who live in the United Arab Emirates, eating seasonal vegetables and fruit that are grown locally or near to home can be a good starting point. Another strategy to reduce your food footprint is to cook more at home.

Environmental vegetarians advocate for less meat eating in the industrialised world. An average individual in a high-income country’s ecological footprint is around six times larger than that of someone from a deep south and many more times larger than in the least developed countries, according to the UN Population Fund. US meat consumption is 1.5 times overall industrial economy normal, nearly twice the East Asian norm, and seven times the Bangladeshi average, according to the UNPF report. Worldwatch Institute believes “large decreases in consumption of meat in industrialised nations will relieve the healthcare burden while enhancing public health; falling animal herds will allow the improve agricultural base to renew.’ Reducing meat consumption will enable for more efficient utilisation diminishing per capita groundwater resources while also increasing the affordability of grain for the world’s chronically hungry people as populations increase.” My favourite argument comes from a UNEP report from 2010: “Unlike natural gas, it is hard to discover alternatives: individuals have to feed. Only a major shift in the global diet away from physical products would be sufficient to significantly reduce environmental impacts.”

Vegetarians in the Emirates often have to improvise because the options are limited. However, on the other hand, I believe that things are better because we are able to cook and dine more at home. Crispy winter vegetables roasted in mustard oil flavoured with Bengali way five flavor (paanch phoron) & methi dhal, my personal favorite dhal to make. This is the recipe from today’s lunch.

Vegetables from the Achari region that are perfect for winter cooking (my own invention)


  1. 1 1/2 cups florets of cauliflower, using as much of the stem as possible, including the stalk and leaves.
  2. A sliver of a carrot
  3. Slicing an Indian radish or mooli
  4. Fresh green peas in half a cup
  5. A medium-sized onion, cut into small pieces
  6. ginger garlic paste in a tbsp
  7. To taste, 1 tbsp paanch phoron
  8. Turmeric is one teaspoon
  9. One-half tsp of paprika
  10. 1 tbsp. of sugar
  11. Add salt and vinegar to taste if desired.
  12. 2 tablespoons of cooking oil, such as mustard or an other type of oil,


When cooking with mustard oil, the basic procedure is to heat the oil to smokey flavor, then lower the flame to let the oil to cool down a bit. Add the five spices, chopped onions, and ginger-garlic paste, put on the heat, and sauté until the veggies turn pink, then remove from the heat.

Stir in the mustard, paprika, salt, and sugar.

A tablespoon of vinegar should be added and cooked for around approximately 3 minutes. Cover and simmer on low heat until the veggies are fork-tender but still a touch crunchy.

The Methi Dhal


  • Arhar/Toor/Pigeon Pea Dhal 1 cup
  • A medium-sized onion, cut into small pieces
  • Finely minced garlic from 2 to 3 cloves
  • A medium-sized tomato, cut into small pieces
  • Turmeric is one teaspoon
  • Dried chillies with a cherry bomb flavour )
  • Toss in a teaspoonful of mustard seeds
  • A teaspoonful of Kasoori Methi 
  • 1 tbsp. oil, salt to preference


As soon as the oil is hot enough to sauté, add the chillies, sputter the mustard seeds, and then add the garlic and onions and cook till the onions are translucent. 

Add the tomatoes and simmer until they’re mushy.

Season with kasoori methi, turmeric, salt and pepper, and mix thoroughly.

Add the cooked dhal and adjust the consistency by adding more or less water, as desired. Put a lid on the pot and heat it slowly for 5 minutes. Enjoy with rice or chapattis, hot or cold.




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