Quick Indian Dinner

Dinner, dinner, oh dinner! Why art thou so difficult to pin down? This quick Indian dinner of three quick recipes – Moong-Masoor Dal, Mom’s Paneer Saute and Rice will, I hope solve your conundrum as it has mine many a nights. 

The calendar year for me has always been divided into two blocks, school months and holiday months. In India, schools run from July to April with a month and a half or two of summer vacations and a short winter break. So, for me the period from May until July was always the time to catch up on books, movies, to sleep late and eat lots of yummy home cooked, mommy cooked food 🙂 ummmmm bliss!

But for some people in this world school is a never-ending, recurring process. My calendar is getting re-blocked and re-coded. Now the fun ends when September begins 😦

I have hopped onto the back to school wagon here in the States. While it’s great to be back in a classroom, pushed to thinking out of the box, dinners are challenging on school nights. Thankfully, as a graduate student I am not in class every single day of the week. So, there are days that I can still take my own sweet time to cook but for the rest of the week I do a quick Indian dinner which is filling and fairly healthy.

Quick Indian Dinner

Quick fix Indian dinner

Today, I am going to share with you one such quick fix consisting of Dal (lentil soup), Paneer (Indian style cottage cheese) and Rice. All three can be cooked and ready to eat in under an hour.

Moong Masoor Dal

Yellow Lentils

For a Quick Indian Dinner, here’s what you’ll need:

For the dal; serves 2-3, cooking time 20 minutes.

Split moong dal, 1/2 cup

Split masoor dal, 1/2 cup

Water 2 1/2 cups for pressure cooking

Turmeric 1 tsp

Salt 1 tsp

The tempering ingredients are the same for the lentils and the paneer.

Oil, vegetable/olive, 2 tablespoons.

Cumin seeds, 2 tsp

Onions, 2, chopped, not too fine.

Green chillies, chopped, 2

Garlic pods, chopped, 3-4

Coriander powder, 2 tsp

Red chilli powder, 2 tsp

Black pepper powder, 2 tsp

Chopped coriander (cilantro) 5-6 sprigs

Mom's Paneer Saute


For the Paneer, cooking time 20 minutes.

Paneer, 1 pound, cubed.

Tomatoes, 2, cubed.

Peppercorns, 5-8.

Coriander seeds, 1/2 tsp.

Basmati Rice

Basmati Rice

Rice, cooking time 15-20 minutes.

Basmati rice, 1 1/2 cup, washed.

Water 3 cups for cooking.


For the Dal: Both these lentils, masoor and moong are usually cooked together. So mix them together in a bowl and wash them well. Wash until the water runs clear. Once satisfied that they are as clean as you want them, put them into the pressure cooker. Add twice the amount of water i.e. 2 to 2 1/2 cups. Add a teaspoon of salt and of turmeric powder. Close the lid, put on the whistle and cook on high heat until you get the first whistle. This mix of lentils cooks very quickly. So after the first whistle turn down the heat and let it simmer until you get a weak second whistle, turn if off after that.

While the dal is getting pressure cooked, put on the rice. You should wash the rice under running water too and once the water runs clean throw them into a pot. Add twice the amount of water, 3 cups in this case. Cover and cook on medium heat. Basmati rice should not be disturbed while cooking. When you see fissures of steam and no sound of bubbling water, the rice are ready. Turn off the heat and let them sit.

The dal and rice will take about 15 to 20 minutes to cook.

Tadka and Steaming

Tadka and Steaming

Now for the tempering. You only need to chop things once. The ingredients for tempering the paneer and the dal are the same except for tomatoes, all we need to do is divide them evenly.  I use the same skillet for preparing the tempering for the dal and then cook the paneer in the same. Once done chopping, dicing and slicing, heat one tablespoon oil in a skillet. Add cumin seeds, once they start spluttering add garlic and onions. Cook them until translucent. Then add coriander powder, powdered black pepper and red chilli powder. Cook for a few minutes. Open the pressure cooker and add the tempering to it. Mix well and let it sit. I recommend heating it a little before serving. Garnish with chopped coriander (cilantro).

Dal, Paneer, Rice

Ready to Eat!

Use the same skillet for cooking paneer. Add a tablespoon of oil, heat it and as before add a teaspoon of cumin seeds, also add a teaspoon of coriander seeds and a few peppercorns. Put in the chopped garlic and onions. Add salt and pepper and saute till the onions become translucent. Throw in the tomatoes and cook them until they become soft and you can mash them with the back of a spoon. If you enjoy your food spicy add some chilli powder. Otherwise, just mix in the cubed paneer, cover and let it sit on sim for a few minutes (approximately 5). Garnish with chopped coriander (cilantro) and serve.

The three of them, rice, dal and paneer go together very well and make for a delicious and fulfilling meal. Enjoy!

Quick Indian Dinner

Dinner Done!

Dals that we recommend:

Parippu Dal Curry 

Dal Makhni 

Mahn di Dal 

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