Life Extension Magazine®
Spoons of ingredients for the Indian Vegetarian Cookbook

Issue: Jun 2019

The Indian Vegetarian Cookbook

In The Indian Vegetarian Cookbook, author Pushpesh Pant includes 150 simple recipes that are part of daily Indian fare.

By Laurie Mathena.

Pushpesh Pant is a leading expert on Indian cuisine. His previous book, India: The Cookbook, published in 2010, became a global bestseller and is referred to as the first comprehensive guide to Indian cooking.

Now, in his long-awaited follow-up, The Indian Vegetarian Cookbook, Pant provides delicious, authentic, and approachable vegetarian dishes tasty enough to be enjoyed by vegetarians and meat-eaters alike.

The new book draws on the author’s unique culinary repertoire shaped by geography, history, culture, and most notably, by his mother.

“My mother excelled at transforming the [ordinary] into the exotic by improvising on what she had tasted in her life’s journeys,” said Pant. It is what caused him to fall in love with vegetables.

This collection of 150 recipes is largely what Pant considers “simple home recipes that are part of daily Indian fare.”

In addition to a broad array of recipes for drinks, salads, vegetables, legumes, and grains, Pant also includes suggested menus, a handy glossary of terms, and spice blends that have come to define the flavor of the region.

Here, Life Extension Magazine® highlights four flavorful recipes from The Indian Vegetarian Cookbook that are sure to awaken the senses and transport your kitchen to South Asia. Enjoy them in good health.

—Laurie Mathena

What you need to know

Indian food offers a wide range of benefits, especially when it comes to aiding in the fight against inflammation. Pushpesh Pant is the author of The Indian Vegetarian Cookbook, which provides authentic vegetarian recipes that even meat-eaters would enjoy. Read for yourself.

Cabbage Stir-fry with Coconut

Cabbage Stir-fry with Coconut

MUTTAI KOSE VELLAI PORIYAL • Preparation time: 5-7 minutes • Cooking time: 7 minutes • Serves: 4

This is a traditional stir-fry from south India where such dishes are described as Poriyal. Much less oil is used than in the north and the cabbage is lightly cooked. Freshly grated coconut adds a very pleasant sweetness to it.


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 4-6 curry leaves (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons urad dal lentils (black gram)
  • 5 cups (1 lb/450 g) shredded cabbage
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh root ginger
  • 2 fresh, green chiles, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon fresh shredded or dried and grated (desiccated) coconut

PREPARATION: Heat the oil in a skillet (frying pan) over medium heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the curry leaves, if using, mustard seeds and dal and fry for 30 seconds, or until the mustard seeds sputter and the lentils are golden. Add the cabbage, ginger, and green chiles and fry for 2 minutes, or until well-blended with the spices. Add the salt, then cover and cook over low heat for 3 minutes, or until the cabbage is tender but still crisp. Add the coconut, stir to combine, and remove from the heat to serve.

Split Red Dal

Split Red Dal

MASOOR DAL • Preparation time: 15 minutes, plus soaking time • Cooking time: 20-25 minutes • Serves: 4

Masoor or Egyptian lentils are arguably the most celebrated dal. There is a story about a temperamental chef in Lucknow who was so enraged with his employer—a Nawab addicted to chess—who kept the chef waiting and allowed the specially cooked dal to get cold. The chef left in a huff after pouring the dal on the stump of a tree. The next day, the dried wood sprouted fresh shoots and the Nawab realized what he had lost.


  • 1½ cups (9 oz/250 g) masoor dal (split red lentils), rinsed and drained
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon ghee or vegetable oil
  • 4 dried red chiles
  • ½ teaspoon ajwain (carom) seeds, ground
  • 1⁄3 cup (¾ oz/20 g) chopped cilantro (coriander) leaves
  • 4 fresh, green chiles, halved lengthwise and de-seeded
  • salt, to taste

PREPARATION: Put 5 cups (2 pints/1.2 liters) water in a large, heavy-based pan and add the masoor dal and turmeric. Bring to the boil and remove the scum from the surface with a slotted spoon, then reduce the heat, season with salt, and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until the dal is soft. Stir to break up the dal.

Heat the ghee or oil in a skillet (frying pan) over medium heat, add the dried red chiles and ground ajwain (carom) seeds and stir-fry for about 2 minutes, or until the chiles turn a shade darker. Pour over the dal, then cover and simmer for about 2 minutes. Add the chopped cilantro (coriander) and green chiles before serving.

Lentil & Vegetable Stew

Lentil and Vegetable Stew

SAMBAR • Preparation time: 30 minutes • Cooking time: 1 hour • Serves: 4

No Indian meal is complete without a lentil dish and the south-Indian sambar has an unrivalled pan-India following. This vegetable enriched lentil soup is served with snacks such as Dosa and Idli and, accompanied by rice, can also comprise a separate course in a formal meal. There are many regional variations and it would be a very brave man who would hazard to share an ‘authentic’ recipe. Until a few years ago, many families laboriously pounded sambar masala following a recipe handed down the generations. Now people are more likely to buy it.


  • scant 1 cup (7 oz/200 g) arhar/toor dal (yellow split pigeon peas), rinsed, soaked in water for 30 minutes, and drained
  • 7 oz/200 g vegetable drumsticks or green beans
  • 4 fresh, green chiles, slit lengthwise
  • 4 oz/120 g medium shallots, left whole
  • 11 oz/300 g medium tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon Sambar Masala
  • 2 tablespoons tamarind extract
  • 3 teaspoons chopped cilantro (coriander) leaves
  • salt, to taste


  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon urad dal lentils (black gram), rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 15-20 curry leaves
  • pinch of asafoetida

PREPARATION: Put the arhar/toor dal in a large, heavy-based pan, add the vegetable drumstick or green beans, green chiles, shallots, tomatoes, turmeric, and chili powder, 4¼ cups (34 fl oz/1 liter) water, and season with salt to taste. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium-low, and simmer for 20 minutes. Stir in the Sambar Masala and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes.

Heat the oil for tempering in a skillet (frying pan) over medium heat, add the lentils and seeds, and cook for about 1 minute, until the seeds start to sputter. Add the curry leaves and asafoetida, and stirfry, until the leaves sputter. Pour this mixture over the sambar, then add the tamarind extract and stir well. Simmer on low heat for about 15 minutes.

Finally, add the chopped cilantro (coriander) and adjust the seasoning before serving.

Morels in Yogurt Sauce

KANAGUCCHI • Preparation time: 15 minutes • Cooking time: 15 minutes • Serves: 4-6

This recipe from Kashmir is one of the most sublime and subtly spiced of all Indian vegetarian gravy dishes. Morels, locally called gucchi, are a very expensive ingredient and are served on special occasions. They have a delicate flavor that can be easily killed by strong spices.


  • 2 cups (2 oz/50 g) dried morels
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
  • 1 onion, finely sliced (optional)
  • 5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) yogurt, whisked
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground fennel
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • salt, to taste
  • cilantro (coriander) leaves, to garnish

PREPARATION: Soak the morels in hot water for 1 hour, then drain and wash thoroughly to remove any grit. Squeeze dry and set aside.

Heat the oil or ghee in a large, heavy-based pan over medium heat. Add the onion, if using, and fry for 2-4 minutes, until translucent but not browned. Add the garlic and fry for 1 minute, then add the morels, seasoning with salt to taste. Cook, shaking the pan from time to time, for about 8-10 minutes, until all the water has evaporated. Add 1 cup (8 fl oz/250 ml) water and bring to the boil. When boiling, pour in the whisked yogurt and add the ginger and fennel, stirring briskly to ensure that the gravy does not curdle. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the gravy reaches a thin, custard-like consistency. Sprinkle over the crushed cumin seeds, garam masala, and cilantro (coriander) leaves to serve.

The Indian Vegetarian Cookbook
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If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.

Reprinted from The Indian Vegetarian Cookbook (Phaidon 2019).