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Books for Cooks: Bestselling UK cookbook author looks to the East for vegetal inspiration

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Black-eyed Pea and Chickpea Usal

Excerpted from "East" by Meera Sodha. Copyright © 2020 by Meera Sodha. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. Photography by David Loftus.

The first of the year finds many ready to cut their calorie intake, while still dining on dishes that are warm and comforting. Here’s where UK top-selling author Meera Sodha steps in. Her newest cookbook, “East: 120 Vegan and Vegetarian Recipes from Bangladore to Beijing,” is a compilation of weeknight dishes made from easy-to-find ingredients.

Sodha writes that she knows “how to make bitter kale leaves sing and how to tempt a beet hater into eating a plateful.” As you cook through her recipes, you will, too. Flatiron Books. $35.

Black-eyed Pea and Chickpea Usal

You can swap the beans and legumes listed for whatever you have at hand: I particularly like sprouted mung beans in my usal, but they’re not easy to find in stores and take a few days to sprout from scratch. This is best eaten with a hunk of bread for mopping up the spicy juices.

East

Excerpted from "East" by Meera Sodha. Copyright © 2020 by Meera Sodha. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. Photography by David Loftus.

Ingredients

¼ cup canola oil

2 medium red onions, chopped

2 green finger (or serrano) chiles, very finely chopped

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

½ pound ripe tomatoes, chopped

1¾ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon red chile powder, such as Kashmiri

1 teaspoon garam masala

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1 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon ground turmeric

1 x 14-ounce can of black-eyed peas, drained

1⅔ cups frozen petite peas, defrosted

1 x 14-ounce can of chickpeas, drained

½ lb. snow peas

1 tbsp. lemon juice

Handful of fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

Directions

Heat the oil in a pot over a high flame. When hot, add the onions and chiles and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions look like pink jewels. Stir in the garlic, cook for 2 minutes, then add the tomatoes. When the tomatoes have broken down and become paste-like (around 5 minutes), add the salt and spices, and stir-fry for a minute.

Pour 1 quart of water into the pot, bring it to a boil, then turn down the heat to medium and leave to bubble away for 8 minutes. Stir in the black-eyed peas, petite peas, chickpeas and snow peas, cook for about 5 minutes, then take off the heat.

Mix in the lemon juice and cilantro, taste and adjust the seasoning if need be. Divide the peas and legumes between four bowls, ladle the spiced broth on top, and serve.

Excerpted from "East" by Meera Sodha. Copyright © 2020 by Meera Sodha. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. Photography by David Loftus.

Reach Hanna Raskin at 843-937-5560 and follow her on Twitter @hannaraskin.

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