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Priya’s Indian Peas

Submitted by on January 2, 2010 – 11:18 pmNo Comment


At Thanksgiving two years ago we invited a friend who was alone for the Holiday — his family was all in India during Thanksgiving.  As his contributory dish he brought a bowl of peas. I must say, I chuckled a little bit when I saw this, I mean, who **really** likes peas? When it came time to load up our plates, I politely served myself a small portion, I mean you have to be polite, right?  Well, much to my total surprise, when I took a bite of those peas I actually stopped chewing for a second and froze, just to try to understand what in the world I had just eaten. They were so surprisingly delicious.  The flavors were so rich, and the peas had a fresh, crisp type of consistency. It was not at all what I was expecting.  These didn’t taste like any peas I had ever, even remotely, tasted in my life!  In fact, those peas were the only thing I went back and had seconds on at Thanksgiving, (mostly because I was just stuffed, but I had to taste them just a once more).  I asked Jey (our Indian friend) about the peas, and he said it was his wife’s recipe and that she could email me the instructions from India.  When I got the email, I was a bit afraid. The peas called for a pressure cooker to be used, and I had no idea how to use one.  I didn’t own one, and was actually really intimidated by them. I mean, aren’t those things dangerous?  I was told that I “could” do it by boiling the peas longer than required by the pressure cooker, but after I did try that multiple times, I concluded that the peas just did not end up with the right consistency.  I ended up having Priya eventually take me shopping at the Indian Grocery store near our house (thank goodness, I would have been so lost without her), and then come to my house and demonstrate to me how to make the peas.  I have since become an expert at it, and have taught my parents how to make them too.  The only thing that I really had to go out and buy was a Pressure Cooker, but it turns out, they really aren’t that scary after all, and there are all kinds of things you can use them for other than just peas (artichokes, super tender meat, etc).  I got a Presto 6-Qt one, which is plenty big. I bought the same one for my parents for Christmas a year later.  My grandmother also has a Presto Pressure Cooker she has had for 50 years or so, and it still works great.  She told me that she uses it for many things on a regular basis to this day.

In this blog entry I thought I would go step by step through how to make the peas, complete with pictures and comments, so that hopefully all of you can make them too.

One other thing…I really do think that these peas help keep weight off. They are so high in fiber, and since I started eating a bowl of these maybe once a week or so I have dropped maybe 4-5 pounds in the last year, not changing anything else about my lifestyle or diet!

Priya’s Indian Peas


  • 2 Cups of Whole Dried Green Peas (green vatana)
  • 3/4 Tbsp Mustard Seeds
  • 1 Tbsp Cumin Seeds
  • 1 Tbsp Very Small White split Lentils (skinless urad dal)
  • 1 Tbsp Small Yellow split Lentils (nirav toor dal)
  • 1 Large Yellow Onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 tsp Red Pepper Flakes or 1 finely chopped/seeded green chile
  • 1 Tbsp Oil


  • Soak the Dried Peas for 2 hours in hot tap water and 1 tbsp salt. Rinse and remove any bad looking peas. Put Peas into Pressure cooker and cover with 2-3″ water. Bring up pressure until cooker “locks” in place, and leave at full pressure for 3 minutes. Turn off heat and let cool.
  • Put the oil in a pan and put the burner on medium heat.
  • Add the mustard seeds.
  • Once they start to break/splatter due to heat, add the other cumin seeds and lentils.
  • Stir vigorously so they don’t burn.
  • Once the color of lentils changes a bit, you can add the onion and red pepper flakes (or chopped green chile)
  • Drain the water from the peas and add the peas to the pan with the spices and onion.
  • Mix until it is cooked to your liking (taste as it cooks).

For reference, I took some pictures of the supplies to make this dish that I went out and acquired. In our area (Far North Dallas) we have an Indian Grocery Store called “Taj Mahal Imports” that carries their own brand of goods. They are really inexpensive and everything seems to be of good quality. I have not been able to find a website and don’t think they even have one.  If you are in the Dallas area, that store is at the South West corner of the intersection of I75 and Beltline Road.

Online, I did find a website that seems to carry most of the items needed for this recipe. I have included links to the items below with each picture.  The website is called

Dried Peas — Green VatanaToor Dal (also known as split pigeon peas)

Urad Dal (Split White Lentils or Maptebeans)
Cumin Seeds
You can also get these at any local grocery store, but they are generally WAY more expensive than buying them in bulk like this.

Crushed Chili — also known as Red Pepper Flakes. This is the same stuff that the Pizza delivery companies give you in the little packets.
Mustard Seeds

OK, so that is all the “exotic stuff” that you are going to need to acquire before you can get started. Once you have that, you are good to go. Now, onto the actual process.

The Pressure Cooker and the Peas

The first thing that you need to do is to soak the dried peas.  Pour the 2 cups of the dried peas into a bowl, add salt (about 1 tbsp, it’s a generous amount, but it’s really for the water) and fill with the hottest water you can get from your sink tap. Fill the bowl at least 2 inches above the peas, 3 inches if your bowl will allow. Set the bowl on the counter and leave it there for at 6-12 hours. When the peas are done soaking, they should look like the picture below. There will be some little, weird “crusties” floating around, that’s fine.

Pour the peas into a strainer and then rinse with water.

Next, get your pressure cooker out.  The one I use is Presto brand, but there are all sorts out there. Mine is a 6 qt. pressure cooker. It has a base insert that goes on the bottom (inside) to keep things from scalding on the bottom of the pot. If you have one of those, put it in. Pour the peas on top of that insert (if you have one). Add water to the level of about 1 inch above where the peas stop. You do not need a lot of water, as the peas have “grown” to about the size they are going to be when fully cooked.  They are not going to soak up a lot of the water from the pressure cooker at this point (believe it or not).

Here’s a picture of the level of water above the peas in my pressure cooker prior to cooking.

Put the lid on the pressure cooker and lock it into place. If you have one of the “bobbers” like mine has, add that on top.
At this point, unfortunately, I’m going to warn you that each person trying this (if you are not using the exact pressure cooker I have), is going to have to figure out how their pressure cooker behaves and how long things need to cook. For the pressure cooker I have I can tell you what works perfectly though!  I have an electric stovetop. I put the pressure cooker on one of the back “larger” burners and put the heat on level 5 (medium).  I then walk away for 10-15 minutes while it slowly builds up pressure.

On my pressure cooker there is a safety locking mechanism that prevents you from opening the cooker if it is under any pressure at all. It looks like this when it is in “safe” mode (it is down).

Once that thing goes up, the cooker is in “locked” mode. It is at this point that you need to set a timer. If you are paying attention during the cooking process, you will hear the pressure cooker at it is approaching locked mode.  It starts to make hissing noises (if you’ve never used a pressure cooker, the first time you do use one, this is about the point where you start getting nervous).  So, as I was saying, once it goes into locked mode you need to set your timer for 3 minutes. Don’t wait for the bobber to rock back and forth, if you do that, you will have split pea soup. Here’s what the little locking mechanism looks like when it is in “locked” mode (sorry for the blurry pic, it’s the only one we got of this stage):

When the timer goes off, slide the pressure cooker off the active burner. Make sure the pressure cooker is far from you, take a wooden spoon, and gently tip the bobber to slowly let off steam. The steam didn’t show up in the picture here, but this is what I am doing. Let the steam slowly escape from the pressure cooker over the next 2-3 minutes until the locking mechanism goes back down.

When the locking mechanism has fallen back down, you can open up the pressure cooker. The peas inside should still be round and solid. Some of their shells may have come off and risen to the top of the water, but it shouldn’t be too many. If you see a LOT of the shells have come off and risen to the top, you have cooked the peas just a tiny bit too long. You can still continue with the recipe, just the peas will not be as crisp as would have been ideal. It will still taste fine though!  Here’s what the peas should look like when cooked if they are done just the right amount of time:

Next, dump the peas into a strainer in the sink and splash with cold water to cool them down and stop the cooking process.  The metal disk in the strainer with the holes in it is the bottom “shield” that came with my pressure cooker that keeps things from scalding on the bottom of the pot.Cold water….This is the consistency you are looking for in your cooked peas as they come out of the pressure cooker:

Out of the Pressure Cooker, into the Frying Pan

Now we’re going to move over to the stovetop again!  First, this next process moves really quickly, so you must have your onions diced and ready to go beforehand.Gather up all your other ingredients and have them ready by the stove with a measuring spoon.  You will want to the following all close by and ready to use the second you need them: diced onions, oil, mustard seeds, the 2 types of split lentils, red pepper flakes and cumin seeds.  Heat up a non-stick saute pan that is large and deep. You cannot use a small or shallow frying pan for this, it has to be one of pretty good size and depth, like at least 2 inches deep, maybe 2-1/2. The one I use is by Calphalon, is 3 Qt and has vertical sides that are not “slanted”.

Turn the burner to Medium Heat (I use 5 on mine) and add the oil. Add the mustard seeds. Spread the mustard seeds out with a spatula so that they all are saturated with the oil and are only 1 seed deep across the pan. Wait. Wait about 5 minutes or so, maybe 7 minutes.You want to start hearing the mustard seeds begin to “pop” and “crackle”. When this happens, be ready to add both types of split lentils (dals) and the red pepper flakes.  Stir them rigorously while the mustard seeds continue to pop and crackle. You want the lentils to just start to slightly, ever so slightly begin browning and getting “toasty”.When the lentils are starting to brown, add the cumin seeds. Cumin seeds brown very quickly (in about 1 minute), so watch them closely. Stir aggressively. Watch that the lentils aren’t getting overly browned either.When the cumin is slightly browned, you are ready to throw in the onions. Toss the spice and lentil mixture with the onions. I use my spatula to pick up the spices off the bottom of the pan and flip the onions over, so that the onions are on the bottom and the spices are on the top. I do this over and over, so that the spices are evenly mixed with the onions. This allows the onions to cook, and to keep the spices/lentils from cooking a whole lot more, as they are not sitting directly on the pan surface, they are a bit insulated by the onion.Cook the onions by tossing them, spreading them out on the bottom of the pan, letting them simmer, then tossing and re-spreading. Do this for about 5-6 minutes, until the onions start to turn translucent in color.Now, throw the peas back into the pan with all of this.Scoop and toss, scoop and toss, mixing the onions and spices mixture thoroughly with the peas, allowing the peas to heat up and to fry a little bit on the bottom of the pan. Do this for 3-5 minutes. You really aren’t trying to “cook” the peas too much more, just to let them absorb some of the flavors, mix the spices in well, and reheat the peas all at once. The final product will look something like this.


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