Tag Archives: dinner

Baingan Ka Bharta

baingan ka bharta

Baingan ka bharta, smoky eggplant cooked with onions, tomatoes and garam masala

As summer draws to a close and the days shorten, I’m sometimes at a loss as to what I want to eat. Something cooling or something warming? Something light or comfort food? In a few more weeks, this won’t be a problem. In a few more weeks, I’ll be wanting Daal or a hearty stew almost every day. Till then, I want to enjoy what’s left of the sun before it disappears from Seattle skies for another eight months. Till then, I want something light and comforting.

That’s where this brilliant dish comes in. Once you make it, it’s up to you to eat it piping hot, scooped up in warm naan or eat it cold mixed with a swirl of yogurt and a bit of rice. It can be made into a light meal or a substantial one. It’s also great for weekend brunches as you can spread some of that smoky eggplant goodness on crusty slices of baguette and top off with gruyere.

In this Punjabi dish, the eggplant is traditionally smoked by placing it whole in a fire or on hot coal. At home, I roast the eggplant in the oven. You could also use the broiler.

Baingan ka bharta is easily one of my favorite eggplant dishes. I love eggplant. I have an unabashed and unapologetic desire for it’s taste and texture. If you’re not sure about this glorious vegetable, be warned, this recipe might not be for you!

And finally, here’s the recipe after the pictures.

Oven roasted eggplant

Oven roasted eggplant, shriveled up but oh so tasty

peeling the oven roasted eggplant

Peeling the oven roasted eggplant

 

Roasted eggplant curry served with pita bread

Roasted eggplant curry served with pita bread

pita bread with baingan ka bharta

Baingan ka bharta in pita! Served with a side of roasted cauliflower for a delicious vegan meal.

 

Baingan Ka Bharta

(Printer friendly recipe for baingan ka bharta)

Ingredients

  • 2 large eggplants
  • 2 teaspoons + 4 tablespoons high heat oil
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 inch ginger, grated
  • 3 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
  • Roughly 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/2 a lime or to taste
  • Cilantro for garnish
  • Tomato slices for garnish

Recipe

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Rinse and dry the whole eggplants. Smear them all over with high heat oil. Place the eggplants on a tray lined with foil or parchment paper. Bake for 40 minutes or till the eggplants are wrinkly and shrivelled up. Don’t worry, they’ll taste all smoky and rich! Broiling them should speed it up but unfortunately we have an old gas oven and the broiler is inconsistent. You can roast the eggplants ahead of time and refrigerate them if you like.
  2. Once the eggplants are cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and cut the ends. You can remove the seeds if you dislike the bitterness of eggplants. Chop roughly.
  3. Heat the oil in a large pan or wok over medium heat. The oil is hot enough if a cumin seed thrown in sizzles.
  4. Sizzle the cumin seeds for just 10 seconds before adding the onions, garlic and ginger.
  5. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently or till the onion is slightly brown.
  6. Add all the spices, tomatoes and 1/2 glass of water. Cook for another 10 minutes or till the tomatoes are mushy and the oil has separated.
  7. Add the eggplant, cover and simmer on low for 20 minutes.
  8. Salt to taste and squeeze half of a fresh lime. Garnish with chopped cilantro and slices of tomato.
  9. Serve with naan, pita bread, spread on baguette or with rice.

Have a glorious weekend!

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A Biryani (almost) fit for the Nizam

Chicken biryani with brown basmati rice

The last Nizam of the former princely state of Hyderabad in South India was the richest man in the world in his time. Accounting for inflation, his fortune still ranks as one of the world’s all time highest. The Nizam was no mere ‘His Highness’ but rather ‘His Exalted Highness’. For all his wealth, the last Nizam is said to be a miser, eccentric in many ways. He was even on the cover of Time magazine in 1937.

As the Nizams before him, he too expected only the best food to be served at his royal table. These rulers of Hyderabad, had between the 15th and 19th century, perfected the art of cooking. They took the princely Mughlai cuisine and blended it with the spicier South Indian fare. Their rendition of the Persian dish really resulted in the birth of biryani as we know it today. While most of the restaurant biryanis on offer all taste more or less the same, there are in fact many kinds of biryanis. The chefs of the Nizam are reputed to have 49 biryani dishes, the recipes for which were closely guarded.

With this historical background in mind, I felt audacious taking this popular dish and remaking it to fit my dietary needs (brown rice instead of white) and to ease the prep work in my decidedly non-royal kitchen. I also used chicken instead of the more authentic goat meat just because it is so much easier to find. The method that I used to cook biryani is a mash-up of the slow cooking Hyderabad style and the get-it-done already Lucknow style, another place in India famous for its biryani. Even still, this is likely one of the more complicated recipes on my blog. If you have questions, please post them as comments. I’ll try my best to answer them.

One layer each of chicken, rice and garnishes later

Preparing the saffron

I'm hungry!

Recipe – serves 6

Rice

  • 2 cups brown basmati rice, rinsed (Please use Indian/Pakistani brown basmati rice. American Lundburg Basmati or Texmati don’t behave like true Basmati rice)
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 teaspoon salt

To marinate

  • 2 lbs chicken breast, chopped into 2-3 inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp garam masala (tandoori + saag)
  • 1 tsp coriander pwd
  • 1 tsp cumin pwd
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 tsp garlic, grated
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated
  • 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup mint, chopped

Garnish

  • 2 large yellow or sweet onions, sliced
  • ¼ cup cilantro, chopped
  • ¼ cup mint, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons oil
  • ¼ teaspoon saffron threads
  • ¼ cup water

Base

  • 3 tablespoons ghee or high heat oil
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4 cardamom pods, slightly crushed
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds

Put rice to soak in a steel pot for at least 1 hour. Don’t forget to add the salt.

Mix the marinade ingredients together except for the chicken. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Mix in the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 45 minutes till ready to use.

Prepare the onion garnish. Heat 4 tablespoons oil in a large skillet (or wok). Saute onion over medium-low heat till brown and nicely caramelized. Adding a big pinch of salt with the onions helps reduce the cooking time. Stir occasionally to prevent uneven cooking. This whole process should take about 20 minutes. The longer the time the onions take to cook, the better the flavor. Place the cooked onion in a bowl lined with paper towels to soak up the excess oil.

When the rice has soaked for an hour, heat the pot over high heat. Once the water starts coming to a boil, lower the heat to medium low and simmer for 8 minutes. Cover the pot while simmering. Once the timer goes off, remove from heat, strain the rice and put aside. The rice should be half cooked. You could also start the next step in parallel while waiting for the rice to cook.

Next prepare the base. Heat the ghee or oil in a large thick bottomed pot over medium high heat till a cumin seed thrown in the oil sizzles. (You can use the same pot to bring the whole dish together at the end and reduce your cleaning!) Fry all the whole spices for 10 seconds or till you smell the aroma of the cumin seeds. Immediately add the chicken with all the marinade. Give everything a quick stir and reduce heat to medium. Have a lid handy in case of splattering.

Let the chicken sauté for 3 minutes or till all the pieces are slightly cooked (opaque) on the outside. If you cut open a piece, it should still be pink on the inside. Remove from heat immediately.

At the point, you should have a pot of half cooked brown rice and a pot of half cooked chicken. Now comes the fun part! Remove 1/3 of the chicken and put aside. Into the same pot as the chicken, add half the rice as a layer above the chicken. On top of the rice, sprinkle part of the cilantro, mint and caramelized onion. Add the rest of the chicken as a fourth layer. Make a second layer of rice on top of the chicken. For the last layer, add the rest of the onion, cilantro and mint, saving a little bit to use as fresh garnish before serving.

Now your pot with all the layers is ready for its final step. Cover the pot immediately with a tight fitting lid. If you don’t have a tight fitting lid, cover the pot with a thin towel and then with the lid to form a tighter seal. This is important since the chicken and rice need steam to finish cooking.

Turn on the heat to a very low setting. I use ‘1’. Let your stove come up to heat and then place the pot on it. Turn on the timer to 30 minutes. Both the chicken and the rice should be perfectly cooked.

Notes

Tue Indian basmati rice means a trek to the Indian or Asian grocery store. You’re probably wondering why you can’t substitute another brown rice or use American brown basmati rice. The true basmati rice has an amazing flavor and when cooked, stays fluffy and elongates. None of this is true of the ‘American’ basmati which really should not be allowed to use the name basmati. So you *can* use a different rice but if you do, please be warned that cooking times will vary. Your biryani will still be edible but it won’t be quite as good. I know because I’ve tried it with brown basmati rice from Whole Foods and Indian brown basmati rice. Huge difference.

I highly recommend using ghee rather than oil in preparing the base. Or at least a mix of the two.

Many recipes call for red coloring. I refuse to use artificial flavors and colors in my cooking (or in my recipe kits) and prefer to make food look pretty with garnishes or natural dyes like turmeric or saffron.

Yummy brown basmati rice Biryani

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South Indian Curried Eggplant with a Spicy Coconut Gravy

This post has been a long time in coming.  I’ve made this a few times for friends and they’ve been asking for the recipe. This eggplant dish with a coconut gravy was something my mom made often when I was a kid.

South Indian eggplant curry with a spicy coconut gravy

And as I write this, I’m reminded of a recent article on CHOW titled 9 Words the Food Industry Killed. ‘Local’, ‘organic’ and ‘artisan’ made it on the list, understandably. ‘Mom’ is also on the list. While I agreed with most of the author’s argument, this point rankled with me at first. Until I realized I’d misunderstood the point.

The fast food movement, like many other industries I might point out, uses the image of mothers in ads to persuade people to buy something. And consumers, hello that’s us, we buy it. In a world where many moms are so busy that ‘food’ from McDonalds has become part of the family tradition, that’s all the more reason to celebrate mothers who took the time to hand down family recipes.  I never tire of reading posts from bloggers whose grandmothers were their biggest foodie inspiration. In my experience, most people consider their mom’s cooking to be the best. So keep putting out those recipes for flaky pie crusts from your grandma or your aunt’s out-of-this-world biryani. I’m a huge fan.

Of course, the day I see a treasured recipe that has been in the family for generations and calls for Hamburger Helper, will be the day I eat my words.

In the meantime, this recipe is from my mom. Of course, mine never comes out as good as hers. But I make it anyway. And it tastes good. And who knows, maybe one day, I will learn how to make it taste like the gold standard.

So I hope you’ll read on, cook the eggplant with coconut gravy and share this post with friends. Mom thinks it’s good!

The masala can be made ahead of time and refrigerated or frozen. Because there are many ingredients involved, I’d recommend making a big batch and using as needed.

This dish is a quintessential way of making ‘curries’ from South India, especially the state of Karnataka. Unlike North Indian curries, different spices are used and the gravy is made separately and added to the curried vegetable. The local name for this curried eggplant recipe is Badnekayi Palya. Except for the urud dal and fenugreek seeds that I purchased from the Indian grocery store, all other ingredients came from my neighborhood supermarket.

Readily available dessicated coconut and eggplant used in dish

Dry roasting the spices and coconut

Making the masala

Recipe – Serves 4

Masala

To Dry Roast

  • 1-2 dry red chili, stalks removed and cut up into smaller pieces
  • ½ cup dessicated, unsweetened coconut
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2 cloves
  • ½ teaspoon white poppy seeds (can substitute black)
  • 2 teaspoons split black lentils (urud dal) or use any other dehusked lentils
  • ¼ teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional)

To Grind

  • 1 teaspoon jaggery or brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon tamarind juice (if you can’t find it, substitute 2 teaspoons lemon juice)
  • ½ cup cilantro
  • 2 small green thai chilis or jalapenos
  • ½ cup water

Curry

  • 1 Eggplant, cut into 2 inch x ½ inch spears
  • 1 small yellow onion, thinly sliced (about ½ cup)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons high heat oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 5-10 curry leaves

In a skillet heated to medium low, dry roast the spices for 5 minutes. Blend the roasted spices with the remaining ingredients to be ground.

Heat 4 tablespoons high heat oil in the same skillet over medium high heat till the oil starts shimmering. Throw in a mustard seed and if it sizzles, the oil is hot enough to proceed. Sizzle the mustard seeds till they start spluttering.

Add curry leaves and let them fry for 5 seconds before adding the onions. Saute the onions till slightly brown and then add the garlic and eggplant. The eggplant pieces will soak up a lot of oil. If they start sticking to the skillet, add a bit more oil.

Sauté the eggplant for 5 minutes or till the pieces start softening. Add the blended gravy. Lower the heat to medium low. Cover the skillet and cook for 15 minutes.

Salt to taste. Add lime juice if desired.

Serve with rice, dosas or ragi rottis!

Badnekayi palya or South Indian curried eggplant with coconut gravy served with ragi rotti!

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Tricolor Pulao

They woke us up early so we could be ready before sunrise. The neighborhood was quiet, a welcome break from the noisy hustle and bustle of modern India. Even the street dogs weren’t barking, perhaps out of respect because it was Independence Day.

For my grandparents, who had lived through the struggle for independence from British rule, life with a ration card for food staples was normal. They knew what it meant to do without and did not take freedom for granted.

My grandmother would bring the tricolor flag out, which had been carefully stored away, the night before. My grandfather would have a pole ready to go. We’d walk up the concrete stairs to the open terrace with my grandparents, my brother, my cousin and I. One of us would unfurl the flag and carefully insert the pole through its loops. My grandfather would then affix the pole to the balcony wall close to where the Purple Camel Foot tree had grown taller than the balcony depositing its bright pink flowers on the terrace.

Indian flag

We’d step back and on my grandfather’s count, would sing the Jana Gana Mana, India’s national anthem, just as the sun rose.

It was a short but solemn ceremony that taught us early on to value all the opportunities we were given. Now that I live in the US and my grandparents still live in India, there is no family flag ceremony anymore. But today, in honor of India’s 64th anniversary of Independence, I’ve made my own special tricolor flag. And as I take a bite of this fragrant and vibrant dish, I close my eyes and savor freedom.

Happy Birthday India.

Tricolor Pulao

Tricolor Pulao

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4.5 tablespoons Ghee (or vegetable oil), divided
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 5 pods green cardamom, slightly crushed
  • 3 cloves
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick (Ceylon cinnamon if you can get it)
  • ½ teaspoon saffron
  • 2 cups white basmati rice
  • 1 green chili, sliced lengthwise into quarters
  • ½ cup yellow onion –finely diced (a small onion or ½ a large one)
  • ½ cup red bell pepper –finely diced
  • 1 carrot, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas, defrosted
  • ½ cup cilantro – coarsely chopped
  • 10 cashew nuts, whole
  • 10 almonds, whole
  • Salt – 1 teaspoon or to taste

Roasted almonds and cashews

Vibrant vegetables for pulao

Recipe

Rice

This can be made ahead of time and refrigerated.

  1. Rinse the rice three times in warm water. Lay out the rice in a shallow dish and allow to dry.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons ghee over medium heat in a thick bottomed pot for 2-3 minutes till a cumin seed thrown in starts to sizzle.
  3. Roast the whole spices for 10 seconds or till you smell their aroma.
  4. Gently crush the saffron and add it along with rice and a ¼ teaspoon salt. Stir gently till the rice starts clumping up, about 3 minutes.
  5. Add 2 cups of water and bring to a gentle boil before turning the heat to low and covering the pot.
  6. Remove from heat after 7 minutes or when the rice is just cooked, think al dente. Keep covered and allow the rice to cool down to room temperature.

Vegetables

  1. Roughly chop the nuts so they are all of a similar size.
  2. Heat 1/2 tablespoon ghee in a skillet over medium heat.
  3. Once the ghee starts to bubble, roast the nuts for 5 minutes or till you can smell the aroma of the cashews. They should be lightly browned. Remove from heat and leave uncovered.
  4. Wipe the skillet if necessary, and heat another 2 tablespoons of ghee for 2-3 minutes or till a cumin seed thrown in starts to sizzle.
  5. Roast the cumin for 10 seconds and then add the onion and chili. Stir occasionally or till the onion is evenly light brown. This should take 5-8 minutes.
  6. Fold in the vegetables and half the cilantro with the onions. Sauté till the bell pepper is cooked but still has a bit of crunch. Salt to taste.
  7. Remove from heat and mix in with the rice. Transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with the nuts and the remaining cilantro.
  8. Serve with plain yogurt and pickle or raita.

Tricolor Pulao for India's Independence Day

Independence Day pulao with tricolor ingredients

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Korean Kimchi Pancakes and 4 Tips for Making Them Crispy

Kimchi pancake with spring onion garnish

Ever had kimchijeon or kimchi pancakes? If you like Indian food, I’m sure you’ll like kimchi pancakes. Even if you don’t like kimchi. Trust me on this!

I went on a Korean food cooking spree last week. It all started because my friends Hannah and Phil were nice enough to join me for dinner when I went on a working retreat at the beautiful Whidbey Institute. We ended up cooking Ssambap using lovely salad greens that the friendly gardeners on the land gifted us. That caused a hankering for something with kimchi. And this was the result. This was my first time making kimchi pancakes and I can say that they were fast and easy. So I hope you’ll give this recipe a try.

Recipe is adapted from http://www.maangchi.com/recipe/kimchijeon (chopped kimchi pancake)

Ingredients (makes 3-4 pancakes)

Pancake

  • 1 cup kimchi, cut into ½ inch pieces if possible
  • ¼ yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup whole wheat flour (not authentic but added for nutrition and flavor)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 1/3 cup kimchi broth
  • 6-8 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

Garnish (optional)

  • Spring onion or chives, chopped

Dipping sauce (optional)

  • ¼ cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup rice wine
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar or rice wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon Korean red pepper flakes

Flipped pancake

Recipe

In a large glass or plastic bowl mix together all ingredients except the oil. Make sure there are no clumps of flour left. Taste the mixture and add more salt if necessary.

Heat a nonstick skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons oil. Wait till the oil is hot enough before proceeding. If you add the batter when the oil is not hot enough, the pancakes will come out soft. You can tell that the oil is hot enough if you put a drop of batter in the pan and it sizzles.

Take a big ladleful of the batter, pour into the skillet and spread as thinly and evenly as possible. If you’re using a 10 inch skillet, you should get 3-4 pancakes depending on their size.

Keep the heat at medium and let the pancake cook for a minute or two. Once the pancake has ‘loosened’, it will move around the skillet easily. At this point, flip the pancake. You can use a flat spatula if you don’t dare throw the pancake up to flip it! (But this is not too hard with a bit of practice. Just hold the skillet handle with both hands, move the skillet back and forth a few times to position the pancake as close to the edge of the skillet directly away from you. Without a pause in the back and forth movement, raise the skillet. The pancake should flip and land back in the skillet. If it is folded over, just move the skillet back and forth till it settles down flat. )

Let the pancake cook for another 2 minutes on this side as well. You might need to cook both sides for another minute or so to make sure the pancake is fully cooked.

Make the remaining pancakes in the same way. If you save part of the batter in the fridge, use it within a day or two. You will need to add a ¼ cup of water or so to loosen up the batter again before using.

To make the dipping sauce, mix all the sauce ingredients together in a bowl.

Cut the pancake into smaller pieces if you like. Garnish with chopped spring onion or chives.

Kimchijeon or kimchi pancake

Tips to make the pancakes crispier

I love my kimchi pancakes crispy! The first one I made came out very soft. So I did some research. Here’s what I found and what I know from making dosas.

Use 3 tablespoons oil per pancake instead of 2. Yeah, its not as healthy but it works. Make sure the oil is hot enough before pouring the batter into the skillet.

Add ½ teaspoon of baking soda to the batter.

Add 1/3 cup of lentil flour (you can use mung bean or Indian urud dal flour).

Use cold kimchi and water. Cold batter results in crispier pancakes.

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Fava Beans: Definitely Worth the Effort

I first came across this Persian recipe by way of Madhur Jaffrey. While she is the queen of Indian cookbooks, she has also been a spokesperson for vegetarian food from the Middle East and Asia. That’s how I first ‘met’ her – through her World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking book which I had purchased from a used book store in Cincinnati more than ten years ago. I bought it because I mostly ate vegetarian anyway. And because I loved the illustration of the smiling sari-clad beauty with long flowing black hair, traditional but with a touch of the modern about her.  I always wanted hair like that.

I digress.

There are two recipes that I remember cooking right away. One was a Kashmiri dish called Haak which means collard greens. The other was the Persian dish using ghee, baby lima beans, swiss chard and dill. This was my first foray into collard greens and swiss chard, these being greens that are not used in South Indian cuisine. I loved the simplicity of these dishes and for a year, kept going back to these same recipes, over and over again.

After that year, I inexplicably forgot all about it till  I had a hankering for it the other day. I still have the cookbook, one of the few that made the journey with me to Seattle from my previous home in Germany, but remember the recipe well. I went looking for lima beans at the Whole Foods a couple of blocks from where I live.  I couldn’t find it, fresh or canned. But they did have fresh fava beans. I figured fava beans would work just as well. And oh, by golly, they were fantastic!

Fava beans were another first for me and I was glad I had searched online for how to cook fava beans. As I would have shelled the beans from the pods and thrown them into the pot not knowing they had to be peeled a second time! But some people do eat them without the peeling if the beans are tender. Here’s an excellent tutorial for how to prep fresh fava beans. And yes they are some work to prep, but they are SO worth it. Get your spouse, friends, kids, neighbors to help! It’s a great communal activity.

And here’s the Persian recipe adapted from Madhur Jaffrey’s Vegetarian Cooking of the East

Use the ingredient amounts in the recipe below as a guideline. A bit more or less is fine. Serves 2-3

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup fava beans, shelled and peeled
  • roughly half a bunch of swiss chard, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into 1 inch strips
  • 4 stalks dill, finely chopped
  • 1/2 yellow onion, diced small
  • 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or butter
  • 1 cup vegetable broth or water
  • salt to taste

Recipe

Heat the ghee or butter in a large pot or wok.

Saute the onion till translucent.

Add the swiss chard and fava beans, mix well and saute for 2-3 minutes.

Add the broth or water. Cover and cook on medium for 4-5 minutes or till the chard is cooked to your liking.

Add the dill, and salt to taste.

Lower heat and simmer for a minute before removing from heat.

Serve with fragrant basmati or jasmine rice. Or over quinoa.

Did you know that Madhur Jaffrey has also acted in movies? She was in The Guru and most recently in Today’s Special (with Aasif Mandvi of The Daily Show fame). She was apparently the one who introduced James Ivory and Ismail Merchant! This is a woman of many talents!

And finally, get them fava beans before they go out of season! Hurry!

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Expert tips for making the perfect dosa batter

Veena's Market Dosa kit (Picture by Christopher Bachmann)

If you’ve ever tried to make your own dosa (South Indian savory crepes made with rice and lentils) batter, you know that it is really hard to get them nice and crisp like in the restaurants. It is possible but takes some time, patience and experimentation. I recently came across this very informative blog post by Sala Kannan of Veggie Belly on how to make the perfect batter for dosas and idlis (South Indian rice cakes) and had to share. I found the FAQ very helpful.

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A Winter Twist to Delicious Daal

It was the third cold, dark and rainy day in a row. The kind that leaves you with a slight case of the blues. But nothing that a pot of soul-satisfying Daal wouldn’t remedy. I’d had a hankering for my lentil curry anyway and got to work making it.

While the lentils were boiling away merrily, I peeked into the fridge to see what vegetables I could add. There were none but there was a big bunch of curly kale that I needed to use soon. Now, around here, we LOVE kale but I usually prepare it by itself and enjoy it with slices of fresh avocado. While there are plenty of leafy green vegetables in India, there is no kale. So it was a serendipitous idea to sauté the kale with the spices in the Daal Recipe kit and add it to the lentil curry. Or maybe it was just a matter of time. I’m sure others have discovered this already, but here’s my version. This recipe is a slight variation of the one included in the Daal kit.

I like curly kale best but any variety of kale will do. Lacinato kale (aka Dino or Cavalo Nero) is pictured.

Ingredients (serves 4)

½ bunch of kale (rinsed, stem ends cut and discarded, leaves cut lengthwise in the middle and then chopped into 1 inch pieces)
1 Delicious Daal kit OR
1 cup toor daal or split pigeon peas
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
5 curry leaves
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1.5 cups basmati rice (cooking instructions not included in this post)
1 small tomato (diced)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
½ lime (or lemon)

Recipe

Place lentils in a thick bottomed pot and add 5 cups water and a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat

Turn heat down to medium-low, cover pot with lid ajar and simmer for 35 minutes or till the lentils are fully cooked (flat and mushy)

Heat the oil in a big pot or wok over medium high heat. You know the oil is hot enough when you throw in a mustard seed and it sizzles. Don’t get the oil too hot as it will burn the spices.

Add the mustard seeds and wait a few seconds or till they just start crackling.

Add the cumin seeds, curry leaves and turmeric.

Add the kale after 2-3 seconds and stir to coat well with oil. Saute for 3-4 minutes or till the leaves have wilted slightly and are half the original volume.

Add ½ a cup of water, reduce the heat to medium low and cover the pot with a lid ajar. Cook for 3 minutes and then remove from heat.

Once the lentils have boiled, add the kale to the pot of lentils along with 1 teaspoon salt and the tomato. Mix.

Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 8 minutes or till the kale stems are cooked and the leaves are not tough (I do like a bit of crunch though)

Taste for salt and squeeze in juice of ½ a lime (more if you like). Serve over rice.

Close your eyes and take a deep breath before diving in spoon first into your hearty Daal. And feel the blues slipping away. Mmmmm.

p.s. What to do with the leftover kale? Simply saute in olive oil with a couple cloves of garlic. Add a cup of stock (or water and salt), bring to a boil, reduce heat to low, cover with lid ajar and cook for 7 minutes or till the kale is cooked but still slightly crunchy.

Or make kale chips. Toss with olive oil, freshly ground pepper, and a big pinch of sea salt. Roast in oven preheated to 350 degrees F for about 10 minutes.

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Making Green Beans Indian Style

I made green beans along with pumpkin curry as part of an Indian style thanksgiving menu meal. The classic green bean casserole is nice but tends to get sidelined. So how about an Indian take on this dish for something different? It’s easy and a lot healthier than cooking with cream of mushroom soup.

This recipe below is inspired by the recipe for South Indian style curried vegetables or ‘palyam’ but with a few changes that I thought were appropriate for thanksgiving.

Ingredients

(serves 6 as a side)

  • 1 lb tender green beans, rinsed and ends cut
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened grated coconut (if using desiccated coconut, re-hydrate in warm water for 5 minutes before using.)
  • 1-2 teaspoons lime juice

Recipe

Spread out the beans on a plate and microwave on high for 4 minutes. This greatly reduces the cooking time later.

Heat the oil in a skillet large enough to hold all the beans, over medium high heat. You know the oil is hot enough if you put in a mustard seed and it ‘crackles’.

Add the mustard seeds and wait for ten seconds or till they start popping. Immediately add the onions and 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Saute till the onion is caramelized, about 10 minutes.  Stir regularly to ensure the onion doesn’t burn.

Add the green beans and mix well to coat the beans with oil. If the pan gets dry, add a bit more oil. Add a 1/4 cup water, cover skillet with lid, reduce heat to medium and cook for 5 minutes or till the beans are just cooked. I like my beans just slightly crunchy.

Mix in the grated coconut. If you’re using frozen coconut, bring it out of the freezer about 30 minutes before you need it. Turn heat off once the coconut has fully defrosted and mixes easily with the beans.

Taste for salt and squeeze lime juice and mix just before serving. Adding the lime juice at the end maintains the vibrant green of the beans.

Notes

Grated, desiccated coconut can usually be found in the bakery aisle in your supermarket.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Veena

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Thanksgiving Curry

I miss my dad. He was supposed to be here right about now but his trip got delayed by a few months. With all the changes in his life and mine, we haven’t managed to get together since 2007! I was thinking about the last time we cooked together. And I think it was many many years ago when I lived in Cincinnati. We made a lamb moussaka together from my Mediterranean cookbook. It was my first time cooking with lamb and making moussaka. I forget how it turned out but I remember it was a fun experience!

So though we ( my husband and I) won’t be spending Thanksgiving with family, we’ll be spending it with some of our amazing friends here in Seattle. This post on Thanksgiving curry is for my dad, the friends who shared this meal with us (and who were nice enough to say this was one of the best curries they’ve had), and all the friends with whom we look forward to sharing a meal with soon!

Let’s talk about the curry. And yes, that’s Thanksgiving CURRY! And no, it’s not just curry that you happen to eat over Thanksgiving cause you don’t like Turkey or don’t eat meat. It’s an honest to goodness thanksgiving, fall themed curry. It’s Indianish Thanksgiving food. Or Thanksgivingish Indian food. Well, you get the idea. I’m sure this is not a new concept but is (or was) new to me. So what am I talking about?

Pumpkin curry. Specifically, steamed and mashed pumpkin ‘purée’ added to caramelized onions with garam masala and a few other spices. Oh yeah along with slightly roasted kuri squash and bosc pear. Pear! My new favorite ingredient to add to savory dishes.

This recipe serves 6.

Ingredients

  • 1 (~2.5 lbs) sugar pie pumpkin, cut in half, de-seed, slice each half into 4 or 5 pieces, microwave on high for 3 minutes.
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • 1 small squash (I used 1/2 a kuri squash, a delicata would work well too), process same as pumpkin and then dice into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 bosc pear, peeled and cubed into 1 inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 2 inch piece of ginger, grated or cut into thin matchsticks
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne powder (optional)
  • pinch nutmeg (preferably freshly grated)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided or to taste

Slices of pumpkin, microwaved

Recipe

Peel the skin off the pumpkin (once microwaved, it will peel of easily) and roughly dice. Throw the pieces into a pot and add a cup of water. Heat on medium high till the water boils and then simmer the pot with lid ajar for 10 minutes or till the pumpkin has the consistency of mashed potato. Mix with the coconut milk. Proceed to the next steps while waiting for the pumpkin to cook.

UPDATE – An easier way to puree pumpkin…http://www.ehow.com/how_4498298_puree-sugar-pie-pumpkins.html

Heat oil over medium high heat in a large skillet or work. The oil is hot enough if you throw in a cumin seed and it sizzles.

Add the cumin seeds and allow them to sizzle for just 5 seconds

Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt, stir regularly for 3 minutes

Add the ginger and garlic. Continue to stir regularly for another 4-5 minutes or till onion is golden brown and caramelized

Add the turmeric, paprika, coriander powder, garam masala and cayenne. Mix well.

Add the pieces of squash. Stir to mix with onion and spices. Allow to cook for 3 minutes.

Add the pear. Stir and cook for another 3 minutes.

At this point you will need to add the pumpkin gravy. If your pan is not big enough, transfer the onion/spices/vegetables and the pumpkin gravy into a big enough pot.

Add a pinch of nutmeg

Simmer on low for 15 minutes

Taste for salt

Serve with rice or naan or as a soup.

Notes

To save time, you can use canned pumpkin puree.

I used bosc pears as these are best for baking. Other varieties might also work just fine.

Have leftover squash and coconut milk? I plan to make a coconut squash shake (can you say squash shake quickly without messing it up???) with a bit of milk and pinch of freshly ground cardamom.

So there, here’s your start to Thanksgiving Indian style. Coming soon (tonight?), is a post on green beans made in a simple South Indian style. Wow your guests with something different than the same old green bean casserole.

Interested in making this curry but don’t have all the spices? I’m happy to mail the thanksgiving curry spice blend to the first five commenters to this post. It’s my way of saying thanks for reading the blog. Send me an email to veena (at) veenasmarket (dot) com with your address after you leave your comment. And no, I won’t give your address away, sign you up for spam or anything. I hate that too!

Veena

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