Tag Archives: mint

Meet My Herb Garden

curry leaf plant

Meet Gopi – my new curry leaf plant

apple mint and chili plants

Chilies and Apple Mint

cilantro plant with coriander seeds

The cilantro plant bolted. But I can plant these coriander seeds!

There is supposedly a green thumb gene that runs through my mom’s family. My grandmother’s garden used to be full of fruit trees, roses and different flowers every year. That garden bears witness to many childhood memories. We spent many summers there with my cousins playing Shark, a game we made up, climbing trees, enjoying tea parties on the lawn and getting bit by the biggest mosquitoes known to seven year olds.

I’ve never grown anything before. I mean I’ve watered potted plants and sprouted seeds for a Biology class experiment. But I’ve never really had a garden. I’ve even managed to kill cacti. Yes multiple ones. And we (here I share the blame with my husband) even managed to kill an indoor palm tree that was supposedly a pretty easy plant to take care of. It’s a long story, but we think the nursery was at least partially complicit.

So it was with some hesitation that I decided to start an herb garden this year. Where we live, we have access to a great backyard. Now, every time I *must* have curry leaves, it involves driving all the way over to the “Eastside” where the Indian grocery stores are. It’s such a chore. So I really wanted to grow my own curry leaves.

There are a few nurseries in the US where you can buy plant starts online. After one order fell through as the nursery had actually oversold their curry leaf starts, I found another source. They were fantastic, they shipped right away and the little plant arrived in a shipping tube all bundled up. I had to name him. He’s Gopi.

Once bit by the planting bug, I went further and planted apple mint, cilantro and two different chilies. The cilantro has already bolted (flowered) which means I won’t get herb from it. But, I can plant those seeds you see for new plants. The mint plant though is doing really well.

I’m crossing my fingers for chilies, cilantro and most of all for curry leaves. I hope I don’t kill Gopi in the weeks it will take for the plant to get well established and I can harvest the leaves.

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Rustic Samosas: All the flavor minus the guilt

While I love the classic deep fried samosas (and who doesn’t), I wanted to make some that were a lot healthier. Not only did I not want to fry them, I didn’t want to use premade puff pastry or even all purpose flour.  I wanted samosas that were rustic, whole wheat, potatoes with skin on, you get the idea. That could mean one thing only: I’d have to experiment, making samosas many times till I got a recipe that worked. What a sacrifice!

A bite of my rustic samosa

On my first attempt at making them, they were tasty but the shell was a bit dry. I decided to add some yogurt and more oil to soften it up a bit. I’d also made a classic filling with potatoes and cilantro. I decided to make it more interesting and make 3 kinds of samosas, one with cilantro, one with dill, and one with mint. I encourage you to experiment as well and personalize the classic filling recipe I include here. I personally don’t like rosemary (which makes my husband very sad as he loves it) but I imagine it will go well with the potatoes.

Baked dill samosa with thai chili garlic sauce

Having a dinner party and need an appetizer to tide guests over till the food is ready? These samosas are perfect along with a glass of sparkling wine.

Samosas (makes 8  )

Shell

  • 1.5 cups unbleached whole wheat soft or low gluten flour (or all purpose flour)*
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons plain yogurt (use water instead to make dairy free)
  • 1/3 cup to ½ cup water

Filling

  • 1.5 cups of potatoes, diced to ½ inch thickness. Leave the skin on!
  • ½ yellow onion, finely diced
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala spice blend
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste, divided
  • Juice of ½ lime
  • ½ cup of your choice of herb or herbs, chopped (I used dill in half and mint in half)

Coriander seeds, cumin seeds, dill, garam masala, lime

Potato filling for the samosas

Rolled out shell

Place the filling in the center third in an inverted triangle (used mint for this samosa!)

Making the samosa

In a glass or plastic bowl, make a dough using the shell ingredients and 2 tablespoons olive oil. Keep covered for 15 minutes with a wet cloth. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.

Place the diced potatoes in a pot, cover with water and then add another cup. Add ½ teaspoon salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat. Cover the pot and then simmer for 10 minutes or till potatoes are boiled.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Once the oil starts shimmering, add a cumin seed. If it sizzles, add the rest of the cumin seeds and coriander seeds. Allow the spices to sizzle for just 10 seconds before adding the onion.  Sauté the onion for 3 minutes or till slightly brown.

Add the boiled potato, garam masala, another ½ teaspoon salt and the lime juice. Mix thoroughly and let simmer for another minute before turning off the heat.

Sprinkle some flour on your work surface. Have a little bowl with olive oil handy to coat the samosa outer shell with.

Divide the dough into 4 equal parts. Roll out each into a thin circle that is just a millimeter thick or about 9 inches in diameter. Cut into half to make semi circles. Place under a wet cloth to prevent from drying out while you finish making all of them. Prepare your baking tray.

On each semicircle, place 2-3 tablespoons of the filling in the center third of the shell along with a bit of the herb of your choice.  Fold 1/3 of the outer semicircle into the center, over the filling. Do the same with the other end of the semicircle. You should have roughly a triangle pastry. Press down the edges firmly. Coat the outside with a bit of olive oil on both sides.

Prepare all 8 samosas similarly and place on your baking tray. Place in the oven.

Bake for 4 minutes on each side. Turn off the oven, and turn on the broiler to high. Place under broiler for 1 minute on each side. This will make the samosas crisp. Allow to cool down for a few minutes before biting into one. The samosas should be light brown with a few darker spots. If the shell is not fully cooked, you could also put them in a broiler for another minute on each side.

Enjoy on their own, with mint chutney, ketchup or my favorite, thai chili garlic sauce!

*This is a similar flour to the durum atta flour used in making chapathis. Using regular whole wheat flour (a high gluten flour) results in thick and dry samosas. All purpose flour is another option for thin shells. Other baked samosa recipes call for premade puff pastry. This may be more convenient but the fluffy texture is just not right for samosas.

Bleached flour results in even lower gluten content but I don’t like the idea of chlorine in my food!

Mmmm

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Stay Cool with Cucumbers

How’s the weather where you are? Here in Seattle, we finally got summer this week after months of whining and praying for it! And now that it’s here, we’re whining about how hot it is!

With summer comes BBQ season, cold soups and salads, and lots of Indian food too. Yes that’s right! Indian food in summer. Here in the US, spicy curries don’t come to mind when it’s hot outside. In India while the curries still remain spicy even in summer, different vegetables are featured. Various kinds of gourds and squashes are in season in summer.

The ‘Malnad’  (literally translating to land of rain) region of the south Indian state of Karnataka grows some of the juiciest, crispest and sweetest cucumbers around the area. This is where my mother’s family is from and we would visit every summer. Some of my best childhood memories are from summers spent at my grandparents, playing with my cousins, climbing trees, chasing away monkeys from the guava trees and of course devouring grandma’s savory and sweet treats. And yes eating lots of cucumbers.

Moroccan cucumber salad

Cucumbers contain a chemical called cucurbitacin that sometimes makes them taste bitter. My mom taught me to slice the ends off and then holding the cut end against the exposed part of the cucumber, rub it around it a circular fashion. This removes the white ‘poison’ as my mother called it. And supposedly the cucumber tastes less bitter. I say supposedly as I never use cucumbers without removing the ‘poison’. So if you think cucumbers have a bitter edge to them, try out this trick!

While cucumbers are perhaps not quite as tasty here as in the Malnad region, I’m so glad they are available. There are a couple of salads that are super easy to make that I’d love to share with you. The first one is an Indian style cucumber salad and  the second a Moroccan style salad. When you look for cucumbers, look for ones that are tender and don’t have any yellow on them. English cucumbers are nice as they are practically seedless and are crispier but they’re also more expensive.

Indian cucumber salad – Serves 2

  • 1 regular or English cucumber, peeled, deseeded and cut  into spears
  • ~ 3 sprigs cilantro (1-2 tablespoons), roughly chopped
  • 1-2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 green chili, ends cut and slit lengthwise (optional)
  • Salt to taste

Toss all the ingredients together (I use a tupperware box) just before serving. The cucumbers also make a great appetizer. You can prepare the salad ahead of time. But add the lime and salt, and toss again,  just before serving. This is a very flexible recipe – use more or less of the ingredients as you like.

Indian cucumber spears

Moroccan cucumber salad – Serves 2-3

adapted from Kitty Morse’s Cooking at the Kasbah

  • 1 english or regular cucumber, peeled, deseeded and diced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • 1/4 yellow onion, finely diced (Kitty Morse uses 2 green onions, finely chopped. I didn’t have any on hand)
  • ~ 3 sprigs fresh mint (about 1 tablespoon), leaves separated and chopped finely
  • 2-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Salt to taste

Mix all the ingredients together. Again, you can prepare the ingredients ahead of time and mix everything leaving out the lemon and salt till just before serving. This same salad with cilantro instead of mint is another version of the Indian cucumber salad. Make sure to use fresh mint. If the mint is not fresh, it can impart a bitter taste to the salad.

An easy summer salad

Now things just don’t get any simpler!

Happy Summer 🙂

-Veena

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