Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Low FODMAPS Recipes vegan

Andhra-Inspired Mango Dal (Mango Lentils)

In my view, most fruit are pretty gross. This surprises people. The nicest honest description of my eating habits I have heard is from a friend of mine, who called me “delightfully weird”. What really shocks people though, is the fact that I hate mangoes, despite the fact that every summer of my childhood, our house was almost literally inundated with hundreds of mangoes (this was because one of my uncles has a large mango orchard and also, because our house had one very prolific mango tree that I was very attached to)! Nearly, everyone in my family absolutely adores mangoes, and yet, I find these fruit almost inedible.

But now, I have found a way to enjoy them: by cooking them up in a dal! I used to eat mango pappu (the telugu word for dal) as a child and I’ve recently rediscovered how harmonious the combination of these two ingredients can be. It all happened almost by accident. My niece (who is vegan) was staying with us and I was running out of ideas in terms of what to cook for her. I’d already made three different types of dal that week! Then, I spied a mango in our fruit bowl. “Ah ha!”, I thought, “this could end up being a fun challenge in the kitchen: trying to make mangoes enjoyable!”

It turned out to be absolutely delicious and it is now my favourite dish! SO much so, that I’ve bought a tonne of mangoes, chopped them up, and flash frozen them, so that I can make myself some mango dal through the fall and winter, whenever I have a hankering for it 🙂

Indian cooking with Mango

If you think you’d like to try and sacrifice one or two of summer’s last few mangoes to an experiment, give it a go! I promise you it will turn out well, if you follow my instructions!

Ingredients:

(A quick note:  You can adjust the level of spice easily. In the list of ingredients in the recipe below, I have provided a range of amounts for various spices; you can decide for yourself how much you’d like to use 🙂)

1 cup lentils (I find that a mix of lentils is great for this recipe. I use Pesara Pappu (Moong Dal in Hindi); Toor Dal, and/or Masoor Dal)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3-4 cloves of garlic, skinned

1-2 medium mangoes (The number of mangoes you should use will depend on your preference as well as the flavour and size of the mangoes you’re cooking with: if you like a more intense mango-flavour, use two mangoes, otherwise, use less. Similarly, if the mangoes you have are small and/or not particularly tangy, you should use 2 mangoes.)

2-3 tablespoons of oil (I use either avocado oil or sunflower oil)

1 medium-sized onions (red or yellow) chopped (I prefer red onions, they seem to be more pungent)

1 teaspoon grated ginger

3-6 fresh chilies, chopped or cut length-wise (You can reduce this amount if you don’t want the dal to be too hot/spicy)

1 – 3 teaspoons red chilli powder

Salt to taste

Ingredients for the popu/tadka/baghar:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

3-12 dried red chilies, torn in half (depending on how hot you’d like the dal to be)

2-4 peeled garlic cloves, halved

A handful of curry leaves

2 pinches of asafoetida (optional)

2-3 tablespoons of oil or ghee (You can get ghee at an Indian store. However, I would recommend making your own, if you have the time. Here is my recipe, if you’re interested. If you don’t have ghee, or want to make your dal vegan, you can use sunflower oil, vegetable oil, or really any oil with a high smoking point. DO NOT USE BUTTER, it will smoke and burn before the spices are properly fried).

Method:

1. The first thing to do is to prepare the dal (lentils). Even if you don’t live in India, you should be able to get most lentils at an Indian store. I normally soak lentils for about 30 minutes, drain the water out, and add fresh water in, before I cook the lentils (this helps them cook faster and apparently helps to reduce bloating and gas: I am still looking for studies to back this up, which I will cite here when I find them). If you don’t have the time to do this, you can skip this step.

2. Next, cube and skin the mango:

Cutting a mango

3. I tend to cook my dal in an instant pot. If you don’t have one, you can boil the dal in water until it is cooked. Add half a teaspoon each of turmeric and salt, as well as 3-4 cloves of skinned garlic and the mango cubes to the dal before you cook it.

IMG_9516

4. I like to purée the cooked dal-mango mixture in a food processor/blender/mixie in order to make it into a smooth paste. This makes the texture of the dal smoother and distributes flavour more evenly. This step is completely optional. You can skip it without much consequence to the taste of your dal if you do not have either the necessary equipment or the time.

Making dal at home

5. Next, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. When it’s hot add the chopped onions and sauté them until softened and lightly browned.

Cooking onions in Indian food
Cooking onions for Indian food Sautéing onions
Cooking onions for Indian food
Sautéing onions

6. Now add the ginger and fresh chillies to the onions and sauté everything again until the ginger is cooked (it should no longer smell raw). Then, add the red chilli powder and half a teaspoon of salt to the sautéed onions-ginger-chilli-mixture (hereinafter referred to as “stuff” :P) and continue to sauté all of this for about 5 minutes on low-medium heat.

Onion-masala for dal

7. Add the dal-mango puree to the pan along with a cup or two of water, and bring it all to a boil. Let everything cook for about 8 minutes on high heat, stirring the pot intermittently to prevent the contents at the bottom from burning. You will see a foamy layer rise to the top of the dal.

IMG_0210

8. I like to scoop this out into a bowl and throw it out.

Reducing FODMAPS in dal; how to decrease bloating from dal

I have heard from some people who regularly cook with lentils in India that this helps reduce bloating and gas.

A note on FODMAPS for the lay person: FODMAPS can cause gastric discomfort in some of us. One may be sensitive to some or all FODMAPS to varying degrees. Symptoms can range from gas, bloating, abdominal pain and cramping, to, in my case, at least, acid reflux. For more general reading on this topic, this article is a great starting point.

The main FODMAPs that dal contains are oligosaccharides. Take a peek at this post about FODMAPS and how cooking legumes may help to reduce the FODMAP content in the food we eat. Of course, more research is needed to confirm this theory, but also, to determine the most effective/efficient ways of extracting FODMAPS from dal through cooking. I am not sure my method of skimming the foamy parts off the top of the dal is effective in removing/reducing dissolved oligosaccharides from it. Anecdotally, though, I have found it helps. Therefore, I do it every time I cook dal.

In addition, onions and garlic contain fructans, which are also a type of oligosaccharide (see this article for more on this). If you are particularly sensitive to onions and/or garlic, you could sauté them in oil (in step 5 of the recipe, above) and then, remove the onions and garlic pieces, leaving just the oil in the pan. Subsequently, continue with step 6. Frying the onions and/or garlic in oil results in some of their flavour infusing into the oil. Since fructans are water-soluble not fat-soluble, by removing the onions and/or garlic, you are able to reduce the amount of fructans that end up in the dal (see this article for more on this). Also, remember not to add any garlic to the lentils whilst cooking them in step 3, above. Similarly, forego adding garlic to the tadka in the step below (step 9).

9. The baghar/popu/tadka:

Heat a tablespoon or two of ghee in a little saucepan on high heat. Let the ghee get hot. To test if it’s hot enough, throw a single cumin seed into the pan. If it begins to sizzle, add the mustard seeds and the rest of the cumin seeds and stir them about until they start to pop. When they start to pop, add the asafoetida and red chilies, followed by the curry leaves, garlic cloves about 30 seconds later. Once the red chillies darken, add the baghar to the lentils. Immediately cover the pot.

IMG_9800

10. The dal is now ready! Taste it and add some salt to it if you like. Serve it with some hot rice and/or roti, Indian pickle, ghee, and any other accompanying curries or vegetable sauté. I like to eat it with brown rice (it’s more nutritious and has more fibre) and some dahi (Indian yogurt).

IMG_9523
Categories
Baking Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

How to Make Neyyi or Ghee (South Asian Clarified Butter)

After chocolate and chillies, ghee might just be the third most amazing food in the entire world. When made well, with good quality butter, a spoonful of ghee can transform a meal from delicious to absolutely exquisite!

I’ve read some people (almost always non-South Asians) refer to ghee (clarified butter) as less flavourful than butter. I say: pay them no mind! I reckon they don’t know good ghee. Ghee is delicious and divine (it is even considered quite literally divine by many people in the Indian subcontinent). Good ghee is as delicious, if not better than butter, albeit with a different flavour, texture, and aroma.

In any case, I mention ghee a lot on this blog, so I thought I ought to share my ghee recipe here so that you too can try making some! Let me know how you think it compares to butter!

Here’s what you’ll need if you’d like to make a go of it:

Ingredients:

Good quality, unsalted butter.

Note on butter: Ideally, I recommend using cultured butter from a local farm, so that it is as fresh as possible. Also, I prefer butter from grass-fed “happy-cows” (namely cows that are allowed to roam free and treated humanely). This is one butter that is fairly easy to get a hold of in Toronto and makes pretty delicious ghee (I buy it at our local Rowe Farms store):

Cultured butter to ghee

Equipment

A saucepan

A ladle

A strainer

A heat-proof bowl

Jars to store the ghee

Method:

1. Place the butter in a saucepan.

How to make ghee

2. Let it melt and then cook it slowly on medium heat, until it begins to bubble.

Indian clarified butter recipe

3. The milk fats in the butter will slowly rise to the top and transform into a foam that will blanket the melting butter. Continue heating the butter.

Indian clarified butter recipe

4. Next, the foam will begin to separate into small brown chunks or clusters, which will eventually sink. Continue heating the butter through this stage as well.

5. Finally, you will notice that the butter is no longer bubbling. Moreover, it will take on a golden hue, like a blonde ale. Many people choose to remove the butter from the heat at this stage and consider the ghee “done”. I recommend cooking it some more.

Indian clarified butter recipe

6. In fact, keep heating the butter, past the point where it turns golden-brown or ochre.

Indian clarified butter recipe

7. Heat it right up until it begins to look like molten bronze and emits a caramel-like, nutty aroma. This is the point at which the ghee is parfait! (This is my personal opinion. Reasonable minds can disagree as to whether or not to cook the ghee this far.)

Indian clarified butter recipe

(Between the previous step and this step, though, watch the ghee carefully: it can turn from perfectly browned to burnt in an instant!)

8. Take the ghee off the heat and pour it into a heat-proof bowl. Once it has cooled, strain it into air-tight jars for storage. I recommend storing the ghee in the refrigerator to keep it fresh. Take it out as and when you need it and warm it up in the microwave or on the stove.

Indian clarified butter

9. Enjoy it with dal, use it in cooking and baking, or add it to your coffee to make bulletproof coffee!

Kept coffee;

Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Low FODMAPS Recipes vegan

Garden Fresh Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

We’ve had a very cool August this year, which has been disappointing. This has meant less paddle-boarding and fewer beach days. Moreover, our bougainvillea plants haven’t flowered quite as prolifically as they usually do.

Tropical flowers in Canada: bougainvillea

On the upside, however, this has meant that the second box of spinach we planted late this summer has been doing really well!

Growing your own food: spinach

I haven’t been cooking at all this week because on Tuesday, I had a fun adventure: I flew through an open door, towards a glass wall (I tripped on a sign right outside the door); my knee is what prevented me from crashing through the wall; as a result, it has been swollen and bruised. I am better today, though, so I thought that I’d cook up something delicious, using the “harvest” from our little urban deck “farm” and my partner as a sous chef.

Here is today’s produce:

Cooking with food from your garden

Given my life-long love affair with chillies, new found appreciation for home-grown cherry tomatoes, and inexplicable tolerance for spinach (despite my general dislike for vegetables), this was a truly exciting collection of delights! “Palak dal!!!”, I thought to myself, excitedly. And so, I cooked us up a big pot of the stuff:

Homemade Palak dal

If you’d like to give it a go, here’s what you will need:

Ingredients:

(A quick note:  You can adjust the level of spice easily. In the list of ingredients in the recipe below, I have provided a range of amounts for various spices; you can decide for yourself how much you’d like to use 🙂)

1 cup lentils (I find that a mix of lentils is great for this recipe. I use Pesara Pappu (Moong Dal in Hindi); Toor Dal, and/or Masoor Dal)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

3-4 cloves of garlic, skinned

2-3 tablespoons of oil (I use either avocado oil or sunflower oil)

1 medium-sized onions (red or yellow) chopped (I prefer red onions, they seem to be more pungent)

1 teaspoon grated ginger

3-6 fresh chilies, chopped or cut length-wise (You can reduce this amount if you don’t want the dal to be too hot/spicy)

1.5 – 2 cups of cherry tomatoes, halved (you can also use two medium sized tomatoes)

1/2 – 1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 – 1 teaspoon coriander (cilantro) seed powder

1 – 3 teaspoons red chilli powder

1/2-1 teaspoon of garam masala (optional)

2 cups of baby spinach (250 g)

Salt to taste

Ingredients for the popu/tadka/baghar:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

3-12 dried red chilies, torn in half (depending on how hot you’d like the dal to be)

2-4 peeled garlic cloves, halved

2 pinches of asafoetida (optional)

2-3 tablespoons of oil or ghee (You can get ghee at an Indian store. However, I would recommend making your own, if you have the time. Here is my recipe, if you’re interested. If you don’t have ghee, or want to make your dal vegan, you can use sunflower oil, vegetable oil, or really any oil with a high smoking point. DO NOT USE BUTTER, it will smoke and burn before the spices are properly fried).

Method:

1. The first thing to do is to prepare the dal (lentils). Even if you don’t live in India, you should be able to get most lentils at an Indian store. I normally soak lentils for about 30 minutes, drain the water out, and add fresh water in, before I cook the lentils (this helps them cook faster and apparently helps to reduce bloating and gas: I am still looking for studies to back this up, which I will cite here when I find them). If you don’t have the time to do this, you can skip this step.

2. I tend to cook my dal in an instant pot. If you don’t have one, you can boil the dal in water until it is cooked. Add half a teaspoon each of turmeric and salt, as well as 3-4 cloves of skinned garlic to the dal before you cook it. Once it’s cooked it should look like this:

Cooked moong dal

3. I like to purée the cooked dal in a food processor/blender/mixie in order to make it into a smooth paste. This makes the texture of the dal smoother and distributes flavour more evenly. This step is completely optional. You can skip it without much consequence to the taste of your dal if you do not have either the necessary equipment or the time.

Making dal at home

4. Next, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. When it’s hot add the chopped onions and sauté them until softened and lightly browned.

Cooking onions in Indian foodCooking onions for Indian food Sautéing onionsCooking onions for Indian food

Sautéing onions

5. Now add the ginger and fresh chillies to the onions and sauté everything again until the ginger is cooked (it should no longer smell raw). Then, add the cumin powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder, garam masala (if you are using it), and half a teaspoon of salt to the sautéed onions-ginger-chilli-mixture (hereinafter referred to as “stuff” :P) and continue to sauté all of this for about 5 minutes on low-medium heat.

Onion-masala for dal

Onion-masala for dal

6. Then, add in the tomatoes, cover the pan, and let it all cook for another 5-10 minutes, until the oil starts to separate out from the rest of the stuff.

Onion-tomato masala for Indian cooking

7. Meanwhile, rinse the spinach. I like to use kitchen shears or a normal pair of scissors and cut up the spinach in the bowl into slightly smaller bits. If you don’t like this method, you can, of course, chop the spinach on a cutting board with a knife.

8. Add the spinach to the sauce pan, then add the lentils.

How to make dal

9. Pour in a cup or two of water, and let everything cook for about 8 minutes on high heat, stirring the pot intermittently to prevent the contents at the bottom from burning. You will see a foamy layer rise to the top of the dal. I like to scoop this out into a bowl and throw it out.

Reducing FODMAPS in dal; how to decrease bloating from dal

I have heard from some people who regularly cook with lentils in India that this helps reduce bloating and gas.

A note on FODMAPS for the lay person: FODMAPS can cause gastric discomfort in some of us. One may be sensitive to some or all FODMAPS to varying degrees. Symptoms can range from gas, bloating, abdominal pain and cramping, to, in my case, at least, acid reflux. For more general reading on this topic, this article is a great starting point.

The main FODMAPs that dal contains are oligosaccharides. Take a peek at this post about FODMAPS and how cooking legumes may help to reduce the FODMAP content in the food we eat. Of course, more research is needed to confirm this theory, but also, to determine the most effective/efficient ways of extracting FODMAPS from dal through cooking. I am not sure my method of skimming the foamy parts off the top of the dal is effective in removing/reducing dissolved oligosaccharides from it. Anecdotally, though, I have found it helps. Therefore, I do it every time I cook dal.

In addition, onions and garlic contain fructans, which are also a type of oligosaccharide (see this article for more on this). If you are particularly sensitive to onions and/or garlic, you could sauté them in oil (in step 4 of the recipe, above) and then, remove the onions and garlic pieces, leaving just the oil in the pan. Subsequently, continue with step 5. Frying the onions and/or garlic in oil results in some of their flavour infusing into the oil. Since fructans are water-soluble not fat-soluble, by removing the onions and/or garlic, you are able to reduce the amount of fructans that end up in the dal (see this article for more on this). Also, remember not to add any garlic to the lentils whilst cooking them in step 2, above. Similarly, forego adding garlic to the tadka in the step below (step 10).

10. The baghar/popu/tadka:

Heat a tablespoon or two of ghee in a little saucepan on high heat. Let the ghee get hot. To test if it’s hot enough, throw a single cumin seed into the pan. If it begins to sizzle, add the rest of the cumin seeds in and stir them about until they start to pop. When they start to pop, add the asafoetida, garlic cloves, and red chilies.

Once the red chillies darken, add the baghar to the lentils.

Popu in pulusu

Immediately cover the pot.

11. The dal is now ready! Taste it and add some salt to it if you like. Serve it with some hot rice and/or roti, dahi (yogurt), Indian pickle, ghee, and any other accompanying curries or vegetable sauté. I like to eat it with brown rice (it’s more nutritious and has more fibre).

Healthy, vegan spinach lentils

Low fat Indian recipes: spinach lentils

The ratio of dal to rice is up to you. My family jokes that my plate often looks like a swimming pool of dal with a few desperate grains of rice drowning to death in it 😛 Yes, some of my near and dear have a dark sense of humour 😉

Vegan spinach lentils

In the photograph below, it is served with white rice, roti, dahi (yogurt), some pickle (Gongura pacchadi, to be precise, which you can get in most Indian stores if you live in North America) and sautéed dondakaya (Indian Ivy Gourd).

Healthy Indian lunch with lentil soup

Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Rajma (Spicy, Buttery, Kidney Beans) Recipe

Homemade Rajma

In some ways, Rajma is to North Indian cuisine what Macaroni and Cheese is to North American cuisine: it is ubiquitous and seen as a comforting food that reminds one of home. Rajma is also similar to Mac and Cheese in the sense that it is often made badly. And bad Rajma is especially like bad Mac and Cheese in that it’s often bad because its texture is all wrong.

Having said that, it takes a bit more time to make good Rajma than it does to make a  decent Mac and Cheese. Moreover, and this might prove to be controversial, I think Rajma represents a more complex harmony of flavours than Mac and Cheese does.

As you can see, I love Rajma! And as it happens, I’ve recently put together a delicious Rajma recipe, which I am very excited about. If you’d like to give it a try, here’s what you will need:

Equipment:

  • A Pressure Cooker (if you don’t have one, you could just use a large saucepan)
  • A saucier pan or a saucepan
  • A Knife
  • A Cutting Board
  • A Spatula
  • A Bowl and a Plate

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cups Red Kidney Beans, soaked for at least 7 hours in a lot of water
  • 3 Cardamom Pods
  • 3 Cloves
  • 1 Large Bay Leaf (or two small leaves)
  • 1/2 Stick of Cinnamon
  • 1 Tsp Cumin Seeds
  • 1 Red Onion, finely diced
  • 3 Large Cloves of Garlic, crushed
  • 1 Inch Piece of Ginger, grated
  • 4 Green Chillies, chopped coarsely
  • 1 Tsp Cumin Powder
  • 1 Tsp Coriander Powder
  • 1-2 Tsp Garam Masala
  • 1-3 Tsp Chilli Powder (adjust the amount of chilli to your preferred spice level. If you use 3 tsp (which I do) the Rajma will have a bit of a kick to it ;))
  • 1/2 Tsp Turmeric Powder
  • Salt, to taste
  • 2-3 Medium Tomatoes, chopped
  • 3-4 Tbsp Oil or Ghee (I prefer ghee; here is my recipe, if you want to make it at home)
  • As much butter as you like 🙂
  • A Sprig of Coriander/Cilantro, optional

Spices for Indian Cooking

Method:

Note about Serving Size: This makes enough Rajma for 6 people if they’re eating modest portions or if it is served with something else, like a dal (lentil) or a vegetable or chicken based preparation (as it generally would be in, in India).

1. Drain the excess water out of the bowl/pan in which you soaked the beans. Add about a half cup of water to the beans and cook them in a pressure cooker, on medium-high heat, until the whistle of the cooker goes off about 4-5 times. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, place the beans in a large saucepan and cook them with several cups of water until they become soft and cooked through. You can figure out if the beans are properly cooked by squishing one between your finger (or between two spoons). If you’re able to press through the bean and reduce it to mush, the beans are done are ready to be used in the recipe.

2. Pour the oil into a saucier or saucepan. Place the pan on medium-high heat. Once the oil becomes sufficiently hot (you can test the oil temperature by adding a cumin seed to the oil and seeing if it begins to sizzle) add in the cumin seeds. Just as the seeds begin to pop, lower the heat to medium and add in the cardamom, cloves, bay leaf, and a stick of cinnamon. Toss these about in the oil for a bit, until you can smell their fragrance.

Tadka, Indian spice tempering, popu, cardamom, cinnamon, cumin, bay leaf

3. Increase the heat to medium-high again and add in the chopped onion and sauté it until it begins to brown.

Cooking onions for north Indian cooking

4. Now, reduce the heat to medium again and add in the ginger, garlic, and chillies. Toss them about constantly, until the raw smell of the garlic dissipates.

5. Next, add the cumin, coriander, garam masala, and chilli powders to the pot, along with salt, and stir everything together. Let the masalas cook in the oil for a minute or two, before adding the chopped tomatoes to the pot. Stir well, cover the pot, and let the this tomato-onion-masala mixture cook on low-medium heat for about 8-10 minutes, checking on it and stirring as needed every few minutes. You will know the mixture is cooked enough once the oil starts to separate from the rest of the ingredients.

Basic north indian cooking

IMG_2260

6. At this stage, I recommend fishing out the bay leaves, cardamom pods, cloves and cinnamon stick. This is so the finished product feels smooth and creamy, without little bits of crunchy spices ruining the overall mouth feel of the dish,

7. Finally, add the cooked Rajma to this mixture, along with a cup or two of water and loads of butter. Cover the pot and let the beans cook with the onion-tomato-masala mixture for about 4-6 hours, on low heat, stirring intermittently. This slow cooking will allow the flavours to intermingle and “mature”.

Rajma (kidney beans) cooking with butter

6. Serve the Rajma with rice or roti and yoghurt! (My current favourite way to eat it is with a Rumali roti.) You can garnish the Rajma with a sprig of fresh coriander/cilantro, if you like. Enjoy!

Categories
Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

How to Make Paneer


I just wrote a post about my favourite quick snack: paneer bhurji rolls. As a companion post, I thought it would make sense to write about how to make paneer at home. It’s actually very easy and absolutely worth it, given how amazing fresh paneer tastes!

All you need is:

2 litres Whole Milk

1/4 to 1/2 cup Lime Juice

Salt (optional)

A cheese cloth

A colander

A Large Saucepan

Two Plates

Heavy Books

 

Method:

  1. Pour the milk into the saucepan and bring it to simmer on medium heat (to about 200 F). Keep scraping the bottom of the pan so that the milk at the bottom doesn’t burn.
  2. Take the pan off the heat.
  3. Add the lime juice to the milk, place the lid on the pan and leave it be for about 10 minutes.
  4. Check on the milk. It should have “broken” with the solids separated from the whey. If this has not happened. Add some more lime juice.
  5. Strain the “broken” milk through a colander lined with a cheese cloth.
  6. Then try and squeeze as much of the whey out as you can. I like to tie the ends of the cheese cloth to the top of the tap over my kitchen sink (very securely) so that gravity does the work for me and the whey just drips down slowly.
  7. Once most of the whey is out, place the paneer (still wrapped in cheese cloth) on a plate. Place a second plate on top of the paneer. Then place some heavy books on top of the plate. I like to also place some paper towels on the lower plate around the paneer to soak up the extra whey.
  8. In about 30 minutes, the paneer should have hardened into a nice block that you can now use 🙂

 

 

Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Paneer Bhurji Roll: A Great Portable Snack!

The one thing I hate about busy days is that one doesn’t get to sit down and properly enjoy one’s lunch. I hate rushed meals, you see. So on days when I am swamped, I just eat cookies or brownies for lunch and make up for it with two delicious dinners when I get home.

I know, however, that this isn’t the healthiest way to go about things. And sometimes, I miss being able to eat something spicy and not-sweet for lunch (followed by a brownie, of course). That’s where this roll comes in.

It’s inspired by the concept of a Kathi roll and quite easy to assemble. So if you make the bhurji the night before, it becomes an easy snack to put together for lunch on a busy day. And you can eat easily while you work on something without getting your hands all messy 🙂

If you want to try making it, here’s what you will need:

1 Pound Paneer (for instructions on how to make it, go here; you could also buy some at Indian stores, but freshly made homemade paneer really is several orders of magnitude better than the store bought kind)

1-2 Tbsp Vegetable or Sunflower Oil or ghee (go here for my recipe)

1 Medium Sized Onion (ideally red; diced)

2 Green Chillis (ideally, the slender, thai ones; slit length-wise)

1 Medium Sized Tomato (you can use more tomatoes if you like your bhurji a little sweeter) (diced)Salt to taste

1-2 Tsp Red Chilli Powder

1 Tsp Coriander Powder

1 Tsp Cumin Powder

1 Tsp Garam Masala

1/2 Tsp Turmeric

1 lime

Rotis (for more on how to make rotis, go here; you can also use tortillas or buy pre-made rotis at an Indian store).

Method:

  1. Take the Paneer and chop it up into little small pieces. You can also process it in a food processor until it is broken up into fairly small chunks (not larger than 1/2 inch cubes).
  2. Add the oil/ghee to a frying pan. Heat the pan at medium-high heat.
  3. Once the oil seems hot (test it with one small onion piece) thrown in the diced onions and sauté them until they are slightly browned.
  4. Throw in the green chilli and sauté it as well. Reduce the heat to medium.
  5. Add the tomatoes and toss them about in the pan.
  6. Add the salt and all the masalas (red chilli, coriander, cumin, garam masala, and turmeric powders). Toss the contents of the pan until the spices are well-distributed.
  7. Place a lid on the frying pan and let the tomato-onion-spice mixture cook for a few minutes, until the oil separates from the mixture (stirring intermittently).
  8. Toss in the paneer chunks and stir well, breaking up the paneer in the pan even more as you stir.
  9. Cook until the paneer looks well cooked but still moist. You can taste it after a few minutes and decide whether or not you want it cooked some more.
  10. Take the pan off the heat. Squeeze lime juice on the paneer bhurji, to taste. It’ll add a bit of tartness to it that I love!
  11. Place a roti or tortilla on a plate. Spoon the bhurji into the centre of the roti.

Roll the roti up, so that it looks like a burrito.

Your snack/portable lunch is ready 🙂 I like eating it with yoghurt (I am a yoghurt fiend!)

Categories
Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Dondakaya Vepudu: A Delicious, Easy, Andhra-Style Vegetable Sauté

Tindora, Dondakaya, Indian Ivy Gourd, Low fat South Indian Vegetable Sauté

Dondakaya is a common vegetable in Andhra Pradesh (a State in Southern India). While I normally hate eating vegetables, this particular vegetable, prepared in the way my parents make it, I find absolutely delicious! If you’d like to try it, all you have to do is go to an Indian store and ask for “Tindora” which is the Hindi name for it. Once you get your hands on this vegetable, this is a fairly easy recipe to replicate.

Dondakaya Vepudu, Tindora fry, South Indian Veggie Sauté

Dondakaya or Tindora has a slightly tangy taste, and when sautéed in the manner I describe below, it turns out mostly soft, but slightly crunchy. Overall, it’s a flavourful vegetable with nutritional and health benefits. For one thing, according to WebMd it is “possibly effective” for helping manage diabetes by improving blood sugar control. It is also rich in beta carotene which can be converted by the body to Vitamin A (See Artemis C. Simopolous & C. Gopalan, Plants in Human Health, Basel, Switzerland: Karger, 2003) page 64-65).

If you’d like to give it a try, here is what you will beed:

Ingredients:

500 g Tindora/Dondakaya/Indian Ivy Gourd

1 small or medium onion, sliced (yellow or red)

3-4 dried red chillis

1 -2 tsp of red chilli powder

1/2 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 – 3/4 tsp cumin powder (optional)

1/2- 3/4 tsp coriander powder (cilantro seeds, ground) (optional)

3 tbsp oil (I use avocado oil, but you can use any oil that doesn’t have a very strong flavour/fragrance)

 

Method:

1. Slice the Dondakaya either widthways into rings, or lengthways into strips.

2. Add about 1.5 tbsp oil in a pan and heat it at medium-high. Once the oil is hot, add the sliced Dondakaya to the pan.

Tindora, Indian Ivy Gourd, Dondakaya

3. Sauté the Dondakaya for a few minutes, tossing the slices constantly.

4. Cover the pan and let the Dondakaya cook on low heat for about 10-13 minutes until the vegetable is softened.



5. Move the Dondakaya into a separate bowl. Add 1.5 tbsp of oil to the pan again, increase the heat to medium, and add the red chillies and toss until they darken. Then, add the onions and sauté.


6. Once the onions are softened and browned, add the Dondakaya to the pan again, and toss. Season with turmeric, chilli powder and cumin and coriander (if using) and stir the contents of the pan about, for a few minutes, until the spices are more evenly distributed over the Dondakaya pieces.

7. Once the spices are well distributed, take the pan of the heat and serve the Dondakaya Vepudu!

You can serve it as part of a South Indian meal with Pappu (lentils) and/or Pulusu (a tamarind broth with vegetables) and/or Rasam and/or Sambar, rice, roti, and yogurt.

Dondakaya Vepudu in South Indian Meal

 

Dondakaya Vepudu; Tindora fry, Healthy Veggie Sauté

Sometimes though, when I am busy, I make just the Vepudu and eat it with yogurt 🙂

 

Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Healthy Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

I made chocolates today and I was going to sit down with a cup of Jasmine tea and write about them. When I looked at my blog home page, however, I realized that my last post was also about chocolate (in fact, a LOT of my posts are about chocolate). Also, Easter was just the other day, so it occurred to me that some of you are probably feeling a little stuffed, maybe even a little ill from all the chocolate eating. In thinking about how guilty and sick you might be feeling, I began to feel somewhat stuffed myself. I’ve been eating loads of homemade, cheese covered pizza and of course, tonnes of chocolate. It was time, I decided, to eat something yummy but healthy.

So, I made myself the healthiest lunch that I am capable of enjoying. It included one of my favourite dishes, palak dal (spinach lentils) and was served with rice and baked beets and sweet potatoes.

Palakoora pappu, palak pappu, palak pulusu, palak dal, spinach dal, lentil soup

In general, I hate eating  vegetables. The prospect of having to eat a bowl of crunchy and/or leafy vegetables makes me feel ill, miserable and hopeless. Yet, this lunch included tonnes of spinach and I still loved it! The spinach lentils shown above, are as flavourful, as they are good for you (I am no doctor or nutritionist, but I think you will all agree with me when you see the ingredient list). I think spices make vegetables not only edible, but enjoyable 🙂

Healthy Indian food, low-fat spinach lentils, palak dal

 

You can also include rotis and a light vegetable sauté with the meal. I also like to eat some yoghurt along with my meal, but of course, this isn’t compulsory.

 

Indian healthy spinach lentil soup recipe

A quick note:  You can adjust the level of spice easily. In the list of ingredients in the recipe below, I have provided a range of amounts for various spices; you can decide whether you want to stay on the lower side of that range or be brave and add in the highest amount that I recommend.

If you would like to try to make the lentils, the recipe is below; I will write later about the sauté.

Ingredients:

1 cup Pesara Pappu (Moong Dal in Hindi; a type of lentil, native to India; you can also use Toor Dal, or Masoor Dal)

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

2-3 tablespoons of oil (I use either avocado oil or sunflower oil)

1 large onion or 2 medium-sized onions (red or yellow) chopped

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

3-4 cloves of garlic, skinned (you can also crush them if you don’t like having large pieces of garlic in your dal: I like the chunks :))

3-6 green chilies cut in half lengthwise (You can reduce this amount if you don’t want the dal to be too hot/spicy)

2 medium-sized tomatoes, chopped

1/2 – 1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 – 1 teaspoon coriander (cilantro) seed powder

1 – 2 teaspoons red chilli powder

1/2 teaspoon of garam masala (optional)

About a medium-sized bunch of spinach (250 g) (I used organic baby spinach)

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar (you can use white if you don’t have brown sugar) (optional)

Salt to taste

Ingredients for the tadka, baghar, or popu:

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

3-12 dried red chilies

1 or 2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves (optional)

2-4 peeled whole garlic cloves

2-3 tablespoons of ghee (You can get ghee at an Indian store. If you want to make your own, here is my recipe. If you don’t have ghee, you can simply use sunflower oil, vegetable oil, or really any oil with a high smoking point. DO NOT USE BUTTER, it will smoke and burn before the spices are properly fried).

Method:

1. The first thing to do is to prepare the dal (lentils). I use moong dal for this recipe. If you don’t live in India, you should be able to get most lentils at an Indian store. I normally soak lentils for a few hours before I cook them (this helps them cook faster and apparently helps to reduce bloating and gas; I am still looking for studies to back this up, which I will cite here when I find them). If you don’t have the time to do this, you can skip this step. This is how the lentils look soaked:

Moong dal (lentils native to the Indian subcontinent)

2. The easiest way to cook dal is to cook it in a pressure cooker. If you don’t have one, just boil the dal in water until its cooked. Add half a teaspoon  each of turmeric and salt to the dal before you cook it. Once it’s cooked it should look like this:

Cooked moong dal

3. I like to purée the dal in a food processor/blender/mixie in order to make it into a smooth paste. This makes the texture of the dal smoother and distributes flavour more evenly. This step is completely optional, however. You can skip it without much consequence to the taste of your dal if you do not have either the necessary equipment or the time.

4. In the meantime, heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a saucepan. When it’s hot add the chopped onions and sauté them until softened and lightly browned. Now add the ginger, garlic, and green chillies and sauté again until the ginger and garlic is cooked (their raw smell should vanish).

5. Add the tomatoes, followed by cumin powder, coriander powder, red chilli powder, garam masala (if you are using it), and half a teaspoon of salt. Cover and cook all of this for about 10 minutes on low-medium heat.

6. Meanwhile, rinse the spinach well.

Spinach for healthy lentil soup

7. Place the spinach in a bowl and microwave for a minute, until tender.  I like to simply use a herb scissors or a normal pair of scissors and cut up the spinach in the bowl (after it has been microwaved) into slightly smaller bits. If you don’t like this method, you can, of course, chop the spinach on a cutting board with a knife (before or after you microwave it.

8. Add the spinach to the sauce pan, then add the lentils and sugar (if you are using it). Let everything cook for about 5 minutes.

9. The baghar/popu/tadka:

Heat a tablespoon or two of ghee in a little saucepan like this:

Hot ghee

Let the ghee get hot. To test if it’s hot enough, throw a single cumin seed into the pan. If it begins to sizzle, add the rest of the cumin and stir the seeds about until they start to pop. When they start to pop, add the curry leaves, garlic cloves and red chilies.

Baghar
Tadka, popu or baghar

Once the red chillies darken like this:

Baghar, tadka or popu

Add the baghar to the lentils.

Making Hyderabadi Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

Immediately cover the pot.

The dal is now ready! Serve it with some hot rice and/or roti, dahi (yogurt), Indian pickle, ghee, and any other accompanying curries or vegetable sauté.

In the photograph below, it is served with rice , roti, dahi (yogurt), some pickle (Gongura pickle, to be precise, which you can get in most Indian stores if you live in North America) and sautéed Dondakaya (Indian Ivy Gourd).

 

Healthy South Indian lunch with lentil soup

 

Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Spicy Fish Keema

I spent half of my childhood in a Southern Indian city called Hyderabad. What I love the most about this city is its food. Hyderabadi cuisine is spicy, complex, and flavourful, with a fascinating history. (I’ve already touched upon some of this, including the story of the origins of Hyderabadi food and its evolution (involving the Mughals and the Nizams) in a previous post.) On top of all this, several Hyderabadi dishes play an important role in my own personal history. For instance, I have memories of delicious Biryani lunches with my father at Nizam Club, during which we would have long chats about communism, god, black holes, and the senselessness of vegetarian Biryani (I maintained, and continue to maintain, that Biryani must be made with mutton, or, in an emergency, with chicken; my father, is more flexible in principle, but frankly, seems to agree with me in practice), amongst other things.

Another dish that I love and associate fond memories with is Kheema. Kheema is spicy minced meat, and it’s made in different parts of India in slightly different ways. Kheema reminds me of Hussein, an elderly, gentle, kind, funny, patient man, who was our chauffeur. I used to be driven to and from school by Hussein, whom I was really very fond of. As it turned out, Hussein’s wife made the most delicious kheema, and every time she made some, he would bring me left-overs the next morning, which I would eat for lunch in school. This was a special treat as my parents’ was a vegetarian household, and no meat was ever cooked or served in it. 

Of and on, over the past decade, I’ve craved kheema made just like that. But, I no longer eat meat, and in any case, I have no idea how to make kheema that tastes like Hussein’s wife’s recipe. Today, I decided that I was going to make some kheema, one way or another; I was gripped by a craving so powerful, that I set about crafting a recipe with a kind of single-minded determination that I only wish I could summon when I sit down to write a chapter of my thesis. Although I don’t eat meat, I do eat fish, so awful as this is likely to sound to a Hyderabadi, I decided to make fish kheema. Using a recipe for “Bhuna Kheema” and adapting it quite a bit (for instance, I used tomatoes, which isn’t common in Hyderabadi recipes, and of course, I was using fish instead of mutton/chicken), I arrived at this creation:

image

It was delicious, even if it wasn’t quite authentic, and it still had a distinct flavour profile that resembled the kheema from my child hood! If you’d like to try it, here’s what you will need:

1 pound fish fillets (any white fish should do, used haddock)

2-3 tablespoons oil (the more you use, the better the kheema will taste, up to a point of course)

1/2 stick cinnamon

2 bay leaves

A handful of curry leaves

4 cardamom pods

3-4 cloves

1 large red onion, (dice 3 quarters and slice the remaining quarter)

1 teaspoon crushed garlic

1 teaspoon grated ginger

10 sprigs of coriander, chopped

5-8 mint leaves

6 green chillies, chopped

Salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

2 teaspoons red chilli powder (I used 1 teaspoon Kashmiri mirch powder and 1 teaspoon extra hot red chilli powder that I bought at an Indian store)

1/2 teaspoon coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon garam masala powder

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

Juice of 1 lime

Method:

Boil the fish in a pot of water with 1 teaspoon of salt. Cool the fish and chop it into bite sized pieces.

Heat oil in a pan and fry the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, curry leaves, and cloves. Once the spices become fragrant, add the onion and fry until golden brown. Now, add the grated ginger and crushed garlic, and fry for a few minutes.

Next, add the chopped chillies, followed by the mint, coriander, salt, turmeric powder, chilli powder, coriander powder and garam a masala. Fry for a bit, and then add the chopped tomatoes. Fry some more.

Finally, add the boiled fish with a little bit of water, and toss. Using a flat ladle, break up the fish into little pieces, whilst stirring everything on medium to high heat. Continue periodically stirring the mixture until the water dries up, and the fish begins to look like mince meat. At this point, take the fish off the heat, squeeze some lime juice on it, stir it, and serve it with some coriander and/or mint leaves garnished on top. You can eat kheema with naan, roti, chapati, parathas, or just by itself. I ate it with chapatis and dahi (Indian-style Yoghurt), and made a cup of lemon tea to wash it all down.

image

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Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Easy Fish Tikka Recipe Served with Mint Chutney

Tikka is one of my favourite appetizers, but unfortunately, good tikka is surprisingly difficult to come by outside India. Craving decent tikka (especially fish tikka), I have tried multiple recipes over the years, and finally, I think I’ve found the perfect combination and balance of ingredients. This recipe, arrived at after some fine-tuning and re-mixing, and much experimentation 😉 is also relatively easy to follow.

Mmmm just look at how delicious this looks:

Tandoori tikka recipe

If you’d like to try it out, here is the recipe!

Ingredients:

1 pound fish cut into 1.5 inch cubes (I’ve found that haddock works really well for tikka)

For the Marinade:

6-8 large cloves of garlic

1/2 tablespoon grated ginger

1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves

3 tbsp lime juice

1 tbsp grated lime zest

1 tbsp kashmiri red chili powder

1 tsp freshly ground cumin powder

1/2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp salt

1 tsp rock salt

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp mustard oil

1 tbsp gram flour

1/2 cup yoghurt

Method:

Set aside the gram flour, yoghurt and half the oil. Put the rest of the marinade ingredients in a blender, or food processor, and process into a smooth paste.

In the meantime, fry the gram flour in the oil that was set aside, until the flour darkens a bit and becomes fragrant (this should take about one, or one and half minutes).

Combine the fried flour, spice paste, and yoghurt in a bowl, then add the fish pieces to this. Marinate the fish in the mixture for at least 4 hours, or even overnight (place the fish and marinade in the refrigerator during this time).

image

When you’re ready to serve the tikka, broil the fish in the oven (at the highest setting for about 15 minutes, basting half way through with butter), or, if you can, grill it over a barbecue. I think it tastes best when it’s grilled on the barbecue, but broiling works well enough, at a pinch.

Serve the tikka with mint chutney (to make chutney at home, blitz a cup of coriander leaves with half a cup of mint leaves, 2-3 green chillies, 2 tbsp of lime juice, 3-4 tbsp of greek yoghurt, and rock salt to taste. Add more yoghurt if you want a thicker consistency, or if the chutney tastes too hot for your liking). You can also garnish the plate or tray you serve the tikka on with onions sliced into rings, or green chilies.

And there you have it, a delicious appetizer, that I sometimes eat with roti or rice as a main course. It also makes for a great snack at cocktail parties.

Fish tikka