Categories
Baking Chocolate Food General Recipes vegan

Amazing, Almost Ambrosial Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I woke up grumpy, feeling rickety, tired, and ancient. By late afternoon, however, I was quite cheery, even contemplating having a 10 minute solo dance party in my living room. This transformation was in large part thanks to a quick twenty minute yoga session and then, this plate of perfect cookies, alongside a cup of chamomile tea.

What does the perfect cookie taste like, you might ask? What does it feel like when you bite into it? How does it smell? Well, that of course may vary from person to person. To me, a perfect cookie is a chocolate cookie. It is filled with dark chocolate chips and possibly dotted with lightly toasted nuts. It is crisp on the top, bottom, and on its sides, but has a gooey centre. It has the distinct aroma and taste of rich cocoa, a hint of vanilla, and finally, the caramel-like taste of brown sugar. It looks like this:

If this sounds and looks like something you might like, then I suggest giving this recipe a shot! Oh and these cookies are completely vegan!

I will say, some people may find these cookies a bit sweet. The trouble is that the recipe requires at least this amount of sugar in order for the cookies to have a crispy exterior and a gooey centre. Moreover, these cookies, while undoubtedly sweet, were not unpleasantly so, to me (just to calibrate my palate/preferences, most North American milk chocolate tastes saccharine to me). Especially, when paired with some unsweetened coffee or tea to offset their sweetness and also, to compliment their crisp and gooey texture.

I sipped on some chamomile tea, made by brewing dried chamomile flowers from our garden, while I ate them.

I think a cup of coffee with these cookies would be great too!

If you want to give making the cookies a shot, here’s what you will need:

Ingredients:

100 g (about 1/2 cup) white sugar

100g (about 1/2 cup) dark brown sugar (if you want to use light brown sugar, use 125g of it and then, reduce the white sugar by 25 g)

112g (about 1/2 cup) vegan butter (I use Earth Balance)

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (I use real vanilla extract, but imitation vanilla extract should work fine in foods treated to relatively high temperatures)

125 g (about 1 cup) all purpose flour

60 g cocoa (about 2/3 cup) (use the best cocoa you have as the better it tastes, the better your cookie will taste)

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 pinches of salt

1-2 tablespoons of almond milk

2 handfuls of vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips (or chop up a bar of your favourite vegan dark chocolate) (you can add less or more, per your preference)

2 handfuls of walnuts, chopped and lightly toasted (toast them in a frying pan until slightly browned and fragrant)

Equipment:

Stand mixer, handheld mixer, or a whisk and strong arms

2 large bowls

1 sieve

A weighing scale or measuring cup

A teaspoon

A baking tray

Some parchment paper

An oven

Method:

  1. Cream the butter and sugar (i.e. beat them together in a stand mixer or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer/eggbeater or whisk) until they form a creamy, thick, pale yellow mixture.
  2. Add in the vanilla extract and continue beating the mixture until the extract is incorporated into it.
  3. Sieve the dry ingredients into a second bowl (flour, cocoa, baking powder, and salt).
  4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix them altogether with your hands. It will seem like a thick dough. Add in a tablespoon of almond milk and mix it in. If the dough still seems very dry, add in another spoon of the milk.
  5. Toss in the chocolate chips and walnuts and mix them in.
  6. Roll the dough into individual little balls. (I got about 14).
  7. You can bake them all on a baking tray lined with parchment paper (ideally unbleached and compostable) at 350 F for about 12 minutes or so. The cookies are ready when they are slightly firmed up on their sides. They will still seem soft in the centre, but will firm up in about 10 minutes if you just let them cool on the tray.
  8. Alternatively, flash freeze the dough balls in the freezer (i.e. freeze them on a tray or plate) for about 2-3 hours, and once they have frozen, throw them into a freezer ziplock bag and then the freezer. This way, you can pop your head into the freezer and grab some dough whenever you want a fresh cookie! If you choose this route, bake the frozen dough balls directly, without defrosting them, at 350F, but for about 3 minutes longer.
  9. The only problem with the freezing method is that it isn’t very energy-efficient because it involves heating up the oven multiple times. What we’ve been trying to do in our home is to bake various different things in the oven at the same time. For instance, one can also toast bread at 350F. Alternatively, we heat up the oven to 350F, bake the cookies, and then increase the oven temperature to a higher temperature to bake other things, like bread, for example.
  10. Whatever method you choose, I recommend enjoying your warm cookies with a glass of milk, coffee, or tea!
Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

How to Make Paneer Bhurji!

Yesterday, we received a grocery delivery, including fresh whole milk from free-range cows. So, last evening, I made some fresh paneer! I could barely stop myself from eating it all, as is. It was citrusy, fresh, and utterly, deliciously, creamy! Somehow, I managed to control myself and stored it in the refrigerator and today, I set out to make some paneer bhurji.

Bhurji recipe

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

1/2 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)

2-5 tablespoons of vegetable or sunflower oil or ghee (go here for my recipe) (if you use 4-5 tbsp of oil or ghee, the bhurji will taste better and have a better mouth-feel)

1 medium onion (ideally red; diced)

2 cloves of garlic (crushed)(optional)

2 green chillies (ideally, the slender, thai ones) or 1 habanero (chopped);

3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes (you can use more tomatoes if you like your bhurji a little more tangy and sweet) (diced)

Salt to taste

1-3 teaspoon red chilli powder (depending on how hot you want your bhurji to taste)

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 lime or lemon (optional)

A few sprigs of coriander/cilantro (optional)

Rotis (for more on how to make rotis, go here; you could also use tortillas or buy pre-made rotis at an Indian store, but I wouldn’t recommend it).

Method:

  1. Take the Paneer and chop it up into little pieces. You can also process it in a food processor until it is broken up into fairly small bits.
  2. Place a frying pan on your stove and turn up the heat to medium-high. Add the oil/ghee to the pan.
  3. Once the oil seems hot (test it with one small onion piece) toss in the diced onions and sauté them until they are slightly browned.
  4. Reduce the heat to medium, throw the crushed garlic and chopped chillies into the pan, and sauté them, as well.
  5. Sprinkle the salt and all the masalas (red chilli, coriander, cumin, garam masala, and turmeric powders) into the pan. Stir the contents of the pan until the spices are well-distributed.
  6. Once the aromas of the spices begin to release (in about a minute), add the tomatoes, and mix everything in the pan.
  7. Place a lid on the 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. You should definitely cook it long enough for the oil to separate from the paneer-masala mixture.
  10. Take the pan off the heat. Squeeze some lime/lemon juice on the paneer bhurji, to taste; it will add a bit of tartness to the bhurji! You could also garnish the bhurji with some coriander/cilantro leaves. And enjoy!

How to make paneer bhurji

Eat it with some rotis!

Healthy vegetarian meal

You could also roll it up in a chapati to make yourself a Kathi roll. Go here for instructions on how to do this.

Categories
Food General Recipes

Easy 10 Minute Dinner Recipe: Pasta in Herbed Brown Butter

A lot of my posts on here are about recipes that are relatively elaborate, great for languid afternoons in the kitchen, with music and a glass or two of wine, or an evening of cooking with friends or one’s partner. Tonight, though, was not one such evening. I was hungry and tired and I wanted something good to eat, and quickly.

And this is what I cooked up!

Easy pasta

It’s easy, fast, and pretty darned delicious. And most of you will have these ingredients lying around in your kitchens! I used pre-made ravioli from a little store in my neighbourhood, but you could use penne, farfalle, or any other type of pasta you like.

Ingredients

Pasta

Water

Salt

A few sprigs of rosemary (you can also use sage or thyme) (dried or fresh)

8 tablespoons of butter (this is the main ingredient in this recipe, so the better the quality of butter you use the nicer it will taste)

A clove of garlic, cut into quarters

Parmigiano Reggiano, Pecorino, or Grana Padano (freshly grated, if possible)

Method:

1. Heat water in a pot with some salt. Dump in the pasta once the water is boiling. Cook it according to the package instructions.

2. When the pasta is 5 minutes from being done, melt the butter in a pan (a light-coloured one if possible, so that you can tell when the butter is browned). Once it’s melted, add the garlic to it and keep stirring it with a spatula so as to ensure it browns evenly.

3. In the meantime, once the pasta is done, drain it and set it aside.

4. Brown the butter lightly or to a deeper hue, depending on how much of a nutty flavour you want, but watch it carefully, as it can burn quickly. I browned it for about 6 minutes. Once it is exactly how you want it, take it off the stove, toss in the herb of your choice and then the pasta.

5. Top it off with the grated cheese of your choice and enjoy!

Categories
Chocolate Cooking General Recipes

Buttermilk Waffles for Brunch!

My favourite type of waffles are Belgian Liège style waffles (names after Liège, a city in Belgium). There is a little shop in Kenginston Market in Toronto that serves up some pretty delicious ones! It’s called “Wafles & More“. They also serve a a pretty good hot chocolate, should you feel like a rich, warm drink to accompany your already decadent breakfast 🙂

Wafles & More
Belgian Waffles

I woke up this morning craving some waffles and since it is New Year’s Day (and most places are closed), I knew I would have to cook some up myself. Given that Liège style waffles are made with a yeast-based dough and therefore, cannot be made on a whim, within the hour, I decided upon buttermilk waffles instead. They turned out pretty great!

Should you want waffles that are not too sweet, with just a hint of warm molasses and sourness, slightly crisp on the top, fluffy in the middle, and glowing with a caramel-coloured hue, then try this recipe!

Ingredients:

2 cups of flour

1/4 cup turbinado, light brown, or dark brown sugar (packed)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

0.5 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

114 g (8 tablespoons) cultured, unsalted butter (if you can’t find cultured butter, any unsalted butter will do)

2 cups whole buttermilk

3 eggs (separated)

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

Toppings (you could use any or all of these, or throw on any toppings that appeal to you):

Whipped Cream (Ideally, flavour it with some liqueur)

Berries

Bananas

Melted Chocolate

Maple Syrup

Chocolate Hazelnut butter (go here for a recipe)

Nutella

Peanut Butter

Jam

Method:

1. Place all the dry ingredients in a bowl. Mix and then sift them all into a large bowl.

2. Warm the butter and buttermilk to just slightly warmer than room temperature.

3. Mix the butter, buttermilk, egg yolks, and vanilla essence together in a bowl. Then add this mixture to the dry ingredients and gently mix them all together with a whisk.

4. Whip the egg whites until they form stiff peaks.

5. Turn on your waffle maker.

6. Gently fold the egg whites into the mixture from step 3.

7. The batter is now ready! Spoon some into the waffle maker and let it cook for about 3 minutes. You will have to figure out how much batter to add into the waffle maker, as well as precisely how much time to let the waffles cook, after a few tries (both these variables will be influenced by the type of waffle maker you have).

8. Your waffles are good to go! Throw on some toppings and enjoy!

9. Just a note, I think whipped cream is an absolutely essential topping for waffles. I recommend whipping some up right before you start making the waffles. I also suggest adding some liqueur to the cream before you start whipping it up. I used cherry liqueur!

10. Also, if you’d like, you can make a few extra and store them in the fridge. I have found that when you’re ready to eat them, it’s best to heat them up in the oven at 350 degrees Celsius, for 2 mins on either side, after basting them with some butter.

Neatly plated waffles 😊
Simple buttermilk waffles
Messy waffles 😝
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. Also note that adding more mangoes changes the texture of the dal: it will become more pulpy with the addition of each mango)

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 have a nice balance of pungency and sweetness)

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 use a normal pressure cooker or boil the dal in water until it is cooked. Add a quarter teaspoon of turmeric, half a teaspoon of salt, 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, the remaining turmeric, 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 that 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. In step 9 (below), you can add garlic to the tadka, but remember to remove it before pouring the tadka into the dal.

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 and 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
Food General Recipes

Creamy and Refreshing Yoghurt Parfait: A Summer Delight!

I wasn’t always a huge parfait fan. If you follow this blog, you know that I mostly only eat chocolatey sweet things. But then, we went away for a weekend this June, and had this delicious parfait every morning at our Bed and Breakfast:

On a side note, we stayed in a boat house on the water in Catalina Bay, in the Kawartha Lakes region and it was absolutely lovely! Here are some photos of the place:

Our hostess was very gracious and kind, and the real bonus was that there was a resident kitty at the B&B!

But I was telling you about the parfait: it’s been a hot summer, and I’ve really been craving some creamy, berry filled parfait ever since our trip. So I went ahead and made some this morning:

If you’d like to give it a shot, here’s how:

Equipment:

A small thick bottomed saucepan

A grater or zester

Two bowls

Spoons, a spatula, and a whisk

Ingredients:

1 cup yoghurt

1/4 tsp vanilla essence

1 cup blueberries (frozen or fresh)

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup water

1 tsp finely grated lemon zest

1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice

1-3 tsp granola (you can go here, if you want to make your own (you can skip the coconut if you don’t like the idea of blueberries with coconut))

Method:

1. First, we’ve got to make our compote: Bring the sugar and water to boil in the saucepan at medium-high heat. Let it cook for 6-8 mins until the mixture thickens a bit. Add in the blueberries, lower the head to medium, and stir gently. Cook the berries for about 5 minutes. If you’re using frozen berries, cook the berries for a little longer. Take the pan off the heat. Add in the lemon zest and juice and mix well. Let the compote sit for about 15-20 minutes, until it cools.

2. Whisk the yoghurt and vanilla together in a bowl.

5. Serve the compote and yoghurt together in a new bowl. You can do it in whatever way looks nice to you. I did this:

6. Top off with granola and enjoy!

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
Baking Chocolate Food General Recipes

Homemade Chocolate Hazelnut Butter

If you like Nutella, but find that it is too sweet and simultaneously neither quite hazelnutty nor chocolatey enough, then you know exactly how I feel. In my quest for a perfectly rich and nutty butter, I have tried various different brands, including Patchi and Neuhaus. None of them really hit the spot, unfortunately. The problem was their texture, their weak chocolate flavour, and the fact that I could taste only a hint of hazelnut flavour in them.

Then, it occurred to me, a few years ago: why not make my own butter? I’ve tried various versions of my own butter since then, but this recipe is now my favourite! This butter’s texture is rich and velvety and the flavour is a perfect balance of dark chocolate and the unmatched, gloriously nutty flavour of real, toasted hazelnuts. A quick note: the more you like the dark chocolate you use in this recipe, the better the butter will taste.

Here it is, poured over a slice of bread, looking so delightfully smooth and glossy!

 

If you want to try making some yourself, this is the equipment you will need:

  • A food processor or powerful blender (I use a Blendtec)
  • An oven
  • A baking tray
  • A tea towel
  • A spatula
  • A jar

And here are the ingredients you will need:

  • 450g Hazelnuts
  • 35-45 g sugar (based on your taste) (I use castor sugar but if your processor/blender is not too powerful, I recommend using icing sugar) (you could also use maple or agave syrup, to taste)
  • 172 g good quality dark chocolate, to taste (my favourite is Cotê d’or)
  • A pinch or two of salt.
  • 2 tsp vanilla essence or hazelnut flavouring (optional)(I use this one).
  • 1-2 tsp of hazelnut oil (optional)

 

Method:

1. Toast the hazelnuts at 350 F in a baking tray for about 15 minutes, until they turn light brown and fragrant, tossing them periodically.

2. After they’ve cooled, place them at the centre of a tea towel/kitchen towel. Wrap the nuts securely in the towel and then roll the wrapped up nuts on any hardish surface. This will help remove their skins. After you’ve rolled the nuts about for a bit, open up the towel, and pick out the skinned nuts. Repeat this step if there are still a lot of nuts with skins on them.

3. Toss the skinned nuts into a food processor or blender and grind them up until they turn into a smooth butter.

4. Melt the dark chocolate in a the microwave or over a bain-marie.  If you have a powerful blender you can skip this step.

5. Throw in the melted chocolate, sugar, a pinch or two of salt (to taste), a teaspoon or two of vanilla essence or hazelnut flavouring, and a teaspoon or two of hazelnut oil.

6. Blend everything until it feels smooth enough to you, and there you have it! Your own homemade chocolate hazelnut butter!

My favourite way to eat it is on bread with some homemade peanut butter! Mmmmmm!