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 sautĂ© 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 sautĂ© 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 sautĂ©ed onions-ginger-chilli-mixture (hereinafter referred to as “stuff” :P) and continue to sautĂ© 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 sautĂ©. I like to eat it with brown rice (it’s more nutritious and has more fibre) and some dahi (Indian yogurt).

IMG_9523
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 sautĂ© 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 sautĂ© 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 sautĂ©ed onions-ginger-chilli-mixture (hereinafter referred to as “stuff” :P) and continue to sautĂ© 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 sautĂ©. 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 sautĂ©ed dondakaya (Indian Ivy Gourd).

Healthy Indian lunch with lentil soup

Categories
Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Homemade Paneer: A Creamy, Lemon-ey Delight


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 lemon juice (you could also use 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

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 sautĂ© 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 sautĂ© them until softened and lightly browned. Now add the ginger, garlic, and green chillies and sautĂ© 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.

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Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

Heavenly, Healthy Hyderabadi Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

I made some absolutely delicious truffles today, and I was all set to write a post about it. Then I looked at my blog home page and realized that my last post was also about truffles. (In fact, a LOT of my posts are about truffles.) 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, delicious but cheese covered pizza and of course, tonnes of chocolate. It was time, I decided, to eat something yummy but healthy. And so, I made myself the healthiest dinner that I am capable of eating. I have difficulty eating leafy vegetables you see, they literally make me feel unhappy and hopeless. But this particular magical recipe for spinach lentils that I am about to share with you is as spicy and flavourful, as it is good for you. I am no doctor or nutritionist, but I think you’ll all agree with me when you see the ingredient list.

Hyderabadi Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils) with RiceOh and as you can see from the title, this is a Hyderabadi recipe. Hyderabad is the capital of a southern State in India: Andhra Pradesh. It was the seat of the Nizams, who ruled Hyderabad for about 2 centuries. The word Nizam or Nizam-ul-mulk means ‘administrator of the realm’ or ‘governor of the nation’ in Urdu. This is because the first Nizam was originally appointed by the Mughal emperor to oversee and govern Southern India on his behalf. As the Mughal empire began to crumble (for a brief overview of Mughal history go here), Asaf Jha who was a Mughal noble and a Nizam, declared independence from the Mughals and founded his own dynasty, the Asaf Jha dynasty, also known as the Nizams.

The history of the Nizams is of course more complex than this little paragraph intimates. It is full of battles, intrigue and all the other stuff that good history is made of. But this post is about food, also I am not a historian. I just wanted to give you this brief little background so you can understand Hyderabadi cuisine better. I would recommend reading more about the Nizams though, about their food, jewellery and architecture in particular.

Because the Nizams were essentially nobles from the Mughal court, their food was strongly influenced by Mughlai cuisine. But South Indian food, more precisely Andhra food, i.e. the food the locals ate (and continue to eat today) before the Nizams came to Hyderabad, is also delicious and distinctive. Typical Andhra foods include: spicy peppery Rasam; Chappala Pulusu (fish curry); and Erra Avakaya. So it isn’t surprising that Hyderabadi food blends Andhra and Mughlai styles. Andhra food itself can be broken down into several different types based on different regions of the State. There are also hints of Arab, Turkish, Parsi and other influences in Hyderabadi food. So you see, it is bastardized, pluralistic, and historically rich.

It is also amongst the most delicious cuisines on earth. I kid you not. It’s as spicy as South Indian Andhra food, its magnificence equals Mughlai food (like dal Makhani), and it’s as rich and flavourful as Italian food can be.

(And while I am not appointing myself final arbiter of the best food known to man, I think a woman who has a blog (mostly) about food, a woman who goes into raptures about food, a woman whose very mental stability depends on the availability of a delicious meal, in short a food-crazed woman, should be taken very seriously.)

Anyway, now that you’re sold on its deliciousness, here it is, a spicy palak dal- Hyderabadi style:

Ingredients:

1 cup of moong dal (a type of lentil, native to India)

1/2 teaspoon haldi/pasupu/turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon crushed garlic

About a medium sized bunch of spinach

1/2 tablespoon dried mango powder (Amchur)

5-6 green chilies cut in half lengthwise

2-3 sprigs of coriander/cilantro

Salt to taste

(The following are the ingredients for the tadka baghar or popu)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

5 dried red chilies

5-6 fresh curry leaves or about 10 dried ones

4 peeled whole garlic cloves

2-3 tablespoons of ghee (you can get ghee at an Indian store; if you want to make south Indian ghee, you can read my recipe here)

Method:

The first thing to do is to prepare the dal (lentils). I use moong dal for this recipe. You should be able to get these lentils at an Indian store, if you don’t live in India. I normally soak lentils for about 20 minutes before I cook 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)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 of turmeric and some salt to the dal before you cook it. Once it’s cooked it should look like this: Cooked moong dalNext, heat one tablespoon of oil in a saucepan. When it’s hot add the ginger and garlic. Fry the ginger and garlic until cooked (slightly browned, but not burnt). Add the spinach to the ginger-garlic and let it cook, stirring occasionally. Once the spinach is tender, add the lentils.

Hyderabadi Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

Let this cook for about 10 minutes. Then add half a tablespoon of dried Mango powder (Amchur), the green chillies and the coriander sprigs to the pot and again, let the dal cook. After about 5 minutes we’re ready to add the tadka or baghar (tempering of spices in oil).

The baghar:

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 along with the mustard seeds and stir them about until they start to pop. When they start to pop, add the curry leaves, garlic cloves and red chilies.

BagharOnce the red chillies darken like this:

Baghar, tadka or popu

Add the baghar to the lentils.

Making Hyderabadi Palak Dal (Spinach Lentils)

and immediately cover the pot.

The dal is now ready! Serve it with some hot rice, yoghurt and a papad.

Categories
Cooking Food General Indian Cooking Recipes

How to Make Khichdi: A Low-fat, Fast, and Simple Indian Recipe

I spent much of this past week writing a long note on copyright theory. I had a deadline to meet (as I mentioned, in my previous post about sunbathing kitties) and I found myself working pretty much around the clock. So I ended up eating out quite a bit.  4 days out of the past 7, I walked out in the snow, slush, gorgeous winter sun, or whatever else this bizarre winter threw at me, and got takeout. Finally, yesterday, sick of all this, I decided to make myself some good, comfort food. I needed something that was simple, fast and healthy; especially something ‘fast’ because I wanted to send off the note to my supervisor before the end of the day. “What should I make?” I pondered, and then it struck me! I was going to make Khichdi!

I’ve forgotten all about khichdi these past few years, choosing to explore more complex and indulgent dishes like dal makhani instead. But today was a khichdi kind of day. Khichdi is the perfect food for when you’re sick, or too busy to make something more complicated. It’s just lentils and rice with some mild spices. You can however, add some vegetables (bleugh! (I am not a huge fan of vegetables, you see)) to it to if you want to.

Here’s how to make some khichdi for yourself:

Ingredients:

1 cup moong dal (you could also use other lentils like Tur dal for instance)

A little less than 1 cup rice

1 tsp red chilli powder

1 tsp cumin powder (dry roast cumin seeds and then grind them, or you can buy the powder at the store)

1 tsp coriander powder (dry roast coriander seeds and then grind them, or you can buy the powder at the store)

1/2 tsp haldi (turmeric powder)

3 cloves of garlic, peeled

1-2 green chilli sliced horizontally into two. (You can also use half a Jalapeño).

For the tadka (tempering):

1-2 tbsp of ghee (Indian clarified butter, you can make this at home, or buy some at an Indian store)

1/2 to 3/4 cumin seeds

3 dried red chillies

A few kernels of black pepper

2 pinches of heengh (asafoetida)

3 cloves 

Optional Serving Accompaniments:

Yoghurt

Ghee (you can find it in an Indian store; if you’d like to make it at home, here is my recipe)

Indian Pickle (you can make some at home, but this isn’t so easy. You can also buy some at any Indian store. I chose a Andhra-style tomato pickle for today).

Method:

Start by soaking the moong dal in water for about 30 minutes. You don’t generally have to soak moong dal, but it cooks faster if you do. Also, I like the dal to be well-cooked, even squishy in khichdi, which is why I wouldn’t skip this step in this recipe.

Moong Dal
Pre-soaked moong dal used in making khichdi

Place a pressure cooker or pot (that comes with a lid) on the stove.  Add the lentils, rice, garlic, green chillies and red chilli, turmeric, coriander and cumin powders and stir. Finally, add 2 cups of water, place the lid on the cooker/pot, lower the heat to medium and let the lentil-rice mixture cook. If you’re using a pressure cooker, let the mixture cook until the cooker lets off 4 whistles. If you’re using a pot, just let the mixture cook slowly, stirring occasionally. The mixture is done when it’s squishy enough for you, but make sure not to overdo it or you will end up with a goopy mess.

Now, add one or two tablespoons of ghee (I added two but one will do the trick) to the smallest pot you own, and turn on the heat to high. When the ghee is hot, add the cumin seeds and wait for them to splutter. Then, add the red chillies (torn in half), black pepper, cloves and heengh to the ghee and toss them about. When the chillies darken add this spiced ghee (called the tadka or popu) to the lentil-rice mixture. Your khichdi is done!

Serve with yoghurt and some pickle.

Khichdi
Khichdi- a rice and lentil dish that is great as comfort food, for when you’re sick, busy or lazy 🙂

I like eating south Indian ghee with khichdi, so I served some ghee along with it in a little tart mold. That’s what I placed right on top of the khichdi.

Khichdi with Ghee
Khichdi tastes best with a generous helping of Ghee- Indian Clarified butter.

If you want to know more about making south Indian ghee, you can read about it on this website. I am sure I will post something about it soon enough though. I LOVE ghee in general and South Indian ghee in particular.

Categories
Cooking Food Indian Cooking Recipes

Buttery Rajma (Kidney Beans) with Rice

Indian Kidney Bean Curry RecipeI woke up this morning, ok I lied, I woke up this afternoon with a craving. I really wanted to eat some Rajma Chaval. For those of you who aren’t familiar with this dish, it’s a staple all over India. Although, it’s primarily a North-Indian dish, I know plenty of South-Indians who love the stuff. It’s sort of like a dal (what some of you non-Indians call lentil curry) made with red kidney beans. Rajma refers to these beans and chaval (or chawal) simply means rice.

This is a very simple dish, it’s comfort food really. If you’d like to try this recipe out, here goes:

Ingredients:

1 cup dried kidney beans (see below for how to prepare these beans, you need to prepare them at least 7 hours before you start cooking)

1 tablespoon Ghee (Indian clarified butter) or oil (you can find ghee in an Indian store; if you’d like to make it at home, here is my recipe)

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1-2 teaspoon grated ginger

1-2 teaspoon crushed garlic

2-4 Indian green chillies (I used dried red ones because I couldn’t find green ones in my neighborhood store)

2-4 Bay leaves

2-4 Cloves

1 pinch of Heengh (asafetida)

1 large onion or two small onions, finely diced. (red or white)

2 small tomatoes, or 1 large tomato, pureed or finely chopped (choose depending on whether you like small chunks of tomatoes in the rajma, some do, some don’t)

1-2 teaspoon red chilli powder

1/4 teaspoon haldi (turmeric)

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon cumin powder

Lots of butter 🙂

Some cream (optional)

Coriander as garnish

Note: For some of the ingredients I haven’t listed a precise quantity because it’s really up to you how spicy you want to make the dish. You might also like one spice better than another one, so you pick and choose how much you want to add within the range I specified (you can of course add even more than the upper-limit of my range, but then I can’t speak to how the dish will turn out, since I’ve never tried it that way).

Also, I am using Canadian vegetables. Onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger etc taste different in different countries and regions; they also come in varying sizes. You’re going to have to experiment a little and you may find that you have to tinker with the measures I have recommended.

Preparing the beans: Soak the Rajma in plenty of water (at least tree times as much water as beans) overnight or for at least 7 hours. This soaking is important; if you don’t soak the beans, they won’t be soft enough and the final product won’t taste as good. There are allegedly short cuts to this, but I personally don’t believe they can produce the same results.

The next step is to cook the beans. Here’s a little tip, don’t use the water the beans were soaking in, to cook them. This water contains ‘oligosaccharides’ released from the beans, and they cause.. eerm.. well..eerm flatulence! If you don’t follow my advice, there is always this yoga pose:

(Image by The Holistic Care Yoga Wiki. The above image is CC licensed, for more information go here.)

So anyway, back to the recipe. With fresh water, pressure cook the beans until the cooker whistles about 4 times. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, you can simply boil them, it’ll just take longer. If you’re cooking them in a pot with water, the beans will be done when you can take one out and squish it between your fingers. I suppose you could use canned beans instead of going through all this trouble, but I am somehow not a big fan of things in cans. I feel, and obviously this is subjective, that beans from a can don’t taste as good as beans that have been soaked and cooked.

Method:

We’ll start with one tbsp of ghee/oil in a deep, preferably thick-bottomed sauce pan that comes with a lid. Lay aside the following spices:

Spices needed for the Rajma RecipeLet the ghee/oil get got, then add 1 tsp of cumin seeds. The heat should be on high at this point. Wait for the seeds to begin splutter. Now add the bay leaves, cloves chillies and heengh.

When the red chillies change colour add the onions. Saute them until the become soft and brownish (as seen in the photograph below). Then add the chopped tomatoes (or puree). Next, add the red chili, turmeric, coriander, and cumin powders.

Stir well, put a lid on the pot and let the mixture cook on low to medium heat for about 5-10 minutes.

In the meantime take a few tablespoons of the cooked beans in a separate bowl and mash the beans up a bit. Once the tomato-onion-spice mixture has cooked for a while and the raw tomato smell has gone, add the cooked beans along with the mashed beans to the mixture. Then add as much butter as you think you can get away with (without feeling guilty) and stir well. Place the lid back on the pot and let the mixture cook on low for about 20-40 minutes.

The Rajma is ready! You can serve it on top of hot steaming rice, add a bit of cream (if you like) and then garnish with coriander leaves.

As I said before, this isn’t a fancy dish at all- it’s a simple recipe that reminds me of home.