Showing posts with label Beans. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Beans. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 07, 2015

A Knock-Off Recipe: Madras Lentils

A close friend (the one who taught me to make potstickers) came to me with a culinary challenge. Her six year daughter is not a particularly adventurous eater, but she loves loves loves one thing: a packaged curry called Madras lentils made by a company called Tasty Bite, sold in shelf-stable pouches. You snip open the pouch, heat the curry and it is ready to eat. My friend wondered if there was a way to make this stuff at home- to avoid the packaging, and there's no doubt that making it at home would be cheaper, and with more control on how much salt, oil and spice goes into the dish. Challenge accepted. I told her we could it quite easily with some reverse engineering.

I've never tasted this packaged curry myself, but a web search gave me the ingredient list- a gratifyingly short and simple one: Water, Tomatoes, Lentils, Red Beans, Onions, Cream, Salt, Butter, Sunflower Oil, Chilies, Cumin. 

Looking at the ingredient list, I'd guess that they cook onions and tomatoes together in some oil, season with cumin, salt and chilies, then add the paste to cooked lentils (whole masoor) and red beans (rajma or kidney beans) and add some butter and cream to finish. By the way, I'm not sure at all why these are called Madras lentils. Just sounded like a catchy name, maybe?

We got together this Saturday evening and cooked it together. Since I had dried kidney beans and a pressure cooker on hand, I just soaked a cup of rajma/kidney beans overnight and cooked them with the lentils. But I'm trying to make this recipe amenable to those who are total newbies to Indian cooking, so the recipe below calls for no special equipment and for no ingredients that you couldn't find in any old supermarket.

Copycat Madras Lentils

1. Soak 1 cup dry brown lentils (sold in supermarkets as lentils and Indian stores as whole masoor) for a couple of hours (see pic above). Rinse and cook in a pot with 2 cups water until tender. Set aside.

2. Rinse 2 cans red kidney beans, drain and add to cooked lentils. 

3. In a pan, heat 1 tbsp. butter + 1 tbsp. oil
4. Saute 2 diced onions until browned. 
5. Add salt to taste, 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (or 1 tsp. paprika for even milder version) and 1 tsp. ground cumin
6. Add 1.5 cups canned crushed tomatoes and stir fry for 5-10 minutes.
7. Cool the mixture, then blend to a smooth paste in a food processor or blender.

8. Combine cooked lentils, beans and onion-tomato paste in a saucepan, adding some water if needed. Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes. 

9. Stir in 1 tbsp. butter, 2-3 tbsp. cream and serve as a stew or over steamed rice. 

According to my friend, our curry looked just like the real thing, except that the packaged version looks much redder. Maybe they add Kashmiri chili powder- which is mild and bright red? She was delighted that the dish was so simple to make. According to my friend's daughter, our curry was "even better than the real thing, because it is not as spicy". She approved of the knock-off version and ate two helpings. Mission accomplished! 

Now, to my own taste, I would have loved some ginger and garlic in this dish, and perhaps some turmeric and definitely more chili powder. But it is a great starter recipe for anyone new to tasting or cooking Indian food and most importantly, it made a kid and her mom happy, which is all I set out to do. 

Have a great week, friends.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup

Sometimes, a little vegetable goes a long way. I bought a modest wedge of pumpkin last Saturday, and sweet and nutrition dense as it is, it fed us three times over- I used a third of the wedge for pumpkin kaap (made the same way as these but using pumpkin slices instead of eggplant), a third for the excellent pumpkin dhansak from Nandita's blog, and the last portion for this soup.

The inky, muddy look of black bean soup is just a facade; underneath the surface is nothing but tasty goodness. Pumpkin adds a beautiful sweetness that sets off the earthy legume. As soups go, this one is fairly simple, with three main ingredients, pumpkin, black beans and tomatoes, and two seasonings, chipotle chillies and cumin. I debated about adding other ingredients like bell peppers and corn, but in the end, the simplicity is what makes this soup special.

The recipe below is infinitely flexible. If you don't have access to chipotles in adobo, use any chilli powder, or Mexican/taco seasoning or hot sauce instead. If you don't have pumpkin on hand, any winter squash such as butternut squash or acorn squash would be a wonderful substitute. Sweet potatoes would be equally at home in this recipe. For the stock, I used this homemade vegetable bouillon, a sweet gift from Alanna. It is wonderful stuff! 

Black Bean Pumpkin Soup
(makes 6 generous servings)

1. Soak 1 cup black beans for 8 hours or so, then rinse then thoroughly.

2. In the body of a pressure cooker, heat 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil.

3. Saute 1 medium onion, diced, and 4 minced garlic cloves until fragrant.

4. Add the following spices and seasonings and stir for a few seconds-
1 heaped tsp. cumin powder
1 minced chipotle pepper in 1 tsp. adobo sauce (or to taste)

5. Add-
4 cups pumpkin cubes
Soaked and rinsed black beans
1 cup crushed tomatoes
2 cups vegetable stock or water
Salt to taste, only if required

6. Pressure cook. Once the pressure is released, mash or puree the soup together, or leave it chunky. Adjust the consistency of the soup by adding water if necessary.

7. Stir in a large handful of minced cilantro and squeeze in some lime juice.

I loved the soup in its pure form, but you could top it with a dollop of thick yogurt or sour cream, some shredded cheese, or crushed tortilla chips.

I am sending this soup over to My Legume Love Affair. The 21st edition is hosted by Superchef @ Mirch Masala.

*** *** *** 
We enjoyed the soup with an unlikely side- pesto eggplant pizza. I had two dough balls in the freezer, and an eggplant lurking in the crisper, and just put the two together.

The pizza dough recipe is my new favorite- it is Peter Reinhart's Napoletana Pizza Dough posted here on 101 Cookbooks.

I made the recipe by hand and followed the instructions very closely. It is a strange recipe, in the sense that you use chilled flour and ice cold water to make the dough. The recipe made 6 pizza dough balls, and each is sufficient for an individual sized pizza- depending on the individual. I know certain individuals (who shall go unnamed) who can scarf down a couple of these in one sitting!

Another thing I learned was to place the pizza stone on the floor of my gas oven instead of on a rack. When baked at 475F, the pizzas were cooked to perfection (when I used a higher temp, the bottom of the pizza burned before the toppings were bubbly).

But, wow, the pizzas are incredibly close to what you get in "good" pizza places, like The Good Pie here in St. Louis. This recipe uses no whole grain, but for an occasional restaurant-style treat, that's OK by me.

*** *** ***
Last week, I undertook what has to be the quickest craft project ever. 15 minutes from start to finish. But it was 18 months in the making.

I had a large bolt of cotton fabric from Ikea, an impulse purchase which was sitting in a corner of the closet for more than a year. The big idea was to use it to make a tablecloth from it, and if there was fabric left over, to make some cloth napkins. But I don't own a sewing machine to make the hems and keep the edges from fraying and so the project was shelved, quite literally.

Well, your comments on this post were inspiring to say the least, and they spurred me into action. I did a web search for "no sew cloth napkins" and found this. An hour later, I ran into my next door neighbor in the elevator and asked her if she happened to own pinking shears. Minutes later, I borrowed her pinking shears and folded and ripped the bolt of fabric into one tablecloth and 16 cloth napkins. Ta da!

We had a dozen friends over for an Oscar-watching potluck party on Sunday night and I was so proud that we used regular plates and glasses (so what if they were all mismatched), metal cutlery and cloth napkins. No waste from disposables. It is the little things that make me inordinately happy.

Please keep sharing the green tips- I'm always looking for inspiration.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

One Hot Stove Turns 5!

After V recovered from his seasonal cough and cold, it was my turn to have a bout of sickness and that's why I disappeared from this space for a while, spending quality time hacking away on the couch.

But enough about that. This is an exciting day for me, because this wee blog celebrates her fifth birthday today! And to celebrate the day, I wrote a suitably long-winded post.

How time flies...they grow up so fast, etc. etc. Trite as it might sound, it does seem like only yesterday that I tentatively wrote a post, then went on to be part of a thriving and blossoming food blogging community, wrote a few hundred more posts, hosted events, participated in events, took off on some projects and enjoyed many more ups than downs.

None of this is possible without the constant engagement with my dear readers, and for that, I thank you profusely. Thank you for the love and encouragement, the comments and e-mails and for making me and One Hot Stove a part of your lives.

In the coming year, you can expect to see more of the same on this blog: recipes that celebrate home-style Indian food, my attempts at trying to understand incredible India through her regional cuisine, baking experiments tested on hapless friends, jealously trying to recreate restaurant recipes, tasting new ingredients and learning something new every day.

A few non-food aspects of my life are occasionally tacked on the end of posts, and they seem to be of interest to some of you so I'm going to keep sharing them: pictures of Dale, the ol' mutt who occupies a large part of this little home (and my heart), my craft projects and what's residing on my bookshelf at the moment.

But I do want to go back and edit old posts to update recipes, re-write them in a neat, uniform format wherever necessary, and polish up the blog a little to make it more streamlined and user-friendly. This blog is a zero-budget, one-woman show and I have no training in web design, nor do I have friends or relatives who could help me with web design, so every improvement that I make is a painstaking process of trial and error. Please hang in there with me as I learn.

Part of my effort will go towards reworking, tweaking and standardizing old recipes as opposed to trying new ones all the times. Like this one that follows: I mentioned (in this old post) about trying and loving the rajma recipe from Gopium. Since then, I've made it about 25 times, and this week, I adapted it to be cooked entirely in the pressure cooker. It is easy if you have an immersion blender on hand:

One-Pot Pressure Cooker Rajma
(an adaptation of the rajma recipe from Gopium, makes 6-8 servings)

1. Soak 1.5 cups rajma (kidney beans) overnight in plenty of warm water. Before cooking, dump the beans into a colander and rinse them thoroughly.

2. In the body of a pressure cooker, heat 1 tbsp. oil and 1 tbsp. ghee. Add 2 large onions, sliced, and fry them until golden.

3. Stir in
3 cups tomato puree
2 tsp. paprika (or to taste)
1 tsp. red chilli powder (or to taste)
salt to taste

4. Fry the mixture well, then add 3 cups water. Using an immersion blender, carefully blend the mixture.

5. Add the rinsed, soaked kidney beans. Pressure cook until the beans are tender. Once the pressure drops, mash some of the beans to thicken the curry if necessary. Taste and adjust salt and spice. Serve with steamed rice.

 Fresh off the hooks 

I used a lot of colorful cotton yarn left over from other projects and made myself a set of 7 dishcloths- one for every day of the week. The pattern is here: Wavy Dishcloth. I start with a fresh clean one every morning, using it to swab counters and wipe spills all day. At the end of the day, I use it for one final task- to wipe down the sink- and throw it in the laundry hamper. So much better than using paper towels! And cotton gets softer and more absorbent the more you wash it.

 Currently Reading 
I started my "Pulitzer Prize Project 2010" (reading all the Pulitzer prize fiction winners from 1979-2009 during this year) to get out of my comfort zone and give myself a chance to read books from a variety of authors and subjects that I may not pick up otherwise. Already I am being rewarded. This week, I read Cormac McCarthy's The Road (Pulitzer '07)- a novel that is so off-beat, bleak and beautiful at the same time, haunting and memorable that I don't quite know what to say about it. The New York Times reviewer has more to say. This is a book I would never ever ever have started if not for this project. I highly recommend this book. It is not a light read but it is a short book and I was compelled to read it late into the night, put it away reluctantly for the night and wake up early to finish it. Just give it a chance even if post-apocalyptic fiction is not your thing (it sure isn't mine) :) 

On the other hand, I fully expected to love March by Geraldine Brooks (Pulitzer '06) but 20 pages into it, it was not engaging me at all. Life is too short (and books too numerous) to force myself to finish any one book, so I returned it to the library. Maybe I will give it another chance some other time. 

Now it is your turn: say something, anything :)
Ask a question, make a recipe request, share your suggestions about improving this blog, tell me about yourself, won't you?

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Spaghetti with Chocolate Sauce

When the fridge is bare and the pantry raid results in an odd assortment of ingredients, this is what's for dinner! Sometimes, one starts making a meal by saying, "there's no food in the home" and ends up with a dinner that is something special. I love when this happens.

I usually plan my weeknight dinners a day ahead of time or at least the morning of. That way, any soaking, thawing and assorted prep can be set into motion ahead of time and I can usually beat one Ms. Ray at her own game by putting dinner on the table in 20 minutes flat.

This morning, I thought about dinner as the morning chai was brewing, and had to think extra hard. The crisper was bare but the pantry was stocked with the usual staples- dried beans, pasta, cans of tomato, soy chunks. A trip to Food Blog Land (typing kidney beans, tomato, spaghetti in the search box) provided me with a dose of inspiration in the form of this recipe for something called Cincinnati Chili- a sauce of meat and tomatoes with warm spices, drenched with the rich flavor of cocoa. I made a vegan version of this sauce.

Chili with Chocolate


Adapted from Cincinnati chili from The Kitchn, makes about 6 servings.

1. Soak 1 cup kidney beans for 12-24 hours, then pressure-cook them. I did a quicker soak by putting the beans in boiling water, turning off the heat and covering them for 6-8 hours.

2. Re-hydrate 1 cup soy/TVP/Nutrela chunks and chop them up (or simply use soy granules or veggie ground).

3. In a large pot, heat 1-2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the following and saute until browned:
1 large onion, minced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves

4. To the browned onion mixture, add the following and stir until fragrant, about 20-30 seconds:
1-2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. cayenne pepper (or to taste)
½ tsp. chipotle flakes (or to taste)
1 tsp. cinnamon powder
½ tsp. allspice powder
salt to taste

5. Add the following:
½ large can tomato puree (14 oz.) (*see note)
cooked kidney beans
soy chunks/granules
mushroom stock (quantity depending on how thick you want the chili to be)
hot sauce (to taste)

6. Simmer for 20 minutes, then let it rest for an hour or two before eating to let the flavors develop. Taste for a balance of flavors and adjust them if necessary.

*Note: On a previous post, someone commented that I use tomato puree in a lot of recipes here, and asked what brand I use. I buy whole canned tomatoes (canned in tomato juice) from Trader Joe's and I puree the tomatoes myself using an immersion blender before using them in the recipe. I do find that different brands vary widely, so I would suggest trying different brands that are available to you to see which one you like the best.

I served the chili over whole wheat spaghetti, with some shredded cheese and sour cream on the side. If you want to keep this completely vegan, use vegan versions of cheese and sour cream or skip them altogether. This quick and easy recipe was such a success! We enjoyed the rich, deep flavors of this wholesome meal and I enjoyed seeing V stumped at what the "secret ingredient" was. I have a feeling I'll be using this recipe often in the coming months as chilly/chili weather gets here.

*** *** ***

Want to see some pics from my Boston trip this weekend?

Blue, blue skies....

Blue, blue water near Boston Harbor...

Following this guy all along the Freedom Trail...

Lunch at My Thai Vegan restaurant in Chinatown (foreground is mango curry with vegetables, background is taro root bird's nest)...

Torrone (Italian nougat) at Modern Pastry Shop in the North End...

Dessert sampler at Finale in Harvard Square...

We stayed in the historic Beacon Hill neighborhood (which felt to me like stepping back in time), met friends whom we have not seen for years, attended a birthday-party-picnic in Cochituate State Park, gorged on pizza, giggled at the Bostonian accent (on a walking tour, the guide wanted to segue into the Boston Tea Party bit and asked a little girl who was with our group, "So you want to go to a paahty?" and she innocently replied- no, thanks, she did not need to go potty just then), and in general need another vacation now to recover from this one.

My sincere thanks to everyone who offered great suggestions for my Boston trip- I'll have to go there again soon to cross off more things from the list.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Bookmark Project: Dal Makhni

Regular readers of this blog know that I get a special kick out of being able to imitate restaurant favorites in my home kitchen. Dal makhni (which translates as "buttery lentils"- the name says it all) is one of those classic dishes that is probably on the menu of every generic Indian restaurant I've been in.

The simplest recipes are often the hardest to nail down. But lurking in my bookmark folder was a recipe for Dal Makhani, Oberoi Style- a recipe extracted straight from a restaurant chef! I never ever can muster up the courage to ask for recipes at restaurants, and am eternally grateful to bloggers who do this and save me the trouble of reverse engineering a coveted recipe.

The recipe calls for three kinds of legumes- chana dal, black urad dal and red kidney beans or rajma.


At some point, I have had to grapple with the fact that there are an infinite number of beans and lentils and legumes on this planet, as opposed to a woefully finite amount of space in my pantry, and also a finite limit to how many beans and lentils can be consumed by a family of 2 humans (canines, on the whole, seem indifferent to the joys of beans).

The way I keep things under control is to have only(!) about 10 beans/lentils on hand. Some of these are staples and the others are ones that I love but don't use often, and these are on a rotating schedule. As far as urad dals go, the skinned white urad dal (bottom right in the picture above) is a staple for meals of the idli/dosa variety, and the black urad dal is a brand new arrival in the pantry. It is Vaishali's tempting recipe for spicy urad dal (very tasty, by the way) that prompted me to buy it. And suddenly, I had all the ingredients for dal makhni!

As an aside, English is such an exasperating language. Skinned (which sounds like something that has skin) is the same as skinless. I just had to get that off my chest. Moving on.

I modified the recipe a little and here's how I made it. For the complete and proper recipe, visit the wonderful blog that the recipe is adapted from.

Dal Makhni


Adapted from Dal Makhni: Oberoi Style from a Life (Time) of Cooking

1. Soak ½ cup red kidney beans, ½ cup black urad dal and ¼ cup chana dal. I soaked the kidney beans for 16 hours or so and the other dals together for 6-8 hours. Rinse all the legumes thoroughly to get rid of the soaking water. Pressure cook them together, then mash coarsely and set aside.

2. Heat 2 tsp. oil and splutter 1 tsp. cumin seeds, a pinch of asafoetida and 8-10 fenugreek seeds. Add 1 heaped tsp. ginger-garlic paste and stir it for a couple of minutes. Add 2 cups thick tomato puree. Cook the mixture for 5-7 minutes, stirring often.

3. Add the cooked legumes, salt to taste and bring to a boil.

4. Stir in 1 tsp. red chilli powder (or more/less to taste), ¼ cup heavy cream and 1 tbsp. butter. Simmer for 5-10 minutes.

5. Turn off the heat and stir in 1 tsp. garam masala (the best you can find) and 1 tbsp. butter for a glossy finish. That's it.

Thrilled. To. Bits. That was me after I tasted the dal makhni. This one is a keeper, people! To be honest with you, I don't know if I have ever tasted good authentic dal makhni, but this recipe yielded completely delicious results. The slippery mouth-feel of the urad dal makes the dish a silky, buttery experience.

A Life (Time) of Cooking happens to be the chosen blog this month for Zlamushka's Tried and Tasted event, so I'm sending in this post to this event.

What's next? If you feel like playing a little guessing game, come back on Saturday!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

The Bookmark Project: Tangy Curried Vaal

Well, well, well. I certainly learn something new every day. Usually in the first 15 minutes after I wake up, as I am sipping the first cup of tea and browsing through the latest RSS feeds.

I love all the beans in my pantry (and there are many), but the vaal (hyacinth beans) have a special place in my heart. Sprouted and peeled, they get cooked into two dishes that I have adored all my life. The problem is...the peeling! It is a little labor-intensive and needs a bit of planning, and this is why the poor vaal tend to languish in my pantry.


Shilpa of Aayi's Recipes posted a recipe recently that showed me a new way to cook the vaal- unsprouted (I can live with that) and unpeeled (hurray)! Bookmarked!

And that's how I could make vaal today on the spur of the moment for a weeknight meal. All I did was soak the vaal in the morning for tonight's dinner. I adapted Shilpa's recipe slightly to omit a few spices and make a basic version of this curry. I seem to be genetically programmed to cook goda jevan (food with a hint of sweetness) and that's how a small lump of jaggery ended up in there as well. I loved the way it contrasted with the tangy tamarind and slightly bitter vaal. A simple curry with complex flavors. And no, you can't taste the peel.

Tangy Curried Vaal


Adapted from Shilpa's delicious recipe

1. Soak 1 cup vaal for 8 hours or so, then rinse them and pressure cook them.

2. Soak 1 tablespoon or so of tamarind in a cup of hot water and extract the tamarind juice.

3. Roast the following together, then cool and grind into a fine powder. Add a tablespoon of cooked beans to the powder and grind again to make a thick paste.
1 heaped tsp. cumin seeds
1 heaped tsp. coriander seeds
1 heaped tsp. sesame seeds
1 heaped tsp. poppy seeds

4. In a saucepan, heat 2 tsp. oil. Temper the oil with mustard seeds, a pinch of asafoetida and a sprig of curry leaves.

5. Add 1 small minced onion and fry it for a few minutes. Add turmeric, red chilli powder and salt to taste.

6. Stir in the cooked beans, spice/bean paste, tamarind juice and a small lump of jaggery. Add water as need to thin down the curry. Simmer for 10 minutes. Done!

I served the tasty curry with some freshly steamed rice and a simple subzi of eggplant and potato for a truly sumptuous weeknight meal.

This post goes to the bean-lovin' event, My Legume Love Affair. The 14th edition is being hosted at the home of this event, The Well-Seasoned Cook.

August has started and I find myself in a busy phase, work-wise. But I fully intend to continue cooking the bookmarks and featuring the successes in short posts like this one. See you soon!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fall Favorite: Chili and Cornbread

Suganya is celebrating a month of Vegan Ventures on her blog. One of my favorite fall dinners just happens to be vegetarian chili, which happens to be vegan, and I teamed it up with some vegan cornbread to make a satisfying Southwest-US inspired supper.

A few weeks ago, there was a chili cook-out at my workplace. A few folks who enjoyed cooking brought big crock-pots of chili, some others brought cornbread muffins and sweet goodies. All of this food was sold over lunchtime and the modest sum of money collected was handed over to a breast cancer organization. It was a lot of fun, and a nice way to do some small-time fundraising while enjoying a variety of home-cooked food. I make chili quite often during the cold months, but wanted to try something different, so I took this chipotle-"meatball" chili to the cook-off, and everyone enjoyed it. It sold out, and I was surprised and relieved, because this is Missouri, after all. Today I made the exact same chili again and decided to post it here so I won't forget the recipe a few months from now! This chili definitely tastes much better a day after it is made. It is perfect for a make-ahead dish to feed a crowd.

Here are the main components of this hearty chili:
1. Beans: I chose to use a combination of red kidney beans (apna rajma) and Dominican red beans. The latter are a pretty new addition to my pantry. When Indosungod wrote this post and said, "When cooked they tasted a lot like boiled peanuts", I practically ran out and bought a bag of these cute pink-white beans (I found it in the Mexican section of the store- Goya brand). I love the taste of these beans and use them quite often now. Pinto beans and black beans would also work well in this recipe.
2. Soy meatballs- I buy them from the frozen section. The meatballs soak up the delicious stew and simply melt in the mouth.
3. Vegetables: Onions and peppers feel like natural additions to this chili. But I omitted green peppers and only used the ripe sweeter ones- yellow, orange, red- here. I added carrots and yellow squash for more juicy vegetable goodness. If I were not serving this chili with cornbread, I would have added some corn kernels as well. Zucchini and eggplant would also be tasty here.
4. Tomato puree, as a base.
5. Chipotle peppers in adobo: These are smoked Mexican chillies (jalapenos) preserved in a spicy sauce.

These can be found in cans wherever Mexican foods are sold. Once the can is opened, I transfer the contents to a glass bottle and use the flavorful chipotles (and their sauce) over several months.
6. In several chili recipes, I came across "secret ingredients" being mentioned in conspirational whispers. A small amount of cinnamon or unsweetened cocoa powder really does bring out deep flavors in the chili!

Chipotle Chili


1. Heat 1 T olive oil in a large pot/ Dutch oven.
2. Saute 4-5 cloves minced garlic until translucent but not browned.
3. Saute 1 large onion, 1 medium carrot, 2 red/yellow/orange peppers, 1 yellow squash (all cut in large dice).
4. Stir in cooked beans (from 1 C dried beans), 2 C tomato puree, salt, 1 t cumin powder, 2 minced chipotle chillies and 2 t adobo sauce (or to taste), 1/2 t cinnamom (or cocoa powder).
5. Add 2 C water (or to desired consistency), bring to a boil, then simmer for 20 minutes. Add 1 packet (1 lb) thawed vegan "meatballs" and simmer for 5 more minutes. Eat the next day, when the flavors really come together!

While a lot of people love eating chili on its own, I enjoy it best with some carbs (what else is new?)...either some Spanish rice, or some couscous, a corn tortilla, or some cornbread. I found a recipe for an award-winning vegan cornbread that looked delicious, and it had a delightfully short ingredient list too! There are two ingredients in this recipe that also are relative newcomers to my kitchen.

The first is ground flaxseeds. This was the first time I used flaxseeds as an egg substitute in baking, and I am very impressed. When mixed into hot water, this powder really takes on the viscous nature of beaten eggs! I often get comments and e-mails from bakers seeking to make eggless baked goodies, and I definitely suggest that they should play around with flaxseed powder- it is known to work well in many recipes. The second ingredient is cornmeal. I am happy to have found this whole-grain medium-grind cornmeal (this brand) because most cornmeal has the germ removed and is consequently less nutritious. I skipped the sugar in the cornbread because the almond milk was already sweetened. The sweetish note in the cornbread is delicious. The addition of sweet corn kernels and aromatic green onions makes the cornbread even tastier.


(Adapted from this recipe, makes 16 squares)
1. Preheat oven to 425F.
2. In a small saucepan, heat 6 T water, then stir in 2 T ground flaxseeds until the paste becomes viscous. Set aside.
3. In a bowl, combine the dry ingredients:
1 C AP flour (or white whole-wheat flour or whole wheat pastry flour, or some combination of these)
1 C cornmeal
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
4. To the dry ingredients, add and mix
flaxseed paste
1/4 C oil (I used olive, but canola or another neutral oil is recommended)
1 C almond milk (or rice milk or soymilk)
5. Stir in the extra ingredients
1/2 C corn kernels (frozen, thawed)
3 green onions, minced (green and white parts)
5. Pour the batter into a greased 8x8 inch baking dish, then bake for 20-25 minutes, until an inserted toothpick comes clean. Serve warm.

Serve piping hot chili with warm cornbread, garnished with green onions or cilantro, if desired.

Next time, I plan to make a chili casserole, by pouring warm chili into a baking dish, topping with cornbread batter and then baking the whole thing. That would be a delicious way to serve this combination, I imagine.

Stay warm, and a Happy Thanksgiving to all my friends in the USA, who will enjoy a Thanksgiving feast, good times with family and friends, and a couple of days off!

For a tempting array of vegan recipes, from appetizers to desserts and everything in between, go visit Suganya's round-up.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

The Whole Enchilada

This is my entry for the monthly Jihva For Ingredients, an event that celebrates all the wonderful natural ingredients that form the backbone of Indian cuisine. JFI is the brainchild of Indira from Mahanandi. This month, JFI is being hosted by Nandita of Saffron Trail. Nandita has chosen a spicy theme for this month: CHILLIES!

Indian cuisine's love for chillies is legendary. Chillies lurk in every corner of my kitchen: the freezer contains "fresh" frozen green and red chillies, the refrigerator contains bell peppers, the pantry stores bottles of dried buttermilk-soaked chillies, and the spice box had a little cylinder of the hottest red chilli powder. Not to mention the fact that chillies have a place in so many of the spice mixes that I use everyday. However, for this month's JFI, I turned to another cuisine that loves and respects its chillies, and uses an astonishing variety of them: Mexican cuisine.

A word about nomenclature: How do you spell this word "chilli" anyway? This has confused me for the longest time. From what I understand (and wiki seems to agree), the most acceptable spellings are Chile (in North America) and Chilli (in the rest of the world). Chili is not the preferred spelling because it more commonly refers to the stew of the same name. Chilly is not the right spelling (it means "cold"). And what about the whole chilli pepper business: is it chilli or is it pepper? Wiki goes on to say that botanically, all chillies and peppers are basically chillies, and that pepper properly refers to our black "peppercorn" pepper. But in common use, chillies are often called peppers or chilli peppers.

Coming back to my Mexican-inspired recipe, here is why an enchilada is an appropriate entry for JFI:Chillies ...Enchilada comes from the verb enchilar (= "to add chilli pepper to") (according to Wiki)! In the simplest form, enchiladas are made by dipping tortillas (corn or flour rotis) into sauce, then rolling them up with some stuffing inside, and baking them with sauce and cheese on top. Enchiladas are messy to make, and messy to eat, and taste absolutely wonderful!

The chilli that I used for the enchilada stuffing is the Poblano Chilli which gets its name from the Pueblo region of Mexico. Poblano chillies are gorgeous- with their lovely shape (it resembles a tapered heart) and a sparkling deep green color.
chillies2Their taste varies from sweet and mild to moderately spicy, and you would have to taste them to figure out the spice level of the ones you have bought. Poblanos are often stuffed and deep-fried to make a classic Mexican dish called Chiles Rellenos. Another traditional way is to pair them with potatoes and use them as a stuffing for tacos. In my non-authentic-but-tasty-nonetheless recipe, I pair roasted Poblanos with kidney beans. Here is how I roasted them: (a) Drizzle chillies with 2-3 drops of olive oil each. Rub the oil all over. (b) Place chillies on a sprayed baking sheet and bake at 400 degrees F, turning once or twice, until the peel gets blistered. I used a toaster oven for this. chillies3 (c) Remove chillies from the oven and place them in a covered bowl. When they cool down, the papery skin will peel right off. Cut away the core and slice the chillies.

The salsa I am using today is a home-made salsa verde (green salsa) made with another Mexican ingredient: Tomatillos.
These fruits resemble green tomatoes, however, they are more closely related to gooseberries (amla/ avla). Just like gooseberries, they are very tangy! The salsa is extremely easy to make (boil ingredients together, then puree) and contains no added fat at all. Tomatillos contain come pectin-like substance, and when you let the salsa cool down, it becomes a wonderful thick sauce.

I use store-bought tortillas for enchiladas, have not tried to make my own just yet. I prefer using ones made with corn for enchiladas, but when I opened a pack of beautiful blue corn tortillas (from Whole Foods, bought on Sunday) to make this recipe, I found that it was moldy (!!!). So I ended up using whole-wheat flour tortillas this time.

Salsa Verde

(adapted from Mollie Katzen's The Enchanted Broccoli Forest, makes 2 cups, originally posted here)
6-8 tomatillos, roughly chopped
1 small onion, roughly chopped
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 hot green chilli, minced
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper/red chilli powder
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp minced fresh cilantro
2 tbsp minced fresh basil
2 scallions/ spring onions/ green onions, minced (green and white parts)
1. In a saucepan, combine 1.5 cup water and all ingredients from tomatillos to salt. Bring to a boil, cover partially and simmer for 10 minutes. Let it cool a little.
2. Process this sauce in a blender/food processor/immersion blender to get it slightly smooth (you can leave it as chunky as you like).
3. Let it cool down. Mix in the fresh herbs and scallions. Taste and adjust salt if necessary.

Bean-Chilli Enchilada

6 flour tortillas or 8 corn tortillas
2 C salsa verde (see recipe above)
1 C loosely packed shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
2-4 Poblano peppers, roasted, peeled, cut into strips (see note above)
2 C cooked red kidney beans
1 C loosely packed shredded Monterey Jack Cheese
1 small onion, sliced thin
1/2 C packed minced cilantro
salt and pepper to taste
1. In a small, mix together the ingredients for the stuffing. Be gentle with the salt, because cheese contains quite a bit of salt.
2. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees F.
3. Take a square or rectangular baking dish and spread 1/3 cup of salsa all over the bottom of the dish.
4. Place the remaining salsa in a shallow container. Dip each tortilla into the salsa to coat it all over, then place some stuffing in it and roll it up like a cigar. Place it seam side down in the baking dish.
5. Once all the filled tortillas have been placed in the dish, pour the remaining salsa over the tortillas and sprinkle with the cheese.
6. Bake for 25 minutes or so, or until the cheese is all gooey and melty!

For best results, serve piping hot enchilada with a chilled beer, or your favorite juice on ice.

I'll see you on Sunday, with the Z of Indian Vegetables!

Monday, June 25, 2007

An Eggplant Endamame Entree

This is my entry for the monthly Jihva For Ingredients, an event that celebrates all the wonderful natural ingredients that form the backbone of Indian cuisine! JFI is the brainchild of Indira from Mahanandi. This month, JFI is being hosted by Sangeeta of Ghar ka Khana. The name of Sangeeta's blog means "Home-Cooked Food", and she has chosen a vegetable that is cooked in hundreds of home-style ways: the EGGPLANT!

Those richly colored royal purple eggplants- I love them every day and in every way! I was so overwhelmed with ideas of dishes that I could make for this event that I almost ended up not participating at all. Finally, I decided to go for something super-simple. A typical way that I remember eating eggplant as a kid was in a vegetable dish (called bhaaji in Marathi) called Varna-Vaangi which fits in with the "Mixed Vegetables" theme from yesterday's post. Vaangi is eggplant, and Varna are either the same or very similar to the hyacinth beans called Valor (see a gorgeous picture on this post on Jugalbandi). The texture of the silky-soft cooked eggplant contrasts beautifully with the fiber-rich mouth-feel of the beans. The pairing of beans and eggplant is quite traditional, and very tasty. See another example of this combination here.

The only problem is that the typical eggplants used in Indian cooking, as well as these hyacinth beans are not very accessible to me- they require a trip to the International market. I decided to use the more easily available Italian eggplant and substitute the beans with endamame or soybeans (I have been wanting to try them for a while, and was even more inspired by Cooker's post). Endamame is a traditional Japanese ingredient but can be used anywhere beans are. So here it is, eggplant and endameme cooked together in a simple and flavorful way. If you cannot find soybeans, they can be substituted with lima beans.

The recipe has three features that are typical of Maharashtrian cooking: (a) the use of goda masala. This can be bought in stores, or made at home. Use garam masala as a completely different, but equally tasty alternative; (b) the use of a small amount of crushed peanuts to provide a little bit of richness and nuttiness to the dish and (c) the use of a small amount of jaggery (unrefined brown sugar/ gud) to add a hint of sweetness to the dish.

Vaangi ani Soybean chi Bhaaji

(My spin on a traditional recipe, serves 3-4)
1 medium Italian eggplant, or equivalent amount of small ones
1 C endamame/ soybeans (fresh or frozen)
1 heaped t cumin-coriander powder
1 t goda masala
2 T crushed roasted peanuts
1/2 T jaggery powder
2 t oil
1 t mustard seeds
1 t cumin seeds
pinch of asafoetida
1/4 C chopped onion
1/2 t turmeric powder
1 t red chili powder (or to taste)
salt to taste
1. Wash the eggplant and cut into medium dice. If the eggplant is fresh, there is no need to take the trouble of peeling the eggplant, or of salting it to draw out the bitterness. There should be no bitterness to begin with.
2. In a saucepan, heat the oil. Add the tempering ingredients and stir around until the onion is slightly browning at the edges.
3. Add the diced eggplant and the endameme and stir to coat with all the spices.
4. Add cumin-coriander powder, goda masala, peanuts and jaggery, then stir in 1/4 cup of water (to get the steaming started). Cover and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring ocassionally, until the eggplant is tender (by which time, the endamame will definitely be cooked).

I served this delicious vegetable with some cool yogurt rice. I made yogurt rice my usual way, except for adding some finely diced cucumber to it. I picked up this idea from some book or blog...can't seem to remember. But the crunchy cucumber tastes terrific in the yogurt rice, and the combination with this flavorful vegetable was a winner.

Other popular Maharashtrian ways with the eggplant:
1. Vaangi Kaap (Eggplant Slices)
2. Bharli Vaangi (Stuffed Baby Eggplants)
3. Vangi Bhaat (Eggplant Rice)

For a spectacular list of delicious eggplant recipes, check out Sangeet's round-up!

Sunday, June 03, 2007

S is for Spinach Amti

The myriad cuisines of India all love their vegetables! Veggies are diced and sliced, grated and mashed, stir-fried and curried into hundreds of vegetable dishes. In this series, the A to Z of Indian Vegetables, we take an alphabetical journey through the various avatars of vegetables relished in Indian cuisine. For each letter, we will make a tasty vegetable dish that illustrates one manner in which vegetables are savored in India.
The "S" of Indian Vegetables
The letter S inspired a smorgarbord of thirty-two Indian flavors!

First, a sundry bunch of S vegetables...

Let's start with the svelte and stylish Spring Onion, also known as Scallions or green onions. The spring onion is almost two vegetables in one: the "white parts" are little onions that are great in starting off a stir-fry on an aromatic note, and the "green parts" make for a colorful and flavorful garnish. Jai and Bee of Jugalbandi share a great recipe for using up any spring onions that you may have left over from another recipe- rather than letting them wilt in your crisper, cook them into this comforting Spring Onion Dal.

The next vegetable is also a member of the onion family, one whose flavor is often described as something in between garlic and onion: it is the savory and snappy Shallot. G V Barve of Add Flavor uses the shallot in the traditional Southern Indian way- adding whole shallots to lentils, to make a delicious Shallot Sambar.

The next vegetable is an iconic member of the family of green leafy vegetables: the sprightly and salubrious Spinach. Readily available, inexpensive and a vegetable that cooks up in no time- the spinach is wonderful to keep on hand for everyday meals. Here are three easy ideas with spinach...

To start off, spinach soup, warm and satisfying. Raaga of The Singing Chef makes a quick and hassle-free Spinach Soup with aromatic notes from onion and garlic.

Next, some rice to go with the soup...

Suma of Veggie Platter teams spinach with carrots, and makes a batch of spicy and tasty Spinach Rice.

Raaga of The Singing Chef teams spinach with corn, and makes a pressure cooker version of Spinach Rice.

Then comes another green beauty, the Snap Pea, also called the Sugar Snap Pea, with a sweet bite hidden in its tender shell. Check this post from Food Blogga to see the different varieties of peas. Snap peas are eaten whole, pod and all. A Cook of Live To Cook makes an unusual Snap Pea Masala by cooking snap peas with moong dal and adding a spicy sauce of onion, tomato and coconut.

The next vegetable is a sturdy root vegetable with a saccharine personality and a healthful nature: none other than the Sweet Potato! Here are two ways with the sweet potato:

Ramya of Mane Adige shares her mom's recipe for a traditional Sweet Potato Sabzi, with sweet potato chunks tossed in an aromatic tempering, and garnished with coconut and cilantro.

A Cook of Live To Cook satisfies snack cravings on a rainy day with some golden brown Sweet Potato Rolls, logs of mashed sweet potato rolled in breadcrumbs and fried to perfection.

The next vegetable is commonly found in India, but might be strange and striking to non-Indians: it is the shapely spiral Snake Gourd. Why is it named that way? Because it really does look like a long sinuous can see some pictures here. Here are four easy, home-style ways to cook snake gourd in combination with four different types of lentils.

Sheela of Delectable Victuals uses the tender frozen snake gourd available in the US plus some easily available brown lentils to put together a wholesome and satisfying dish of Snake Gourd and Brown Lentils.

Nandita of Saffron Trail shows us a beautiful view of the inside of the snake gourd, then cooks it in typical Tamilian style, with moong dal, coconut and spices to make a tempting Snake Gourd Kootu.

Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine makes a Snake Gourd Curry that looks bright and colorful, with a medley of snake gourd, chana dal, spring onions and spices.

A Cook of Live To Cook thinks back to her childhood days and shares the recipe for her grandmother's Snake Gourd Stew, a spicy combination of snake gourd with toor dal.

Coming up next, we have another beloved vegetable, the Simla Mirch, the Hindi term for the stout bell pepper. Mirch is the Hindi term for pepper, so that makes sense, but Simla (or Shimla as it is now called) is a beautiful town in the hilly Northern state of Himachal Pradesh. Why does the pepper get its name from this place? I don't know! Here, Rinku of Cooking in Westchester uses the Simla Mirch to boost the color and nutrition of a simple dish of Simla Mirch Alu.

The next vegetable is that singular vegetable, the drumstick, called Shevgyachi Sheng in Marathi and Sektani Sing in Gujarati. Here are two saucy creations with this veggie...

TC of The Cookeruses drumsticks to make a dal that will spice up any meal- her Shevgyacha Shenganchi Amti has sweet and tangy notes from jaggery and tamarind.

Linda of Out Of The Garden flips open her old Parsi cookbook to come up with this unique Sektani Sing Na Saas: a sauce of drumstick pulp cooked with eggs, with a splash of vinegar to perk it up.

The final S vegetable is Saag, a general term for cooked greens (am I right, or am I completely off here?). Asha of Aroma/ Foodie's Hope takes bunches of radishes and radish greens and cooks them with a simple tempering and a dash of chickpea flour, resulting in this tasty Saag Bhaji.

The next S word is a way of cooking all those wonderful vegetables: Stuffing them! When hollowed out vegetables are packed with a savory mixture, the result is a substantial meal that will leave you feeling just as stuffed as the vegetable itself! Here are three popular Indian ways to make stuffed veggies...

Sharmi of Neivedyam turns the bitter gourd into sweet success, providing a detailed step-by-step recipe for Stuffed Bitter Gourd packed with a spicy tomato-onion mixture.

Richa of As Dear As Salt makes Stuffed Peppers that would make a wonderfully spicy side-dish; plus the dish uses all pantry ingredients, and is steamed rather than fried.

Aarti of Aarti's Corner makes a scrumptious stuffing of coconut and peanuts to make her delicious dish of Stuffed Okra.

After looking at vegetables that are stuffed, here is an example of vegetables that are used as stuffing! Aarti of Aarti's Corner makes a spicy potato and peas mixture and uses it to stuff a triangular dough pouch, resulting in that prized, wildly popular, internationally known Indian snack, the Samosa!

The next S food is the Sabudana, also known as Sago pearls. These little balls are made by processing the sago palm. Although starchy and quite tasteless in and of itself, sabudana lends itself to the preparation of a variety of spicy snacks, such as these four dishes, and is often paired with boiled potato in the making of these snacks...

Tee of Bhaatukli makes a quick mixture of soaked sabudana and boiled potato, along with some peanut powder for added flavor, and fries a batch of Sabudana Wada, golden-brown and perfectly tempting.

Manasi of A Cook At Heart writes a hilarious account of the tradition of "fasting" and makes a "fast food" that is the secret reason why so many Maharashtrians remain enthusiastic about undertaking fasts: Sabudana Khichadi.

Mahek of Mahek's Kitchen uses a combination of sabudana and boiled potato, spiced to perfection, and makes little pancakes called Sabudana Thalipeth that would make the perfect tea-time treat.

Sreelu of Sreelu's Tasty Travels surprises us with an unusual recipe for Saboodana Chutney, a soothing duo of sabudana and yogurt.

We now come to some delightful S dishes from all over India. Going from North to South, we have...

...the Sindh region, now part of Pakistan. Sindhi cuisine is rich and sumptuous. Madhuli of My Foodcourt shared a well-known Sindhi specialty, Sindhi Sai Bhaji, a nutritious medley of greens, vegetables and lentils in a spicy sauce.

...the Western Indian state of Gujarat, the cuisine here is vegetarian heaven! Trupti of The Spice Who Loved Me specializes in Gujarati cuisine and gives us an authentic recipe for Sambharo, a crunchy dish that she aptly describes as a "warm salad" with an Indian-style dressing.

...the populous metropolis of Bombay, with its addiction to spicy snack food. It is also the birthplace of the most bizarre and creative "fusion cuisine". Swapna of Swad recreates one of these delights: Schezwan Dosa, where spicy Chinese-style vegetable noodles are packed into a dosa with incredible results.

...the Konkan coast, with swaying coconut palms and long stretches of beaches. Priyanka of Lajawaab showcases the coconut in this pretty pink Solkadhi, a medley of coconut milk and a special fruit called the sol or amsul.

...the Southern states, home to some of the most ancient cuisines in India. Manasi of A Cook At Heart makes a quintessential Southern Indian dish, a delicious combination of vegetables and lentils: Sambar.

Let's wrap up the round-up with three sweet and soothing delights. Not much by way of vegetables here, but we deserve a bite of dessert at this point!

Aarti of Aarti's Corner makes a silky smooth Sabudana Kheer by cooking sago pearls in milk.

Saju of Chachi's Kitchen cleverly combines Sooji (semolina), Saffron and Sultanas into a delightful bite of Seera.

Mahek of Love For Cooking teaches a clever dish to make with the sheera, or the semolina pudding shown in the preceding entry. She uses the sheera as a filling for whole wheat rotis, turning out a unique sweet bread hot off the griddle: Sanjoree, also known as Sheera Roti.

S is for Spinach Amti: Green Leafy Vegetables

Last week, we looked at the humble root vegetables that are often taken for granted. This week, we do a 180 degree turn towards the super-stars of the vegetable world: the Green Leafy Vegetables. Popeye with his bulging biceps is just one example of the near-mythic properties that are attributed to green leafy vegetables! I prefer to be more pragmatic about the nutritional value of the leafy veggies. Yes, they are low in fat and high in calcium, iron and fiber. But so are a lot of other vegetables. I eat green leafy vegetables simply because they taste fabulous and are ever so versatile.

Some leafy vegetables like spinach seem to be popular all over the world and are usually available throughout the year. Others are specific to certain regions. In Farmers' markets, I always come across strange leafy vegetables that I have never heard of and have no idea how to cook. Leafy greens are often just plants growing wildly somewhere until someone discovers that they are edible and decided to either harvest them from the wild or to cultivate them. Some of them have the most irresistible names: lamb's quarters or fiddlehead ferns, anyone?

When one is able to buy a bunch of lush, verdant greens from the market, the trick is to use them up right away, before they wilt and languish into an unappetizing mess. This is the reason why I am always on the look-out for quick and simple everyday ways to cook greens. This time, I found a simple recipe for a greens-and-beans combination that makes for a nourishing everyday dish. It uses good ol' spinach, which I usually have on hand, and black-eyed peas, a pantry staple. It is cooked in the style of a Marathi amti, which is characterized by contrasting sweet and sour flavors from the addition of jaggery and tamarind, respectively. The addition of some coconut gives it a rich and creamy flavor.

Spinach Black-eyed Peas Amti

(Adapted from Lajawaab Curries by Sudha Maydev, makes about 4 servings)
1 C dry black-eyed peas (lobia, chowli), soaked overnight
1 bunch fresh spinach (about 2 C, packed)
1 T tamarind paste
1/2 T jaggery (Indian unrefined brown sugar)
salt to taste
1 t oil
1 t mustard seeds
pinch of asafoetida
2 cloves garlic, sliced thinly
Coconut Paste:
1/3 C coconut (fresh/frozen)
2-3 green/ red chilies (fresh/frozen)
1. Cook the black-eyed peas in the pressure cooker until tender. Try not to overcook them.
2. Make the coconut paste: Combine the ingredients and grind together to a fine paste.
3. In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the rest of the tempering ingredients and saute until the garlic is aromatic and starting to brown.
4. Add the spinach and stir-fry until wilted.
5. Add the coconut paste and fry until fragrant.
6. Stir in the cooked black-eyed peas, tamarind and jaggery. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.

Try using different greens, or different beans for this dish.

Serving Suggestions
The first day, I served this with some Southern Indian Tomato Rice and really enjoyed this odd combination! This amti would be delicious with plain steamed rice, and is "sturdy" enough to be a good accompaniment to steamed brown rice. I ate the leftover amti with some warmed whole-wheat tortillas and pickle, and that was delicious too, so the amti would go well with rotis.

After all this talk of everyday food, I'm in the mood for some spicy snacks! Fellow bloggers have come up a array of tempting treats featuring green leafy vegetables:
Spicy Spirals from Indian Food Rocks,
Methi Malai Buns from Jugalbandi,
Gingery Spinach Kebabs from Sailu's Food,
Methi Muthia from Food For Thought,
Mint Coriander Chutney from Hooked on Heat,
Palak Puri from A Cook At Heart,
And for a stunning array of leafy recipes, check this out...
JFI:WBB Round-up of Green Leafy Vegetables from Mahanandi.

Previously on the A to Z of Indian Vegetables...
A is for Aloo Gobi: North-Indian Stir-Fry
B is for Bharli Mirchi: Stuffed Vegetables
C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam: Desserts
D is for Dum ki Arbi: Dum Style of Cooking
E is for Egg-Fried Rice: Rice and Vegetables
F is for Foogath: South-Indian Stir-Fry
G is for Gobi Paratha: Vegetables in Breads
H is for Hariyali Tikki: Vegetables in Appetizers
I is for Idli with Vegetables: Vegetables for Breakfast
J is for Jalfrezi Vegetables: Restaurant Style
K is for Kati Roll: Vegetables and Paneer
L is for Lasuni Dal Palak: Vegetables and Lentils
M is for Malai Kofta: Dumplings
N is for Nargisi Kebab: Vegetables and Eggs
O is for Onion Chutney: Vegetables in Chutneys
P is for Pattagobi Pachadi: Vegetables in Salads
Q is for Quick Carrot Pickles: Vegetables in Pickles
R is for Radish Paratha: Root Vegetables

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Recipe request: Vaalache Bhirde

Suma B., a reader, mailed me a few weeks ago. She had tasted a typical Marathi dish somewhere and loved it and was looking for a recipe for it. Well, it turns out that I love this dish too, so I'm only too happy to share the recipe here. What is the dish? A creamy coconut-based curry made with sprouts of a dal called either vaal or dalimbay, and the preparation is called a bhirde making it either vaalache bhirde or dalimbyache bhirde (quite a mouthful if you don't speak Marathi)!

This curry has a special place in my heart because I associate it with my aji (grandma) in Bombay who makes a delicious vaalache bhirde. It is a truly exceptional dish because it captures five flavors of food in one single spoonful: the spicy heat from chillies, sweetness from jaggery, a tangy note from tamarind, a hint of bitterness that is natural to the vaal; all bound together with a touch of salt. Add to that the creamy deliciousness of coconut and you have yourself a winner!

To make the bhirde, you have to start a couple of days ahead to allow time for spouting. I had talked about the vaal-sprouting process in this post, but will repeat some of it here:
(a) Take dried vaal. These beans are often sold in Indian and international stores under the name "Surti Val" (I spell it "vaal" because I think that is a more accurate transliteration of the word).
(b) Soak vaal in plenty of warm water overnight (8-12 hours): they will swell up.
(c) Drain and place in a colander, covered with a damp cheesecloth. In 36-48 hours, the vaal will sprout.
(d) Peel the sprouts by placing them in warm water; the peel should pop right off. Discard any beans that are discolored.

Peeling the sprouts is a necessary step and can be a little labor-intensive. I personally don't mind doing this task when I am relaxing on the couch watching TV or chatting with friends. Putting the curry together is a snap once the sprouts are peeled and the result is worth all the time spent!

Vaalache Bhirde

1. Take 1 and and half cups of vaal beans and soak, sprout and peel them as above. Set aside.
2. Soak 1 heaping tsp tamarind in 1/4 cup hot water to extract the juice (if you use tamarind paste, it does not need to be soaked).
2. Make a coconut paste as follows: In 1 tbsp oil, fry 1 large onion cut in large chunks until slightly browned. Add 2 cloves of garlic, chopped, and 1 cup fresh or frozen grated coconut and 1-3 (more or less, depending of hotness desired) fresh or frozen green or red chilies. Stir around until coconut is fragrant, then blend to a fine paste using a little water as required.
3. In a saucepan, heat 1 tbsp oil. Temper the oil with 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, pinch of asafoetida, 5-6 curry leaves. Add 1 small onion, minced finely and fry it for a few seconds. Add 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, 1 tsp coriander powder and salt to taste.
4. Add the peeled sprouts and stir well. Add 1/2 cup water, cover the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, until sprouts are just tender.
5. Add the coconut paste, tamarind extract and 1 heaping tsp of jaggery. Add some water if the curry looks too thick. Simmer the curry for 10 minutes. Taste for the balance of flavors and add a little more tamarind/jaggery/salt if required.
6. Garnish with minced cilantro. Serve with steamed rice or rotis.

This curry really brings back the taste of home! To make a delicious pilaf with the same vaal beans, try making this dalimbay bhaat.