The first thing to be spotted in markets at the turn of April or May as soon as the short fairytale called winter is over is okra pods. It probably tops the list of summer vegetables in India. I would compare the hue and cry about it to sight of fresh tomatoes here. I would accompany my grandmother to our daily vegetable vendor, leaned over his cart and gazed at the pile of okra that occupied half of the space and observed how my grandmother chose the dark green, soft, slender ones while arguing about how costly he sold his produce. Almost each week, sometimes more than once, okra formed a part of our meals. My mother tells me that it was my grandfather’s favorite vegetable so our family recipe repertoire is packed with a lot of ways to cook it. As the summer progressed, by the months of July and august and with the knock of monsoons and okra slowly losing their crisp texture, only then the focus shifted to other vegetables.
However, it was not until I met the husband that I cooked okra with potatoes. Kid you not, I had not even heard about it in all my years of living in northern parts. It’s hard to say if his suggestion to do so was driven by his childhood food memories or his obnoxious need to combine potatoes with each and every food group possible, but the deal didn’t get too bad here and these two vegetables worked beautifully the first time I cooked them. We continued discussing for many years, each chance I got to get okra home as to how the recipe can get better and better until I mastered it.
These emerald looking, slender beauties pair with earthly flavor of starchy potatoes so well. On the lines of stuffed okra, I always add fennel seeds to my okra recipes and you will need to do that to know how deliciously this grassy vegetable braces the liquorice of that spice.Try it. The deal with dealing with all the nuances which people associate with okra is not to go too stingy on oil quantity as well as not to let the vegetable steam too much while cooking. I cover it for no more than few initial minutes after its added to pan and then continue cooking uncovered till its done, this preserves the beautiful color as well as eliminates the chances of mushy okra.
Wash okra thoroughly under running water. After washing spread them on a kitchen towel and let air dry for at least 2 hours. If you are in a hurry, thoroughly wipe out the okra with paper towels so that they are completely dry.
Halve or quarter the okra lengthwise or cut as you like them. Discard the bottoms and tips.
Peel the potatoes and cut them lengthwise. Try not cut them very thick or thin.
Heat up the oil on medium in a wide pan.Temper the oil with cumin, fennel and fenugreek seeds. Let crackle. Add the potatoes to the pan, sprinkle a pinch of salt,stir around to coat the potatoes. Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and let the potatoes cook till 50%done.
Add the sliced onions and garlic next ,fry for 3-4 minutes till they start to soften and the onion starts turning brown on the edges.
Add the okra, powdered spices (except sugar, chaat masala & garam masala) and salt to the wok and mix well. Cover the lid and let cook for 5 minutes on medium heat. The okra will soften and start looking deep green .
Remove the lid, reduce heat to low and cook the okra for another 8-10 minutes till its cooked through and the potatoes are fork tender. Stir at intervals to avoid sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Once the okra & onions are soft,turn the heat to high, sprinkle the sugar and garam masala and saute for another 1-2 minutes. Let sit for 15 minutes before serving.
I adore seafood, as you might already be noticing on the blog and on my Instagram feed. Quite a few seafood dishes popping every other day! I seem to have inherited this love from both my parents. Growing up, unlike may north indian homes, fish and prawns formed an integral part of our meals.Right from purchasing the freshest catch to patiently cooking the bought, mom and dad made sure that through growing years, our taste buds acquired an afffinty for food from the sea . Even though fresh water fish is still more popular with my family members and going by the rules, it is not food from the “sea” but you know what I mean.
Continuing my desire to develop new ways of consuming fish,I am always on a look out for ideas.Talking about ideas, I have been eating this quick salmon bowl for lunch quite a lot these days. It is quick, healthy and does not leave you with that “heavy” feeling kind of meal. I could go for a jog after this, no kidding!
I have talked about Indo chinese flavors at length in so many of my previous post. Here,here and here. These two strong asian cuisines marry again and again inside my wok, always leaving me amazed at the robust flavor of the resulting dishes. We simply adore the flavors in our home, though strict foodies(without being at fault) will dismiss it away categorizing it as unauthentic.
When you are a foodie, you draw inspiration from anywhere and everywhere. When I visited my local asian store a couple of weeks back, I was drawn towards the teriyaki salmon bowls on display at their asian section. Tad overpriced at first look but then I notched forward and spotted big chunks of orange salmon glazed in a beautiful dark amber colored sauce, spliced with chilies and colorful , glossy vegetables on the side.The meal was indeed mouth watering and made complete sense. Immediately, the idea of playing with indo chinese crossed my mind. Grabbing my grocery bags in both hands, I yearned to get into my kitchen and stir up something. This recipe came up on a whim.I did not even intend to post it but the colors looked so gorgeous once I plated that I took out the camera. It could be a great dinner option too. Just double the recipe for two people and if you have the time and inclination, stir up some vegetable fried rice. The aromatic indian spices, dashes of salty soy sauce & vinegar complement the rich fatty salmon in an excellent way along with the quick sweet tangy pickled vegetables which add that much-needed freshness in contrast to strong savory seasonings.
An easy recipe of salmon chunks stir fried with asian flavors. Use it as an outline and play around with the sauces/condiments used to suit your taste.
For the Salmon
1 no 6oz to 8 oz salmon fillet
1.5 teaspoon dark soy
1 fat garlic, minced
1-2 teaspoon white vinegar (adjust to taste)
1 tsp toasted sesame oil (this is a strong-tasting oil, substitute with untoasted sesame oil or any neutral oil)
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 fat garlic, finely chopped
1 small Thai green chili, minced (adjust to taste)
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
1/4 teaspoon coriander powder
Red chilli flakes to taste
1.5 tablespoon Maggi chilli tomato sauce (or use 1 tablespoon tomato ketchup mixed with cayenne)
1/4 teaspoon garam masala
1/4 teaspoon honey (or to taste)
salt to taste
Add any kind of vegetables, scallions, bok choy etc to this recipe while cooking.
You could add dashes of Sriracha or hot sauce for additional heat.
For the Pickled Vegetables
3 tablespoon white vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 Thai green chilli, minced
salt to taste
2-3 radish, julienned
1 small persian cucumber, julienned
1/3 cup leftover steamed jasmine or plain rice (optional)
Using a sharp knife, cut the salmon fillet in small cubes. In a bowl, transfer the cubes and mix the soy, minced garlic, vinegar and sesame oil with it. Let sit for 10 minutes.
While the salmon is marinating, proceed to make the pickled vegetables. In another bowl, mix up the vinegar, sugar, salt and minced green chili. Mix. Add the julienned vegetables and refrigerate.
In a pan or wok, heat up the canola oil to smoky. Immediately add the chopped shallot, garlic and ginger. Saute for 1-2 minutes till you smell a nice aroma. Add the coriander powder. Saute for 1 minutes. Then add the marinated salmon text along with . Stir fry the salmon on high for 3-4 minutes. They cook up fast so keep a close eye. Towards the last minute of cooking add the chill-tomato sauce,red chill flakes,garam masala, honey and adjust the salt. Also, check the tang from vinegar at the end of cooking. You can some more if you like. Sprinkle fresh cilantro.
Serve immediately alongside some leftover rice and pickled vegetables from the refrigerator.
Many times, it really takes a beating to make favorite foods from childhood healthier. I don’t know. I always feel that childhood could absorb all that gluttony of sweets, fat and carbohydrates. Not that now my metabolism won’t permit, but my mind seriously watches goes into my system. When I was changing this recipe of fried chivda(flattened rice), a favorite snack from my years of growing up and an immensely popular street food in the northern parts of india,usually served in soiled newspaper cones, I wanted the flattened rice to make the same crackling cripsy sound between my teeth as it should but did not want to sink it down in a pool of hot oil. I wanted that rich salty grease from it to drown my tastebuds and coat the roof of my palette but did not want to witness the flakes swimming and popping inside oil. Not really.
You know sometimes, you might feel that the close-to- perfect meals that you see on this blog are easy and I work wonders like michelin chefs in my home kitchen,but truth be told, on few days, there are bundles of failures and wastage (eeeks) associated with experimenting while cooking .It happens al the time with me, I dream of something and the reality of the finished dish is not so awesome. Anyhow,while I turned to my try-new-things idea, out came the cookie sheet and on the lines of making granola, I set out. I tossed the flattened rice in tablespoons of oil and actually used all the patience I could muster at that ungodly hour of the night to lay it in a single layer. I might have gone a bit too far by actually trying to separate each and every rice flake from the other with help from chopsticks under the dim night kitchen lights. Hmm. Into a low oven for under half an hour and out came the baking sheet. My fears came to life when the rice did not look or smell up to the mark, not like I dreamt it to be. I would not categorize it as inedible but the long story short, the granola procedure failed me.The count of beating went another notch up. Some other time,I told myself and retired to bed.
Then another day, in the bright of the noon, I took out the trusted cast iron skillet, heated oil to smoky and sizzled rice flakes in it and then with a lot more patience on my side, watchfully, slow roasted the chivda, stirring it continually with fork to a crispy goodness, sniffing it, observing how the toasted brown to a bowlful, one which crinkled in the mouth and coated the tastebuds with salty fat. I got it.
When we were kids, 5 pm foods were the best.No jokes. From piping hot samosas and jalebi from the neighbourhood halwai (sweets vendor) or instant noodles from neon yellow pouches, curry puffs and puddings, fruit shakes to potato balls, it was real fun everyday to see mom, badi mummy(my grandma) and aunts cook up new things for us.This chivda (flattened rice) is one from those days. During the spring and early summer season, fresh peas were tossed in cumin and green chillies and served along side. The rustic, mish mash snack plate of sorts is a burst of textures – sweet, salty, smoky and hot. The chaat masalaand bits of ginger combine with the sweetness of those peas to make up a pleasing bite. I could never get the same taste with frozen peas, you need to make this before the fresh pea season lasts. Whats more? Its gluten free, vegan and tad healthy. Go make some. Now.
Both the components of this recipe can be done ahead. Roast the chivda (flattened rice) and store it in air tight jar for up to a week. I usually make the peas 3-4 hours ahead (they have better flavor if they sit for a while) and warm up later but you can totally make them when ready to serve.
Ingredients (Serves 4-5)
For the Roasted Chivda (Flattened Rice)
4 tablespoons of oil
2.5 cups thick poha (flattened rice, available in any indian/pakistani stores)
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
Optional – add any nuts or seeds of choice, peanuts, cashews, raisins, sunflower seeds etc
In a wide, cast iron skillet (I use my 10″) , heat up the oil to the point that it about to smoky. Put off the stove. Take a fork in one hand and start adding the flattened rice with the other, continuously stirring else it will burn. Add all of the rice, and stir so that all the flakes are coated in oil. Add the salt and stir to combine. Return the skillet to stove and on low heat, let the rice toast up. Keep on stirring it a lot of times, else it will burn and you will see that the flakes start to change color. You will smell a nutty aroma too. It takes about 8-10 minutes on low heat for the rice to completely roast and turn pale brown. This time will depend on the variety and thickness of flattened rice you are using. Adjust.
Once the flattened rice has roasted, let it cool down completely. Transfer to an air tight jar. Use a clean, dry spoon to serve it. Store up to a week.
Make Spiced Peas
In a wide pan, heat up the oil on medium heat. Once heated, temper the oil with cumin seeds and wait for them to crackle.Add the chopped onions to the pan and let the onions cook till transculent.Don’t brown them.Next, add the chopped ginger & green chili to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes.
Add the blanched peas next along with garam masala and salt to taste. Stir to combine and let cook on medium heat for 3-4 minutes.
Add the chaat masala and chopped cilantro next and stir fry on high heat for 3-4 minutes, continuously stirring.Take care that the peas do not turn mushy.
Put off the heat, add fresh lemon juice.
To serve, plate up the roasted chivda and spicy peas. Add 1 teaspoon of granulated sugar on top along with a sprinkle of red chili flakes. Enjoy with a cup of chai.
I could go on and on about my love for vegetarian dishes and fresh produce, but there are certain things from my growing years that I stopped cooking after coming to the States for I was unable to find the ingredients. Add to that list a few varieties of squashes, jackfruit and some tropical fruits.No, I am not complaining but there are few dishes from the childhood years that were deep down in the memory, their taste lingering in my mind every now and then as the seasons came and went. Arbi or colocasia or taro root belongs to that category.
A starchy vegetable that is reminiscent of the afternoons spent with badi mummy (my grandmother) in the house verandah, below the small window with green frame that opened into the kitchen. While the loo(loo is a strong, hot and dry summer afternoon wind which blows over the plains of north India) gushed outside, seated on the takhat (a wide wooden bench) she constantly greased her palms with strong-smelling mustard oil,the knife too while that small pile of the arbi infront of her was prepped for dinner. Once the plump tubers were diced, who ever, amongst the women in the family was taking dinner making forward was instructed to use copius amounts of amchoor(dry mango powder) while cooking it. A side of warm dal tadka(tempered lentils) with rice, a hot pickle and one of the most satisfying, light vegetarian meal was put together in under an hour.
There are more than one way I have eaten this root growing up, but necessarily in savory preparations. Never saw a sweet prepared with it, quite unlike the way it is used in the rest of south asia – in making puddings and ice creams or even candy.I thronged our asian grocers almost every weekend until last week I spotted these hairy skinned, mud covered arbi tucked inside a grumpy cardboard box in the corner. Oh my! I notched a little closer, one touch between my palms and in a blink I knew they were perfectly ripe and ready to come home with me.
This recipe today is very simple, very less ingredients and really you can taste the sweet gummy tuber in this preparation. You would need to get ajwain (or carrot seeds) though, they lend an amazing flavor which enhance the unique taste as well as aids in digestion of this vegetable. A sprinkle of chaat masala and squirt of fresh lemon juice at the end is one of my favorite ways to dress it up.
1/4 teaspoon amchoor (dry mango powder or squirt fresh lemon juice at end)
salt to taste
Chopped cilantro – for garnish
Sprinkle of chaat masala (optional, to taste)
Grease your palms liberally with oil or wear gloves when handling raw taro root. It could be quite itchy without.
Finish the dish with some sour element, dry mango powder (amchoor) as in the recipe, vinegary or fresh lime/lemon juice. Sometimes, the cooked vegetable can itch the throat. But not to worry. The sour element only adds to the taste.
Using the peeler, peel off the skins of the arbi. Wash under running water. Completely dry with a kitchen towel. Slice length wise into half. Cut batons from each half.
Heat up the oil in a saute pan on medium. Temper the oil with ajwain, cumin,green chillies and hing powder.Immediately add the arbi and stir around to coat the batons in oil. Sprinkle the red chili powder and amchoor. Also add the salt. Stir again to combine.
Reduce heat to low, cover the pan and let cook for 12-15 minutes till the arbi is soft but not mushy.
I had to pick up a bunch of these slender carrots from the store and combine them with addictively bitter fresh methi (fenugreek) leaves into this delicious stir fry. An otherwise plain-looking side dish which in reality in such a perfect balance of texture and flavors, it formed a part of our winter meals just once or twice in the season because growing up, carrots were usually consumed in preparing luscious halwa or tangy winter pickles. Or mostly mum would simply cut up raw carrots into sticks and squirted fresh lemon juice & dash of chaat masala on top for a healthy snack in between meals.
Not having it often could be the reason it is one of my favorite things to prepare during colder months.Who knows? But this sweet-spicy medley, very popular in north indian parts of India, when served with piping hot yellow dal, few cut up hard-boiled eggs and hot rotis forms a super satisfying home meal in addition to being wholesome and nourishing.
I love the robust choice winter vegetables bring with them. I could go on about my love for produce at this time of the year – fleshy turnips, sweet beetroots and leafy greens.While many people find comfort in meats and poultry at this time when its dull and grey or perhaps snowy outside if you are on the east coast, I need a hearty stock of vegetables to strive and feel energetic through the season.If you are in India, where unlike here, fresh peas make an appearance in the winter months, you could be in for a really treat if you plan to make this along with those juicy, raspberry red carrots, native to the asian subcontinent which I am still to spot here.
In this recipe, you could substitute methi leaves with any bitter greens of choice – kale or turnip, radish greens work wonderfully.To balance out the sweetness from carrots and peas, you do need a bitter element so do not skip the greens. Sometimes I add diced up sweet potatoes or white potatoes for an earthy texture, making it sweet, spicy, bitter and deliciously savory side to go along dal – rice or plain parathas(flatbreads).
Talking of fresh produce, I had a chance to visit the weekly farmers market at the San Francisco Ferry Building during our trip to bay area last week. What a beautiful, fresh and gorgeous spread of produce, meats,bread and condiments it was.We spent almost half a dat there sampling cheeses, raw honey, bread & hot pizza from the stand. Here are a few pictures for you guys.
A simply spiced carrots, peas and fresh fenugreek leaves dish with warm tones of ginger & cumin which can be served as a side or a warm winter salad.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
4-5 medium-sized carrots (I used a bunch which had 6-7 small, slender carrots)
3/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 cup packed fresh methi leaves, picked
2 tbsp mustard oil (or olive oil)
1/4 tsp methi dana(fenugreek seeds)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida powder)
2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small roma tomato, finely chopped (yield about 2.5 tbsp)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (or paprika, adjust to tolerance)
1/2″ fresh ginger shoot, finely chopped
salt to taste
1/4 tsp garam masala (optional)
1/4 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder to taste, or use fresh lemon juice to taste at the end)
Use any bitter robust green like kale (blanched) or radish & turnip greens in place of fenugreek.
We like this dish more on the sweet bitter side than with tang. Even though tomatoes & amchoor balance the sweet, depending on how acidic your tomato is, just adjust the amount of lemon or amchoor. You may or might not need it at all too.
Wash and peel the carrots. Pat them dry and dice them if you have the thicker ones, I cut them up into small rounds since mine were slender. Wash the methi leaves under running stream of water and completely dry them before chopping. If you are using fresh pea, shell the pods, if using frozen, thaw them.
In a karahi or heavy skillet, heat up the mustard oil on medium until the raw smell goes away. Once hot, temper the oil with methi dana and cumin seeds. Wait till they crackle. Turn the heat to low and immediately add the chopped garlic and hing. Wait till the garlic changes color to light brown,about 8-10 seconds.Be sure that the garlic does not burn. You can even put off the stove for few minutes if you feel that the oil is already hot enough.Then add the tomatoes & turmeric.Saute for a minute or so on medium till the tomato begins to soften. Add the carrots (and potatoes/sweet potatoes if using) and cover. Let cook for 5-7 minutes on medium low heat till the carrots become tender(or about 80% cooked).Add a little splash of water if you feel that the carrots need moisture for cooking.
Open the lid add the red chill powder along with peas, ginger and chopped methi. Add salt to taste. Stir to combine everything together. Cover again and let cook for another 3-4 minutes till the methi leaves wilt down and peas are tender. I let the vegetables have a bite so I do not cook them for too long.Adjust the time of cooking accordingly.
For the last 1-2 minutes of cooking, bump up the heat to high, add amchoor, garam masala and saute the vegetables for a minute or so.We call this process “bhuno” (saute on high heat) This makes the stir fry glisten and adds a depth of flavor.
Aloo Methi is a classic loved dish in the northern regions of india during the cold months. As soon as the winter knocks in, a lot of leafy greens could be spotted in the farmers markets as well as on the cart of the sabzivala,the vegetable vendor who used to bring us fresh produce everyday from his fertile patch.A regular for more than a decade at my grandma’s house, he would bring in a mix of fresh coriander,petite yellowish cauliflowers and slender radishes and potatoes from his patch,also making sure to stop by the mandi (wholesale market) everyday to stock up his cart with a few pounds of tomatoes, onions and other seasonal produce.Then all day long, he went knocking door to door selling his grown and bought to old and new customers. We did not go to grocery stores then, in those days and still such vegetable, fish and poultry vendors are responsible for fresh meals served on our tables. Every now and then if not daily, my grandma and him would have funny altercations, she complaining of the vegetables not being ‘that’ fresh and costly, him arguing that his wife cooked a delicious sabzi last night with the same thing. A lot of time my grandma would haggle for that extra bunch of cilantro or few limes for it was deemed totally legit to get free herbs after a hefty purchase.On most days, he gave in to the sweet old lady, packing in a few ounces of green chillies and fragrant mint along.As the winters ripened, the leafy produce- spinach, methi, beet & turnip greens, radish, mustard became cheaper and cheaper. Needless to say, it would be a green fiesta on our dinner table on most of the days, a garlicky methi aloo to spinach dal to palak paneer or sarson ka saag (mustard curry) Methi (fenugreek leaves) are used a lot in north indian cooking.Here in the States, you can easily find them fresh in the indian/pakistani stores once the autumn starts to knocks. Avoid using frozen if you can. Broadly, there are two varieties of methi– the small one, with round, dark green and extremely fragrant & delicate leaves called the kasuri methi.You would have noticed me using it a lot in my recipes. It has a short season and even during winters it is available only for a couple of weeks. The other variety, the larger one is less fragrant in comparison but has a longer season and can be homegrown easily from methi dana (fenugreek seeds). In indian cooking, seeds as well as leaves, both are used their piquant, bitter flavor. Methi has a unique, tangy bitter flavor which is definitely an acquired taste but trust me it is addictive.My grandma always used to mix fresh dill (sooaa) leaves whenever cooking methi aloo (potatoes) in a karahi(indian wok). Even though I never liked addition of dill then but now in all these years, it has changed.However, do not use a lot of dill as it is a strong herb and can overpower the methi taste. Potatoes lend the dish a nice, comforting earthy flavor as well as balance the bitterness of the greens. Do not be tempted to reduce potato quantity coz then the stir fry will come come very bitter. The dish is generously flavored with garlic and dried chillies and is a perfect accompaniment to steamed basmati rice – dal and a side of mango pickle. The dish keeps very well for hours so you could also wrap up the stir fry in triangle paratha(flatbread) for a hearty lunch at work or school. The dish gets better the next day so plan a few leftovers if you like.
Methi Aloo – Fenugreek With Potatoes
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
3 cups methi (fenugreek leaves)
3-4 tbsp pure mustard oil (mustard oil adds a authentic flavor but olive/canola oil can be used)
heaped 1/4 tsp methi dana (fenugreek seeds)
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/8 tsp hing powder (asafoetida)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1-2 whole dried kashmiri chilies
1/4 tsp red chilli powder (or cayenne)
scant pinch of turmeric powder
1/4 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
2-3 stalks fresh dill leaves, chopped (about 2 tbsp) (Optional can be skipped)
2 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled and cubes ( or 7-8 baby potatoes)
Pick up the tender shoots and leaves from the long, hard methi stems. Wash the leaves under running water to remove all the dirt. On a clean kitchen towel, spread the washed methi to completely air dry for 30-45 minutes. If you are in a hurry, use paper towel to absorb all the moisture. Ensure that the leaves are totally dry once you are ready to cook else the stir fry will come out watery. Chop the leaves and set aside.
In a karahi or heavy skillet, heat up the mustard oil on medium until the raw smell goes away. Once hot, temper the oil with methi dana and cumin seeds. Wait till they crackle. Turn the heat to low and immediately add the chopped garlic, hing and dried chillies. Wait till the garlic changes color to light brown and the dried chillies swell, about 10-12 seconds in hot oil. Take utmost care that the garlic does not burn. You can even put off the stove for few minutes if you feel that the oil is already hot enough.
Next, add the red chill, turmeric and amchoor powder. Stir for 3-4 seconds and add the chopped methi leaves. Stir to combine. The methi leaves will wilt down in 1-2 minutes and you will see they start wilting down and water of the methi separating. Let cook uncovered for 3-4 minutes on medium low heat and then add the dill along with potatoes. Add the salt next. Stir so that everything is combined.
Cover the karahi with a lid and let cook for 3-5 minutes until everything is cooked through. The methi will be a darker shade of green at the end of cooking and will stick to potatoes. Put off the heat and let sit for at least 1-2 hours before serving (this is important).
Eggplant season is here and I am all over it. Biting into that sweet flesh dotted with soft seeds, I always admire how this delicious vegetable absorbs any kind of goodness thrown to it in good measure.Be it the flavored oils or the profusely strong-tasting spices,squirts of citrus or a mellow yogurt dressing, it takes all. Robust yet so simple and earthly to relish, I have been regularly making eggplant pakorasand bharta, roasting it, open fire grilling it and what not.
However, it is with great regret that I tell you that I did not always like eggplant. I totally hated it as a kid and the same was true for most members of our family. Except for pakoras, I rarely touched it. In the real way, I embraced it as an edible item during those couple of years when I turned a pure vegetarian.
I always like September for the overlap it brings – the summer bounty is still in the markets but the autumn produce can be spotted on the stands. I am still getting to slice fresh strawberries for my daughter’s breakfast and at the same time I hand over crunchy apples to her as a snack. It is so fascinating how seasons change and that change is first thing evident in the farmer’s markets. I went for grocery shopping the labor day weekend and was surprised how pears and apples have popped overnight on the stands.Can you believe I spotted a few pumpkins and parsnips already! Gosh, where did the summer go.
For us, especially on the days when like to keep it meat free, a simple meal comprises of lentils, a dry vegetable curry and rice. We sit down to eat together,mostly eat with our fingers, squeezing out that juicy flesh off the peel, smashing the potatoes and mixing it in with ghee smothered dal-rice. Yum! If not with rice, you could roll this up inside whole wheat flatbreads if you like. Go make some before the season goes away.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)
4 tbsp mustard oil (or olive/canola oil)
1/2 tsp fenugreek seed
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp finely chopped garlic
1/4 tsp hing (asafoetida powder)
2 medium potatoes, peeled & cut (I use yellow potatoes)
1 tbsp water
1/2 tsp turmeric powder, divided
1 medium globe eggplant or 4-5 japanese eggplants
1/2 cup finely chopped tomatoes (I use fresh roma)
1/2 tsp red chili powder (or to taste)
1/4 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder, skip or use fresh lime juice to taste)
scant pinch of garam masala (optional but lends a nice smoky hint)
1 tsp kasurimethi (dry fenugreek leaves)
Salt to taste
Chopped Cilantro to garnish
In a kadhai/wok, heat up the oil. If you are using mustard oil you will need to heat it up for up to 1-2 minutes to do away the raw smell. Just take care that is not smoking. Once the oil is hot, reduce the heat to low and add the fenugreek and cumin seeds. Let crackle. Immediately add the garlic and hing. Let cook for 5-7 seconds taking care they do not burn. (You do not want the garlic to turn bitter as it changes the taste of the recipe, take the kadhai off the heat if you feel that its too hot)
Add the potatoes next and let their outer surface crisp up for 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle a little salt and 1/4 tsp turmeric powder as they brown. Next, add 1 tbsp water, cover and let cook on medium low heat till the potatoes are 50% tender.
Meanwhile, wash the eggplant and cut it up roughly the same size as the potatoes.
Add the eggplant along with tomatoes, rest of the turmeric, red chili and dry mango powder. Also add the salt. Mix well so that everything is covered in spices. Cover and let cook till both eggplant and potatoes are tender. On medium low heat this should take 7-10 minutes.(This time will depend on the variety and size of the vegetables)
Take off the lid and sprinkle the garam masala and kasuri methi. On high heat, gently toss everything for another 1-2 minutes.
I start craving that chicken in hot garlic sauce severely,one with bits of garlic and crispy morsels coated in a deep flavored, sticky and hot reddish sauce. With no recipe to follow, it is just left to receding memories to build one.
Ingredients (Serves 2-3)1 lb boneless chicken thighs,skinless1 tbsp all-purpose flour1 garlic pod, minced1/2 tbsp dark soya sauce ((I use Ching’s brand)pinch of turmeric powder1/2 tsp salt1/2 tsp black pepperOil for skillet frying (I used sunflower)Use tofu, paneer and assorted vegetables for a vegetarian version of this recipeFor the Sauce8 garlic pods5-6 whole red Kashmiri chillies (adjust to tolerance, de seed if you like )1 tsp roasted white sesame seeds1-2 Thai bird chili, whole2 tsp dark soya sauce (I use Ching’s brand)3 tbsp chilli tomato sauce (I use Maggi Hot & sweet)2.5 tsp honey (or brown sugar)1 tsp coriander powder1/4 turmeric powder3/4 tsp red pepper flakes (adjust to tolerance)1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced1 tsp pure sesame oil (optional but recommended)2 tsp corn starch2/3 cup chicken/vegetable stock or water3-4 tbsp oil (I used sunflower, use any neutral oil)4 scallion stalks, white & green cut separately1/2 cup thin sliced red onionSalt to taste1.5 tbsp white vinegar (adjust to taste)1/4 tsp garam masalaFor Garnish – chopped scallions(green parts)MethodPreparationSoak the whole red chillies in warm water for 20 minutes.Cut the cleaned chicken into bite size pieces. Rub it with flour, garlic, chili, soya sauce, turmeric, salt & pepper and let sit for about 25-30 minutes.While the chicken is marinating, using your mortar and pestle or mini processor, crush the garlic, sesame seeds and soaked red chillies to tiny bits.You could use some soaking water if required for blending.In a small bowl, mix up the soya sauce, chili tomato sauce, honey and sesame oil(if using). In another bowl, mix the cornstarch with the stock and set aside.CookingIn a wide skillet (I used my 12″), heat up 2-3 tbsp of oil on high. Layer the marinated chicken pieces on the skillet and let sear on both sides, flipping in between. Make sure that the chicken pieces cook all the way through. This may take about 7-8 minutes or more depending on size of pieces.Once done, transfer the chicken pieces to a plate and reserve the dripping in the skillet itself.Add the 3 tbsp oil into the same skillet and heat it up on medium. Add the crushed garlic- chili paste as well as the whole green chili to it and fry up these for 20-30 second or so till you smell the aroma. Be careful that the garlic does not burn. Next add the chopped scallions (white part) & onions and cook on medium high for 2-3 minutes or till light brown in color. Add the coriander, turmeric,ginger and soya sauce mix made earlier, let cook for 3-4 minutes till everything starts looking glossy or till you see bubbles on the sides.Next, add the cornstarch mix to the skillet. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for another 2-3 minutes till the sauce thickens slightly.Next, taste & adjust the salt in the sauce. Sprinkle the garam masala & vinegar to the skillet and stir everything well. Add the chicken & toss so that the pieces are evenly coated.Garnish with chopped green scallions & serve immediately.
Mushrooms rarely made an appearance at meal time during my childhood years so I don’t even remember how and when I started liking them. The then winter vegetable, it was overly price and named fancy. There was this white puffy vegetable that had hit the vegetable market and no one cared about it for a while.They say it’s a kind of fungi – could be poisonous, the rumor went viral.
I still remember how small button mushrooms were cooked with just shelled, sweet tasting winter peas(matar) & gently simmered in a tomato base. In no time we sat down to scoop the stir fry with fresh-off -the skillet triangle parathas. They were mellow, meaty and pleasantly chewy. The hints of spices, just perfect to balance the natural sweetness & adding the correct depth of flavor to offset their blandness.
Weekday lunches are quite rushed for me, you will usually find me decking up the lunch plate from what’s in the refrigerator.With a toddler who wants to explore every cabinet in the house and has to be constantly watched,I barely cook something elaborate for myself. On some days its lentils re- tempered & served with pickled vegetables or leftover chickpeas curry with a side of yogurt. Sometimes, I treat myself to quickest scrambled egg (bhurji) with flatbreads on the side.
Even after trying hard for years, I could never get my husband to like mushrooms.That leaves only me in the house who eats them.Sweet & spicy,this mushroom & pea stir fry is few of those things that I make just for myself for a quick lunch. You could buy pre sliced, cleaned mushrooms and make it extra fast.
Many versions of mushroom matar use heavy cream or nut paste for a rich version or may a times water is added to make it sort of a curry but I have always liked this dryish stir fry than gravy. I really like how the tomato base coats the mushroom keeping them perfectly moist and adding hints of acidity.If you cook the tomatoes properly, they almost taste like a chunky ketchup like (if you know what I mean).
Ingredients (Serves 2)
8 oz mushrooms
1/2 cup peas (fresh or frozen)
3 tbsp oil
1/3 cup onions, finely chopped
1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
1 large tomato, finely chopped (yield about 3/4 cup)
1-2 Thai green chillies, chopped (adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp red chili powder (adjust to taste)
1/4 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder, substitute with fresh lemon juice to taste)
salt to taste
pinch of sugar
Generous pinch of kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves, crushed between palms)
Chopped Cilantro – for garnish
Clean the mushrooms and slice them. If using frozen peas, thaw them. Set aside.
In a pan/wok/kadhai, on high, heat up the oil to smoky point.Reduce the heat to medium & add the chopped onions & garlic. When the onions start to soften & turn lightly brown, add the chopped tomatoes, green chilies, ginger, turmeric, coriander,amchoor and red chili powder to the kadhai and turn heat to medium-low. Let the tomatoes cook down and soften, cook this masala till you see oil separating on sides. At this point turn heat to medium high & add the sliced mushrooms. Also add pinch of salt. Cook the mushrooms till the are tender. They will slowly release their water and start to shrink in size. I used white button mushrooms & it took they approximately 6-8 minutes to cook. The time will depend on the variety of mushrooms you are using. Once the mushrooms are sweaty and have shrunk in size, add the peas,adjust the salt, sprinkle the sugar and also add the kasuri methi . Cover for 5 minutes on medium – low heat and let cook.
Garnish with chopped cilantro. You can also squirt little lemon juice/vinegar if you like. Serve immediately.
Well the season of guest posts continues on Sinfully Spicy 🙂 Welcome to another one..this time at one of my super favorite indian cuisine blogs – Indian Simmer!
Prerna from Indian Simmer is one person who never fails to fascinate me with her warmth & energy. Always full of excitement, I would say that she is one of the most cheerful lady I have met in the blogging world. They say that you need an eye for beauty, as much as I have known her, I feel that the kind of emotions & personality you carry around in life tend to reflect in everything you do – be it words, lens or recipes. Beautiful people make beautiful blogs – Indian Simmer is a testimonial of exactly that! Her lens is what personifies indian cuisine to the root – Vibrant, colorful & mouthwatering!
I was honored when she asked me to guest post on her blog. Thank you so much, Prerna. Among many of her creative ideas, she came up with this series where she wants to feature her favorite blogs; well the thought of kick starting the series is jaw dropping for me. To make the series fun, she posed me with a little questionnaire, which I tried my best to answer.
Read my little chit chat & recipe for Paneer Jalfrezi on her blog here. You can find the printable recipe here.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
3 tbsp canola/olive/sunflower oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds, lightly crushed
1 large onion, sliced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
1″ fresh gingershoot, minced
2 Thai green chilies, chopped
2 medium roma tomatoes, quartered & sliced
3/4 tsp turmeric powder
1.5 tbsp red chili flakes (adjust to tolerance)
1 cup sliced bell peppers (use any colored peppers of choice)
7 oz / (200gm) paneer (Indian cheese), sliced into 2” batons
Salt to taste
½ tsp garam masala
1.5 tbsp white vinegar / fresh lemon juice
¼ tsp sugar
Chopped Cilantro for garnish
Heat oil in a cast iron skillet or pan /wok/kadhai on high. Once smoking, add cumin & coriander seeds and fry for 30 seconds or so till they crackle.
Next, add the minced ginger & garlic along with green chilies and cook for another 30 seconds till you smell the aroma.
Reduce heat to medium and add sliced onions next to the pan and fry till soft and translucent. About 2-3 minutes.
Add sliced tomatoes, turmeric powder & red chili flakes to the pan next and fry for 5-7 minutes till tomatoes begin to sweat & soften but do not turn mushy. You will see oil separating on sides of the pan. Stir frequently to prevent tomatoes from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add the sliced peppers next, stir and fry them for 5-8 minutes so that they cook slightly but still hold their shape & are crunchy.
Add the paneer next along with salt, increase heat to high and cook for 2-3 minutes with gentle tossing so as not to break the cheese.
Remove from heat, sprinkle the garam masala, sugar & top up with vinegar. Combine well. Garnish with chopped cilantro & serve with steamed rice or Indian breads.