It has been a couple of weeks since we went meatless in the house.Not even eggs.No we are not turning vegetarian but it was a good break.Nothing forced or intentional, just a choice. I was a vegetarian for a couple of years during my teens but other than that its been a lot of years since I did it again.To tell you the truth it was both exciting and difficult.I severely missed my morning eggs and those runny yolks I soak toasted bread with. I skipped eating out at my favorite Thai restaurant which makes the most awesome shrimp rolls and cashew chicken in the area.Once or twice, I longed for chicken & fish curry too. I admit that I rediscovered my love for certain vegetables – particularly asparagus and red cabbage. I don’t want to sound pointless but when you have meat options, your creativity is slightly adulterated by the temptation to combine it with vegetables (or its just me).That said, I could have never imagined that I could love crunchy asparagus & pea stir fry spooned over a bowl ghee rice. Or a ripe,split avocado filled with beans and drizzled with lots of yogurt & salted nuts. Infact, these few weeks gave me a chance to explore tofu recipes.Till now tofu always struggles in comparison to paneer in our kitchen but for now, it has found a little niche on our table in this salad. I guess it’s all about giving a chance & a little bit of creativity to let those vegetables feed you in a nice, clean way.
Cooking (and eating) okra did not come difficult though. It’s a summer staple and I have a small list of recipes from my family & a (yet to be tried) long one from far-fetched relatives to put okra to a tasty treat. In fact, before coming to the States I could never imagine someone not liking okra.It is just so delicious in the ways it’s cooked in indian cuisine.
Though slightly time consuming if making a big batch,but bharwaan (stuffed) bhindi (okra) is worth all the effort. A spicy, semi-wet masala base made with onions, garlic and chickpeas flour is filled into tender, pierced pods and then they are lightly stir fried with a spoon or so of thick yogurt. This is something which tastes better even the next day when the flavors develop a lot more. The key to keep away the slime and retain the color is to cook it uncovered on low heat for most of the time. It’s best served alongside skillet fried flatbreads (paratha) or soft roti and naan.
1 lb okra
3 tbsp besan (chickpea flour)
3 tbsp mustard oil (substitute with olive/vegetable oil)
3/4 cup red onions, very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
2 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp red chili powder (adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp amchoor (dry mango powder)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp oil
1/4 cup thick sliced onions (optional)
1 tbsp thick plain yogurt
pinch of sugar
There is no substitute for amchoor or mango powder in this recipe. You can buy it from local ethnic stores or online here.
If you want to make a vegan version of this recipe, replace yogurt with 1-2 tbsp of water and squirt lemon juice at the end of cooking.