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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lobia Pakoras

What a delight.. Indian falafels.
These were meant to be an appetizer but I stuffed myself and ended up having just this for lunch.
Creamy and full of flavor, and only deep fried for a few minutes.. they're a very worthy appetizer!
I'd been wanting to make pakoras for a while now, and just as I was getting frustrated with a project for work, I decided to take a break to make these.
Quite therapeutic.
I was able to calm down and happily finish what I had started.
1 cup black-eyed peas (lobia), soaked overnight, drained, and puréed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp ajwain (lovage) seeds
1 tsp grated ginger
1 large red onion, minced
2 green chilis, seeded and minced
1 carrot, grated
2 sprigs curry leaves, chopped
1 large handful chopped cilantro
pinch of salt
oil for deep frying
1.  Dry roast and grind the seeds.
2.  Add all the ingredients (except the oil) in a mixing bowl.  Mix well so all the ingredients dissipate evenly.  Taste and add salt if needed.  I only needed a tiny pinch.  The batter should not be liquidy, but not compact either.
3.  Heat a good amount of sunflower oil on high in a wok.  You want enough oil for your pakoras to cook submerged.  The hotter your oil, the faster the pakoras will cook.
4.  With your hands, make balls with the batter a little smaller than golf balls and gently drop into the hot oil.
5.  Cook 2-3 minutes until golden, then transfer to paper towel for oil absorption.   For a lower fat version, fry only until they start to color, then transfer to the oven and let them finish cooking there.  The oil will come out, but they may be a bit drier.

When you first bite into your pakoras, you will be pleasantly surprised at how non greasy they are, and how creamy and satisfying they taste.  Besides the deep frying part, they are actually very healthy.  I forgot to count the yield before diving in.

I'm happy to have discovered ajwain or lovage seeds.  I'd seen them in many Indian preparations and this is the first time I've used them.  They look like cumin or caraway seeds, but are very very different in taste.  I suppose the closest thing to use if you can't find any is a bit of oregano.  Its used in dough for samosas, in some breads or chapatis, but mostly in fried batters.

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

I Heart Artichokes Pizza

Grilled or roasted artichoke heart to be more specific.
And not just on pizza, in pasta, or as a side to a nicely grilled piece of meat or fish...and in a dip, too.
Forget your childhood trauma and let me guide you to the light...
spread you out to 30cm diameter (the size of my pizza stone).
I made the dough the night before and let it work itself all night and all day.  This was the best pizza dough since the beginning of my pizza endeavors.
Lather you with pesto, decorate you with grilled artichoke hearts, roasted tomatoes
add some sliced mozzarella and ham (optional)
Sprinkle you with fresh pepper and a nice handful of parmesan, then in the oven you go, highest temp, bottom rack, on the pizza stone for 9 minutes,
then add egg yolks and cook another 2 minutes.

You'll have a perfect airy crust, crunchy on the outside, slightly chewy on the inside, and toppings bursting with flavor...
Bon appetit!

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Kala Chana Remix

I can't get my mind off of you,
The way you taste, a rushing burst of pleasure
The way you feel, first as I discover your texture, firm but creamy
The way you warm me up as you travel through me
The way it just keeps getting better and better as the days pass
The way I crave you when you're gone
The way it feels so familiar, yet different every time....
So this time, Kala Chana, you'll be well decorated with the thickness of besan and the tangyness of amchur to keep you warm while you wait for me.
Inspired from SpiceUptheCurry.
Serves 4 as a meal.
1 cup dried kala chana (black chickpeas), washed and soaked overnight
2 tomatoes
1 green chili, seeded
1 clove garlic
1 inch ginger
1 tbsp oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 dried red chili
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp besan (chickpea flour)
1/2 tsp chili powder (to taste)
1 tsp garam masala
1 1/2 tsp amchur (mango powder)
Salt to taste
Chopped cilantro for garnish (I wish I had some)
1.  Cook the kala chana in the crockpot on low for 6-8 hours or until tender.
2.  Blend together the tomatoes, green chili, garlic, and ginger into a purée.  Set aside.
3.  Heat the oil in a wok.  Add the cumin seeds, coriander seeds and red chili.  Cook until the cumin sputters.
4.  Add the besan and stir.  It should made a sort of paste and the raw besan smell should disappear.
5.  Add the purée and cook, stirring a few minutes.  Add the chili powder, garam masala, and amchur and stir to incorporate.
6.  Add in the cooked kala chana with some of the cooking water.  Add as much of the cooking water as you like.  If you want a thick curry, just add enough to cover.  If you like it soupy with lots of sauce, add it all.  Bring to a boil once, then let sit for 10 minutes so the flavor absorbs.
7.  Taste and adjust the seasoning.  Add salt if it needs it.

Serve with rotis and rice, alone or in a thali.  I had this solo with a spoon.
I didn't have any cilantro, but it would have been excellent with this.
Now I can close my eyes and float away....

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Mah Ki Dal (whole black gram)

During my recent trip to my favorite spice shop, where I was able to stock up on curry leaves, I purchased 2 different types of dal I had never used before: Urad and Masoor.  I seriously thought Masoor was coral lentils, but no, they are reddish brown.  I shall test them soon.  It's the Urad that intrigued me.  It comes whole with or without skin, and split with or without skin.  I wasn't going to buy 4kg of urad dal so I decided to test them whole with skin.  The shiny little beans just make me go nuts.
Shortly after my purchase, I left town for business...and during my leave, for each and every meal I had I thought to myself how I would much rather be eating urad dal.
I got home today and immediately soaked 1 cup of my beloved urad while hoping they didn't have to soak overnight to cook because I had waited long enough.. I want them NOW.
Luckily, NOW is precicely what I achieved, since this recipe is so quickly put together, especially if you gather all your ingredients in one place. (ahem)
Serves 4 as a main
1 cup whole urad (black gram) washed and soaked at least 30 minutes
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin (kala jeera) seeds
1 chopped onion
3 large cloves garlic, grated
1 inch ginger, grated
1 chopped green chili (I used 2 dried red)
2 tomatoes, puréed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder (or to taste)
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
4 cups water
drizzle of cream (optional if vegan)
salt to taste
1.  Chop and prepare all your ingredients while your lentils are soaking.
2.  In a pressure cooker, heat the oil and sizzle the cumin seeds.
3.  Add the onion and cook until translucent.
4.  Add the ginger, garlic, and chopped chili.  Cook until the raw ginger smell goes away, about 2-3 minutes.
5.  Add the puréed tomatoes.  Stir well and cook until it starts to bubble about.
6.  Add the powdered spices and stir to incorporate.
7.  Drain the dal and add it along with 4 cups of water.  Close the pressure cooker and cook for 20 minutes under pressure.
8.  Open and check the dal for tenderness.  They should be creamy when you bite into them.  MmmMmm!  Add salt if needed.  Mine didn't need any.

Serve with a drizzle of fresh cream if you want.  I mostly did it for the picture, but it does add a little something.

Lighter than dal mahkani, this urad dal is giving me large amounts of pleasure with each bite.  I only used a drizzle of oil and as opposed to copious amounts of ghee and cream.
They say it's even better the next day.  In that case, I can't wait til tomorrow!

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Patty Pan Stuffed with Chestnuts

2 magical ingredients dropped out of the sky and into my loving hands:
1 large patty pan squash from the MIL's garden
1 1/2 cups fresh chestnuts

hmm what can I possible do with these 2 perfectly in season works of art I have absolutely never cooked before?

Patty pan is so beautiful that I wanted it to keep it's scalloped shape, so stuffing it is a perfect idea.  If I had baby patty pans I would have made some thai curry with them.  Curry is seeping out of my skin right now...
So the first part of my strategy is good music.  I'm in a creative mood, so a good Beth Hart album is the perfect background to get me into a nice cooking state.   I'll probably end up replaying I'll take care of you over and over again for a long long time.
That put me into an "observe the beauty" state.  Patty pan is so beautiful, it would be a pity to chop it up into pieces.  Well, at least not the first night.
Oooh look at that sexy thang...
The second part of my strategy is research.. how in the hail do you cook chestnuts without an open fire?
Well, I don't know if what I did was the right thing (since I read you have to peel them first) but I steamed them whole in the pressure cooker for 7 minutes, then peeled them.
Have you ever tasted raw chestnut?  It's amazing.  It's what helped me decide to peel them after cooking.  I figured it would be much much easier.  I was right.
The third part is compatible flavoring.
Savory pumpkin-ish dishes are superb with wild mushrooms.. oh my and so are chestnuts!
I always have some dried cêpes on hand.. and those go well with red meat.
I don't have any lamb, but that would have been exquisite.. I used ground beef instead.
Now we're talking.
Here's how I get my endorphins to set the roof on fire...
Serves 4
1 large patty pan squash, top cut and flesh scraped out and chopped
1 1/2 cups fresh chestnuts, steamed, peeled, and chopped
300g ground beef
2 cloves garlic, grated
1 onion, chopped
1 large handful dried cêpes (or whatever)
4 cubes frozen spinach, thawed
drizzle truffle infused EVOO
plain EVOO
2 Tbsp heavy cream
handful parmesan
handful shredded swiss
1.  Give yourself some time, because scraping out the flesh takes a while, and peeling the chestnuts does too.  I suppose you can use canned ones.
2.  Preheat the oven to 200°C.
3.  Heat some plain EVOO in a wok and cook the beef with the garlic until browned.
4.  Scoop out the meat with a slotted spoon so the fat stays in the wok.  Throw the onions into that fat and cook until translucent.
5.  Place the empty patty pan in the oven and cook for 10 minutes.
6.  Add the patty pan flesh to the wok, a dash of salt, and lots of pepper.  Stir, cooking 5-10 minutes until almost tender.
7.  Add the mushrooms, then the spinach.  The mushrooms should rehydrate in the thawed spinach juice.  Cook on low for another 5 minutes.
8.  Add the meat back in.  Stir, taste, and adjust the seasoning.
9.  When the empty patty pan is nice and hot, take of the oven.  Add the cream, parmesan, and drizzle of truffled EVOO to the stuffing and stir.
10.  Stuff the patty pan as much as you can, adding the shredded swiss at the end.  I had some stuffing leftover, but no worries, there will be no waste.
11.  Bake in the oven for another 30 minutes (I think??)

Perfect Fall Back meal.  When is that anyway?
I love the earthy taste of the chestnuts.  Fresh ones burst with flavor compared to store bought ones.
Were they organic?  They were wonderful!!

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Paneer and Egg Bhurji

Finally I was able to compose my thali the way I wanted and without all the rush!
Looks like chicken, but those are paneer cubes.
Inspired again by SMTC.
14 oz paneer (I used a batch from 2L milk)
2 eggs, hardboiled and sliced
1 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 small onion, chopped
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp grated garlic
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 green chili, seeded and sliced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp chat masala (I didn't have any)
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
salt to taste
1.  Heat the oil in a wok and sizzle the cumin seeds.
2.  Add the turmeric, onion, ginger, and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent.
3.  Add the green chilis and tomatoes.  Cook for a few minutes until tomatoes become mushy.
4.  Add the remaining spices.  Incorporate well, taste, and add salt if needed.
5.  Add the paneer cubes and heat through.

Add the sliced egg 1 minute before serving.

Ooh look at that protein party..
This is exactly what I need to recover from one week of 100% spiceless food.
Right: Paneer and Egg Bhurgi
Plain Basmati Rice and Rotis

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Chettinad Chicken Curry

A meal went uneaten the day it was cooked... which is fine because the flavors are better the next day.
Today was filled with sleeping in, working out like a crazy person, grocery shopping, cooking, working although I shouldn't have, and then cooking again.  It's a pattern that fits me quite well.  I didn't have any eye twitching going on during any of the events, which is a good sign.
When your eye twitches beyond your control the only thing you want to do is rip your face off.  Really, it's very annoying.
Anyhow, the day's events allowed for a very very late lunch (4pm), and my dinner plans were already on their way to completion when I realized after the happy hour shrimp and oysters that I really wasn't hungry enough to eat a real meal.
Yes it's oyster season and I'm on "vacation", so I get oysters at happy hour.  It didn't hurt that the fish lady almost forced me to buy them.. bringing up the fact that it was finally oyster season and these ones are great.  They were a bit too creamy for me, but I can't turn down a good oyster deal.  I'd rather get sick from non fresh fish than pass up on an oyster opportunity.
Are you getting my drift here?
So those oysters were so filling that when dinner was ready... it was ready for tomorrow's lunch, because I had no more room left for appreciation.
Which is a pity because I made chicken curry.. and from what I licked off the spoon, a dang good and spicy chicken curry with tons of flavor from SMTC.
2.5lbs (1,2kg) chicken breast, cubed
1 Tbsp canola oil
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 chopped onion
1 Tbsp grated ginger
2 tomatoes, chopped
2 Tbsp kasoori methi (fenugreek leaves)
1 sprig curry leaves (I'm all out)
1 cup water
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt to taste
Spices dry roasted & ground:
1 1/2" piece cinnamon
3 green cardamoms
7 dried red chilis (I used 2 and it was already very spicy)
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 Tbsp poppy seeds
1/2 cup coconut (I used dessicated)
1.  Dry roast the seeds, chills, and coconut and grind into a powder.  Set aside.
2.  Heat the oil in a wok and and add fizz the turmeric.
3.  Add the onions and stir until they start to color, then add the ginger and cook, stirring for 1 minute.
4.  Add the tomatoes and cook until mushy.
5.  Add the spice grind and curry leaves and stir until incorporated.
6.  Add the chicken and coat.  Cook for 5 minutes.
7.  Add water and stir, then simmer uncovered for another 20 minutes.
8.  Add the kasoori methi and lemon juice.  Taste and add salt if needed.

Serve with rotis with cilantro as garnish if you have it.
This one was exploding with flavor.  It hit the spot.. and didn't stop...

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Split Yellow & Green Pea Dal

Home sweet home.
I don't know how to describe it, but coming home after a full week of doing nothing but work and eat will wear you out.  The work part is ok, but being polite enough to eat everything on your plate evening after evening French style, meaning several courses including a rich dessert (but oh homemade, you need to taste it!) is a total challenge.  Not to mention, I only got to cook one meal in a 8 or 9 day timeframe.
I'm absolutely not complaining.  It's nice to be catered for.  I'm just not used to it.  I like being the judge of what I'm eating so after a few days, I crave my own cooking.  My own Indian cooking.  MmmMMM!!!!
I didn't waste a second upon entering my home.  I soaked my split peas while arranging the house before making this delicious dal.   Mr Patel often uses green split peas, which I have always loved, but the French version of green split peas involves either ham or mashing.  I'm not really into either of those with the exception of mashed potatoes which I very rarely make.  My French occupant despises mashed green split peas and swears he hates them.
Oh really?  Challenge accepted.
Actually I don't really care, because it's mine first.  I don't mind sharing but I won't force anyone to eat anything I can deliciously keep for myself.  I just happened to come across some very cheap green split peas calling for me at the supermarket this week, so I bought them.  The only thing that matters is that I like them.. right?  I may be having the same issue with mushrooms soon.
This recipe came naturally but was inspired by my Varan Toor Dal recipe.  I just changed a few things around.
I know I say this every time, but it's a keeper!  I love the earthy taste of green split peas and the mix with the toor dal is just the most exciting event that has happened on my pallet in over a week!  Now that I'm officially out of curry leaves, I may be allowed out to my local Indian grocery store to discover new things yet again.
Serves 4
1/2 cup toor daal + 1/2 cup green split peas, rinsed until water is clear and soaked 15 min
3-4 cups water or whey
1 large shallot, chopped
Juice from 1/2 lemon

3 Tbsp dried methi (fenugreek) leaves
2 tbsp canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/4 tsp cracked fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp asofetida (hing)
1 green chili, chopped
1 tbsp grated ginger
5 cloves garlic, grated
1 sprig curry leaves
1 dried red chili
1 handful cauliflower florets

1.  Cook the daal in the  water or whey with the shallots. I did it on the stove top, but it works well in a pressure cooker for 2 whistles.  Stovetop I let it cook for 45 minutes, checking for doneness.  The daal should be bite tender, not mushy.
2.  Make the seasoning.  In a wok, heat the oil, then add the cumin.  When it crackles, add the mustard and fenugreek seeds.  Then add the turmeric and hing.  It should fizz.
3.  Add the garlic, green chili, ginger, and curry leaves.  When the garlic starts to color, add the cauliflower.  Cook until the mixture begins to stick.
4.  Add the seasoning to the daal along with 1 dried chili.  Add more water if needed, and bring to a boil.  Add lemon juice, then taste and add salt if needed.

Serve as is or as a side.  Mine was a main course, but it will be correctly continued tomorrow with a full thali.

Oh how it feels good to cook again!!!

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Sunday, October 6, 2013

Soap Nuts

During my trip to India, I was able to go to the market a few times, always accompanied by at least 3 to 5 men.  I'm not sure I would have gone alone.  Maybe more because of what I hear than how it felt.  Anyway, going to the market with men who are not really into market things made me feel like I needed to hurry because I was wasting their time.  I did get time with my uncle to do typical Indian garment shopping, but the spices and food were a little complicated, mainly because our local friend kept insisting we'd find it later, or get a better deal further down.  As it was, "later" we had moved on to a different activity and "further down" nobody could stand the noise or the crowd or the stomach pains from the previous day's beverage.
With that said, I was still able to get most of the spices and snacks on my list and also stop and chat with a very long haired lady in a sari selling some dried berries while sitting cross legged on the floor.
STOP! I yelled to the 4 men entourage quickly scurrying down the way.
What is this?  How do you cook it?
Our local friend giggled and grabbed a handful of the berries, placing them in my hands so I could feel and smell them.  I imagined they were similar to the sourness of tamarind by the way they smelled, but they were extremely hard.  You don't eat them, he said.  The lady in the sari had let down her hair and was explaining how to use them in gujarati.  You make shampoo out of them!
Intrigued, I tested the shampoo method when I got home.  You just boil a handful of them for 10 minutes and then use the water to wash your hair.  It works quite well, though it doesn't foam.  It's psychological, to think the foamier, the cleaner.  My hair was perfectly clean, but I think it would take a lot of getting used to.  I love lathering foamy shampoo into my scalp.
Anyway, after doing a bit of research, I found that these little berries are called soap nuts, and they are not only used for hair and body.  They can be used for dishes and laundry too.
Laundry?  Ah interesting!  I make my own laundry detergent already, but why not try the soap nuts method and compare?
I put a handful of soap nuts directly into the washer (sheets and towels at high temp).
Ta da! Completely neutralized odor!  The towels I washed were the ones I had used to dry off that lovely dog you see in the background of the picture, so they definately smelled of wet dog going in.  A smell I find particularly hard to get rid of, even after a wash.
I may have completely converted to soap nuts!

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