Monday, June 28, 2010

Baby Potatoes in a spicy Mint and Coriander sauce

Remember those half-days when you were in school in India, what is called early release here in the US? By the time the school bus dropped us off at the corner at half past one we were literally starving. Slippers were thrown helter skelter as we were at liberty to wear 'color dress' that day, dropped the school bag and dashed to the dinning table to see what was for lunch. Hoping it would be uppu paruppu (seasoned dal) and vendakkai puzhi kuzhambu (okra in tamarind sauce) or Kathirikkai Kara Kuzhambu. It did not really matter whatever was there tasted delicious in all that hunger. We filled our plates and filled our stomachs in no time.

As for DD, she asks for a light snacky lunch and is overjoyed if there is chapatis and potatoes when she comes home prompting a quick flash back to the half-days of my youth. Couple of weeks ago on the last day of school which was an early release I had promised to make baby potatoes and chapatis.

I washed and peeled the baby potatoes intending to make one of the ubiquitous tomato-onion based gravies but on second thoughts I also wanted to put to good use the coriander leaves that were starting to go bad and the mint overflowing in the front yard. Mint is left to grow wild because they are not appetizing to the deer which pretty much eat everything else. Baby potatoes in mint and coriander sauce sounded appetizing and new. The gravy is almost like adding potatoes to a mint chutney.

Here is a question,
Say your grocery store is offering a sale-4 bunches of coriander leaves for a $1. Would you go ahead and buy it even if you had no immediate need for that much leaves which are sure to go bad in a couple of days (which is the case when they are on sale!) or buy only how much you need?

Baby Potatoes in a spicy mint and coriander sauce
1. 20 baby potatoes boiled, peeled and pricked with a fork
2. 3 packed cups of mint leaves
3. 1 cup of coriander leaves (optional)
4. 3/4 cup red onion chopped roughly + 2 tbsp chopped fine
5. 4-5 red chilies (reduce for less heat)
6. 1/2 inch piece of ginger
7. a grape sized ball of tamarind (substitute with 1 tbsp amchur powder)
8. 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds + 1 tsp cumin seeds + 1 tsp black pepper
9. 1 tomato - optional
10. 2 tbsp grated fresh/frozen coconut - optional
11. seasonings: cumin and curry leaves
12. salt to taste
13. 2 tsp oil

1. In a pan heat a tiny bit of oil, saute all in 8 and red chilies. Set aside to blend
2. In the same pan saute the onions, ginger, tamarind and when the onions are nice and brown add the mint and coriander leaves and saute till they are wilted
3. Add the coconut and saute for a minute followed by the tomatoes (2 minutes) and salt.
4. Cool and blend to a paste along with the coriander,cumin, pepper and red chilies. Add as much water as you need for the consistency of gravy you prefer
5. In the pan add the rest of the oil and add the seasonings followed by the onions and saute till they turn pink
6. Now add the potatoes and saute for 3-4 minutes till the outsides turn slight brown
7. Add the blended paste and 1/2 cup of water (I wanted a thick gravy), check for salt and let it simmer for 6-8 minutes.

Tastes great as a side for rotis or with rice the next day. Looks like I was not just me thinking of minty potatoes.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Garden Update

Like I mentioned earlier the greens have been an absolute delight. I do not talk about mint that much, though the front yard is over flowing with it. Around mid-July the mint plants start to flower and the leaves become thicker and smaller. It is about time to pick the leaves and freeze them for use during winter.

The greens are still prolific. The beans are starting to show up. Zuchinni is flowering.

Produce from the garden





June 22,2010

Green beans and PEas

15 beans and 1 heaped cup of peas

Mixed Vegetable Kurma

June 23,2010

Swiss Chard

6 cups of chopped leaves

Dal with greens

June 26,2010

Mustard Greens

2 cups of chopped leaves

Split val dal with mustard greens

June 27,2010

Green BeansMustard Greens

10 green beans

Carrot, beans and radish sambhar

Notes on Peas - Maryland
I don't think the warm spring and warmer early summer were good for green peas. Peas love cooler temperatures in the range of 60-65F. I sowed them late March and it was hot by the time peas started to flower. Early March sowing would have been better.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Light Strawberry ice cream to beat the heat

... light compared to the previous heavy cream stuff I made last time I mean. Now that the ice cream maker is a regular presence in the kitchen I resist the kids requests to buy ice cream from the store, keeping in mind I have several bookmarked recipes for ice cream waiting to be tried.

This is what happened last time, the bowl in which I beat the sugar and the cream, the ice cream maker churner bowl, the spatula, the cups in which we ate the ice cream, my hands, all had a coating of cream which required extra squirts of dish washing liquid to be cleaned. Using heavy cream in that amount regularly did not seem prudent,we had senior citizens at home to worry about as well, not that we are spring chickens either.

strawberries cooking

Why all this trouble, I could make frozen yogurt. When I suggested that DH wrinkled his nose. I checked out the fat free cream, like lots of bloggers/articles had warned the number of ingredients was more than 5, at least heavy cream just had cream. I looked at half and half as the alternative it has cream and milk which was fine by me. So a combination of half and half and 2% milk is what I settled on.

We went strawberry picking last week, fag end of the strawberry season I guess and what we got were ones which were left behind but enough strawberry-ness in them for smoothies and ice creams. Were too mushy and slightly tart to be eaten as is. Apparently this year was endowed with an excellent strawberry season. We could not resist those ruby red tart cherries either so picked some of those too.

The end result was smooth and creamy but not heavy, just perfect for our taste.

The basic recipe is from the Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker booklet.

Light Strawberry Ice Cream
1. 4 cups of chopped strawberries
2. 3/4 cups of sugar (I used raw sugar)
3. 1 1/2 cups half and half
4. 1 1/2 cups of 2% milk
5. 3 tbsp lemon juice
6. 2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1. Combine the strawberries, 1/2 cup sugar and lemon juice and bring it to a boil on the stove top. Let it cool under a ice bath. I used a hand blender to break some of the strawberries and left a few in chunks
2. Now mix in the remaining sugar with the half and half and vanilla and mix it with the milk
3. Pour the contents into the ice cream maker and set it to churn, after the 20 minutes are up add the strawberry mixture and let it churn to set

If not using an ice cream maker, mix in the strawberries when it is completely cool to the milk and freeze. Every 2 hours or so break the frozen mixture with a hand blender/blender. Do this 3 or 4 times before freezing for 6 more hours.

I still think it is the best replacement Mother's Day gift.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

A very simple homegrown green lettuce salad with extra light homemade dressing

Yesterday was a particularly good day for US soccer fans, Landon Donovan's last minute goal brought cheer to an otherwise trying week. Personally I needed it badly - with my job search going no where, I have a few self imposed conditions but still, and the view of the outside world even more trying, there seems to be no escape. Our dithering President, the un-pluggable oil leak, a runaway general all added to the anxiety. I may be dramatizing the events for effect but honestly I haven't seen anything to be cheerful about the world in general for quite a while.

Like they say, behind every dark cloud is silver lining and for me it was the soccer win. Grab happiness where you can right? That was followed by a win by India today in the Asia Cup cricket tournament. I quit watching cricket a long time ago but who can resist live streaming of any sporting event? I am quite content for a few days.

My other source of happiness is of course the vegetable garden. I had sowed some lettuce seeds in one of the very shady patches in the garden and now they are ready. I don't much care for store bought lettuces or green salads in general but home grown in special and the freshness of the green would make a fan out of anybody.

A quick and easy salad with some very light dressing. Since lettuce is the star feel free to add ingredients to your liking. Some boiled chick peas would be nice.

Lettuce salad with lime juice-pepper-honey dressing
1. 5 small bunches of fresh lettuce washed, patted dry and torn into pieces
2. 4 Persian cucumber peeled and sliced
3. 2 carrot peeled and sliced
4. handful of roasted unsalted nuts

For the dressing
1. 2 tbsp of lime or lemon juice
2. 3 tsp of Tabasco sauce
3. 1/2 tbsp of olive oil
4. 1 tbsp of honey
5. a pinch of salt
Whisk all of them together

1. Toss the lettuce, cucumber and carrots together, mix in the dressing,
2. Add the chopped nuts on top.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Mango Pickle - Avakai

From when I can remember pickles have always been a big favorite. I look upon favorably on anyone who presents me with pickles. You will be my friend for life no questions asked. Such is the fierce following that pickles generate. My maternal grandparents house was made more attractive with the availability of mangoes of all sizes and shapes and the pickles that were made from them. My fondness for mango pickles ranked higher than eating the juicy ripe ones.

During higher secondary I was in a hostel that housed both working women and students and the best part was there were residents from all over the country. This means there was specialty food items from several different states. I am sure I enjoyed all of them but the one thing I remember vividly to this day is the avakai pickle that a Ayurvedic college student from Andra brought with her. Bright red, very spicy with a slight hint of sweetness, even the memory of the pickle still has the ability to make my mouth water. Most of us just mixed the pickle in rice and ate it, the slight sweetness mitigated the heat of the fiery red chili pepper. I had assumed all avakai pickles had some sugar added to it.

Once I left the place memories of the avakai pickle faded only to be rekindled when I saw some small pickle mangoes in our grocery store. I was determined to give it a go and see if I could recreate the taste memory. Almost all the recipes I saw had no mention of sugar, so the pickle I tasted was probably just how it was made by the friends family.

DD and DD2 also like their pickles, though they do not devour them like I do, DD2 likes me to spread a layer of pickle on her quesadilla before I spread the cheese.

These mangoes were not very sour but they were sufficiently raw to give this pickle a chance. I had some pickle powder masala leftover so I used that. Red chili powder would have made the pickle even more spicy. The general ingredients are what my grandmother uses to make garlic pickle.

I used a couple of recipes for reference
1. Andhra Aavakaaya with Green Mangoes
2. Avakai Pickle

Mango pickle - Avakai
1. 9-10 small green mangoes (cut in half seed removed and chopped into cubes) about 4 cups
2. 3 1/2 tbsp of mustard seeds
3. 4 tsp of methi seeds (fenugreek)
4. 2 tbsp of kosher salt (add more if not enough)
5. 1 1/2 cups of sesame oil (Indian variety not the dark colored one)
6. 8 tbsp of pickle masala or 6 tbsp of red chili powder
7. 3/4 tbsp of raw sugar
8. 1 tsp of powdered asfoetida

1. Spread the cut mangoes on a kitchen towel and let it dry overnight or leave it out in the sun for a day
2.Roast the mustard seeds till they start making popping sounds, roast the methi seeds till they start to change color. Powder both to fine (I used a coffee grinder)
3. In a stainless steel bowl or the glass or ceramic jar that the pickle is going to rest in, add the mango pieces and all the powders, salt and sugar and mix it in well ( If using a bowl transfer to the bottle or jar after the powders have been mixed in)
4.Heat the oil in a pan when hot add the asfoetida in and let it cool. When it comes to room temperature add the oil to the jar
5. Cover with a cheese cloth, secure with a rubber band and let it sit in the sun for 4-5 days or even a week, give it a good mix every day.

Notes: Make sure there is no moisture in any of the utensils that are used for making pickle

The consistency of the pickle was not like that of the pickle tasted so long ago. I could have added a bit more chili powder and mustard, methi powder. But sugar did mellow the pickle and the mango was not all that bad.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Garden Update

My garden is like an oasis in this sweltering heat. Gardening, especially a vegetable garden is not easy work. I do it out of interest and the fresh, organic produce that comes out are a big bonus.

The most rewarding are the greens. Swiss chard, mustard greens, amaranth are some of the easy to grow green which are very prolific and last through the growing season.

Besides manual labor I want to document the amount of money spent in the garden the produce that we are rewarded with and the recipes that are made with them. I usually fall back on tried and tested familiar recipes.





Garden Soil, Pots , Fencing


see the little guy?

chard flowers

Produce from the garden





May 27,2010

Swiss Chard and Amaranth leaves

2 Cups of chopped greens


June 2,2010

Swiss Chard

2 big bags full of leaves

Swiss chard and green peas stir fry with coconut

June 7,2010

Mustard greens

1 bag - 4 cups of chopped greens

Moong dal with mustard greens

June 8 ,2010

Night Shade greens

2 cups of chopped greens


June 15,2010

Swiss Chard

2 big bags of greens

Red Kidney beans with chard leaves

June 16,2010

Mustard greens

2 Cups of chopped greens

Toor dal with mustard greens, tomatoes and green chilies

Friday, June 18, 2010

Moong dal with mustard greens (Lentils with greens)

mulberry tree

mustard greens

Swiss Chard has always been my favorite green in terms of growing and cooking but this time I also sowed seeds for mustard greens and I am glad I did. They are tasty and absolutely perfect with dal. This is MIL's recipe for the dal and greens. I normally don't add tomatoes and she does not add garlic which I do.

Toor dal, masoor dal or moong dal can be used in this recipe. As for the greens, Swiss Chard, mustard greens or amaranth greens work nicely. Spinach works as well.

Moong dal with mustard greens
1. 1 cup of moong dal cooked with 1 tsp turmeric powder 1/2 tsp of sesame oil in 2 cups of water till soft and mushy (masoor or toor dal will work as well)
2. 2 Cups of mustard greens washed and chopped
3. 1/4 cup chopped shallots
4. 5-6 green chilies slit
5. 1 tomato chopped
6. seasonings: mustard seeds and curry leaves
7. salt to taste
8. 1 tsp oil or ghee

1. In a pan heat oil and add the mustard seeds and when they pop add the curry leaves followed by the onions. When onions turn pink and translucent add in the green chilies
2. Add the tomatoes and saute till they are soft
3. Add the mustard greens and saute till they start to wilt
4. Add the cooked dal, give a good mix
5. Add salt to taste and let it come to a boil

Serve with rice, they are an excellent side for chapatis

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Vanilla and roasted Almonds Ice cream with mulberry sauce

Over the long Memorial day weekend, with the enthusiasm that only a long weekend can bring I woke up early only to realize I had run out of salt. Decided to walk to the nearest grocery store instead of driving, DD joined me, she ran and I walked. There are several fruit trees along the way and as is the case here in the US nobody ever touches these fresh fruit edible or not. We tasted these gorgeous fruits from each of the 3 trees we saw along the way. Some very sweet and some not so much. Making a mental note to come with a basket to collect them.

Something else happened the kiddies and DH bought a KitchenAid mixer for Mother's Day. I was not too enthusiastic, I had already revealed my wish for an ice cream maker. Last week DH returned the mixer and bought home an ice cream maker and the bonus, it was just one fifth the cost of the mixer.

cooking mulberries

This galvanized our interest to collect those berries soon. I was still in doubt about the identity of the fruit and then this news appears in the Washington Post leaving no doubt as to what those berries where.
Mulberries they were! Applause to all of you who got it right. Couple of months back my Afghani English student brought along some dried fruit and said they called them "tooth". And guess what my search revealed they were mulberries.

freshly churned ice cream

Off went DD, DD2, MIL and FIL with a basket she fashioned (visible in the previous post) and collected a good 3 cups of fruit. She did not fail to mention that people gave here weird looks. If you read the article linked you will be sad to note the fruit is considered a nuisance. Sad! They are delicious and free to boot.

Not knowing how they will taste in a ice cream decided to make a sweet sauce to serve the ice cream. Had to try the ice cream maker first without introducing another unknown into the mix.

Like a lot of you had suggested smoothies are a great idea! Next time.

mulberry sauce

If you are on the fence about buying an ice creamer, think no further it is well worth it.

The mulberry trees are on a very busy road, so multiple washings were

Vanilla and roasted almonds ice cream
1. 1 1/2 cups of 2% milk
2. 2 cups of Heavy Whipping Cream (1 1/2 cups should be sufficient)
3. 3/4 cup of sugar (I used raw sugar)
4. 1/2 cup of roasted unsalted almonds roughly crushed

1. Whip together the milk and sugar and mix in the whipping cream
2. Pour into an ice cream maker, mine required 30 minutes, in the last 5 minutes mix in the chopped almonds.
3. Set in the freezer for 2 hours to mature

If you are not using an ice cream maker you use these instructions by David Lebovitz. I have made ice cream without an ice cream maker and it was not too bad, just remember to break up the crystal every few hours for 3-4 times.

Mulberry sauce
1. 2 Cups of mulberries
2. 2 tbsp of sugar
3. 1/4 cup of water.

1. In a sauce pan mix the sugar and water and let it come to a boil
2. Add in the berries and let it cook till the berries are soft
3. Puree the berries with a hand blender and chill in refrigerator

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Guess this fruit?

I had to beg DD a soccer player herself is bitten with this World Cup Soccer fever to take some pictures. She finally obliged! We don't have cable TV but no worries to the rescue with live streaming of matches which are not on ABC. Connect the computer to the TV and there is absolutely no difference.

What fruit am I?

What am I going to be cooked into?

Where did the fruits come from?

Friday, June 11, 2010

Gooseberry jam

My neighbor is an avid gardener. He grows vegetables and greens of different kinds and we generally exchange and share seeds, seedlings and produce. I have a standing invitation to visit his yard any time. I do not overuse it except to get gongura leaves which I do not normally grow.

cooked berries

Two days back got an invitation to pluck some gooseberries - yes the mystery fruit is gooseberry. Most of you guessed it's name correctly but not the variety. These are not the Indian kind (nellikkai/amla) which is a tropical fruit and grow on trees. There are two types of the Indian gooseberry and they usually grow in clumps with a solid pith and are very suitable for making pickles, jellies or to eat with just salt and red chili powder.

with sugar added and almost done

The fruits from the last post as HC and an anonymous commenter correctly pointed out are the American variety of gooseberry and very similar to the fruits in the berry family like strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.


With a slightly puckering taste when not ripe and a sweet mild taste when ripe these fruits are suitable for jellies and tarts.

I did have thoughts of sambhar, pickle and thokku. Settled on jelly. It was quick and easy

on toast

Gooseberry Jam
1. 2 Cups of gooseberry
2. 1 Cup of sugar
3. 1/4 cup water

1. In a heavy bottomed pan, take the gooseberries and water and let it boil till the fruit becomes soft (about 10 minutes)
2. Use a blender to puree the fruit
3. Add sugar and let it boil till a drop dropped in a bowl of water does not dissolve (15-20 minutes)
Jelly is done

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Swiss Chard and Green Peas Stir Fry with coconut

I cannot not talk about Swiss Chard. It is very easy to grow and provides enormous satisfaction both in terms of harvest and taste. Sowed them in early April and they have started producing leaves in abundance to be used once every 2 weeks. usually the leaves are harvested and the plant intact to stimulate more growth. They will produce till the frost in late November kills off the plant.

After the bulk of the coconut was put to use in the coconut rice there was still some left for making this long forgotten stir fry, not the stir fry itself but the addition of fresh grated coconut.

I got about 2 bags full of chard leaves and combined with some fresh green peas made an excellent stir fry. Off this will go to Green Gourmet event hosted by Preeti of W'Rite' Food.

Grating coconut
In India there are numerous hand cranked and old kitchen tools that do a very good job of grating coconut. The grand daddy of all tools the aruvamanai was probably the only tool I did not carry with me here to the US but it is a nifty tool for grating coconut. Mom instead bought this handy coconut scraper.

hand held coconut scraper

Once the coconut is split in half, the ragged edge is used to scrape the coconut from the shell and it makes beautiful coconut gratings for garnish and cooking.

jagged edge for scraping coconut out

If fancy is not something you fancy, use a sharp knife and cut out small pieces from the shell. Pierce into the flesh till you hit the shell and pry it out. Then use a food processor to grate the coconut.

Swiss Chard and Green Peas Stir Fry
1. 4 cups of packed chopped Swiss Chard leaves
2. 1 1/2 cups of fresh green peas
3. 1/2 onion chopped fine
4. 4 red chilies broken in two, seeds removed
5. 1/2 cup of grated fresh coconut
6. seasonings: curry leaves, mustard - 1/2 tsp, cumin seeds, 1 tsp urad dal
7. 1 tsp oil + salt to taste

1. In a wide mouthed pan (kadai) heat oil, when hot add the urad dal and when it turns slightly brown add the cumin, mustard seeds. When mustard seeds start to pop add the curry leaves and red chilies.
2. Add the onions and saute till translucent
3. Add the green peas mix and let it cook for 4-5 minutes with the lid closed
4. Add the chopped greens, salt and let it cook till the water evaporates (if there is a lot of excess water drain and use it in sambhar or making chapati dough)
5. Add 3/4 th of the coconut and mix it in, turn off the heat
6. Sprinkle the rest of the coconut on top

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Shredded Coconut and Mango Rice

In India everyone is advised to drink water that has been boiled and cooled. In the US where the quality of drinking water is far better than that of many other countries people buy bottled water. I am still not completely sure why people here in the US buy bottled water. My neighbor who buys cases of bottled water thinks that tap water is not fit for drinking.

The only problem I have with my tap water is that it is over chlorinated. A water filter takes care of the problem and the water tastes just fine.I don't much care for spring water shipped from another contintent and I don't trust the picture of a gurgling spring on the bottle. Most times bottled water is regular tap water sent through a filtering process. Minerals are added to the water so that it tastes the same every time.

Bottlers and bottled water manufacturers would like for us to think that there is something very wrong with regular tap water. There argue about the rigorous tests that are being carried out for the quality of bottled water. In Britain Dasani had to withdraw its claims of spring water on its bottled water when it was found out they were just bottling filtered tap water. Thanks to a gullible public which thinks that tap water is dangerous and a bottled water industry which has no problems with accentuating the fear, bottled water sales have sky rocketed.

Empty water bottles are littering everything in sight and most of them end up in land fills. Not to forget the oil that is used to manufacture these plastic bottles. If you drive a hybrid but regularly drink bottled water, the benefits are probably completely lost. Read here for some of the Problems with Plastic Water Bottles.

People who drink bottled water shipped from many miles away do not know or care about the damages caused to ground water for the people who live close to a water bottling plant.

There will always be people who argue that tap water has way too many chemicals, drugs and what not that are mixed into the drinking water for it to be safe for drinking. On the other why does the public trust bottled water so much?

Do you buy bottled water or use tap water?

The recipe was tried thanks to a large quantity of fresh coconut becoming available. Our local Hindu temple was celebrating its anniversary and as is customary there was breaking of coconuts in the function and I got a few. Coconut rice would put the coconut to good use. I never make coconut rice not being fond of the overwhelming coconut taste. The tamarind and coconut chutney my mom makes has always been a favorite. With that in mind I went looking for tender tamarind which is found in our grocery store sometimes, with that not being available raw mango seemed the next best option.

1. 1/2 of a whole coconut
2. 1/2 of a raw mango (combined should yeild 2 cups)
3. 2 Cups of Basmati Rice
4. Seasonings: Curry leaves, 2 tsp channa dal, 1 tsp mustard seeds
5. Cashew or Peanuts - 1 tbsp (optional)
5. Salt to taste

To Powder
1. 4 tsp split urad dal
2. 1 tsp coriander seeds
3. 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4. 5 red chilies (the rice was spicy, adjust)
5. few pepper corns, methi seeds
Roast each of them separtely and make a powder

1. Shred the coconut and mango in a food processor or grate them
2. Cook the rice and spread it out to cool
3. In a pan heat oil and add the seasonings
4. Now add the shredded coconut and mango mixture and let cook for 6-8 minutes or till the moisture is gone and a good aroma comes
5. Add salt and the powder and the nuts if using and mix it in
6. Add the cooked cooled rice. Mix well.

Serve with raita and chips of choice. The rice was quiet spicy, adjust chilies accordingly.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Persian influenced pulav with ground turkey and fava beans

Salt - there is a saying in Tamil "foods without salt are fit for the trash". Most Indians I know usually prefer salty/spicy foods over sweets. I love my sweets but given a choice I would choose salty foods over sweets 8 out of 10 times. We all know that the amount of salt added in foods literally varies from household to household. My mom thinks that I add too much of salt whereas my in-laws feel I add too little. While my parent's maybe on the extreme end of the scale with salt just sprinkled on foods I tend to be careful as it easy to add on but not take out.

Salt is the cheapest condiment available in the grocery stores today which makes it easy to add a lot. The sodium that we consume that has been added while cooking is perhaps a very meager amount compared to the amount we eat in total everyday. We perhaps already know but tend not to think too much about it, at least I don't, that a major portion of our Sodium consumption comes from prepared foods. We all know that salt is a preservative as as well as a flavor enhancer. Every mouthful of prepared food we eat increases our chances of exceeding our daily requirement.

Pop Quiz: Does your breakfast cereal contain Sodium? If your answer is yes or no check the nutrition information on the box and be very surprised.

The amount of salt required for our foods like everything else is an acquired habit. The taste buds adapt to the amount to salt that has been added.

We by now are programmed to check for fats and sugars on all the prepared foods but checking for Sodium is not that common of a habit. We started doing it recently and the prepackaged foods are a sodium lovers dream. While the dangers of fat and sugars are well publicized the hidden creeping danger of salt is left unsaid - blood pressure, hypertension to name a few.

I implore you to read this article in the New York Time if you have not already done so - The Hard Sell on Salt

I tasted this amazing Persian rice dish with lamb(chicken) and fava beans at my neighbor's and have been on the hunt for the recipe. For some reason I searched for a chicken fava bean rice recipe and none of them seemed like the right one. I realize it was a lamb and fava beans only as I am typing this. Our friends could have asked well asked for a chicken substitution. Whatever it was, tasted very similar to our own biryani. It could have been this Baqala Pollo.

It also had creamy fava beans in the mix. I think the take out place had used fresh fava beans and not dried ones like I did.

I had purchased a bag of the beans and they were sitting in the pantry for God knows how long. Nupur's Ful Medames almost pushed me in that direction. The push was not strong enough and the bag of fava beans languished longer. Nupur's comments on the skin of the beans made me do a bit of research and most of them said to remove them after soaking and then cook.

I did not have dill or sumac or any other Persian spice. All I had was some Moroccan seasoning which has been languishing for a while as well. This I think will satisfy Nupur's Blog Bites 4 criteria and off it goes.

We had guests that day, every single person liked the rice dish. A bit of extra butter would not have hurt for sure. The rice mushed together because of the overcooked fava beans, if the beans had been cooked just right, the rice would have looked a lot better. But it did not matter, it still tasted great.

1. 1 Cup rice (I used Seeraga Samba rice)Basmati would be perfect
2. 1 Cup fava beans soaked and skin removed
3. 1 Cup onion sliced
4. 5 garlic cloves sliced
6. 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
7. 1 heaped tablespoon of Moroccan Spice mix (substitute with any spice of your liking)
8. 1/2 tbsp red chili powder (adjust to taste)
9. 1 lb minced turkey
10. handful of chopped coriander leaves (substitute with dill leaves)
11. seasonings: bay leaves
12. salt to taste
13. 2 tsp oil (+ 2 tsp of butter)

1. Wash and soak the rice for at least 30 minutes
2. Precook the fava beans till they are half cooked (I overcooked, make sure they are whole)
3. In a pressure cooker heat oil and add the seasonings
4. Add in the onions and saute till translucent, add the garlic and saute for a minute
5. Add in the minced turkey and cook for 6-8 minutes till the turkey turns white and is mostly cooked.
6.At this stage set a pot of water as required for the rice to boil
7. Add the spice mix and chili powder and mix it in
8. Add the tomatoes and saute till they are soft
9. Add the rice and mix well and let it saute for 2-3 minutes
10. Add the boiling water and let cook on medium heat till the rice is cooked half way.
11. Add the coriander leaves, close the lid and put the whistle on for the pressure and cooker and cook for 8 minutes more.

Let cool and fluff the rice and serve with cucumber raita.

Notes: For stove method check the instructions on this recipe.