Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Vegetable Jaipuri - Rajasthani Mixed Vegetable Curry

When I think of mixed vegetables I think of mixed vegetable kurma. At the end of the week when there are few bits of different kind of vegetables kurma is what comes to mind.

I wanted to use the same combination of vegetables but a different recipe and that is when Priya's Mharo Rajasthan's Recipes came to mind. The site is a treasure trove of Rajasthani recipes and given the time I'd like to try a lot of them.

Roast the coriander seeds, cumin and pepper corns. Meanwhile boil the chopped onions.
Combine the whole spices and onions with tomatoes and the almond and cashew nuts and blend to a smooth paste with or without adding water.
Heat the oil and season with cinnamon and cloves and when they start to turn brown add in the vegetables with salt and saute for about 5 minutes.
Add the turmeric, chili and masala powders, mix into the vegetables and then add the blended paste with the required amount of water (2cups). Let simmer for 10-15 minutes till vegetables are cooked and the desired consistency has been reached.

There were a lot of recipes but I settled on Priya's because of the simplicity. I made a few tweaks but generally followed her recipe. I normally never blend onions or garlic without sauteing them first. Sauteing the onions would have made it very similar to the usual curries I make so instead I boiled the onions instead of blending them raw.

Recipe Source:Sabj Jaipuri - Vegetable Jaipuri
Vegetable Jaipuri
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:30 minutes minutes
  1. 4 cup of mixed vegetables (green beans, carrots, cauliflower, peas, corn and red bell pepper)
  2. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
  3. 1/2 tbsp of red chili powder
  4. 1 tsp of masala powder (optional)
  5. seasonings: cloves and cinnamon
  6. 1 tsp of ghee + 1 tsp of oil
  7. salt to taste
  8. a handful of coriander leaves
  9. For the paste
  10. 1 1/2 cup of roughly chopped red onion
  11. 3 ripe tomatoes
  12. 1 1/2 tbsp of coriander seeds
  13. 1 tsp of cumin seeds
  14. 1 tsp of pepper corns (optional)
  15. 10-15 cashews and almonds

  1. Heat about 3 tbsp of water and boil the onions for about 5 minutes. (see Note:)
  2. In the meantime dry roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds and pepper corns till they are just starting to turn brown.
  3. Combine the roasted spices with the onions, tomatoes and the nuts and blend them to a smooth paste. Adding water is fine.
  4. No in a wide mouthed pan heat the ghee and oil and when hot add the seasonings, followed by the chopped vegetables with salt and let them saute for about 5-6 minutes. Add the bell pepper towards the end.
  5. Now add the turmeric, masala powder (any you have on hand) and chili powder and give a good mix and let saute for a minute or so.
  6. Add the ground paste along with the desired amount of water(adding water in the beginning is good, adding water while it is already cooking takes away the taste). I added about 2 cups of water.
  7. Let simmer in medium heat till the vegetables are completely cooked. Before switching off the heat add the coriander leaves and let it cook a bit. (see Note:)
  8. Note:I do not like raw coriander leaves so I tend to cook it if I am using. If that is not a problem just garnish with coriander leaves.
  9. Boiling the onions instead of blending them raw makes the cooking time a lot faster and avoid the oniony smell when blended raw.

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Saturday, April 26, 2014

Butter Beans / Lima Beans Masala Kuzhambu (Curry)

Do you eat food just to satisfy your hunger or do you eat thinking what you eat might also affect how happy or sad you'd get? Whatever your answer paying attention to what you eat is better in the long run. More importantly what we teach our kids to eat and enjoy will help them be happy throughout their lives. I didn't have to read this article Can what you eat affect your mental health? New research links diet and the mind to know the link between diet and mind but it confirmed what I had known all along.

Christmas Lima Beans

Even cooking what I like and enjoy is different from cooking something to get the job done. While I get enormous please in eating a big packet of French Fries while eating it the feeling afterwards is not so pleasant. That clearly tells me that whatever my tongue tells me is not necessarily good for my body or mind.

Also even after a long day at work while I mentally make up the dinner menu on my drive back, I can't wait to get home and cook if it is something that I going to enjoy doing. Prepared foods have chemicals added to them to keep them fresh/appealing and most of the times they affect our moods in some way or the other.

Cooking good tasting food does not necessarily have to be complicated or time consuming. Most people unfamiliar with Indian cooking but enjoy eating Indian food are always apprehensive of the amount of blending and grinding that is required to make the curries and gravies. But mostly it is sauteed onions, garlic and ginger. If all the grinding bothers you chop them nice and fine and leave them be. I like my curries to be a bit smooth so I usually blend them but it is totally up to your taste and convenience.

Soaked and cooked beans.
Saute the onions, ginger and green chilies followed by the coconut and transfer it to the blender. Let cool and blend.
Set aside the blended paste. Add oil to a a saute pan(I used a pressure cooker) and add the seasonings.
When the onions are sauteed, add pureed tomatoes and let it cook completely.
Add the blended onion-coconut paste and 1 cup of water if required and let it cook for 10 minutes. Add in the beans and cook for another 5-10 minutes till the desired consistency is reached.

I have this affinity for beans that I can never explain. So if I see something new I will buy it and give it a try. These Christmas Lima Beans are the same. I saw them and I had to buy them and I was not disappointed. With beans it is important to soak them ahead of time preferably the previous night. Once cooked these beans become buttery and very tasty. Perfect in curries and even pulaos or biryanis.

Christmas Lima Beans

Butter Beans Masala Kuzhambu
Preparation Time:20 minutes + overnight soaking of the beans
Cooking Time:30 minutes
  1. 2 cups of Christmas Lima Beans (any beans will work for this recipe)
  2. 1/2 cup of onions (I used shallots) roughly chopped + 1/4 cup onions finely chopped
  3. 5 cloves of garlic whole or cut in half
  4. 3 red tomatoes
  5. 2 inch piece of ginger chopped
  6. 6 green chilies
  7. 1/2 tbsp coriander powder or any masala powder
  8. 1 tsp cumin powder
  9. 2 tsp red chili powder (if required)
  10. 3 tbsp of coconut fresh or frozen
  11. seasonings: mustard seeds and curry leaves
  12. salt to taste
  13. 2 tsp jaggery
  14. 2 tsp lemon juice
  15. 2 tsp of oil

  1. Cook the beans on the stove till they are about half cooked. Lima beans get cooked quickly so I generally do not cook it in the pressure cooker.
  2. In a saute pan heat a tsp of oil and saute the onions and ginger and when they are half way through add in the green chilies and saute for a couple of minutes more. Remove to the blender. Let cool.
  3. Add the grated coconut saute for 2-3 minutes on low heat and transfer it also to the blender. Let cool and blend while adding 2-3 tbsp of water to a smooth or slightly coarse paste.
  4. Puree the tomatoes in a blender.
  5. In a flat bottomed pan heat another tsp of oil, add the seasonings and add the mustard seeds and when they pop add the curry leaves. Add the finely chopped 1/4 cup of onions and saute till they are transparent. Add in the garlic and saute for a minute more.
  6. Add the blended tomatoes and let them cook till the tomatoes are completely cooked. (About 6-8 minutes).
  7. Now add the blended paste and 1 cup of water and let it come to a boil.

  8. Add in the beans and let it cook for about 10-15 minutes or till the required consistency is reached. Add salt.

  9. Add in the jaggery and lemon juice if required.

Serve with rice or chapathis. Tastes even better the next day.
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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Grain of the Week - 17 - Flaxseeds

I had never heard of flax seeds till the fad hit. All around me it was being in almost everything. The very first time I saw flaxseeds I thought they were horsegram but looked thinner and shinier.

Flax seeds is supposed to be the world's most healthiest food. It is native to the Mediterranean, Western Asia, Middle East and India and are found in both yellow and brown colors. Both are similar nutrition wise. Wikipedia

Flax seeds have high levels of Omega 3 Fatty acids, are very high in fiber and rich in antioxidants. Moreover research has shown that flax seeds protects against breast, colon and prostrate cancer. Source - WebMD.

Ground flaxseeds are better than whole as far as consumption goes. Eating whole flaxseeds may not give the benefits as they might pass through without getting digested and hence not providing the health benefits. Source. Flax seeds being rich in fiber should be taken with lot of water, else will cause constipation as is common with foods with high fiber.

I have seen only brown flax seeds and used them ground in muffins, cakes and idli podi. I have also made these savory muffins with flax seeds powder.

Most diets in the US do not have enough fiber and this might be an easy and nutritious way of adding more fiber to the diet. Flax seeds are also used as a egg replacement. The texture of the ground flax meal lends itself nicely to baked goods. They can be added to muffins, cakes and pancakes and even sprinkled in smoothies.

Storing whole flax seeds is much easier than ground flax seeds. Because of the oil content ground flax seeds tend to go rancid faster. It is easy to powder the flax seeds as and when they are used. A coffee grinder comes in very handy for powdering.

Where Bought? Lancaster Dutch Market (Amish run), also available in most grocery stores.

Till I went looking for information about Flaxseeds I had no idea that they were native to India.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Vermicelli Payasam (Pudding) with Almond Paste and Chia seeds

Back home most festivals and auspicious days are celebrated with something sweet. Depending on the festival the sweet is made on the auspicious day itself or prepared ahead of time. Living away from the atmosphere of festivals I hardly ever get anything done before the day. It was no different for this year's Tamil New Year. In the evening made this quick and easy payasam.

Chia seeds are the thing now at least for me. I also hear that it has a lot of health benefits. I know I know that is the way with most fad foods but it doesn't hurt that it tastes good. Once it is soaked in liquid and swells up a little the texture is something that I like. So no surprise here that I added them to payasam and of course it did taste good. I add almonds to the payasam as it adds some texture and a rich taste without reducing the milk for a long time.

Vermicelli Payasam (Pudding) with Almond Paste and Chia Seeds
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:20-25 minutes
  1. 1/4 cup of vermicelli (or as required - see note:)
  2. 4 cups of milk
  3. 2 tbsp of almonds soaked in a bit of milk
  4. 1/4 cup of broken cashews and raisins
  5. 2-3 tbsp of chia seeds
  6. 1/4 - 1/2 cup of sugar
  7. 2 cardamoms
  8. 2 tsp ghee

  1. In a heavy bottomed pan heat the milk occasionally stirring to avoid sticking to the bottom.
  2. If you are using vermicelli that is not roasted, dry roast them in a pan till they start to brown a bit. Set aside.
  3. When the milk comes to a boil add in the vermicelli while stirring.
  4. Pound the cardamoms and add to the boiling milk.
  5. Blend the almonds to a smooth paste and add to the boiling milk after it has boiled for about 20 minutes and the vermicelli is cooked.
  6. In a small sauce pan, heat the ghee and roast the cashews till brown and the raisins till they swell up.
  7. Turn of the heat when the desired consistency for the milk has reached.
  8. Add in the chia seeds and let sit for about 10-20 minutes and then serve.
  9. Note: Add more vermicelli if you want a thick pudding. I like it a little bit milky so the amount specified.
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Thursday, April 17, 2014

Whole Oats and Brown Rice Dosai (Indian style crepes)

I was a bit apprehensive when I bought the whole oats wondering how I will use them up. I needn't have worried. They were great tasting when cooked in whole and as a substitute for rice in this recipe. The next logical step was to try making dosai of course. I initially wanted to try making idlis but the batter was bit too loose and I fermented the batter longer than I should have.

Grind the oats and brown rice. Grind the lentils and mix it salt and let it ferment overnight.
On a dosai pan pour a ladle of batter, swirl it around so it spreads on the pan, drizzle oil on the sides. Let it brown, flip and if required cook on the other side.

Dosai on the other hand being not as picky as idli was the next logical step. Dosai is always my backup plan when I try a batter with a new grain. The surprising this the oats dosai was a lot tastier than the rice dosai according to my family, so much so that they are ready to ditch the rice dosai altogether.

I have some more oats left and I will definitely try making idlis with them. I am not giving up on that yet.

White Oats and Brown Rice Dosai
Preparation Time:overnight soaking and fermentation + 30 minutes
Cooking Time:25-30 minutes
  1. 2 cups whole oats groats
  2. 1 cup brown rice
  3. 1 cup urad dal
  4. 1 tbsp methi seeds
  5. salt to taste

  1. Soak the oats and brown rice overnight after rinsing in changes of water till the water runs clear. Add the methi seeds to the brown rice.
  2. Soak the urad dal for about 30 minutes.
  3. Add the soaked oats along with soaked brown rice and the methi seeds to the wet grinder/blender. Grind to a fairly smooth consistency. Remove to a vessel big enough to allow rising and fermenting.
  4. Add in the soaked urad dal and grind it till it doubles in volume about 20 minutes. Remove to the same vessel. Wash out the grinder and pour the water into the batter and mix it with the salt to pourable consistency. Not too thin.
  5. Ferment overnight till it rises. It will not rise as much as the rice batter but will rise some.

To make the dosai
  1. Mix the batter well. Heat a dosai pan and with a cloth spread oil over the pan. Pour a ladle of the batter. Spread in circular motion towards the end of the pan.
  2. Drizzle a few drops of oil over the edges. Cook till you see brown spots appear. Flip and cook on the other side if required. Cooking only on one side keeps the dosai crispy.
Serve with chutney or sambhar of choice. We had them with cauliflower-potato kurma.

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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Grain of the Week - 16 - Foxtail Millet - Thinai

Foxtail Millet is an ancient grain of the Tamils - called Thinai in Tamil. Foxtail Millet was a staple in Northern Africa and also in India and China. It was the staple in these places before rice became popular. Foxtail millet grows in dry areas and hence its popularity in the ancient times. In the US foxtail millet was more popular as bird feed than human food, it is available these days in health food stores. Source.

While I was familiar with pearl millet (kambu), foxtail millet got introduced only now. The first time I saw it In Whole Foods here I mistook it for pearl millet in a different color.

Foxtail millet is rich in carbohydrates, dietary fiber and is naturally gluten free. Perfect as a substitute for rice. It can also be made into dosai and anything that can cooked with rice like pongal, payasam etc.,

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Sambhar Rice

Dear Readers,
Wishing you all a Very Happy Tamil New Year! தமிழ் புத்தாண்டு வாழ்த்துக்கள்!

I set out to make Bisi Bela Bhath but I forgot to buy the spice powder. Then I set out to make the spice powder but left out the whole aromatic spices. The recipe I finally decided on was similar to making sambhar so I am calling it Sambhar Rice rather than Bisi Bela Bhath.

If you want a one pot meal quick and easy this is the recipe to try. We were packing for an afternoon trip and this came in handy. With some potato chips this recipe is a great pack away lunch and cooking a large quantity is also easy.

Sambhar Rice
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:25-30 minutes
  1. 1 cup rice Sona Masoori Rice (see Note:)
  2. 3/4 cup toor dal
  3. 3 cups of avrakkai (field beans) chooped , carrots cut into half moons and fresh green peas
  4. 1/4 cup shallots chopped
  5. 1 tbsp sambhar powder
  6. 2 tomatoes chopped
  7. 1 cup of tamarind pulp from a small lemon sized ball of tamarind (use a bit more or less depending upon taste)
  8. salt to taste
  9. For Masala Powder
  10. 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  11. 1 tsp cumin seeds
  12. 2 tsp pepper corns
  13. 4 red chilies
  14. few fenugreek seeds
  15. 1/2 tbsp split urad dal
  16. 2 tbsp fresh or grated coconut
  17. 2 tsp of oil
  18. Seasonings: curry leaves, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and cumin seeds
  19. 1/4 cup roasted peanuts
  20. Note:
  21. Do not use Basmati rice. Par boiled rice will work or any other rice that could be cooked to mushy will work.
  22. I used only 1/2 cup of dal but 3/4 would have been good.

  1. Cook the rice and toor dal together with twice the amount of water normally used to get a mushy and soft cooked rice and dal mixture.
  2. While the rice is cooking roast the masala powder ingredients one by one, browning them evenly and making sure not to burn them. Set them aside. Add the coconut finally and in lower heat roast, cool and powder. (I use a coffee grinder).
  3. In a big pot that will fit the rice and the vegetables, heat oil add the chopped shallots and saute till translucent.
  4. Add in the chopped tomatoes and saute till it is soft.
  5. Now add the vegetables and saute for a minute or two. Add the sambhar powder and give a good mix.
  6. Add in the tamrind pulp and 1 cup more of water and let them cook till the vegetables are almost cooked.
  7. Add salt and the rice and dal mixture and mix well.
  8. Add the powdered masala and mix it into the rice. Keep the rice a little bit watery because it solidifies as it cools.

  9. Now in a small sauce pan, heat a bit more oil or ghee and add the seasonings and the peanuts and pour it over the rice.

  10. Serve with some roasted potatoes or potato chips.
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