Nov 30, 2015

Ingredient of the Week-Nimbu: Lemon or Lime?

This is what is called a "lemon" or "nimbu" in India, Nepal, & Pakistan-

desi lemon lime
The small but flavorsome Desi 'lemon' or nimbu.

No, it is not like the bright yellow, thick skinned, oblong shaped, almost bitterly sour citrus fruits called "lemons" in the western world.

The 'western' idea of a lemon. 

The Desi lemon or nimbu is much smaller, round, usually greenish in hue, thin skinned, with a sour yet slightly sweet & pleasant floral flavor much like what is called a 'Key lime' in the US.

Helpful Hints:
Do not use the yellow 'western' type of lemon in place of a Desi lemon/nimbu, you will be bitterly disappointed (pun intended).  Rather use a lime if you can't find a Desi lemon/nimbu, or better yet a Key lime to get the same taste.

Nov 27, 2015

Kashmiri Cardamom Cookies

Kashmiri cardamom walnut cookies recipe biscuit easy indian vegan eggless vegetarian

Buttery and tender, this simple to prepare eggless cookie features Kashmiri walnuts and the warm flavor of cardamom. Can easily be made vegan too. A perfect cookie to make for any holiday, after school, or a tea time treat.

Kashmiri cardamom walnut cookies recipe biscuit easy indian vegan eggless vegetarian

2 C all-purpose white flour 
1 C butter, at room temperature (or margarine)
1/2 C chopped Kashmiri walnuts, (I will forgive you if you use walnuts from California)
The seeds of 10 to 12 green cardamoms/elaichi, coarsely ground in mortar & pestle (or 3/4 tsp ground cardamom)
3/4 C powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract or essence (optional)
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
Here's what to do-
1) Into large mixing bowl measure flour, butter, walnuts, vanilla, baking powder, powdered sugar, salt, and cardamom.
Make sure the butter is soft, if the butter is still firm cut into small cubes to make mixing easier.
2) Knead with hands or mixer until well blended. If you don't have a stand mixer I'd recommend kneading this with your hands. The warmth of your hands seems to speed the incorporation of the butter into the dough. The dough is properly mixed when it pulls away from the bowl and your hands or the beater(s). Chill the dough covered with cling wrap or in a sealable plastic bag in the fridge for at least 4 hours or overnight. (The dough will also keep well in a sealed plastic bag or container in the freezer for up to a month.)
See how the dough pulls away from the bowl and sticks to itself.

 3) When ready to bake preheat oven to 325F/175C. Scoop tablespoonfuls of dough onto baking sheets lined with parchment or silicone mats. Flatten scoops of dough to about a half inch thick with the bottom of a glass wrapped in cling film or the heel of your hand. Be sure to leave about an inch and a half between cookies so they bake evenly. 

4) Bake cookies for 18 to 20 minutes or until evenly browned on the bottom. Remove cookies from baking sheet with spatula and place on wire rack to cool. If you like, roll cookies in powdered sugar while still warm. Store tightly in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks. This recipe makes approximately 24 cookies. 

Helpful Hints: 
Chilling the dough is important as it allows the flavor of the cardamom to develop as well as making the cookies easier to shape later. 

Keeping the dough wrapped in in a plastic bag or cling film while chilling prevents it from drying out and absorbing other flavors from the fridge. 

Substitute a good quality margarine for the butter to make these cookies vegan.

Nov 25, 2015

She likes to MOOve it! MOOve it!

This is Lalli, one of our local sacred cows-

Sacred Holy Cow
Running wild & looking pretty!

She's a natural in front of the camera-

"I'm sacred & you're not! Pffft!" (Ms. Lalli can get a bit surly.)
"Hey lady, get that %@! camera out of my face & give me the leftover rice & dal like you always do!"

Nov 23, 2015

Ingredient of the Week: Cassia Leaf, Bay Leaf, or Tej Patta?

There's always a lot of confusion over this leaf- 

Tej Patta Indian Bay leaf
Tej Patta, Cassia leaf, or Indian Bay leaf

It is often incorrectly referred to as a "Bay leaf" in Indian recipes. The leaf is actually from the Cinnamonum cassia tree (also called the Chinese cassia, or Chinese cinnamon tree), it is not the true "Bay leaf" of the Mediterranean native Laurus nobilis tree (also called Greek Laurel or Bay tree). The leaves of the Cinnamomum cassia tree are commonly called "Tej Patta" in India and Nepal & have an entirely different flavor than the aromatic Mediterranean bay leaf.
Tej = radiant, lustrous, shining
Patta = leaf
The leaves of the Chinese cassia have a delicate cinnamon flavor - much like the ground bark of the Ceylon Cinnamon tree (Cinnamonum verum or true cinnamon tree). You can tell a cassia leaf/tej patta quite easily from a Mediterranean bay leaf by it's distinctive 3 veins & mild cinnamon scent.
If you are unable to find tej patta where you live I'd suggest adding 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon to replace it's flavor in a recipe.

Our neighbor's young Tej Patta or Chinese Cassia tree.

Delhi Style Chicken Curry

Delhi Style Chicken Curry

A lovely aunty from Delhi taught me how to make this traditional North Indian chicken curry a few years ago. Sumptuously spiced, yet bold and bright with the flavor of fresh cilantro and warm cardamom with a deliciously rich red gravy. So simple to prepare and always a family favorite around here. A great recipe to try if you are new to making curries. 

1 cut up whole chicken, skinless, washed & cut into 8-10 pieces
3 TBS oil
2 onions, thinly sliced into half moons
Grind to paste for marinade-
1 C yoghurt/dahi
1/2 C onions, roughly chopped (optional for thicker gravy)
2 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS ginger/adrak paste
2 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1 tsp paprika plus 1 tsp cayenne powder)
1/4 tsp turmeric/haldi
1 TBS ground coriander/dhania seeds
5 green cardamoms/elaichi
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon/dalchini
1 TBS white poppy seeds/khus khus (or ground almonds or cashews)
1/4 C fresh cilantro/dhania, chopped 
2 green chilies/hari mirch, roughly chopped (optional, for less heat omit)
2 tsp salt

Here's what to do-
1) Grind all ingredients listed under marinade to a smooth paste in a mixie, blender or food processor. Coat chicken pieces well with marinade paste. Allow chicken to marinate for at least 1 hour up to overnight in a sealed airtight container in the refrigerator.

2) Heat oil in deep, heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai, and fry sliced onions over medium heat until translucent & beginning to brown at the edges.

3) Add chicken pieces to frying onions in pan. Be careful as oil may spatter. Fry chicken pieces for 2 minutes on each side. Add marinade to chicken and onions in pan, stir well and simmer for 7 minutes. Add 1 cup water to mixture & continue to simmer uncovered over medium heat for 20-25 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes. Be sure to simmer this dish uncovered, it may boil over if covered. If mixture begins to burn, scorch, or stick, stir in 1/2 cup water and reduce heat.

4) When the oil has separated from the marinade mixture and the chicken is cooked through your curry is ready. Salt to taste and serve.

Helpful Hints:
Never cook chicken in a pressure cooker, it gets a rubbery texture from the extreme, high heat.
Don't have poppy seeds? Substitute 1 TBS ground almonds or cashews.
Don't have Kashmiri mirch? Substitute a mixture of 1/2 cayenne powder plus 1/2 sweet paprika.
Don't have yogurt?  Well, living in Nepal sometimes we can't get yogurt here, so on occasion I've used a 1 C full fat milk with excellent results also!
If you wish to make this dish really posh and rich, substitute cream for the yogurt and ghee for the cooking oil.

And above all.....
Keep calm & curry on.

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