Jul 24, 2017

Hot & Spicy Hyderabadi Tomato Chutney

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From Hyderabad comes this hot, garlicky, smoky, and spicy tomato chutney! Hyderabadi cuisine is known for it's lavish use of spices and love of red chilis. In this easy recipe tomatoes are simmered with roasted garlic, red chili, cumin, mustard, ginger, and fenugreek to caramelized perfection. A tasty vegan and vegetarian addition to any rice or roti based meal or a zesty new dip for tortilla chips. 

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It's that time of the year again when tomatoes are cheap and a'plenty! A cooked tomato chutney is a great way to enjoy Summer's vegetable largesse. This recipe takes about eight tomatoes and cooks down to a little less than a cup of chutney. My Kashmiri contingency here won't touch a raw tomato but when fried into a sauce or chutney they love'em! In fact, a batch of this relish lasts only a day at our house. And that's a lot of tomatoes!!! This recipe is adapted from Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking (1981). I bought this book from a secondhand bookstore yonks ago in San Francisco and it was fairly decrepit then. Anywho, it has 400 recipes from all over Asia that are all darned good and are suited to what you could probably find in supermarkets in the early 80's. (Nothing terribly exotic.)

Over time I have changed a few things in the recipe in accordance with my family's tastes. The original recipe called for peeling and seeding the tomatoes. We all know Bibi isn't going to do that! Didn't Ms Jaffrey's mom tell her that's were all the vitamins are? If you are the sort who seeds and peels tomatoes Ms Jaffrey also suggests canned tomatoes can be used in this recipe instead of fresh. (I would not dare to try that in our house- but it seems like it would work.) My Kashmiri clan loves their Kashmiri mirch so I've used that instead of the cayenne powder/degi mirch in the original recipe too. Feel free to adjust the amounts of red chilis in both dried and powdered form to suit your tolerance for heat. Other than that the ingredients are pretty much as in the original recipe. Are you wondering why Ms Jaffrey uses both garlic cloves and garlic paste? You'll notice the garlic cloves are fried until golden brown while the garlic paste is added later with the tomatoes. This gives both forms of garlic a different taste. This is the typical layering of flavors that makes Indian cuisine so deliciously complex. Frying the dried chilis until blackened lends the chutney a smoky flavor that's quite nice and very Hyderabadi too. I do prefer to run the chutney through the mixie after cooking and cooling. Ms Jaffrey does not advise this but the dried chilis and garlic cloves don't always break down into small pieces during cooking. I fear someone eating the chutney might get a big unpleasant bite of garlic or dried chili. Yikes! So I blitz the fried mixture in the mixie when cool to a lovely smooth texture. Enjoy!

2 TBS cooking oil
4 garlic/lahsun cloves, peeled
1 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
1/2 tsp black mustard/rai seeds
1/4 tsp  fenugreek/methi seeds
2-3 whole dried hot chili peppers (use less for less heat
1 tsp salt, or to taste
Mix together in a bowl:
2 C roughly chopped tomatoes, (canned tomatoes will work for this recipe too)
1 tsp ginger/adrak paste
1 tsp garlic/lahsun paste
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
1/4 to 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder/mirch (or 1/2 tsp cayenne/degi plus 1/2 tsp paprika powder)

Here's what to do:
1) Mix the tomatoes, ginger paste, garlic paste, turmeric, and Kashmiri mirch in a bowl and mix. Set aside.

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2) Heat the oil and one teaspoonful salt in a heavy skillet over medium for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic cloves, stir and fry until lightly brown. Add the cumin, mustard, and fenugreek. Let sizzle for a couple seconds and add the dried chili peppers. They should puff up and darken.

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3) Add the tomato mixture to the spices in the hot oil. (Be careful as it could splatter when it hits the hot oil). Stir and cook on medium heat for 10-12 minutes, or until the liquid is reduced and oil separates from the mixture. (If mixture begins to stick or scorch reduce heat and add 1/4 cup water- but keep stirring!) Use a wooden spoon to mash the tomatoes and garlic cloves into a paste.

hot and spicy hyderabadi tomato chutney, recipe, tomatoes, chutney, relish, spicy, chili, easy, Indian, vegetarian, vegan, veg, simple, hot, garlic, Madhur Jaffrey,
hot and spicy hyderabadi tomato chutney, recipe, tomatoes, chutney, relish, spicy, chili, easy, Indian, vegetarian, vegan, veg, simple, hot, garlic, Madhur Jaffrey,

4) The chutney is cooked when the oil separates from the mixture and rises to the top. Salt to taste. You should have about 3/4 cup of chutney. If your chutney isn't as smooth as you prefer allow the mixture to cool for about 15 minutes and run it through a mixie or blender. Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature. Keeps well in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

hot and spicy hyderabadi tomato chutney, recipe, tomatoes, chutney, relish, spicy, chili, easy, Indian, vegetarian, vegan, veg, simple, hot, garlic, Madhur Jaffrey,

Helpful Hints:
When salting chutneys to eat with rice and or rotis you'll want to add just a little more salt than you think you should. Like maybe 5% more. Remember that rice and rotis are generally served unsalted and chutneys or relishes served with them provide the salt that makes them tasty.

Ladies Sharing Wine, India, Andhra Pradesh, Hyderabad
Early 18th century Drawings; watercolors, ink, opaque watercolor, and gold on paper. 

Jul 17, 2017

Ingredients: Yard-Long beans, Snake beans, Asparagus beans, Bodi, Bora, Tane Bodi, Chang Jiang Dou, Jhudunga, Choda, Chawli, Barbati, Lubiya, Payaru

This variety of cowpea is variously called yard-long beans, asparagus beans, snake beans, bodi, bora, tane bodi, chang jiang dou, jhudunga, choda, chawli, barbati, lubiya, payaru, or Chinese long beans. These quick-growing beans are a staple vegetable in much of South Asia due to their tolerance of harsh sun, heavy rains, high humidity, tropical diseases and pests. While they can be eaten raw they’re often enjoyed in tasty stir-fries, curries, and omelettes.

Yard-long beans can certainly grow up to a yard in length, but most types should be picked when they’re much shorter. Their scientific name, Vigna unguiculata subspecies sesquipedalis, actually gives the best indicator of their length. Sesquipedalis literally means a foot and a half. Many varieties are indeed best enjoyed as a vegetable when around around eighteen inches in length. 

In Nepal these beans are called tane bodi which simply means "long beans." In different regions of India they are called payaru, jhudunga, chawli, bodi, barbati, lubiya, and chora. In Central America, South America, and the Caribbean they are known as bora or bodi. In the Philippines, they are known as sitaw or butong. In China they are called chang jiang dou. In Thailand they are called tua fak yaw.

Flower of  Vigna unguiculata subspecies sesquipedalis

Yard-long beans do look a bit like overgrown green beans as they are both members of the legume family. But yard-long beans belong to different genera than green beans. They're actually close relatives of cowpeas, field peas, crowder peas, and black-eyed peas. With most types of cowpeas only the hulled peas are consumed. However, with yard-long beans it’s more common to eat the immature green pod- just like green beans. In some parts of Africa and Asia the thetender green leaves are prepared and eaten like spinach too.

The yard-long bean is a vigorous climbing annual vine growing 9 to 12 feet and requires a trellis or support. The vine prefers a light, well-drained soil with a pH of 5.5 to 6.8 which has been  enriched with compost or rotted chicken manure. The plant begins to produce long pods ranging from 14 to 30 inches as soon as 60 days after sowing. The pods hang in pairs that should be picked for vegetable use before matured. Checking or harvesting yard-long beans daily is a necessity because they grow extremely quickly in warm climates. When harvesting it is important not to pick the buds which are above the bean as the plant will set more beans upon the same stem. They tolerate heat and humidity much better than common beans. Keeping the pods picked is essential to maintain production.

 Seeds or beans from Vigna unguiculata subspecies sesquipedalis

If left unpicked the yard-long bean pods will grow up to 1 meter (3 feet) in length and produce beans that look very similar to black-eyed peas. Fret not if you find yourself with several forgotten pods as these beans can be used like dry beans in soups.

You’ll find yard-long beans in light and dark shades of green most often. They do come in in red, purplish, or speckled varieties too. The lighter green yard-long beans are purported to have a sweeter, nuttier, more delicate flavor than the deeper colored varieties. The palest green ones are therefore favored for quick-cooking dishes. When cooked the red, purple, and speckled beans turn green. All yard-long beans are stringless too unlike green beans.

Yard-long beans are normally sold in bundles in markets. I've always seen them in Asian markets and wondered how to cook them. Choose thin beans free from bulging or splitting. Split or bulging pods indicate that the beans inside are too developed. Don’t be overly concerned with floppiness or wrinkles. Use your yard-long beans within two to three days as they can quickly go from floppy to limp and wilted after which they fall to pieces.

Chopped yard-long beans just dropped into hot oil for a Nepali style stir-fry

Yard-long beans become soggy and bland when boiled, blanched, or steamed. The beans are best chopped into smaller lengths and cooked quickly in oil. When sautéed, stir-fried, or deep-fried, their flavor intensifies and their texture becomes deliciously crispy. Most Asian recipes wisely use these methods to prepare yard-long beans. Please ignore crazy westerners who implore you to blanch, steam, or boil yard-long beans in their ridiculous recipes- they know not what they do. 

Chopped yard-long beans after stir-frying for about 7 minutes, shriveled, wrinkled, and tenderly crisp

As you can see in the photos above yard-long beans wrinkle or shrivel and crisp up as they fry down. I've heard yard-long beans described as being similar to green beans, asparagus, and mushrooms in flavor. To me they don't taste nor smell anything like green beans, asparagus, or mushrooms. The texture is completely different that green beans when cooked also. While cooking they give off a scent similar to peanuts and potatoes. When prepared in a traditional Nepali stir-fry or tareko their flavor and texture reminds me of hash browns or shredded pan-fried potatoes.

If you live in an area with  hot, humid, tropical Summers you might consider planting yard-long beans in your garden. They are easy to cook, easy to grow, attractive to look at, and quite nutritious being rich in vitamin C and calcium. These are one of the few vegetables that will actually continue to bear throughout the Monsoon. If not just stop by your local Asian market and buy some! I'm certainly going to try growing them in my garden and will be featuring recipes utilizing yard-long beans on this very blog!

Calmly currying on,

Jul 10, 2017

Goin' Bananas!

Yep, we're goin' bananas in the miserable pre-Monsoon heat and humidity here in Nepal! Time for an update on my garden, HIMself, and what we did for Eid-Al-Fitr.  And here's a stunning foot-long banana blossom in my garden to prove it!

Bananas are the weirdest plants. This photo is of a different type of banana than the top photo. This entire stalk dangling with the baby bananas and the bottom blossom is about 5 feet long. Bananas are the type of plant that you want to grow way, waaay, waaaaaay away from your home. Bananas are actually considered to be  perennial herbs! A banana plant takes about 9 months to grow up and produce a bunch of bananas. Then the mother plant dies. But around the base of it pop up baby banana plants from the main corm. They attract bugs a'plenty and continuously drop debris. Ants, bees, wasps, hornets, lizards, beetles, spiders, snakes, fruit flies, -you name it and banana trees attract them in multitudes. If they aren't dropping their huge leaves they're shedding sap, dead blossoms, and those purplish maroon bracts you see on the buds. Nepalis make pickles and a sort of stir fry out of the purple blossoms. I've not tasted the pickle but the stir fried blossom and it kind of reminded me of artichoke hearts, bamboo shoots, and hearts of palm. 

I planted Mexican sunflowers again from seed I gathered in my garden last Summer. I love their satiny orange blooms! They've done much better this year. 

Here's our gardener Khashi watering the tomatoes alongside the border of Mexican sunflowers. Khashi is about 5'5" so you can see the Mexican sunflowers are about 6 foot tall. This is the south side of the house so both tomatoes and sunflowers get maximum hours of sunlight daily. As long as you keep rigorously deadheading (removing spent flowers) those multi-stemmed Mexican sunflowers keeping putting out more buds. The stems range from 10 inches to about 4 inches on the Mexican sunflowers and they make great cut flowers.

We have tomatoes! This is the second crop of tomatoes this year. I have no idea why I planted tomatoes as they're dirt cheap in the market this time of year. I wanted to grow something! I'm curious to see it they'll make it through the Monsoon without rotting. They're planted beneath the overhang of the house with the aforementioned southerly exposure. We're going to be eating a lot of tomato chutney!

This has been the buggiest Spring and Summer. Yes, this is the 'tropics' but the insects this year are out of control. Caterpillars, giant land snails, some sort of cicada looking things, ants, mosquitoes, beetles, scale, aphids, wasps, dragonflies, june bugs, crickets, giant cockroaches, - you name it we've had it this year. The above weirdness was some sort of caterpillar infesting the mint plant. I have never seen a caterpillar on a mint plant. I have no idea what those silk/wooly egg looking things are. The different varieties of caterpillars in Asia is amazing. Caterpillars are heavily parasitized here. It's not unusual to find caterpillars mummified by weird fungal infections or being eaten alive by wasp larvae hatched from eggs on their backs.

A lone moonflower open in the shade of a western wall. All the morning glories I planted this year were eaten by snails. I planted a red morning glory called Scarlett O'Hara. All the seeds rotted. Even the good old reliable Grandpa Ott's fell pray to snails or fungus. The moonflowers have the front trellis all to themselves.

If you're wondering what that red stuff is it's chili powder. This was an organic attempt to keep snails and mealy bugs from eating my chili plants. I don't spray or put poison out because we have animals and we eat the veg from our garden (duh). The Sheikh (my husband) says we can't use stale beer and rotten fruit in a strategically placed saucer to lure snails to a drunken doom because it's not halal. So I read on an organic gardening blog that chili powder will burn snails' tummies. It works. But only if you place fresh chili powder out daily and rain doesn't wash it away. I still lost 12 of my 20 chili plants to snails. Boo!

The chenille plant (Acalypha hispida) is covered with sixteen inch cerise pink catkins. I've pruned it into a six foot by six foot hedge blocking the view of the compost heap. Chenille plants are also known by the interesting common name of Phillipine Medusa. Like poinsettias they are members of the Euphorbia family and all parts of the plant are poisonous. Despite being toxic the chenille plant is a little universe of all sorts of critters from lizards to bugs. It dies down to the ground every Winter but quickly comes back when the weather warms up.

The dwarf crepe myrtle is blooming away in brilliant fuchsia pink glory! I always wonder why crepe myrtles aren't more widely planted in South Asia. They are native to India and do beautifully here. Crepe myrtles are a common landscaping plant in my native California. With rigorous deadheading I can get 2 to 3 bloom cycles out of my dwarf crepe myrtles. They do lose their leaves in Winter but have a beautifully picturesque branching habit and interesting white bark.

I was going to show you what a nice container plant dwarf crepe myrtles are when our favorite feline photobomber showed up. Yes, that's the proud matriarch of our kitty clan- Granny Chinger. Grinning maniacally and rolling around in front of the crepe myrtle so I can't possibly get a shot without her in it. Do not underestimate Ms Chinger. (Chinger means ratty). Despite her often goofy demeanor she has the heart of a lioness. Ms Chinger battled a 4 foot rat snake who ventured into our stairwell the other day. This was not our usual, calm, 6 foot rat snake who perambulates the garden monthly. Ms Chinger puffed herself up and smacked the new snake in the face with her paws when it repeatedly tried to strike her. Amazingly she did not get bitten and the snake finally fled into the huge bougainvillea over the carport. Ms Chinger's daughter, Tikka, and Ms Dawg held back steady about 8 feet away from the battle. HIM the Baacha Khan took off running to the back of the house.

HIM the Baacha Khan peeps forlornly from inside a discarded rice bag I was collecting recycling in.
Speaking of His Imperial Majesty the Baacha Khan: HIMself has not been himself lately. He got into a horrific fight with an intact tomcat earlier this year which left him covered in scratches and with a badly bruised ego. We took him to the vet as he began running a high fever for some IV fluids and a jab of antibiotics. He seemed better but when we came back from our trip to Kathmandu he suffered a nasty upper respiratory infection that left him weak and dehydrated again. His respiratory situation improved but he was still spiking high fevers and not eating nor interacting with the other kitties. The vet was out of town so we put him on the usual empirical-seriously-sick kitty-regimen of IM ceftriaxone, meloxicam, and paracetamol for 5 days. The fever came down and he seems to have made a speedy recovery.

Of course HIMself's sister Tikka and mother Chinger have been giving him extra love and attention. He's definitely doing better and eating well but he's still not quite back to his old feisty self.

And we celebrated Eid-al-Fitr with lots of great food and guests. At our house it's a sort of Eid tradition that we breakfast on sweets. Above you see the date laddoos, brownie bites, and Kashmiri cardamom cookies I made for the holiday. This was after the boys tore into it.

I made a poundcake from a recipe in Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook too. This was the only shot I got of it before it was sliced up for guests. Guests started arriving at 10 AM! This poundcake required a whopping 6 eggs. It baked up beautifully despite a 20 minute lapse in electricity while in the oven. Martha promised that this recipe had the most delectable crumb. It was a bit too spongy for me. The recipe called for a single teaspoon of vanilla but I put 2 teaspoons of a posh gourmand Mexican vanilla suspension, a half teaspoon of California Meyer lemon oil, and a half teaspoon of Boyajian's almond extract. I still thought it was a bit bland and not sweet enough for my taste. I suppose it would be fine if you spooned some stewed berries or peaches over it. I prefer my grandma's 7-Up poundcake to Martha's swank version. Come to think of it, I've never been truly WOWED by any of Martha's recipes I've made. Hmmmm.....

The Sheikh made a few dishes for Eid too. The Sheikh is a very good cook. He made his famous rista which is a mutton meatball with peas and (you guessed it!) lots of Kashmiri mirch. He also made delicious tamatar chaman which is Kashmiri style paneer with tomato sauce. Above you see the results of the Sheikh's culinary exuberance. This sparked a rather unusual conversation:

Me: Do we have any turmeric left?
The Sheikh: Why? 
Me: I was just looking at the stove and wondering. I still have to make a mutton dish and a chicken dish and I'm going to need a little turmeric. 
The Sheikh: What you are saying?
Me: Oh never mind. 

And here's our littlest guest on Eid! Ms Sita stopped by with her grandmother to enjoy some treats. If you are wondering what that black dot is over Ms Sita's eye is it's a purposefully placed dab of kajal to ward off the evil eye. Ms Sita isn't quite up to chewing yet but she did enjoy slobbering on some biscuits and petting the kitties.

And last but not least an unwanted visitor! Lurking on a window screen in the house was one of those !@#%^!! Asian hornets I had a run-in with last year. It is breeding season and there must be a nest nearby. I blasted this hornet with a can of bug spray from a distance of about 7 feet. If I injured this critter in a way that it was still living it would signal it's comrades to attack by chemotaxis. I shall be on the lookout for any of their soccer ball sized nests outside. 

So anyway, I missed last week's post as lightning knocked out my internet service for a week. Hopefully that won't happen again but it is the Monsoon here in Nepal and thunderstorms are weekly events during this season. Hope all is well with you & yours!

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