Showing posts with label Recipe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Recipe. Show all posts

May 7, 2018

Ghurma Aloo (Cumin-Scented Potatoes)

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A ghurma is a thick-sauced, long-simmered spicy stew of Iranian origin. This recipe for Ghurma Aloo is the perfect pairing of potatoes or aloo simmered until tender with earthy cumin and a pinch of red chili for a delicious and beautiful dish. Serve over rice or with naan to scoop up the vibrant sauce.


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We don't usually eat potatoes but when the new potatoes show up at market, I make an exception. (It seems a bit redundant to serve potatoes with the rice we eat daily.) There's nothing quite like the delicate flavor and texture of fresh potatoes and this easy recipe perfectly showcases them. This dish is adapted from Raghavan Iyer's 2008 cookbook, 660 Curries: The Gateway to Indian Cooking.


Indian cuisine is heavily influenced by the cooking of ancient Persia. The traditional Persian vegetable stew called ghurma or ghormeh is still a popular dish in Iran today. Many influences of Persia can be found in this recipe. As with most Iranian dishes, this recipe eschews garlic and makes do with onion and tomato for an umami boost. The potatoes are initially fried with turmeric giving them a lovely yellow hue as is typical in Persian cuisine. A generous use of cumin and red chili powder provide the spiciness of the dish. Fresh cilantro or dhania is stirred in at the end for a bit of green brightness - yet another Persian motif.

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This recipe has become our favorite way to enjoy the fresh potatoes of the season! Cumin and potatoes are THE perfect pairing in my opinion. I have adapted this recipe ever so slightly to suit my Kashmiri family's taste. Mr. Iyer recommended soaking the potatoes- I did not find this necessary. The original recipe called for two teaspoons of salt- I'd start with one teaspoon as we found two teaspoons to be a bit much. Mr. Iyer stirs the tomato in last with the cilantro with this recipe. This results in a raw tomato flavor that my Kashmiri clan cannot abide. So I put the tomato in with the water and chili powder to let them cook with the potatoes eliminating any hint of raw tomato. I also used Kashmiri mirch instead of cayenne powder for its brilliant red color, rich chili flavor, and slightly less heat. The color the Kashmiri mirch lends to this dish really makes this one of the most beautiful ways to serve potatoes. I hope you'll try this easy to make and tasty recipe and love it as much as we do!

Ingredients:
4-5 large russet or Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and roughly cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2-3 TBS cooking oil (enough to cover the bottom of the pan)
1 to 2 tsp salt
1 TBS cumin/jeera seeds
1 onion, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 tsp turmeric/haldi
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or cayenne/degi mirch for more heat or paprika for less heat)
1 medium-size tomato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes or pureed
2 TBS finely chopped fresh cilantro/dhania

Here's what to do:
1) Heat cooking oil with 1 teaspoon salt in a medium-size deep skillet or kadhai for 5 minutes. Add the cumin seeds and cook for about 5 seconds. Add potatoes, onion, and turmeric. Stir-fry until the potatoes and onion are lightly browned around the edges or about 6-7 minutes.


2)  Pour in 2 cups water, chopped tomato, and Kashmiri mirch (or chili powder) and bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium and cover the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are almost fall-apart tender. This usually takes about 20 to 25 minutes. (If liquid gets too low or mixture begins to stick or scorch- reduce heat and add 1/2 cup of water.)


3) When potatoes are cooked to desired tenderness stir in cilantro/dhania and cover pan. Allow dish to stand for about 2 minutes. Salt to taste and serve. For a thicker sauce, coarsely mash some of the potato cubes with the back of a large spoon.


Apr 30, 2018

Mexican-Style Green Beans with Eggs (Ejotes con Huevos)

This authentic recipe for ejotes con huevos or Mexican-style green beans with eggs is an old favorite. A simple to make, nutritious, and delicious way to enjoy green beans! Serve as a traditional Mexican meal with tortillas and beans or with rice and rotis for a South Asian twist.



Summer produce is already coming in by the kilo in my garden! This year I bought five green bean plants from the feed and seed shop down the street. They're a local variety is called "Simi" and if left to develop to maturity they'll become the speckled bean called "Simi"  which is much like pinto beans in my native California. What to do with all those green beans? Nepalis do a simple stir-fry with green beans as do most Indians. But I remembered another green bean dish that I ate at my friend Luz's house as a child. It was always a treat to eat at Luz's house because her grandma made fresh flour tortillas every day. So I emailed Luz and asked her what was that egg and green bean dish called that we used to eat for lunch at her house?


It was ejotes con huevos! A simple, classic Mexican home-style dish combining eggs with two of summer's most bountiful items- green beans and tomatoes. So I googled ejotes con huevos and came up with a lot of recipes that required blanching the green beans first. I do not recall anyone ever blanching green beans as a child in my native California. I have never blanched green beans in my life. I have seen green beans parboiled for 5 minutes before canning. Okies and Arkies boiled them with a ham hock and onion. Posh folks ate them heated out of a can or freezer with perhaps with a pat of butter. Then I found this recipe on the wonderful blog, Mexican Made Meatless that is exactly like what Luz's grandma used to make! The green beans are stir-fried with a little tomato, onion, and spices to desired tenderness - no blanching, boiling, or any other fuss. Then beaten eggs are poured over and allowed to set. It's a one pot wonder! My Kashmiri clan loves it. Sometimes I Indianize it a little by adding a tablespoonful of ginger paste in with the garlic or stirring a little cilantro/dhania in with the eggs. We like to eat it with rice but rotis would pair well with it too. This dish also makes a great filling for a burrito or kati roll when topped with a dollop of red salsa. Any way you choose to try I bet you'll like it!


Ingredients:
1/2 kg or 1 lb fresh green beans, tops and tails removed and cut into even lengths
1 small onion, finely chopped
1-3 green chiles/hari mirch, finely chopped (omit for less heat)
1 TBS garlic paste or 3 garlic cloves minced finely
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1/4 tsp black pepper/kali mirch, freshly ground
3 TBS cooking oil of choice, or scant amount to cover bottom of pan
4 eggs, lightly beaten
salt to taste

Here's what to do:
1) Heat cooking oil in a large skillet or kadhai with 1 teaspoon salt for 5 minutes. Saute the onions until just softened. Add the chopped chiles and garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes or until the garlic has lost its raw smell.


2) Add the green beans, tomatoes, and ground black pepper. Stir well and cover. Cook until green beans are to desired texture. (This usually takes about 10 to 12 minutes.)


3) Once green beans are to desired texture pour the lightly beaten eggs into the pan. Stir and cook until eggs have cooked through. I usually stir enough to get all the green beans coated with egg then cover the pan and let it cook for three minutes like a frittata. For a more scrambled texture keep stirring for about 2 minutes.


4) Salt to taste and serve. Pair with refried beans, tortillas, and salsa of choice for a Mexican meal OR rice and rotis too enjoy it Indian style.


Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Apr 16, 2018

Tips & Tools: How to Make Perfect Fluffy Rice

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We eat rice every day, twice a day. Before I moved to South Asia I had rarely cooked rice. I had never even used a rice cooker! Googling the subject of cooking rice only revealed numerous methods with less than perfect results. So I emailed my Chinese-American university pal Eileen as to how to properly cook rice. I quickly learned that western methods of cooking rice were overly complicated and prone to failure.

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The first thing my friend recommended was to buy a rice cooker. Well, we had a rice cooker but it had no instructions and we rarely had electricity to even run the thing back then. Now that we have 20 hours of electricity a day I can concur that a rice cooker is one of the most cost-effective gadgets ever. If you cook rice on a regular basis you definitely need a rice cooker. It is the easiest and most time-saving appliance ever, just set it and forget it!

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This is the kind of rice we eat every day!

The technique my friend Eileen taught me to cook rice is the absorption method. This is the most common way to cook rice in Asia. Rather than drowning the rice in water and hoping for the best, one adds only as much as the rice needs to cook, and waits for it to absorb while cooking. -It is the simplest way to cook rice and I have found it gives the most reliable results. The method you use to cook rice also depends on the variety of rice you are using. Indians tend to use long-grain rice and use techniques to create separate grains that remain perfectly intact. The Chinese use starchier medium-grain varieties so that the rice sticks together, making it easier to pick up with chopsticks. I have cooked both a local short-grain pearl rice and long-grain Basmati rice with this absorption method with excellent results for the past 10 years!
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1/2 cup uncooked rice = 1&1/2 cups cooked rice

First, you'll want to determine how many servings of rice you wish to make. I usually estimate one and a half cups of cooked rice per adult for my Indian family then add an extra half cup just in case. Rice triples in volume when cooked so that's one-half cup per person of uncooked rice.
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ONE PART RICE TO TWO PARTS WATER
The second and most crucial part of this technique is the ratio of rice to water. All sorts of variables come into play here: the type of rice being cooked, the age of the rice, humidity levels, how well the lid fits on the pot you use, the temperature of the burner being used, altitude, what phase the moon is in (kidding) - the list goes on. Because of all these variables, this is the step that may require some trial and error. The best place to look for the proper ratio the rice is to be cooked at is the directions on the package the rice came in. (Amazingly enough, the instructions on the back of rice packages are usually correct.) If that is unavailable I usually estimate one part rice to two parts water. Sometimes we buy local rice that comes in a plain burlap sack from a village and sometimes we buy rice from the supermarket that's labeled. If the rice is really fresh (as in recently harvested) it may need a little less water to cook. Rice harvested more than a year previous generally requires more water than recently harvested rice due to decreased moisture content. Cooking rice is game of ratios, so be sure to measure carefully unless you want a bowl full of disappointment.

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This is how rice gets cleaned so there's bound to be twigs, pebbles, or bugs in it!
Third, unless you are using rice that is fortified or enriched you will have to wash it. Rinsing traditionally polished rice alters its texture when cooked. Rinsing removes the thin layer of starch from the surface of each grain and keeps the rice from sticking together thus ensuring perfectly separate grains. Long-grain rice, like Basmati, is always rinsed for this reason. This doesn't have to be an extremely thorough sort of a cleanse. I usually rinse the rice twice over the sink by submerging it in water, swirling the rice with my fingers, then pouring off the cloudy water. Submersion allows any debris like twigs, bran, or insects to float out of the rice also. I have seen recommendations on the internet to rinse rice until the drainage water runs clear- this will never happen no matter how many times you rinse the rice I assure you.
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2-Acetyl-1-pyrroline: the aromatic compound that gives bread, jasmine rice, basmati rice, pandan, popcorn, & bread flowers their characteristic scent
Fourth, you need to decide if you wish to soak the rice or not. Soaking the rice speeds up cooking which affects the flavor of the rice. By letting the rice soak for 15 to 30 minutes, you can decrease the cooking time of most rice varieties by about 20 percent.  2-Acetyl-1-pyrroline is the flavor compound in aromatic rice varieties that is responsible for their characteristic popcorn-like aroma.  2-Acetyl-1-pyrroline dissipates while cooking. The longer the rice is exposed to heat, the less of an aromatic flavor it will have. By soaking the rice and shortening the cooking time, you will get more flavorful results. Some people rinse again after soaking the rice, I do not find it necessary.

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Fifth, add a little oil, ghee, or butter to the rice and water before cooking. This is optional but it will add flavor to the rice, help keep the grains separate, and prevent dryness if the rice is left standing for more than an hour after cooking. Restaurants usually do this to keep cooked rice tasting fresher and tender longer. I usually only add a little butter or ghee for special occasions such as if we are having dinner guests. Most Indians and Nepalis do not add salt to their rice when cooking so I don't add it either.

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Sixth, cook the rice over medium heat and with the lid on. If the temperature is too high you run the risk of scorching the rice at the bottom of the pot or unevenly cooked grains. If the temperature is too low you'll get a gloopy mess of undercooked rice. Put the lid on and keep it on throughout the cooking process. I recommend only lifting the lid to check the rice after 15 minutes. Do not stir the rice while it is cooking as you risk breaking the grains, releasing more starch, and a mushy mess. You can tell that the rice is completely cooked when all the water has boiled away, there are "fish eyes" or holes in the rice, and you can hear a crackling noise rather than a bubbling noise signifying that the water has completely boiled away.

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The last and most important step: let it rest! Resting is an unskippable step. When the rice has finished cooking remove the pot from the burner and let it sit with the lid still on. Allow the rice to rest for at least 10 minutes after it's done cooking to achieve optimum texture. This rule goes for all types of rice. Keep the rice covered until you’re ready to eat. Just before serving fluff the rice with a fork or rice paddle. As the Indian proverb goes, grains of rice should be like brothers – close, but not stuck together.
 
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Perfection!
So there you have it: ratio, rinse, soak, flavor, cook, rest, and fluff! Follow these easy steps and you'll get perfect, fluffy, rice every time. This is it - the foolproof recipe to cook rice on the stovetop:

Ingredients:
1&1/2 C long-grain white rice
3 C water
1 tsp cooking oil, butter, or ghee (optional)

Here's what to do:
1) Measure out 1&1/2 cups rice and place into a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Cooked rice expands to three times its original size so be sure to choose an adequately sized pot. 
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2) Over the sink add room-temperature water to the rice until it is covered by about an inch. Use your fingers to swirl the rice and water around the pan. Drain the cloudy water off of the rice through your hand. Discard any debris that floats to the surface. Repeat this process one to two more times. 

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3) Add 3 cups water to the rinsed rice and a teaspoonful of oil, butter, or ghee if using. For fluffier rice, the rice should be soaked for at least 15 minutes or up to 30 minutes prior to cooking.

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4) Cover and place the pot on a burner set on medium heat. Allow rice to cook for 15 to 20* minutes or until water has evaporated and the rice is tender. I usually check on the rice after 15 minutesYou may raise the lid occasionally to see if the water is boiling, see if the water has evaporated, or to listen for a crackling noise signifying that the last of the water has boiled away. Do not stir the rice while it is cooking.

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The little holes you see in the rice are called 'fisheyes' and signify that the rice has been cooked properly.



5) Remove pan from heat. Keep the lid on. Let rice stand, covered, for 10–15 minutes to firm up and absorb the last bit of water.

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6) Remove the lid just before serving and fluff the rice with a fork or rice paddle. Serve hot. This recipe makes 4&1/2 cups cooked rice.

Helpful Hints:
The same procedure can be used for a rice cooker. Instead of step 4 just place the pot in the rice cooker instead of on a stove burner.

*If cooking at altitudes over 3,000ft/1,000M increase cooking time by 5 minutes.

A special thanks to my dear friend Eileen!

Apr 9, 2018

Indian-Style Yellow Cabbage

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This simple cabbage stir-fry uses zesty mustard seeds, earthy turmeric, garlic, and a pinch of red chili to create a flavorful side dish that can quickly be made for a gathering. An easy to make vegan recipe that pairs well with rice and rotis.

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This recipe is adapted from 5 Spices, 50 dishes by Ruta Kahate. The premise of her cookbook is simple: with five common spices and a few basic ingredients, home cooks can create fifty mouthwatering Indian dishes, as diverse as they are delicious. Ms. Kahate teaches regional Indian cooking from her home-based school in Oakland, California, which has been featured on the Fine Living Network. I bought this book when it first came out in 2007. It is very well written and beautifully photographed. About half the recipes are authentically Indian while the other half are interesting modern fusions with western cuisine. My only complaint is that the recipes are a bit bland for my family's tastes- this is usually easily remedied by simply doubling the spices.

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Cabbage was never a favorite vegetable of mine until I moved to South Asia. I never cared for the western methods of preparing cabbage whether raw and shredded as in coleslaw, braised, or even pickled as in sauerkraut. Asian cuisines do cabbage best with simple stir-fries or salads dressed lightly with pungent oil and vinegar or lime juice dressings. This recipe is exemplary of how simple yet flavorsome a cabbage dish can be. (It's also quite pretty in it's glossy and golden yellow presentation.) I have altered the spices in the recipe to suit my family's tastes and to accommodate a slightly larger amount cabbage than entailed in the original recipe. I've used Kashmiri mirch instead of the recommended cayenne. Kashmiri mirch gives more of a rich chili flavor than cayenne and boosts the brilliant yellow coloring of the turmeric in this dish. Most cabbage dishes in Nepal or India are served a little crunchy or al dente, we prefer ours a bit well done. I also prefer frying the cabbage the Kashmiri way in salted oil. Frying in salted oil results in those little carmelized bits of loveliness that add so much flavor. Don't be too skimpy with the oil in this recipe as that's what is carrying the flavor. If you are using a non-stick pan you could probably get away with 3 tablespoons full of your favorite cooking oil, if not then I'd advise sticking to the full quarter cup. Hope you enjoy this recipe as much as we do!

Ingredients:
3 to 4 TBS cooking oil of choice
1&1/2 tsp brown mustard seeds/rai
4 cloves garlic/lahsun, minced finely
1&1/2 tsp ground turmeric/haldi
1 small to medium head of cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
salt to taste
1/2 to 1 tsp Kashmiri mirch or  cayenne pepper/degi mirch (use less for less heat)

Here's what to do:
1) In a large lidded skillet or kadhai, heat the oil with 1 teaspoon of salt over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Add mustard seeds and reduce heat to medium. Add the minced garlic and allow to just brown a little bit.

2) Add the sliced cabbage, turmeric, and chili powder and give the mixture a good stir to coat the cabbage with the oil and spices.

3) Cover and cook until the cabbage is cooked to desired tenderness. (We like our cabbage VERY tender which takes about 10 to 12 minutes.) Stir every three minutes or so. If mixture begins to scorch or stick add a tablespoonful of water, reduce heat and stir. Taste and adjust salt if necessary. Serve hot or warm with rice and/or rotis.

Helpful hints:
Try to choose a smaller head of cabbage for this dish, they are more tender and have a milder flavor than the larger heads.

Do not use purple cabbage for this dish unless you don't mind the sickly blue-green shade it will turn when you fry it with the turmeric

Apr 2, 2018

Madhur Jaffrey's Garam Masala

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There are as many versions of garam masala as there are home cooks in India. This recipe for the versatile and aromatic spice mix is from the famed cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey. "Masala" means "spices" while "garam" means "hot," which refers to the body-warming properties of the spices in Ayurvedic medicine.

Madhur Jaffrey
For those of you who don't know who Madhur Jaffrey is - she's a Delhi-born actress credited with bringing Indian cuisines to the Americas with her debut cookbook, An Invitation to Indian Cooking (1973). She has written over a dozen cookbooks and appeared on several related television programs, the most notable of which was Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery, which premiered in the UK in 1982. Her recipes are not always authentic due to their being written for western home cooks and what would be available in a western supermarket in the 70's and 80's. But they are always beautifully written, easy to follow, and can be relied on to taste great!


Ms. Jaffrey's recipe for garam masala is quite lavish in its use of spices yet quite practical. Costly green cardamom takes center stage in this vibrant mix while the less expensive but equally flavorful cumin, black pepper, cloves, cinnamon, and nutmeg are the supporting cast. This does not taste anything like the garam masala you'd typically buy readymade! No cheap fillers like coriander or fenugreek in this blend. Ms. Jaffrey has also scaled this recipe down to the perfect amount that will easily fit into an electric coffee grinder like you'd find in a western kitchen too. This is the perfect recipe if you wish to make just a few servings of this bold, versatile, and traditional spice mix.

Ingredients:
1 TBS green cardamom/elaichi pods
1 tsp cumin/jeera or black cumin/shahi jeera seeds
1 tsp whole black peppercorns/kali mirch
1 tsp whole cloves/laung
1-inch piece of cinnamon or cassia bark/dalchini, broken into pieces (or 1 tsp ground cinnamon)
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg/jaiphal or allspice

Here's what to do:
1) Place all the spices in a coffee or spice grinder and grind until to desired consistency.

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2) Keep in a sealed airtight and light-resistant container in a cool dark place for up to 3 months.

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Helpful Hints:
The original recipe specified cardamom seeds. I do not have the patience to sit there and peel an entire tablespoonful of green cardamom pods. Plus my frugal Prussian farmer and Scots-Irish cheapskate genes will not let me toss those gorgeously fragrant and EXPENSIVE green pods. So I just grind them up too!

Madhur Jaffrey does not recommend dry roasting this garam masala so I don't. Works for me! I usually end up frying or cooking whatever I'm using the garam masala in anyway.

Mar 18, 2018

Green Apple Chutney

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Try this green apple chutney for a hot and spicy way to eat your apple a day! This easy recipe pairs well with everything from rice and rotis to steaks and roast chicken.

Every great once in awhile our local market gets a load of Granny Smith apples in. Often there seems to be some confusion as to where these tart, crisp, bright green apples come from as you can see in the above photo.  It boggles my mind that the apples probably spent 2 to 3 months in a nitrogen-flushed container on a ship from the US to get all the way to Nepal. Then they had to ride on a train and a truck from a port in Mumbai or Kolkata across the searing plains of India up here. After that, I get the pleasure of buying 3-month-old apples for about $3USD a pound! Nevertheless, Pippins and Granny Smith's are my favorite apples and I buy them. I've seen several recipes for South Asian style chutneys combining green apples and cilantro all over the internet. The combination sounded intriguing but few of the recipes suited my family's tastes. Too sweet, too tart, too bland were the complaints. After much trial and error, this is the recipe I've come up with for a green chutney using green apples. It has a nice balance of tart to sweet while garlic, ginger, and chilis give it some spicy heat. We enjoy this chutney with rice but it would also pair well with barbecued meats, kebabs, Mexican dishes, or roast chicken or turkey. Eating healthy is easy when it tastes this good!

Ingredients:
1 tart green apple, cored and chopped (leave the skin on)
2 C cilantro/dhania, leaves and stems roughly chopped
1 TBS oil of choice (I use rice bran oil or virgin olive oil)
2 tsp ginger/adrak paste or 1-inch fresh ginger
2 tsp garlic/lahsun paste or 2 cloves garlic
1-2 green chilis/hari mirch (omit for less heat)
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp Kashmiri mirch or chili powder (omit or use less for less heat)
1 TBS lime juice or 1 TBS white vinegar

Here's what to do:
1) Whiz all ingredients in a mixie, blender, or food processor to a fine paste. Salt to taste.

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 2) Keep in a sealed container in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

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Helpful Hints:
Chutney keeps for 4-5 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

 If the chutney is too sour for you try adding a pinch of sugar to sweeten it up.

 If the chutney is too hot for you try adding a tablespoonful of yogurt to cool it down.


I know I'm a day late but Happy St Patrick's day!


Mar 11, 2018

Garam Masala Spiced Almonds

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Garam Masala Spiced Almonds are the perfect healthy snack with a kick. The bold flavors of traditional Indian spices make these nuts addictively delicious!


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Typically when you pay a casual visit to a household in India or Nepal you are served a warm drink, something salty, and something sweet. The drink is usually sweet, milky chai (tea) or sweetened "milk coffee." The salty item can be anything from readymade chaat mixes to potato chips. The sweets are usually biscuits or cake. (I've even been served some unique combinations such as cake and potato chips.) Garam Masala Spiced Almonds are something I started making to serve guests before we could buy readymade chaat mixes (like Haldirams) in packets here in Nepal. It seemed a natural choice as almonds are a favorite treat in my husband's native Kashmir. I'm not sure where I originally found this recipe but I suspect it may have been from the legendary Canadian Chef Vikram Vij.

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Parsi-Style Garam Masala
Over the years I've added and altered the recipe to our tastes. Instead of cayenne, I use Kashmiri mirch for a richer chili kick. Lime juice adds a tart zing in place of the sweeter amchur/mango powder sometimes. Adding asafoetida/hing or garlic powder was entirely my idea to add an umami boost to the mix. You may certainly vary the flavor by using different regional versions of garam masala blends. You'll find recipes for Garam MasalaParsi Garam Masala, Kashmiri Garam Masala, Nepali Garam Masala, and Mughlai Garam Masala on this blog. The oil you choose to make this recipe with can change the flavor a great deal too. Using coconut or sesame oil adds a rich, traditional note while flavorless oils like canola and sunflower oils add none. You can even use raw cashews in this recipe too but be sure to roast them separately from almonds as they cook faster. I hope you'll love this recipe as much as my family does! Off to the recipe:

Ingredients:
1 TBS garam masala
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch or cayenne powder
1 tsp mango powder/amchur or 2 tsp lime/lemon juice
1/4 tsp asafoetida/hing or garlic powder (optional)
 2 TBS vegetable oil of choice oil
 3 C raw almonds or cashews
2-3 tsp salt to taste 

Here's what to do:
1) Preheat oven to 350F. Place rack in the middle of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

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2) In a large bowl, combine spices, and oil. Add almonds or cashews and stir until well coated. Pour coated nuts onto a baking sheet and spread out evenly over the pan.

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3) Bake for 6-8 minutes. Stir with a spatula or spoon, return to oven and bake an additional 6 minutes. Be careful not to burn or scorch the nuts- if the almonds start to turn dark brown around the edges they are burnt. Remember that the almonds will continue cooking for a few minutes after you remove them from the oven.
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4) Remove from oven and allow to cool for 1 hour before serving. Store in an air-tight container for up to one month in a cool, dry place.


Helpful Hints: 
If after roasting the nuts are not salted enough for your taste simply sprinkle additional salt and stir them with a spatula or shake them in a jar.

If you are making this recipe with raw cashews be sure to shorten the cooking times by 4-5 minutes.

Feb 25, 2018

Soachal (Kashmiri Mallow)

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Mallow or soachal is a much-loved vegetable in Kashmir. Simply sauteeing with a bit of garlic and red chili is the Kashmiri way of rendering this common weed into a delicious dish.

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Common mallow (Malva neglecta)
What a  surprise it was when I saw my Kashmiri sister-in-law washing and prepping a pile of leaves from this weed on our last trip to Srinagar. This plant is called cheeseweed or common mallow in my native California. You'll often see this pretty little weed growing wild along roadsides or in newly disturbed soil around the world. I had no idea it was completely edible nor that it tasted so good! Most wild greens I've tried have been bitter, sour, fibrous, metallic, or earthy to the point that they required a lot of cooking and seasoning. Mallow leaves or soachal (pronounced tsot-zall) in Kashmiri are tender with a delicately green flavor thus requiring minimal cooking and seasoning.

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Common mallow (Malva neglecta) in my garden
 So now I have soachal (mallow) growing alongside Kashmiri haak (collards) and gogji (turnips) in my winter garden here in Nepal.  The plant freely reseeds and suffers minimal pests. About once a week I pluck leaves from the little plot of soachal (mallow) in the morning to prepare for lunch or dinner. If you are interested in learning more about mallow I've written a post about it here.

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Common mallow (Malva neglecta)
This recipe is for the simple yet delicious saute my sister-in-law prepared that day. Garlic and Kashmiri mirch add just enough umami boost and spicy heat to perfectly compliment the mild flavor of the mallow leaves. Mallow is in the same family as okra and has a similar mucilaginous sap. Allowing the mallow leaves to completely dry before sauteing prevents them from getting gooey. Leaving the pan uncovered while sauteeing keeps steam from causing slime too. The leaves turn slightly crisp when cooked in this manner giving the dish a unique and interesting texture. The Kashmiris also do another tasty dish that combines soachal or mallow leaves with nadroo (lotus root). If I can find some fresh lotus root/nadroo here in Nepal I'll put that recipe up too! Until then, off to the recipe:

Ingredients:
4-5 C mallow/soachal leaves,
2-3 TBS cooking oil, or just enough to cover the bottom of your pan
2-3 garlic/lahsun cloves, minced finely
1-2 tsps Kashmiri mirch (or red chili powder of choice)
1/4 tsp turmeric/haldi
salt to taste

Here's what to do:
1) Rinse fresh mallow leaves with cold water and allow to dry for three to four hours. Pick out any damaged or diseased leaves or woody stems.

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2) Heat cooking oil in kadhai or shallow skillet over medium heat for about 4-5 minutes. (Oil should be hot but not smoking). Place clean mallow leaves and minced garlic in hot oil in pan. Stir so that leaves and garlic are coated with hot oil. Some liquid will come out of the leaves. (Do not cover the pan or the leaves go a bit slimy- I learned that the hard way.)


3) Allow mixture to fry for about 3-4 minutes then add salt, Kashmiri mirch/red chili powder, and turmeric. (I usually add about a scant teaspoon of salt) Stir well. Continue frying for about 4 minutes more or until garlic is cooked through. Salt to taste and serve hot or warm with rice.

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Helpful Hints:
When asked the Sheikh (my husband) how long to cook the soachal he said, "Until it is done." Duh.  So basically I figured out that when the garlic is limp and cooked through the soachal is probably "done" too.


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