Showing posts with label carom. Show all posts
Showing posts with label carom. Show all posts

May 18, 2016

Rasedar Rajma (Curried Pinto or Kidney Beans)

"Rasedar" means juicy or saucy and "rajma" means kidney or pinto beans. In this dish simple beans get the masala treatment! Simmered in a savory sauce redolent with traditional Indian spices these beans are spicy but mild in heat. A piquant dash of ajwain and cilantro are the final touches in this protein rich vegetarian recipe that pairs well with rice and rotis or can even be served with saltines like a bowl of American chili.

This delicious recipe is embellished upon and adapted from Neelam Batra's 1998 cookbook The Indian Vegetarian: Simple Recipes for Today's Kitchen. Ms. Batra's book has some great recipes but it is rather meandering in it's instructions and has no photos. I think the lack of photos and poorly written directions kept this book from being as successful as it should have been. So I rewrote this entire recipe, changed a few ingredients, and simplified the steps a bit. As I have written this recipe it should take about thirty minutes to prepare if using canned beans, an hour if cooking dried beans. (If my recipes are unclear in any way please leave me a note in the comments! I want to publish a cookbook of the recipes on my blog for friends and family at the end of the year that will be easily understandable by both novice chefs and experienced cooks alike.)

My family really likes this way of serving rajma, it's a nice change from the usually cumin heavy recipes for curried beans. The dish is spicy but not hot and the ajwain adds a interesting and very uniquely Desi accent to the flavors. If you don't have ajwain a bit of thyme is a good substitute, if you don't have or don't like thyme a pinch of whole cumin seeds will do. You can also make this dish as thick or thin as you like by varying the cooking times. Remember that traditionally thicker curries are served with rotis and flatbreads while soupier curries are preferred when serving with rice.

2 C dried kidney or pinto beans, or two 15 oz cans of kidney or pinto beans
3 TBS cooking oil
3/4 C onion, diced finely
1 tsp salt
1 TBS ginger/adrak paste
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1/2 tsp ajwain seeds, bruised with mortar and pestle or dried thyme
3 TBS chopped cilantro/dhania leaves (optional)
Grind to smooth paste or chop finely and mix for masala:
2 C tomatoes, chopped finely
1/4 C yogurt/dahi
2 TBS ground coriander/dhania
1 tsp ground fenugreek seeds/methi
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1/2 tsp paprika plus 1/2 tsp cayenne powder)
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi

Here's what to do:
1) Rinse and cook beans with 6C water and 1 tsp salt in stock pot or with 3C in pressure cooker until tender. Leave beans in their cooking liquid while you cook the masala sauce. If using canned beans skip to step 2.

2) Grind or chop finely and mix all ingredients listed under masala until smooth. Set aside.

3) In a heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai heat oil with 1 tsp salt and fry diced onions until just beginning to brown. Add garlic and ginger pastes and fry for 2 minutes.

4) Add mixed masala paste from step 2 and bruised ajwain seeds to fried onion, garlic, and ginger mixture. Stir well and allow to simmer for 5 minutes or until oil separates from mixture.

5) Drain 2 cups of liquid from the cooked beans. Stir 1 cup of the cooked bean liquid into the fried masala mixture. Add masala sauce and the reserved cup of cooking liquid from to cooked beans. Bring to simmer over low heat for about 20 minutes or until sauce has thickened to desired consistency. Salt to taste, stir through chopped cilantro if using and serve.

Helpful hints:
If you don't have ajwain a bit of thyme is a good substitute.  If you don't have or don't like thyme a pinch of whole cumin seeds will do.

You can certainly make this dish as thick or thin as you like by varying the cooking times. Remember that traditionally thicker curries are served with rotis and flatbreads while soupier curries are preferred when serving with rice.

May 16, 2016

Ingredient of the Week: Ajwain, Ajowan, Carom, Omam, Bishop's Weed

Ajwain looks like fuzzy caraway seeds but tastes nothing like caraway.

Ajwain is a member of the parsley family and is often confused with many other spices like caraway, lovage seeds, and celery seeds. Adding to the confusion ajwain goes by many different names: ajowan, carom, bishop's weed, omam, omum, Königskümmel, Indischer Kümmel, Egyptian caraway, and al-kumun al-muluki. The spice's name can be traced to the Sanskrit word "yavani" meaning "Greek." This suggests that the spice originated in the Eastern Mediterranean and arrived in India in during the ancient Greek conquest of Central Asia. It isn't really known why the Arabs call ajwain as al-kumun al-muluki or the "king's cumin," but the German name Königskümmel or "king's caraway" probably derives from it.

The flowers of the ajwain plant
To add even further to taxonomic confusion the ajwain plant has several different botanical names too: Carum copticumCarum ajowan, Ptychotis ajowanAmmi copticum, and Trachyspermum ammi. Ajwain is an annual herbaceous plant about 1 to 2 feet in height and is mainly cultivated in Rajasthan. What is referred to as the spice or seeds are actually the tiny fruits of the plant. Both the seeds or fruits as well as the leaves are eaten in India. Analysis of ajwain seeds or fruits commonly eaten as a spice in India reveals a thymol content of almost 98%. Thymol is the same compound that flavors the herb thyme as well as original Listerine mouthwash.

The flavor of ajwain seeds has been described variously as having notes of thyme, anise, cumin, and oregano. I get an initial blast of almost mentholated thyme as in original flavor Listerine mouthwash out of ajwain seeds. A bit of an earthy cumin note follows this mouth numbing blast adding to it's complexity. The flavor is similar to but definitely less subtle than thyme,  none of the subtle floral nuances of thyme are present in ajwain. The thyme note is so strong it borders on the camphoraceous or eucalyptic. Ajwain is certainly what I'd call an accent spice.

Ajwain is used in a variety of dishes in South Asia.  It often flavors pickles, dals, beans, tops flatbreads or savory pastries, and adds complexity to bland or starchy vegetable curries. Because of ajwain's pungent flavor it is definitely a spice that must be dry roasted or fried to mellow it's harshness before use in a dish. Never grind ajwain either, just bruise it lightly in a mortar and pestle or it's strong flavor may overtake a dish. 

Bhelpuri, a snack sold on the street in South Asia typically served in a newspaper cone with a spoon for eating on the go.
(There are no drive thru windows in South Asia YET.)
The one exception to not grinding ajwain would be chat masala. "Chat" or "chaat" is usually a snack often sold by street vendors that this spice blend or "masala" is often used upon. Above is a picture of "bhelpuri" a chat which is usually a mixture of chopped tomatoes, broken papdis, cilantro, potatoes, peanuts, peas, bean sprouts, raw onion, puffed rice, chutneys, and sev. (Sev is the squiggly yellow noodles made of chickpeas on top.) A hefty dollop of chat masala is in there too!

My particular favorite is Catch's Magic Masala.  It boasts a sweet, sour, salty, and umami mix with not only ground ajwain but asafoetida, mint, kala namak/black salt, amchur, long pepper, and a variety of other piquant ingredients. Want to pep up potatoes, rev up a raita, fire up a fruit salad, jazz up some juice, tart up some tofu, or exuberantly enhance eggs? Sprinkle a little of Catch's Chat Masala on them and you're in for a taste sensation!

A cheerfully embellished chat wagon specializing in bhelpuri .
This chatwalla is not taking any chances, he has Ganesh & Laxmi painted on his sign!

Calmly currying on,
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