Showing posts with label cassia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cassia. Show all posts

Feb 19, 2016

Nepali Rahar Dal (Curried Pigeon Peas)

The national dish of Nepal is Dal Bhat and consists of a huge serving of steamed white rice (bhat) and a healthy helping of cooked lentils (dal). A common greeting in Nepal is "Bhat-kyo?" which literally means "Have you eaten rice today?" There are many different dals that can be prepared in several different ways. This is a simple and tasty recipe for dal made with split pigeon peas which are called rahar in Nepali, but are called toor or toovar dal in India.

Nepali Rahar Dal curried pigeon peas easy vegetarian lentil recipe

This recipe is so easy to make and is a family favorite in our house. Traditionally, Nepalis would serve this with rice, a serving of tarkaari (vegetables), a chutney or two, and perhaps some acchaari (pickles). This dish also makes for a delicious Autumn meal when served as a soup with a crusty slice of buttered bread in Western fashion also.

Ingredients:
1&1/2 C split pigeon peas/toor dal/rahar dal
3 TBS ghee or cooking oil
1/2 C onion, diced finely
2 tsp ginger/adrak paste
2 tsp garlic/lahsun paste
2 green chilis/hari mirch, chopped finely (omit for less heat)
1 cassia leaf/tej patta
1&1/2 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
3 cloves/laung
1 inch piece cassia bark/dalchini (or cinnamon stick)
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
2 tsp salt
6-8 C water
1 TBS lime juice (optional)

Here's what to do:
1) Heat ghee or cooking oil over medium heat in a large stock pot or pressure cooker. Fry onions until  just beginning to brown. Add ginger, garlic, and green chilis and fry for 3-4 minutes or until raw smell has left garlic. Add cassia leaf, cumin seeds, cloves, and cassia bark and fry for 2 minutes.

All the spices are tempered.
2) Add turmeric, salt, and pigeon peas to pot. If using pressure cooker add enough water so that dal is covered by at least 2 inches, seal and allow to steam for 4-5 whistles. Remove pressure cooker from heat and allow to cool. (If cooking on burner with stock pot add enough water so that dal mixture is covered by 4 inches and bring to a boil over medium heat. Allow to simmer until dal is are tender, usually about one and a half hours. Stir frequently and add more water if necessary.) When dal is to preferred consistency stir in lime juice, salt to taste and serve.

Add turmeric, salt, pigeon peas and a lot of water.
Helpful Hints:
I would really recommend cooking this in a pressure cooker or crock pot/slow cooker as it takes such a long time to cook on top of the stove.

Our neighbor Ganga says "Ramro!" which means "Excellent!" in Nepali.

Jan 3, 2016

Ingredient of the Week: Kitchen King

Darned good stuff!
Oh, stop.
Don't judge until you've tried these readymade spice mixes.
Don't start with the *"Chi, chi, Bibi's not being authentic, or Desi, or home style," or whatever disdainful & derogatory notions you may have about using prepared spice mixes. Readymade masalas are one of the newer convenience products available for the burgeoning Desi middle class. As more & more women enter the work force in Desi-dom or simply wish to spend less time in the kitchen for whatever reason, products like this are becoming increasingly popular. I've even seen kilo sized boxes of these mixes in the kitchens of 5 star hotels and popular restaurants in India so I know that even the "pros" use these. They are great time and money savers when you think of all the different spices you'd have to purchase, store, measure, & grind for use in each dish. Kitchen King is a blend of cumin, turmeric, Kashmiri mirch,  garlic, red chili, coriander, green cardamom, brown cardamom, dry ginger, black pepper, cloves, fenugreek, poppy seeds, mace, nutmeg, star anise, fennel, long pepper, and cassia.

Foil wrapped for freshness!
Guaranteed to delight your palate with taste & aroma.
(It says so on the box!)
I have to say, they are generally excellent quality too. The box boasts that the fresh spices are hand picked and ground using "Low Temperature Grinding technology." The mixes are foil wrapped inside for freshness, although I'd recommend decanting them into an airtight glass container once opened for storage. You could use a plastic container, but be forewarned that plastic container will reek of Kitchen King forever after.

I'd recommend storing in an airtight glass container.
This old pickle jar works well.
 I'd also recommend buying them in boxes no larger than 100g to 200g depending on usage as they'll usually remain fresh for only about a month after opening.





Kitchen King is one of my favorites. I always have a box around. My favorite brand is "Catch," although "MDH" and "Everest" are quite good also. I'm guessing it's called Kitchen King due to its versatility in dishes. It's a quick and easy way to make tasty vegetarian dishes such as mattar paneer (peas & cheese) or curried peas and mushrooms. 

Helpful Hints:

A good substitute for Kitchen King spice mix is-  1/2tsp cayenne + 1/2tsp paprika + 1tsp cumin + 1tsp coriander + + 1/2 tsp fennel + 1/4tsp ground fenugreek +1/4tsp mace + 1/8tsp nutmeg 

*"Chi, chi," is roughly translated as "For shame," in Desi-Land. It is often accompanied by an imperiously & emphatically extended index finger being jabbed perilously in proximity of whomever is being blamed or shamed's face. 

Jan 1, 2016

Garam Masala

Garam masala is a blend of aromatic spices commonly used in South Asian cooking. Many regions of the Asian Subcontinent have their own unique blends of garam masala. Garam in this context means 'warm' or 'heating' to the body in the Ayurvedic sense. Masala simply means spices. Garam masala can also be varied to suit personal taste.  Depending on usage garam masala may be dry roasted or left raw. 


Some regional cuisines of South Asia traditionally stir 1/2 teaspoonful of garam masala into a dish just before serving, this requires the garam masala to be dry roasted before use. Other cuisines of the Subcontinent use garam masala during cooking so the spice mix is left raw. I prefer not to dry roast my garam masala as I use it during cooking. Dry roasted spices also tend to not store well & develop an 'off' flavor if not used quickly. (I'll include techniques to dry roast spices if you wish to do so though.) 

Ingredients:
1 TBS green cardamoms/elaichi
7 brown cardamoms/kali elaichi
4 tsp cloves/laung
4 tsp cumin seeds/jeera
1&1/2 TBS black peppercorns/kali mirch
4 one & half inch pieces of cassia bark/dalchini (or cinnamon sticks)
3 mace jackets/javatri (or 1/2 tsp grated nutmeg or allspice)

Here's what to do:
For raw/unroasted garam masala- 
Coarsely grind all spices until roughly the texture of coffee grounds. Traditionally a mortar & pestle or "sil batta" was used to get this texture. Garam masala is not supposed to be like that finely ground powdery stuff you see sold at stores. To get the traditional 'coffee grounds' texture we're looking for use the 'pulse' button on your mixie, food processor, or coffee grinder until you get the desired results. If you are using a coffee grinder or small mixie jar you might want to grind each spice separately in batches to get a consistent texture. Breaking the cassia bark (or cinnamon sticks) into smaller pieces before grinding helps also. Store in an airtight container out of sunlight.

Two methods to dry roast garam masala-

Traditional- 
1) Heat a heavy bottomed frying pan or tawa for 7-10 minutes.
2) Dry roast spices one at a time in batches, or toss all spices in & stir frequently until spices give off a fragrant aroma. Do not dry roast mace, nutmeg or allspice.
3) Allow to cool completely. Grind coarsely (including mace, nutmeg, or allspice) using pulse button in mixie, food processor, or coffee grinder.  Store in an airtight container out of sunlight.
(The problem with this traditional method is that the temperature isn't really even over a tawa on a gas flame & some spices may scorch while others remain unroasted.  Cumin usually roasts faster than the other spices & when burned has an unpleasant bitter flavor.  Roasting spices separately reduces the risk of scorching but is tedious. Why do South Asians still do use traditional tawa method? Because most South Asians do not have any sort of oven in their homes.)

Fast & easy oven method-
1) Preheat oven to 220F/100C.
2) Spread all spices (except mace, nutmeg or allspice) over 13 inch by 9 inch baking pan or cookie sheet. Bake spices for 10 minutes.
3) Allow to cool completely & grind coarsely (including mace, nutmeg, or allspice) using pulse button in mixie, food processor, or coffee grinder.  Store in an airtight container out of sunlight.


Dec 22, 2015

Ingredient of the Week: Dalchini, Cinnamon stick, or Cassia bark?


This is what is called dalchini or referred to as a "cinnamon stick" in South Asian cooking:



A bit thuggish & crude in appearance compared to the cinnamon sticks of the western world.

It's actually the dried bark of the Cinnamonum cassia tree (also called the Chinese cassia or Chinese cinnamon tree). Yes, it is from the same tree as 'tej patta' or Indian bay leaf.

"True cinnamon" from the Cinnamonun verum tree.

It is not the same as those tightly rolled & thinly layered cinnamon sticks you see in western countries. Those delicate, rolled cinnamon sticks you see in western countries are 'true cinnamon' which comes from the Cinnamonun verum tree (also called Sri Lanka cinnamon or Ceylon cinnamon).


A Chinese cassia tree whose dried bark is called "dalchini."


Cassia bark (or dalchini as it is called in Desi-dom) has a stronger, almost peppery bite compared to its sweeter, subtler, & more aromatic Sri Lankan cousin.  Cassia bark/dalchini also stands up to the intense heat of the pressure cooker or kadhai better than the delicate Sri Lankan cinnamon quills. The spicier, peppery notes of cassia bark/dalchini suit savory dishes likes curries & stews better than it's sweeter cousin also.

Personally, I prefer to bake with ground cassia bark/dalchini rather than true cinnamon as I like a spicier punch to my cakes, cinnamon buns, cookies, & quick breads. If you are using cinnamon to enhance the natural sweetness of strawberries, cherries, or fruit pie fillings (as many Scandinavian, Swiss, Ukrainian, & German recipes do) then I'd choose to use the Sri Lankan or true cinnamon. My Swiss friend in Mumbai, Cyn, will attest to this. You can check out Cyn's blog at http://www.homecynhome.com


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.




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