Showing posts with label lemon. Show all posts
Showing posts with label lemon. Show all posts

Dec 14, 2016

Nimbu-Mirchi Totka

If you come to India or Nepal you will see nimbu-mirchi totkas consisting of chilis and limes hanging on a string over doorways everywhere. Nimbu means lime, mirchi means chilis, and a totka is a sort of charm to ward off evils. Displaying the nimbu-mirchi is an ancient Hindu practice that you'll see not only over doorways, but also adorning vehicles and dangling from portraits of beloved ancestors and politicians.

Unknown Bollywood starlet chatting with nimbu-mirchi sellers.
The custom of tying limes and chilis on a thread and hung outside the door or on a vehicle is intended to distract the inauspicious Hindu goddess called Alakshmi or Jayestha. Alakshmi is the older sister of the very auspicious goddess of wealth, Lakshmi. Alakshmi is said to bring poverty, strife, mayhem, discord, misfortune, barrenness, strife, jealousy, malice, hardship and ruination where ever she goes. She plants distrust and misunderstanding among family members, friends, and relatives. She is often depicted as a withered hag or a dark skinned woman with pendulous belly and breasts enthroned or astride a donkey and accompanied by crows or an owl. Alakshmi also loves to eat hot, sour, and pungent things. The hope is that the nimbu-mirchi will avert Alakshmi's inauspicious attentions and she'll continue on her devastating way.

Lakshmi the Goddess of Wealth with an owl.
Interestingly, you will often the goddess of wealth Lakshmi pictured with an owl. Owls represent arrogance and willful ignorance in Hindu culture. The owl in Lakshmi's beneficent presence represents a warning that wherever she goes so does Alakshmi and her misfortune. The message is to beware of the potential for calamity that may accompany Lakshmi's blessings if both goddesses are not propitiated properly. It's sort of the Hindu version of the Western proverb, "Pride goeth before a fall." Meaning that if you're too boastful and self-important, something bad will inevitably happen.

You can easily make your own nimbu-mirchi totka! All you need is black thread, a needle, seven green chillies and one ripe yellow lime. Take a needle and the thread and tie a thick knot, a black stone, or piece of charcoal at the end. Pierce the threaded needle through the lime first and then through the seven green chillies. Depending on region the chilis and lemon can be strung in different order but there are usually seven chilis and one lemon per nimbu-mirchi wherever you go.

Preferably on a Saturday morning tie your nimbu-mirchi in center of the main door of your house or establishment. Take care that it does not interfere with the opening or closing of the door and movements of people. On vehicles you may attach the nimbu-mirchi to the front bumper, top center of the windshield, or near the wheel well on motorcycles or bicycles. The following Monday morning take the nimbu-mirchi down and throw it away from your house, establishment, or vehicle near to the roadside. Generally in busy marketplace areas the spent nimbu-mirchi is thrown on the road. This is not a good practice as whomever steps upon the discarded nimbu-mirchi imbibes all the bad effects accrued by it during the week. So when you visit crowded marketplaces beware of stepping on a discarded nimbu-mirchi!
Don't step on that!!!
If perchance you do happen to step upon a discarded nimbu-mirchi there is a special procedure to undo any ill effects. First, pick up the nimbu-mirchi with a piece of cloth or handkerchief. Then take it to a place of your choice and burn it while reciting this mantra to the goddess Lakshmi nine times. You must only touch the totka with the cloth and burn the cloth with the totka. Fire is believed to cleanse the negative energies accumulated in the nimbu-mirchi. The mantra is an appeal to the goddess Lakshmi to counter any adverse effects as well.
Should you feel you need a less perishable totka for your inauspicious problems nimbu-mirchis are available in more permanent forms also. The enameled metal nimbu-mirchi pictured above is featured in an online home furnishing company in India. Plastic, resin, and silicone nimbu-mirchis are  also available as key fobs, luggage tags, earrings, and necklaces. As if that weren't enough you can buy smartphone cases, t-shirts, tea sets, and umbrellas emblazoned with nimbu-mirchis too!

May 12, 2016

Chole Masala (Curried Chickpeas)

Chole means chickpeas and masala means spicy. In this easy recipe, chickpeas are simmered until tender in a rich sauce infused with the warmth of earthy cumin, bright coriander, and aromatic garam masala. A dash of green and red chilis with a final splash of lime juice give this dish it's zesty zing. A delicious protein-rich vegetarian dish that's popular all across Northern India. Typically served with flatbreads such as batura, chappattis, or roti for a hearty meal.

I never really liked chickpeas until I had them in India. Not sure if it was just the way they were prepared or just the canned flavor I didn't care for. Anyway, when prepared fresh with a spicy sauce like this I just love them! I find them easier to digest than most other beans and legumes too. I made this recipe up using ingredients you can easily find in most western countries. Other regional versions of this dish use ingredients that may be hard to find in the West - anardana, amchur, or other souring agents and sometimes even black tea to give rich color and depth of flavor to this dish. I prefer to use limes/nimbu for the sweet and sour tang and caramelize the onions before adding them for complexity in taste. The resulting dish is just as vibrant and authentic in flavor as you'll find in any Desi kitchen!

1&1/2 C dried chickpeas/chole (or two 15 ounce cans of chickpeas)
3 TBS cooking oil
1 C onion, diced finely
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS ginger/adrak paste
2-3 green chilis/hari mirch, chopped finely (optional, omit for less heat)
1/2 C tomato, diced finely
1 cassia leaf/tej patta
1 TBS coriander/dhania, ground
1 TBS cumin/jeeera, ground
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1/2 tsp cayenne plus 1/2 tsp paprika)
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
2 tsp dried fenugreek leaves/kasoori methi (optional)
1 TBS lime/nimbu juice
extra limes/nimbu to serve with

Here's what to do:
1) Soak chickpeas for at least 2 hours up to overnight in water with 1 tsp salt. If using canned chickpeas skip to step 3.

2) If using pressure cooker add enough water to cover the chickpeas by 2 inches plus 1 tsp salt. Seal pressure cooker and allow to steam for 30 minutes or until chickpeas are tender. If using stockpot on stove add enough water to cover chickpeas by 3 inches and 1 tsp salt, boil until tender adding water as needed.

3) In a deep, heavy bottom skillet or kadhai heat oil and fry onions with 1 tsp salt until just beginning to brown. This should take about 8-9 minutes. Add ginger, garlic, and green chilis, fry for 2 minutes more.

4) Stir all spice powders, cassia leaf/tej patta, cloves, green cardamoms, and diced tomatoes into fried onion mixture. Fry for about 5 minutes stirring often. If mixture begins to stick or scorch add 1/4 cup water, stir well and reduce heat.

5) Drain excess liquid off of cooked chickpeas so that they are covered in only about a half inch of liquid. Add fried spice mixture to the cooked chickpeas and stir well. Crumble dried fenugreek leaves/kasoori methi into mixture and bring to a simmer. Allow to simmer uncovered for at least 15 minutes or until dish is of desired consistency. For thicker sauce mash a few of the chickpeas against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. If mixture begins to scorch or stick decrease heat and add 1/4 C water. Salt to taste and stir in limes/nimbu juice.

Mar 21, 2016

Sweet and Sour Mint Chutney

recipe, Indian chutney pudina mint easy Sweet and Sour Mint Chutney mint lime nimbu vegan vegetarian dip sauceI first tasted a chutney similar to this served with samosas at a roadside restaurant on our way to Kathmandu. Quite simple but a brilliant blend of flavors. The little bit of sugar in this chutney really brings out the floral notes in the mint and lime juice. This chutney is not hot at all but it's tangy, floral, and zesty flavor profile perfectly complements spicy fried Indian snacks such as pakoras, samosas, and aloo bhonda. 

I think this chutney would also suit American French fries, jalapeno poppers, and onion rings. Probably anything deep fried would work with this zingy relish. The mint I have in my garden is a peppermint, if you have spearmint or pineapple mint I'm certain the floral aspect would be even more predominant in this recipe. That would be absolutely lovely served with lamb chops or a lamb roast.

1/2 to 3/4 C fresh mint/pudina leaves, washed & destemmed
1 onion, roughly chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic/lahsun
1/2 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1/4 tsp cayenne + 1/4 tsp paprika powder)
1 TBS lime/nimbu juice
1 TBS olive oil or oil of your choice (optional)
2 tsp sugar/chini
1 tsp salt

Here's what to do:
1) Grind all ingredients to smooth paste in mixie, blender or food processor. Salt to taste and serve. Keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

Helpful Hints:
I put a tablespoonful of olive oil in this chutney because I find it really improves what I call the "mouth feel."  This is not something Desis would do. I find it softens the acid tang just a bit while carrying the flavors of the mint, garlic, and onion. You can certainly use any oil you like or omit it entirely.

The head chef at our friendly neighborhood diner here in Nepal is cooking up somethin' good!

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.
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