Showing posts with label mint. Show all posts
Showing posts with label mint. Show all posts

Dec 3, 2018

Tips & Tools: How to dry mint

Dried mint has a lovely fresh aroma and can be used as a seasoning, garnish, or in teas. This is my simple method to perfectly dry and store this versatile herb.

Mint is a hardy perennial herb available in many cultivars. The plant is easy to grow and found all over the world. Each culture has its own uses for this beautiful, fragrant herb. Spearmint (Mentha spicata) is what I grow in my garden. Spearmint's name comes from “spiremint” referring to the tall purplish spires of its blooms in late summer. The refreshingly mellow and slightly lemony flavor of spearmint makes it the preferred mint in Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisines.

This method of drying mint was taught to me by an elderly Syrian neighbor long ago. Prior to learning this method I would tie the mint up in bundles and hang them to dry in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight. This method is much easier and the mint dries faster. Bundling herbs to dry does not work well in most of South Asia. It is rather humid most of the year and herbs tend to get mold or mildew if bundled and hung to dry. I usually only dry mint in the Winter here in Nepal as that's when the arid and cold winds blow from the high Himalayas.

Here's what to do:

1) Harvest the mint:
  • Cut mint early in the morning as that is before the flavorful volatile oils have dissipated.
  • Cutting the mint just before it blooming if possible to ensure the highest concentration of flavors.
  • Cut 3-4 inch long sprigs oof the mint for easiest handling.
  • Gently shake the mint sprigs just after cutting to remove any lingering insects.
  • Use a colander or sieve to collect the mint sprigs while cutting, then rinse them under cold water gently. If you bruise them they will lose their volatile oils and flavor.
I picked this mint at 8 AM. I use our iron patio table to dry the mint after rinsing. It is shaded by an umbrella and the metal grate allows for best air circulation
 2) Allow cleaned mint sprigs to air-dry: 
  • Spread the washed mint sprigs out on a clean and dry surface out of direct sunlight. I use our metal patio table but a metal baking sheet or serving tray will work also.
  • Try not to overlap the mint sprigs so no water gets trapped on the leaves.
  • Allow to fully dry. The mint should look wilted when properly dried.

3) Place air-dried mint sprigs on a flat baking sheet or serving tray:
  • Place them as close as possible but try not to overlap.

4) Place the mint-filled trays on top of the refrigerator:
  • This is just genius! My Syrian neighbor taught me this. The air is warmer and dryer atop the fridge and the trays are completely out of the way. The mint stays out of direct light on top of the fridge too.

5) Allow mint to dry completely. Check mint daily to make sure no moisture or mold is present: 
  • Remove and discard any moldy or brown leaves.
This took only 3 days to dry!

6)  Transfer the dried mint into a clean, airtight container:
  • I like to store the mint as whole dried sprigs and crush it by rolling between my hands to use it. The flavor and aroma will keep longer if the leaves are kept whole.
  • Choose with tight lids and made of non-porous, non-absorbent material such as glass, plastic, or metal. Paper, cardboard, plastic, and wood containers absorb the volatile oils from the mint.
  • Label each container with the current date and contents. For best flavor, use the dried mint within a year.
  • Store in a cool, dry, and dark spot.  

So that's my method for drying mint!
I use dried mint in my Kashmiri Eggplant with Tomatoes (Tamatar Wangan), Cucumber and Mint Raita, Kashmiri Walnut Chutney (Doon Chetin) ,and Kashmiri Onion Chutney (Ganduh Chetin).
Do you have any favorite recipes that use dried mint?
Any tips for drying herbs you can share?

Jun 12, 2017

Cucumber and Mint Raita

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Try this cool and refreshing Cucumber and Mint Raita recipe paired with any spicy meal. Traditionally, this dish is served in warm weather months in India alongside fiery curries and kebabs for it's cooling properties. Yogurt, mint, and cucumber really beat the heat in this famed Indian condiment! 

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This is about as close as you'll get to a western-style salad in our Kashmiri home. Grated cucumbers and an onion dressed in spiced yogurt. It is amazingly simple and amazingly tasty! It's also great way to use up all those amazingly prolific cucumbers and fresh mint from a summer garden. We enjoy this yummy treat every year when the weather warms and cucumbers abound. The local variety of cucumber you see in the above photo is not quite as firm fleshed as the fancy English cucumbers you'll see in the western countries. They're a bit more pulpy and can grow to an astonishing two feet in length. Plant one vine and you're supplied with fresh cucumbers for the season around here. Choose a thick and tangy yogurt like the Greek-style ones in western markets for the most authenticity in this recipe. I prefer this dish with dried mint and whole cumin seeds but it can be made with fresh mint and ground cumin for a slightly different flavor. Some folks insist on dry roasting the cumin seeds to mellow their peppery warmth but I don't. If you can't handle the heat of green chilis - leave them out. As with most Desi dishes there's enough flavor going on here that you really won't miss them. Be sure to make this dish at least 2 hours in advance of serving to allow the flavors to meld. Always serve a raita chilled too. A fabulous paired with spicy curries, fiery kebabs, or as a cooling dip for peppery pappadums. Enjoy:

1&1/2 C grated cucumber, (be sure to peel and deseed cucumber before grating)
1/3 C grated onion
1 C yogurt, beaten until smooth
2 TBS fresh mint/pudina chopped finely or 1 TBS dried mint
1-2 green chilis/hari mirch, minced finely (omit for less heat)
1 tsp ground cumin/jeera or 1&1/2 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
salt to taste
Optional for garnish: 1/4 tsp Kashmiri mirch or paprika

Here's what to do:
1) Whisk together yogurt, mint, cumin, green chilis, and 1 teaspoon salt.

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2) Add grated cucumber and onion and toss until well mixed. Salt to taste. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve chilled and garnish with a pinch of Kashmiri mirch or paprika before serving if desired. Can be prepared up to one day in advance.

cucumber and mint raita, recipe, vegetarian, easy, cucumber, mint, cumin, yoghurt, chili, raita, cool, dip, condiment, salad,

May the Spirit of Ramadan stay in our hearts and illuminate our souls. 
Happy Ramadan!


Mar 8, 2017

Kashmiri Onion Chutney (Ganduh Chetin)

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In Kashmiri, ganduh means onion and chetin means chutney. This authentic recipe is a savory relish that often accompanies meals and street foods like kebabs in Kashmir. A simple pickling process and marination with traditional herbs and spices brings out the piquant and zesty flavors typical of Kashmiri cuisine.

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This is a favorite chutney or chetin that regularly graces our family dinner table. It's so easy to make and we most always have all the ingredients necessary on hand. We usually enjoy it as a condiment alongside our rice based lunches and dinners. Be forewarned, this chutney is quite fiery and a bit tart so it is definitely not for the timid of palate!

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The red chili powder or Kashmiri mirch, dried mint, and shahi jeera or black cumin are all hallmark flavors of Kashmiri cuisine. The locally grown and brilliant red Kashmiri mirch chili powder is what gives this condiment its color and rich flavor. If you don't have Kashmiri mirch a mix of half paprika and half cayenne powder makes a good substitute. Dried mint is very much a signature taste in Kashmiri dishes but fresh mint is often used in a lesser amount when available. Shahi jeera or black cumin is a spice native to Kashmir with a uniquely herbaceous and mild cumin-like flavor. A reasonable substitute for shahi jeera or black cumin is a lesser amount of regular cumin. Anyway you choose to make this recipe, if you love hot and spicy foods you'll love this!

2 C onions, thinly sliced into half moons
2 tsp salt
3 TBS vinegar or lime/nimbu juice
2 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1 tsp paprika plus 1 tsp cayenne powder)
2-3 green chilis/hari mirch, chopped finely
1 TBS cilantro/dhania or fresh mint/pudina leaves, chopped finely (or  2 tsp dry mint/pudina)
1 tsp black cumin/shahi jeera (or 1/4 tsp cumin/jeera)

Here's what to do:
1) Mix together sliced onions with 2 teaspoons salt and place in sieve or colander over plate. Allow mixture to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Some liquid may or may not come out of the onions.

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2) After 20 minutes transfer salted onions to a plastic, glass, or stainless steel container that can be sealed airtight. Mix salted onions with vinegar or lime juice, Kashmiri mirch, chopped green chilis, chopped cilantro, dry mint, and shahi jeera.

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3) Seal container with mixture airtight and place in refrigerator for at least 4 hours or overnight. Stir well before serving as a condiment alongside savory dishes. Makes a great sandwich or salad topping as well as a relish with kebabs. Keeps for about 3 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Helpful hints:
If the chutney is just way more heat than you can handle try adding a couple of tablespoons of yogurt to it to cool it off.

Oct 20, 2016

Doon Chetin (Kashmiri Walnut Chutney)

Doon Chetin Kashmiri Walnut Chutney recipe

In Kashmiri, doon means walnut and chetin means chutney. Kashmiri walnuts are famous for their superb quality and rich flavor. This authentic recipe blends traditional spices of Kashmiri cuisine with walnuts into a creamy and piquant chutney. Serve with kebabs, curry, tandoori, or any rice based meal as a tasty and nutritious accompaniment.

Doon Chetin Kashmiri Walnut Chutney recipe

My Kashmiri husband is a very good cook when it comes to Kashmiri cuisine but not the best teacher. Writing down recipes is not a Desi tradition. So when I ask him how to make something his usual reply is a series of vague comments recommending a little of this, a little of that, and often leaving out important bits. Watching my husband and mother-in-law cook is like that too, they wander about the kitchen repeatedly adding a little of this or that spice, tasting, then adding a little bit of something else, tasting again, then maybe a bit more of whatever they added initially, and so on. UGH. I learned to make this watching one of my sister-in-laws in Srinagar using a mortar and pestle as pictured below. 

This is Bibi's big ol' Kashmiri mortar and pestle. The mortar is made out of Himalayan granite and weighs a good 10lbs/5kgs. That pestle is made of lathe-turned Kashmiri walnut wood. It works a treat. You sort of kneel on the floor with your knees bracing the heavy mortar to keep it from rocking while you pound away. The extremely lightweight but rock-hard walnut wood pestle is easy to use and effective. It took my sister-in-law about 45 minutes of pounding to render a cup of chutney the traditional way with this mortar and pestle. Do you think Bibi's going to do that? NAH. I ran this recipe through the marvelous modern mixie and had it done in under 5 minutes! To get about the same texture with a few coarse bits as you would using a mortar and pestle just pulse the mixie for 2-3 minutes.

When I first heard what was in this chutney my reaction was, "Raw walnuts, yogurt, onion, and spices in a chutney? That couldn't possibly taste good." But I was wrong! It tastes rich, creamy, and refreshing with a delicious hint of savory spices, onion, chilis, and mint. A great way to get healthy omega-3 fatty acids into your diet and a wonderful pairing with spicy meats and curries.

1/2 C walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 TBS onion, chopped roughly
1 TBS dry mint/pudina (or 2 TBS fresh mint/pudina or cilantro/dhania)
1/2 tsp Kashmiri mirch
1-2 green chilis/hari mirch
1 tsp shahi jeera/black cumin seeds (or 1/2 tsp cumin seeds/jeera)
1 tsp salt
1/4 C yogurt/dahi
Here's what to do:
1) Blend or grind all ingredients to a smooth emulsion in mixie, blender, food processor, or mortar and pestle. You may need to pulse the mixie, blender, food processor if you prefer the traditional coarser texture.

2)  Salt to taste and keep in refrigerator in airtight container until ready to serve for up to four days.

Helpful Hints:
If you fear your mixie, blender, or food processor is not powerful enough to grind walnuts you might have to grind them to powder in an electric spice grinder or mortar and pestle first. After grinding the walnuts to powder then blend them until smooth in your mixie, blender, or food processor.

Aug 24, 2016

Bhang ki Chaatni (Hemp Seed Chutney)

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Zesty, zingy, and healthy too this recipe combines the goodness of hemp seeds with the bright flavors of mint and lime. Hemp seeds are an excellent source of the "right" fatty acids, fiber, and all the essential amino acids for a "perfect protein" in a vegetarian diet. Try this tasty chutney as a healthful addition to any rice or roti based meal. 

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Yes, "bhang" means hemp or marijuana. No, you will not get "high" or even a buzz from this chutney as hemp seeds are not psychoactive. Bhang or hemp seeds are actually a fairly common pantry item here in the Himalayas. I bought these bhang seeds our local market for a few rupees an ounce. They are favored for their nutty flavor in chutneys and they do taste a lot like sunflower seeds and a bit like pine nuts. I can certainly see how they'd be great in a basil pesto. Nutritionally, hemp seeds are a great source of balanced omega 3 and 6 fatty acids, both soluble and insoluble fiber, and all the 20 amino acids necessary for good health. They are considered a "warming" food in the Ayurvedic and Unani sense so eating them in small amounts as in this chutney is recommended.

1/3 C hemp/bhang seeds
1 tsp garlic/lahsun paste
1 tsp ginger/adrakh paste
2-3 green chilis/hari mirch, roughly chopped (omit for less heat)
2 TBS oil of choice (I used rice bran oil)
1 TBS lime/nimbu luice
3 TBS chopped fresh mint/pudina or 1 TBS dried mint
2 TBS water
1 tsp chaat masala or dry roasted cumin/jeera seeds
salt to taste

Here's what to do:
1) Dry roast hemp/bhang seeds in a kadhai or deep skillet for about 3 minutes or until seeds begin to turn brown. Remove from heat and allow seeds to cool to room temperature.

2) When cooled grind dry roasted hemp seeds to powder using mortar and pestle, sil-batta, or electric coffee grinder. Mix ground hemp seeds with garlic paste, ginger paste, green chilis, oil of choice, lime juice, mint, water, and chaat masala until smooth in mixie or food processor. Salt to taste and keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week. 

Helpful Hints:
The hemp seeds you buy in western countries are usually steamed to make them non viable. Steamed hemp seeds go rancid fast. Buy hemp seeds at stores that keep the hemp seeds in the refrigerated or freezer section.

May 9, 2016

Mint & Pomegranate Chutney

Fresh, bright, hot, and tangy this simple to make chutney combines all the brilliant flavors of summer.  Savory mint, sweet pomegranate, hot chilis, zesty lime, and fragrant cilantro are paired with just the right amount of spice making this a bold and refreshing companion to warm weather dishes. This summery sauce is excellent when paired for dipping with samosas, kebabs, tandoori, or any grilled meat such as chicken, beef, lamb, or fish. 

This is my adaption of the award winning Michelin starred Indian chef Vikas Khanna's recipe. I used what I had on hand from my garden and added some oil, chaat masala, and fresh instead of dried pomegranate seeds or anardana. The oil tamed the astringency in the pomegranate, fresh mint, and lime juice a bit giving a smoother "mouth feel." The chaat masala contains kala namak/black salt which gives an umami boost to the chutney that's a bit like garlic but not as rough. The little bit of sugar in this recipe augments the fruity flavor of the pomegranate and enhances the floral notes in the fresh mint. Overall the effect is very Indian in taste but also quite Middle Eastern too. Choose different oils in this recipe to get different effects, olive oil for a more Middle Eastern flavor or peanut oil for a more authentically Indian flair.

1/2 C fresh pomegranate seeds
1/4C onion, chopped roughly
1 tsp sugar 
2 C mint/pudina leaves, fresh, washed & destemmed
1 C cilantro/dhania, chopped roughly
2-3 green chilis/hari mirch, chopped roughly
2 tsp lime/nimbu juice
1&1/2 TBS oil of your choice
1 tsp kala namak/black salt (or 1 clove garlc plus 1/2 tsp dry roasted garlic)
salt to taste

Here's what to do:
1) Blend or grind all ingredients to a smooth emulsion in mixie, blender, or food processor. You might have to grind this longer than you think to make sure the pomegranate seeds are completely pulverized. Salt to taste and keep in refrigerator in airtight container until ready to serve.

Helpful hints:

If you don't have kala namak/black salt or chaat masala you could use a clove of garlic with a half teaspoonful of dry roasted cumin seeds instead for a similar flavor.

You could also make this with dried pomegranate seeds also known as the spice anardana. Just use one tablespoonful of anardana in place of the half cup of fresh pomegranate seeds called for in the recipe.

This recipe tastes great with different proportions of mint and cilantro, change the ratios to suit your tastes and what you have on hand.

Use whatever oil you wish in this recipe to accentuate the flavors, for example olive oil will give this chutney a more Middle Eastern taste but peanut oil will this recipe an authentically Indian flair.

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!

Mar 18, 2016

Mughlai Haraa Murgh (Mughal Style Green Chicken)

Mughlai cuisine began in the splendor and opulence of the Delhi Sultanate during India's age of Islamic rule. Persian and Indian flavors were fused to perfection in the Imperial Moghul kitchens. Meats were marinated, nuts and dried fruits were used lavishly. Mughlai cuisine remains immensely popular to this day in Delhi NCR, Punjab, Kashmir, and Pakistan.

This dish is mildly spiced but bright with the flavors of fresh mint and cilantro. Ground browned onions, almonds, and yogurt make for a rich gravy. Whenever you see a "Mughlai" recipe you know it's going to include lots of steps- chopping, marinating, frying, cooling, grinding, more frying, and probably then some. Here I've minimized the steps using a few modern techniques. But this recipe will still take at least a good three to four hours to complete. Pairs well with rice, pulao, naan, or rotis.

1kg/2lbs chicken, skinless and cut into 8 pieces, bone in preferred
2 onions, about 1 C sliced into thin half moons
3 TBS ghee/clarified butter
1 TBS cooking oil
1/2 C pureed fresh tomatoes
2 inch piece of cassia bark/dalchini (or cinnamon stick)
5 cloves/laung
3 C water or stock/shorba
2 tsp lime juice
15 blanched almonds/badaami for garnish (optional)
1 tsp kewra water (optional)
Grind to paste for marinade:
30 almonds/badaami, ground to fine powder
1 C yogurt/dahi
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS ginger/adrak paste
3 green chilis/hari mirch
5 green cardamoms/elaichi
15 black peppercorns/hari mirch
1 TBS ground coriander/dhania
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp cumin/jeera
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
1/3 C fresh mint/pudina leaves
1/3 C fresh cilantro/dhania leaves and stems
1/4 C onion, chopped roughly
1&1/2 tsp salt

Here's what to do:
1) Grind almonds to fine powder in mixie or food processor. Then blend powdered almonds, yogurt, garlic, ginger, powdered spices, green cardamoms, black peppercorns, green chilis, and salt together in mixie or food processor until smooth for marinade.
The marinade is mixed
2) Coat all chicken pieces with marinade. Allow chicken to marinate for 2 hours or up to overnight in the refrigerator sealed in an airtight container.

All chicken pieces coated in marinade.
Sealed up tight in my Lock'N'Lock box!
3) When ready to cook, heat oil and ghee over medium high heat in a heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai for 5 minutes. Add thinly sliced onions and fry for 8-10 minutes until medium brown. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes.

This is the medium brown we're looking for.
Be sure to let the onions cool before grinding to paste.
4) Grind cooled browned onions to fine paste in mixie, food processor, or blender. Over medium high heat return ground onion paste to skillet or kadhai with fresh pureed tomatoes. Stir well. Add cloves and cassia bark to onion/tomato mixture and allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes or until most of liquid from tomatoes has evaporated.

5) Add marinated chicken pieces to mixture in skillet/kadhai. Reserve marinade. Cook chicken pieces for 2 minutes on each side. The chicken should just be turning white.

6) Add reserved marinade, 3 C water or stock, and 2 teaspoons of lime juice. Stir well. Bring to a simmer over medium to low heat. Stir every 5 minutes to ensure chicken is cooked evenly and gravy does not stick or scorch.

7) Allow to simmer uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes until chicken is cooked through and oil separates from the gravy. Salt to taste, garnish with blanched almonds and sprinkle with kewra water if desired.

Helpful Hints:
Be sure to let the fried onions cool for a full ten minutes before grinding in a mixie, food processor, or blender. Grinding anything hot will cause steam to build up and a geyser of hot greasy onions will either shoot through the small air vent in the lid (or blow the lid off entirely) of your mixie, food processor, or blender. Cleaning up greasy onion spew is no fun. Plus you have to chop and fry the onions over again.

Feb 17, 2016

Pudina Dahi Chatni (Mint & Yogurt Chutney)

mint yogurt chutney esi

It's a veritable mint-a-palooza in Bibi's garden these days. So let's just show that mint who's boss and whip up a tasty chutney. Fresh, savory, and slightly tart this chutney pairs well with kebabs, tandoori, or just about any lamb, mutton or chicken curry you can think of. 

1 C fresh mint/pudina leaves, tightly packed
1/4 C onion, roughly chopped
1/4 C yogurt/dahi
1/4 C bell pepper/capsicum, roughly chopped
2-3 garlic cloves/lahsun
2 tsp ginger/adrak, minced finely
2 tsp lime juice
2-3 green chilis, chopped
1 tsp salt

Here's what to do:
1) Place all ingredients in a mixie, food processor or blender and grind until smooth. Salt to taste. Keep in an airtight container in refrigerator until ready to serve.

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