Showing posts with label savory. Show all posts
Showing posts with label savory. Show all posts

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.

Apr 17, 2016

Ingredients: Himalayan Black Salt, Kala Namak, Kala Noon, Bit Lobon, Bire Noon

Himalayan Black Salt, Kala Namak, Kala Noon, Bit Lobon, Bire Noon

Himalayan black salt is a condiment or seasoning used in South Asia. Traditionally mined in the Himalayas for centuries it is variously called kala namak, kala noon, bit lobon, or bire noon in the languages of the Indian Subcontinent. The raw mined rock salt is not naturally the deep violet to brownish color you see in the photo above. It is heated in a furnace for twenty-four hours reducing the naturally occurring iron sulfate to a darker sulfide. Nowadays most Himalayan black salt is prepared synthetically in big factories in India. 

The remote high altitude Nepali region of Mustang where there are several salt mines.
Himalayan black salt's pungent, egg-like taste comes from all the sulfurous compounds it contains. It's slightly sour flavor comes from acidic bisulfites and bisulfates. The saltiness of Himalayan black salt comes from sodium chloride, the same as table salt. It's deep violet hue is a result of natural occurring iron sulfate being kilned and reduced to iron sulfide. When ground for consumption the dark crystals become a soft pink powder.

Himalayan Black Salt, Kala Namak, Kala Noon, Bit Lobon, Bire Noon
Ground Himalayan black salt.
In Nepal, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh Himalayan black salt is used to flavor savory chutneys, raitas, and even fruit. It is also the ingredient responsible for the pungent flavor of the popular Desi spice blend called chaat masala.

Chaat means snack and masala means spices. I always thought the sulfury tinge to chaat masalas was solely due to hing or asafoetida. Then I tasted Himalayan black salt and recognized it immediately. Chaat masala usually contains a mixture of Himalayan black salt, amchur, dry ginger, hing, cumin, black pepper, ajwain,  chili powder, and coriander.  Chaats made of raw chopped vegetables of fruits are often sold by street vendors in South Asia which are liberally laced with chaat masala.

Himalayan Black Salt, Kala Namak, Kala Noon, Bit Lobon, Bire Noon

Interestingly, the vegan community has found a new use for Himalayan black salt. To some the pungent sulfur flavor of Himalayan black salt reminds them of eggs. So if you are looking to make your tofu scramble or deviled tofu taste more egg-like just add a dash of Himalayan black salt. Who knew there was a pink salt that tastes like eggs!?!

Himalayan Black Salt, Kala Namak, Kala Noon, Bit Lobon, Bire Noon
Vegan deviled eggs with kala namak courtesy of Baked In
Helpful hints:
Do not confuse Himalayan pink salt with Himalayan black salt, the pink salt comes from the Salt Range mountains in Pakistan and tastes just like regular table salt despite it's pink hue. When ground Himalayan black salt looks pink but tastes like rotten eggs or sulfur.

Calmly currying on,

Apr 12, 2016

Hyderabadi Bhindi (Curried Okra)

okra cashews coconut hyderabad recipe easy

From the princely state of the Nizams comes this opulent exaltation of the humble vegetable, okra. "Bhindi" means okra or lady's finger in Hindi. Okra is finely sliced and fried to a delicate crisp before being enrobed in a rich, mildly spiced sauce of coconut and cashews. Okra's part in this dish is purely textural, it adds only a contrast in it's crispness to the sumptuous, velvety sauce. Curry leaves, mustard seeds, and coriander add pops of bright flavor while cumin seeds resound with their earthiness resulting in a perfectly balanced dish. This dish typifies Mughal cuisine in it's lavish treatment of a rather mundane vegetable.

I'm not really sure where I got this recipe from, I've been cooking it for so long now. It sounds like another recipe from my long lost copy of Julie Sahni's 1980 cookbook "Classic Indian Cooking." I highly recommend Ms Sahni's book as one of the best written and complete guides to Indian cookery available.

I've embellished upon and substituted so many things due to lack of availability in Nepal that I'm certain this recipe bears little to no resemblance to it's original form. The court of the Nizams would have most likely used dried coconut in the preparation of this dish. We rarely find coconut in any form except canned here in Nepal so I've substituted coconut cream. Curry leaves are a rarity here too so sometimes I stir through a handful of chopped cilantro through at the end of this dish to replicate their green flavor.

3 C okra/bhindi, caps and tails removed, sliced lengthwise
3 TBS cooking oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 C onion, diced finely
1 tsp mustard/rai seeds
1 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
12 curry leaves (optional)
Grind until smooth for masala gravy:
2 tomatoes
2 TBS coconut cream
2 TBS yogurt/dahi
2 tsp garlic/lahsun paste
2 tsp ginger/adrak paste
7 cashews/kaju  or 1 TBS poppy seeds/khus khus
1 tsp coriander/dhania, ground
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1 tsp paprika plus 1 tsp cayenne powder)
1/4 tsp turmeric/haldi
1 tsp salt

Here's what to do: 
1) Grind all ingredients listed under masala gravy to smooth paste, set aside.

2) Heat oil with 1 tsp salt in heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai for 7 minutes.

3) Place sliced okra in heated oil in a single layer (you may need to do this in batches), fry over medium heat for 8-10 minutes stirring frequently. Remove fried okra when lightly browned from oil and set aside on paper towels to drain.

4) Add diced onion to oil in pan. Fry onion until translucent. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and curry leaves(if using) and fry for one minute.

5) Add ground masala gravy mix to onion and spice mixture in pan, stir well. Fry for 7 minutes or until oil separates from mixture.

6) Add fried okra to the masala gravy and mix well. Allow to heat through for about 3 minutes, salt to taste and serve.

Helpful hints:
Be sure to choose the small, tender okra pods as the larger one tend to be tough and fibrous.

The frying off of the sliced okra is typical of cuisines of the Indian Subcontinent. It renders the okra crisply textured completely unlike the slimy okra stews found in Western cuisines.

Casual day at the office, gentleman?

An interesting aside:
I have been notified that I have been nominated for the "Best Food Blog"  AND "Best New Blog" awards on the  nepaliaustralian blog so get on over there and vote for my blog if you choose at:

Be sure to check out all the other amazing blogs in all the different categories and vote for all your favorites!!! Winners will be announced in May.

Apr 10, 2016

Bihari Green Beans Masala

Bihari Green Beans Masala

The classic combination of green beans and almonds gets the masala treatment in this easy to make side dish. Green beans are simmered until tender in a velvety coconut milk sauce laced with the warmth of traditional North Indian spices. Lavish and rich enough for a posh dinner yet simple enough to make every day, this vegetarian dish fits the bill for any occasion.

I thought I got this recipe from my long lost copy of Julie Sahni's 1980 cookbook Classic Indian Cooking.  A brief perusal of the internet and this recipe turns up in a 2010 article about Julie Sahni in the New York Times. I really must replace my copy of Classic Indian Cooking. The recipes are somewhat westernized in techniques and flavor but easily tweaked to make them more Desi. Over the years I've heavily embellished and adapted Ms. Sahni's original recipe to suit my family's tastes.

Bihar is a region of North India just south of the Nepal border. It is a land of fertile subtropical plains where the river Ganges pours down from the Himalayas into India. I'm not really familiar with Bihari cuisine except to say it is largely vegetarian, uses a lot of besan (chickpea flour), and features smoked chilis for seasoning. The only Bihari food I've had the opportunity to sample was an interesting drink made from besan and a besan stuffed paratha.

1/2kg/1lb  green beans, tops and tails removed and cut into one inch pieces
3 TBS cooking oil
3/4 C onion, finely diced or ground
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS ginger/adrak paste
2 tsp coriander/dhania ground
2 tsp cumin/jeera. ground
2 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1 tsp paprika plus 1 tsp cayenne powder)
1/4 tsp turmeric/haldi
1 can coconut milk (400ml)
2 tsp lime/nimbu juice
3 TBS chopped cilantro/dhania leaves (optional)
9-10 almonds, roughly chopped (optional)
salt as required
Here's what to do:

1) In a kadhai or large heavy bottomed skillet heat oil for 5 minutes. Fry almonds until golden and set aside if using. Add onions to same oil in pan with 1 tsp salt fry until just translucent.  

2) Add the garlic, ginger, coriander, cumin, Kashmiri mirch, and turmeric to the fried onions. Allow to fry for 2 minutes.

3) Add coconut milk and green beans to fried onion and spice mixture. Stir well and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer covered until to desired tenderness. This usually takes about 10 to 12 minutes.

4) Add lime juice and cilantro leaves to dish if using and stir well. Salt to taste and garnish with almonds if desired.

Our little teepee trellis of green beans.
An interesting aside:
I have been notified that I have been nominated for the "Best Food Blog"  AND "Best New Blog" awards on the  nepaliaustralian blog so get on over there and vote for my blog if you choose at:

Be sure to check out all the other amazing blogs in all the different categories and vote for all your favorites!!! Winners will be announced in May.

Apr 5, 2016

Haak Maaz (Kashmiri Collards with Mutton)

Haak Maaz Kashmiri Mutton with Collards Indian goat recipe sheep

This is the famous staple dish of Kashmir called haak maaz. Haak refers to the unique variety of collards grown in Kashmir. Maaz is the Kashmiri word for the meat of either a sheep or goat. Simply served in a clear broth, the collard greens are braised with mutton and traditional spices until tender. Not something you'd typically think of as a "curry" or even as Indian perhaps. It is more like a soup or stew in Western terms. Ground fennel, smoky black cardamom, rich Kashmiri mirch, peppery cassia bark, and fiery dry ginger provide the warm aromatic notes that perfectly compliment the gamy mutton in this recipe. Traditionally served with heaps of the short grained rice raised in Kashmir, this rustic dish would be excellent served as a hearty meal with a crusty loaf of French bread too. 

Haak Maaz Kashmiri Mutton with Collards lamb

As it is a cold weather sort of dish it would've probably been more appropriate to post this in the Fall or Winter. I am posting this now as the haak or Kashmiri collards will soon bolt in the heat and fall prey to the caterpillars of Spring. Most of Kashmir lies above 5,000 feet in altitude and has a cooler climate than my subtropical valley here in Nepal at 3,000 feet. This year's haak will just be coming up in the warming spring weather of Kashmir after the snows have recently melted. I can only grow haak in my subtropical valley October through March. So here's what Kashmiri haak looks like in both it's cooked and uncooked states. If you'd like to grow a similar variety of haak in western countries I'd recommend "Georgia Southern" collards.

First, the haak is cleaned and rid of any fibrous stems by tearing. Then you basically start making a stock for the dish. Save all your bony, cartilaginous, and or sinewy pieces of mutton for this dish, those are the parts that make the most delicious broth. The mutton pieces are fried to add flavor by caramelization. Kashmiris would add just garlic or asafoetida but I also add a little onion for a richer stock. Remember this has to be a clear broth so the garlic cloves are left whole. The spices are added but not tempered, the mutton is then combined with the haak and left to braise until tender. A pressure cooker makes short work of this and a slow cooker would probably work well too.

1/2 kg or 1lb mutton cut into 3-4 inch pieces, bone in preferred
1/2 kg or 1lb collard greens
2 TBS cooking oil (mustard oil if you wish to be authentic)
2 tsp salt
1/4 C onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic/lahsun, whole or 1/2 tsp asafoetida/hing
2 tsp Kashmiri mirch ( or 1 tsp paprika plus 1 tsp cayenne powder)
2 tsp ground fennel/saunf seeds
1 tsp dry ginger/adrak
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
3 black cardamoms/kali elaichi, bruised in a mortar and pestle
12 black peppercorns/kali mirch, ground coarsely

Here's what to do:
1) Strip collards/haak by tearing the leaves away from the stems and woody bits. I cheat and use a kitchen shears.

2) Clean collards/haak of any debris or insects by immersing it in salt water for about 30 minutes. 

3) In heavy bottomed stock pot or pressure cooker fry mutton pieces in cooking oil of choice with 1 teaspoon salt until beginning to brown. Kashmiris called this color red not brown. (This led to a bit of confusion when I was told to fry meat until red. Meat is red when raw. How do you fry it until it is red?)

4) Add onion, garlic, and all spices to fried mutton pieces. Add enough water so that mutton is covered by at least 1/4 of an inch.

5) Add cleaned collards/haak and 2 teaspoons salt to mutton and spice mixture in pot.

6) If using pressure cooker seal lid in place and allow to cook for 5-6 steams for a Nepali goat or 3-4 whistles for a Kashmiri sheep.  If using stock pot add 3 cups water and simmer covered for 3 to 4 hours until meat is tender adding water a 1/2 cup at a time as necessary to prevent drying out. If using slow cooker make sure the meat is covered by at least a 1/2 inch of water and allow to cook covered for 4-5 hours until meat is tender. Salt to taste and serve warm.

Helpful hints:

This dish can also be made with lamb or venison, adjust cooking time accordingly.

This dish can also be made with baby bok choy or kohlrabi leaves instead of collards. In the late Spring and Summer when we can't grow haak I make this dish with baby bok choy, as Summer ends I make it with kohlrabi greens.

Do not make this with turnip greens. I made this with turnip greens once and it was met with resounding disapproval from my Kashmiri family. I know, their neighbors the Punjabis eat turnip greens in their delicious "saag" but for whatever reason Kashmiris will not eat turnip greens unless they are cooked with turnips. Who knew?

Apr 3, 2016

Ingredient of the Week: Fennel, Saunf, or Badian

Fennel, saunf, badian, finocchio, fenouil, fenchel, hinojo, marathon, barisaunf, madhurika, adas, wooi heung, whatever you wish to call it here 'tis:

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare) is a hardy perennial herb belonging to the carrot, parsley, and celery family. It features feathery leaves, tiny yellow flowers, and glaucous green hollow stems. Fennel prefers sandy, well drained soils and a moderate climates as found in it's native habitat along the shores of the Mediterranean. Fennel is also considered an invasive pest in my native California and you will often see it growing wild along the sandy shoulders of highways and roads.

All parts of the fennel plant are edible, including the bulbous roots, strongly flavored leaves, and it's seed like fruits. The licorice-like flavor of flavor of fennel comes from the aromatic compound "anethole." Anethole is the same terpenoid responsible for the unique flavor of anise and star anise, hence the similar aroma and taste. Fennel tends to be a bit milder in licorice flavor than anise or star anise.

Many Desi cultures use fennel seeds in their cuisines. In the Kashmiri language fennel seeds are called "badian," and interestingly anise and star anise are called badian in Kashmiri too. "Saunf," "madhurika," and barisaunf are other names fennel seeds are called by in Desi-dom. Fennel seeds are a dominant flavor in many savory Kashmiri dishes, Gujarati cooking, and are one of the five spices in the classic spice mix called "panch phoran" used in Nepali, Bhojpuri, Maithili, and Bengali cuisines.

 Fennel seeds' warm, aromatic, licorice-y, and sweet notes are a great pairing with the gamy flavor of the mutton or goat so favored in Desi cuisines. Surprisingly to me fennel seeds also add an interesting punch to blander dishes such as dals too. The flavor of fennel seed tends to grow upon cooking, if not judiciously used fennel's bold flavor can overtake an entire dish.

"Mukwhas" is a breath freshener and digestive aid commonly served after meals in Desi countries. I'm sure any Westerners whom have ever been to an Indian restaurant will be familiar with it. Fennel seeds both dry roasted and with colorful sugar or silvered coatings are usually the main ingredient in all the various blends of mukwhas. Mukwhas is derived from the Hindi and Urdu words "mukh" meaning mouth and "vas" meaning smell.  Other mukwhas blends may also include rock sugar, date sugar, coconut shavings, sesame seeds, rose petals, tamarind leaves, cashews, salt, turmeric, coriander seeds, peanuts and cashews.

Helpful hints:
Dried fennel seeds are light green when fresh and slowly age to a dull grey.  For culinary usage always choose the greenest fennel seeds you can find for the best flavor.

An interesting aside:
I have been notified that I have been nominated for the "Best Food Blog"  AND "Best New Blog" awards on the  nepaliaustralian blog so get on over there and vote for my blog if you choose at:

Be sure to check out all the other amazing blogs in all the different categories and vote for all your favorites!!! Winners will be announced in May.

Mar 29, 2016

Masala Scrambled Eggs (Ander Bhurji)

Just another simple everyday dish at our house. Nothing fancy, but oh so delicious. I've been telling you how great the eggs are here in Nepal so I thought I'd better show you how we enjoy them. "Ander" means eggs and a "bhurji" is any sort crumbled or scrambled ingredient. The richness of eggs lends itself perfectly to the "masala" or spicy South Asian treatment. Onions, tomatoes, and green chilis are the Desi "mirepoix" base in this dish, a dash of Kashmiri mirch adds brilliant crimson color and zesty chili flavor. Despite the double wallop of fresh green chilis and Kashmiri mirch this dish is not terribly hot, the richness of the eggs prevents that. We enjoy this scramble with steamed rice for lunch or dinner or in a kathi roll with a dollop of fresh chutney for breakfast or a tea time snack. 

Ander Bhurli eggs Desi easy

Eating scrambled eggs with rice never occurred to me before moving to South Asia, but it makes perfect sense. Rich and spicy eggs go together with rice just like the flour tortillas pair so well with the spicy egg fillings of the breakfast burritos I loved to eat in California.

Eggs Spicy easy recipe

Eggs are a recent addition to the South Asian diet so there really aren't a lot of traditional recipes for them. Hinduism considers eggs to be not suitable for vegetarians and the Mughals tended to only use eggs as a garnish for their lavish meat dishes. Desis don't care for the tender, fluffy, buttery omelets and scrambles of western cultures. They prefer their eggs the texture of neoprene, perhaps even a bit scorched. All I have to say is, it works! Think of spicy blackened Cajun dishes and you'll get the idea.

3 eggs, lightly beaten with fork
3 TBS cooking oil
1 onion, chopped into a 1/2 inch dice
1 tomato, diced finely
2-3 green chilis, chopped finely (if you really don't want any heat use 1/4 C diced bell pepper/capsicum)
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1/2 tsp paprika + 1/2 tsp cayenne powder)
pinch of turmeric
2 tsp salt

Here's what to do:
1) In a deep, heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai over medium heat fry onions with 1 tsp salt until translucent. Add diced tomato and chopped green chilis and fry for about 5 minutes or until tomatoes soften.

2) While the onion, tomato, and green chilis are frying beat eggs with fork until just mixed.

3) Add Kashmiri mirch, turmeric, and 1 tsp salt to the fried onion mixture. Allow to fry for 2 minutes.

4) Add beaten eggs to pan with fried onion and spice mixture. Stir well and allow to cook covered for 4 minutes.

5) After 4 minutes of cooking stir the egg mixture well. Continue cooking until eggs are completely done and possibly sticking to the pan a bit or even scorching a tad.

6) When the eggs are completely cooked your dish is done, salt to taste and serve.

Helpful Hints:

A pinch of turmeric helps cut down on the sulfur flavor in eggs. If you are one of those people like me who don't care for eggs due to their sulfur taste, you have to try this!

Happy chickens make good eggs!
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