Showing posts with label sour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label sour. 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.

May 8, 2016

Ingredient of the Week: Anardana, Dried Pomegranate Seeds

Anardana being sold in sacks at Delhi's famed spice market Khari Boali
"Anar" means pomegranate and "dana" means seed. Anardana refers to the dried pomegranate seeds used in Middle Eastern and South Asian cuisines. It is primarily used as a souring agent in Desi cuisines like limes, amchur, or tamarind. The pomegranate seeds are sun dried or pan roasted whole so that bits of pulp remain rendering the seeds a bit sticky with a fruity, slightly sweet and tart flavor.

"Daru" a type of wild pomegranate growing in the Himalayas.
(photo from fruitipedia)
The best quality anardana is said to come from a variety of wild pomegranate trees called "daru" around the Himalayan town of Shimla in the north Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. (Do not confuse the fruit "daru" with the rotgut homemade and often poisonous liquor called "Desi daru.") Anardana is commercially available whole as seen in the top photo taken at Delhi's Khari Baoli spice market or ground to a fine powder as seen in the box below of the popular Indian brand MDH.

According to celebrity chef Sanjeev Kapoor one can also easily make anardana by dry roasting fresh pomegranate seeds in a non stick pan until all moisture has left them. Since pomegranates are in season here in Nepal I thought I'd have a go at it.

So this is how I started out. I bought a couple of pomegranates from our local fruit and vegetable walla. I'm not sure exactly where these pomegranates came from but they certainly aren't like the pomegranates from my native California. The seeds from the pomegranates in California are a lurid red and stain your hands, mouth, and clothing that same lurid red for days. These pomegranates were a bit pale, didn't stain at all and they didn't have the sweetness that California pomegranates do either. My husband said they weren't very good quality.

At about 9 minutes into the dry roasting the seeds started popping, sort of like Mexican jumping beans. At that point I let them cool and attempted to grind them.

I ended up with this rather sticky glob. I'd say buy it ready-made rather than subject your home grinder to this sort of abuse. There wasn't much flavor to it other than a generic prune or raisin type dried fruit note. This procedure also left my nonstick pan a sticky mess, it might be interesting to do this and deglaze the pan for an interesting fruity flavored sauce for meat. To make anardana commercially in Shimla they dry the seeds and pulp on rooftops for 10 to 15 days. I think that would work much better than this dry roasting nonsense.

What does it taste like?
The commercially prepared anardana I've tasted is aggressively acidic and astringent with a mild dried fruit flavor that increases with cooking. Think powdered dried cranberries for a similar taste. Evidently the smaller wild daru pomegranates used for the commercial version contain far more tannins than the modern large sweeter cultivars grown for eating out of hand. The tannins are what makes for the sourness and astringency of true anardana.So unless you have a wild pomegranate tree or access to some wild pomegranates I'd say don't bother making your own. I've heard the flavor of anardana compared to pomegranate molasses and I can taste the similarities, but Desi anardana is far more astringent.

"Daru" pomegranates from the Himalayas, each fruit is only 2-3 inches across
(photo from fruitipedia)
How to use it?
Anardana is valued in Desi dishes for it's souring abilities and slightly sweet fruit flavor. Other souring agents like limes/nimbu and amchur/dried mango powder must be added at the end of the cooking process to preserve their flavor. Anardana's fruit flavor increases while it's sharpness mellows the longer it is cooked. When used sparingly in legume and vegetable dishes like curried chickpeas, dals, or parathas it can add depth and richness. In chutneys anardana is often used in large amounts and paired with the bracing heat of green chilis for a hot and tangy blast. 

If you can't find anardana?
I'm of the same opinion as Madhur Jaffrey as quoted in an article in The Observer, 2003-

"I have had little luck with anardana in the West. I can buy it all right, but the seeds are dark and unyielding, nothing like the soft brown, melting seeds found in Pakistan or, indeed, in the villages of Indian Punjab. Instead I resort to lemon juice".

Actually I prefer limes/nimbu as a souring agent because I like their floral notes better than the dried fruit flavor of anardana. However, if you're really intent on getting that sweet and sour tang of anardana I'd try a dollop of pomegranate molasses stirred in towards the end of cooking. 

Our little wild pomegranate tree growing on the edge of the corn field.
Yes, that black spot on the left is Ms. Chinger photobombing the Daru tree.

Feb 22, 2016

Ingredients: Mango Powder, Aamchoor, Amchur

Amchur, aamchoor, or aamchur is a spice powder made from dehydrated unripe mangoes. It's tart, fruity, sweet, and honey-like flavor is used to add acidity and brightness to dishes in north Indian cuisines. You can taste amchur's tangy note gracing samosa and pakora fillings, stews, soups, fruit salads, pastries, curries, chutneys, pickles, and lentils. It is also used in marinades to tenderize meats, and poultry. 

An unripe, green mango destined to become amchur.
To make amchur, unripe mangoes are harvested, peeled, cut into thin strips and dried in the sun. This results in rather unappetizing slices of dried green mango that look like tree bark you see in the photo below.

Dried strip of green mango that will be ground to make amchur.

These unsightly dried slices of green mango are then ground into a fine pale beige powder that usually comes foil sealed in a box like this in India:

Amchur has a sour, citrusy, and slightly fruity flavor with a fragrance often described as honey-like.  In North Indian cuisines it is commonly used in curries, chutneys, dals, samosa fillings, and stir fried vegetable dishes. It is also used to tenderize chicken and mutton in marinades. Primarily it is used as a souring agent, but lends a bit of sweetness and fruit flavor along with it's acidic brightness to foods too.

Use amchur sparingly and always add it near the end of a recipe. Amchur is very potent and tart so about a 1/4 teaspoon or a pinch is all you need for most dishes. Amchur is also prone to scorching or burning so be sure to add it in towards the end of a recipe after any frying or high temperature cooking is over.

If you can't find amchur where you are, lime juice, lemon juice and tamarind are considered substitutes.

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