Showing posts with label tamatar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label tamatar. Show all posts

Apr 18, 2016

Aloo Mattar (Curried Potatoes & Peas)

Sumptuously spicy and hearty enough to be served as a main dish this is my version of the classic North Indian menu item aloo mattar. Aloo means potatoes and mattar means green peas, both are combined with traditional warm aromatic spices and slow simmered to tenderness in a rich yogurt and tomato gravy. This popular vegetarian dish pairs well with rotis, rice, or naan. 

We had a bumper crop of potatoes this year, those you see in the photos are Yukon Golds from my garden. If you can't find Yukon Golds where you are Russets or any baking type potato will do. In this dish we first make the gravy and then add the peas and precooked potatoes. The peas we get here aren't the tender kind we get in western countries, they're a bit tougher and require some cooking so I use a pressure cooker for this dish. If you're using the tender green peas found in western countries you could simply use a heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai to make the gravy then simply stir the peas in at the same time as the precooked potatoes and allow the dish to simmer for an extra five minutes or so.

3 potatoes, boiled until tender, peeled and cut into one inch cubes
1 cup green peas/mattar, fresh or frozen
3 TBS cooking oil or ghee
2 onions, sliced finely into half moons
1 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
1 cassia leaf/tej patta
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves/kasoori methi
1 tsp salt
Grind until smooth for masala-
3 tomatoes, chopped roughly
1/2 C yogurt/dahi
1 TBS garlic/lahsun paste
1 TBS ginger'adrak paste
2 tsp Kitchen King* masala (or garam masala)
2 tsp ground coriander/dhania seeds
2 tsp cumin/jeera, ground
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1/2 tsp cayenne plus 1/2 tsp paprika powder)
1/2 tsp turmeric/haldi
1-2 green chilis/hari mirch (optional, omit for less heat)
1 tsp salt

Here's what to do:
1) Boil potatoes until tender, then peel and slice into one inch cubes and set aside. Grind all ingredients listed under masala to a smooth paste and set aside. Heat oil in a pressure cooker, heavy bottomed skillet, or kadhai with one teaspoon salt and fry onions until beginning to brown.

2) Add cumin seeds, cassia leaf, and ground masala paste to fried onions, stir well and bring to simmer. Allow to simmer for about 7-9 minutes or until oil separates from sauce. If mixture begins to scorch or stick add 1/4 cup water, stir and reduce heat.

3) Add peas to fried mixture. If using pressure cooker add 1cup water seal and cook for 2 whistles. If using heavy bottomed skillet or kadhai add 1/2 cup water and simmer until peas are just tender. (The peas in South Asia are a bit tough and require a lot of cooking unlike the tender peas found in Western countries. If you are using the tender peas found in Western countries you might want to stir them in with the potatoes in step 4 to prevent them being overcooked. )

4) If using pressure cooker allow to cool and open, stir in boiled potato cubes and simmer until gravy is to desired consistency. If using skillet or kadhai stir potatoes in and simmer until gravy is of desired consistency. Salt to taste and serve.

Helpful hints:
Kitchen King is a popular North Indian premade spice mixture. My favorite brand is Catch but MDH is good also. If you can't get Kitchen King masala a good substitute 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 

Mar 10, 2016

Tamatar Pappu (Andhra Style Pigeon Peas with Tomatoes)

From the lush coastal region of Andhra comes this simple yet delicious dal recipe. Bordered by the Bay of Bengal, Andhra's cuisine is known for it's bold and spicy flavors. Tomatoes add an extra tang as well as gorgeous color to this dish. Quick to make, this recipe is a one pot meal as the tempering of the spices is done first, then the dal is added. No separate tadka or pan is required.

Easy tomato recipe toor dal pigeon peas

1 C pigeon peas/toor dal, cleaned & rinsed well
2 TBS cooking oil
1 tsp salt
1/2 C onions, diced finely
2 tsp garlic/lahsun paste
2 tsp ginger/adrak paste
1/2 tsp mustard/rai seeds
1/2 tsp cumin/jeera seeds
2 green chilis/hari mirch, chopped
10 -12 curry leaves 
Grind for masala:
1 & 1/2 C tomatoes, choppped roughly
1 tsp Kashmiri mirch (or 1/2c tsp paprika plus 1/2 tsp cayenne)
1/4 tsp turmeric'haldi
1 tsp salt

Here's what to do:
1) Grind ingredients listed under masala to smooth paste. Set aside.

2) In pressure cooker or medium stock pot heat oil and fry onions with one teaspoon salt until translucent. Add ginger and garlic and fry for 2 minutes. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, and curry leaves (if using) and fry for 1 minute.

3) Add ground masala paste and chopped green chilis to fried onion mixture. Fry until most of liquid has left mixture and oil separates out, stirring often (this is a technique called "bhuna" in DesiDom, also known as "stir frying" in other cultures.) We want to get the onions and tomatoes to caramelize a bit, so the mixture should darken a little too.

4) Add cleaned and rinsed pigeon peas to fried masala mixture in pot. Add 4 C water. If using pressure cooker, seal and allow to steam for 5-6 whistles or until pigeons peas are to desired tenderness. If using stock pot allow to simmer for 1 to 2 hours or until pigeons peas are to desired tenderness. If your dal is too thin keep simmering uncovered until it is to preferred thickness. If  your dal is too thick just add water until it is to your desired consistency. Remove from heat, salt to taste and serve. 

Helpful Hints:
If your don't have curry leaves try stirring in a handful of chopped cilantro leaves after pigeon peas have cooked, it won't be the same but it will give some of the same brightness to the flavor.

Classical dancers from Andhra performing in the style of Kuchipudi.

Mar 7, 2016

Ingredient of the Week: You say Tomato, I Say Tamatar!

"Tamatar" or "Tamaatar" is the Hindi and Urdu word for tomato. Being a "new world" fruit, the tomato is a recent addition to the cuisines of South Asia. As far as I can gather they were introduced sometime in the 1700's. Tomatoes feature in many savory dishes of the Indian Subcontinent. Tomatoes add texture and an umami boost in Desi dishes but are also valued for their sourness in the cuisines of South Asia.

Here's a photo of the varieties of tomatoes available at our local vegetable market towards the end of winter. The small grape sized tomatoes are locally grown here in my Himalayan valley in the winter, the globe and plum tomatoes are either imported from India or grown in Nepal's lowlands, the Terai. Despite their different shapes and sizes they all have two things in common: they are sour and pulpy. These are not the juicy, sweet, slicing varieties tomatoes you'll see in Western markets that are used in salads or sandwiches. South Asians have no use for watery or sweet tomatoes. Tomatoes are valued for their acidic, tangy flavor and firm flesh which forms the base of many gravies and dals. Plum, Roma, or sauce type tomatoes are the closest in texture and flavor to the tomatoes used in Desi cuisines. 

On tinned tomatoes: please do not use these in South Asian cuisines with one exception. The flavor is just too sweet and by the time the tinned tomatoes have undergone the South Asian cooking process they're usually rendered to bland pulp. If you are making an anglicized curry like "chicken tikka masala" or a sweet and sour curry like the some of the Portuguese influenced "vindaloos" you might get away with using tinned tomatoes. I've tasted curries where they've used tinned tomatoes and then tried to bump up the flavor by adding sugar and vinegar, it does not work. I've even tasted curries with tomato ketchup in them, if that's the 'tinned" overly sweet flavor your looking for, then ketchup is the way to go. Yes, fresh tomatoes are usually fried or stewed in dals in the cuisines of the Indian Subcontinent. But frying or stewing tinned tomatoes just leaves you with a bland, sweet mess. You will see "authentic" Desi dishes being made in the Desi diasporas abroad with tinned tomatoes quite a bit in Western countries. Why? Because tinned tomatoes are often cheaper than fresh tomatoes in Western countries. Tinned tomatoes are more expensive than fresh tomatoes in South Asia, and truthfully anything canned is generally frowned upon in Desi kitchens.


The only tinned tomatoes you should use in Desi dishes: tomato paste. Never tinned tomato puree, or tinned tomatoes in their own juice, or tinned stewed tomatoes, ketchup, catsup, or what have you. I would also limit the use of tomato paste to one or two tablespoons per dish, and only use it to enhance the color of a dish. If you want a deep red color in your savory dish then be sure to use Kashmiri or Byagdi mirch and add one or two tablespoons of tinned tomato paste. Tinned tomato paste works in South Asian dishes as a color enhancer because it is the least sweet of all the tinned tomato products due to it's concentration. It does give a bit of a rich tomato flavor too, but not so much that it distracts from the flavor of the dish.

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