Sunday, July 16, 2017

Chembu Thal Kadalai Kootu (Taro Leaves & Stems Stew With Chickpeas)

Chembu Thal Kadalai Kootu
Taro leaves and stems are tasty cooked with chickpeas; the coconut and tamarind turn the homey ingredients into this delicious curry! In this photo of the curry, there are both brown and tan chickpeas; they were delicious - one tender but firm and the other very soft.

Although one can get the corms (potato-like parts of the plant), leaves and stems are not usually available for purchase; I grow taro just so I can have leaves and stems for cooking. Choose young stalks and leaves without any yellow telltale signs of age; carefully cut at the base of the plant without injuring the new growth in the center.

It is lovely to have greens from your own garden to make a meal any time. I love collecting various greens and veggies from the garden instead of running to the store especially after being away from home for a few days. I usually keep a stash of cooked chickpeas in the freezer; so it is a breeze to have a yummy homemade curry after eating out for a few days! Check here for information on home-cooked tasty chickpeas as well as various other beans at a fraction of the cost of store-bought ones.

Taro Plant
Notes: Tamarind paste and concentrate are usually available in Indian markets; check to see which kind you have as there is a big difference in the amount used. Blackeyed peas may be used instead of the chickpeas. Fresh or canned tomatoes - about 2 - may be added if you like. For a more or less spicy dish adjust the spices according to your preference.

Chembu Thal Kootu may be prepared thick or thin as you prefer; just increase the water content - with rice it is great to have more liquid whereas with rotis it is great either way. When adding more water, a little more salt and spices may be needed.

As always when cooking with chiles, you may wish to leave them whole so it is easy to fish out and discard at the end of cooking to avoid unpleasant surprises to unwary diners who may be unaware that chiles may be present and typically not eaten.

INGREDIENTS:

12-14 Taro leaves with stems (about 12-14 oz)
1 Tbsp oil
½ tsp Mustard seeds
1-2 dried red chiles, broken into two or left whole
1 tiny pinch Fenugreek seeds
1 stem fresh Curry Leaves, leaves finely sliced
1 large shallot or ½ small onion (optional)
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp tamarind paste OR ½ tsp Tamarind concentrate
1 cup cooked Brown or Tan chickpeas + cooking liquid

Freshly ground Masala (Spice Mix)
½ tsp cumin seeds
1-2 dried Red Chiles
1 tsp uncooked rice
½ cup grated Coconut, fresh/frozen

METHOD:

Prepare the spices and coconut: Grind together the coconut, cumin, rice and chiles using a blender with just enough water to make grinding feasible.

Caveat: Taro leaves and stems may cause skin irritation if you have sensitive skin; you may wish to wear rubber gloves while preparing the them. 

Prepare the taro leaves and stems: Wash the leaves and stems thoroughly. Separate the leaves from the stems by cutting them at the base of the leaf. Keep the leaves and stem separated; they will be added to the pot at different times.

Peel and slice the stems finely; the outer fibers peel off easily sort of like celery. If the stems are young and tender, I do not peel them.

Stack a few of the leaves, then cut in half lengthwise. Roll each half into a cylinder and cut across into a fine chiffonade - very thin ribbons. 

In a large pot (about 2-3 liter or quart) on medium-high, add the oil. When oil is hot, add mustard seeds and dried chile.

Add the fenugreek seeds along with the curry leaves and the onions if using. Reduce heat to low and saute for about a couple of minutes. Add a little water if the onions are dry and sticking to the pan.
Next toss the stems into the pot, stir, add a little water, cover and cook for about 10 minutes over low heat.

Tip in the leaves and a pinch or two of salt. Add a little water or the cooking liquid from the chickpeas, stir and then cover. Reduce the heat to low and cook for about 30-40 minutes. A pressure cooker may be used to shorten cooking time.

Stir occasionally and add water or chickpea cooking liquid as needed so that the greens do not dry out. You may mash the leaves with the back of a spoon or use the immersion blender to obtain a little soft, creamy texture but not into a paste. I like to mash with a spoon to preserve some texture.

Add the tamarind, chickpeas and the ground masala. Stir, cover, and let cook for another 10 minutes. Mash a few of the chickpeas too with the back of the spoon to get a nice and creamy kootu.

Turn off the heat, taste and adjust the salt if necessary.

Serve with rice or roti accompanied by any kind of dry vegetable curry, dal or dried bean curry and chutneys or pickles and papadums. Enjoy!!

Friday, June 30, 2017

Poori (Whole Wheat Fried Puffed Breads)

As delicious as they are, I am usually reticent about making Poori as they are deep fried. But when I do make them, the trick to keeping them from being too oily is to keep the oil hot enough (but not smoking) to cook them quickly so they don't sit in the oil and absorb much of it.

Although Pooris are eaten all over India, they are paired with saucy potato curry, chana/chole (garbanzos cooked with spices), Halwa, Aamras (Ripe Mango puree), etc depending on the region. The usual family favorite at our house was the potato curry. Try pooris with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup too for satisfying a sweet tooth!

Makes 16 Pooris - About 4 Servings

Ingredients:

2 cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 Pinch of Salt
Water, about 1/2 cup

Method:

Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl; add water carefully to form a stiff dough. Flour tends to dry up or absorb water so when making the dough add about 3/4 of the water at first and then add more if needed by teaspoons until just enough. Knead well until smooth and elastic.

Roll the dough by hand into a cylinder and pinch off or cut into 16 pieces. Knead the dough briefly and shape into small balls; keep them covered so they do not dry out.

Roll out each ball into a thin circle - about 4 - 5 inches - with a lightly oiled rolling pin on a lightly oiled surface. Don't worry if the circle isn't exactly a circle - it could look like America, Australia or any other continent or island - all good fun!

Start heating the oil  for deep frying half way through rolling out the dough; add a small pinch of the dough to see if it is hot. If the dough sizzles, and rises to the surface, it is ready.

Gently slide the circles into the hot oil avoiding splashing.

Immerse the edges of the poori into the oil gently with a metal skimmer (a shallow spoon with holes for the oil to drain); it will puff up.

When the bottom is golden brown, flip to cook the other side.

When golden brown on second side, remove and drain on paper towels. Stack the pooris standing on edge to drain well.

Pooris are best eaten while still warm although they are still good at room temperature.

Serve with traditional Saucy Potatoes or any dal (dried bean) dish like Chole, Rajma, Simple Dal, any vegetable dish such as Basic Potato Curry, or Winter Squash & Sweet Potato curry, pickles, a raita, etc.

Enjoy!!

Monday, June 26, 2017

Mushroom Methi Malai Do Pyaza (Mushrooms In Tomato Onion Sauce)

Mushroom Methi Malai is pretty easy and quick once you have the masala ready, see note below. It is quite mild but can be spiced up - a little more red chile or a tiny - and I do mean TINY - smidgen of ground Bhut Jolokia or Ghost Pepper will do the trick; start with 1/16 teaspoon or less! Be careful when handling Bhut - it is a very potent pepper albeit tasty. Earthy succulent mushrooms brighten up with a little touch of chile heat!

Kasuri Methi is dried fenugreek (methi) leaves which add an amazing aroma to this curry; in fact it would only be Mushroom Malai without it! Fresh chopped methi leaves may be added instead of the dried if available. 

NOTES: Biriyani Masala may be used instead of the freshly ground spices. If fresh tomatoes are not an option, canned will work very well. Use about half of a 14 1/2 oz can. Canned tomatoes are great when good fresh ones are unavailable. Any type of mushrooms may be used; I have used button type - white or cremini or baby Portobello. For a richer tasting curry, 1/4 - 1/2 cup of coconut cream may be stirred in at the end of cooking.
Mushroom Methi Malai
2 - 4 Servings

INGREDIENTS:

Fresh spices: roast and grind:
1 dried red pepper, broken into two, discard seeds
1/2 t Cumin seeds
1 pod cardamom
1/2" stick Cinnamon, Indian type if available
3-4 whole Cloves
1 tsp Coriander seeds
5-7 Black Peppercorns

Curry:

8 oz Mushrooms, thickly sliced or quartered
2 Tbsp Oil
2 Red Onions, 1 finely chopped, 1 thinly sliced
1-2 Green Chiles, blossom ends slit
2 tsp Ginger, finely minced
1-2 cloves Garlic (optional)
1 Bay Leaf
1 pinch Asafetida
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1/2 tsp  Kashmiri Chile Powder/Paprika
1- 2 Tomatoes, finely chopped
1/2 cup Coconut Milk
1 T Kasoori Methi (Dried Fenugreek leaves)
1 tsp Salt
Fresh Coriander/Cilantro for garnishing

METHOD:

Dry roast all the spices lightly until fragrant, pour into a plate to cool completely. Grind into a fine powder. Reserve.

Prepare all the ingredients and have them ready. Keep the green chiles whole and intact; slit only about 1/2 an inch on the blossom end.

Heat oil and cook the sliced onion with a pinch or two of salt slowly until golden and slightly caramelized.

Tip in the chopped onion, green chiles, ginger, and garlic if using with a couple of pinches of salt on low heat until soft; sprinkle a few drops of water if needed to keep from burning.

Add the asafetida, turmeric, chile powder/paprika; stir and cook until fragrant - about 1 minute.

Stir in chopped tomatatoes along with the bay leaf and cook until softened and a thick sauce forms.

Add the mushrooms, strring to coat with the sauce and cook over low-medium heat for about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle the ground spices and mix well. Simmer for another 3-5 minutes.

Remove from heat, sprinkle with Kasoori Methi, and let rest for about 5 minutes.

Fish out the green chiles so no one gets an unpleasant surprise of biting into one accidentally. Garnish with the coriander/cilantro.

Serve hot or warm with your favorite grains or breads. Enjoy!

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Jackfruit Biriyani (Rice Pilaf With Jackfruit)

Young and tender jackfruits are used to make this biriyani; although fresh is prefered, canned ones do when fresh jackfruit is unavailable. Flavorful and filling, Jackfruit Biriyani can be spicy or mild. If you really like it spicy, add half to one teaspoon of cayenne/red chile powder when adding the biriyani masala during cooking. All one needs to complete the meal is some fresh crunchy chopped salad, a green or coconut chutney, and fried or roasted papadams.
Jackfruit Biriyani
INGREDIENTS:
1 1/2 cups Basmati rice, soak
2-3 Tbsp Oil
1/4-1/2 cup Cashew pieces 
1 Bay leaf 
2 Green Cardamom Pods
2 Brown Cardamom Pods
Cinnamon - 1 inch piece 
Cloves - 2 
1 large Onion, thinly slivered
1-2 cloves Garlic, minced (optional)
1/2 - 1 inch piece Ginger, finely minced
3-4 Hot/Mild Green chillies, minced OR 1/2 Green Bell Pepper, diced
1 Tomato, chopped
1 can Green jackfruit, drained well, and torn into small pieces
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder 
1 small handful of Mint leaves, about 15 + more for garnish
4 Tbsp Coriander leaves, chopped + more for garnish
2 tsp Salt

METHOD:

Soak basmati rice in  water for 30 minutes. 

Prep the ingredients: Thinly slice onion, finely chop tomatoes and measure out all other ingredients and have them ready. Crush the cardamom pods so their pods crack slightly.

Heat the oil in a large pan - 4-5 quart/liter capacity - and add the cashews; cook until slightly golden. They can be left to cook with the rest or removed and reserved to top the biriyani.

Stir in the bay leaf, cinnamon, cardamoms, and cloves; cook for about 30 seconds.

Add  Add sliced onion. Fry till golden.

Stir in the ginger, garlic if using, and green chiles; cook for about 2 minutes.

Add tomato, salt, biryani masala powder, and turmeric. Cook until tomatoes become soft. 

Sprinkle the mint and coriander leaves.

Tip the jackfruit, drained rice and two and 3/4 cups water; mix gently. Bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook on low for 10-12 minutes undisturbed; turn off heat. Let rest for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Gently fluff the biriyani with a fork, transfer to a serving dish if desired, and garnish with mint and coriander leaves and cashew pieces if reserved.

Serve hot with chopped salad, raita, chutney/pickles and pappadams.

Enjoy!!

Biriyani Masala (Homemade Spice Mix For Rice Pilaf & Curries)

Biriyani Masala is a must in the pantry if you love biriyani or pilaf. This spice mix is not limited to flavor biriyanis only; it is a fantastic way to flavor and spice up curries also. Start with a teaspoon of the mix to spice a curry to serve four and adjust according to your taste.

Although commercially prepared biriyani masalas are available for purchase, there is no comparison to the freshly ground flavor of the homemade one. This will make enough masala for a couple of months. The masala will stay fresh and flavorful stored in an air-tight jar.

NOTES: If Indian bay leaves are not available, leave them out of the masala; instead add a regular bay leaf or two to the dish during cooking. Kashmiri/byadagi chiles are milder than the regular ones and also lend a vibrant hue to the dish; lesser amount of regular chiles may be used instead along with a tablespoon of paprika.
Biriyani Masala
INGREDIENTS:

7-8  one inch Cinnamon sticks, preferably Indian type
4 T Coriander Seeds
1 Tbsp White Poppy Seeds (optional)
1 Tbsp Cloves
2 Tbsp Fennel Seeds
2-3 Star Anise, broken to pieces
12 Cardamom Pods
5 Brown Cardamom Pods, seeds only
5-7 dried Kashmiri OR Byadagi Chiles, broken into small bits
1/2 Nutmeg, cracked into small pieces
1/2 T Mace
1 T Cumin Seeds
2 tsp Black Peppercorns
6-7 Indian Bay Leaves, torn to bits (optional)

METHOD:

Gather all the ingredients in a large pan and dry roast over low-medium heat stirring constantly for about 6 -7 minutes or until all is warm and beginning to be fragrant. Alternately, place the spices in a baking pan and toast at 300 degrees F for about 5-6 minutes, stirring once or twice. The other choice is to use all the spices raw without toasting; this will be different but still good.

Pour onto a wide plate or platter and let cool completely.

Grind the spices into a fine powder using a spice grinder; this may need to be done in batches depending on the capacity of the grinder. Small bits and pieces of the spices are just fine; but if preferred, sieve the ground spices to remove larger pieces. 

Let cool and store in a clean, dry, jar with a lid.

Use about 1 teaspoon of the masala for a recipe for about 4 servings. 

Enjoy!!



Saturday, June 17, 2017

Quick & Easy Korma (Vegetables In Cashew-Coconut Sauce)

Quick and Easy Korma really is pretty easy and fast as it doesn't require undue attention of sauteing or stirring; a great recipe for a busy day or evening. Just layer all the ingredients in the pot and in minutes delicious korma will be ready to go with your favorite grains or breads!

Omit or add tomatoes depending on what other dishes are being served at the same meal; if other dishes include lots of tomatoes, leave them out. Cooked chickpeas - tan or brown type - make a nice addition to the korma; add them along with the potatoes and carrots.

4 Servings

INGREDIENTS:

1 tablespoon Vegetable Oil
½ tsp Fennel Seeds
1 small piece Cinnamon
1 Bay leaf
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (optional)
1-2 green chillies, cored and minced
1 medium Potato, diced
½ cup Green Beans, diced
2 Carrots, diced
½ cup Corn Kernels, fresh/frozen
½ cup Coconut Milk 
½ cup Green Peas, fresh/frozen
½ cup Chayote/Zucchini, diced (optional)
4 Tbsp Coriander leaves, chopped for garnish

Spices
½ teaspoon Turmeric
1 teaspoon Salt
1 teaspoon ground Coriander
½ teaspoon Red chile powder OR Paprika
1 teaspoon Garam Masala

For Masala Paste, grind together
8-12 Whole Peppercorns
3 Cloves
4 Whole Cashewnuts
4 whole Almonds
1-2 Cardamom Pods, use the seeds
1 teaspoon White Poppy Seeds
4 tablespoon grated Coconut, fresh/frozen
1-2 cloves garlic (optional)
½ inch piece ginger

METHOD:

Grind all the ingredients listed under masala paste to a smooth paste with a little water, about ½ cup. Set aside.

Add the oil, fennel seeds, cinnamon, and bay leaf to a large pan with a lid, a 3-4 quart/liter size will work nicely; swirl to coat the bottom of the pan with oil.

Sprinkle onions and green chiles evenly over the oiled pan; layer the tomatoes on top if using.

Next, spread the green beans, potato, carrots, corn and chayote if using evenly on top of the onions. Reserve the peas and zucchini for later.

Sprinkle the spices and the salt over the veggies.

Lastly, pour the coconut milk and the ground paste over the veggies. Pour a tablespoon or two of water in the blender jar and swirl to gather up all the ground paste and add to pan. Do not stir.

Cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes on low to medium heat. You can take a peek to check that all's well; but let the korma simmer covered undisturbed. It will not need additional water or stirring.

Turn off the heat, sprinkle the peas and zucchini if using on top of korma, cover again and let it rest for 10 minutes.

Check for seasoning, and coriander leaves.

Mix well and serve hot. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Non-Dairy Mor Kuzhambu (Delicious "Yogurt" Stew With Coconut)

Mor Kuzhambu is a classic South Indian coconut and cumin seed scented stew of vegetables with yogurt. It is another one of our family favorites from my childhood days. I had missed this delicious recipe as a vegan; when I figured out that if tofu can be substituted for the yogurt just like in "Yogurt" Rice and Non-Dairy Kadhi, life is good again :-)! Mor Kuzhambu over plain rice and a simple vegetable stir-fry - to live for!
Non-Dairy Mor Kuzhambu with Rice & Okra-Capsicum Stir-fry
Choose your favorite vegetables similar to the original Mor Kuzhambu; some favorites are winter melon (ash gourd or elavan), okra, moqua/chayote/opo squash, taro root, cucumbers, Jack fruit seeds, ripe or green mangoes and green or ripe plantains. Green mangoes may be added to any vegetable; mango-cucumger or mango-squash is a delightful combo. When using green mangoes, adjust the lime/lemon as the mangoes may contribute to tanginess also.

If you like to avoid soy, omit the tofu and increase the amount of coconut to 1 cup.

About 6 Servings

Ingredients:

2 cups of vegetables of your choice
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Salt, or to taste
1-2 Lemons/Limes

Grind Together:
1 block (14 oz) Tofu
1/2 cup Grated Coconut, fresh or frozen
2 tsp whole Cumin Seeds
1 or 2 Hot Green Chile, core removed for a milder dish
1 Red Chile
1 tsp uncooked rice

Thalippu/Tadka:

1-2 tsp Oil
1 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Fenugreek (Methi) Seeds
2 Dry Red Chilies, broken into two
1 stalk Fresh Curry Leaves, minced

Method:

Choose your favorite vegetables from the suggestions above.

Prepare the veggies: wash well, trim or peel as needed; cut into large chunks.

Place the prepared vegetables in a large non-reactive pot (stainless steel, ceramic, etc) with 1 cup of water, the salt and turmeric. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until just tender.

While the veggies are cooking, tip the drained tofu into the blender carafe along with the coconut, cumin, chiles, and rice; process into a nice smooth puree with a little water (1/2 cup or so).

When the veggies are tender, add the coconut puree; add a few tablespoons of water to the blender to gather all the remaining puree and add to the pan. Add a little more water if the kuzhambu is thick.

Simmer uncovered gently until slightly thickened, foamy and beginning to just get bubbly. Remove from heat.

Heat the oil in a small pan and do the thalippu: add mustard and fenugreek seeds and the red chilies. When the seeds pop, add curry leaves carefully and cover quickly. When all is calm, pour the thalippu into the Mor Kuzhambu. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir in lemon/lime juice to taste before serving; Mor Kuzhambu should be slightly tangy.

Serve hot with rice; the usual favorite sides are some kind of thoran or dry veggie dish like Stir-fried Okra, Cabbage ThoranParuppu Usli, Parikkai Fry, Potato Roast, and/or papadams. Mor Kuzhambu will last a week to ten days in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!!