Saturday, December 31, 2011

Black-Eyed Peas With Coconut

Happy New Year Everyone! May your lives be blessed with good health, peace, love, joy and laughter everyday of the new year!

Here is a delicious Black-eyed peas dish to begin the New Year! Szechuan pepper (Fagara) is not really part of the pepper family but the berries from prickly ash trees. Japanese sansho is a close relative of fagara. Fagara is not hot like pepper but has a pungent flavor. It is used in Indian, Nepalese, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean cuisines. This stew can be made two ways - with or without garlic.

Fagara is available for purchase in Asian and Indian markets. If fagara is not readily available, it is no matter; just omit and proceed with the rest of the ingredients and you will still have a fabulous stew. Dessicated (dry, unsweetened) coconut may be used instead of fresh or frozen; use about half as much as the fresh.

4 Servings

Ingredients:

1 cup dry Black-eyed peas
1 tsp instant Tamarind paste
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut (or frozen)
2 dried Red Chile
1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
3-5 Szechuan Peppers (Fagara), lightly toasted

Tadka/Thalippu:
1 tsp Oil
3 cloves fresh Garlic
OR
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard seeds
2 tsp skinless split Urad dal
1 pinch asafoetida
1 stem fresh Curry Leaves, minced

Method:

Sort, wash and cook the black-eyed peas until soft.

Remove any seeds from fagara before toasting.

Grind the coconut with chiles, fagara, and cumin until smooth adding a small amount of water using a blender.

Stir in the tamarind along with coconut paste into the cooked peas and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

NOTE: Now it is time to choose which way you want to proceed: garlic or not. If you are using garlic, then only garlic and curry leaves need be added. If you are not using garlic, then use the other ingredients in the thalippu.

Heat the oil and add either the garlic or the mustard seeds and urad dal. If using garlic, cook until golden. If using mustard seeds and dal, cook until dal in pinkish, then stir in the asafoetida. Lower heat, stir in the curry leaves carefully and cook for a few seconds.

Stir the thalippu into the peas and allow to rest for about 5 minutes.

Serve hot with rice or rotis and green veggies. Enjoy!!

Monday, December 26, 2011

Ma Ki Dal (Whole Urad & Kidney Beans Punjabi Style)

Ma Ki Dal is an amazing partnership between two legumes: whole urad and rajma or red kidney beans! It is also known as Kali dal (black dal) or Dal Makhni (buttery dal); but I like the name Ma ki dal = Mama's lentils :D. It is traditional, common fare in Punjabi cuisine and may be served with rice or breads. Black whole urad and red kidney beans are simmered slowly for a rich, buttery tasting thick stew.

Even though this is a very simple dal with minimal number of spices, the slow simmering produces exquisitely delicious succulent dal.

Ma ki dal provides yummy, rib-sticking abundant protein when served with the grains (rice or roti) and/or a bit of dairy such as yogurt. All you need to complete the feast are some green veggies.

4-6 Servings

Ingredients:

1 cup Whole Urad beans with skin
1/4 cup Red Kidney beans
2-3 Dry Red Chile
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 Tbsp Ghee/Oil
1 small Red Onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
1-2 cloves fresh Garlic, minced (optional)
1-2 fresh hot green chiles, cored and minced
2 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Paprika
1/2 tsp ground Red Pepper (cayenne)
Butter or vegan spread to serve

Method:

Sort, wash and cook the beans (no soaking necessary) with whole red chiles in water to cover until quite soft (the beans should not offer any resistance when pressed with fingers); this might take about 1 hour.

I use the pressure cooker to cook the beans and it shortens the cooking time and produces consistently well-cooked beans. See this post on beans for more info as well as tips on preparation.

Fish out the chiles, add salt, mash coarsely just a little with the back of a ladle and set aside.

Heat the ghee/oil in a large pan (at least 2 quart/liter size) and cook the onions with a pinch of salt until soft and beginning to color. Add ginger and green chili and saute until they are soft.

Stir in ground red pepper, paprika, & turmeric and cook for a few seconds.

Add tomatoes, mix well and cook until soft ; cool slightly, puree, and return to the pot.

Tip the cooked beans along with the cooking liquid into the onion mixture. Bring to a boil stirring often; then gently simmer for about 30 minutes over low heat.

Cover and allow to rest for about 10 minutes. Stir in the butter before serving or top individual bowls with a little bit.

Serve hot with rice or any kind of wholegrain bread. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Rajma II (Traditional Red Kidney Beans)

Rajma II or Red Kidney Beans is a very traditional stew - sans all the veggies I typically like to add :D. It is really quite simple to make and a real winner! It is usually served over rice - "rajma-chaval" but is also delicious with chapatis and other Indian breads like naan. Just as I do with the other rajma, I often like to serve this one also on its own with a side of salad or raita.

For more information on bean facts and preparation, read this post. Beans of all kinds freeze beautifully; so I always cook a double or triple batch so that one or two portions can be added to other dishes and/or frozen for another day. Canned beans and tomatoes may be used to make Rajma.

4 servings

Ingredients:

1 cup Red Kidney Beans (rajma)
1-2 Dry Red chiles
1 Bay Leaf
1 Black Cardamom, crushed slightly
1 thin slice fresh Ginger
1 Tbsp Ghee/Oil
1 Red Onion, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh Ginger, minced
1 fat clove Garlic, minced (optional)
1/2 tsp Turmeric
2 tsp Paprika
1/4 - 1/2 tsp ground Red Pepper (cayenne)
2 large Ripe Tomatoes, peeled & chopped
1 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
Chopped Fresh Cilantro, for garnish

Method:

Soak the beans overnight, drain, rinse and cook in fresh water to cover with the whole chiles, bay leaf, cardamom, and ginger until soft but not mushy either in a large pot or using a pressure cooker. When cool, fish out the spices and discard.

Heat the ghee/oil; cook the onions, with a pinch of salt until soft and beginning to turn golden.

Stir in the ginger and garlic and cook for a minute; add spices and cook for another minute.

Add the tomatoes and cook until they are soft and saucy.

Stir in the beans with their cooking liquid and salt to taste; simmer on low heat for about 20 to 30 minutes stirring occasionally to make sure they do not burn.

Sprinkle the Garam Masala, stir, cover, and let rest for a few minutes.

Serve hot garnished with cilantro with plain rice, pulav, or rotis and a salad or raita. Enjoy!!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Mushroom & Spinach Stroganoff

The mushroom sauce with spinach is delicious and easy to make. Although I have used spinach here, other greens such as Swiss chard or kale may be substituted. Kale would need a bit more cooking time; so it may be steamed until tender and stirred in.

Perfect over freshly cooked long, wide strands of pasta like linguine or fettuccine; but other shapes of pasta or grains will work fine too. Topped with Roasted Tofu, it makes fabulous eats; all you need for a complete meal is some crisp green salad and a crusty loaf of bread!

Cashews make a wonderful vegan yogurt or sour cream substitute! Simply soak 1 cup of raw cashews for about 5 or 6 hours or overnight in plain water. Drain, rinse, and process using a blender with just enough water and a pinch of salt. Scoop out into a clean container ad stir in a Tbsp of lime or lemon juice. Yummy!

4 Servings

Ingredients:

1 oz. dried Porcini Mushrooms (Optional)
1 lb White or Brown Mushrooms, thickly sliced
1 large Red Onion, thickly sliced
2 Tbsp Butter OR Oil
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
2-3 cloves Garlic, minced
1 pinch ground Red Chile (cayenne)
2 tsp Paprika
2 Tbsp Whole Wheat/Brown Rice Flour
8-12 oz. Fresh Spinach
1 1/2 cups Sour Cream/vegan alternate
1-2 tsp Hot Sauce
Freshly ground Black Pepper
1 Recipe Roasted Tofu, to serve
8 oz. dry Pasta - Fettuccine or Linguine, freshly cooked
4 Tbsp Fresh Flat-leaf Parsley, finely chopped

Method:

Follow the directions on the dried mushroom package to re-hydrate. When re-hydrated, strain the mushroom pieces and coarsely chop them. Reserve the liquid.

Heat a large wide skillet or sauce pan and add butter, onion, and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat until softened.

Add the fresh mushrooms with the rest of the salt and cook stirring; cook until the mushrooms brown.

At first the mushrooms will exude juices - keep cooking and the juices evaporate and the mushrooms brown.

Stir in the flour with the cayenne and cook until it is browned a bit and fragrant.

Add the hydrated mushrooms, garlic and the herbs and mix well.

Add enough water if necessary to the mushroom liquid to make 1 cup; if not using dried mushrooms, simply add 1 cup of water.

Pour the mushroom liquid (or water) slowly in a thin stream while stirring constantly until there are no lumps; cook until the sauce thickens.

Stir in the spinach and cook until just wilted. Remove from heat and let cool a little - about 5 minutes.

Gently mix in the the hot sauce and the sour cream or vegan substitute a little at a time and gently heat through.

Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and more salt if needed.

Spoon the pasta in a wide serving dish and top with the roasted tofu; top with the Stroganoff sauce or serve separately. Another option is to divide the pasta among 4 plates, top with the tofu and the sauce.

Sprinkle with the parsley. Serve hot. Enjoy!!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Amazingly Simple Super Snacks

Here are a few amazingly simple snacks that take hardly any time to put together. Everyone needs a nice pick-me-up now and then if not daily. Just plan ahead to stock your fridge and pantry with the necessities. Instead of reaching for a bag of chips or cookies laden with tons of unwanted calories and hard to pronounce chemicals and fillers, these hip yummy snacks will fill the bill without contributing to expanding hips or other parts of one's anatomy - been there and done that :D.

1. Yogurt with Honey and Poppy Seeds: One of the delicious Turkish treats that we loved was a plate of thick, creamy yogurt with toasted poppy seeds and honey. It is so simple and yet really amazingly delicious! Place half a cup of plain yogurt in a bowl, drizzle a little honey, and sprinkle with toasted white poppy seeds. Other nuts or seeds may be used instead of the poppy seeds. Serve immediately. Afiyet olsun!

2. Sprouted Peas/Beans Salad: Sprouted bean salads are wonderful as appetizers/starters and snacks as they are deliciously filling without being calorie-laden. If you have sprouts sitting in your fridge, nothing could be simpler than douse a little bowl of them with a little lime or lemon juice or your favorite salad dressing. Super!

3. Chutney Potatoes: If there are leftover roasted/baked/steamed potatoes (or other veggies) with no place to go, add a dollop of your favorite chutney or thogayal, and you will have a delicious snack in no time at all. The veggies may be warmed first if you like a warm snack. Try Green Chutney and/or Sweet Chutney. Delicious!

4. Chutney/Thogayal Toast: Toast a slice or two of good wholegrain bread and spread with your favorite chutney or thogayal for a toothsome treat. You can also spread the toast with your favorite nut butter before adding the chutney/thogayal. Yum!

5. Papad Chat: Papads or papadams are thin wafers made of lentils. Many kinds of papadams are available in Indian markets; some are plain and simple while others are spicy. They need to be roasted over fire or fried before eating. Papadams can also be roasted in the microwave oven - simply heat two or three in a single layer for about a minute until crisp. Serve your favorite type of papadams toasted or fried with one or more colorful vegetable salad/salsa or a raita in small bowls for dipping or topping. Enjoy!!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Creamy Mushroom Sauce With Fresh Herbs

Creamy Mushroom Sauce is wonderful to serve over rice dishes, pasta, Roasted Tofu, polenta, casseroles, steamed vegetables, nut/lentil loaves etc. Delicious served as a gravy over biscuits or mashed potatoes too - mmm, yummy! If fresh herbs are unavailable, use a couple of pinches of the dried herbs instead.

Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

8 oz. White or Brown Mushrooms, thickly sliced
2 Shallots, minced
1 small clove Garlic, minced
1 pinch ground Red Chile (cayenne)
2 Tbsp Butter
1/2 tsp Sea Salt
2 Tbsp Whole Wheat/Brown Rice Flour
1 cup Milk, any type
1 small sprig fresh Sage leaves, minced
1 sprig Thyme leaves, minced
1 small sprig Marjoram leaves, minced
1/2 cup Cream, half and half or vegan alternate
Freshly ground Black Pepper

Method:

Heat a skillet or sauce pan and add butter, shallots, and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat until shallot softens and colors slightly.

While the shallots are cooking, strip the leaves from the herb sprigs; discard the stems and mince the leaves.

Add the mushrooms with the rest of the salt and cook stirring; cook until the mushrooms brown.

At first the mushrooms will exude juices - keep cooking and the juices evaporate and the mushrooms will brown.

Stir in the flour with the cayenne and cook until browned a bit and fragrant.

Add the garlic and the herbs and mix well.

Pour the milk slowly in a thin stream while stirring/whisking constantly until there are no lumps; cook until the sauce thickens.

Add the cream or vegan substitute and gently heat through.

Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and more salt if needed.

Serve hot. Enjoy!!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Fast & Fabulous Couscous Upma (Couscous Indian Style)

Making upma with couscous is really fast - it is easier than reading the directions :D! Cooking Couscous Upma is very similar to regular Upma except for substituting the couscous for the rava (suji or cream of wheat). Also, couscous does not require cooking on the stove - just stir it into the boiling water, wait for a few minutes, and Voila! the upma is ready to serve.

There are numerous types of couscous available - I used whole wheat couscous for the upma; follow the directions on the package for the right amount of water for the particular type. Couscous is available at most grocery stores; dals and spices are available at Indian markets. If couscous is not readily available, bulgar (middle eastern cracked wheat) may be used instead. Bulgar need not be cooked but soaked in hot water as is done in Tabbouleh which is really upma with raw veggies!

Someone asked where couscous can be purchased in India; according to Shobhaa it is available in all the major cities. Here's the info she sent:
  • Nature's Basket - Delhi, Gurgaon and Mumbai
  • D'Mart - Mumbai
  • Big Bazar - Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai
  • Spencer's Daily - Chennai
4 Servings

Ingredients:

2 Tbsp Indian Sesame Oil
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
1 Tbsp split skinless Chana Dal
1 Tbsp split skinless Urad Dal
1 Tbsp fresh Ginger, finely grated
1 or 2 hot green chilies, ends slit
1 sprig fresh Curry Leaves, chopped
1 small Onion, finely chopped
1 Tomato, finely chopped
1 cup peas fresh or frozen
1 carrot grated
1 tsp Sea Salt
1 cup Couscous
1 Tbsp Ghee/Vegan Margarine (optional)
2 Tbsp fresh Cilantro, chopped
fresh juice from 1/2 to 1 Lime

Method:

Heat the oil and prepare thalippu with the dals and seeds just as in regular upma.

Stir in curry leaves, ginger, chili, and onions and cook until soft.

Add the rest of the veggies, salt and the required amount of water and bring to a boil.

Turn off the heat and stir in the couscous with the ghee/margarine if using.

Cover and let sit undisturbed for about 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, sprinkle the lime juice, stir in cilantro and mix well.

Serve hot/warm accompanied by Indian pickles, raitas, curries and papadams as you wish. Mor Kootu, Kuzhambu, and/or Pulisseri make tasty accompaniments. Enjoy!!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Kappa Puzhukku (Fresh Yuca/Tapioca Stew)

"Kappa Puzhukku"

Woody looking cassava roots (Manihot esculenta), are marketed as yuca (yoo-ka) in the U.S.; they should not be confused with yucca (yuk-ka) which is an unrelated plant altogether. Cassava originated from South America and traveled with the explorers to other tropical and subtropical areas of the world. In India cassava is known as tapioca (in English), as kolli, kappa, marachini, marakkizhangu, etc in Malayalam and Tamil, and manioc or mandioca in other countries.

Cassava/tapioca has a unique and delicious flavor and is utilized in various ways in Kerala - freshly boiled/steamed, in curries and stews, as chips and papadams. Kappa Puzhukku is a tasty traditional offering in Kerala homes and snack shops. The bland starchy roots cook up translucent and buttery tasting; they readily absorb whatever seasonings they are cooked with and provide delectable and filling fare.

Puzhukku means boiled or stewed; they are simple curries typically flavored with fresh coconut, chiles, and sometimes cumin and/or shallots. Typically puzhukkus do not get a thalippu at the end but only crushed curry leaves and a bit of coconut oil - but you can choose whichever option you like .... with thalippu or not.

"Cassava, Yuca, or Tapioca"

Whether called tapioca, cassava, or yuca, it is an easy crop to grow with minimum effort, therefore inexpensive, and a boon for many people in reduced circumstances in many countries. Tapioca pearls are made from cassava tubers.

Cassava/tapioca provides mostly carbohydrates, a very small amount of protein - albeit of good quality, a goodly amount of calcium as well as some B vitamins. Purchase plump hard roots free of soft spots, mold, etc. and keep refrigerated until ready to use; use within a few days for maximum freshness. Cassava is not eaten raw as it has a small amount of cyanogenic glucosides which is toxic; cooking renders it harmless.

4 Servings

Ingredients:

2 medium Tapioca/Yuca roots
1 pinch Turmeric
1 Tsp Sea Salt

Masala:
1/2 cup fresh Coconut
2 dry Red Chiles
1 tsp whole Cumin Seeds
3-4 Shallots, peeled and coarsely chopped (optional)


Thalippu/Tadka:
1 Tbsp Oil
1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds
1 or 2 Dry Hot Red Chiles
1-2 stem fresh Curry Leaves, minced

Method:

Wash the cassava/tapioca roots, cut into two or three pieces, peel both the outer bark-like brown layer and the inner thicker one and drop into a large bowl of water while preparing the rest of the ingredients.

Grind the coconut and the rest of the masala ingredients except the shallots. When the coconut is well ground, add the shallots if using and coarsely crush.

Drain and rinse the cassava roots and add to a large pot of boiling salted water. Cook until the tapioca is tender but not mushy and turn off the heat. When cool enough to handle, remove the veggies from the cooking water using a slotted spoon into a colander and drain well.

Break up the tapioca pieces apart into segments and remove and discard the woody cordon in the middle. Coarsely break up into small bite-sized pieces.

The alternate way is to cook the cubed cassava in just enough water with salt and turmeric and cook until soft; draining is not necessary.

Heat the oil in a kadai/skillet and add chile and mustard seeds. When mustard seeds pop, reduce heat, add the curry leaves and stir for a few seconds.

Stir in the cassava with the turmeric and the coconut masala and heat through; add a little more salt if needed. Some like the puzhukku soft - if you like it soft, add about 1/4 to 1/2 cup of boiling water mash and stir well.

Serve hot by itself or with other dishes. Enjoy!!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Mathan & Karamani Erisseri (Pumpkin & Red Cow Peas Stew With Toasted Coconut)

A delicious stew from Kerala, Erisseri is a traditional dish for major holidays and feasts. It can be prepared with flavorful ripe pumpkins or green immature ones! My favorite erisseri was my grandmother's green pumpkin erisseri with green and shelled karamani beans.

But do not, I do mean do not make it with the Jack-O-Lantern type of pumpkins whether they are orange or white as they are not flavorful at all - been there, done that :D. Pumpkins, unripe Jack Fruit, Moringa pods, Elephant Yam, etc are traditional veggies used to make this delicious stew. Yard Long beans are also added to pumpkin or yam erisseri when available. Various winter and summer squashes and chayote also make good erisseri veggies.

Karamani are red cow peas labeled as "red chori beans" at the Indian markets. Black eyed peas or Azuki beans may be use instead of red chori beans.

4 - 6 Servings

Ingredients:

1/2 small Pumpkin (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup Red Chori/Azuki Beans/Black-eyed peas
1 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp Turmeric

Grind together:
1/2 cup fresh Coconut, grated (1/4 cup dry, unsweetened)
1 tsp uncooked rice
1 dry Red Chile
1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
1/2 tsp Whole Black Pepper

Thalippu/Tadka:
1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
1 dry Red Chile
1/2 tsp Brown Mustard Seeds
2 tsp split, skinless Urad Dal
1/4 cup Fresh Coconut, grated
1 stem fresh Curry Leaves, minced

Method:

Sort the beans/peas, wash well and soak for a couple of hours in water to cover.

Cook the beans/peas in fresh water to cover until soft but not mushy using a pressure cooker or on stove top.

Peel the pumpkin and cut into small 1/2" cubes; place in a pan and cook with a scant cup of water until tender.

While the veggies are cooking, prepare the masala: grind together the coconut and other masala ingredients with a little water until smooth.

Stir in the ground coconut masala to the veggies along with the cooked beans/peas and bring to a boil; reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently for about 5-7 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Heat the oil in a small pan and add the chile, mustard seeds, and urad dal.

When the mustard seeds start popping, reduce heat a little and add the coconut. Cook stirring until coconut is red-gold; be cautious - coconut burns very quickly.

Add the thalippu to the curry and stir well. Cover and let sit for about 5 to 10 minutes for the flavors to develop.

Serve hot with roti or rice and other curries. Enjoy!!

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Easy Chocolate Pudding

If you like chocolate pudding, you can whip up a delicious batch within a few minutes. All you need are a little cornstarch, sugar, a little milk or milk substitute, and of course some cocoa; you don't have to settle for packaged mixes with a long list of ingredients that one cannot even pronounce.

Although it is not instant, this pudding is very quick and easy to make - just like our favorite Vanilla Pudding - something everyone can enjoy without a lot of work or guilt. So, it is guilt-free, gluten-free, and can be vegan too.

This is a great project for children too; they can do all the measuring and initial stirring. But once things get heated up, the adults need to take over for safe handling of very hot stuff. The pudding offers another bonus - a fantastic opportunity for practicing delayed gratification as the children have to wait patiently for the pudding to cool before enjoying the fruits of their labors :D.

I prefer making the pudding in the microwave as it is a very quick and painless process besides being a snap to clean up unless of course everything boils over :D - so do keep a close watch. I use a 1 quart Pyrex glass bowl or another microwave-safe bowl and whisk the pudding vigorously after every minute or so.

If you like a thicker pudding, you can increase the cornstarch by 1/2 Tablespoon; too much of it will make it too thick. If you like to cut down on the sugar, you can start with 2 Tablespoons of it and then add stevia extract to taste.

4 Servings

Ingredients:

1/4 cup Brown Sugar, packed
2 Tbsp Cornstarch
2 Cups Milk, any type
1/4 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/2 tsp Vanilla

Method:

* Preparation of Chocolate Pudding is quite similar to Vanilla Pudding.

* Combine sugar, cocoa and cornstarch in a microwaveable bowl.

* Add the milk and whisk vigorously until well mixed.

* Cook on high (full) power at first for two minutes; whisk well with a wire whisk.

* Cook again for 1 minute on full power. Whisk again.

* Continue to cook for 2 to 3 minutes more at 60 percent power - stirring every 30 seconds to a minute - until the custard comes to a boil and thickens. Cooking at lower power ensures that the custard does not boil over.

* Remove and whisk well; stir in the vanilla and whisk again.

* Cool slightly and serve warm or chill until cold.

* Serve with orange segments or sliced bananas for a special treat and whipped cream or topping - Yum! Enjoy!!

White Kurma (Aromatic Vegetable Stew)

Kurma (Korma or Qorma) is a fragrant stew enriched with aromatic spices, nuts and poppy seeds. It is a full flavored and rich tasting curry with all the roasted spices, nuts, coconut, etc and is typically on the mild side.

This classic kurma from Chettinad cuisine is known as White (Vellai in Tamil) Kuruma as the veggies and the gravy remain whitish as there are no tomatoes and barely a pinch of turmeric. It is delicious served with rotis or rice dishes, and also dosas, adai, etc.

White kurma uses Indian cinnamon bark which has a slightly different flavor compared to the commonly used cinnamon sticks. Use cinnamon bark for the authentic flavor but if it is not handy, regular cinnamon stick will do quite nicely. Typical Chettinad Kuruma does include garlic; so if you like garlic, saute a couple of cloves of it along with the spices and proceed as per the masala instructions.

I use a Serrano or JalapeƱo chile and remove the core with the seeds and whitish parts so that you get the lovely taste of the chile without the heat. If you like a bit more heat and a bigger kick, the chile in its entirety or more chiles may be used.

Cinnamon bark, white poppy seeds, and all the other spices are available in Indian markets. The dry roasted chana dal (pottukadalai) is also available ready to purchase; sometimes it is labeled as "dalia". If it is unavailable, you can dry-roast a little chana dal to use in this curry. If white poppy seeds are not available readily, just leave them out - DO NOT substitute it with black poppy seeds.

Ingredients:

Spice Paste (Masala):
1 one inch piece Cinnamon Bark
1/2 tsp Whole Black Pepper
1 tsp Coriander Seeds
5 Whole Cloves
1 Tbsp White Poppy Seeds
1 tsp Fennel Seeds
1 green cardamom, crush, peel and use the seeds
1 Tbsp Pottukadalai (dry roasted Chana Dal)
5 Cashews
7 Almonds
2 slices fresh Ginger, coin sized
1 hot green chile, core removed
1/4 cup fresh Coconut (3 Tbsp dry unsweetened)

Kurma:
a handful of raw Cashews (optional)
1 small Chayote Squash (or 1 med. Potato)
1 Carrot
1 Handful Green Beans
1 Cup Cauliflower pieces
1 Corn on the cob
1 cup Dry Peas or Chickpeas, cooked
1 pinch Turmeric
1 pinch ground Red Chile (Cayenne)
1 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 Key Lime, Juiced (optional)
A small handful of fresh Cilantro, finely chopped

1 Tbsp Ghee
1 piece Cinnamon Bark
5 whole Cloves
2 Black Cardamoms, slightly crushed
1 Bay Leaf
1 Onion, finely chopped

Method:

Soak the handful of cashews in very hot or boiling water to cover.

Start toasting the spices for masala in a dry skillet; first add the cinnamon and stir for a few seconds; then start adding all the rest one by one while stirring often. After you add the cardamom seeds, stir for a couple of seconds and remove from heat and pour on a plate; let cool.

Toast the nuts lightly; let cool.

Grind the toasted spices and nuts into a smooth paste with the roasted dal, ginger, and coconut adding water as required.

Cut the chayote, potato, carrots, etc. into bite-sized cubes. Cut the corn into small 1" rounds of semicircles and leave the cob in. Remove ends from green beans, and cut them into 1" pieces.

Heat the ghee in a large heavy saucepan and add the cinnamon, cloves, and cardamom; cook until fragrant, about two minutes.

Stir in the onion with a pinch of salt, red pepper, and the turmeric; cook until almost golden.

Stir in the cauliflower and cook stirring for about 2-3 minutes; remove to a bowl and set aside.

Add the rest of the fresh veggies to the same pan and saute for two or three minutes with the salt.

Add the soaked cashews, salt and ground masala paste and mix well; stir in some boiling water to get the right consistency - the curry should have plenty of gravy.

Simmer the kurma gently; when the veggies become just tender, stir in the cauliflower, chickpeas and/or peas and bring back to a boil. Don't worry if the gravy looks a bit thin; as the kurma cools, it will thicken.

Remove from heat and let rest for about 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, add a little lime juice to taste if you like and sprinkle with the cilantro.

Serve with plain rice or pulav, dosa, appam, etc. Enjoy!!