Sooji

This popular south Indian dessert is one of my favorites. I like adding extra cashews to it.

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of upma or sooji rava
  • 1 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup of split cashews
  • 1/4 cup of raisins
  • 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
  • 3 cups of water
  • 1/4 cup of butter or ghee
  • a pinch of saffron

Directions

  1. Toast the cashews and raisins, then set them aside
  2. Melt the butter in a skillet, and toast the rava
  3. Once the rava is a golden color, add the water and mix well.
  4. Lower the heat, and let the rava absorb the water. Stir occasionally.
  5. Once the water is fully absorbed, add the sugar. Stir well.
  6. Add the saffron and cardamom
  7. Remove from heat, and top with the cashews and raisins
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Mor Kulambu

One of my favorite flavor profiles is creamy, sour, and spicy – this dish hits all those nodes. I guess you could describe this as a classic South Indian yogurt soup, that takes a versatile range of vegetables, and sometimes features some mouth watering vadas (fried doughballs). Every household has a slightly different recipe, and here is just one variation.

Servings: 4

Ingredients

Mor

  • 2 cups of plain yogurt at room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tbsp white rice, soaked for 2 hours
  • 1 tbsp chickpea flour
  • 1/2 cup water

Tempered spices

  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida

Ginger paste

  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 fresh, sliced Asian chilis (Bird’s eye will do just fine)
  • 1 tbsp toor dal, soaked for 2 hours
  • 1/2 in piece of ginger, sliced
  • 1/4 cup grated coconut
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves (10 leaves)

Set this aside

  • Your choice of cooked vegetables (blanched, boiled, etc.) – e.g. zucchini, eggplant, okra, or vada
  • cilantro for garnish
  • some cooked rice

Directions

  1. Churn the Mor mixture well
  2. Add the tempered spices to the Mor mixture, adding some water to thin it (up to 1/2 cup)
  3. Separately blend the ginger paste with a blender or food processor
  4. Mix the Mor and the ginger paste well in a sauce pan and bring it to a boil
  5. Add the vegetables, cook for about 5-6 minutes, until tender
  6. Add salt to taste
  7. Garnish with cilantro
  8. Serve with rice or rotis

South Indian Coconut Green Bean Curry

I can’t get enough of the coconut and turmeric in this dish – there is this wonderful nutty aroma that pairs well with the crunchy green beans. The actual name of this dish is “Achingya Thoren.”

This makes about 6 servings.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 sprigs of curry leaves (about 1/8 cup of curry leaves)
  • 3/4 cup of shredded coconut
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/4 tsp Madras chili powder (or 1 tsp American chili powder)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tbsp urad dal
  • 2 whole dried hot red chilis
  • 3/4 lb green beans, with the ends cut off, and in 1 inch chunks
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup water

Directions

  1. Finely chop about half of the curry leaves and mix in a bowl with the coconut, cumin, chili powder, tumeric, salt, and garlic. Add some water to the mixture so that it sticks together.
  2. Heat the oil in a medium pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they stop popping, add the urad dal.
  3. Once the urad dal turns light brown, add the whole chilis and remaining curry leaves.
  4. After about 30 seconds, add the green beans, salt, and 1/4 cup of water.
  5. Stir the beans often and cook them until they are soft, but still a little crunchy, about 5-7 minutes.
  6. Add the coconut mix and the remaining 1/4 cup of water and cook for 5 minutes more.

Chana Masala

Hearty garbanzo beans in a thick and creamy tomato-onion sauce. Add more or less chili to your liking. I used a blender for the sauce, but a food processor will work just as well.

This makes about 4-5 servings.

Ingredients

  • 1 can of garbanzo beans (about 15 oz), drained with the garbanzo water set aside in a bowl
  • 1 large onion or 2 small onions, diced
  • 2 large vine tomatoes (or 3-4 roma tomatoes), diced
  • 4-5 cloves of minced garlic
  • 1-2 tsp of minced ginger
  • 1/2 of a green chili (I used a serrano pepper)
  • 1/3-1/2 cup of chopped cliantro
  • 1/4 tsp Madras chili powder (or 1 tsp of American chili powder)
  • 1-2 tsp of chana masala or garam masala
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp of olive oil

Directions

  1. Heat the oil in a medium pan and add the onions and chili pepper.
  2. Once the onions are soft, add the garlic and ginger.
  3. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are mushy.
  4. Put the entire mixture in a blender (heat safe glass) and blend into a fine paste. Add 2 tbsp or more of the garbanzo water to help the mixture blend evenly. If you are using a blender with a plastic or glass body, wait until the mixture cools down before blending.
  5. Return the blended paste to the same pan and stir in the garbanzo beans. Add about 1/2 cup of the garbanzo water, the salt, and the chili powder. Bring the mixture to a boil. You can add more garbanzo water or regular water to thin the sauce if desired.
  6. Add the chana masala or garam masala and cilantro. Remove from the heat.

Palak Paneer

One of my favorite Indian dishes is Palak Paneer (palak = spinach and paneer = cheese). I usually make it with store-bought paneer, but my sister got me a cheese kit for Christmas, so I thought I’d try to make the whole dish from scratch. I┬ástarted using the recipe from Edible Garden, but then had my own way with it:

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The DIY Cheese Kit from Urban Cheesecraft: cheesecloth, cheese salt, citric acid.

I think the most time-efficient way is to start by making the paneer, and as it rests, to put together the palak. At the end, you just cut up the paneer into small blocks and stir gently into the palak. If you like having rice with your meal (as opposed to naan), it’s best to start the rice at the same time as the paneer, so it’s ready by dinner time.

This recipe makes enough for 6 servings, assuming there is also about 6 servings of rice.

Paneer Ingredients:

  • half a gallon of milk
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tsp citric acid (alternatively you may use 4 tbsp of lemon juice, although I have not tested this)
  • 1 tsp cheese salt
    • The difference between cheese salt and regular salt is that cheese salt is flaky, non-iodized salt. Apparently the iodine in table salt inhibits the cultures of bacteria that you want present in the cheese.

Palak Ingredients:

      • 8 cups of spinach
        • I really like spinach, so I tend to go heavy on the spinach. A sensible person may use something like 4-6 cups instead.
      • 1 large onion, diced
        • I will probably use ~1.5 onions next time
      • 3-4 cloves of raw garlic, no need to mince
        • I also tend to go heavy on garlic; you could probably do half of this… but who doesn’t like garlic?
      • ~1 tsp raw ginger root, no need to dice
        • Some people use more like 1/2 tsp, but I really like ginger.
      • 1/4 tsp Madras chili powder (use more if you have a milder chili powder)
      • 1 tsp coriander powder
      • 1/2 tsp cumin powder
      • 1/4 tsp tumeric powder
      • ~1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (also called kasoori methi at the Indian grocery)
      • 1 tsp garam masala (you can use a full tsp on this; only channa masala can get spicy)
      • salt to taste
      • 1 tbsp olive oil
      • 1 cup of water
      • 1/4 tsp of asafoetida (also called hing at the Indian grocery)

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Paneer Directions:

        1. Dissolve the citric acid in the water, and set aside
        2. Heat the milk slowly over low-medium heat until it reaches 190F. Stir it frequently to prevent it from burning.

          IMG_1297

          Only at 79F – got to keep heating!

        3. Turn to low heat, and gently stir the citric acid and water in the milk for about 1 minute.
        4. Remove from the heat and keep stirring until you get a clear separation of the curds (chunky white stuff) and whey (clear yellow juice).

          IMG_1310

          If the separation is dubious/unclear, add a little more citric acid.

        5. Let the pot sit for about 10 minutes, undisturbed.
        6. Line a colander with cheesecloth in your sink, and pour the contents of the pot in the colander.
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        7. Gently twist the cloth to squeeze out the whey.
        8. Open up the cloth, stir in the cheese salt. Mix well.

          IMG_1311

          To be a little fancier, you can add some herbs or spices with the cheese salt.

        9. Fold up the cheesecloth, and set a weight on top (e.g. a gallon of water). Let it sit at room temperature for about 30 min – 1 hour.
          IMG_1326

Palak Directions:

  1. Blanch the spinach by bringing a pot of water to boil and simmering the spinach in it for ~2 minutes.
    IMG_1313
  2. In a food processor or blender, blend the spinach, garlic, and ginger together.
    IMG_1315 IMG_1317
  3. In a separate pot on the stove, heat the oil.
  4. Add the cumin powder and fry for about 5 seconds.
    IMG_1318
  5. Add the onions. Saute until they are soft.
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  6. Add the coriander, tumeric, chili powder, and hing. Continue to saute.
  7. Add the spinach-garlic-ginger blend.
  8. Add the water, and bring to a boil.
  9. Add the dried fenugreek leaves and salt.
    IMG_1325
  10. Cook covered for abut 6-8 minutes. Be careful not to overcook the spinach.
  11. Add the diced paneer, stirring gently.

    IMG_1327

    After resting at room temperature for 30 min – 1 hr, the paneer should be ready to eat. Take it out of the cheese cloth and dice it into small cubes. The smaller the cubes, the more easily it will melt in the palak.

  12. Add the garam masala and mix well.
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  13. Serve with rice or naan.