Buttery dal

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I’m usually not one for dal, but even I can’t resist the buttery goodness in this dish.

Serves: 3-4

Ingredients

  • 250 g dry lentils (soak this in water for about 4-6 hours)
  • 2 onions, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 20 g ginger, minced
  • 500 g tomatoes (I used canned tomatoes)
  • 60 g butter
  • 1/2 tbsp chili powder (adjust to your liking)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • chopped cilantro, to garnish

Directions

  1. In a covered pot on medium heat, bring the lentils and water to a boil. Cook for about 90 minutes.
  2. In a hot skillet, lightly fry the garlic and ginger.
  3. Add the onion and half of the butter just before the garlic starts to brown. Cook for 10 minutes.
  4. Add the tomatoes, salt, and chili powder. Cook for another 10 minutes.
  5. Strain the lentils, and add them directly to the tomato mixture.
  6. Fold in the remaining butter and add the garam masala. Simmer for another 20 minutes.
  7. Serve with a sprinkling of cilantro over some rice or naan.

 

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Chickpeas in tamarind sauce

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This recipe blew my socks off; I had severe doubts and hopes regarding its success and was entirely elated when I tasted the composition. Normally, I’m tasting things as I’m going along, adjusting here and there. As I was taste testing the sauce, my worries set in – the tamarind comes across incredibly strong. I was afraid it was too overpoweringly sour and thought I’d have to bin the dish… Somehow I had the idea to roll one little chickpea in the sauce before sending this pot to the trash. It was the best thing I could have done!

The creamy, nutty chickpeas balance the sweet tartness from the tamarind. This dish is creamy, tart, savory, and spicy. I can’t wait to make it again.

Servings: 3-4

Ingredients

  • 200 g dried chickpeas (after measuring, soak them in water for 6 hours)
  • 40 g tamarind (simmer this on the stovetop for about 30 minutes in about 3/4 cup of water)
  • 4 shallots, sliced into half rings
  • 10 g ginger, minced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 bird’s eye chili, sliced
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
  • 4 tomatoes, diced
  • 1/2 tsp salt, adding more to taste

Directions

  1. These three things can be done on three burners, simultaneously.
    1. Boil the chickpeas for about 90 minutes. Strain and set aside.
    2. Once the tamarind is quite soft, strain it, reserving the water. Remove any seeds, and do what you can to mash up the solids. We’ll be using the water and the mashed up solids in the sauce.
    3. Caramelize the shallots in a skillet with a bit of oil. Set aside.
  2. In a skillet on medium-high heat, fry the ginger, garlic, and chili until the garlic is fragrant but not browned.
  3. Add the cumin and coriander, stirring for about 1 minute.
  4. Add the tomatoes and tamarind juices/solids. Combine with the sugar and salt. Let this simmer for about 10 minutes.
  5. Take one cooked chickpea, roll it in the sauce and taste it. Adjust the sugar and salt to taste.
  6. Fold the chickpeas and shallots in the sauce.
  7. Serve with your choice of naan or rice.

 

Saffron rice with toasted almonds and raisins

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A very North Indian dish with a lot going on for it – floral notes from the saffron and cardamom (magnified if you use Ceylon cinnamon), toasty nuttiness from the almonds, and a juicy, sweet surprise from the raisins.

Servings: 3-4

Ingredients

  • 2 cups of white rice (Basmati, if you can)
  • 2 cups of water
  • a generous pinch of saffron
  • 2 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • one finger length piece of cinnamon bark (Ceylon, if you can)
  • 2 tbsp ghee or coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup of raisins
  • 1/3 cup of sliced almonds
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Directions

  1. On the stove top in a covered pot, bring the rice and water to boil.
  2. Simultaneously in a separate vessel (I used a small sauce pan), lightly fry the cardamom and cinnamon in 1 tbsp of your chosen lipid.
  3. When the rice is boiling, add the saffron and turn the heat down to low.
  4. When the cardamom and cinnamon start to become fragrant, add the almonds. Toast until they become golden.
  5. Then add the raisins. Cook for about 1-2 more minutes.
  6. Fluff the rice with the salt, additional 1 tbsp of lipid, and the spice-almond-raisin mixture. Continue cooking until most of the water has been absorbed.
  7. Turn off the heat and leave the pot covered for another 10 minutes.
  8. Serve with any number of Indian dishes.

Puff Pastry Samosas

 

Sometimes, I feel guilty about the ungodly amount of time I spend thinking about food. But then I remember my love of dumplings and how many people also share it – the dumpling mania transcends multiple cultural barriers.

Great clip on making dumplings and dumpling parties.

Some examples (not in any particular order and obviously only as complete as my experience has permitted):

  • Vietnamese dumplings: Bánh Bao, Bánh Ít
  • Chinese dumplings: Shumai, Bao, Wonton
  • Japanese dumplings: Gyoza, Daifuku
  • Korean dumpling: Mandu
  • South American dumpling: Empanada
  • Italian dumplings: Tortellini, Ravioli
  • Eastern European dumpling: Pierogi
  • Nepalese dumpling: Momo
  • Indian dumplings: Samosa, Kozhukatta

Now I’m no poet, but if I were at all skilled in this area, there could be an Ode to Dumplings (or multiple).

In my limited foray in the samosa world, I’ve found them to fall most often on the thick crust side of the dumpling line. For me, the best part of the dumpling is the filling, so  puff pastry offers an agreeable solution to my gripes about thick samosa crusts.

Yield: 16 samosas

Ingredients

  • one package of puff pastry, rolled a little and cut into 16 squares
  • some flour for rolling out the dough
  • 3 small potatoes, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 1 cup of cauliflower florets (about 1/4 of a smallish head)
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 tsp asafoetida
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • salt to taste
  • 2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 medium-small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1 red chili, finely chopped
  • 1 cup of green peas
  • chopped cilantro
  • a bit of olive oil and a brush

Directions

Steaming

  1. Steam the potatoes, cauliflower and carrots for 10 minutes, or until they are soft.

Filling

  1. Heat the coconut oil in a skillet and add the mustard seeds. Cover this with a lid, and wait for them to pop. Careful not to leave them too long, otherwise they will burn.
  2. When the time between pops increases noticeably, add the cumin seeds and asafoetida. Only let the spices bloom for about 5-10 seconds.
  3. Immediately add the ginger, garlic, and chili. Stir well.
  4. Once the garlic becomes fragrant, add the onion.
  5. Once the onion becomes soft, stir in the curry powder and cook for 3-5 minutes.
  6. Add the steamed vegetables and the green peas.
  7. Add salt to taste.
  8. When the vegetable mixture becomes a bit dry, take this off the heat.
  9. Stir in the cilantro.
  10. Let it cool uncovered for about 10 minutes. Stuffing hot and moist filling in a dumpling is not fun.

Assembly

  1. Heat the oven to 200 C.
  2. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Spoon about 1-2 tbsp of filling into each puff pastry square and fold the edges on the diagonal. Seal it shut with the tines of a fork. Poke some air holes at the top of the samosa and place it on a cookie sheet. Resist the urge to overstuff the samosa.
  4. Brush each samosa lightly with olive oil.
  5. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until golden-brown.
  6. Serve with your favorite chutney.

 

Biryani

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I like it when I find dishes that sum up a country in one go – for India, I think it’s Biryani. Every major Indian spice (ok, except Asafoetida, but don’t be difficult) takes center stage in this glorious cacophony of flavors. Bonus: This is a dish that tastes amazing the day you make it and the subsequent days as well.

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

Rice

  • 1 1/2 cups of rinsed Basmati rice (could sub Jasmine rice in a pinch)
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/2 a bay leaf

Rice Topping

  • a pinch of saffron
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tbsp ghee

Spices

  • 1 tsp shahi jeera (caraway seeds)
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick (broken into 2-3 pieces)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 green cardamon, pods and seeds separated
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp chili powder
  • a pinch of ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • salt to taste

Vegetables

  • 3 small onions or 2 medium sized onions, sliced
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 cup of cauliflower florets (make them small)
  • 1/2 cup of peas
  • 1 inch piece of ginger, minced
  • 4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tomato, diced
  • optional: 1 package of veggie balls (I usually find this in a German or American store in the vegetarian section near the tofu)

Other ingredients

  • 1 cup of yogurt mixed with 2 tbsp water
  • a bunch of mint leaves, chopped
  • a bunch of cilantro, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of cashews, chopped and dry roasted

Directions

Rice

  1. Bring the rice and water to a rolling boil in an uncovered pot on the stove.
  2. Cover the pot and turn the heat down to low-medium.
  3. When water fully evaporates, take the pot off the heat and let it sit, covered.

Rice Topping

  1. Warm the milk slightly (30 seconds in the microwave).
  2. Soak the saffron in the warmed milk.
  3. At the end, drizzle the Saffron infused milk on finished rice along with the ghee.
  4. Fluff the rice as you mix.

Preparation

  1. In 2 tbsp of oil, caramelize the sliced onions. They should be a bit brown and crispy.
  2. Set the onions aside in a bowl with the cashews (mixed well).
  3. With another 1 tbsp of oil, lightly fry the bay leaf, cloves, separated cardamom, star anise,  cinnamon stick for about 1 minute.
  4. Add shahi jeera and let it blossom – 10 seconds.
  5. Add minced ginger and garlic and cook till they turn slightly brown (1-2 minutes).
  6. Add the remaining vegetables and veggie balls (if using) and cook for 5 minutes.
  7. Fry the turmeric, chili powder, garam masala, cumin, coriander, nutmeg, black pepper with the vegetables for 2-3 minutes.
  8. Pour half the yogurt into the vegetable-spice mixture and stir well.
  9. Cook on low heat until the vegetables are al dente.
  10. Fold the remaining yogurt, mint, and cilantro into the pan.
  11. Cook everything on low heat until the temperature is warm throughout.

Assembly

  1. In a deep dish, evenly spread a layer rice on the bottom.
  2. Add a layer of vegetables and onions/cashew mix over the rice.
  3. Spread another layer of rice on top,  and so on… the top layer should be rice. It’s kind of like making lasagna.
  4. Preheat oven to 150 C.
  5. Cover the dish and bake it for 20 minutes.
  6. Sprinkle some mint and cilantro on top.

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