Category Archives: Indian Foods

The Family Rasam

It’s a soup! It’s a broth! It’s a staple for people in the Southern parts of India!

Yet, Rasam changes flavor, ingredients and texture in every home I’ve ever eaten it at. Every family makes it a little different and each have their favorite type! Drink it like a warm spicy soup, or mix it with a little rice for a broth-y rice – either way, the definitely the recipe to warm you up this fall and winter! Here’s our family recipe, from my Aunt’s kitchen, to yours!

Ingredients:
Tamarind–10gm (or half teaspoon tamarind paste)
Tomato (soft) — 3
Sambar powder–1.5 tsp (easy to get at a big grocery store/Indian store)
Tuvar dal — 0.5 cup (easy to get at a big grocery store/Indian store)
Tadka/Taste Maker!
Mustard seeds – 0.5 tsp
A few coriander leaves and curry leaves
Cumin powder – a pinch
Pepper (powder) 1/4 tsp
Asafoetida – a pinch
Clarified butter/ghee – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste
Method:
Soak the tamarind in warm water and after a while (5-6 minutes) squeeze out the juice. This step I think is so painful that I usually go straight for the tamarind paste.
Boil the tuvar dal and tomato. The lentils should be soft but still retain their texture. , Boil the tamarind juice with in a big pot that is full to about 1/4 with plain water. Add salt to taste and pop in the sambar powder at the same time. Cook/boil the mix till the really raw smell of tamarind disappates and you are left with a less raw smelling more pungent spicy smell (takes a good 20 minutes or more).
Seperately, take the cooked Toor Dal and tomato and blend it till pulped and add to the tamarind-sambar powder water.
For the Tadka:
Heat the clarified butter, pop in the mustard seeds, along with the cumin & pepper asafoetida.
Drop the Tadka in the main pot of rasam. Add curry leaves and coriander leaves in the boiling rasam to add to the flavour.
Time to make: 45 minutes
Feeds: 4-5

Murgh Khandani (The Family Chicken)

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I’m a meat eating Tamilian whose parents shudder at the thought of an egg entering their home, let alone an entire chicken! But every time they’ve raised their eyebrows at my choice of food, I’m quick to point a finger right back. They’re the ones who insisted on dragging my sister and I to live in every nook and cranny of meat devouring North India, as we were growing up. A few stints in the meat mad developed world didn’t really help their case either.

I’m fascinated at how the culinary influences of my childhood and my roots, automatically meld in the flavors of the Indian recipes I come up!  The creamy texture of my Murgh Khandani  – the richness of the coconut combined with cashews and a very slight hint of chilli – reminds me of the coconut based dishes of the South and the ‘Nawabi’ chicken of the North.

This Diwali, one chicken loving friend said the dish was fit for a king! I hope you agree!

This recipe will feed 4 if served alone, more if there are other sides.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Marinating Time: Overnight or minimum 1 hour

Cook Time: 1 hour

Ingredients:

1kg  skinless chicken drumsticks

1 can coconut milk

2 cups desiccated coconut

1 cup cashew nuts

Finger green chilies 3 finely chopped (do not de-seed)

Onions – 2 (pureed into a fine paste)

Ginger/garlic paste – 1.5 tsp

Onion seeds – ½ tsp

Mustard Seeds – ½ tsp

Curry Leaves – 5-6

Vegetable oil – 2 tbsp

For the Marinade:

Yogurt 2 cups

Salt to taste

Coriander powder – 1 tsp

Cumin powder – 1.5 tsp

Tumeric powder – ¼ tsp

How to put it together!

Marinade:

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Marinating is key when you want to present a meat dish that is soft, juicy and succulent. Mix the yogurt, salt, coriander powder, turmeric powder and cumin powder. Pour over the chicken and mix the two well. Set aside in the fridge overnight.

If you don’t have the time to do that, let the chicken sit in the marinade as long as possible. Prep the rest of the dish in the meantime. Leave it in the yogurt for at least 1 hour.

The dish:

Heat your oil in a wide dish and put in the onion seeds and mustard seeds. Let them pop before adding the curry leaves. Let the leaves cook in the oil for a few seconds before adding the onion paste.

Cook the onions till they are slightly brown and add the ginger/garlic paste. Cook for at least another 6-8 minutes on a med/low heat without burning the pastes.

Slowly add your marinated chicken, with the yogurt into the pan. Turn up the heat to medium and toss the chicken with the onions etc. Make sure the chicken is touching the hot pan during this process. After about 5 minutes of doing this, add your coconut milk and desiccated coconut to the mix. Then add the chopped green chilies to the mix. Stir well until the onion, chili, coconut and yogurt all mix well. Turn the gas down to low, cover and leave to cook for 40 minutes.

In the meantime, put the cashews in a food processor/liquidizer and add enough water to create a paste. It should look and feel like a thick milk shake. Keep this cashew paste ready.

After 40 minutes, check your chicken is cooked. The meat should be falling off the bone. If so, it’s now ready for the royal treatment – ‘Add the cashew paste to the chicken and stir’.

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Cover and leave to cook for another 5-6 minutes. Taste test for salt. Add more if needed.

Add a garnish of freshly chopped coriander if you want to dress up the presentation a bit.

How to Serve:

Serve with Parantha, Naan or boiled rice. I served my chicken with Naan and Jeera Rice for Diwali.

Booze that goes with this dish:

Red wine is an excellent accompaniment for this dish. I love a good Montepulciano with my milder Indian dishes. Of course, as always a good beer is great with it too. I find beers like Kingfisher or Cobra go well too.

Coriander & Mint Chutney

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Traditionally this dip/chutney has been used as a side, as a spice or as an accompaniment. It is a must if you are making any sort of Indian street food.

The sweet Tamarind chutney, which is the second chutney that must be used in all Indian street food is a bit laborious to make and for Diwali, I love the Maggie Tamarina Chutney and in the interest of time, I don’t mind not making the second chutney from scratch. Best of all, my local Tesco stocks the stuff!

But buying Green Chutney of the shelf – It’s a NO-GO in my family. It can make or break every dish it goes into. This is the spicy stuff and it has to be JUST RIGHT!

It also traditionally is made purely of coriander/cilantro. I like to push boundaries a bit and shocked my mother-in-law when I took the recipe she’s famous for & made it just that little bit mine! Who would have thought adding mint to it, would elicit such shock!

Prep Time: 5-8 minutes

Cook Time:  5 minutes

Makes enough for 10 or for freezing for later use.

Ingredients:

Coriander – 2 thick bunches

Mint – 1 thick bunch

Finger Green Chilies – 9-10

Ginger – Peeled – 2 inch knob

1 small onion

Sugar – to taste

Salt – to taste

Lemon juice – to taste

Water

How to put it together!

Before you go any further, for this recipe you must have a Food Processor/Liquidizer. If you don’t, well it’s going to be a near impossible task.

Put the peeled onion, cut in half into the food processor followed by the peeled knob of ginger, finger chillies (with the stems cut off). Grind into a fine paste. If your processor isn’t making it into a fine paste – Don’t worry yet!

Wash the mint leaves and take them individually off their stems. Put the leaves into the food processor with a  little bit of water to help the liquidation process.

In the meantime, wash the coriander leaves thoroughly. Cut off the roots and put the coriander in the food processor, stems and all! (I hate waste)

Add a dash of lemon juice, ¼ cup of water, salt, sugar and process away. Keep adding a little lemon juice to help in the process. Once all the leaves have been pureed and it looks like the picture attached, do a taste test. It should be quite spicy, a little sweet and sour all at the same time! Add green chilies, lemon juice or sugar to adjust the spice levels.

Voila – Coriander Mint Chutney in a jiffy!

Tip: The temptation to buy little packets of washed coriander is there – I understand, but don’t do it! They are prepared, won’t have a deep green color and will cost the earth if you want to make a decent quantity of chutney.

Some people use garlic in their green chutney. I prefer the taste without. Have a go with a few peeled pods ground into your chutney and make up your own mind!

You can freeze the leftovers in small containers or leave it all in the fridge. It will last 3-4 days in the fridge.

Serving suggestions: In Bhel Puri, Sev Puri, all kinds of chaats, as a sandwich spread (tastes great in a sandwich toasted with cheese) and as a side for all kinds of Indian dishes.

Gajjar Ka Halwa (Carrot Pudding)

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Absolutely delicious, this is one of the few Indian sweets I actually enjoy. This dessert is not as sickeningly sweet as most Indian sweets are and with a few adjustments, works fine for lactose intolerant eaters.

Gajjar ka Halwa, or carrot pudding is rich visually, in taste and tradition. But here’s a heads up – this dish needs a careful eye, and the patience of a baker. This is a recipe which I got from an aunt, with a few tweaks and suggestions from a few restaurant chefs. It’s taken a few tries to combine the suggestions, but it sure as heck works!

I’m making a massive quantity for Diwali, so the recipe below has been pared down and should feed around 4 people. (More, if everyone’s watching their weight!). I also don’t use Khoya (condensed milk) for obvious reasons so this recipe is less fatty than normal.

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time:  2 hours or more

Ingredients:

Carrots – 1kg (that’s about 8-9 medium ones)

Almond slivers – a handful (available in the dessert aisle of your supermarket)

Raisins – a handful

Cashew – a handful

Milk – 2.5 cups (for those with lactose intolerance, use lacto-free milk. I use the semi-skimmed variety and it works)

Cardamom powder – 1/4 tsp, or if you love the flavor you can adjust it to taste

Sugar – 3/4 to 1 cup (again depends on how sweet your tooth is!)

Clarified/unsalted butter Or Ghee -3-4 tbsp

(now this is the only part I struggle with! I’ve tried margarine and the taste has been awful. So, I use the Ghee, but then eat very small portions of the halwa!)

If you don’t have a milk intolerance:

Use 2 Cups of milk in the recipe

Use ½ cup of condensed milk or Khoya if you can find it.

How to put it together!

In a food processor, grate the washed and peeled carrots. This is the most painful part of the recipe and if you have a processor, it will make life so easy.

Chop the cashew nuts. Keep the almond slivers and washed resins aside. Soak the resins for a few minutes in water.

Heat the unsalted butter/ghee in a thick-bottomed pan, add grated carrots and sauté for around 10-15 minutes. Do this on medium heat. You don’t want to burn the carrots. Take a bite, see if the carrots have softened.

If everything is going right, this is a good time to slowly add 2 cups of milk to the carrots. Pour it in slowly, you don’t want to burn anything. Throw in the cardamom powder, stir  well and then still on medium heat, cook till the milk is pretty much all gone. This can take a while, since the heat is quite low so as not to curdle the milk. I did laugh when I saw an online recipe that says the milk evaporates in 8 minutes!  Whatever you do, don’t forget to keep an eye on the milk so it doesn’t curdle!

When the milk’s all gone (don’t go by a clock here), add in the remaining ½ cup of milk and the lacto-free cream. Stir in the sugar at the same time. Cook it till the sugar is well and truly dissolved and the remaining milk has evaporated. Again, this takes the patience and the eye of a baker. It can take a good 20-30 minutes. Whatever you do, don’t get lazy and keep stirring continuously!

Keep the cooking process going for a few minutes (2-3 minutes) after the milk & sugar has well and truly melded with the carrots.

Drop in the cashew nuts, almond slivers and raisins. Stir them in

If you are not lactose intolerant or want the real deal and want to use condensed milk, remember in the step where you add 1/2 cup of milk, add condensed milk or Khoya instead and don’t add any cream.

Tip: add a few strings of saffron to the dish when you add the milk. Delish!

I ran out of saffron this evening and my carrots were more orange than red which is probably why my Halwa this evening turned out quite orange!

How to serve: Traditionally served piping hot, many homes in India will pare this with a scoop of Vanilla Ice cream. I skip the ice cream but love this dessert cold out of the fridge as well. So, you have a myriad of ways you can choose to serve. I served my Halwa this Diwali with store bought Kulfi (Indian ice cream).

Booze that goes with this: None. The flavors of this dessert are too strong in my opinion to go well with any dessert/port wine. Avoid!

Moong Dal Or Yellow Lentil Soup

Low Fat, filling, quick to make and super rich in proteins! This is a great dish for those on a diet or watching their weight!

In the US or Europe, you’d probably call this Yellow Lentil Soup, but in India this is a staple dish that almost every family has every single day, as a side. All Lentils are called Dal in Hindi, and from there you go into various kinds of Dal.

This Moong Dal recipe gets little tweaks as you travel the length & breadth of India. It’s the simplest dish I’ve ever made, yet a little addition & subtraction can change the entire flavor taking you to a new part of the country.

The following is a combination of recipes served around India with specific changes, to make it traditional to Gujarat (the Western most state in India). Make sure you read the entire post before you start to cook. The method & end product can look & taste very different. The Dal in the photo, is the Gujarati version.Image

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Ingredients

Moong Dal – 1 cup

Red Onion – 1 finely chopped

Ginger – 1 inch finely chopped

Garlic – 2 whole pods crushed

OR

Ginger & Garlic Paste – 1.5 tsp

1 small tomato finely chopped OR 6-7 Dried Kokum pieces (available in your local Indian store, makes it very Gujarati in its taste)

2-3 small finger chillies – Finely chopped

Coriander leaves (Optional Garnish)

1/2 tsp – Coriander Powder

1 tsp – Cumin Powder

1/4 tsp – Tumeric Powder

1 tsp – Cumin Seeds

1 tbsp – Vegetable Oil (don’t use Olive Oil for this dish)

Salt to taste

Lemon Juice to taste

Method

Heat the oil in a deep pan, but do not let it smoke or burn.

Add the Cumin Seeds to the oil and let them go brown (careful not to burn them).

Add the chopped onion, ginger and garlic and cook over a low flame till they are translucent.

Add the spices – i.e – turmeric, coriander, cumin powder.

Cook with the onions for 2 minutes to release the ground spices.

Add the washed cup of Moong Dal

Add 2 cups of water, salt, Kokum and green chillies to the Dal.

Let it come to a boil and then simmer till the Dal is cooked, but not mushy. It should still have a bite to it.

Now comes the fun part!

If you want to serve this Gujarati style follow these steps:

Pour the dal (as little liquid as possible) into a food processor. Too much liquid and your kitchen will look like it was attacked by the lentil fairies. Blend till its almost paste like in consistency  Bring it back to the stove, adding enough water to make it a thick soup. Heat. Serve.

If you want to serve this in the regular style follow these steps:

Skip adding the Kokum and green chillies when boiling the dal up. Also, do not puree in the food processor. Leave the lentils in the pan ensuring there is enough water to make the consistancy of thin soup, with the lentils left in whole (but with a bite).

In a small frying pan, add 1 tbsp of oil and heat. Add 1/4 tsp of cumin seeds, 1 chopped tomato and the green chillies. Watch yourself, this stuff sputters! Leave it on high heat for 1 or 2 minutes and then quickly pour on top of the boiled lentil soup. Add some lemon juice for some tang. Serve.

Serving Suggestions

You can serve this as a soup. Traditionally in India, it is served with either plain boiled rice or chapatis. You can get frozen ones at your grocery store but do try and avoid the ready to eat nans you get in supermarkets. They are unhealthy and full of preservatives.

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