Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Carrot halwa

One of my favorite Indian sweets . . . and it’s made with veggies, so you can even pretend it’s healthy! (Note: this is not to be confused with halva, the sesame sweet from the Middle East. I admit I wasn’t sure what to think when someone told me they were giving me halva and then handed me a bowl o’ carrots).

Carrots, finely grated
Milk – just enough to cover the carrots
Ground cardamom
Cashews, chopped
White raisins

Boil the carrots in the milk till they’re basically soft (they can have a bit of a crunch, for texture). Add sugar and cardamom to taste; toss in some raisins if you like. Boil for a few more minutes, to blend the flavors.

In a pan, toast the cashews; add them to the carrot mixture. Let it cool before serving.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Eggplant (brinjal) curry

The eggplants here are TINY (like, the size of my thumb!) and really sweet . . . I think this would be best with the smallest eggplants you can find (maybe the long, thin Japanese ones?), though it might still work with the big ones. It's worth a try for this spicy curry that ends up being a little sweet as well, thanks to the coconut . . .

1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp moong dal
1 tsp urad dal
1/2 of a small onion, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chili powder
1 tsp meat masala
10 curry leaves
1/2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp ground coriander
2 tbs fresh grated coconut
about 1 1/2 cups eggplant, chopped into bite-sized pieces or 2-inch strips
(optional: 1/2 cup potatoes boiled till about halfway done, chopped into bite-sized pieces)

Heat 1 tbs oil in a small pan; add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dals and fry about 30 seconds. Add onion and fry till brown. Add water to cover the onion, along with turmeric, chili powder, masala, curry leaves, and ginger-garlic paste; cook for a few minutes, adding water if it grows dry. Add coriander, salt to taste, and coconut; then, add the eggplant and potatoes.

Carrot or Green Bean Fry

A super-quick way of making veggies super-tasty . . .

1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp moong dal
1 tsp urad dal
2-3 red chilis, broken into 1-inch pieces
1/4 tsp turmeric
5-10 curry leaves
1 cup lightly steamed veggies, chopped into small cubes (for carrots) or slices (for green beans)
about 2 tsp grated fresh coconut (you can buy it frozen in the U.S., or try unsweetened dried coconut)

Heat 2 tbs oil in a pan; fry mustard seeds, cumin, dals, and chilis for about 30 seconds. Add turmeric, and curry leaves; fry for another 30 seconds before adding the steamed veggies, a sprinkle of water, and salt to taste. Cook for a minute or two before tossing in the coconut.

Serve with rice or roti, and a dal :)

Basic dal, three ways

Dal (lentils) is a major staple in India, especially in the South . . . supposedly there are HUNDREDS of different varieties grown all across the subcontinent. It's generally served with rice and some kind of vegetable curry. Here's a basic dal recipe that can be tweaked to make two different dishes:

#1: Tomato dal!

1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp moong dal
1 tsp urad dal
3 dried red chilis, broken into 1-inch pieces
5 curry leaves
1 cup toor dal (little yellow lentils . . . though there seem to be endless varieties of little yellow lentils . . . ), cooked, mashed, then mixed with water till they're kinda soupy. (Note: the TOTAL amount of dal used after it's soupy should be about 1 cup)
1/2 of a small tomato, chopped (about 1/4 cup)
1/4 tsp turmeric

Heat about 2 tbs oil in a pan; saute the mustard seeds, moong dal, urad dal, and red chilis for about 30 seconds. Toss in the curry leaves and the tomato; add a bit of water to cook the tomato in. Throw in the turmeric and simmer till the tomatoes grow soft. Then, add the dal and salt to taste; cook for a few more minutes to blend the flavors.

#2: Lemon dal (my faaaavorite!)

Follow the above recipe, but leave out the tomato. After you remove the dal from the heat, let it cool for a minute before squeezing in some fresh lemon juice (to taste).

#3 Tamarind dal (a new favorite!)

about 1/2 teaspoon tamarind paste (you can find it in Indian or Middle Eastern stores), dissolved in water to make a smooth liquid

Follow the recipe (including the tomato, minus the lemon). After you've allowed the dal to boil for a few minutes, add the tamarind and allow it to boil for another minute or so. This will give it a yummy, tangy/sourish kinda flavor :)

spinach curry . . . ish.

Also known as my new favorite way to cook greens. (Except maybe Priya's spinach-tomato combination with coconut oil and some other yummy ingredients I can't remember . . . Priya, can you post that, pretty please?)

Anyway, this recipe is deceptively simple, but comes out chock full o'flavor. And it's super-easy . . . Auntie calls it "shortcut curry" :). Unfortunately, I've got no real measurements . . . back to guesstimates for this one!

1 tsp urad dal (little yellow lentils)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
chopped onion -- maybe 2 tbs or so
minced garlic - 1-2 tsp
two or three fresh green chilis, sliced in half, lengthwise
a bunch of spinach (though I bet it would be awesome with kale or collards as well)

Heat about 2 tbs oil in a pan; add the dal, mustard seeds, and cumin and cook for about 30 seconds. Toss in the onion and garlic, adding more oil if needed; fry till they're soft and transluscent. Add the chilis, and fry for about 30 seconds. Toss in the spinach, adding a bit of water if needed. Cook till the leaves are at the desired consistency.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Nikhat's Kadhi

A yummy (and bright yellow!) sour-spicy gravy. My coworker Nikhat tells me it’s something you make when you don’t have any meat or vegetables in the house and need something tasty to eat with your rice or roti!

Also, she gets SOOOOO many points for giving me exact measurements. Woot!

1 cup plain yogurt
3 cups water
2 tbs Bengal gram flour (besan)
3 green chilies
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds
Salt to taste
½ tsp red chili powder
¼ tsp turmeric powder.
1 ½ tsp mustard seeds
1 ½ tsp cumin
2-3 dried red chilis

For the kadhi:
In a large bowl, whisk the yogurt, water, and flour together to form a thick liquid. In a small bowl, mash the chilis, cumin seeds, coriander seeds, and salt into a paste. (A mortar and pestle is great for this, if you have one. Otherwise, you could maybe do it in a food processor). Add the paste to the batter and mix well; stir in both the red chili powder and a pinch of turmeric (only enough to turn it a light yellow color – if you add too much, it’ll make the dish bitter). Boil the mixture for a few minutes, stirring constantly (so it doesn’t form lumps); adjust salt to taste. Remove from heat.

For the seasoning:
In another small pot, heat 2 tbs oil. Toss in a few mustard seeds; if they splutter, it’s hot enough. Add the rest of the mustard seeds, cumin, and chili; cook for about 30 seconds, till the chilis start to turn a darker red. (You can also toss in some curry leaves here, if you like). Add this to the kadhi (the thick yellow mixture) and stir.

I’m betting this would be amazing served over brown rice and steamed veggies. Mmm . . .