Category Archives: Indian recipes

[Weekday special]: Brown rice with corn & 5-daals

 

Opposite of holidays. Weekdays in January.

Opposite of Christmas baking. Wholesome ingredients.

Opposite of staycation. Work travel in full swing.

Few weeks into 2016 and I’m craving some healthy comfort food in a bowl.

For most Indians — daal with white rice is comfort food and a staple diet. Growing up I was never a fan of white rice (#tastepreferences). Daal — I loved and enjoyed by itself like soup. One can argue that since I was eating everything else it really wasn’t a big deal. My mom learnt the trick though — she realized I loved biryani/pulao i.e. rice preparation with spices, veggies or meat! And that’s how it all started my love affair with rice preparations.

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dried red chillies & fresh green chillies

There are literally infinite permutations and combinations of making daal and rice. My favorite pair – panchmel daal [daal made using 5 (panch) types of pulses (lentils, peas or bean etc.)] and makai ki khichdi [makai = corn; khichdi = rice cooked with turmeric and mild spices]. You can easily substitute any type of rice you have in your pantry – I typically use brown rice. It is an adaptation of a regional favorite from the state of Rajasthan in India. Rajasthan is where the ‘Thar desert’ is located in India — the regional food is influenced by ingredients available in the arid region.

The panchmel daal and makai ki khichdi combo completes the trifecta – simple, flavorful and healthy! Even if you make daal-rice regularly this pair is the way to go to take it up the notch. Don’t you love a dish that is versatile enough to be easily doable on a weekday (“comfort food in a bowl”) but has complex flavors deserving a spot at a dinner party? Trust me the ginger-green chilli flavor will leave a lasting impression on your taste buds!

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I’m sure you can enjoy the panchmel daal with simple white basmati rice and corn khichdi by itself (or as a side) but for me it is a pair that should always be together! Try it and let me know what you think.

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Adapted from: http://www.sanjeevkapoor.com

Panchmel Daal & Makai Ki Khichdi

  • Servings: 2-3
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

MAKAI KI KHICHDI

  • 1 cup corn kernels (frozen, thawed)
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
  • Pinch of asafoetida
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2-4 finely chopped green chillies (from Indian store or Thai green chillies)
  • 1 inch finely chopped fresh ginger
  • salt to taste
  • finely chopped cilantro for garnish

PANCHMEL DAAL

  • 1 1/4 cups mix-daals* (1/4 cup lentils, 1/4 cup toor daal, 1/4 chana daal, 1/4 green moong daal, 1/4 yellow moong daal)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • pinch of asafoetida
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 4 cloves
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • ~1.5 inches fresh ginger
  • 2-4 green chillies (from Indian store or Thai green chillies)
  • 1 large chopped tomato
  • 2 tsp cumin-coriander powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • salt to taste
  • finely chopped cilantro for garnish

*the recipe calls for five different daals – feel free to use any that you have in your pantry!

Directions:

  • In two separate bowls – soak rice and daal in water for ~1 hour.
  • Pressure cook the daal (or boil the daals) with turmeric powder until cooked.
  • While the daal is cooking let’s make the Corn Rice:
    • In a pot, heat ghee once it is hot –> add asafoetida + turmeric powder +cumin seeds + finely chopped green chillies + finely chopped ginger. Stir.
    • Add corn + lemon juice. Stir.
    • Finally, add the rice + ~3 cups of water.
    • Keep a lid and let the rice cook (~20 mins).
  • While the rice is cooking let’s prep for our Daal:
    • Using a mortar and pestle grind the ginger and green chillies together.
    • In a pot, heat oil once it is hot add asafoetida + cumin seeds + cloves + dried red chillies + ginger-green chillies paste. Stir.
    • Add the chopped tomatoes and cook for 1-2 mins.
    • By this time the daal should be cooked — stir in the cooked daal to the pot.
    • Add cumin-coriander powder + red chilli powder + garam masala + salt to taste.
    • Let it simmer for few minutes.
  • Garnish both the rice and daal with finely chopped cilantro and enjoy!

[I’m dreaming of a white Christmas]: White Wine Cake

myInspiration for holiday baking this year:

Recent trip to Vermont.

Mountains.

Light dusting of snow.

Christmas trees.

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von Trapp Family Lodge, Stowe, VT

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Clearly Vermont left an everlasting impression on me. More about my Vermont trip in an independent ‘travel’ post. It deserves that recognition.

These cakes baked in mini-loaf pans are pretty for holiday gifting. I was able to give individual gifts to both my work teams and some friends. They look and taste awesome!

A note from a co-worker sums it up pretty well, “I wanted to thank you so very much for that lovely little cake that you sent home with us! It was delicious, so light and just sweet enough. And that little pan you put it in I am using for nuts, to put out when I have guests. So very thoughtful.”

For me this cake takes me back to simple, uncomplicated desserts and I relish every bite. The Christmas tree cake topper makes it look so festive!

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Adapted from: Silver Palette Cook Book (cake) and toppers.

White wine cake and Christmas tree toppers

  • Servings: 8 mini loaf pans
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Ingredients:

WHITE WINE CAKE

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup oil
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup confectionery sugar for dusting

CHRISTMAS TREE TOPPERS

  • 1 cup green candy melt
  • 1 cup pretzel sticks
  • crushed candy cane
  • 2 tbsp confectionery sugar (optional)

Directions:

WHITE WINE CAKE

  • Preheat oven to 350 deg F.
  • Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt.
  • Using an electric mixer – beat sugar and eggs together.
  • Once blended add oil + wine + flour mixture + vanilla mix for ~1 minute.
  • Pour the batter into mini-loaf bake dish lined with a parchment paper or round cake pan or cupcake pan.
  • Bake in the oven for ~30 minutes (until toothpick inserted in the center cones out clean).
  • Once the cake is baked and cool – dust with confectionery sugar.

CHRISTMAS TREE TOPPERS

  • While the cake is in the oven – melt the candy melts per directions on the bag.
  • Once melted fill the candy melts in a piping bag.
  • Arrange the pretzel sticks on a plate with foil or parchment paper.
  • Pipe out a “christmas tree” shape — no right or wrong — it will all look pretty!
  • Immediately top with some crushed candy cane pieces.
  • Refrigerate for 10-15 minutes.
  • Dust with confectionery sugar (optional).
  • Carefully, remove the tree and use it as a topper for the delicious white wine cake you just baked!

[Sibling Rivalry or Taste Preferences?]: Spicy Lentils Soup aka Masoor Aamti

I love lentils. I should clarify. I love lentils now. My sister S adores lentils – masoor aamti along with (as she would say it), “hot hot” rice. One of our favorite family story is when she was 6 years old she woke up in the middle of the night crying. Apparently she forgot to eat masoor aamti with rice! Since then whenever my mom cooked masoor aamti she made sure S ate it with rice to her heart’s content!

I, on the other hand, loved sprouted vaal usal (field beans curry). It deserves a separate post since it is a popular regional speciality. Tedious prep work but still my favorite! S hated it.

Around the same time (I was probably in 3rd or 4th grade) I stopped eating masoor aamti. I can’t seem to remember the exact reason besides the fact that we each had our favorites.

Few years later I finally gave in and went for a cup of masoor aamti. The tomatoey-spicy concoction has a meaty and rich flavor that was and still remains memorable. I couldn’t believe it — I stayed away from it for years!

Now that I’m a genetic counselor by profession I am intrigued how genetics plays a role in our taste preferences. I came across an interesting article on the Smithsonian website called, “The Genetics of Taste”, that concludes genetics, nature and of course nurture play pivotal roles in what we enjoy and avoid!

My favorite the sprouted vaal usal (field beans curry) I have to say has a mild bitter taste. Our tongue carries a receptor called TAS2R, some people carry a ‘sensitive’ form of this receptor and are able to taste bitter chemicals. The TAS2R gene might explain whether we enjoy certain veggies with open arms or  move them to the side of our plate. A version of the gene in turn can play a role in our sweet preferences!

My masoor aamti dilemma though was not resolved. If we have “bitter genes” and “sweet genes” I’m sure we have “sibling rivalry” one as well!!

Masoor aamti is a perfect weekday recipe! Any kind of lentils need some time to soak in water to speed up the cooking process — doesn’t have to be too long. To work smarter I typically soak it in the morning before I head out to work and cook them in a pressure cooker (2-3 whistles) or use slow-cooker in the evening. The cooked lentils then get mixed with the spiced onion-tomato mixture I describe in detail below.

The recipe I’m sharing uses a slow-cooker (crockpot) – the thought of lentils simmering in the spices is comforting and perfect as a soup for the wintery months ahead!

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Origami Kandil (Lantern) for Diwali by my sister S!
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Rangoli (art using powdered colors) for Diwali by my talented & artistic sister S!

To learn more about genetics and taste check out:

  1. http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/the-genetics-of-taste-88797110/?no-ist
  2. http://www.nature.com/news/2006/060918/full/news060918-1.html
  3. http://www.monell.org/news/news_releases/sweet_genes
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We both have paternally inherited “travel genes”
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“Not all those who wander are lost” JRR Tolkien – birthday cake for S from Love, Sugar, Dough bakery in Mumbai!

Adapted from: myMom’s recipe

[recipe title=”Masoor Aamti” servings=”2″ cooking time=”2 hrs (slow cooker recipe)/30 mins (pressure cooker) Prep ~2 hrs (soak) + 20 mins” difficulty=”easy”]

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups whole lentils (whole masoor daal)
  • 1.5 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1.5 cup finely chopped tomato
  • 2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 finely chopped green chillies
  • 1 pinch asafoetida
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 4-5 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tbsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin-coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp garam masala
  • cilantro (finely chopped for garnish)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Water

Directions:

  • Rinse and soak the lentils in water for minimum 2 hours.
  • In a medium-size slow cooker — add the pre-soaked lentils + 3 cups water + turmeric powder. Set on high for ~ 1 hour.
  • In the meantime, heat a pan, add olive oil followed by asafoetida, mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Once the seeds start to splatter add curry leaves, green chillies and ginger-garlic paste. Stir well and add onions.
  • Cook for few 5-8 minutes until the onions are nice golden brown.
  • Add the tomatoes, stir and add all the spice powders.
  • Stir until the tomatoes soften and you can see oil coming out from the sides (~5-8 minutes). Turn off the heat.
  • Once the lentils are cooked in the slow cooker for an hour — add the spiced onion-tomato mixture. Stir well and set the slow cooker on high for another hour.
  • Check if the lentils are cooked. Add salt, adjust spices, garnish with cilantro.
  • Enjoy warm-hearty masoor aamti as soup or with “hot hot” basmati rice. [/recipe]

[Thanksgiving special] Cumin-spiced baby potatoes/Jeera Aloo

Looking for a non-traditional side dish for your Thanksgiving meal? Highly recommend myMom’s Jeera Aloo (cumin-spiced baby potatoes)!

I love the simplicity yet bold flavors of this dish. Absolutely adore every bite – combination of cumin, ginger, curry leaves and spicy green chillies! This dish is not supposed to be super-spicy — if you cannot tolerate any heat minimize or skip the green chillies all together. The cumin seeds and fresh ginger will do their magic!

Jeera Aloo is a very popular dish from North India that my mom adapted to suit my family’s taste buds! Growing up we ate with rotis. The cute baby potatoes and the aroma brighten our dinner table. If you have a picky 5 year old or want to introduce new ethnic tastes to your family this would be my go to dish! After all, Indian food isn’t all about creamy, spicy, bright-red curries.

Cumin (aka jeera) is the star of this dish and that’s all you will think about when you take a bite. If you haven’t experienced the full flavor of cumin this is your chance. I dream about it!

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cumin spiced baby potatoes
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Non-traditional Thanksgiving side dish

Adapted from: myMom’s recipe

[recipe title=”Jeera Aloo” servings=”2″ time=”40 mins Prep 15 mins” difficulty=”easy”]

Ingredients:

  • ~1 lb baby potatoes
  • 1.5-2 inches finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 2-4 finely chopped green chillies (from Indian store or thai green chillies)
  • 1.5-2 tbsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1-1.5 tbsp garam masala
  • Pinch of asafoetida
  • 6-8 curry leaves
  •  1 tbsp lime juice
  • Finely chopped cilantro for garnish
  • 4 tbsp sunflower/olive oil
  • salt to taste

Directions:

  • Rinse and peel the baby potatoes. Alternatively, (peeled, raw) frozen baby potatoes are available at some Indian stores.
  • Poke them with a knife tip and let them marinate in garam masala and salt.
  • Heat a pan and add oil. Once the oil is hot add pinch of asafoetida, cumin seeds (add more if needed), ginger, curry leaves, green chillies and let it sizzle! Trust me it is the best smell in the world.
  • Add in the potatoes and stir-fry them until all the goodness is mixed in.
  • Put a lid if necessary and stir intermittenly until the potatoes are cooked (10-12 mins). Please do not add water.
  • Adjust salt and garam masala as needed.
  • Sprinkle some lime juice and garnish with chopped cilantro.
  • Serve hot with rest of the Thanksgiving fare!

[/recipe]

[Entertaining bites]: Chicken tikka tartlets & Four mushrooms crostini!

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perfect bites!

At a friend’s wedding last year one of the hors d’oeuvres that left a lasting impression on my taste buds (and sight): mini-tartlets with buffalo chicken and blue cheese. They were spicy, tangy, crispy and (blue) cheesy! I loved the chef’s take on popular buffalo wings. Complete awesomeness in one bite. They inspired me to make an Indian version using chopped up chicken tikka kebabs. Kebabs are traditionally not super-spicy but definitely flavorful. I added in colorful peppers for a crunch. During Thanksgiving I serve them with a cranberry chutney — what can I say — it is a perfect combination! They are always a crowd-pleaser at potlucks, reunions with friends and my family loves it too.

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easy breezy yet fancy?!

myrule 1 for entertaining: Advance preparation!

The chicken tikka kebabs can be marinated and even oven-baked in advance. Assembling them in the tartlets, garnishing with colorful chopped peppers/cheese and baking until crisp can be done once guests arrive! For a vegetarian version — paneer (Indian cottage cheese) can be substituted for the chicken in this recipe.

Chicken tikka is a versatile dish — serve as kebabs, or wrap in a roti or add to a creamy-tomato sauce to make a popular “British/American” dish, yes, you guessed it right, the famous chicken tikka masala! For the tartlets, the kebabs don’t necessarily have to be oven-baked (on skewers) — I have made this dish by even sautéing the marinated chicken in a pan. That works great as well! Just make sure you don’t add any liquid when you fill the tartlet shells. I am all about minimizing steps and simplifying recipes.

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Kebabs can be served as is it as well!

myrule 2 for entertaining: 2 appetizers = 1 non-vegetarian + 1 vegetarian.

If you love mushrooms — you will enjoy the earthy, wild and umami flavors of shitake, porcini, portabello and cremini mushrooms. Sauté the finely chopped mushrooms in butter, olive oil, lots of garlic and red chili flakes. This recipe is inspired from something my mom used to make for my sister and I as after school snack. We called it “mushroom cheese toast”. An Indian version of the crostini – sautéed button mushrooms with onion, tomatoes and spices. Baked over small triangular pieces of sliced bread with melt-y Amul cheese! Nostalgia.

The mushrooms mixture can be prepared in advance. All you need to do before your guests arrive is bake the mushrooms on top of baguette slices. Top it off with some cheese and it’s ready to serve!

[recipe title=”Chicken tikka tartlets and Four mushrooms crostini” servings=”8″ time=”45 mins Prep 20 mins” difficulty=”moderate”]

Ingredients:

  • CHICKEN TIKKA KEBABS
    • 1/2 pound boneless/skinless chicken breast/thigh pieces
    • 2 tbsp plain Greek yogurt
    • Spices (1/2 tbsp red chili powder, 1/2 tsp turmeric powder, 1/2 tbsp garam masala, 1/2 tsp cumin-coriander powder, 1/4 tsp cardamon powder)
    • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
    • 1 tbsp lemon juice
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • Sea salt to taste
    • 2-3 drops red food coloring (optional)
    • 10-12 bamboo skewers
    • Mini-phyllo sheet shells/tartlets (available in the frozen section of the grocery store
    • 1 chopped green/red/yellow peppers
    • Grated parmesan cheese (for garnish)
    • 1 chopped green scallion (spring onion) or cilantro (for garnish)
  • FOUR MUSHROOMS CROSTINI
    • 1/2 pound Mushrooms (Shitake, porcini, cremini, baby portabello)
    • 2 tbsp olive oil
    • 2 tbsp butter + more to apply on the baguette
    • 4-6 chopped garlic cloves
    • 2 tbsp red chili flakes
    • Salt to taste
    • Grated parmesan cheese (for garnish)
    • Chopped cilantro or parsley (for garnish)
    • French baguette

Directions:

Chicken tikka tartlets

  • Marinate the chicken pieces (1/2-1 inch) in yogurt, spices, ginger-garlic paste, lemon juice, olive oil, red food color, salt for few hours (or overnight in refrigerator).
  • Making the perfect chicken tikka is all about getting the perfect spice combination. To make sure the seasoning is as per taste — I bake one chicken skewer and taste it once it is cooked. Adjust spices, salt as needed and only then bake the rest of the chicken.
  • Heat oven to 400 F. Skewer the chicken and bake for ~20 mins (or until cooked).
  • If you don’t have enough time you can sauté the marinated chicken in a pan with little olive oil — works fine.
  • Once cooked roughly chopped the chicken tikkas pieces and add cilantro, green/yellow/red peppers.
  • Add spoonfuls to the mini-tartlet shell, top with some cheese and baked for 5-8 mins in the oven (350F). Follow any additional instructions as listed on the frozen mini-tartlet box.
  • Garnish with cilantro or chopped green scallion and serve.

Four mushrooms crostini

  • In a pan heat olive oil and butter, add garlic, crushed red chillies, sauté for 1 minutes. Once you get a nice garlic aroma add in chopped up mushrooms and stir until cooked (3-4 minutes). Add salt to taste and remove from heat.
  • Apply little butter to the baguette slices (cut diagonally) and add spoonful of mushroom mixture, top with cheese. Arrange the slides in a cookie sheet.
  • Bake in the oven (350 F) until the cheese melts. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro or another herb.
  • Alternatively, the baguette slices can be toasted on a grill or a pan with grooves for the grill marks. Topped with the mushroom mixture, garnishes and serve warm.

[/recipe]