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Cover: Some like it hot

July, 2012

31Jul 12

Peas Pulao

Peas PulaoThis tasty vegetarian Peas Pulao can be served for lunch or dinner, as the main meal, or even as a side dish. The rice and peas make it quite substantial, so I usually serve it as the main course. (Also try this chicken risotto with green peas.)

According to my mother, who taught me how to cook this dish, the secret to preparing an unforgettable Peas Pulao is getting the right balance of spices. Not everyone puts garlic in their Peas Pulao, but my mother insists on it. She says it balances out the rice nicely. My personal favourite spice to go with basmati rice is ginger. To me there is just nothing like the aroma that ginger can add to an Indian rice dish.

If you have time to let it sit for about 30 minutes, covered, before serving, the flavours will blend together even better and it will taste even stronger. It is one of those dishes that in fact tastes better the next day.

You can prepare this lovely recipe with regular butter, but I use ghee because it provides a unique flavour.

Peas Pulao
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
This tasty vegetarian Peas Pulao can be served for lunch or dinner, as the main meal, or even as a side dish.
Ingredients
  • 2tbsp Ghee
  • 3cm of Ginger, crushed finely
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, crushed finely
  • 1 medium Onion
  • 1tsp Cumin Powder
  • 3 Cardamoms
  • 3cm Cinnamon stick, broken into pieces
  • 200g Green Peas
  • 2tbsp Cashew Nuts, chopped
  • 1,000g White Basmati Rice
  • 1,500ml Water
  • Pinch of Salt to taste
  • 2tsp Coriander leaves, chopped finely, to garnish
Instructions
  1. Melt the ghee in a large pan and stir in the crushed ginger and garlic.
  2. Slice onion finely.
  3. Stir in the onion, cumin, cardamoms, and cinnamon.
  4. Stir and fry all ingredients until the onions turn transparent. You do not need to brown the onions for this recipe.
  5. Stir in the peas and cashew nuts.
  6. Lower the heat and let simmer until peas are cooked.
  7. Add in uncooked rice and stir a bit.
  8. Add in the water.
  9. Cover and cook on a high flame for 5 minutes.
  10. Lower heat to the lowest setting and let simmer for 20-25 minutes more.
  11. Serve hot, garnished with coriander leaves.

 

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27Jul 12

Ras Malai

RasmalaiI am an absolutely incurable sweet tooth. I think I may have gotten that from my aunt, who is a total whiz at whipping up sugary treats.

One of my favourite desserts that she taught me how to make is Ras Malai. Ras Malai is a traditional Indian sweet made of tasty little pieces of cheese in a sugary syrup. I like to flavour it with cardamom or pistachios. As I have said before, Indian desserts often play with the wonderful combination of dairy foods and cardamom. To me, there is really just nothing like milk or cheese and cardamom together. It brings me back to my childhood in my aunt’s kitchen.

This rich dessert is always served cold, which makes it especially refreshing on a hot summer afternoon, which is when my aunt always used to serve it.

I strongly recommend you make this recipe with paneer cheese. This traditional Indian cheese will give your Ras Malai the authentic taste you are going for. You can probably find paneer cheese at an Indian speciality foods shop. If they do not stock it, you can always ask them to. However, some people prepare this dish with cottage cheese or ricotta cheese. If you are unable to get paneer cheese, you can substitute with these two alternatives.

If you are looking to try out more Indian desserts, and you enjoyed this combination of dairy and cardamom, why not whip up this delicious Malai Kulfi dessert?

Ras Malai
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5
 
Ras Malai is a traditional Indian sweet made of tasty little pieces of cheese in a sugary syrup.
Ingredients
  • 1kg Paneer Cheese
  • 200g Sugar
  • 2L Half and Half
  • 2 Bay Leaves
  • Pinch of Saffron
  • 4 Cardamom Seeds
  • 1tsp.Vanilla Syrup
Instructions
  1. Mix the sugar and Paneer Cheese in a bowl.
  2. Put them in a flat baking pan and cover the pan with aluminium foil.
  3. Bake them in the oven for 1 hour at 200 degrees Celsius. The cheese should be a light golden brown colour.
  4. Simmer the half and half on a low heat in a pot. Simmer until it reduces to half the amount.
  5. When the half and half has reduced, slowly stir in the bay leaves, saffron, cardamom seeds, and vanilla syrup. Let simmer for a few more minutes.
  6. Remove the baked cheese and lay it on a flat plate. Cut it into 2cm by 2 cm pieces.
  7. Slowly stir these cheese squares into the pot with the half and half.
  8. Remove and let cool.

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24Jul 12

Punjab Chicken

Punjab ChickenPunjab Chicken is a dish that will go over well with your kids. I’m giving you a mild version of this dish, so if you’re trying to introduce your kids to Indian cooking, they will take to it better. If you start out with anything too hot, your children may be turned off to Indian cuisine altogether, so it is best to start them out with milder dishes. However, if you want to prepare a spicier Punjab Chicken, feel free to increase the quantity of spices. But I do not recommend you increase the turmeric too much, as it is quite bitter, so it will overpower the dish.

This dish calls for drumsticks, which is a much moister part of the chicken than the breast. Some people use the whole chicken leg—that is, the drumstick and the thigh. That is fine, but I prefer meat just from the drumstick for this recipe.

In this recipe, you may substitute ghee with cooking oils such as vegetable oil or sunflower oil. Some might say that punjab chicken is similar to chicken fricassee because it uses chicken drumsticks in a thickened sauce. Of course, I prefer my dish because of the wonderful mix of Indian spices!

You may add in more than 700ml of water if you want. This will give you more sauce at the end, but the thickness is really up to you.

Punjab Chicken
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
This is a main dish with chicken
Ingredients
  • 2kg Chicken Drumsticks, skinned and chopped
  • 3 Onions
  • 1cm fresh Ginger
  • 4 Tomatoes
  • 1tbs Ground Cumin Powder
  • 1 pinch of Turmeric
  • 2tsp Ground Coriander Powder
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 1tsp Cayenne Pepper
  • 100g of Ghee
  • 700ml Water
  • Pinch of Salt to Taste
  • Bunch of fresh Coriander
Instructions
  1. Melt the ghee in a large pot on a low heat. Be careful not to burn it.
  2. Peel and chop the onions and ginger finely and add to the pot.
  3. Cook them for 10 minutes over low heat until they turn a light golden brown colour.
  4. Chop the tomatoes and add to the pan with a little water.
  5. Add the cumin, turmeric, ground coriander and bay leaves, and let cook for 5 to 10 minutes.
  6. Chop the chicken drumsticks into thin slices.
  7. Add the chicken to the pot.
  8. Add in the rest of the water. Make sure there is enough sauce to cover all the chicken pieces well. If not, add a bit more water.
  9. Cook chicken until tender, stirring occasionally.
  10. Stir in the cayenne pepper.
  11. Add salt to taste.
  12. Serve hot, garnished with fresh coriander.

 

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20Jul 12

Stovetop Naan Bread

Stovetop Naan BreadNaan bread is a delicious flat bread that is very popular in many Indian restaurants. It is similar to pita bread, which is another tasty flat bread. However, just because naan is flat does not mean it is unleavened. In fact, this naan recipe calls for yeast, which will make your bread puff up. You can then just gently pat it down with a spatula to flatten it before serving.

Traditionally, naan bread is baked in a clay oven. Let me tell you, nothing compares to that authentic flavour of naan from a clay oven! But, since we of course don’t have clay ovens in our houses, here’s a simple way to try Naan at home on your stovetop. Use a non-stick pan so you do not have to put any oil on the pan at all. Cooking it without oil will make the taste as close to oven-baked naan bread as possible.

When you are kneading the bread, make sure the water you add is lukewarm. When you go to divide the bread into balls and roll it, first moisten your hands with a little cooking oil. This will make it easier to work with.

Many people, myself included, like to spread a bit of ghee butter or Moroccan hummus on their naan bread. You can also serve it alongside all types of curries or Indian dishes with sauces like this malai kofta.

Stovetop Naan Bread
Author: 
Recipe type: Side Dish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 10 naans
 
Naan Bread is a flat bread.
Ingredients
  • 500g Flour
  • 1tsp Salt
  • 2tbsp Yeast
  • 400ml Water
Instructions
  1. Put the flour and salt in a large bowl.
  2. Slowly pour in the water while kneading the dough with your hands. Knead it until it does not stick to your fingers.
  3. Cover the dough with a moist kitchen towel and set it aside for 3 to 4 hours.
  4. Now divide the dough into balls the size of a clementine. Lay the balls of dough on a clean cloth.
  5. Dust a surface with flour.
  6. Take one ball of dough and dust it lightly with flour. Dust a rolling pin with flour as well and roll until it is very thin.
  7. Heat up a non-stick pan till it is extremely hot.
  8. Put the flattened dough on the pan and cook on one side until you see little bubbles.
  9. Flip it over.
  10. When it starts to puff up, flip it back again. Let it puff up well, then take a spatula and gently flatten it. Remove quickly from the pan.

 

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19Jul 12

Spinach Vada

Spinach Vada
Vadas
are crispy Indian treats that you can enjoy for breakfast or as a snack. These fried pastries look a lot like mini-doughnuts, since they are round and have holes in the centre. However, they are a good deal healthier than doughnuts, because instead of being made with regular dough, they are made with ground up legumes.

Different Vada recipes will call for different legumes; normally, mung daal, urad daal, or channa daal will be used. “Daal” basically means legumes that have had their hulls, or outer shells, removed.

Legumes in general are very low in fat and healthy. Many Indian vegetarians cook with legumes a lot because they are so high in protein. Since they are also rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, they really pack a nutritional punch.

There are a wide variety of different Vada recipes, but today I am going to tell you how to make Spinach Vada. If you are a vegetarian, spinach is a great way to get your iron.

However, this is not to say that Vada are extremely healthy snacks. They are, after all, deep fried treats. That is why I do not prepare them very often. But I find that once in a while, a little indulgence goes a long way!

They remind me a bit of falafel, which is made out of chickpeas. Usually they are also fried, but you can try this oven-baked falafel recipe for a healthier version.

Spinach Vada
Author: 
Recipe type: Snack
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Vadas are crispy Indian treats that you can enjoy for breakfast or as a snack.
Ingredients
  • 400g Mung Daal
  • 200g Channa Daal
  • 1tsp Water
  • 2cm fresh Ginger
  • 1 Clove Garlic
  • 2 Green Chilli Peppers
  • 1 bunch Spinach
  • Pinch of Salt to taste
  • Oil for frying
Instructions
  1. Put the mung daal and channa daal together in a large bowl and cover with water. Leave them soaking overnight, or for at least 5 hours.
  2. Drain the daals and put them in blender. Add a bit of water, but since the daals have been well soaked, you don’t need to add too much.
  3. Blend on high until the daals become a thick paste.
  4. Add the ginger, garlic and green chilli peppers and mix again.
  5. Chop the spinach and add it with salt into the blender.
  6. After well-combined, remove the paste from the blender and put it in a large bowl.
  7. Heat up oil in a large pan.
  8. Take a small handful of this paste and form a round ball. Poke a hole in its centre.
  9. Gently lower each vada ball into the oil.
  10. Fry until they are golden brown on one side, and then gently flip.
  11. Remove and place on a paper towel to drain the excess oil before serving.

 

 

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17Jul 12

Salty Ginger Lassi Drink

Salty Ginger LassiI absolutely love whipping up lassi drinks. Lassis are thick, creamy drinks made from yoghurt blended with various spices and fruits. They make a great alternative to fattening milkshakes for those of you who are watching your weight, since yoghurt is much lower in fat content than ice cream. Like milkshakes, they are served ice cold, so they make a refreshing snack on a hot summer afternoon.

Now, I know most of you think of milkshakes as sweet drinks. Similarly, those of you familiar with Indian food might possibly think of lassis as only sweet beverages. Many people order mango lassis with cardamom and pistachios in Indian restaurants at the end of a spicy meal. However, there are other variants of the lassi recipes as well—something my friends were delighted to learn last weekend when I served them this Salty Ginger Lassi Drink. (If you like the taste of ginger, I recommend this sugar-free gingerbread.)

Another great thing about lassis is that they are so easy to make. You can whip one up in just a few minutes, and it really takes no effort at all.

This recipe is for a fairly thick beverage, but you can adjust it to the consistency you want. If you want a smoother testure, just add a bit more water or milk. You want to blend the ingredients for long enough that the lassi has a smooth consistency, but not so long that the blender starts to warm the drink up a little. Remember, you will want to serve this very cold!

Salty Ginger Lassi Drink
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetiser
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
This is a Salty Ginger Lassi Drink
Ingredients
  • 400ml Milk
  • 500ml Yoghurt
  • ½tsp Salt (or Salt to taste)
  • 1tsp Ginger Powder
  • Ice Cubes
Instructions
  1. Pour in the milk. You can use skim milk for a less fattening version.
  2. Add in the yoghurt. Again, I recommend low-fat yoghurt if you are watching your weight.
  3. Blend the milk and yoghurt in the blender.
  4. Add in the salt and the ginger powder and give it another quick blend.
  5. Test the consistency. If you find it too thick, add in a bit more milk (or even water) until you are satisfied.
  6. Serve ice cold in glasses with ice cubes, although you could also blend the ice with the other ingredients.

 

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13Jul 12

Coconut Burfi

Coconut BurfiIt is no secret around my house that I have a sweet tooth. I just love a sugary treat—for breakfast, for an afternoon snack, or for a mid-morning pick-me-up. To me, coconut is absolutely one of the tastiest ingredients in any dessert. (Try it in Grandma’s chocolate tiffin.)

I think I inherited this love of sweet coconut desserts from my mother. In fact, this is one of her favourites to prepare. For this recipe you can use fresh coconut, but it is sometimes hard to grate. I find that buying the coconut already grated from the market is much easier.

Sweet, flavourful and chewy, coconut burfi is one of my favourite sweets. The recipe is simple, the method is very easy, and the taste is absolutely heavenly. Can you tell I love it?

Burfi has a shelf life of about 10-15 days, so you can make it in advance and keep it ready to serve when needed. During the hot summer, you should probably only keep it for about a week because the heat will make it go bad sooner.

Just a quick warning—Coconut Burfi is very chewy, so people with retainers or braces on their teeth should not indulge.

 

Coconut Burfi
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 5
 
A fantastic coconut dessert
Ingredients
  • 500g Coconut, finely grated
  • 500g Sugar
  • 300ml Water
  • 2tbsp Milk
  • 20 Pistachios, whole or in slices
  • 4tbsp Ghee
  • Pinch of Cardamom Powder
Instructions
  1. Roast the 20 pistachios lightly in a pan with no oil. Remove them and set them aside.
  2. Heat up 1tbsp of ghee in a pan. Fry the finely grated coconut in this pan. Do not fry it for too long. You do not want it to turn brown.
  3. In a separate pot, boil the water.
  4. When it is boiling, slowly stir in the sugar. Keep stirring. The water with the sugar must come to the boil again.
  5. Now add in the milk and bring to the boil while stirring.
  6. Once it boils, lower to a medium flame and stir until it reaches a syrupy consistency.
  7. When it is syrupy, slowly pour it into the pan with the fried coconut.
  8. Keep stirring on a medium flame until it forms a thick paste.
  9. Grease a rectangular casserole dish with the rest of the ghee.
  10. Now remove it from the flame and spread it in this rectangular dish. Flatten the coconut mixture.
  11. With a knife, cut it into 20 small squares.
  12. Sprinkle a pinch of cardamom powder over the burfis.
  13. Put one pistachio on each square.
  14. Let cool. It is ready to serve!

 

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11Jul 12

Sarkarai Pongal

Sarkarai Pongal
Sarkarai Pongal
is a traditional sweet dish from South India. It is made during the Pongal festival, and symbolically offered to the sun god before being eaten. But you don’t have to go all the way to South India during the Pongal festival to enjoy this tasty treat. I’m going to teach you how to prepare it from the comfort of your own home.

This recipe calls for mung daal, which are mung beans that have been stripped of their hulls. These healthy legumes can be found in speciality vegetarian shops or speciality Indian shops.

You will also need to buy jaggery, a healthy natural sugar, to prepare this dessert properly. The refined white sugar you buy at the supermarket has been heavily processed with many chemicals. Jaggery, however, is naturally processed from sap, without any added stuff. This means it retains all its natural properties and minerals. And apart from being much healthier, it has a richer taste. Jaggery is a bit like buttery molasses.

Preparing Sarkarai Pongal with this sweet substitute will add authenticity to the dish, so it is well worth buying. And, as always, the ghee in this dessert can be substituted for regular butter.

To scoop up all the gooey sweetness in my recipe, I recommend this raisin bread.

Sarkarai Pongal
Author: 
Recipe type: Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Sarkarai Pongal is a traditional sweet dish from South India. It is made during the Pongal festival, and symbolically offered to the sun god before being eaten.
Ingredients
  • 2L Milk
  • 225g Rice
  • 50g Mung Daal
  • 250g Jaggery
  • 2tbsp Ghee
  • 15 Almonds
  • 15 Cashews
  • 50g Raisins
  • 1tsp Cardamom powder
  • 1tsp Cinnamon
  • 10 strands of Saffron, crushed
Instructions
  1. Bring the milk to the boil.
  2. Wash the rice and mung daal and stir them into the milk once it is boiling.
  3. Cook the rice and mung daal for 15 minutes on high heat.
  4. Grate the jaggery with a regular cheese grater. Use the larger holes on your grater.
  5. Slowly stir in the jaggery and the ghee. They should melt fairly quickly.
  6. Lower the heat and let simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  7. Chop up the almonds and cashews very finely.
  8. Slowly mix in the almonds and cashews.
  9. Add in the raisins, cardamom, cinnamon and saffron.
  10. Bring to the boil again and let cook for another 5 minutes. Stir constantly.
  11. Sarkarai Pongal can be served hot or cold. In the summer, I prefer to eat it cold.

 

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10Jul 12

Zesty Green Chutney

Zesty Green ChutneyGreen Chutney is perhaps the simplest chutney to make, and it is also the most versatile. The combination of  coriander, lemon juice and mint make this chutney extremely zesty. It goes very well with all kinds of samosas or even Viatnemese spring rolls. Samosas and Bondas are finger foods, which is why this Green Chutney makes the perfect dip. Since it is so flavourful, you could also pour it over something a bit more subtle such as cottage cheese, as you see in the photo.

Not everyone makes Green Chutney with mint. However, I find mint to be very refreshing, and it balances the spicier ingredients perfectly.

I have a friend who once tried this with dried mint herbs she bought at the supermarket, but she told me it just was not the same. When mint dries, it loses its zesty flavour, and that really takes away a lot from the recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 500g fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 250g fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 2 green chilli peppers
  • 1 clove garlic, finely minced
  • 1/2tsp ginger powder
  • 20g grated coconut
  • 1/2tsp sugar
  • 5tbsp lemon juice
  • Pinch of salt to taste

Preparation Method:

  1. Thoroughly wash the coriander and mince it as finely as you possibly can. Put it into the liquidiser or food processor.
  2. Clean the fresh mint and mince it. Add it to the liquidiser or food processor. Do not blend these ingredients yet.
  3. Take the 2 green chilli peppers and cloves of garlic and chop them as finely as possible. Add them to the blender.
  4. Add the ginger powder, grated coconut and sugar to the blender. These sweet ingredients will balance the spicier ones (such as the green chilli peppers and the garlic).
  5. Blend these ingredients thoroughly.
  6. Now add in the lemon juice and blend a bit more.
  7. Finally add a bit of salt to taste. Do not add too much, as this is overall a sweet and refreshing chutney. However, a bit of salt makes all flavours more intense, even sweet ones. So add just a pinch to bring out the flavours.

Makes: Enough for 20 servings

Takes: 30 minutes

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07Jul 12

Mild Lentil and Tomato Stew

Mild Lentil and Tomato StewThis Mild Lentil and Tomato Stew is a vegetarian stew that is very substantial and filling, without being fattening at all. It is perfect for a cold or rainy day and is similar to this red lentil and potato bake, except a bit spicier.

Cardamom is a zesty Indian spice that you can buy at your local Indian grocery store. Since cardamom tastes slightly like lemon, it goes very well with the lemon juice. Both the cardamom and lemon juice are added at the very end as a final touch.

Ingredients:

  • 800g Lentils
  • 2 litres Water
  • 1/4tsp Cumin seeds
  • 1/4tsp Coriander seeds
  • 1 large Onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves Garlic, chopped
  • ½tbsp Turmeric
  • 1/2tbsp Ginger powder
  • 5 large Tomatoes
  • 1/2tsp Cayenne pepper
  • 1tbs Paprika
  • 1 clove Cardamom, ground
  • 3tbs Lemon Juice
  • 5tbs Olive Oil

Preparation Method:

  1. Wash the lentils thoroughly and put them in a bowl. Cover the lentils and leave them to soak for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
  2. Drain the lentils and put them in a pot with 2 litres of water. Heat them until they come to the boil, then lower the flame and leave them to simmer for 30 minutes.
  3. Heat up the olive oil in a pan. Once small bubbles start to form in the oil, it is hot enough to begin frying the spices.
  4. Now add the cumin seeds and coriander seeds. You should not grind them beforehand. Careful! They will start to pop and crackle. You should not be wearing short sleeves when you do this, as you will get burnt.
  5. Chop the onion and garlic very finely.
  6. Add the onion and garlic to the pan. With the flame on low, stir briskly. Fry these ingredients for about 4 minutes.
  7. Add in the turmeric and ginger powder and stir briskly.
  8. Mince the 5 large tomatoes very finely.
  9. Add the minced tomatoes to the pan and stir them well.
  10. Add the cayenne pepper and paprika and stir.
  11. Gently put this mixture into the pot where the lentils are and stir thoroughly. Let the lentils and the tomato mixture simmer on low heat for 5 minutes.
  12. Grind 1 clove of cardamom with a pestle and mortar. Slowly sprinkle the ground cardamom in.
  13. Stir in the lemon juice.
  14. Let simmer for 5 more minutes.
  15. Serve hot.

Makes: Enough for 10 servings
Takes: 1 hour (plus 8 hours soaking time)

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