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Cover: Some like it hot

Recipes with Indian food

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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03Jul 12

Spicy Tomato Chutney

Spicy Tomato ChutneyChutneys are a clever and delectable way to consume your daily intake of fruits and veggies. You can use them in all sorts of dishes to jazz them up or create an interesting twist on the flavours, or simply enjoy on top of  a hunk of bread with a side of cheese.

 

I suggest you try my recipe for tomato chutney, as it is a very versatile chutney that goes well with rice and with tandoori chicken kebabs. This is a great recipe for the summer when tomatoes are in season.

Ingredients:

  • ¼ teaspoons mustard seeds
  • 2 red chilli peppers, whole
  • ¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon Channa Dal nuts
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons ginger powder
  • 2 green chilli peppers, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon cashew nuts, chopped
  • 10 large, fresh tomatoes, chopped into 2 cm by 2 cm cubes
  • 4 curry leaves
  • Pinch of salt
  • Vegetable oil

Preparation Method:

  1. Heat vegetable oil in a frying pan.
  2. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. Be careful because they pop, and you don’t  want to get burned.
  3. Add the red chillies and fry them for 20 seconds. Since they are whole, the seeds won’t come out of the pepper, and so the chutney won’t be too hot.
  4. Fry the cumin seeds.
  5. Now add the Channa Dal and fry for 30 seconds.
  6. Slowly add the onion and garlic. Add a pinch of salt so that the onion “sweats” a little. Cook this for about 4 minutes until the garlic and onions are softer.
  7. Add the ginger powder. It should sizzle in the pan.
  8. Add the green chilli peppers.
  9. Chop the cashew nuts (but not too small as we’re going to put this all in the blender anyway) and put them in the pan.
  10. Add in the tomatoes and curry leaves. You do not need to chop the curry leaves.
  11. Cover the pot and let it simmer for an hour on a very low heat. You should check it every so often and slowly stir it. You can actually let this simmer for up to 2 hours, and it will be even tastier.
  12. When finished, pour everything into the blender for 30 seconds. You do not want to blend for much longer as you want there to be some chunks of whole tomato left.
  13. Return to the pot and stir slowly. Add salt to taste.
  14. Serve on bread with cheese or as part of a meat dish. You could also store it in glass jars for future use.

Takes: 2 hours
Makes: Enough for 10 servings

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28Jun 12

Dum Aloo

Dum AlooDum Aloo is a delicious vegetarian potato dish. It consists of fried potatoes in a thick yoghurt gravy. Since Dum Aloo is a lot like a potato stew,  (try this red lentil and potato bake recipe), it is rather substantial and filling, so it makes for a great veggie meal.

This potato dish goes well with naan bread or even with rice. When preparing this recipe, be careful not to add too much ginger, or it will overpower the entire dish.

The potatoes and yoghurt gravy can be garnished with chopped coriander leaves. This will give the dish a lovely refreshing touch.

Ingredients:

  • 10 small potatoes
  • 4 onions
  • 3tbsp ghee
  • 4 curry leaves
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1tsp ginger powder
  • 1/2tsp red chilli powder
  • 2tsp coriander powder
  • 1tsp cumin powder
  • 250ml yoghurt
  • Pinch of salt to taste
  • 1/2tsp garam masala powder
  • vegetable oil to deep fry the potatoes
  • 10g fresh coriander

Preparation Method:

  1. Boil the potatoes. (This will cut down on the amount of time you need to fry them later, so it will be less fattening.) Drain them and wait for them to cool before  peeling and cutting them in half.
  2. Fill a pot with vegetable oil and warm it up on high heat.
  3. Once the oil is hot enough, slowly add in the potatoes. Deep fry them until they turn light brown.
  4. Remove the potatoes and set them aside.
  5. Chop the onions very finely. They should be almost minced.
  6. In a pot, heat up the ghee.
  7. Now add the onions and fry them until they are light brown.
  8. Lower the flame. Add the curry leaves and bay leaves to the pan and continue frying.
  9. Now add the ginger powder to the pan and continue frying on a low flame while stirring slowly. Be careful not to let anything get burnt.
  10. Stir in the red chilli powder, coriander powder and cumin powder.
  11. Slowly stir in the yoghurt.
  12. Add the salt.
  13. Now slowly add in the fried potatoes.
  14. Stir in the garam masala powder.
  15. Cover the pot and let this simmer for about 15 minutes on a low flame, stirring occasionally. You will see the gravy get thicker.
  16. Serve hot and garnish the Dum Aloo with chopped cilantro leaves.

Takes: 1 hour
Makes: Enough for 4 servings

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26Jun 12

Chicken Biryani

Chicken BiryaniChicken Biryani is a tasty Indian dish made with a layer of marinated chicken and a layer of basmati rice. Some people alternate and do four or even six different layers, but in my house we always prepared it with just one layer of chicken and one layer of rice.

I have always made this with ghee, which is Indian butter. Ghee can be bought at many speciality Indian grocery stores, or you can try my ghee recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 1kg Chicken
  • 100ml Yoghurt
  • 1 Green Chilli Pepper
  • 8 Cloves Garlic
  • 5tsp Ginger Powder
  • 1/2tsp Red Chilli Powder
  • 1/2tsp Coriander Powder
  • 1/2tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 500g Basmati Rice
  • 1l Water
  • 300g Ghee
  • 2tbsp Whole Garam Masala
  • 2 Large Onions
  • 4 Medium Tomatoes, Chopped
  • 30ml Milk
  • 1/2tsp Saffron
  • Pinch of Salt to taste

Preparation Method:

  1. Chop the raw chicken into medium-sized cubes.
  2. Mix the yoghurt, finely chopped green chilli pepper, ginger powder, 4 cloves of chopped garlic, red chilli powder, coriander powder, and turmeric powder in a big bowl.
  3. Add the chopped chicken.
  4. Let this mixture marinate in the fridge for 4-6 hours, or overnight.
  5. In a bowl, cover the basmati rice with water. Let it soak for 20 minutes.
  6. Remove the rice from this water and rinse it in a strainer.
  7. Fill a pot with 1 litre of water. Add the rice. Bring it to the boil. Once it is boiling, let it cook for 2-3 minutes. You should only cook the rice halfway at this point. You are going to finish cooking it later. Take it off the stove and set it aside.
  8. Melt the ghee in a pot.
  9. Add the garam masala and gently roast it. It will pop in the pot, so be careful not to get burnt.
  10. Chop the onion and 4 cloves of garlic finely and add them to the pot. Fry the onions until they are golden brown.
  11. Add the finely chopped tomatoes to the pot and cook for 3 more minutes.
  12. Add the marinated chicken to the pot and stir all these ingredients.
  13. Make sure all the ingredients in the pot are level and flat by patting them with a wooden spoon. Now add the layer of basmati rice by putting all the half-cooked rice on top.
  14. In a separate pan, heat up the milk and add the saffron. Let them cook together for one minute.
  15. Sprinkle this milk and saffron mixture on top of the rice.
  16. Cover the pot with a very tight lid. Let this simmer on a low flame for 30 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked.

Makes: Enough for 8 servings

Takes: 2 hours (plus 4-6 hours to marinate the chicken)

Note: Although not Indian, I recommend this hot and spicy chicken with almonds recipe. It´s another tasty chicken and rice option!

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23Jun 12

Mango Pachadi

Mango PachadiMango Pachadi is a delicious Indian side dish which is actually quite fun to make. It is best served with rice and curry like this yellow thai chicken curry.

One of the key spices that gives this dish its distinctive flavour is asafoetida. This Indian spice is said to be very good for digestion. This is helpful, since many of my friends here in England say they find Indian food quite heavy. However, if you add a nice digestive ingredient like asafoetida, it makes for much better digestion and can be found at your local Indian market.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large mango
  • ½tsp turmeric powder
  • 10 red chilli peppers, minced
  • 1tsp mustard seeds
  • 2tbsp jaggery
  • 1/2tsp chilli powder
  • Pinch of Asafoetida
  • 1.5tsp rice flour
  • Salt to taste
  • 600ml water
  • 5tsp oil

 Preparation Method:

  1. Peel the large mango. You can use a normal potato peeler to do this because mango peels are quite thin. In fact, I have always found mangos very easy to work with.
  2. Next chop the large mango into small pieces. These can be roughly 2 centimetre pieces. But again, I mean very roughly.
  3. Add the mango to a pot, along with the turmeric powder and the water. Bring the water to the boil, then lower to medium heat. Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 10-15 minutes, or until the mango is cooked. You will know the mango is cooked when it is soft.
  4. When the mango is cooked, remove it from the water
  5. Mince the red chillies and set them aside.
  6. In a separate pot, heat up oil on a very high flame. Add the mustard seeds. They will start to pop and crackle. But be careful they do not the splatter on you, or you will get burned.
  7. Lower to medium flame. Now add the minced red chillies, jaggery, chilli powder and asafoetida to the pan. Fry for 3 minutes.
  8. Now add the mango to the pan. Add another 150ml of water and stir slowly on a low heat for a few minutes.
  9. Add salt to taste.
  10. In a separate bowl, combine 300ml of water with the rice flour to make a paste.
  11. Add this paste to the pot and stir slowly until thick.

Makes: 2 servings
Takes: 40 minutes

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20Jun 12

Lamb Biryani

Lamb BiryaniLamb Biryani is a dish consisting of a layer of marinated lamb and a layer of basmati rice. It is quite tricky to cook both the marinated lamb and the rice to perfection. When you first cook the rice, it must only be half-cooked. When you add it to the pot later with the marinated lamb, it will finish cooking. If you want to get the flavour just right, you must use basmati rice.

Once you get the hang of making sure the lamb and the rice are both cooked perfectly, you might want to try my Chicken Biryani recipe. But just love lamb? Give this lamb roast with garlic and rosemary a go.

Ingredients:

  • 1kg Lamb
  • 100ml Yoghurt
  • 2 Red Chilli Peppers, 1 chopped and 1 left whole
  • 1/4tsp Garam Masala
  • 2tsp Ginger Paste
  • 2tsp Garlic Paste
  • 1tsp Chopped Mint
  • 1/4tsp Turmeric Powder
  • 3 Large Onions
  • 500g Basmati Rice
  • 1l Water
  • 1/2tsp Lemon Juice
  • Pinch of Salt to taste
  • 200g Ghee

Preparation Method:

  1. Chop the raw lamb into medium-sized cubes.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the yoghurt, red chilli peppers, garam masala, ginger paste, garlic paste and mint.
  3. Now slowly stir in the cubes of raw lamb.
  4. Add the turmeric powder and stir.
  5. Peel and chop the onions.
  6. Heat the ghee in a pan on a medium flame and add the chopped onions. Fry the onions until they are crispy and light brown. Do not fry them for so long that they get caramelised.
  7. Remove the onions and place them on a plate with a kitchen towel or paper towel below them. You want the ghee to drain away so that the onions are crispy.
  8. Let the crispy onions cool. Then, add them to the marinade.
  9. Put the bowl in the fridge and let the lamb marinate for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
  10. Soak the rice for 20 minutes in cold water.
  11. Wash the rice and put it in a pot with 1 litre of water. Bring the water to the boil, then lower the flame and cook for 2-3 minutes. Remove the rice from the heat and set it aside.
  12. Heat the ghee in the pot on a medium flame.
  13. Add the marinated lamb—with all the marinade—to the pot.
  14. Add the basmati rice on top of this.
  15. Squeeze a little lemon juice onto the rice.
  16. Add a pinch of salt to taste.
  17. Cover the pot. Allow it to cook on a high flame for about 15 minutes. Then lower the flame and let is simmer for about 1 to 2 hours, or until the lamb is tender and fully cooked.

Makes: Enough for 6 servings
Takes: 2 hours (plus 6 hours to marinate the lamb)

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19Jun 12

Carrot Kanji

Carrot Kanji
Carrot Kanji
is a refreshing drink made from fermented vegetables. You basically chop up various vegetables and mix them into water in a transparent pitcher and leave them in the sun for a few days to ferment. It does not take long to prepare, and once made, it can stay fresh in your refrigerator for up to two weeks. This drink is served chilled, and it has quite a strong, unique carroty flavour. In fact, some people find it a bit too strong the first few times they try it.

Traditionally, kanji is made with black carrots, which are found in northern India in the winter. However, since black carrots are hard to find in the West, you can use regular orange carrots for this Carrot Kanji drink, and it will still have its distinctive flavour. (For a warm treat, I recommend this comforting carrot, coriander and cumin soup.)

Carrot Kanji not only is low in calories but also may help you lose weight. Some studies have shown that eating red chilli peppers helps people slim down. Apparently, they curb your appetite. They may also raise your metabolism. Since my Carrot Kanji recipe calls for red chilli peppers, this is good news for those of you on a diet. I must point out that you may add in more red or green chilli peppers if you want to. Play around a bit with the quantities to see what spiciness level you like best.

Carrot Kanji
Author: 
Recipe type: Drink
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6
 
Carrot Kanji is a refreshing drink made from fermented vegetables.
Ingredients
  • 1kg Carrots
  • 2tbsp. Mustard Seeds
  • 2tbsp. Red Chilli Powder
  • 1 Green Chilli
  • 1tbsp. Salt
  • 4 litres hot Water
  • Mint Leaves to garnish
Instructions
  1. Wash and peel the carrots.
  2. Slice each carrot lengthwise into 3 or 4 long strips.
  3. Grind the mustard seeds with a mortar and pestle.
  4. Chop the green chilli peppers well.
  5. Mix the carrots, salt, mustard seeds, red chilli and green chilli together in a transparent pitcher.
  6. Add in the hot water and stir well with a wooden spoon.
  7. Put the top on the pitcher and leave it in the sun for 3-5 days, so it can ferment.
  8. After the pitcher of kanji has fermented, store it in the refrigerator.
  9. Before eating, you can put it in the blender to create a smooth texture. This isn't necessary, but some people prefer smooth as opposed to chunky.
  10. Crush some mint leaves and sprinkle them on top of the kanji just before serving.
  11. Serve chilled.

 

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18Jun 12

Coriander Mint Chutney

Coriander Mint ChutneyChutney is such an amazingly versatile food, and it goes well with so many Indian dishes. This Coriander Mint Chutney is a lovely, refreshing chutney recipe I got from my Mum. She likes to serve it with samosas. It is refreshing enough to offset the spicy taste of my Chickpea Samosas or my Vegetable Samosas.

This Coriander Mint Chutney is not as spicy as my Tomato Chutney is. In fact, it is rather light and zesty, thanks to its combination of mint, coriander, lemon and lime.

Mint is highly digestive. For many of my English friends, the hot spices of Indian food are rich and delicious – but make for difficult digestion. That is why I like to serve mint chutney along with many dishes. It really does help your stomach.

Mint also goes very well with lamb, so this chutney can garnish your favourite lamb dish, such as this Lamb Mussaman.

Ingredients:

  • 200g fresh mint leaves
  • 100g fresh coriander (leaves and stems)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 10g ginger
  • ½ small onion
  • 1tsp lemon juice
  • 1tsp lime juice
  • Pinch of salt

Preparation Method:

  1. Pick the mint leaves off the stalks and stems. Wash and set aside.
  2. Remove the coriander roots. Remember, unlike with fresh mint, you can actually include the stems of the fresh coriander. Wash it and put it in the blender.
  3. Wash the garlic and ginger thoroughly and add to the blender. You do not need to slice the garlic or grind the ginger beforehand.
  4. Cut the onion into about 4 pieces and put in blender. Putting the ingredients in one at a time helps avoid overworking the appliance.
  5. Mix thoroughly.
  6. Add the lemon juice and lime juice. This will provide a zesty flavour.
  7. Once everything is well-mixed in a purée form, you can now add the mint. The mint is added at the very end so as to not blend it for too long.
  8. Taste the chutney and then add a pinch of salt to taste. Do not add too much salt as you want it to taste refreshing and tangy.
  9. Give it one last blend and it should be ready.

Makes: Enough for 8 servings.
Takes: 20 minutes.

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