Monday, April 4, 2016

Vadu Manga - Catch them young


Come summer I look forward to making pickles and sundried items that will last me through the year. There are a few staples that I make every year and then I add something new each year for variety.

This year started, as always with my favourite Baby mango pickle. In southern India and especially the communities like mine who adore yoghurt rice and can eat it anytime of the day, this pickle is an absolute must to have in the larder all year round!

There are two schools of thought about the best recipe for these baby mangoes, one is that it should only be brined and the second and my favoured recipe is to store the brined mangoes in a red chilli and mustard flavoured base. Depending on which part of Tamil Nadu your origins are from....decides which one you may favour! If you are from Tanjore (my ancestors were from this region), then your family makes the brined version and if you are from around the border of Kerala, you will probably have the red chilli and mustard kind.


500 gms raw baby mangoes, about 3-4 cups
4-6 tbsp Salt
4-6 tbsp Kashmiri Red chilly powder
2-4 tbsp spicy red chilli powder
2 tbsp Turmeric powder
2 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp ground Mustard seeds
1 cup Boiled and cooled water

Wash and wipe the baby mangoes ( 1-2 inch long), removing any damaged ones. Allow them to dry under the fan for an hour. In a bowl, place the dry mangoes and pour the oil and mix throughly to coat each and every mango. Take a glass jar and place a handful of mangoes and add a tsp of salt, continue layering the mangoes and salt until all the mangoes are done. 

Cover and let it rest, shaking the mangoes every now and then. In 3-5 days the mangoes would have shrivelled up and they will be floating in brine.

Remove the mangoes from the brine and let it sun dry for half a day. Save a cup of the brine.

Mix the red chilli powders, turmeric and mustard powder in the brine water and add a cup of the boiled water as well as the dry mangoes. Let the mangoes marinate for a couple of days and then it will be ready.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Glorious Garlic Lasooni Dal

Garlic cannot bestow immortality but it can make you lead a longer life. Garlic is making news in all fields for having antibiotic, anti cancer and many other properties. Although it has a strong flavor it is a good spice to have on hand as it vastly improves the flavor of many dishes. Take for example the humble dal, we make it almost three times a week and I like to have variations to the recipe and this one makes a soul satisfying dish! Lasooni, means garlicky and this Lasooni Dal is a hit with even the kids.

Lasooni Dal

1/2 cup each Moong and Masoor dal, cooked until soft
2-4 tbsp chopped garlic
2 dry red chillies
2 tbsp ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves for garnish

Heat ghee in a pan and add the dry chillies, cumin seeds, garlic and cook for a minute or two, then add the red chili powder and turmeric. Pour this, on the salted and cooked dal. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with rice or rotis.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Carb your spending: Cauliflower and Potato curry

The cauliflower is very low in Carbohydrates making it very attractive in low carb diets as it's very filling, it doesn't hurt that a head of Cauliflower is also easy on the wallet...

Regardless, I'm very fond of Cauliflower....well our whole family is and so it finds its way to our dinner table at the very least twice a week. I make several different dishes, but the dish we love hands down is Aloo Gobhi masala. 

A very humble dish that requires very few easily found ingredients. In most North Indian style dishes, one uses garlic, ginger, onion and tomatoes as the the holy trinity/ mirepoix in Creole cuisine ( onion, celery and bell pepper) this is the holy quartet!

Aloo Gobhi Masala

1 large medium head of cauliflower, cut into florets
2-3 medium potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
3/4 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp minced ginger 
1/2 tbsp minced ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp garam masala ( optional )
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp oil
1 green chili slit
Coriander leaves for garnish
Salt to taste

Heat oil in a pan, add cumin seeds, garlic, ginger, onion, and  green chili. When the onion turns translucent add the tomatoes, turmeric powder and salt. Cook on a low flame till the tomatoes turn pulpy. Add potatoes and salt, stir and cover the pan. Cook until the potatoes are half cooked. Add the cauliflower and cook until the cauliflower are soft. When the cauliflower has softened, sprinkle garam masala and coriander leaves. Serve with roti or rice.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Cultivated, Colorful and Casual: Caprese Salad

What is summer without a Salad made with sun ripened tomatoes? While at a gourmet food store I picked up a "Made in India", Bocconcini. This fresh Buffalo Mozzarella cheese is made in Haryana and let me tell you it was impressive!

The beauty of this dish is from the creamy cheese, flavor of the tomato and basil and a drizzle of balsamic reduction....oh its Caprese heaven for sure.

Caprese Salad

2-4 large ripe tomatoes
100 gms Bocconcini
10-12 fresh basil leaves
4 tbsp balsamic reduction (cook 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar down till it becomes syrupy)
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice tomatoes into thick slices place a basil leaf on the tomato, top with sliced boconcini and drizzle with mixture of balsamic reduction and olive oil. Serve at room temperature. Sprinkle salt and pepper just before serving.

The gentle lentil: Khatti Masoor Dal

I acquired this recipe from a very traditional Ghaziabad Agarwal family, where this type of dal is a regular item in their daily cuisine. While I was living in Delhi, our neighbor was a wonderful woman who took pity on us students living the dorm and offered us home cooked meals once in a while. One of the dishes in her repertoire was this very simple, Khatti Masoor Dal; I.e Whole Masoor dal ( pink color) stewed with tamarind and ginger. Just as simple as that and on a cold winter day it was a soul satisfying dish eaten either with rocks or rice....just divine!

You can substitute any whole lentil for this dish, it will taste just as good.

Khatti Masoor Dal

1 cup whole red lentil/ sabut masoor dal, soaked and cooked until fork tender
1 tbsp tamarind paste
1 tbsp chopped ginger
1 finely chopped green chili
1 tbsp oil/ghee
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp asafoetida
Coriander leaves to garnish
Salt to taste

Soak the lentils for about half an hour (optional) and cook until the lentils are soft when pressed between your fingers ( approx 10 mins cooking time ). Don't drain the lentils, keep the water aside for thinning down the lentils while simmering.
Heat oil/ ghee in a pan, add the asafoetida, cumin seeds, ginger, garlic and let it sputter, add the tamarind paste and cooked lentil along with the boiling liquor. Add salt to taste and allow it to simmer on a low flame for 10-15 mins. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with roti or rice.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Dinner in minutes: Eggplant Rice aka Vangi Bhath

While at the store the other day, I came across a spice blend called Vangi Bhath. Vangi means eggplant or aubergine and Bhath means Rice. This melange of fried aubergine said and rice with the spice blend makes a divine dish in minutes and tastes heavenly when served well th a side of Yoghurt.

Vangi Bhath is a dish commonly prepared in most South Indian states. Tempted, I picked up a packet of MTR Vangi Bhath powder in hopes of making a one pot dish on nights that I'm not in the mood the cook.

The hubby loves eggplant, I'm not particularly fond of it, however I will eat Eggplant in this form without complaints as it tasted so delicious. Using the elongated thin skinned asian variety of eggplants work best for this dish, sliced in long batons, the eggplants should be sprinkled with salt to remove extra moisture and bitterness. Allow the eggplants to sit for a few minutes on a colander and then lightly squeeze out any moisture. Having precooked rice is a plus, or just make a fresh pot cooked al dente (90% cooked) so that the rice absorbs some of the spices in the final stages of cooking.

Vangi Bhath

250 gms eggplant, chopped and salted and set on a colander
4 cups cooked rice
1-2 tbsp tamarind paste
2-4 tbsp peanuts
2 tbsp MTR Vangi Bhath powder
1/2 cup water
1 sprig curry leaves and 2 dry red chillies ( optional )
2 tbsp sesame or peanut oil
1/2 tbsp channa dal, raw
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida
Cilantro leaves for garnish

Allow chopped and salted eggplant to release its moisture, squeeze out any remaining moisture and set aside. Heat oil in a large pan and when hot add the channa dal, mustard seeds, peanuts, curry leaves allow everything to sizzle and then add the eggplant. Cook on a high flame until the eggplants acquire a light browning. Add the tamarind paste, MTR Vangi Bhath spice mix and half cup water. Allow the spice to blend and then add the cooked rice, toss gently to prevent rice from breaking up. Cover and cook for about 5 mins on a very low flame. Garnish with cilantro/coriander leaves and serve with a bowl of yoghurt or raita.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bowled over by Soup : Vegetarian Tom yum Thai

We had a hailstorm here in the middle of summer, bringing down the temperature drastically. What else is better on a cool night than a bowl of hot soup? I set the stock base simmering while I chopped all the vegetables, when my son came home, the whiff of the aroma hit the minute I opened the door and he was hungry instantly!

I love Thai cuisine just because it is such an interesting mix of herbs and spices along with the melange of vegetables making it a very healthy cuisine. 

The key to Thai cooking are its ingredients. I often have a jar of a basic Thai paste in my fridge. It is essentially a mix of Galangal, lemon grass, kafir lime leaves, fresh red chillies, green coriander stalks and lemon juice. I grind everything to as fine a paste as possible, and freeze in ice cube trays. I later store the cubes in zip top bags and use the cubes as required. Please use a separate ice cube tray or your regular ice cubes will taste of the paste.

Vegetarian Tom Yum Soup

4 cups water/ homemade vegetable stock
2 tbsp thick tamarind extract
2/3 tbsp of my homemade Thai paste or Tom yum soup paste
1-2 cups chopped Vegetables of you choice ( mine are zucchini, baby corn, mushroom, cabbage, red chillies and spring onions)
4-6 kaffir lime leaves
Few stalks of coriander leaf ( leaf removed, only stem)
10 basil leaves
Salt to taste

Heat water add, tamarind extract, salt, Thai paste, kafir lime leaves, coriander stalks and bring to a boil. When you get a wonderful soupy aroma ( about 5-8 minutes) add the vegetables and cook further for a few minutes. Remove from heat and serve immediately with a few leaves of basil. Suwadee