Monday, February 20, 2012

It's all Maya

More than a decade ago we lived in Singapore and our wonderful neighbor, Mrs Khera had a very talented Nepalese cook – Maya. She let me in on a few cooking tricks to some wonderful Nepalese dishes, the most important being the Momo. Maya also introduced me to vegetarian Nepalese cuisine which is unusually very simple and subtle in flavor. The dishes are prepared using common flavoring ingredients and spices - like garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, turmeric, fresh red chilies, onions, cilantro and scallions.

I often make a nepali Kali maa ki dal / urad dal that Maya taught me which is always a hit and a recipe that is most often requested from dinner guests, as this dal does not use cream but still has a creamy texture and tons of flavor. For people who do not care for kali maa ki dal, this is a good variation.

Kali ma ki dal Nepali style

¼ cup split urad dal with skin
¼ cup skinless urad dal
½ cup channa dal, mix and wash all dals and pre-soak for ½ an hour
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 + 2 tbsp oil
1 tbsp ghee
½ tsp jeera/cumin
4-6 fresh curry leaves (optional)
8-10 cloves garlic – approx ¼ cup, grated
1 large very ripe tomato, finely chopped
1 tsp ginger, grated
¼ cup fresh coriander, chopped
1 -2 fresh red chillies split down the center, salt to taste


Pressure cook the dals along with a tbsp oil and turmeric for 20 minutes or on a medium flame in a heavy bottom pan until the dals are well cooked – whisk dals with an egg beater when still hot and keep aside (very important step).
One can also cook the dals in a crock pot for 2-4 hours until the dals disintegrate (well cooked) and has an almost gelatinous texture.

Heat remaining oil and ghee in a pan, add the cumin and allow it to sputter. Throw in the grated garlic and curry leaves and cook for a minute, then add the tomatoes. Cook on low flame until pulpy. Add the cooked and whisked dal, salt and some water. Allow to simmer for 10 minutes, add the ginger, red chillies and coriander leaves.

Serve hot with whole grain bread, nan/chapati or steamed basmati rice.

This recipe has been submitted for the event, Flavors of: Nepal created by Nayna of Simply food and hosted by Nupur of UK Rasoi.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Open Sesame - A master key

In my kitchen I tend to keep certain spice blends and pastes which work as building blocks to a variety of dishes, one such paste is a blend of fresh red chillies, shallots, garlic and sesame.

The beauty of this paste is that it can stand alone as a chutney/spread for breads, diluted with a couple of tablespoons of sesame oil or sour cream it can be used as dipping sauce for vegetables or pita wedges. I also use it a base flavouring for making Indian Chinese dishes like Manchurian or Szechuan / Sichuan sauce or Hot and sour soup. It works exceptionally well to flavour a Laksa soup or Mee Goreng. I add it to the potato stuffing for making Aloo or mixed vegetable parathas or throw in a spoon or two of the paste to fresh yoghurt to make a raita. I add the paste to zing up my fajitas or as a base for Indian style paneer pizza………….as you can see this paste is like a chameleon – it blends in well with many a dish!

I tend to make double batches and freeze the paste in multiple little baby food size jars so that I can thaw out a jar or two as and when I need it. The paste does not use oil or have chemical preservatives, so it may not last more than a week in the refridgerator (but a mini jar has never lasted that long). However, if you want to extend the life of the paste add oil that has been heated to a smoking point and cooled to the paste, additionally you may add citric acid crystals to increase its life, but it adds to much of a sour taste to the paste which can leave a bitter after taste when heated.

This paste is fiery, so use it judiciously.

Red Chilli Sesame Paste

Ingredients3-4 oz/100 gms fresh red chillies, chopped
½ cup shallots, roughly chopped
¼ cup peeled garlic, chopped
2 tbsp white sesame seeds, lightly toasted
Juice of 1-2 limes/lemons
Salt to taste

MethodLightly toast sesame seeds and allow to cool (sesame will sputter out of the pan if the flame is high). Chop red chillies, de-seed if you want the paste to be milder (wear a glove while doing this) and roughly chop shallots and garlic. Blend together chillies, garlic, shallots and sesame to a smooth paste using little water. Add the lime juice and salt.
If you want to prolong the life of the paste add 4 oz of heated and cooled oil (any oil – vegetable, peanut or sesame).


This recipe has been submitted for the event, Cooking with Whole Foods [CWF] : Sesame seeds created by Kiran of Sumadhura and hosted by Revathi of Kaarasaaram.