Tag Archives: curry leaves

Corn on the Cob Curry

2 Jul

IMG_3056You can spend several years traveling all across India and still find distinctive dishes that you have never tasted before. There are thousands of regional dishes and over hundreds of ways of preparing each of them. This is the very reason India and Indian food is paradise for food enthusiasts. Just when you think you have tried every dish a region has to offer, you will surely stumble upon another unique flavor profile.

A few years ago my mother-in-law introduced me to a Corn on the Cob Curry. I had never eaten corn in a robust coconut gravy laced with tamarind paste and finished with a classic South Indian tempering of mustard seeds, curry leaves and dried red chilies. This dish harmoniously married together different textures and several spices; there was perfect equality among all the ingredients with no element dared to over-power another.

This adaptation of my mother-in-laws brilliant recipe features  just in time for the height of corn season. So go ahead and add something more than just butter and spice to your Corn on the Cob this summer. Continue reading

Healthy Quinoa Upma

10 Jan

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I revealed my love for Indian breakfasts when I shared my Chai Chocolate Truffles Recipe a few weeks earlier. I have always loved a good Upma for breakfast. Upma, is a common South Indian savory breakfast dish made with dry-roasted semolina. Vegetables and spices are added in the cooking process to create a wholesome and delicious breakfast item.

Since I am still repenting for my gluttony in the last few months of 2012, I wanted to recreate my favorite upma with a lower carbohydrate and higher protein substitute for semolina. The ingredient is (yes, yet again!) the super food – Quinoa! Quinoa, turned out to be a perfect textural substitute and a wonderful blank canvas to be enriched by the tempering of mustard seeds and curry leaves in a little ghee (clarified butter).  I only included peas and corn for the vegetable additions to this upma, but you can substitute or supplement them with  cauliflower, green beans and even cabbage. This upma is sure to satisfy your palate without undoing your ongoing New Year’s resolution of eating healthy.

Quinoa Upma Recipe
Time: 25 minutes
Yield: About 3.5 cups

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup quinoa, washed and drained
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1½ teaspoons of ghee/clarified butter (See note)
  • 1 tablespoon mustard seeds
  • 8-10 curry leaves
  • ½ cup red onions, peeled and diced
  • 1-2 green chilies, seeded and diced
  • 1 teaspoon ginger paste
  • ½ cup frozen green peas, defrosted
  • ½ cup frozen yellow corn, defrosted
  • Salt to taste
  • ½ teaspoon red chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste
  • 2 tablespoons peanuts, chopped (optional)
  • Store bought mint chutney/cilantro chutney as an accompaniment (optional)

Note:

Method:
1) In a medium pot cook 1 cup of Quinoa along with 2 cups of water, as per the package instructions. When cooked, fluff with a fork and set aside.
2) In another medium non-stick pot heat the oil and ghee on medium heat. Once the oil is heated add the mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds start to sputter, add the curry leaves and cook them for 1 minute.
3) Now add the onions and green chilies and sauté until the onions start to change color. Add the ginger paste and cook for 1-2 minutes.
4) Add the peas and corn along with 1-2 tablespoons of water and cover and cook till the peas and corn are tender.
5) Add ½ teaspoon red chili powder and salt to taste. Now add the quinoa and toss gently to mix all the ingredients into the quinoa.
6) Turn off the heat and remove from the stove-top. Add the cilantro and give the quinoa another quick toss.
7) Season with lemon juice to taste and garnish with crushed peanuts. (Add more salt if you need to at this stage).This can be served by itself or with an accompaniment of store-bought mint or cilantro chutney.

Eggplant Raita

5 Nov

Diwali, the festival of lights, is my favorite Indian festival. The week leading up to Diwali and the week of, the spirit of this festival reverberates throughout India. People dress in vibrant, ornate outfits; visit their friends and family, exchange gifts and sweets and feast on several traditional delicacies. The sounds, sights and smells of fireworks are omnipresent in every city, town and village. Families adorn their homes with earthen lamps, floral garlands and colorful rangoli (decorative designs made on the floors with colored powders). It is truly the brightest, most jovial and exhilarating time of the year in India.

Sadly, this is also the time of the year I truly yearn to be in India. Despite all efforts, I am unable to recreate in the US the Diwali spirit I experienced growing up in India. The closest I get to it is through the annual Diwali dinner that we host. Our friends dress-up in festive Indian outfits, and join us for a fun night that includes plenty of eating and drinking. I work diligently each Diwali to cook and share my favorite celebratory Indian recipes with my friends and family.

The very first year, I was hosting one of these Diwali dinners, I fell sick right before the event and my mother-in-law helped me out by preparing a few dishes. She made this eggplant raita that was the star of the night and a few years later my friends still remember it fondly. A raita is an Indian, Pakistani or Bangladeshi side dish that is made with yogurt and is a common accompaniment to a rice dish. The fruit, vegetable, crunch or flavor that can be added to a raita is only limited by your imagination.

This raita highlights lightly fried eggplant slices in a flavorful and slightly spicy yogurt mixture that’s tempered with mustard seeds and curry leaves. This is a radiant side dish or a wonderful mini-meal anytime of the day.

Eggplant Raita Recipe:
Minal Moraji (My mother-in-law’s) recipe
Yields: 6-8 servings (Based on eggplant size)
Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:
1-1½ cups of vegetable or canola oil
1 American or Italian eggplant, cut into ½ inch rounds (Leave the skin on)
3 cups plain non-fat yogurt
1 tablespoon of water
1 teaspoon table salt (Use less or more per your taste)
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
A pinch of asafoetida (See note)
8-10 curry leaves
½ teaspoon chili powder
2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro for garnish

Notes:

  • Asafoetida (known as Hing in India), has a very pungent aroma, so be careful not to add more than a pinch as it will over-power the rest of the flavors.
  • The eggplant can be fried and set aside in an airtight container a day before this dish is to be served. The yogurt can also be prepared a day before and stored in the refrigerator. Only add the yogurt mixture to the eggplant 5-10 minutes before you are going to serve it.
  • This raita is great by itself or as a complement to a spicy biryani or pulao.

Method
1) In a 10 or 12 inch skillet heat 1 cup of oil on medium to high heat.
2) When the oil is ready add the eggplant in batches and pan fry them on each side till they are a light brown in color and fully cooked through. Do not overcrowd the pan and ensure that the eggplant slices do not overlap. Overcrowding the pan brings down the oil temperature and increases cooking time. If you have a large eggplant and run out of oil, heat the remaining half cup of oil and then resume frying the remaining slices of eggplant.
3) Place the cooked eggplant slices on a plate lined with a kitchen towel to absorb the excess oil.
4) Beat the yogurt with the water and salt, until it is smooth and lump free.
5) In a small skillet heat 1 tablespoon of oil and add the mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds start to splutter, add the asafoetida. Turn off the stove and remove the skillet from it. Add the curry leaves right away and then after another minute add the red chili powder. Add this tempering to the yogurt and mix well. Taste and adjust the salt if you need to.
6) When ready to serve, layout the eggplant slices on a serving platter and cover them with the yogurt. Garnish with cilantro. Serve immediately.

Kerala Beef Fry

13 Oct

“Holy Cow! Do Indians eat Beef?”

The answer to that is yes, just not all of them. Cows are considered sacred in Hinduism and the majority of Hindus in India do not eat beef. When people think of India they immediately associate it with Indians not eating beef. While Hinduism is the major religion (80.5% of the population), India also has 13.4% Muslims and 2.3% Christians. That seems like a rather small percentage until you realize we are talking about a population of over a billion people.  There are also a growing number of expatriates and repatriates in India who are beef eaters.

Eating beef is not illegal in India, though cow slaughtering is prohibited in some states.  Then there is also the controversy over cows and buffaloes – cows are considered holy but their cousins the buffaloes are frequently used to process beef in India. In fact, USDA has projected that India will become the largest beef exporter in 2012. 

In short, beef in served at several restaurants across India and is also cooked in several households. One of my favorite Indian beef recipes is Beef Ularthiyathu better known as Spicy Kerala Beef Fry. Bite size pieces of beef are marinated in freshly ground aromatic spices, then pressure cooked till tender and finally fried with fragrant curry leaves and slivers of coconut. Kerala beef fry is usually served with flaky Kerala parathas or fluffy appams, but regular chapatis or basmati rice works just fine as this dish will be the real star of the meal.

Kerala Beef Fry Recipe:
Adapted from Petrina Verma Sarkar’s Kerala Beef Fry Recipe
Time: In Active time:  1.5hrs   Active time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

Marinade Ingredients:
1 inch cinnamon stick
3 teaspoons fennel seeds
8 cloves
16 whole black peppercorns
5 green cardamom pods, seeds only
1 ½ tablespoons coriander powder
1 tablespoon ginger paste
1 tablespoon garlic paste
1 tablespoon vinegar
½ peeled and thinly sliced medium red onion
2 green chilies, sliced

Cooking Ingredients:
Boneless Beef 1.5 lbs, cleaned and cut up into 1.5 inch chunks (I used stew meat)
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1 peeled and thinly sliced medium red onion
10 curry leaves
2 green chilies
3 tablespoons dried, grated coconut (See note)
½ teaspoon red chili powder (See note)
Salt to taste

Note:

  • Traditionally this is made with slices of fresh coconut, so if you have access to fresh coconut of sliced frozen coconut, you can use that instead of the dried, grated coconut.
  • Feel free to add more chili powder after tasting it and deciding how spicy you want it to be.

Method:
1) In a spice grinder or coffee grinder, grind together the cinnamon stick, fennel seeds, cloves, peppercorns and cardamom.
2) Put the beef into a large bowl and mix it with the ground up spice mixture and all other marinade ingredients. Plastic wrap this bowl and place the beef in the refrigerator, and let it marinate for 1-2 hours.
3) Put the marinated beef along with ½ a cup of water into a pressure cooker and let it cook till you hear two whistles. You want the meat to be cooked through and tender. Simmer out most of the remaining water, leaving behind only 2-3 tablespoons of liquid.
4) In a large skillet heat the oil on medium high heat. When the oil is hot add 1 thinly sliced onion to it and sauté till golden brown. Stir the onions occasionally to ensure they do not burn.
5) Add the curry leaves and green chilies fry them for 1-2 minutes.
6) Then add the coconut and cook it for about 2 minutes or till is toasty.
7) Now add the beef with the 2-3 tablespoons of reserved cooking liquid (from the pressure cooker) and cook everything together till the beef turns a deep, dark color.
8) Serve hot with basmati rice, rotis, parathas, dosas or appams.

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