Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Homemade Garam Masala Powder

For a while now I have been wanting to make my own garam masala. Fresh ground spices always add far more flavor and enhance the taste of the dishes that they are used in..... I was additionally motivated when I came across this article in Time magazine that suggested that some of the masalas that had been tested were shown to contain lead in them. A startling discovery that made me determined to start making my own masalas....... well, at least some of the masalas that I use most often:-)

 Homemade Garam Masala Powder

Various sources including books and friends gave me an idea of the main ingredients of garam masala. I just went with my instincts on the quantities to be used in the masala.The results were awesome, the masala was so very fragrant and flavorful. Unlike some of the masalas that are required in south Indian cooking like this molaga podi (spice powder) or this thengai podi (coconut- lentil powder), making garam masala is much more simpler. It only entails a light roasting of all the spices together, some cooling and grinding and voila you have a garam masala that is miles ahead in terms of taste and flavor when compared to store bought ones.

Homemade garam masala- Curry powder

Click here for a printable view of this recipe

Ingredients and Method to make Garam Masala
1/4 cup fennel seeds (saunf/ sombu)
1/4 cup cumin seeds (jeera/ jeeragam)
1/4 cup coriander seeds (Saboot dhania/ kothamalli virai)
5 Dry red chili (Lal Mirch)
7 - 1 inch cinnamon sticks (dalchini/ pattai)
12 Black cardamom pods (Badi Elaichi)
1 tbsp cloves (lavang/ kramb)
10 small or 5 large bay leaves (tej patta )
5 star anise (Chakra phool)
1 tbsp black cumin seeds (shah jeera)
1 tbsp whole black pepper (kali miri)
1/2 tbsp ground nutmeg (jaiphal)

Dry roast all the spices together on low heat in a heavy bottomed pan for 4 to 5 minutes or until aromatic.
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Cool and powder in the spice grinder or a coffee bean grinder until fine. Remove and store in an air tight container or bottle and use as required in recipes.

Some recipes that use Garam masala

Kadai Paneer ( Indian Cottage Cheese curry)

Baingan Bharta (Vegan Oven Roasted Eggplant Curry) 

Punjabi Aloo Gobi (Cauliflower and Potato curry)  

Aloo Palak (Potatoes in spinach gravy curry) 

Gobi Chana Masala (Cauliflower and chickpeas curry)

Chana Palak (Spinach and Chickpeas curry)

Mushroom Peas curry with yogurt tomato gravy

Rajma (Red Kidney Bean Curry)

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Monday, May 23, 2011

Dried Apricot Jam and some humor :-)

Our town newsletter had this humorous "pearls of wisdom" in their just for fun section that was pretty funny. I am sharing some of the funniest ones from that article here for my readers....

If you look like your passport picture, you probably need the trip

Bills travel through the post at twice the speed of cheques

My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance

Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.

Funny huh? Anyway, moving on to the jam part of the post. For a while now I had this packet of dried apricot sitting in my pantry. Even though dried fruits rank high on my list of  guilt free snacks,dried apricots do not enjoy the same high ranking as other dried fruits with me. So this packet has been sitting in a corner of my pantry largely ignored. Every time the guilt of ignoring this item gets to me, I end up making something with it like this Apple apricot chutney or this Apricot pachadi (chutney).

I loved both the above chutneys with apricots but chutneys can only use up so much apricots and the packet in my pantry seemed like it would never get completely used up. Determined to use it up entirely, last week I decided to try and make jam with these apricots. This is the first time I attempted to make jam with dried fruits, so I was a little wary of its outcome. The jam was a success and one of my first thoughts was "now why didn't I think of this earlier :-) " Anyway I am glad I did,  I got to use up the entire packet of apricots in a way that we both completely enjoyed and the success of this idea has already begun to give me ideas for new types of jams that I hope to try in the future :-)

Dried Apricot Jam

Here is another view of the jam.....

Dried Apricot Jam
Click here for a printable view of this recipe

Ingredients and Method to make Dried apricot jam
3 heaped cups of dried apricots
2 cups water
2 3/4 cups of sugar
4 tbsp lemon juice

Soak dried apricots in 2 cups of hot water for 30 minutes. Puree in batches until smooth or a little chunky.

Place puree in a heavy bottomed pan, add sugar and place on heat. Let this mixture simmer for a few minutes.

Add lemon juice and continue to simmer, stirring frequently until it begins to thicken. Do keep a lid handy as sometimes this mixture splatters a little. You know when the jam is ready, if you lift the spatula and allow the jam to pour and it flows together and not in little drops
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Alternatively, pour a few drops on a plate, if it spreads easily, then the jam is not ready. When you pour a few drops and it stays firm without moving, and has a jam like consistency, the jam is ready.

Remove from heat, cool slightly and pour into glass bottles. This quantity yielded me 2  16 oz bottles of jam

For this quantity I did not sterilize my bottle, since I was making a very small batch. In case you plan to make lot of jam, then it is suggested to sterilize your glass jar before you fill it with jam, click here to know how to sterilize your glass jars
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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Gobi Chana Masala ( Chickpeas with cauliflower and potato curry)

Chickpeas are one of my favorite type of beans. What's not to like about chickpeas....this bean is cute, plump, delicious and very versatile. I enjoy making different curries that combine chickpeas with different vegetables and always find the end result very appealing. Some of my favorite curries with chickpeas in them and that are already posted on this site are this chickpea and spinach curry , this Thai style chickpea curry and this Chana masala

This curry with a combination of cauliflower, potatoes and chickpeas is another one of my favorites. It is very quick, satisfying and delicious. No wonder it is one of my favorites :-) Making this curry does not involve any complicated steps, just a little prepping, some stirring, some basic spices that are usually pantry staples and voila , a delicious curry is ready. Combine this with some naan or roti (Indian flat bread) or even plain steamed rice and you have yourself a complete meal.

Gobi Chana Masala- Chickpeas and cauliflower potato curry

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Ingredients and Method to make Gobi Chana Masala
1 cup dry chickpeas (white chana/ garbanzo beans)
1/2 head of a medium  cauliflower broken into florets
1 large russet potato peeled and cut into 1 inch pieces
3 medium tomatoes
2 medium onions cut fine

2 tbsp oil
1 inch piece of ginger minced
1/2 tsp minced garlic
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
3/4 tsp cumin powder
4 tsp garam masala (or to taste)
salt to taste
1/2 tsp red chili powder (or to taste) (optional)

Soak chickpeas in sufficient water for 6 to 8 hours with a pinch of soda (The soda is optional) Drain water and fill with fresh water and pressure cook chickpeas until soft yet not mushy. This can also be done on the stove top, though that takes much longer. Keep the cooked chickpeas aside.

Blanch tomatoes. Read this post on how to blanch tomatoes. Cut tomatoes fine and keep aside.

Heat oil in a large heavy bottomed pan, add onions to it and saute until onions turn transparent. Add tomatoes and stir until tomatoes are cooked and soft. Add minced garlic and ginger and stir a few times.

Add all the spices and stir a few times. Add cut potatoes + cauliflower and a little water and allow to cook until both the vegetables are soft yet retain their shape.
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Add cooked chickpeas, more water if required to achieve required consistency, adjust salt to taste and allow to simmer for a few more minutes until all the flavors mingle together.

Remove and serve hot with rotis/ naans or even phulkas, or on a bed of plain steamed rice.
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Monday, May 16, 2011

Curried Mung bean and Barley Soup ~ Whole Moong soup

This curried mung bean and barley soup was first posted on this site on Thursday, 12th May 2011. Some of you may have noticed that when you tried to click on my post either through your reader or through the email, it displayed a message that the page did not exist. The reason for this was that blogger had some issues since Thursday. I initially noticed that my post kept disappearing and reappearing for the entire day. By Friday, sadly the post  had completely disappeared, I kept hoping that it would reappear later during the weekend, but it did not. So I am posting this soup for the second time and keeping my fingers crossed that the issues with blogger have been resolved :-)

Since the first time I tasted barley in a soup at a restaurant, soups have been my favorite way to include barley in our diet. Of course that is not the only way I include barley in our menu, I have played around with using it in foods like this Oat barley roti (Indian flat bread) , this barley cutlet and this barley adai (crepe) and enjoyed it immensely. But the first thought that crosses my mind when I think of using barley is usually some type of soup.

This time I decided to try barley in combination with mung bean in a soup. The result was this hearty, nutritious and very delicious soup that I completely enjoyed. I rarely use bell pepper in soups, but I tried it in this one and was surprised to find that it added a very interesting flavor and dimension to the soup. Since I precooked the beans and barley in the pressure cooker I also saved a lot of time and got this soup ready in under thirty minutes. And anytime I can make something quick, healthy and tasty, that is a winner in my book:-)

 Curried Mung Bean and Barley Soup ~ Whole moong soup

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Ingredients and Method to make curried mung bean and barley soup
3/4 cup whole green mung bean soaked for 3 to 4 hours (whole moong)
1/2 cup pearl barley (jau)
2 medium size onions cut fine (pyaaz)
3 medium tomatoes cut fine (tamatar)
3 carrots cut into 1/4 inch pieces (gajar)
1 green bell pepper (capsicum/simla mirch/ koda molagai)

2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp minced garlic (lehsun/poondu)
a thin sliver of ginger minced (adrak/inji)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder (optional) (haldi)
1/2 tsp red chili powder (or to taste) (lal mirch)
1 1/2 tsp garam masala (can be substituted with any other curry powder)
salt to taste
3 1/2 tsp lemon juice (or to taste)(limbu ka ras)
handful cilantro (coriander leaves/hara dhania) cut fine for garnish

Soak mung beans in sufficient water for 3 to 4 hours. Just before cooking it, drain the water and add fresh water to the soaked mung beans. Wash and rinse pearl barley and add to the soaked mung beans and pressure cook the two until soft. Alternatively soaked mung beans + pearl barley can be cooked on the stove top together or separately until soft yet not mushy.Keep this aside .

Heat oil in a large heavy bottom pan, add onions to it and saute until transparent. Add ginger and garlic and stir a few times. Add tomatoes and saute until tomatoes get soft and cooked.
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Add turmeric powder, garam masala, chili powder and stir a couple of times. Add carrots and bell peppers, water or stock as required and cook until the vegetables are soft.

Add cooked mung beans + pearl barley, salt to taste, adjust water/ stock if required and allow the soup to simmer for a few minutes while the flavors mingle.

Finally add lemon juice, garnish with cilantro and remove from heat.

Serve hot with some crusty bread, or pav bread or any other bread of choice ( I served this soup with some focaccia bread) or you can even adjust the consistency a little and serve it like a curry over a bed of plain steamed rice :-)
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Monday, May 9, 2011

Quick 2 minute Shrikhand (Sweetened strained yogurt)

Shrikhand is a sweet dish that originates from the western region of India. It is made with strained yogurt and most commonly flavored with saffron and cardamom. It is served both as a dessert and also as a side dish to go with Indian breads like puris and phulkas. When making shrikhand from scratch, the most time consuming part of the process is  making the strained yogurt. Just the thought of having to spend so much time baby sitting yogurt is enough to put me off the process :-)

Since last year, my solution to avoid straining yogurt has been to make shrikhand with Greek yogurt.  It's super fast, takes just a couple of minutes to make and tastes just like the shrikhand I used to have back home. The only big difference I see is that the consistency of shrikhand when made with Greek yogurt is not as thick as the ones back home, it is a tad bit thinner. This is a very acceptable trade off for me when I consider the time saved. So if making a quick shrikhand sounds appealing to you , give this shrikhand a try and enjoy it with your dinner or as a dessert :-)

 Quick 2 minute shrikhand-Sweetened strained yogurt

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Ingredients and Method to make Quick shrikhand
1 cup plain greek yogurt
1/3 cup sugar (or to taste) (see notes)
1/4 tsp cardamom seed powder (elaichi/ elakkai)

2 pinches good quality saffron dissolved in 1 to 1 1/2 tsp warm milk
2 heaped tbsp unsalted pistachio slivers for garnish

Mix the saffron in warm milk and keep aside for a few minutes.

Add sugar to the greek yogurt and whisk until the sugar dissolves. Add cardamom seed powder, saffron +warm milk and mix again. Finally add the pistachio slivers for garnish.
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Chill and serve chilled with puris, or phulkas or as a desert.
With this quantity of sugar, the shrikhand is mildly sweet. If you like your shrikhand more sweet, increase the quantity of sugar according to taste.
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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Schezuan Vegetable Noodles

Schezuan vegetable noodles come under the category of Indo-Chinese cuisine. Among the different spellings used to refer to this dish, I have most commonly seen it spelled as schezuan, schezwan or even schezwuan. Whichever spelling you prefer, the common star ingredient in all of these types of noodles is the schezuan sauce. Just as there are various spellings for this dish, there also seem to be various types of schezuan sauce. Mine is a variation of this sauce that I made earlier for schezuan fried rice.

Unlike the versions served at restaurants and street corners every where in India, my version does not use copious amounts of oil. I also used multi grain angel hair pasta in place of the hakka noodles that is traditionally used in this dish. What can I say......I cannot help trying to fiddle with each recipe to make it a little more healthier. Did I miss the oil and the hakka noodles......nah, not even one bit :-)  This was a fun and delicious variation that really worked for us, give it a try and see if it works for you too :-)

Schezuan vegetable noodles

Click here for a printable view of this recipe

Ingredients and Method to make Schezuan vegetable noodles

200 gms of chinese style noodles prepared as per package directions. (see notes)
2 green bell peppers (capsicum)  de-seeded and cut lengthwise into 1 to 1 1/2 inch pieces
2 medium onions sliced thin lengthwise
1 1/2 to 3 cups of thinly sliced mushrooms optional (can be substituted with thinly shredded cabbage)
2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce
3 tbsp schezuan sauce (recipe follows) (or to taste)
salt to taste
2 tbsp sesame oil + 1 tsp any type of oil

For the schezuan sauce
10 dry red chilies
2 inch piece of ginger
2 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp smooth and creamy peanut butter (optional)
1 tbsp sesame oil

Optional garnish:
Spring onion greens cut fine.

Prepare pasta/ noodles as per package directions. Drain, add 1 tsp of oil to the drained noodles and mix well. This prevents the noodles from sticking to each other. Keep this aside.

Make the sauce and keep aside. Prep the vegetables.
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Heat sesame oil in a large heavy bottomed pan or wok. Add onions to it and saute until the onions are transparent.Add the rest of the vegetables and saute on high heat until they are tender crisp.Add the prepared noodles, soy sauce, schezuan sauce and mix well.

Add salt to taste. Do remember that soy sauce and the schezuan sauce have some salt in it, so add little salt in the beginning and adjust as per taste.

If you are planning to garnish, add finely cut green part of spring onion at the end and serve hot.

For the sauce
Soak dry red chilies in warm water for 15 minutes, drain completely and grind along with all other ingredients except oil. Heat sesame oil to smoking hot, then pour over the sauce and mix well. Use this sauce as required in this recipe and the balance can be refrigerated for future use.

Traditionally this is made with chinese style hakka noodles, but I used barilla plus angel hair multi grain pasta and found it really worked well in this recipe.It has a slightly different texture and taste as compared to hakka noodles but definitely not something that I missed in any way.

Some other Indo-chinese dishes that would complement this one to make a complete meal
Baked Vegetable Manchurian
Vegetable Fried Rice

This dish is off to the Fast food event-Noodles being hosted by Shama.
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Monday, May 2, 2011

Asparagus with mung bean lentil curry ~ Asparagus Poriyal ~ With Stepwise pictures

Ever since I tried asparagus in this curry (kootu) for the first time, I have been using it in various types of curries. Surprisingly all types of curries with asparagus taste good, making it very easy to include this healthy vegetable in our weekly menu. Among the different curries, one of my favorites is this asparagus with mung lentil curry. It is a dry curry with no gravy and it makes a perfect side dish for a south Indian meal. This curry with some plain steamed rice and a sambar/ rasam/ or mor kozhambu makes for a very satisfying  meal.

This curry can be made on the stove top or in the microwave, I personally preferred making it in the microwave because it allows me to cook and serve it in the same dish. Either way this curry gets done very quickly and does not involve any lengthy steps like grinding masala or anything of that sort. So if you too are keen to include asparagus more frequently, give this curry a try. It is a simple and delicious way to include asparagus in the weekly menu.  

Veg Inspirations: Asparagus Mung Bean Curry ~ Poriyal ~ With Stepwise pictures

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Ingredients and Method to make Asparagus with mung bean lentil curry (poriyal)
1/3 cup split mung bean lentil (mung dhal) soaked for 30 minutes in  water
1.75 lbs of asparagus ends cut off and cut into small pieces (yielded 4 heaped cups of asparagus pieces)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste

1 Tbsp coconut oil (can be substituted with any other oil)
1 tsp mustards seeds (rai/ kadagu)
1 tsp split black gram lentil (udad dhal)
pinch of asafoetida powder (hing/perungayam)
2 whole dry red chilies broken into small pieces (or to taste)
8 to 10 curry leaves broken into small pieces (optional but recommended)

1/4 cup fresh or frozen grated coconut (if frozen thaw to room temperature)

Soak the lentils in water for 30 minutes or so. Cook it on the stove top or in the microwave until it is semi cooked, adding only as much water as is required.

Add asparagus, turmeric powder, salt to taste and sprinkle some water and allow it to cook until soft yet not mushy.

In a small pan, heat oil add mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to splutter, add split black gram lentil. When the lentil begins to turn reddish, add asafoetida powder , red chili pieces and curry leaves and stir a couple of times. Pour the entire seasoning on the cooked asparagus with lentil mixture and mix well.

Heat for a couple of minutes for the flavors to mingle. Garnish with coconut, mix well.
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Serve hot with plain steamed rice and sambar or rasam or it can even be served with phulkas/ chapathis or any other kind of flat bread

Suggested variation:

Instead of asparagus, green beans can also be used in this recipe. Just string the beans, cut them into little pieces and use in place of asparagus in this recipe.
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