Delicious Rice Pudding (kheer)

Kheer is a very popular dessert made with milk, rice and nuts that my mother prepared every Sunday for us.

Kheer

(serves 6)

6 cups milk
¼ cup long-grain Basmati rice
4 whole green cardamom pods, crushed
3 tablespoons sugar
¼ cup pistachios, unsalted and slivered

In a medium pot, add the milk, rice, and cardamom pods and boil over medium heat.  Reduce the heat, stirring occasionally for 45 minutes to an hour until the milk is reduced to 3 cups of a thick consistency.

Remove the cardamom pods and discard.  Add sugar and nuts, stir thoroughly and cool.  Pour into dessert bowl, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate before serving.

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Add Curry and Turmeric (haldi) to Your Diet

We are what we eat!  My ‘gift of good health’ came from a spiritual reawakening through Indian food because it promotes creativity, life, vitality, strength, health, laughter, joy, and cheerfulness.

Curry the provocative, yellow spicy concoction evolved out of India’s five-thousand-year-old healing system called Ayurveda (science of life: body, mind and spirit) and has traveled a fascinating voyage through time.   Based on sensible beliefs that developed during the Vedas (ancient knowledge), centuries of study, testing, and observation and nourishment of the body and contentment of the mind proved vital to the eating habits of the people of the Indian subcontinent.

The precepts of the six rasas or flavors developed and became part of every meal.   Each flavor is believed to have its therapeutic health remedy and was prescribed in a particular proportion to the others.  Since food was believed to influence behavior as well as physical well-being, these beliefs were taken seriously, evolving through time.  Today it is an important function of the Indian subcontinent’s consciousness, and could be the reason why most Indians tend to be on friendlier terms with their stomachs.

The word curry comes from the South Indian Tamil word kari, meaning a richly spiced sauce with kari podi or curry powder.  Tasty and tantalizing to the palate and the senses, curry is essentially a stew or a casserole of meat, fish, or vegetables sautéed and cooked in a mixture (masala) of several pungent spices.  Chili peppers, turmeric, ginger, garlic, onions, coriander, cumin, cardamom, black pepper, cinnamon, bay leaf, black pepper, clove, nutmeg, mace, saffron, and other healing spices form a part of many mouth-watering curry dishes.

These spices and herbs are Nature’s gift to us.  They are the heating and cooling energy specialists of the body and aid the digestive process in  keeping balance and harmony. They

  • stimulate the taste buds and increase the flow of saliva
  • relieve gas, and reduce nausea
  • soothe the nervous system
  • increase internal body heat to relieve chills
  • strengthen and promote digestion, absorption, metabolism,  elimination, and circulation

The much talked about ancient curry spice curcumin or turmeric (haldi) powder, has been used for thousands of years in India to strengthen and tone the stomach, promote appetite, and help to rid the intestinal tract of parasites.  As a natural antioxidant substance, turmeric has few equals in helping to prevent disease; slow the oxidation of oils, fats, and so forth; and check the deterioration of cells and tissues in the body.  To the Hindus turmeric is a sacred spice used in every religious ceremony.  The mangal sutra, or sacred marriage thread, that is tied around the bride’s neck by her husband-to-be is dipped in turmeric paste to ensure an auspicious start for the newlyweds.

Western researchers now claim turmeric powder “is arguably the most potent anti-cancer nutrient in existence… There is definitely no shortage of scientific evidence these days to show that curcumin, the believed to be primary active ingredient in the spice turmeric hold incredible therapeutic value, and just might be the most advisable medicinal spice of our day. Besides quelling anti-inflammatory pain and promoting wound healing, turmeric is a seemingly miraculous anti-cancer nutrient of the highest order… Curcumin regulates inflammation that plays a major role in most chronic illnesses, including neuro-degenerative, cardiovascular, pulmonary, metabolic, autoimmune and neoplastic diseases and aids in healing by ameliorating the chronic inflammation associated with a multitude of ailments and illnesses, from toothaches to cardiovascular disease… Curcumin is an all-round health agent that promotes vibrant health…”

http://truthisscary.com/2013/03/curcumin-vs-cancer-the-scientific-evidence-continues/

Add turmeric to your diet.   For starters, try this simple vegetable recipe.

Mushrooms and Broccoli sautéed in Turmeric, Garlic & Green Chili

Serves 6

2 packages fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 pounds broccoli heads, cut into pieces
¼ cup olive oil
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
8 cloves garlic, peeled and grated
1 small green chili, chopped fine
Salt to taste

Steam the mushrooms and broccoli for 5 minutes.  Rinse and drain.

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat.  Add the turmeric, garlic and green chili and sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly until they change color to a darker shade.  Add the mushrooms, broccoli and salt, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes.  Remove and serve hot with lunch or dinner.

 

Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at www.feastofindia.net.

Vegetables flavored with Garam Masala (Hot Spices)

Garam masala literally means a mixture of “hot spices” and is composed of black peppercorns, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, mace, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, and fenugreek seeds.  To obtain the best flavor, garam masala must always be roasted for 2-3 minutes on a small, hot skillet over medium heat.  Garam masala is used by itself or generally in combination with coriander, cumin, and turmeric to prepare a quick curry.  Almonds, cashews, pistachios, or walnuts are also used in combination with garam masala and other spices to create seductive, subtle, delicate flavors and textures in a dish.

Remember to always sauté garlic, ginger, and onions in hot oil until they turn soft or golden brown before adding the spices, curry powder, sauce, or paste.   Hot oil has an extraordinary ability to extract and retain aroma, essence, and flavor of spices and herbs.  This process is performed either at the beginning of cooking a dish, or at the end, according to the directions of the recipe.

Spices are strong and must always be used in small quantities, correct measurements, and precise combinations to get the desired flavor.  Some spices are more pungent and powerful than others.  Always use a level teaspoonful of ground spices (never heaped).  Excessive use of green or red chilies will ruin almost any curry.

Mughal-Style Garam Masala (Mughalai Garam Masala)

Makes 1 cup

1 teaspoon black cumin seeds
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 bay leaves
6 black cardamom pods, seeds removed and pods discarded
12 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and pods discarded
½ cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon ground mace
½ teaspoon dry ginger
½ teaspoon crushed saffron threads

Heat a small skillet over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the spices.  Stir constantly with a spatula for 3-4 minutes until the spices change color to a darker shade and release their distinct aromas.  Grind to a fine powder and store in an airtight container.  Use as needed to season curries and vegetables.

Curry facts:

  • All the spices and herbs utilized in Indian cuisine are healthy because they are major sources of vitamins and minerals needed to preserve human life
  • Magic of curry is in the blending and sautéing of spices (masala)
  • Legume and bean dishes are always seasoned with asafoetida, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, onion, and turmeric to reduce gas and make food light to digest
  • Vegetables always need coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, onion, and turmeric
  • Certain spices such as bay leaf, black pepper, cardamom, chili pepper, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, onion, and turmeric work well together for meat and vegetable curries.
  • Simple tools and utensils are used
  • Many of these spices are available at your local grocery store
  • Being on friendlier terms with your stomach serves you well

Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at http://www.feastofindia.net.

Tea (Chai)

For more than two centuries the three famous teas of India – Darjeeling, Assam, and Nilgiris – have stirred the hearts, stimulated the minds, and soothed the palates of mankind.  Even in countries that grow their own teas today, India tea remains the favorite.

India and Sri Lanka (Ceylon) are the largest producers of fine teas in the world.  These teas are known for their exquisite flavor and distinctive aroma.  Black Assam tea is grown at the foothills of the Himalayas and is strong, pungent, and full-bodied.  The famous Lipton teas come from India and Sri Lanka.  The teas of Nilgiris (Blue Hills in South India) are of a bright, brisk quality with distinct flavors.

Indian Spiced Tea (Masalewali Chai)

Serves 6

The people of the cooler regions of India have traditionally added spices to their tea, not just for flavoring but also to induce heat in the body.  Spiced teas are particularly welcome after a satisfying Indian meal.  This recipe is richly accented with cardamom, cloves, and cinnamon.

7 cups cold water
1 cup milk
1 cinnamon stick
6 green cardamom pods
6 cloves
1¼-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped
¼ cup light brown sugar
2 tablespoons Darjeeling, Assam, Nilgiris, or Ceylon Tea

In a pot, bring the water and milk to a boil over medium heat.  Stir in the spices and brown sugar.  Boil for 5 minutes and turn off the heat.  Cover the pot and let the spices steep for 10 minutes.  Add the tea leaves and bring the water to a boil.  Cover, reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.  Strain the tea and serve immediately.

Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at www.feastofindia.net.

Curry Spices: Mace and Nutmeg

Nutmeg grew in what is now Indonesia for thousands of years before its two spice products (nutmeg and mace) became known in Europe.  The Dutch East Indies controlled and transported this spice from the Moluccas, the Spice islands, a thousand miles west to Java; from Java to India; from India west to Constantinople or Alexandria.  By the end of the twelfth century, these spices were in great demand in Europe, and the profits made were 2,000 percent.  For centuries the Dutch East India Company or Vereenigde Oostindische Compagnie (VOC), had the monopoly on nutmeg and artificially controlled its market price by burning their nutmeg warehouses in Amsterdam.

Mace (javitri) and nutmeg (jaiphal) are sister spices.  Both are distinctly different spices from a single fruit of the same evergreen, aromatic nutmeg tree.  Mace is the dried reticulated aril (outgrowth or lacy red membrane surrounding the seed) of nutmeg, the seed of the fruit.  At maturity, the fruit splits open to reveal a dark brown nut covered by a clawlike crimson aril or fleshy seed covering.  When the aril is dried, it becomes a spice called mace.  When the nut is cracked, it yields a large kernel called nutmeg.

The flavor of mace is similar to that of nutmeg but more refined and may be used as a substitute.  In the West, both are generally classified as baking spices.  Mace and nutmeg are best used in combination with anise, bay leaf, black pepper, curry leaf, cardamom, caraway, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, green and red chili, marjoram, mint, mustard seed, onion, oregano, poppy seed, saffron, sage, thyme, and/or turmeric to season curries, rice, biryanis, appetizers, kebabs, and vegetables.  In India, mace is used more as a drug than as a condiment because of its invaluable medicinal properties.  Nutmeg is considered a natural astringent substance that helps to tighten and firm tissues, organs, and skin and rejuvenates the body.

Garam masala literally means a mixture of “hot spices” and is composed of black peppercorns, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom, mace, nutmeg, coriander, cumin, and fenugreek seeds.  To obtain the best flavor, garam masala must always be roasted for 2-3 minutes on a small, hot skillet over medium heat.  Garam masala is used by itself or generally in combination with coriander, cumin, and turmeric to prepare a quick curry.  Almonds, cashews, pistachios, or walnuts are also used in combination with garam masala and other spices to create seductive, subtle, delicate flavors and textures in a dish.

Remember to always sauté garlic, ginger, and onions in hot oil until they turn soft or golden brown before adding the spices, curry powder, sauce, or paste.   Hot oil has an extraordinary ability to extract and retain aroma, essence, and flavor of spices and herbs.  This process is performed either at the beginning of cooking a dish, or at the end, according to the directions of the recipe.

Spices are strong and must always be used in small quantities, correct measurements, and precise combinations to get the desired flavor.  Some spices are more pungent and powerful than others.  Always use a level teaspoonful of ground spices (never heaped).  Excessive use of green or red chilies will ruin almost any curry.

Mughal-Style Garam Masala (Mughalai Garam Masala)

Makes 1 cup

1 teaspoon black cumin seeds
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 bay leaves
6 black cardamom pods, seeds removed and pods discarded
12 green cardamom pods, seeds removed and pods discarded
½ cinnamon stick, broken into small pieces
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
½ teaspoon ground mace
½ teaspoon dry ginger
½ teaspoon crushed saffron threads

Heat a small skillet over high heat.  Reduce the heat to medium and add the spices.  Stir constantly with a spatula for 3-4 minutes until the spices change color to a darker shade and release their distinct aromas.  Grind to a fine powder and store in an airtight container.  Use when needed to season curries and vegetables.

Curry facts:

  • All the spices and herbs utilized in Indian cuisine are healthy because they are major sources of vitamins and minerals needed to preserve human life
  • Magic of curry is in the blending and sautéing of spices (masala)
  • Legume and bean dishes are always seasoned with asafoetida, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, onion, and turmeric to reduce gas and make food light to digest
  • Vegetables always need coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, onion, and turmeric
  • Certain spices such as bay leaf, black pepper, cardamom, chili pepper, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, onion, and turmeric work well together for meat and vegetable curries.
  • Simple tools and utensils are used
  • Many of these spices are available at your local grocery store
  • Being on friendlier terms with your stomach serves you well

Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at http://www.feastofindia.net.

 

Delicious Vegetable Kebab

India is truly the land of spectacular mouthwatering kebabs (meats roasted on a skewer or pounded fried meat).  The art of Mughal-style kebab making was developed in the kitchens of the caliphs of Baghdad and perfected in Lucknow and Hyderabad, where kebab-makers mastered hundreds of variations of chicken, lamb, seafood, vegetables, cheese, and legume kebabs.  Kebab refers to small chunks, patties, or balls of lamb, beef, chicken, vegetables, or paneer (cheese), broiled or fried in herbs and seasonings.

Delicious Vegetable Kebab (Sabzi Kebab)

Serves 6

1 large potato, boiled and peeled
2 medium carrots
4 cauliflower flowerets
1 medium zucchini
1 medium yellow squash
1 broccoli floweret
4 cups water
Salt to taste
¼ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon ground roasted coriander
¾ teaspoon Basic Garam Masala
¾-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped fine
6 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 egg
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped fine
½ cup corn oil

Cut the vegetables into 1-inch pieces.

In a large pot, add 4 cups water, vegetables, and salt. Cover and boil for 7-8 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally until vegetables are tender and drain.

In a food processor, puree the vegetables.

In a large bowl, combine, chili powder, coriander, garam masala, ginger, garlic, flour, egg, and cilantro leaves with the pureed vegetables.

Divide the vegetable mixture into sixteen equal portions, form into smooth balls, and flatten into 1-inch patties.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Drop in the patties and fry until evenly brown on both sides for 6-7 minutes.

Remove and drain on paper towels.  Serve hot with mint chutney and Indian salad.

Indian Salad (Kachumbar)

The most popular Indian salad is served with lunch or as an accompaniment with appetizers, kebabs, and snacks.

4 medium tomatoes, chopped
2 medium cucumbers, peeled and chopped
2 medium red onion, peeled and chopped fine
2 small green chilies, chopped fine
¼ cup fresh  mint leaves, chopped fine
¼  cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped fine
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon roasted ground cumin
Juice of 1 medium lemon or lime
1 lemon, cut into 6 wedges

In a salad bowl, mix the first nine ingredients.  Chill before serving and garnish with lemon wedges.  Serve with kebab.

 

Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at www.feastofindia.net.

Ancient Remedy to Soothe the Stomach

Vanity should have no place where our health is concerned.  My maternal grandfather introduced us to the virtues of drinking warm boiled water (garam pani).  “A plant needs water to stay healthy, and so do you,” he said .  The proper use of water or the irrigation of the body is crucial to good health.  Our body needs 10-14 glasses or a minimum of two quarts of water a day to do its work properly or the body system suffers.

Nearly all foods contain water.  Fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of pure water.

Ayurveda (science of life: body, mind, and spirit), the culinary wisdom of ancient India recommends drinking warm boiled water all year round for good health.   Water (pani) is the only refreshing drink that quenches thirst because it is considered unconditionally wholesome, natural and light to digest.  Drinking water at the beginning of a meal slows down gastric fire (agni)* and weakens power of digestion and can cause indigestion and gas.  The intake of water should be completed at least 30 minutes to one hour before meals and after meals.  Upon awakening in the morning, drinking a glass of warm water helps to stimulate the bowels and bladder.  Ice cold drinks retard digestion and shock the stomach walls, especially after exercise.   Avoid cold water when there is discomfort or pain.

By taking responsibility for our dietary wellbeing, we can learn to live in harmony and peace with ourselves and others.

Boil a kettle of cold water.  Cool and drink a glass of warm water when needed.

 

*ability to digest and assimilate food

Cucumber in Yogurt (Raita)

For thousands of years the Indians of the subcontinent have believed that yogurt (dahi) is paramount in importance to maintaining good health.  An Indian meal is incomplete without the accompaniment of plain yogurt, pickles, fresh salads, and chutneys.  Remove salads and chutneys from the refrigerator an hour before serving.

Cucumber in Yogurt (Raita)

Serves 6-8

1 large cucumber, peeled
Salt to taste
2 cups plain yogurt
¼-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped fine
1 small fresh green chili, chopped fine
1 small onion, chopped fine
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped fine
½ teaspoon roasted ground cumin

Cut the cucumber in half and remove the seeds.  Grate the cucumber and transfer to a bowl; mix the salt and set aside for 1 hour.

Drain the cucumber through a sieve for 30 minutes and squeeze out all the liquid from the cucumber.

Combine the yogurt, ginger, green chili, onion, and cilantro leaves with the cucumber.  Sprinkle with roasted cumin powder.

 

Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at www.feastofindia.net.

New Ways to Improve Yourself

Healthy Indian food is not difficult to prepare.  In desperation I taught myself to cook because I did not want to get sick and wither away from culture shock.  For example, I first learned to sauté  cumin seeds, onions, garlic, ginger and green chili in hot oil and add turmeric, cumin and coriander powder in the right proportions until I became adventurous  enough to try everything in the repertoire of our world-famous Indian cuisine.  But most important of all,  I discovered the fantastic health benefits of spices, herbs and foods that Mother Nature gave us.

For centuries these treasures of nature have helped people to stay healthy, handle stress better, attain good health and a balanced and positive outlook on life.  These formulas have changed little today.  We can endeavor to stay healthy by eating the right foods, improving ourselves and our circumstances, respecting others and teaching tolerance, sharing and protecting our culture and heritage.

Some curry facts:

  • All the spices and herbs utilized in curry have enormous health benefits
  • Magic of curry is in the blending and sautéing of spices (masala)
  • Legume and bean dishes are always seasoned with asafoetida, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, garlic, ginger, onion, and turmeric to reduce gas and make food light to digest
  • Vegetables always need coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, onion, green chili, and turmeric
  • Certain spices such as bay leaf, black pepper, cardamom, chili pepper, cinnamon, clove, coriander, cumin, garlic, ginger, nutmeg, onion, and turmeric work well together for meat and vegetable curries.
  • Simple tools and utensils are used
  • Many of these spices are available at your local grocery store
  • Being on friendlier terms with our stomachs serves us well

Sautéed Curried Okra (Bhindi Masala)

Serves 6

3 pounds fresh okra
¼ cup corn oil
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 large onion, peeled and chopped fine
8 medium cloves garlic, peeled and sliced fine
¾-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped fine
2 fresh green chilies, chopped fine
2 sprigs fresh curry leaves
¾ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 medium tomato, chopped fine (optional)
Salt to taste

Wash and drain the okra.  Cut the ends and discard.  Slice the okra into ½-inch pieces.

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat.  Add the cumin seeds and sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until they change color to a darker shade.

Add the onion, garlic, ginger, green chili, and curry leaves, and sauté for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown.

Add the turmeric, coriander, and cumin, stirring constantly for 3-4 minutes.

Add the okra, tomato, and salt, and mix for 1-2 minutes.

Cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the ingredients from sticking, until okra is tender and golden brown.

Serve hot with rice, curry of your choice, legumes, Indian salad, and sweet mint chutney.

 

Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at www.feastofindia.net.

Hurry Curry from India

Today, pasta has found its place in the curry menu with immense international appeal.

Ground Lamb with Mint, Green Chili, and Onions on Spaghetti (Keema Do-Piazza aur Seviayan)

Serves 6

2 pounds lean ground lamb or meat of your choice
½ cup plain yogurt
Salt to taste
½ teaspoon ground turmeric powder
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ cup corn oil
1 large onion, peeled and sliced fine
2 fresh green chilies, slit in half and cut into ½-inch pieces
¾-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, peeled and chopped into ½-inch pieces
8 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped in half
2 cups water
1 package frozen baby peas (optional)
½ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped fine
1 pound packaged thin spaghetti
16 cups water
1 tablespoon oil
In a large bowl, combine the ground lamb, yogurt, salt, turmeric, and cumin seeds. Marinate for 10 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the sliced onions and sauté for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown.

Add the ground lamb and stir.  Cover and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lamb is half cooked.

Add green chilies, chopped ginger, and garlic, and stir for 2-3 minutes.

Add 2 cups water and stir.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lamb is tender and the liquid has evaporated.

Add the peas and stir.  Cover and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add fresh mint leaves and mix.

In a large pot, add 16 cups water and 1 tablespoon oil.  Boil over medium heat.  Add spaghetti and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes until done.  Drain immediately in a colander.

On a platter, transfer the spaghetti and arrange the ground lamb on top.  Serve hot with mint chutney and salad.