Delicious Onion Fritters with Hot Cilantro Chutney

Fried fritters (pakoras) are the most popular of all snacks on the Indian sub-continent.  Made with onions, vegetables (cauliflower, sliced eggplant, zucchini, potatoes), or paneer (cheese) and dipped in seasoned chick-pea flour batter (besan) they are served piping hot with tea (chai).

Onion Fritters (Pakora)

Serves 6

2 cups chick-pea flour
1 large onion, peeled, cut in half and sliced fine
1 green chili, chopped fine
1-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped fine
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1 cup water
Salt to taste
1 cup corn oil
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped fine

In a large bowl, mix the chick-pea flour, onion, chili, ginger, baking powder, salt, water, and cilantro leaves until a smooth and thick batter is formed (consistency of pancake batter).  Set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok over high heat.  Reduce to medium heat.  Mix the batter thoroughly.  With your right hand scoop a small portion of the onion batter and carefully place 5 or 6 in the wok.  Fry the onion pakoras for 3-4 minutes until golden brown.  With a steel spatula turn over and fry for another 2-3 minutes, until golden brown.  Remove the pakoras and drain them on paper towel.  Repeat this process until all the onion batter is fried.  Serve with hot cilantro or sweet mint chutney.

Hot Cilantro Chutney (Dhaniya ki Chutney)

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
½-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 fresh green chili
Juice of ½  lemon
Salt to taste

In a blender, combine all the ingredients.  Blend to a fine paste.  Serve in a small bowl with onion pakoras.

 

Being on friendlier terms with your stomach serves you well!  Discover and share my dazzling repertoire of authentic, delicious, healthy, and easy-to-prepare recipes of diverse flavors with your family and friends from 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 and How They Work

The fame of Indian spices is older than recorded history… and the cuisines of India are as mixed as its culture, racial structure, and geography.

There is more to curry than meets the eye in creating harmony and balance to make body, mind, and spirit happy.  Curry evolved out of India’s five-thousand-year-old healing system called Ayurveda (science of life: body, mind, and spirit), where healing with food, herbs, and spices was Nature’s gift to people.

For centuries many of these spices and herbs have been used to 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, and strengthen and promote digestion, absorption, metabolism, and circulation.  Great care is taken not only to ensure that spices enhance rather than dominate the basic flavor of the meal but also to retain their innate nutritional and therapeutic value.

Growing up in India, my mother always impressed upon us, “We are what we eat… Remember that spices and herbs have medicinal properties and are the heating and cooling specialists of the body.  They aid the digestive process and provide heat to the body and cool it.”

For example, black pepper, the ‘king of spices’ is an extremely effective heating agent or ‘fire’ that increases internal heat to open up congested sinuses and aid digestion.  Cardamom, the ‘queen of spices’ aid digestion and freshen the palate.  As a natural astringent substance, cardamom like cinnamon, nutmeg, poppy seeds and turmeric helps to tighten and firm tissues, organs, and skin and rejuvenates the body.  Chewing a clove helps relieve nausea, gas discomfort, indigestion, and sore throat.  Chili peppers are excellent for the skin because it opens up clogged pores and expels toxins.  Fennel seeds relieve gas, nausea, and abdominal cramps associated with indigestion and overeating.

Turmeric (haldi) or curcumin, the ancient staple curry spice of India has been used for thousands of years to heal the body of disease.  Western scientists are now discovering that 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 is an all-round health agent that promotes vibrant health…”

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

Some 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
  • Spices are strong and must always be used in small quantities, correct measurements, and precise combinations to get the desired flavor.  Always use a level teaspoonful of ground spices (never heaped)
  • Magic of curry is in the blending and sautéing of spices (masala).  Excessive use of green or red chilies will ruin almost any curry
  • 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.
  • One basic ground rule to follow when preparing any good curry is to sauté freshly ground or whole spices in hot oil for 2-3 minutes over hot to medium heat to obtain the desired individual flavor
  • A good curry always tastes better using fresh sauces and pastes
  • Simple tools and utensils are used
  • Buy spices in small quantities and store them in airtight jars. Whole spices retain their flavor and power much longer than ground spices.  The shelf life for ground spices is three months and for whole spices is six months
  • Many of these spices are available at your local grocery store

Being on friendlier terms with your stomach serves you well!  Discover and share my dazzling repertoire of authentic, delicious, healthy, and easy-to-prepare recipes of diverse flavors with your friends from 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.

Pink Lentils and Turmeric Sautéed with Asafoetida

Asafoetida (hing) is the dried latex or gum oleoresin taken from the rhizome (rootstock or taproot) of several species of ferula, which grow mainly in Kashmir and south India.  Asafoetida has a very strong, pungent aroma because of the presence of sulfur compounds and was used in more than half of all the recipes in the fourth-century Roman recipe book Apicus.

Legumes and beans and certain vegetables that cause gas are always seasoned with asafoetida to reduce gas and make food light to digest.  It also helps to loosen and expel phlegm from the mucous membrane of the bronchial and nasal passages.  In India, asafoetida is also used to treat asthma and rheumatism.

Dal is the generic name for all legumes, lentils, dried beans and peas, always prepared in combination with pungent herbs and spices, such as garlic, ginger, onion, black pepper, chilies, mustard seeds, asafoetida, cumin, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, onion seeds, salt, and oil or clarified butter.

Pink Lentils and Turmeric Sautéed with Asafoetida (Dal)

Serves 6

This delicious and healthy recipe is prepared with pink salmon-colored lentils (masoor dal) and is a perfect soup with roti.

1½ cups pink lentils
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
5 cups water
Salt to taste
¼  cup corn oil
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced fine
7 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
½-inch fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped fine
1 small dried red chili
¼ teaspoon asafoetida
1 large tomato, chopped fine
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves (optional)

Soak the lentils for 10 minutes in a pot of cold water.  Rinse and drain the lentils.

In a medium pot, add 5 cups water, turmeric and salt.  Cover and boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes until lentils are cooked.

Heat the oil in a wok over high heat.  Add the cumin and mustard seeds and sauté for 1-2 minutes over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the cumin seeds change color and the mustard seeds start popping.  Add the onion, garlic, ginger and red chili and sauté for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.  Add the asafoetida and stir thoroughly for 1 minute.

Add the cooked lentils and tomato and stir for for 1-2 minutes.  Cover and cook for 6-7 minutes.  Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.  Serve hot with basmati rice or roti, chicken kebab, vegetables, and yogurt salad.

 

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 .

 

 

 

 

 

Alasandra Black-Eyed Peas (Lobia)

Legumes or dried beans and peas have been a part of the ancient Indian culinary tradition and the generic name for all members of the dried pea and bean family is dal.   Containing enzymes, fiber, minerals, and vitamins, dal is easily digested and highly nutritious, and is an accompaniment of almost every Indian lunch.  The repertoire of dal dishes is indeed extensive, from liquid soups and thick purees, stews, fried appetizers, crispy pancakes and crepes, sauces, and chutneys to sprouted salads and delicious sweetmeats.

Always wash legumes four or five times under cold running water prior to cooking.  Some varieties of legumes should be soaked overnight to tenderize and save cooking time, as indicated in the recipes of my cookbooks.

Dal is always prepared in combination with pungent herbs and spices, such as garlic, ginger, onion, black pepper, chilies, mustard seeds, asafoetida, cumin, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, onion seeds, salt, and oil or clarified butter.

Alasandra Black-Eyed Peas (Lobia)

Serves 6

When Alexander the Great marched across the northern plains of India in 327 B.C., his army discovered the cowpea and named it after the young general.

1½ cups black-eyed peas
¼ teaspoon baking soda
3 medium onions, peeled and chopped
1-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped
7 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 fresh green chili, chopped
¼ cup water
¼ cup corn oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1½-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped fine
1 fresh green chili, chopped fine
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon onion seeds
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt to taste
8 cups water
½ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped fine
3 medium tomatoes, sliced

Soak the peas overnight in a bowl of cold water and baking soda.  Rinse and drain the peas.

In a food processor, puree the onions, ginger, garlic, chili, and ¼ cup water.

Heat the oil in a wok.  Add the cumin and onion seeds, and sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until the cumin seeds change color to a darker shade.  Add the onion paste and sauté for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.

Add a little water to prevent the mixture from sticking.

Add the coriander, turmeric, and salt, and stir for 1-2 minutes.

Add the yogurt, stirring continuously, until the oil separates from the mixture.

Add the peas and mix.

Add 8 cups water and boil.  Cover and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and sliced tomatoes.  Serve hot with basmati rice or roti, chicken kebab, vegetables, and yogurt salad.

 

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.

Potatoes Sautéed with Onions, Ginger, and Turmeric

Potatoes Sautéed with Onions, Ginger, and Turmeric (aloo ki sabzi)

Serves 6

You can also use 2-3 pounds medium red potatoes.

3 large Idaho potatoes, boiled and peeled
¼ cup corn oil
½ teaspoon black  mustard seeds
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced fine
½-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped fine
1 small green chili, chopped fine
1 sprig fresh curry leaves
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
Salt to taste
¼  cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped fine

 Cut the boiled potatoes into ¼-inch pieces.

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat.

Add the mustard and cumin seeds and stir until mustard seeds start popping and the cumin seeds turn a shade darker.

Add the onion, ginger, chili and curry leaves and stir for 3-4 minutes until onions are soft and golden brown.

Add the turmeric and salt  and mix thoroughly for 1 minute.

Add the potatoes and stir thoroughly for 4-5 minutes.

Remove and garnish with cilantro leaves.

Serve hot with basmati rice or roti, legumes, salad and hot 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.

Tofu with Bell Pepper, Peas and Zucchini

Tofu with Bell Pepper, Peas, and Zucchini (Sabzi aur Soya)

Serves 6

 2 medium zucchinis
2 medium bell peppers
1 pound soft tofu (soya bean cake)
¼ cup corn oil
½-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled, grated fine
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
¼ teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon garam masala
1 pound frozen peas
2 cups water
Salt to taste
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped fine

Wash and cut the bell peppers and zucchinis into ½-inch pieces.

Cut the tofu into ½-inch pieces.  Rinse and drain.

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat.  Add the ginger and sauté for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly, until golden brown.

Add the turmeric, coriander, chili powder, and garam masala, and mix for 1-2 minutes.

Add the bell peppers, peas, zucchini, 2 cups water, and salt, and stir.  Cover and simmer for 6-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender.  Add the tofu and mix.  Cover and simmer for 4-5 minutes.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.  Serve hot with basmati rice, legumes, and salad.

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.

Carrot Halwa

Here is another seductive Indian dessert made with carrots and flavored with saffron, ground cardamom and blanched almonds.

Saffron (kesar/zafran) is the dried stigmas of Crocus sativus, and is certainly among the world’s most expensive and aromatic spices. Often used too lavishly, just a few threads are adequate to give excellent color and aroma to a dish of rice!

One pound of saffron consists of about 225,000-500,000 dried stigmas that are handpicked from 75,000 flowers.  Saffron is cultivated for its large, scented, blue or lavender flowers.  The valley of Kashmir used to be famous for its saffron fields, producing the most expensive variety of saffron.  During the era of the Mughal emperors and Nawabs of Avadh, chickens and goats were fed saffron pills to produce the pleasant aroma of the spice in their flesh.  Saffron has extraordinary medicinal, flavoring, and coloring properties.

Carrot Halwa (gajar ka halva)

Serves 6

½ teaspoon saffron threads
4¼  cups hot milk
3 pounds carrots
1 cup sugar
¼  teaspoon ground green cardamom seeds
¼ cup slivered blanched almonds
2 tablespoon unclarified butter (ghee)

Heat a small griddle over high heat and roast the saffron threads, stirring constantly for 1-2 minutes.  Remove and soak the threads in ¼ cup hot milk for 15 minutes.

Peel and grate the carrots.  In a large saucepan, heat the ghee over medium heat.  Add the almonds and stir constantly until they change color to a golden brown.  Add 4 cups of hot milk, sugar, and cardamom and boil for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the grated carrots and mix thoroughly, cooking for 15-20 minutes, until the mixture thickens and the carrots are glazed and sticky.  Pour the saffron milk over the mixture and stir for 1-2 minutes.  Remove from the heat and transfer to a serving dish.  Serve warm or cold.

 

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.

 

 

How to Make Clarified Butter (Ghee)

How to make Clarified Butter (ghee)

For thousands of years in India, people ate ghee with their meals.  There is no substitute for ghee.  Today it is commercially made, but the best ghee is always homemade for it is very simple to make without preservatives or coloring.  The important difference between American butter and Indian ghee is highly improved taste, not much fat, and a food that promotes good health, rejuvenation, and longevity.  Use sweet butter whenever possible to make ghee.

3 pounds unsalted sweet butter (makes 1 cup ghee)

Heat a large saucepan over medium heat and place the butter, stirring occasionally until the butter melts.

Bring the melted butter to a boil until a white foam forms.

Reduce the heat to low and stir. Simmer uncovered for 30-40 minutes until the solids have collected at the bottom of the pan and a thin layer of golden, crusty solids form on the saucepan.  The ghee in the pan should be clear and pale gold in color.

Remove and strain through cheesecloth into a container, squeezing and wringing out the liquid from the cheesecloth.

Discard the solids and residue.

Cool the ghee at room temperature and store in an airtight container in a cool, dark, dry place, or refrigerate.

Ghee can be stored for several months.

 

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.

Whole-Wheat Chapati Bread

The generic name for bread in India is roti (chapatti, phulka, paratha, poori, and naan).  Made from whole-wheat flour, water and salt, it is kneaded, baked, and quite different in taste from the Western oven-baked, leavened loaves.

The secret to preparing good chapatis is to knead the dough.  The technique for preparing Indian breads is always the same: Mix and knead the dough thoroughly to a smooth consistency for 10 minutes manually or in a food processor.  Set the dough aside and cover with a damp cheesecloth for 10 minutes before rolling and baking on a hot griddle.

Griddle-baked breads are the most popular breads and eaten for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Unleavened Indian Whole-Wheat Bread (Pulka or Chapati)

Serves 6

3 cups whole wheat flour
Salt to taste
1 to 1¼  cups warm water
1 tablespoon ghee or corn oil
¼  cup whole-wheat flour for dusting
¼ cup ghee (optional)

In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, and water until a dough is formed.  Mix in 1 tablespoon ghee and knead for 10 minutes to a smooth consistency, pressing and folding the dough.

Sprinkle the dough with a little cold water.  Cover with damp cheesecloth, set aside at room temperature for 10 minutes, and then knead until smooth.

Divide the dough into twelve equal portions and form into smooth balls. Coat each ball with flour and flatten to form a patty.

Dust some flour on a clean, dry surface.  Lightly dust the rolling pin and dough with flour and roll out each ball to make a 6-inch, flat, round pancake or tortilla.

Heat an iron griddle over high heat and then reduce the heat to medium.  Place the bread on the griddle and bake for 20-30 seconds, until the top starts to puff a little.

With tongs, turn the bread over and bake for another 30-40 seconds.

Using soft cheesecloth, gently press the edges of the bread until the surface bread starts to puff.  Lightly brush the bread with ghee on both sides and place in a covered dish.

Repeat this process until all the bread is baked and serve immediately with vegetables, legumes, and salad.

 

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.

Skewered Mint-Flavored Lamb 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.

A traditional meal featuring a main curry dish might also include kebabs, rice, naan roti, chutney, salad, vegetables, and lentils.  Kebab refers to small chunks, patties, or balls of lamb, beef, chicken, or paneer (cheese), broiled or fried in herbs and seasonings.

Skewered Mint-Flavored Lamb Kebab

Serves 6

Shish kebab is a Turkish word meaning broiled meat on a skewer. However, over the centuries, the ingredients in this recipe changed, and in India, the name switched to seekh kebab.

1½ pounds ground lamb
1 teaspoon chickpea flour
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped fine
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
½-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled, grated fine
2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, chopped fine
½ teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon corn oil
Salt to taste
¼ cup plain yogurt

Preheat the oven to 350ºF or prepare the barbecue grill.

In a large bowl, mix the first nine ingredients to a smooth mixture.  Divide into six equal portions and form into smooth balls.

Oil a deep baking pan.  Using a wet hand spread each ball along the length of a 12-inch steel skewer at least 1 inch apart.

In a small bowl, whip the yogurt with a fork.

Brush the lamb skewers with yogurt and place on the baking pan.  Bake for 8-10 minutes until evenly brown and tender.

Baste with yogurt; cut into 1-inch pieces and skewer on toothpicks. Serve hot with naan, mint chutney, and Indian salad.

 

Hot Mint Chutney (Garam Pudina ki Chutney)

1 cup fresh mint leaves
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
¼ -inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 fresh green chili
Juice of ½  lemon
Salt to taste

Remove and discard the stems from the mint leaves.  In a blender, combine mint leaves and all other ingredients.  Blend to a fine paste.  Serve in a small bowl as an accompaniment to 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.