Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Spinach, Sweet potato & Channa dal curry with tangy Tamarind and Panch Phoran

I admit; I have been bitten by the sweet potato bug. This recipe however, was not just because of that. My pantry was so full, so was my refrigerator, after a trip to the local supermarket and the Indian grocery store. With so many possibilities, what's a foodie to do? I found myself in the middle of all the ideas and combinations flying around. Mustard and jeera are my default everyday spices, I wanted to try my newfound favorite, Panch Phoran.
Panch Phoran has Mustard seeds, Jeera(cumin), along with Nigella(kalonji or black caraway seeds), Saunf (fennel seeds) and Methi (fenugreek) in equal quantities. In her Cauliflower dal with Panch Phoran recipe, Susan had mentioned that you could powder the blend for a more intense flavor. I had left out the powdering part when I made the dal last week, since I was so new to Panch Phoran. Now that I knew and liked the blend, the thought of powdering it kicked in. I wondered, what if I toast it, then powder it ?

My recent sweet potato trials were both flat breads with wheat. I had started wondering, how would sweet potato taste in a gravy? I was thinking the gravy had to be somewhat spicy because it is after all, sweet potato. I had to include a legume that night, so I went for channa dal. The very fresh bunch of spinach was calling my name from the fridge, I couldn't ignore spinach!

So I got the spinach from the fridge, a sweet potato and some chana dal from the pantry and set out to make dal to go with roti. I wanted it to taste different from my regular dal, so I went for tamarind instead of tomato.
The outcome of all these randomly ordered thoughts/ideas on a Saturday night was this daal. It turned out verry good.

Ingredients -
Onions - sliced, 2 medium
Ginger - 1 inch piece , sliced into thin strips
Garlic- 1 or 2 pods, sliced
Thai Green chillies - 5 or 6, slit lengthwise into 2
Chana Dal - 3/4 cup
Tamarind - a small lime sized ball (or about 1/2 tsp concentrate)
Sweet potato - 1 medium, diced into 3/4 inch cubes
Fresh Spinach leaves and fine stems- about 1 and 1/2 cups
Oil - about 1 or 2 tablespoons
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Salt - as per your taste

Panch Phoran - 1/2 tsp for powdering + 1/4 teaspoon for tadka

Method -
Pressure cook channa dal; make sure it is cooked just right, not too mushy. Alternatively you could cook it directly on the stovetop in a saucepan for 20-25 minutes until it is done. Set aside. I like to add a pinch of salt and turmeric powder when I cook my dal.

In a small mixing bowl, add the tamarind; pour about 3/4 cup of hot water, set aside. You can skip this if you are using readymade tamarind paste. Just mix it in warm water without any lumps and set aside.

Heat a pan, when it is sufficiently hot, add 1/2 teaspoon panch phoran. Toast it dry, until the whole spices are evenly browned without burning, about 1 or 2 minutes. Remove from fire and grind it to make a fine powder, set aside. I do this grinding in a mortar and pestle. This buddy of mine is a hand-me-down, one of the indispensable gadgets in my kitchen that I treasure greatly.

In the same pan, add about 1 tbsp oil and when it is sufficiently hot, add the 1/4 teaspoon panchphoran. This is for the tadka, make sure the spices splutter without burning. Add the sliced ginger and garlic. Add the green chillies except one. Save this one for later. Sauté for a couple minutes on medium heat. Add the onions and sauté for 3-4 minutes until they almost brown. To this, add 1/2 of the powdered panchphoran and mix well. Remove from heat and transfer this mixture to a temporary bowl/plate.

Return the pan to the stovetop and add the remaining oil, the spinach leaves and a pinch of salt and turmeric powder. Saute on medium heat until the leaves are wilted. This will release moisture. Keep moving the leaves around and let the moisture evaporate, 3 or 4 minutes. Remove the spinach leaves to the same bowl/plate as the onion mixture.

In the pan, add the sweet potato cubes and add enough water to just immerse the cubes (about 3/4 to 1 cup of water). Add the remaining half the panchphoran powder, 1 slit green chilly, 1/4 teaspoon salt and a pinch of turmeric powder. Cover the pan and simmer for about 8-10 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are tender and just done. You want them cooked just right, not mushy.

While the potatoes simmer, extract the pulp from the tamarind that is soaking in water. The hot water that was poured on the tamarind should have cooled down by now. When in doubt, feel it before you dip your hand in it! If it is manageable, mash well and squeeze with your clean fingers and extract the pulp. Sieve the pulp to a bowl and discard the rest. You should now have about 1/2 cup of reasonably thick tamarind extract.

If the potatoes are tender, add the tamarind extract and bring it back to a boil. Boil it well for a good 4-5 minutes so the raw smell and taste of tamarind is lost. Add the cooked channa dal and mix well, check for salt. Now is the time to adjust the gravy to suit your liking. Add about 1/2 cup water if you want the curry to be thinner. Bring it to a boil.

When the curry starts boiling, add the stirfried onion mixture to the curry. Mix everything well. Let it boil for a couple minutes. Remove from fire to a serving bowl.

The procedure might sound a little long but actually it is not that long. I didn't want to sauté the onions, then add water and sweet potatoes to the same pan, one after the other. There will not be any trace of the onions by the time the sweet potatoes are cooked. So I sautéed them, removed them to a bowl, cooked the potatoes and then brought everything together. The curry was delicious, with crunchy onions, pretty spinach and the mellow but spicy sweet potatoes, not to mention the tangy tamarind base!
We had it with plain roti on Saturday night. One satisfying meal with cucumber and carrots on the side.I can picture us having it with plain basmati rice, topped with one big blob of ghee. Mmm.. that would be perfect as a healthy comfort food.


culinartySince this is my original creation, I am sending this to the Culinarty Original Recipes Roundup #12, hosted by Lore. My previous entrty to this same event was the outcome of an almost empty pantry a few months ago. This one is fresh from my kitchen, when my pantry and fridge were very full.
I am also linking this post to Foodista as per Alisa's request. Thanks Alisa :) Sweet Potato on Foodista

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Cauliflower Dal with Panch Phoron for Tried & Tasted with Sweet potato roti

Panch Phoron is new to me. The first time I heard about it is from Raghavan Iyer's famous cookbook, 660 Curries. Ever since I read about this spice blend a few months ago, it has been in the back of my mind. I even bought a pack of nigella seeds in preparation for that. Again as usual, I just didn't get around to actually do it.

Then I read about Tried and Tasted at Vaishali's Holy Cow featuring Susan's blog, Fatfree Vegan Kitchen. The brilliant idea 'Tried & Tasted' was originated by Zlamushka of Zlamushka's spicy kitchen. I can totally relate to it Zlamushka, my bookmarked recipes' list gets longer every day.

I couldn't wait to check out what was cooking in this month's featured blog, Susan's Fatfree Vegan Kitchen. Was it the bright orange, or the Panch Phoran that caught my eye? Probably both. Was it also because Masoor Dal and Cauliflower were readily available in my pantry and fridge respectively? Joy, joy.

Being an amateur blogger, these three blogs are fairly new to me - amazing is all I can say about the three sites. Very very creative, ladies. Hats off to you.

I had already planned on making rotis with the one last sweet potato I had, after my yummily successful Sweet potato Batura. So I decided to pair the daal with Sweet potato roti. Whole wheat, lentils & cauliflower, not to mention the beta carotene rich Sweet potato. All this in one meal. Priceless. I couldn't wait to try Panch Phoran. I am so glad I tried it. Yummy. I instantly got a nod from loving hubby. Thanks Susan. Here is Susan's original recipe for Cauliflower Dal with Panch Phoran.

I increased the quantity of red pepper flakes from 1/8 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon. Other than that, I followed the recipe to the letter. Yum Yum.

Even though I have masoor dal readily available, I should confess that toor dal or mung dal are my default dals. It must be because these, along with chana dal are traditional South Indian staple lentils in Iyer households. When the dal and the veggies were cooking side by side, I was making rotis, dreaming about the green cilantro sprig adorning the final dish. Crazy me.

The Dal looks very pretty doesn't it? :)

For the rotis -
Whole wheat flour - 2 cups
Washed, peeled & grated sweet potato - 3/4 cup
Jeera (Cumin) powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Chilly powder - 3/4 teaspoon
Salt - about 1/2 teaspoon
Cleaned, chopped Cilantro leaves - 1/2 cup
Water - about 1/4 to 1/2 cup

Method -
Mix everything to combine well. Mix evenly for a couple minutes to make sure there are no lumps and the spice powders and salt are evenly distributed. Add water and make a smooth dough, knead for a few minutes. Rest for about 10 minutes and make rotis like usual.

We thoroughly enjoyed the meal, thanks to Susan, Vaishali & Zlamushka. Sending the Cauliflower Dal to Tried and Tasted May 2009. I had fun checking out Susan's Fatfree Kitchen.


Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sweet potato Batura with Mutter Paneer

I've been wanting to include Sweet potatoes in our everyday diet for a very long time. I just didn't get around to actually do it. Then I tried Parita's baked sweet potato chips which came out really good.
My second trial was to try to fortify diamond cuts, since I hadn't made it or eaten it since I left college. Diamond cuts is a very yummy deepfried savory snack that is pretty popular in Kerala. It is made with maida(all purpose flour), the dough is rolled out thinly, and like the name suggests, the rolled out dough is cut into diamonds and deep fried. A bag of yummies and loving, chatty roomies- what more do you need? Diamond cuts wasn't familiar to me until I got to my college hostel. There is a sweet version of diamond cuts, which is made by dipping these fried goodies in sugar syrup. Sinful, but yummmy!

So early this week I made savory diamond cuts by mixing up cooked and pureed sweet potato in the dough. Eating it after almost 10 years, it was of course yummy. The cooked mashed sweet potato made it very soft, my little one absolutely loved it. However, I realized I was actually cooking the sweet potato twice!! I would boil it to begin with, mix it up in the dough and deep fry it! Hmm.. I started wondering..what are my other options?

Then of course my little one loooves batura. I make it once in a while - once every few months. So I grated a medium sized sweet potato and made batura. Now this batura is a keeper. We had it with Mutter Paneer. I made paneer at home after a realllly long time. (This new addiction called blogging is starting to affect my waistline!!)

Ingredients for the Batura -
All purpose flour - 1 and 1/2 cup
Grated Raw Sweet potato - about 3/4 cup
Ajwain seeds powdered - about 1/4 teaspoon
Salt - about 1/2 teaspoon
Curd (Yoghurt) - about 1/2 cup to mix the dough

Method -
Mix the flour, salt, powdered ajwain in a mixing bowl to combine well. Add the grated sweet potato and mix in, to make it a crumbly mixture. Mix evenly for a couple minutes. Add the yoghurt and bring the dough together. Add a few more drops of yoghurt if the dough needs more moisture to come together. Or add a tablespoon of flour if the mixture is too sticky. Knead well to make a smooth dough. Set aside for 6 to 8 hours.

When I make baturas, I mix up the dough in the morning, before I leave to work.
When you are ready to deep fry it, make lime sized balls, roll it into thin rounds and deep fry in hot oil.

This quantity should yeild about 10-15 baturas, depending on their size.

Ingredients for Mutter Paneer-

Fresh or frozen green peas - 1 cup (I used frozen)
Onions - 2 medium sized, chopped
Tomatoes- 3 medium sized, chopped
Ginger - 1 inch piece, sliced
Garlic - 1 or 2 pods
Cashew nuts - 2 tablespoons
Milk - 1/2 cup
Coriander powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Chilly powder - 1/2 teaspoon (or as spicy as you would like)
Turmeric powder - 1/8 teaspoon
Oil - 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon
Ghee - 1 teaspoon for tadka

Whole spices-
Cardamom - 4 or 5
Clove - 5 or 6
Cinnamon - 1 inch piece
Saunf(Fennel seeds) - 1/2 teaspoon
Heat the spices separately for a few minutes each without burning and grind to a fine powder.

Paneer - cut into cubes - about 1/3 pound, fresh or frozen. I made fresh paneer from 5 cups of milk and got around 20~25 cubes. I am making paneer after almost 4 or 5 years. Manjula's Kitchen has handy videos which are pretty popular and helpful. Fry the paneer cubes in oil and drain on paper towels.

Method -
Combine the coriander powder and chilly powder in a small cup and keep aside. This needs to be added to the curry at the very end.

In a pan, heat 1 tbsp oil and saute the onions in medium heat for about 1 minute. Add the chopped ginger and garlic, cashew nuts and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and the turmeric powder and sauté till the raw smell is lost, about 4 - 5 minutes. Remove from fire and cool for about 5 - 10 minutes. This needs to be blended to a puree.

After the onion&tomato mixture is cool enough, blend it into a smooth puree. Meanwhile, add a teaspoon oil to the pan and briefly stir fry the green peas with a pinch of turmeric powder. Add the blended puree, the ground masala powder and about 1/4 teaspoon salt, stir fry for a couple minutes. Add the milk and combine well. Adjust the gravy to the required consistency - add about 1/2 cup water if required. Bring it to a boil and add the fried paneer pieces. Simmer for about 5 minutes. Remove from fire and check for salt.

Keep the pan open in preparation for the spicy tadka. For this we need the coriander powder + chilly powder mixture that we combined in step 1.

In a small tadka pan, heat 1 and 1/2 tsp ghee. When the ghee is hot, remove the pan from from fire and add the coriander+chilly powder mixture and immediately pour this into the curry.
This needs to happen in about 5 to 10 seconds, so the spice mixture doesn't burn in the ghee.

This tadka gives a rich ghee flavor to the curry.

The mutter paneer is ready. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.
Yum. Enjoy :)

I made sweet potato rotis with the one last sweet potato I had.
Yummy recipe coming up soon..

Friday, May 15, 2009

Green peas, Mint and Soy Pulao

A few months ago on a Saturday night I found myself staring at the pantry, not finding anything that motivated me to make dinner. Among other things, there was this bag of soy granules (also known a Textured Soy Protein) that I had bought a few weeks ago to make vegetable cutlets. My refrigerator was pretty much empty except for a bunch of cilantro and mint, and some carrots. I remember putting together this pulao that evening and serving it with carrot raita and pappadum. It turned out very good.
My little one asked me a few weeks later on our way back from piano, if I was going to make the soy pulav for dinner. Excited at this, I said, sure why not? My refrigerator and freezer was slightly better equipped this time, so I made it that night with green peas added to the original recipe.
It is amazing how fresh mint takes an ordinary pulao to a whole new level. This pulao is a regular in my kitchen now, I have served it to my friends' kids a few times. I think most kids would like it.
For the adults however, make sure it accompanies some spicy curry/raita/pickle.
Alternatively, you could slice a few green chillies and throw them in the pan while sautéing. Some nights I'll just use the peppermill to my advantage. According to me, fresh ground pepper gives any rice dish an instant kick :)

Rice - 2 cups, uncooked (I use basmathi, any rice should be fine)
Green Peas - 1 cup, fresh or frozen
Soy granules - about 3/4 cup
Onion - 1 large, sliced
Mint - 1 - 1 1/2 cup, chopped coarsely
Ginger - 1 inch piece, finely minced
Garlic - 1 or 2 pods, finely minced
Coriander powder - 1 or 1 1/2 teaspoons
Turmeric powder - 1/4 teaspoons
Oil/ghee - 2 tablespoons (I like to use ghee in my rice dishes- they taste reallly good :)

Whole spices -
Cloves - 4 or 5
Cardamom - 3 or 4
Cinnamon - 1 inch stick
Saunf or Fennel seeds - 1/2 teaspoon

Cook the Soy granules -
In a medium sized saucepan, bring about 3 cups of water to a boil. Add the Soy granules and boil for another 2 minutes. Remove from the fire and strain immediately using a wire strainer. Sqeeze as much water out as possible and set aside.

(If I don't have the granules handy, I have used cooked soy chunks. After cooking them in boiling water, I just chop them up as small as I can).

Cook rice like you normally do and set aside on a plate to cool.

Meanwhile, in a smaller pan, heat the spices separately without burning and make a fine powder. Heat oil/ghee in a thick bottomed pan, add the onions about 1/4 teaspoon salt, sauté until the onions almost brown, 6 or 7 minutes.
Add the minced ginger, minced garlic, and saute for a couple minutes. Add chopped mint, saute for another minute. Add the turmeric powder, the ground masala powder and coriander powder. Stir fry for about 3 to 4 minutes.
Add the cooked soy granules, the frozen green peas, and another 1/4 teaspoon salt, saute for another 4-5 minutes. Combine everything well.
Remove the pan from heat and allow it to cool for about 5 minutes. Add the cooled rice, mix well and check for salt.
Remove to a serving dish and garnish with fresh mint. Sending this to JFI-Mint, conceptualized by Indira of Mahanandi and hosted by Ashwini of Ashwini's spicy cuisine.

culinarty Since this is my own original recipe, I am also sending this to the Culinarty Original Recipes #12 hosted by Lore.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Beets Raita

A favorite in my family. All the health benefits are a bonus.
Fresh Beets - about 1 cup, peeled and grated
Plain curd (yoghurt) - 2 cups
Mustard Seeds - 1/4 tsp
Jeera (Cumin seeds) - 1/4 tsp
Green Chillies - 3 or 4, chopped
Curry leaves - 1 sprig, optional but highly recommended
Salt and turmeric powder - a pinch

In a pan, add 1 tbsp oil. When it is sufficiently hot, add the mustard and jeera. After they pop, add chopped green chillies and curry leaves. Stir fry briefly and add the grated beets. Sprinkle a pinch of salt and some turmeric powder. Sauté on medium to high heat for about 4 or 5 minutes until the beets are half cooked. (If you like the beets raw, you don't have to sauté them.)
Meanwhile, add the curd to a bowl. Remove the stirfried beets from fire and add to the yogurt. Mix everything well and check for salt.
Simple. This will happily accompany any rice dish or roti. I like to serve this with aloo paratha too. Yum Yum.

Carrot Raita

A very popular favorite.
Carrots - 1 cup, cleaned, peeled and grated
Plain Curd (Yoghurt) - 2 cups
Mustard seeds - 1/4 tsp
Jeera (Cumin seeds) 1/4 tsp
Green chillies - 3 or 4, chopped
Curry leaves - 1 sprig (optional but highly recommended)
Turmeric powder - 1 pinch

Mix the curd and grated carrots in a bowl. In a pan, heat about 1/2 tbsp oil and when it is hot, add the mustard seeds, jeera. While they pop, add turmeric powder, green chillies and curry leaves. Saute for a minute and add this to the yoghurt mixture. Mix well, check for salt and serve.

Yummy side to any spicy rice or paratha.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Cilantro Vegetable Rice

A popular, quick and easy rice for busy work nights. This is typically my kids' dish for parties. If I am not sure whether my little guests can handle heat, I just omit the green chillies and make sure the raitha is extra spicy for the adults. Kids can eat it with simple plain curd and of course, papadums. Makes my little guests happy and mommies smile :)

Rice - 2 cups, rinsed
Fresh Cilantro - 1 cup
Onion - 1 large, sliced
Green beans - 10 or 15, sliced, thin long strips
Carrots - 2 or 3, sliced, thin long strips
Ginger - 1 inch piece
Garlic - 1 large pod
Green chillies - 3 or 4

Whole spices-
Cardamom - 5 or 6
Cinnamon - 2 inch piece
Cloves - 5 or 6
Saunf (Fennel seeds) - 1/4 tsp

Method - Cilantro Vegetable Rice
Cook rice with a little bit of salt and spread on a plate, allow it to cool. For me, pressure cooking for 4 minutes does it.
While the rice cools, heat a pan, and add about 2 tbsp oil/ghee. Add the whole spices to the oil and fry for about 2 minutes in medium to high heat.
Add the onions and sauté for about 5 or 6 minutes. When the onions are soft and transluscent, add the green beans and carrots, a pinch of salt and turmeric powder. Continue to sauté them for another 4 or 5 minutes on medium heat.
Meanwhile, add the ginger, garlic, green chillies and the cleaned and chopped cilantro to a blender jar. Add about 1 tbsp water and grind to a smooth paste.
Add the ground paste to the veggies and incorporate the paste well into the veggie mix. Fry in medium to high heat for about 2 minutes. Reduce heat, cover the pan and cook for another minute or two. When you open the lid, you should see that the vegetables are reasonably cooked in the spice mixture. Remove from fire and cool for 4 or 5 minutes.
Meanwhile the rice would have cooled enough to be mixed in. Add it to the pan and mix to combine well. Check for salt.
Transfer to a serving bowl and enjoy. We like to have this with beets raita.
I recently saw that the deadline for JFI-Cilantro has been extended to May 10th. Sending this yummy easy rice dish to JFI-Cilantro, hosted by Cilantro.

My first entry to an event. Hope I didn't miss anything!