I think I know how to cook beans.
I do it all the time. All kinds of beans. Black beans, white beans, chickpeas, lentils…
I also don’t subscribe to many of the voodoos surrounding beans.
I usually cook my beans with a dash of vegetable broth and a couple of bay leaves. I don’t worry about salting them. Sometimes I may throw in some kombu if I remember.
Sometimes I cook my beans without soaking them. They just takes a bit longer to cook.
After 45-60 minutes (depending on the bean), I will taste them every 10-15 minutes or so. They can go from al dente to mush in 10 minutes, if you aren’t vigilant.
One of my newest favourite beans are split pigeon peas, also known as toor dal or toovar/tuvar dal.
When Rob and I discovered you actually buy green mangos (labelled as green mangoes) for some Indian curries, I immediately knew I wanted to make a simple curry with toor dal. I love the way it falls apart, becomes creamy and has sweet undertones.
I forged ahead with the dal. They were not done after 30 minutes, nor an hour. I added more broth. I kept cooking, I added more broth. I kept cooking, and I added even more water. These beans were just never melt-in-your-mouth tender like my previous toor dal curries.
I know what you’re thinking (because I would think it, too): It is your batch of beans. They are old.
Not so!! At the same time, Rob was making a ripe mango curry with toor dal (Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango) and he used the same beans. From the same bag. Within an hour, his beans were meltingly tender. With a glorious sweet and savoury curry.
While my curry was tart and somewhat crunchy. After around 2 hours, I think I gave up. I decided the curry was too tart so I added in the suggested sweetener and it tasted much better. With a dusting of garam masala, the flavours really popped. The toor dal, however, remained a bit on the plump side. This was still a nice curry, just not with the creamy, falling apart toor dal I was expecting. The beans kept their shape instead, just like when I toasted the mung dal in the Bengali Dal with Spinach.
I haven’t really paid much attention to whether I throw acidic foods with my beans, but since green mangoes are acidic, that must be the culprit. Maybe that specific urban bean legend is actually true.
Next time, I will add in the mango after the toor dal has cooked sufficiently, though.
There’s Indian food and then there’s Indian food. If you know what I mean.
Everyone seemed excited with my plans for an Indian Easter, but I had my doubts. New recipes all over the place. Would they like it? Would it be too authentic (sans fiery heat, of course)? Would it be too healthy? (ha!) Too many beans? (never!)
Would my Mom, the coconut-hater, taste the coconut in the Mulligatawny?
[NOOOOO!! I honestly had my doubts..]
Would my Mom, the cauliflower-hater, resist the cauliflower in the pakoras?
[NO!! But I couldn't taste it either, so I wasn't worried]
Do we have any closet cilantro-haters?
[NO!!! Thank goodness, we all got those good genes!]
Would anyone shun the tofu in the chocolate-tofu mousse pie?
[NOOO! Mom even said she wanted the recipe]
Just in case, though, I decided to break out one of my family’s favourite potluck dishes: a curried couscous pilaf salad. A salad I knew they would like. Throughout its reign at barbecues and potlucks, the recipe has been requested numerous times but it was put on the backburner for a while. Quinoa is the new potluck food, shunning couscous. A bit of googling taught me the recipe was originally from Canadian Living back from July 1994!
With some whole wheat couscous still lurking in my pantry, I decided to break it out for the gang. I put my own twist on the recipe, but only made minor changes (currants for raisins, toasting the spices, etc). You could easily substitute quinoa or millet for this salad, as well.
This is a quick salad to put together, but you still get the benefits from assembling each part separately. First, toast your couscous/quinoa/millet and cook it with stock to up its flavour. Next, saute some onions and add some zip from the toasted curry powder, cumin and a hint of cinnamon. Peas make this a filling salad and currants add a touch of sweetness to balance out the dish. I can see why this is such a knock-out salad at potlucks!
This is my submission to Ivonne at Cream Puffs in Venice for Magazine Mondays, to Ricki’s Weekend Wellness to this week’s Presto Pasta Nights, hosted by Alisha and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.
It may be a good thing that Sunny and I live further apart.
I won’t get into as much trouble with my grocery shopping.
You see, we needed to get more chickpea flour and tamarind. No better excuse to head out to Sunny’s one last time. I scope out my weekly meals based on the produce that is on sale. I knew oyster mushrooms were on sale, so I planned to make mushroom dal. Green beans were also on sale, so I had planned a meal for that, too. I still meander through the produce section to see what else is available, though.. and that’s when I get into trouble.
Unadvertised specials: Two bunches of broccoli for $1. Huge collards for 79c/bunch. Hard-to-find green mangoes were spotted. So. Hard. To. Resist. I am weak against fresh, cheap veggies. I succumbed. I contained myself, though, when I saw a huge amount of mixed baby greens on sale for $3 (it must have been a bag of 20 lbs, I kid you not), though. My weekend menu gets turned upside down. Now I am not entirely sure what I want to make.
In the end, I made the sushi roll edamame collard wraps earlier in the week with the collard greens. By the end of the week, I wanted to try something cooked instead. Continuing on my current Indian kick, I turned to 660 Curries and I was shocked to find a recipe using collards: Roulade of Collard Leaves with a Tomato-Mustard Sauce! Collard leaves are used to envelope a savoury chickpea flour batter, drizzled with a tomato-mustard sauce. The authentic Indian version uses taro leaves but Iyer insists that collards are a nice, if somewhat chewier substitute. My curiosity was piqued instantly.
My Indian repertoire consists mainly of bean-based curries, so it was nice to try something completely different. This is an appetizer, but it is hearty enough to be a main meal if you eat enough. Here, you make a delectably savoury filling based on chickpea flour spiced with coriander, cumin, chile flakes, ginger and tamarind. Please stop to taste the filling, it is very good. Just don’t eat too much of it because it is then thinly spread overtop collard leaves. With around one tablespoon of batter per leaf, I had my doubts whether this would all stick together in the end. You stack 4 collard leaves on top of each other and tightly roll it together and secure it with a toothpick (or string). Next, your collard roll is steamed until tender and the chickpea batter is cooked. After a bit of cooling, you slice them, then pan-fry them until brown with mustard and cumin seeds and then briefly stew them with some tomato and cilantro to create a quasi-sauce. Dust with some coconut and you have some seriously flavourful collard bites. The collards are meltingly tender, the chickpea filling so tasty and the nibbles are eerily creamy. The extra flavour from the tempered spices make this sing. My tomato-mustard sauce never really delivered, as I may not have had a big enough tomato, but the little smattering of tomato-cilantro was nice in moderation.
I know it seems so complex, but it is fairly simple to make. I’d bust this out for my next Indian fest, though, as it is best when fresh and very impressive, while still pretty easy to make. Iyer says these can be prepared in advance and frozen, which would be a delicious treat to have stored for a rainy day.
For some ingredients, I do a little happy dance every time we empty a container and put it to rest. White flour, please, I do not need you. Pasta, I loved you once before, but not now. Some ingredients just do not need to be replenished and those we celebrate empty containers!
Other foods have become staples. If we run out, I feel a bit antsy.
On the weekend, I inadvertently finished the last of our tamarind concentrate while making this salad. I also realized that we are awfully low on chickpea flour, due to Rob’s (healthy) weekend obsession with Besan Chilla. We also have no nondairy milk left.
These ingredients can be a challenge to find at reasonable prices, so I feel compelled to restock my pantry before we move. I know, terrible idea. We have hired movers, so it couldn’t be too bad, right? Actually, with my collection of beans and cookbooks, I am slightly worried that the 2 movers won’t be enough. Anyhow, before we move, I plan on fortifying our stocks. We will have tamarind and chickpea flour once again.
Now about this salad: It is a light yet hearty Indian-spiced chickpea salad from 1000 Indian Recipes that I first spotted on Lisa’s blog. Her high praise for 1000 Indian Recipes was one reason I picked it up, despite my embargo on new cookbooks. Lisa described this as a great salad for those not used to fiery hot dishes, which sounded right up my alley. Here, the chickpeas are mixed with sweet and creamy mangoes, sweet and sour tamarind, and tart and sweet pomegranate arils doused in a savoury dressing with ginger, tamarind and chaat masala. Cilantro, used both cooked and fresh, adds a brightness to the dish.
It was refreshing to break free of my typical Indian curries and savour such a nicely balanced salad.
I am pretty proud of myself for eating through my cupboards. I ate my last carrot and wondered whether I could hold out for a month until we moved to replenish them. Completely foolhardy. We’re moving within Toronto, so there’s no reason to be completely devoid of food. So I bought more carrots.
Then I spotted this recipe for mouth-watering malai kofta, Indian veggie meatballs in a creamy curry sauce, that seemed perfect for guests. I immediately decided they would be perfect for our Indian Easter – a company-worthy dish. Leanne’s recipe called for chaat masala which I didn’t have. Having disappointed myself by buying curry powder, I was adamant to make my own version. While there are many versions of chaat masala, my newest cookbook, 1000 Indian Recipes, had an intriguing recipe using amchur (mango powder), mint, black salt, cumin and asafoetida. It also included ajwain, citric acid and tamarind powder… of which I had none. Currently living so close to Little India, instead of shunning new purchases, I decided to use this as a time to harness my Indian spice prowess.
While looking for cheap hazelnuts, we scoured Little India for our new spices. Ajwain and citric acid were easily located but tamarind powder was nowhere to be found (I also checked out Bestwin and Sunny’s). Sadly, I also discovered what a treasure-trove BJ’s Supermarket is. While it has always been Rob’s go-to place for a variety of rotis, naans, parathas, etc as well as Indian spices, I also discovered it stocks Kombucha (from Crudessence!), has reasonably priced Mary’s crackers ($3.99/box) and a wide assortment of reasonably priced Stash teas ($2.99/each). Almond Breeze is also regularly priced at $1.69. Who would have known? Of course, I only discovered this a month prior to moving away.
Undeterred by my lack of tamarind powder, I made my chaat masala with it omitted. This was probably the first time I could honestly say my house smelled like curry. I blame the ajwain since it is the newbie!!
When deciding what to make for our guests, I liked Leanne’s strategy of making this partially in advance and then throwing the rest of the sauce together just prior to serving. We ended up making it all the same day, so that works too. This is more involved than the other curries I’ve made because you need to make the kofta, but this was very well received by everyone. The flavours were complex and delicious with big vegetable “meatballs”. Baked, not fried. The sauce was creamy without being heavy. While you could simply omit the chaat masala from the malai kofta, I liked the extra depth of flavours imparted likely from the black salt, ajwain and mint.
While still delicious and enjoyed by all, my meatballs were a bit more mushy than I had anticipated. I substituted sweet potatoes for regular potatoes but I don’t think that changed much. I am not sure if I underbaked them, or overcooked the veggies beforehand. My only exposure to koftas in restos have been heavy and dense fried balls, that I figure are filled with ground nuts and coconut. These are veggie-based and lighter. Rob assured me he’s had kofta like these before. I also used my food processor for the sauce, but since we used cashews as the creamy portion, next time I would use my Vitamix for a smoother consistency. I just didn’t want to dirty yet another container at that moment. Soaking the cashews could also help, so I added that into the directions.
Have you heard?
Rob stalks grocery stores once a year for it. Now they’ve arrived.
It is mango season. Not just any mango, though.
Alphonso mangoes have touched down from India. Thankfully, before our move away from Little India.
We picked up a case of nice Ataulfo mangoes last week because we weren’t sure when the Alphonsos would arrive. Lucky for us, it wasn’t long before they began popping up in Little India. On Thursday, they had a new shipment. By the end of the day, there were only 2 cases left. They are flying like hotcakes!
For the last two years, Rob and I have trekked out to buy these sweet and creamy mangoes. This is the first year it isn’t such a trek to locate them. We’ve made many mango dishes, both sweet and savoury, and now we’ve added another favourite to the list: this fabulous mango curry from 660 Curries which Iyer titled Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango.
This curry follows the key steps of toasting and grinding spices, simmering the dal with different flavours and tempering another set of spices in oil that are added in at the end. But first, you need to make your own garam masala. Trust me on this. I know you have garam masala already lurking in your spice rack. This garam masala is different: it has sesame seeds, peanuts and coconut. We decreased the chilis and it was fragrant and savoury without unnecessary heat. For those who don’t want more spice blends, the recipe below is exactly for one recipe, but you will want to make more once you get a whiff of the final blend. We wished we had made more, so don’t follow in our footsteps.
While I just harped on this being Alphonso mango season, this mango curry does not need to be made with fancy mangoes. We used Ataulfos because we picked them up for cheap, but Tommy Atkins will work just fine, and frozen chunks, too. If Alphonso mangoes weren’t $2 each we’d gladly use them, though. Like the Mango BBQ Beans, the mango in this curry melts into oblivion leaving its sweet remains behind. Distinct mango flavour is camouflaged among the curry leaves, coconut and peanut. Everything works so well together. Sweet, spicy, savoury…
This is a delicious curry that you won’t be disappointed it. We’ve been eating at a few Indian restos recently and I still think the best Indian cooking happens in our kitchen. With this dish, there is no contest.
I know you raised an eyebrow when I posted the recipe for Banana Naan. Bread flour, what?!
I had been eyeing Sarah’s Mulligatawny Soup ever since she posted it in January. My Mom told me not to stress about the meals, so I scoped out recipes that I could make with the produce I already had (we happened to be fortunate that cauliflower was on sale for $1/head for our pakoras). Almost everything else had been squirreled away in my freezer, or living without a purpose in my fridge (I was looking at half a celeriac and half a kabocha squash!). While Sarah also provided the recipe for the Celeriac and Pumpkin Curry, they don’t taste remotely similar.
Mulligatawny is a British Indian curry-flavoured soup and literally means “pepper water”. However, recipes seem to be so varied that anything goes. Tess‘ version of mulligatawny is primarily red lentils, lemon and cilantro, whereas this is a creamy, tomato-spiked vegetable curry-soup brightened with tamarind. The leftovers were definitely more of a curry consistency.
Preparing a huge batch of soup in advance is a great way to relieve the stressful prep before a large meal. However, I didn’t fully appreciate how much soup I would be making. Sarah suggested it would serve a crowd, and she didn’t lie. We definitely already had enough food to feed an army along with the pakoras, 2 other curries [Malai Koftas, and a Spinach Chana Dal curry], a couscous pilaf salad and dessert. Oh, and we bought naan, too. Those recipes are still forthcoming, no worries!
Why did we make such a feast? 1) To make sure there was something for everyone to enjoy; and 2) No cooking required for the rest of the weekend since we’d be eating the leftovers.
This is another dish we test-drove before our Indian Easter feast.
Pakoras are veggie-based fritters common across South Asia and are a popular snack or appetizer in India. Walk into any store in Little India, and you will see them: 2 for $1, although I have no clue who would want to buy cold deep-fried snacks. Lemon Cilantro Pakoras is a recipe from Tess, so we knew it would be scrumptious. However, we wanted to figure out how to make them without deep-frying. Here, we mix finely chopped cauliflower and onions in a lemon-cilantro-cumin studded chickpea flour batter. Akin to a souped up chilla, in ball form, oozing with lemony cilantro goodness. Like naan, these tasty fritters are best fresh, warm straight from the oven.
I will admit that we didn’t do a double-blinded randomized control trial for this cooking experiment. We made the batter and cooked them 3 different ways: a) in my aebleskiver pan; b) in a non-stick skillet; and c) baked on a silpat. The hardest part was keeping the pakoras together as we cooked and flipped them, so we also did a batch with extra chickpea flour on the skillet. I took photos of each version, but they kind of looked the same, so I will spare you the repetition.
I will get right to the unanimous verdict:
Baked pakoras for the win!
First of all, they were definitely the easiest: smush into a ball and bake. Although I flipped them half-way while baking, and then dusted with some oil, they are fairly hand’s off: no need to tend to them over the stovetop, roll them about, fiddle with additional oil, etc. Secondly (although most important), they tasted the best. The extra oil needed for the aebleskiver pan didn’t help them not stick and definitely made them taste heavier. The silpat was also easier to clean. Rob and I both preferred the lighter, refreshing taste from the baked pakoras. Out of everything we served at Easter, this was also the unanimous dish loved by all (including my hard-to-please father).
I feel like a real gourmand telling you all about pakoras, but the truth is I had no clue was a pakora was until last weekend. Rob, my resident Indian cuisine connoisseur, assured me this tasted authentic and better than what he has eaten at restaurants. He liked these more because they were lighter and healthier. Considering these are basically chopped up veggies slathered in a chickpea flour batter, they seem like a quick, guilt-less snack to me! We enjoyed them with tamarind and mango chutneys, but cilantro chutney would be paired with them more often.
Another note, I wanted to give a shout-out to Justa who recently tagged me with a Sunshine Blog Award as an Inspirational Blog. Her description of my blog had me nearly in tears:
This blog is my secret obsession. I’ve spent so much time over there I almost feel like a stalker! Janet is Vegan and while Mr. Foodie and I sometimes struggle to get a day’s worth of veggies, we are trying to eat more meatless meals and more healthily. Her blog is amazing to me and often intimidating but I don’t let that stop me. I read it like I’m studying a book, probably because I can’t pronounce half the stuff she makes and have no idea what the ingredients are so I end up googling them and learning so much about new foods and food combinations. She also provides lots of links to other blogs so the amazing food journey never seems to end. If you want to learn more about healthy recipes this is a good place to start.
I am thrilled to know I have been able to keep her inspired to try new ways of incorporating veggies into her meals. Part of why I blog is because I hope to inspire others with easy, healthy cooking and connect with other like-minded people. I also post about my cycling adventures because cycling was a big positive change in my life two years ago. I went from walking 30 minutes a day to/from the subway as my only exercise to building myself up to bike 361 km over 2-days last summer. Even though I now go to the gym regularly and have returned to biking to work, I still don’t consider myself athletic! There is something magical about biking: anyone can do it with a proper bicycle.
I don’t consider myself to have any innate athletic skills (I am possibly the most non-athletic person), nor do I have any special skills in the kitchen. My secret to capturing kitchen bliss is to know what I like, push myself in new directions to keep things interesting, maintain a well-stocked pantry and use fresh ingredients whenever possible. I love trying out new recipes but usually tweak them to my tastes.
I am still learning how to do the cycling thing better, but my tips are: a) wear a good helmet to protect your head; b) ride a comfortable non-cruiser bicycle; c) use a good lock so your bicycle doesn’t get stolen; d) incorporate cycling into your daily activities; e) padded cycling shorts + chamois butter are essential for long rides; f) gradually build up distance to cycle the long rides, taking breaks as you need them and g) have no shame in using your granny gear (ie, your lowest possible gear) for the big hills.
I have been honoured with a few other blogger awards, and had planned to do a dedicated post gushing over my favourite bloggers akin to my favourite cookbooks post. I will save that for another day, though. In the meantime, try out these healthy pakoras and let me know what you think. Don’t let the wacky name intimidate you.
Happy Good Friday!
This year, Rob and I are hosting my family for Good Friday. We typically don’t celebrate Good Friday, but since my brother is hosting us on Saturday, I thought it would be nice to have everyone over for a meatless dinner today.
Instead of opting for typical Easter fare (to be honest, I don’t really know what that would be), Rob and I are going Indian-style!
I suppose there are a myriad of reasons: we all like Indian food (including my parents, wowzas!), it fits nicely for healthy, meatless meals without feeling deprived, and one thing about curries is that they taste better as leftovers, so preparing them in advance is preferable and easier for me!
While we could revisit some of our favourite dishes, we’ve decided to try new meals (of course!). We’ll have enough variety in case something doesn’t turn out. For the more iffy recipes, we test-drove them first, though. Case-in-point: vegan banana naan.
While I don’t like bread, Rob adores it. Picking up a fresh loaf of bread from the nearby bakery is always a treat for Rob and he typically finds an excuse to do it whenever we have guests. I figured it would be nice to try our own fresh bread, instead. When going Indian, naan is the obvious choice.
Little do my guests know that I am using this opportunity to help empty my cupboards. I don’t really want to throw out my bread flour, so if everyone loves the homemade naan, that’s perfect! I still had some yeast, that I needed to proof to make sure it was still alive. If you like bread, there is nothing more satisfying than hot-off-the-stove chewy flatbread. Way cheaper than store-bought naan, even if we pick it up from Little India.
Traditional naan recipes call for yogurt, though. Flipping through vegan recipes, I noticed some used vegan yogurt (ugh!), some simply omitted it and others included ingredients like banana and avocado. We always have bananas on hand, so we picked this recipe to begin our experimentation.
I thought Rob was going to kill me when he had sticky dough all over his hands, but we added more flour and he kept on kneading. Our dough didn’t rise much (older yeast?) but we pressed on. We forgot to add the nigella seeds to the first batch, and they wouldn’t stick, but we added them to the next batch.
The verdict? Rob LOVED them! Warm, chewy yet fluffy – this was a great naan. No tandoor needed. The banana provides sweetness and moisture. While they were easy to make, they were a bit labour-intensive for us to serve to a large crowd. Until we experiment with a baked naan recipe, we’ve decided they won’t grace our Good Friday meal. They will, however, likely make an appearance when we serve some of the leftovers to my parents tomorrow.
Celeriac. Pumpkin. Could I be sharing any more autumn-like produce?
As I am munching away through my freezer before our next move, I am rediscovering meals that I should have blogged about but for some reason, I haven’t!
I am a long-standing proponent of leftovers but oddly enough, when I stash leftovers in the freezer, they kind of sit there for a while. Freshly made meals are always my go-to choice, but I have some real gems being unearthed these days.
I have become a bit more accustomed to the tamer curries that are made with curry powder, red lentils and an assortment of veggies. I really liked the Red Lentil and Root Veggie Dal and since celeriac was my favourite veggie this winter, I was eager to try my hand at a similar stewy curry from Sarah. Typically, potatoes are used in Indian cooking but here, celeriac adds a different dimension which complements the sweetness from the pumpkin. I also loved the addition of the spinach thrown in for good green measure. I usually don’t freeze meals that use greens, but these leftovers are ok from the freezer.
By the way, does anyone know what kind of pumpkin is sold in stores that are cut into large wedges? They are labelled as Ontario pumpkins, but I have no clue what kind they are… I don’t cook with the jack-o-lantern pumpkins, but this was definitely a pumpkin for cooking.
OK, things have turned around in my kitchen. My cooking rut is over!
I even have witnesses.
My own alfalfa sprouts grew, too!
It has been quite busy in the kitchen lately. In the span of a week, we celebrated Valentine’s Day, Rob’s birthday and our (2 year!) anniversary from our first date.
Rob has been a sweetie, picking recipes from my Top Recipes from 2011 post so he could make me dinner on V-Day and braved the elements on our anniversary for a special barbecue delight. However, I was positively cooking up a storm for his birthday party. I forged ahead with new recipes, and I can’t wait to share them all with you!
But first, let me share with you this delicious curry. I had bookmarked “Plantains and Cabbage with Split Pigeon Peas” after Rob had success with a Caribbean black eyed pea and plantain curry, when I first tried cooked plantains. Rob went a bit heavier on the curry powder, so the dish didn’t thrill me entirely but the plantains were neat. A starchy, sweet banana. This curry from 660 Curries had many of our favourite ingredients like coconut and cabbage, with new-to-me ripe plantains, and it had been a while since I had cooked with creamy toor dal. Plus, I was drawn to Iyer’s recipe blurb where he wrote: You will be eloquent in your praise and use highfalutin words like “yum”. Highfalutin! Yum! And no, he does not lie. This was delicious and possibly one of my favourite curries to date.
Did you know you can buy frozen coconut? It is a common ingredient found in Asian grocers – check it out! While you could substitute reconstituted dried coconut, I think that the frozen coconut played a key element of the success of this recipe.
In the summer, Rob and I had a fun time (literally) cracking open a fresh coconut. I used a big knife to shave off the outer skin, and then scored a circle to open it. I tried to smack it open with the heel of my knife but it didn’t work. Rob then took said coconut to the front porch and smashed it against the front step to crack it open. We then took turns sipping the coconut water through a straw. Bliss. I ended up using the coconut flesh for an Indonesian black eyed pea salad with a tamarind dressing.
But I like to plan for success. So in case we couldn’t open the coconut, I bought frozen coconut as a back up. Suffice it to say, it has been in my freezer since the summer. Since we have a move looming in the next few months, I have been trying to clean out the freezer. I finally busted it out for this recipe and I couldn’t be more thrilled with the results.
This is a delicious curry, and as I made it, I couldn’t help but remember Aarti’s butternut squash, coconut and lentil stew that Rob made in the fall. I consider Iyer’s recipes quite authentic, so I was wondering whether Aarti’s was an Americanized version of the dish since it seemed so similar. Nope, the recipes are similar but quite different in their own merits. However, if you loved Aarti’s stew, then you’ll adore this version. Likewise, if you like this stew, definitely give Aarti’s stew a try, too.
Here, in this curry, you have a creamy broth from the toor dal. Cabbage and ripe plantains add bulk. Coriander, mustard and curry leaves offer multiple levels of flavour. And that frozen coconut? It reaches out and gives you a tropical hug. I went a bit tame with the chile as Iyer suggests using 2 red Thai chiles or cayenne chiles. This wasn’t spicy, so go nuts chile heads! This is a pretty labour intensive curry, dirtying up a few pots, your food processor and in my case also the mortar and pestle, but once you taste it, you’ll forget all about that… and start using highfalutin words like yum.
As I type out the ingredients, I realize that they seem so isoteric. For those in Toronto, a trip to Sunny’s (or your favourite Asian grocer) is all you need*. I can’t remember if I’ve seen Aleppo at Sunny’s, but any chile pepper will do. You may have to wait for your plantain to turn a macabre black, but trust me, this will propel anyone out from their cooking rut.
*While you are at it, pick up some canned young jackfruit in brine for my next (super awesome) recipe from Rob’s party!!
For all the raw foodies out there, do you know if the frozen coconut can be used for all the raw desserts that call for fresh coconut?
Most food bloggers have non-foodie day jobs. Tell me, do you share your blog with your co-workers, with your supervisors? Would you include it on your CV?
I work in the medical field. I am a doctor, although still in training during my residency.
Suffice it to say, I work in a very conservative field.
I recently applied for a fellowship after I graduate. In about 16 months. My applications went in 21 months before the position started (I think it is just as ludicrous as you). I polished off my CV, highlighting my clinical and research experience. Thankfully I didn’t have to follow a resume template, so I debated whether to include my “other interests”. One of my mentors told me casual hobbies/interests like “cooking”, “cycling”, etc should be excluded unless you earn medals. Telling me you love to cook, tells me you love to eat, he said. And what is special about that?
In the end, I decided to highlight extracurricular achievements. I highlighted that my recipes had been included in Canadian Living; I currently maintain this blog promoting healthy recipes; and I listed the supported cycling trips that I have done over 300 km.
While I tend to keep my blog on the down-low from my supervisors, I have shared it with other residents.
Including this information wouldn’t hurt me as an applicant (right?) and if anything it would give them something to talk about, other than my very interesting research.
At one hospital, I was interviewed consecutively by 10 people. As you are probably thinking, this could be pretty intimidating! However, the group was really approachable and open, and they relished talking about my research and non-research interests. More than one had my blog on their computer screen!
Sharing your blog with co-workers can be such a nerve-wracking experience. I absolutely adore the food blogging community I have joined, but I know that my food preferences are in the minority. Especially in Texas. In fact, being someone who blogs about said food seems even more ludicrous, eh? I would have thought the same thing three years ago, but really, don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it.
Food blogging is something special. A place for me to express myself, both through writing, photography and culinary creativity. It also exposes my vulnerability, hence my shyness with co-workers.
But please do share with me how you share your blog.
Sometimes I find vegetable-based dishes that scream “I need some protein!”. Instead of adding a bean or grain to the dish, this time I opted for a side of beans in pancake form.
These pancakes have a similar texture to the potato pancakes I ate as a child due to the shredded carrot. However, the flavour is anything but bland as they are spiced with ginger, garlic, onion and garam masala. Other than veganizing the recipe by substituting the chia for egg, I also decreased the garam masala from Joanne’s original recipe and found them great as-is. They could be eaten as a simple pancake with a side of chutney, or a nice salad, or with a mild curry.
Rob and I ate them with the Sweet Potato Coconut Curry with Eggplant and Pineapple to beef up the meal. We found that when we smothered them with the curry sauce, it almost tasted like schnitzel. Texture-wise. I know, so weird, but true.
I have started to cook more Indian dishes… and I really enjoy them. I have yet to share them with any of my Indian friends, though. While Rob may consider himself an Indian connoisseur, he doesn’t count. Indian food is typically spicy, and sometimes I wonder if I am eating bastardized dishes since mine are not super spicy. I mean, is it still authentic Indian food?
I recently went to my friend’s baby shower where they had catered oodles of Indian food for the event. My poor friends tried the chaat appetizer and lost the majority of their taste buds instantly; it was that spicy. For the main meals, my friends taste-tested the dishes and let me know which I could tolerate. There was one slightly mild dish: a tomato-eggplant dish, they told me. Although it was drenched in oil, the dish was superb with roasted tomatoes and eggplant. I later asked what the “real” name of the dish was: bharta. I remembered Julia raving about her bharta and now I knew why. This is some great stuff!
One of the big differences I noticed in Julia’s recipe and the bharta component of the Indian Eggplant and Lentil Curry was that Julia roasted her tomatoes. Ingenious! Roasted eggplant AND tomatoes. Now that flame-roasting my eggplants are out of the question, I did it the safer way: in the oven. Doubling it up with the tomatoes was simple.
I ended up using more eggplant and tomatoes than Julia’s recipe, and because I didn’t care to make a dal concurrently, I threw in chickpeas towards the end of the dish.
While I didn’t cry, this is definitely one of my favourite meals. Smokey, sultry tomatoes and eggplant comes together in savoury spices with a hint of heat. A smidgen of coconut provides some sweetness. The cilantro and lemon liven it up. It tastes lush and rich but is actually a healthy meal. The chickpeas give it some bulk and sustenance. If I wanted to go the traditional route, I think I might try my hand at these bean-based dosa next time.
Not to toot my own horn, but this dish tasted better than the one at my friend’s party. And likely a whole lot healthier.
This is my submission to this month’s Sweet Heat Challenge, featuring Indian cuisine, to Lisa’s Celebration of Indian Food, to this week’s Wellness Weekend and to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.
(Sorry, let me sneak in one fabulous main dish this week before we get the cookie bonanza)
On the love-like scale, I gave this a love. Rob gave it a low like. A 5/10 is definitely a fail in my regards. While testing recipes for Terry’s new book, more and more recipes fell in the “Rob loves this more than Janet” category. Not Rob loves the food more than me, but he loved the food more than I loved the food… kapiche?
Testing recipes has been a nice adventure for us to learn more about our cooking and eating preferences. Rob loved the Curry Laksa with Oyster Mushrooms, whereas I wasn’t as smitten. The spicy fastlane cabbage kimchi was way too spicy for me (1/2 cup of Korean pepper flakes!), but Rob loved it in small amounts. I adored the mild ginger kimchi option, though. Likewise, the jigae (kimchi, tofu and eggplant stew) was too spicy for me again, but Rob enjoyed it. In Rob’s quest to make an authentic Massaman curry, he found a winner here, but I wasn’t as sold. Meanwhile, I found my mojo with the Middle Eastern dishes in the book like the Sweet Autumn Toasted Pita and Kale Salad (a Fattoush knock-off), the Moroccan Vegetable Couscous, the Ethiopian Yellow Split Peas with Chard and Tomatoes and the delicious French-inspired White Bean and Celery Root Puree. We both loved the Venezuelan-style Tofu Sofrito Scramble, though.
This Red Lentil and Root Veggie Dal came from Appetite for Reduction (recipe here) and I thought Rob would like it- a red lentil curry, complete with ginger, curry powder, coriander, cumin, cardamom and cinnamon, complemented with a host of root vegetables: carrot, parsnip and turnip (did you spot the cruciferous vegetable?). A quick and healthy recipe, it was also up my alley. Turns out the word curry threw Rob off – he found it to be blander than anticipated. Meanwhile, I adored it! This time, I snatched the leftovers! The vegetables make this a sweet curry and I thought this complemented the savoury spices well. For the curry novices out there, there was no hint of curry powder taste… unless you decide to add more! I found this perfecto as written.
As Rob likes to say, if something hasn’t been dropped while he’s cooked, then he hasn’t really cooked.
My nemesis in the kitchen is having my water boil over while I make steel-cut oats. I swear, it happens nearly every week. Mostly because after I get my oats simmering, I usually wander away to do other things… load/unload the dishwasher, get dressed, etc… and then I hear sputtering and I’m back in an instant to calm the oats.
I am pretty good about not burning things, though.
So, when I roasted some eggplants over the gas flame on the oven, Rob was alarmed when he smelled smoke from his upstairs office. Everything alright? he asked. He peered at my neat pile of 7 Asian eggplants, on fire on the stovetop.
I am roasting eggplants! They are supposed to turn catch on fire and turn black. Honestly! This fire is under control!
While in Turkey, I learned how to roast an eggplant to get that smokey flavour for the eggplant in Sultan’s delight. You need to do it over an open flame. Apparently the big fat eggplants here have a much tougher skin, so they suggested getting an Asian or European variety with a thinner skin. After you have charred the eggplant, carefully remove the skin while retaining all the juice. The smaller eggplants, though, turn this into a very tedious chore. But, yes, it was worth the efforts. You can’t duplicate that flavour without the fire.
I have been meaning to make the Indian roasted eggplant dish, Baingan Bharta, for the longest time. However, as it is vegetable-based side dish, I have found it harder to incorporate into my weekly meals. I don’t usually do the two-dish dinners. So when I spotted this Eggplant and Lentil Curry at The Kathmanduo, I knew I had a great combination.
Essentially, you are combining dal bhat (or just dal since there is no rice) with baingan bharta. The dal, alone, was superb. The fenugreek adds a more savoury note that is tempered by the typical Indian culprits of cumin, ginger and coriander. You could stop right there, throw in some rice and have an excellent meal.
Please keep going, though.
With the roasted eggplant, you create a smokey, sultry savoury mush. It wasn’t what I was expecting from a bharta, as I wanted something with more tomato presence. The smokiness from the eggplant was unbeatable, though. Now throw it into your dal. Mix the two together. Bliss, sheer bliss. And a complete meal: veggies and beans. Add your favourite grain if you are still so inclined.
Sadly, as much as I adored this dish, this will be the last time I will be able to roast anything on an open flame in the kitchen.
Not because it was a fire hazard, or that I had a lot of cleaning to do afterwards…
But rather, we discovered that the smoke really irritates Rob’s allergies. The house smelled like smoke for 2 days and for weeks, Rob had unresolved sniffles. It took us a while to pinpoint the culprit but I’ve conceded the eggplant roasting for now. Even though Rob agreed this was the best eggplant dish he had ever had. Not willing to risk anyone’s health, it will have to stay locked in our memories forever.