the taste space

Green Pea Curry (Mattar Masala)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on June 2, 2014

Green Peas Curry (Mattar Masala)

Rob did some more investigating. He found a program that would figure out if I had any duplicate files irregardless of the name.

WOO!  After three days, my program to find duplicate files on your external hard drive has completed.  It has found at least 172 GB of duplicate files.  We need to clean them up!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

His emphasis, not mine.

So apparently, I come with baggage. Electronic baggage.

There used to be a time when I couldn’t fit everything on my hard drive, but once I had 1 Tb on my external hard drive, I haven’t thought much about my space usage.

Rob didn’t appreciate my old school way of culling my photos: copying them into a new folder. Sometimes I had 4-5 copies of the same photo with my disjointed backing up. Now we get to do some culling!

Green Peas Curry (Mattar Masala)
Rob is doing a great job tackling our leftover food stuffs. This was an absolutely, wonderfully delicious pea curry he made with the peas in the freezer and spices from the pantry. I am not saying that just because Rob made it and everything tastes better when someone else cooks for you, but honestly this was gourmet Indian and made me a pea-lover. I love beans but peas are not as high in my “love list” but this, guys, was incredible.

Creamy with a rich-tomato broth with bright green peas, this was a keeper. Sadly, this curry has a really long ingredient list, which seems almost disjointed and muddy, but have faith. This was delicious and completely worth the effort (and definitely Rob’s effort!).

Do you like peas?

PS. I am sharing this with Bookmarked Recipes.

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Mango Chana Masala

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on March 29, 2014

Mango Chana Masala

It is the most wonderful time of the year….

Not because the spring weather in Houston is positively happiness (it is!) or it is the beginning of a cycling season (it is!)…. but it is the beginning of mango season and now we live closer to the mangoes!

Nearly every year, Rob will hunt down Alphonso mangoes. The fancy mangoes flown in from India. I am not sure whether they will be coming to Houston, but it does not matter. There are cheap and plentiful Mexican Ataulfos to be found. Last week, we picked up a whole case for $5. (We split it with a friend to keep our eating crop fresh. I know we’ll be replenishing a few times, no worries)

We tend to keep the mangoes plain and unadorned (at least I do, Rob adds it to his breakfast granola) but used some frozen mangoes for this fun twist on chana masala. It kind of a combination of my Mango BBQ Beans combined with Indian flavours. While I have used amchoor powder (raw mango powder) to make a nice chana masala, this was a fun twist since it was hot and sweet, too. The heat came from our newest infatuation: roasted hatch chiles. The flavours complemented each other nicely, especially with the tang from the tomatoes and the earthy tones from the cumin, mustard seeds and garam masala, too. Not too overly spiced.

Rob actually made a double batch of this and we shared it with friends. We told them to give an honest opinion of the dish. It was the first time we tried it, so we could handle their feedback. Like us, they loved it! And I hope you do, too.

Here’s to a prosperous mango season!

Mango Chana Masala

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes and this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Chickpea & Kabocha Squash Lemongrass Curry

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on March 11, 2014

Lemongrass, Chickpea and Kabocha Squash Coconut Curry

Recently, Rob and I have been flip-flopping. One weekend Rob is home alone. The next, I am home alone as Rob is out. Travelling separately. Although I probably received the brunt of the solo travels as I ventured to the cold Canadian winter alone. Rob, however, is travelling without me but visiting and meeting friends throughout the US.

This weekend, he also left me without a car. My bike gets me to and from work but on the weekends, the car brings me to groceries. Our loot is  too big to bring home on a bike. Oftentimes, Rob will also pick up random missing ingredients throughout the week… so I lost that convenience, too. Although, we planned for this: a double grocery haul last weekend. This week, I get to eat through the fridge and pantry. And tackle my languishing winter squashes.

I am sure I am not the only one with winter squashes on my counter (right?). It happens every year to me. Houston-time, included.

Winter squash may not still be on your radar but with the last winter blast, a warming stew is hard to turn down. (I am not playing with you, Houston does get cold. I had pants on last week).

I finally decided to tackle Hannah’s Chickpea and Pumpkin Lemongrass Curry. Unlike most curries, this one has NO CUMIN. Blasted! A bit more sweet with the kabocha squash which worked well with the aromatics like cardamom and coriander, but still tempered by ginger, mustard and chile with a luscious coconut-infused broth spiked with lemongrass.

Do you still have winter squashes looming around? Heck, it is still winter, right? I shouldn’t feel too guilty, right? :)

Lemongrass, Chickpea and Kabocha Squash Coconut Curry

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, Meatless Mondays for squash and to this month’s Spice Trail.

Better With Veggies

PS. The winner of High Protein Vegan is Miss Polkadot. Congratulations! (more…)

Indian-Spiced Baked Onions with Cumin-Dill Quinoa (& Cookbook Giveaway)

Posted in Book Review, Salads, Sides by Janet M on October 1, 2013

Indian-Spiced Baked Onions with Cumin-Dill Quinoa

See below if you are interested in a giveaway for The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen.

There is one problem with our weekly cronut ride: it gives us flat tires. Since we began cycling to Pearland, Rob and I have had 3-4 flat tires between to two of us. Usually it is a slow-leaking flat and we figure it out right as we want to leave the next day. However this time, it was a nice bloat out en route. There is a lot of debris on the road, but I am still boggled how Rob managed to catch a whole 1″ screw into his rear tire. I saw it happen, too. First there was a funny noisy rumble over a section of pavement, followed by a sharp whizzing noise…. 50 ft later, Rob’s tire is sagging. I have a photo just to show you how ludicrous it was… (For the record, Rob was not amused enough to take a photo of the screw once we managed to evacuate it.. he just wanted to fix his bike).

screw in tire

Yes, we were screwed.  We usually have to hunt to find the culprit for a leak, but this instigator was easy to spot.  When my Dad saw the photo, he exclaimed: “How the H*** did that get in there?” Precise positioning?Anyways, weRob replaced the tube but we decided to return home sooner rather than later with the sad-looking tire.  Turns out it was a good decision since 10 minutes after we arrived home, we were pummelled with rain. Best to stay indoors as the rain comes down so hard.

Turns out that while writing my round-up of my favourite Brussels sprout recipes, I was reminded of my Ayurvedic kick last winter.  I am currently on a dill-kick and decided to make Ayurvedic Herbed Quinoa (instead of millet) with Fried Soup Onions, which I rechristened as Indian-Spiced Baked Onions with Cumin-Dill Quinoa.

This is a simple yet somewhat elaborate quinoa pilaf salad spiced with cumin and dill. Leave it at that, and it would a pretty simple side salad. However, the suggested Indian-spiced baked onions make this a special treat. I don’t know about you, but I love roasted vegetables and really like somewhat charred roasted onions. I always have onions on hand and it takes next to no effort to add them to a pan to roast. However, these are more than simple roasted onions. A quick saute with cumin, fennel and mustard seeds transforms them into a veritable Indian party. The flavours are not overtop, rather muted with a colourful background. There are so many different spices once added to the dilly cumin quinoa, but it all works. Really well. The recipe is from The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen which I have mentioned before. Talya recommended pairing the salad with a Creamy Cucumber-Tahini Dressing but I felt it overpowered all the tastes in the salad, so I left it out.

Indian-Spiced Baked Onions with Cumin-Dill Quinoa

After discovering the cookbook at my library last year, I bought my own copy before my move. It was actually my first e-cookbook and I really appreciated its portability (books are heavy!). It is a great resource for those wanting to learn more about Ayurveda, but most importantly the recipes are whole foods-, plant-based and taste great. If you like Indian flavours, this will definitely appeal to you but the range of recipes is quite vast (thankful pie, perfect spring soup, creamy miso lentils, magical ‘mato lasagna, quinoa pancakes and even breakfast greens!). There are still so many recipes I want to try.

Other recipes from The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen, here and elsewhere:

Vegan Mango Lassi

Homemade Chai Tea

Butternut Squash Crusted Pizza

Better Than Chicken Soup (Miso Curry Squash and Chickpea Soup)

Indian Sprouted Mung Bean Stew with Greens

Ayurvedic Winter Vegetable Stew with Adzuki Beans

Steamed Collard Rolls

Dadus (Indian ladu dessert)

Sandy Lane Cherry Pie

I am beyond thrilled that the publisher has agreed to let me share this recipe AND sponsor a giveaway for The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen. They are giving away one (paperback) copy to a reader from the US (sorry my international friends). To be entered, please leave a comment here, letting me know whether you’ve heard of Ayurveda before (and if so, what do you think of it?).  I will randomly select a winner on October 15, 2013. Good luck!

Indian-Spiced Baked Onions with Cumin-Dill Quinoa

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Steamed Indian Chickpea Cakes (Microwave Khaman Dhokla)

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Sides by Janet M on June 1, 2013

By the way, I loved everyone’s thoughts on how you pronounce (or not) besan. Richa suggested it was more like bay-sun, for anyone not wanting to sound like an Indian noob. I love how this flour which is more familiar in Indian cuisine has become more common.

Yes, I use a wealth of wacky ingredients but besan is peanuts compared to this next ingredient.

If I am lucky, I am able to find my wacky ingredients at one my favourite grocers.  If you want to buy this ingredient at a grocery store, it needs to be an Indian grocer, methinks (I have spotted it in Little India: $2.50 for 100g). Or at a pharmacy.

But that’s because I was looking for Eno. Yes, Eno, the antacid. Eno kept popping up as I perused recipes for dhokla, also known as Steamed Chickpea Cakes, a type of Indian snack.

My only experience with dhokla has been at home (with this recipe), but there are many recipes. Some use a combination of beans and rice and others just use chickpea flour or besan (known as khaman dhokla). Most use eno as the rising ingredient although you could substitute baking powder (it may not be as fluffy, though).

Despite both Rob and my dhokla virginity, we decided to tackle the dhokla experiment. Rather, we tackled the microwave khaman dhokla experiment! Dassana shared a beautiful post with an uber simple recipe. You microwave the batter for 2.5-3 minutes and then add the tempered spices overtop.

Rob tackled this, as he is a fan of uber simple Indian recipes, and we were blown away. Flavourful from the mustard-curry leaf tarka but the actual dhokla, the steamed cakes, were spongy, airy and delicious. Rob microwaved ours for 2 minutes but the middle wasn’t fully set, so just zap it a bit longer if need be. The strength of your microwave will change the times, slightly, so experiment to see what works. If you over microwave it, it may be hard and dry, though. Alternatively, you could try the standard way with steaming, too.

How do you feel about using your microwave to bake? I also like this non-traditional chocolate protein cake that I bake in the microwave.

This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes.


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Cauliflower Dal with Panch Phoran

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on April 2, 2013

With limited time, I have been trying to multi-task. Studying on the subway to work… picking up groceries after my weekend work-out… and even combining social activities with cooking. While still cooking the majority of my meals on the weekend, I have invited friends to come over and help cook. Cooking + friends = fun times! Leftovers are good for me, too!  While I usually make 2 dishes and a dressing each week, I try to pare my menu down when friends are over. One dish only. Preferably a recipe I know tastes good.

This is another one of Rob’s Repeater Recipes. Whenever we see cauliflower on sale, this is what tugs at our tummies. Red lentils envelope chunks of cauliflower in this quick curry. Of course, what separates each curry is the specific spice blend and this uses Bangladesh’s signature spice mix: panch phoran (Bengali 5 spice mix). You might remember it from my Bengali Quinoa and Spinach Bowl with the simple combination of cumin, fennel, nigella, fenugreek and mustard seeds. For this version, I stole some cauliflower to make (Baked!) Lemon Cilantro Pakoras and swapped in additional zucchini.

I love it when Rob helps out in the kitchen, and he has really taken to sharing his Indian cooking tips with my friends. We’ve also made Dal Bhat and the Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime at other times, highlighting simple and tasty Indian home cooking. These are all lessons from Indian Cooking 101.. what will Indian Cooking 102 include?

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this month’s No Crouton Challenge for Indian spices and this month’s Credit Crunch Munch.

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Better Than Chicken Soup (Miso Curry Squash and Chickpea Soup)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on February 9, 2013

Better Than Chicken Soup (Miso Curry Squash and Chickpea Soup)

When I am stressed, I like to cook. Most of my meals are winners thanks to a great recipe base and a dash of creativity and experience. So, for me, heading into the kitchen is a way for me to turn off my brain and do something that gives me something positively tangible in the end.

The same with blogging. I use it as a creative outlet and a way to share said awesome recipes.

This will explain why I am blogging right now.

I kind of want to vent.

Toronto was hit with a bit of snow over the past few days. 30 cm of snow. I’ve experienced worse (60 cm overnight) and it could have been much worse. Toronto just has a hard time dealing with snow. My car is currently snowed in my parking spot. A day after the snowfall, the laneway still has a foot of snow for me to drive through if I want out.

Rob warned me last night, so I knew I wasn’t heading to the gym for my 8am weights.

Turns out that was the least of my worries.

This morning, my fridge broke.

And I can’t get into my garage. Both locks are jammed.

Of course, we planned for storm success by grocery shopping before the blizzard.

One plus for it being winter is that I have stored all the freezer stuff in my car. Friends have offered fridge-space in the meantime for our non-freezable stuff.  Although we are still working out how to move it over since our car is snow-bound.

I know, things could be worse.

So, as I wait for Rob to return home, I am blogging.

To share with you this delicious soup I made last week and is now chilling in my car. This is a great soup to soothe the soul, be it from unforeseen craziness or the howling winter winds. Definitely better than chicken soup.

I rechristened it with a more descriptive name: miso curry squash and chickpea soup. A broth spiced with black mustard seeds, turmeric, garlic and ginger, along with miso and kombu. Chunks of winter squash (golden nugget was my choice this time), shiitake mushrooms and chickpeas fill your bowl with goodness. Chickpeas were my addition, as well as baby bok choy. The baby bok choy was such a last minute thought that I photographed the soup before I added it. However, I ended up really liking the crunchy stems and leafs, so I included them in the recipe below.

I didn’t expect to like this as much as I did. In fact, I thought I did not like black mustard seeds, but this was fabulous.  If you like this soup, I also recommend these similar stews: Butternut squash, coconut and lentil stew and Plantains and cabbage with split peas. Miso-curry squash elsewhere: Red Curry Miso Roasted Veggie Bowl, Miso-Curry Squash, Tofu and Kale Salad, Miso Sesame Winter Squash and Tofu and Coconut Curry Miso Soup.

So, tell me: how is your weekend going? How do you like to deal with stress?

Better Than Chicken Soup (Miso Curry Squash and Chickpea Soup)

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Creamy Broccoli Dal

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on June 4, 2012

There are many reasons why I love Rob, but one of them is that he is really laid back.  He doesn’t stress out when the fridge is already full and I come home with even more veggies or when I buy, um, another cookbook, or two… I also love the way he approaches cooking: a few staple recipes interspersed with new recipes.

Recently, he’s been culling meals from our favourites. Rob’s Repeater Recipes as I have tagged them on the site: Dal Bhat, Besan Chilla, Tamarind Lentils and this Creamy Broccoli Dal from Vegan Yum Yum. Why mess with success? They fall under “you can make these dishes for me anytime” category. Definitely comfort food.  I have mentioned this delightful dal a few times, but have yet to share the recipe because we didn’t have any photos. Since we usually make this whenever we have a surplus of broccoli, I knew we would eventually capture it at a photogenic angle. I tried… there is something about a slurry of a soup that makes it hard to look as great as it tastes.

This is one of our go-to recipes because it is so packed with flavours. Indian-inspired flavours like cumin, mustard seeds, turmeric, chile flakes and garam masala really make this pop. The red lentils cook away into a creamy background interspersed with bits of broccoli (we use both the florets and stem). If you are anti-bits, just use the stems. If you are anti-broccoli (gasp!), just use the stems, because only the florets give it away that veggies are hidden in here. The almond milk helps to add an extra level of creaminess.

As written, the recipe serves 2-3 people. We’ve realized that doubling it makes the most sense since we like it so much. :)

This is my submission to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays, to this week’s Weekend Wellness  and to Cookbooks Sundays.

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Green Mango Curry

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on June 1, 2012

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. ;)

This is my submission to this month’s My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Valerie, and to this week’s Weekend Wellness.

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Ethiopian Warm Cabbage and Green Beans

Posted in Sides by Janet M on May 25, 2012

The heart of Ethiopian cooking comes from berbere, its spicy blend of herbs and chiles, as well as niter kibbeh, their spiced butter/oil. Once you have those ingredients, you are off to the races for quick, tasty Ethiopian food.

I made a huge batch of niter kibbeh with a tub of Earth Balance spiced with savoury spices like cinnamon, cardamom, coriander, garlic, and ginger. I used the recipe from Papa Tofu but there are many recipes online as well.

In fact, when I first found the recipe for Warm Cabbage and Green Beans from the New York Times courtesy of Marcus Samuelsson, I quickly realized that the first part of the recipe was making the niter kibbeh.  True to its Ethiopian roots, it uses an entire 1/2 lb of butter in the recipe but trust me, you don’t need all that fat. Trim that 1/2 cup to 1 tbsp, thank you very much. Instead of mild fassoulia, the ginger makes this a spicy and very flavourful cabbage and green beans side dish. This works really well with the mild split pea puree, for a contrast in flavour, texture and spiciness.

Typically, Ethiopian food is a combination of a lot of little dishes served overtop a sour fermented teff pancake called injera.  The sauces are absorbed by the pancake as you munch away. Then you scrape up the soggy, sour greatness.  Sadly, if there is one thing I know I can’t duplicate at home, it would be making a super huge injera like I had in my last post. I don’t have any skillet that would fit such a huge pancake!

That doesn’t mean I didn’t try to make my own injera, though. Living in quasi-Ethiopian town means that teff flour is easily purchased (although still quite pricy) and I was up for making my own mini injera. However, my homemade version was no comparison to the real thing. I used the Mini Injera recipe from Celebrate Vegan but they didn’t turn out so well. Dare I suggest it was a complete flop? I am not sure what went wrong but the pancakes were too holey and took way too long to cook to make it a feasible option. They still tasted nice, though, and I even tried my hand at an Ethiopian wrap with the kik alicha and cabbage (verdict: tasty but hard to photograph with all the leaky holes!). We ended becoming frustrated and threw all of the injera batter into the skillet for an injera scramble. It was suboptimal but it cooked the batter more quickly. ;)

With this trio of recipes from this week (Ethiopian Split Pea Puree (Kik Alicha) & Fasoulia (Ethiopian Carrots and Green Beans Simmered in a Tomato Sauce)) along with the Ethiopian Split Pea and Kabocha Squash Stew with Collards, you are able to put together a veritable Ethiopian feast. Enjoy!

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Simona.

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Indian Chickpea and Collard Roulade with a Tomato-Mustard Sauce

Posted in Appetizers, Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on May 11, 2012

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.

This is my submission to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Cinzia.

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Root Vegetable Mulligatawny

Posted in Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on April 16, 2012

I know you raised an eyebrow when I posted the recipe for Banana Naan. Bread flour, what?!

Let me assure you that for my Indian Easter, I continued with the clean out my kitchen mantra and no-more-buying things for the pantry moratorium with the Janet-friendly part of the meal.

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 my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Weekend Wellness, to this week’s Sunday Night Soup Night and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Plantain, Cabbage and Coconut Curry with Split Pigeon Peas (Indian Cabbage and Plantain Kootu)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) by Janet M on March 5, 2012

OK, things have turned around in my kitchen. My cooking rut is over!

5/5, baby!

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?


This is my submission to this month’s Bookmarked Recipes, to this week’s Weekend Wellness. and to Deb for this week’s Souper Sundays.

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Butternut Squash, Coconut, and Lentil Stew (Aarti’s Indian Summer Stew)

Posted in Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian), Soups by Janet M on October 14, 2011

Rob finds blogging to be a chore, at times. Me, I will gladly use it as a form of procrastination. Writing personal statements, now that is a chore!

This was another recipe I pawned off suggested to Rob when I had leftover butternut squash. Aarti‘s Indian Summer Stew. Indian, check. Coconut, check. Butternut squash, totally up my alley… and a new kind of bean to try: toor dal or split pigeon peas. I actually originally bookmarked this recipe when I saw Anja using split yellow peas (my latest craze), but I’ve bought a few new split beans to facilitate more cooking from 660 Curries, Rob’s go-to cookbook. So toor dal, it was!

As expected, Rob adored this soup. Creamy and savoury. The toor dal melts into a thickened soup spiced with warming spices and thick chunks of dried coconut. There was a zippy undertone that was tempered by the cilantro. He promptly took photos and linked it up on Facebook, sharing his culinary success.

But as we ate the soup, we argued a bit. Freshly made, I thought the soup was a bit too hot for me (not Rob). Was it the mustard seeds or the Aleppo? Half a teaspoon is usually my max for the Aleppo chili flakes, and Rob swore he didn’t add anything extra or sneak in any of our garden chilis. Were my chili flakes more potent? We had finally returned to using my stash of chili flakes from Turkey, as opposed to the Aleppo from Kensington Market. Rob then described how he cooked the chili flakes, in the tempering oil. Oh yes, that must be why – the flavour oil explosion!

Turns out that the stew mellowed as leftovers, so it was now safe for me. Life got busy, though, and Rob lost his enthusiasm for sharing the recipe. I still wanted to share the meal, so here I am with Rob’s dish. Because while I used to only share food that I made, I can’t deprive you all of tasty dishes that Rob cooks up!

This is my submission to this month’s Simple and in Season, to this month’s Healing Foods featuring coconut, to this month’s Veggie/Fruit a Month featuring coconut, to Ricki’s Wellness Weekend, to Healthy Vegan Fridays, to this month’s Ingredient Challenge Monday for coconut and to this month’s No Croutons Required featuring squash.

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Avocado Chutney

Posted in Appetizers by rszumlak on February 11, 2011

Avocado Chutney

Several years ago, back when I lived in another city and worked at a different job, I was just beginning to discover many types of international cuisine. There was a while where my coworkers and I would take lunch every Friday “off-site” to go to a nearby Indian restaurant with a buffet. It was an exploratory process for me: samosas, mulligatawny soup, this kind of curry, that kind of curry, basmati rice, and kulfi, to name a few. Not only did I expand my newly-found appreciation of foods outside my normal “comfort zone”, but I expanded my comfort zone to encompass them. It did wonders for my vocabulary, too!

Of particular interest were the several varies of chutneys available. I found that the tamarind chutney and the mango chutney particularly tickled my taste buds. I had never tried tamarind or mango before. Now they are counted among my favourite flavours. I was so excited that I told an Indian friend of mine, “I had chutney for lunch!” She was amused, but told me it was the same thing as saying that, “I had ketchup for lunch.”

Wikipedia defines chutney as “a class of spicy preparations used as an accompaniment for a main dish.” I can see how something like ketchup might fall under that categorization, but your typical chutney is so much more! It’s like an explosion of flavour you can enjoy bite, by bite, by bite!

This recipe comes from 660 Curries which Saveur lent me several months ago and I’ve been studying intently. I’ve already posted a couple of the these recipes on my own blog (which isn’t a proper food blog, per se, but just a place where I post many photos and write about whatever is interesting me at the time).

This recipe did introduce me to a new ingredient; an ingredient that I approached with some trepidation: curry leaves. These leaves are not the kind of leaves that curry powder is made from. Much like Europeans chefs use bay leaves to add flavour to dishes they are making, Indian chefs (especially in the southern regions of India) would add curry leaves to theirs to impart a characteristic flavour to their dishes. Like bay leaves, people generally remove the curry leaves as they eat the meal. Unlike bay leaves, their flavour is subtle and many need to be added to the dish.

I found dried curry leaves at a health food store in Ottawa several weeks ago. I knew that 660 Curries had many recipes that asked for fresh curry leaves. There aren’t any stores near me that sell fresh ones, so I took the opportunity to buy the dried ones. Saveur warned me that recipes usually need far fewer dried leaves than fresh ones and I needed to research the proper ratio to use. Did I need to use half as many dried curry leaves? One third as many?

After some quick online research, I discovered that opposite holds true for curry leaves: the dried ones have less flavour and I need many many more dried ones… perhaps as many as ten times as many! Raghavan Iyer, the author of 660 Curries, even goes so far as to say that the flavour of dried curry leaves is “insipid” and to avoid them completely!

I was somewhat disappointed. Since the ingredient was still new to me, and I wasn’t willing to put 120 dried curry leaves in my chutney (it was unlikely that my tiny bag of them even had that many leaves in it), I simply put in 12 dried curry leaves in the hot oil at the end of cooking the mustard seeds to allow any of their flavour to transfer to the oil. I then removed the leaves myself.

The chutney was simply packed with flavour! The subtle taste of the avocado was the dominant flavour, with the motifs of roasted mustard coming a close second. The tamarind was not overpowering at all. I was careful with the chili flakes so the result was not too spicy.

Sadly, by the second day, the avocado on the surface had become discoloured and turned brown. The chutney still tasted fine, though. I served mine on toasted pieces of pita bread.

Go for it!

This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Lynne from Cafe Lynnylu.

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