Spiced Mixed Pulses Soup

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I don’t really experiment with dried beans or lentils much, but I saw a little bag of mixed pulses in the store and it was just so colorful and pretty that I bought it. Thus, I had this bag of dried pulses and had to do something. So, I made some soup! Perfect for the lovely 97 degree November days we’ve been having!

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Spiced Mixed Pulses Soup

Adapted from Lisa’s Kitchen

1 small bag of mixed pulses (see original recipe for exact amounts; the types and amounts don’t matter toooo much). I had channa (chickpeas), some different beans, and some different daals (lentils).

Mix together in a bowl:

1 small red onion, chopped very finely

1 tablespoon garlic/ginger paste

3/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Cayenne if you want some kick (I didn’t… I’m boring)

Remaining ingredients:

2 tablespoons ghee, butter or oil

1 small tomato, seeded and finely chopped

handful of dried curry leaves

1/4 teaspoon asafoetida (hing)

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 cup coconut milk

Fresh cilantro.

Soak the pulses overnight (this is why I don’t deal with dried legume stuff). Drain, and bring to a boil in enough water to cover the pulses with about 2 inches of water to spare. Simmer for about 1 hour.

Mix together what I told you to mix together above.

Heat your fat of choice in a pan and add the mixture in the bowl to it; saute for 5 minutes. Add the tomato, curry leaves, hing, and salt to taste. Cook and stir often for 8-10 minutes. Add this to the beans. Pour in the coconut milk and simmer for 20 minutes.

Garnish with the cilantro and serve hot. Additional garnish: some extra coconut milk!

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Enjoy. Love me some fiber, protein… coconut… yum. This was pretty tasty and went very well with sweet potato parathas. Other accompaniments would be some dahi (yogurt), or rice, or both, and a sweet lime pickle.

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So many dishes, though… I can make such a mess in the kitchen. It’s kind of unavoidable especially with Indian food… or so I’ve found thus far.

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So that’s my kitchen, here in our little ground floor flat. Hope you like the soup. I recommend it.

Sweet Potato Masala Parathas

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Mmm, parathas. Delicious breads fried in ghee and stuffed with stuff, be it aloo (potato), gobi (cauliflower), paneer (cheese), palak (spinach)… Or in my case, leftover sweet potato masala (sweet aloo masala?).

First, the masala I used. This is a rather unorthodox method of making parathas but don’t you worry, it’ll be yummy.

Sweet Potato Masala

Adapted from VahChef

Sweet potatoes: I used 4 and they were all varying in size and length. About 500 grams, peeled and cubed.

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon garlic/ginger paste

1/2 tablespoon large black mustard seeds

2 tablespoons urad daal

1 small red onion, chopped

1 tablespoon turmeric

1 handful curry leaves

Salt to taste

Boil the sweet potatoes until fork tender. I accidentally overcooked them, making them mushy, which didn’t bode well for this masala on its own. But as parathas… it’s perfect.

Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds. When they sizzle, add the cumin. When that fries, add the urad daal and turmeric. Add the rest of the ingredients and saute until the onion is browned and tender.

Add the sweet potatoes and let it fry for 3 minutes ish, or until the sweet potatoes caramelize a bit.

Serve!

Parathas

I used the techniques used in this recipe from vegrecipesofindia.com

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tablespoon oil

pinch of salt

water (< 1/2 cup ish)

Dough: Combine 1 cup of whole wheat flour with a pinch of salt and 1 tablespoon of oil, and add enough water until a dough forms. Knead this dough and then let it ferment for 25 minutes under a dishcloth.

After 25 minutes, divide the dough into balls and roll out into small rounds.

Heap a few tablespoons of the sweet potato mixture into the center, and then take the sides of the round and bring them together on top of the stuffing, to make a little twisted dumpling.

Roll this out again, and make a bigger round.

Spread some ghee over the surface of this and, on a hot tawa, fry until it gets golden brown in places. Spread some ghee on the uncooked side and flip and cook the other side. Ta da!

Bear with me. This was my first attempt and it was a lot of fun. I don’t usually do step-by-step photos but the process was pretty cool (and messy).

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So after you make your dough, roll out a thick round about 3-4 inches in diameter. Spoon some of the prepared filling into the center.

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Do THIS! Make a little dumpling out of it. Take the sides and pinch them together.

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Then, you’re supposed to squish this and roll them out again, bigger, without actually tearing them. I didn’t really succeed at the no tearing thing.

But: browned sweet potato innards = YUM.

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This was my best paratha. Soooo good.

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Probably one of my favorite cooking adventures so far. And, a plus, because the sweet potato masala I thought I messed up got a second life as paratha stuffing!

Oats and Coconut Payasam

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Payasam is very similar to kheer. It’s called “kheer” in North India, while usually referred to as “payasam” or some variant thereof in South India. A lot of dishes are kind of like that: similar dishes, different names. Just to make things nice and confusing for the foreigner. But you get the hang of it pretty quickly!

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Anyway,  a rose by any other name would smell just as sweet. And sweet, this is. Sweet and spicy and crunchy and smooth and creamy. Payasam (according to wikipedia) comes from a “peeyusham” meaning nectar or ambrosia… An accurate description.

You’re probably wondering, ‘okay, what is this, whatever the name is!?’ Well if you haven’t read my banana kheer post (shame on you), kheer/payasam is basically pudding/porridge made with various ingredients: usually some grain (or banana!), nuts, ghee, sugar, spices and milk.

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I got this recipe from VahChef at http://www.vahrehvah.com. His Indian cooking YouTube videos are hilaaarious and I highly recommend.

Oats and Coconut Payasam

Adapted from VahChef

1-2 tablespoons ghee

15-20 cashews, chopped roughly

1 tablespoon golden raisins

2-3 tablespoons of oats (I ended up using a bit more)

1/2 cup freshly grated coconut (You could probably use unsweetened desiccated coconut, or go ahead and test your coconut cracking skills)

2 cups or 500 mL milk

1 cup water

Sugar: I used 1 cube of jaggery and a sprinkle of granulated sugar. Original recipe says 1/2 cup sugar. Add to taste.

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

Sliced almonds for garnishing

Heat ghee in a pot, add cashews and raisins and fry until the raisins puff up and cashews are golden brown.

Add the oats and coconut and stir until you can smell some coconutty fragrance/you see a slight color change. (2-3 minutes)

Add the milk and water and cook on low heat for a while until the milk reduces and the mixture thickens. You can add more water to dilute if it gets too thick.

Add sugar and let it melt; add the cardamom and take off the heat.

Sprinkle almonds on top and serve, warm or cold. Or room temperature. It will basically taste yummy in any form.

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This was so good. I wouldn’t really mind eating this for breakfast every day. I gave some of this to my neighbors and landlords in return for goodies that they gave to me! I got good reviews from them, so let that be your guide and just go ahead and make this. MmmmMMm.

Banana Kheer

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I’ve come full circle to why I started cooking in the first place, which was mainly to use up the bazillion bananas bestowed on us by my grandma who didn’t seem to accurately anticipate just how many bananas a family of four could eat in a week.

I have made so many banana breads in my life, I almost don’t even want to look at one anymore. Almost.

But, I’ve found a new, easy, delicious use for using up ripe bananas.

Enter: Kheer, a sort of pudding-like dessert flavored with jaggery/sugar, dry fruits (aka raisins, etc), nuts (usually kaju, or cashews but also badam(almonds) and pista(pistachios), and a yummy mix of spices. Yet another indian dessert that is malleable to many different versions (like halwa). Usually it’s made with rice; I replaced the rice with banana!

Banana Kheer

Adapted from what I watched my postdoc do:

3 large, overripe bananas, peeled and mashed/chopped

0.5 – 1 L milk (i’ve had success with both)

1-1.5 cubes jaggery (how sweet do you like it?)

1 tablespoon ghee (butter could work)

a handful of cashews, raisins

2 whole cardamom pods

Milk masala mix, which includes cardamom powder, mace, saffron, and nutmeg

Heat the ghee in a pan and toast the cashews/raisins, stirring quickly, until golden brown. Set aside.

Bring milk to a boil (watch that pot!!) and then add bananas; cook and continuously stir until the milk reduces a bit.

Add the jaggery and let it melt. Taste-test.

Continue to stir for a while until the milk reduces a lot and the mixture becomes super thick.

Add the spices (watch out, the milk may curdle. It’ll still taste good).

Finally, stir in the cashews and raisins, with the ghee.

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Enjoy banana kheer for breakfast, dessert, snack, lunch, dinner… if you’re like me and don’t mind having dessert for dinner sometimes.

Update:

Chocolate banana kheer!

Because… how could this not happen?

And it’s so easy!

Basically, towards the end of cooking, add 2-3 heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder.

Use a fork to stir it in so you don’t get cocoa powder everywhere. This also smooths banana clumps.

Let it continue to cook until desired thickness.

Bam. Chocolate kheer.

I didn’t have any, but I’d totally top this with whipped cream.

Now where’s the peanut butter? Because I’m getting more ideas…

Beetroot Halwa

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Tonight I finally used the six beets I purchased a while ago, then sort of forgot about.

I painstakingly peeled them and grated each one manually, making for very pink fingers.

Then, I ran out to the shop next door and bought some fresh Amul milk — 500 mL, in a little plastic pouch (TetraPak).

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Halwa is an Indian dessert that’s often prepared during festivals, like Navratri or Diwali (so I am told by Wikipedia). Indian desserts can be simple or super complicated — luckily, halwa is pretty easy! It’s basically beetroot pudding with cashews (kaju) and golden raisins, flavored with cardamom.

I’ve had lots of halwas in my day now, including carrot halwa, moong daal (a type of lentil/pulse) halwa, and suji ka halwa (semolina flour). This is my first attempt. Feast your eyes.

Beetroot Halwa

Adapted from Veg Recipes of India

3 cups beetroot, peeled and finely grated (about 6 small beets)

500 mL milk

2 tablespoons ghee

1 cube of jaggery (or 4-6 tablespoons of sugar)

1/3 teaspoon cardamom powder

15-20 whole cashews* (maybe extra if you’re prone to nibbling on cashews)

1 tablespoon golden raisins*

Combine the milk and beetroot in a pot and bring to a boil. Stir and boil/simmer until most of the milk is evaporated.

Stir in the sugar and ghee and cook a bit more until the milk is almost completely evaporated.

Add the cashews, cardamom, and raisins and cook until no more milk is left and it is cooked.

Ta da!

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Tender beetroot made into a delicious, and actually rather healthy dessert. This was so good. Going easy on the ghee and sugar (beets are sweet by themselves so not much sugar is necessary) makes for a very tempting dessert/snack.

*Next time, I would toast these in ghee before adding for extra flavor.

My First Indian Cooking Adventure in India, Unsupervised

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Today I’m breaking my food blog hiatus with a little something called Indian Cooking.

After living here for three months (I’ll be here until next summer) and having absolutely NO motivation to cook…

(reasons/excuses why: I live with a South Indian roommate, who loves to cook; food here is very inexpensive [we can get dinner for two for about $3 and be satisfied], the kitchen is different (no oven, different cooking vessels like a tawa, pressure cooker, etc); lack of familiar ingredients (curry leaves? mustard seeds? fenugreek?)

… I have broken the cycle. And no longer will subsist on yogurt (dahi) by the gallon and fruits, or order in, when left to my own devices.

Aside: I went to the veggie man two stores down from us and he was super nice and helped me pick out the fresh veggies, which happened to be okra.

With roomie gone for the day and evening, and doing the best I could to remember her techniques, I made …

Okra Subzi with Chapati

Adapted from Life.

Chapati Ingredients:

Some amount of whole wheat flour (maybe 1.5-2 cups)?

1 teaspoon ghee

pinch or two of salt

1/2 cup of warm water

Subzi Ingredients:

1/4 kg okra (bindhi), chopped into two or three pieces each

1 tomato, chopped in smallish pieces

2 potatoes, chopped in similar sized pieces at the tomato

Optional: 1 green chili, with or without seeds removed, depending on your spice tolerance (I omitted)

1 tablespoon your favorite cooking oil

1 tablespoon unsalted ghee

2 teaspoons mustard seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 handful curry leaves

a few pinches of salt

Directions:

In a bowl, add the flour and mix with the salt and the ghee. Make a little well and add the water, a bit at a time, until you have a workable dough. Knead with your hands. Cover with a cloth and let ferment for 25 minutes or more. Once fermented, make little round balls of dough about 1-1.5 inches in diameter.

Heat oil in a cooking vessel like the one in the pictures, or in a normal pan. Add the potatoes, and allow to cook for a bit and get a little brown and crispy on the edges. Add the okra and cook. Splash some water into the pan to “deglaze”, stir/scrape down, and cover to let everything soften. Add the tomatoes after a bit and mix.

In a separate pan, heat the ghee. Test it out with a small mustard seed; if it sizzles in the pan it’s ready. Add the mustard seeds and immediately take off the heat, allowing to cook a little bit. Add the cumin seeds and curry leaves, stir, let sizzle. Add the turmeric and ground cumin and mix.

Add the above to the okra mixture and combine; continue to let cook until veggies are cooked through.

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For the chapati, roll out each dough ball. I don’t know what I did wrong, I think the dough was a bit too dry. You should try to aim for nice and round chapatis. I however decided to go the entertaining route and make all kinds of shapes!

Heat a tawa over medium heat. Once hot, place the chapati and cook halfway through. If you see bubbles forming, great! You can use a dishtowel to push down on these bubbles to try to get them to spread throughout the bread. Flip it and cook the other side.

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My first chapati ALL BY MA SELF. *beams* DSCN1196

Once cooked, place on a plate and if desired, spread some ghee on it. The ghee helps with flavor and helps it not dry out. Let’s just say I put a substantial amount of ghee on these.

Continue in this manner until all the chapatis are done. Always cover with a dishcloth or with a lid of some sort to prevent drying out.

To serve, spoon some subzi, two or three chapatis, and a dollop of yogurt onto your South Indian-style thali (plate).

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And dig in.

Below are some fun photos of my first time trying the process.

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I got a LOT of bubbles with this one!

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Notice the jar of ghee in the back. It did not go un-used.

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I was so taken and distracted by the bubbles that I burned it. :(

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Me pointing out my beads of sweat. It’s kinda humid here in good ol’ Mumbai. I can pretend cooking is a workout.

My chapatis were so odd. I decided to nickname them all.

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“Crab claw”

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“Actually Decent/Amoebic”

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“An Old Woman Looking To the Right” (see the big nose?)

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“One of Those Psychology Inkblot Things”

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“Mitten for Double-Thumbed Person”

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“Budding Yeast”

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“Don’t Mess With Deformed Texas”

Sadly, my first chapati attempt came out more like pita chips. Nothing a little ghee can’t fix. But I will hone ma skillz and wow you all in due time. I thoroughly enjoyed my first attempt!

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Also, sorry for the horrid quality on the photos. Internet speed/access is a whole diatribe I won’t get started on right now…

I’ve attempted Indian cooking before, at home in the US, and I definitely don’t know what I’m doing. You can check them out anyway:

Aloo Gobi Mattar, take One and Two

Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Cookies

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So, uh, with eight days left until I returned home for Christmas break, I decided to go ahead and bake the bejeezus out of eight sweet potatoes. One potato per day: a perfect plan. My plan, however, was not perfectly executed, and I found myself with six baked sweet potatoes left… and just two more days til returning home to the dirty jerz.

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But, as life so happens, I found myself juggling six sweet potatoes and an invite to a cookie swap party.

Me: “I don’t know what to make… Coconut macaroons it is! Oh wait, I have… one egg… and… no coconut. Hmm…”

Friend (Elaine): “How about sweet potato cookies?”

Dingdingding.

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I laughed it off. Sweet potato cookies? What? Crazy talk!

So crazy, it just might work… (reference: The Master of Disguise.)

And work, they did. I was totally inceptioned. YUM. Other pros: One-bowl, lack-of-mixer-friendly, super easy for grad school.

Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Cookies
Adapted from this recipe
Two sweet potatoes, baked in the skin for 1 hour at least
Scant 3/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 egg
3/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 cup old-fashioned or quick cooking oats
1 cup sliced almonds (or pecans)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I cut up an 85% dark chocolate bar. I think these would also work with cacao nibs!)
Coarse sea salt, for sprinklage

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Mix butter and sugar together; use a pastry cutter if without a mixer. Mash in the sweet potato (without the skins). Add egg and combine.

Add dry ingredients directly to the wet, and then almonds. Drop by teaspoonfuls on parchment-paper-lined pan. Press out into flat discs slightly, then sprinkle chocolate chips on top (or alternatively, mix chocolate chips in to cookie dough first).

Bake 10-20 minutes (10-12 for original recipe; it took much longer in our defunct apartment oven). Once done, top with some sea salt while still warm.

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They were really flaky and yummy. Crispy on the outside, chewy inside, the chocolate merely a subtle accent without overpowering the sweet potato. They went over well at the cookie party (which was also super fun! And, all the delicious cookies were totally nutritionally balanced by carrot sticks and guac apps. We aren’t in the Nutrition Department for nothing)!

You can brag about the beta carotene content, flavanols from the dark chocolate, heartiness of whole wheat flour, extra minerals of the sea salt (barely enough to make a difference, but whatever)… and just neglect to mention the sugah and buttah. Well, at least, that’s what I did. Enjoy the yams. I mean, yums.