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