Vegan cooking is not so different from cooking non vegan except that you omit a few ingredients (those that come from animals). Indian cooking is easily vegan when you avoid the ghee, paneer, milk, curd and so on.
These are a series of non-fattening, gluten (wheat) free, soy free - vegan recipes many of which will be non-sweet also. (specially for my friend Divya)
I shall begin with a Salad Series with Guacamole (gwahk-ah-mol-lee) my most favourite salad. It is originally a Mexican recipe used as a dip or on top of tacos or even inside tortillas in many different dishes. I like it so much that I have had it at least once a week for 15 weeks in a row last year.
It's addictive and the problem is the avocado is not as nice in Bombay as it is in the south of India where it is grown. It's easier and cheaper to find in say Bangalore, Chennai or Pondicherry.
For the Guacamole you need:
1 Ripe Avocado
1/2 a red or white onion
1 small tomato
1 green chilli (the spicy variety if you like)
1 small lime
Coriander to garnish
Start with the onion, tomato and chilly. Chop everything fine and cut the lime in half. Then move on to the avocado.
The avocado has to be ripe. The way to know is if you press it slightly it gives in. and usually it starts showing dark brown patches and can be fully brown sometimes. If it is still very green and very hard do not cut it. Just wrap it in some newspaper with some bananas and keep checking it everyday.
To cut the avocado, hold it length wise -the place where it would usually be attached to the plant up and the bottom of the fruit should be below. Cut it all the way round starting from the middle of the fruit and keep going down till you come a full circle. The knife should get through the skin with some difficulty and then easily go in until it reaches a seed in the middle of the fruit. Don't try cutting the seed. Just go all the way round the fruit. Now you have two halves of the fruit stuck together. Gently twist the halves and pull them apart. You will have something that looks like this picture below.
Remove the pit with a spoon and then using a knife cut length wise and then breadth wise of the light green flesh of the avocado without cutting the skin. Do this for the other half also and scoop out the flesh with a spoon. Sometimes the avocados have parts that have become over ripe and are blackish almost. I usually don't mind using them unless they look really bad.
Once you have it all scooped out, mash it with a fork till it is less chunky. Add in the chopped onion, tomato, chilli, salt, lime juice and coriander. Mix it well and eat it immediately - for two reasons one is that it's so good (!) and two is that avocado is best eaten when it is fresh. It can't really be stored once it is cut because it tends to become black quickly. It will look like a green mash with bursts of red and green.
The avocado has no particular taste when it is ripe, it takes on the flavour of whatever you add in. When unripe it is bitter. You can modify this recipe to your taste and add red chilli flakes or powder instead of the green or add half a clove of garlic even. The original recipe of guacamole also calls for sour cream which is totally unnecessary I think. Why spoil a perfectly natural food with sour cream?!
You could have it as it is or use it as a dip with khakra, roasted rotis, chips, carrots, cucumbers...
Bonus: How to grow your own avocado!
If you are as enthusiastic as me, save the seed and try growing it. I tried with four and now I have four plants growing and I can't wait for them to bear fruit. Takes at least 4 years I hear. Sigh!
So this is how you sprout the seed. First you have to figure out which side will sprout. If you feel the seed you will see that it is two halves under the brown skin. On one side there will be a slight discolouration and thats where it will sprout. That part had to be slightly immersed in water not drowned.
Take four toothpicks and put it into the seed on four sides with the discoloured side down. Place it on top of a small bowl so that the toothpicks hold the seed up. Put water into it and only cover half an inch of the bottom of the seed like this picture below.
This will take at least two weeks to sprout. Keep it in a warm dark place and let it do it's thing. I changed the water everyday. Slowly the seed will begin to split from below and a small root will emerge.
Keep changing the water and eventually you will need to change the bowl to accommodate the growing root and stem which springs upwards eventually. The picture on the right has the root jutting out and the stem coming out of the left of the seed.
This sprouting doesn't work all the time. I think I got lucky but I also had some seeds which didn't do anything. Keep trying and don't give up on the seed.
Let it keep sprouting till it looks like what it is below.
This is when it is ready to plant. Avocado is a tree so make sure you have enough place to let it grow.
Ok I digressed, this was supposed to be about the guacamole but when you are so addicted to it (as I am) the next best thing is to grow your own avacados!