Oct 18, 2012

Basic Tomato Gravy for Indian Curries

This one is kind of a rushed post. I wanted to do a vegetable chutney two ways but the sun has set in this part of the world and I won't be able to click pictures of it.So I thought I would instead let you in on my never-fail recipe for Indian gravys. I usually use this for curries that are made with pulses and lentils like Chana Masala/ Chole, sprouted mung beans or any other sprouted pulses, or even if I want a wet curry using only one or a mix of vegetables like potatoes, carrots, beans, cauliflower, peas and the like

Before that, today's find of the day on my Vegan MoFo journey is Life Up North. Fanny from Sweden has a neat blog and is writing about very interesting Swedish cuisine. I love the look of the lingonberry jam! Do not forget to check out her virtual fish tank at the bottom of the page and feed some fish!

I'm not so much an onion person specially if it is raw. I would rather eat a raw chilli than a raw onion. I have spoken about why so many Indians like Jains and some South Indians do not eat onions and garlic in my post about Chana Masala or Chole. So this particular recipe is what I usually make at home on a regular basis.

There are two ways to do this, with raw tomatoes or blanched and peeled tomatoes. Both give very different results. The raw tomatoes are less watery and will, for obvious reasons, take longer to reach the deep red colour. Sometimes I am lazy to blanch tomatoes (yes I have taken laziness to another level) so I just blend them up raw. But ever since I bought an immersion blender, blanching and pureeing has become a little easier.

This recipe is oil free too!

For a curry enough for about 4 people you need

6 tomatoes (or 4 if using onions)
1 Big Onion (totally optional, I usually avoid this)
1-2 cloves or garlic (again something I avoid most of the time)
1 Green Chilli (if you like it spicy)
1 inch piece of fresh ginger
1 tsp Cumin seeds or Cumin powder
1 tsp Coriander powder
1/2 tsp of raw mango powder (Amchoor in hindi)
1/2 tsp of Black Salt (Kala Namak in hindi)
2 Bay leaves or Indian Bay leaves (optional)
2 cloves
2 tsp Garam Masala or Chole Masala (I have a big jar of Chole Masala which I use for everything!)

If you plan to add onions and garlic, cook them with a little water and then blend them with the tomatoes.

If you plan on cooking the tomatoes, blanch and peel them. Then follow the directions below.

Blend the tomatoes, green chilli and ginger to a smooth paste. Put the Cumin seeds in a hot heavy bottomed vessel. When they begin to splutter put the tomato purée. Be careful because the purée will jump all over the kitchen. Now add the rest of the dry powders, spices and salt. Let it cook away for 15 minutes till it becomes thick, dark and spews bubbles all over the place.

This one was made by blending raw tomatoes

This is how dark it should look

Add your pre-cooked/steamed vegetables or pulses. Let it come together for another 10 minutes or so.

Chana Masala anyone? 

Garnish with fresh coriander and add a dash of lime or lemon after it's cooked. The addition of fresh coriander makes a lot of difference. So if you can get your hands on some, do it.

Enjoy your gravy!

Oct 17, 2012

Tomato & Sage the saviour Chutney

I love Sage.

I was just doing some reading about it and found out that Sage is also called S. salvatrix (sage the saviour) because it was used in a herbal-vinegar remedy to ward off plague. Plague or no plague, I think Sage deserves some popularity. The leaf is extremely strong in flavour. It has an almost peppermint bitterness to it when you bite into it. I personally prefer using the powder because I don't have to bite into the leaf. I love putting it in everything. I even put it into Indian curries when I am cooking onions or tomatoes. It goes into all my Italian experiments too.

But before I ramble on, today's find of the day: Vegan Fling by Melissa. I love the look of some of her recipes specially the Strawberry and Poppy Seed Salad and the Alfredo Pasta.

This chutney recipe makes a great dip too. You can put it in a wrap or have it with some pita. It will also make a great gazpacho or you could mix it with some vegan mayo.

I did not use any chilli in it, but you could add some red chilli powder or paprika.

You need:

4 tomatoes
3/4 tsp powdered sage
1/2 tsp powdered pepper
1/2 tsp salt

Remove the seeds from the tomatoes. Blend everything together.

If you would like it as a Gazpacho, add a little water and more salt.

Oct 16, 2012

Three Chutney recipes for the three days I missed!

I am back after a three day break from the big bad world of the WWW. I just needed to switch off the laptop, give my eyes a rest and find other ways to cool off the sunny October days. It was a welcome break because I'm refreshed and raring to go forward.

Because I have missed three days of Vegan MoFo where my theme this month is 'chutneys', I'm going to write about three easy peasy chutney recipes to make up for my absence.

Mixed Peel & Seed Chutney
This one my mom made with mixed peels and seeds of Beetroot and White Pumpkin and also the insides of a Snake Gourd. I have made a chutney with only pumpkin seed -Skeed Chutney. You can use any left over peels, seeds and fiber for this chutney.

Mixed Peel & Seed Chutney
1 cup mixed peels, skin and fiber
1 cup coconut
1/2 lime sized piece of tamarind
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal
1-2 Red Chillies
2 tsp oil (optional)

Heat the oil if using and cook the skin, peels and fiber. Remove it and add it to the blender jar. Heat more oil and temper the mustard seeds, urad dal. Add the asafoetida and red chilli. Remove only the red chilli and add it along with Coconut, salt and tamarind to the blender jar. Blend till smooth. Add the tempered mustard seed and dal. Store in the refrigerator.

Horse gram Chutney
This is a not so common chutney made with a not so common dal. I haven't seen many people use Horse Gram. Wikipedia says it is common as cattle feed. Doesn't stop me from eating it! This chutney was made by my granny and is actually a very typically South Indian chutney.

Horse gram Chutney
1/2 cup horse gram
2-3 Red Chillis
1 tsp Urad Dal
1/4 tsp Asafoetida

Roast the horse gram till it splutters. Roast the red chilli, urad, hing. Powder the horse gram and them add the rest of the ingredients. Add little water and then grind to a smooth paste.

Cumin & Green Tomato Chutney
Green Tomatoes make great salads but they also make great chutneys. I love the flavour of green tomatoes in a chutney and I didn't do much to this one wanting to preserve the great flavour they give. Cumin was a perfect spice for this one because it cuts through the sourness and give a nice finish to the chutney.

Cumin & Green Tomato Chutney
4 green tomatoes
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 mild green chilli
Juice of 1/2 a lime

Cook the green tomatoes with a tablespoon of water and salt for about ten minutes till they are soft. Blend in till smooth.

Roast and powder the cumin seeds. I powdered them using a mortar and pestle.

Add the cumin seeds and mix well.

Oct 12, 2012

Raw Elephant's Foot Chutney

Did I scare you yet? This really is a chutney made with a quarter kilo of Elephant's Foot but it's a type of Yam not a poor elephant's foot. C'mon!

It's already day 12 of Vegan Mofo. We're almost halfway there. It takes a lot of planning to put up posts every single day I cannot imagine how much work it must be to put this event together for the whole month of October.

Today's find of the day is Veganise This!: Mel from Australia is going around the world in 20 days of Vegan Mofo this year with themed dinners from different countries every day. She's already covered so many countries. What a great theme and what a great way to learn new cuisines!

This week I have tried as much as possible to put up recipes of mostly raw chutneys. I am going to keep going with the raw flow but today is a little different. It's still a chutney and still is mostly raw. But today the main ingredient is something most people would not eat raw. This yam is a very commonly used tuber in India and is available throughout the year. But eating a tuber raw is not very common apart from a few exceptions like ginger, carrot and daikon. Not too many people eat this raw unless they make it into a chutney like this.

It has an almost cooling feeling in your mouth and takes on the flavour of the condiments added to it. I had it with some Dosa for breakfast and it also was a side for lunch. Chutneys are very versatile so they can be paired with lots of things.

Raw Elephant's Foot / Yam Chutney

250gm/ 2 cups Yam - Washed, peeled and diced
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
1/2 tsp Urad Dal
1 or 2 red chillis
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1/2 lime sized ball of tamarind
juice of 1/2 a lime
1/2 tsp Oil (optional)

Temper the mustard seeds, urad dal, asafoetida and red chillis in oil. Put the diced yam, red chillis, tamarind and salt in a blender and blend till smooth. Add the tempered mustard seeds, urad dal and asafoetida to this. Add in the lime juice. Mix well.

Store it in the refrigerator for up to a week.

Oct 11, 2012

Chilli Pineapple Mint Chutney

It's Vegan MoFo Day 11 and it's going good. People from all over the world are blogging about vegan food and I'm learning something new every single day. I learn about new ingredients and cuisines and this is making my mind go into over drive because suddenly I realize there are so many places I want to travel to and eat the local food there.

Growing up whenever we went to a restaurant we always ordered the cheese on skewers. They always came on toothpicks with a piece of pineapple and cherry with each skewer. I never really understood the combination but I liked it.

This chutney is something like that. I know pineapple and mint is a good combination, it sounds right. But adding spice to that might sound wrong, but it's not. This chutney is a great dip (for chips), goes well with Indian food too, I can imagine it inside a pita bread with some hummus and falafel and I can also imagine using it as a salad dressing or inside a nice hearty sandwich.

Let me interrupt you with today's find before I forget: Simply Go Vegan. It's blog in German and as the title suggest the recipes are simple but they look so good. The recipes for the German Potato bread and Merguez, a spicy north african sausage are things to look out for.

On that spicy note here is the recipe for the chutney.

You need:
2 cups of diced pineapple (I used fresh pineapple)
1 mild Green Chilli
1/2 cup of fresh mint leaves
a pinch of Salt

Blend together and chill before serving.

Oct 10, 2012

Thick Cilantro Chutney and some Chutney 101

The best part with chutneys is that there are a million ways to make a chutney with the same ingredient. Coriander or Cilantro is used so frequently in Indian cooking if I don't add it I feel like something is missing. It is always added as a garnish to dals, sambhars and savoury stews. There are many ways to make a chutney with coriander. It can be the main ingredient or it can be added just for colour. Some people add raw peanuts, some add coconut to give it a body. But this ensures that the chutney doesn't stay for too long.

This particular recipe uses none of those additions and also doesn't use any water. This helps the chutney stay for weeks. It is a concentrated coriander chutney quite different from the Basic Green chutney I did earlier.

Before I go ahead, today's find is: Earthy Consumer. Let me warn you before you click on that link, be prepared to spend hours! This website is a treasure trove of information from how to make your own face scrubs to nutritional information about different foods to recycling. There are even some recipes in there!

This chutney is a very typically south Indian chutney that I ate growing up. The way south Indians make chutney is very simple. The main ingredient changes but the additional "chutney ingredients" do not change that much. If you look at the Pumpkin chutney you will see that apart from the pumpkin, the other ingredients are:

Red Chilli
Tempered Mustard Seeds, Urad Dal and Asafoetida

This remains pretty much constant in most chutneys from South India. Some times people might add a little jaggery to enhance the flavours or some chutneys will not have coconut like this one.

It is a thick, bright green dose of coriander. The coriander is not cooked so it keeps all the raw goodness intact. It stores very well because no water is added to this chutney. You can mix it up with plain rice or have it with some rice and vegan yogurt. It's on my list of comfort foods!

Coriander Chutney South Indian Style aka Kothamali Thogayal

You need:
3 cups fresh coriander- washed, de-stemmed and air dried
2-4 red chillis
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp split urad dal
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1/2 lime sized ball of skinless tamarind
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp oil

Heat the oil and temper the mustard seeds, urad dal. Add the Red chillis and asafoetida. Once the chillis are puffed up, remove only the red chillis. Put it in a grinder with the coriander, salt and tamarind. Grind till thick and smooth. Do not add any water. You might have to keep stopping to push the coriander towards the blades. Add the oil with the tempered seeds and dal.

Store in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.

Oct 9, 2012

Vitamin C Chutney

If you ask any Indian what to eat to ensure Vitamin C in the diet, Aamla is surely going to figure in the list. This Indian Gooseberry  holds a very important place in the Indian heart (and hair). When it is in season, everyone laps it up making  pickles, chutneys or sun dries it to ensure a year long supply of Vitamin C. As kids, we used to buy small tiny sachets of dried and salted aamlas as an after school snack.

But I need to tell you my find of the day before that: Vegan Food Rocks. That cream of Broccoli soup looks so easy and awesome!

Now, if you have never tried an aamla, I'd like you to imagine biting into the sourest Sour Candy available and put aside the the sweetness of the sugar in the candy. It is sour and astringent but also has sweet and bitter undertones. My salivary glands are kicking it in as I type this. Apart from being an elixir, natural medicine-for-everything kind of fruit, it is also applied to hair to ensure good hair growth and I read somewhere that apparently Indians have the best hair on the planet. Well, all Indians except me at least.

This chutney is raw, vegan and oil free. It goes well with rotis and I'm sure some bread or dosa will be nice with it too.

You need:

4 aamlas or Indian Gooseberries
2 mild Green chillies

The Aamlas have tough flesh with a pit inside. Remove the pits and blend it with the green chillies and salt.

Enjoy your dose of sour, concentrated vitamin C!

Oct 8, 2012

A Moroccan twist on a Tapenade - Sumac & Cherry Tomato Chutney

I think it's time to take a break from the Indian cooking for Vegan MoFo day 8 and dive into different flavours this time. At home I usually cook Indian food about four times a week. But the rest of the time you will find me making Italian, Mediterranean or south east Asian food. If you open my fridge you will immediately know how crazy I am. It is about to burst but I still want to buy so many things to stuff in it.

Before I go any further, let's see who I found today: Chocolate and Beyond's Andrea from UK. I'm going to try making those 'Cheezy Jackets'.

How is this recipe a twist on a tapenade? For one it has no anchovies and secondly it has no olives. This chutney has all the flavour of a tapenade without the original ingredients. It is a beautiful red blob of yum. You will see why shortly.

I found an Indian variety of Cherry Tomatoes which I dried in the oven without any oil or salt. These tomatoes are oval in shape and pack a slightly more sour punch. To enhance the sourness, I added a few Mediterranean inspired ingredients like orange peel and preserved lime and to top it off some Wild Sumac.

You need:

1 cup sun-dried or oven-dried cherry tomatoes
1 tsp Sumac
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 a Preserved Lime
1 tsp chopped candied orange peel
2 tsp Olive Oil

Put everything in the blender and blend till smooth.

Store it in a jar topped with some olive oil.

Serve with Pita Bread or regular bread. Use it as a sandwich spread or in a salad dressing.

Oct 7, 2012

Beetroot Chutney/Dip - Iron Chef Challenge #1

It's that time of the week when Vegan MoFo gives you an ingredient and you have to come up with something totally new using it. This week they chose Beetroot. I still want to keep to my chutney theme so this presented a strange challenge. Now beetroot is great in a salad, it's great in a raita, but chutney? After breaking my head over it for a few hours I called up one of my telephonic sous chefs, my thati (grandmother). As it turned out we were heading to her place for lunch and she just thought she should cook a beetroot for me in case I wanted to make something with it.

When I went there, I was clueless. But she loves leading from the front and the pro in her eventually took over. All she needed was a start and when I said "beetroot raita" a light bulb went on in her head. Suddenly she knew what had to be done. She started giving me instructions and we came up with something so amazing and beautiful within the 5 minutes since I had uttered those two words. No sooner than we made what we made, it was gone. We had created a success!

So, fellow humans, let me present to you a Beetroot Chutney. A chutney so pretty you wouldn't want to eat it, but when you do, you wouldn't want to stop.

In the big, wrinkly, magical hands of my thati

You need:

1 Beetroot, cooked and peeled
1 Green Chilli
1/2 Cup Roasted Peanuts (with or without skin)
5 pieces of Whole cashews
1/2 a tsp of salt
Juice of 1 big Lime

First powder the peanuts, cashew, salt and green chilli. Add in the beetroot and lime. Blend till smooth. Add a little water if required to make it a smoother consistency.

Dip your chips into it or have it as a side. Whatever you choose I'm sure you will love it!

What a pretty fuschia!

Oct 6, 2012

Pumpkin Chutney Part Deux

How do you know if you are cooking healthy?

From the amount of waste in your kitchen garbage bin.

If what you throw is more than what you eat, you are probably not doing something right. So how do you decide what to throw and what to eat? Ask a monkey! The lesser tools you use in your kitchen to "prep" your food, the lesser waste you generate. Stop peeling and start eating.

Before we go further, today's find is: Muffin Topped. Emily is making some delicious looking vegan Waffles all this month for Vegan MoFo. Makes me want to get a waffle maker!

On that quick note, here is a chutney I made with all the left over seeds, skin and fiber from yesterday's Pumpkin Chutney. You could follow the recipe exactly like that one and substitute the pumpkin chunks with the skin and seeds (hereafter known as 'skeed') or you could turn it up a notch. This chutney is slightly bitter from the sesame. But I love the bitterness of sesame and I will forgive it because it gives me so much calcium! This recipe is oil free too.

Pumpkin Skeed Sesame Chutney

You need:

1 cup of Pumpkin seeds, skin and fibre
1/2 cup sesame seeds
1 dried red chilli
1/2 tsp salt
Juice of 1  lime or lemon

Cook the pumpkin seeds, skin and fiber in 2 tsp of water in a covered pan for 6 to 8 minutes. Put it in a blender jar with the rest of the ingredients. Blend it till everything is incorporated well. This is not going to be a smooth chutney. It has small chunks of sesame and the pumpkin seed and I love that it adds a nice texture.

Alternatively you can powder everything else first and then add the cooked skeeds. Store it in the refrigerator.

Antique enamel in pastel blue goes so well with the Chutney, don't you think?

Oct 5, 2012

Pumpkin Chutney and some prehistoric utensils

I am a hoarder. There, I said it. But I'm not the only one. It runs through my veins. I come from a family of hoarders and the CEO of my hoarding brood is my maternal thati (grandma). Thati probably learnt the art from someone in her family, but what a boon it is to me now. Not only are we hoarders, but both my thatis (maternal and paternal) share a love of cooking. (Not to forget my mother who inspired me to cook healthy). And what do people who love to cook love even more to collect? Anything they can get their hands that is even remotely related to the kitchen. Like miniature pyrex mugs, stoneware and brass vessels used in the 1930s, baking tins and cookie cutters from the 80s, lead vessels (yes they used to cook in lead) and so many more antiques. Some of them are going to debut on the www this month.

Today's feature is a miniature stone bowl which was used before plastics reared their ugly heads into our kitchens. It belongs to my thati who has preserved it so carefully for all these years. Ironically it was used to store chutneys which goes so well with my chutney theme all this month at Vegan Mofo. It is slightly chipped off from one side, but I think it adds to the memory of that bowl. I wonder how many chutneys this bowl has seen before I decided to capture it for eternity.

And before I forget my daily task, here is today's find: Lettuce Free Vegan whose theme this month is vegan baby food. That food looks delicious even if you are not a baby and her 11 month old daughter is the cutest.

Winter is coming, but we're having some crazy heat in Bombay. Lucky for us though we get pumpkins throughout the year. The most commonly used one, specially by south Indian cooks, is the Yellow Pumpkin (also called Red Pumpkin colloquially). If you eat food in a south Indian home, you will probably eat this every three days. We love adding it into sambars or stews, my mom makes a killer pumpkin raita which I have have veganized of course. I also LOVE this Pumpkin & Fenugreek Soup which I make in the winter.

So for this vegan Mofo post number 5, I am going to elaborate on a very very delicious chutney. I absolutely love how so many different flavours are incorporated into this one pretty looking chutney and they all stand out so vividly. My mom and grandmothers make this chutney quite often and so will I from now on.

For this chutney I have used a small variety of the yellow pumpkin. I have no idea what it is called here, but it is not available throughout the year. It is harder than the usual big yellow pumpkin that we usually consume so it took a little longer to cook. But the end is worth the wait.

You need:

250gms of any yellow pumpkin (washed, peeled, deseeded and chopped)***
1/2 cup fresh/frozen, grated coconut (not the dried one)
2 dried red chillies
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp split/urad dal
1/2 tsp salt
a small lime sized ball of tamarind
1 tsp any oil

All the ingredients on my much abused cutting board

In a small pan, heat 1/2 tsp of oil. Add the asafoetida and red chillies and stir them around a bit. Don't let the chillis burn. When the chillis swell up add the chopped pumpkin and stir. Cover with a lid and let it cook for 5 to 8 minutes. If you find it drying up add very little water. I had to because my pumpkin was on the firmer side.

Once the pumpkin is done, put it into a small blender jar. Add the coconut and salt to it. Blend into a smooth chutney. In a small wok, heat the remaining 1.2 tsp of oil and add the mustard seeds and urad dal. Stir it around so the urad dal doesnt burn. When the seeds splutter and the urad is a nice light brown, add it to the chutney.

Serve with rotis, rice, dosas, bread or just eat it all!

Pumpkin Chutney in a  (prehistoric) stone bowl

*** DO NOT throw away the skin and peels. Store it in the refrigerator if you have to. Because tomorrow I'll tell you how to chutney them! 

Oct 4, 2012

Tamarind & Date Chutney aka Sweet Chutney

It's day four of the Vegan Mofo challenge and as much as i would love to see what all the 600 people are doing every single day, I'm afraid it's just not possible. Everyday from now on I will share an interesting blog I found while attempting to see all that I can among all the blogs.

Today's find of the day is : Vegan Fling. Check out Melissa's amazing No Bake Oatmeal cookies or the Pomegranate Vanilla Limeade. Her pictures are stunning too!

In keeping with my chutney theme, today's chutney is a sort of a complex recipe. Most of the other chutneys I have come across are simple and involve a little bit of cooking and a lot of blending. This chutney is a little more time consuming. So when I make this, I make a big batch and freeze it for subsequent uses. I usually don't freeze stuff because in India, the idea  of eating freshly cooked food every day is something of a habit. Our weather permits us to get fresh fruit and vegetable every day and food kept longer than a day is considered stale. Many communities (mine included) will not eat food cooked the previous day. So our freezers are usually a small section of the fridge unlike the ones in the US where the freezer is a huge, deep, never ending drawer. I do see people buying those humongous fridges here too, but the freezers aren't nearly as full as the ones I have seen in the US.

This chutney is the partner/wife/husband/spouse of the basic green chutney that I have posted earlier. It is almost always served up with the spicy green chutney so that you get a bit of both when you take a bite of whatever you are eating. This chutney is also served with spicy samosas and bhajjis. It is famously used in street food (also known as Chaat) in Bombay. It is a very sweet chutney but lots of people add red chilli powder to this to make it a sweet, sour and spicy chutney in one. I usually make the green chutney when I want to use this one because I feel like the coriander/cilantro-mint combination adds a nice depth of flavour when it is all mixed together.

You need:

500gms of seedless Dates (any variety)
1 and a 1/2 cups of jaggery powder
50gms of skinless tamarind or 3tbsp thick tamarind paste
2 and a 1/2 cups of water
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (optional)
2 tsp cumin seeds roasted and powdered

Cook the dates in the water till they become soft. Stir it around in intervals to ensure that the dates are not sticking to the bottom. If the water has evaporated, add little water. It takes about 30 minutes for the dates to become fully soft. Once cooked, cool it a little bit before you put it into a blender. You do not want a kitchen full of date purée  You can also use a hand blender to purée the dates.

In the mean while, soak the tamarind in about half a cup of water. If you are using tamarind pulp, you can omit this step. After 20 minutes squeeze the [life out of] tamarind so that you extract all the pulp. Remove the fibre and seeds and put it through a sieve and add this to the date purée. Add the jaggery and put it back on the stove. Let it come to a boil, after which you can add the salt, chilli powder and cumin powder. That's it. 

Cool it completely before freezing.

Dense, flavourful and yummm!

Some ideas to use this chutney:

It can be added to a potato chaat - boil potatoes and chop it into big chunks; mix with green chillies, chopped coriander, diced tomatoes, onions, salt, lime and this chutney.

It can be served as a sweet dip for spicy snacks like samosas, bhajjis and wadas

It is very commonly used in street food in Bombay and one of them is Ragda Patties (pictured above). Ragda is sprouted white peas that are cooked in a spicy tomato-onion gravy base and the Patties are mashed potatoes made into medals and roasted on both sides. And then after you've done all that, serve it with the spicy green and this sweet chutney on top. 

It can be added along with green chutney to make bhel puri - puffed rice, diced tomatoes, onions, coriander, sev, roasted peanuts.

You can even add some vinegar to it and make it into a salad dressing.

I even think this will make a great sorbetto when frozen. It is very sweet and has the sourness from the tamarind. 

Oct 3, 2012

Apple Thokku aka Cooked Apple Chutney

It's day three of vegan Mofo and I am keeping the chutney theme alive! Check out the amazing vegans from the US and all over the world who are taking part this year.

Thokku (toh-kuh) is the south Indian way of describing a type of chutney. A thokku is usually made by grating and cooking a vegetable to remove the water out of it and then adding the flavouring after it is cooked. South Indian chutneys are usually coconut heavy. A thokku will not involve coconut unlike a thogayal (tho-hail) which is another type of chutney made with mostly raw vegetables. The spiciness usually comes from red chilli powder as opposed to dried red chillies in a thogayal. And that is your Tamil lesson for the day!

Apple thokku is something my grandma makes pretty often. You have to be really lucky to be able to witness the greatness of your grandmothers in the kitchen. I still remember helping my great grandmother in the kitchen. She is too old to cook now, but the memories of her wrinkly hands making perfectly symmetrical murukkus is something I won't forget.

India is lucky to have apples growing in the north of the country. When those apples are not in season, we get the Washington, Granny Smith and Fuji apples too. Unfortunately the vendors are spraying or coating the apples with wax and sometimes thin aluminium foil to make them look shiny and "appealing". I hate peeling my fruits and vegetables, but I certainly don't want to eat wax. To check if your apple has been "waxed" take the non-sharp end of a knife and scrape your apple. If you find a creamy off-white substance coming off the skin it has something on it. Try it and tell me what you find. I also am not an raw apple person. I know I'm killing most of the nutrition from it when I cook an apple, but I'd eat an apple pie any day over a slice of apple.

This thokku is very simple to make and takes about 15 minutes from start to finish. I have made this recipe oil-free so it will not stay as long as it normally would otherwise. The sweetness of the cooked apple and the hot hit from the chilli powder is a very interesting flavour. I initially didn't like the idea of mixing fruit with something spicy, but as you grow older you tend to be a little more adventurous.

You need:

2 Apples, peeled and cored
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/8th tsp asafoetida
1/2 tsp jaggery
Juice of 1/2 a lime

Grate the apples with a medium holed grater. Heat a small pan and add the mustard seeds. When they begin to splutter, add the asafoetida. Add the apples and let it cook for about 6-8 minutes. Stir it around occasionally. Once the apples are soft and the water has drained off, add the salt, chilli powder and jaggery. Keep it for a minute more and then take it off the flame. Add the lime juice and store in a jar in the refrigerator.

This apple thokku could be a replacement for a pickle. It can be used as an accompaniment with some roti or a rice dish or even on top of a slice of bread or with dosa.

Oct 2, 2012

Coriander Mint Chutney aka Basic Green Chutney

I'm beginning the awesome Month of Vegan food with the simplest, most versatile green chutney. This chutney can be found in most homes and even on the streets of Bombay. It is used as a side with rotis, it can be added to a vegetable while cooking it, even to a pulav/pilaf, it is used as a sandwich spread in the famous Chutney Sandwich and is used in my favourite street food in Bombay- Paani Puri.

It is a dark green, chlorophyll laden, lump of goodness. It is usually the spicy chutney and served with a sweet chutney which I will put up soon. To this basic recipe, you can add fresh grated coconut or raw peanuts to give the chutney a thicker body and tone down the spice. Us Indians love our chutneys hot, so this one might be way too spicy if you are not used to the Indian level of spiciness. I have used the dark green chillies which are the spiciest. If you find a milder green chilli, you can use it. They are usually lighter in colour. You can also add raw onions and raw garlic to the mix to give it a nice depth of flavour. But I'm not a big fan of raw onions or garlic. There are quite a few people who don't like coriander but they usually don't mind it in this chutney form.

So here is the recipe for the most versatile chutney ever with a few ideas for its use listed below.

You need:

A Big bunch of the freshest coriander/ cilantro - washed and de-stemmed (about three cups)*
Half the amount of fresh mint leaves - washed and de-stemmed (about two cups)*
4 dark green chillies
1 inch piece of ginger
Juice of 1 lime
1tsp Salt or more
a pinch of black salt if you have some

Optional ingredients:
1/2 medium sized red onion
2 cloves of garlic

4 tbsp fresh, shredded coconut

a handful of raw peanuts

*The reason the stems are removed is so that the chutney stays thick because the stems have quite a bit of water in them. Mint takes a bit of time to clean and remove each leaf from the stem, but thin coriander stems are okay to add. Just make sure you don't add any roots.

Add into a blender and blend away. (This has to be the shortest description ever!)

You might have to stop a few times to push the ingredients down towards the blades. Add a little water if required. Squeeze the lime at the end and mix well.

Store in the refrigerator for up to ten days or freeze it for a hundred years. :)

A few ideas to use this chutney:
Sandwiches are great ways to use this chutney. A popular chutney sandwich is made with two slices of bread with chutney and ketchup smothered on them. It goes well on bagels too.

On the streets of bombay, a toasted chutney sandwich is made using this chutney spread on bread with raw tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, boiled potatoes and beetroot. It is served with ketchup and a generous sprinkle of sev. Other street foods like Bhel puri, sev puri and paani puri use this chutney extensively.

This chutney can be served with dosas and samosas.

You could add this chutney to onions while cooking them to add more flavour to your vegetable, bean and grain dishes.

I've even used this chutney with some vegan mayo as a dip for chips and vegetable sticks.

It can be added to a salad of raw vegetables or even to a salad with root vegetables.

Sandwich one morning: Whole wheat rosemary and garlic bread with chutney and cucumbers.

Oct 1, 2012

Vegan Mofo 2012 is here!

As I said in the earlier post, Vegan Month of Food 2012 (Vegan MoFo) is back! It feels like the last one was just a few months ago. The idea here is to get vegan bloggers to come together under one umbrella and blog every single day (!!) for the whole month of October. This year more than 600 hundred vegan bloggers from all over have signed up for it. 600!!

I'm totally not prepared for it. Blogging every single day would require me to have thirty one recipes ready. I'm lazy, but there are people who write a post every single day and how I wish I could be one of them. You are allowed to pick a theme if you like for the month or for every week. Basically you get a free hand. I thought this time I would pick an easy theme and post a recipe every day. So this year I picked chutneys, dips and spreads. Easy no? Not!

I picked that theme for many reasons. Chutneys are the easiest way to eat lots of the vegetable or fruit in the raw. They can also include cooked vegetables blitzed so that their flavour is heightened. They are usually very easy to make and can be paired well with so many things. In India, specially in the south, chutneys are very important. They are made out of a myriad of ingredients from vegetables like eggplant, pumpkin, snake gourd to fruits like apples, bananas and pineapples. There are even dry chutneys which are a blend of powdered pulses and oil seeds  that are mixed with oil to make it "wet". One example is something I did during Vegan MoFo last year - South Indian Gun Powder.

I have made a few observations from recipes of chutneys. Trying to add all the "tastes" in them brings out the flavours even more. Spice from chillies and pepper in fresh, dry or powdered form, Sweetness from jaggery, sugar or the main ingredient like a fruit, Sourness from tamarind, lime, green tomatoes or vinegar and of course salt. Fresh, shredded coconut gives nice body to a chutney. But it also means that they don't last for too long. Don't add too much water because that again reduces the shelf life. Store wet chutneys in the refrigerator and dried ones in pretty glass jars.

Along the way some more useful tips should come out of this exercise and I know I am going to learn so much. So here's to a month of great food on great blogs! Happy MoFo!

Sep 27, 2012

Jaggery Banana Loaf

A vegan lunch date was planned and how could I not bring dessert. Knowing that it is hard to get vegan desserts in restaurants, unless you request the chef to put in some extra effort, I was pretty sure I wanted to bring something along for the meet.

It had to be something "healthy" since we were meeting at Yoga House, a macrobiotic restaurant for lunch. That took care of the sugar and thank dog for that. With all the cavities I am accumulating, my on-again off-again relationship with sugar needs to be permanently off. And so this spiced jaggery loaf was rehashed and brought back to life. I bake a whole bunch of sugar free stuff for The Green Stove for other people, but I thought I should extend it to my vegan peeps also.

Also in other news, Vegan MoFo is happening in October again. 500 plus vegan bloggers from all over the world are going to be spamming each other with vegan food porn and recipes. I have a theme this year and hopefully I will be able to stick to the theme. It is going to be an EPIC month of vegan food. Can't wait!

This is a simple, dense and flavourful loaf. The nuts and berries add a nice crunch. It's very quick to mix up and if you have organic ingredients on hand it's even better.

Here is the recipe

Makes two 6 inch loaves

Dry Ingredients
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp all spice powder (optional)
2 tbsp cranberries chopped
2 tbsp raisins chopped
a handful of walnuts chopped
a pinch of salt

Wet Ingredients
1 1/2 cups jaggery powder
1 1/2 cups water
1/2 cup oil
3 medium bananas chopped
1 tsp vinegar

Dark Chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat oven to 175°C

Mix all the dry ingredients including the berries and nuts. Melt the jaggery with a little water and add the rest of the wet ingredients to it. Fold it in well and add more water if required. Taste the batter and if you like it to be sweeter, then add more jaggery. It should be a thick cake batter. Put it into two lined / oiled 6 inch loaf tins.

You could put the dark chocolate chips on top after putting the batter into the loaf tins, but that could constitute as cheating. I put it for added visual effect, nothing else. This loaf will be absolutely perfect without it too.

Bake for 35-40 minutes. The toothpick test works to see if it is done. Remove it from the loaf tin and let it cool a bit before cutting.

Sep 12, 2012

Vegan Yogurt - Peanut and Cashew

Let me start with a disclaimer first. No matter what you do, your alternative to dairy in any form (milk, cheese, butter and so on) is never going to taste as if it is made from an animal milk. So if someone tells you to add coconut/ cashew/ rice/ peanut/ almond/ oat milk to your tea or coffee, know that in doing so you will not get what your tongue has been used to 20 years. Instead you will get a brand new flavour that will require some unlearning and relearning but is so much more better than an animal product in so many ways.

Dairy products play a big part in every Indian meal.  I love how people say they eat "half a teaspoon of curd" for lunch or add "one drop of milk" to their coffee or tea. It's never true. Dairy is so prevalent in our food and our culture, it is very hard to avoid if you are not paying attention.

This post deals with something most people attempting veganism are struggling to give up or replace - yogurt / curd. The best part about dairy alternatives for curd is that you can make curd out of so many different raw materials and each has its own taste and flavour that can be adapted to savoury and sweet needs. Imagine having 10 different kinds of plain yogurt.

I have tackled peanut and cashew curd in this post. Many people use dairy curd to start off their yogurt cycle, but I prefer not to contaminate mine. To set it into curd, I have used the stems of fresh green chillies. This practice is known to a few and is used to set dairy curd. But the idea to use it for non-dairy curd was thanks to Harini of Tongue Ticklers. She has done it before here.

When I gave up dairy, I also gave up the south-indian idea of eating a big serving of curd after every meal. So I do not make curd on a daily basis.

Soaked and drained peanuts

When you are starting off, always make them in small quantities because most often than not, they are not going to set as you want the first time. If you are using green chillies, wash the entire green chilli and carefully pluck out the stem. Do not wash the stem again. Store a small portion of this curd to set the subsequent curds as you would do with dairy milk. You can also freeze a portion to use it later.

You will need:
a grinder
a sieve

For the peanut curd:
1/2 cup peanuts soaked for 4 hours and drained
1 1/2 cups water
stems of 8 to 10 green chillies

Grind the peanuts in a grinder with half a cup of water. Put it through the sieve and squeeze out the milk from the fiber into a heavy bottom vessel. Put the fibre back into the grinder with half more cup of water. Grind and sieve. Repeat once more. You now have peanut milk, a white frothy liquid that has a concentrated taste of peanuts.

Warm this peanut milk while stirring continuously. It takes about 3 minutes to get to a lukewarm temperature. Take it off the stove. If it is too hot wait for it to cool a little bit. Add the stems of the green chillies and it is remain in a cool dark place for 10 to 12 hours. I usually keep it in the oven overnight.

What you should get after it "sets" is a light yogurt floating on top and excess water below. Remove the chilli stems. If you want a thick curd, scoop out this floating mass. If you are going to make buttermilk use it with the water. Store it in the refrigerator.

Peanut curd is very strong in taste. It is quite putting off if consumed plain. The best way to consume peanut curd is to make it into a raita by adding flavouring spices, salt, chillies and grated vegetables. Or make it into a buttermilk by adding salt, asafoetida and a chilli-curry leaf paste. I have also used peanut curd to replace dairy curd in cooked dishes like kadhis, kurmas and avials.

Peanut Curd

For cashew curd:
1/2 cup cashew pieces soaked for 4 hours and drained
3/4 cup water
stems of 8 to 10 green chillies

Grind the cashew in a grinder with the water into a smooth fine paste. Put it in a heavy bottom pan and heat it for 3 minutes.

Add the green chilli stems and let it sit still in a cool, dark place for 10 hours or so.

This one sets much more thicker than the peanuts. There is no seperation. Once it is set, it bubbles as you touch it. Store it in the refrigerator.

Cashew curd tastes a bit more sour but sweeter. It doesn't have a dominating flavour like peanuts so it can be enjoyed plain. It can be used for raitas and also in sweet dishes.

 Cashew Curd

Aug 17, 2012

Look what I found!

India has a rich vegetable heritage and we should be proud of it. Even with most of the vegetables available throughout the year, there are still so many things I'd like to see in Bombay. For instance in winter, the north gets to make kanji- a fermented drink with black carrots and the south of india sees some beautiful varieties of spinach which we don't get here. But since we're in a sort of cosmopolitan-urban setting, we get some vegetables that you probably wouldn't see anywhere else in India. Most of it is thanks to Trikaya, a company that grows some funky vegetables not very far from Bombay. The rest, like the invasion of the huge tomatoes and ice berg lettuce, I would attribute to McDonald's, Subway and KFC. (If you haven't read Fast Food Nation you must).

I buy most of the non-Indian vegetables from Crawford Market. Every time you go they have something new and you probably will not find the same thing twice. The staples there are green and yellow zucchini, red and yellow bell peppers, celery, leeks, fennel, thai brinjals, birds eye chilies, avocados (when they are in season), artichokes, rainbow chard, chinese kale, lettuce varieties, cherry tomatoes, arugula and herbs like basil, rosemary, thyme, sage, tarragon, chives, mint varieties. If you are lucky you will get arugula, endives, edamame, tree tomatoes and a few things I have in pictures below...

Cherry Tomatoes I found in the Ghatkopar East Market

Here are a few things I found...

Romanesco Broccoli/ Cauliflower

I had no idea this even existed till I saw it sitting on the counter. It's so beautiful it almost hypnotizes you. I couldn't stop looking at it all the way home. Apparently "the meristems of this cauliflower/broccoli form a logarithmic spiral". If you want to see symmetry in nature (without the use of hallucinogens) then go find one of these.

It tastes a lot like a broccoli but is not as strong in flavour. I'm sure kids who don't like broccoli will like this better. It cooks much like a broccoli so you can steam it, or eat it raw even.

Purple Cauliflower

I love purple, it is my favourite colour. So this is something I couldn't not buy. There's so much to do with cauliflower and I was so confused what to do with it. I finally ended up putting it in a quiche. I have even found Orange Cauliflower on one occasion.

Baby Carrots

When you watch too much of Masterchef Australia or TLC, you will want to go and find those vegetables they use and make their dishes look so pretty. These again were at Crawford Market a few weeks ago. I roasted them with other root vegetables and a dressing of EVOO and balsamic vinegar...divine! The leaves were garnishes on many salads over the week.

Dragon Fruit

Took me back to Malaysia. It is so delicious when it is cold.

A few notes on where to buy:

These days every vegetable guy has broccoli, avocados, celery and the red and yellow Bell Peppers. But they do sell it at double the price. If you have the time and energy to go all the way to Crawford Market, then you absolutely must because the produce is at its freshest there. And always be prepared with some extra bags to bring back all the thing that you didn't plan to buy but bought anyway.

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