Saturday, October 20, 2012

Indian Grocery Essentials

This is part 3 of the Indian "Essentials" postings.  If you haven't already visited parts 1 and 2, you can find them here: Indian Pantry Essentials and Beyond the Indian Pantry Essentials.

These are the fresh items which I like to have on hand for Indian cooking, non-vegetarian and vegetarian.  

Grocery Essentials

Curry leaves, fresh (if possible!)
Coriander/cilantro leaves
Mint leaves
Coconut, grated (frozen)
Coconut, whole (fresh)
Assorted Vegetables (which I find are widely available in the USA and commonly used in Indian cooking)
    potatoes, okra, eggplant, leafy greens (i.e. spinach, fenugreek leaves), radishes (daikon or common red), cabbage, carrots, green beans, and more
Mixed vegetables (frozen)
Green peas (frozen)
Green chiles (I recommend serrano peppers)
Yogurt (plain)
Heavy cream
Chicken thighs, bone in, skinned (I do NOT recommend chicken breast for Indian cooking unless I specifically state so on a particular recipe.  It is too dry.)
Chicken drumsticks, skinned
Mutton (goat meat)
Shrimp (raw, deveined, frozen)
Fish (frozen catfish, tilapia, and salmon pieces are my favorites, but my husband loves kingfish)

Beyond the Indian Pantry Essentials

Due to popularity of my previous blog post on the Indian pantry essentials, this list is for those interested in the next level of Indian cooking!  Of course, this list is not exhaustive, and is based on the method of cooking I am most familiar with: south Indian cuisine.

The Indian Pantry Essentials part one is available here.

Now, onto the list.

Beyond the Indian Pantry Essentials:

Dried curry leaves
Ghee (clarified butter...substitute unsalted butter if necessary)
Cashews (raw, pieces, unsalted)
Almonds (raw, pieces, unsalted)
Cumin powder
Chaat masala (not really a must have, but I love the goes back to the 90's when I first tasted it when my dad brought some home from a business trip to India)
Urad dal (black lentil, outer skin removed to leave white interior)
Moong dal (mung bean)
Chana (chickepeas)
Fenugreek seeds
Coriander seeds (whole)
Poppy seeds (white)
Cumin powder
Chana dalia (roasted gram
Pearl tapioca
Rava (cream of wheat)
Golden raisins
Atta (whole wheat flour)
Gingelly oil (light sesame oil - the Asian sesame oil is darker and has a different flavor)
Coconut oil
Coconut milk (canned)

I hope to add to this list as items come to mind.

What about you?  Indian food lovers, what would you recommend? 

Coconut Chutney

An accompaniment to dosa, idli, vada, pakora, baji, and more...

1 cup grated coconut
2 green chiles, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic
1 quarter size piece of ginger
2 tablespoons rough chopped onion (optional)
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon urad dal
10 curry leaves
1 tablespoon oil

Combine coconut, chiles, garlic, ginger and onion in a blender (mixie).  Blend well, adding just enough water to keep the blender running smoothly.  (Or, add to your desired consistency, noting that the chutney will thicken slightly as it sits.)  Add salt, to taste.  When done blending, the coconut mixture should be just smooth.  This will take 3-5 minutes depending on the efficiency of your blender.  Put the mixture into a bowl, set aside.

Heat oil in a small frying pan - add seasonings: cumin, mustard, urad, curry leaves, red chiles.  When mustard seeds pop, turn off the heat and pour the seasonings and oil into the coconut mixture.  Stir until combined. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Sweet Potato Fry

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/3 teaspoon urad dal
10 curry leaves
1 tablespoon oil
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1/2" cubes
1 teaspoon sambar powder (or substitute 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, 1/4 teaspoon cumin powder, 1/2 teaspoon coriander powder)

Heat the oil in a shallow pan, add the mustard, cumin, urad dal and curry leaves.  When the mustard seeds pop and the urad turns golden brown, add the turmeric, then the sweet potatoes,  Stir fry for several minutes over high heat, then cover and turn heat to low.  Allow to steam-cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  The potato should be slightly firm at this point.  (Fork tender.)  Add the sambar powder, stir fry for another couple minutes until potato is well coated. Switch off heat and leave it covered until ready to eat - the steam from the potato as it cools will finish cooking the potato.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Oven Roasted Root Vegetables

A fall vegetable medley...parsnips, carrots, turnips, rutabagas, beets, red potatoes, sweet potatoes, or any combination thereof, roasted in the oven, yield creamy interiors caramel-y exterior

2 parsnips, peeled and sliced diagonally
2 carrots, peeled and sliced diagonally
2 turnips, peeled and cubed
2 red potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
freshly grated black pepper

Preheat oven to 350.  Combine all ingredients in a baking tray and mix well.  Bake for an hour, until potatoes are cooked through.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Shrimp Masala

1 tablespoon oil
10 curry leaves
1 bay leaf
3 cloves
3 cardamom pods
1" piece cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 onions, thinly sliced
4 small roma tomatoes, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic + 1/2" piece ginger, pureed
1 green chile, slit lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon pure red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 scant teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon salt
1.5 lb large shrimp - raw, shells removed and deveined

Heat oil in a frying pan, add the curry leaves. When they splutter add the whole spices: bay leaf, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon, fennel seeds.  Saute for about 1 minute, then add onions.  Saute for almost 10 minutes, until onions brown.  Stir in ginger-garlic paste and saute for about a minute.  Add green chile and tomatoes, stir fry for another 7-10 minutes, until the tomato turns pulpy/disintegrates.  (You may need to add a half cup of water to this mixture if it dries out too soon.  This will depend on the juiciness of the tomatoes you used.) Stir in the powdered spices: chili powder, garam masala, fennel, turmeric, coriander and salt.  Add the shrimp.  Mix well and cook for 3-5 minutes, until shrimp are cooked through.  Switch off heat, garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

Serve with rice. 

Monday, October 8, 2012

Multigrain Waffles

My older son asked for waffles this morning, and I took the opportunity to give him the most nutritious ones that I could make with ingredients on hand.  He's such a little guy with more interest in moving around than eating, so I have to seize every opportunity he shows interest in food. :)

This is the healthy alternative to conventional waffles. This is actually packed with flavor and nutrition and has a perfect combination of crisp exterior and soft interior when fresh off the waffle iron. :)  Even the butter and sugar loving hubby approved! 

3/4 cup wheat bran
1/2 cup rye flour
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all purpose flour
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 cup milk + 2 tablespoons vinegar (OR lemon juice)
2 eggs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Gently whisk together the dry ingredients then set aside.

Stir the vinegar into the milk, set aside.  Break the eggs into a medium bowl and whisk until smooth.  Whisk in the melted butter.  Stir in the milk/vinegar combination (it should be slightly thickened). Stir in the dry ingredients to this and allow to stand while you preheat your waffle iron. 

Cook on your waffle iron according to manufacturers instructions.

Makes 8 count, 3inch by 3inch square waffles.

Nutrition Facts for 2 waffles, with 2% milk: 
316 calories, 14.9 g total fat, 123.1 mg cholesterol, 300 mg sodium, 363 mg potassium, 39 g total carbohydrates (7.9 g fiber, 8.5 g sugar), 11.4 g protein. 

Vitamin A (13%), Vitamin B-12 (4.2%), Vitamin B-6 (10.), Vitamin D (14%), Calcium (31%), Copper (8.3%), Folate (11.9%), Iron (16.4%), Magnesium (19.9%), Manganese (80.5%), Niacin (12.5%), Phosphorus (25.5%), Riboflavin (14.2%), Selenium (18.8%), Thiamin (14.8%), Zinc (9.5%)

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Ginger Spice Cookies

If you like soft and spicy cookies, these are for you. :)

2 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1.5 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
2 tablespoons fresh, grated ginger
3/4 cup salted butter (room temperature)
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/4 cup sugar

Preheat oven to 350F.

In a medium bowl, gently whisk together: flour, baking soda, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg.

In a large bowl, stir the butter and sugar together until fluffy.  (If possible use an electric hand held beater for this.)  Stir in the egg and molasses until well combined.  Using a wooden spoon, gradually stir in the flour mixture.

Place the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar in a shallow bowl.  Pinch off a ping pong ball size amount of dough and roll into a ball.  Roll the ball in the bowl of sugar, then place on an ungreased baking sheet.  I could fit 16 on a sheet.  (Click on the link for my recommendation for baking sheets!)  Place on middle rack in the preheated oven and bake for exactly 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half way through.  Take out of the oven and allow to sit for 5 minutes before removing to a cooling rack. 

This will approximately make 36 cookies.

Masala Chai

A steaming cup of spiced, milky sweet black tea on a crisp fall morning...what could be better?  I am fairly certain that Indians sweltering under the hot equator sun cannot enjoy their masala chai as much as a Minnesotan on a crisp and cool autumn day...  :)

This recipe is for 4 cups of chai as the liquid will slightly evaporate during the process.  If you want to make more or less, I generally use the following measurements of tea leaves and sugar per cup of liquid: 2-3 teaspoons loose leaf tea and 2-3 teaspoons sugar.  I imagine that the quality of tea used will determine the amount you use, so adjust accordingly.  Also note that you will need a very fine tea filter/tea sock for this preparation - preferably one made with muslin, like this. You can use tea bags as a substitute for loose leaf, but authentic taste requires loose leaf.

The wonderful thing about masala chai is that it is easily adaptable...make it with just cardamom, just ginger, or almost any combination of the below spices.  In fact, every region and family seems to have their own variation of masala chai ... one family would never dream of adding cinnamon, where another family could not do without.

After a lengthy introduction, I give you my variation of masala chai. :)

2 quarter sized medallions of ginger, peeled
3 cloves
5 black peppercorns
6 crushed green cardamom pods
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 small piece of cinnamon stick (optional)
1 star anise (optional)
1/2 cup of water
4 cups of 2% milk (or better yet, whole milk!)
2-3 tablespoons sugar (or, per your taste)
2-3 tablespoons loose leaf black tea leaves (i.e orange pekoe)

Combine spices and water in a sauce pan and simmer over medium-lo heat for 5 minutes.  Add the milk and bring to a boil.  If you have time before needing to serve, reduce the heat and simmer the milk until very slightly reduced - 10-15 minutes should do it.  Then, stir in tea leaves, reduce heat and simmer for another 4-5 minutes - carefully watch the color during this time to achieve desired strength of tea. I can only describe my "perfect" color as rosy, milky brown (how's that for an oxymoron?)!  Filter the tea, add sugar to taste and serve steaming hot!

Note: I find that traditionally, my friends boil the tea leaves along with the milk, which allows them to serve the tea steaming hot.  "Science" says that this will make the tea slightly bitter and suggests adding tea leaves only after the heat has been switched off.  To be honest, I prefer the method of simmering tea leaves versus steeping, but please adapt which method you prefer.