Monday, May 29, 2006

ARF/5-a-Day #22 - Cabbage with moong dal

Another recipe from Neelam Batra's 1000 Indian Recipes, this week's entry for ARF/5-a-Day #22. I love cabbage, despite its sulphurous smell while cooking, but this time the cabbage wasnt particularly smelly. Perhaps because I used green cabbage, which is my favourite because of its lovely colour and mild taste. Personally, I think that white cabbage is the smelliest and I try not to use it at all.

Anyway, this recipe is supposedly Punjabi in origin with a smidgen of South Indian flavour thrown in. I found it quite nice - it would pair very well both with rice and with chapaties.

I actually made it twice, the first time following Ms Batra's recipe pretty much exactly. I kind of wondered how the dal would cook when the recipe didnt call for any water at all to be added, but I took Ms Batra's advice on trust - namely, that the moisture from the cabbage would be enough to soften the dal.

As it turned out, the moong dal was JUST about cooked even though I kept the pan on the hob 5 minutes longer than the recipe called for. I liked the end result a lot because I quite like chewy dal, but I'm not sure it would be to everybody's taste. I wonder if Ms Batra's tasters/editors/publishers forgot to include some water in the list of ingredients.
It's happened in another recipe in her book, the first one I tried out. Not a major problem, but I guess small errors like this are inevitable in a cookbook of that size, with so many recipes!

Anyhow, the second time I made it, I sprinkled 4-5 tbsp water on the cabbage and let it steam gently in the covered pan - which worked out a lot better. The dal was cooked nicely but still retained its shape.

All in all, a quick and simple, quite aromatic recipe that I'm sure I'll be making again.

Recipe for:
Cabbage with moong dal


3 cups cabbage, finely shredded
1 tsp ginger, grated
3-4 serrano or birds eye chillies, finely chopped (adjust to taste)
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds, powdered
1 tbsp coriander powder
4-5 curry leaves, torn
1/4 tsp asafoetida powder
1/4 cup yellow moong dal, washed and drained

Salt to taste
2 tsp oil
Salt to taste
4-5 tbsp water (or as required)
2 tbsp fresh chopped coriander leaves for garnish


1. Heat the oil in a pan and add the ginger, chopped chillies, curry leaves, and fenugreek powder and fry for 30 seconds or so. Then add the coriander powder and mix in.

2. Add the cabbage and moong dal together and stir it all well on medium heat.

3. Turn the heat down, sprinkle the water over the cabbage and close the pan with a well-fitting lid.

4. Let the cabbage cook in its own steam. After 15 minutes, check to see if the dal is cooked. If a grain of dal is easily squashed between forefinger and thumb, it is done. If it is still a little hard in the centre, sprinkle another 2 tbsp water, re-cover the pan and cook for another 5 minutes.

5. Add salt to taste and the coriander leaves, mix in well.

6. Sprinkle with a pinch of garam masala and serve hot with rice and a curry, or with a gravy vegetable and chapaties.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Curried eggs in coconut-milk gravy

When Pete made a request for egg curry ("for a change", he said - but a change from what? That question has not yet been graced with an answer), I dithered for a while on which recipe to follow, but finally settled on Neelam Batra and her 1000 Indian Recipes. I mean, I've only tried a couple of her recipes so far (although to be fair I've made them more than once) and it seemed a bit of a waste to have a whacking great cookbook merely taking up space in my kitchen without being used more.

Ms Batra has a few egg-curry recipes, including one "Kerala style" using coconut milk. I normally dont like coconut-milk based curries (things like kormas, for instance) because I think they taste bland and boring and, worst of all, have an unpleasantly sweetish aftertaste. But I thought I'd give this a try, because Pete likes coconut milk-y stuff. (If you ask me, there isnt much to say in favour of British-Indian cooking... but there you go, it's what he's been used to.) I should add here that the recipe has been scaled down quite a bit from the original.

Also (here it comes again), I had a small can of light coconut milk (and by that I assume it was milk from the "second squeezing") which needed to be used up before the expiry date.

(I REALLY hope nobody counts all the recipes that I've made only because "things needed using up" - I think it would be a rather embarrassing number!)

(Good grief, the number of parentheses I've used so far would probably set a record in the Guinness Book for Bad Writing. Then again, as long as I dont set any records for Bad Cooking, I guess I wont complain.)

Anyway, back to my egg curry. The pleasant surprise was that the curry did not taste sweet at all whatsoever, even though I used only one chilli. In fact, I couldnt have said there was coconut milk in it if I had not made it myself. I would have liked it very much more had it been a lot spicier, but I was being careful (yet again) (and there are those darned parentheses YET AGAIN!) of a certain person's lack of chilli-tolerance.

Actually it was a really good thing I didnt make it spicy, because Pete's daughter Rebecca chose to try the curried eggs rather than have pizza like her brother. She liked the curry so much that she actually had seconds - and then asked for thirds. Now THAT, as far as I'm concerned, sets the seal on the matter of this curry's edibility. She's not always willing to try anything new - and this, though she said it was spicy (whaaaat?!!!!! spicy???? The one little red chilli I used probably died of loneliness and over-use in all that curry!), went down very well.

It's nice to occasionally make something that a finicky English pre-teen will eat.

Recipe for:
Curried eggs in coconut milk gravy


For the sauce:
1 large onion, chopped roughly
10 curry leaves
4-5 dried red chillies (or to taste)
1" piece ginger, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic

1 medium red potato, sliced in wedges
1-1/2 cups coconut milk
4 eggs, hard boiled, peeled and cut in half lengthwise
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds whole
1/2 tsp cumin seeds powdered
1 tsp coriander powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2 cups water
Salt to taste

For garnish:
2 tbsp fresh chopped coriander


1. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the red chillies, curry leaves, garlic and ginger for about a minute, until the chilli turns a darker shade.

2. Add the onions and fry them on medium-high heat until they turn golden brown.

3. Cool and grind to a paste using enough coconut milk to make the paste smooth and pourable. Reserve.

4. Heat the other tbsp oil in a pan and add coriander powder, cumin seeds, cumin powder, coriander powder and turmeric powder. Fry for 30 seconds, stirring continuously.

5. Now add the potato wedges and stir well to coat them with the spice mix. Spritz the potatoes with some Pam and let them fry on medium-high for a few minutes.

5. Then add the ground paste to the potatoes in the pan and mix again. Let this cook for about 5 minutes on medium-low.

6. At this point, pour in the remaining coconut milk and let it simmer for another 5 minutes.

7. Now pour about 1-1/2 cups water to make a gravy. Let this come to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer the sauce till the potatoes are cooked and the gravy has become thick. If it seems TOO thick, add 1/2 cup water to thin it. Add salt to taste.

8. Gently place the halved boiled eggs in the sauce. If the sauce doesnt completely cover the eggs, use a spoon to pour some of the sauce over them. Simmer the eggs in the sauce for another 5 minutes.

9. Garnish with fresh chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with rice or chapaties.

Note: If you are not going to serve the curry at once, you can add the eggs just before you are ready to serve.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

ARF/5-a-Day #21 - Kabuli chana chawal (rice with chickpeas)

I'm back on track with the ARF/-5-a-day event - I've missed five of these, I can hardly believe it! 5 weeks! And to think it's one of my favourite events because its parameters fall within my area of capability. (Impressively worded, what? *wink*)

Anyway, my entry this week is Kabuli chana chawal (rice with chickpeas). It's a simple dish made with canned chickpeas and the help of my trusty rice cooker. I wasnt in any mood to make anything complicated after a long day at work, and it was even more irritating, when we came home, to find that the heating system had conked out and there was no hot water. Pete had to climb up into the loft to get at it, and it took a good 30 minutes before it was set right.

So in the meantime, I made dinner. A couple of onions, a can of chickpeas, a few spices and my rice cooker all ensured that my one-pot meal was ready by the time the heating system was sorted out. For pretty much instant yet mildly flavoured rice, I added two bay leaves, a stick of cinnamon and a large black cardamom to the water in the rice cooker.

In the 20 minutes that it took to cook the rice, I sliced some shallots and an onion, and grated ginger and garlic. Once those were nicely browning in my wok, I add the drained and rinsed chickpeas and sauteed them for a bit with spices and salt. Then I added a handful of halved cherry tomatoes and add those in as well.

The chickpea mix was ready by the time the rice was done, and all I had to do was mix the rice in. For myself, I crumbled some lovely little dried Mexican chillies - pequin chiles - over my rice to give it some heat. (It was made without any chillies at all to protect Pete's tastebuds.) In Pete's case, I added some cooked chicken left over from the previous day.

Arent these pequin chiles cute? They're supposed to be very spicy-hot but I didnt find them quite as bad as, say, habaneros.

This chickpea rice, served with a dollop of Greek yogurt and some wonderful spicy pickled whole baby mangoes (maavadu or vadu maanga, which Pete abstained from trying), this was a quick and healthy one-dish meal. And BOY did I feel better for it!

PS. And yet, despite the hunger, I still found time and patience to take photos of what I was doing. That's what I call a dedicated food blogger! :)

Recipe for:
Kabuli chana chawal (Rice with chickpeas)


1 can (440gm) chickpeas
4 cups cooked rice
1 large onion, sliced thin
4-5 shallots, sliced thin
3-4 fresh green chillies, slit/5-6 dry pequin chiles, crumbled (both optional)
1 tsp sambar powder or Maharashtrian goda masala
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste (or grated)
2 tsp oil + Pam or other low-fat spray as required
5-6 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved (optional)
Salt to taste


1. Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the cumin seeds to the oil first, then after 30 seconds, add the ginger-garlic paste (and green chillies if using) and stir-fry for about a minute.

2. Now add the sambar powder or goda masala and stir.

3. Next put in the onions and shallots and fry over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to turn a bit brown.

4. At this stage, add the chickpeas and stir, turning the heat up. Stir more frequently now, to prevent the onions from burning. Give it 3-4 sprays of Pam to help the browning process.

5. Once the chickpeas have acquired some colour and the onions are a golden brown, throw in the halved cherry tomatoes.

6. Fry for 3-4 minutes or until the tomatoes just begin to turn soft.

7. Add the cooked rice and mix carefully. Add salt to taste, a few pinches of freshly ground black pepper if you wish. Stir till the chickpea mix is evenly distributed in the rice.

8. Serve hot with any cold raita and pickles and poppadum.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Soaked orange cake

"I'm bored," I said.

Pete said nothing.

"I'm BOOOOORED," I whined again, louder.

Pete said nothing.

"Now I'm in a pissy mood," I said.

Pete looked up.

"Why dont you bake a cake?" he said. "And I'll get you some wine, without the h."

(The wine without the "h" helped get rid of the whine. The man knows me!)

And yes, I baked a cake. A very orangey, moist, delicious orange cake decorated with candied orange slices. If you like the taste of fresh sweet juicy oranges, this is the cake for you. It certainly was for me. Oh yeah, for Pete too.

Recipe for:
Soaked orange cake

For the cake:

2 large juicing oranges
2 tbsp finely grated orange zest
Juice of one orange (1/3 cup)
2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 cup butter, softened
3 eggs
1 tsp baking powder
2 tsp vanilla extract

For the soaking syrup:

Juice of one orange (1/3 cup)
3 tbsp sugar
3 tbsp lemon juice

For the candied oranges:

1 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
Two small unpeeled eating oranges (I used clementines), sliced into thin circles


Soaking syrup:

In a small pan, heat the orange juice, lemon juice and sugar till the sugar is completely dissolved. Reserve.

Candied oranges:

Put the sugar and water in a medium pan and bring to a boil over high heat, ensuring the sugar is dissolved. Place the orange slices in the syrup and let it simmer for 30 minutes. Remove the slices carefully one at a time, letting them drain, and put them on a plate till required.


1. Pre-heat the oven to 170C (325F), and grease a 9" square baking pan.

2. Put the sugar, vanilla extract, zest and butter into a large bowl and beat until soft and fluffy.

3. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well between additions.

4. Add the baking powder and salt and beat it in.

5. Now add the flour, about 1/3 cup at a time, alternating it with the orange juice, until it is all incorporated. The batter will be thick.

6. Pour the batter into the prepared baking pan and level with the back of a spoon dipped in water.

7. Bake till done - a toothpick or cake tester inserted in the middle should come out clean. (This should take about 45 minutes in a fan-assisted electric oven like mine.)

8. Cool the cake in the pan. When the cake is just warm to the touch (rather than very hot), poke about 36 evenly spaced holes in it with a skewer, making sure that the holes go all the way through the cake.

9. Pour the soaking syrup, one tbsp at a time, over the cake, ensuring that no part of the cake's surface is left untouched.

10. Let the cake sit for 15-20 minutes to absorb the syrup. Then turn it out from the baking pan onto a serving plate and decorate with the candied orange slices.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

There I go again...

Late for my own blogiversary... the first year of my blog, which date was 17th May. My blog is now a year and four days old. I guess, considering that we arrived back in the UK late on the 17th, my loss of memory regarding this event can be put down to jet-lag. In fact, having crossed three time zones in the US itself and jumping forward and backward by a couple of hours each time, it wasnt surprising that I didnt know if I was going or coming, or what the actual time was, or even the day, when we landed in Heathrow! Luckily there were no actual physical symptoms of jet lag, other than the memory loss.

I guess what I wanted to say on my blog's first blogiversary was that it's been the quickest year, the most entertaining, the most encouraging, the most inspiring time of my blog life. I started this food blog on a whim, and certainly didnt expect to enjoy it as much as I have (and am) or put in as much time and effort as I have (and am). I cant seem to make anything nowadays without taking photographs!

I've blog hopped for a lot longer than I've been blogging - especially food blogging - and I have so MUCH admiration for all those amateur-yet-professional cooks out there, who constantly inspire and amaze with their photographs and recipes and sheer innovation. I'm very glad to be part of that community, even if I'm still only on the fringes. Three cheers and long may it last!

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Granny Smith apple thokku (chutney)

This was literally the only thing that I managed to take photos of during my short stay in Seattle with my sister. And I had every intention of writing a blog post about the recipe, except I didnt get five minutes to sit down and write. Mainly because most of the time got taken up shopping for the party that we were throwing for my mother's 60th birthday, and then cooking up our share of the pot-luck. Thank goodness it was only a pot-luck event... I cant imagine how much work - not to mention time - would have gone into a full-fledged session in the kitchen!

Anyway, this recipe is from my mother, and one of the things she made for the party - thokku with Granny Smith apples.

I had previously mentioned to her the difficulty of getting sour green mangoes in and around Shrewsbury, and she said that Granny Smiths made for a more than acceptable substitute. Me being me, I believed her but wasnt quite sure what to expect. (My mother is a lot less critical of edible things - and the edibility of some things - than I am!)

As it turned out, the thokku was more than acceptable - it was delicious! The sweet tartness of the Granny Smiths worked very well with and was the perfect foil for the heat of the red chilli powder used in cooking the thokku. Any really sour apple (perhaps even unripe ones) would work very well, I'm sure. This thokku was yummy rolled up in puris and as an accompaniment for dosas and idlis. The best part, as far as I'm concerned, is that I can make green apple thokku as often as I like, instead of having to wait for a trip to Birmingham's Asian markets for unripe green mangoes. Yay! Thanks, ma.

Recipe for:
Granny Smith apple thokku


4 medium Granny Smiths (or other very tart apples)
2 tsp mustard seeds
5-6 curry leaves, torn up
1 tbsp red chilli powder (or to taste)
1/2 tsp asafoetida powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
5-6 tbsp oil
Salt to taste


1. Core, peel and chop the apples.

2. In a pan, dry-roast the fenugreek seeds till they they change colour (a minute or two), shaking the pan frequently. Cool, powder and set aside.

3. Heat the oil in a pan and add the asafoetida powder, torn-up curry leaves and mustard seeds. Stir, then cover the pan and let the seeds pop on high (30 seconds).

4. Turn down the heat, add the coriander powder and red chilli powder and stir for 30 seconds.

5. Add the chopped apples and mix with the spices till well coated.

6. Sprinkle 1/4 cup water on the apples and cook on medium heat for 3 minutes, then turn the heat to low and cover the pan.

7. Let the apples cook, stirring occasionally, until they are cooked and soft.

8. Finally, add the powdered fenugreek seeds and salt to taste to the thokku and mix well. Store in an airtight container when completely cool.

This thokku lasts longer if kept in the refrigerator.

I'm back!

I cant believe I havent posted a single thing in my blog for the last three weeks... it's been such a hectic trip to the States, there was just no time to do any cooking, much less post new recipes. I have to say that it was just the best holiday I've had, and I consider it a taster trip. (A sort of appetizer, to put it in terms that are in keeping with the nature of this blog... heheh) Next time it's going to be a lot more leisurely, hopefully with time to meet blog pals and check out the various specialty food shops and cafes/bistros, etc that I've seen recommended on many blogs. I'm just sorry I didnt have the time for all that. All I can say is - next time, definitely! :)

Let's see now... the trip took in New York-Washington-Erie-Niagara-Seattle-Salt Lake City-Yellowstone National Park-San Francisco-Seattle and then back home. Sixteen days that went by in a flash, and I didnt manage to meet any but one of my oldest friends from school, in San Francisco. Wouldnt it be nice to be a multi-millionaire, with time and money to spare!

Anyway... I'm back, and ready to continue my blog with more food posts. So keep an eye on here, folks.

Damn, it's GOOD to be back in the blogworld! :)