Posts Tagged ‘Indian Food’

A satisfying treat – Egg Parantha’s

It would surprise people, how often Indian food is made at my house – especially since I’m not Indian myself! Although usually comfort food are those things which you have nostalgic childhood memories of, sometimes a dish comes along later on which is extremely easy to warm up to – before you know it it’s high up on your Comfort Food favourites list! One of these dishes for me is Egg Parantha’s. I learned how to make them shortly after moving to India, even though they are not generally a staple of the average Indian home… Maybe they should be though!

So let’s start with what they are – Parantha’s as many of you know, are fried or baked unleavened breads, which generally have multiple layers. You achieve this layered effect much in the same way as with puff pastry; after kneading the dough, you roll it out thin and spread some oil over it, folding it over, repeating this process multiple times until you end up with a square shape. I explained and illustrated this process in a previous post; Spinach Mania – why does it have to come in such big packets? which outlines how to make Spinach or Hara (green) Parantha’s. The process is the same for Egg parantha’s, obviously leaving out the spinach. Then while cooking, the parantha’s are filled with egg (beaten and seasoned like for omelette).

Note: I don’t want to discourage anyone, but this recipe is unlike most of my previous ones – it requires a significant amount of skill to get it right. More often than not do my parantha’s end up half empty! Also in order to feed multiple people, expect to spend some time in the kitchen! That being said, even if they’re not perfect, they’re still tasty!

Egg Parantha – Flat bread stuffed with egg

Chapati Flour (Hindi: Atta)

Water

filling:

1 egg per person – beaten with all seasonings as per below

1/2 tsp Salt

1/4 tsp Red Chilli powder

1/4 tsp Turmeric powder (Hindi: Haldi) – OPTIONAL

Some oil for cooking – in a small bowl with a spoon for convenience

Make a dough with the flour and water; it should resemble bread dough. Not so sticky it will coat your hands, but not tough and dry either. Best is to sift 3 cups of flour into a large mixing bowl, then add water little by little, combining it by hand, until the dough leaves the sides of the bowl and you can knead it as one big ball. On a clean and dry work surface, knead your dough for approx. 10 minutes. Keep it aside while preparing the egg mixture.

Then heat a griddle on the stove, medium to high heat.

Start rolling your first parantha – follow the instructions of my Spinach Parantha Recipe (NOTE: before the first fold, throw a tiny pinch of salt over the oil you’ve just spread on your rolled out dough. This in case the egg mixture doesn’t distribute evenly, at least the empty bits of your Parantha are not bland!).

Put the completed square parantha onto the griddle and cook it at low heat until the colour turns darker, then turn it around and cook the other side until the layers of the parantha start to separate and fluff up. If need be, gently press it from the sides to build up pressure inside which makes the layers fluff up completely, without leaving parts of the parantha flat. This is something which will take some practice, skill, and/or talent!

Take the griddle off the flame and pick a side of the parantha where the layers are recognizable; separate the top and bottom layer from one another. Quickly pour 4-5 tablespoons of the egg mixture into the parantha, trying to make it spread evenly on the inside. Press the opening together to close the parantha again.

Put the griddle back on the flame. Quickly spread a teaspoon full of oil along the sides of the parantha so it gets poured underneath. Also spread a little bit of it with the back of the spoon along the edge where you cut your parantha especially as well as over the top of the rest of it. Turn the parantha over, taking care not to spill the egg. Cook it until the egg inside fluffs up and remains firm (that means it’s cooked).

Repeat process for remaining paranthas – those who are really skilled can roll another parantha while the previous one is getting cooked…

Enjoy hot with some pickle, chutney, or just by itself!

Fun with beef – Shammi kebabs Hedonist style

Throughout my time in India, I desperately missed having good quality meat. I craved beef, duck and anything that wasn’t chicken or the largely useless quality of mutton that was available where I stayed. Now, in the UK, to some extent I still miss good quality meat. I tend to stay away from pork because I’ve never liked it much to begin with (Bacon & sausages are exceptions). And British beef is very “aromatic”… No idea why. The same is true for lamb; I don’t buy much of it for that reason…

Anyway, I have figured out that buying Irish beef is a solution to the problem; at least it doesn’t smell. And for certain preparations, such as these Shammi kebabs (deep fried meat balls), even though they are meant to be made with minced mutton, they turn out great with lean beef as well!

However, one warning before trying this recipe out yourself: get yourself a decent grinder! I have one of those cheap “Magic Bullet Blender” knock-offs, which works great for normal every day needs, but starts to screech and smoke trying to cope with the recipe below…. This hasn’t stopped me though, grinding small portions at once seems to be the key.

Shammi Kebabs

500g mince – use lamb or beef, whichever you prefer

1/3 cup split Chickpeas (chana dal) – soaked in boiling water for 30 minutes

1 small onion – chopped

3-4 cloves of garlic – chopped

2 green chillis

1 whole dried red chilli

3 cloves

2 green cardamoms

some freshly ground pepper, or 3 pepper corns

1 1/2 tsp Salt

1/2 tsp Garam Masala

1/2 tsp Chat Masala – if unavailable, replace with a little bit of cumin powder, and lemon juice

Some water

Combine all ingredients in a pan and boil it until the Chickpeas are relatively soft; approx. 20-30 mins. Keep stirring to avoid sticking. Once done, reduce the water completely; you do NOT want this mixture to be wet at all. Cook all the moisture away, until the mince becomes crumbly and separated. Try to retrieve the whole spices from the mince and throw them away; they are difficult to blend and would make for a nasty surprise if found in the end product. Now, blend the mixture to a fine pulp. The idea is that your chickpeas are completely crushed, as well as the other ingredients.

Let it cool down a little in a bowl, then add the following:

1 egg

3 tsp white Cornflour – more may be required if the mixture is very sticky

Some fresh coriander leaves – chopped

1/2 tsp Lemon juice

Combine all ingredients properly into the mixture; you will probably need to use your hands, which is just as well because the meat balls will need to be shaped by hand also. Now form portions of this mixture into walnut-sized balls, flattening them slightly to look like thick mini-hamburgers. Heat oil in your favourite deep frying contraption; I use a very small wok, less than 6″ in diameter. The oil should be around 1 1/2 inches deep at least. I guess you could easily use a deep fryer, but I’m not sure how well the oil will keep after your done frying the Shammi kebabs. Putting in as many balls at a time as comfortably fit, fry them for around a minute on each side on medium heat. They will turn a nice shade of dark brown – however take care not to burn them!

Serve with your favourite dip; Hot & Sweet ketchup, Coriander chutney or whatever.. They also taste great just sandwiched between some white bread. Or you could add salad, dressing and stuff them into a pita bread like you would do with falafel.

Easy South Indian Food Pt. II

So, when time is lacking, hunger is great, and there’s a lot of left-over rice in the fridge – I’ve already shared one recipe perfect for such situations. However, as one may notice, eating Lemon Rice over and over just isn’t that interesting. One needs variety, a different flavour. But it should still be easy to cook, and comforting….

Tomato Rice (South Indian Style – Hedonist Variant)

1 small onion – finely chopped

1-2 tomatoes – finely chopped

1 green chilli – finely chopped

1/2″ cube of ginger – finely chopped/grated

1 whole dried red chilli – (optional – for those who like it hot!)

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp salt – (or to taste)

1/2 tsp Garam Masala –(or to taste)

1 tbsp Tomato puree

some Water –  if needed

3-4 cups of boiled rice – preferably straight from the fridge, the colder the better

2-3 tbsp peanuts/cashew nuts – if you  like, you can also add some split chickpeas (chana dal)

4-5 Curry leaves – preferably fresh, but dried will do too.

First of all, heat some oil in a wok, you should use around a tablespoon or more. Fry the nuts in this, also the dal if you choose to use it. (I leave it out because a certain someone doesn’t like how crunchy it gets….)

Let the heat be fairly high, so the oil starts to splutter and the nuts get properly roasted. When they are nice and aromatic, add the mustard seeds, cumin and the red chilli. Turn the heat down so it doesn’t burn. Immediately add the ginger, green chilli and onions, stir fry until the onions are starting to turn light brown. Then add the curry leaves, tomatoes, salt, garam masala. Cook this mixture until the tomatoes turn very mushy. You want everything to look a bit like pasta sauce in terms of consistency. If your sauce gets too dry, add a bit of water to make it more liquid. Also, depending on how flavourful your tomatoes are, you might want to add some tomato puree to give it a nice deep red colour and tomato aroma. Optional: sprinkle a little sugar to reduce the sourness of the tomatoes, or if the tomatoes are not sour enough for your taste, add some lemon juice. At the end, put in the rice, combine everything so the rice is evenly coloured red – taste to check seasoning. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve with raita or plain yoghurt.

I suppose you could eat this rice as a side dish with other South Indian food, however I really enjoy it on its own as well.

Hopefully I will be able to add a photograph soon, considering I do make this dish quite regularly. Enjoy!

Spinach mania – why does it have to come in such big packets?

There’s a lot of spinach in my fridge, and I’m going to have to be very innovative to get rid of it before it goes bad, without getting sick of the taste.

So after having had my fill of Spinach fritters, I needed something slightly healthier.. Before I write down the recipe I would like to explain a little bit about Indian cooking utensils.

For the dish I’m writing about, you need a flat griddle; “Tava”. They’re usually made of iron or steel, but come in non stick variants as well. You can probably find one at an Indian food store near you, or Buy one on Amazon.co.uk. If you want to try this recipe but do not have a tava, you can use a frying pan, but results may vary.

Hara Parantha (Green flat bread)

3 cups Chapati Flour (finely ground whole wheat flour

2 generous handfulls fresh spinach leaves – finely chopped, shredded; or blended

water

oil for coating & frying – it’s easiest to put some into a small bowl.

Sift the flour into a bowl, add the spinach, mix it together. Add water little by little and combine everything to make it into a pliable dough. Because of the spinach, it will be a little sticky, but it should be of a similar consistency as bread dough. Keep kneading it on the kitchen worktop for at least 10 minutes.

Form the dough into balls, approx. the size of an apricot. Put some flour on the worktop to prevent sticking, and coat the ball in flour. Roll it out into a 2-3mm thick circle – make sure it doesn’t stick to the work surface, so keep sprinkling flour whenever necessary. Take a little bit of oil in a teaspoon, and spread it over the circle, in a straight line across the middle. Fold over one side of the circle, spread oil over the folded part, fold the other side of the circle. Then put a little bit of oil on the center, fold the top part over, then repeat and fold the bottom flap. Your parantha will be square now. Coat it in flour and roll it out again evenly until it is 3mm thick. See images below; how to make a square parantha:

Meanwhile heat the griddle on the stove, on medium heat. Put your parantha on the griddle and turn the heat down. Cook it until it turns darker – approx. 1-2 minutes. Turn it around and cook a for max. 1 minute until the other side is cooked and it starts to puff up a little bit. spread a little oil over the top and along the sides, turn the parantha around and spread a little oil over it again. Gently let it cook, until it’s done, but don’t make it crispy (unless you like it like that of course… )

Serve immediately with some pickle or as a side dish with some meat or vegetable curry.

Sinful Indian Food – Spinach & Onion Fritters

Now that it’s starting to get gloomy, wet and generally nasty outside, I cannot control my cravings for sinful deep fried food any longer! So, braving the drizzly, cold weather, I went to the supermarket on Saturday to buy some Spinach. Now I know it’s not the first thing people would think of when craving deep fried food, but I’m afraid I’m completely hooked! Spinach fritters are the best!

Palak Pakora (Spinach Fritters)

1.5cup Chickpea flour (Besan)

Salt & Red Chilli to taste

Water

Spinach Leaves – whole, trimmed stems. washed and patted dry

Vegetable oil for deep frying

Sift the chickpea flour into a mixing bowl, adding salt and red chilli powder. Slowly start adding water and beat the mixture with a whisk until it is smooth and has the consistency of thick pancake batter.

Heat the oil in a small pan; whichever one is your favourite for deep frying… If you want to limited the amount of oil wasted, it should be very small and rounded like a wok; at least 2-3 inches deep. Test a little bit of the batter first; if it turns golden brown within 30 seconds, your oil is ready.

Take a single spinach leaf and dip it into the batter. It should cover the leaf all over (consistency is important! If the batter is too runny, it will not cover the leaf properly!). Carefully put it into the hot oil. Use a slotted spoon to turn it over and fry it for around a minute, until it is brown and crispy. Watch out: If the leaves are wet, the oil will splutter, so take care not to get burned!

Let the fritter drip off on some paper towels.

Serve while hot, with chilli ketchup. If you like it tangy; sprinkle with Chaat Masala

To make onion fritters (Pyaz Pakora), simply make the same batter, add sliced onions into the batter and put little clusters of this mixture into the hot oil. Care should be taken to use relatively less batter than onion, or it will be too heavy to enjoy! 😉

As this was a joint effort between my husband and I (he is a self proclaimed palak pakora expert), he did most of the frying and I embezzled most of the finished product… This snack is best enjoyed at daytime, so there is plenty of time for your stomach to get settled before you go to bed!

North Indian Food Pt. II

It’s about time for my second post about easy North Indian food! And this time another one of my favourite after work quick fix foods: Kala Channa. (Black Chickpeas)

I realize what I’m making is not authentic, and people will hate me for it, but seriously; after spending all day at work; rather than soaking and boiling dried chickpeas, I opt for canned ones..

First a little background information: Indian Food relies heavily on lentils, beans and other legumes. Because they are usually dried (canned foods are not very widespread in India), it is very easy for people to keep them in their pantry, ready to be used no matter which season. A traditional North Indian meal consists of either a Chicken/Mutton dish, a Vegetable dish and a type of Dal (lentil). These dishes are then eaten with Rice or Chapatis (flat unlevened breads) and often some yogurt and pickle.

Kala Chana – Tangy Black Chickpeas

Ingredients:

2-3 Red Onions – finely sliced

1-2 Green Chillis – finely chopped or slit, whichever you prefer

2 cans Black Chickpeas – drained

Red Chilli Powder (optional)

1 tsp Turmeric Powder

1 tsp Cumin Powder

1 tsp Coriander Powder

Lemon/Lime Juice to taste

Salt to taste

Vegetable Oil

 

Heat the vegetable oil in a wok. In case of slit whole green chillis, add them first (If they’re finely chopped, then add them with the onions). Fry for around 30 seconds until they get blisters. Add the onions, fry until brown. (To shorten frying time, add some salt once the onions are translucent). Season with salt, turmeric, red chilli, cumin and coriander powder. Add the drained chickpeas, toss and fry until ingredients are mixed well. Season with Lime juice, Salt. This dish is not supposed to be mild in flavour at all, so you can be as generous with the spices as you like. If you have any; garnish with some fresh coriander leaves and a lemon wedge for those who like it even more sour!

Serve with any type of Indian Bread, but traditionally this dish is eaten with Pooris (Deep fried chapatis basically). 

I regularly make these black chickpeas, so a photo will soon follow, I promise!

Easy South Indian Food

What many people abroad do not realise is how diverse India is, not just in terms of geography, language, traditions but also food. Indian restaurants abroad sometimes mix and match various cuisines to come up with their menu. 

Most basic spices to purchase: Mustard seeds (brown), Turmeric powder, curry leaves. 

Most South Indian meals are incomplete without some form of rice; Rice is processed into dough to make tasty treats like Idlis (steamed rice cakes), Dosas (crispy pancakes) and Vadas (savoury doughnuts).  But of course rice is also eaten boiled or steamed, with some spices and additions to give it a typical flavour. While travelling around Tamil Nadu, I found that many restaurants offer extremely affordable lunch meals involving various rice dishes served with Sambar (spicy lentil & vegetable gravy). But most can be eaten on their own as well. I would like to share a very simple yet tasty recipe of one of these popular dishes; lemon rice. 

 

Lemon Rice

Ingredients:

3-4 cups Cooked rice – preferably prepared earlier and cooled in the fridge

1 tsp Mustard seeds (brown)

2 1/2 tbsp Peanuts – raw

1 tbsp Chana dal (split chickpeas; optional)

1 tsp finely chopped ginger

1 green chilli – finely sliced

1 tsp turmeric powder 

4-5 Curry leaves 

Lime juice

Salt to taste

2 tbsp Cooking oil

 

Heat the oil in a wok over medium heat. Add the Peanuts, mustard seeds and Chana dal. Fry until it crackles; then add the curry leaves. Fry until the peanuts are properly roasted; be careful not to burn them. Then add the ginger and green chilli. Stir fry for around 30 sec. Add the turmeric powder and mix properly in the oil. Then add the rice; mix well, season with Lime juice and salt; serve immediately. 

 

I really love this dish because it is so quick, it can be done within 5 minutes; and it is a wonderful way of using up left over rice. In fact it comes out the best when using yesterday’s left over rice straight from the fridge; the grains seperate nicely then and the dish comes out fluffy and light. The fresher and warmer the rice when you put it in, the more sticky and soggy the end result will be. 

Some other typically south indian rice dishes are: tomato rice, tamarind rice and curd rice. I particularly like the latter and will probably post that recipe soon as well.

Indian Food basics (North Indian)

Lots of people are fascinated by Indian food and assume it is very complicated. It may seem daunting; reading the ingredients list of many Indian recipes; the number of spices is overwhelming and makes the dish seem hard and time consuming to make. But it need not be that way; there is such a thing as Indian food for busy people as well!

The main principle to follow with all cuisines is very simple: Quality ingredients! You cannot make tasty food if your ingredients are old, stale and tasteless.

You need fresh and ripe vegetables, fragrant spices and good quality meat, or you’re going to end up disappointed. Disappointment happens to me as well, and I have been cooking Indian food for quite some time now; I tend to get demotivated and frustrated if the food turns out bland, but what we need to remember is that these things happen; and it does not necessarily mean you’re a bad cook, or the recipe was inaccurate. It could just be that the ingredients were at fault!

If you’re going to venture into cooking Indian food at home, and you do not want to go all out buying spices right away, there are some basic supplies to stock up on and you can get cooking right away:

The bare minimum: Turmeric Powder (“Haldi” in Hindi), Red Chilli Powder, Cumin seeds, Coriander powder.

Jeera Aloo (Cumin Potatoes, no gravy)

Ingredients:

approx. 400gr Potatoes – peeled cubes

two medium sized Onions – sliced evenly (Optional)

one Green Chilli (fresh) – finely chopped

Vegetable oil (neutral in flavour, like Sunflower Oil)

1 tbsp. Cumin seeds

1 tsp. Coriander powder

1/2 tsp. Turmeric powder

Salt & Red Chilli powder to taste

Chopped Coriander Leaves as garnish

 

Have all your ingredients ready for use. To save time, boil the Potato cubes in salted water for a few minutes, until they are almost cooked.

Heat the oil in a Wok on medium heat, add cumin seeds and fry until they crackle. Add Onion. Fry until onions get translucent, then add Green chilli and Coriander Powder. Fry for a few minutes more, then add some salt. Keep stirring so the onions don’t burn. You want the onion to get brown (in case of white onions, or dark purple in case of red onions). Once onions are nicely browned and getting softer, add Turmeric Powder with two tablespoons of water. Mix well. Add Potato cubes. If they stick, add a little more water.

Cook until the potatoes are done. Adjust seasoning; If you want more flavour; add more salt, Coriander powder and some Red Chilli powder. If you prefer a tangy flavour; add some lemon/lime juice. Turn off the flame and top with chopped fresh coriander leaves.

Serve hot, with roti/naan (store bought if you’re in a hurry).

 

The recipe above is one of the most simple Indian dishes to cook, and quite tasty! Purists would say that actually Jeera Aloo does not contain Onion, but decide for yourself; I personally like the flavour with onion a lot. You can vary and adjust and add different ingredients as well. For a better flavour, do not pre-boil the potatoes, instead chop them into smaller pieces, not thicker than 1cm and put them in raw. Add more water while cooking to slightly cover them while cooking, and let the water evaporate to required consistency in the end. This way it will take considerably longer to cook them, but they soak up more of the flavour and you do not end up making them too mashy.

You can also add French beans to the dish or garden peas for more variation. Basically any vegetable can be added, as long as it’s chopped into bite-size pieces and does not take longer than the potatoes to cook. Traditionally, if you add other vegetables, you use less cumin seeds or none at all. But again it’s up to you to decide!

Golgappas!!

When I moved to India, it took me quite a while to get used to certain foods. (Some I just totally did not get used to at all but very few!)

One of the things that had to grow on me were Golgappas (Pani Puri). They are like little crispy balls made of flour which are completely hollow. You fill them with some boiled potato and spicy water and try to shove the whole thing in your mouth without spilling the water all over your clothes.

In India they are a very popular snack, sold on the streets. And amongst some of the least safe things to eat as a tourist.. For that matter they are not even that safe to eat for locals either; especially during Monsoon they can make you quite sick if the water is contaminated.

But I was never particularly careful, so used to gorge on these (once I got used to the flavour) no matter what season. In India you get two types of water; sweet water which is maroon in colour, and green water which is a bit more sour and hot. Although both types are very spicy and can set you on fire properly!

So the other day I was craving a snack and discovered that some shops around my flat in London actually sell boxes of them! You get a jar of spicy paste to mix in water, and a big box of ready made crispy flour balls. Not expecting too much, I took them home, boiled some potatoes and mixed the spice paste with water. It hardly took any time and soon we started stuffing our faces. My husband and I must have eaten at least 20 each (it was a big box!)..

I must say, although ironically you always want to eat exactly that which is not available, no matter where you are (or at least this is true for me!), London is not such a bad place… If you look hard enough, you can probably find just about anything in terms of food. And often right under your nose as well! The shop I found the golgappas in is just around the corner from my flat. And until maybe two weeks ago I did not see the inside of it. But one day I was bored and just wandered in, only to discover that it was pretty much like walking into an ordinary neighbourhood every day needs store in India!

After blowing a load of cash on spices and food that we didn’t really need, I got home, you should have seen the look on my husband’s face when presented with some Maggi Masala instant noodles. It’s strange, the things you miss when you move…