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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tomato Dahl

Where to buy Indian ingredients

About Dals

Tomato dahl is as much a comfort food in Indian culture as tomato soup seems to be for many people here in the US (hence all those Campbell's soup commercials).

Personally I don't at all care for tomato soup, but I do love the Indian version!

If you're not afraid of calories or cholesterol, serve this drizzled with ghee.

1 c Toor dal, dry
3 c water

2 small cans of chopped tomatoes or 4 to 6 chopped Romas

2 large onions
3 green chili peppers, diced

1 tsp chana dal
1 tsp urud dal

1/2 T cumin seed

2 tsp black mustard seed

2 dry red chilis, to taste

6 to 8 curry leaves

Masala: mix together and put aside:
2 tsp curry powder
1/2 T coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp turmeric
2 tsp salt

First set the dal to cooking. Use 1 c dal to 3 c water. Bring to a boil, then reduce and simmer for 40 minutes to an hour, until the dahl is very soft and has absorbed most of the water.

Heat 2 to 3 T of oil in a karhai, wok, or large skillet.

When the oil is hot, add chana and urud dal. When the dal begins to brown, immediately add cumin seed.

When the cumin seed begins to brown, add mustard seeds.

When the mustard seeds begin to pop, immediately add the crumbled red pepper and the neem leaves.

The red pepper will begin to cook very quickly, as soon as it begins to brown add the masala. Fry the spices for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently, then add the onion and green chilis.

If you are using canned tomatoes, cook the onions until they are nearly soft, then add the canned tomatoes and mix well. If you are using fresh tomatoes, add the tomatoes with the onion and the green chilies and cook until soft.

Add this mixture to the dahl, stir well, and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes to distribute the flavors throughout.

Chop some coriander leaves (cilantro) and garnish to serve.

Serve with long grain rice, preferably basmati rice.


Friday, June 5, 2009

About dal

This has been moved onto my static pages, see the links above for "Dal"

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Bombay Potato Fry

2 T Oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp crushed garlic
2 T curry powder
1 tsp ground cumin
4 to 6 medium russet potatoes
Salt to taste (about 1 tsp)
Cilantro (coriander leaf), chopped, for garnish

  1. Peel and quarter the potatoes, then boil for about 5 to 10 minutes, until they just start to cook but are still crisp.
  2. Drain and cool the potatoes, then cube them into about 1" cubes
  3. Heat the oil over a medium high heat. If the oil doesn't coat the bottom of your pan evenly, add a bit more oil.
  4. When the oil is hot, quickly drop in the mustard seeds. They will start to pop almost immediately if the oil is hot enough. (If not, next time heat the oil a bit longer before you add them).
  5. When the mustard seeds start to pop, quickly add the onions and garlic and stir well.
  6. Fry the onions until they start to soften, then add the curry powder. Stir well.
  7. Add the cubed potatoes and fry until they are well coated with the spices and are browned on the edges.
  8. Garnish with chopped coriander
  9. Serve with basmati rice.

Technorati Profile

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The Indian Vegetarian 100 Challenge

As posted on the One Hot Stove blog.

  • Copy the entire list, along with these instructions, into your blog post

  • Bold the foods that you have tried

  • Strike out the foods you would never try - I had to italicize and smallify them, not having a strike-thru

  • I put links on the ones I haven't tried that I'd like to try soon, to a recipe for that item.

Anything that depends on coconut strikes out with me; I HATE HATE HATE coconut! Anything I've marked to try that has coconut in it, I promise you, I'm planning to leave the coconut out. (We Kitchen Barbarians can get away with stuff like that, cuz we're, well, BARBARIANS, after all).

Were it not for my hatred of coconut I'd have a higher "I've already tried it" score, which ended up being a disappointing 46.

Nupur's Indian Vegetarian 100

1. Ripe mangoes
2. Curd rice - well I have to quibble on this one. My ex taught me to mix sour creme with rice.
3. Chaat
4. Phulka
5. Puran poli
6. Boiled peanuts
7. Samosa
8. Stuffed baby eggplants
9. Aviyal
10. Stuffed paratha
11. Masala chai - in fact, here's my favorite recipe for Indian Railroad Tea
12. Tirphal
13. Murukku
14. Curry leaves
15. Banana chips fried in coconut oil
16. Jaggery
17. Vada pav - I cheerfully lose the bread
18. Tender coconut water
19. Paneer
20. Madras filter coffee
21. Boondi laddoo
22. Boondi raita
23. Navratan korma
24. Kokum
25. Masala peanuts
26. A home-cooked Indian vegetarian meal
27. Sugarcane juice
28. Sabudana/sago in any form
29. Horsegram - apparently this is cowpea. I've eaten cowpeas. Not in Indian food, but I've eaten them.
30. Maggi noodles - my son's eaten it though
31. Podi with rice and ghee
32. Roomali roti
33. Bitter gourd - didn't like
34. Nylon sev
35. Vegetable biryani
36. Thali at a restaurant
37. Plantain flower
38. Undhiyu
39. Nimbu pani - essentially limeade
40. Papad
41. Kotthu parotta - I kept the original link to the recipe for this one.
42. Panch phoran
43. Drumsticks
44. Indian "French toast"
45. Sarson ka saag
46. Bhakri
47. Pav bhaji
48. Sitaphal
49. Glucose biscuits
50. Sprouts
51. Chole-bhature
52. Amla - gooseberries. I've not had them in years, but as a child one of my grandmothers made gooseberry pie.
53. Tomato "omelet"
54. A wedding feast - mine, actually
55. Grilled corn on the cob with lemon juice, salt and chilli powder - SACRILEGE! Corn on the cob is ordained to be slathered with butter! LOL!
56. Cadbury's fruit and nut chocolate
57. Sai bhaji
58. Solkadi
59. Indian-Chinese meal
60. Jalebi
61. Black forest cake
62. Bharwa bhindi - an okra dish, /me hates okra
63. Kashmiri saffron
64. Misal
65. Ripe jackfruit
66. Idli-chutney
67. 'Tadgola'
68. Bhut jolokia
69. Baby mango pickle
70. Meal off a banana leaf
71. Falooda
72. Moong khichdi
73. Bebinca
74. Daal baati
75. Methi greens
76. Basundi
77. Gunpowder
78. Appam-stew
79. Sweet lemon pickle
80. Ridge gourd
81. Bisi bele bhath
82. Coconut burfi
83. Caramel custard
84. Thecha
85. Rasam
86. Baingan bharta
87. Mysore pak
88. Punjabi wadi
89. Chhunda
90. Dal makhani
91. Paper dosa
92. Gongura
93. Hand-churned butter
94. Pakoda
95. Curd chillies
96. Mustard oil
97. Fresh cashews
98. Tomato pickle
99. Rajma-chawal
100. Chaas

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Carmelized Onion and Angel Hair Pasta

Blame this one on my son.

If you don't like onions - and "like" should be more properly spelled "LOVE" - you're not going to like this dish.

If you are, like me, solidly addicted to onions, then you just might be in for a treat.

This is an adaptation from a recipe I read 25 years or more ago in a cookbook. I have no idea what the original recipe was like, and I can't remember the cookbook. But this dish has been one of my favorites from the very first time I cooked it.

It's simple.

Carmelize some onions.

Cook some angel hair pasta.

Ladle the carmelized onions over the angel hair pasta and chow down!

Done. Bye now. Later. Shortest posting you're likely ever to see from me.

OK, seriously, I'll tell you how to carmelize the onions, but that's about the extent of any actual cooking. And even that's not a big deal.



Cut up 2 or 3 lbs of onions, in thinnish slices.

Dump them in your crockpot.

Drop in about 1/4 to 1/2 stick of butter (about 1 T per pound of onions).

Turn the thing on medium, go to bed, and 8 to 10 hours later, voila!

Carmelized onions.

I used to spend a couple of hours doing this on the stove top. I like this method muuuuch better.

And you actually might want to start them early in the morning for dinner (I love onions but I'm pretty sure even I don't want to eat them at 8 AM).

OK, seriously, that's it, done, tata, buh-bye.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Masala Chai - Indian Railroad Tea

Photo courtesy of Shrk

It took me YEARS to finally figure this one out. Tea is such a simple thing. You would think.

After I'm-not-kidding like 20 years of stumbling around and finally all but giving up, I finally figured out the secret to authentic Indian railroad tea.

It's using CHEAP TEA. The cheaper the better. CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP. The stuff that sells for like $4 a lb. Not that expensive Assam or Darjeeling that'll set you back $16 to $20 for 4 oz. CHEAP CHEAP CHEAP loose granulated (mamri-style) black unflavored tea, the kind of stuff that looks frighteningly like gunpowder.

You can buy this ultra cheap tea at any Indian grocery or online. But more on that later.

On to the Masala Chai Recipe!

First thing you should understand - chai is just the Hindi word for "tea". So if you ask for "chai tea" you are asking for tea tea. And if the brand of tea you are using is Tata, then Tata chai tea is the same as saying Tata Tea Tea. (Sorry, I can't resist puns and alliteration. Get used to it if you're going to read my blog, LOL!)

What we are talking about is spiced tea, or masala chai. Now there are a LOT of different ways to make this, and most are probably about as "authentic" as the next, but this recipe is my favorite. It tastes the most like the stuff the vendors hawk at the railroad stations and hand through the windows to travelers.

If you've been drinking "Chai tea" from Starbucks, or the stuff labeled "Chai" that comes in cartons at the yuppy organic groceries, be warned - that's not Indian Railroad Tea. It's not what most Indians I know think of when they talk about masala chai. That stuff has all sorts of extra ingredients like vanilla and cinnamon and who knows what else in it that you wouldn't find in Indian Railroad Tea because the watchword of the day is "tasty", yes, but also "CHEAP".

Chai WallahCHEAP CHEAP CHEAP. A category not to be achieved if you are loading the tea up with vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, and whatnot. Also it detracts from the simplicity of the recipe, which is another requirement for Indian Railroad Tea. These guys are (or at least used to be) brewing this stuff by the gallon right there by the railroad tracks, or at least as close to the station as they can get and not get arrested. Then they send runners out with trays and trays of the stuff, steaming hot, as the train pulls into the station. Then there's a mad flurry while competing runners (often from competing tea makers) jostle and jockey to be the first to sell out and run back for more. I've seen runners working in relays, where one guy pushes his way to the front of the crowd, empties his tray, and runs back to the back of the crowd to grab another trayful from a confederate, sort of like a bucket brigade only for tea. (Picture courtesy of Shabbir Siraj)

So anyway, quick, easy, tasty, and CHEAP are the watchwords for Indian railroad tea.

This is not your Starbucks Chai here. But it's REALLY REALLY good, and a heck of a lot cheaper than $6.75 a cup.

OK. Here's the recipe. Let me say right from the start, DO NOT try to substitute ground spices for the whole seed. You won't be able to strain it out and the proportions won't be right. Use the whole spices as indicated. You can substitute cardamom in the pod for the hulled cardamom, but I prefer to use the hulled variety (loose seed) because it's easier to deal with, cleaner, and generally cheaper ounce for ounce.

Masala Chai - Indian Railroad Tea

2 c water
2 c whole milk
1 T fennel seed
1 1/2 tsp whole hulled cardamom, or 6 to 8 bruised cardamom pods,
to taste
4 to 6 whole cloves
4 T Indian CTC mamri-style (granulated) loose tea, or 4 to 6 cheap
unflavored black tea bags
Sugar to taste


  1. Boil the water. Add the whole spices and leave at a slow boil for 3 minutes.
  2. Add the WHOLE milk and bring back to a slow boil.
  3. Add the tea or tea bags and boil on low for no more than 2 to 3 minutes. It can get bitter if you leave it on the heat longer than that.
  4. Remove from the stove, strain, and serve.
  5. Sugar to taste.

It's important to use a CHEAP granulated tea - for years I tried to make this using the best Darjeeling and Asaam teas that I could find and it never came out right. The cheap granulated tea (basically what we put in tea bags) is the key - it takes a strong flavored tea to stand up to the flavor imparted by the spices. This stuff will be labeled "CTC" or "mamri-style" tea.

The brand of mamri-style tea that I most often use is Brooke Bond Red Label. I've also occassionally used Brooke Bond Taj Mahal and Tea India. There are cheaper mamri-style teas and they work fine too, but be warned - you may need to experiment with the amount and the brewing length. Some teas costing as little as $2 a pound (454 grams is about a pound, that's a common size for Indian packaged teas) will quickly get bitter if you brew them too long. With cheaper teas you may need to cut brewing time (after you add the tea to the boiling water/milk) to 2 minutes instead of 3, and you may need to use a little more tea to make up for the shorter brewing time. Be prepared to experiment a bit.

Also, you do NOT allow this tea to steep. You brew it and then you strain it through a very fine strainer immediately upon removing it from the heat. Allowing it to steep will make it bitter.

Finally, if you can't find an authentic mamri-style tea, you can try cheap tea bags. Again, you may need to experiment a bit to get the flavor right. One of these days I'm going to buy some cheap decaf tea bags and try for a decaf version, because I have a sensitivity to caffeine and if I drink a whole quart of masala chai (which I will cheerfully do because the stuff is like liquid crack to me) I will be pinging off the ceiling for hours.

But I haven't gotten around to it yet.

Now, where to buy ingredients? You can buy from a local Indian Grocery or you can buy from an online source. I've often found the spices I need in Organic Groceries that have bulk spices for sale. You CAN buy the spices in any grocery store, but in the amounts used here you'll find them to be very very expensive. The mamri-style tea I've never found outside an Indian or International grocery.

To locate an Indian Grocery near you (in the USA): Indian Grocery Locator Indian Grocery Locator

And here are some online resources as well:
India Spice House
India Blend
Indian Foods Co

A Google search will probably turn up some more if you want to look around.

That's it! It took me longer to tell you how to make it than it will take you to actually make it.

Tasty, quick, simple, easy, and cheap. My favorite kind of recipe!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Sailing the Spice Islands

I grew up in the Midwest on a fairly typical diet for the time. Meatloaf, fried chicken, pot roast. "Italian" food was spaghetti or pizza; "Chinese" food was the impossibly exotic Sweet and Sour This'n That served by a local hot spot decorated in a "polynesian" theme.

"Vegetables", properly cooked, were boiled to near unrecognizability, unless they were fried to nearly the same state. Meat was sometimes treated the same way ("Dredge the roast in flour, then boil until tender"). "The Joy of Cooking" still had the section on how to clean game - and people still used it.

My mother had two kitchen gadgets. One was a copper bowl she never used that was ostensibly for making meringues (but in actuality gathered dust where it hung on the pegboard - yes, most of our kitchen tools were hung on a pegboard, ala Tim Alan).

The other was a plastic cylindrical thingy with round flat inserts and a sort of a push rod thingy that I believe was called a "hamburger press". The idea was you dropped a dollop of the raw meat into the cylinder thingy, topped it off with one of the round inserts, then squished it flat to make the Perfect Patty. You could make several of these - six is the number that springs to mind - and then freeze them for quick burgers at a later date. The circular discs had a tendency to slip at odd angles if you loaded up too many patties for squishing at once, making a lopsided burger that was thicker on one side than the other. Oh well.

That was the extent of kitchen tomfoolery in my household. Oh, we had lots of kitchen gear, but they were all TOOLS (hence the appropriateness of the Peg Board). We had two sets of pots, the "everyday" pots which were cast iron, and the "good" pots, which were Revere Ware Copper Bottomed Pots and were considered the height of culinary cookware attainable by mere mortals. When I took over as Kitchen Witch at the tender age of 6, the "good" pots quickly became the "everyday" pots, as the cast iron ware in general weighed more than I did.

Some of our kitchen tools were quite frightening. There was the meat grinder, and yes, I used it on a fairly regular basis. We also had a butcher's saw, bone saw, meat saw, whatever the proper name for the thing was - an implement that would no doubt be totally at home in a modern-day slasher flick, but not so much in a modern day kitchen. Unless your name is Hannibal Lector, that is.

I contend that it is my early exposure to What Goes Into Home Cooking that largely turned me off meat in later years. If adults don't want to know what goes into sausages, then 6 year olds don't need to know what that chicken looked like BEFORE it got fried. Not to mention beef liver, which came in a huge slab that had to be cut up before being, yes, "dredged in flour" and fried with onions.

Do you know what happens to your fingers as you dredge strips of beef liver in flour? Let's just say "ICK!" and leave it at that. Even eggs had to be carefully sorted, breaking them one by one into a teacup lest you come across one that had been fertilized.

Again, just say "ICK!" and leave it at that.

So, somehow, while learning to cook in ways to keep the small town Midwestern palate of 40 or 50 years ago happy and well fed, I did not develop a love of the very food I was cooking for others. Possibly I'd have been better off if I had had some guidance in the kitchen other than being tossed in the deep end with a stepstool and a cookbook. At any rate, I developed a very low tolerance for the "ICK!" factor and a dislike for most of the very dishes I was cooking. Even now the smell of corned beef and cabbage can put me Right Off food altogether for hours.

Every once in awhile, my brother will wax eloquent about some dish I cooked routinely in our youth. He'll go on and on about how good it was, what a wonderful aroma wafted from the kitchen when I was cooking it, and how eagerly he anticipated dinner on the occasions when I was preparing said dish. He'll look at me expectantly, and I just stare back at him blankly, because invariably it is some concoction or other that I would never, at that age, have even CONSIDERED actually eating, especially not if the title included any of the words "Salmon", "croquette", "pot pie", "casserole", or "soup". Don't be too impressed; one of the dishes he remembers so fondly was our family's version of "Spanish Noodles" which basically consisted of egg noodles, Campbell's Tomato Soup, and a pound of ground beef.

Once I left home, I virtually stopped cooking. Given that I didn't much care for meat, and given that "vegetables", in my milieu, generally meant something green and boiled to squishiness, I didn't have a lot of culinary options anyway.

That I knew of.

Then I met and started dating my ex and a whole new world opened unto my wondering eyes - and nose, and taste buds.

A world where "spice" meant a whole lot more than black pepper.

A world where vegetarian cooking was the norm, and people expected their vegetables to taste like something besides each other. Where "vegetables" meant more than carrots, peas, lima beans, and green beans chopped, sliced, cubed, and frozen into submission.

Where garlic was more than the stuff they put in bologna that made people avoid getting too close to you after lunch. Where cabbage took on many different forms, totally distinct from "boiled". Where a mango is a fruit and not a green bell pepper.

Where ginger was something much, much more than a pale tan colored powder in a can that you used on rare occasions to make cookies.

Where the exotic became attainable, but never (to me) ordinary. A whole new world of Spices.

Now I began to understand why countries went to war over control of "the Spice Islands".

Kalonji. That's onion seed. Zheera, cumin. Ajwain, Carom seed. Dhanya, coriander. Methi, fenugreek. Curry leaves. Amchur, mango powder. Hing, asofoetida. Imli, Tamarind. Saffron or it's poor cousin, turmeric. Chili peppers - not the anemic "chili powder" blends I was familiar with, or paprika, but REAL, fiery, hot chilis. Fresh ginger.

Since then I've embarked on a long journey of discovery, finding herbs, foods, and spices from foreign lands that to me were utterly novel and unique. Over time I've picked up a repertoire of Indian dishes which I have of late begun to flesh out with cuisine from Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, China, and Japan.

I'm still learning, still exploring. My sensibilities are not the sensitivities of a native from any of those lands, nor even my own. I'm the quintessential Barbarian, knocking at the gates, or more likely knocking them down, in search of culinary booty. When I've done looting the area, what I concoct may or may not much resemble a "native" dish. I'm inspired by, I borrow from, I out and out steal bits and pieces and stick them together in no doubt odd and garish - but tasty! - ways.

So, armed with the East Indian recipes I've developed over 30 years, internet access, and a half dozen South-east Asian cookbooks, I'm tackling new frontiers (for me) in Indian, Thai, Indonesian, Vietnamese, and Korean cuisine.

Kitchen Barbarian. Coming soon to a cookstove near you.