Wednesday, November 26, 2008

The Colour Purple

Years ago, a cousin and I couldn't believe our eyes when we saw an aunt studding a purple cabbage with cheese and pineapple bits on toothpicks. It was to be the centrepiece at her ladies' lunch and we followed her around, trying to scratch it and see if the colour came off, not heeding her amused promises that she hadn't added any food colouring to it.

Most coloured or fancy vegetables have this tendency to turn standard-issue green or brown once they're cooked, especially many varieties of brinjals/eggplants and beans. Find out why here. The purple cabbage is an exception and so are the beans we have here today.

I bought them on my recent trip to Delhi and the shopkeeper could only tell me they are special Kashmiri beans. They were glossy and appeared black, though when I soaked them, they almost immediately revealed their purpleness and the run-off when I drained them the next morning was so purple you had to see it to believe it.

As they were Kashmiri, I adapted the Rajma recipe in my Kashmiri cuisine cookbook, The Pleasures of Kashmiri Cookery by Anu Wakhlu, to prepare this dish.

Beans/peas: 5 fistfuls, soaked overnight, drained
Aniseed/saunf powder: 1 tbsp
Ginger powder/sonth: 1/2 tbsp
Turmeric: 1/2 tsp
Salt, to taste
Garam Masala: 1 tsp
Red Chilli Powder: 1 tsp
Asafoetida: a pinch
Ghee/oil or a combination of both: 2 tbsp
Amchur/Dry mango powder: 1-2 tsp
Bay leaves: 2-3
Cumin Seeds: 1 tsp
Green Chillies, slit: 3
Fresh coriander leaves, to garnish

Pressure cook/boil the beans with double the quantity of water, turmeric, aniseed powder, ginger powder and bay leaves. Pressure cook it on simmer for 20-30 minutes after the first hiss. You should be able to mash them, but with some resistance, with the back of a spoon.

Heat the ghee/oil in another pan. Add the asafoetida, cumin, red chilli powder, salt and green chillies. Add the beans to this. Mix well.

Add the amchur and garam masala and simmer for five minutes.

Garnish with the coriander.

This goes off to Susan's My Legume Love Affair, Fifth Edition, being hosted this month by Simona of Briciole, and to Sunshinemom's FIC-Black & Purple.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Not Your Average Qurbani Ka Meetha

Now before the editors, well-meaning, pernickety and perfectionists among you rush to conclude that Sra doesn't know it's Qubani Ka Meetha and not QuRbani Ka Meetha, let me assure you that I'm doing my bit through this post to stop the massacre of the name of this Hyderabadi delicacy***.

Qurbani means sacrifice. It is also an '80s Hindi film that had a big star cast. The closest Qurbani came to 'meetha' (sweet), as someone said, was Zeenat Aman, who played the love interest in the film. You can see her here. Aren't we glad we have YouTube?

Now Qubani/Khubani/Khoobani, on the other hand, is the Urdu word for 'apricot'. I'm not even sure what it's called in Lebanon or Turkey or the rest of the region, which seems to be where this dessert's roots lie, but let's not quibble about Qubani when my friend Aparna is celebrating her blog birthday and is waiting for all of us to come to her party.

I saw this recipe years ago when I bought Vimla Patil's 'International Food Indian Style'. The recipes use ingredients available in India to turn out food from all over the world. This dessert has been on my mind all the years that this book has lain on my shelf. However, it was a trifle too long for my liking, so I scoured the Net for a shorter version and came up with one that eliminated the baking part of the recipe, but now for the life of me, I'm not able to locate the original source. Here's how I made it anyway. Patil's contribution are the peanut brittle/chikki and the curds/yoghurt.

40-44 whole dried Turkish apricots or dried apricot halves
1 1/4 cup sugar
2 cups water
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2-3/4 cup peanut brittle/chikki, crushed
1 cup thick yoghurt or hung curds
1/2 cup flaked and toasted almonds/chopped unsalted pistachio nuts

Put the apricots in a bowl, add just enough water to cover, and let stand overnight. Drain.

In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer until thickened. Add the apricots and cook until tender, about 20 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and continue to simmer for a minute.

With a slotted spoon, very, very carefully transfer the apricots to a baking sheet or a large plate. Reserve the syrup in the pan. Let cool to thicken slightly. If the syrup is not thick enough, reduce it further over medium heat.

If using whole apricots, carefully cut each apricot along the seam with a small sharp knife to create a pocket. Put in the peanut brittle and fill with a bit of the hung curds/yoghurt. (You have to keep a light hand, otherwise the apricot could tear.)

If using apricot halves, spoon the filling onto the centres of half of them. Top with the rest.

Place the apricots on a serving platter. Spoon the sugar syrup over the stuffed apricots, top with the almonds or pistachios. Refrigerate until the syrup is set, about 30 minutes.

The Internet recipe also suggests that the apricots be brought to room temperature at serving time. "Whole dried Turkish apricots work well in this dessert. When cooked, they plump up to reveal a seam where the pit was removed which becomes a pocket for the stuffing." Kaymak, mascarpone or creme fraiche are other choices of filling.

The Spouse and a colleague said it tasted good and helped themselves to some more. I tried it and found it not very sweet. It's not a difficult dessert to make but time-consuming, but looks good.

***(There is also some discussion on the Net as to whether and how 'sacrifice' and 'apricots' are connected but in the interest of [relative] brevity, I have sacrificed some informative links.)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Jakhya & Chayab

On my flight back from New Delhi last week, I had all the booty in a carry bag that comprised my hand baggage, quite forgetful of the possibility that none of it would make it through security.

"What do you have in there? Some masalas?" frowned one of the assistants at the scanner, and I nodded anxiously. "Wait a minute, my colleague will have a look," he said. The colleague came over and inspected each and every packet, his expression deepening from let's-get-this-over-with to curiosity to mystification. When he asked me what they were, I told him most of them were "grains and spices from Uttarakhand", indigenous ones that I had picked up the previous day at Dilli Haat, as well as some stuff that I'd picked up from a shop in INA Market, a recommendation that Raaga passed on to me from Anita. By now, he was trying hard to hide his smiles, and said he would let everything go through, except the Kashmiri chilli powder. It's not as if I don't get it where I live, but considering that it was probably a more 'ethnic' version than the branded, supermarket variety, I opted to go back and check that bag in too!

It's from that stash that the main attractions in today's dish come. One is jakhya (right, in pic) and the other is chayab (left), but there seems to be no reference whatsoever to it on the Net, and only a little on the former. Jakhya's botanical name is Cleome viscose, as I found out here, and it's used as a spice. Last week, I used it along with chayab as tempering for daal, and it had this most interesting crunch, while the chayab tasted like the deep-fried onions that one usually comes across in biriyanis but I wanted to use them in a simple dish for the real test of their flavour.

Chayab is a dried herb, at least, it's a leaf of some sort. It has no particular smell other than that of 'dry' or even straw, but when used as tempering, it acquires some character and a taste that I can't yet describe. Definitely not deep-fried onion, though. The people who sold me these spices at Dilli Haat told me I could use them for tadka, and so that's what I've done, though neither they nor I had the time to go into details of which vegetable or other foodstuffs they go well with.

If you have more information on these spices, please tell me.

Baby potatoes, quartered: 225 gm
Mustard oil: 1-2 tsp
Jakhya: 2 tsp
Chayab: A pinch or two
Salt: to taste
Red chilli powder: 1/2-1 tsp
Turmeric: A pinch
Some water

Heat mustard oil, temper with jakhya and chayab, in that order.

Add the potatoes, the seasoning, mix well, sprinkle some water, cover and cook on a very low flame till the potatoes are done.


This goes off to Weekend Herb Blogging, which is being organised by Haalo for creator Kalyn, and is being hosted this week by Heather at Diary of a Fanatic Foodie.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Clearing Botanical Odds & Ends

I don't know which benevolent star was ruling when I white-lied to my trainer last month that I would be taking a break from the personal training classes (but not from the routine workout at the gym, oh no!) on account of impending travel, but have I been travelling! It's nothing compared to most people but for someone who doesn't travel often and cannot get enough of it, it's a lot. It's not even as if I've been travelling for pleasure or to new places, but it's fun to get away from everyday surroundings.

Some of this travel resulted in me buying a lot of spices, usual and unusual, but I've used only one of those yet in anything I've made. However, I've been making an effort to eat a wide variety of vegetables and clear the fridge of its botanical odds and ends, and many mixed vegetable curries have been seeing the light of day, as have been many cookbooks and spices.

This recipe is simple and easy on the stomach but there's elbow grease involved: cutting various vegetables and grinding a spice mix. I found the idea for the spice mix in a book on Orissa's cuisine but the choice of vegetables is entirely mine.

Mixed vegetables, diced/cubed: 2-3 cups
(I used red capsicum/red pepper, baby potatoes, bottlegourd (peeled), carrots, radish)

Roast and grind
Aniseed/saunf/sompu: 1 tbsp
Pepper, whole: 1/2 tsp
Poppy seed/Khuskhus: 1 tbsp

Salt, to taste

Oil: 1-2 tsp
Mustard: 1 tsp
Dry red chillies: 2

Water: a little

In a heavy-bottomed pot or pan, place half of the vegetables and sprinkle some of the spice mix on top.

Now put in the rest and top with the spices.

Sprinkle the salt.

Put in tiny amounts of water (just enough to ensure that the vegetables don't burn), cover and simmer. Check now and then to ensure they are not burning. Cook till they are done.

In a pan, heat the oil. Pop the mustard, add the red chillies. Tip this into the vegetables, mix well and serve. This results in a nice, dry dish with lots of texture and taste.

I'm sending this off to Think Spice ... Think Anise being hosted here this month.

I'm also sending this to Suganya's Vegan Ventures - Round 2.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

My Legume Love Affair - Fourth Helping/The Round-Up

As far as event hosting in my experience goes, this has been my magnum opus. To pun, the round-up speaks volumes - about the popularity of legumes, the event that is MLLA and its creator, Susan, who readily responded to my request to host one round of it as soon as possible.

Around 75 bloggers have participated, and some have sent in more than one dish. It's been a pleasure checking my mail and finding entries trickling in everyday. I've checked several times to make sure I've not left out any, but you know where to mail me if I've gone wrong somewhere.

I've listed the entries in reverse chronological order (last mail to reach me is first in the list) but I've tried to be neutral in the blurbs to level the playing field. The pictures correspond to the text beneath them.

Soon after I hit the 'Publish' button, I will be on my way somewhere, just as I've been over the last week. Any amendments that are necessary, please notify me and I will make them soon after I return, at the end of the week.

Simona of Briciole is handling this month's Fifth Helping. Look out for the announcement on her blog. And the winner of the lucky draw for Susan's prize on offer, Not Your Mother's Slow Cooker Cookbook is ... scroll to the end of the post to find out.

Now for the feast!

Don't assumptions drive you crazy? The story behind that question is an amusing prelude to this.

A typically Indian vegetable, she discovered it only after moving to the US. Pairing it with lentils makes it a hoary old comfort food.

Breaking out of the comfort zone, she found another use for these. And a native favourite that's become a rarity becomes something to celebrate when it's found in the market.

A staple in Indian restaurants is a voyage of discovery for her. Go here to be her co-traveller.

She's on a blogging hiatus but has peeked out of her cocoon to participate in this event, and offers a vegetarian version of a meaty original.

Despite all the bad press, or bad blogging, should we say, it gets, hostel food has its bright side. One such dish is here.

They're her babies, Mexican style, vegetarian and full of beans, fat-free! Check them out.

A scare and a trip to the ER ends happily in a feast, replete with a salad and a main dish. Find them here.

This is a fluid recipe ... but wait, aren't all recipes fluid ... but anyway, for a hoary old favourite. Customise it to whatever you have in the kitchen.

A traditional but heavy breakfast is brought to the fore as a festival dawns. See what it is here.

Just right for brunch, this is a favoured combination from the land of biriyani, the legumes making it what it is!

Itsy bitsy teenie weenie polka dotted ... The container's as interesting as the contents, find it here.

There's an apple in this ... curry. Discover more about this inspired recipe here.

A journey of discovery and widening horizons is what it represents. Find out more here.

A cuisine's signature dish that's also comfort food, serve it with chapatis or rice, whatever floats your boat.

Memories of festive traditions and food are happily and easily recreated with this dish. A hearty, but not meaty, and crunchy treat is also on offer.

It's more and more of the same colour but the hues and tints provide the difference. Coupled with baked potato wedges, this is sure to be a hit.

A trip to San Gemini and the slow way of life there moves her to recreate a bit of that in this recipe.

Another case of deep-fried love, from whole grains and wholly welcome! It's here.

You needn't get yourself into a stew over this light and simple dish.

The guidance came from 12 different recipes but finally, this soup is all her own.

The yearning for a new recipe for soup takes her on a journey that's a blend of many flavours.

Tomatoes and black-eyed beans, spinach and Greek yoghurt, all at once in a colourful gravy.

It's tofu and noodles and the flavour of sushi in this wheat-free, meat-free recipe that you can find here.

Podding peas can be as pleasurable as it can be wearying. This recipe is a fresh as it can get!

Full of beans, and some other vegetables too, ethnic and traditional just as Mom can make it.

An old favourite comes with twists and turns to suit the palate. Find out how.

Two main ingredients, and some accessories, and there's a dish that combines fibre and protein.

Two legumes jostle for glory in this dish, and both end up winners!

East meets West in this soup that's hot and hearty for winter evenings.

She would make the headlines for sending me as many entries as I did for this event - here's another!

An old favourite from a new blogger - find it here.

A simple and hearty gravy can be more satisfying than glittering diamonds and dazzling saris. Or don't you agree?

Through thick and thin, chapati and rice, this is a keeper.

The second soup to feature in this soupless blog named for soup - find out more here.

How do you convert something that is so robustly non-vegan into a vegan treat? Go here to find out.

From exotic Egypt and its environs comes this dish that's all simplicity and beauty.

When you have a bounty, make the most of it. And when they go with many kinds of legumes, all the better, as in here.

The comfort factor, with a bit of a twist in the finishing - find out what it is here.

For many of us, including me, home food often takes a backseat as we try out exotic stuff from elsewhere. Then when you rediscover it, it's a revelation, as in this dish.

For detailed tips on how to get some classic deep-fried love right, and vary it to suit your mood, check this post.

Anchored in memories of home come these recipes, one of which is a taste maker to a palate deadened by a bad cold.

Despite its name, this dish won't stop anyone - it's Go! all the way.

A well-justified rant against the state of the nation has her seeking some comfort in this recipe.

Apart from chick peas, kidney beans seem to be a great legumy favourite. Paired with tomatoes, they make a classic gravy.

This is the first soup to feature in When My Soup Came Alive and it's not my own! Howzzat?

Chicken 65, Gobi 65 and maybe even Babycorn 65 are familiar items on Indian restaurant menus. Now this can be added to the list!

A one-pot meal is a great way to save time and yet not compromise on taste or nutrition. Topping it with almonds makes it festive.

A medley of ingredients jostle for space in this colourful dish, and the best part is that there's no oil in it!

An exposition and adoration of the Mother Goddess, and a tribute to simple, home-cooked food - that's what you'll find here.

Speckled as much with colour as spice, this promises textures that are firm, yielding and crunchy as it does a burst of flavours.

This recipe must be one of the shorter posts from a blogger whose posts leave us in splits, but it's not without hints of its characteristic humour and colour.

This unusual combination of legume and vegetable is inspired by a cookery show, and what's more, there's no added oil to the dish.

See what a couple of handfuls of beans and some pasta and no oil at all can do in this recipe.

Popeye would love this, and they would be introduced to some Indian flavours as well in the bargain!

A bounty of the green thumb that's too little to come into its own but too much of a delight to go ignored finds ample expression here.

While the woes of the world are many, there are many other things you can give thanks for. This hearty dish is both comfort and celebration.

Amidst a time of change, this versatile dish, which can serve as accompaniment or soup, brings some warm comfort.

It's nostalgia time again and chickpeas are at the centre of it, but a dash of an untraditional ingredient blends the present with the past in this creation.

A visual feast is what she aims for, and succeeds in creating in this instance where she combines herbs, breadcrumbs and beans.

A no-fuss, quick stir-fry made of two kinds of legumes, with just some onions and tempering for company is what this recipe is.

Seven kinds of lentils and many more vegetables combine to make this recipe a good accompaniment to breads and dosas.

A query on why she doesn't cook "normal food" anymore has her doing some semantic investigation, some introspection, and coming up with this dish.

Moong beans flavoured with pandan and sugar and topped with some fritters combine to form an unusual dessert.

In a post redolent of the sights and smells of the past comes this recipe for a favourite street snack.

Chickpeas are such a favourite they must be the most used legumes in this event. Full of onions and spices and coconut milk, this is one curry that will be sure to tantalise those tastebuds!

The quest for local Italian legumes results in a glossy, uncomplicated dish highlighted with just a few flavours that include celery and leek.

A perfect spring day with the sun streaming into the house and the garden wearing new greenery is the perfect setting for this salad, which made an easy and quick dinner.

There's a twist in the tale, and it's tangy and nutty. This recipe sure know how to tempt.

The stuff of so many restaurant visits, accompaniment to an exaggerated bread, a never-go-out-of-fashion dish, that's what this entry is all about.

Snowy white shreds of coconut, a sprig of coriander and curry leaf make a pretty picture and adorn this entry.

A handful of spices and staple gravy makers onion and tomato lend themselves well to these legumes which go perfectly well with chapatis and other breads.

Condensed is the word that comes to mind when I have to describe this entry. And pithy. These words describe legumes as well as the format in which the recipes are provided.

More tiresome than a tiring day is the thought of ordering in some oily food. It took just a little imagination and just a little elbow grease to recreate this from memory.

It's is a meaningful birthday gift to a mother-in-law who's as nice as one's own mother. This is one recipe that will surely warm the cockles of your heart.

A love of Greek food, nurtured on a visit to Serifos, inspires this dish, which comes into its own with the addition of fennel, pernod and tarragon.

Can the lack of a hole be called a missing detail? No fuss, not much mess, and a fig to all those purists who hanker after the hole! Enjoy, simply!

As a child, this was a favourite of mine whenever we went out of town and stayed in a certain hotel. This recipe is simple enough to shake off the lethargy and get going.

If you're looking to add some colour to your life, perhaps you could start with some of it in your food first. This salad will come in handy.

As popular as the beach that plays host to it is this snack. This was, however, eaten at home.

A little rumination about being a Jack of all trades puts her in the mood for these cutlets. They can be made with the bare minimum of ingredients or as many as you have.

Whether it's for a subsistence meal sans the ennui or to recreate the memories of a cherished past, this recipe will come in handy.

A traditional old favourite, for which recipes vary vastly, this khichdi is a simple and soothing affair, livened up by a tadka (tempering)of mustard and cumin.

Assembly line, when not used in strictly industrial terms, is often pejorative. But it has its benefits when it's applied to a recipe that needs scaling down, such as this.

And finally, my entries:
and here

And the winner is ... Anudivya of ...and a little bit more... Please mail me for more information.