*Meat Free Tuesdays* As the stormy weather ensues… Let a warm wholesome bowl of Kadhi warm your insides.

The changing of season  has arrived.  I finally went outside to check what if anything was still growing in my vegetable boxes. I wasn’t hopeful seeing that we have had some awful weather the last week or so.  Surprisingly, I found some tomatoes among the kale and spinach.  Green, ready to take inside to ripen and beautifully formed. The tomatoes have been one of my favourite plants that I have grown this year.  The taste of home-grown tomatoes cannot compare to anything I have ever eaten in the UK.  The closest would be when I have eaten them in the Med, Kenya or India.  I can honestly say I grew the most delicious tomatoes I have ever eaten! However, next year I will grow them better by spreading out the plants more so that they grow bigger.  And I want to try to can them, too.  The thought of using store-bought canned tomatoes is pretty unappealing now since I have been spoilt with the taste of my home-grown babies. Saying that, there are times when convenience overtakes and so I am sure I will not abandon the canned version completely.

Today I am sharing  one of my favourite vegetarian Indian dishes- one where I have incorporated some of my home-grown tomatoes!  I chose this today because it’s something completely comforting and simple to make.  It’s warm, uplifting, sun like yellowness and soupy consistency perfectly carries flavours and spices to sooth your soul.   My favourite kind of dish.

Kadhi, is most simply put as a spicy yogurt soup.  I have to say, It doesn’t sound quite right; hot yogurt sounds wrong to me.  However, although not eaten like a soup- more like a dal would be eaten- with rice or chapattis, the main ingredient in this dish is yogurt and it is eaten hot, therefore that is how I will describe it!

Traditionally kadhi would be made  to use up the left over yogurt from the previous day’s meal.  Yogurt is eaten with almost every meal in my family.  And in India where yogurt was never bought, but made fresh at home daily, there were always left overs.  You would never normally eat the yogurt from the previous day as it would be slightly more sour and it was so easy to make yogurt.  Instead you’d be spoilt with taza – or fresh yogurt at every meal. In England I do make yogurt most weeks, but I don’t have the luxury or need to make  it daily as I don’t make Indian food daily. If I make it once a week, I am happy as there are still some left overs for making  kadhi or other tasty dishes that require sour yogurt so it all gets used.  If I fancy kadhi and I don’t have any yogurt  store-bought natural live yogurt works just as well.

There are many different kinds of kadhi from different regions of India.  My family’s kadhi is of the Punjabi variety, made with yogurt, spices and chickpeas flour, it also has the addition of pakora dumplings.   These are fried dumplings made from chickpeas flour, onions, potatoes, spices and any other vegetables you may want to add.  Once fried they are added to the hot kadhi to simmer until softened.  Often vegetables such as carrots and onions are added to the kadhi for added heartiness and to balance the sourness of the yogurt.  Punjabi kadhi is generally thick in consistency like that of a thick custard.  The kadhi is served with rice or chappatis and makes for a wholesome meal.  In Gujarat,  kadhi is also made with yogurt, chickpeas flour and spices.  The spices used are slightly different and the consistency is thinner -more soup like and there are no dumplings.  The flavour also incorporates that signature Gujarati sweet and sour pairing due to the addition of jaggery or sugar as well as a slightly more pronounced warm gingery-ness.  I tend to enjoy this style of kadhi more.  The last one  that I have tasted and attempted myself is Sindi kadhi.  This kadhi is not made with yogurt, but is only made with chickpeas flour and spices.  For the sourness, which the other two varieties get from the yogurt, tamarind paste is used instead.  Various vegetables such as beans, potatoes, drumsticks (I used these in my Toor Dal recipe) and onions to name a few are also added.  At some point I hope to share a recipe for this kind as the flavour is very different and it’s absolutely delicious.

My Favourite kind of Kadhi

Serves 8 at least, but keeps well for about a week in the fridge.  Flavour develops over time and is even more delicious the next day.

My version as with most of my Indian dishes is a hybrid of a couple of different styles of Indian cooking.  From a young age I have enjoyed both Punjabi and Gujarati kadhi.  At home I’d enjoy Punjabi kadhi, sometimes with pakora dumplings and  sometimes with sweetcorn.  The flavour was the proper Punjabi flavour- no added sweetness- just the sourness from the yogurt and the natural sweetness from the vegetables that were added.  It was important that the yogurt used was not overly sour for this reason- a day or two old was fine.  My family had many Gujarati friends both in Kenya and in England and kadhi was a popular dish that I would have often when visiting. As I described above, although made with similar ingredients, it was a thinner consistency and there was a much more of a balance between the sweet and sour flavours for me.  Oh and it was hotter too.  Gujaratis like their chilies!  I have taken my favourite parts from each and made my own.  Kadhi is a versatile dish and so you can add whatever vegetables you fancy to vary the flavour.  I like to serve it with plain boiled basmati rice.

Ingredients

4 cups of natural live yoghurt ( I tend to use low fat, but for a richer consistency you can use whole milk yoghurt)

5-6 tbsp chickpeas flour – besan  (the more you add the thicker it will become)  5-6 gives you a single cream consistency. Punjabi kadhi would have at least a 1/2 as much more.

2-3 tbsp jaggery (to taste)

2-3 tbsp grated ginger

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp red chili powder ( to taste)

1 green chili chopped finely (optional as you are also adding this to the tarka)

6 cups of water

1/2 tsp whole coriander seeds (optional)

2-3 tsp ground roasted coriander

For the tempering  tarka in Punjabi or vaghaar in Gujarati or chaunk in Hindi

2-4 green chilies chopped finely

1 large spanish onion or two regular medium onions sliced

2 sprigs of fresh curry leaves – about 12 leaves (fresh is vital for flavour.  You can try to buy these fresh and freeze them immediately.  They work well this way.  Dried ones will not work nearly as well)

2 tbsp homemade ghee or butter or a mix of oil and ghee/butter.  I never use store-bought ghee for cooking as I find the flavour and smell unappetizing.  To me, it’s not what ghee should smell or taste like.  It is very easy to make your own ghee at home and you will find a huge difference in the taste of your dishes because of it.  If you do not have the time to make ghee, I would always recommend use butter instead of store-bought ghee.  Just be sure not to heat it too high as butter has a tendency to burn because of the milk solids that are still in it.

5-6 cloves

1 heaped tsp cumin

1 heaped tsp mustard seeds

2 inches of cassia bark/cinnamon sticks

3-5 whole red chillies of your choice. (optional)

1/2- 1/4 tsp of asafoetida – hing (optional – I know some people don’t like this because of the smell, but if you add it sparingly, and fry it a little it adds a great flavour)

To garnish:

1-2 flavourful tomatoes chopped into chunks – sometimes also add sweet corn.  The tomato adds a tang to the kadhi and compliments the sweet onions. (optional)

a good handful of finey chopped coriander leaves and stems

Method

  1. Take a large heavy based pan and put the yoghut, chickpea flour,, turmeric, red chili powder and coriander  corriander powder in.  Mix well to ensure there are no lumps.
  2. Next add the grated/crumbled jaggery, finely chopped green chilli if you’re using it, the grated ginger, and the whole coriander seeds.  Mix well and finally add the 6 cups of water, stir and put on the cooker to bring to the boil. Ensure to stir periodically to avoid lumps.
  3. While  the kadhi is coming to a boil make the tarka.  This is the heart of the dish- where the oils from the spices are released to impart delicious flavour through the dish.  In a frying pan heat the ghee/butter/oil until hot.
  4. Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, whole red  chilies, cloves and cassia/cinnamon sticks.  Fry for 20-30 seconds until the mustard seeds are popping vigriously.
  5. Now add the curry leaves which will spit quite a lot if they are fresh.  allow them to spit for 10-20 seconds before adding the green chillies and onions together.
  6. Let the green chillies and onions cook on high heat until they start to soften.  You don’t want them to go brown.  Just to sweeten by softening them a little.
  7. Finally make a little space in the frying pan by moving the onions to the side and add the asofodetia.  Allow this to fry for 10 second or so before stiring it into the onions and tipping the entire contents of the pan into the kadhi which should have started to thicken.
  8. To get all the flavour from the pan I usually add a few spoons of the kadhi into the frying pan, stir around and tip it back into the kadhi.
  9. Stir the kadhi well and bring to a boil.  Add salt to taste- about 1 1/2 tsp should do… Add less first as the yoghurt may have some salt in it.
  10. Let the kadhi cook on a simmer for 10 minutes or so to let the flavours of the spices develop.
  11. About 5 mintures before serving add the tomatoes and stir.  You can switch off the heat when you do this.  And top with the chopped coriander.
  12. Serve with a bowl of freshly cooked basmati rice.

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*Meat Free Tuesdays*: The Oxford Street Christmas lights are up already! Time for a winter warmer: Toor Dal two ways

So I was walking on Oxford street the other night and it was surprisingly noisy considering the time of night it was.  As I looked ahead, there were huge cranes towering with people on them making lots of drilling noises.  As I got closer I could finally see that they were erecting  London’s Christmas lights; the huge light studded umbrellas and Christmas presents that were going to adorn the streets for the next few months.  It brought a feeling of coziness and warmth to me.  Something I needed since summer never really re-appeared since I last posted.  The thought of Christmas approaching has sated my being.

Speaking of when I last posted, it has been a long hiatus during which many things have happened…many dishes prepared, recipes discovered, new people, old people met, new places, old places travelled to;  not forgetting to mention my garden harvest that was bursting with plums, apples and pears as well as a plethora of other delicious edibles that I was quite proud of.

I have to say though,  I haven’t been in the kitchen as much as I would have liked these past few months.  My spirit has been dampened slightly.  Sometimes things in other parts of your life take over and you can so easily forget the simple joys that your kitchen can bring.

Anyway, I am back!  And hopefully for awhile as I  have a number of recipes that I wish to share, and although their seasonality is more or less over, I will endeavor to write posts soon.

Getting back to the topic of this post.  Since I started my oh so clever idea of  making Tuesday a day to abstain from eating meat (family tradition being my motivation) and so promising a weekly delicious, vegetarian recipe offering to make you forget your desire to be carnivorous,  I realise I have not kept to my word.   I am ashamed to say that I have even had some readers protest over their absence! (I am slapping my own wrists at my broken promises, I can assure you.)

Toor Dal – two ways

Today I am sharing a recipe for an extremely versatile dal recipe- Toor Dal (Split Pigeon Peas).  Although a dal that is not traditionally cooked by the northern Indian people, it is one that can be found in many different forms in other parts such as in the southern and western India.  Being that my family originates from the North, toor dal is not something that you’d find in any Punjabi family’s repertoire   Lucky for me and my family’s movement around the globe and India for that matter; our family has adopted influences from many other cuisines, one of my favourites and most prominent in our repertoire are influences from the Gujarati cuisine.  Gujarati’s tend to use a lot of sweet and sour flavours in their recipes, hence the star flavours in this dish are jaggery for the sweetness and kokum phool for the sour (a dried sour flower that is specifically used in Gujarat- widely available in UK asian supermarkets.  Gujarati cuisine incorporates sweetness in the majority of it’s savoury dishes, something unheard of in northern India.  There are a number of dishes that my family make that have that Gujarati sweet and sour element fused with Punjabi flavour. The fusion dishes are sometimes the tastiest.

Toor dal is specifically made from split shelled pigeon peas.  You can find these in Indian stores in two formats.  Coated with oil or without. My family has always used the oil coated ones.  I am not quite sure why, but if I remember correctly I was once told that they stay fresher when coated with oil…maybe the dry ones tend to taste bad if kept for too long?  Regardless, the oil is washed off prior to cooking so I don’t think it would make much of a difference which you use.

The recipe I am giving you today has some Punjabi influences, but the essence is Gujarati.  It can be used to make two meals- one where the dal is cooked with a vegetable called drumsticks and the other uses the left over dal  that you can transform  into Dal Dhokali.

Toor Dal with Drumsticks

Serves 8

Ingredients for the dal

1 1/2 cups toor dal (oily or without oil) Wash both dals well, but if using the oily kind, rub well to remove the oil and wash until the water is more or less clear.  You can also soak this dal overnight to shorten the cooking time.

1 small/medium onion chopped

2-3 inches ginger grated

1/2 a garlic (6-8 pods) grated

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp red chili powder or to taste

1/2 cup of dried kokum phool rinsed and then soaked in enough water to just cover them just before you start cooking. If you can’t find kokum you can substitute 1-2 limes or a few tbsp tamarind paste to taste for the sourness.

2-4 tbsp jaggery/ palm sugar to taste (If you need to substitute with brown sugar, use less)

salt to taste

Ingredients for the tarka

3-5 green chilies depending on strength-  to taste

1 rounded tsp cumin

1 rounded tsp mustard seeds

1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds

1-3 pieces of cassia bark or cinnamon sticks equivalent of about 2 inches

5-6 cloves

12 or so fresh curry leaves (you can sometimes find these frozen.  If you do find them fresh- they do freeze well if you don’t need them all.  Use directly from the freezer.  Do not defrost.)

1/4- 1/2 tsp Asafoetida/hing (optional- some people dislike the sulfurous smell.  I do not like to cook without it in many Gujarati dishes.  It adds a flavour you cannot replicate with anything else.  It is not the end of the world if you omit it though.)

1-2 tsp ground coriander powder

3 tbsp oil

The Vegetables

2 drumsticks prepared and cut into 3-4 inch sticks.  You can also buy these frozen – I used about 1/2 pack. (If you cannot find drumsticks you can omit them or add other vegetables such as carrots)

2 flavourful tomatoes chopped into large chunks

1 large onion chopped in to large chunks

Fresh coriander finely chopped for garnishing

Method

  1. Take all the ingredients for the dal apart from the jaggery, salt and kokum and put them into a large heavy based pan or a pressure cooker and top with 4-5 cups of water.  If pressure cooking allow 2-3 whistles if you have soaked the dal, if not allow 5-6.  You want to pulverise the dal as much as possible. If using a regular pan cook until dal is mashably soft- about 30 mins.
  2. Once the dal is soft, take a hand blender or a whisk and completely mash the dal to a smooth consistency. Check the thickness- you want it to be no thicker than single cream.  Add water accordingly.  Also add the salt to taste, the kokum or lime/tamarind and jaggery. Bring to a boil and simmer for 15 mins.
  3. While the dal is simmering, make the tarka: Heat the oil and add the cumin,  mustard seed, cloves and cassia bark and allow to flutter. Next add the curry leaves which will splutter. Add the green chilies and fry for a 20-30 seconds. Finally add the fenugreek seeds, the asafoetida and the coriander powder.  Do not cook too much more as the fenugreek seeds can turn bitter (15-20 seconds).  Add the entire pan of tarka to the dal that is simmering .
  4. Stir the dal well to distribute the tarka.  Now taste to check salt, sweet and sour. There should be a good balance of all.  Adjust by adding more jaggery if you need more sweetness, if there is too much sweetness add some lime or a little tamarind.
  5. Add the tomato chunks,  onion chunks and drumsticks and allow to simmer for 15 mins.
  6. The dal is now ready.  Garnish with coriander and serve with plain steamed basmati rice.

Dal Dhokali

The recipe for the dal is as above. If you are using left over dal you will need to thin it – add 1-2 cups of water for a more brothy consistency.  The quantity of ingredients given here is enough for left over dal.  If you are making the dal fresh, I suggest doubling the dhokali recipe below.

Ingredient for the Dhokali

100g wholewheat chapatti flour

25g besan – chickpea flour

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 red chili powder – or to taste

1 tsp ajawan seeds lovage/carom seeds (optional – adds a new flavour and compliments it well)

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tbsp oil

water to make into a stiff dough

Method

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and make a stiff dough that will roll out with ease- about the texture of playdoh.
  2. Add water to left over dal and check seasoning.  Adjust accordingly, bring to a boil and allow to simmer.  If using fresh keep it on a simmer.
  3. Divide the dough into two pieces and roll out each one as thinly as possible- a couple of mm at the most. Use either flour or an oiled surface to help you roll.
  4. Use a pizza cutter to cut out diamond shapes as the picture below shows.
  5. Drop the dough pieces in to the simmering dal and allow to cook for 10-20 minutes.  When the dal has thickened slightly, check the dhokali is done (they will have expanded like pasta, but they do naturally have a slightly doughy texture similar to gnocchi.)
  6. When ready serve and garnish with freshly chopped coriander.