*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.

Advertisements

My Version Of Chicken Dhansak Dedicated to my Father

A few weekends ago I visited my ever growing collection of cook books.  There isn’t suitable shelving to keep them in the kitchen so I have dedicated a little cubby hole in the hallway with two book shelves that face each other for my brimming collection.  Inevitably what happens is by the end of each week I have a pile of books to take back to their home from kitchen.  When I took last week’s pile back I realised that they just did not fit probably due to a couple of new members to my cook book family. It seems that now I must leave a pile of books homeless in the kitchen as my new additions have no home on the bookshelf!  Time to buy bigger shelves…..

I ended up picking out a few to keep in the kitchen- mostly Indian ones as I seem to be going through a bit of  a back to my roots phase.  I found one that was particularly well loved  that my father had bought in India a number of years ago.  Although I have used it before, you could tell that it was a book that my father enjoyed and used well.  Apart from the pages of his favourite recipes slightly dogeared and worse for wear, his trademark highlighter marking was garnished throughout the book as it was in most books he read; the more highlighter, the more he like the book.  Any time I come across a book that has been highlighted, I smile.

My father adored cooking and learning new methods of cooking.  His speciality was any kind of meat, especially anything BBQ related, as is what most alpha-male-part-time cooks would say and claim to be their “territory” when it comes to the kitchen.  Saying that, my father was not only a magnificent BBQ-er, he made delicious dal and meat curries too. In fact whatever he made tasted utterly scrumptious.  He certainly knew his way around the spice box and was able to marry flavours together with perfection.   One thing that always made us laugh was his method of cooking.  He was certainly the head chef and he would make sure that he had his sous chefs on hand whenever he was cooking.

When I was a child, I remember my father gathering my sister and me in the kitchen when he was ready to cook something.  As it was an occasional foray in the kitchen for my father, it was a treat when he decided to take over for the day as he would involve us and let us do things like chopping and stirring.  My mother didn’t let us do things like this when we were so young as it would slow her down when she was trying to prepare dinner everyday for the entire family after a long day at work.   My father would sit on the kitchen table in his chair, spice boxes and bottles of seasonings surrounding him, he would concoct his marinades or masalas.  Of course, my sister and I were not idol- we were put to work! Peeling the ginger, garlic and onions, fetching whatever was on on the kitchen table already (my mother stayed out of the kitchen on these occasions for this reason- my father would literally have everything out of the cupboards and the mess would be beyond her tolerance level!).  I never saw it as work, I loved watching my father and helping him.  I don’t think he realised how much he taught me in the way that he cooked and how different it was to my mother or grandmother. My experimental tendencies certainly come from my father.  These were some of those treasured memories I have spending time with him and him sharing something that he loved to do with us;  in turn it has become one of my own passions in life.

My Chicken Dhansak

I dedicated this recipe to my father because this is the kind of dish he loved.  He loved a good  hearty, flavourful meat or chicken curry and although not something we’d traditionally cook in our family, I remember Dhansak being one of his favourites.  My recipe has elements of a traditional Parsi Dhansak, but with a touch of flavour and texture variation from me.  For me, I love the  heartiness of slow cooked dishes.  This one is not only hearty because of the lentils and vegetables, but there is a deliciousness that comes from cooking on the bone makes this as tasty as it is nutritious.  It’s a  wonderfully simple one pot dish  (if you omit the tempering and fried onions stage) to make for gatherings and served with freshly made *naan or tandoori style roti, some fresh yoghurt and some freshly sliced sweet onions.

If you are in the mood for lamb dhansak over chicken, this recipe will work just as well for lamb.  You can use lamb on the bone or off , but you will need to cook for a little longer and on a gentle heat to ensure the meat is not tough.

This recipe can make enough for up to 10 people depending on the size of your chicken.  If you have left overs, this freezes beautifully too.

Ingredients

1 whole chicken de-skinned and cut into 12 pieces or 1.5-2kg of thigh/leg on the bone de-skinned

100g Toor dal (split pigeon peas)

100g Masoor dal (split red lentils)

100g yellow Moong dal

2 large onions chopped finely

2 tbsp grated ginger

2 tbsp grated garlic

3-4 long green chilis (blend these with the ginger and garlic paste)

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

1 good sized aubergine cubed (about 200g)

1 sweet potato peeled and cubed – red or white (about 400g)

Tamarind paste to taste (about 3-4 tbsp)

2-3 tbsp ghee or butter (if using ghee, only use home made- store bought ghee does have the same flavour.  Butter is a much better option)

3-4 tbsp Oil plus extra for frying onions for the topping

1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp black peppercorns

2-3 large black cardamom pods

5-6 cloves

2 inch cassia bark/cinnamon stick

1 tsp turmeric

2 tsp coriander powder

2 tsp red chili flakes or powder

2-3 tsp garam masala (mine if homemade and in the punjabi style, you can use one that you like)

1/4- 1/2 cup kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves) depending on the strength

salt to taste (about 2 tsps)

Fresh green coriander/cilantro for garnishing

1 large onion sliced finely to fry until deeply caramalised for garnishing

2 tsp of butter, 1 tsp cumin seeds, `1 tsp of kasoori methi and 1/2 tsp of garam masala for tempering.  (this is optional step and the end.  It adds a nice buttery flavour, but if you omit it, the dish will taste just as good)

** For my tsp measurements when cooking non baked items, I use an eating tsp…they are not level measurements – more rounded/heaped and so a little more than a measured tsp. The measurements I have given are exactly what I used at the time I made this, but each time I make something I rarely follow the same recipe verbatim; there is always room for adjustments, experimentation and of course substitution when you don’t have all the ingredients to hand.   Indian food is all about Andaza (guesstimates) so do what feels right for you.  Substitute if you need to and use my measurements as guidelines to work from!**

Method

  1. Wash the dals 3-4 times and leave to soak for an hour or so or overnight.  If you forget to soak them, you can just wash them and use them as they are, the only difference is a reduction in the cooking time when you soak them.
  2. Heat a wide heavy based pan and add 3 tbs of oil and the 2 finely chopped onions.  Fry at a gentle sizzle for 20- 30 mins stirring occasionally to ensure that they don’t burn.  You are looking for a light caramel colour. (See picture above) They are ready when they are transculent and the sugars are deepening and becoming sticky on the bottom of the pan. About 10-20 mins
  3. Turn the heat up slightly and add 1-2 tbsp butter or ghee.  Allow to melt and then add the whole spices (cassia bark, black cardamon, black pepper, cumin and cloves.  Saute  until the cumin pops.
  4. Next add the ginger, garlic and green chili paste and cook for 2-3 mins.  Do not let it stick to the bottom of the pan.  If it starts to stick, add a little more butter/ghee or oil.  It is important that the onions and garlic do not burn or brown too much as they will lose the sweetness and flavour that they impart to the dish. (See picture above)
  5. Next add the tomatoes and cook until the oil separates from the tomatoes. 3-5 mins
  6. Then add the powder spices- the tumeric, red chili powder, garam masala, coriander powder, kasoori methi, and salt.  Cook for 1-2 mins to release the flavours.
  7. Now turn up the heat to the highest temperature and add the chicken.  Coat the chicken pieces with the masala stirring well to ensure the masala does not touch down in the pan.
  8. Allow the meat to cook like this on high heat for about 1-2 mintues before adding the soaked dals with some water and then the aubergine and the sweet potato. Add enough water to cover all that is in the pan.  Stir well and allow to come to a boil.
  9. Put a lid on and turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and cook for 35-45 mins or until the dal is done and the chicken is coming off the bone.
  10. While the dal is cooking take the sliced onions and fry them generously in oil until they are browned and crispy on the edges.  Drain on kitchen paper and reserve.
  11. When the chicken is done and the meat is starting to fall of the bone,  take a slotted spoon and remove all the chicken pieces from the dal and leave to the side so that they come to a temperature whereby you can handle them to remove the meat.
  12. Meanwhile take a potato masher as now the vegetables and dal will be very soft and roughly mash them in the pan.  If you see any of the whole spices you can remove them from the pan. Check for seasoning and adjust if needed.
  13. When you are able to handle the chicken, take it off the bones in chunks/large shreds.  Do not shred completely.  Discard the bones and add the chicken back to the dal.
  14. Mix the chicken well.  Check the consistency and add a little water if you feel it is too thick.  Bring to a boil and simmer for 10 mins.
  15. For the optional tempering stage- In a small frying pan take a 1-2 tsp butter and add 1 tsp of cumin seeds, 1 /2 tsp of garam masala and 1 tsp of kasoori methi and fry for a minute.  After the chicken has simmered, pour onto the chicken and stir well.
  16. Garnish with finely chopped coriander and the fried onions.  Serve with home made naan or roti, cucumber and yoghurt raita and some sliced sweet onions.

*A recipe for Naan will follow soon!

*Meat- Free Tuesday* Acquiring Taste With Age: My Journey From Loathing To Loving Karelas

Being from a family of  longstanding foodies, there are not many edible things that I have yet to encounter if you discount most jungle survival food. (Even some of this I have tried.)  However, not all of the things I have tried have been love at first taste;  in fact some of them have taken me years to develop a taste for.  I particularly remember when I was younger there were a few Indian vegetables/dishes my family would cook that I would not look forward to eating at all.  One in particular I used to dread was karelas (bitter gourd).  They have a distinctive bitterness that was not appealing to me and I didn’t understand why the adults relished them so much.  I imagine they may have been appealing to kids that enjoyed bitter flavours  such as bitter lemon drinks or various penny sweets that had a bitter tang, but I was not one of those kids.  Firstly, I was definitely not a fan of penny sweets…the sugary, sweet, sour, fizzy, sometimes bitter, brightly coloured,  mostly jelified objects that you’d to find your friends smuggling into lessons.  You knew the sweets were coming out when you heard the signature rustle from their little neon candy-pink stripped paper bags coming from under their desks in order to get a mid lesson sugar rush/pick me up.  The only penny sweets that I bought from the tuck shop were cola bottles or white chocolate mice, but there were only so many of those I could eat before I felt sick.  Now I don’t think I could stomach them at all.

It was my birthday this past Sunday and I got to thinking about how my tastes have evolved as I have gotten older.  Bhindis, Punjabi Wadis, Karelas are all things that I never liked as a child and now that I am older I sometimes crave for!  I remember my mother making these dishes because she particularly loved them- especially Wadis.  She would bring stocks of them over from India on her trips as the ones you used to get here were never the same; fortunately we get some good imported ones now. Wadis look like hardened dumplings.  They are made from ground up lentil and mostly whole spices (you will be experiencing whole peppercorns guaranteed!) that are dried in the hot sun, which is why they taste so much better when they are from India; the Indian sun makes everything taste better. :)  To use the wadis, you must first fry them in some oil to release the aromas from the spices and cook the lentils.  You can then add them to various dishes in order to soften them as they are quite the tooth breaker if you attempt to eat them without some moisture softening them first!  My mother’s favourite way to cook them are with potatoes in a gravy or to add them to vegetable pilau for that added kick.  When we were younger, my sister and I would get very irritated and would have no choice but to religiously pick out any trace of wadis in whatever dish our mother added them to for her own enjoyment, but now that we’re older you may find us arguing over who is having the last one!

For my series of Meat-Free Tuesdays posts,  today I am sharing a simple recipe for Karela (bitter gourd).  Once a vegetable that I loathed, it has become one that I adore.  This dish  has the perfect balance of bitter from the karela, sourness from the amchoor powder (or lemon), sweetness and flavour from the onions, potatoes and spices; most importantly, the use of sauf ( fennel seeds) that just makes this dish sing!  My love affair with fennel seeds and their magical uses in Indian cookery will be a story for another day!  Karelas not only are delicious, they have many health benefits too.  In the Indian culture they are used for medicinal purposes to control blood sugar problems among many other diseases.

There are many ways in which you can cook karelas; they are particularly delicious left whole and stuffed with either spiced lamb kheema or a vegetarian spicy besan (chickpea flour) mix.  Today’s recipe is the easiest way I know to prepare them as well as my favourite.

Aromatic Bitter Gourd & Potato Subzi – Aloo Karela Subzi

Ingredients

  • 3-4 karelas (bitter gourds) scrapped a little on the outside and sliced into rounds  or 1 pack of frozen slices defrosted
  • 1-2 potatoes cut into thick chips or cubes- whatever you prefer
  • 1 onion chopped finely
  • 1 onion sliced
  • 1-3 green chilies-to taste
  • 1  plus 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp whole fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp crushed fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp garam masala plus extra to taste
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder (optional)
  • 2 1/2 tsp roasted ground coriander
  • 1/2- 1 tsp amchoor (dried green mango powder) or some lemon juice
  • 1- 2 tsp sugar/palm sugar/jaggery to taste
  • some roasted ground cumin for sprinkling
  • salt to taste
  • Oil

Method

  1. Take the karela slices and salt them generously and leave in a bowl for 15-20 mins.  After this time you will notice that there will be some liquid in the bowl.  Squeeze the karela slices well, pat with some kitchen paper to dry and set aside.  The liquid contains the bitterness.  This bitterness is what contains the goodness/medicinal properties in karelas, so the more you squeeze, the more you remove.  I give them a good squeeze, but not so much that they loose their shape or too much of the bitterness.
  2. In a wide based pan heat some oil- about 5-6 tbsp.  You will need to use oil generously when cooking karelas as they do not achieve a good flavour unless they are golden and they will got get golden without enough oil however hard you try!  You can however drain what remains after they are done if you choose to.
  3. Add  1/2 tsp cumin seeds and the well squeezed and patted dry karela slices and fry on a high heat until the slices get crispy edges and are golden- about 5-10 mins stirring frequently. When done, with a slotted spoon, remove the karela slices and set aside.
  4. You may need to add a tbsp or so of oil in the pan if there is none remaining from the frying of the karelas- you need about 2-3 tbsps in the pan at this stage.
  5. Add 1 tsp of cumin seeds and 1 tsp whole fennel seeds (if you really don’t like aniseed you can omit these, but they don’t taste aniseed-y in the same way that aniseeds do- particularly in this dish.   Instead they  add the most amazing dimension of taste of this dish) and allow to flutter before adding the finely chopped onions and green chilies.  Allow to fry until onions are translucent- about 3-4 mins
  6. Next add some spices- the ground coriander, garam masala, turmeric, red chili powder and some salt to taste- about 1 1/2 tsp is the standard amount I use in dishes.  Fry for about a minute.
  7. Add the potatoes and stir well.  Cover and cook on a low heat until half cooked- about 5-10 mins (depending on how large you cut the potatoes).
  8. Take the lid off and now add the sliced onion, karela slices, amchoor or lemon, sugar, and some extra garam masala if you like.  Stir well and cover and cook to allow the flavours to meld together and the sliced onions to soften and sweeten- about 10 mins.
  9. When cooked, remove from heat and stir well.  Taste for salt, sweetness and sour- adjust according to taste.  Don’t add too much sugar- there is not meant to be a sweet taste…the sugar is there purely to balance the flavours.  Sprinkle over the crushed fennel seeds, some roasted ground cumin and extra garam masala if you like.  Garnish with chopped coriander/cilantro if you have it and serve with a dal and or plain yoghurt and freshly made chapattis! Delicious!