Bhindi do Pyaza (Okra with Caramelised Onions)

The unsung hero…

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Bhindi or Okra is one of my favourite vegetables. Each time I go back home to India, bhindi has to be on the menu for my arrival celebratory dinner. Also known as ladyfinger, Okra is used across a wide variety of cuisines – Indian, Middle Eastern, Southern American to name a few. Yet I find this lip smackingly delicious vegetable is not celebrated like it should and remains the unsung hero of the vegetable kingdom.

There are various ways in which Okra can be prepared – you can make an okra curry, deep fry it to make crispy okra, and many more. However our family favourite is definitely Bhindi do Pyaza. Okra cooked with caramelised onions and dried spices, the flavours are just divine.

I remember as a child when we would go visit my Beeji and Massi in Shimla (a beautiful hill station in the lap of the Himalayas, north of India), my Mum would always make bhindi and tamatar waale jeera aloo with savoury parathas for our overnight train journey. Meal times on the train were so exciting. I vividly remember my Mum would buy my brother and I tomato soup to start with. You will know of this legendary tomato soup if you have taken an overnight train from Bombay to Delhi. After the soup followed a lavish meal, my Mum would open up that big stainless steel tiffin and in each container were lip smackingly delicious treats. Of course I was the happiest when there was Bhindi on the menu.

Ingredients: 8   Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 2

  1. 300 gms of Okra
  2. Two medium red onions, finely sliced
  3. Two teaspoons coriander powder
  4. One teaspoon cumin powder
  5. One teaspoon Amchur (dried mango) powder
  6. One teaspoon red chilli powder
  7. Four tablespoons mustard oil
  8. Salt to season

Wash the okra under running water. Prior to chopping it thoroughly wipe it with a kitchen napkin and ensure its dry. This prevents the okra from getting slimy while cooking. Chop the okra into half-inch pieces.

In a pan or wok heat mustard oil, it gives the dish that delicious earthy flavour. However you can use vegetable oil or olive oil too. Add the sliced onions and slow cook them on a low to medium heat for seven to ten minutes or until slightly caramelised.

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Now add the chopped okra, followed by all the dried spices except Amchur powder and salt. Toss the okra and ensure the spices are evenly mixed through.  Cook the okra on a medium heat until okra is tender.

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Finally add Amchur powder and season with salt as desired. If you don’t have Amchur powder you can replace it with one tablespoon of lemon juice. Toss the okra once more prior to serving.

Your lip smackingly delicious Bhindi do Pyaza is ready to serve. Remember you can serve it as a side dish or a main dish as I have along with savoury parathas, cucumber raita and rice. 

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Ps: If my Mums train tiffin interested you at all, please find the tamatar waale jeera aloo recipe here and savoury paratha recipe here. Enjoy!!

Sabudana Khichdi (Savoury Sago Porridge)

Food that rekindles memories…

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One thing I miss most about my school days are summer holidays. Every year without fail once our final exams finished we would be excitedly packing our bags to go to Shimla, it’s where two of my most favourite women in the world live. My Massi (Aunty) and Beeji (Grandma). Not just that it’s where time and time again I devour the best food. Food that is cooked with boundless love. I will be featuring all these recipes on the blog but for now lets talk about this Sabudana Khichdi aka Savoury Sago Pudding, one word – AMAZING!

Sago is used around the world typically for puddings and porridge (both sweet and savoury). If you are using Sago for the first time, it can be a little tricky getting the consistency right. It depends on the type of Sago you are using – some require soaking for three to four hours and other requires soaking overnight. Here in Melbourne I use the brand called ‘India at Home’, which requires soaking overnight and is available at most Indian grocers.

In India Sago is popularly used when fasting on holy days. Yes, as a nation we believe one of the ways to appease our 365 million Gods and Goddesses is by fasting. There are some fasts where you can’t eat or drink all through the day and there are others which are slightly liberal, they allow you to relish fresh fruits and tasty delicacies like sabudana khichdi. Don’t worry you don’t have to fast to enjoy sabudana khichdi.

My first memory of enjoying this dish was in Shimla when Massi made it for breakfast once. We all loved it so much that it became a frequent affair for breakfast and other times as an afternoon tea snack. Even today one bite of this dish transports me back to the beautiful surrounds of Shimla with my most favourite women in the world. 

Moving on, sago in itself doesn’t have much flavour but when spiced up with green chillies, fresh coriander, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, tossed with potatoes and peanuts, it just reaches a whole new level.

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Ingredients: 10  Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4

  • 1.5 cups of Sago (pre-soaked)
  • Two medium boiled potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • Three to four green chillies, chopped
  • 0.5 bunch of coriander (leaves and stems), finely chopped
  • One cup of peanuts, roasted
  • One teaspoon of mustard seeds
  • One teaspoon of cumin seeds
  • One tablespoon of lemon juice
  • Two tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • Salt to season

In preparation for this dish wash the sago pearls under running cold water till the water runs clear. Soak the it in enough water for two to three hours or overnight, depending on the type of Sago. After it’s soaked, the pearls will swell up becoming almost triple in size. Drain any excess water using a strainer, this is very important step to avoid the pearls sticking together. To test that the sago has adequately soaked, press one soaked pearl between your finger and thumb, it should mash very easily without any effort.

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To cook – heat oil in a skillet. Add mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Once they splutter, add the green chillies and coriander stem.

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Add the boiled potatoes, toss the potatoes to coat them in the spices and cook for five minutes, until slightly crispy.

Now add the roasted peanuts, lemon juice and season with salt as required.

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Finally add the sago pearls and mix gently. Cook the sago pearls for five to seven minutes until transparent. Make sure to keep tossing the sago pearls so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Your Sabudana Khichdi aka Savoury Sago Porridge is now ready! Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve with a cup of masala chai (find the LSD masala chai recipe here).

Enjoy!

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Tamatar waale Jeera Aloo (Tomato glazed Cumin Potatoes)

Sometimes all you need is a little bit of potato…

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If there is one recipe that is a family favourite it is this one! Every time we have a get together my mother makes sure this recipe is there to grace the occasion and every time I see my mother in law this is her top request among things to eat. My husband loves jeera aloo so much that he could simply devour a bowl on its own and can eat them for days on end without any complaints.

As it is a dry dish it goes really well with Arhar ki Dal (the recipe for it can be found here) or other lentils and gravies too. When you serve it with a gravy item this dish makes a complete meal, after all the staples of any Indian meal are a curry, a dry side dish, roti breads, rice and other accompaniments such as raitas, pickles, papadums.

I can’t stress enough on how quick this dish is to make and it is so comforting, its like a warm hug on a rough day! So the next time you are wondering what to do with those potatoes in your pantry, try jeera aloo and I can most certainly guarantee it won’t disappoint.

 

Ingredients:  6  Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4

  • Five to six potatoes, peeled and boiled
  • Two tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • Two teaspoons cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon coriander powder
  • Three tablespoons olive oil
  • Salt to taste

Cut the boiled potatoes into cubes and keep aside.

In a pan heat oil and add cumin seeds, let them sizzle for about two minutes or until you smell their aroma.

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Now add the chopped tomatoes and cook them for about five to seven minutes. Once the oil starts to leave the sides of the mixture, add chopped coriander and give it all a good stir.

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Add the potatoes to the tomato mix and stir them to coat the potatoes evenly with the tangy tomato goodness. Season with salt as required and let the potatoes cook for about 10 minutes until slightly crispy.

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If your mouth is already watering just by reading the recipe and seeing the photos, I suggest you get moving and make this simple, no fuss dish for dinner tonight. Take my word it will become your family favourite too.

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Punjabi Kadhi Chawal ( Yogurt and Gram Flour Curry and Rice)

I see your curry and raise you Punjabi Kadhi…

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Everyone has their own definition of comfort food. A big bowl of pasta, a big juicy burger, a tub of chocolate icecream, an extra cheesy pizza and if you are like me a big bowl of curry and rice!

Initially upon moving to Australia, I was always perplexed why they called all Indian food ‘Curry’. Now I am convinced the reason why westerners call all Indian food curry stems from today’s dish, Kadhi (sounds like Curry)! Bad joke, I know!!!

Kadhi is made in almost every part of India, depending on which Indian community you come from the Kadhi will vary accordingly. Punjabi Kadhi is thick and creamy, often served with pakodas and fondly called Kadhi pakoda. Sindhi Kadhi is thin and light, tempered with drumsticks and an onion and tomato paste. Rajasthani Kadhi also called Gatta Kadhi is served with gramflour flour (besan in hindi) dumplings.

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Kadhi is definitely a family favourite for us! Beeji and Dad love it with ghee, Maa and Massi like curry leaves in theirs and my brother likes his Kadhi, just like his women…HOT!

As a child I didn’t like Kadhi at all, actually I detested it! On days we had Kadhi for dinner in the house, I would go on a Gandhian style ‘Civil Disobedience Movement’, disobeying to eat dinner!

Funny how times change, I love Kadhi now! I am sharing the recipe with you, which is a confluence of my Beeji, Maa and Massi’s recipe. One requirement for a great Kadhi is tart yoghurt. The more tart the yoghurt the better the Kadhi. Now you know what to do with that yoghurt that may have been gracing your fridge for a few days.

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Ingredients: 17     Cooking time: 60 minutes
Serves: 6
  • Seven tablespoons of plain Yoghurt or Dahi (I used natural Greek yoghurt)
  • Five tablespoons of gramflour
  • Two tablespoon of coriander powder
  • Two tablespoon of dried mango powder (optional)
  • One tablespoon fenugreek seeds
  • One teaspoon turmeric powder
  • One teaspoon red chilli powder
  • One teaspoon garam masala powder
  • One black cardamom
  • Two bay leaves
  • Five to six cloves
  • Eight to ten curry leaves
  • One onion chopped
  • Four to five green chillies
  • One tablespoon of freshly minched ginger
  • Three tablespoons of mustard oil
  • Salt to taste

In a bowl add yoghurt, followed by the spices, one tablespoon of coriander powder and one teaspoon each of turmeric, red chilli and garam masala powder. If your yoghurt isn’t tart enough add two tablespoons dried mango powder.

Mix the yoghurt well, then add five tablespoons of gramflour or besan, followed by eight cups of water. Mix the batter until there are no lumps.

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In a deep saucepan add mustard oil and let it heat. Mustard oil is key to this dish as it would not taste the same without it. Now add the fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, bay leaves, cloves and black cardamom. Let the herbs and spices temper. Then add the chopped onions, minced ginger and green chillies. Cook the onion mix on a medium heat for 15 minutes. Now add one tablespoon of coriander powder and let the onions cook on a medium heat for another two to three minutes.

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Once the onions are nicely browned add the yoghurt and gram flour mix to the pan, give it a good stir and cover the sauce pan with a lid. Let the beautiful yellow concoction bubble away for the next 30 to 40 minutes on medium heat. By this time the aromas of Kadhi will be permeating through your house. Remove the lid and check the consistency of the Kadhi, which should be  reasonably thick and creamy.

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Your Kadhi is ready to serve! It is best eaten with plain steamed white rice or jeera (cumin) rice. I hope your family enjoys my family favourite!!

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Arhar ki Dal or Dal Tadka (Yellow Split Pigeon Peas Curry)

Dalicious so nutritious…

Dal or lentils is the staple food in every Indian home.  Dal is the only thing that bypasses every social and religious divide in India. It is relished by the rich and the poor, the Hindus and the Muslims. It would be safe to say dal is the National Dish of India. Ha! and you thought it was ‘Butter Chicken’. Dal is India’s comfort food, one of the healthy dishes in an otherwise red hot-chilly pepper Indian diet.

Today’s focus is Arhar ki dal or Toor dal. This lentil curry signifies so much in my life. Simple yet delicious, it is more than just comfort food. Everytime I visit my family in India, I know I can expect one of these three dal varities on the menu – Rajma (Red Kidney Bean Stew), Dal Makhni (Black Dal) or Arhar ki Dal and I am the most happy when it is Arhar ki dal. OK! I will have to come out and say it today that Arhar ki Dal is my favourite. This dish evokes some of the fondest memories of eating dinner with my family (which now happens once or twice a year when I go to India or when they visit me), teasing my baby brother, making faces at him because his favourite dal (which is Dal Makhni) wasn’t made and he was forced to eat my favourite and sharing stories about our day at work and school. Oh I could go on forever about  home, my family and the link between food and memories. Later I should dedicate a whole post to it but for now back to Arhar ki Dal.

Arhar ki dal is one of the unsung heroes  of the Indian cuisine. Available at most Indian Restaurants as ‘Dal Tadka’, ‘Dal Fry’ or ‘Yellow Dal’, Arhar ki dal never really garners the glory it truly deserves and why would it! Restaurants make everything taste so flash. The whole point of Arhar ki dal is that it meant to give you a taste of home, which only comes when you cook with love at home. Similarly many of you would have heard of the famous South Indian delicacy called Sambar. Again, Arhar ki dal is what makes Sambar but seldom receives the much deserved accolades.

My mission today is to not only spread the love, encourage you to cook at home, but also to show you how easy and quick this dal is to make. It is equally satisfying, I will go so far to say it is as satisfying as a Sunday roast and has less than half the calories!

Usually it is quicker to make dals if you have a pressure cooker. If you don’t have one, the best thing to do is soak the dal for a few hours. As such the split lentil variety does not need to be soaked much. However when using a normal saucepan, soaking it definitely helps cook the dal faster. Without further adolets get started.

Ingredients: 9   Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4
  • Two cups of Arhar dal (yellow pigeon pea lentils)
  • Six cups of water
  • One tablespoon of ghee
  • Two teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • One teaspoon of dried coriander powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons of dried chilli flakes
  • Two tablespoons lemon juice
  • Two tablespoons of chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • Salt to taste

Boil two cups of dal with about six cups of water. When using a pressure cooker boil the dal on medium heat and give it five to six whistles. The consistency should not be too thick, neither too thin so add water to dilute or boil further to reduce as required. Once the lentils are ready add salt to taste, lemon juice and keep aside.

For a good dal you need a great tadka! Tadka or Chaukh is called ‘Tempering in English’. Tempering is a process used for flavoring certain dishes. To temper a dish, oil or ghee is heated and spices added to it and fried. This spice flavoured oil is then added to the dish as a final touch.

Now lets prepare the tadka – In a pan add one tablespoon of ghee and let it melt. Once the ghee is hot add the cumin seeds and chilli flakes and let them splutter. Now add coriander powder and fresh chopped coriander. Give the tadka a good mix and add it to your dal.

BOOM….DONE!!! Your lip smackingly delicious Arhar ki dal is now ready to eat. You can garnish it with some fresh coriander and serve it with some plain rice, sliced red onion, pickle and natural yogurt.