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!!

An Indian affair

An Indian Sunday Lunch, A Feast To Tantalise All Your Senses…

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Here I am again with my most favourite cuisine in the world, Indian! The colours, the flavours, the textures and the variety Indian food offers is par excellence. A balanced Indian meal will usually include a lentil dish, a vegetable side dish, whole-wheat roti breads, a yogurt preparation and other accompaniments such as pickles, chutneys and pappadums. Most Indian mothers and wives religiously prepare this feast for their families day in and day out. So now you know why we Indians proudly wear our pot bellies, they are a sign of all the love, warmth and lip smackingly delicious food we receive from our family.

My feast today albeit a simple one packs in oodles of flavour and is a perfect idea for an indulgent Sunday family lunch. In fact what looks like a feast actually stemmed from my sheer lack of wanting to cook lunch one Sunday afternoon. Remember the Curried Carrot Soup I had recently made?  As always  I made too much of it and had to freeze most of it. I know you are wondering why am I talking about the soup? Well it’s the soup that transformed into this finger licking good lentil curry aka dal. I served the dal alongside cumin and coriander crispy potatoes known as aloo fry, basmati rice and a kachumber salad. Bonus for you, you get four recipes in one hit!

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I would recommend making the Curried Carrot Soup midweek for dinner one night, make enough to have leftovers that will enable you to make the dal and all its accompaniments for your Sunday feast. The soup recipe can be found here.  

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Ingredients: 25  Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

For the dal
  • Approximately 750 ml of leftover curried carrot soup
  • 250 gms of yellow split lentils (Channa Dal)
  • One teaspoon of dried mint leaves
  • 1.5 teaspoons of cumin seeds
  • Four to five green chillies, finely chopped
  • Two to three pods of garlic, finely chopped
  • One tablespoon ghee 
  • One cup of water
  • Salt to taste
For the aloo fry
  • Six to eight medium potatoes, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1.5 teaspoons of cumin powder
  • 1.5 teaspoons of coriander powder
  • Three tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste
For the kachumber salad
  • One to two cucumbers depending on their size, cut in small cubes
  • Two tomatoes, cut in small cubes
  • One red onion, finely chopped
  • Half a bunch of coriander, finely chopped
  • One teaspoon chaat masala
  • Juice of one lemon
  • Pinch of sugar
For the garnish
  • One red onion, finely sliced
  • One tablespoon of ghee
  • Half a bunch of coriander, finely chopped
  • Toasted black sesame seeds (optional)

Begin by washing the lentils a few times under running water or until the water runs clear. In a pressure cooker add the leftover soup, lentils, one cup of water and season with salt as per taste. Cook the lentils for 20 to 25 minutes on a low heat or until soft. If you are not using a pressure cooker, soak the lentils for an hour prior to cooking, this will help them cook faster when using a saucepan. 

Once the lentils are cooked keep them aside and prepare the spice mix for tempering or as known in Hindi, the tadka. Tadka is what gives a lentil curry its flavour boost, it’s usually added at the start or end of a curry depending on this type of dish it is. For the tadka heat ghee in a skillet. Add cumin seeds, garlic, dried mint leaves and green chillies.  Once the cumin seeds begin to crackle and the tadka gets aromatic, add it to the dal and cover the pressure cooker or saucepan with a lid to capture those beautiful aromas.

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To make the potatoes, heat vegetable oil in a frying pan. Add cumin and coriander powder, followed by the chopped potatoes. Toss the potatoes to coat them with the spices, add more cumin and coriander powder if required. Cook the potatoes on a medium heat, tossing them intermittently to ensure they don’t stick to the bottom.

Once the potatoes are cooked, to crisp them up further you can transfer them on a baking tray and put them in the oven for seven to ten minutes at a 150 degrees celsius.

Finally season with salt as desired and toss the potatoes again to ensure the salt is evenly distributed.

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To make the kachumber salad, simply combine all the ingredients in a bowl. If you don’t have chaat masala, you can use cumin powder as a replacement. Toss all the ingredients and serve this salad chilled, it’s a refreshing treat and compliments the meal perfectly.

Lastly, to make the garnish for the dal. Heat ghee in a skillet, add the sliced onion and cook on a low to medium heat until caramelised. One tip to know the onions are caramelised, caramelised onions are dark brown in colour and have a sweet flavour, if you cook it past this point they become charred and taste bitter. 

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Finally, garnish the dal with caramelised onions, fresh coriander and toasted black sesame seeds and garnish the potatoes with fresh coriander. 

I recommend serving the dal, potatoes and kachumber with aromatic steamed basmati rice. You can also serve it with rotis if you are not a fan of rice. Either way the only way to enjoy this feast is with your family, using your hands to dig into the warmth, love and comfort of this meal.

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