Vegetable Pulao

Happy New Year…

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 I am a little bit late but as they say better late than never. Here’s wishing all you gorgeous people out there a very happy, healthy and proposerous new year. 

If you are anything like me you’ve probably already broken your New Years ‘eating healthy’ and ‘losing weight resolution. After all #yolo, so just eat those carbs. The key to a healthy lifestyle is not going without anything but having everything in moderation.

Today’s recipe is one that is cooked and savoured in every Indian home. It proudly embraces carbs, veggies and is packed with loads of flavour. An easy weeknight meal or lazy weekend lunch, a vegetable pulao perfectly lends itself to any occasion. It’s also a fuss free dish as you can use any vegetables fresh or frozen and the dish will still taste amazeballs!

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Ingredients:  12    Cooking time: 20 minutes

Serves: 4

  • Two cups of basmati rice
  • Half a cauliflower, cut into florets
  • One cup peas
  • One cup of carrots, sliced
  • Two tomatoes, finely chopped
  • One red onion, finely sliced
  • One large bayleaf
  • One large cinnamon stick
  • Five to six cloves
  • 1.5 teaspoons of garam masala
  • 1.5 tablespoons of ghee
  • Salt to season

Begin by thoroughly rinsing basmati rice. Let them soak for about 15-20 mintues prior to cooking. Then cook the rice, ensuring not to overcook them.

In another heavy bottom saucepan heat and melt ghee. Add bay leaf, cinnamon and cloves. Once aromatic add sliced onions and cook on a medium heat for five to seven minutes, until caramelised.

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Now add chopped tomatoes and mix the ingredients well. Add garam masala, stir well and cook until tomatoes are soft.   

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Toss the vegetables through the onion tomato paste. Season with salt and cook until vegetables are slightly tender. Personally I prefer them to be slightly crunchy, it gives the dish a great texture.  

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Now add cooked rice and gently toss them through. Your lip smackingly delicious vegetable pulao is ready to serve. Serve it hot along with a cooling cucumber raita (raita recipe can be found here )

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Crisp Asian Coleslaw

Give summer a chill pill with this…

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The summer gods have unleashed their fury across Australia. With temperatures soaring in the early 40s, the only place to be is inside the blast freezer or as my Australian counterparts would say, the beach. 

Call it my obssession with being fair and lovely or sheer lack of tolerance for heat, I prefer to coup up at home with the aircon cranking. Strangely during summers eating is actually the last thing on my mind, oh no wait its cooking. Yes, even a devout cook and foodie like me struggles battling in the kitchen to whip up a meal. 

Such heated moments need something quick, easy and definitely chilled. So checkout my crunchy Asian coleslaw recipe . Definitely going to serve this at the family Christmas lunch.

Ingredients: 12  Preparation time:

Serves: 4

  • Quarter cabbage, finely sliced
  • Half a continental cucumber, sliced
  • 250 gms sugar snap peas, ends removed
  • Handful of mint leaves, roughly chopped
  • Half a bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
  • Juice of one lemon
  • One tablespoon Tom Yum paste
  • Two tablespoons black sesame seeds, toasted
  • One tablespoon sesame oil
  • One tablespoon honey
  • Half a teaspoon sugar
  • Salt to season.

Combine all the vegetables and herbs in a bowl. Place the bowl in the fridge for 15-20 minutes and let the ingredients chill.

For the dressing, combine Tom Yum paste, lemon juice, honey, sesame oil, sugar and salt. Mix them well. If you don’t like Tom Yum paste, you can replace it with soy sauce. 

Remove the coleslaw from the fridge and pour the dressing over it. Toss it well and ensure the dressing evenly coats all the ingredients.

Finally add toasted sesame seeds and give the salad a finally toss. Serve chilled.

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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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Curried Carrot Soup

Why work hard, when you can work smart…

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I have never been one to take shortcuts in life, but I do abide by a philosophy which says ‘why work hard, when you can work smart’. This mantra holds especially true when I have had a hard long day at work and can’t be bothered cooking. While we all want our family and friends to think all the meals we prepare for them are a labour of love, wouldn’t it be nice if you could focus on adding more love and a little less labour in your everyday cooking.

On a recent trip to Adelaide, one of the pantry ingredients in my mother in law’s kitchen has changed my culinary world forever! Clive of India Curry Powder!!! Of course in my Indian spice repertoire there was no such thing as curry powder. Talk about British efficiency they took our gazillion Indian spices, combined it into one and unashamedly called it Clive of India. Besides the curry powder, here’s a little bit of a History lesson for you, Clive of India also known as Major General Robert Clive is credited with securing India, and the wealth that followed, for the British crown. 

The growing awareness and love of Indian food has meant that more and more people are buying spices individually, mixing them themselves for curries and to be truly impressive, grinding the spices and herbs themselves too in a mortar and pestle. This is definitely the right way to make a curry, but on weekdays when most of us are working on reserves there should be no embarrassment in choosing convenience without compromising on flavour. This curry powder offers just that!

So what exactly does the curry powder entail? There are two varieties – one  the traditional curry powder which uses 11 different herbs and spices, such as, coriander, turmeric, fennel, black pepper, cumin, chilli powder, fenugreek, garlic granules, ginger and salt. The other one is the hot madras curry powder which has a bit of a kick to it and in addition to the spices in the traditional curry powder this includes cloves, cardamom, cinnamon and nutmeg.
248866By now I am sure I have made you a Clive of India convert and if not then continue to read because I recently used this magic powder in a Carrot Soup and it worked a treat. 

Ingredients: 10  Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

  • Six carrots, peeled and cubed
  • One brown onion, sliced
  • Four to five pods of garlic, smashed and chopped
  • 250 ml of light coconut cream
  • One large bay leaf
  • One tablespoon of hot madras curry powder
  • One vegetable stock cube
  • One litre of water
  • Three tablespoons of vegetable oil
  • Salt to season

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In a large saucepan heat olive oil. Add the onion and bay leaf and cook until onions are translucent. Now add the garlic, cook the mixture for three to four minutes on a medium heat or until aromatic.

Add the carrots, hot madras curry powder, vegetable stock cube (you can replace this by using liquid vegetable/chicken stock instead of water) and season with salt as required. Place a lid on the pan and cook the carrots on a medium heat for seven to ten minutes.

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Now add one litre of water followed by the coconut cream. The coconut cream goes really well with the curry powder and elevates the flavour of this dish to a whole new level. If for some reason you don’t like the coconut flavour you can use normal cooking cream or even milk. Once again coven the saucepan with a lid and let the soup simmer for 15 to 20 minutes.

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Finally using a stick blender blend the soup until smooth and creamy. I have garnished it with toasted black sesame seeds, you can also use fresh coriander, crispy shallots or just a swirl of cream as a garnish. 

Serve this lip smackingly delicious winter warmer with some crusty bread. Dig in and watch your winter blues vanish away.

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Wild Mushroom Ragu with Creamy Polenta

Glamourising vegetarian food, one dish at a time…

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After moving to Australia and travelling around the world, I have noticed how underrated good vegetarian food is. For some reason the vegetarian culinary repertoire across most restaurants rarely showcase delicious fresh produce or out of the box cooking techniques. I am no masterchef but I suppose having been a vegetarian for 27+ years I can definitely put up a cracker of a vegetarian dish sure to give even some of the meat dishes a run for its money.

Today’s dish is definitely one that will even knock the socks of an avid carnivore! Ragu traditionally is a slow cooked Italian meat based sauce served with pasta. However since I am all about challenging traditions in the kitchen, my ragu recipe is quick and easy and above all vegetarian!

I have used a medley of Mushrooms as a star of this dish. A mixture of fresh and dried mushrooms provides an abundance of different textures and deep mushroom flavor. I haved served the stew with a creamy polenta, believe me when I say it’s a match made in heaven.

So without further ado, here’s my lip smackingly delicious autumn winter classic.

Ingredients:  18  Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves:

For the Ragu

  • 20 gms of dried Porcini mushrooms
  • 200 gms of sliced swiss brown mushrooms
  • 100 gms of shimeji mushrooms 
  • One brown onion, chopped
  • Five to six pods of garlic, finely chopped
  • Eight to ten parsley stems, finely chopped
  • 10 to 12 sprigs of fresh lemon thyme
  • Two tablespoons of goats cheese (optional)
  • 300ml of light cooking cream
  • Three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to season

For the Polenta

  • One cup of polenta
  • Three cups of water
  • One tablespoon butter

For the Garnish (optional)

  • One bunch of asparagus, hard ends trimmed
  • One tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • One tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 0.5 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

 

Begin by soaking the porcini mushrooms in hot water and keep aside.

Heat extra virgin olive oil in a pan. Add chopped onions, followed by chopped garlic and cook until the onions are slightly caramelised and you can smell the delicious garlic aroma.

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Now add chopped parsley stems and about six to eight sprigs of lemon thyme. These fresh herbs help in flavouring the oil and give the dish a great fresh flavour. Cook the onion mix on a medium heat for five to seven minutes.

Add the assorted mushrooms, except the porcini mushrooms to the onion mix and let them sweat on a low heat for about seven to ten minutes. 

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Now add the remaining lemon thyme sprigs to flavour the mushrooms. Followed by porcini mushrooms including their stock. Right about now, you should be smelling the mushroomy goodness!

Once the mushrooms are tender add cream and goats cheese. Season with salt as desired, cover the pan with a lid and let the ragu simmer for another five minutes on low heat.

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To make the polenta, in a saucepan bring three cups of water to a boil. Now lower the flame and add the polenta. Stir continuously to avoid lumps and polenta sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the water is absorbed and the polenta has thickened add a tablespoon of butter and stir it through to give the polenta its richness and shiny glaze. Finally season with salt as desired.

Finally for the garnish, heat olive oil in a pan. Add the asparagus, followed by lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Continuously toss the asparagus until evenly coated with the balsamic glaze. Take off the heat once tender.

To assemble the dish – place the creamy polenta at the base, ladle the delicious mushroom ragu on top and finally add the asparagus as the final garnish. 

Enjoy this lip smackingly delicious hearty dish with a beautiful red wine and you may just find yourself teleported to Italy.

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Palak Dal (Spinach Lentil Curry)

Never judge a book by its cover…

Palak Dal and I have crossed paths many a time, but it never really interested me. I think it’s because it didn’t sound glamourous enough to eat when dining out and didn’t sound simple enough to make at home. Moreover with so many varieties of dal that are my favourite, palak dal didn’t really stand a chance.

So just when I ruled out palak dal, it came back into my life. One night I had a massive craving for dal and rice and surprisingly not many options, I only had chana dal in my pantry. Some days to satisfy a craving you have to make do with the dal you may not necessarily eat on other days.

There I was cooking chana dal for dinner only to realise I had no fresh coriander!! This may sound like a first world problem but it is a really big issue when you don’t have fresh coriander to uplift the spirits of the dal you don’t really like. After ransacking my fridge and freezer, I found some frozen spinach. Turns out I ended up making Palak Dal!

The truth is this not so glamourous and seemingly complicated dal was so comforting, flavourful and easy to make that I have been kicking myself wondering why I did not try it earlier. My lesson learnt is never judge a book by its cover. Without further ado find this lip smackingly delicious recipe below and take my word it will become your go to comfort food on days when you crave dal chawal.

Ingredients: 16   Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4

  • One cup chana dal (yellow split chickpeas)
  • One onion, finely chopped
  • Two medium-sized tomatoes, finely chopped
  • Three to four green chillies, finely chopped
  • Five to six pods of garlic, finely chopped
  • One cup of spinach, finely chopped (I used frozen)
  • Three tablespoons of desiccated coconut (or four tablespoons of coconut milk
  • One cinnamon stick
  • One teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 0.5 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • 0.5 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • One teaspoon dried coriander powder
  • One teaspoon sugar
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Two tablespoons of mustard oil
  • Salt to season

Start by rinsing the lentils a few times under water. Soak the lentils in water for an hour prior to cooking and if you have less time then soak it for 30 minutes in hot water. Drain the lentils and add them in a pressure cooker or saucepan with 3 cups of water and half a teaspoon of turmeric powder. Cook the lentils until they are soft.

To pack a punch in the lentils let’s make the tadka. In a pan heat mustard oil (mustard oil gives the dal a real earthy flavour but you can use ghee or olive oil) , smoke the oil for two minutes or so to get rid of the pungent mustard aroma. Now add cumin seeds, mustard seeds and cinnamon stick and let them sizzle.

Add onion, garlic and green chillies. Cook until the onions are lightly caramelised. Now add chopped tomatoes , cook the mixture on a medium heat until the tomatoes are soft. 

Now add coriander powder and desiccated coconut, followed by lemon juice. Mix all the ingredients well to distribute the flavour evenly. Finally add spinach and half a cup of water, season with salt and sugar and let the tadka paste simmer for 10 minutes on a medium heat.

Its time for the holy matrimony of chana dal with the tadka. Mix the boiled chana dal in the tadka paste, check for seasoning (add more salt or sugar as required). Cover the pan with a lid and let the dal simmer for five to seven minutes.

Your lip smackingly delicious Palak Dal is ready to serve. I served this beauty with a side of peas pulao (you can find a recipe for peas pulao here) and plain yogurt, truly a match made in heaven.