Tag Archive | Indian food

Food In Review: Spring Break Eats

DSC05082_zps736e65f7Enjoying a cup of coffee at the historic Grove Park Inn Resort in Asheville, NC.

This post is going to be a break from the usual “let’s make a recipe and document it” routine.  Instead I thought I would take time to share with my legions of fan (yes, this is all for you, my one dear and lovely reader…okay maybe there is like 6 of you, but who is counting?) my spring break eats.  As I am in school again, I live a life where the breaks I have from said school highlight my calendar and turn arbitrary blocks of time into precious moments ready to be filled with time spent not at home.

And since I knew I wouldn’t be at home this past week, I knew I would have no chance to cook/bake something to feature on this blog.  That is how I came to decide I would take pictures of the more interesting meals eaten on my trip.  Perhaps this post will set a precedent for future travel food posts!

So here is where I went:

  • Asheville, NC

Chai Pani

The Laughing Seed

  • Gatlinburg, TN

The Wild Plum Tea Room

random candy shops

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Puran Poli (Epic Fail)

INTRO

I’m excited to document my first failed recipe for this blog!

Well, I mean, I would certainly have prefered not to have wasted the time and ingredients on this ultimately unservable puran poli, but the whole point of this blog is to enhance my cooking skills through practice.  Sometimes you are just gonna screw up, no matter how hard you try.  And I REALLY tried.  I read multiple recipes and watched demonstrative videos, yet despite all this I still failed.

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Bread Pakoras with Cilantro Chutney

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Intro

Hey guys!  (Or whoever reads this blog)

I am so tired.  Between work, training for a half-marathon I’m doing at the end of the month, various side-projects, and wasting hours on Pinterest, I find myself pressed for time.  I am sorry to say that I put updating this blog on the back-burner, so if ever it seems like I might have disappeared for a bit, rest assured I’ll be back.

Anyway, enough of that nonsense!  Let’s talk bread pakoras.

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Restaurant Review: Bollywood Bites

INTRO

I have decided in addition to posting recipes and documenting my forays into the kitchen, I also want to include restaurant reviews in this blog.

I think eating food makes one a better cook, just as reading books makes one a better writer. By exposing yourself to different things you can learn how to improve and experiment with your own cooking. You can also find out how things should taste, like if you want to make an awesome crepe, but you’ve never had an awesome crepe, I think it makes it that much more difficult to succeed in that endeavor.

RESTAURANT: BOLLYWOOD BITES

For months now I’d been wanting to go to Bollywood Bites.  I’d heard about it through ads in a local Indian magazine I have a subscription to (a free subscription I may add, I signed up for it on a whim).  When I looked it up online, I found many reviews singing its praise.  I also read many reviews mentioning less than stellar customer service and a difficult to find location.

But I am just crazy about chaats (Indian street snacks) and I really wanted to try the ones at Bollywood Bites, to see how much better (or not) they were than the ones I’ve had other places.

So one afternoon one of my friends (Kellie) and I jumped in my car and drove to Bollywood Bites!

…Which was in a town (Pineville) about 40 minutes away from where I live (Charlotte).

And when we arrived in this town, Kellie and I could not find this place.  Now, Pineville is a small town, so there are not many places for a restaurant to hide.  We literally drove up and down the same 2 streets for about 20 minutes, both of us trying to use the Google Map applications on our phones, to no avail.  We could not find it!

Not until we Googled reviews and read one that told us to look in the strip of stores that faced away from the street near a patch of woods.

Seriously.

This place could not be more hidden if it were a cabin in the woods.

PhotobucketThe Bollywood Bites storefront.  Yes, it is open, though it looks closed!!

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Cauliflower and Broccoli with Fennel and Mustard Seeds (Baghari phool gobi)

Hey readers!

I may bake a lot of cookies and cakes and such, but I also do enjoy eating healthy foods.  In fact, most of the time I eat a fairly “clean” diet, meaning I avoid overly processed foods.  I truly do LOVE fruits and vegetables, as much as I love sweets!

That is why I got excited when I was browsing through a Madhur Jaffrey cookbook at the library and saw this recipe for cauliflower with fennel and mustard seeds.  Cauliflower (the broccoli was my own addition) is one of my fav vegetables, and fennel (a flavor used a lot in the Italian cooking I grew up with) always appeals to my taste buds.

Cauliflower and Broccoli with Fennel and Mustard Seeds

(Baghari phool gobi)

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Another aspect of this recipe I liked was its simplicity.  Not a lot of ingredients and no weird cooking techniques.  And the only things I didn’t already have in the kitchen were the cauliflower and the black mustard seeds.  Go to the store and pick up the stuff, simple right?

Ugh!!!! Okay so first of all, the grocery store by my house is stupid as hell.  I go there a lot because I want to support it as it is in my neighborhood and I don’t want it to go out of business and leave a gaping hole in the shopping center.  But really it is a super stupid store with a random selection and a produce area that one cannot depend on.

Like THEY ONLY HAD 2 HEADS OF CAULIFLOWER.  Wtf!!  It was not national cauliflower day, or the middle of the night, so I don’t know why they did not have more.  I only bought one (the bigger of the two) as it weighed just over the required 2lb.

But I came to regret this later, as after I chopped it up to use, I realized I ended up with less than 2lb, which is why I added the broccoli, which I thankfully happened to have in the fridge.

And of course they didn’t have black mustard seeds.  They had 3 brands of ground yellow mustard and yellow mustard seeds for obnoxiously high prices.  I don’t even know why I thought I could find black mustard seeds there.

But there is an Indian grocery store in my neighborhood also, so I just went there.  I don’t know where else to get black mustard seeds, or if yellow mustard seeds are acceptable substitution.

RECIPE


STUFF YOU’LL NEED:

  • 2 lbs. cauliflower florets (I mixed broccoli–not pictured–with the cauliflower)
  • 7 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/4 to 1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • About 4 tablespoons water

1. Cut cauliflower and/or broccoli into 2 inch florets, no wider at the head than 1 inch. 

Soak them in a bowl of water for 30 minutes. 

Drain them just as you are about to use/cook them.

I put them in this large stainless steel mixing bowl, filled to the brim with water.  And to make sure they were immersed in the water, I placed a large plate over them.

2. Heat the oil in a large (10-12 inch) frying pan over medium-high heat. 

When the oil is hot, add the mustard and fennel seeds.  As soon as the seeds begin to pop, add the chopped garlic. 

Stir/fry the seeds and garlic until the garlic has begun to lightly brown.

I just love it when the seeds pop!!  Watch out though, cause little specs of hot oil might shoot out at you!  Also, the garlic will probably begin to brown fairly quickly, so be vigilant!

3. Add the turmeric and cayenne.  Stir once, then quickly add the cauliflower/broccoli. 

Next add the salt and water. 

Stir and cook on medium heat for 7-12 minutes, or until the cauliflower/broccoli is done.

As far as the amount of salt and water to use, you are going to have to use your own judgement.  I started with the suggested 1 1/2 teaspoon, and after a quick taste, I determined that the dish would benefit from a bit more salt.  But then when I added the extra salt, I was worried it could be too salty, so I added more water to keep the salt/water ratio more in balance.  This is why you should taste what you are cooking as you are cooking it!

Also the recipe calls for 1/4 to 1/3 teaspoon cayenne pepper.  Now, I LOVE LOVE LOVE VERY VERY VERY SPICY FOOD.  I order food extra spicy when applicable, and I have ordered dishes so spicy that my friends literally could not eat them, so if I had just been making this for myself, I’d probably use 1/3 teaspoon or more.  But my family is not really into that, so I only used 1/4 teaspoon.

The cauliflower/broccoli should still be somewhat crisp, not mushy or overly soft. 

If your water evaporates before the veggies are done, then add more water.

CONCLUSION

This was an excellent tasting dish!  Though I just made this and nothing else (I made it more as a trial run of the recipe, to see what I thought of it), this would make an awesome side-dish in the future.  The flavor of the fennel and mustard seed is wonderful, and the oil gives the veggies a nice kind of buttery taste.

It is also very healthy, the only not that healthy ingredient is the oil I guess, but you could use olive oil I guess.  But a little oil isn’t that bad!  And it is a pretty easy thing to make, no headaches!

As you can see in the picture above, I ended up using the cauliflower and broccoli as a topping for my salad.  It was great, each floret exploded with so much flavor!!

And the little bit of extra oil/spice water left over in the pan made a great salad dressing too!

Ciao 4 Now,

Madeline aka The Hopeful Hestia

(curious what’s up next? Well, I’ll tell you: ITALIAN RAINBOW COOKIES!!)

Curried Urad Dal

As my first three posts dealt with sweet recipes, I thought I’d switch to savory.  While I’m most passionate about sweets, you can’t eat them all the time.  I’ve tried.  It’s not good, and almost always results in a stomach ache!  No wonder all those peasants were pissed off when Marie-Antoinette said “Let them eat cake!”  (Yes, I know she probably never actually said that…)  When dinner time rolls around it’s nice to have something savory.

That said, today’s recipe is for…

Curried Urad Dal

PhotobucketCurried urad dal, white basmati rice, and naan.

INTRO

So I have this bag of urad dal in my cupboard I bought mainly to practice making dosas (a savory Indian crepe) and idlis (a small savory cake).  To make the aforementioned foods, you soak the dals (lentils) and grind them into a paste.  After making a few batches of dosas (I haven’t tried making idlis yet) I wondered what sort of recipes were out there that just used the urad dal as it is.

A quick search on Google lead me to various urad dal curries.  I chose this recipe for Punjabi Sukha Urad Dal mostly because I already had the ingredients in my kitchen.  I made this recipe once before making it for the purpose of this blog, and my mom complained it was too spicy (I like my food really spicy), which was probably as a result of my decision to use jalapeños instead of green chilies…

I told her to put some yogurt on it and called it a day.

But this time around I was more mindful about how spicy my curry was and I did use green chilies.  Also, the original recipe just doesn’t have enough spices in my opinion.  And after reading other recipes, I see that different spices are included in different recipes.  So upon making this again, I came up with my own spice additions to the recipe (I taste as I cook, using a clean spoon each time!).  I urge you to do the same, if you make this!  Think of this recipe as just a general guide-post, though you can follow it exactly if you want.

RECIPE

Curried Urad Dal

Stuff You’ll Need:

  • 2 cups urad dal
  • 1/4 cup cooking oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 8 green chilies, chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
  • 1 cup water
  • salt, to taste
  • 2 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons, garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 2 teaspoons garlic salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 5 tablespoons yogurt

1. Put lentils (urad dal) into a large container.  Cover with water and soak overnight.

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(Left to right: my supply of urad dal, and the urad dal taking a bath)

I soaked mine overnight, and when I saw the next day that they had soaked up pretty much all of the water, I added a bit more water and let it sit throughout the afternoon until I was about to use them.  You don’t have to do this, I just like to ensure that the lentils will be nice and soft.

Once they have finished soaking, drain the water from them and give them another rinse for good measure.

2. Now is a good time to go ahead and prep all your produce, so when you need it later it is 100% ready.

If you wait until you need it, it will be a huge hassle!  And I always find it always takes me longer than I think to mince garlic (I admit I’m not the fastest with a knife).  And you NEVER want to rush yourself when handling a knife!

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Pictured on top (left to right): onions, garlic cloves, and ginger root…2 lovely tomatoes

Pictured on bottom: onions, chilies, garlic, ginger, dal, and tomatoes

3. Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat. 

Cook onions, chilies, garlic, and ginger for 5 to 10 minutes (however long it takes for the onions/garlic to brown).

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The onions and etc are chillin in the pan.  Check out my French manicure! 

Learning how to do my own Frenchie nails was a New Year’s Resolution of mine…

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Here I hope you can sort of see that some of the onions and garlic have begun to brown. 

3. Stir in lentils, adding 1 cup of water.  Add salt.  Reduce heat to low.  Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.

Ok, so when it says ‘add salt’–remember it is to taste!  And also remember that food that is too salty can be inedible!  You should add as little salt as possible and add additional amounts in small quantities, tasting frequently to make sure more salt is necessary.

I usually add a small amount at this stage, then closer to when the curry is done, after the other spices have had a chance to add their flavors, I add more salt as needed.

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Another note: while the lentils are simmering for 30 minutes, take advantage of this downtime to either clean up whatever mess has accumulated while you’ve been cooking, or even better, make some rice to go with the curry!  I did both!

4. Stir in tomato, garam masala, turmeric, garlic salt, cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, and cumin.  Cook 10 minutes and low to medium heat.

For those of you unfamiliar, garam masala is just a spice blend, the composition of which can vary.  I bought some at an Indian grocery a while ago, and have since collected a few recipes to make my own, though I will wait until I have used up what I currently have.

As you can see in the picture below, I have a fair amount at the moment.  Oh, by the way, that is my own jar and handwriting, I did not buy it that way!

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Below is the curry, as I am stirring in the spices.  Notice the lovely yellowish hue that the dals take on!  That is from the turmeric.

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5. Add yogurt 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring to incorporate the yogurt into the curry each time.

I like to add the yogurt as it gives the curry a very nice creamy texture and it is healthier than using cream.  Also, it can help bring down the intensity of the heat of the spice (like the first time I made this and used a ton of jalapeños, the yogurt really helped cool it down).

You can use any type of plain yogurt really.  Homemade yogurt would be awesome, and I can’t wait to know how to make my own yogurt!  But alas!  I didn’t have any or the skill to make it, so I got some Greek style yogurt (thicker, richer, then other types of yogurt and it has more protein).

And I would advise on getting yogurt with some fat in it, I got some made with 2% milk.  It has a creamier disposition, tastes better, and on a nutritional level, the presence of fat in the yogurt boosts calcium absorption when consumed.

Oh and I add the yogurt in stages to make sure it does not curdle, which would be unappealing.

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6. Serve!

Yay!  You are done!  You can now serve your curried urad dal to your friends or family or just yourself and your dog–whatever!  But seriously, it’s nice to have something to eat alongside the lentils, which is why I made some plain basmati rice (just flavored with a little ghee a.k.a. clarified butter) and naan (store-bought, hey I can’t always be Maratha Stewart).

Note: put your pre-packaged naan on a cookie sheet, sprinkle with water, and pop in a 350 degree oven for about 3 minutes.  Take out, brush with ghee or butter.  It’ll taste like you just made it yourself!

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CONCLUSION

This curried urad dal makes a great, healthy dinner.  Also important, it is economical and filling. It really is not difficult to make, as I hope you will agree after reading this post!

You can really spice it anyway you like, though I wouldn’t skip out on the turmeric, as I feel it kind of gives life to this curry.  Fresh cilantro also makes an awesome garnish.  I used it the previous time I made this, and would’ve again, but I didn’t feel like driving to the store last-minute to pick it up.

And I actually prefer it re-heated the next day, then I do fresh off the stove.  I think it really developes more flavor after it gets the chance to sit a while.

So until my next entry (which will probably be a post Superbowl entry about Superbowl snacks),

The Hopeful Hestia