Indian Food Roundup

I’ve been reading a lot of food blogs lately, and doing my usual kind of culinary experimentation. I’ve made some good things, and some not-so-good things. I’ve taken photos of most of it. But it’s hard to choose which dishes are blogworthy. So instead, today I’m gonna talk about my very favouritest cuisine, one that can be super healthy and is naturally veg*n friendly and/or veg*nisable: INDIAN FOOD! <insert heart symbols here>

You can see these in my recipes and food porn already, but I just wanted to gather them together here on the front page and give them a hug.

I like to share my own edited/tested versions of Indian recipes, because I have been through the process of finding authentic recipes on the internet in an effort to learn how to make my dishes taste more awesome, more restaurant-like or at least takeaway-like. I remember feeling a bit short-changed with regards to instructions. I came to the conclusion that most people who use these recipes hardly even need a recipe, having had the knowledge of this style of cooking handed down from their families. Therefore they are not brimming over with explanations of the how and the why. For instance, as I figured out through lots of voluntary web homework, why my first few attempts at Indian dishes all tasted the same (you can’t just throw in all of the spices at the same time, or use the same combination of spices all the time [the latter sounds obvious now, but it wasn’t then, I just used which spices I knew I liked best]). That being said, once you know the method, this cuisine is quite simple and very rewarding. Even just making friends with spices and adding them to your drawer/rack can be exciting (dare I say, life-changing!).

The spices I use for Indian cooking, so far, include…

  • cumin (jeera)
  • coriander (dhania)
  • paprika (.. mirch? plain ol’ mirch?)
  • cayenne (lal mirch)
  • turmeric (haldi)
  • mango powder (amchoor)
  • cinnamon (dalchini)
  • black pepper (kali mirch)
  • mustard seeds (rai)
  • garam masala

You might notice that curry powder is not on this list. This is not a mistake. I can’t stand the stuff… and I can’t put my finger on the reason why. There’s something about it, some ingredient or ratio of spices, that I find rather horrible, sort of acrid, and yet altogether rather bland. It’s easy, affordable, fun and authentic to mix one’s own spices.

Aloo Mattar

Aloo Mattar

Without further ado, I shall begin with one of the simplest yet nicest ways to eat some of yer most common vegetables: Aloo Mattar, a.k.a. potatoes and peas. (And I hardly even like peas, for the record.)

2 large potatoes
1 cup peas, preferably freshly shelled
2 onions
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon garam masala
1 teaspoon coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon mango powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ cup water
400g can crushed tomatoes
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves

Peel and cut potatoes into large dice. Halve and slice the onions. Sauté onion over medium-high heat until golden brown. Add ginger and spices and fry until fragrant.

Add water, tomatoes, potatoes and salt. Bring to a boil, then lower heat, cover and cook until potatoes are fork-tender. Add peas and keep covered until ready to serve. Stir in the coriander before serving.

Palak Channa

Palak Channa

Then there’s Palak Channa, a healthier dish perhaps than the more traditional Palak Paneer, and more easily veganised (unless you like tofu ‘paneer’), made delicious with buttery-smooth chickpeas.

large bunch of spinach / big bag of baby spinach (about 200g)
3 cups cooked (or 2 cans) chickpeas
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1” piece of ginger
2 tablespoons oil
1½ teaspoon ground coriander
1½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon salt

Put the spinach in a food processor with just enough water to keep it moving, and pulse until very finely chopped.

Peel and dice the onion and garlic. Peel and finely grate the ginger. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat, add the onion and fry until translucent. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for a couple more minutes.

Throw in the spices and cook, stirring, until fragrant. Add the spinach, tomato paste and salt. Reduce heat and simmer for about ten minutes. Taste and adjust salt if necessary, then add the chickpeas. Heat through, and serve on basmati rice.

Aloo Paratha & Carrot Dal

Aloo Paratha & Carrot Dal

I love Aloo Paratha a.k.a. potato-stuffed flatbread. They are quite fiddly and time-consuming, so best reserve this recipe for when you want to impress people (one of these days I’m gonna have me an Indian dinner party!) I haven’t personalised this recipe yet, so I shall direct you to the very good instructional video from Manjula’s Kitchen. The paratha’s friend in the photo up there is Tarka Dal. Dal, in case you didn’t know, is a word that means both split lentils  of various sorts, and the spicy soup/stew you can make with them. Tarka is an onion and spice mixture used to flavour the stew. (I added some grated carrots to the one shown). Dal is a very versatile kind of dish, and I don’t follow a specific recipe, but this is how it’s usually done:

1 cup split red lentils (masoor dal)
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons oil
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
½ 400g can crushed tomatoes
½-1 teaspoon salt

Put the lentils in a large pot and rinse several times with cold water, until the water runs clear(er). Cover with about twice as much water as lentils, and simmer over medium heat until very soft. Check occasionally and add more water if the lentils soak it all up.

Meanwhile, finely dice the onion and garlic. Warm the oil over medium-high heat, and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Once they start to crackle and pop, add the onion and garlic. Fry, stirring frequently, until golden-brown and fragrant. Stir in the tomatoes.

Once the lentils are nice and mushy, add the onion mixture and stir to combine. Salt to taste, and serve with rice and/or flatbread.

Life just wouldn’t be the same without Channa Masala. But sadly I do not have a picture of mine. Last time I made it, the chickpeas got overcooked and unphotogenic, but they still tasted fantastic.

2 tablespoons oil
2 onions
2 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons grated ginger
1 green chili
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon mango powder
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon garam masala
400g can crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups cooked / 2 400g cans chickpeas

Finely dice the onions, garlic and chili. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large heavy-based pot. Cook the onion until translucent, then add the garlic, chili and ginger. Fry for a few minutes then add the spices. Cook, stirring, until fragrant then add the tomatoes and salt.

Reduce heat to low and simmer for at least 15 minutes. Stir in the chickpeas and heat through before serving, with rice or roti.

Rajma w. Spinach

Rajma w. Spinach

 Rajma is one of the nicest ways to eat red beans, in my humble opinion. A lovely warming spicy stew with a hint of cinnamon; this is an ideal dish for wintertime.

400g can crushed tomatoes + ½ can water
4 cups cooked / 2 400g cans red kidney beans
2 tablespoons oil
2 onions
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cayenne
½ teaspoon garam masala
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon salt
4 tablespoons chopped coriander leaves

Put the canned tomatoes into a blender with the water and make smooth. Set aside. Rinse and drain the beans, if using canned.

Warm the oil over medium heat in a large heavy-based pot. Peel and finely dice the onions, then gently fry until golden brown. Meanwhile, peel and finely slice the garlic. Add garlic and cumin seeds to the pot and cook for another couple of minutes. Add spices and fry until fragrant.

Add tomatoes, salt and beans. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer until the sauce is nice and thick, at least 15 minutes. Stir in the coriander before serving.

Kadoo Gobi

Kadoo Gobi

I’ve made Aloo Gobi a.k.a. spicy potato and cauliflower so so so many times and yet never managed to capture it on camera. So for now I give you a picture of its pumpkiny cousin, Kadoo Gobi. Recipe for Aloo Gobi is as follows.

3 cups bite-sized diced potato
3 cups cauliflower florets
3 tablespoons oil
2 onions
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon mango powder
1 teaspoon salt
about 1 cup water
a handful of chopped coriander leaves

Prepare your potatoes and cauliflower and set aside.

Halve and slice the onions, and prepare the garlic and ginger. Heat oil over medium heat in a large pan. Fry onions until translucent, add garlic and ginger, and keep frying until golden brown.

Add spices to the onions and fry until fragrant. Add salt, tomato paste and water and lower heat. Stir vegetables through the sauce to coat them.

Cover and simmer until vegetables are fork-tender, stirring occasionally. Add a splash more water if needed to prevent sticking. Serve on basmati rice with a sprinkle of chopped coriander on top.

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