Sanjeev Kapoor’s Garam Masala – the king of spice mixes

Garam is the Hindi word for “hot” and Masala stands for “spice”. Despite that, Garam masala is not hot like chilli is but is a warming, beautifully aromatic mixture of spices such as cumin, cardamom and nutmeg.

“Curry powder” is a common thing one finds in the Western supermarket but one you wouldn’t find in an Indian grocery shop. Masalas on the other hand are a lot more familiar to the Indian ear and let me assure you that each of them is a unique blend of spices and is used to flavour only certain dishes. Of these, garam masala, is in my opinion the king of all masalas as it is really versatile and can bring life to the most boring of vegetables. You can cook it into a dal or sprinkle it on top of one, you can use it to flavour savoury lassi or the mashed potato filling that goes into a samosa , and to add flavour to the bean mixture that goes into vegetarian nachos – it’s uses are endless.  Someone’s even written a page about the many avatars of garam masala.

I have given you the garam masala recipe from the book “How to Cook Indian” by my favourite chef Sanjeev Kapoor. I would highly recommend this book as would I it’s sister book “Mastering the Art of Indian Cuisine”. The garam masala recipe itself is really simple once you’ve assembled the raw ingredients. Being quite a strong flavouring, you only need to use a tiny amout to flavour any dish and so it lasts a fair while in a cool dry place in your pantry.

Hope you try making it and come up with new ways of using it!

Garam Masala

Garam Masala

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Bisi bele bhath or Hot vegetable and lentil rice

Bisi (pronounced : be+see) bele (pronounced : bay+lay) bhath (pronounced : bath) is an old stalwart in the Bangalorean/Kannada kitchen. Simply put, it is a one pot dish consisting of rice, yellow lentils (split pigeon peas or toor dal), assorted vegetables and optional dollops of ghee/butter. It is one of those dishes that will always be dear to my heart and my taste buds and I’m very glad my husband loves it too. My version has red-skinned peanuts in it which my mum would absolutely shun but hey, it’s MY version.

The last time I made this dish was while I was on holiday and was busy playing with my then recently acquired Nokia D200. The result was a somewhat burnt spice mix (shhh), lots of not-so-great pictures (that caused the burning) but a delicious bisi bele bhath for a rather late lunch / early dinner. I have given you the recipe for the spice mix as well as the dish itself. Hope you will give it a go!

Bisi bele bhath with greek yoghurt on the side

Bisi bele bhath with greek yoghurt on the side – It tastes better than in looks, I promise

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Jerusalem, Moro and Ottolenghi and inspired dinner

I have recently become addicted to three cookbooks I acquired from Amazon and our local library. They are, in order of favouritism,

1. Jerusalem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

2. Moro by Samuel and Samantha Clark

3. Ottolenghi also by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi

Why the addiction – well these books respect vegetables like I have been taught to respect them as a life time vegetarian. Growing up in a South Indian household, my mother and grandma had endless ways of making vegetables exciting and I try and continue this tradition till today. However, I’m also a little more adventurous that mum and grandma and I cannot eat the same/similar things day in and day out. This is something I did quite gladly did when I was still dependent on my parents, but ever since I’ve moved out on my own, my kitchen has been a bit of a playground, as is this blog I host.

Jerusalem, Moro and Ottolenghi, while laden with meat-based recipes are also quite generous with their coverage of vegetable/vegetarian dishes from Eastern Mediterranean regions, Israel, Palestine with influences from Italy, Spain and Northern Africa. Overall, these vegetables are prepared quite differently (most of the time) to how I’d prepare them as a person of South Indian upbringing and I find that really really exciting. Sometimes, I find some similarities and start thinking about the origins of certain food and how recipes might have travelled from one region to another in ancient time.

To summarize it is food, vegetarian food, exciting vegetarian food and I love it! Food to me is most satisfying when I’ve made it and others are enjoying it 🙂 An opportunity presented itself when we decided to host a dinner and board games evening at our place. While I usually cook Indian food, I decided that I’d try recipes from my recently acquired books instead. There was a deathly silence as everyone sat eating until one of our friends spoke up and said , “You know the food is good when everyone is too busy eating and cannot stop to speak”. I’m going to call it a successful experiment based on this !

My menu and links to the recipes are presented below. I managed to take a lot of pictures for the first few dishes and then ran out of time and my guests arrived so I couldn’t keep clicking any more. Hope you try some of the recipes and like them !

Menu for board games night

Menu for board games night

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Sanjeev Kapoor’s Navratan Korma or Nine-gem korma

As the name indicates, this recipe is from my North Indian food guru – Sanjeev Kapoor. It features in his book “How to Cook Indian”. This book is different from most of my cookbooks in that there are no pictures. It is nearly 600 pages of recipes – joy!

Before I give you the recipe for this korma, a little bit of background and history. “Navratan” is an amalgam of the words “Nav” meaning nine and “ratan” meaning gems or precious stones. My first introduction to this term was when we studied Indian history in school and we learnt about Mughal (Muslim) rulers. The Muslim rulers brought amazing architecture to India such as the Taj Mahal , art and of course, some of the richest and decadent food that India is still known for. The most famous of the Mughal rulers was Akbar the Great (grandfather of Shah Jahan who built the Taj Mahal). Despite being illeterate,  Akbar liked to be surrounded by intelligent and talented people. He appointed 9 such people who were also his advisers and friends and he called them “Navratan” or his nine gems.

This dish is named Navratan korma as it contains 9 different, pretty components. The gravy itself is pale so as to allow  “9 gems” to stand out. I have given you the original recipe which serves 4. The pictures show you almost 3 times the quantity as I made this dish for a dinner party with nearly 40 people. This wasn’t the only dish at the party so the quantity was just right. In fact, I managed to keep a bowl of it at home which served us for lunch the next day.

Hope you like it as much as we did ! Also, check out my mum’s South Indian vegetable kurma. Can you tell the difference ?

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Quick and dirty saffron pulao

I’ve been travelling for work and pleasure and hence my absence from the blog. I will post a couple of recipes to make up for my absence. The first of these was inspired by the Spanish saffron I got my hands on during one of my recent trips. Beautiful, long strands of saffron that impart a mild, yellow colour to rice and a wonderful and unique flavour too. For those of you who are unfamiliar with saffron, it is the most expensive spice in the world. Each saffron plant has upto 4 flowers and each flower has 3 strands of saffron and each strand has to be hand-picked from a flower. So when you go to the supermarket and see that 1gram of saffron costs 7 GBP, try not to balk.

Growing up, I almost never saw saffron until the time dad went to the Middle east for work and came back with some saffron. Mum used it mostly in desserts but it is also commonly used in flavouring and colouring savoury rice dishes. This pulao is no Spanish paella (pronounced pa-aye-ya) but there is taste in its simplicity. Also, it goes very well with a lot of curries – be they mild or potent. I’m afraid I don’t have a picture of the final product as we were really hungry and ate it pretty quickly. Hope you try this easy recipe and like it!

Strands of saffron on a bey leaf

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Super fluffy pancakes with a clove and peach reduction…

I have posted about berry pancakes before and the basic recipe for this one remains the same except for the secret ingredient – fluffy egg whites.

This recipe takes me back a few years when I was visiting friends in Philadelphia, PA. The friend who lived there took us to the Reading Terminal market to get us to try what she claimed were the best pancakes in the world. The booth was called “Dutch Eating Place” and behind the counter were young Amish girls making delectable looking blueberry pancakes. When we got served them, it was with home made butter and real maple syrup. I can say, with my hand on my heart, that they were indeed the best pancakes in the world. I managed to find a picture to share with you.

This recipe is an attempt at mimicking those awesome pancakes. The idea to do so came from a SKYPE conversation with a friend who said her husband would beat egg whites to make them fluffy. The peach reduction was my touch. Hope you try it and like it!

a. Amish-blue-berry-pancakes at Reading Terminal Market b. My fluffy blueberry pancakes with a peach reduction

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