IFR daily

Daily Indian food, as it's cooked in my kitchen. Sometimes, not-so-Indian. No frills. No props. Just good food. A phone blog.

Month: March, 2014

Thai-inspired Chicken Curry with Udon Noodles

1 lb chicken tenderloins, diced into bite size pieces
2 packets pre-cooked udon Annie Chun’s organic udon noodles
1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
2-3 tbsp oil
1 medium onion, diced
3-4 splashes of Tamari sauce
1-2 splashes of fish sauce
2-3 splashes of rice vinegar
1 cup celery, sliced
1 cup sweet peppers, diced
2 tbsp Thai Kitchen red curry paste
1/2 can coconut milk
3-4 cups of water
1/4 cup roasted peanuts, crushed
Some cilantro for garnish

Rehydrate shiitake mushrooms according to instructions on packet. I do not bother to squeeze them out before I add them to my soups and curries.
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In a large saucepan or wok, heat oil and sauté diced onions for a couple of minutes. Add splashes of Tamari, fish sauce and rice vinegar.
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Add other diced vegetables. I was trying to finish off my celery and my sweet peppers. You could use zucchini, broccoli, carrots (thin slices), or any combination of veggies that appeal to you. I also had some shoots growing out of my onions. Since these are edible, I added them with the diced onions to mellow their sharp flavor. Stir fry for a couple of minutes.
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Add diced chicken and Thai red curry paste and mix well. Spread everything out so that the chicken cooks quickly. Stir only a couple of times.
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Add coconut milk. Stir to mix and add 2-3 cups of water. Add more to thin it down to the consistency you like. Since we are adding noodles, I thinned the sauce down to almost soup-like consistency.

Drain shiitake mushrooms and add them to the curry.
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Bring to a simmer and add udon noodles. Use a fork to break them up as they warm. Gently fold them into the curry as they separate.
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Sprinkle crushed peanuts, garnish with cilantro and enjoy hot!
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This is a quick one-pot meal for weeknights. If you make your own Thai curry paste, more power to you! Use that as it will no doubt be more flavorful than the bottled stuff. If you have dried udon noodles, use those or use any other noodles of your choice. I stock Annie Chun’s pre-cooked organic noodles as they help cut prep time in the mornings if I find I have to put together a lunchbox quickly. They are a boon on busy weeknights as well. If I’m out of noodles, I serve this curry over steamed rice.

If you have Thai basil, use that instead of cilantro. I brought my Thai basil inside before winter but it didn’t do well.

Vange-batatyachi Bhaji (eggplant with potatoes)

2-3 tbsp oil
Pinch asafetida
2 medium garlic cloves, julienned
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
5-6 small red potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium globe eggplant, diced
1/2 jar of canned tomatoes (~equal to half 14oz can)
1/2 – 1 tsp of garam masala
1/2 tsp red chile powder
1/2 tsp sugar
Water as needed
Chopped cilantro for garnish

Heat oil in a large saucepan or kadhai. When it shimmers, add asafetida. Inhale the amazing aroma and only then add garlic. Let the garlic sizzle but don’t let it caramelize or burn.

Add turmeric powder and quickly add the potatoes. Stir to coat the potatoes with oil. Add diced eggplant.
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Add enough water to barely cover the vegetables. (Medha may have added a tad bit more water than necessary.)
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Add 1 tsp salt and then cover and cook on medium until the potatoes are almost cooked through. 10-15 minutes. Check a couple of times during this process to ensure that the veggies aren’t sticking to the pan as well as to ensure that the water has not evaporated away. Add more water as needed. This dish is not very soupy but it isn’t dry either.

Add tomatoes, breaking them down if they are like mine—canned whole—and stir to mix well.

Add garam masala. I used Koli Masala made by Anjali of Anna Parabrahma. I usually add 1/2 teaspoon garam masala to begin with and, if necessary, add more later.

Add red chile powder, sugar and another 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Stir and simmer on medium-low until all the flavors have combined.
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Adjust seasonings. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot over khichadi with yogurt on the side or with rotis.
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This is a simple yet hearty dish that I make on a regular basis. My mother would add diced onions and stir-fry them for a few minutes before adding the veggies. Since Medha was making this off a badly scribbled list of ingredients and verbal instructions, I chose to keep it simple for her and didn’t include onions. Add them if you wish; they taste wonderful.

This can be served as a side. Most of the times though, this is the main dish for us.

Papeta par ida

5-6 cups diced boiled red potatoes
8 eggs, whisked
2-3 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
5-6 kadipatta, washed and dried
2-3 hot green chiles, chopped
1 tbsp grated ginger
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 tsp red chile powder

Lesson learned: use a saucepan that goes from stovetop to oven. Cooking on the stovetop, even with a lid on the saucepan, makes for a less moist dish as the eggs take a long time to set. Smaller quantities can be finished on the stovetop with no problems.

Preheat oven to 400F.
Heat the oil, on medium-high, in a large saucepan that can go from stovetop to oven. When it shimmers, add cumin seeds. Allow them to sizzle but take care not to burn them.
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Turn the heat down, add green chiles and kadipatta. Cover with a splatter guard or lid to avoid a mess on your stove.
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Add grated ginger and turmeric powder. Stir.
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Add diced potatoes. I peeled half and left the other half unpeeled. Add 1 tsp salt. Mix gently without breaking up potatoes.
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Sprinkle cilantro evenly over the surface.
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Add remaining salt to whisked eggs. Pour evenly over potato mixture. Make “holes” in the mixture by separating the potatoes in several spots, to allow the whisked eggs to quickly get to the bottom of the pan. Cook on medium-high for 4-5 minutes or until the edges of the eggs look set. Sprinkle with red chile powder.
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Transfer to your oven and bake for 8-10 minutes until eggs are cooked through. To check if they are cooked, cut a small slit in the center of the pan. If the eggs are still semi-solid or they run, bake for a few more minutes.
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Cut into wedges or squares and serve with toast or flatbread or just like that.

I took this to a neighborhood brunch potluck with my pudina-adrak chai. I tried to get them to say papeta par ida. Some tried. Others just called it a spicy Indian frittata. They will learn.

Chhole with turnips (Shalgam-wale chhole)

4-5 cups pre-soaked garbanzo beans (chhole / Kabuli chana)
OR
1.5-2 cups dried garbanzo beans, soaked
2-3 tbsp oil
1 cup chopped white onion
1 tejpatta
2-3 Thai green chiles
1 inch piece of ginger
2 large cloves of garlic
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
2-3 tomatoes or half a pint jar (16oz) of canned tomatoes
1 black cardamom
1/2 tbsp garam masala
4 medium turnips, peeled and diced
4 small red potatoes, either raw or boiled, peeled and diced
1 tsp of chaat masala (optional) OR
Juice of half lime (optional)
2 tsp salt or to taste
half bunch cilantro, chopped

Heat oil in the pan of your pressure cooker. When it shimmers, add tejpatta and when it changes color, add chopped onions. Sweat on medium-high. Add 1 tsp salt to make them cook down faster.
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While the onions are cooking down, coarsely pound ginger, garlic and green chiles using your mortar-pestle. Or grate the ginger-garlic and chop the chiles.
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I was out of ginger and really regretted not making a dash to the Indian store yesterday. But I made do with what I had on hand and skipped ginger.
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Add ginger-garlic-chile mixture to the pressure cooker and stir-fry for a few minutes. Add turmeric powder and garam masala. I used Malvani masala.

Add tomatoes, breaking them down if they are not diced small.

Drain soaked garbanzo beans and add to the pressure cooker.
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Add diced turnips.
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If your potatoes are uncooked, add them now. If they are boiled, wait until later. Add 4-5 cups of water.

Add black cardamom. Smell it. It is smoked and best added while braising or once the liquid has been added to the pot. In general, do not toast this spice on dry heat as that makes it bitter.
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Add 1 tsp of salt.

Cook under pressure for 3-4 pressure releases and do a quick release, if you know how to do it safely. Otherwise, allow the pressure to release naturally and open the pressure cooker when safe. It may seem too watery but stir it gently and cook for about 5 minutes, allowing the potatoes to thicken the sauce.

If you have boiled potatoes, add them now and cook on medium for 5 minutes. I dice them rather small so that they near-dissolve into the sauce.

Stir in cilantro.
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Add chaat masala or lime juice. If you know me well enough by now, you know I added both!

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Serve hot over steamed rice or with rotis, with yogurt on the side.

We had chhole with Shalgam for dinner last night. I also got two lunch boxes and enough for one more weeknight dinner out of this.
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Bhadang

There is no right or wrong way to make bhadang, especially if you live in landlocked Colorado.

3-4 tbsp oil
1/2-3/4 tsp black mustard seeds
A good pinch asafetida
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 or more Thai green chiles, sliced fine
9-10 curry leaves, ripped to release more flavor
4-5 purple kokum, chopped fine
OR
A good pinch of citric acid crystals
2-3 tsp sesame seeds
3/4-1 cup raw peanuts
1/4 cup dalia
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp sugar
7-8 cups Kolhapuri kurmura (puffed rice, found at the Indian store)
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Heat oil in a large kadhai or wok or pot on medium-high. When it shimmers, add black mustard seeds. When they pop, add asafetida. Turn down the heat to medium-low and add cumin seeds.

Next add green chiles and ripped kadipatta (curry) leaves. Toss.

Add kokum. Enjoy the aroma!

Add sesame seeds, followed by peanuts, dalia and turmeric powder. Add salt and sugar and stir until peanuts are cooked, about 5 minutes.
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Add kurmura in 2-3 batches. Tossing constantly.
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Allow the kurmura to get crispy. Adjust seasonings and enjoy with a hot cup of tea!

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Store in an air-tight container. It’s all gone in a couple of days.

Many thanks to Anjali for the suggestion of using kokum in bhadang, an invaluable tip that she suggested seven years ago. I haven’t forgotten! And many thanks to Aparna for sending me gorgeous kokum from Goa that I hoard like gold.

Pasta with garlic, spinach and green onions

3 cups dry gemelli pasta, cooked
1 tsp truffle Olive oil (optional)
2 tbsp Olive oil or avocado oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb baby spinach, coarsely chopped
4 green onions, diced small including stalk
1/2 cup diced ham / turkey / chicken, cooked (optional)
2 cups marinara sauce
1 dried red chile
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup grated parmagiano reggiano

Heat the two oils in a large pot and quickly sauté minced garlic, making sure it doesn’t caramelize or burn.

Add spinach, green onions and meat, if using, and continue to cook on medium heat. When the spinach has wilted some, add cooked pasta and the marinara sauce and heat through. Stir in a folding motion so that you don’t separate the gemelli. If you like more marinara sauce, go ahead and add more.

Crumble red chile over the pasta, add salt and mix well.

Just before serving, stir parmagiano into hot pasta.

Sorry, no pictures! It’s all gone. We had it for dinner last night. Medha took some for lunch and there was about 1 cup left that I just polished off for breakfast.

The marinara sauce I use can be found at Costco. We like it so much that I use it as pizza sauce, too.

You can use any other pasta of your choice. I love how the flavors get tucked into the twists of the gemelli strands.

This can be a one-pot meal if you use the same pot for cooking the dry pasta as well as the final dish. Just make sure that the pot is dry before you heat oil in it. The one-pot thing, not counting the colander used to drain the cooked pasta, is very important to me as it means fewer dishes to wash. It does, however, take about 10-15 minutes longer to cook as the pasta could be cooking while you are sautéing the veggies.

Making yogurt at home

4 cups of milk
2 tbsp of yogurt starter

Use any kind of milk that you prefer. The higher the fat content, the more custard-like and firm your yogurt will be. I use skim milk on a regular basis.

Pour milk into a glass container and heat in microwave for 6-7 minutes, or until the milk develops a thin skin on top. If, like me, you use skim milk or 2% milk, your milk will have more water content and it helps to allow it to cool and re-heat it a couple times to lose that extra moisture. With full-fat milk, there is next to no need to do this.

Discard any skin or film that may have developed by gently scooping it up with a clean spoon.

Allow milk to cool such that a drop feels just a tad bit hot on the back of your hand (not your palm) but pleasantly warm in your mouth. I’ve heard it bandied about that it should be 110-115F. I’ve never used a thermometer to measure it and I make yogurt at least 2-3 times a week, all year round.

If the milk is not as hot as required, heat it in the microwave for another minute or two.

In a separate bowl, whisk two tablespoons of your yogurt starter. This can be any commercial yogurt that has live cultures. I prefer Wallaby. You could ask a friendly Indian neighbor for some of their homemade yogurt or even an Indian restaurant. Niv says she uses kefir while Shilpa recommended Yogourmet.

Slowly add milk to the yogurt starter, a tablespoon at a time and mix. This brings the temperature of the yogurt up to that of the milk gently and does not shock the starter culture, if the milk is a little bit warmer than required.

Pour the starter + milk mixture into the glass container with warm milk and stir to mix. I stir 10 times in one direction and 10 times in the reverse direction. I have no explanation for this!

Place the glass container on a metal plate, like a stainless steel thali or flat lid, and place it in your oven as close to the oven light as possible. Cover it with another thali or lid. The metal conducts heat from the oven light bulb and helps maintain a warm temperature, conducive for the yogurt to set. It eliminates the need for wrapping the container in towels to keep it warm.

Turn on your oven light and leave this undisturbed for at least 6-8 hours. This is usually the last thing I do before I shut down my kitchen for the night.

By next morning, or 6-8 hours later, the milk should have fermented and become custard-like, possibly with a thin layer of whey floating on top. It may have a slight sour smell. That’s what you want.
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If your glass container has a lid, put it on and place the container in the refrigerator to chill for at least 3-4 hours.
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Homemade yogurt lasts in the refrigerator for upto two weeks. It is usually more tart than commercially-prepared yogurt. The longer it sits out, before refrigeration, the more tart it becomes.
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Always set aside 2-3 tablespoons of homemade yogurt to use as starter culture for your next batch. The rule in my home is that my family can never ever finish the yogurt unless I have specifically told them they can do so. They’ve also learned to ask if they can finish it.

Homemade yogurt has more whey. We mix it right back into the yogurt or pour it over rice and dal.

Until your homemade yogurt is potent, you will need about 2 tablespoons of yogurt to use as starter culture. After a couple of weeks or rounds of making yogurt, try reducing it to 1.5 tablespoons. For 4 cups of milk, I don’t go below 1 tablespoon.