Indian cooking

Baby Okra and Peanut Stir Fry

Like okra, but not a fan of slime? Here are my three tips to keep slime to a minimum: 1) Stir fry over as high a temperature as possible. 2) Use tender baby okra (if you can find them). 3) Keep the okra whole instead of slicing them.

This recipe uses all three tips :) It goes well  with pretty much any Indian meal. But I like it best with rice flavored with fried onions and cumin and a big bowl of dhal (lentils). I’ll post my quick InstantPot recipes of both next week.

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1/4 cup oil (more or less)
6-8 curry leaves (optional)
2 packets of frozen baby okra*
1 large onion, sliced (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup roasted peanuts
1/2 cup grated coconut (fresh or dry)
1–2 tsp sambhar powder, depending on how spicy you want it (there are many brands; I use Sakthi or MTR)
salt to taste

In a heavy bottomed or non stick dutch oven, heat the oil till almost smoking hot. Add curry leaves, frozen okra, and salt. Stir till all of the okra is well coated with oil and salt. Cover. (Using a dutch oven provides the steam needed to zap the slime without making the okra mushy.)

Reduce heat to medium high. Stir every two or three minutes. Cook till water from frozen okra is evaporated. (The more oil you use, the quicker the process).

Add rest of the ingredients and cook uncovered, stirring every few minutes, till okra turns dark green and is slime-free.

* You may use mature, sliced okra that’s frozen–it just takes a bit longer to de-slime. If using fresh okra, begin with medium high heat and reduce to medium heat heat, and add rest of the ingredients when the fresh okra is half-cooked.

Ragi Roti and Rajma Pyaz (Finger Millet Flatbread and Kidney Beans)

If you’re looking for healthful recipes, it doesn’t get better than this: this meal is vegan, gluten-free, and carb-free—with (possible) zero weight watcher freestyle points.

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RAJMA PYAZ  

Unlike most Indian recipes for Rajma beans, this one doesn’t use red chili powder or turmeric. The main dominant flavor is onion (pyaz). This is big batch of beans. Without the turmeric this dish doesn’t have the Indian curry taste to it. So I save the leftovers to use as my base for a taco salad.

Ingredients:
2 tsp—1/4 cup, oil (obviously, the less you use, the better it is for you; and the more you use, the tastier it is too)
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 cups finely chopped onions
1 Tbsp pressed garlic
1 1/2 Tbsp finely grated ginger
2 Tbsp coriander powder
3 cups chopped tomatoes
2 Tbsp tomato paste
4 green chillies, finely chopped
3 cups vegetable stock (or water)
1 cup chopped cilantro
3-4 cans red kidney beans, rinsed
salt to taste
2 tsp garam masala (every brand has its unique taste. This is the one I used)
1/8th cup dry fenugreek leaves (optional–called Kasthuri Methi at Indian Grocers)
1 Tbsp butter (optional)
1/2 cup fried onions (optional–I use the Indian variety because there isn’t as much batter; but you could use French’s too )

Heat as much or as little oil you want in a deep pot. Add cumin and stir for about 30 seconds. Add fresh onions and cook till every so slightly brown. (If you’re leaving out the oil, cook the cumin and onion in a little of the stock/water till slightly mushy.)

With heat on medium, add ginger and garlic. Stir for about a minute. Add fresh tomato and tomato paste, green chillies, half of the stock/water, and half of the cilantro. Cover and cook till tomatoes are soft and well cooked. Mash them up a bit.

Add beans, the rest of the stock/water, fenugreek leaves and the garam masala. If you like more of a gravy, use three cans of beans (I use four cans). Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until it’s as thick as you like it–stir occasionally. Stir in the remaining cilantro. Cook for another 2 minutes. Turn off the stove, and add butter and fried onions.

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Note: If these don’t turn out soft the first time, experiment with the heat setting on your stove till you get the magical one that’s right for the griddle you’re using. Even without butter or olive oil, mine were soft enough to roll into a burrito. I got 8 rotis.

Ingredients:
1 dry measuring cup of water (Don’t use a liquid measuring cup because the ratio for water:flour is based on volume)
1 tsp oil
3/4 tsp salt
1 dry measuring cup of ragi (finger millet) flour
olive oil or butter (optional)

Bring water, oil, and salt to a boil.

Do this next step as quickly as possible (This all should take less than a minute): Turn down the stove as low as possible, add the flour to the boiling water, give it a quick stir, take off the stove, and keep stirring it all comes together in a Play Doh-like textured ball.

Cover the dough and let it rest for about five minutes. Pinching out about 1/8th cup or less of dough, use dry ragi flour and roll out as thin as possible. Keep the dough covered. Cook on a cast iron or non-stick griddle as you would whole wheat chapatis or roti–There are many videos on YouTube on how to cook roti. Here’s one–watch the last two minutes.

While still warm, lightly spread some olive oil or butter on one or both sides. (I didn’t use any on mine)

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onion garlic dal (lentils)

1 cup split pigeon pea lentils (Toor Dal at Indian grocers)
4 cups water
1 tsp cumin, whole, bruised to bring out flavor
1 tsp turmeric
5 tsp garlic, pressed
2  + 1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup  + 1 Tbsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
6 to 10 dry red chillies
10 curry leaves (optional)
1/2 + 1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
3 Tbsp butter (optional)

Place lentils, water, cumin, turmeric, 3 tsp garlic, 1/2 cup onion, and 1 Tbsp oil in pressure cooker. Cook on medium heat. Cook for four minutes from the time the weight begins to whistle/swish.

In a deep heavy bottomed pan, heat the remaining oil. Reduce heat to medium. Add mustard, fenugreek, curry leaves and red chillies all at once. When sputtering stops and chillies turn dark, red, add the 2 cups of chopped onions and 1/2 cup chopped cilantro. Stir occasionally till onions are golden brown (as dark as you can get them without burning them). Add cooked lentils and butter. Add salt to taste

Bring to a quick gentle boil. Take off stove. Garnish with the remaining cilantro. (Add some finely chopped tomatoes if you want to add some color and a bit of tang to it)

zucchini salad (raita)

I love the versatility of Indian cooking and like to sometimes give it a western twist.  Here’s a great cold summer salad to serve with a sandwich or with grilled meat.

1 Tbsp oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 large zucchini, finely chopped
2 tsp cumin, bruised (on cutting run chopper or knife several times through whole cumin seeds)
1 tsp pressed garlic
3 Tbsp grated fresh coconut (or 2 Tbsp dry unsweetened coconut)
1 green chili, slit (optional)
salt to taste
1/2 to 1 cup sour cream (or yogurt)

Saute onions till translucent. Add the rest of the ingredients, except sour cream. Stir fry until zucchini is tender but not soggy. Remove from stove. Cool. Add just enough sour cream to hold the zucchini together. Chill and serve.  Garnish with a green chili or a bright red radish.