Monday, October 27, 2008
Now you've seen the picture, you're wondering, where are the holes in these doughnuts? Here's the short answer: I didn't have a doughnut cutter.
I spent all of Sunday morning in stores that sell baking tools trying to find one, but the only specialty store in my area that would possibly stock it was, unfortunately, closed. And since I'd already started the dough, I couldn't wait any more.
So I did what I've done when I made doughnuts in the past, which isn't often. I used a cookie cutter. A regular round one, about 2 inches across.
These are yeasted doughnuts so they have a mildly sweet, yeasty flavor combined with a soft, fluffy texture that's quite wonderful.
I used soft tofu instead of eggs in this recipe, and I used a mix of canola oil and vegan "butter" instead of regular butter.
This is my final entry for Sweet Vegan, the event I'm hosting this month (gosh, I did eat too many sweets this month!). I want to take the opportunity to remind all of you cooks and bakers out there to send in your entries before end of day Oct. 31. I am out of town the next four days, but I'll post the round-up before the end of the week.
And finally, not to forget, a very happy- and sweet - Diwali to everyone!
Vegan Yeast Doughnuts
Mix in a bowl: 1 cup warm water and 4 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
Let stand for five minutes until yeast is active and frothy. Now add 1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour and stir in until smooth.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow it to rise in a warm place, around 1 hour.
In a large bowl, beat together in a stand mixer or with a hand mixer 4 tbsp vegan "butter" like Smart Balance's vegan version or Earth Balance vegan butter + 2 tbsp vegetable or canola oil.
Add 2/3 cups turbinado sugar and beat in until fluffy and light.
Add 3/4 cups of soft tofu and 2 tbsp almond milk and beat about 3 minutes.
Add 2 tsp vanilla, 1/4 tsp salt and beat in until well-blended.
Add 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour and the flour-yeast mixture and beat in until the dough comes together.
Move to a greased bowl, turning over once to coat with oil.
Cover tight with plastic wrap and place in a warm place for about 2 hours until the dough has risen to about twice its size.
Punch down the dough, cover with a plastic wrap, and place in a refrigerator about 3 hours. The dough will continue to rise.
Turn out the dough on a lightly floured surface, and roll to about 1/2-inch thickness.
With a doughnut cutter or with a cookie cutter, cut out doughnuts and place them on a cookie sheet lined with wax paper. Allow the donuts to rise until about doubled in size, 1-2 hours.
Heat oil in a frying pan to 365 degrees. A thermometer for deep frying is invaluable in helping you maintain a perfect frying temperature so the donuts don't absorb oil but just cook in it.
Drop the donuts in one or two at a time, and cook both sides until golden.
Dust with powdered sugar and serve.
If you like, with the hole-less doughnuts, you can use a pastry bag to poke a hole in the side of each doughnut and pipe in jelly or vegan whipped cream or any other filling you desire.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
While naans are common Indian restaurant food, I was struck by how soft and pillowy these naans from Central Asia looked, as well as by the different and interesting method the cooks used to shape them.
Right then and there I decided, naan it was for dinner. But I hadn't written the dough recipe down, and was too lazy to check it up online. I did remember that the bakers only used flour, salt, water and oil. They also shaped the naan in two different ways, one similar to the way I usually do, with a rolling pin, and another that was totally alien to me, using their fingers and lots of water.
Since I didn't have the recipe, I went with my standby recipe for naan, and just aped the method that the TV cooks used to shape them. And the shaping made a huge difference, as the bakers had said it would. The resulting naans were perfectly textured and they tasted wonderful. I did use bread flour, which is a refined flour, for this naan, but if you prefer whole-wheat, I have a great recipe here that I posted earlier.
To go with the naan, I needed a spicy, hot, chunky curry that would satisfy any palate. I had just gotten five different kinds of mushrooms from the Asian supermarket and since I think mushrooms are a great substitute for meat, I used them instead of lamb in this Malaysian-style korma that is just out-of-this-world delicious.
A word about the mushrooms: I used button, shiitake and portabella, which are the mushrooms I most often use, but I also found these two varieties of really cute, really delicious little Japanese mushrooms called Bunapi and Bunashimeji (the tiny ones in the picture). A woman was sauteing them right there in the store and offering a taste, and a spoonful later I was hooked. They were chewy, delicious and hearty. If you don't want to use five varieties, but even just one or two, feel free. Of course, make sure you use more.
So here's my Naan and Five-Mushroom Malaysian Korma. Hefty, delicious and tantalizingly spicy. A perfect dinner for a chilly October evening.
Puffy Snowshoe Naan
2 cups bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
1 tbsp vegetable oil
3/4 cup soy yogurt
Water as needed
1-2 tbsp sesame seeds
In the bowl of a stand mixer or in a regular bowl, place all the ingredients and knead, using as much water as needed to make a soft, smooth dough.
Continue kneading for about 10 minutes on low speed if using a stand mixer, or a little longer if doing this by hand.
Place in an oiled bowl, turning once to make sure the dough is coated in oil. Cover with a cloth napkin and set aside in a warm place to rise for about 2 hours. (In winter, I leave the bowl in my unheated oven with the light on)
After 2 hours, punch down the dough and divide into four pieces.
Place a bowl of water next to you, and place a ball of dough on a lightly floured surface.
Dip your fingers into the bowl of water and press into the dough with all fingers, making little bumps and indentations on the surface. Starting at the top, work your way downwards, dipping your fingers into the water often, and repeating to press into the dough until you have an oval of fairly even thickness that is about 4 inches in width and 6-7 inches in length.
Sprinkle the surface with sesame seeds.
Pick up the naan, draping it over the sides of both hands. Now continue to shape it by stretching it with your hands until the naan is about 10-12 inches in length.
In a preheated, 475-degree oven into which you've placed a pizza stone of unglazed tiles, place the naans, one at a time, directly on the hot tiles. Be very careful not to burn yourself. Fit as many naans as will go on the tiles without overlapping.
Bake about 6-7 minutes or until the top and bottom are a pale gold-brown.
Remove with tongs and serve hot with mushroom korma (recipe follows) or any spicy curry.
Malaysian Mushroom Korma
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp grated ginger
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 cup soy yogurt.
1 14-ounce can of light coconut milk (if you can only find regular coconut milk, use half the coconut milk and mix in an equal quantity of water or vegetable stock)
About 3-4 cups of mushrooms (shiitake, portabella, button, or the Japanese mushrooms I mentioned above are all wonderful)
2-3 potatoes (I used purple potatoes), cut into 1-inch chunks and boiled or microwaved until just tender.
For the spice paste:
1 large red onion, chopped
7-8 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 2-inch piece of ginger, chopped
15 black peppercorns, ground
1 tbsp fennel seeds, ground
1 tsp cumin seeds, ground
1 tsp coriander seeds, ground
1-2 tsp red chili powder like paprika
2-4 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Place the above ingredients in a blender and using just as much water as is necessary, process to a thick, fairly smooth paste.
Heat oil in a large, fairly deep pan like a Dutch oven
Add the onions and saute on medium heat until soft and translucent.
Add the ginger and garlic and stir for a minute.
Add the garam masala and stir to coat with the oil, about a minute.
Add the spice paste and stir well. Cook, on medium-low heat, stirring frequently to keep the paste from sticking to the bottom. Cook about 10 minutes or until the paste no longer has a raw smell and taste.
Add the yogurt and stir in and cook a couple more minutes.
Add the mushrooms and stir in. Add salt to taste.
Cook a few minutes until the mushrooms start to soften and express their juices. Add the potatoes and half the coconut milk.
Bring to a boil on medium heat, then continue to simmer for about 3-4 minutes.
Add the coconut milk and turn off heat immediately so the curry does not boil again.
Garnish with coriander leaves and, if desired, fried onions.
Serve hot with naan or with boiled rice.
For other great naan recipes, try this vegan recipe from The Post-Punk Kitchen, or Jugalbandi's Whole-wheat Pudina Naan.
Thursday, October 23, 2008
I love these little guys because they have a peppery flavor that goes nicely with Indian spices. This time, I substituted them for the pink lentils (masoor) I use to make Cauliflower Dal. They were so good, I am never making this dish without them again.
This dal makes a great weeknight meal with some boiled rice and subzi. The lentils cook quite fast and easily in my pressure cooker, although I guess they'd do pretty well too in a microwave because of their tiny size.
It's a busy weeknight so I'm going to stop nattering and get on with the recipe. Here we go!
Cauliflower-Ginger Dal with French Lentils
1 cup French Lentils, cooked in a pressure cooker or put in a microwave-safe bowl with enough water to cover the lentils, and microwaved until tender
1 medium head of cauliflower, separated into florets
1 red onion, sliced thinly
1-inch knob of ginger, grated
1 tbsp canola or vegetable oil
6 green cardamom pods, bruised
1 tbsp coriander powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp vegetable or canola oil, 1 tsp cumin seeds and 5 cloves garlic, minced
Heat the 1 tbsp vegetable oil and add cardamom
Stir for a minute and add the onions.
Fry on medium heat until the onions brown at the edges.
Add the ginger and stir for a few seconds.
Add the coriander powder, chilli powder and turmeric and stir to coat with oil.
Add the cauliflower and salt to taste. Stir well, add 1/2 cup of water, cover and let cook until the cauliflower is tender.
Add the lentils and stir well. Cook on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Check salt.
Heat the oil for tempering. Add the cumin seeds and, when they sputter, add the garlic.
Stir-fry the garlic until light brown. Pour the garlic-oil mixture on the dal.
Garnish with coriander and serve hot with rice.
Other delicious recipes using French lentils:
French Lentil Soup With Tarragon and Thyme from the Post Punk Kitchen.
French Lentil and Portabella stew from The Fat-Free Vegan Kitchen.
Here's Opie looking very, very thoughtful. Honestly, sometimes I think he's pondering the meaning of life. Or at least how to get his next treat.
And Lucy Big Ears, in a playful mood after dinner.
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
This time, though, I wanted to try cookies. I've never before baked banana cookies and since I didn't have a recipe to follow, I was going out on a limb here. I just mixed up a bunch of recipes I use for cookies to come up with this one. The result was so good, I couldn't wait to share it with you.
As some of you who read my blog regularly know, one rule of thumb I have for most baked goods is that I use whole-wheat pastry flour which takes a lot of the guilt away from eating sweets. While I do use all-purpose flour or cake flour in the most delicate cakes, for cookies, breads and brownies, I always go with the pastry flour which, being made from whole grain, is higher in fiber and protein than refined flour. If you don't want to use it, or cannot find it where they live, you can easily substitute the pastry flour with all-purpose flour in all my recipes.
I also always use turbinado sugar which does not go through the refining process that regular sugar goes through. That refining process uses animal bone meal, incidentally, which makes it a no-no for vegans. Also, unrefined sugars like turbinado, jaggery, maple syrup and brown rice are absorbed more slowly into the body, which makes them healthier, particularly for those with high blood sugar.
This recipe made 42 cookies, so there is only about two-thirds of a teaspoon of sugar in each cookie, which (at least in my book) is not earth- or diet-shattering. And I used whipped vegan "butter" which is only about 65 calories in each tablespoon as opposed to regular butter which as almost two times as many calories.
I added some orange liqueur to the cookie recipe, on a lark. A banana liqueur might have been a better idea, but I had none on hand. The orange one, while not discernible at all in the finished product, did actually boost the banana flavor, in my opinion.
So here they are, my vegan banana nut cookies. Decadent and delicious and wonderful.
This recipe goes out to Sweet Vegan!, the event I'm hosting through the end of this month. Don't forget to send in your recipes before the end of October.
Vegan Banana Pecan Cookies
3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1 tbsp molasses
4 tbsp vegan "butter" like Earth Balance or Smart Balance
4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp flax meal (ground flax seeds)
2 tsp orange liqueur like Cointreau (optional)
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup chopped pecans, lightly toasted
Mix the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl and set aside.
In a big bowl, using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, blend together the sugar, molasses, oil and "butter" until well mixed.
Add the flax seeds, liqueur and mashed bananas and beat. Scrape down the sides of the bowl to ensure everything is thoroughly mixed.
Add the flour mixture to the bowl and mix on a low speed until the ingredients are just combined.
Add the pecans and mix with a spatula.
The batter will be quite thick. With greased hands, make 1-inch balls and place on a cookie sheet sprayed with oil, about 1 inch apart.
Press down each ball until slightly flattened
Bake in a 300-degree oven for about 25 minutes or until the cookies are set and the bottoms are golden-brown.
Transfer while still warm to a rack to cool.
Sunday, October 19, 2008
Nothing makes me angrier than when I encounter people who buy puppies from breeders because, they explain righteously, they want to be sure that the dog they are getting is going to be a "well-behaved" one. For those who want puppies, shelters almost always have many, many puppies up for adoption. And whether the dog is well-behaved will, in the end, depend entirely on how well you train him or her.
Then there's this completely false notion that dogs from shelters are "bad." I have no idea what a bad dog is, because dogs don't think in terms of good and bad the way humans do and usually only respond to instinct. Like a wise person once said, there are no bad dogs, only bad dog-parents. And contrary to what's widely believed, it is never too late to train a dog: in other words, it is possible to teach an old dog new tricks.
Some people also wonder if a dog might have memories, good or bad, about their previous families and lives. You know, they wonder if past abuse would make a dog behave a certain way, or if they had a loving home, would they miss that home so much that they'd never adapt to a new home and family. Nothing could be farther from fact: dogs and cats respond to love and care instantly, and form a strong bond with their new family from the moment they walk into a home. We don't know- we'll never know- how far they miss their old lives. Maybe they do. But they, at least, don't appear to see that as any reason why they cannot love their new families as much if not more.
Animal shelters are a great place, in fact they should be the only place, for a true animal-lover to bring home an animal from. Thousands of dogs, cats and other animals enter shelters around the world every day. Any of these animals, with discipline, love and affection, can make a great companion, but instead, most of them - in fact as many as 7 million of dogs and cats a year- are put down in shelters each year because there are no homes for them. Meanwhile, there are "dog lovers" and "cat lovers" flocking daily to adopt from breeders who add to the problem of homeless animals by creating more of them.
Animals don't have a voice. They cannot tell us what they want, but this much any reasonable person would have to agree to: they want to live. Do we have to make it so difficult for them?
This prologue was, as the headline of this post tells you, for my Paws Off The Plate! series about shelter animals which I'd neglected for a while there as life caught up with me. I do want to return to it this week with the profiles of two beautiful animals available for adoption at the Washington Humane Society.
I know most of you don't live in the Washington area, but the idea here is to just get you thinking of the wonderful animals you might find in your local shelters, and the many ways you can help them even if you cannot adopt one. Shelters are always in need of donations of cash and goods and also volunteers. So if you cannot bring home an animal, consider giving some time to your local shelter. At the WHS, volunteers walk dogs, show them to prospective adopters, and foster them in their homes, among other things.
Now here are this week's featured sweethearts: Dupont and Princess. How adorable are they?
Princess is a 3 month old Shar-pei mix who was surrendered by her owner because having her was "too much work." The shelter says she is an incredibly sweet girl with an adorable face and super soft fur. She also gets along with other dogs.
Dupont is a handsome 3 year old brown/white Tabby who was abandoned in a cat carrier on a busy Washington street. The shelter says he's a very friendly boy whose favorite thing to do is snuggle up next to his owner and get lots of face rubs and treats. Doesn't that sound like bliss?
You can read more about Princess and Dupont and other beautiful animals available for adoption at http://www.washumane.org/. You can also visit http://www.petfinder.com/ to find animals up for adoption in any part of the country.
Now let's get to today's recipe, which is the easy-to-put-together and utterly delicious Coconut Rice.
I've shared before a recipe of coconut rice which I make with coconut milk, but this one is made in the more traditional Tamil way, with coconut shreds.
I love a bowl of coconut rice with some piping hot rasam on a winter night. Believe me, there is no better food in the world! Especially when it takes only minutes to whip it up.
My Coconut Rice goes to Srivalli of Cooking 4 All Seasons who's hosting Rice Mela through Nov. 31.
1 cup rice, cooked until tender (I do this in a rice cooker)
1/2 cup shredded coconut (I buy mine from Whole Foods but those with access to fresh coconut might want to break the coconut meat into pieces and shred it in a food processor.)
1 tbsp chana dal or bengal gram dal
1 tbsp udad dal or black gram dal
1 tsp mustard seeds
A generous pinch of asafetida (hing)
1 sprig curry leaves
2 green chilies, chopped
1/4 cup peanuts
3-4 tbsp cashewnut pieces (optional)
1 tsp vegetable or canola oil
Heat the oil in a skillet. Add the mustard seeds and asafetida. When the seeds sputter, add the udad dal and chana dal.
Fry the dals until lightly golden. Add the cashewnut pieces and the groundnuts. Fry until they are lightly golden.
Add the curry leaves and green chilies.Stir for a few seconds.
Add the coconut and toast, stirring constantly, until light brown (watch carefully as coconut burns very fast)
Immediately add the rice and salt to taste. Very gently, taking care not to mash the rice, stir the rice and the coconut-dal mixture. Turn off heat.
Garnish with coriander, if desired.
This coconut rice tastes great with some rasam or sambar or even just by itself.
Here's Lucy, caught with her mouth in the cookie box!
Friday, October 17, 2008
Each time I bake scones, I wish myself back to my childhood in India when I'd feed voraciously on book after Enid Blyton book.
I don't know how many of you are old enough to have read those, but my friends and I pretty much lived vicariously through the adventures of the Famous Five, the Five Find-Outers, the Secret Seven and many more I can no longer remember.
The free-ranging world these kids lived in, where a mystery lurked around every corner, was alien but fascinating. So was the food. As anyone who's ever read an Enid Blyton book will vouch for, the sandwiches, muffins, cakes, cookies and scones those little adventurers ate filled tiny hearts everywhere with a deep longing.
There was also, of course, stuff like steak and kidney pie, and Desi learned the valuable lesson that not everything tastes as good as it sounds when he tried that one in London. But that's another story for another day.
Anyway, back in the India of my day, you could find cookies and cakes and muffins, albeit in limited varieties. Scones, on the other hand, were not something I'd ever come by. They did sound utterly gorgeous, though, especially when they were hot and buttered, as they usually were in those books.
So when I started baking, is it any surprise that scones were one of the first baked goods I wanted to try? And, to my delight, they turned out to be quite, quite easy. And, unlike that steak and kidney pie, as delicious as I'd dreamed they'd be. I could have my scone and eat it too.
After going vegan, I had to come up with an eggless, dairyless recipe, and after some experimentation I landed with one that is fairly foolproof. My black currant scone is made with whole-wheat flour and it tastes pretty mean. But this week I wanted to make a banana nut scone, in keeping with my obsession with banana-nut goodies of all kinds.
Because this was something we could use for pre-breakfast, I added some oats to the scones and cut down drastically on the amount of fat. Also, the fact that they're made with whole-wheat pastry flour and just a small amount of sugar make them pretty guilt-free.
In the end, it was an experiment with a pretty happy result. I loved the intense banana flavor and the crispy exterior. The texture was a little cakier because of the bananas, but I thought it worked quite well.
I didn't use any cinnamon but it occured to me after I'd already put these in the oven that I could have. Well, maybe the next time.
So here are my banana nut scones, quite delicious and definitely the stuff of some healthy fantasies. Enjoy, everyone!
Banana Oat Scones
2 cups whole-wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 cups rolled oats. Process 1 cup into a powder in the food processor.
2 tbsp transfat-free shortening
1/4 cup sugar
1 cup almond milk (can use soy milk)
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
1 tsp vinegar
2 tbsp flax meal (ground flaxseeds)
3/4 cup walnuts, lightly toasted, then chopped
Add the shortening to the flour in a bowl and, with a fork, cut the shortening into the flour until you have a fairly granular texture.
Add the oats, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
In a separate bowl, mix the bananas, almond milk, vinegar, flax meal and sugar.
Add the wet ingredients to the dry and mix together. Add the walnuts and stir in. You will have a fairly thick but still loose batter.
Drop the batter on a greased cookie sheet in rounds-- this batter will make around 12 scones.
Bake in a 375-degree preheated oven about 25-30 minutes until the tops are golden brown.
Eat warm with some vegan spread or a pat of jelly or just on their own.
Wednesday, October 15, 2008
There are days when I crave some healthful comfort food. And nothing hits the spot like a plate of rice with sizzling sambar, hot rasam and crunchy, stir-fried potatoes.
I wanted to share with you this very simple yet very delicious meal I made tonight. Contrary to what some might think, and as many of my fellow bloggers who cook Tamil food know, a meal like that really doesn't take more than an hour to whip up, especially if, like me, you take all the help you can get from the microwave and the pressure cooker.
Sambar and rasam are usually always served together in Tamil homes at the same meal. You'd eat the rice with the sambar, then rice with rasam, and some would follow it up with a third course of rice with yogurt.
For the sambar and rasam, you need to cook the base, the lentils or dal, just once. The watery stock that floats on top is used to make the rasam, and the lentils themselves go into the sambar.
As a side dish, I served some potatoes coated in rice flour and sambar powder and then stir-fried in a dab of oil. The mild crunch of the potatoes is wonderful with the sambar and rasam.
So enough with the chatting, and on with the recipes. Enjoy this very simple, very homely meal!
Pumpkin Kuzhambu with Fresh Ground Masala:
3/4 cup tuvar dal. Cook in a pressure cooker or in a microwave with 1/2 tsp turmeric and enough water so you have at least a cup of stock you can reserve for the rasam, along with a spoonful of the cooked lentils
1 tsp canola or vegetable oil
1 sprig curry leaves
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
2 cups of red pumpkin, peeled and cut in a 1/2-inch dice. Microwave the pumpkin with 1/2 cup of water for about 7-8 minutes until tender
1 tsp tamarind extract, or a 1-inch ball of tamarind, soaked in water, then juices extracted by crushing with fingers
A pinch of asafetida (hing)
1 tbsp jaggery (an unrefined Indian sugar)
For the ground masala:
1/2 tsp vegetable or canola oil
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp chana dal or bengal gram dal
1 tsp udad dal or black gram dal
3 dried red chillies
1/4 cup grated coconut
A generous pinch of asafetida
1 tsp fenugreek seeds (methi)
Stir fry the ingredients for the ground masala except the coconut in the oil until they are toasted and lightly golden.
Transfer to a blender. In the same pan, fry the coconut until it just begins to brown.
Add to the blender. Grind the masala with just enough water to make a fairly smooth paste.
For the sambar:
Heat oil in a large saucepan
Add the cumin and mustard seeds and asafetida.
When the seeds sputter, add curry leaves and then tamarind extract plus 1 cup water.
Let the water come to a boil, then add the ground masala.
Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and let it simmer for a couple of minutes.
Add the cooked pumpkin pieces and stir in.
Add the cooked tuvar dal and salt to taste. Bring it to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add jaggery and stir in. If the sambar is too thick, add some water.
Serve hot with rice.
Cumin Pepper Rasam
1-2 cups stock from the tuvar dal, plus 1-2 tbsp of the lentils
2 tomatoes, diced
1 sprig curry leaves
1/2 tsp of tamarind extract or a 1/2-inch ball of tamarind soaked in water and juices extracted
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
A generous pinch of asafetida (hing)
2 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
For the masala:
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp tuvar dal
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 dried red chilies
1/2 tsp vegetable oil
Stir fry the masala ingredients in the oil until they are light gold and fragrant. Transfer to a blender and grind with just enough water to make a smooth paste.
In a saucepan, heat the remaining oil.
Add the mustard and cumin seeds and when they sputter, add the curry leaves
Add 1/2 cup of water and tamarind paste.
Bring to a boil, then add tomatoes.
When the tomatoes break down slightly, add the ground masala paste.
Bring to a boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.
Add the dal and "stock" and salt to taste.
Bring to a rolling boil and let it boil about 5 minutes.
Garnish with coriander and serve hot.
5 red potatoes, immersed in water in a microwave-safe bowl and cooked about 7 minutes. This makes them just tender without making them fall apart. Cut the potatoes into a 1-inch dice
1 tsp udad dal
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Salt to taste
Mix together in a bowl:
1 tbsp rice flour
1/2 tbsp sambar powder
1 tsp red chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
Toss the potatoes in rice-flour mixure.
Heat the oil in a cast-iron or non-stick skillet.
Add the udad dal and fry until lightly golden.
Add the potatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are golden brown. Check salt.
I am going to send on the pumpkin sambar to Madhuram's AFAM: Pumpkin event, started by Maheshwari, and to Sunshinemom Harini's Food in Colors: Brown event. Thanks, ladies.
Monday, October 13, 2008
Growing up in Bombay, it was hard to miss the delicious flavor of Udupi restaurants, which dot the city (and now other parts of the country and the world), serving fast food that is vegetarian, reasonably priced, incredibly tasty and even healthy.
Udupi restaurants came to be known as such because they were, at least in the beginning, run by people from Udupi in Karnataka, a beautiful coastal state in the South of India. While the restaurants served a lot of popular south Indian dishes, like idli-wada sambar, masala dosa and uttapam, they also often catered to more diverse tastes with dishes like cheese sandwiches (slices of white bread around thick slabs of Amul cheese: remember that one?), vegetable pulao and ragda patties which are potato cakes served in a chunky, spicy pea sauce. Yum.
In a time long past, after a hard day's work, Desi and I would sometimes congregate with friends at Kamat's, one of a popular chain of Udupi restaurants in Bombay. This particular restaurant, completely unpretentious with steel-topped, easy-to-clean tables and matter-of-fact waiters, sat close to the Sterling Cinema which always showed Hollywood movies. On Friday nights, we'd often combine a quick but hearty meal at Kamat's with a night show of whatever was showing at Sterling. At midnight, after the show, we'd dash to make it to one of the last local trains chugging out of Victoria Terminus.
Those were the days.
Even now, when I visit Bombay, I make a beeline for Udupi restaurants when I eat out because I know for sure that's one place I can always count on to find a delicious vegan meal.
One of my favorite meals at Kamat's was Chana Bhatura. Or maybe it was called Cholay Bhatura. Chana or cholay would both refer to garbanzo beans or chickpeas. The beans would be served steaming in a red sauce alongside a big, puffy puri, or a bhatura, which is a delicious deep-fried bread. It was bliss to poke a hole in the bhatura and watch it deflate before you could tear it with your fingers, dunk it into the cholay, and bite into it.
This past week, Desi, who is -- to put it simply-- nuts about puris, was begging me to make some. I try to limit them because they are, after all, deep-fried, but I gave in this time, partially because I just found this bag of whole-wheat chapati flour in my local Indian grocery store during my last visit which takes some of the guilt out of eating even puris.
Because I'd been dying to make some cholay as well, I decided I'd make bhaturas instead of puris. A bhatura, besides being larger and thicker, has some yogurt or potatoes mixed into the dough, whereas a regular puri would just incorporate flour, oil, salt and water. The potatoes and yogurt give the bhatura a more tender and flakier texture.
My bhaturas were smaller than those I remember from Kamat's, partly because the cast-iron pan I use for all my deep-frying is rather a small one. Also, the bhaturas, although flaky and crisp, didn't swell up as well as puris usually do, perhaps because of the potatoes which made the dough just a little harder to roll.
I added a chipotle chili in adobo sauce to the chana-- it is not a traditional ingredient but I thought the smoky flavor would do well with the spicy chana. And indeed it did. I loved it, but if you don't have any or would rather not use it, feel free to leave it out.
In the end, this meal was, for me, a lovely trip down memory lane. For Desi, of course, it was all about the puris. Or the bhaturas.
For the Chana or cholay:
1 cup garbanzo beans or chickpeas, soaked overnight if possible, the cooked until tender. If using canned, use about 3 cups of the beans
1 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1 large red onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tbsp grated ginger
2 canned whole tomatoes with juice, diced
1 chipotle chili pepper in adobo sauce, minced
1/2 tsp red chilli powder or cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
Grind to a powder in a coffee grinder and set aside:
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
1 dried bay leaf
2 cardamom pods
1/2-inch piece of cinnamon
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until browned
Add the ginger and garlic and saute for a minute.
Add the ground spices, turmeric, chili powder and the chipotle chili pepper and stir for a minute until the spices are well-coated with the oil and lightly toasted.
Add the tomatoes and cook until they break down and express the oil.
Add the garbanzo beans, enough liquid to make a thick gravy, and stir together. Add salt to taste.
Bring to a boil, turn heat to low, and simmer about 10 minutes so all the flavors can merge.
Turn off the heat and garnish with coriander leaves.
Serve hot with a splash of lemon juice. You can also add a garnish of minced onions which would be delicious.
For the Bhatura:
2 cups whole wheat durum flour (use regular whole wheat if you can't find this)
1 tsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt
1 potato, boiled and mashed
1/2 cup soy yogurt
Place all the ingredients in a bowl. Using water, if necessary, knead into a smooth dough. Set aside for about 15 minutes at least.
Divide the dough into 1-inch balls and roll into circles, about 5-6 inches in diameter.
Heat oil in a frying pan. It should be at least an inch deep.
When the temperature reaches 375 degrees, place one of the bhaturas into the oil, taking care to put it down away from you. Be very careful because you're dealing with boiling oil here!
Push down the bhatura with the ladle until bubbles start to appear in the surface. This should take just a few seconds. When the bhatura puffs up, turn it over and fry the other side for a few more seconds until golden brown.
Serve immediately with the chana.
I am sending on this recipe to Sra who's hosting the fourth helping of that wonderful event, My Legume Love Affair, which was started by Susan.
Sunday, October 12, 2008
The period roughly between August and November is festival season in India. Mind you, there are many many Hindu festivals scattered through the year, but some of the biggest ones happen during this period, including Ganesh Chaturthi, Dassera, and Diwali, the mother of all Hindu celebrations.
This is the time to cook and eat all sorts of delicious sweets, and each region has their own favorites for each festival. Growing up, my family always took care to match the sweets with the festival. Me, I cannot be bothered to remember, so I just cook whatever sweet I have a mind to if I feel like it, if I have the time, and if Desi lobbies me hard enough.
Last Friday, after reading about the wonderful Dassera celebrations on the Indian food blogs, I just had to make a sweet dish. I had a bag of carrots in the refrigerator, so carrot halwa it was.
Carrot halwa is a popular sweet in Indian kitchens, and it's easy to see why. The carrots are boiled in milk until they are melt-in-your-mouth tender and sweet, and then they are fried in ghee. Of course, all that milk and ghee adds a bazillion calories, but who cares when the end result is as mindblowing as it is?
Well, I do, and besides, I don't cook with milk nor ghee. For my vegan carrot halwa, I used almond milk which, at 40 calories a cup, has almost a third of the calories of whole milk and less than half those in skim milk. And trust me, you would never taste the difference. I adapted this recipe from Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking, and it called for three cups of milk. So right there I lopped off nearly 200 calories.
Next I used 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil to fry the halwa instead of the 5 tablespoons of ghee in the original recipe.
I used turbinado sugar, which gave the halwa a really rich red color, but you can always use regular sugar. Feel free to use less: the carrots themselves are very sweet and you really only need a little to your taste.
So here it is, my vegan carrot halwa. Easy, delicious and, heck, even good for you. Believe me, you won't feel a tug in your waistline after eating this, but you might feel a tad beatific.
Vegan Carrot Halwa
1 pound carrots, finely grated
3 cups almond milk
8 cardamom pods
3-5 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp vegetable oil
A handful of cashews and raisins
Put the carrots, cardamom pods and almond milk into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until all the liquid has evaporated. This took me about 45-50 minutes.
In another saucepan, heat the vegetable oil. Add the carrots and fry, stirring, until the carrots turn a rich red. This will take around 15-20 minutes.
Now add the sugar and stir until it's well mixed. Add the cashews and raisins and cook, stirring for a couple of minutes.
Take off the heat. The halwa can be eaten warm or at room temperature or even cold. Any which way, it's quite delicious.
My carrot halwa goes to Sweet Vegan!, the event I'm hosting through Oct. 31
I also want to send this treat on to the lovely Pallavi of All Thingz Yummy for her Yummy Festival Feast: Diwali event.
Friday, October 10, 2008
This is a pretty fabulous go-to recipe for those evenings when you don't want to spend any more time in the kitchen than you absolutely have to.
Tomato rice is such a classic comfort dish in Tamil kitchens, it's hard to believe it is as easy as it is. It certainly tastes quite complex, with several layers of flavors that complement each other beautifully.
And believe me, you can make it in less than 20 minutes, tops. And most of that time would be for cooking the rice, so if you already have leftover boiled rice, you're already almost there.
I usually use fresh tomatoes to make tomato rice, but I used canned whole tomatoes this time because they were all I had on hand. It was a good organic variety, and I didn't notice any difference in taste.
I am a little tired tonight and really want to catch Bill Maher on HBO, so I'm going to stop yakking now. But I do hope that if you've never had Tomato Rice before, you will try it. It's a winner.
1 cup basmati rice, cooked (you can substitute with brown)
3 canned whole tomatoes, chopped, with about 1 cup of the juice
1 tsp canola or other vegetable oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp udad dal (black gram lentils)
2 tbsp cashew pieces (optional)
1 medium onion, chopped
1 sprig curry leaves
1 tbsp sambar powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp fenugreek (methi) seeds, roasted until lightly browned and powdered in a spice grinder.
2-3 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped
Salt to taste
Heat the oil in a saucepan.
Add the mustard seeds and when they sputter, add the udad dal and cashew pieces. Stir until lightly browned.
Add the curry leaves and onions and saute until the onions are translucent and just beginning to turn brown.
Add the tomatoes, sambar powder, chilli powder and turmeric.
Saute and cook until the tomatoes darken and begin to express the oil.
Add salt to taste.
Turn the heat to low and add the rice. Stir in gently, taking care not to mash the rice, until the rice and tomato paste are well-mixed.
Check salt. Stir in the methi powder. Garnish with coriander and serve hot with some microwaved papads.
As you can see, our couch has pretty much gone to the dogs- and cats.
Have a lovely weekend, everyone!
Thursday, October 09, 2008
Tofu, of course, was the answer, as I learned eventually, thanks to all those vegan cooks out there experimenting with egg substitutes. For my Spicy Coriander Quiche, which I'm sharing today, I've used soft silken tofu as an egg substitute.
Here's the truth: despite being a vegan, I don't often worship at the altar of Tofu, although I do enjoy it immensely in dishes like my Tofu Paratha or Vegan Palak Paneer or even blended into some pasta sauces. And I love nothing more on a Saturday morning than a crusty bread and a plate of scrambled tofu.
Anyway, after I learned of Madhuram's Egg Replacement event-- her chosen substitute for the month is silken tofu-- I had a hankering to make this quiche because it is a great example of tofu as an egg replacer. No, correct that: it is an improvement on eggs.
So out I went and bought a block of silken soft tofu which lay in my refrigerator for nearly three weeks before I realized I was running out of time to make it to the event deadline.
Last night I pulled out the tofu and looked in my pantry for veggies I might marry it with. It wasn't a good day. There were some carrots, some sweet potatoes, some frozen greens, some winter squash, and some potatoes. Hmmm. Then, I saw this wonderful bunch of coriander. And three handsome skinny green chili peppers that I had just picked from my slowly wilting vegetable garden. I always have onions on hand, and with some garlic, I knew I had the beginnings of a very fine quiche.
I used whole-wheat pastry flour to make the crust. It was wholesome and delicious and made a great crust, but because of its low gluten content the flour does not really hold together, making it very, very difficult to roll out. I ended up patting it into the tart pan which was not such a bad thing, although it did have that abstract look...
If you want a more roll-able, neater crust, you might want to substitute half the pastry flour with all-purpose. You can also try skipping the crust: the filling is quite great on its own, but I do love the crunch of the crust that contrasts so beautifully with the silky filling.
I added a tablespoon of rice flour to help thicken and set the filling: an old Indian housewives' trick to thicken a watery curry. I might have used cornstarch if I had some on hand, but this worked just beautifully.
Here it is, then, my vegan Spicy Coriander Quiche. I'm going to have this one do double duty for me by sending it also to Siri who's hosting Herb Mania: Coriander, started by Dee of Ammalu's Kitchen.
Spicy Tofu Coriander Quiche
For the crust:
1 1/4 cup whole-wheat pastry flour (if you prefer to roll out your crust rather than pat it into the pan, substitute half the flour with all-purpose)
2 tbsp trasfat-free shortening + 1 tsp canola or other flavorless vegetable oil
1/4 tsp salt
6-8 tbsp ice-cold water
Put the first three ingredients in a bowl or in a food processor. If doing this by hand, cut the shortening in until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. If doing this in a food processor, break down the shortening into small pieces by pulsing a few times.
Drizzle water as you mix by hand or by running the motor of the food processor. When the dough comes together, pat it into a disc and place in refrigerator.
For the filling:
2 tsp olive oil
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
4-5 large cloves of garlic, very thinly sliced
1 box silken soft tofu, like Mori Nu
1/4 cup almond milk (can use soy milk)
1 tbsp rice flour (can use cornflour if you have that on hand)
3 moderately hot green chili peppers (jalapeno or the skinny ones found in Indian grocery stores would work)
3/4 cup coriander leaves, chopped
Salt to taste
Heat the oil and add the onions.
Saute the onions until they just begin to turn lightly brown.
Add the garlic and saute on low heat for a minute or two until the garlic softens. Don't let it burn. Turn off heat.
Put tofu, almond milk, chilies and rice flour in a blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Add salt as needed. Add the coriander and pulse once or twice until the leaves are broken down into small pieces but not liquefied.
Pour the tofu mixture into the onions and garlic and mix well.
Now take the pastry dough and either pat into a greased tart pan, preferably one with a removable bottom, or roll it into a circle and place inside the tart pan, trimming off any overhanging edges.
Pour the filling into the pastry shell.
Bake in a preheated 350-degree oven about 35-40 minutes until the filling is set and lightly golden.
Cool on a rack for about 10 minutes before unmoulding. Serve warm.
Monday, October 06, 2008
Tarte Tatin is the French cousin of an apple pie. Whereas an apple pie is plump, rustic and homely albeit delicious, a Tarte Tatin, equally delicious, is skinnier, more glamorous, somehow, and more pared-down when it comes to the ingredients. In fact, all that goes into this fabulous dessert is apples, flour, sugar and fat. No cinnamon, no nutmeg, nothing.
Mind you, though, that this doesn't mean it is necessarily low calorie or low fat, although the fact that it has a single crust does mean it has fewer calories than a slice of apple pie which typically has a top and bottom crust. I also cut down on the saturated fat by using trans-fat-free shortening and soy "butter" which is actually heart-healthy.
And heck, we all need some indulgence some of the time, and what can be more wickedly good than apples baked in bubbling caramel sitting atop a crumbly, delicate crust? Just remember to limit yourself to a slice, although let me tell you, it can be a little hard to stop eating this one.
The Tarte is also easier to bake than apple pie, and because some of the cooking happens on a stovetop, it takes less time in the oven. And, cherry on the pie, the end result is a treat for the eyes. The apples, caramelized to perfect tenderness, look like glistening slivers of amber. This would be a perfect one for company you want to impress.
My Tarte Tatin, heavily adapted from a Joy of Cooking recipe, goes to Sunshinemom Harini's Food in Colors: Brown event, and to Sweet Vegan, which I'm hosting through Oct. 31.
5 medium golden delicious apples, cored and then cut into eight slices, lengthwise. I do this by cutting the apple in half, then quarters and then eighths.
1 cup vegan "butter" like Smart Balance
1 cup sugar (I use turbinado for all my baking, but you can use regular)
For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
8 tbsp transfat-free shortening
1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2-4 tbsp ice-cold water
To make the crust, cut the shortening into the flour with a fork until the shortening is in small, pea-sized pieces. You can also do this in a food processor as I did, but be careful to run the motor in a few, short pulses.
Add the salt and sugar and mix with the fork.
Then drizzle in the water a few drops at a time, mixing with the fork or in the food processor until the dough starts to stick together.
Form the dough into a disc and put it in the refrigerator while you get the rest of the ingredients ready.
In a 10-inch cast-iron skillet, met the vegan butter.
Remove from heat and sprinkle the sugar evenly around the skillet.
Arrange the apple slices in a ring around the edge of the skillet, filling the hole in the center with more as needed.
Return to heat and cook on high heat about 10-12 minutes until the sugar and butter form a rich amber sauce. Remove from heat and with a fork or a spatula, carefully turn the apple slices over.
Return to heat for another 5 minutes.
Take the refrigerated crust and on a floured surface, roll it into a crust slightly larger than 10 inches in diameter.
Put the crust on top of the cooked apples, and, very carefully so as to not burn yourself, tuck in the edges along the edge of the skillet.
Bake in a 375-degree oven between 25 and 35 minutes. Remove to a rack and allow it to cool at least half an hour.
To unmold, run a knife along the edges of the tart. Place a dish on top of the skillet and, with a quick motion, invert the skillet.
Et voila! I served this with a dollop of vanilla soy ice cream and it was a dessert to relish and cherish.
I can't wait to make this again!
Friday, October 03, 2008
Last weekend, Desi brought home a bug. The kind that makes your head feel like it's made of lead, that gives you the sniffles, and that makes you never want to get out of bed.
Sick as we were, first he, then me, cooking was way down on my list of the very few things that I actually managed to do. In fact, the only thing I've cooked these past four days was this comforting Broccoli-Potato Soup into which I put every ingredient I could lay my hands on that's known for its cold-fighting powers.
Broccoli, Potatoes and Green Peas all have good quantities of Vitamin C which, of course, is very effective against a cold. Onion, garlic and black pepper are also known for their cold-fighting abilities. In Indian homes, turmeric is considered a great antiseptic that fights all kinds of infections.
The potatoes also add a creamy richness that makes this soup really comforting: bliss when you're sick. I also made it fairly spicy, because you do need something spicy to kick the tastebuds awake when you're under the weather.
The soup took minutes to put together: a big plus when you're not exactly in great shape to stand over a stove. And not only was it delicious and comforting, it was really pretty to look at with a bright, beautiful green color.
I'm still far from 100 percent, but wanted to share this with you before I snuggle back under the covers. Please forgive me for not visiting your blogs as I try to get over this. I'll be around in a day or two, I promise!
Comfort in a Bowl: Broccoli-Potato Soup
1 tsp canola oil
1 onion, sliced
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (optional)
8 cloves garlic, sliced thin
2 cups broccoli florets (I used frozen)
3 yukon gold potatoes, diced and then boiled until tender
1 cup peas (I used frozen)
2 cups water
1/4 cup almond milk (optional. Also feel free to use soy milk instead)
Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and cook, stirring, until softened but don't let them brown.
Add the garlic and stir for another minute until it softens.
Add the turmeric, chilli powder, and black pepper. Stir in.
Add the broccoli florets and cook, stirring, until tender. Add the peas and stir them until softened. Add the water and bring to a boil.
Add the cooked potatoes and salt to taste.
Take the saucepan off the heat and blend the soup, either with a hand-blender or, very carefully, by transferring to a regular blender.
Transfer back to the saucepan and heat through. Add the almond milk at the end, if using.
Check the salt. Serve hot with some baked croutons.
Thursday, October 02, 2008
I might not be your average Gandhian. After all, I live in the West, I don't wear khadi or even a sari, and I certainly don't abstain from liquor.
But I do think of myself as a Gandhian, and here's why:
Because I believe in self-reflection. To me, the greatest quality of the Mahatma was the fact that his whole life was an experiment in self-improvement. He explored almost every facet of his own personality, striving all the time to make himself a better person. Of course, he made mistakes, but he was only human.
Because I believe in non-violence. Gandhi's ideas of non-violence are usually illustrated with his peaceful resistance against India's British colonizers. But for Gandhi, non-violence was a far bigger, all-embracing concept. It included violence through words, through action, even through thought. He recognized that the smallest, careless act could hurt someone, somewhere. In its essence, non-violence was, to Gandhi, about living as consciously as one possibly could, aware of one's actions on the environment and the people and creatures around oneself.
Because I believe in simple living. And although this is not something I practice as well as I would like to right now because I live in a city, caught up in the pressures of making a living, it is an ideal I aspire to. Let's face it: what do we really need? A shelter over our heads, enough to eat, the love of those we love, and a sense of satisfaction with what we do. Stuff, in the end, is only stuff. You can never have enough of it, and if you have more than you need, why not share it with those who don't? No one could have said it better than Gandhi: "The Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's needs but not every man's greed."
Because I believe in ethical vegetarianism. This one flows from all of the above. And it is, as all of you know, an important theme in my life and on my blog. What delights me most about Gandhi is that he was an ethical vegetarian. Sure, he was born in a vegetarian family, but that wasn't why he embraced vegetarianism. In fact, he started eating meat as a very young man on the advice of a friend who told him that the British were stronger and could take over India because they ate meat. Gandhi returned to vegetarianism both because of a promise he gave his mother when he left to study in England, and because he realized that the concept of non-violence had to include every sentient creature. Later he even stopped drinking milk after learning of the cruel practices used to make cows yield more milk. Gandhi, I strongly believe, would have been a vegan had he not been advised by his doctor to drink goat's milk after a series of health problems and because, in those days, alternatives like soy milk were unheard-of in India.
It's 139 years to the day since Gandhi was born, more than 60 years since he died. But when I need inspiration in these modern times, I often turn to the little old man. His ideas are only ideals in our torn world, but truth be told, they never cease to fill me with hope.
And that's why I am a Gandhian.