Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Book Review: How to cook Indian by Sanjeev Kapoor

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The books that I have reviewed during the past one year all had something in common, The authors were first & foremost, passionate about food, the history & traditions behind it & ultimately, the art of creating a perfect dish. Reviewing this book has put me into a totally new turf. The author, Chef Sanjeev Kapoor is  the most well known celebrity chef in India and amongst the Indian diaspora worldwide. which clubs him in the exclusive clique of such personalities as Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck & Mario Batali. The task of being objective is made just a tad bit more challenging.

What drove me to buy this book was the curiosity about how Indian cuisine was represented. Its an unfortunate fact that cuisine from Southern India still continues to play second fiddle to its more well known Northern Indian counterpart and this may be partially because it lacks a celebrity force to champion its unique flavors. (Top Chef's Padma Lakshmi may be of South Indian origin, but I'll take the 'fifth' commenting beyond this!).

Chef Kapoor, metaphorically speaking, wears two hats, the first, a chefs toque,  represents his inborn passion for food & its myriad nuances. His blog is one I look forward to reading as much as I love needling the multitude of fans who throng his facebook page. Its a simple expression of what he believes is the innate goodness in food and its benefits. No frills, plain language. The other hat is that of a glitzy media celebrity focused on selling food as an entertainment commodity,  running a booming hospitality business via his chain of 'Yellow Chilli' restaurants all over India, constantly evaluating publicity aspects, & optimizing monetization strategies. So which hat was he wearing when creating this tome?

Back to the book. To call this a mere recipe book is an understatement. It is a huge compendium, a collection of about 500 recipes,  vegetarian, meat & fish. Given my dietary constraints, I cannot comment on the latter two, so I'll  focus on the vegetarian aspects. The saffron colored cover immediately reminds one of a spicy curry or the South Indian version of the dessert sheera known as 'kesari'. and the careful selection of the text color hints at the various colors of the delectable gravies, that are part of the rich repertoire of recipes contained within.

The book is divided into 15 sections, from the basics which cover fundamentals such as spice mixtures, to desserts. The dishes in each section, for the most part are arranged in alphabetical order of the vegetable they feature as the main ingredient. The one section that is poorly represented w.r.t the others, is the one on rice dishes, a mere 20 odd recipes, with notable omissions of flagship dishes such as Bisibela and the quintessential  South Indian 'Thayir saadham' (Yogurt rice). The book showcases Indian food for what it is, no shortcuts  or substitutions, but resplendent in its magnificent complexity.

To be fair, There is a  representation of cuisines from all four geographical regions of India with an emphasis of using the regional language nomenclature ( notable exceptions being that for Tamarind rice described in Hindi as 'Imli Til ke chawal',-  wondering if that was the neutral choice when faced with 4 different variants of the name among the 4 southern states?). The gastronome in Chef Kapoor  is evident when he talks about the dishes that are close to his heart. The street side chaats of New Delhi & Mumbai, and his self confessed affinity for spinach (a disproportionate number of vegetarian dishes feature this leafy greens, but given his emphasis on the benefits of a vegetarian diet & healthy eating, something that can be overlooked). Being a Punjabi native of Delhi, it is but natural that his version of Punjabi home food does get prioritized, but then that is something all of us can relate to. Also noteworthy is the ample selection of classic gujarati recipes such as Undhiyu & Srikhand, food from his wife, Alyona Kapoor's home state of Gujarat, and gravies such as amti and sabudanyachi vada (deep fried Sago patties) from Maharashtra, the state in which he is currently based.

The entrepreneur in him competes for attention in the form of recipes for specialty dishes that are typically served in restaurants. Dishes that one looks forward to on a special dinner and the like. Noteworthy in this category is the 'Paneer piste ka Salan' or Chandi Korma, a chicken dish garnished with edible silver (Hey, I may never savor this in real life , but its to the chefs credit, that the very description of the recipe kindles a synesthetic jolt!). Detailed S.O.P (Standard Operating Procedure) instructions for such dishes, in my opinion is a double edged sword. On one side, it is a chance to experiment & familiarize oneself with recipes that one can only hope to taste outside the home, and the flip side, it negates the aura of the dining experience. It seems too much of a coincidence that the menu list of one of New York city's newest restaurants Tulsi , reads like a subset of the books Table of Contents. (Note to self: If I get a 'stinker' mail from Chef Hemant Mathur of Tulsi, this is why!!). I'd like to assume that its a testimonial to Chef Kapoor's reputation.

In conclusion: A well balanced input from the  chef & celebrity. Priced at USD 29.95, this book makes for a good value for the content, even for a hardcore  vegetarian like me who's never going to go past reading half the recipes. The book is available at through Barnes & Noble, & other book stores through out the USA.

My homage 'Panfusine' recipe from this book has already been created, photographed & devoured, and will be the topic of my next post.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

The ABC of an innovative day....

Today was a wonderfully productive day in terms of recipes.. 2 new dishes with secret ingredient that hardly features in any Indian dish, North, South, East or West.

 A. One of the first things that popped up on my facebook page was a YouTube video posted of a  song that has seen a resurgence thanks to the movie Mamma Mia. Yes. I'm referring to that ABBA Classic 'I have a dream'
As with all of us who have grown up to Abba, this was that 'song of the day' that would keep humming inside my skull for the remaining part of the day, thanks in part, to an Ipod set on repeat!

B. The person responsible for the ABBA posting was Karan Bali, an alumni of FTII and co-founder of This is the site I go to by default whenever I need objective information & reviews on any Indian movie in any language, new or not. Its one of the most comprehensive databases for all kinds of films made in India. Do take a moment to check the site out, Its definitely worth it!


Yes that's right, chokes & I don't mean the asphyxiating kind! I'm referring to my new found veggie muse, that refined cultured cultivated cousin of a prickly weed, the thistle. Yes.. The artichoke.
Pratibha Jain of pritya books had announced a giveaway by the blog sweet artichoke for recipes using artichokes, cardoons or banana flower...(No clue why the banana blossom was even linked to the other two)
Artichokes rarely find a mention in Indian cuisine, because, they're not traditionally cultivated in India. so much so that it fits the classic definition of a 'foreign' vegetable. Prickly & forbidding, its hard to comprehend what flavor profile it brings to the palate, especially when the canned version is the most  prevalent & easily available one.
Artichokes have manuals written for their preparation prior to cooking. Remove the  leathery outer leaves, cut away the top half, scoop out the feathery choke in the center, & drop into acidulated water all in the span of less than 10 seconds to minimize the instant browning of the exposed parts due to oxidation...In the end you're left with a mountain of discards for the compost heap & a molehills worth of edible stuff.
Artichoke prepping is definitely a labor of love, but worth the rewards. The texture is similar to the heart of the banana blossom (the white part that does not require the laborious task of removing the stamen), but much more softer & delicate. Very nutty with a satisfying mouthfeel, it shares a unique characteristic with the Indian gooseberry (amla) in that after consuming, everything else eaten afterwards tastes sweet! There is also a mild tannic component to the aftertaste.

Well If banana blossoms can give rise to a beloved classic South Indian snack, the vazhapoo vadai, here is the debut of the 'artichoke masala vadai'.
Makes ~ 10 -12 pieces.

 You need:
10 fresh baby artichokes (not the baseball sized ones which have the choke), enough for 2/3rd of a cup
1 cup chana dal (soaked for 2 hrs)
2-3 green chillies
1 sprig curry leaves
2 scallions, chopped (just the white & light green part, not the dark green leaves)
a pinch of asafetida
Salt to taste.
 Oil for deep frying.

Combine all the ingredients except the artichokes & salt & blend into a coarse paste using minimal water. Set aside.

Using a small paring knife, trim off the leathery outer leaves, exposing the closed part of the artichoke

Cut off the top half of the artichoke retaining only the pale yellow base.

Dice this soft edible part of the artichoke and drop into acidulated water (water with the juice of 1 lemon added)

prior to combining with the vadai batter, remove the water & mince into small bits.

Measure out required amount and add to the prepared  batter.
Add salt to taste and shape into flattened discs or patties of approximately 2 inch diameter.
Heat oil in a cast iron wok. When the oil is sufficiently hot deep fry the patties in batches of 2 - 3, until golden brown on both sides.
 Remove from the oil & drain on paper towels to remove any excess oil.
 Serve warm with a side of coriander or coconut chutney & a piping hot cup of coffee. (or else make to with ketchup like i did!)

Bon appetit!

The second recipe using artichokes will  be posted along with the next blog entry, a book review of Sanjeev Kapoor's latest book, 'How to cook Indian'

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Chukku Kaapi: Mocktail Version

When I blogged about my foray into mixology fusion, in addition to the group that were quite thrilled about the idea of a boozy version of  the traditional South indian Chukku Kaapi, there were an equal number of people who requested  a mocktail version. The immediate blunt first thought that replied mentally was... but that is just chilled regular chukku kaapi...& nothing could have been further from reality..

A lot of fruits have flavors that cannot to 'unlocked' by  a water based solvent. They require a chemical such as ethanol to completely dissociate & be perceived by the tastebuds & the nose. Next time you hear someone extolling the virtues of the nose & bouquet of a great bottle of wine, you know why! Ditto with fruit & other flavored liqueurs, the alcohol helps unlock some flavors that are otherwise hidden simply because the H2O in our Saliva cannot dissolve them to release their aroma to be analyzed by the nose.

The reason that so many Creme liqueurs are in the market today  is not because of their myriad flavors. Its the textural experience of sipping them. Creme liqueurs are exactly that..Creamy, with the thick 'custardy' texture of melted high fat vanilla ice cream.

Coming back to Chukku Kaapi. The original beverage made by countless Indian moms, is designed to be much more lighter & diluted than a traditional tumbler of filter Kaapi mainly to aid digestion during the convalescent period following delivery. Certainly NOT what a creamy rich coffee mocktail should  feel like on the tongue, or taste.

All in all, I had a ball creating this drink.  Since someone had asked for a chocolate mocha angle, I went off searching for a chocolate based syrup.. Yes, I found it in the grocery in a 1 litre bottle.. since I had no clue if I would use that much, decided against buying it &  just ordered my self a small coffee with lotsa extra syrup..on the side! Just as well, that horrid thing was made using a sweetener!. Lesson # 1.. Never start off with sweeteners, refined sugar is artificial enough for our systems to handle!
So... brewed an espresso with an additional tablespoon of cocoa powder. The end result had just the right amount of chocolate nuances.

To make this mocktail, you need: (makes 1 serving, multiply according to how many you need)

30 ml espresso coffee (follow directions above for a choco-mocha)
30 ml Fresh ginger root extract
15 ml Ginger syrup (recipe follows)
1/4 cup light cream or half & half
 plus extra for frothing
1 mini martini glass (sugaring the rim optional)

To make Ginger extract, finely grate a 2 inch piece of ginger & squeeze out the juice. allow to stand for 5 minutes before decanting. Discard the white residue at the bottom.

To make the ginger syrup, combine 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, 2 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger ( or 1 tbsp of powdered dry ginger in 1/4 cup of water. Boil till the syrup has thickened & strain into a fresh container. Chill until needed.

In a cup, combine the espresso coffee, ginger root extract and the ginger syrup. stir well. Add the cream as per your preference & chill till really cold. Heat the remaining cream for 30 s in the microwave & whip well using an aerolater (a fancy name for those battery operated milk whips that retail for $ 1.99 @ Ikea)
Decant into a Martini glass. Spoon froth over the coffee, garnish with a cocoa powder & a broken bit of dark chocolate.
Enjoy as an after dinner apertif in the company of friends.
Ginger syrup comes in handy for a LOT of other uses like a quick ginger flavored lemonade etc. To prepare this in bulk, you need:
1 cup grated Ginger
1 cup brown sugar (yields a richer flavor)
1 cup water.
Combine the sugar and water & heat till the sugar dissolves. Add the ginger & simmer for ~ 15 minutes on medium heat till the syrup thickens. Remove from heat, cool & strain into a glass container. Store in refrigerator & use as needed.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

NOT your mother's 'Chukku kaapi' (Flames optional!)

(Entering this recipe for  Monica Bhide's spicy cocktail contest..Hey if you try, you might... if you don't you won't!!)

If there is anything that could possibly earn me the wrath of the angels, enough to flambe the top of my head, this recipe would be it.
The inspiration came from out of all things... a ginger spiked coffee that is part of the standard prescribed diet for new moms in many South Indian communities. Ginger being a natural digestive aid, is prescribed for its healing powers during the first 40 days of recovery after delivery! (I've probably disgusted half the men reading this by now!).
Personally speaking, there is little to compare over a warm mug of this freshly prepared spiced coffee (called 'Chukku kaapi' (chukku: dried ginger, kaapi : coffee in Tamil) in the early hours of the day, especially when prepared with care by a loving mom! The beverage is sweetened with honey or jaggery, never refined sugar.
Back to the fun stuff...
This creamy cool & fiery cocktail is created using fresh ginger root extract, Kamora Coffee Liquer, Van Gogh double espresso vodka, espresso coffee (I used a traditional South Indian Filter drip to get a concentrated brew, which explains the 2 chambered steel appliance in the picture) & milk.
I gave up trying to get an picture with the flames, the pink birthday candle I used to light the 100 proof vodka wouldn't exactly cooperate!  The drink tastes AWESOME  the instant the double espresso is added, although the flames add a carmelization to the sprinkled sugar.

The mocktail non-alcoholic version of this is coming up, give me a day or two to post it. -N.
Serves 2

  • 30 milliliters Kahlua or Kamora coffee liquer
  • 30 milliliters Canton domain de pays Ginger liqueur
  • 30 milliliters Van gogh double espresso vodka
  • 1.5 tablespoons Freshly squeezed Ginger extract
  • 1/4 cup whole milk plus some extra for frothing
  • Freshly brewed espresso as required

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons 100 proof clear flavorless vodka (optional)

    To make ginger extract, grate a 2 inch piece of fresh ginger root, preferably using a ginger grater or the fine side of the box grater.
    Squeeze out the extract & allow to settle for about 5 minutes. Decant the liquid, discarding the white residue settled at the bottom.
    Combine the ginger extract, Kamora, part of the ginger liqueur and milk .
    Add espresso as per your preference. Taste to see if the sweetness is adequate. If not adjust using the remaining ginger liqueur. Allow to chill.
    If the mix is not alcoholic enough for your personal taste, add a shot of double espresso vodka prior to serving. Pour into mini martini glasses.

    Pour the 100 proof vodka (only if flaming the drink) into a metal coffee scoop (with a long handle) & keep ready.
    Using a frother, whip the remaining milk. .
    Spoon the froth over the cocktail (the froth will begin dissipating almost immediately due to the alcohol content) and immediately sprinkle the sugar.
    Light the 100 proof alcohol & immediately pour over the froth.
    The cocktail is ready to serve once the flames have extinguished.

    Friday, March 18, 2011

    Really Large Ricotta stuffed gnocchi

    Anyone familiar with the street food scene in India would invariably have come across a firm favorite: The 'ragda patty'
    This surprisingly nutritious street side snack consists of a pan fried potato patty drowned in 'ragda', a mildly seasoned curry made with dried peas, & liberally garnished with raw onion & cilantro.
    In the early days of panfusine & this blog, I had created a version of ragda substituting the patty with gnocchi. The dish was delicious, but my inexperience in writing about its potential as a star recipe may have pushed it towards oblivion.
    My interpretation of this dish consists of a rather large pan fried gnocchi stuffed with a ricotta cheese mixture. The ricotta itself is seasoned with mint, coriander & lemon zest.
    Its paired with a split pea puree, seasoned with ginger, scallions & garam masala.
    I've resorted to including store bought tamarind sauce for the sake of convenience. A basic version of the recipe can be found on this link:

    Makes 8-10
    Ricotta stuffed gnocchi:
    • 1/2 cup ricotta cheese
    • 2 tablespoons fresh mint leaves, finely minced
    • 2 small thai green chillies, deseeded & finely minced
    • 2 tablespoons cilantro, finely minced
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
    • 2 cups boiled & mashed Idaho potatoes
    • 1/4 cup corn starch
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon Salt to taste
    • 2 pinches fresh ground peppercorn (optional)
    • 1/4 cup oil (for pan frying)
    • store bought Tamarind sauce as per personal taste.

    Mix the ricotta cheese, mint, cilantro, green chillies, lemon zest, 1/2 tsp salt & lemon juice till well combined. Place in refrigerator for 1/2 hr to allow the flavors to blend.
    In a mixing bowl, combine the mashed potatoes, cornflour & remaining salt (adjust as per personal preference) & peppercorn (if preferred). Knead well into a dough.
    Divide the potato dough into 8 - 10 parts and roughly shape each one into a ball.
    Placing one ball of dough in the palm of your hand. make a 'well in the center using your thumb. Expand this well till the ball resembles a little cup.

    Spoon a heaped teaspoon of the ricotta mixture into the well. Using your fingers, fold over the edges of the cup to cover & seal the ricotta filling completely. Flatten slightly into a disk.

    Repeat with the remaining dough. You may cover these with plastic wrap & place in refrigerator till you're ready to pan fry them.

    Heat oil in a non stick skillet on medium high. When the oil is hot, fry the gnocchi in batches till golden brown on both sides. (~ 2-3 minutes)
    When done, remove & place on a plate lined with paper towels. To keep these warm, cover with Aluminum foil & place in a warm oven (~ 200 F).

    Split green pea puree:
    • 2 cups rehydrated split green peas,
    • 4 scallions chopped (green & white part)
    • 1 tablespoon Ginger-chilli paste
    • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
    • 1 pinch turmeric powder
    • 1 pinch red chilli powder
    • Salt to taste
    • 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
    • 2 tablespoons Lemon / lime juice
    • 3 cups water
    • 1 tablespoon oil
    • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
    • 1 sprig curry leaves (~ 8-10 leaves)
    • 1 pinch asafetida (optional)

    To make the chilli-ginger paste, combine 1 inch piece of ginger (minced) & 2 small green chillies (chopped) & pound into a paste using a mortar & pestle. It need not be too fine, just enough to release the flavor since the puree will be strained in the end.
    Cook the re-hydrated split green peas with turmeric powder till well cooked. Drain & set aside, reserving the turmeric infused cooking liquid.
    In a pan heat the oil. when hot, add the mustard seeds. When the seeds sputter, add the curry leaves, the chilli ginger paste & the optional asafetida,
    Give a quick stir & add the scallions. Saute till they get soft & the flavors of the ginger & scallions begin to combine.
    Add salt, red chilli powder, garam masala, the cooked peas, sugar and a cup of the reserved liquid.
    Cover & cook on a medium-low heat for ~ 5-8 minutes.
    Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, puree well and strain. Discard the residue.
    Return to the stove, adjust the thickness of the puree as per your personal preference using either more of the reserved liquid or water if the former has been used up.
    Add lemon juice, combine & remove from the stove.
    To plate, spoon required quantity of the puree on to a plate. Place 2 gnocchi in the center, drizzle with tamarind sauce. Garnish with finely chopped mint & cilantro & serve with a wedge of lemon.

    Thursday, March 10, 2011

    Tartlet Alphonse

    It may be late winter in the US but this time of year marks the beginning of the Mango season in India and the 'Alphonso' is the reigning king of the hundreds of varieties that sequentially make their appearance.
    Although the canned variety is never as good as the real thing, the uniformity in sweetness & texture renders it useful for baking purposes. I tried to recreate the taste of a refreshing mango punch ( referred to as 'aam ka panna' in hindi) made with ginger, mango pulp & a hint of cardamom.
    The tart pastry recipe is from Carole Walter's book 'Great pies & tarts, p. 104, with minor substitutions (ghee instead of vegetable shortening and equal parts of All purpose flour & pastry flour)

    Makes 9-10
    Tart Pastry:
    • 3/4 cups All purpose flour
    • 3/4 cups pastry flour
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/3 cup frozen butter diced
    • 2 tablespoons Ghee partially frozen
    • 1/2 cup iced water
    • 1/3 teaspoon Salt
    Alphonso mango filling:
    • 1 cup Canned Alphonso mango cut into strips
    • 1/8 cup extract from fresh ginger root
    • 3 tablespoons confectioners sugar
    • 1/2 cup orange juice
    • 1.5 tablespoons cornstarch
    • 4 pods, cardamom seeds, crushed fine
    • 10-12 unsalted pistachios, slivered
    • 9-10 Candied kumquat peels, chopped fine (optional)
    1. Combine the flour, salt and baking powder in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 5 seconds till the ingredients are combined.
    2. Add half the butter & ghee and pulse 4-5 times before processing for a further 5 seconds. Add the remaining butter & ghee & repeat the process. The texture of the flour should be similar to cream of wheat with pea sized pellets of butter.
    3. Transfer the mixture into a large mixing bowl.
    4. Using a kitchen fork to push the mix towards the center of the bowl, add the chilled water, a tablespoon at a time. The mix will begin clumping into dough with each addition of the water.
    5. To test if the mixture has enough water, gather the dough & press against the side of the bowl to see if it holds up & does not crumble. If the mix is crumbly keep adding water in smaller increments till the dough holds up.
    6. Using floured hands,press the dough against the side of the bowl and flatten into a disk. Liberally dust with flour and cover the disk in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until needed.
    7. Heat oven to 325 F.
    8. For fresh ginger extract, peel a 2 -3 inch piece of the fresh root and grate it using the fine shredder of a box grater. Squeeze out the juice from the shredded ginger. leave to settle for ~ 5 minutes before decanting the brownish extract from the top. Discard the white starchy sediment settled in the bottom.
    9. In a saucepan, combine the orange juice, confectioners sugar, ginger extract, cardamom & the cornstarch and stir continuously on low heat till the mixture resembles a thick custard like paste. Add the candied Kumquat peel at this point if you wish.
    10. Add the mango strips & combine well. remove from stove & set aside.
    11. Remove the pastry dough from the freezer and roll into a 1/16 inch thickness ( I use those measuring bands at the end of the rolling pin).
    12. Cut out 4 in circles using a biscuit cutter & fit into the cups of a muffin pan ( confession: I have yet to invest in a proper tart pan). You will have some pastry dough left over. Simply re-wrap & freeze for future use.
    13. Drop about 1 tablespoon of the mango mixture into the centre of the tartlet shells.
    14. Bake at 325 F for about 15-20 minute or until the bottom & outer sides of the tartlets are golden brown.
    15. Allow to cool, garnish with slivered pistachios & serve with a steaming hot cup of Masala Chai.

    Tuesday, March 8, 2011

    Schezuan pepper spiced South Indian 'Sundal'

    Oh boy, that recipe name almost qualifies as a tongue twister!,
    'Sundals' are simple stir fries using lentils or beans as the key ingredient.
    Primarily of South Indian origin, they are a staple holy offering during the Hindu festival of Navratri. While the choice of lentils & beans may be numerous, the basic seasoning is almost always a 'tadka' (mustard, a dried arbol & dehusked split 'Urad' dal, sputtered in smoking hot oil) and a pinch of asafetida powder. Certainly NOT toasted Schezuan pepper!
    The inspiration for this recipe comes from Merill Stubbs of who suggested this recipe created by chezsuzanne, a contributor on food52.
    Asafetida is a spice pretty much confined to Indian cuisine & it was pleasant to discover that it paired very well with schezuan pepper. The pepper itself lends a nutty aroma that complements the dish beautifully.
    Thanks Merill & Chezsuzanne for  helping me unlock the potential of this wonderful spice!

    Serves 6
      28 ounces can garbanzo beans 1 teaspoon schezuan pepper powder, toasted lightly 1 teaspoon Mustard seeds 1 teaspoon split dehusked Urad dal (optional) 1 dried arbol chilli pepper crumbled lightly 1 pinch Asafetida 1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder 1-2 tablespoon juice of a lemon or lime 2 sprigs chopped cilantro for garnishing 2 tablespoons Olive oil Salt to taste

    Drain & discard the liquid from the can of garbanzo beans. ( the precooked beans have sufficient salt to season the dish, but feel free to add more as per your personal taste)

    Heat oil till hot and add the mustard seeds. Once the seeds sputter & pop, add the arbol chilli and asafetida. Stir to combine.

    Add the drained garbanzo beans, toasted schezuan pepper & turmeric. Mix well.

    Lower the burner to a simmer, cover the pan & cook for 5 minutes till the flavors blend.

    Transfer to a serving dish, drizzle with lime/lemon juice & garnish with cilantro.

    Given that Sundal is such a comfort food for a lot of Indians & its healthy, tasty & vegan to boot, I'm taking the liberty of sharing this recipe with Claire of Chez Cayenne for the house favorites : Vegan recipes. Do take a moment to check out the other awesome dishes!

    Wednesday, March 2, 2011

    Kumquat pickle - Kerala style

    On a visit to the Oriental grocery around chinese new year, I happened to pick up a rather large container ( the only size available) of Kumquats. These miniature oranges are so cute to look at & sniff, but can be quite challenging when trying to decide what or how to cook with them.
    For one thing, this egg shaped citrus is quite reversed in its flavor profile. The peel is sweet & redolent of citrussy orange flavor, but once you peel it, you can barely make out 4 tiny segments bloated with inedible seeds. To top it all, the teeny bit of pulp is extremely lip puckering sour.
    And so, these fruits sat on my kitchen counter for about 3 weeks. I kept weeding out the occasional rotten bad eggs from the rest, until i decided to use some of the peel for last weeks recipe. (yes folks, the pannacotta was garnished with candied kumquat peel, not orange)
    Cut to my umpteenth sweep of Mrs. Ammini Ramachandrans book 'Grains, Greens & grated coconuts' ( I just have to  read the recipes to take me into a gustational high!). This time, I stopped at the recipe for 'Naranga curry' (p. 178). If Meyer lemons were an acceptable substitute, why not kumquats?
    Naranga curry is one of those quick Indian pickles that are whipped up for festive occasions when one does not have the luxury of having time to pickle the citrus fruit. A quick saute in oil softens the fruit and facilitates the absorption of the spice flavors. These do not keep well & have to be used up quickly. ( which is not an issue since they're so delicious!).
    Since i really did not want a sweet pickle, I had to peel the rind of, which was labor intensive, but I just juliennned to & added to to a large take out container  filled with confectioners sugar. I'll keep you posted on what results!
    Except for the kumquats, the ingredients used are the same as Ms. Ramachandran's list, but in different proportions.

    For this pickle you need:

    1 cup of peeled kumquats, (seeds & all)
    1/4 cup sesame oil
    1/4 tsp asafetida powder
    1 tbsp Red chilli powder
    1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
    1 tsp mustard seeds
    Salt to taste
    1/2 tsp Fenugreek seeds, toasted brown & powdered.

    Heat the oil in a pan & Saute the peeled kumquats till soft.
    Using a fork & paring knife, make a slit in the fruits individually & scrape off the seeds from the softened fruit. Discard the seeds.
    Avoid using your hands as much as possible & try not to squish the fruit to a pulp. Season with salt & turmeric powder, toss well & set  aside .
    In the same oil used for sauteeing the kumquat,  add mustard seeds & allow to sputter. Add the red chilli, fenugreek and asafetida  powders. Add the kumquat, stir to combine well & remove from heat. Allow to cool before transferring into a dry glass container. Ideally the pickle should 'rest' for a day before serving.

    (but this tiny batch of mine never saw the light of the next hour, leave alone the next day!)

    (Entering this post in the sweet heat chili challenge hosted by Michele & Lyndsey


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