Mirch Ka Salan With Peshawari Naan

Before I get to today’s recipe, Mirch ka Salan with Peshawari Naan, here’s a small rant.

I am not a Bolly-watcher, by any means. I am not hungry for the latest news on whichever middle-aged “hero” and painfully young “heroine” is dominating India’s movie industry. I couldn’t care less who’s going out with whom. And I don’t remember the last time I watched a Hindi movie I could half like (trust me, I’ve tried for nostalgia’s sake).

But our times make it hard to dodge information, even when it is information we’d rather not have. Recently, I started to see a common thread in messages posted on Facebook and on some Indian news websites: apparently, a number of top Indian actresses are gaining weight. And not losing it, or at least not losing it as fast as their fans want them to.

Aishwarya Rai, Lara Dutta, Vidya Balan, Kareena Kapoor… the reports listed the who’s who of India’s filmdom. And as much as I didn’t want to, I had to take notice: after all,  weight is a loaded topic in our culture and one that always evokes a visceral reaction. What really struck me was how vicious some of these reports were in a country where a little flab around the middle was once considered a welcome sign of prosperity. In fact, all the way through the 1990s and early 2000s, actresses like Sridevi, Rekha, Juhi Chawla and Madhuri Dixit made curves fashionable and beautiful.

I understand the value of fitness and I am not championing obesity. It is true that carrying too much weight can be an indicator of health problems as well as lead to a whole slew of diseases. And it is also true that countries like India are getting fatter faster than ever before and rates of diabetes and heart disease are rising correspondingly.

But none of these actresses who are being reviled for gaining weight are obese– not even remotely. They look like most women do and they still look perfectly beautiful. A couple of them gained a few pounds during pregnancies. One said she was in a happy relationship. It didn’t sound like they were at all obsessing with their weight; on the contrary, they sounded blissfully happy. It was just everyone else that was outraged.

Now I am not going to go where others would after this rant and beat up on the media because, let’s face it, the media today has been reduced to a barometer of what’s trending on Google and Yahoo news. And to a large extent these actresses and the industry they work in are to blame for setting these impossible standards in the first place that they themselves are now not living up to.

Even so, I think it’s refreshing to see that these actresses are, for a change, not obsessing with their weight — even if it is a temporary phase– because they are riding another high: the high of life. It offers us a welcome respite from that impossible obsession with impossibly thin, and reminds us that there’s something more important in life than being a size zero:

Being completely, and perfectly, and incandescently happy.

***

Now for the recipe that’s going to make you decadently happy without adding inches to your waistline: my Mirch ka Salan with a whole-wheat Peshawari Naan.

Mirch ka Salan is a popular dish from the city of Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, a south Indian state known for its spicy foods. The name translates approximately to a sauce of chilies, and if that makes your jaw drop and your mouth run dry with fear, pour yourself a glass of water and hear me out. 

The sauce here is made of “sweet ingredients” like coconuts and peanuts and sesame seeds and they add a rich nuttiness that becomes a perfect base for the chilies. In India, the chillies used are long, skinny, hot green peppers, but because neither you (I presume) nor I could deal with that much excitement, I used a mix of green bell peppers and poblano peppers which both add great flavor without adding incredible heat. If you are braver, feel free to substitute the poblanos with a spicier chili like jalapeno or even serrano.

To scoop up the spicy-sweet sauce I made a whole-wheat Peshawari Naan. A Peshawari Naan is a puffy flatbread that traces its origins into Pakistan and north India. It’s a little more special than your average, everyday naan because it is studded with nuts and dry fruits, making it the perfect complement to the spicy saalan.

I made the naan half whole-wheat– I have an all-whole-wheat naan on this blog that I posted a while back, but I find that using part whole-wheat and part white flour gives a more authentic texture and look while still being healthy.

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy, all!

Mirch ka Salan

Ingredients:

1 very large green bell pepper or 2 small ones, deseeded and cut into long strips

2 large poblano peppers (substitute with a hotter chili if you want to), deseeded and cut into long strips

1 large onion, sliced thinly

1/2 cup shredded coconut

1/4 cup peanuts

2 tbsp sesame seeds

4 green cardamom pods

4 cloves

1 1-inch piece of cinnamon

1 tbsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

1 tsp black mustard seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp red chili powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

10-12 curry leaves

1/2-inch ball of tamarind

1 1/2 tsp canola or other vegetable oil

Juice of 1 lemon

Salt to taste

1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves

Heat 1/2 tsp of oil in a saucepan and add the peanuts and sesame seeds. Toast them until they just begin to change color, remove to a plate to cool, and add the coconut to the saucepan.

Roast the coconut until it turns very lightly golden. Coconut burns very fast, so don’t walk away from it and stir constantly.

Place the sesame seeds, peanuts and coconut in a blender along with the tamarind (make sure there are no seeds) and process with some water to a very smooth paste.

Heat the remaining oil. Add the cardamom, cloves and cinnamon and saute until they just start to brown and become fragrant. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and when they sputter, add the onions.

Saute the onions for a few minutes or until they start to brown at the edges. Then add the sliced peppers and stir fry until they start to brown slightly.

Add the turmeric, chili powder, coriander powder and cumin powder and stir until they are evenly distributed and roasted, about a minute or two.

Add the peanut-coconut-sesame paste and mix it well. Add some water if the sauce is too thick. Bring the sauce to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the peppers are tender but still have a bite to them.

Stir in the lemon juice, garnish with coriander, and serve hot with the Peshawari Naan (recipe follows).

Peshawari Naan

(Makes four naans)

Ingredients:

1 cups whole-wheat flour

1 cup bread flour

1 tsp salt

1 1/4 tsp active dry yeast

1 tbsp vegetable oil

3/4 cup soymilk or other nondairy milk

Water as needed

1/2 cup finely chopped dry fruits and nuts (I used apricots and cashews but you could use pistachios, walnuts, raisins, figs…take your pick.)

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. Let the dough rest for another 10 minutes, covered.

Preheat the oven to 475 degrees and place a baking stone or unglazed tiles on the middle rack.

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 even as you stretch and shape it. I shaped my naans into rounds this time, but you could shape them into the more traditional teardrops or just about any shape you wish.

Sprinkle the surface with a fourth of your nuts and dry fruits and press them in so they sink into the surface.

Carefully, taking care not to burn your fingers, place the naan directly on the hot baking stone. Place as many of the naans as you can on the stone, taking care that you leave at least an inch of space between them. They should not overlap.

Bake about 6-7 minutes or until the naans are all puffy and the top and bottom are a pale gold-brown.

Remove with tongs and serve hot.

(C) All recipes and photographs copyright of Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes.

28 thoughts on “Mirch Ka Salan With Peshawari Naan

  1. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Priya

    April 10, 2012 at 4:59pm

    Omg, both naan and mirch ka salan makes me hungry..Am inviting myself to ur place..

  2. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Richa

    April 10, 2012 at 6:11pm

    oooooh that salan looks delicious and so does the beautiful naan. yes i cant dea with too much excitement in my food too..mom always add a dash more salt and chili to my cooking when she is here.. :))

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Vaishali

      April 11, 2012 at 1:38pm

      Thanks, Richa. My parents think I’m a total wimp when it comes to spice– although I can beat Desi any day!

  3. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Manasi

    April 11, 2012 at 1:25am

    What a delicious combination! I love Mirchi ka salan, only recently have stopped making it, Peanuts give me serious acidity and migraine :(
    I will try this naan.

    I agree with the fact that Indian actresses are no longer ‘twiggy’ and are okay with their new looks. Remember Madhubala, none as beautiful as her even today and she was not stick thin!
    Its time we stopped aping hollywood actresses and retain what we had.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Vaishali

      April 11, 2012 at 1:39pm

      Manasi, I love Madhubala– who doesn’t? What a smile, and such charm.

  4. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Srivalli

    April 11, 2012 at 5:51am

    Delicious combination..never tried these two together!…

  5. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Rajendra Yadav

    April 11, 2012 at 1:31pm

    I love peanuts. I hope to use this interesting paste with my other dishes too.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Vaishali

      April 11, 2012 at 1:40pm

      Rajendra, I can imagine this would make a good base for all kinds of curries!

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Vaishali

      April 11, 2012 at 1:41pm

      Sushma, I’d say it’s a naan worth living for! :) Hope you like it.

  6. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Ameya

    April 11, 2012 at 3:35pm

    I love Salan gravy. Though I might try it with all poblano since I’m not a bell pepper fan. Looks fantastic, Vaishali!

  7. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Anonymous

    April 11, 2012 at 10:42pm

    Vaishali

    I am assuming you used dry coconut. Please confirm.

    Thanks

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Vaishali

      April 12, 2012 at 3:41am

      Anon, it’s the packaged “fresh” coconut I get from the Indian store here. It’s not dry but it’s not as wet and milky as freshly grated coconut. If you use dry, add some coconut milk while blending the masala to give it a bit of freshness.

  8. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Mints!

    April 12, 2012 at 4:36am

    Lovely combination. I am from Kolhapur and cant take spice :) People say its a perfect example of oxymoron :) I will make these naans this weekend.

    Have you seen recent picture of Sridevi? OMG she looks like a stick … no kidding. Also with the current set of actresses who are okay with their bit of extra pounds were stick thin few years ago too. I hope things are changing but then again who knows …

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Vaishali

      April 17, 2012 at 3:59pm

      Mints, It’s nice in a way that actresses want to watch their figures, but what I really dislike is this criticism by the rest of the world that wants them to look a certain way. Beautiful people come in all sizes.

  9. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Anonymous

    April 17, 2012 at 2:34am

    I swear: winning a sweepstakes to eat your food for a week (why not a lifetime?) would be amazing. Who needs megamillions? ;)

    Inevitably, my mouth literally waters. Silvia

  10. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Mary@ Fit and Fed

    April 20, 2012 at 1:54am

    Hi! I’m glad to have found your blog today, I’m already a fan of Richa’s Indian vegan blog Hobby and More. I’ve had Peshawari naan at a restaurant before and really like it, it’s nice to have a dairy-free recipe for it.

  11. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Sangita Kalarickal

    April 21, 2012 at 10:31pm

    Awesome post, Vaishali. So true about people going crazy about gaining a couple pounds. Everything in moderation, I think.
    Mirch ka saalan sounds perfect. Just reading it is making my mouth water.

  12. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Swati Sapna

    April 26, 2012 at 2:57pm

    Oh mirchi ka salan is no fun without the spicy Indian chillies Vaishali :D Go on, use the fiery ones the next time :) I love Saalan myself, and never get that authentic flavour anywhere outside of Hyderabad. I guess I just have to get around to cooking it myself now! Have never tried my hand at it.
    And hey, I’m a movie buff and know exactly what ur talking about… yes, the attitude of the leading ladies is really changing now and I for one am glad! If you havent heard all the hoopla about Vidya Balan’s “Dirty Picture” yet, pls watch the film… its not great cinema (though ppl seem to love it here), but its just amazing how self assured Vidya is as the plump, curvaceous, sexually realised heroine! And all that fat on screen? Real! No padding, no body suits. That in itself had me screaming – Give her the National Award :D

  13. Permalink  ⋅ Reply

    Sweet, Sour, Salty, Spiced

    April 26, 2012 at 6:46pm

    I just recently found your blog, and I read most of it in one day! Your recipes sound so delicious, and your posts are always so interesting. I am looking forward to keeping up with you in the future. I’m no slouch in the kitchen, but I’ve always been a little intimidated by cooking Indian food because there seems to be quite a bit of technique involved that was best learned while growing up with it – especially having a feel for which spices get along with each other and which ones want to fight for supremacy. Also, my local Indian restaurants (Atlanta) all seem to serve their dishes swimming in so much oil, that I’ve never thought I had much of a feel for what the dish should actually taste like.

    Your recipes sound so appealing and your instructions are so clear that you’ve gotten me excited about learning a whole new cuisine. I think I’m going to start with the Navratan Korma. It sounds amazing. Thanks so much for all the hard work you’ve put in sharing your native cuisine with us. Can’t wait to get into the kitchen.

    I just recently found your blog, and I read most of it in one day! Your recipes sound so delicious, and your posts are always so interesting. I am looking forward to keeping up with you in the future. I’m no slouch in the kitchen, but I’ve always been a little intimidated by cooking Indian food because there seems to be quite a bit of technique involved that was best learned while growing up with it – especially having a feel for which spices get along with each other and which ones want to fight for supremacy. Also, my local Indian restaurants (Atlanta) all seem to serve their dishes swimming in so much oil, that I’ve never thought I had much of a feel for what the dish should actually taste like.

    Your recipes sound so appealing and your instructions are so clear that you’ve gotten me excited about learning a whole new cuisine. I think I’m going to start with the Navratan Korma. It sounds amazing. Thanks so much for all the hard work you’ve put in sharing your native cuisine with us. Can’t wait to get into the kitchen.

    • Permalink  ⋅ Reply

      Vaishali

      April 27, 2012 at 5:32pm

      SSSS, you are so kind! And you must be a fast reader– I have more than 500 pages on this blog! :) I hope you will try the Korma. It’s one of my favorites.

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