Mango Curry

Mango CurryThis silky mango curry is a delicious memory of growing up in India’s sultry summers.

Each year, when May rolls around, Indian markets are overwhelmed with a flood of mangoes, lovingly referred to here as the “king of fruits”. Mountains of mangoes in every shape and size add brilliant orange color to an already colorful mileu and their heady fragrance hangs thick in the air. No matter how much of this delicious fruit you eat, it seems you can never have enough.

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Mango CurryBut mangoes are not just eaten as a fruit in India. Raw mangoes are pickled or curried and ripe mangoes are often cooked up into sweet — and more rarely savory– dishes.  It’s one such savory dish I have for you today: a mango curry that goes, in my native tongue Konkani, by the name “Ambya Sasam.”

 My mom would cook up Ambya Sasam several times each summer, and we couldn’t wait to devour it.  She would always use a certain kind of mango, round, with a softer flesh than your average mango, for this curry. I made it with champagne mangoes, which are often the only kind I can find here in the United States, but it was still delicious.

You do want a really sweet mango for this dish– don’t get tempted into throwing in a half-ripe fruit. It’s the chemistry of the sweet mango with the spices that makes this curry so special.

I followed Meera’s recipe — which is very authentic and looks amazing (head over to her blog, Enjoy Indian Food, to take a look) –to make this curry, but I made some small changes. My mom would put in the whole, peeled mango, seed and all, and we would have a great time slurping the flesh off the seed as we ate the curry.  Since not everyone wants to do that — I knew Desi wouldn’t, the little snob– I removed the seed. I also used coconut milk instead of fresh coconut to add a little more sophistication (and make my life easier).

Here’s the recipe, then, and trust me, it’s fabulous. Better still, it comes together in no more than 20 minutes which, in my book, makes it an all-round winner. Serve it up with some bitter gourd subzi and rice for a delightful dance of flavors. Thanks, Meera.

Mango Curry

Mango Curry (Ambyache Sasam)
Recipe Type: Curry
Cuisine: Indian
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 3 ripe champagne mangoes. Make two clean cuts on either side of the seed. Make criss-cross cuts in each slice of mango, the way you would to dice an avocado, and slide them off the skin with the help of a spoon, again just like you would an avocado.
  • 1 cup canned coconut milk (the thick part). If you’re using fresh coconut milk, use two cups of the first extraction and skip adding any water.
  • 2 dry red chillies, like arbol or Kashmiri chillies.
  • 1 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • A generous pinch of asafetida or hing (optional)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 sprig of curry leaves
  • 2 tsp grated jaggery or sugar
Instructions
  1. Grind together the coconut milk, 1/2 cup of the mango flesh, chillies and 1/2 tsp mustard seeds. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil and add the remaining mustard seeds. When they sputter, add the curry leaves, turmeric and asafetida, if using.
  3. Add the mangoes and the ground coconut milk paste. Add a cup of water and stir the jaggery or sugar. Add salt to taste.
  4. Heat through until the coconut milk barely simmers. Turn off the heat and serve hot or warm with rice.

 

 

Brinjal Pulippu Kootu

Eggplant Kootu I say brinjal, you say eggplant, and they say aubergine. Whatever. It’s delicious, it’s my favorite veggie, and today I have for you one of the most delicious ways you can cook it up and eat it: Brinjal Pulippu Kootu, a tangy dal you might never have eaten before unless you’re a native of Tamil Nadu.

When I first started cooking up Tamil food, I was a little amazed at how Desi’s vegetarian family managed to cook up the same basic ingredients — lentils, curry leaves, veggies, tamarind, and spices like coriander seeds, red chillies, mustard seeds and turmeric– into very different-tasting dishes every day of the week. These “dals” (as lentil-based dishes are known through the rest of India), went by different names too: sambar or kuzhambu, kootu, and masiyal. Befuddled, I’d ask Desi: “How can you tell which is which?”

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Brinjal Kootu

Over time I learned. Here, if you are interested, are the most glaring differences: A sambar is tart with tamarind, whereas a masiyal is tarted up by souring agents other than tamarind, like green tomatoes or lemon or raw mangoes and may or may not include lentils except as a seasoning. Masiyals also typically use lentils other than tuvar dal or split pigeon peas, like moong dal. And then there is the kootu which is not tart at all-and is typically thicker than sambar. A kootu also often includes black pepper and coconut which makes it quite distinct and utterly delicious.

But exceptions, as you know, make up the rule, and today I have for you a recipe for the renegade Pulippu Kootu: the Kootu that’s tart like a sambar but is otherwise the spitting image of a kootu. Go figure.

If your head’s spinning by now, stop, get up, and go to the kitchen and cook up this kootu– that’s all you really need to do anyway, right? If you want to stick with tradition you should make this kootu with brinjal or eggplant, like I did, or with chow chow (available here in the United States as chayote squash). Or you can experiment with another veggie, although here’s a little tip: you really don’t want to stray from the deliciousness that eggplant brings to this dish.

TGIF, everyone, and hope you have a lovely weekend!

Eggplant Kootu

Brinjal Pulippu Kootu
Recipe Type: Curry
Cuisine: Indian
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1/2 cup tuvar dal or split pigeon peas
  • 9 small round eggplants, cut into a 1/2-inch dice
  • 2 tbsp freshly grated coconut (you can use frozen, but thaw before use)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • A generous pinch of asafetida (hing)
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
  • 1 tbsp tamarind extract. (or 1-inch ball of tamarind pods, soaked in 1/2 cup of water for 30 minutes. Extract the tamarind pulp by crushing with fingers and discard the dry solids)
  • [u]For ground masala:[/u]
  • 1 tbsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tbsp udad dal or black gram dal
  • 1 tbsp chana dal or bengal gram dal
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, covered with water and microwaved for five minutes. Or you can bring them to a boil on the stovetop, lower heat, and let them cook 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  • 2 sprigs curry leaves
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated coconut. Again, you can use frozen but thaw first.
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
Instructions
  1. Mix the lentils and turmeric, add water and cook until the lentils are really soft and mashable. Pressure-cooking works best here — and the fastest– but you can do this on the stovetop. Use enough water to cover the lentils by an inch, bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, cover the pot and cook the lentils until they are soft and mushy. You will need to check frequently to ensure the water hasn’t dried out.
  2. Make the ground masala. Heat 1 tsp of oil and add the masala ingredients. On medium heat, saute the ingredients, stirring frequently, until the coconut turns a few shades darker. Be watchful because coconut burns easily.
  3. Remove the masala ingredients to a blender, add enough water to make a paste, and blend to a smooth paste. Set aside.
  4. In a large saucepan, place the chopped eggplant, add the tamarind, some salt, and enough water to almost cover the vegetables. Bring the mixture to a boil, turn heat to low, cover and cook until the brinjals are thoroughly cooked. Don’t take shortcuts here because half-cooked brinjal is worse than no brinjal at all.
  5. Add the cooked lentils, peanuts, and ground masala paste. Stir well, add water if the mixture is too thick, bring to a boil, lower heat, and cook at a gentle simmer for about 10 minutes.
  6. In a small saucepan, add the remaining 1 tsp of oil and then add mustard seeds. When the mustard sputters, add the coconut and curry leaves.
  7. Saute the coconut and curry leaves until the coconut turns lightly golden.
  8. Add to the lentils and mix thoroughly. Stir in the coriander leaves.
  9. Serve hot with some boiled rice and potato curry.

Potato curry

 

 

Tofu Paneer Bhurji

Tofu Paneer BhurjiA bhurji, in India’s culinary lexicon, is a messy scramble of any sort. There’s anda bhurji, or egg bhurji, a spiced-up version of scrambled eggs that blazed a path from India’s street food stalls to become a popular  breakfast staple in every home kitchen. And then there’s paneer bhurji, a popular restaurant dish made with the creamy Indian cottage cheese paneer, that’s spicier, more lavish, and — dare I say it — more delicious.

In recent weeks, I was hit by a deep craving for Paneer Bhurji. Maybe it was the neat slabs of paneer I saw in the refrigerator at the Indian grocery store that did it, or maybe it is this stubborn cold weather that refuses to shake off (it’s snowing here in DC today), making me crave warm, spicy, rich food. Either way, I wanted nothing more the other night than to scoop up some Paneer Bhurji with a puffy naan and stuff my face.

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Tofu Paneer BhurjiThere was nothing to stop me. In my refrigerator were some firm tofu, green peppers and red onions — perfect ingredients for a marvelous vegan Paneer Bhurji. And a healthy one, because while paneer is packed with fat and cholesterol, tofu isn’t. But there was one thing. While the tofu would make a perfect stand-in for the paneer, texture-wise, it would not have that very important richness that the cheese would bring to the dish. And that’s when it hit me: cashew cream, an ingredient I have often used as a cream substitute in Indian dishes.  A little bit would go a long way in making my Tofu Paneer Bhurji taste as luxurious as the original dish.

So Tofu Paneer Bhurji it was that night, and it was quite perfect. In fact, it didn’t last around here for more than a few minutes. Which is not to say that I ate it all up. Erm…let’s not get into that now, ok?

Tofu Paneer Bhurji

Vegan Paneer Bhurji
Recipe Type: Side
Cuisine: Indian
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 14-oz pack firm tofu. Place the tofu in a colander and cover with a paper napkin. Place a heavy weight on top and leave it alone for 15 minutes to drain out any excess water from the tofu. Don’t worry if the tofu crumbles a bit– you are going to crumble it anyway.
  • 12 cashew nuts, soaked in 1/2 cup of water for 30 minutes, then blitzed into a smooth paste
  • 1 medium red onion, minced
  • 1 green bell pepper, minced
  • 1 tsp garlic, minced or crushed
  • 1 tsp ginger, grated
  • 1 cup tomato puree
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 cup chopped coriander leaves
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan. Add the onions and saute until they start to brown.
  2. Add the garlic and ginger. Saute for a minute, then add the green peppers, coriander powder, cumin powder, turmeric and paprika. Stir to mix and add the tomato puree.
  3. Cook, stirring frequently, until the tomato puree is thick and a few shades darker.
  4. Crumble the tofu and add it to the saucepan. Stir well to mix,
  5. Cook the mixture on medium heat for about five minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Add the cashew cream and salt to taste. Turn off heat.
  7. Stir in the coriander leaves and lemon juice. Serve hot with [url href="http://holycowvegan.net/2012/04/mirch-ka-saalan-with-peshawari-naan.html" target="_blank" title="naan"]naan.[/url]
Calories: 95 Fat: 5.4 grams Carbohydrates: 7.7 grams Fiber: 2 grams Protein: 5.6 grams

Tofu Paneer Bhurji

 

Phirni

PhirniA true testament to the richness and popularity of the cuisine of India’s Muslims is the fact that when anyone around the world thinks of the most delicious Indian foods, the first images that spring to mind are  a lavish, fragrant biryani or a puffy, flaky naan.

India is home to the world’s second largest Muslim population and over the centuries this community has contributed deeply to the country’s colorful diversity and its rich cultural traditions. One of the heftiest contributions, no doubt, has been in the area of food.

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PhirniMuslim cuisine is known for its use of rich spices, fragrant herbs and delicate stocks: exactly the stuff of a food lover’s dreams. Growing up in Bombay, I was lucky to have many Muslim friends. Luckier still, they had moms who liked to feed greedy little girls. In fact, some of my most delicious gastronomic memories from India are of the foods I ate at the home of my friend Shahnaz, whose mother was a fabulous cook and made the best biryani I have ever tasted, or the lunch box that my schoolmate Rashida would share with me.

But if Indian Muslim cuisine is in a class of its own, Indian Muslim sweets are out of this world. One such out-of-the-world dessert I want to share with you today is Phirni, or Firni.

Phirni is at once a rustic and sophisticated dish. It’s a creamy milk pudding thickened with a coarse powder of rice. Not unlike a rice pudding, but grinding up the rice gives this dish a completely different flavor. You have to try it to believe it.

PhirniI shall never forget the first time I had Phirni, sold by one of the many food vendors who feed hungry travelers on India’s trains. I had never tasted anything quite so delicious, I remember thinking. We were traveling in north India and the Phirni was served in an unglazed clay dish with a narrow base that tapered outward to a wide mouth– kinda like a big Diwali diya. The clay, I later learned, absorbs some of the fluid from the Phirni and helps it set, contributes a very special flavor of its own, and also helps keep the Phirni cool — important because this is one Indian dessert that should always be served chilled.

Traditionally Phirni is of course made with milk but my vegan, dairyfree version is made with almond milk that I made myself with blanched almonds. That’s because I wanted the flavor of the almond milk and its texture to be really delicate in order to retain the pure flavor of the original dish. You can try this with storebought almond milk if you’d rather, but I would advise putting in the extra work and doing it yourself. You can also just buy blanched almonds which would make things much easier. Or, for a variation, you could try using cashews which are also delicious in Indian sweets as a dairy substitute.

This is also a really healthy recipe, for a dessert. A serving has only 186 calories and it actually scored an A-minus on the Calorie Count recipe analyzer– how’s that for good eats?

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

Phirni

Phirni
Recipe Type: Desserts
Cuisine: Indian
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 10
Ingredients
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 tbsp rose water
  • 1/4 cup basmati rice
  • 1 tsp ground cardamom
  • 15 cashew nuts, chopped
  • Strawberries for garnish (optional)
Instructions
  1. The day before you want to make the Phirni, place the almonds in a bowl and pour over enough boiling water to cover the almonds. Set aside overnight.
  2. Next day, peel the almonds and discard the skins.
  3. Place the almonds in a blender with 4 cups of water and blend into a very smooth milk. Pour through a sieve to catch any large bits that might have remained, or any pieces of skin.
  4. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, bring all but 1/4th of a cup of the almond milk to a boil.
  5. Add the sugar and cook, stirring frequently, over medium-low heat until the milk starts to thicken, about 15 minutes.
  6. Drain the rice that’s soaking and grind with with the reserved 1/4th cup of almond milk.
  7. Add the rice paste to the almond milk and continue to cook, stirring, for another 15-20 minutes. You want to feel the pudding thickening as time goes by.
  8. Cover the phirni with a tight-fitting lid and let the mixture cook another five minutes.
  9. Remove the lid, add the cardamom, rose water and cashew nuts,and cook for another five minutes. Turn off the heat and pour it into individual serving dishes or bowls.
  10. Garnish with chopped strawberries or nuts. The slight tartness of the strawberries is a perfect flavor pairing with the sweet Phirni. You can also add saffron– soak a generous pinch in 1 tbsp almond milk and add along with the cardamom and cashew nuts.
  11. Refrigerate the Phirni until thoroughly chilled.
Calories: 186 Sugar: 25.5 grams Fiber: 1.2 grams Protein: 2.9 grams

 

Sprouted Mung Salad (Moong Usal)

Mung Bean SaladI have for you today a very simple, very nutritious and very delicious sprouted mung bean salad that, in my part of India, goes by the name of Moong Usal.

There’s something about sprouting beans that brings out the poet in me. Watching those tiny little white squiggles shoot out of the legume and grow, like magic, over a period of days and sometimes just hours makes my jaw drop in wonder to this day, no matter how many times I do it. And as a cook and an eater, I love just how delicious and nutritious these little nuggets are. Not to mention versatile. You can pile them into a sandwich, cook them into a curry like this classic Moogache Molay Gathi, turn them into an eggless omelet, or just saute them a little, add a dash of salt and pepper, squeeze on some lemon, and you’ve got a dish to die for.

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Mung Bean UsalOf all the legumes you can sprout, moong or mung beans are probably the  quickest and the easiest. Even in my winter kitchen, with temperatures dipping below freezing outside, the sprouts I used in this salad were ready in about two days with the minimal care and attention. So if you haven’t sprouted beans before — and you really should — mung beans are a great place to start. Here’s a quick tutorial on sprouting beans:

Moong beans– Measure the beans, pick over them for any stones, then wash them thoroughly by placing them in a colander and rinsing in cold water.

–Place the beans in a container and cover with three inches of water. Set aside for eight hours or overnight.

–After the beans have soaked overnight or for 8 hours, strain them in the colander, preferably one large enough to hold the beans. Rinse the beans under cold, running water.

–Cover the colander with a kitchen towel and set aside. Twice a day, rinse the legumes, let the water run out, and then set them aside again, covered with the kitchen towel.

–After a day you should see tiny little white shoots developing. I usually let my beans sit another day, continuing to rinse and drain, until the shoots are a little bigger.

And that’s it, really. You don’t need any fancy equipment to sprout beans. You don’t even need a large colander if you don’t have one– just make sure that you drain out all the water from the container every time you rinse the beans. Easy peasy.

Sprouted Moong Beans

Sprouting beans is an exercise worth the small amount of work because it makes an already healthy superfood even healthier– imagine that! The quantities of proteins, vitamins and minerals in legumes soar when they are sprouted, and even better, the legume becomes more easily digestible. Now why would you argue with that?

Once you have your sprouted beans all set to go, my Moong Usal comes together in minutes with a minimal number of ingredients that you should already have in your pantry. Usal is a classic Maharashtrian dish– food from my mother’s land. Maharashtrians use a special kind of spice blend– goda masala, which includes coconut– to make usal and you can look up my recipe for goda masala in my DIY spice blends list, if you have a mind to make it. But because this is a minimalist, easy version I used garam masala which you likely already have in your spice box.

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

Sprouted Mung Salad

Sprouted Mung Salad (Moong Usal)
Recipe Type: Side
Cuisine: Indian
Author: Holy Cow! Vegan Recipes
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • 1 cup dry mung beans or moong, sprouted (see tutorial above)
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tomato, finely diced
  • 2 green chillies, slit through the middle
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp garam masala (use goda masala if you have this)
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped coriander leaves
  • Salt to taste
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large wok or kadhai or saucepan
  2. Add the onions and a pinch of salt. Saute until the onions start to turn golden-brown.
  3. Add the garlic and green chillies and saute for a few seconds.
  4. Add the tomatoes, turmeric, coriander and cumin powders and cook until the tomato starts to break down but isn’t quite mushy.
  5. Add the sprouted mung beans and mix well. Cover and let the beans cook over medium-low heat for about 15 minutes. Stir every once in a while and, if needed, add a couple of tablespoons of water to prevent sticking. You can let the beans cook longer if you want them to be softer. I like mine a little al dente with some crunch to them.
  6. Add salt to taste, sugar and the lemon juice. Mix in the coriander leaves.
  7. Serve hot.
Calories: 40 Fat: 0.8 grams Sugar: 4.5 grams Fiber: 1.9 grams Protein: 2.7 grams

Moong bean Usal