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.

 

 

Vegan Mung and Rice Pudding With Coconut and Saffron

Vegan Mung and Rice Pudding

Here’s a kheer (an Indian pudding) that my Konkani parents make for Makar Sankranti, a celebration in their part of India that falls on the same day as Pongal.

The recipe is very similar to Sakkarai Pongal, except that my parents’ version has some coconut milk, a staple of the Konkan region where coconut trees grow abundantly along the coast. Coconut adds a unique flavor all its own which is particularly great when you remove ghee from the equation, as we do for our vegan version. The coconut also keeps the kheer moist and fluid even after you refrigerate it.

Another flavor boost comes from saffron, those spicy stamens so prized in Indian cooking. The saffron also gives the dish a gorgeous golden color.

Vegan Mung and Rice Pudding

It has been a week since Pongal and Makar Sankranti, but it’ never too late to eat something as delicious as this kheer. On to the recipe. Hope everyone’s feeling well and rested after a long weekend. Have a lovely day, all!

Vegan Mung and Rice Pudding

Mung and Rice Kheer

Ingredients:

3/4 cup rice

1/4 cup mung dal

1 cup almond milk

1 cup coconut milk

3/4 to 1 cup grated jaggery

1 tsp powdered cardamom seeds

10-15 cashew nuts, broken into pieces

A generous pinch of saffron, soaked in a couple of tablespoons of almond milk

Boil the rice and mung dal together, preferably in a pressure cooker, until really soft. I added about 3 cups of water to the pressure cooker, which gave me the right consistency.

Add the almond milk and half the coconut milk to the rice-mung mixture and set it on a low flame.

Add the grated jaggery and stir well.

Cook on a low flame until the raw jaggery smell has dissipated. This took about half an hour for me. The pongal should not be dry, but creamy and slightly fluid. If it gets too dry, add some more almond milk. Stir in the saffron with the almond milk it was soaked in and the remaining coconut milk.

Heat 1 tbsp canola oil

Add 1 tsp powdered cardamom seeds

10-15 cashew nuts, broken into pieces

Toss until the nuts are lightly browned. Add to the rice.

Stir well. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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

Kholamba, a Low-Fat Vegetable Stew

kholamba

India’s regional cuisines are so strikingly diverse that when resemblances and overlaps occur they inevitably make you wonder where the dish could have originated. There’s never a simple answer.

A long-running food argument in our home has been over the beginnings of what is perhaps Tamil Nadu’s most famous stew: the sambar, or kuzhambu. You would recognize sambar if you’ve ever ordered a dosa or an idli at an Indian restaurant. It’s the lentil and vegetable stew that comes alongside as a dipping sauce.

Lentil stews, or dals, can be found across regional cuisines in India, but what sets the Tamil Sambar apart is the tang of tamarind and the unique blend of spices that go into it. Sambar is one of the most-cooked foods in my kitchen because my Tamil husband, Desi, adores it more than any other food in the universe– after all, it’s what mom would cook.

Then one day I came upon an article that said the sambar may have actually originated centuries ago in the kitchens of Maharashtrians occupying Thanjavur, a region in Tamil Nadu. I went home and gleefully rubbed that bit of information in Desi’s face.kholambo

He remains cynical to this day– and to be honest I have no idea about the article’s veracity (it’s just something fun to needle him with every now and then). But no matter who first created it, over time the sambar or kuzhambu has found a home in kitchens across south India under slightly different but always delicious avatars.

My recipe today is a version that I grew up eating in my Konkani home and it goes by the similarly different name of Kholamba, or Kholambo. This is my stepmom’s recipe, exactly as she would make it, except that I cut down on the oil almost entirely except for spraying the pan a couple of times, once to roast the spices and the other to roast the garlic. Altogether, it works out to less than half a teaspoon of added oil and that’s important because let’s not forget– this is the year for healthy, fat-free eating. I also cut down on the chillies: the recipe asked for six, but I knew Desi wouldn’t be able to stomach anything over two. My stepmom uses Byadgi, a chilli from the state of Karnataka, which gives the dish a deep red color. I have to make do with whatever chilli I can find here at my Indian store, so my Kholamba looks a little paler.

Kholamba uses more spices than you’d find in a Tamil kuzhambu and there is one surprising addition: garlic, which imparts a fabulous depth. Traditionally Kholamba almost always includes drumsticks and red pumpkin, so I used these, although you can easily substitute other vegetables. Try any squash, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, eggplant, or even green beans. You can mix and match as many veggies as you like. You can also use tomatoes instead of tamarind to add the sour tones to this dish. I went with tamarind because I had that on hand, but use tomato by all means, if you’d rather.

Here’s the recipe, then, for a low-fat version of Kholamba, a childhood favorite. Enjoy, all!

kholamba

 

Kholamba, a Low-Fat Vegetable Stew
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
A sambar made in Konkani kitchens
Author:
Recipe type: Stew
Cuisine: Indian
Serves: 8
Ingredients
  • ¾ cup tuvar dal (about 2 cups cooked). Boil with ¼ tsp turmeric until very tender and mushy.
  • ¼ tsp asafoetida (hing)
  • 1 cup red pumpkin cubes
  • 1 cup white pumpkin cubes
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 15 2-inch pieces of drumsticks (You can find these dark-green, ridged stick-like veggies, already cut up into smaller lengths, in the freezer at your Indian store. Indian drumsticks have nothing to do with chicken-- they grow on tall trees and are named thus because they are long and slender like the drum sticks a drummer would use. Drumsticks have great flavor that is ethereal in a sambar, but parts of a drumstick are not edible. You chew on the cooked drumstick to extract the flavor from the flesh and seeds inside, and throw away the hard part.)
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 8 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • For the masala:
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 15 black peppercorns
  • ½ tsp fenugreek seeds (methi seeds)
  • 1 tbsp chana dal (Bengal gram dal)
  • 1 tbsp udad dal (black gram dal)
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 1 1-inch-diameter ball of tamarind (make sure there are no seeds hiding inside)
  • ¼ cup coconut milk or 2 tbsp freshly grated coconut
Instructions
  1. Heat a skillet, spray it with some oil, and then toast the ingredients (except the coriander), one by one, until they are a couple of shades darker and aromatic. Cool in a plate and transfer to a blender along with the tamarind.
  2. If you are using fresh coconut, toast it to a light brown shade. If you're using coconut milk, add it directly to the blender.
  3. Place all the prepped veggies, including the onion, in a microwave-safe dish, ad ¼ cup of water, cover loosely and zap for about 10 minutes or until the pumpkin is very tender. Set aside. You can do this on a stove-top as well.
  4. Blend the spices with enough water to make a smooth paste. Set aside.
  5. Spray a saucepan with some oil and add the garlic and asafoetida. Saute, stirring, for 30 seconds to a minute. Don't let the garlic turn dark brown or burn.
  6. Add the curry leaves and stir in. Now add the blended masala and let it come to a boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for five minutes.
  7. Add the cooked vegetables and the cooked tuvar dal. Bring the mixture to a boil and then let it all cook on low heat, about 10 minutes, for the flavors to meld. Add water if the stew is too thick.
  8. Add salt to taste. Serve hot over boiled rice.
Nutrition Information
Calories: 109 Fat: 2.4 grams Fiber: 4.4 grams Protein: 4.6 grams

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

Sweet Potato Humman With Papada Kismoor: Fat-Free Cooking

I always felt a bit like an outsider looking into the extended household of my childhood where uncles, aunts and cousins spoke to each other in Konkani, cooked Konkani food, and retreated to their Konkani native towns with cute names like Hubli and Sirsi for the summer.

That’s because although my dad was a Konkani from Karwar in northern Karnataka, my mom– a Maharashtrian– taught my brother and me to speak Marathi as our first language. She also cooked mostly Maharashtrian food at home. As a result, Ashwin and I were the only two kids in the Honawar clan whose Konkani didn’t sound as musical as it sounded stilted, and whose dinner plate featured varan instead of dalitoy.

But our proximity to dad’s family members who all lived within a mile’s radius of our home also helped me become familiar, at an early age, with the delicious flavors of Konkani cuisine. Later in my childhood my Goan stepmom introduced me to Goan Konkani food which stands apart in a class of its own.

The Konkan region sweeps in a sandy, palm-dotted strip along the coastline of Maharashtra all the way past Goa to Karnataka, sandwiched on one side by the picturesque Western Ghats and on the other by the Arabian Sea. It plays host to a number of regional cuisines (Malvani, Goan, Mangalorean, Karwari, Saraswat, Kokanastha), each unique yet not without an overlap because of the common ingredients they use, like rice, coconut, red chillies, kokum (a sour fruit usually added as a flavoring), triphal (an interestingly delicious herb that looks like a large all-spice corn) and — in non-vegetarian homes– fish.

Because Indian restaurants around the world tend to focus heavily on just a handful of north Indian dishes (like your biryanis, paneer palaks, aloo gobis, samosas, and pakoras), the complex and vastly diverse regional foods of India, including those of the Konkan region, are not something you are likely to be able to order from a menu.  But there is another way to step into this neverending adventure: by cooking these foods in your own kitchen.

To start with, I have for you today a low-fat, healthy version of a popular dish that was a staple at my Konkani family’s weeknight dinners: Batate Humman.

A humman, in Konkani, means a curry, or a stew. Batate Humman is a potato stew infused with the sweetness of coconut, the puckering tang of tamarind, and the heat of dry red chillies. It is a really simple stew, but delicious beyond imagination.

For this healthy version, I use sweet potato instead of potato, and I cut down the coconut. There’s no oil or fat added to the recipe, but it is not strictly fat-free because coconut does contain some fat– albeit heart-healthy fat. Altogether, this extremely healthy recipe has just 115 calories per serving and only 6.5 grams of fat in each serving.

I don’t peel my sweet potatoes because the skins of vegetables, and the portion directly under it, are usually nutrient-rich, and peeling skins off veggies can leave your food bereft of some of the benefits of eating these veggies (there are, of course, exceptions– don’t try eating the skin of an avocado, or a pumpkin). When the sweet potato skins stew in the curry they get quite soft and you won’t even be able to tell they are there.

To go with the Sweet Potato Humman which is one of the easiest and quickest recipes you can possibly make, I made another Konkani classic: Papada Kismoor. Most Indian food aficionados are familiar with a papad or poppadum, the light lentil cracker that is sometimes offered up in Indian restaurants instead of a bread basket. Sometimes, when a Konkani cook is rushed but in the mood for something delicious to go with his/her rice and curry, he or she will roast a few papads on the open flame of a gas stove, crush it into small bits, add some chopped onions and spices, and voila! It’s a sidedish as delicious and crunchy as you can imagine it to be.

Papada Kismoor does perfect justice to a plate of boiled rice drizzled with some Sweet Potato Humman, and it’s as healthy as can be.

Enjoy the meal, all!

Sweet Potato Humman

(Serves four)

Ingredients:

2 medium sweet potatoes, washed clean. Dice the sweet potatoes into 1/2-inch cubes. I don’t peel the skins. Put in a microwave-safe bowl with a couple of tablespoons of water, cover with a microwave-safe lid (I sometimes just use a ceramic plate) and microwave for 5-7 minutes until tender. If you prefer, you can also cook the sweet potatoes on the stovetop.

1/2 cup coconut milk

2 dry red chillies (use more or less per taste)

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1/2-inch ball of tamarind. Remove seeds, if any.

1/4 cup chopped coriander

Salt to taste

Heat a skillet and dry-roast the red chillies, coriander seeds and cumin seeds until they are a couple of shades darker and smell aromatic.

Put the roasted spices in a blender along with the coconut milk. Add the coconut milk and tamarind and enough water to blend into a smooth paste.

Pour the coconut paste in a saucepan and add the sweet potatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil. If it’s too thick, add more water.

Add salt to taste and let the curry simmer about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and garnish with coriander leaves.

Serve hot over boiled rice.

Nutrition estimate per serving: Calories 115, Total Fat 6.5 grams, Potassium 381 mg, Dietary Fiber 2.5 grams, Sugar 5.1 grams, Protein 2.1 grams, Vitamin A 69 percent of RDA

Papada Kismoor

(Serves 4)

Ingredients:

6 papads, each about 6 inches in diameter (I use the Lijjat brand which is the most widely available here. If you use the smaller papads (appalams), use more

1/2 tsp red chilli powder (use more or less per taste)

1/2 cup finely diced coriander leaves

2 tbsp grated coconut (optional. I didn’t use it because I wanted to keep the fat low, but add it for a more traditional flavor)

1/2 cup finely onion (shallots would be even better)

Roast the papads in the microwave. I stack them and let them go one minute, which is usually enough. If you have raw spots, you can let them go for a few seconds more, but watch them carefully. Alternately, if you know how to do this, roast the papads over the open flame of a gas stove.

Crumble the papad into small pieces in a bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. I don’t add salt because the papads are fairly salty.

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

Goan Feijoada

My Goan stepmother is a talented and adventurous cook. The last time we were visiting with her and my dad in Goa, she pulled out some pink beans from her pantry and introduced them to us as “Portuguese beans.”

While Indian cuisine is rich in all sorts of beans and legumes, pink beans are not something I had ever encountered before in India (although I always have them in my pantry here in the United States). No wonder my stepmother was proud of her find. She used them that afternoon to cook up a delicious, coconut-based curry very much like this Feijoada I have for you today– a dish Goa adopted and adapted from its Portuguese colonizers.

Half a century after the Portuguese left Goa, their memory lingers on. You can hear it in the names of Goans and in their language, see it  in the beautiful churches and buildings that dot the landscape, and taste it in Goan cuisine which includes dishes like Xacuti, Balchao, and Vindaloo.

The food of former colonies like Goa offers an interesting study in how occupiers cross-pollinated culinary traditions across the distant lands they held. Those food legacies were readily embraced by the natives and they persisted long after the occupiers left, as opposed to other colonial legacies that were unwelcome and are deliberately erased or lost over time. The names of cities, for instance, are easily changed back to what they used to be, and political forces even attempt to rewrite history books to put a spin on events. But connections forged through food linger and are embedded unshakably within cultures, impossible to erase. In fact, who would want to?

People here in the United States might recognize Feijoada as a meat-and-sausage stew that is often referred to as Brazil’s national dish–yes, the Portuguese took it there too. But the Goans added to their version the signature ingredients of their own cuisine, like coconut, tamarind, and warm, fragrant spices. The result was a delicious stew that’s easy to veganize without losing an iota of flavor.

My stepmom’s version is entirely vegan, although I added some vegan sausage to my translation for two reasons: the traditional Goan Feijoada, cooked usually by the state’s Christian population, does contain pork sausage. Second, I just wanted more protein in my curry. You could leave out the sausage if you wish and the stew would be no less delicious.

Here’s the recipe. Enjoy, all!

Goan Feijoada

(Makes four servings)

Ingredients

1 cup pink beans or pinto beans (red beans are fine too). Soak the beans overnight and cook them until tender but not mushy. Alternately, use two cups of canned beans, rinsed thoroughly.

2 vegan sausage links (optional). Chop lengthwise into 1/2-inch rounds

1 tsp canola or other vegetable oil

1 medium onion, chopped

3 red chilies (use less if you’re sensitive to heat)

4 cloves garlic, crushed

10 cloves

10 peppercorns

1 tbsp coriander seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tbsp tamarind pulp. Alternately, soak a 1-inch ball of tamarind in 1/4 cup warm water for 30 minutes and extract the pulp by crushing the tamarind between your fingers. Discard the solids.

1 cup shredded or grated coconut (use 1 cup coconut milk if you don’t have this)

Salt to taste

Chopped coriander leaves for garnish

Heat a saucepan. Add the red chillies, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, peppercorns, and cloves. Dry-roast the ingredients for five minutes over medium-low heat until fragrant and a couple of shades darker.

Remove the ingredients to a blender. In the same pan, dry-roast the garlic until golden-brown spots appear. Add to the blender. Then roast the grated coconut over low heat, stirring constantly, until lightly golden. Add to the blender along with 1 cup water. If you are using coconut milk just skip the roasting step and add the coconut milk directly to the blender.

Blend the masala until you get a smooth paste.

Add oil to the same saucepan.

Add the chopped onions and saute, stirring frequently, until they start to turn golden-brown.

Add the sausages, if using, and saute until they start to get a crust.

Add the tamarind paste and the ground masala paste. Stir well to mix and allow the mixture to come to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for about five minutes.

Add the beans along with a cup of water or cooking liquid. If your curry is already water, add less liquid. Add salt to taste.

Let the curry come to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook for 15 minutes so all the flavors mix together.

Garnish with coriander leaves, and serve hot with some rice or a crusty bread.

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