April 23, 2015

Rajasthani Guar Ki Sabji (Cluster Beans in Rajasthani Style)

During our recent trip to the north of India, we did the famous golden triangle, Delhi-Agra-Jairpur. While it was a trip to discover our cultural heritage and learn the rich history of India, it was also a culinary journey for us to experience the range of different styles of cuisine from each region, and from different types of eateries ranging from street food to exquisite five star food. One of my favorite on the trip was the Rajasthani vegetarian thali that we had at the famed Laxmi Mishthan Bhandar restaurant (known as LMB) in Jaipur known for its traditional Rajasthani food. It was nothing like the typical food that we categorize as 'North Indian'. It had a wide range of vegetarian dishes, each one had a distinct taste and texture. I was an instant fan of Rajasthani cuisine. I have been trying to re-create some of those flavors back here in the quick'n'healthy kitchen. 

Today's post is a quick side dish with guar beans or cluster beans (a.k.a Kothamara in Malayalam, and Kothavarangai in Tamil). Cluster beans has a distinct flavor and texture compared to green beans or long beans. They are also powerhouses of nutrients with loads of vitamins and minerals, they are diabetic friendly, heart healthy and also bowel healthy. A bunch of reasons to love these beans and here is one more way to enjoy them :-)

  • Guar beans (cluster beans) - 1 lb
  • Campari tomatoes - 5-6
  • Fresh ginger - 1 inch piece
  • Garlic - 4 cloves
  • Green chilly - 1-2
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Amchur (dry mango powder) - 2 tsp
  • Homemade garam masala  - 1/2 tsp
  • Homemade coriander powder - 2 tsp
  • Sea salt - as per taste
  • Your choice of unrefined cooking oil - 1 Tbs (I used virgin coconut oil)
  • Wash and trim the beans, chop into approximately 1/2 inch long pieces. 
  • Add ginger, garlic, green chilly and one tomato, all roughly chopped into food processor or blender and make a coarse masala paste. Keep aside. Chop remaining tomatoes fine.
  • Heat oil on medium heat, add the ground masala paste and sauté till the raw smell goes away. Add tomatoes and sauté till soft. 
  • Add chopped beans, turmeric powder and the spice powders. Stir well to coat the beans with the masala evenly. Reduce the heat to low-medium and cook covered. 
  • Once the beans are almost done (in about 10-15 minutes), add salt and continue cooking, stirring frequently.
  • Check/adjust the salt and spice level and switch off when the beans are done well.
  • Serve warm with freshly made rotis or rice. 
  • Enjoy!!

  • Note 1: If you buy conventionally grown beans, before using, soak them in water along with sea salt, turmeric powder and baking soda for about 30 minutes. Drain, wash and rinse well. 
  • Note 2: Homemade coriander powder is made by grinding coriander seeds in your coffee grinder. 
  • Note 3: Garam masala is a mix of ground spices which can vary from region to region or even family to family. Here is my recipe:
    • Fennel seeds  - a handful
    • Cinnamon - 5-6 inch long pieces
    • Green cardamom - 4-5 
    • Black pepper - a few 
    • Cloves - a few
    • Dry roast the spices on medium heat till nice aroma comes out. Let it cool completely and grind to a powder using coffee grinder. 
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April 18, 2015

Pineapple Payasam

Payasam is an essential part of a Vishu Sadya (feast) being the main dessert. It is also called as Kheer in some parts of India. In Kerela, we make so many varieties of payasams. One of our favorite is the Chakka (Jackfruit) pradhaman which is usually made during the vishu season when jackfruits are in abundance. Pradhaman is a payasam variety from Kerala where the base is coconut milk instead of milk.

In this part of the world it is difficult to get fresh jackfuit in season, hence we have to innovate with what we get. So instead of the chakka pradhaman, I make the kaitha-chakka (Pineapple) pradhaman. Caramelized pineapple brings its own distinct flavor to the payasam and it is one that we all love to have. So go ahead and try this one and you will love it.

  • Pineapple - 1/2 (1 cup chopped)
  • Coconut palm sugar - 3/4 cup
  • Homemade coconut cream - 1/2 cup (see notes) 
  • Homemade coconut milk - 2 cups (see notes) 
  • Homemade light coconut milk - 2 cups (see notes) 
  • Ginger powder - 1 tsp
  • Himalayan pink salt - a pinch
  • Cardamom - 6 (skinned and crushed)
  • Homemade ghee - 1 Tbs
  • Ripe banana - 1/2 (chopped)

  • Peel and remove core from pineapple. Chop into really fine pieces.
  • Add chopped pineapple with a pinch of himalayan salt into a saucepan and start cooking on low medium heat. Cook covered so that pineapple cooks on its own liquid.
  • Once the pineapple is really soft and most of moisture is reduced, add coconut sugar and ground ginger. Continue cooking on low medium heat stirring frequently till pineapple is kind of caramelized, in about 20 minutes. 
  • Add light coconut milk and continue cooking on medium heat, stirring frequently till liquid is reduced to half, in about 15-20 minutes.
  • Add coconut milk and continue cooking on medium heat, stirring frequently till liquid is again reduced to half, in about 15-20 minutes.
  • Add cardamom powder and coconut cream and switch off.
  • Heat ghee in a small pan, add chopped banana and sauté till golden. Add to the payasam.
  • Let the payasam stay on the warm stove top for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  • Enjoy warm!!

Notes for coconut milk and cream: 
  • I make my coconut milk with organic dried shredded coconut.
  • Get coconut milk recipe here.
  • For this recipe I make coconut milk in 2 batches, one batch I use as is.  
  • Second batch is made earlier and kept refrigerated so that cream separated on top.
  • You can remove cream from top using a spoon and remaining will be your light coconut milk.
  • You can substitute coconut palm sugar with equal amount of powdered jaggery.
  • Substitute ghee with coconut oil for a vegan version. 
  • For garnish, instead of chopped banana try finely chopped coconut pieces for a crunchy bite in your payasam. 

April 14, 2015

Mambazha Pulissery

Happy Vishu to all my friends and readers !!!

I  was reading an article on Vishu (and the dishes made for Vishu) in a Malayalam newspaper yesterday. It was a trip down the memory lane for me. Idichakka thoran (mashed breadfruit stir fry), chakka erissery (jackfruit cooked with coconut and black pepper), kani vellarikka pachady (cucumber salad with yogurt and coconut), chakka pradhaman (jackfruit payasam), mambazha pulissery (mango cooked with coconut and yogurt) ... all watering my mouth and tearing my eyes, and I could smell the wonderful aroma at the same time. Those simple pleasures in life..., It was a great nostalgic feeling.

Mambazha pulliseri is a favorite for all of us. So, here is my version of 'mambazha pulissery' made with the Guatemalan mangoes that I get in this part of the world.  

  • Ripe mango - 1 large
  • Water - 1 cup
  • Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Sea Salt -as per taste
  • Shredded coconut - 1/2 cup 
  • Organic homemade yogurt - 2 cups
  • Green chilly - 2-3
  • Cumin seeds -1 tsp
  • For optional tempering:
  • Virgin coconut oil - 1 tsp
  • Black mustard seeds -  1/2 tsp
  • Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp
  • Red chilly - 1
  • Skin the mango, remove the seed and cut into small bite size pieces.
  • Start cooking with 1 cup of water, turmeric and salt.
  • While mango is being cooked, grind, coconut, cumin seeds, green chilly into a very fine paste, add the yogurt to the mix and whip all together.
  • Once the mango is cooked and about half of the liquid is reduced (in about 8-10 minutes) add the coconut yogurt mix and reduce flame to low.
  • Continue cooking on low flame for 5-6 more minutes, stirring frequently so that it does not boil or curdle up.
  • Remove from flame and wait for at least 30 minutes before serving.
  • Optional tempering - heat coconut oil, add mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds and red chilly, when mustard seeds pop and fenugreek seeds are slightly red, garnish over the pulissery. If you are not used to Indian cooking, do take care, keep everything ready by your side and keep a lid handy so that you don't have popped mustard seeds all over your stove top :-)

April 8, 2015

Nutty Fruity Energy Bars

If you have ever shopped for energy bars in a health food store, that too with quality ingredients, you would know how expensive they can be. So why not make your own energy bars with your choice of clean ingredients? Energy bars can come handy as your pre-workout snack, or as a on-the-run breakfast for those busy weekday mornings or as a good after school snack. Here is yet another quicknhealthy energy bar recipe which is vegan, gluten-free, dairy-free and made with no added sugar, flour or oil. You can substitute the nuts with seeds (pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds) if you are allergic to nuts. If you want to reduce the sweetness you could omit the dates and add same amount of apricots or prunes. I have made them with my favorite spices, ginger and cinnamon, but you can try varying the spices, make it your own :-) As always try to use organic ingredients as much as possible. 

  • Almonds -1/2 cup (preferably activated) 
  • Pecans - 1/2 cup
  • Dried shredded coconut - 1 cup
  • Apricot chopped - 1 1/2 cups
  • Dates chopped - 1/2 cup
  • Hemp hearts - 1 cup
  • Goji berries - 1/2 cup
  • Cinnamon powder - 1 tsp
  • Ginger powder - 1 tsp
  • Himalayan salt  - a pinch

  • Add almonds, pecans to a dry blender or food processor and powder to get almost a meal consistency. Transfer to a bowl.
  • Add chopped apricots and dates to the food processor or high speed blender and process till you get a paste-like consistency, transfer to the bowl.
  • Add goji berries to food processor/blender and grind coarsely, transfer to the bowl.
  • Add the remaining ingredients to the bowl. Mix everything and make sort of a 'dough'.
  • Divide the 'dough' into 4 or 5 balls. Place a ball between to parchment paper and roll into 1/4 th inch thick rectangle. Cut into bars of desired sizes. Trim edges and repeat till all 'dough' is finished. 
  • Preheat oven to a very low temperature (I had mine at the lowest at 170 deg F). Arrange the bars in a silicon lined tray and bake for about 30 minutes. 
  • Let them cool down completely. Wrap in desired wrappers or just store in airtight container.
  • This makes about 12 bars (1.5 inch x 4 inch).
  • Enjoy! 

April 4, 2015

Homemade Graham Crackers

It all started with the Cricket World Cup final between Aussies and the Kiwis. Being foodies, we have a tradition in our family to celebrate major sporting final events by making something from both countries. It helps us to enjoy the game more, while also exploring new food from other places around the world. So from down-under, we thought that the Tim-Tams sounded interesting. They are chocolate cream filled sandwich cookies covered with a chocolate coating. I decided to make them with homemade graham crackers, cacao-date filling and coated with homemade chocolate coating. So here is the graham cracker recipe that I modified from the King Arthur flour recipe. 

  • Organic whole wheat pastry flour - 2 cups
  • Organic coconut palm sugar - 1/4 cup
  • Ground cinnamon - 1 tsp
  • Sea salt - 1/4 tsp 
  • Baking soda - 1/2 tsp
  • Citric acid - 1/4 tsp
  • Ground organic flax seeds - 1 Tbs
  • Filtered water - 3 Tbs
  • Organic virgin coconut oil - 1/4 cup
  • Unfiltered honey - 1/4 cup
  • Organic whole milk - 3-4 Tbs (or use coconut milk) 
  • Mix flax with water and set aside for 5-10 minutes to gel.
  • All all dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cinnamon, salt, soda and citric acid) to a food processor and process to mix well.
  • Add all wet ingredients (flax mix, coconut oil, honey and milk) and process till everything binds together to form a dough. 
  • You can directly use the dough to make crackers. Or optionally wrap the dough and keep refrigerated till you are ready to make them.
  • Preheat the oven at 350 deg F.
  • Roll the dough out into 1/6 inch thick sheets.Go as even as possible. Cut into 1 inch by 4 inch rectangles. You can do this in batches. Trim edges and repeat till you finish all the dough. You will get approximately 24 rectangles.
  • Arrange them on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper or silicon sheet. Prick each rectangle several times with a fork. Bake at 350 deg for 20 -30 minutes or until crackers are slightly browned.
  • Let it cool completely. Store in air tight containers. 
  • Enjoy as is, with a glass of milk or use them to make sandwich crackers.

April 1, 2015

Mango Strawberry Salad w/ Tahini Lemon-Ginger Dressing

I woke up to the chirping of birds this morning, a good indication that spring is finally here. It is the time to start moving, go out and get some fresh air, and of course start eating some fresh spring salads. Here is a simple fruity salad with creamy tahini dressing that will make a great lunch or dinner.

Salad Ingredients: 
  • Mango - 1 
  • Strawberries - 1 cup
  • Baby Greens - 2 cups 
  • Dried figs - 4-5 - chopped 
  • Onion - 1/2 cup  (chopped) 
  • Apple cider vinegar  - 1 Tbs
  • EV Olive oil - 1 Tbs 
  • In a  salad bowl, toss chopped onion with apple cider vinegar, olive oil and chopped figs. Set aside for 30 minutes.
  • Add the baby greens, chopped mango and strawberry. Turn a few times to mix evenly.
  • Serve with dressing.
  • This serves 2. Enjoy!
Dressing Ingredients
  • Homemade Tahini - 2 Tbs (recipe here)
  • Coconut water - 3 Tbs (or use just filtered water) *
  • Grated fresh ginger root - 2 Tbs (or use ginger powder - 1 tsp) 
  • Lemon juice - 2 Tbs
  • EV olive oil - 1 Tbs 
  • Himalayan pink salt - as per taste
  • Black pepper - as per taste (or use grated green chilly) 
  • Whisk everything well.
  • Serve with your favorite salad.
  • I used coconut water to balance the strong flavor of tahini, if you can handle it, just filtered water is good enough. 

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