Asparagus, Pea, and Egg Masala

Oil – 2 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Onion – 1 large, finely chopped
Ginger – 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Garlic – 2 cloves, finely chopped
Green chilies – 2, sliced
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Red chili powder – 1 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
Garam masala powder – 1/2 tsp
Tomato – 1 large, chopped
Asparagus – 1/2 lb, cut into 1? long pieces
Green peas – 1/2 cup
Salt – to taste
Lime juice – 2 tsp
Cilantro leaves – a few stalks, roughly torn
Eggs – 4, large
How to:

Boil and peel the eggs and set aside.

Heat oil in a deep skillet or pan and add the cumin seeds. When they start to change color, throw in the onions, ginger, garlic and green chilies. Saute till onions are translucent, but not browned.

Add the turmeric, red chili, coriander, cumin and garam masala powders. Stir around for a few seconds till well combined.
Add the tomatoes and cook till they are broken down and mushy. Then add the asparagus and green peas. Sprinkle some water, add salt, cover and cook till vegetables are tender-crisp.

Open the lid, sprinkle some lime juice and cilantro leaves to garnish. Fold in the boiled egg halves. Serve hot with steamed rice or flatbreads like chapatis and rotis.

Tandoori/Tikka Gobi (Cauliflower Bites)

For the tandoori/tikka gobi,

Cauliflower – 1 large head, washed and cut into medium-sized florets
Yogurt – 1 1/2 cups (must be thick yogurt)
Ginger-garlic paste – 2 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Red chili powder – 1 tsp (reduce for a less spicy version)
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
Garam masala powder – 1/2 tsp
Amchoor or dry mango powder – 1/4 tsp (simply omit if you don’t have any)
Chickpea flour or besan – 2 tbsp
Lime – 1 small one, juiced
Cilantro leaves – a large handful, chopped
Salt – to taste
Oil – to brush while baking
For the spicy yogurt dip,

Leftover marinade from above – 1 cup
Water and salt – as needed
How to:

Tandoori/Tikka Cauliflower: In a large saucepan, bring some water to a boil. Season with a touch of salt, add cauliflower and cook on low heat for a couple of minutes. Remove from heat and allow the cauliflower to remain submerged in the hot water for 8-10 minutes or till they are just tender. Drain completely and set aside.

Meanwhile, lightly roast the chickpea flour in a hot skillet for 2-3 minutes, stirring all the while.

Take all the marinade ingredients in a large mixing bowl (listed from yogurt to salt in the list above). Whisk well, ensuring there are no lumps. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add cauliflower to it and mix well to coat them thoroughly. Let it rest for at least half an hour. You may want to refrigerate it for any duration longer than that.

Pre-heat the oven to 400 deg.F and place a grilling rack over a rimmed baking tray. Arrange the cauliflower florets on it, shaking off excess marinade, and brush lightly with oil. Bake for 25-30 minutes or till cooked thoroughly.. You can also broil them at 450 deg.F for the last 1-2 minutes of baking for lightly charred edges.

Remove from oven and serve warm with lime wedges and your favorite dip.

Spicy yogurt dip: You will have at least a cup of leftover marinade from above. Cook this in a skillet over medium heat, till the raw smell goes away and it turns thick with a deep red-brown color. Add some water to it, whisk well and bring it to a boil. Simmer till it reaches a dip-like consistency. Check seasoning, you may want to add a pinch of salt or dash of lime juice to balance the flavors.

Cool this completely and serve with the tandoori or tikka cauliflower. This can be done on the stove-top while the cauliflower florets are baking and it cools down by the time it is ready to be served.

Coconut Rice

Rice – 2 cups (any long grained or fluffy white rice variety)
Water – 3.5-4 cups or enough to cook the rice
Coconut – 1 cup, shredded (fresh, not desiccated)
Oil – 2 tbsp + extra for frying cashew nuts
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Black pepper corns – 8-10
Whole dry red chilies – 3
Urad dal (split black lentil) – 1.5 tsp
Curry leaves – a few
Salt – to taste
Cashew nuts – for garnish (optional)

Prepare rice as usual. Fluff with a fork or spoon.

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large pan.

Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, red chilies and curry leaves.
When the mustard seeds start sputtering, add black pepper corns and urad dal. Saute till dal turns light golden in color.

Add coconut and saute for a couple of minutes. No need to roast the coconut, just saute till the moisture is gone.

Add the cooked rice and salt to taste. Mix well, taking care not to mash the rice.

Heat some oil in a small saucepan and fry the cashew nuts till golden. Add to the rice and serve hot.

This rice goes well with just about anything. It is absolutely delicious with fried/grilled chicken or fish or any other spicy curry.

Vegetable Stew with Coconut Milk

Oil – 2 tbsp
Whole spices – Cinnamon – a long piece, green cardamom pods – 3, cloves – 3, bay leaves – 2
Curry leaves – a few
Onion – 1 small, finely chopped
Ginger – 2 tsp, chopped
Garlic – 2 small cloves, minced
Black pepper – 1/2 tsp, freshly cracked
Potatoes – 1 large, diced
Carrot – 1, diced
Green beans – 3-4, cut into 1 inch pieces
Green peas – 1/2 cup
Thin coconut milk – 1 1/2 cups
Salt – to taste
Thick coconut milk – 1/2 cup

You will need:
Heat oil in a large pan. Add the whole spices and curry leaves, and let them sputter. (You can crush the whole spices for more flavor, but my hubby hates finding cardamom seeds in his curry, so I leave it whole.)

Add the onions, ginger and garlic. Saute well till the onions turn soft and translucent. Do not brown them. Add cracked black pepper and mix well.

Add the vegetables, thin coconut milk and salt to taste. Cover and cook till the vegetables are soft, around 10 minutes.
Open the lid, check seasoning and add the thick coconut milk. Let it simmer for a couple more minutes or till heated through, but do not boil the stew after adding thick coconut milk.
A simple trick I learned from my mom, is to mash a couple of the potatoes cubes to add some thickness to the gravy.
Serve hot with bread or Indian breakfast breads like puttu, appam or idiyappam.

NOTES:
1. If using dried peas, soak them in water and pressure cook them first. If using fresh or frozen green peas, you can simply cook them along with the other vegetables.

2. If using canned coconut milk, open the can without shaking and skim off ½ cup of thick milk collected at the top to use as thick coconut milk. If using coconut powder, prepare thin and thick milks as per package instructions. But of course, nothing beats the real deal. Freshly squeezed coconut milk is always the best!

3. An easy variation of this recipe is to cook the vegetables in a little water and finish off with some heavy cream. While it looks the same, the flavor is different from that of the original recipe with coconut milk and of course, it will no longer be vegan. But this can be an easy substitution if you run out of coconut milk.

Vegetable Pulao and Raita

You will need: (* – Refer notes)

Rice (Basmati or similar long-grained) – 2 cups
Ghee (clarified butter)* – 2 tbsp + 2 tsp
Whole spices like cinnamon stick , cloves, cardamom and black pepper corns**
Onion – 1 medium-sized, finely chopped
Vegetables like carrots, peas and green beans – 1 cup (total)
Lemon juice – 1 tbsp
Water – 3 cups
Cashew nuts and raisins for garnish (optional)

Wash the rice in water. Drain well and keep aside***.

Heat 2 tbsp ghee in a thick bottomed vessel (I use a pressure cooker). Add the whole spices and allow it to sputter and become fragrant.

Add the chopped onions. Saute till they turn translucent.
Add the vegetables and saute for a minute.

Add 3 cups water****. Add enough salt and bring to a gentle boil.

Add the washed rice and a tablespoon of lemon juice. Mix well and check seasoning.

Cover and cook till done.

If using a pressure cooker, cook on medium high till you hear a whistle, lower the heat and cook for 5 more minutes. Else, cover the vessel with a heavy lid and cook till done.
This dish can easily be cooked in a rice cooker too. Do the sauteing in a pan and transfer to the rice cooker along with rice, water and lemon juice.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, heat the remaining ghee and fry the cashew nuts and raisins till golden.

To serve, fluff pulao well, garnish with nuts and serve hot with raita or your favorite curry.

Notes:

* Substitute with oil, if ghee is not available or you are extremely health conscious!

** For 2 cups of rice, I use a 2-inch piece of cinnamon stick, 3-4 cloves, 2-3 pods of cardamom and 3-4 black pepper corns.

*** The washed rice can be roasted in a little ghee. I usually skip this step (read the title!) and it turns out okay.

****Typically, the Basmati rice I use, needs 1.5 cups of water per cup of rice. Some rice types may need up to 2 cups of water. This information is usually available on the rice packet.

Now on to the raita. The following is the recipe for a simple tomato and onion raita with a surprise garnish!

You will need:

Thick yogurt – 1 cup
Onion – 1 small, finely chopped
Tomato – 1 small, de-seeded and finely chopped
Green chillies – 2, chopped
Grapes – for garnish (the surprise!)

Whip yogurt well with a fork or whisk.

Add onions, tomatoes and green chillies.

Season with salt.

Garnish with green or red grapes cut in half. This is kind of a family tradition at our house. I playfully added a couple of grapes to raita one day and my husband was hooked! It adds a playful sweetness.

You can use cilantro and mint leaves also for garnish.

You can add finely chopped cucumbers and carrots to the raita too. Don’t forget to de-seed the cucumbers.

Tomato Rice with Cucumber-Carrot Raita

Rice – 2 cups (any long grained or fluffy white rice variety)
Water – 3.5-4 cups or enough to cook the rice
Oil – 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Whole dry red chilies – 3
Curry leaves – a few
Onion – 6-8 small shallots or 1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
Tomato – 3, chopped
Green chilies – 1-2
Ginger-garlic paste – 1 tsp
Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp and coriander powder – 1 tsp; or sambar powder* – 1 1/2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Fresh cilantro leaves – for garnish (optional)
Roasted peanuts or cashew nuts – for garnish (optional)

Notes: * – Sambar powder adds a unique flavor to this rice. It is easily available at International grocery stores here. If not available, use a combination of red chili and coriander powders.

Cucumber-Carrot Raita:

Yogurt – 1 cup
Cucumber – 1/2 cup, de-seeded and chopped
Carrot – 1/2 cup, chopped
Green chili – 1, chopped
Salt – 1/2 tsp
How to:

Tomato Rice:

Prepare rice as usual. Fluff with a fork or spoon and keep aside.
Heat oil in a large pan. Add the mustard seeds, whole red chilies and curry leaves.
When the mustard seeds start sputtering, add the onions and green chilies, and saute till the onions are translucent.
Add the ginger and garlic paste and saute well till the raw smell is gone.
Add the masala powders and saute for a few seconds.
Add the chopped tomatoes and 1/4 cup water. Add salt to taste. Cover and let the tomatoes cook.
Open the lid and mash the tomatoes lightly with a spoon. The consistency should be that of a thick gravy so as to coat the rice well, but not too watery.
Add the cooked rice. Mix well, taking care not to mash the rice.
Garnish with the nuts and cilantro. Serve hot with raita or chutney.

Cucumber-Carrot Raita:

Take the yogurt in a bowl and beat well with a fork or whisk. Use a couple of tablespoons of water to thin it, if desired.
Add the chopped cucumber, carrot and green chili and salt. Mix well and serve chilled.

Raita can be made with onions and tomatoes too.

Dum Aloo (Slow-Cooked Spicy Potatoes)

Potatoes – 1 lb (baby potatoes or other small variety)
Oil – 2-3 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds (jeera) – 1/2 tsp
Dried red chilies – 2-3
Curry leaves – a few
Onion – 1/2 cup, thinly sliced
Ginger – 1-in piece, thinly sliced or grated
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Red chili powder – 1 tsp
Garam masala powder – 1 tsp
Salt – to taste
Cilantro – a few leaves
*Dry mango (amchur) powder – 1/2 tsp, or Lemon juice – 1 tsp

Wash and peel the potatoes. Feel free to leave the skin on, if that’s what you like. Also, if you are using potatoes other than baby potatoes, cut them in halves or quarters. Remember that you need big chunks of potatoes.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dried red chilies and curry leaves.
When the mustard seeds start sputtering, add the onion and ginger. Saute till the onions are golden.
Add the turmeric, red chili and garam masala powders. Saute for a few seconds.
Add the potatoes and mix well so as to coat with the spices. Sprinkle salt as per taste.
Lightly roast the potatoes in the oil. I used halved small, white potatoes and allowed the cut edges to develop a nice thin crust. Feel free to add an additional tablespoon or so of oil to help the process.
Add a few cilantro leaves and sprinkle a tiny amount of water if you feel it is too dry. Cover with a heavy lid and cook slowly on low heat till the potatoes are cooked through, maybe around 15 minutes.

Once the potatoes are done, add the dry mango powder or lemon juice and mix well. Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves.

Serve hot with rice or Indian flat-breads like chapathis, naan, etc. Since this is a dry dish, you may need some other gravy or raita (yogurt based salad) too. Or you can just eat some as a snack or appetizer.

You may wonder why I did not add garlic paste in the dish. You can add a little crushed or ground garlic, but I personally feel the flavor of ginger is sufficient here.

To make this dish with more gravy or as a curry, add some chopped tomato to the masala, and a cup of water while cooking the potatoes. You will find a nice, thick gravy has developed. If you want a creamier curry, finish off with a splash of cream or coconut milk.

In many Indian restaurants, you will find this dish with cashew nuts and raisins in them. This is entirely a restaurant culinary creation and dum aloo is never made that way in homes.

Notes: Amchur or dry mango powder is made from dried, unripe mangoes. It is used in Indian cuisine like you would use lemon juice and adds a nice tang to dishes without the added moisture. Amchur has additional health benefits since it is a highly concentrated source of citric acid from the unripe mangoes. It is available in most Indian grocery stores, and just a little goes a long way.

Coconut-Mint Chutney

You will need:

Oil – 1 tbsp
Mint leaves – a medium bunch
Cilantro leaves – a small bunch
Coconut – 1 cup, grated or shredded
Small red onions or shallots – 5-6, halved
Ginger – 2-in piece, roughly chopped
Garlic – 2 pods, crushed (optional)
Whole red chilies – 1-2 (as per heat level required)
Small green chilies – 1-2 (as per heat level required)
Salt – as per taste
Lemon juice – 1 tbsp
Water

For tempering:

Oil – 2 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves – a few sprigs
Urad dal (split black lentils) – 1 tsp

How to:

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pan. Add the whole red chilies, shallots, ginger, garlic, green chilies, and the herbs. Saute lightly on medium heat till the leaves are wilted.

Add the coconut and saute for a couple of minutes. Once cooled, grind this mixture with a little water. Add salt to taste and stir in the lemon juice.

Heat 2 teaspoon oil in a small saucepan. Add the tempering ingredients. When the urad dal turns golden, mix in the chutney and serve.

This is an excellent accompaniment for Indian breakfast like dosas, idlis or parathas and other savory snacks.

Chicken Curry with Coconut Milk

Oil – 2 tbsp
Whole spices – 1 inch piece cinnamon, 2 cloves, 2 cardamom pods
Onion – 1, finely sliced
Ginger – 1 inch piece, finely chopped
Garlic – 4-5 pods, minced
Green chilies – 1-2, chopped or slit
Tomato – 1, chopped (or tomato paste – 1 tbsp)
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Red chili powder – 1/2 sp
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Black pepper powder – 1/4 tsp (can use at the end, if you feel the curry needs more heat)
Garam masala powder – 1/2 tsp
Coconut milk – 1 1/2 ups
Chicken – 3/4 – 1 lb, around 400g
Potatoes – 1, cubed
Water – 1/2 cup

For tempering:

Oil – 1 tbsp
Small shallots – 3-4 (or 2 tbsp chopped red onion)
Curry leaves – a few
Black pepper corns – 5-6, lightly crushed
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp, lightly crushed

Heat oil in a pan. Add the whole spices and when they become fragrant, add the onions, ginger, garlic and chiles till onions are softened and starting to turn lightly golden.

Add the tomato and saute till mushy.Add the masala powders and mix well.

Add 1 cup of coconut milk and bring to a gentle boil. Then add chicken, potatoes and water, cover and cook till chicken is tender. Open the lid and add the rest of the coconut milk and simmer till curry is slightly thickened. Remember that it will thicken further once cooled.

In a small pan, heat the oil for tempering, add onions and curry leaves and fry till the onions are browned. Add the crushed black pepper and cumin seeds towards the end. Add this tadka to the chicken curry, mix and serve.

Chettinad Chicken Curry (Chicken in Roasted Coconut Curry) with Variations

To marinate the chicken:

Chicken – 1 lb, around 500 gm
Yogurt – 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
Black pepper powder – a pinch
Salt – 1/2 tsp
Lemon/lime juice – 2 tsp

To dry roast and grind (see Notes too):

Whole dried red chilis – 6-8 (as per heat level desired. If you are still apprehensive, I suggest using just 4-5)
Coriander seeds – 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
Fennel seeds – 1/2 tsp
Black pepper corns – 1-2 tsp ( depends on your heat level, but do not skip it entirely)
Cinnamon stick – 1? piece
Cloves – 3
Cardamom pods – 2-3
Nutmeg mace – a small piece
Kalpasi or black stone flower – a small piece (I used a small piece of star anise here)
Coconut – 1/4 cup, freshly grated

For the curry:

Oil – 3 tbsp
Curry leaves – a small handful
Onion – 1 large-sized, finely chopped
Ginger – a thick 1? piece
Garlic – 4-5 cloves
Green chilis – 2
Tomatoes – 2, chopped
Water – 1 cup
Salt – to taste
Lime juice – 1 tsp
Cilantro leaves – a few, to garnish

Wash and cut the chicken into small pieces. Combine with the marinade ingredients and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
Heat a large skillet on medium heat and add all the ingredients to be dry roasted. Lightly roast stirring every now and then till the coconut is golden brown and the spices are fragrant. Cool slightly and grind to a smooth paste with a bit of water. Keep aside.

Make a paste of the ginger, garlic and green chilis as well. Or you can substitute with 2-3 tsp of ginger-garlic paste and a couple of chopped green chilis. Keep aside.

Heat oil in a large pan and add the curry leaves. When they crackle, add the chopped onions and saute till they are golden.
Then add the ginger-garlic-green chili paste and saute well till the raw smell goes away. Now add the tomatoes and cook till they are mushy and well combined.

Add the prepared spice paste and saute for a few minutes. The gravy should be thick, dark and very fragrant.

Add the marinated chicken pieces and mix well to coat with the gravy. Add water and salt and bring to a gentle boil. Now cover the pan and cook on medium heat till chicken is done.

Open the lid, check seasoning and squeeze some fresh lime juice.

Reduce the curry to desired thickness. Remember that it will thicken upon cooling as well.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve.

Notes:

In case you do not have dried red chilis, coriander seeds, cumin seeds and garam masala ingredients, you can use the respective spice powders. Start by roasting the coconut on medium heat till lightly golden. Add the spice powders towards the end and roast further till they are slightly aromatic. If you add the spice powders at the beginning and then start roasting the coconut, you run the risk of burning the spice powders and this may make the curry bitter.

For a vegetarian version, add cubed potatoes and other vegetables, making sure that they are all similar in size, to ensure even cooking.

You can add boiled and halved eggs to the curry as well.

If you feel the curry has thickened too much, gently boil it again with a bit of hot water to loosen it.

Paneer Butter Masala

Oil – 3 tbsp
Paneer – around 300g, cubed
Whole spices – 1? piece of cinnamon, 3 cloves, 2 cardamom pods, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
Onion – 1 large, finely chopped or ground to a paste
Ginger and garlic paste – 1 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Red chili powder – 1 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 tsp
Garam masala – 1/2 tsp
Tomatoes – 2 large, pureed
Cilantro leaves – 2 tbsp, chopped (plus a little extra for the garnish)
Cream or milk – 3-4 tbsp
Butter – 1 tbsp
Kasuri methi or dried fenugreek leaves – 1 tsp, crushed

Heat oil in a pan. Fry the paneer pieces lightly on all sides. Remove and keep aside.

In the same pan (there should be some oil left), add the whole spices and allow them to sputter and become fragrant.

Add onion and saute till golden. Add ginger and garlic pastes and saute well till the raw smell goes away.

Add the masala powders and mix well.

Add the pureed tomatoes. Cook till the oil separates and the gravy becomes thick. At this stage, you can blend the gravy, if you want a really smooth paneer masala.

Return the blended gravy to the pan. Add 1/2 – 1 cup water and salt and bring to a boil. Add the fried paneer cubes and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Finally, add the dried fenugreek leaves, cream and butter and mix gently. Do this on a low heat, so as not to curdle the cream.

Garnish with fresh cilantro leaves and serve hot.

Paneer butter masala goes excellently well with a light pulao or Indian flat breads like rotis, naan or chapatis. Slice some onions and lemon wedges for a fresh side.

Cauliflower Coconut Milk Curry (with Variations)

Oil – 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves – a few
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Whole spices – a small piece of cinnamon, 2-3 cloves, 4-5 black pepper corns, 1-2 whole cardamom pods
Onion – 1 medium, finely chopped
Ginger – a 1? piece, finely chopped
Green chili – 2, chopped
Tomato – 1 large, chopped
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
Coconut milk – 1 cup
Cauliflower – 1 small head, cut into florets
Salt – as per taste
Water – as needed

Coarsely grind the cumin seeds and whole spices in a mortar and pestle. Keep aside. (Alternately, you can use half a teaspoon of garam masala powder, but I highly recommend that you grind your own spices.)

Heat oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. When they start to sputter, add the ground spices and allow them to become fragrant.

Add the onion and ginger and saute till the onions are soft and start changing color, but do not allow them to brown.
Now add the tomatoes and chopped green chilis and cook till the tomatoes are mushy.

Add the masala powders and mix well. To this, add the coconut milk and bring to a gentle boil.

Add the cauliflower florets and season with salt. Add about a quarter cup of water, cover and cook. Once the cauliflower is cooked, open the lid and boil the curry further so that it thickens slightly. You could also mash a couple of the florets with the back of a spoon.

Garnish with more curry leaves (or maybe some cilantro) and serve with the lemon rice. This curry goes excellently with almost any kind of Indian flat bread too.

Substitute cauliflower with potatoes, green peas or a mix of vegetables like carrots and green beans. Adjust the liquid and cooking time accordingly.

Any curry cooked with coconut milk will further thicken upon standing. Keep this in mind while reducing the curry in the end.

Serve with Lemon Rice.

Kerala Fish Curry (Fish in Tamarind Sauce)

For marinating the fish:

Fish – 1 lb, cut into small pieces
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Red chili powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt – 1/4 tsp
For the curry,

Oil – 2 tbsp
Red onion – 1 small, roughly chopped
Ginger – a 1 inch piece
Garlic – 3-4 pods
Green chilies – 4
Red chili powder – 1 tbsp
Coriander powder – 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Tamarind – a small lime-sized ball (or tamarind paste – 2 tsp)
Water – 1/2 cup
Coconut milk – 2 cups
Salt – to taste

For tempering:

Oil – 2 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Ginger – a small piece, julienned or finely chopped
Garlic – 1-2 pods, thinly sliced
Curry leaves – a few

How to:

Wash the fish pieces and marinate with the ingredients listed under “For marinating the fish”. Keep aside while the curry/sauce base is prepared.

Prep the following. Coarsely grind the onion, ginger, garlic and 2 green chilies. Make a paste of red chili, coriander and turmeric powders in 2 tbsp water. Soak the tamarind in 1/2 cup of hot water, extract the pulp when the water is comfortable enough to handle. Keep all these on hand before starting on the curry.

To prepare the curry, heat oil in a pan. Add the ground onion mixture and saute on medium heat till the raw smell goes and it turns a light golden color. Add the paste of masala powders and saute for 2 minutes. Add the strained tamarind pulp water and allow it to come to a boil.

Add the coconut milk and bring to a gentle boil. Now add the fish pieces, 2 chopped green chilies and salt and cook without covering the pan for a few minutes. Fish cooks extremely fast and is very delicate, so do not cover the pan or stir the curry.

Once the fish is cooked (it will be opaque and flaky), increase the heat and reduce the curry to the desired consistency. Coconut milk curry will further thicken upon standing, so remove it from the stove just short of your desired consistency.

In a small pan, heat the oil for tempering. Add mustard seeds and when they sputter, add the rest of the ingredients and fry till the ginger and garlic are lightly golden (but not burnt). Add this to the prepared curry and mix well. Allow the curry to rest for a while before serving, as this will help the flavors to develop beautifully.

Notes:

Use a well-seasoned earthen pot to cook and serve fish curry in, as it really helps to develop the flavor and aroma.
You can use 2 cups of water to cook the fish and then finish the curry with a tiny splash of coconut milk. This way, the curry will be more red in color than one prepared fully with coconut milk. It will also be spicier, so use more water and less of coconut milk if you love a spicy fish curry.

In some regions, the tamarind is replaced with pieces of kudam-puli, the preserved dried fruits of Garcinia Cambogia, which imparts a distinct sour and smoky flavor to the fish curry.
Serve warm fish curry with steamed white rice or any Indian flat bread like appams, dosas, chapathis or rotis.

Almond Kheer

Rice – 1 cup, washed and drained
Water – 1 1/2 cups
Whole milk – 3 cups, divided
Sweetened condensed milk – 1/2 cup or slightly less
Salt – a pinch
Butter – 1 tbsp
Golden raisins – a small handful
Almond extract or syrup – 1/2 – 1 tsp (depending on how strong the flavor is)
Almonds – a small handful, chopped

Gently boil the water and 1/2 cup milk in a deep pan. Add rice, turn heat to low, cover and cook the rice.

When rice is cooked, add the rest of the milk and simmer for 20 minutes or so, till rice is very soft and pudding is thickened. Gently mash some of the rice with the back of a wooden spoon and mix well.

Now add sweetened condensed milk as per your taste. (I added just under half cup, you can add more if you like a sweeter pudding). Add a pinch of salt, mix well and remove from heat if the consistency is to your liking. If it is runny, simmer for some more time. If it is too thick, add a few tablespoons of milk and heat thoroughly.

Once done, mix in the almond extract or almond syrup. If you are using an extract, a little goes a long way and half a teaspoon will suffice. Always start with a small amount and work your way up.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small saucepan, fry the golden raisins till plumped and mix in the pudding.
Garnish with chopped almonds and serve warm or chilled.

Notes:

You can add vanilla extract in place of almond extract/syrup. You can also add a touch of cinnamon or nutmeg powders if you like their flavor in rice pudding.
For an Indian flavor, try a combination of cardamom powder and saffron to flavor the rice pudding. Also, use ghee instead of butter.
I am sure this would be lovely flavored with rose syrup as well. Rose syrup will tint the rice pudding pink, so if you want to retain the white color, use edible rose-water.

Indian Country-Style Chicken

Oil – 2 tbsp
Curry leaves – a few
Red onion – 1, thickly chopped (or, use 1 cup of small Indian shallots)
Ginger – 2 tbsp, finely chopped
Dried red chilies – 8-10 (whole or de-seeded or cracked open depending on your heat level)
Turmeric powder – 1 tsp
Chicken – 1 lb, boneless and cut into small pieces
Salt – to taste
Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp (use roasted and ground cumin for best results)
Garam masala powder – 1/2 tsp

Heat oil in a pan or skillet. Add curry leaves, red onions (or shallots) and ginger. Saute till onions are red. Now add the red chilies. I add most of them whole and de-seed the rest. Saute for a few more seconds.

Add the turmeric powder and mix well. Add chicken and combine thoroughly. Season with salt, reduce the heat, cover and allow the chicken to cook in it’s own juices. The chicken will let out some liquid, so you don’t need water at all.

When the chicken is done, open the lid and increase the heat to thicken the gravy. Add garam masala and roasted cumin powders and cook for a couple more minutes, till most of the liquid evaporates.

Kadai Fish (or Chicken, Shrimp, or Paneer)

Whole spices – 1? piece of cinnamon, 3 cloves, 3 pods of green cardamom, a tiny piece of mace and 8-10 black pepper corns
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Red chili powder – 2 tsp
Coriander powder – 1 tbsp
Cumin powder – 1 tsp
Oil – 3 tbsp
Dry bay leaf – 1-2
Red or green bell pepper – 1, de-seeded and cut into thick strips
Onions -1 large, finely chopped
Ginger-garlic paste – 2 tbsp (made from a 2? knob of ginger and 8-10 cloves of garlic)
Green chilies – 2-3, chopped
Tomato – 2 large ones, chopped
Fish – 1 lb, boneless and cut into chunks (any white fish will do)
Water – 1 cup
Salt – to taste
Garam masala powder – a generous pinch
Fresh ginger – 1? piece, julienned, for garnish
Cilantro leaves – a few, for garnish

Dry roast the whole spices on low heat till they are fragrant, cool slightly and coarsely grind them in a mortar-pestle or spice grinder. Keep aside.

Dry roast the masala powders on low heat and keep aside.
Heat 1 tbsp oil in a kadai/wok and saute the bell peppers for a minute or two. They must be just cooked and not turn mushy. Remove and keep aside. We will add it to the curry only at the end so that they still retain their texture.

Heat the remaining oil in the same pan. Add the onions and saute till lightly golden.Then add the ginger-garlic paste and green chilies and saute till the raw smell goes away.

Add the tomatoes and saute till they turn mushy. Now add the ground whole spices and the roasted masala powders and saute for another minute. Add a cup of water and bring the gravy to a boil.

Add the fish pieces and mix lightly to coat well in the gravy. Season with salt, cover and simmer to cook the fish, maybe 5-7 minutes.

Open the lid and simmer further to thicken the gravy to your liking. Mix in the previously sauteed bell peppers, sprinkle garam masala powder on top and remove from heat.
Serve hot, garnished with thin slices of ginger and some torn cilantro leaves.
Variations:

You can use prawns, chicken or lamb instead of fish, though chicken and lamb will require a longer cooking time.
Try paneer or tofu for a vegetarian version.

Green Bean Poriyal (with variations)

Oil – 1 tbsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves – a few, roughly torn
Shallots – 2 tbsp, chopped (can also use red onions)
Whole dried red chilies – 3-4
Green beans – 1 lb, washed and diced into 1/4? pieces (very short!)
Shredded coconut – 1/4 cup
Salt – to taste

Heat oil in a deep skillet or pan. Add mustard seeds and curry leaves. When they start to sizzle and crackle, add the onions and red chilies. Saute till onions are lightly golden.

Then add the chopped green beans and stir fry for a minute or so. Sprinkle some water and salt, reduce heat to low, cook and cover till beans are just cooked.

Open the lid, fold in the shredded or grated coconut and saute for a few more seconds to make sure there is no residual water in the pan.

Remove from heat and serve hot along with rice and sambar or dal.

Notes:

You can add 1/2 tbsp of urad dal (or dehusked black lentils) along with the mustard seeds and fry them till they just begin to change color. You can also add a pinch of turmeric and coriander powders along with the salt, but we actually prefer to have thoran without it.

You can cook vegetables like carrots, beetroot, cabbage, long beans and gourds the same way. You can also try combinations like carrots-beans, cabbage-carrots-beans or asparagus-green peas. Try it for yourself and see!

Bhapa Doi (Bengali Baked Yogurt Pudding)

For the bhap doi (baked yogurt pudding):
Condensed milk – 1 cup
Greek yogurt – 1 1/2 cups
Cornstarch – 1 tsp (optional)
Milk – 1 tbsp (optional)

For the pomegranate coulis:
Pomegranate – 1, large
Water – 1/4 cup (or as needed)
Sugar – 2 tbsp (or as needed)
Lemon juice – 1 tsp
Cornstarch – 1 tsp

To garnish:
Almonds and cashew nuts – a small handful, crushed
Dried rose petals – a few

Bhapa Doi (Baked Yogurt Pudding): Pre-heat the oven to 300 deg.F. Boil water in a kettle for the bain marie. Line a large baking pan with a folded kitchen towel and set aside.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the condensed milk and Greek yogurt. Mix the cornstarch in milk and add to the mixture. Mix well so that no lumps remain. (The cornstarch is totally optional, but it helps to ensure a well-set pudding).

Divide yogurt mixture among four large ramekins or 6-8 smaller ones. Place ramekins in the prepared baking pan and fill with hot water so that it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. (The kitchen towel under the ramekins will keep them from sliding around in the hot water.)

Bake for 30-35 minutes or till yogurt is set, but slightly jiggly in the center.

Remove and cool down to room temperature. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for a couple of hours. This keeps well in the refrigerator for a couple of days.

Pomegranate coulis: Prepare pomegranate coulis when yogurt is in the oven. Dissolve cornstarch in a tablespoon of water and set side.

Remove the pomegranate arils and blend them together. Add enough water to make at least a cup of juice. Strain this mixture and discard the seeds.

Take pomegranate juice, sugar and lemon juice in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, add the cornstarch slurry and simmer for 4-5 minutes or till sauce thickens slightly. Taste and adjust sweetness accordingly.

Cool this down and store in a glass jar in the refrigerator till needed.

Serving bhapa doi: To serve the pudding, top each ramekin with some of the pomegranate coulis, some crushed nuts and rose petals. Enjoy!

NOTES:
1. Since Greek yogurt is naturally thick, it is best suited for this recipe and combines easily with the condensed milk. If you are using regular yogurt, make sure it is whole fat and drained of most of the liquid. You should have 1½ cups of thick, strained yogurt to start with.

2. You can flavor bhapa doi by adding cardamom powder or a little bit of saffron steeped in warm milk. You can also add some fruit pulp (mangoes work best) to make fruit flavored bhapa doi.

3. Instead of preparing a fruit coulis or sauce, you can top the pudding with chopped fresh fruits of choice. You can also top the pudding with just nuts and maybe even saffron.

Papaya-Mango Yellow Rice

Oil – 2 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds – 1/2 tsp
Dried red chilies – 2
Curry leaves – 5-6
Ginger – 1 tbsp, finely chopped
Asafoetida – a pinch
Turmeric powder – 1/2 tsp
Green or unripe papaya – 1/2 cup, grated
Green or unripe mango – 1/2 cup, grated
Coconut – 2 tbsp, grated
Rice – 3 cups, cooked
Salt – to taste
Roasted peanuts – 1/4 cup

Heat oil in a large skillet. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dried red chilies and curry leaves. When the seeds begin to crackle, add ginger, asafoetida and turmeric powder. Saute for a few seconds on low flame to fry the ginger.

Add grated papaya and mango and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring frequently. When papaya and mango are soft, tip in the coconut and saute for a few more seconds.

Now add the cooked rice and gently fold in to combine. Season with salt. Add the roasted peanuts. Serve hot with a side of raita, pickle and pappads.

NOTES:
1. Though filled with nutritional goodness, unripe green papaya is somewhat bland, but still great at absorbing flavors. So green mango is added here to give the rice a tangy flavor.

Aloo Paratha

For the dough:
Atta or whole wheat flour – 2 cups
Salt – 1 tsp
Oil – 1 tbsp
Warm water – as needed
For the filling,
Potatoes – 2, medium-large
Oil – 2 tsp
Onions – 1/4 cup, finely chopped
Turmeric powder – 1/4 tsp
Cumin powder – 1/2 tsp
Garam masala powder – 1/2 tsp
Salt – to taste
Aamchur powder or lime juice – 1 tsp
Cilantro leaves – 2 tbsp, finely chopped
For making and serving aloo parathas,
Ghee or oil – to cook parathas
Butter
Thick yogurt
Red onions, sliced
Ketchup or other sauces

Take atta in a large mixing bowl. Add salt and oil and mix with your fingers. Add warm water, a little at a time, and knead till the dough comes together. The dough must be soft and supple, so add as much water as needed. Knead dough for a few minutes till smooth. Cover with a kitchen towel and rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Boil, peel and smoothly mash the potatoes. Set this aside in a bowl.

Heat oil in a skillet. Add onions and saute till translucent. Add turmeric, cumin and garam masala powders.

Add the mashed potatoes and mix well. Season with salt. Add aamchur powder or lime juice for tanginess. Sprinkle cilantro leaves and give it a final mix.

Allow the potato mixture to cool down before filling the parathas. The mixture should be smooth and fairly dry as well.
Divide both dough and potato mixture into 8 balls.

Flour your work surface lightly. Roll a dough ball into a 3″ circle. Place a portion of potato filling in the middle and gather and pinch the dough at the sides to make a sort of pouch.

Roll this stuffed dough pouch carefully and evenly till fairly thin. Sprinkle a bit of flour if you find it too hard to roll.
Meanwhile, heat a griddle till almost smoking hot. Rub a bit of oil or ghee on the griddle and place the rolled paratha on top. Cook on medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Add a few drops of oil or ghee on top of the paratha and flip. Cook the other side for a minute or so. Both sides must be fully cooked with some browning. Press down with your spatula at the sides to help with the cooking.

Once done, remove aloo paratha to a bread basket or casserole dish to keep warm.

Repeat till you make all the parathas. Once you get the hang of it, you will be able to simultaneously roll and cook the parathas!

Serve parathas warm with a generous dollop of butter on top. Serve along with thick yogurt, achar, or sliced red onions!

If not serving immediately, store parathas in a covered container with a clean kitchen towel so that they do not sweat and become soggy.

Parathas can be refrigerated for a day and re-heated on a hot griddle or in the microwave.

NOTES:
1. Atta is a kind of fine-milled whole wheat flour used to make Indian flatbreads like chapatis, rotis and parathas. Easily found in Indian or specialty grocery stores.