Dudhi ne chana dal shak (bottle guord/calabash and split chana dal)

Calabash, cala bash what a great word almost Batman like word. I also like the word Dudhi especially since that Friends episode with Chandler and dooody. Dudhi  is a lovely delicate and versatile vegetable. It can be used to make shak, in a special Gujarati flat bread called thepla (look out for a recipe in future) or into another gujarati dish called Muthia which are a form of steamed dumpling.  Today’s offering is a mix of dudhi with lentils called Chana Dal, a split bengal gram lentil that gives a creamy taste to the meal. The dal needs careful washing and soaking for a few hours so if you pressed for time, you can leave it out and just have the vegetable. This is a slow cook shak with a stew like consistency – all the liquid needed comes from the veg. Slow cooking vastly improves the flavour. If you aren’t adding the dal, then the dudhi cooks quite quickly.

I have only ever used the long light green version of dudhi but they also come in a round ball shape. Honestly, I’m not aware if there is any taste difference. It’s available in large supermarkets but if you can, try to buy it from a Asian store as I think they tend to be fresher and have a nicer taste. When selecting look for one which is smooth skinned and firm, but not too hard skinned (e.g. like a marrow) and without many blemishes. I usually squeeze the tip near the stalk to make sure it doesn’t give as that’s a sign of an old vegetable. Further down, I’ll show you how to prepare it for this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tbs ground nut oil (tel)
  • 1tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1 dried red chili (lal marcha)
  • 2 bay leaves (tamal patra)
  • 3 cloves garlic minced (lasun)
  • 1 fresh green chili chopped finely
  • 6 cloves (laving)
  • 1 tsp salt (nimak)
  • 1 1/2 tsp chili powder (marcha)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (hurder)
  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin coriandere powder (dhana jeeru)
  • 1 long dudhi chopped into 2 inch pieces (see below)
  • 5 tbs drained chana dal
  • 7-8 curry leaves (limbra)
  • 2 mangosteen (kokum). These give a sourness to the dal which is different from lemon juice. Almost a hint of tamarind. If you don’t have any, don’t worry as lemon juice does fine.
  • 2 vine tomatoes diced finely
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Coriander to garnish

Prepare dal:

  • Measure out the dal into a bowl. Check there are no stones in there. Then wash in about 4 changes of cold water. Now they need to be soaked for 2- 3 hours in about a pint of water. Cover with a plate and set aside
  • After a few hours, discard the soaking water, thoroughly rinse the dal and set aside ready to cook.

Prepare dudhi:

  • Wash the dudhi then chop off the stalk and the other end. You may see an amber liquid oozing out – don’t worry it’s normal!
  • Peel a thin layer of the skin from the dudhi. I use a potato peeler for ease
  • Cut along length and then chop into small 2 inch pieces

Cooking:

  • Heat the oil over a medium heat in a large heavy based saucepan (a pressure cooker is ideal)
  • Add cumin seeds, red chilli and bayleaves.
  • Once the seeds start to sizzle, add the garlic, chilies and cloves.  Stir and cook until the garlic begins to brown
  • Add the spices and cook for about 15 seconds to cook the spices. Keep stirring to prevent sticking.
  • Add the dudhi, dal, mangosteen and curry leaves and mix to ensure that it is all coated well.
  • Turn heat down and cover the pan. If you are using a pressure cooker, don’t add the weight.
  • Cook until the dudhi and the dal softens. This can take up to half an hour. This slow cooking allows some of the gram from the dal to soak into the juices from the dudhi creating a slightly creamy texture. Don’t add any water as the dudhi has more than enough to cook the dal. Every now and again, give it a stir to make sure it doesn’t stick.
  • Once the dudhi is softened, add the tomatoes and lemon juice (if you feel it is not sour enough) and cook for a further 5 minutes
  • Garnish with coriander and serve with rice, rotlis or parathas.
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Gajar nu shak (carrot curry with sesame seeds)

It’s quite an autumnal day here in Scotland so I opted to have a carrot dish. As neither my hubby or daughter eat cooked carrots, I was able to make this dish exactly to my spicy tastes. I love this shaak as it’s very simple and the delicate flavours complement eachother very well.

Ingredients:

  • 1tbs groundnut oil
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 2 inches ginger peeled and grated (I used more as I love ginger. Adjust as per your taste)
  • 1 fresh green chili chopped finely
  • 370g carrots
  • 1tsp salt (nimak)
  • 1tsp chili powder (lal murcha)
  • 1tsp cumin coriander powder (dhana jeeru)
  • 1/2tsp turmeric powder (hurder)
  • 4-5 curry leaves (optional, choose fresh as dried have no taste) (limbra)
  • 1 tomato chopped very finely
  • 1 1/4 tbs toasted sesame seeds
  • Coriander to garnish

Preparation:

  • Wash then peel carrots
  • Cut into 1cm pieces

Cooking:

  • Heat oil over a medium flame in a heavy bottom pan
  • Add cumin seeds and wait for them to start sizzling. Add ginger and chilis. Stir to prevent them sticking
  • Put carrots in and stir fry for 3-4 minutes
  • Stir in all the spices and mix to combine well. Turn down heat to low flame and cover with a lid. Stir frequently to prevent the shaak from sticking. Let the carrots cook until they start to go tender – the final consistency should be al-dente so do not overcook.
  • Add in tomatoes and curry leaves. Cook for a minute then stir in the sesame seeds. Let the shaak continue to cook for a few more minutes then turn off and let it cool down slightly before garnishing with coriander. Serve with plain basmati rice.

Urad (black lentil dhal)

This creamy dhal made of black lentils (Guju name Urad, latin name vigna mungo) is normally cooked on Saturdays. There may be some religious reason for it but I don’t eat for religious reasons but rather for the satisfaction of my belly being full of culinary delights. It’s much richer/heavier/silkier to eat than the Mug Dhal I have previously posted because as the dhal cooks it oozes into the vagar and enriches it.

A word of warning here: urad takes some prep and is best slow cooked over a few hours. The benefits are worth it though  – lots of protein, iron, fibre, great for diabetics. Sometimes you can be left with farty pants after eating it so to help reduce that risk I cook it with fennel seeds which aid digestion and give a liquorice undertone – a trick picked up from my dad. But if you don’t have fennel seeds then just substitute with mustard and cumin seeds (and have the windeze on hand in case).

Ingredients:

  • 200g black lentils (urad dhal) (dried weight)
  • 2 1/2 pints water (pani)
  • 3 pieces of dried mangosteen (kokum) – if you don’t have this don’t worry. It adds sourness which you can achieve with more lemon juice at the end
  • 6/7 curry leaves (limbra)
  • 1 tbs clarified butter (ghee)
  • 1/1 tbs ground nut oil
  • Pinch of asafoetida (hing)
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds (if you don’t have these, substitue 1 tsp mustard seeds and 1 tsp cumin but lose the liquoricey flavour)
  • 1 stick cinnamon (taj)
  • 1 large dry bayleaf (tej patia)
  • 1 large white onion (dhungri) – diced very finely
  • 3 cloves (lasun) and 1 inch of ginger (adu)- either minced or made into puree
  • 1 or 2 fresh green chilies (murcha) chopped finely
  • 7 green cardamon pods (elaiche)
  • 6 cloves (lawing)
  • 1 tsp jaggery (ghor) – omit if diabetic
  • 1 tsp salt (nimak)
  • 1 /2 tsp red chili powder (lal murcha)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder (hurder)
  • 1 tsp cumin coriander seed powder (dhanna jeeru)
  • 2 tbs lemon juice (limbu) – this is a guide. Add little at a time until it’s to your taste
  • Coriander to garnish
  • Full fat yogurt or double cream to serve

Preparation

  • The night before check the urad for any stones, then wash thoroughly in cold water. This will take around 8 washes. Leave to soak overnight covered in water (first picture above) . In the morning, the urad will have swollen slightly and the water will be murky.
  • Discard the soaking water the urad was soaked in and rinse the urad a few times. It now has to be boiled until tender. This can be done in a pressure cooker and takes about 15 minutes in mine using 2 1/2 pints of water. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, it can take a few hours to cook on the stove. Just keep an eye on it until it is tender but still holding it’s bean shape. Do not throw away the water it was boiled in as this will be needed later.

Cooking

  • Put the mangosteen and curry leaves in the urad and set aside
  • In a saucepan, heat the ghee, oil, cinnamon and bay leaf over a medium heat.
  • Throw in a very small pinch of asafoetida then add the fennel seed.
  • Once the fennel is sizzling add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until browning at the edges
  • Add the ginger/garlic and chilies. Cook for another 5 minutes stirring frequently
  • Add the spices and stir to combine well
  • Add the jaggery and let it melt before adding in the chopped tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes have squished and a sauce is formed
  • Add this sauce to the dhal and the liquid it was boiled in. To make sure I get all the goodness, I usually put a spoonful of the dhal into the vagar pan and swish it around so it soaks up the spices. Add lemon juice to taste
  • Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cook until a the volume is reduced by a third and creamy texture is achieved. Check there is enough salt as you go so you can add more.
  • Basically the longer it is slow cook, the better the taste. Don’t be tempted to rapid boil it as end result isn’t the same.
  • Once cooked, garnish with coriander and serve with a dollop of yoghurt (or cream if you are decadent)
  • I like to eat this with freshly cooked rotlis smeared in ghee. I personally don’t like it with rice but don’t let that stop you from having some if you so wish. Alternatively, serve with parathas or bread.

Spicy apple pickle

Hmmm nothing better than biting into a crisp, fresh, apple. And we are smack bang in the middle of apple season here in the UK. I just recently found out that apples were brought over here many centuries ago from the east. So bizarre as for me apples are quintessentially English.

I blagged some free from my friend Livi who has an apple tree growing in her garden. You wouldn’t find these marvellously misshapen beauties in the uniformity-obsessed supermarket! I decided to use the smaller two for  a very quick spiced apple pickle (large one saved for apple crumble). And here is my dirty secret confession…I  don’t make the spice mix from scratch as my 3-year-old demands my attention. So I use Jalpur Achar Masala which is available online or from your friendly local Indian grocery.

A Gujarati meal is not complete without some pickles and chutneys. And unlike restaurants where they are served as an appetiser with papads, pickles in Guju household are eaten with the main meal, as are papads! This one works with crisp, slightly sour apples.

Before we start, I have to make a small point about the oil used. In India, mustard oil is used for pickles. It gives them a special ‘pickle’ flavour. However, it seems that a systematic (corporate, Western) campaign has resulted in this oil being banned for edible use in Europe, Canada and America. And the production of it is banned in India which I just find disgusting as it was a major source of revenue for many small villages and towns.

I’ve done some research and cannot find any real studies to show the issues with mustard oil. So until there is scientific proof that it’s bad for humans (and not rats) then I’ll use it. Luckily it’s available in my local Indian stores.  But hey, it’s not vital and I’m not dogmatic. My dad makes this pickle too and happily uses olive oil… and when I visit him, I greedily eat up his pickle. So it’s up to you – mustard or olive. Or even rapeseed oil. Or if you are willing to go to the expense, there is an Australian company called Yandilla  that sells edible pungent mustard oil. Soooo much choice.

Ingredients:

  • 300 g apples
  • 30 ml mustard oil. Alt extra virgin olive oil or rapeseed oil.
  • 2 tsp Jalpur Achar Masala mix
  • Lemon juice
  • 1 tsp sugar

Preparation

  • Wash and core the apples. Cut them into small 2 inch pieces. Then squirt some lemon juice over the apples to stop them browning

  • Heat the mustard oil over a gentle heat until it starts to smoke. Then turn off and let cool
  • Put the apple pieces into a bowl and add spice mix and sugar. Stir well. I don’t want the pickle too hot so only use 2. With time and practice, you can decided the right amount for your taste
  • When the oil has completely cooled, pour over apples and again stir well.
  • Put into a sterile jar. When you wants some make sure you use a clean spoon which helps the pickle last for at least a week in the fridge.

Ringan bateta nu shak (aubergine and potato curry)

This shak is so easy to make and has very few ingredients – it’s easily cooked within 20 mins. It’s so rustic! It relies on good quality aubergines and potatotes. I prefer to use the small round aubergine sometimes called a brinjal (do a google image search to see what I mean) sold by Indian grocers rather than the long plump Dutch aubergine normally found in English supermarkets. However, if you cannot get the former, the latter is equally delicious.

Select ones that are plump, quite firm and has few blemishes on the skin. When you cut into the aubergine, the flesh should be white and there should be few seeds.

Sometimes aubergines can be bitter. To remedy this they can be salted before cooking. Wash the aubergines, cut off the stems and slice them aubergine into largish dice shapes. Then put a liberal amount of salt over them and leave for half an hour. Wash out the aubergines well (the water will run a sort of purplish colour!) before using in the cooking below.

The amounts below yield enough for 2 people. I prefer to serve this shak with fresh rotlis, sliced onions (cover with lemon juice to remove the sting!) and a sweet (in my case banana).

Ingredients:

  • 3 round aubergines (or 1 large dutch aubergine) – wash, remove stem, cut into 3inch dice
  • 4 small potatoes –  remove skin, cut into the dice same size as aubergines
  • 3 tbs groundnut oil
  • 1 tsp mustard and fenugreek seeds
  • 1 chilie chopped finely
  • 1 tsp salt (nimak)
  • 1 tsp chili powder (murcha)
  • 1 tsp coriander/cumin powder (dhana jeeru)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (hurder)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 tomatoes – diced finely
  • Coriander to garnish

Cooking

  • In a largish pan, heat oil over medium heat then throw in mustard/fenugreek seeds
  • Once seeds start to pop, add chilies
  • Add potatoes and aubergines
  • Add all the spices and stir the mixture very well
  • Cook for 2 minutes and keep stirring
  • Add enough water to just cover the vegetables. Don’t be tempted to put more as aubergines already hold a lot of water. Bring mix to the boil.
  • Turn down to a simmer and cook for five minutes, keep an eye on the levels and stir occasionally
  • Add the tomatoes, stir and cook for a further five minutes
  • When you come to serve garnish with coriander and serve with rotlis. If you don’t have rotlis, naan or rice do just as well.

P.S. Sorry I didn’t remember to take a picture of the final dish. It all got eaten very quickly!

Chora (black eyed beans)

Black eyed beans

Ahhh the humble black eyed beans…brings up visions of right-on vegetarian cafes from the 70s but really they are so lovely and eating them makes me very happy.  In case you have no idea what the heck I’m on about, they are beans that are white beans smaller than kidney beans with a black gash (where it was attached to the pod). As with other lentils, they are a good source of soluble fibre which is helpful in reducing cholesterol.

In the preparation section below, I’ve detailed what to do with some of the ingredients.  These steps are absolutely and completely optional however, they ensure that the ingredients are properly blended and also there are less items to pick out when you are eating. For once  I decided to do the cooking this way rather than throwing the separate ingredients into pot and you know what, hubby said he preferred to have the separate stuff as it let him taste the individual flavours so it’s a matter of personal taste. I do know that if you heat some of the spices, it helps release their flavours and they are not so harsh so if you are after a milder curry, do it just DO IT. Right enough mucking about – here’s the stuff you really want to read.

Ingredients:

  • 200g black-eyed beans – soak overnight then cook in a pressure cooker until they are soft but not mushy. The beans should still be holding their shape. Boil in plenty of water and retain that water for later.
  • 2 tbs ground nut oil (tel)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds (jeera)
  • 1 tsp mustard / fenugreek seeds mix (rye/methi)
  • Pinch of asafoetida (hing) – optional
  • 2 large onions (dungri) – chopped very finely. Better still whizz them up in your blender. You want them as small as possible
  • 2 large cloves garlic – crushed again very finely (lusan)
  • 2 inches ginger – grated (adu)
  • 1 chili – finely sliced (murcha)
  • 1 stick cinnamon (tal)
  • 5 green cardamon pods (elchi)
  • 5 cloves (lawing)
  • 6 peppercorns
  • 2 large tomatoes / 220g worth. Diced finely
  • 1tsp salt (nimak)
  • 1tsp chili powder (murcha)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric (hurder)
  • 1/2 inch jaggery (gaur) or 2 tsp sugar
  • 2 mangosteen flowers (kokum)
  • 6 or 7  curry leaves (limra)
  • Lemon juice to taste
  • Coriander for garnish

Preparation

  • Tomatoes: An optional step is to skin the tomatoes then pulp the flesh before adding to the vagar. An easy way to do this is to place the washed tomatoes into a pan of boiling water then simmer very gently until the skin splits. Take out of the pan and remove the skin (be careful as they may still be hot from water). Then dice very finely removing the central core (i.e. the white bits)
  • Spices: in a frying pan or tawa gently heat the cinnamon, cardamom pods, cloves and peppercorns. When you see a very thin amount of smoke remove from the frying pan. Take the cardamom seeds out of the pulp then pound all the dry cooked ingredients in a pestle and mortar to a fine powder. As I said above, this is an entirely optional step as some prefer to just put the ingredients into the vagar (sauce)
  • Beans: when the beans are cooked, throw the kokum into the beans&water and let this sit for about 10 minutes

Cooking

  • The first stage is to make the vagar which is then added to the beans/water to cook through
  • In a very large pan, heat the oil over medium heat
  • Add the bayleaves and wait for them to start to brown
  • Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and wait for them to sizzle and pop then add the pinch of asafoetida if using
  • Add the onions and fry for at least 8 mins. Note it takes longer the bigger the pieces. Keep stirring to stop them sticking to the pan
  • Add the ginger, garlic and chili and cook for another 4 minutes
  • Add the chili powder, salt, turmeric and coriander/cumin powder, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and peppercorns. Keep stirring and cook for 3/4  minutes
  • Add the jaggery/sugar and wait for it to melt into the vagar
  • Blend in the tomatoes and curry leaves. Cook for about 1 minute
  • The vagar is now ready. Mix in the beans plus all the water they cooked in. Also add lemon juice to taste.
  • Cook until the water thickens. Taste to make sure there is enough salt/lemon for your liking
  • Garnish with coriander and serve with plain rice and naan or rotlis

Sev mumra (gram flour sticks and puffed rice snack)

puffed rice and gram flour sticks snack

We gujjus (short form for Gujaratis) love our snacks. My mother was an excellent snack maker and I was a great eater. It meant that while I learnt to appreciate the taste as my wasteline expanded, I never paid attention to how she made the delicious Gujarati snacks sev mumra and chevdo (like Bombay mix) let alone easy things like rotlis and puris.

When it’s really hot there is nother better than a nice bowl of sev mumra with a really ice-cold beer. Mind you in India, it’s eaten at snack times with a hot cup of tea …whatever floats your boat.

I used to resort to shop bought stuff. But pah to that! I can do it and that way I can get it exactly how I like it.  As I’m a bit stubborn and didn’t want to ask advice from any aunts or cousins, I spent a lot of time on Google and went all Heston-Blumenthal-like trying out various recipes and cooking techniques etc.  For now, I’m going to settle for the following. I won’t claim it’s a healthy snack but once in a while it can provide a good treat for toddlers. In which case, leave out the chili powder and reduce the salt.

To make this you will need a sev maker. These are available from good Indian cookware shops, ebay and my favourite Spices of India.

Sev maker

You will also need a deep fryer or a karai, a large bowl to put the cooked sev and mumra into lined with kitchen towel to soak up the oil, a large tray again lined with kitchen towel and an airtight jar for storage.

Ingredients for Sev (gram flour sticks):

  • 1 cup gram flour (besan)
  • 1 tsp chili powder (murcha) – optional
  • 1/2  tsp turmeric (hurder)
  • 1/2 asafoetida (hing)
  • 1/2 black peppercorn ground – optional
  • 1/2 cumin seeds – optional
  • 2 tbs hot oil
  • 3- 4 tbs water for dough
  • Salt to taste. I went easy on this and had only 1 tsp
  • Oil for deep-frying – this time I used groundnut but think I’ll switch to sunflower next time as it’s healthier

Ingredients for mumra (puffed rice)

  • 1 cup easy cook long grain rice
  • Oil for deep-frying  as above

Cooking sev

  • Sift the gram flour into a bowl. Add the other dry ingredients and blend really well
  • Add the oil and with a spoon (as it’s hot) mix it in thoroughly
  • Add enough water to create a firm dough (perhaps to the consistency of old playdoh)
  • Now grease the inside of the sev maker. The disc with the smallest holes is used to make sev
  • Heat your oil in a karai or deep frying to medium heat. It’s ready when you drop in a tiny bit of the dough and it slowly rises to the surface
  • Now put some dough in the maker and close the lid. Screw it down until it’s touching the dough (tiny bits should start popping out of the holes
  • Carefully hold it above the hot oil and then turn the handle so that long strands start to come out. In a circular motion let these drop into the oil. APPARENTLY, to stop the strands you turn the handle the other way but this didn’t work for me so I just used my finger to pull them off and drop into the oil
  • Cook the sev for a minute on each side. Don’t let it get too dark. The colour should be a light yellow
  • Take out the sev with a slotted spoon and put into a bowl lined with kitchen paper
  • Cook rest of sev this way

Cooking the mumra

In India mumra is cooked in a hot wok like device with black sand. In America, it was first cooked by being shot out of a cannon!! It can either be cooked with hot air in an oven (as Rice Crispies is) or a hot wok (didn’t work for me, the end result was distressing as brown rice kernels stuck to my lovely wok) or deep fried (not healthy! but works)

  • Heat oil to medium to hot. Oil is ready when you drop in a kernel of rice, it quickly sizzles then puff to the top.
  • Drop a few rice kernels in at a time. If you are using a karai or a large deep fryer, then use a sieve to drop them in as it’s easier to take them out
  • When they puff up, quickly take them out with a slotted spoon. The result should be a puffed up white rice.  If the rice ends up brown, your oil is too hot
  • Take out and put into a bowl lined with kitchen paper
  • To blot off excess oil, I also lined a large tray with kichen paper and laid the cooked rice on this

Once the sev is cooled, break it into very small bits, then combine the mumra. Put into an airtight jar.

NOTE: if it’s not going to be eaten by toddlers, then before putting it into storage, add salt, chili powder and sugar to the mix to taste.

It should last a few weeks in the jar.

A great way to eat it is chop up some white onion into very small dice, add the sev mumra, throw in a handful of boiled white chickpeas and a squeeze of lemon juice.

The recipe for sev is very flexible as I said above. You can make variations by adding garlic paste, or carom seeds (ajwain), or cumin seeds (jeera).