South Indian Feast – Vegan Spinach Sambar, Ridge gourd Kootu and Potato fry

My parents are from Tamil Nadu, one of the south-Indian states where food is such a big deal. My mum still makes 5-6 different varieties of food for every single meal meal of the day. I guess it was what my granny insisted to do 🙂 No wonder I hit my 94 kilo mark 😛  I have no clue what got into me this afternoon, I decided to make a south Indian food. I am not really good at it cos there are so many techniques. My mum usually teaches me short-cuts to get the taste spot on-1st time in my life-I got it perfect 😀

Menu: Vegan Spinach Sambar, Ridge gourd Kootu and Potato fry– All Tamil based.

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3 main ingredients are mustard seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves and they are an excellent combo. 99% of Indians go gaga over Sambar. I am in the top 10. If you have been reading my blog, you would have read me mentioning Sambar powder atleast 5 times. I use them even in North Indian curries 😛 Sambar is a tangy tamarind based curry with lentils. Every south-Indian state make their own version of sambar. You don’t get it as a curry as such in any Indian restaurant but you can get it served as an accompaniment with dosa (the lentil-rice gluten-free crepes).  Kootu literally translates to ‘mix’. Vegetables are mixed with lentils with a coconut-based curry paste. Potato fry-yep normal ones with Indian spices 🙂

Here you go with the recipes

Potato Fry:

Ingredients:

  • Boiled potatoes-chopped into chunks-4 medium ones
  • Mustard seeds-1 tsp
  • Oil-1 Tbsp
  • Asafoetida-a pinch
  • Salt- needed
  • Chickpea flour-1 tsp
  • Chilli powder-as needed-1 tsp
  • Coriander powder-as needed-2 tsp
  • Curry leaves- few

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Heat oil in a NON-STICK pan, add mustard seeds, curry leaves (stand at an one arm distance or run away and come back-they pop everywhere), asafoetida goes in, take pan off heat and all every spice powder except chickpea powder, keep on heat for 4-5 seconds to heat the spices and add potatoes in. Flame to low now. Toss and let it roast. Add chickpea flour after 5 mins and roast until crisp.

Ridge Gourd  Kootu:

Ingredients:

  • Ridge gourd- peeled, de-seeded and chopped fine
  • Turmeric-1/2 tsp
  • Yellow lentils (preferred) /Split pigeon pea-pressure cooked-mushy consistency-1 cup
  • Chilli powder-to taste
  • Salt-to taste
  • Grind(2 tbsp coconut and 1 tsp cumin seeds) into a fine paste
  • You also need 2 tsp oil, 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, few curry leaves and black lentils (de-husked and split-optional), a pinch asafoetida

Method:

  • In a saucepan, add 1.5 cups water, heat it, add turmeric, salt, chili powder and when it is about to boil, add the ridge gourd in. Once the squash is soft, add ground curry paste and lentils in and wait it boils.
  • Transfer it to the serving bowl and in the same pan, add oil, once it heats up add mustard seeds, let them pop, add asafoetida, lentils and curry leaves-wait until lentils turn brown and pour them over the curry 🙂 Yum 🙂

Palak/Spinach Sambar

Ingredients:

  • Spinach- 500 gms-finely chopped
  • 2 onions-finely chopped
  • Garlic-5 pods-chopped fine
  • 2 tomatoes-blend them
  • Tamarind paste-1.5 tsp mixed in 2 cups of water
  • Turmeric-1 tsp
  • Sambar powder-1 tbsp+2 tsp
  • Chili powder-1 tsp
  • Salt-to taste
  • Curry leaves-a sprig
  • Asafoetida-2 pinches
  • Mustard seeds-2 tsp
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • Split Pigeon pea-1.5 cups cooked-very mushy
  • Dry red chili-2-split

Method:

  • In a stockpot, add 1 tbsp oil, mustard seeds, asafoetida, once they pop, add split red chilies, curry leaves, after they splutter, add onions and garlic, little salt, saute until brown, add spinach leaves, turmeric, 2 tsp sambar masala and fry until spinach is cooked.
  •  Time to add blended tomatoes, rest of sambar masala, chili powder and let the tomatoes boil.
  • After a couple of minutes, add tamarind water, salt and let it boil on an open flame for more than 10-12 minutes until tamarind cooks well [I guess I add too much tamarind cos I love it tangy-you might have to lessen this quantity]
  • Now, add lentils and let it just boil and take it off heat 🙂
  • Amazing sambar 🙂

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Vegan Tofu Matar

Matar Paneer WAS my favorite. Usually loaded with butter and cream though 😦 It is a Punjabi curry- from a state which has one of the biggest vegetarian population in India but they are very much into dairy though, especially ghee. That’s probably the reason for the taste 🙂 What I have made here is a replica of the curry with Tofu. I refrained myself from adding cashew cream to keep it light. I probably should have added at least a Tbsp of the cashew cream- Missed the creaminess 😦

Now, time to talk about tomatoes in curry. Personally, I like to boil water in a saucepan, add tomatoes in (yep, whole) and close the lid, let it boil for 5 mins on high heat, turn off heat, leave the pan for another 5 mins. Take tomatoes, peel skin off, chop them and use them in the curry. Better color, lesser cooking time, more flavor. If you think that it is a lot of work, forget what I said and chop the tomatoes very fine and use them. Choice is yours 🙂

Matar Tofu1

You need these awesome ingredients:

  • Tofu-1 block-cubed-Medium Firm-[NO EXTRA FIRM TOFU PLEASE]
  • 2 tsp Sambar powder and 1 tsp cornstarch to coat tofu
  • Green peas-frozen-a handful
  • Red onion-1.5-finely chopped
  • Ginger and Garlic-1 Tbsp each grated very fine
  • Tomatoes-3
  • Sambar masala-1.5 heaped teaspoon
  • Coriander leaves-finely chopped-2 Tbsp
  • Garam masala-1/2 tsp
  • Salt-as needed
  • Oil-a tbsp
  • Cumin seeds-a tsp
  • Kasoori Methi 2 pinches
  • Organic Raw Sugar-1 tsp

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Method:

  • Cube Tofu and coat with 2 tsp Sambar powder and 1 tsp cornstarch and pan roast them and keep them aside. Pierce them with toothpick so that the curry’s flavor gets in.
  • In a saucepan that comes with a lid, add oil, cumin seeds, onion and fry until golden brown and now add ginger and garlic.
  • Once you start getting the aroma, add the tomato in what ever form you like. Add sambar powder, turmeric powder,garam masala and fry until the mixture starts to boil. Add some water (1.5 cup), salt and let it boil for 5-7 mins. Add tofu and green peas, kasoori methi,more salt, sugar, close and cook for 5-7 mins.
  • If the curry is very watery, add a tsp of cornstarch dissolved in water and add that. Top with coriander leaves and finely chopped raw onions.
  • For richer version of the curry add some cashew cream 🙂

P.S: The miniature fellas are hedgehogs having an afternoon tea 🙂

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Vegan Shahi Tofu

Shahi translates to ‘Wedding’ in Hindi. This is a rich curry served in weddings as ‘Shahi Paneer’- of course – non-vegan loaded with yogurt, cream, cottage cheese and butter. I tried a vegan version of this using tofu, cashew and coconut cream. Mine is better tasting than the non-vegan original version. 🙂 Is this what you call confidence? Anyways, it was easy to make. Just one spice powder-Shahi masala and 1 herb-Kasoori methi. So not really complicated.

You need

  • 2 onions-cubed
  • Garlic-5 pods
  • Ginger-a small piece
  • 2 tomatoes-cubed
  • Tofu-250 gms- I used a medium firm tofu
  • Cashews(40 gms)  soaked in 1/4 cup light coconut cream
  • Shahi paneer masala-1.5 tbsp + 2 tsp for tofu
  • Clove-2
  • Cinnamon-1
  • 1 green chili
  • Kasoori methi-2 pinches rubbed between index finger and palm to break it down
  • Pistachios, Almonds, sultanas- roasted in 1/2 tsp oil-for seasoning
  • oil-2 tsp
  • cumin seeds-1 tsp
  • Natural sweetener-1 tsp
  • salt-to taste

Method:

  • In a pan, add 1 tsp of oil, add cloves, cinnamon, cumin seeds, add onion,chili, garlic and ginger. Fry until transparent and add tomatoes in
  • Sprinkle water, add shahi masala, salt and let tomatoes soften. Transfer to a plate. Cool and blend to a fine paste
  • Meanwhile, blend cashews and coconut cream into a fine paste. Keep it aside
  • Also, cube the tofu, add 2 tsp shahi masala and fry until it is brown on the edges. [If extra firm is used-this step will toughen the tofu and make it rubbery. better to use medium firm tofu-It was too soft though and some of them crumbled. But tasted just like paneer]. Keep it aside
  • In a pan, add 1/2 tsp oil, add pistachios, almonds and sultanas, a cardamom and then the blended tomato paste in. Add salt if you want to and let it boil, add the cashew cream and let it thicken and now add kasoori methi, sweetener and mix them well.
  • Time to add tofu. Let it sit in the curry for 3-5 mins. Don’t stir and remove from heat 🙂
  • Increase the quantity of dry nuts/sultanas if you want a rich curry 🙂 Enjoy with cumin rice/any flat bread

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Vegan methi matar malaai and Cumin rice

Fenugreek leaves are very bitter-but they are awesome in cleansing the body. I try to incorporate them into the food. It is always on my Indian shopping list. For this recipe, all you do is go to an Indian grocery and ask for fresh ‘methi’ leaves. (In Sydney, we have Wigram street in Harris park-which has more than 15 shops selling these leaves). Methi – Fenugreek leaves, Matar-Green peas, Malaai-Cream. If you are craving for a creamy curry, this is for you. It goes excellent with any flat bread/cumin rice.

Ingredients: 

  • A bunch of methi leaves removed from the stalks
  • Green peas-boiled with salt
  • Red onion-cubed-1.5
  • Green chili-3
  • Cloves-2 and cinnamon-1″ stick
  • Poppy seeds-2 tsp
  • Cumin seeds-1 tsp
  • Garlic-5 pods, Ginger-1 small piece
  • Cashews – 40 gms (soaked in hot water for an hour)-to make cashew cream
  • Light coconut milk-1/4 cup
  • Garam masala-1 tsp
  • Salt-to taste
  • Raw sugar-1 tsp

Method:

  • Wash methi leaves-add salt-leave 10 mins-squeeeze extra water out.
  • In a pan, add tsp of oil, add the methi leaves-fry until they are cooked. Keep them separate.
  • In the same pan add a tsp of  oil, clove, cinnamon , cumin seeds once they splutter, add onion,green chili, salt garlic and ginger and fry until onions are translucent, add poppy seeds and take it off heat and blend into fine paste
  • In a blender, add just the cashews (discard the water) and half of the coconut milk and bit water to make cashew cream
  • Time to put them together. In the same pan, add a tsp oil, add the onion paste, let it boil for a couple of minutes, add methi leaves, fry for a couple mins, add cashew cream, let it mix well, add boiled green peas, sugar and cook for 3 more mins. When it thickens add remaining coconut milk,salt(if needed), garam masala and turn off the flame and let it be in the pan for another 5 mins

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Do you like the cumin rice you get in Indian restaurants? This is a vegan version of the same. If you have a rice cooker and the ingredients below, this is such a yummy version 🙂

Cumin Rice

Ingredients:

  • Basmati rice-1 cup
  • Cumin seeds-2 tsp
  • Cumin seed powder-`1 tsp
  • Cashews-5 broken into bits
  • One green chili-cut into 2
  • Oil-2 tsp
  • Water-2 cups
  • Salt

Method:

  • In a rice cooker, add rice and water.
  • In a pan, add oil, when it is hot, add cumin seeds, green chili, cashews, once cashews are brown, add the cumin powder, fry for a minute and pour over the rice, add salt and turn the rice cooker on.

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Easy Dahl recipe for Camille

This post for Camille. Camille is one of the sweetest people you could meet on this planet. She isn’t old enough for me to call her mum, but she definitely acts like one to me. We talk Indian food all the time and she loves dahl. So Camille, this is for you 🙂 I have made this recipe as easy as I can and it will be close to what you eat at a restaurant (vegan though). Forgot to take a snap. Will update it soon.

Ingredients: 

  • Split yellow mung lentils (1 cup)
  • Turmeric-1 tsp
  • 1 onion/10 shallots – finely chopped
  • 1 tomato-finely chopped/ I like to puree them for better color & it is an healthier alternative
  • Ginger-1″ piece-grated
  • Garlic-4 pods-grated
  • Clove-2, Cinnamon stick-1″ piece
  • Mustard seeds and Cumin seeds-1 tsp each
  • Curry leaves and dry red chilli(optional-break them into two for spicy effect)-for more authentic Indian flavor
  • <Red chilli powder/Sambar powder( I find it more flavorful)–2 tsp
  • 2 tsp rice bran oil
  • Salt-to taste

Method:

  • In a pressure cooker, add the yellow mung lentils, turmeric, 2 and 2.5 cups water and pressure cook the lentils.
  • Meanwhile, in a pan, add oil, add cloves, cinnamon, mustard seeds (wait for it to pop), add cumin seeds, once this splutters add the curry leaves and add curry leaves and dry red chilli. You are done with the seasoning for the dal
  • Time to add onions, fry them well, ginger, garlic, chilli/sambar powder wait until the raw smell disappears and the tomato in and fry until it is soft.
  • Add the cooked lentils in and mix them well. Add finely chopped coriander leaves and serve with boiled rice/quinoa/roti/naan bread

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Vegan Palak Tofu / Palak Channa

Palak Tofu/Channa is a high protein blessing for vegans 🙂 When I was in India, I used to go to this North Indian restaurant and became best friends with the chef there 🙂  When I left India to come to Sydney, he had given me a copy of these 126 recipes which are his mum’s 🙂 I just pulled it out today, so from today on, I am going to get his recipes veganized 🙂

Caution: This recipe involves loads of blending.

Ingredients: 

  • Baby spinach leaves – 250 gms pack
  • Green chilli-1
  • Onion-1 cubed
  • Tomato-1.5 cubed
  • Ginger-1/2″ piece
  • Garlic- 3 pods
  • Raw Cashews soaked in water- 15gms (This is the best cream substitute)
  • Clove-2, Cinnamon-1″piece, Cumin seeds-1 tsp, Bay leaf -1
  • Oil-2 tbsp
  • Organic tofu- 250 gms- water drained and cubed- fork pierced (Chilli powder -a tsp to fry the tofu)/ a cup of cooked chickpea for palak channa
  • Chilli powder, coriander powder,garam masala-1 tsp each

Method:

  • First Step is to process the spinach. In a pan,add washed spinach and sprinkle water and fry for a couple of mins until it is about to be cooked completely. Take it out and wash it under cold water (it is to retain the awesome green color of the spinach-bit of bragging but have a look at my pics-That’s the green you need :P). Add bit of salt and blend into a smooth paste
  • Second Step is to make the cashew cream- Blend cashews into a smooth paste
  • Third step is to make the curry base. In a pan, add oil, add clove, cinnamon, cumin seeds, once it splutters add onion, green chilli, ginger and garlic and fry until onions are transparent (not brown). Add in tomatoes and the spice powders and fry until tomatoes are soft. Take it off heat and allow it to cool and blend into smooth paste.
  • Fourth Step is to fry the tofu. In a pan, add a tsp of oil, add chilli powder and add tofu cubes and fry them until hrown on all sides. This is to be done in parallel with adding cream in the next step otherwise tofu will get really tough
  • Time to put them all together. In a pan, add the curry base, let it boil for like 2 mins and add the spinach in. Mix them well. Add more salt and add the cashew cream.Close the pan and let all the flavors infuse together for 5 mins.
  • You could add cooked chickpea or Tofu, close and cook for few more mins and serve hot

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Bottle Gourd Lentil Curry

I had been to an Indian grocery yesterday and I love experimenting with different squash varieties. I came home with so many types of squash and gourds that I couldn’t fit them in my refrigerator

Gourd number 1: Bottle Gourd/Calabash

I have never tasted the bottle gourd/lauki (I have no clue how to pronounce it). This is an usual way I cook other squash/gourd types.

My favorite lentil/pulse is the split chickpea. Yummiest of all. Have you tried it? If not, please do. Just cook them mushy, add salt, roast cumin seeds in 1 tsp hot oil, add it to the lentils, you could have that as a meal.  Any legumes, if you can’t find it in woolies/coles/any grocery out there, you could head to an Indian shop and find yourself in a heaven of lentils – I kid you not, at least 20 types. 🙂

Now back to the recipe,

Ingredients: 

  • Split chickpea-1/2 cup soaked in hot water for 30 mins and boil until its done. Not mushy though
  • Calabash-2 nos-peeled-chop them fine
  • Onion- 1 and 1/2 finely chopped
  • Tomato- 2 (I like to boil them in hot water for 5 mins-peel the skin and blend them. Less oil goes into the curry. You could chop them instead)
  • Ginger-1″ piece
  • Garlic-5-6 pods
  • Green chili -optional -cut very fine (I avoid chilies- this is for spice lovers out there- I don’t eat spicy, yes I am Indian – one exception out there-my mom usually cooks two types in every meal-before chili, after chili)
  • Chili powder-1 tsp
  • Coriander powder – 3 tsp
  • Sambar  powder-1 tsp
  • 1-2 tsp oil
  • Black mustard seeds-1 tsp
  • Curry leaves-3 (optional- am addicted to curry leaves)

Method:

  • Blend ginger, garlic, tomatoes into a fine paste
  • In a pan, add 1-2 tsp oil, mustard seeds, wait for it to pop, add curry leaves, onion, fry them by sprinkling water, salt, once done, add tomato puree in.
  • Add chili powder, coriander powder, sambar powder and fry until its almost dry, add the squash and lentils in and add a cup of water and salt until the squash is done.
  • Garnish with coriander leaves (optional).
  • If you feel the curry is too watery, add 1 cornflour to 1 -2 Tbsp water and the most easiest curry of all times.

I have just realized I blend a lot of things, I reread my posts and almost every single post has blend this/blend that. Is that weird? I can’t cook without my blender. I really can’t 😛
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Pumpkin green peas curry

I opened my new pack of fennel seeds, the aroma triggered the invention cells in my brain 🙂 Fennel seeds, peanuts and coconut are best friends. They taste amazing when put together. Made this pumpkin curry, probably one of my best inventions so far. 🙂

Ingredients: 

  • 250 gms yellow pumpkin – cubed
  • 1 red onion- chopped fine (some goes into the curry, some into blender)
  • Green peas – a handful
  • Roasted Peanuts-15
  • Black Mustard seeds-1 and 1/2 tsp
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp rice bran oil
  • Fennel seeds- 1tsp
  • 2 garlic pods chopped fine
  • Salt-to taste

To Grind:

  • Coconut-3-4 tbsp
  • Dry red chilli-2 (vary this based on your spice limit)
  • Fennel seeds – 1 tsp
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  • A handful of chopped red onion
  • Garlic – 3 nos

Method:

  • Grind the ingredients to be blended into a smooth paste.
  • In a pan, heat 1 tsp oil, add mustard seeds, once it pops, add curry leaves, fennel seeds and chopped garlic. Saute for a minute before you toss the onions in
  • Add little salt and sprinkle water to soften them. Add the chopped pumpkin, peanuts, green peas and saute for a minute and then add the blended paste, salt close and cook until pumpkins are real soft. Sprinkle water if needed.
  • Once pumpkin is soft, add 2 tsp of cornflour to make the curry dry.

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Quinoa with Rasam

Rasam is my all-time favorite –  A tangy Indian soup eaten with rice. Usually tomato/tamarind are the base for rasam, Either you can love rasam or hate it completely. When India was under Brits rule, Brits loved Rasam so much that they came up with their version of Rasam- Mulligatawny soup. It translates to Pepper water in Tamil.

There are different ways to make rasam. Every place in South India has their signature rasam. There are ones which take less than 10 mins to cook or some complicated ones which take more than 45 mins.

This is the most easiest recipe. Are you bored by adding quinoa to salads? If you are looking for an alternative, this is what you do. Make Rasam and add quinoa to it. 🙂

Ingredients: 

  • Roma tomatoes – 3 big nos
  • Turmeric – a pinch
  • Coriander leaves- 6-7 leaves

To grind to fine paste 

  • Garlic- 5 nos
  • Green chilli-1
  • Cumin seeds – 1 tsp
  • Peppercorn -8 nos

To season:

  • Oil-1 tsp
  • Mustard seeds-1 tsp
  • Curry leaves- 10
  • Red chilli-broken into half

Method

  • Bring water to boil, add the tomatoes in and close the pan, let tomatoes boil for 5-6 mins/until the skin starts peeling off. Cool and blend it to a fine puree.
  • In a pan, add 1 tsp oil, add mustard seeds and curry leaves and add the ground paste in. Lower the flame. Fry for a couple of minutes and add the tomato puree, salt, 1 and 1/2 cups water, salt and wait until it froths.
  • Remove off heat and top with coriander leaves

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Baby Kale Thoran

Coconut is my drug. I am addicted to it. I can add coconut to every dish I am eating without flinching my face. Any dish doesn’t turn out the way I want it to, I add coconut. My ancestry has traces of Kerala heritage, which is one of the most beautiful places in India and coconut is one of the main ingredients in most of the dishes there 🙂 (No wonder, I love it)

If you have an onion, a garlic, coconut meat and chilli, Thoran is your time savior. You can make thoran out of every vegetable possible, and without a doubt, it will taste good. Thoran is vege-stir fry with coconut.

When I went to Woolworths this week for my grocery shopping, I got few packs of Baby Kale, one of the most nutritious greens ever.

Ingredients 

  • 1 red onion-finely chopped
  • Baby Kale – 1 and half packets
  • Coconut meat – 1 handful
  • 2 garlic pods-finely chopped
  • Salt -to taste

For seasoning

  • Black Mustard seeds-1 and 1/2 tsp
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 1 fresh green chilli-slit (if you don’t want it to be spicy at all, just drop the chilli in)
  • 1 tsp rice bran oil

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Method

  • In a pan, heat 1 tsp oil, when it is real hot, add black mustard seeds, when it starts to pop, add curry leaves in, green chilli, onion and garlic in. Toss some salt in
  • Sprinkle water and soften the onions
  • Add Kale and bit of salt in and it takes a while to cook Kale.
  • Once it is dry/devoid of water, add coconut in and turn off the heat
  • Ready to eat 🙂