Category Archives: cooked

Coconut Chana Masala

Introducing: favorite Indian dish cooked on European land! Because we cannot compare the flavors and the vibe of the food when here or there…each one is quite unique!

Nevertheless, I have to admit that the preparation of this one here turned out pretty authentic. Had I grated a real coconut, it would’ve been so much more Indian! But sometimes I get lazy when it comes to break open hard shells 🙂 So because the grated coconut I bought was an average one, I decided to mix it with a good coconut milk. That should work!

P1080287

First of all, here’s the inspiration for my preparation (thanks Radu!)

I won’t go through all the steps myself, as you already have it crystal clear in the recipe above. My only piece of advice is not to get stuck if one spice or another doesn’t come handy, just use the most common ones. What really makes the difference here is making your own masala, grinding and roasting it properly.

P1080158 As such, I haven’t done the paste in a wet grinder, but added the spices & the grated coconut (roasted together) to the tomato-onion stir fry. Using more tomatoes ensured me with enough liquid for the time being. I then added the coconut milk along with the chickpeas and brought it to the boil once more.

P1080291

Warning: the result it’s dangerously delicious!

(and the roasting pan for the masala will still release the flavor next time you use it :))

I sprinkled parsley instead of coriander leaves on top, and served it next to a summer salad made out of lettuce, cauliflower rice, red peppers and sunflower sprouts. Trust me, you’ll need even more leaves…

P1080295

list of ingredients

_the fresh masala_

  • cinnamon bark
  • fennel
  • cumin
  • coriander
  • dry red chilies
  • cloves
  • black cardamom
  • green cardamom
  • black pepper
  • stone flower
    _the rest_
    • chickpeas
    • grated coconut
    • coconut milk
    • cooking oil
    •  bay leaf
    •  mustard seeds
    •  curry leaves
    •  onions
    •  tomatoes
    •  turmeric
    •  ginger
    •  garlic
    •  green chillies
    • salt

Rajma aka Beans

There’s nothing more straightforward than beans – it’s filling, protein packed and extremely savory. The connaisseurs will tell you all of these at once, plus emphasizing the lusciousness of the rightly cooked dishes. The nutritionists will point out at the high levels of minerals, fiber and even antioxidants.

I have to admit that I wasn’t a big fan of the average white beans and most of the times I use to find it kind of heavy for digestion – in any case, heavier than lentils or chickpeas. However, discovering the red kidney beans and the black beans shaped my experience into a whole new thing. They both seem to absorb flavors really well and thus able to stand out with amazing cooked dishes and salads.

For now, I choose a popular Indian Rajma recipe, fairly easy to prepare and equally delicious, inspired from the Punjabi cuisine.

As with any beans, soaking for at least 8 hours is a must. If you have a pressure cooker, do use it now! It will turn your beans so soft and tender that you’ll completely leave behind the time consuming boiling method. Be aware that some of the beans will open up while cooking.

Now prepare the base: heat a bit of oil in a pan and saute (in this order) one bay leaf, cumin seeds, chopped onions, grated ginger & garlic and tomato puree (or simply cut in small cubes).  Stir continuously until the water evaporates. You can choose to incorporate peppers (as I did) or carrots, but make sure that in the end they’ll turn out with the same smooth texture as the rest of the dish.

Before adding the rajma along with its water, sprinkle the powders (chilly, turmeric, cumin, coriander, garam masala – the hottest one you have) and mix well until all flavors come together, including salt.The water from the beans will absorb this beautiful gravy and render its distinctive flavor to the dish.

For a special serving, add some fresh mint at the end!

list of ingredients

  • red kidney beans
  • cooking oil
  • bay leaf
  • cumin seeds & ground cumin
  • onions
  • garlic & ginger
  • tomatoes
  • turmeric
  • ground coriander
  • garam masala
  • salt
  • fresh mint

Indian Potatoes Crush

Indian food…mmmm! I admit I have a crush. And it’s actually a crush on spices and enhanced flavors that I’m infatuated about. Although my eyes haven’t dropped on any reliable health claim on the methods of heating up the spices, my experience is that as long as it’s not oil & starch overloaded and of course, not in big quantities (which can be a bit tricky due to the typical thali ‘refill’ 🙂 traditional Indian food feels good in the body.

So let’s have a look at how spices can add up to such a common dish as potatoes.

First of all, any introduction to Indian cooking involves getting acquainted to chillies, onion, garlic, ginger, coconut & a lot of whole and ground spices. And subsequently to frying them at high heat in a drop of oil (not always, but most usual). The order in the pan starts with the tougher spices (cinnamon bark, star anise, cloves, black pepper, dried red chillies), followed by the seeds (mustard, cumin, fennel, coriander, nigella, etc) so by the time they start popping, they can all be incorporated with the onions (together with fresh chillies, garlic, ginger and so on). One must pay a lot of attention not to burn the spices, at least until the onions step in. The last ones to come are the ground spices, the powders (turmeric, cumin, coriander, different masalas, etc)

P1070846

Once you develop the skills, you can start playing 🙂 Here I used a combination of black mustard, cumin, fennel & nigella seeds with chilly flakes, onions, ground turmeric and cumin. When the base was getting ready – the onions turning yellowish – I added the new potatoes, previously halved and boiled in salted turmeric water. Cook everything together for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Now bring some European touch to it 😛 chop some fresh coriander, spinach or spring onions and peel some carrot slices to balance the taste and make it look even better!

list of ingredients

  • (new) potatoes
  • onions
  • mustard seeds
  • nigella seeds
  • fennel seeds
  • chilly flakes (fresh ones as well)
  • ground turmeric
  • ground cumin
  • cooking oil
  • salt
  • fresh coriander/ spinach/ spring onions/ carrot

Coconut Black Rice

There’s something alluring about coconut and rice and peanuts. Maybe it’s the Indian feel of it or maybe it’s just this exquisite combination of tastes that’s relishable for most of us. After discovering the nutty flavor of black rice, I’ve decided to try out my own recipe.

And of course I couldn’t stop going all the way ‘Indian’ with the spices. Thus I started with the traditional speed frying of cumin seeds and grated ginger (about 5 minutes in a drop of olive oil) meant to release their flavor and create the base for the food. I’ve then added a bit of water and left it to cook for another 5 minutes. The next step involves mixing  it thoroughly with the boiled rice and adding coconut creampeanuts (previously roasted in a simple pan, without any other add-ons). If by any chance you happen to have cinnamon leaves, don’t hesitate to make them the secret ingredient of your rice preparation!

All you are left to do now is see how much lemon juice it takes to balance the creaminess of the coconut. I chose to serve it on lettuce leaves and garnish it with shredded coconut, just so that the people could get the right hint of what’s going on in their plates 😉

IMG_2661

list of ingredients

  • black rice
  • roasted peanuts
  • coconut cream
  • olive oil
  • cumin seeds
  • grated ginger
  • lemon juice

optional

  • lettuce leaves
  • shredded coconut

Creamy Soupy

Whenever I feel like having something warm, I go for a soup or a puree. The difference between them is only in the amount of liquid you’d add (plain water or the water in which the veggies have boiled). My favorite ingredients are red lentils, root vegetables – carrot, celeriac, parsnip, beets, etc – and pumpkin. And of course plenty of seasonings: ginger, garlic, cumin, turmeric, pepper, chilly, sumac, etc.

Even though I usually go straight to the same method of preparation as in raw food – mixing the ingredients all together – I learned that one of the main tricks of creating flavor when boiling vegetables is to add the seasonings while the process is going on. So, depending on what taste you want as dominant – sweet or spicy – bring the spices to the boil. If you have black or white cardamon seeds, cinnamon bark or bay leaves, these will definitely make the difference. Also adding some onion or garlic at this point will considerably enrich your dish flavor.

When the lentils and veggies have boiled – you can cook them together or separate – just mix everything in your food processor, add a bit of oil, salt and lemon juice and check if it allows more seasoning. Rather than adding too much oil, lemon or salt, focus on the spices 🙂

Here are a few of my favorite recipes:

Red lentils & sweet potato puree

P1010288

list of ingredients

  • red lentils
  • carrot
  • sweet potato
  • grated ginger
  • ground cinnamon
  • ground cumin
  • ground black pepper
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • lemon juice
  • sumac and ‘leurda’ (wild garlic) for serving

Pumpkin coconut puree

P1010501

list of ingredients

  • pumpkin
  • carrots
  • celeriac/ parsnip
  • grated coconut
  • grated ginger
  • ground cumin
  • olive oil
  • salt
  • poppy seeds/ black sesame for decoration

Red lentil cream with turmeric (photo in the post header)

list of ingredients

  • red lentils
  • pumpkin
  • parsnip
  • onion
  • cinnamon
  • grated ginger
  • ground turmeric
  • chilly powder
  • olive oil
  • salt

 

Hummus + Tabbouleh = Love

Who doesn’t love hummus? This middle eastern creamy stuff makes everybody lick their fingers in amazement. And of course it goes perfect with his sister salad, the juicy tabbouleh.

P1080241After experimenting with different ways of preparing these dishes, I arrived at these basic rules:

1. the hummus

– forget about making hummus if you don’t have tahina (sesame cream) – you should always add it in generous amount – as well as a good quality olive oil

– part of the secret resides in how you boil the chickpeas. first of all, do it yourself: canned stuff won’t hold a tad of your energy :))

– always soak the chickpeas overnight (the more the better) and preferably boil it over the pressure cooker. add salt and whole spices for enhanced flavor

– keep the water in which they boiled handy and add it progressively during the preparation until you get a fluffy texture

– play around with spices: cumin, garlic, zatar, sumac, nigella seeds; I always choose to add ground cumin or crushed garlic into the composition, whereas I keep the other spices as add-ons

– balance the taste with enough lemon juice and salt, otherwise your hummus will turn out too heavy (it’s a pretty heavy dish anyway!)

– use a high power blender or your immersion blender to get the right texture; it can take in plenty of liquid (the chickpeas water & lemon juice) but make sure it doesn’t turn too watery. i’ve discovered that adding red lentils (around a quarter of the whole quantity of chickpeas) will help a lot in achieving a soft fluffy hummus.

2. the tabbouleh

P1010328

– the main ingredients should be: parsley, tomato, (cucumber), red onion, bulgur (cracked wheat), olive oil, pomegranate juice/concentrate or lemon juice

– depending on your taste, you can decide upon the quantity of each one; however, the main one is parsley and you should use it abundantly (especially because the citric acid contained in the pomegranate/lemon juice will half the initial quantity you started with)

– don’t add too much salt or you risk loosing the unique sweet & sour flavor of the salad

– alternatively, you can use buckwheat instead of bulgur. even cauliflower rice works out well, but then it’s something else than the original 🙂

– garnish it with pomegranate seeds or some nice olives

And if you don’t have bread – a good homemade bread or pita – try for once to have the hummus on spinach leaves. It could look like this 🙂

P1010413

Or you can simply go for your favorite salad as a side dish

DSCN0810

IMG_7353

list of ingredients

1. hummus

  • chickpeas – soaked overnight and boiled until tender
  • tahina
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice
  • salt

optional:

  • cumin, garlic, zatar, sumac, nigella seeds

2. tabbouleh

  • parsley
  • tomatoes
  • (cucumber)
  • onion
  • bulgur / buckwheat
  • olive oil
  • lemon juice/pomegranate juice or concentrate (careful at the preservatives inside!)

optional:

  • pomegranate seeds
  • olives