Tag Archives: Indian

Bali Bali Bhaji

Bali, bali!  It was probably the first expression I learned in Korean.  Meaning “hurry,” the exclamation is indicative of the Korean mentality: hurry up and wait. Not really grasping the concept of cohesive planning, this country seems to make many decisions at the last possible second. This almost always culminates in a mad rush, followed by an inevitable lull during which the consecutive decision waits to be made.  Followed, of course, by another hasty dash.

18 months ago, with my life carefully stacked into storage pods in Denver, I still had no idea where I’d be moving.   After a scramble to meet the application deadline, I waited for an interview.  Weeks passed before one was requested.  When the time was selected, without advance warning, I was to be available within 8 hours.  Following the chat, I waited.  

When word finally reached my email, it was that I should prepare to sign and return documents on their way to my house immediately.  Documents detailing where I’d live and the level I’d be teaching?  Oh no, no, that decision hadn’t been made.  I’d find that out 8 days after my arrival in Korea, on the day before I moved in.  I had to learn to go with the flow (and breathe deeply).

This ability came in handy during my time in India this past winter. On more than one bus ride, without warning, small windows of time were allowed to “take care of business.”  During one such window, hunger plagued me.  Unsure of just how long our bus would remain in the station, I frantically located the nearest castle of fried treats. 

The crowds didn’t ease the rush

Noting some fresh round patties in contrast to the fly ridden stocks, I said I’d take two.  Not really sure what I’d purchased, I bowed my head and streamlined it to the bus.  I was happily surprised by the sweet onion flavor when I dug in on board.  Turned out I’d grabbed a bhaji, and the craving was logged in my psyche.

This week, I decided to try my hand at homemade.  The recipe seemed straightforward enough, and I’ve never known fried onions to turn out bad.  Turns out I was right; simple and delicious.  One recommendation, however, is to be sure you slice the onion thinly.  Mine were a bit too chunky.

To compliment the little fritters, I simmered up some mango chutney.  Canned mango is available rather readily, and I had some spices on reserve from my trip.

All in all, the snack was ready in under an hour.  Next time you’re surprised with company, they’ll be just the thing.  

Onion Bhaji – From BBC Food

Serves 4-6

2 free-range eggs

onions, sliced

120g/4oz plain flour (1/2 cup for the imperialists out there)

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp cumin seeds

3 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra if required

1. Beat the eggs in a bowl.

2. Add the onion rings and mix well.

3. Add the flour, ground coriander and cumin seeds and stir well to combine.

4. Heat the oil in a deep-sided frying pan over a medium heat. When hot add a large spoonful of the bhaji mixture and fry for 30-45 seconds, until golden-brown.

5. Turn the bhaji over and fry for a further 30 seconds, until crisp and golden-brown all over. Remove and drain on kitchen paper.

6. Repeat with the remaining bhaji mixture, replenishing the oil in the pan if it runs low and allowing it to heat up again after a new addition.

Mango Chutney – From Rasa Malaysia

Yields about 1 cup

1 ripe but firm green mango (450 -500 g)
1 sticks cinnamon (about 2 inch)
2 whole cloves
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2 cardamom pods, cracked
1 tsp ginger, grated
2-3 whole dry red chilies
1 clove garlic, crushed
3/4 cup brown sugar (if you have access to Indian jaggery use 3/4 cup- 1 cup powdered jaggery depending on the sweetness)
1/2 cup vinegar
3/4 cup water
1 tsp salt

Cut the mango into 1 inch cubes and for chunky chutney, keep some pieces about 2 inch.  If you are looking for smooth, cut them all in same size.

Using a piece of thin muslin cloth, tie up the spices into a bundle. Cook the mango, spices (in the muslin cloth), water, ginger and garlic until the mango is tender. Some pieces will disintegrate into the water. Takes about 10 minutes.

Add the vinegar, sugar, salt and dry chilies. I like to break 1 red chilly into flakes and keep 1 whole. If you want and are feeling adventurous you can go up on the chilies. The sugar requirement may also vary depending on the sweetness of your mango and personal preference. Feel free to reduce or add as per your liking.

Cook for about 30 -35 minutes until the chutney is thickened. Squeeze every bit you can from the cloth and discard it. Transfer to sterilized jars while still hot. Don’t put the lid, until the chutney cools. It keeps well for 4 weeks in the refrigerator.

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Finding the Curry-age

I’ve always been super intimidated by Indian cooking.  Before visiting the country, it was hard to get a real grasp on kormas versus koftas, and dosas and dal. Something about the foreign charm of ghee and cardamom kept my kitchen rather bland and the Indian restaurant well patronized.

Hello, gorgeous.

In attempts to discover something outside of my standard tikka masala,  I’d time my visits to the lunch hour so as to sample the buffet.  The real deal clincher was the continual output of fresh naan bread, washed down with pitchers of mango lassi.  Needless to say, my lack of self-discipline quickly confirmed a ticket on the fast train to uncomfortably full. Not to mention the fast train to porcelain heaven.

Subsequently, with my mother at my side, we staged a personal intervention and put a ban on ever again going all-you-can-eat.  It was just toooo delicious.  When we found ourselves in the restaurant alongside buffet buccaneers, we simply had to breathe deeply and look the other way.  Our fate was sealed, and we calmly ordered controlled portions from the menu.

This seemed to perplex the curious Indian servers, as whatever we ordered often times was included on the buffet.  Before putting in our order, the slew of waiters standing at attention would one-by-one try their hand at defying the laws of surface tension.  They’d miraculously fit one extra drop in our water glasses and reiterate, “Madam, the buffet?” Yes sir, we’re crazy (as well as pathetic).  Can I have a “100-calorie pack” for dessert?

Since returning from my trip to India, I’ve been trying to muster up the courage to recreate the deliciousness that was each meal.  The other day, I caught a whiff of the spice blend I smuggled home while cleaning the cupboards. Okay, I lie.  While cramming things in, it fell on my head.  Either way, things were set in motion.

On our next to last eve in India, we were lucky enough to share a kitchen with Shivani. I was a little reluctant after realizing she was the wife of one particular shop owner.  This guy had sent me on a mission for small bills, then upped his price and refused to bargain as soon as I was cash in hand.  Regardless, she was the only cooking class in town and had many rave reviews. 

Cooking with Shivani

We were greeted at her home where she had a table set up and layered with ingredients.  First on the agenda was chai while we discussed our menu for the day. We learned to make many things, but most importantly, Shivani made Indian food approachable.  I took what I learned, added a subtle twist, and finally achieved masala enlightenment.  Here’s a run-down of the basics. 

Tofu Paneer/Chicken and Lentil Masala

Serves 4

Every Indian “gravy” starts with a base of browned butter and caramelized onions.

3 Tbsp butter

hot spices: 7 black peppercorns, 5 whole cloves, 1 black cardamom pod (lightly crushed), 1 tsp whole black cumin seeds

1 large onion, diced

I had always been under the impression that most Indian foods began with ghee.  This isn’t necessarily the case.  Shivani started her gravies (referring to the saucy base of any “wet” curry) with plain ol’ butter.  Basically, you just start out by melting the butter in a medium-hot pan.  Pay close attention, and when the butter begins to get the golden tone, toss in your “hot” spices.  Wait just a minute until they pop.  Next, add your onion.  Shivani liked to start with red onion, but for my dish I used yellow and it worked just fine.  Once the onion is in the pan, turn down the heat a bit and allow to gradually brown.

Golden goodness

To avoid a case of Dehli Belly, simmer until the butter separates from the curry. 

3 Tbsp ginger/garlic paste (I was at a loss for equipment to make a proper paste and just used finely minced)

2 Tbsp garam masala (Indian spice blend)

1/2 tsp salt (unless included in your garam masala blend)

1 can diced tomatoes

3/4 C water

When the onions have come to a nice even brown, turn the heat back up to medium-high and toss in the ginger/garlic paste.  Saute quickly.  Next, add garam masala, salt, tomatoes, water and bring to a simmer.  Allow the mixture to simmer until you can see little bubbles start to form across the surface.  Around the ring of the bubbles and at the edge of the curry, you should see a clear liquid starting to separate from the gravy base.  This is the butter.  Once this happens, your bowels are safe and you’re ready to move on.

Starting to separate

It’s gravy, baby. 

1/4 C plain yogurt

2 tsp lemon juice

1 C green lentils, cooked

1 lb. tofu or chicken (I seasoned with tandoori spices and seared)

When you’ve made it this far, pat yourself on the back and crank up the sitar.  You’re almost there.  All that remains is just stirring in the final ingredients and heating the dish through.  I promised to veer away from chicken, so I’m going to recommend adding in tofu as a stand-in for paneer.  While I’m not exactly sure what it is that separates the two, it worked just fine.  If your sauce seems a bit dry, feel free to add more water at this point and just allow to simmer to thicken.

Voila!

Congratulations!  You’ve just made your first Indian curry.  Truly just a matter of getting your hands on the spices, once you’ve done that, you’re good to go.  Now on to perfecting the naan

Special thank you to Tak Shivani for sharing her culinary secrets.  If you’ll be in the Pushkar vicinity, I highly recommend her course.

Shivani’s Sanjha Chula Flavours

www.pushkarcookingart.com

takshivani@yahoo.com

+91-9414656185

Pushkar, Rajasthan

India

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