11 September 2011

Black-eyed pea dahl

Dahl is a bean or lentil soup. The basic recipe is easy, consisting of two steps: cooking the beans or lentils, and preparing the thorka (spice base). The second step is very similar to the first few steps in the subzi recipes I've posted, but you don't add tomatoes.

I prefer to make dahl from dry beans or lentils. This can be pretty time-intensive, especially for beans. As a short cut, you might want to use canned beans or lentils or use a slow-cooker. Finding canned black-eyed peas for this recipe might require a bit of effort, but if you decide to use canned then skip the first two steps.

1. Soak dry black-eyed peas overnight. Drain.

2. Add soaked peas, water and turmeric to a stove-top pot and cook on low heat for several hours, until the peas are tender. Alternatively, add soaked peas and water to a slow cooker and cook for at least five hours on low heat until the peas are tender.

3. If using a slow-cooker, once the peas are tender, add them and the liquid from the slow cooker to a stove-top pot. If using canned, drain the peas and add to a stove-top pot with water. Add turmeric to the pot and cook on low heat.

4. While the peas continue to cook, add minced ginger and minced garlic to a separate pan and saute in butter or oil.

5. Once garlic and ginger are golden brown, add finely diced onions. Cook until translucent.

6. Add garam masala, ground cumin and ground red chili pepper. Cook for a minute or two.

7. Add the spice mixture to the peas and continue to cook on low heat until the peas are very tender and have taken on the flavour from the liquid in the soup. Add salt and adjust spices to taste.

8. Remove from heat. Add chopped cilantro.

Balcony cilantro

31 July 2011

Potato and chard subzi

1. Heat oil or butter in a large pot on medium heat.
2. Add garlic (minced) and ginger (minced) and cook until golden.
3. Add onion (diced or sliced) and cook until translucent.
4. Add garam masala, ground cumin and ground chili and cook briefly. Add more oil or butter if needed to prevent sticking.
5. Add tomatoes (canned or fresh) and cook until the consistency of a thick liquid or paste. Add ground turmeric.
6. Add diced potatoes. Cook until they begin to get soft (about 45 mins).
7. Add sliced swiss chard stems. Cook about 15 mins.
8. Add sliced swiss chard leaves and cook until all the vegetables are soft.
9. Add salt and adjust spices to taste.
10. Remove from heat and add chopped cilantro.

The swiss chard in this recipe can be substituted with spinach.

18 February 2011


This recipe is adapted from "Nourishing Traditions" by Sally Fallon, which I recommend checking out. It's quite a thought-provoking book, sort of a cross between a nutrition textbook and a cookbook. And, best of all, there's a whole chapter on fermented vegetables and fruit.

To make sauerkraut, you'll need a large bowl, a grater, a potato masher or large wooden spoon, and a mason jar.

You'll also need the following ingredients:

half of a medium sized cabbage
one large carrot (optional)
3 tablespoons coarse salt
3 tablespoons whey (or substitute one tablespoon coarse salt)

Note that you can make whey by straining yogurt overnight. The liquid you collect is whey and can be stored in the fridge for six months.

1. Grate the cabbage and carrot into a large bowl (I used more carrot here since I ran out of cabbage).

2. Add the salt and whey. Mix well.

3. Mash for several minutes with the potato masher.

4. Let sit for thirty minutes, mashing occasionally. You should start to see juices collecting in the bowl.

5. Pack the cabbage and carrot into a mason jar one spoonful at a time. As you add the vegetables, pack them down so that there are no air pockets. Juice from the vegetables should ooze up to the top.

6. Stop filling the jar when you are 2 or 3 centimeters from the top. At this point there should be a layer of juices sitting on top of the packed vegetables.

7. Next you need something to keep the vegetables submerged under the layer of juices while they are fermenting. I use a ziploc bag that has been filled with a small amount of water and inserted into the jar so that the weight from the water holds the vegetables down and the juices come up around the sides of the bag. It's very important to make sure that no air is touching the packed vegetables, so push out any air bubbles you see. You probably also want to leave a little room between the top of the juices and the lid, or else the juices will ooze out during fermentation (which isn't bad, just messy).

8. Screw on the lid and put the jar in a bowl (to catch any leakage) in a warm, non-sunny place.

9. Then you wait for three days. You'll notice little bubbles forming around the vegetables after two days. By the third day there will be large air pockets forming in the jar and it will smell quite sour when you open the lid.

10. After the third day, remove the ziploc bag and transfer the sauerkraut to the fridge. It's ready to eat at this point, but tastes better if you wait at least a couple weeks.

03 February 2011

Cabbage and potato subzi

I'm not entirely sure how to define subzi, except to say that if you stew vegetables for a while in thorka (a mixture of tomatoes and spices) you're probably making subzi. Even if you are completely ignorant of punjabi cuisine, you likely already know a very popular subzi: aloo gobi. Cabbage and potato subzi is made using the same technique.

You will need:

butter (or oil if you prefer)
1 large onion, sliced
half a head of garlic, peeled and minced
thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and minced
4 tbsp garam masala
1.5 tbsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp whole or ground cumin
0.5 tsp ground red chili
1.5 cups fresh or canned tomatoes, diced
3 cups cabbage, diced into small pieces
1.5 cups potato, parboiled and diced into large pieces
large handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

This is how big I dice the cabbage:

1. The first step is to make thorka. Heat the butter in a deep pan (I find that a dutch oven or a stock pot work well). Err on the side of more butter because (a) it tastes better, and (b) otherwise the spices will stick later. As you are cooking, feel free to add more butter or a little bit of water if things start to stick.

2. Add the onion and saute on medium heat until the onion starts to get translucent.

3. Add the red chili, cumin and 3 tbsp of the garam masala and saute for a few minutes. The measurements for the spices are just a guideline: feel free to adjust to personal taste.

4. Add the garlic and ginger and saute until the garlic turns golden.

5. Add the tomatoes and turmeric. Let that cook down for a while, until the tomatoes are the consistency of a sauce or a gravy.

6. Once the thorka is done, the next step is to add the cabbage and potatoes. You want the vegetables to have enough time to cook and take on the flavours of the thorka without overcooking them. But, you also want to time it so that the cabbage and potatoes are both finished cooking around the same time. I usually parboil the potatoes ahead of time so that I can add everything at roughly the same time.

7. Cook the potatoes and cabbage, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft. Taste the potatoes to make sure they've absorbed the flavours of the thorka. Add 1 tbsp garam masala, adjust spices if necessary and add salt to taste.

8. Remove from the heat and add cilantro. Stir well.

9. Serve with roti (flatbread), yogurt and achaar (spicy pickled fruit/vegetables in oil)

15 January 2011


Appropriately enough, the first post on this blog is about making your own butter*.

First, you’ll need some heavy cream or whipping cream (33% milk fat or more). The process works best when the cream is room temperature, so if the cream has been refrigerated leave it out on the counter until it warms up.

As a side-note, butter-making also works well (and is delicious) when the cream has been fermented. To do this, mix two tablespoons of cultured buttermilk into the cream, cover it and let it sit in a warm spot on your counter for 24-36 hours. The buttermilk contains bacteria that will generate lactic acid to preserve the cream and give it a slightly sour taste (you are basically making creme fraiche). Once the cream has fermented, mix well and proceed with the rest of the steps.

The technique for making butter is quite simple, consisting of agitating the cream so that the fat separates out from the liquid and congeals together. You can do this with a food processor. Or, you can put the cream in a container with a tight-fitting lid (such as a mason jar), making sure you fill the container only half-full, and start shaking.

As you agitate the cream it will shortly turn into whipped cream. If you’re using the jar/container method, you’ll notice that shaking becomes much more difficult.

If you keep going, the shaking will eventually become easier again and you’ll have something that looks like clotted cream.

Keep going a little longer and the fat and the liquid will fully separate. Drain the liquid off (drink it if you want, as it’s just skim milk) and the solid you’re left with is unrinsed butter.

Rinse the butter in cold water to remove leftover traces of milk. If you don’t do this, the butter will go rancid quickly. Rinse 5-7 times, making sure you turn the butter over a few times and squeeze it a little so that you get all the milk out.

Once the butter is rinsed, squeeze out the excess water (I use the back of a spoon), getting as much of the water out as possible. The butter will be soft and creamy. You can mix in a bit of salt if you like, which will also make the butter last longer.

*Thanks to Shelagh for coming up with the name for this blog.