Watermelon Curry and Pantry Diva Live at Blogger Week

I am one of those people who fantasize about having my own cooking show on TV. Sometimes when I’m in my kitchen, I pretend I’m on the Food Network show “Chopped”, where I have a mystery basket of ingredients and have to make an amazing dish for the harsh judges before time runs out.  Actually now that I think about it, this scenario isn’t too far off from the daily dinner rush at home with my family of angry judges hungry kids.  

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Although winning “Chopped” would be amazing, what I really want is to have my own cooking show where I connect with my fans and share delicious recipes. This Friday I got to do just that, when I took part in the “Meet the Blogger Week” event sponsored by Lootah Premium Foods at Lafayette Gourmet.

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It was an amazing experience to put on the microphone and make my watermelon curry in front of a live audience. The live interaction with the crowd really forms a connection you just cannot get from behind a computer. Blogger week is still going on until September 23rd, with cooking demos at 12 noon and 4pm. You can also win a trip to Mauritius by posting your picture from the event on Instagram; just caption it #LPFbloggerevent and tag @Lootahpremiumfoods.

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My dish for the event was a Rajasthani watermelon curry. Although it is called a curry, I think of it more as a light first course (served chilled or room temperature like a borscht or a spicy soup), or as an additional side dish complementing other sides (like daal or sabzi) in an Indian meal.  The watermelon curry can be eaten hot or cold and is a combination of sweet, sour, and spicy flavors. I find is especially refreshing to enjoy during the scorching summer months in Dubai.

Pantry Diva Tip: This is a great way to use up excess watermelon after a barbecue or party. This is also an easy dish to make if you are short on time and need to quickly dash to the store, as all the ingredients should be in your pantry except the watermelon!

Watermelon Curry

ImageINGREDIENTS:

 2kg (4.4 pounds) watermelon pieces cut into 1.5 inch cubes (seedless watermelon if possible)

1 teaspoon paprika powder

½ teaspoon red chili powder (to taste, leave out if prefer mild flavor)

1 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 ½  teaspoon coriander powder

1-2 teaspoon garlic puree

Salt to taste

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

 Juice of 2 large lemons

Sugar to taste (optional)

Coriander (for garnish optional)

PREPARATION:

1. Cut watermelon into 1.5 inch cubes, and divide 1.5kg (3.3 pounds) for the curry, and 500g (1.1 pound) for the juice.

2. Take 500g (1.1 pound) watermelon cubes and make sure there are no seeds. Puree in food processor to make juice. To the juice add: paprika, turmeric, chili, and coriander powders, garlic puree, and salt. Set aside.

3. Heat vegetable oil in wok and add the cumin seeds, and after 20 seconds add the juice. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes or until the liquid reduces by a third. If using sugar, add now, and also add the lemon juice. Cook for another minute. (I prefer to leave out the sugar as I feel the watermelon is sweet enough).

4. Add the 1.5kg (3.3 pounds) cubed chopped watermelon and cook over a low heat for 4-5 minutes. Gently toss while cooking so all the pieces are covered in the spice mixture. Turn off heat and garnish with coriander if desired.

Serves 4 as a first course or 6-8 as a side dish

*Recipe inspired by The Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi

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Bhindi Bhaji – Indian Spiced Okra

Happy New Year! 

Another year, another set of resolutions. This year I made very few as I was keen to follow them all year round and thought having only a few easy ones would be the key to my new year resolution success. Sadly, it is not even the end of January and almost all of them have been broken.  

There are three I have and break every year :
  • Eat a healthy diet. (less/no sugar)
  • Drink more water (8 glasses a day)
  • Exercise more (4-5x per week)
I sincerely thought this was my year to achieve them, but it is my birthday this week and since I intend to celebrate it wholeheartedly (gluttonously and tipsy) these 3 will be out the window by the weekend.

But there is some hope. I do have a few resolutions left and definitely one that I intend to keep:  Blog more.  So here we go with my first post of the year, with hopefully many more to come.  

Happy 2013 everyone!
Bhindi Bhaji – Indian Spiced Okra


INGREDIENTS:
1 pound okra trimmed and cut into ½ inch pieces 

NOTE: It is important you get the small short tender okra, not the long hard one. The hard one never tastes as good. I usually find good okra in the organic markets or organic section of the grocery store. If you cannot  find it, perhaps try the Indian grocers.

1 cup chopped onion  (I like to use Indian onions as they are spicier but can use any you prefer)
2-3 teaspoon cooking oil
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon red chili powder
½  teaspoon salt or to taste
1-2 chopped medium tomatoes

PREPARATION:
1. Saute onion in oil until soft and translucent  on medium high heat(do not brown).
2. Add turmeric, chili and salt.
3. Add tomato and sauté for few minutes until becomes a paste
4. Add chopped bhindi and cook uncovered until soft.  My hubby prefers it quite soft so cook at least 10-15 minutes stirring every couple minutes.

Serve with any Indian bread such as tandoori roti  or paratha. Serves 2.

Masoor for my Monsieur – Masoor Daal Recipe

A miracle happened today that brought me out of my blogging hiatus. My eternally picky husband who only likes his mother’s cooking complimented my masoor daal! His exact words: “Wow, this tastes just like back home, maybe even better.” I just stared at him in disbelief for a few seconds. After the initial shock wore off, I ran to the computer to instantly document this moment so it would be immortalized forever. My husband has always been my biggest food critic, particularly for desi food, so this was a huge personal achievement.

Indian food had always been a culinary obstacle for me. I guess I never learned how to make it since my mom was an amazing cook and it was always perfect and readily available.  Also I somehow wasn’t interested to learn about turmeric and cardamom with the same zest I wanted to learn about oregano and rosemary which seemed so much more exotic. So I ended up learning to make many international cuisines, but not my own Indian one. But then I met my biggest food critic who only enjoyed eating the one cuisine I couldn’t make!  He was not impressed with my existing culinary arsenal, and I resolved to one day win him over.

After many foodie battles and take-out dinners, I somehow ended up marrying my food adversary. Strangely enough, some well meaning Auntie gave me an Indian cookbook for a wedding present, and it was from that book that I tried making Indian food for the first time. I just followed the recipes blindly and they kept coming out flat. And my personal food critic was always there to point out the flaws.

Looking back, I now realize my weakness was my inability to understand the common Indian spices and how each spice enhanced or affected the taste of the dish. If I wanted to fix the flavor of my dish, whether I needed to add coriander powder, or cut down on the cumin were a mystery to me.  I also realized my ignorance was partly due to my lack of any previous guidance making any desi dishes. In many Indian kitchens (including my home), there is a round metal container, with smaller round containers inside for each individual spice. Whenever a meal is to be made, the matriarch of the family will take out this container and to the untrained eye, just haphazardly throw all the necessary spices into the dish, and before you know it, the dish is done and seasoned beautifully. No matter how many times you observe this phenomenon, you will never learn to cook Indian food this way! Trust me I have tried.

But then I practiced. After a lot of trial and error, I’ve learned quite a bit, and on my way to becoming the lady with my own round metal spice container. But the best measure of my success with Indian food is that my food critic finally gave a glowing review.

Masoor Daal



INGREDIENTS for Daal:
1 cup Masoor Daal , soaked in water for a couple hours.
*If you do not soak daal first, cooking time will be significantly longer, unless you use a pressure cooker to cook daal. My method is for stovetop only.
1 teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon red chili powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon garlic, grated
1 teaspoon tamarind (imlee) paste – Can be found in most supermarkets or Indian grocers. I used Priya brand

INGREDIENTS For Tadka to add in daal:
1-2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon ginger, grated
1-2 green chilis
1 cup cilantro, chopped

PREPARATION:
1. Add soaked daal and turmeric, chili, salt, and garlic in a pot with 5 cups water and bring to boil.
2. After boils, partly cover and lower heat and cook until soft.  Add additional water as necessary.
3. When done, mash or blend to desired consistency, (My hubby likes it quite blended) and add tamarind paste until fully incorporated. Set pot aside.
4. Heat oil in separate pan. Add onion and lightly brown. Add cumin seeds, ginger, green chilis and coriander.
5. Fry all together and add to hot daal. Mix.

Serves 2 generously. Serve with basmati rice.

Aloo Tikki with Coriander and Mint Chutney

My son’s current favorite bedtime story is the Gingerbread Man. He especially loves the part “Run, run as fast as you can, you can’t catch me I’m the Gingerbread Man!”  So when he asked if we could make our own gingerbread man I happily agreed. After quickly finding a recipe online and scanning the cupboard to make sure we had all the ingredients, we started. 

As we were rolling out the dough I noticed one item I did not check I had: the gingerbread man cookie cutter. Not wanting to alarm my adoring spectator I decided to cut out the gingerbread men freestyle with a knife. This task was not as easy as it would seem. Each gingerbread man came out more deformed than the next, with lopsided or broken limbs or with heads growing out of arms. None of them seemed like they could run like the one from the story, or even limp for that matter. Nonetheless, after they were baked and decorated, my 3 year old loved them all. Whew!

So after that ordeal, I needed something easy to make for dinner. I decided to make aloo tikkis since they are easy to shape (round!). Again I didn’t anticipate one small detail: everyone in my house likes to eat them differently.

1. I prefer my tikki slightly warmed with a side of green chutney mixed with a splash of kechup.

2. My husband makes a sandwich with a cheese bread roll, the bottom slice spread with green chutney and ketchup. He then adds a layer of crushed Nacho Cheese Doritos and then smashes the tikki on top. He covers the top slice spread with mayonnaise.

3. My one year old likes aloo tikki in a bowl with yogurt and ketchup all mashed together.

4. My three year old didn’t even eat one bite since he was so full with gingerbread men :).

I love how the simplest dish can be enjoyed different ways. I am already imagining tomorrow’s chutney sandwiches I am going to be making with the leftovers….

Aloo Tikki with Coriander and Mint Chutney



INGREDIENTS for Aloo Tikki:

3 large potatoes – boiled with skins on, then peeled
1-2  teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 chopped green chili (I leave this out when I make for kids)
½ teaspoon red chili powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch chopped fresh coriander
1 bunch chopped green onion
2 eggs, beaten
Oil for frying
**Note all spices can be adjusted to taste.

PREPARATION For Aloo Tikki:

1. Mash potatoes in large bowl, when potatoes are still slightly warm. Add all spices and chopped coriander,  green onion and green chili if using. Mix well. Taste and adjust spices and salt if necessary.

2. Shape the mixture into 3” flat rounds. Makes about 8-10 tikkis.

3. Beat 2 eggs in bowl and keep aside.

4. Lightly coat frying pan with cooking oil. Keep on medium high heat.

5. Take one potato round, dip in egg, then put in hot frying pan. Fry 2-3 minutes per side. Repeat  with remaining rounds.

6. Serve with coriander and mint chutney. Recipe below
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INGREDIENTS for Coriander and Mint Chutney:

1 ½ bunch coriander
½ cup mint leaves
¾  cup plain yogurt
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 green chili (optional)
Red chili powder (to taste)
Salt (to taste)

PREPARATION for Coriander and Mint  Chutney:

1. Put all items into a blender and blend into a fine liquid. Taste and adjust spices if necessary.