red mustard green pakoras

red mustard green pakoras

You have no idea how much stuff you can amass over time until you move. I prided myself on not collecting too much but clearly I've been entertaining an imaginary notion. I also felt satisfied with the thought that perhaps, I had done a superb job of tossing stuff out before the movers came by the house to pack and move our stuff. Clearly, I've been wrong on both fronts as it took them several rounds to get everything packed, wrapped and loaded onto their truck. Not everything and could go with them and they had to leave behind some liquids, aerosols and my beloved plants. Yes, my plants were the hardest to part with, I decided to give them away to friends and family and I will miss my fig trees and raspberry bush and will settle with the thought, that I might be able to grow some variety of citrus out in California and perhaps get another fig tree. I also ended up with a bottle of oil that I couldn't ship and really didn't want to drive across the country with. So this recipe that I'm sharing with you today was clearly borne out of necessity and is a tasty way to clean out your pantry.

red mustard greens

Let's see, I got rid of a little leftover unused chickpea flour and some spices and some vegetable oil but I also got an excuse to use up these beautiful red mustard greens that I picked up last week. Red mustard greens actually have very little red in them, just a few dark streaks here and there but they are simple gorgeous and they look like big, fat elephant ears or fans that can hold their texture rather well during heating. 

Pakoras are a favorite Indian snack that I grew up eating for breakfast. To put it simply, a pakora can be made with almost any type of vegetable that's coated in a chickpea batter and then deep fried to get a delicious crispy cover. Since, I rarely make anything that's deep fried this was a welcome change for both of us (and the moving excuse made me feel better), it's always nice to indulge your tastebuds, a little bit sometimes. So go ahead make these guys and enjoy them with my sweet tamarind chaat chutney and a hot cup of tea/chai. 


red mustard green leaf pakoras

red mustard green pakoras

yields: 4-6 servings

ingredients

1 bunch fresh red mustard greens
1 1/2 cups chickpea flour
1 cup water
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon cumin, ground
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon grated ginger root, fresh
3 cups vegetable oil for deep frying

1. Wash the mustard greens, drain the excess water and pat the leaves dry using a clean kitchen towel.  Remove and discard the midrib of the leaves. Rip the leaves into large pieces and keep aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl, mix the rest of the ingredients from the chickpea flour to the ginger root. Whisk until completely smooth and there are no visible flecks of flour in the batter. 
3. Add the leaves into the chickpea batter and fold until the leaves are completely coated.
4. Heat the oil in a large wok on medium high heat. The oil needs to be hot when frying the leaves, to test this take one leaf that is coated with the batter and drop it into the hot oil. It should immediately rise to the surface and cook until golden brown. Add 5 to 6 leaves at a time to the hot oil, cook until the chickpea batter coating turns golden brown, flip the leaves using a slotted spoon and cook on the other side. The entire cooking process should take less than a minute for each leaf. Using the slotted spoon, lift the pakoras and drain any excess oil, transfer the pakoras to a dish lined with clean paper towels to absorb the excess oil. The mustard green pakoras should be crisp. Repeat and cook the rest of the pakoras in batches. Serve immediately while hot. 
Note: If you cook the pakoras too long the leaves will acquire a bitter taste, so remove them as soon as they start to change color. 

breakfast samosas

breakfast samosa

A couple of weeks ago, we went out for Indian food at one of our favorite restaurants

Rasika

, in D.C. I'm trying to tick things off my bucket list, some new places to try and some old spots that I know I will miss a lot, this is definitely on my list. Their menu is always delicious and every item on it bursting with flavors, we ended up trying several different dishes and by the end of the meal we struggled to with our desserts (honestly, we could have skipped it but they sounded and were incredible). Strangely enough, we never ordered any samosas which then led me to remedy the situation with these guys!

sweet potatoes

I did something very different this time, I infused the pastry dough with fresh rosemary (though dried will work as well here) and also used coconut oil to create the dough's flakiness. The filling for this breakfast-themed pastry includes a mix of sweet potatoes, leeks, spinach, boiled eggs and a little more rosemary that spiced to create a delicious flavorful mix. 

leeks

There are step-by-step photographs that M took while I prepared the pastries to cook which hopefully make things easier. This is also the way, I prefer to cook my samosas, I don't like to deep fry but simply baking them takes away from the texture of the pastry. So, I do a two-step cooking process where I lightly pan-sear the samosas on each side in a little oil and then bake them till they are cooked.

You can do what I do, prepare these for brunch and/or save the rest and reheat them in the mornings.

breakfast samosas

breakfast samosas

yields:

14 samosas

ingredients

filling 

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves, fresh or dried

1 cup leek, chopped

2 cups sweet potatoes, diced

4 cups packed spinach leaves, fresh

2 thai green/red chili peppers, thinly sliced

1 1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt

2 large hardboiled eggs, peeled and chopped

1/2 teaspoon garam masala 

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan on medium-high for about 30-40 seconds. As soon as the oil gets hot, add the rosemary and stir for 10 seconds. Stir in the leeks and sauté for 2 minutes. 

2. Add the sweet potatoes and coat them with the oil. Cook for another 5 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are just tender. Add the spinach leaves along with the chili and salt, stir and continue to cook until the sweet potatoes are completely cooked. This will take about 4-5 minutes. If the spinach releases a large amount of water, continue to cook until the liquid evaporates. Fold in the eggs and the garam masala. Remove from stove and keep the filling aside, until ready to use.

samosa pastry

ingredients 

1 cup (5 ounces) durum / whole-wheat flour

1 cup (4 3/4 ounces) all-purpose flour + a little more flour for rolling out the pastry

2 tablespoons rosemary, fresh/dried 

1 teaspoon sea salt

4 tablespoons melted coconut oil

6-7 tablespoons chilled water*** (you might need more)

1. Add all the ingredients from the flour to the salt in a food processor. Pulse a 2-3 times for 5 second intervals to evenly mix all the ingredients. 

2. Add the coconut oil to the dry ingredients and pulse for 10 seconds. Sprinkle the 6 tablespoons of water over the flour and pulse the ingredients until they combine to form a ball dough. You may need to add more water to bring the ingredients together. Once the dough is formed, remove from the processor and wrap with cling film. Allow to rest for at least 60 minutes until ready to use.

Assembly

ingredients

a cup of water for sealing the pastry

step by step samosa prep work

See the step-by-step photographs photographs above (from top left to right and then bottom left to right).

1. Dust a clean pastry board or smooth kitchen surface with a little flour. Unwrap the dough and divide the dough into 14 equal parts. Mold each part into a ball, cover the balls with a damp cloth to prevent them from drying out while you are preparing the pastries.

2. Take one ball of dough and roll it out into a 5-6 inch circle, dusting with a little flour to prevent sticking.  The edges of the circle do not need to be perfect as you will fold them over.

3. Divide the circle into two semicircles with a sharp knife or pastry cutter. Take one semicircle of the pastry in your hand, using your fingers bring the straight ends of the semicircle together and brush the straight edges with a little water and gently press to seal to form a cone. 

4. Fill the cone with a generous tablespoon of the sweet potato filling prepared earlier. 

5. Brush the open ends of the cone with water and then press gently to seal the mouth. Brush this sealed edge with a little water and then fold this edge once over itself to form a tight seal.

6. Prepare the rest of the samosas similarly and keep aside covered with a damp cloth until ready to cook.

cooking the samosas

ingredients

1/4 cup olive oil for pan searing (you may need a little more or less)

1. Center a wire rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a medium sized non-stick pan, heat two tablespoons of the oil on medium high. As soon as the oil is hot add 3 samosas and lightly cook them on each side until they are lightly seared and become lightly golden brown. You may need to add a little more oil for searing the other side. 

Transfer the samosas to the prepared baking sheets. Bake 7 samosas at a time for about 20 minutes or until they are completely golden brown. Repeat this for the rest of the samosas.

3. Serve hot with ketchup or sweet tamarind chutney. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week. You can reheat the samosas in a microwave or toaster oven before eating.

spicy black bean kebabs

spicy black bean kebabs with mint yogurt sauce

I made you some kebabs, spicy Indian kebabs that are hot and tasty. And these guys are meatless too, so you can feel a little less guilty, if you decide to eat several, like we did. Yup, that's right, there's black beans and flaxseed meal in these little fat kebabs that make them terribly tasty. Plus, they are simple to make without too much fussing! Okay, maybe the black beans need some T.L.C. but that's really all there is to it. 

spice grinding

I've based the seasoning off a popular type of Indian kebab called the "seekh" kebab that is usually made with ground beef or lamb meat and rolled into long cigar-shaped structures. Since I strayed away from the traditional kebab recipe, I shaped the kebabs into flat discs so I could double-duty any leftovers as sliders the next day. By the way, the ground flaxseed meal is a delicious texture addition to the kebab.

There's also an easy to make, delicious cooling mint flavored yogurt sauce that balances the heat and spicy flavors of the kebabs. 

mint yogurt sauce

You could use canned black beans but I avoid using the canned stuff because they tend to be mushy and too moist which could make these kebabs harder to prepare, less moisture is a good thing here! It is better to start from scratch and soak the dried beans the day before, this way you are in complete control of the texture and consistency. Drain the black beans completely to get rid of any excess moisture, keeping them on a towel after boiling, also helps a lot. If you like the kebabs to be more or less hot then adjust the amount of chili accordingly.

spicy black bean kebabs

spicy black bean kebabs

yields: approximately 20-24 kebabs

ingredients

2 cups dried black beans 
a pinch of baking soda
4 cups water
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
6 cloves
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly ground
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 cup red onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves
2 inch piece ginger root, peeled and minced
2 thai chili peppers, green or red
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher sea salt
2 tablespoons ground flaxseed meal
1 large egg, lightly whisked 
1/4 cup vegetable oil for frying (you might need a little more)

1. Rinse and soak the beans in water overnight. After soaking, drain and rinse the beans. Place the beans in a large saucepan or stockpot, along with the baking soda and and water and bring the contents to a boil on a medium-high flame. Once it begins to boil, reduce the flame to a gentle simmer and cook until the beans  are just tender but not mushy. Remove from stove and drain the liquid from the beans. Place the beans on a clean kitchen towel to remove any excess water. Allow the beans to cool to room temperature. You can also refrigerate the beans until they are ready to use.
2. Grind the cumin, cloves, nutmeg and peppercorns in a spice grinder or coffee mill to obtain a fine powder. Keep aside until ready.
3. Place the beans, the ground spices and the rest of the ingredients except the egg and vegetable oil in a food processor fitted with a blade. Place the lid on the food processor and pulse until the mixture becomes crumbly in texture. You might need to stir the contents occasionally. Do not pulse too long or the the mixture will become a paste. Transfer the mixture from the food processor into a large mixing bowl. Fold the egg into the mixture. Cover the bowl with a lid or with cling film and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to allow the beans to absorb all the flavors.
4. When ready to prepare the kebabs, take about 2 tablespoons of the mixture in the palms of your hands and flatten to form a one inch disc. Prepare the rest of the kebabs and keep aside.
5. Heat about 2-3 tablespoons of oil in a large non-stick or cast iron skillet on medium-high flame. Shallow fry about 6 kebabs at a time. Cook the kebab on each side for about 4-5 minutes or until they are browned on the surface. Transfer the kebabs onto a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb any excess oil. Cook the rest of the kebabs in batches and serve hot.

mint yogurt dressing

yields: approximately 1 1/2 cups

ingredients

1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1 green thai chili pepper
3/4 cup plain non-fat greek yogurt
1/4 cup chilled water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground

Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender (immersion blender also works great here) and pulse until completely smooth. Transfer to a container and keep chilled until ready to serve.

pan seared hot and spicy pumpkin cakes


This is the one time of the year that fresh pumpkins are easy to score and at great prices. The farms and pumpkin patches around D.C. have convincing evidence that pumpkins are abundant, if you see what I mean. We recently drove by a patch of pumpkins and it was the most amazing display of orange against green at 6 am in the morning! We picked out three huge behemoth monstrosities to carve, have you picked your pumpkins out yet ? Canned pumpkin purees are easier to find at almost anytime of the year than fresh pumpkins. One thing that I find with canned purees is that most brands are almost inevitably a bit sweet and are mostly targeted towards pies and other dessert recipes. There are very few unsweetened pumpkin purees out in the market so I normally freeze a little  chopped or unsweetened puree that lasts for a few months. This gives me some flexibility in my pumpkin recipe options for a short while. 


This is one of my favorite pumpkin recipes that I make almost every year, at least a couple of times. These pumpkin cakes are hot and spicy and best when served fresh off the stove. I merged a few Asian and Indian ingredients to bring out the heat and flavor in the pumpkin cakes. The heat in the cakes comes from the chili pepper flakes and the sambal olek (which is my go-to heat resource for all things spicy in Asian cooking and is now available at most stores). The fresh garlic and garam masala not only adds rich and warm flavors but are also the main aromatics in the cakes. These days almost every grocery store will carry a brand of garam masala and they are quite good. A dash of turmeric brightens the color of the pumpkin while the soy sauce helps to bring all the ingredients together. There are three binding agents in these cakes, the mashed peas, the panko breadcrumbs, and the beaten egg. Since pumpkin has quite a bit of water in it, I recommend squeezing the pumpkin as tight as you can to release as much liquid as possible. If you squeeze the pumpkin before the mixing stage, you will get crispier cakes.


My food processor was a big help here! It grated the raw pumpkin easily with no hesitation. After halving my pumpkin, I peeled the hard exterior skin off and then chopped them into thick wedges about  4 inches or so in length and ran them through the food processor. I have also found it helpful to peel pumpkins after they have been refrigerated for at least 4 hours, it seems to help the skin come off easily. Another useful tool here is a cookie cutter that helps to shape and size the cakes evenly. I was tempted to coat the cakes with the breadcrumbs and then fry them but I like the pretty yellowish-orange colors of pumpkins and could not find a reason good enough to hide them.


pan seared hot and spicy pumpkin cakes

ingredients


4 cups grated pumpkin
1/3 cup frozen peas
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
1 teaspoon dried chili pepper flakes (I used dried Kashmiri chilies)
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon sambal olek
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg, beaten
1 teaspoon white pepper
1 cup panko bread crumbs or regular bread crumbs
olive oil for frying

1. Squeeze the liquid out of the grated pumpkin and discard the juice.
2. Microwave the peas for 3 minutes on the high setting. They should get soft enough to be easily mashed. When ready mash the peas with a fork.
3. In a large mixing bowl, add the pumpkin, mashed peas, garlic, egg, soy sauce, sambal olek, panko, chili, salt, pepper, and garam masala. Combine them together with a spoon or by hand.
4. Heat the olive oil in a skillet. 
5. Spoon out about 3 heaped tablespoons of the mixture inside a 2 inch circular cookie cutter directly on to the hot pan. Quickly shape it to conform to the cookie cutter. Pan fry the cakes on each side till seared. This should take about 4 minutes on each side. Drain any excess oil from the cakes on to a clean paper towel. Serve hot.

baked curried sweet potato frites


For the past few months, I have incessantly worked my thesis into perhaps every post, I promise this will be the final time. It's complete, approved, signed, and GONE! Graduation is finally in sight and the horizon looks brighter. Things have been busy at the home-front too, I painted the bedroom last week. Every year since we moved in, I always swear to never paint again, normally when I am half-way through painting but somehow I have succumbed to painting. Painting can be fun but if you have a bit of an O.C.D. problem like me it can morph into a nightmare. Now all I have to do is wait for the furniture to be delivered before I can complete the room.


This year I am taking charge of my own fate when it comes to certain fruits such as figs and pomegranates. You see last year, I performed a series of physical and internet searches to find these fruits but had no luck in Washington D.C. This time around, I grabbed the problem by the fruit literally and planted a fig tree and a pomegranate bush. Now, all I need to do is pray that they grow, bloom, and fruit. Of course and pesky little squirrels stay far, far away!


I love almost all things that contain sweet potatoes, especially sweet potato frites/fries. They definitely have a nicer taste than regular fries and are rich in fiber, beta-carotene, and zinc. The simplicity of preparing these baked fries in nearly 20 minutes makes this an easy snack when I am hungry or even as a side to a barbecue. Since the sweet potatoes have their own unique taste and are seasoned with a bit of curry powder, I prefer to serve them with a little bit of chilled yogurt as a dipping sauce rather than mayo or ketchup both of which can hide the flavors of the curry and the sweet potatoes. A tip when making fries or  chips from any vegetable by the baking method, use parchment paper to line the baking sheet. The paper will prevent the veggies from sticking to the surface and make cleaning easy.


curried baked sweet potato frites

ingredients

2 large sweet potatoes 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1 teaspoon curry powder ( I used Jamaican Curry)
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 350F. 
2. Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them into 1/2 inch thick strips along the length of the potatoes. In a large bowl, toss  and coat the sweet potatoes and the rest of the ingredients. 
3. Spread the sweet potatoes on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper. Bake for about 20 minutes in the center of the oven, till the strips are cooked. If a crispier texture is desired then bake the fries for a longer time in the oven. Serve hot with chilled non-fat plain yogurt seasoned with a little black pepper.

potato pockets with sweet and hot cranberry ginger chutney


How time flies! It is one day after Thanksgiving and I am thankful for many things including this deliciously long weekend. This year we were invited to our friend Tyler's family's house for dinner up in Maryland. Tyler's mother Susan is a wonderful cook and an amazing host. She makes sure you are fed and fed well. She took care of everything from the turkey to the sides so when I was asked to bring an appetizer, I got a bit worried. What could I bring to the table that would serve as an appropriate snack to complement a Thanksgiving meal. At first the only thing that I could think of were sweet potatoes and pumpkin. My mind always moves to dessert as the default but again this holiday has its own menu of desserts.


Trying to stick with the holiday theme became difficult, so I realized that I might have to wipe the slate clean and think of something new or perhaps something old with a new look. For a while, I had been craving one of my favorite dishes from India, Goan potato chops. I have no idea why they are called potato chops but they are little stuffed delicacies composed of mashed potato pockets filled with ground meat and then breaded and pan fried to a crisp golden brown. I prefer to call them potato pockets as it is more straightforward.


Instead of using ground beef, I used lean ground turkey and re-tailored the spices to go with a more fall theme. I could have served these with a ketchup, but sometimes ketchup is boring. I prefer having accompaniments and condiments tailored specifically to the meal and the mood. A sweet and hot cranberry ginger chutney with hints of citrus and chili turned out to be terribly delicious with these potato pockets.



I hope everyone had a wonderful thanksgiving just as we did.



potato pockets/ goan potato chops

yields: about 20-24 

ingredients

1lb red potatoes, peeled and cubed (and rinsed in cold water till no more starch grains are visibile)
salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped red onion
1 clove fresh garlic minced
1 tablespoon chopped fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1lb ground turkey
1 cup white wine
3/4 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
2 beaten eggs
2 cups bread crumbs
vegetable oil for frying

1. To a stockpot add the potatoes and fill with water till almost an inch above the potatoes. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt and let them boil. Remove from the stove when the potatoes are tender and cooked. Mash the potato cubes to get a smooth paste. Season with salt and pepper. The potatoes should have the consistency of mashed potatoes but should not be runny or wet.
2. In a large pan, heat the olive oil and saute the onion, garlic and ginger till the onions become translucent. Add the cinnamon and garam masala to this and cook for another 20 seconds. Add the ground turkey and brown a little. Add the wine and vinegar and cook for about 30 minutes till all the liquid evaporates. Add the salt and pepper and taste and adjust if necessary. Add the fresh mint leaves and combine. Remove the pan from the stove and allow to cool for at least 45 minutes before preparing the pockets.
3. Set up a workstation with the beaten eggs in one bowl and the bread crumbs in another. With your hands take about 1-2 tablespoons of the potatoes and form a little cup in the palm of your hand. Add 1 tablespoon of the ground turkey meat in the center and then using your palms and fingers mold the potato around the meat to encase the ground meat. Seal the top of the cup with additional mashed potatoes. Form into a 1 -11/2 inch diameter stuffed discs with a thickness of about 3/4 of an inch. Make sure that no cracks are present in the potato case and if you see any, seal them with additional mashed potato mix. Heat the vegetable oil in a shallow pan for frying. Dip the potato pocket into the beaten eggs and coat well on each side. Toss the egg covered potato pocket in the bread crumbs till completely covered, tap the excess bread crumbs off and fry till golden brown on each side. Drain the excess oil out on  a paper towel. Serve warm or hot with the sweet and hot cranberry ginger chutney.


sweet and hot cranberry ginger chutney

yields: about 1 cup

ingredients

1 cup dried or (2 cups fresh) cranberries
4 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 cup crystallized ginger
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 teaspoon zest of fresh orange
1 teaspoon dried ginger root powder
1/4 cup red wine (Cabernet franc)
1/2 teaspoon ground dried Kashmiri chili flakes

1. In a thick bottom saucepan, add all the ingredients and cook on a low flame for about 45 minutes. The volume should reduce to less than half of the original. Taste and adjust for sweetness and heat by adding either extra brown sugar, orange juice or chili powder. 
2. After 45 minutes, the sauce will thicken, remove from stove. Allow to cool and store in an airtight container or jar (or even can for long term storage). Once opened it will stay good for about a month in the refrigerator. This can be served warm, chilled or at room temperature.