Oats Pongal with Dried Cranberries and Toasted Coconut


Late last year I posted a recipe for pongal made with oats. That recipe was a take on my friend Pradnya’s recipe, which was itself an adaptation of a rice-based pongal from the cookbook, Dakshin. I’ve been making various iterations of that pongal for breakfast ever since—it beats a bowl of oatmeal in the American style any day of the week as far as I’m concerned. A couple of months ago I randomly improvized a more savoury version for lunch. My description of it caused a Tamil friend to pretend to faint in mock horror—this because I made it with dried cranberries, which are certainly not a traditional ingredient. It may not in fact be the only complaint that people who actually have cultural ties to pongal—which as a Bengali I don’t—have with this recipe. To them I say, just call it porridge if you prefer; but do give it a go: you’ll probably like it. Then again, for all I know, it actually resembles a traditional preparation quite closely. Indian foodways are wide and varied and it’s very hard to come up with anything truly new. Continue reading

Toor Dal with Turnips


This recipe has its origins in one of my favourite recipes posted to the Another Subcontinent cooking forum, back in its heyday more than a decade ago. Most of my readers will not know what I am talking about. Another Subcontinent was a collection of forums on South Asian culture that a few friends and I started back in 2004 (a bit later we also added a features site). Well, technically both the features site and the forums still exist but both have been in suspended animation for a long time now. The cooking forum was the beating heart of Another Subcontinent and in my (not unbiased) view it was in its heyday the best resource on Indian cooking there has yet been on the internet. Populated by avid home cooks, both in India and the diaspora, the cooking forum brought together people who knew their own regional cuisines but not necessarily each others’ and we all learned a great deal from each other. And then the rise of first food blogs and then Facebook and, let’s face it, cliques and feuds among the membership killed it off. Nonetheless I still cook recipes I learnt on that forum pretty much every week. Continue reading

Red Curry Chicken


“Red curry chicken” is my children’s name for the chicken curry that has been my gateway to slowly Indianizing their palates for the last few years. It is one of their absolute favourites of all the things I cook for them (though Marcella Hazan’s pesto is in unassailable first place). The “it” however is not a stable referent. By which I mean that this is a recipe that has been subtly, progressively tweaked to bring them along into an appreciation of spicy/spicier food without their quite realizing it’s been happening. Please note that when I say “spicy/spicier” I am not referring to capsaicin heat but to a fuller flavour via the use of a greater body of spices: cumin, coriander seed, fennel seed, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom etc. And, yes, also increasing amounts of red chilli powder. That said, though they eat hotter food than most of their Minnesotan peers, the current iteration of this curry is not very hot either. But over the last four or five years it’s gone from being a fairly bland chicken stew with tomatoes to becoming something that the missus and I enjoy eating alongside them. Here is the current iteration for your enjoyment as well. Continue reading

Teekha Alu Sabzi


At the end of April I posted a recipe for sookha or dry alu sabzi. Here is a close relation: a spicy (or teekha in Hindi) alu sabzi which has a little more gravy but not a whole lot of it. It too is made without any tomato and with even fewer spices. I improvized this take on a broader family of homestyle potato dishes—eaten in wide swathes of North India with chapatis or puris—entirely in order to test out a new (to me) ingredient that I purchased in Delhi right before departure in February. And so I did not want to mix in too many strong flavours. The ingredient in question is yellow chilli powder. I purchased a packet at an outlet of FabIndia (where else?) and then promptly forgot about it until I found it two weeks ago in the back of the pantry shelf where I’d stowed it upon our return. I purchased it because I’d never come across yellow chilli powder before. I’d expected it would be relatively mild but when I tasted it raw it packed a decent punch. I asked a number of Indian friends—in India and in the US—who are avid cooks and very knowledgable about Indian food (some of them far more so than me) if they’d come across it before and drew a complete blank. Continue reading

Yellow Eye Beans with Smoked Chicken

It’s a wild time in American food media right now. It’s an ecosystem I observe from a bit of a (privileged) remove and it’s been wild to see problems that have been obvious for years suddenly seemingly coming a head and spilling over. I might have a bit more to say about this in a couple of days if it doesn’t all get worked over by smart(er) people on Twitter who are closer to/in that world. On Thursday, probably. Today all I have is a recipe for beans. As always, I use beans from Rancho Gordo. In this case, it involves Yellow Eye beans but you can also make it with a number of their other beans, including Cranberry, Marcella, Moro and even the Midnight Black. This is a very simple prep indeed—as long as you have a carcass of a smoked chicken on hand. And if you don’t, a smoked pork hock or smoked ham will do. And if you don’t have that either, maybe just the carcass of a roast chicken. Or if you’re vegetarian/vegan maybe some smoked tofu. Just as long as you have a way of getting some smoke in there (liquid smoke?). Continue reading

Mussels Moilee


I made this for dinner last night with the last of a mega-bag of mussels from Costco. I posted the picture on Facebook and a friend asked for the recipe—you may as well have it too.

Moilee—often also transliterated as “molee” or even “molly”—is a Malayali (as in from Kerala) stew made with coconut milk. Where a lot of Malayali food is very robustly spiced, and often very hot, moilees tend to be mild. They usually feature seafood of one kind or the other—typically fish or prawns. I make it with fish and prawns as well but mussels are really my seafood of choice for it. I haven’t come across mussels moilee in Malayali restaurants in Delhi but for all I know it’s a very common variation down Kerala way (I’ve never been). At any rate, I find the briny-umami flavour of mussels goes really well with the other flavours in the stew. As a bonus it’s also a very easy dish to make: I pulled it together in less than half an hour last evening. Continue reading

Achaari Baingan


Where “achaari”=”a la achaar” where “achaar=Indian pickles”. There are actual baingan/brinjal/eggplant achaars/pickles—this is not one of them. Instead, as with most achaari recipes, this is made with ingredients that you would use in pickling. There are a large number of variations in how this general family of eggplant dishes is made; this is the one I use more often than not. It comes together very quickly and easily and it is very tasty indeed. As made in this recipe it is also quite hot but you can adjust that down by either using less red chilli powder or using a mild chilli such as Kashmiri or the slightly hotter Byadgi chilli. Either will be available from Amazon if there isn’t a South Asian store doing curbside pickup near you. But I do hope there is a South Asian store doing curbside pickup near you because the recipe calls for curry leaves. It’s not the case that you can’t make the dish at all if you don’t have them but it’ll be much better with a sprig of this otherwise un-substitutable ingredient. Continue reading

Alu-Gobi, Dry Style


I posted a recipe for alu-gobi last November. In the tedious preamble to that recipe I noted that alu-gobi—like most dishes in the vast Indian home cooking repertoire—is more of a genre than a specific dish. That shouldn’t be surprising considering the dish is just named for the two major ingredients in it. Cauliflower and potatoes cooked with a rotating cast of spices: that’s all alu-gobi is. The recipe I posted in November involved a simple spice-mix heavy on the coriander seed, and a fair bit of water for a fair bit of gravy. This one has a different mix of spices and tastes quite different. And as it’s made with very little water the texture is also very different. I like to make it keeping the cauliflower fairly crunchy but that’s easy enough to sort out if your tastes run otherwise. It’s a simple dish that’s not going to set off any fireworks but it’s very good. Continue reading

Anda Curry, Again


Another month, another anda/egg curry recipe. This actually has very similar ingredients as last month’s anda curry but with a bit of crucial +/- turns out very differently in terms of both flavour and texture. This is less aggressively spiced both because there’s no mellowing coconut milk being added in this version and because it was made with my children in mind. I’m happy to report they loved it and asked that I make it again. For my kids at least this has to do not just with the less aggressive spicing but also with the fact that the sauce is pureed and so there’s no onion or other crunchy bits floating around in it. It feels like my life’s work right now is to convince them that onions are actually why they like almost everything they like to eat. (You may not need to be so convinced but you’ll like this pureed sauce  too.) They are also not yet able to resolve their relationship with dhaniya. They like the flavour of dishes that are garnished with it but perform intricate surgery to get every bit of green off their plates before they eat. Fascinating, I know. Continue reading

Boiled Moog Dal


Here is a recipe for a dal that is very easy to make and which, despite featuring very few ingredients, has a rich, complex flavour. Is made with moog dal (moong dal in Hindi) or split, peeled mung beans. I’ve previously posted another recipe for it made with carrots and peas and tomatoes. That one is very good too—and even healthier—but this is the one my children love and ask for, and so it’s the dal I make most often. I smile wryly, by the way, at their affection for this dal. When I was their age, moog dal was my least favourite dal: mushoor dal prepared in this style and chholar dal were my favourites. I realize this is deeply uninteresting information all around. Anyway, this moog dal is made in the Bengali style by first pan-roasting the dal and then washing it before cooking it. It’s a very unglamorous dal but it is very tasty indeed. Continue reading

Sookha Alu Sabzi


Here is another recipe from the Indian home-cooking repertoire that is more a genre than a specific dish. Something like this preparation is made all over the country with regional variations but even within regions there will be significant variations in how it’s made. The point of the dish is not actually the exact flavours but the texture of the potatoes and the almost paste-like masala clinging to it when it’s done. I give you seemingly-precise instructions here but this is a classic andaaz-se (or “by estimation”) recipe. I myself make it a new way pretty much every time I make it. Play with it and make it your own. The ideal way to serve it in the Indian context is with chapatis/parathas and dal and achaar, and it’s also good with dal and rice. But there’s no reason you can’t serve it as a warm potato salad at a barbecue. Make and eat it as you would like. Continue reading

Baingan “Stew” with Coconut Milk


I posted a recipe for sour baingan masala on Thursday and noted that it was in fact two recipes for the price of one. Here is the second recipe. It is a very simple adaptation of the first—in fact, it’s not even an adaptation. It’s the same recipe plus one ingredient: coconut milk. It was instigated by the missus finding the original recipe too sour for her taste and as I’d made it with two pounds of long eggplant I was left with the prospect of eating it by myself for the rest of my life. I like that recipe a lot but variety is nice. And so I separated half the finished sour baingan masala and added a cup of coconut milk to it. A little bit of simmering and it yielded a lovely, velvety stew with the sourness still there but now balanced by the sweetness of the coconut milk. Really, this is a recipe worth making for its own sake, not just as a way of salvaging a very sour dish that deranged members of your household may be refusing to eat. And where the original is a more rustic preparation, this one’s got style. Give it a go. Continue reading

Sour Baingan Masala


Here is a baingan/brinjal/eggplant recipe that seeks to recreate the flavours of some preparations from various parts of South India but which doesn’t follow a traditional recipe. This, I have to warn you, may not be for everyone. I think it’s delicious but it is very sour. The missus is not a fan. Even I wouldn’t eat it by itself but with dal and rice I think it’s great, especially after the second day when the tamarind has done its pickling magic. Deploy it almost as you would an achaar. Or I suppose you could be a weenie and tone down the amount of tamarind you use. Your choice. But I would suggest you don’t. That’s because this is really two recipes in one. Make it with two pounds of eggplant as described and keep half of it aside for a simple adaptation that will appeal greatly to members of your household who object to too much tamarind sourness.  Continue reading

Chhilka Moong Dal


While moog/moong dal in its split and peeled form is a staple Bengali dal—some would even say it’s the staple Bengali dal—the split but unpeeled version (chhilka=peel in Hindi) is one that was never cooked in our home when I was growing up and it’s not one I’ve encountered in the homes of relatives or Bengali friends either. I only started cooking with it a few years ago after a spur of the moment decision to purchase a large packet of it at the local desi store. I liked it right away: it makes for a dal that is far earthier and far less nutty than the split and peeled version and it’s one of my staples when I want to make a robust dal that goes with pretty much any vegetable side dish and which can be enjoyed with rice or rotis or just straight out of the bowl. It’s particularly nourishing in the winter and, as it turns out, during a pandemic. While I don’t have a set recipe that I always go to—unlike moog dal or chholar dal, where I slavishly follow the recipes my mother sent me years ago—of late I’ve been making it with a lot of caramelized onions, ginger and garlic. Plus tomato and some ground spices. Sometimes I make it mushier than at other times. It’s always good. Continue reading