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

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

Brussels Sprouts Poriyal


In November I posted a recipe for beetroot poriyal. Poriyals, as I said in that post, are more a genre than a specific dish: a stir-fry of vegetables along with some tempered spices and lentils. As with a number of dishes from all over India, this kind of tempering happens at the very beginning, infusing the fat in which the vegetable will cook—unlike tadka which is deployed at the end to set the flavours of the main ingredients off. I also noted in the beetroot recipe that my standard poriyal prep used to be with cabbage but these days is more likely to be with Brussels sprouts. Sprouts are more fiddly to prep—even if you’re using a food processor to shred them—but they give off less water than cabbage and I quite enjoy their more savoury flavour in this kind of a dish. And past the time/hassle it takes to prep the sprouts, this is a very easy dish to make. Continue reading

Toor Dal with Garlic and Pepper

Toor dal, or arhar dal, as it is also known, was not made very often in our home when I was growing up. Unlike mushoor/masoor, moog/moong, chholar/channa dal it’s not one of the staple dals of the Bengali kitchen. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I did eat it quite often regardless, as my family often went out for South Indian food and toor dal is the dal used in sambar. This was in the 1970s and 1980s—the only South Indian food available outside South India was of the idli-dosa-vada-sambar variety. It is a staple dal in the South and also in places like Gujarat and most of the preparations I make of it in my own kitchen come from those directions. The recipe I have today is not a traditional one—though odds are good that it resembles one closely: it is very hard to generate novelty within foodways as massive and heterogeneous as Indian ones. You might think you’ve come up with something new(ish) but then it’ll turn out you’ve only hit upon a preparation you’d just never heard of before. If that’s the case here I’ll take it as a compliment. Continue reading

Roasted Beet Soup with Cracked Cumin


What is this, a roasted vegetable soup blog? Last week I had a recipe for a soup made with roasted carrots; two weeks ago I had a recipe for a soup made with pan-roasted asparagus; this week I have a recipe for a soup made with roasted beets. If you’ve made the two other soups and fretted that they were not carroty or asparagusy enough then you will be happy to learn that this soup is quite beet-forward. It includes very few other ingredients and a relatively light touch with spices. It does, like the other two, require blending the soup.

Is this an Indian dish? You may well ponder this question after eating this soup or even just after reading the recipe. Well, it’s not a traditional preparation. There aren’t a whole lot of soups per se in the broader Indian repertoire (caveat: it’s a large country) and this does not follow any sort of traditional recipe. But to me it tastes very Indian. I could see making a dish of sauteed beets with much the same ingredients, save the stock. I’d say it’s an Indian dish insofar as it deploys an Indian flavour palette and an Indian technique: adding a tadka of cumin seeds and curry leaves at the end just as you would do with most dals. If you like beets, give it a shot. Continue reading

Roasted Carrot Soup with Tamarind


The very first vegetable soup I ever made was a carrot soup, the recipe for which I found, of all places, on the Williams-Sonoma website. That bookmarked link no longer goes anywhere but the recipe lives on in my kitchen as a sort-of template for a large number of vegetable soups: carrots cooked with sauteed leeks in stock till softened, pureed and given some brightness with acid. The recipe I have for you today differs in some important ways—there are no potatoes in this, the acid comes from tamarind, and I add toasted spices and finally the nutty zing of a mustard seed-curry leaf tadka. But the structure is still the same. My thanks to whoever it was that put that recipe up on the Williams-Sonoma site back in the day. Continue reading

Asparagus Soup with Coconut Milk and Lime


The other day I had the rare opportunity to take an undisturbed afternoon nap. As would naturally happen to anyone, when just on the verge of falling asleep my mind summoned forth the image of the bag of aspargus I had in the fridge. I’d used some of it for last week’s panch mishali torkari but there was still a lot of it left. Asparagus, as you know, is not a restful vegetable and the next thing I knew I had an idea for asparagus soup racing through my head. I leapt out of bed and went into the kitchen and made it. And it was good. Being kind, I am willing to share the recipe with you. Things to note are there two. First, despite asparagus being the main ingredient, this is not very asparagusy—you can address this if you so desire by simply using more asparagus. Second, the flavours here are not at all Indian, more Southeast Asian. Okay, lets make soup. Continue reading

Panch Mishali Torkari


I have for you today a recipe for a homely but essential dish from the Bengali repertoire: panch mishali torkari. “Panch” means five, “mishali” more or less means mixed, and this is by definition a dish that involves five vegetables cooked together (except when it involves four or six). It is a highly flexible dish. Classically, I suppose, you are most likely to see potatoes and radish and eggplant and snow peas/broad beans and pumpkin in it but really you can make it with whatever mix of vegetables you have at hand. This version, for example, uses asparagus, which you are rarely likely to see used in Bengali kitchens in a dish like this. The dish is a concept not a fixed list of ingredients—I make versions with zucchini and bell peppers as well. No matter what combination of vegetables you use, it is a good idea to have a mix of textures. The flavour of the dish is really carried by the ingredient that more than any other ties the Bengali kitchen together: panch phoron, the mix of five seeds that goes in almost ever Bengali vegetable and fish dish. When I first came to the US panch phoron was not easily found but these days you can purchase it easily in any decent South Asian grocery store. and if you live somewhere without a decent South Asian grocery store at hand you can even buy it on Amazon. Get some and get cooking (and while you’re at it, get some mustard oil too). Continue reading

Stir-Fried Broccoli with Kashundi


Like any other above average Indian home cook in the United States, I’ve been told over the years by American dinner guests that I should open a restaurant etc. It’s flattering to be told this, of course, even if in the context of most Indian restaurants in the US it seems like somewhat dubious praise. Of course, I am never going to open a restaurant. But two and a half years ago I decided to scratch that occasional itch without flirting with bankruptcy, and launched a little series of “pop-up in my own home” dinners for eight. As a tribute to the North American curry house I call it India’s Gandhi Tandoori Bollywood Mahal. The guests are all friends and friends of friends and the dinners have become quite popular. I’ve done 14 of them so far. The first 13 were seven course meals with each course served individually plated. The recipe I have today was the second course at the tenth dinner. It is, as you will see, very much a slight play on a very traditional dish. I thought it came out very well, and the diners enjoyed it very much. Continue reading