Smoked Aubergine Mash (Baingan Bharta)

 

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I always think it’s funny how there are foods we used to hate as kids but now love as adults. Not that I consider myself an adult. I see myself more as a tall kid. Am I aware that 5ft 2 is not technically tall? Sure I am, but lets not ponder on that.

I was a good eater as a child (my childhood photos reveal that) and I’d like to think I wasn’t particularly fussy. Granted I had some weird foodie combinations that I loved but who didn’t? Crisp and coleslaw sandwiches were a must whilst watching cartoons on a Saturday morning. Any crisp would do, though crisps made from maize or corn were preferable. Mango pickle mixed with yoghurt was a regular “snack”, oh and I could eat mountains of black olives and pickled onions at any given time. Perhaps I was an odd child…please don’t judge me. 

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But I digress. Generally, I ate very well and there were just a few things I detested which oddly, I now love! Any sort of seafood was a no go, however Chingri Malai Kari is now one of my absolute favourite dishes. I found bitter melon revolting growing up but now regularly crave it. I couldn’t stand the smell of anything cooked in ghee but now it’s a staple in my everyday cooking. It’s odd isn’t it?

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Baigan Bharta also featured on the loathe list but now I can’t fathom how I lived so many years without it! Spicy, smokey (almost BBQ esque) and slightly sweet, baigan bharta is an utterly satisfying dish that’s perfect with hot buttery chapatis. The mashed consistency of the aubergine is akin to baba ganoush so it also works great as a dip, in wraps and smothered on crackers too (I’m thinking canapés at dinner partys people). I hope you like this recipe. It’s surprisingly easy to make and packed full of flavour. Keep me posted on how it turns out for you! 

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Smoked Aubergine Mash (Baigan Bhartha)
Serves 3
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Ingredients
  1. 1 aubergine
  2. 2 tbsp oil
  3. 1 small onion, finely diced
  4. 1 green chilli, finely diced
  5. 2 tomatoes, diced
  6. 1 level tsp tomato puree (double concentrate)
  7. 1 1/2 tsp salt or according to taste
  8. 1/2 tsp chilli powder or according to taste
  9. 2 tbsp peas, boiled (optional)
  10. Fresh coriander
Instructions
  1. Grease the aubergine with oil and roast it over an open flame till it is fully cooked. It should take about 5-7 minutes. When done, the skin should be charred all over and and the aubergine flesh will become soft.
  2. If you do not have a gas cooker, you can also cook the aubergine in the grill at the highest temperature until soft. Note, this will however not achieve the smokiness in flavour.
  3. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Then peel and discard the skin. Mash the flesh with a fork and keep aside.
  4. Heat oil in a non stick pan. Then add the onions and chilli and cook for 3-5 minutes until light golden brown in colour.
  5. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, salt and chilli powder and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
  6. Now add the mashed aubergine and peas and mix well. Reduce the heat and cook for 5-7 minutes. Add the fresh coriander. Check salt and chilli and adjust accordingly. Remove from heat.
Notes
  1. If you are roasting over a flame, use tongs to hold the aubergine and rotate every few minutes. It may also help to cover the cooker around the ring with foil so it is easy to clean once the aubergine is roasted.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/

Nankathai – Indian Cardamom Shortbread Cookies

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Is it just me or is the sound of a kettle turning on the most comforting noise in the world. Hearing the water begin to boil away just makes me mentally go “ahhhhh”. The emoticon with the smiley rose cheeks? Yeah that face happens too. I’m sure it’s synonymous with the idea that I’m about to have a big fat hug in a cup. (That’s tea for people who speak normal english). 

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You’ve come home late, you’ve come home early, you’ve heard good news, you’ve heard bad news, you’ve made cake, you’ve not made cake. Any…scratch that…every scenario sounds/feels/tastes better with a cup of tea. Fellow tea lovers, can I get an amen?? When I went to university in the states, I quickly discovered that “putting the kettle on” is not a thing over there. In fact, kettles aren’t even widely available in shops. I know! Bunch of crazies. My thoughts exactly.

I think this love for tea (and kettles it would appear) stems from the British and Indian in me…two nations of tea lovers! And what better way to compliment tea than a biscuit or “biskoot” as pronounced in the motherland. Which brings me to today’s recipe of the utterly moreish, buttery, crumbly and fragrant nankathai. We are talking melt in mouth factor x 1000 people. Mum and I have been developing this recipe for years trying to make it better every time and you know what, I think this one is actually THE ONE. If you have tried the old recipe on the blog I urge your to re-make with this recipe. Try! Go now! Oh and come back and let me know your thoughts. Please :).

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Nankathai
Yields 20
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Ingredients
  1. ½ cup gram flour
  2. 1½ cups plain flour
  3. ¾ cup icing sugar
  4. ¼ tsp green cardamom seeds, ground into a fine powder
  5. 1 tsp baking powder
  6. 1/8th tsp bicarbonate of soda
  7. ¾ cup ghee
  8. almond slithers for garnishing
Instructions
  1. Line a baking tray and preheat oven to 180ºc.
  2. To a bowl, add the gram flour, plain flour, icing sugar, cardamom powder, baking powder and bicarb of soda. Mix well.
  3. Add the ghee and mix together using a whisk. When you see the ghee has mixed through, put the whisk down and scrape off any excess mixture back into the bowl.
  4. Now, hold the bowl with one hand and using your free hand, knead the mixture into a stiff but smooth dough. Note, it does take a few minutes before you see the mixture come together and begin to take the form of a dough but it will happen - keep at it.
  5. Divide the dough into 20 sections. (you can make more or less depending on what size you prefer. My photos reflect a yield of 20). Roll into smooth balls.
  6. Place them on the lined tray and flatten with your fingers slightly. Place an almond slither on each.
  7. Place the tray in the preheated oven and bake for 12-15 minutes. They should be light golden in colour. Remove from heat and allow to cool. (Do not touch before they cool otherwise they will crumble!)
  8. Serve or store in an air tight container.
Notes
  1. Tip - Very lightly oiling your hands can help with forming and kneading the dough!
Adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor's Khazana
Adapted from Sanjeev Kapoor's Khazana
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/

Dal Makhani

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What pasta is to Italians is what dal is to Indians. It’s a staple across the country and when accompanied with rice it’s a dish considered to be the “bread and butter” of the cuisine. 

My cousins in India find my love of lentils a little odd. They often roll their eyes when their respective mothers tell them that “dal is for dinner”.  In fact if you asked my cousin Sahil what he thinks of lentils his response is a facial expression akin to that of the straight faced emoticon (yeah the one that has a horizontal line for it’s lips). He’d rather have a “McMaharaja” burger than masoor dal which is fair enough (Maccy D’s in India is pretty great) but I just don’t think he is giving it the chance it really deserves!

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For me, dal is quintessentially Indian. One of my fondest memories when spending summer holidays in India, was the sound of pressure cooker whistles going off at lunchtime throughout the neighbourhood. The aroma of pulses cooking away would fill the streets and I would immediately feel hungry. From moong and masoor to toor and channa, each household has their favourite dal and unique way of preparing it. I love how the amazing variety of lentils can result in endless flavours and dishes! 

Today’s recipe is one of my absolute favourites. Dal Makhani is silky, creamy and spicy all at the same time. Typically served with buttery chapatis or naans it’s utterly comforting and you are never judged for taking seconds (or thirds!). Enjoy…

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Dal Makhni
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup black urad lentils
  2. 1/4 cup kidney beans or rose cocoa beans
  3. 1/4 cup channa lentils
  4. 1 1/2 tsp salt
  5. 1 medium onion
  6. 3 large garlic cloves
  7. 3 peppercorns
  8. 3 cloves
  9. 1 black cardamom
  10. 1 bay leaf
  11. 2" piece cinnamon stick
  12. water
  13. 3 tbsp ghee or butter
  14. 1 tsp cumin
  15. 2" ginger, finely chopped
  16. 2 plum tomatoes & 2 tbsp tomato juice
  17. 2 birds eye green chillies
  18. 1 tsp coriander powder
  19. 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  20. 1 tsp garam masala
  21. 1/4 cup cream (optional)
  22. handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Instructions
  1. Place the urad lentils, kidney beans and channa lentils together in a bowl and soak in water overnight. Rinse and keep aside.
  2. To a pressure cookery, add the soaked lentils, onions, garlic, peppercorns, cloves, black cardamom, bay leaf, cinnamon and salt along with 4 cups of water. Carefully place the lid on the cookery and place on high heat. When the first whistle goes off, reduce to low heat and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Allow the steam to escape naturally before opening the lid.
  3. Mash the lentils using a masher until they are blended together.
  4. If you do not have a pressure cooker, place above ingredients in a sauce pan along with 5 cups of water and cook until lentils are tender. (This will take approx 45 minutes). If the water reduces before they are cooked, add more throughout. Once cooked and mashed, keep aside.
  5. Heat ghee in a non-stick pan. Once hot, add the cumin. When the cumin begins to splatter, add the ginger and for 2 minutes until slightly brown.
  6. Now add the tomatoes along with the chillies. At this point, add the coriander powder, chilli powder, garam masala and fresh coriander.
  7. Cook for 2 minutes. When you see the oil separating, add the lentils and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add cream and cook for another minute.
  8. Check for salt and adjust accordingly. Turn off heat.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/