Category: Garam Masala Tuesdays

Garam Masala Tuesdays: Station wale Aloo

Trains.

While growing up, that’s the mode we used when traveling long distances on vacation or postings with parents. Or when going on college trips with friends.

As we grew older and air travel became more economically viable, train journeys became obsolete.

But I miss them. Sometimes. Well some parts of it atleast.

Going to the toilets was always a problem. So, I don’t miss that. Indian Railways’ toilets are awful and something that should NEVER be discussed on a food blog. So I will just end that topic here.

I also don’t miss the oggling, desperate and mostly frustrated men that would travel in trains, staring at girls traveling alone. That was scary and one reason why I hated traveling alone besides the fact that I could never get sleep at night as I had to be extra cautious about my luggage.

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Garam Masala Tuesdays: Roasted Masala Cauliflower

Sorry for being MIA. Haven’t been feeling too much love for the laptop and technology, keeping myself busy with other things. Of course, as a result, the blog always suffers! And since one of the ways I have been keeping myself busy is cooking, it also means recipes piling up in my folders! But, hopefully I should be taking care of them soon.

Luckily, I have GMTs to pull me out of my technology-detoxifying sessions. 🙂

When my in-laws were here, my mother-in-law made this roasted masala cauliflower dish for us. Its a fairly straight forward and easy to make dish and was a welcome change from the usual cauliflower dish I make. So I thought I will share it with you for this week’s Garam Masala Tuesdays.

If you have been following the past few GMTs, I have been cooking a lot with whole spices. If you haven’t become a convert yet, I hope you do soon. Whole spices opens a new dimension of flavors for you and will make you wonder why you didn’tcook with them earlier.

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Garam Masala Tuesdays: Chicken Stew with Appams

I am truly the happiest when I am in India. I love the freedom (in certain terms) that I have here in the US and I love having friends and a house to take care of, but when I am in India, its just something else. It’s difficult to put the feeling in words, especially since I am not that great a writer, but I’m truly happy when I’m there. It’s the country I have born and grown up in. It’s just about the place that makes me feel at peace.

Last time I was in India, I got to spend some time with my parents in Trivandrum (or Thiruvananthapuram- trying saying that!), the capital of the southern state of Kerala. My dad is in the air force and he was posted there during my last India visit.

I loved Kerala, although it is quite a bit of travel since most of my other family members and friends stay in the north. But, nonetheless, it is a great place to spend time when you are on a vacation. Picturesque palm lined beaches, backwaters, spice gardens and ayurvedic massages. What else could you ask for!

My father is now posted out of Kerala and has moved closer home. Although excited about his new position, I am going to miss not going to Kerala and to the deliciousness that Kerala cuisine is next time we are in India.

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Garam Masala Tuesdays: Chicken Tikka Pasties

This post has been in my folder for a long time and what’s a better day to post it than at the end of the four four-day celebration of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee!

If you have been watching the coverage on TV of the the celebrations, I am sure you have been enamored by the grandeur that they were. Of course critics have argued that at such tough economic times do these celebration seem befitting. To avoid any debate, I will just stay clear off that topic(although there is a part of me that agrees, but this is a food blog and I want to keep it that). But I do understand that it is a big deal and maybe at such times you do need a reason to celebrate, even if it seems frivolous.

Nonetheless it was fun. It was like watching Kate and William’s wedding all over. And as befits a big British occasion, the rain  was persistent and relentless.

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Garam Masala Tuesdays: Chicken Samosas

Samosas are the quintessential Indian tea time snack. Everyone loves samosas, and when ever you crave one in India, only a few blocks away from you you will find be a guy scooping out some fresh samosas from a big pot of hot oil. Needless to say, that option is not available where we live. So when I am craving one, I have to make some on my own.

My favorite are of course the regular potato kinds – about which I have posted in the past. But since I make them every time for any potluck where non-Indians are concerned, I thought I would try a different filling this time.

This time I went for a non vegetarian filling.

Generally, the non vegetarian filling that my mom uses is made from lamb meat, but since I was cooking for my non Indian friends, I decided to go with chicken as the filling. From my experience I have realized that Americans (or at least the ones I have come across) are not too fond of lamb preparations. Maybe that’s why none of the grocery stores in a 100 mile radius of where we stay carry lamb meat.

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Garam Masala Tuesdays: Channa Masala with easily available ingredients

I started Garam Masala Tuesdays with three aims- one, to familiarize non-Indians with Indian cooking; two, to familiarize Indian cooking to Indian ladies like me, who had only recently forayed into Indian cooking and who like me did not have the pleasure of their moms to guide them through various aspects of Indian food and three, to share recipes handed down by my mother or friends or relatives or seen on different sites along with giving a little background about the dish.

Now, because of the above three aims I am always in a dilemma when I write any post for the GMT. I wonder if I am writing the recipes for Indians, non-Indians or for Indians who are living abroad.

Indians living in India have access to all kinds of spices and vegetables and their taste buds are used to eating Indian flavored dishes. Indians living abroad have access to most spices, but might not have access to all and if they have been born and raised abroad might not be used to the different flavors of Indian cuisine. Non-Indians might not have any of the spices and even though they like Indian food, they might find it a pain to stock up on the oh-so-many spices that most Indian dishes call for. On the other hand, if I post a recipe without the necessary spices, Indians who might cook from my blog will lose out on the flavor that these very spices hand to the dish- and then for them the particular dish won’t be the real thing.

So, the dilemma always remains- how do I make sure I cater to everyone’s needs?

Of course I can’t and won’t even attempt to. And today I thought I’ll try to cook from a non-Indian’s pantry perspective. I think that’s something that GMT misses out on occasions.

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Garam Masala Tuesdays: Punj Rattani Dal

Dals are an integral part of Indian meals. In some form or the other, they are eaten daily in almost every Indian home.

Dals- lentils or pulses- are varieties of dried beans and peas. They are the main source of proteins for the average vegetarian Indian. Although dal generally refers to split pulses, in actuality there are two types of dal. Whole pulses are known as sabūt dal and split pulses as dhuli dal. The hulling of a pulse is intended to improve digestibility and palatability, but as with milling of whole grains into refined grains, this affects the nutrition provided by the dish, reducing dietary fiber content

Each state in India cooks its dal in different ways.  In south, dal is mostly eaten in the form of sambhar. People of Uttar Pradesh swear by toovar dal which is tempered with asafoetida, cumin seeds and sometimes garlic. Punjabis love their dal whole and unhulled, in the form of the delicious dal makhani, or rajma to accompany their rice or chole with their bhaturas.

When I have to describe dal to people in America who haven’t eaten it, the easiest way is to give them a picture of a lentil soup, although dal is a far cry from just a simple soup. The dal that we have is not as watery as soup, generally being creamier (without necessarily adding cream). A well cooked dal is generally quite thick, but sometimes just to keep it light, people thin it down a bit, such being the case for some of the dals that are cooked in southern India.

The tadka or the tempering is what gives a dal its distinct flavor, and is probably what distinguishes it from soups.

Tempering involves heating oil/ ghee in a small pan, to which whole spices are added, which in turn is poured over the cooked dal. Tempering can be simple with a little asafoetida and cumin seeds being tempered in some ghee/or oil, and then mixed in with the cooked dal. Or it can be elaborate by tempering some onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes in ghee/oil, before adding to the cooked dal.

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Garam Masala Tuesdays: Baingan ka Bharta

Marriage changes you. It influences your personality, and your responsibilities and priorities change. Your partner’s personality rubs off on you a little and vice versa. I have definitely become more calm, and patient after marriage. Things that would bother me earlier, still do bother me, but to a lesser extent. I would not attribute all the changes to V, although his role is undeniable, but marriage brought with it certain changes which have changed me, for the better. So, yes marriage changed me.

Marriage also changes your eating habits. I have seen a change in what V eats. He has started accepting mushrooms in his diet- he is still not crazy about them but has made his peace with mushrooms. All for me.

I too have adjusted my taste buds to his. From someone who wouldn’t touch bharta with a ten-foot pole, here I am writing about it on GMT.

That’s Change.

That’s Growth.

Baingan bharta is a dish made from roasted eggplants cooked with onions, tomatoes, chillies, ginger and garlic. Some people also add peas and other various vegetables to it.

Baingan (pronounced bane-gun) is what Indians call eggplant in hindi. And bharta (pronounced bhharta with the first “a” in bharta pronounced the same way you pronounce “u” in mud. Pardon me, but phonetic symbols are not my strongest point!), is the hindi word for roughly mashed/pureed vegetables.

This dish can be prepared two ways with roasted eggplant – one with accompanying raw ingredients which typically includes mustard oil and the other with cooked ingredients. The recipe below uses the latter method.

Honestly Baingan ka bharta was my least favorite dish growing up. It was hardly made at home, and when made, I never ate it. I wanted to like it, because eggplants are good for you, but I just found it too slimy to look at.

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Garam Masala Tuesdays: Shahi Paneer

When I was in India this time, the cook at my parents’ place made this amazing shahi paneer dish at a party that my parents hosted. Now, I have made shahi paneer in the past from a recipe my mother uses. The results have been good, always good. But, both my mom and I liked this recipe. And when I found out it was so easy, I had to try it out for myself.

“Shahi” means royal in Urdu and “paneer” is the name given to Indian cottage cheese. Indian cottage cheese is much firmer than the cottage cheese that we get here in the US. Unlike most cheeses in the world, the making of paneer does not involve rennet as the coagulation agent, thus making it completely lacto-vegetarian and providing one of the sources of protein for vegetarians in India. It is generally unsalted.

Shahi Paneer is the slightly richer version of Paneer Makhani or Butter Paneer (the vegetarian counterpart of the famous Butter chicken). A major difference in the nomenclature comes from the use of nuts and raisins- the former includes them in the recipe, the latter doesn’t.

As how all recipes go, there are various versions of shahi paneer out there in the cyber space, in Indian kitchens and in cookbooks. My mom’s recipe uses dried fenugreek recipes (which I have seen other recipes also mention). But this doesn’t. Yes, there are different versions online, but I like this recipe for its straight forwardness.

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Garam Masala Tuesdays: Mutton Patiala

The cuisine of India that we love and cherish today is, to a large extent, indebted to the raja/ maharajas (kings) that ruled India.

Until the second half of the 19th century when India officially became a British possession, rajas (kings) ruled different states of India. When the British officially took over, Rajas and otherwise styled Hindu rulers were elevated to Maharajas. Stripped from most of their political power, and the worries of protecting their states from other invaders, lots of Maharajas took their attention to finer details of life.

Under the British, Patiala (a city in the Northern Indian state of Punjab) was the most important Sikh state. The most famous Maharaja of Patiala was Bhupinder Singh (1900–1938).  Maharaja Bhupinder Singh was a larger than life personality. His appetite for everything wine, women, jewels, sports etc was gargantuan. It was he who gave the Patiala state a prominent place on the political map of India and, in the field of international sports. Most of the buildings with splendid architectural designs were constructed during his reign. He was also the only Maharaja to be gifted a Maybach by Adolf Hitler!

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