Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Vegetable Sambhar - Curried lentil stew with mixed vegetables

It's been a while since I posted an Indian recipe. Especially a savory one. And today, I'm going to do just that. Indian recipes often get a bad rep for being notoriously complicated, or mind numbingly spicy or involving too many ingredients. Today's recipe will prove all of that wrong. Today, I am going to share with you my Mum's recipe for a vegetable Sambhar. My mother has always been a fantastic cook and when she visited us last year, I was lucky enough to learn how she makes it. There's a couple of steps to follow, but they are so easy and quick, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how easy some Indian recipes are.

Here, on The Aspiring Home Cook, I love to make things from scratch. I have tried a made from scratch version of Sambhar too, and it was okay, but didn't turn out like my Mother's did. So for this one, I'm following her recipe and since she's uses a store bought blend called a Sambhar Masala, I did just that. This Sambhar Masala is a delicately balanced blend of spices and gives a beautifully complex depth of flavor to the dish. Now, I always have a box of this masala in the pantry. I've used a couple of brands in the past like Everest and MDH, both of which you should be able to find at your local Indian grocery store, and they are both good. This time around, I've used the Everest Sambhar Masala.

Moving on to the vegetables. I use a mix of all sorts of veggies. This time around, I used some sweet potato, carrots, eggplants (I grew these ones in my own backyard, so I'm thrilled about them), okra / lady fingers and drumsticks. You can also use bottle gourd (white pumpkin), pumpkin and potato if you like. Use what you have on hand. Typically a sambhar always has drumsticks, eggplant and some bottle gourd. For those of you who aren't familiar with drumsticks, its the fruit of the moringa plant and supposed to be very good for you. They come in long canes ranging from 1 to 2 feet in length. They are chopped into smaller pieces, about 2 inches long and you don't eat the outer hard skin. Your after the pulp on the inside and the seeds. It is eaten much like how you would scrape the icing from the inside of an oreo cookie with your teeth.

This sambhar can be served up with some plain, boiled rice and a side of papad (poppadums) and Indian pickles of your choice. This sambhar pairs very well with idlis or dosas. I also enjoy a bowl of this stew with some crusty bread.




If you want to see this being made, check out the video version of the recipe here -




Vegetable Sambhar

1 cup toor dal (pigeon peas)
1/2 sweet potato
2 carrots
A handful of okra
2-3 small eggplants
A couple of drumsticks (A handful of frozen pieces)
8-10 curry leaves
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
3 dried Kashmiri chillies
1 tbsp Sambhar masala
1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilly powder, or any mild red chilly powder
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt, to taste
Tamarind, the size of a small walnut





Cooking the lentils - 

Wash through the toor dal with cold water and drain. Do this 2-3 times.

Cover the dal with fresh water till the dal is fully submerged and set aside to soak for about 10 minutes.

While the dal is soaking, chop up the vegetables you are using into similar sized cubes.

Drain the dal, and rinse through with fresh water and drain again. Pressure cook the dal with 2 cups of water and 1 tsp of salt. Cook till tender, almost mushy. It takes about 5 minutes in my WMF pressure cooker. Follow your manufacturers instructions to get you the best results. If you don't have a pressure cooker, simply boil it in a pot with plenty of water till it is well cooked.

Once the pressure dies down, open the pressure cooker.

Cooking the vegetables - 

While the dal is cooking, place the chopped vegetables in a large pot, top off with water from a recently boiled kettle and 1/2 tsp salt. Boil the veggies till they're almost done. Don't over cook the vegetables, because they will continue to cook in the sambhar. When the veggies are ready, drain them and set them aside. Reserve the water the vegetables were boiled in.


To make the sambhar - 

Soak the tamarind in a small bowl with about 1/8 cup of warm water. Set aside till later.

Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in large pot on medium heat.

When the oil is hot, carefully tip in the mustard seeds. When they start to sputter, add the curry leaves and the Kashmiri chillies.

When they have warmed through and released their flavors and aromas into the oil, lower the heat and add the cooked lentils and the water it was cooked in. Stir through.

Now add the sambhar masala and red chilly powder and stir through.

Add 1/2 - 1 cup of the vegetable stock to loosen the lentil curry as needed. You can add as much or as little of the stock as you need, depending on the consistency you'd like the sambhar to be. Keep in mind, the sambhar tends to thicken a little as it cooks.

Bring this back to a boil and add the cooked vegetables.

Once everything has heated through, check for seasoning and add more salt, if needed.

Now, mash the tamarind with your fingers in the water it was soaking in to extract the pulp. Pass this through a sieve into the pot of sambhar. Add this tamarind extract to taste.

Let it simmer for a couple of minutes.

Serve hot!!!



Thursday, February 8, 2018

Cashew Chicken on lettuce

Howdy folks!

I hope you're having a great week. I am super excited today. Yes, partly because it is Friday and that is one of favorite days of the week. It is also because, today in a first of many (hopefully), I've made a video for this recipe. I have wanted to do this for the longest time, but I've been putting it off because I thought I needed to have the perfect kitchen, the perfect cookware and so on. But I have come to realize that not everyone has the perfect kitchen, but we still love to cook up great food and learn new recipes. So instead of waiting for the perfect kitchen stars to align, I was going to start sharing my videos with you to show you that you can cook great food no matter how small or dated your kitchen may be. Since we're renting at the moment, there's not much we can do about the situation at the moment, but the focus will always be on delicious food.

In the last few years I've cooked on gas stoves, hot plates and ceramic cooktops. All of them have their own set of quirks. Like they say every oven is different, I think every cooktop is different too and you just need to spend some time getting to know it.

On to today's recipe. This cashew chicken is a quick and easy recipe. You can get it on the table in under 20 minutes. This is the perfect low carb meal when served on a bed of lettuce. You could, however, also serve it up with some fried rice or noodles too. I love it with lettuce and it makes a perfect summer's meal.



Here's the video. Let me know what you think. I sure hope you will like and share the video and Subscribe to my channel too. This is my first cooking video, so it's not perfect and I've learnt a lot from this experience. The detailed recipe will also be listed below.






Cashew Chicken on Lettuce
Recipe from: As Easy As Apple Pie
Serves 3

250g boneless, skinless chicken
2 tbsp low sodium soy sauce (Use a little lesser if you're using regular soy sauce)
2 tbsp oyster sauce
1/2 - 1 tsp red chilly paste
1/2 tbsp olive oil (cooking oil of your choice)
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ginger, finely chopped (fresh ginger is best but you can also use lightly dried ginger like I did here)
1/2 cup raw cashew seeds
Iceberg lettuce leaves (or any lettuce of your choice)
Sesame seeds, to garnish

Cut the chicken to bite size pieces.



In a bowl, mix the chicken, soy sauce, oyster sauce and chilly paste and toss well. Set this aside for about 10 minutes to marinade.



While that is happening, chop the ginger and garlic. (Fresh ginger is best, but I didn't have any so I used some from Gourmet Garden.)



Chop the lettuce leaves into bite size pieces and place them on serving plates.

Now, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic and saute for about 30 seconds or till they release a lovely aroma and are gently sizzling.

Turn the heat up to medium high and add the chicken and the marinade liquids. Add the sesame oil to the pan.

Stir fry for about 4-5 minutes or till the chicken has cooked through. (Please note, the cook time will depend on the size of the chicken pieces, so watch the pan and make sure the chicken pieces are cooked on all sides and have cooked through.) Stir the contents of the pan frequently, so ensure they don't burn.

When the chicken is cooked, add the cashew seeds and stir through for about a minute or till they've heated through.



And that's it. Your cashew chicken is ready to serve.

Spoon some of the chicken on the bed of lettuce. Make sure you have a few cashew seeds on each plate.

Sprinkle some sesame seeds on top and serve.



Enjoy!!!


NOTE: This is NOT a sponsored post.



Pin now for later -


Thursday, January 25, 2018

Satay Chicken Noodle Stir Fry

In my last few posts, you may have heard me complain about the heat and unfortunately not much has changed. This has been one of the fiercest summers I've seen since coming to Australia. I am definitely not a an extreme summer person. I love the milder temperature of spring and autumn, I enjoy the rains and I love winter.

When its this hot, all cooking and baking activity in my kitchen drastically falls. We mostly have salads, some sandwiches and any cooked dishes are usually quick and easy ones. I've been eager to increase my repertoire of such dishes and after some searching online, I came across this amazing Satay Chicken Noodle Stir Fry recipe. There are a few stages in the recipe, but they're all really easy and come together very quickly. The beauty of this recipe is that you can serve this either cold as a salad or like I did, slightly warm as a Stir Fry. I can't tell you how immensely flavorsome and delicious it turned out. You get the nuttiness from the peanuts, the flavor from the curried chicken pieces, the tang from the fresh lime juice, the creaminess from the coconut milk and the freshness from the fresh coriander. In all, it is a beautifully balanced dish. I am so very glad I tried out this recipe and it sure is a keeper.



Satay Chicken Noodle Stir Fry
Adapted from: Recipe Tin Eats
Serves 3-4

For the dressing -
1/3 cup roasted peanuts (you could also use 1/4 cup peanut butter instead)
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tbsp sesame oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tsp palm sugar
1 1/2 tbsp Sriracha sauce
2 tbsp sour lime juice
6 tbsp coconut milk
2 tbsp water
1/4 tsp salt, or to taste

For the Satay chicken -
350g chicken breast, cut in half lengthwise and then slice thinly
Salt, to taste
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp palm sugar
1 tbsp peanut oil (You can use any cooking oil you have)

For the Stir Fry - 
1 pack flat dried rice noodles (I used a 200g packet of Pad Thai rice noodles)
1 large or 2 small carrots, julienned
12-15 green beans / french beans, edges trimmed and thinly sliced on the diagonal (Use this only if you are serving this as a stir fry. If you are serving it as a salad, leave it out and just use carrots, cabbage and spring onions)
2 spring onions, finely sliced on the diagonal
(You can use 1 cup of finely sliced green / red cabbage or a combination of both. I didn't have any, so I left it out this time.)

To serve - 
1 red Birdseye chilly, finely sliced on the diagonal (optional)
3 tbsp roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
2 tbsp fresh coriander stalks and leaves, finely chopped
A wedge of sour lime


In a bowl, place the sliced chicken and all the satay chicken ingredients except the oil. Toss well and set aside for about 10-15 minutes to marinade.

While the chicken is marinading, make the dressing. Place all the dressing ingredients into a blender or food processor and blitz till you are left with a smooth dressing.

Cook the noodles according to the package instructions.

While the noodles are cooking, heat another pan over medium heat. Heat 1 tbsp peanut oil and gently tip in the marinaded chicken pieces and the marinade. Toss around a little and saute till the chicken pieces have cooked through. Take out the pieces of chicken onto a plate and set aside. 

In the same pan, add about 1 tsp more peanut oil. Add the french beans and carrot and stir fry for about a minute. Now add the cabbage and the spring onion. Stir well and stir fry for about another minute. The veggies should have softened a bit by now. I like to leave my veggies on the crunchy side. If you like your veggies softer, cook for a little longer till they are done to your likeness. 

Tip in the dressing and the chicken pieces. Stir through.

If it is too dry, add a tiny splash of water (1-2 tbsp of water) and heat through and toss well. (I didn't need to do this.)

Add the cooked noodles and gently toss through making sure that all the noodles are coated in that yummy dressing.

Take off the heat. 

Portion out into serving bowls or on plates.

Sprinkle some roughly chopped peanuts, chopped coriander and sliced chilly (if using) over each bowl / plate. 

Lastly squeeze some freshly squeezed sour lime juice over and serve or serve with a wedge of lime on the side.

Enjoy!!!


Sunday, January 21, 2018

Sweet Potato Mash

Hello lovelies!

I'm in a particularly good mood today. I know it's a Monday and I'm not usually a Monday person. It probably has something to do with the fantastic beach day we had yesterday. The hubby and I drove down south of Sydney and stopped at Thiroul beach for the day. The weather was just beautiful and water was amazing. Such a stark contrast to the scorchers we've been having the past few days. It was pure bliss. I simply love that part of NSW. Have you been there? I'd love to know what your favorite spots are? For all you beautiful people that are still dealing with winter, here's a little sunshine coming your way :)



Speaking of sunshine, today's recipe is just like a little sunshine on a plate. It's a sweet potato mash. I love sweet potatoes. I almost always make these Baked Sweet potato fries. But at times I also just boil them with a pinch of salt till tender and snack on them, or roast them, or if I'm feeling a little indulgent, whip up a batch of these Sweet Potato Brownies. But last week, when I wanted to use up a sweet potato, it was just too hot to switch the oven on. So I decided to try making a mash. It was as easy and quick as a regular batch of mashed potatoes, but just a touch sweet and a little savory at the same time. It was glorious. I might just like a Sweet Potato Mash a little more than I like a regular mash.

So, if you haven't yet tried a sweet potato mash, don't wait any longer. Get your hands on a sweet potato and get to work. You won't regret it.



Sweet Potato Mash
Recipe from: Cooking Light
Serves 4

1 1/2 pound sweet potatoes (about 650-700g)
1 1/2 tbsp butter
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A large pinch of dried thyme or 2 tsp chopped fresh thyme, or to taste
1/4 cup milk
Salt, or to taste
Freshly crushed black pepper, to taste

Peel and cube the sweet potato. Place the potato in a large pan with about 1/2-1 tsp of salt and water till it reaches about 2 inches above the level of the potatoes.

Bring to a boil and simmer till tender. This usually takes about 15-20 minutes depending on the size of the pieces.

Take off the heat, drain and place the potatoes back in the pan.

In another little skillet or pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Cook till brown and fragrant. Be alert as this can burn quick.

Once it has browned, take off the heat and stir in the thyme.

Add the milk, salt and pepper to the hot sweet potatoes and mash till it reaches the desired consistency.

Now drizzle the browned butter mix over and stir through the mash.

Garnish with some more crushed black pepper or thyme leaves as desired.

Enjoy!!!


I served this up with some Eggplant patties and a Lemon, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Almond Quinoa Salad for dinner.


Find the other recipes to make this meal here -
Eggplant Patties
Lemon, Sun-dried Tomato and Almond Quinoa Salad

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Lemon, Sun-dried Tomato and Almond Quinoa Salad

We're in for another scorching week ahead. I think the hot days are my least favorite things about summer. I love the beach days, all the frozen treats and grilling, the amazing fruit and veg that summer brings, but I cannot deal with the heat. And we seem to get a fair bit of it. One of the main reasons is I cannot cook or bake as much as I'd like to when its this hot.

It is especially at times like this that I love big salads. While I'm quite happy to put together a tossed garden salad a few times a week, I think I need to add a few new salads to my repertoire. We're trying to cut down our meat intake and substitute it with as much vegetarian food as possible. So salads like this Lemon, Sun-dried Tomato & Almond Quinoa Salad are perfect. Its all vegetarian yet hearty, involves minimal cooking and so very tasty. And its not just my opinion, my husband had a second helping of this salad for dinner.

I have tried cooking with quinoa before, but it was a total fail. So I was very skeptical about trying it out again. But I decided that trying something once and never trying it again, wasn't giving it a fair chance. So on my last trip to Costco, I just picked up a bag of quinoa. Now that I have this great big bag of quinoa, I was going to have to use it. So recently when I was looking for a salad recipe with Italian influences to pair up with my eggplant patties, I decided to look for one with quinoa in it. And when I stumbled upon this recipe, it sounded perfect. There was just one problem. I didn't have any parsley at home. So I just used the next best thing, coriander leaves. Personally I love the flavor that coriander leaves add to any dish and I thought it worked very well with this salad. But I also know there are folks out there that cant stand it. If you are one of them, feel free to use parsley instead. I can't wait to try it out with parsley the next time. I'm very happy to have another wonderful salad to include in my meal rotation now.




Lemon, Sun-dried Tomato and Almond Quinoa Salad
Adapted from: Averie Cooks

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 cup quinoa
1 1/4 cups of water
2 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp lemon zest
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp freshly cracked lack pepper, or to taste
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, sliced (I used the ones bottled in oil and drained them before slicing)
2 tbsp coriander leaves and stems, finely chopped
1/2 cup roughly sliced almonds
1 tsp red chilly flakes (optional)

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium high heat.

Add the onions and cook till the onions have softened and have just started browning.

Add the quinoa and stir. Let it toast for about 30 seconds.

Now add the water, apple cider vinegar, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir. Reduce the heat to low, cover the pan and cook for about 12-15 minutes or until all the liquid has been absorbed.

While the quinoa is cooking, chop up the rest of the ingredients.

Place the quinoa in a large bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and toss well.

Taste and add more salt or pepper or lime if needed. If, at this stage, you find the salad too sour, add a tiny bit of sugar to balance it out. I just stuck with the quantities listed above and I didn't need to add anything at this stage.

It stores well in an airtight container in the fridge for 2-3 days. This can be served either as a warm or cold salad.

Serve up this salad either as an accompaniment at a meal or a slightly larger portion as a meal in itself.

Enjoy!!!




Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Homemade Seasoned Taco Meat

With the Holiday season done, I know a lot of us are trying to get back to regular eating habits. We're trying to eat a little healthier after all the Holiday indulgences. We've also had a family wedding in early January, so for us the indulgences have been a little more that usual this time around. Now that I'm back and mostly unpacked and back to business as usual, the focus is on healthier food.

I love trying out new recipes and cuisines. Now I know Mexican food is hardly a new cuisine, but for me, this was a new recipe. My ground beef recipe is a little more involved than this one. I love the simplicity of it. The method was a little different than what I was used to, but by the time this taco meat was ready, it looked and smelt great and tasted fantastic. I can guarantee this tastes so much better than any packaged taco meat that you buy from the store. And you know exactly what has gone into the pot.

You could, as the name suggests, use this in tacos, but since we are trying to eat healthier, we enjoyed this with some iceberg lettuce and a bean salad on the side. Who said healthy eating had to be boring or tasteless. This was healthy and delicious and is going to make quite a few appearances on our dinner table. I do hope you try it out too.




Homemade Seasoned Taco Meat
Recipe from: Premeditated Leftovers

1/2 kg lean ground beef
1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp cumin powder
1 1/2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp crushed black pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 cup water
2 green onions, sliced

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat.

Add the ground beef to the pan and cook the meat till it is browned and no longer pink. This should take about 4-5 minutes.

Now add the onions and tomatoes and cook for about 2-3 minutes or till the onions have started to soften.

Add the rest of the ingredients except the water and the green onions. Stir everything together and saute for a couple of minutes. By now all the spices should have started doing their job and should be fragrant.

Now add the water and bring the pot to a simmer.

Cover the pot and let it simmer for about 5 minutes.

Now uncover the pot and cook the meat uncovered till almost all the liquid has evaporated.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the green onions.

Enjoy!


Thursday, December 7, 2017

Dodol - The quick and easy way

** This post contains affiliate links.

Goa, renowned for its beautiful beaches and people is an idyllic getaway for many. Every school holiday meant a trip to Goa to spend time with family. Along with beautiful weather and some of the most amazing produce, what I enjoy most are the traditional Goan sweets. Since moving from Bombay, these sweets are no longer within easy reach for me. So over the last few years, I've done the next best thing - learn to make them myself. A lot of these sweets make an appearance on the Goan Christmas platter also called Kuswar (pronounced koos-wahr). So far, I've had brilliant luck with quite a few and I will list them along with links to their recipes at the end of this post. I'm hoping to get a few more of them up earlier this year. So check back soon.

Today, after a long wait, I'm happy to share with you a recipe for Dodol. Dodol is almost a jelly like sweet made using Goa Jaggery, coconut and rice. Traditionally made, it is a very labor intensive recipe, but the results are so worth it. You use coconuts, freshly grated and juice extracted, the rice roasted and ground and after the jaggery is added you cook it long and slow, stirring continuously.  Unfortunately for me, I don't have access to Goa Jaggery in Sydney. But I was told that I could use Molasses instead. So on my last grocery shop, I picked up a bottle of Molasses. I decided I was going to try a few short cuts to cut down on time involved and used rice flour and a can of coconut cream. I'm happy to report that the whole prep and cooking process that usually takes hours, took be about half an hour from start to finish. The hardest part was leaving it overnight to set. You may not need to leave it that long, but I made the dodol in the evening and it was too warm to cut into after dinner.

But when I did cut into it, it was soft and delicious, just like I remember. I would recommend refrigerating it for a while before serving. It cuts a lot easier when cold. So if you've been putting of making Dodol because you can't find jaggery, go get some molasses and get making. When adding the molasses, don't go by the color of the mix, but taste for sweetness.



Dodol

1 1/2 cup rice flour
1 can (400ml) coconut cream
350-400g molasses
3 tbsp roughly chopped cashew nuts
1 tsp ghee to grease the loaf tin and knife
Water, as needed

Grease a loaf tin with a little ghee and keep aside.

In a large pan (I use the 12" Kitchenaid Stainless steel skillet) measure out the rice flour. Add enough water and make a batter (almost like a thick pancake batter). I use a whisk for this as it mixes the flour well without any lumps.



Pour in the coconut cream and whisk till dissolved.


Add the molasses and stir.


Now, place the mix on a medium heat and let it cook, stirring continuously.

When it starts thickening, drop the heat to low and continue stirring. I find that you may still find lumps in the mix even inspite of stirring. Use a whisk and break them up. It returns to a smooth consistency very quickly. I had to do this about 3 times.

As it thickens, it gets harder to stir. Add the chopped cashew nuts and keep stirring.

After about 20 minutes, here's what my mix looked like.


Continue cooking till the mixture starts leaving the sides of pan and looks a little glossy. I cooked the mix down for about another 5 minutes, stirring continuously.

At this stage, you need to work quickly. Pour into the greased loaf tin and flatten it down using the back of a spoon or a spatula.


Leave to set and cool completely. Once it has cooled you can either refrigerate it for later use or demould it to serve. To demould, just place a plate, slightly larger in size than the loaf tin, on top and tip the tin over the plate. A slight shake of the tin and plate should be enough to loosen the dodol and let prop it on the plate.


Slice and serve.


Enjoy!!!


Pin now and try later.




Other Goan sweets and Kuswar -
Perad / Guava Cheese (using canned guavas)
Perad / Guava Cheese (using fresh guavas)
Kulkuls
Coconut Toffee
Milk Cream
Jujups
Baath
Marzipan

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