Mulligatawny soup

20160111_140328Brimming with luscious flavours, spiked with healing spices, you will fall in love with my variation on this anglo-indian soup. Muliga (pepper) + thanni (water) are the origins for this british soup that the brits borrowed from my rich tamil heritage 🙂

Last night I happened to rear end a car while driving home on the blusteriest of winter days.. My car buffeted, I was on the streetcar tracks, it was icy, my car screeched to a halt trying to not ram into the car in front that was trying to turn left. But, the elements, the road conditions got out of my hand. I lost control. After a long night of getting towed to the collision center, when I reached home, I kept reliving the episode, quite shaken at the turn of events. Still grateful that I was spared and only the car was a write off. This morning 20160111_140427when I woke up, I felt as if I had gone through a big fever or something, I felt the need to heal. I had made this batch of mulligatawny soup the night before for a friend with a fever and had some left over. Just the perfect soothing, nurturing, spicy, healing soup my mind and body needed. I remembered my grandmother making a variation of this soup and recalled the ingredients from memory. It was finger lickin good!

You need
¼ cup toor dal or pigeon peas (optional)
½ cup tomatoes
1 cm fresh ginger crushed

 

 

Spice paste
1 tsp yellow split peas
½ tsp tamarind paste
2 tsp coriander seeds
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp curry leaves
2 dry red chilies
Salt to taste
Spice oil
½ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp curry leaves
Pinch hing

Garnish
1 tbsp. fresh cilantro

How to

• Cook toor dal if using with ½ cup water. I like to use it to add some protein into this soup. Puree and set aside.
• Heat pan for spice paste. Dry sauté(no oil) the spice paste ingredients. When roasted light brown grind to a thick spice paste with 2 tbsp water. Set aside.

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• Heat pan. Add coconut oil. Add mustard seeds, when they splutter toss in curry leaves, hing and turmeric powder. Add tomatoes & lightly sauté till cooked.
• Now add in the toor dal, 1 cup water, fresh ginger & tamarind paste.
• Let everything boil together.

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• Add in the spice paste & allow to come to another boil so there are no raw spice smells.
• Garnish with fresh cilantro.
• Serve with rice. I like to use sona masoori rice that is short grained & not sticky for this soup..

Oh!. The comfort of mulligatawny soup. For a few minutes I was transported to my grandma’s kitchen. Nurtured and healed through my car adventure. Hope you enjoy this well kept secret recipe. Doesn’t the broth look pretty and nourishing? I’d love to hear how you enjoyed it. What do you eat when you need nurturing? What’s your favourite go-to comfort food ?

20160111_140427–charuyoga–

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Mung dal puree for Iqaluit hunters and gatherers

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‘You and I take vegetarian food for granted’, said my friend Connie.

She was sharing her experience while helping the native Inuit of Iqaluit. ‘They find the texture of lentils unfamiliar. Its not part of their culture. They are hunters and gatherers’, she said.

Connie is right. I’m fortunate I was raised in a country like India. Where Its super easy to prepare light, unprocessed, sustainable recipes. I could easily cook lentils 365 days of the year and not have to repeat a recipe. I really feel for new vegans. Especially those for whom a veg diet is not part of their food culture.

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To help the people of Iqaluit, Connie has been fund raising for months. Iqaluit is a northern city closer to Greenland than it is to Ontario where I live.

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With the funds raised, she bought them this industrial grade food processor to puree their lentils. She’s flown off to Iqualuit to hand this off. So their lentils will be more palatable to their hunter – gatherer state. Wow, look at the size of that..I’m surprised Connie can even hold it up!

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I promised to write her an easy puree lentil recipe that they could blend in their soup kitchen as they transition from hunter-gatherer to farmer.

Ingredients
½ cup yellow mung beans

1 tbsp fresh ginger
1 tbsp fresh garlic
½ cup tomatoes
¼ cup onions
Spice mix
1 tbsp curry leaves or kaffir lime leaves
1 tsp fresh lemon/lime juice
1 big brown cardamom
Pinch cayenne pepper
1 tsp fresh cilantro
¼ tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
¼ tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
Pinch hing

Method
• Wash mung beans thoroughly. Soak in 1 cup water and cook till soft.
• Chop onions, garlic and ginger and tomatoes. Set aside.
• Heat coconut oil in pan. Apsara tip – I’m excited & grateful to have a chance to introduce the hunter-gatherer inuit to vegan food.. I’m not sure what oils they have locally available so will leave choice of oil to them and to you. Coconut oil in my humble opinion is great. I believe its best not to judge choice of oil anyone wishes to use., but only point out what is healthy and best for body.
• Add cumin seeds, hing and then quickly add onions, garlic and ginger. Saute till cooked and soft.
• Add tomatoes and spices and let cook till soft.
• Add cooked mung beans and ½ cup water. Let come to boil.
• Take off stove. Puree the entire soup. Stir in lemon juice and fresh cilantro leaves.
• Serve with your choice of flatbread- indian chapati, or pita bread or any bread 🙂

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Health benefits:
88eba384e7d9cefbMung beans are the healthiest beans going around. According to Ayurveda, indian system of health, the smaller the beans the easier to digest.

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Look at Timbit in the kitchen. that’s a quiet cat. First time I’ve seen him stay so quiet. no take that back, he’s quite a zen cat 🙂 look at him watching my yoga class..10952295_10204735306214695_1929285923377642519_n

Though the Iqualuit inspired this post, dear reader, anyone who is a new vegan or even a seasoned vegan can easily try my recipe. You will be sure to fall in love with it. Its foolproof and delicious beyond description.

–charuyoga–

Power up with Protein rich yard beans stir fry

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Protein! That ever important ingredient. If you are a vegan, I’m sure you have spent a fair bit of time trying to get more protein in your diet. 

So how do the vast majority of Indians manage to get protein in food without going stir crazy, without reading food labels or without trying too hard and without relying on supplements? I’ll share my secret: take it in directly through food. Make green beans a staple.

As a kid I’d love these yard beans whenever my aunt made it for me. I seemed to intuitively know & trust innocently in my body’s intelligence. I’d happily take a bowl of these beans and have just that with a dollop of yoghurt. That’s all I needed to keep me going. It kept me full without being heavy. I imagine the yogis in the Himalayas eating similar fare so that they can fuel the body lightly to keep their mind clear.

Now as an adult, I learn that these foods are best for our body. Light and yet nutritious they fuel us up to keep going.

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Eating heavy foods comes at a price. Our bodies take about 1-4 hours to digest food. The heavier the food, the longer they stay in our digestive tract. The longer they stay in our digestive tract, the less energy we have to do other things. Our whole body’s attention is turned towards digestion and there is very little energy left for mental activity or even performing physical activity. Ever felt a headache when you ate too much? this is why.

Last bonus point – these yard beans are really tasty, and they grow above soil so they get lots of direct energy from the sun that is life giving energy. Try more above ground vegetables in the summer, keep root vegetables for cool weather substance and warmth In cool weather.

2 cups loosely packed yard long beans, cut delicately Spice Garnish
1 tbsp grated coconut
½ tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp curry leaves
2 dry red chilies
1 tsp urad dal
Pinch hing
Salt to taste

Method
• Wash yard beans thoroughly. Then cut finely into delicate and small rings. The smaller you cut it the tastier these beans are.
• Steam the beans. I use a stainless steel collapsible steamer within a pressure cooker, but you can easily use a bamboo steamer or any other way to steam. Set aside beans when lightly crisp.
• Heat frying pan. Add coconut oil, then mustard seeds, when they splutter add urad dal, curry leaves, red chillies split in two and hing. Saute lightly.
• Toss the steamed yard beans in the pan, allow to coat with spice mix.
• Add salt. I’m addicted to Himalayan sea salt and would highly recommend that, even if its on the expensive side. You need very little and its good for you unlike the iodised table salt that’s full of chemicals.
• Stir in grated coconut and you’re done.
• See how easy that was. The biggest job here is cutting the yard beans.
• Serve with whole grain chapatis.

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This simple yet delectable stir fry with yard beans is my personal favorite in the green bean kingdom. Actually, who am I kidding? I’ll happily eat any kind of green beans and there are several that I’ve tried thanks to growing up in New Delhi.

These beans keep you filled up in a healthy and light way, plus they are delicious when served with whole grain chapatti. Never made chapati before, then try this step by step post I wrote up.

–charuyoga–

Many layers of indian vegetarian cooking and my food handler certificate

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‘Ooh, What’s that appetising smell’?, asked my coworker as she walked into the staff lobby at lunchtime. ‘I knew its your lunch rightaway. What do you have? OMG its so, so fragrant’, she said as she peered into my Tupperware.

That’s a pretty awesome segway into today’s women’s day post. My coworker is not alone in loving Indian food. Everyone just loves the special spices that go into Indian food. When its lovingly home cooked, it takes food up a notch. Once you’ve eaten a home cooked Indian meal, life will never be the same again 🙂 There is a lot of magic happening. I’ll try to break it down just a wee bit in my post today.

The main ingredient is
rasa (Sanskrit: रस lit. ‘juice’ or ‘essence’)

Rasa is juice that appeals to every sense. Really, really top notch Indian vegetarian food takes it one step further. Beyond juice, it uses colour artistically. It layers foods in interesting combinations, never repeating the same flavour twice in a meal. My lunch today that my coworker was raving about WAS juicy.

I made garlic cabbage tomato curry, ginger black eyed beans with mustard seeds and shredded coconut. I served it with basmati rice pulao sautéed with green beans and this very special spice.. gives it a smoky flavour. Hint, you can see it in the pix above, in the pulao 🙂 If you guess right, I have a giveaway. If you live in the Greater Toronto area, I’m giving away a complementary yoga class. Check the side bar for locations. And If you live outside, I will mail you a treat.

I received this lovely surprise in the mail. My food handler certificate has arrived. I passed the exam and am now certified.

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Don’t you like the wording on the letter. I’ve been cooking now for over 30 years.

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I guess the signs are clear now. Its time to share my knowledge with everyone. I’ve been doing that though my catering to friends and coworkers who simply can’t get enough of the tasty vegetarian/vegan meals I bring them. I’ve been blogging about my recipes. Often they are unique as I take ancient secret recipes. Add a modern healthy twist to them. I’ve been asked to teach cooking lessons to american friends. Will do that next. I’m really excited about my food handler certificate. Can’t wait to share my knowledge with you all. Tell, me what would you like to hear more of from me.

–charuyoga–

Black eyed peas with lettuce salad

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Want to know my secret! How to move your digestion & improve elimination.

Just back from a yoga retreat vacation. Best way to beat Canadian winter blues is to head south to the atlantic. Nothing like sun, sand and yoga with awesome vegetarian food to warm you up. While at the ashram I had a chance to cook a meal for about 300 guests. Yes!!! That’s right.. never cooked this size before, but managed to with a little bit of help.. recipes from that meal later.

For now, I want to share my secret. If you are like me and have a slightly sluggish abdominal tract where things take forever (say about 24 hours) before they make their way out, you know what I’m talking about. I’ve even had a man comment ‘you look like you are pregnant’. thanks!! just what a girl needs to hear 🙂

All yoga practices ultimately engage the movement of prana—the innate life force. One of the main breaths of yoga is apana vayu—of equal importance in the practice of hatha yoga. apana, which is most active in the pelvis and lower abdomen, governs the eliminative functions (excretion, urination, menstruation) and the downward and outward flow of energy in the body. When this energy of apana is stuck, you end up with  that sense of unease, discomfort, nausea even sometimes.. Just because food is sitting away and taking its time to move downwards.

So how can you help Apana? I’ll share yoga poses next time. For now think foods that have some fibre. Lettuce was my answer. I’ve always avoided cold salads, warm foods help my body constitution. But I tried eating lettuce every single meal at the yoga retreat and cut back on some of the delicious freshly baked bread. That was soo hard to do. But so well worth the results. Flatter abs, (still some work ahead of me 🙂 fluid movement of food in my body..

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Here’s my recipe for a delicious lettuce salad, exciting, never boring.

1 ½ cups shredded washed, rinsed and
shredded romaine lettuce
¼ cup washed, peeled and cubed carrots
2 tbsp black eyed beans
Spice Mix
1 tbsp crushed fresh ginger
1 hot green thai chili pepper
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
½ tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp sesame seeds
1 tsp curry leaves
1 tsp coconut oil
½ tsp urad dal
1 tbsp raisins
¼ tsp lemon juice
Salt to taste

Method

* Boil black eyed peas in water till soft. Drain and set aside.

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* Mix shredded lettuce and cubed carrots in salad bowl. Add drained black eyed peas to bowl.
* Heat coconut oil in pan. Add mustard seeds, when they splutter, add the rest of the spice mix & stir till golden brown.

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* Pour the spice mix into the salad bowl.
* Add salt to taste and mix in lemon juice.
* Stir everything together.

Wasn’t that easy? Enjoy this delicious and pretty salad. I’m sure your stomach will thank you for the lovely and light feeling you carry through the day.. with the thoughtful spices that went into this salad. Write in your comments, I’d love to hear how this salad worked for you.

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–charuyoga–

Idli


Soft, fluffy and nutritrious, idlis are delicious, spongy and easily digestible.. even children in southern india are fed idlis. While in India, I could easily have idlis for breakfast, lunch & dinner, that’s how light, tasty and nutritious they are. About 10 years ago if you asked me to make these in Canada I’d have given you a despairing look! I allowed myself to think as follows: ‘don’t ever expect to make soft idlis like you did in india, Its just not going to happen in this cold weather’. Now years after experimenting to get it right, I’m happy to announce that flower-like idlis are possible using locally available rice. The secret, well there are just a few. So pull up a chair, go through this post and then see if you’d like to try out this gluten free rice bread for yourself.

Ingredients
3 cups parboiled rice
1 cup urad dal
Spice mix
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
Salt to taste
Pots n Pans
Idli pan
Food processor

• Wash rice a couple of times in cold water. Soak in 1½ times water to cover rice (remember rice will soak and swell so you want to give it enough water but not too much) and add ½ tsp fenugreek seeds to rice.

• Wash urad dal once, add ½ tsp fenugreek seeds and soak in cold water also overnight.SOS Urad doesn’t really take that long to soak & swell, but I give it the same 8 hours as rice so I don’t have to remember different soak times. Leave both rice and urad dal uncovered overnight. I’ve suggested soaking overnight so that you can have idlis for dinner the next day but you can easily reverse timings and soak in the morning to have idlis next morning for breakfast!

• Next morning, grind rice to a coarse and grainy batter. Grind urad dal smoothly till texture resembles soft and fluffy butter. Mix ground rice with ground urad batter using clean hand and pour into a pan large enough to accommodate dough fermentation & rising to more than double capacity. At this point dough should resemble grainy cake dough in texture. Add salt to taste.

• Wrap dough pan in kitchen towel and place in a warm place. I keep my dough in the oven with the pilot light turned on. In my previous apartment, I loved using the warmth created on top of my fridge to ferment my idli dough.

• Take dough from oven in the morning. Dough would have risen to about 250% its capacity. Mix dough turning everything together with spoon.

• Heat steam pan after adding 1 cup of water. (Don’t have idli plates, no problem. Idlis can even be steamed in a regular cake pan & then cut into wedges). Rinse idli plates. SOS some folks like to grease their pan. I found that just rinsing in cold water before pouring dough into plate has the same effect.

• Pour a big spoon of dough into each of the idli moulds. Cover pan with lid and let steam.

• Remove from stove. Let slightly cool before removing idlis. SOS another trick I learnt over time is to dip my spoon in the hot water in pan & idlis come out easily then.

• Serve warm with a dab of ghee & chutney or dip of your choice. Kids love to eat idlis with a spot of sugar.

Fun Facts …Myths that were shared in an effort to help me:
1. “You really can’t expect to have the same soft idlis as you did in India.”
My action: Eating soft idlis in wonderment in little india in Toronto.
Result: my vow to somehow make the same soft idlis.

2. “Its all in the mixing. Your hands are probably not warm enough and your body Ph not warm enough”.
My action: Running hot water over my hands, then massaging them till they were hot to touch & then mixing batter in.
Result: Warm hands, but batter never rose to the astronomical proportions it was supposed to. Idlis were hard as stone.

3. “Its all in the temperature. Your room is probably not warm enough”.
My action: Keeping batter on top of heating vents.
Result: Batter which was partly cooked at the bottom of the pan. Resulting in you guessed right– hard idlis.

4. “Use only the top part of the dough after fermentation”. You are probably mixing all the dough together.
My action: selecting only the top part of the dough to steam my idlis.
Result-Dough would fall apart and I’d have to a) either throw away the uncooked idlis or b) suffer through and eat inedible idlis so as not to waste food.

5. “Its all about the rice. You have to buy ponni rice or kanchipuram short grain parboiled rice”.
Action: trying to locate a good source for parboiled rice
Result: Idlis come out fine, but when the store is out of the specialty rice & I have to wait for the next batch to arrive from south india, guess what! no idli!

My Tips:
1. Wash rice & dal just once. With my extreme germ consciousness about cleanliness, I’d wash & rewash the rice till there were practically no nutrients left. DON’T. You only need to wash once, maybe twice max to remove any dust.

Wash urad dal only once. Fenugreek doesn’t need washing, add them after you have washed the rice/dal.The combination of urad dal and fenugreek seeds is more than just nutrition value. Its what draws in airborne wild yeast to help the fermentation process.

2. Keep soaked rice & dal uncovered: as that’s what’s going to encourage the yeast to enter and help break down starches later –which probably makes it the most easily digestible food in the world.

3. Any rice will do: There are two types of starch in rice; Amylose and Amylopectin. Long grain rice has 22 percent Amylose and 78 Amylopectin, while medium/short grain rice has 18 percent Amylose and 82 percent Amylopectin. Note corn starch is 100% Amylose. While you need over 80% Amylopectin to make Idli soft and plump and its recommended to use short to medium grain size rice. If you don’t have access to Idli rice, try Arborio Rice (or any other Italian rice used to make Risotto) or even Mochi Rice (Japan) or sweet/ waxy American Rice. SOS I used parboiled long grain rice easily available in regular grocery stores and it worked like a charm as you can see in the pix.

4. Use whole urad seeds: Split urad seeds lose their yeast during the mechanical and chemical process of splitting in a factory.

I do feel quite the alchemist as I try to share tips on soft idli making. I realize it may seem like a lot of instructions, but its really simple..no agonizing over what rice to get, pretty much any rice will do—main thing is no overwashing and of course the fenugreek seeds.

Dear reader, I feel confident enough to declare that you can make idlis in the coldest of temperatures following the steps I outlined above..I hope you’ll give it a try.

Dal Makhani

Lodhi gardens! Pandara Road, Khan market, this is where I grew up. Sometimes my coworkers and I would deliberately forget to bring lunch so we could order in from the Moti Mahal takeout in Jorbagh market. We`d dial the number. Huffing and puffing on his cycle, the delivery man would bring up to our desk a steaming pot of dal makhani in a clay pot, pulao rice wrapped in aluminium foil and the most amazing pink onions I’d ever laid my eyes on. While the restaurant dal was creamy from loads of butter and cream & probably delivered a whopping and hefty calorie count, over time I`ve been playing with this recipe to maintain its creamy essence without losing on taste or texture. Read on to find out how.

Ingredients
1 ½ cups brown masoor dal
½ cup rajma or red kidney beans
1/3 cup tomato paste
Garnish
1 tsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp fresh ginger cut into thin strips and sautéed in a little oil
Spice Mix
1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
1 tsp garlic, chopped finely
¼ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper
4 grains cumin seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
pinch hing
salt to taste
Serves 4
Pots n pans
Pressure Cooker
Wok or Frying Pan

Method

  1. Wash and rinse rajma thoroughly in running cold water a couple of times. Discard water & soak in fresh water overnight or at least 4 hours. Repeat the same washing and rinsing process separately for the masoor dal. Soak in a separate pan-I`ll tell you in a bit why these 2 beans need to soaked and cooked separately.
  2. Pressure cook beans in their separate pans till soft and slightly mushy. Take off stove and let cool.
  3. Heat oil and add cumin seeds. Quickly add hing, turmeric & cayenne pepper. Watch carefully that spices don`t burn but just lightly coated with oil & then add onion and stir till cooked and soft. Add ginger and garlic and stir quickly till lightly brown.
  4. Add tomato paste and fry till the oil separates from the spice mix.
  5. Add cooked rajma, 2 tbsp cooked masoor dal, 1/4 cup water and cook till beans are soft. Take off fire and let cool.
  6. Grind this spice gravy in food processor till smooth.
  7. Turn heat on. Add spice gravy back to pan and also cooked masoor dal. Add salt to taste. Let everything boil. Depending on how creamy you like your dal, you can mash the dal a bit while its heating. When you see creamy swirls forming on dal surface, take off heat. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.SOS There’s my trick to maintain flavour without any butter or cream. You probably guessed the creaminess comes from the rajma I soaked and cooked separately so I could mash it up for creamy gravy. Hope you enjoyed this simple yet powerful tip.


Health benefits

Though traditional dal makhani uses urad dal in a lengthy process with loads of butter and cream to get that creamy texture, I used masoor dal which is readily available to get the same effect, With no added cream or butter, this dal is just as delicious if not more. Masoor dal is probably the most popular dal in Indian cooking. It comes in 2 varieties-one with its skin on and is brown in colour and the other which has been polished and red in colour. I like both however in this recipe I prefer the brown variety since when cooked the skin comes off slightly adding a nice texture to the dal.

Fun facts
Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s chef once cooked masoor dal for his king. He spent upwards of a few hundred rupees, pricey for that time, The maharaja was livid that his chef spent so much on a dal. Offended the chef left his court.Of course the chef got his next job quite easily with the Nawab of Bahawalpur.

Hearing this news, Ranjit Singh’s courtiers advised him to call the chef back otherwise word would get out that Ranjit Singh couldn’t afford “masoor ki dal”. When the cook was approached, he simply refused to return to and said in Hindi, “ye mu aur masoor ki daal?”.Loosely translated this meant that cheap face (aka the Majaraja) doesn’t deserve a rich masoor dal.

Fun Facts
Hands down winter is the best time to enjoy dal makhani.Since we didn’t use any onions in this dish & I sorely felt its absence, I wanted to pair the dal with the same pink onions that I tasted in delhi .Eventually I came to the conclusion that the pink colour is from a vinegar soak. Having no vinegar at home, I experimented with fresh lime juice. I think you`ll agree dear reader we have a winner here :).Serve dal makhani with some chapati or with steamed white basmati rice. Don`t forget the pink onions and if you happen to have this dal the following day after its made, you`ll find the flavours deeper and even more delicious if that`s possible.