Tomato and Coriander Chutneys

When Kenny and I go to Delhi, we like to stay at Saubhag Bed and Breakfast, run by our own adopted Indian auntie, Meera. During our visit last month, I complimented Meera on her delicious tomato chutney, and she promised to send me the recipe. Here it is, with a bonus recipe below for coriander chutney. I haven’t tried either yet (the second will be difficult, as I am mixie-less here in Kampala), but I am hoping to try my hand at the tomato soon.

Meera’s Sweet Tomato Chutney

Ingredients

  • 2 kg tomatoes
  • 1 kg sugar
  • 1 large onion (80 gm)
  • 7 flakes garlic
  • 1 large piece ginger (30 gm)
  • 5 tsp salt
  • 4 tsp chili powder (10 gm)
  • Garam Masala (2 tsp ground cumin, 1 tsp pepper, 4 small pieces cinnamon, 5  cloves)
  • 3 tsp acetic acid (concentrated vinegar)

Instructions

  1. Blanche and peel ripe red tomatoes. Cut into small pieces (I put them into the blender for a few minutes).
  2. Cut onion and garlic very fine, grind ginger
  3. Add sugar to tomatoes. Put in onion, garlic and ginger. Cook on fire.
  4. When chutney turns a little thick, add salt, chili powder, cumin, pepper, cinnamon and cloves.
  5. Cook for a few minutes more. Turn off fire and add acetic acid.
  6. Cool chutney and enjoy!

Meera’s Green Coriander Chutney
Ingredients
 

  • 1 medium bunch coriander leaves
  • 1 small onion
  • 5-6 flakes garlic
  • ¾ tsp freshly ground cumin
  • 3-4 green chilies
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ½ lemon squeezed
  • Salt to taste

Instructions 

  1. Grind all above
  2. Add one heaped teaspoon plain yogurt if desired

A Thai Seder

Last night Lauren, Daniel, and I had a small seder for the second night of Passover. We had to improvise most of the logistics, from a downloaded Haggadah to various ingredient substitutions. We used bitter gourd as our maror, and a fried chicken leg from the night market as our pesach.  I made a charoset of green mangoes, chilies, sugar, and peanuts, continuing my recent tradition of holiday cooking prep at P Nik’s.

Hard-boiled eggs, salt water, and leafy greens were easy enough to come by, and Daniel completed our menu with some supplies he picked up from the Chiang Mai Chabad:

  • 3 bottles of kosher wine
  • A monster box of matzot, imported from Russia

After finishing the pre-dinner ceremonies with a spiced up Hillel sandwich (awesome with the mango charoset), we had our main course: a big salad using our bounty from the Sunday market. As the youngest seder attendee, Daniel not only had to read the four questions, but he also had to hunt for the afikoman in our 100 square foot apartment!

For dessert we prepared a tropical fruit salad of yellow and green mangoes, oranges, and bananas. We also had some of Nik’s strawberry jam on top of the afikoman matzah. While not your typical Maxwell House seder, we covered all the Passover classics, and swapped family traditions and songs. It was a very enjoyable second night of our rice-free week.

Seder plate
Seder plate with chicken leg Pesach, bitter gourd Maror, Thai charoset, local spring onion karpas, and hard boiled egg

Daniel with matzah
Daniel showing off the huge box of Russian matzah he acquired in Chiang Mai

Lauren, Kenny, and Little Vid
Little Vid helped us prepare the seder plate

Passover party
Our seder – Haggadah on the Kindle, food, wine, and reclining on the floor

Baked in Thailand

Over the past few weeks we’ve started to build a little community here in our quiet mountain town. In addition to ex-pats, we’ve also befriended Nik, the owner of a local café. Nik makes the only real yogurt (as in, just milk and cultures) in this town, and some tasty soft breads. She invited us to bring ingredients to her kitchen one day, where she taught us some Thai recipes.

To return the favor, Lauren had a brilliant idea. Given that Nik has a blender that she uses for her bakery, she thought that we could teach her how to make peanut butter. She would be able to sell it along with her bread, and I wouldn’t need to spend 30 minutes with a mortar and pestle making barely spreadable peanut butter. This Saturday we stopped by after lunch with a bag of peanuts and gave Nik a demonstration. She loved it! She then mentioned to us how she wanted to be able to make crustier breads. We told her that we’d have to do some research but we’d give it a shot tomorrow.

While we’ve played with various quick-breads and challah, we’ve never tried our hand at rustic, crusty breads. Fortunately, I remembered a book that I discovered just before we left on sabbatical called Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. It is conveniently available on the Kindle, so in 10 seconds we had our preparatory material in hand.

We spent Sunday morning getting familiar with the highly rated “master bread recipe”, and after lunch it was time to test it out. The recipe involves four ingredients (flour, water, yeast, and salt), minimal active work, a few tricky steps (with pictures that help immensely) and a decent amount of waiting time. About 5 hours after mixing the ingredients we opened the oven and, just like the book had described, the browned crusty loaves crackled on their way out. It was a slightly longer demonstration process than the peanut butter. :)

We went upstairs to join the local yoga class while the loaves cooled. Our baking timing couldn’t have been better. I skipped sivasana to cut up one of the four loaves, and served samples of bread and peanut butter to the exiting yogis. We had rave reviews all around, and the remaining three loaves sold in about 30 seconds flat. Nik also sold a few jars of peanut butter to the yogis.

Over the past few days Nik’s been practicing the bread recipe and I’ve stopped by during my lunch breaks to provide tasting and marketing advice. Today’s batch came out excellent. Capacity building has never been more fun!

Nik and her bread
Nik with fresh bread cooling in a steamer (it’s important to improvise around here)

Bread!
A few different designs fresh out of the oven

Nik showing off her wares
Nik and all of her goodies (peanut butter, cookies, breads, and moon cakes)

Rice Cooker Cuisine

Kenny and I will be staying in a guest house for the next three months, and those who followed our India adventures will not be surprised that we are feeling a bit of angst about not having a kitchen. We presumed that our “landlady” (i.e. guest house manager) would not be amused if we installed a propane-powered stove in our room, so we’ve been trying to come up with a lightweight mechanism to get our cooking fix.

Strolling down the streets of our small town yesterday, we noticed a few shops selling kitchen gadgets, most common of which was the rice cooker. And as we browsed through the displays, it dawned on us that one can probably use a rice cooker to cook much more than just rice. After we got home, a quick web search for “rice cooker recipes” revealed all kinds of crazy ideas, like rice cooker potatoes, lentils, dumplings, fish, steamed vegetables, oatmeal, scrambled eggs, spaghetti, even carrot cake!

Here are a few sites that look promising:

As usual, you can expect that if we make any culinary breakthroughs, we’ll post them here. I don’t know whether our experiments with the rice cooker will be quite as exciting as those conducted with pressure cookers, but they should at least save us from having to eat out for every meal.

Chilling in Chiang Mai

We had two and a half days free before starting AJWS orientation this afternoon, and we used the opportunity to repeat a few highlights from our last visit to Chiang Mai. We zenned out at Wat Chedi Luang, and took another cooking class at Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School. Mark, another AJWS volunteer, joined us for course one, which has green curry, pad thai, and surprisingly tasty fish cakes among its six dishes. That said, if you have flexibility in your schedule we preferred course two, where you get to make your own curry paste as the morning activity.

This morning we visited the one major site we missed last time we were in Chiang Mai – Doi Suthep, the hill wat outside of town. It’s a curvy ride to the temple base, where you encounter hundreds of other tourist vehicles and are immediately assailed by an assortment of hawkers. The wat itself was a bit of a letdown. It’s quite touristed-up, with kitschy souvenir stalls at the bottom, and children in hill-tribe garb dancing for money inside the temple. Even the “strenuous” climb up to the top proved to be only a few steps. Much of the wat itself is under construction and the Buddhas inside seem haphazardly arranged.

Our full photo set is available here.

Wat Chedi Luang
Wat Chedi Luang – our favorite wat in Chiang Mai

Cooking school
Each course in our cooking class started with a demonstration in a room handily equipped with a large Food Network-style overhead mirror

Chopping vegetables
Mark and Lauren chopping up the ingredients of their green curries

Lauren and green curryKenny and green curry
Enjoying our green curry fresh out of the wok

Lauren at Doi Suthep 
This dancing horse at Doi Suthep came to give Lauren a kiss

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Doi Suthep

Cuban Christmas in Seattle

Our good friend Gio hosted a fabulous Christmas dinner at his new house in Seattle. And because we’re staying with him, we got to help out with the cooking. Gio taught me how to use my new favorite kitchen appliance (the pressure cooker, of course, for those who have been following along) to make his famous Cuban black beans. He made fried plantains and white rice as accompaniments. Our friends Nichol and Fernando also joined, along with their kids Enrique and Natalie. We got a few fun shots of the kids, dogs, and adults after dinner:

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Natalie, Enrique, and Lauren

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Gio and Daisy

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Gatsby

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Kenny wearing a new shirt from our Delhi shopping spree

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Lauren and Natalie

Indian Christmas Eve in Seattle

We mentioned to Mike and Erin that we’ve been making a lot of Indian food lately. Erin said that mother cooks up some great Indian fare as well, so we decided to have an Indian potluck for Christmas eve. Lauren didn’t initially realize that the Arcuris were contributing half the menu, and so asked “will we have enough food?” with the four dishes we were bringing. There were indeed six adults and three children to feed, but they had to contend with:

  • Beef samosas
  • Spicy yellow dal
  • Channa masala
  • Palak paneer
  • Aloo gobi
  • Chicken kadai
  • Curried shrimp
  • Rotis
  • Dahi

It was like having an awesome Indian buffet in your own home; and since we weren’t holding back, chocolate torte for dessert!

Plate of Indian food
The full array of dishes…or so we thought

Lauren and Indian food
Lauren with the bonus curried shrimp – delicious!

Channa Masala

In the latest chapter of our Indian culinary experimentation, Kenny and I made our first attempt at channa masala last night. Incidentally, the recipe we decided to use came from a chef in Seattle (well, from her husband) who recently opened a pizza place called Delancey (haven’t been yet).

Mindful of the recipe’s explicit instructions, we took care to caramelize the onions for a very long time. We followed the recipe closely, although of course wherever it called for canned produce, we used fresh (you can’t buy cans of tomatoes or chickpeas in India). When we reached the end of the recipe, we basically had a pot full of chickpeas in tomato sauce with some spices mixed in. It was way too tomato-ey and tasted more Italian than Indian. But the recipe does say, “Taste, and adjust the seasoning as necessary.” So we did. We kept adding more water and spices and reducing, adding more spices and reducing, until the sauce turned from red to brown and tasted more like channa masala than channa marinara.

The end result was delicious, but next time I may look for another recipe that offers a better approximation of the spice to tomato ratios. We served the channa with dahi and ragi pancakes, a variation on the ragi waffles recipe that we invented a few weeks back.

As the recipe predicted, the leftover channa tasted even better the next day as lunch in the office!

Channa masala, dahi, and ragi waffles

Channa masala, dahi, and ragi waffles

Pressure Cooker Pumpkin Puree

As Kenny mentioned, our culinary experiments in India have often led us to source many of the constituent ingredients of our recipes the old-fashioned way. The dishes we prepared for Thanksgiving were no exception, and I was determined that the absence of canned pumpkin puree at our local grocery store was not going to prevent us from eating delicious pumpkin waffles for dessert (we don’t have an oven, so no pies for us, but we did discover Archana’s waffle iron a few days ago). We acquired a beautiful pumpkin from the local produce market in Malleshwaram and resolved to make the puree ourselves.

Of course most pumpkin puree recipes on the interwebs (including this one, which I used for inspiration) involve the use of an oven, which we don’t have. But my time in India has firmly convinced me that there’s pretty much no culinary problem that a pressure cooker can’t solve. Conveniently enough, Sean and Kenny had just purchased a 12L pressure cooker for the turkey, which was just perfect for the pumpkin.

First I cut it in half and removed the stringy stuff and the seeds (which I put aside for delicious toasted garam masala pumpkin seeds later). Then I hacked it up into smaller pieces, and into the pressure cooker it went, with about 3 cups of water. About 20 minutes later I had the “meltingly soft” pumpkin that every recipe demands. After it cooled, it went into the food processor, and then we mixed up the waffle batter. The end result was delicious, and further cemented my belief in the magical powers of the pressure cooker.

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Bisected pumpkin

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All cleaned up and ready for the pressure cooker

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In it goes!

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Delicious pumpkin waffles, garnished with ice cream, cinnamon, and red Kerala bananas (my favorite!)

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Garam masala pumpkin seeds

Vada Channa Stuffing

After perusing a few Thanksgiving stuffing recipes and feeling completely uninspired, Kenny and I decided to attempt an Indian stuffing. Here’s what we came up with. The end result actually tasted remarkably like a Thanksgiving stuffing, but with some Indian flavor.

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Ingredients

  • 1 bunch of gobi (cauliflower)
  • 1/4 kg lady fingers (okra)
  • 2 small red onions
  • 1 package of MTR Channa Masala (or you can be less lazy than us and make it yourself; we were running out of time with all of our other Thanksgiving prep and decided to take a delicious shortcut)
  • 12 small vadas (we got frozen ones; fresh vadas from a local shop would probably be better)
  • 2 eggs
  • Coconut oil

Instructions
In a large skillet, warm 1 tbsp coconut oil over medium heat. Add onion, cauliflower, and okra, and saute for 5 minutes or until tender. Season, to taste, with salt and pepper.

Crumble the vadas into a large bowl. Add sauteed vegetables to the crumbs. Stir in the beaten eggs and mix well. Then add the channa and mix well.

Transfer the mixture to a large pot, and cook covered on medium heat for about an hour (even better,  use an oven if you have one). Cut into pieces and garnish with curry leaves to serve.