Chettinad Style Vegetable Biryani

After a 3 month blogging hiatus, i am back and ready to share recipes with you again. I can’t promise there won’t be quiet weeks but i can promise that i won’t disappear for months on end again:)vegetable biryani

Chettinad cuisine is famous for its use of variety of spices and its popular for its fragrant biryanis and curries. I’ve been making Arundati’s mushroom biryani for ages now and its always a huge hit among friends and family. I followed the same recipe for this vegetable biryani and boy! I can’t tell you enough about how much we loved it. Star Anise is an integral spice in Chettinad cuisine, make sure to use this spice for added flavor. This recipe involves marinating the vegetables, i usually let it marinate overnight and have noticed that this definitely adds depth and flavor to the rice. This recipe can give any restaurant biryani a run for its money. Its flavorful and fabulous, minus the oil slick you find in most restaurant briyani.

Biryani

Ingredients for the rice

2 cups Basmati rice, washed and soaked in 2 cups of water for at least 30 minutes

3 cups  onion, finely sliced

2 cloves

2 bay leaves

2 star anise

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 one inch piece cinnamon

3 tablespoons oil

Ingredients for the marinade

3 cups vegetables ( a mix of carrots, beans, potato), sliced lengthwise

2/3 cup plain yogurt

1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste

1 teaspoon red chili powder

1 teaspoon coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup cilantro leaves, chopped

1/2 cup mint leaves, chopped

Method

1. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a pan and fry the chopped onions until golden brown, set aside

2. Mix all the ingredients listed under marinade along with one cup of fried onions from step 1 and keep it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

3. In a deep, heavy bottomed pan, add oil and when oil is hot, add all the whole spices and cook for a minute.

4. Add the marinated vegetables along with any remaining marinade and cook for 10 minutes until the moisture evaporates and oil starts to separate.

5. Drain and add the rice to the pan and saute gently for 5 minutes.

6. Add 4 cups of water to the rice mixture and bring it to a boil.

7. Add more salt, if needed and garam masala and mix well.

8. Cover with a lid and cook on medium flame for 15 minutes.

9. Simmer for 10 minutes until rice is cooked.

10. When ready to serve, gently fluff with a fork and sprinkle remaining fried onions on top.

Vegan Eggplant And Potato Stir-Fry

Its been almost two weeks since I posted anything on the blog, the longest break since I started this blog about 18 months ago. It is not because I haven’t been cooking, its just because I’ve been busy with other things. That said, I am going to try and be more regular with my posts. Our meals lately have been quite simple but healthy and flavorful and something that can be put together without much effort. One such recipe is this simple stir-fry. I am not a big fan of eggplant, but Yumjay is and therefore this vegetable appears on our menu at least once a week. And since i add potato to this stir-fry, I eat it without complaining. This recipe calls for basic Indian spices, the ones you can easily find in any supermarket. You can use any type of eggplant, I have used the small Thai eggplants you find in Indian grocery stores. This stir-fry along with dal, rice or roti makes a wholesome, delicious weeknight Indian dinner.

eggplant potato curry

Ingredients

5-6 Thai eggplants, cut into wedges

1 medium russet potato, skin peeled and cut into wedges

1 tablespoon oil

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon black gram/urad dal

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon powdered asafetida

1/2 teaspoon red chili powder

1/2 teaspoon coriander powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

5-6 curry leaves

salt

Method

1. Heat oil in a pan and when oil is hot, add mustard seeds. Let it splutter.

2. Add cumin seeds and let it cook for 30 seconds.

3. Add black gram/urad dal and cook till it turns slightly brown.

4. Add curry leaves and asafetida, cook for 30 seconds.

5. Add eggplant and potatoes, along with the powdered spices and salt, mix well.

6.  Sprinkle a tablespoon of water and cook covered for 5 minutes.

7. Uncover and cook on medium flame for 10 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked and well roasted.

 

Vegan Onion Fritters / Onion Pakoras

I rarely deep-fry things in my kitchen and that’s why it has taken me all this time to post the most popular tea time snack of India. If you were to run a poll between samosas and pakoras, i am almost positive that pakoras will win hands down because its much easier to make and it requires basic, everyday ingredients to put together this tasty snack. On a cold, rainy day nothing is more comforting than a plate of warm pakoras and steaming hot chai. I have used onions in this recipe, but you can use cauliflower, potato, paneer (Indian cheese) or a combination of veggies. If you plan to make this for a party, fry them up and store them in an oven proof bowl covered tightly with aluminum foil at 300F, they will remain warm, crispy and fresh. You can eat these pakoras plain or sandwich them between two slices of bread with green chutney for a filling lunch.

pakora

Ingredients

1 large red onion, sliced lengthwise

1/2 cup mint leaves

1/2 cup chickpea flour

1/4 cup rice flour

1 teaspoon red chili powder

1/4 teaspoon asafetida

1.5 teaspoons fennel seeds

1 Thai green chili, roughly chopped

1 inch piece ginger, minced

5-6 curry leaves

chaat masala (optional)

salt

oil

Method

1. Place all the ingredients except oil and chaat masala in a bowl.

2. Add 2 tablespoons of hot oil and mix well to form a dry mixture. The water from the onion should be sufficient to bring the mixture together, sprinkle very little water if needed.

3. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan and when oil is hot, add a pinch of pakora batter. Do not make a ball or flatten them, it should be shapeless.

4. Cook on medium heat till golden brown and crispy.

5. Remove with slotted spoon and sprinkle chaat masala on top (optional).

Vegan Biryani

Biryani is an Indian dish most often made with fragrant basmati rice, spices and vegetables or meat. This dish is believed to have originated in Turkey and brought into India by travelers and merchants. There is a lot of difference in the preparation of this dish between north and south India and in south India almost each town has its own special biryani. It is hard to say which is superior because each method has its own unique flavor. Yumjay is a biryani connoisseur and while he prefers biryani with chicken, he couldn’t stop eating this vegan biryani which i made last weekend.

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My friend LH gave me this biryani recipe and i was quite surprised that it had sambar powder and 7 Thai green chilies for every cup of rice. I was very skeptically about this recipe because i have never cooked biryani with sambar powder and the quantity of chilies seemed excessive for a medium-spicy person like me. Boy, was i wrong! It turned out to be a very flavorful biryani with minimal prep work and 7 chilies didn’t make it super spicy.  Sambar powder is available in most Indian grocery stores and the main ingredients in the powder are a variety of lentils, coriander seeds and red chilies. This is a great weeknight dinner recipe, it took me about 45 minutes from start to finish.

biryani


Ingredients

1 cup basmati rice

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 medium tomato, finely chopped

1 medium potato, skin peeled and cubed

8 green beans, cut into 1 inch pieces

1/4 cup fresh or frozen green peas

1 medium carrot, cubed

6 cauliflower florets

7 Thai green chilies ( do not cut)

1 teaspoon sambar powder

2 tablespoons oil

2 cloves

1 one-inch piece cinnamon

2 bay leaves

2 green cardamom

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 one-inch piece ginger, minced

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped

salt

Method

1. Wash and soak basmati rice in 2 cups of water.

2. Heat oil in a pressure cooker or a large pot. When oil is hot, add cloves, cardamom, bay leaves and cinnamon. Cook for a minute.

3. Add onions and cook till they turn soft.

4. Add ginger, garlic and Thai green chilies, cook for a minute.

5. Add tomatoes and a pinch of salt, cook till they turn soft and mushy.

6. Add sambar powder and salt, mix well.

7. Add all the vegetables along with cilantro and mint, mix to coat well in the spices.

8. Add drained basmati rice, mix gently.

9. If cooking in pressure cooker, add 1.5 cups of water and bring it to a boil. Check for salt and cover with lid. Let the rice cook for one whistle and simmer for 10 minutes. Once the pressure is completely released, open and gently fluff the rice with a fork. If cooking on stove-top, add 2 cups of water and close with a tight fitting lid. Let it cook on medium flame for 15 minutes and simmer for 10 minutes.

10. Garnish with more cilantro and mint (optional) and serve hot.

Vegan Banana Flower Stir-Fry

Banana flowers also known as banana blossoms are the flowers from a banana tree. And just like bananas, they are edible and are commonly used in Thai cuisine for a salad or soup. In south India these flowers are used to make fritters or a simple and delicious stir-fry which can be eaten along side rice and a curry like sambar. This was my first time cooking with banana flower.

banana flower

While i really liked the taste of this stir-fry, i didn’t quite enjoy the cleaning involved to get to the tender, edible leaves inside. I got this flower from my local Indian grocery store, i read somewhere that Asian grocery stores carry them in their fresh produce section, all cleaned up and soaked in water. I think that’s the way to go with these labor-intensive flowers. If you wish to spend 30 minutes cleaning one flower, here’s how to do it. Remove the dark, tough petals. Each layer will have a few pale pink leaves which are edible. Remove the stamen from each leaf along with the white plastic paper like wrapper (shown in the pic below) and discard. Save the rest in a bowl of water mixed with few drops of lemon juice. This is done to prevent oxidation.

bf1

These flowers are rich in fiber and  vitamins A and C. They taste like leeks, with a slight crunch and are cooked with Indian spices and grated coconut in this delicious stir-fry. These flowers can also be paired with crumbled lentils to make usili. Minus the work involved in getting to the edible parts, this recipe is a keeper.

bf3

Ingredients

1 banana flower, cleaned and edible parts chopped into small pieces

2 teaspoons oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon split black gram/urad dal

1 tablespoon split Bengal gram/channa dal

1/4 teaspoon powdered asafetida

2 dried red chilies

3 tablespoons grated coconut

1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder

few curry leaves

salt

Method

1. Place chopped banana flower along with water and turmeric powder in a saucepan and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat and let it cook for 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. Heat oil in a pan and when oil is hot, add mustard seeds. Let it splutter.

3. Add black gram and cook for a minute till it turns reddish-brown.

4. Add Bengal gram and cook for a minute.

5. Add powdered asafetida and curry leaves, cook for 30 seconds.

6. Add banana flower and salt, cook for few minutes on medium heat till all the moisture evaporates .

7. Add grated coconut, mix well and cook for 2-3 minutes.

8. Serve hot with rice.

Vegan Gluten-Free Savory Aebleskiver

Kuzhipaniyaram is the south Indian version of Danish Aebleskiver. Most often, left over idli or dosa batter along with onions and green chilies is used in the preparation of this dish. The addition of Bengal gram gives you a slightly crispy texture. You can just add ground Bengal gram and fenugreek seeds and don’t have to wait for the batter to ferment if you already have left over dosa or idli batter. You need a special aebleskiver pan to make this dish. Traditionally, the Danish aebleskiver is made with flour and eggs similar to pancakes. But this Indian version uses rice and lentils, making it a vegan, gluten-free treat. For a sweet version, you can add brown sugar and bits of dried fruits or apples sprinkled with cinnamon sugar to the batter. I have never tried making one with a filling, if you do so, please let me know how it turned out. You can pair this Indian savory delight with tomato-cilantro chutney or coconut chutney, both vegan and gluten-free.

kuzhi paniyaram

Ingredients

1 cup rice (uncooked)

1/2 cup split Bengal gram/ channa dal

1/4 cup+1 teaspoon black gram/ urad dal

1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced

1 tablespoon fresh or frozen coconut, grated

1 teaspoon whole peppercorns

2 Thai green chilies, minced

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

salt

Method

1. Soak rice for at least 4 hours and the lentils and fenugreek seeds for at least 2 hours.

2. Grind the lentils and fenugreek seeds in a blender until smooth and place it a large bowl.

3. Grind the soaked rice and add it to the lentil mixture. Add a teaspoon of salt and mix well.

4. Allow the batter to ferment in a warm, dark corner in your kitchen for 10-12 hours or place in an oven with light on for 10 hours.

5. Once the batter is fermented, mix well. This can be used right away to make paniyarams/aebleskiver or it can be stored for up to a week in the refrigerator.

6. To prepare the paniyarams, take oil in a pan and when its hot, add mustard seeds. Let it splutter.

7. Add 1 teaspoon of black gram/urad dal and cook till it turns reddish brown.

8. Add onions, ginger, green chilies, coconut and peppercorns to the pan and cook for couple of minutes.

9. Transfer this to the prepared batter and mix well. Season with more salt, if needed.

10. Heat the aebleskiver/paniyaram pan and add couple of drops of oil to each well.

11. Spoon batter into each well, about 3/4 of the way.

12. Allow it to cook until the edges begin to brown and start to pull away from the sides of each well.

13. Flip over with a fork or wooden turner and let it cook through, about 2 minutes.

14. Serve warm with chutney of your choice.

Vegan Chayote Squash And Lentils Curry

Chayote squash a.k.a chow chow a.k.a Bengaluru kathrikai is a pear-shaped vegetable usually found along with ginger, tomatillo and different varieties of chili peppers in your neighborhood supermarkets. In south India, it is commonly paired with lentils to make a delicious curry. Yumjay prefers eating rice while i like rotis for dinner, I have to cook a curry or vegetable that would pair well with rice and rotis. This curry is definitely one of them that tastes great with both. Next time you are at the grocery store, make sure to buy this vegetable to make this delicious south Indian favorite which is rich in protein, fiber and potassium.

chayote squash and lentils

Ingredients

1 medium chayote squash, skin peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup moong dal

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped

2 Thai green chilies, chopped

1/2 teaspoon minced ginger

1/2 teaspoon minced garlic

1 teaspoon oil

1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon powdered asafetida

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1 teaspoon coriander powder

salt

few curry leaves

1 tablespoon cilantro, finely chopped

Method

1. Cook chayote and lentils with 2 cups of water in a pressure cooker for 4 whistles or on stove top until soft.

2. Heat oil in a pan, when its hot, add mustard seeds. Let it splutter.

3. Add cumin seeds, powdered asafetida and curry leaves, let it cook for a minute.

4. Add onions, cook till they turn soft.

5. Add green chilies, minced garlic and ginger, cook for a minute.

6. Add tomatoes along with salt and cook until soft and mushy.

7. Add cumin, turmeric and coriander powder, mix well and cook for a minute.

8. Add cooked chayote and lentils, add a cup of water if the curry is too thick and let it cook for 5 minutes.

9. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot with rice or rotis.