Category Archives: Indian

Tindora Curry (Kundru)

I made Tindora Curry or Kundru (as it’s pronounced in Telugu) tonight. It is definitely not my favorite, but REB absolutely loves it after he had it at my parents house. My mom, of course, makes it the best, but I tried tonight and it actually turned out pretty good. So good that I even had some [gasp].

Tindora, or Ivy Gourd, is actually only found in the eastern side of the world (Philippines, Asia, India, Thailand, etc.). It’s a fruit of the ivy gourd weed (I know, I know) and is most commonly sliced up and cooked as a curry.

It’s super easy to make, too. I’m not sure at all how my mom makes it but I threw something together and the key was: spice!

What you need:
•Tindora (2 cups, sliced)
•1 1/2 teaspoons garam masala
•1 small onion, finely chopped
•1/2 tablespoon ginger, grated
•Salt to taste

Heat some oil in a frying pan and cook the onion until soft. Add the tindora, and cook for 15-20 minutes. You can even buy tindora frozen at the Indian grocery store and it will take less time to cook. The garam masala gets added next and I grate the ginger right over the pan so it kind of melts into everything (amazing). Add salt to taste.

And that’s it! It’s super easy to make and really good for you, too! It’s full of beta-carotene despite not being orange and full of other vitamins.


How To Make Chai

Having the sniffles, stinks.

I woke up this morning feeling as if I’d swallowed a softball. Blech. My nose was pretty stuffy and my sinuses ached. I stayed home from work and did nothing all day.

Then it occurred to me: What is the one thing that could make me feel better? My mom’s Chai.

Well, my mom lives an hour away and I needed the Chai right then and there.

So I made some. And it was amazing. Chai is the traditional spice tea that people in India drink almost every day instead of having coffee. It’s delicious and so easy to make at home.

And now I’ll tell you how to make it at home, too.

My moms Chai is the cure for the common cold. I’m not kidding. It’s spicy so it clears up your sinuses, it’s hot so it soothes and it makes you sleepy so you’ll rest.

If I don’t fall asleep halfway through writing this entry, please applaud me.

Here’s what you’ll need for 1 serving of Chai (I’ll explain each ingredient after):
•Black Cloves
•Cardamom (in the pod)
•Cinnamon stick
•Black peppercorn
•2 tea bags

I use a British tea, often referred to as Darjaleeng, which is what you see above. It’s the most common type of tea used. You can use loose-leaf tea if you want, but tea bags are much easier (and easier to dispose).

There are probably like 5-8 whole black peppercorns in there. Now, this ingredient is totally optional. In fact, my mom told me she only uses peppercorns when she’s sick since the spice and heat from the pepper helps clear the sinuses. So obviously, I used some today.

5-6 pieces of cardamom, in the pod.

Cardamom is a staple ingredient in Chai. If you don’t have any of the other ingredients, this is the one you should have if you want to make Chai, or garam masala. It’s spicy, sweet and smokey. I love it! Now, a lot of people will wonder why you need the pods because if you open the pod, you get cardamom seeds that look black like what I used when I made garam masala. I use the pods because I like the flavor even from the skin so it’s not just the seeds that help create the distinct flavor of Chai.

Cinnamon stick. Powder won’t cut it. This adds another spicy-sweet flavor. A “mulling” spice, if you will.

You need a pinch of whole black cloves. This adds a SUPER intense smokey flavor that I just love.

Let’s make some Chai! Because I’m still surprised I’m awake…

You’ll need a mortar and pestle. If you don’t have one, they aren’t expensive to buy. You could grind everything up in a grinder, but I don’t think having a powder works quite as well.

I’ve mentioned before how much I love mine. It was a wonderful gift from my parents and a perfect use for making Chai.

Since I made Chai only for myself, this is 1 1/2 cups of water I put into a sauce pan to heat. Let the water get a little hot before you add in the tea.

So while that’s happening, you can make your Chai mixture.

Break up the cinnamon either with your hands or with the pestle (the “bat” used to crush things)

Place all the ingredients into the mortar and pestle and go to town to crush it all up!

This is what you end up with. I inhaled this mixture about a million times, and that alone made me feel a ton better. All the oils were released and it smelled so wonderful.

When the water is hot (not boiling), add in the tea bags and stir. Let it steep for 5-10 minutes.

It’ll turn a lovely mahogany color as it’s steeping. Soooo pretty!

Add in the Chai mix to the water and tea bags. Let it heat through another 5 minutes or so and stir well. As you do, you’ll really smell the Chai and your nose will grow impatient.

When it’s all done, pour the tea into a measuring cup. This will make for easy pouring into your cup.

Using a strainer, pour the tea into your cup.

The strainer will catch all the tea mixture, but leave the great intense flavor in your cup.

Traditionally, Chai is served with milk and sugar. It’s how I’ve always had it growing up, so having tea just straight black, tastes horrible to me.

You really only want enough milk to turn the Chai into a beautiful chestnut color. You’ll need to add quite a bit of sugar to help sweeten it. If you don’t, it’ll be REALLY strong. I mean, I guess you could leave it that way, but I like it sweet.

So there you go! It’s definitely not hard to make your own Chai and beats what ever they serve you at your local coffee shop because that’s almost always pre-made. That’s definitely not my BAG. Heh heh. Sorry, the puns are thanks to the cold. Although, my sniffles have reduced a ton thanks to this tea. I’m not kidding: cure for the common cold. Well, at least I like to think so.

How To Make Garam Masala

Garam masala is the one spice mixture you need for Indian cooking. Store-bought doesn’t cut it for me. Call me high maintenance, but you can’t skimp on good flavor and spice!

I make a lot of curries and most every recipe,  if not all of them, requires 1 tablespoon (I like my curries spicy!) of this incredible spice. This is actually a combination of six different spices ground together into a fine powder.

Up until now, my mom made the masala for me because she makes huge batches and loves to share. But now I’m a grown up, so making it at home is super simple and now I’m going to let you in on the secret of how to make it!

Now, you could use the old fashioned method of making your own masala with a mortar and pestle. However, that isn’t ideal if you want to make big batches, like I did tonight.

This guide will show you how to make your own at home! It’s super easy and believe me, once you make it, you won’t ever buy store-bought again.

What you’ll need:
•2 tablespoons black cardamom seeds
•2 tablespoons whole peppercorns
•2 tablespoons cumin seeds
•2 tablespoons coriander seeds
•1 cinnamon stick
•2 whole dried red chilies

You also need a grinder. Like I said, you could use a mortar and pestle, but a coffee grinder would be a better choice. My mom actually has two: one for grinding coffee, and one for spices. Great investment.

Beautiful sight isn’t it? These are the spices you’ll need to make this masala. There are many variations to this recipe and I’m sure you can find them all online, but this is what my mom uses. So by default, this is what I use ;-) It’s all relative (ba-dum-bum pssh!)

Let’s talk about those spices in detail, shall we?

Coriander seeds are little tan seeds, which add a super strong, pungent taste to your masala.

Whole peppercorns don’t need any explanation. They’re spicy and necessary.

One whole cinnamon stick. This is going to add a spicy-sweet flavor to the masala. Don’t worry, you won’t use the whole thing (that would be WAY too overpowering), but this will add just a hint of sweet spice in the background. I guess kind of like nutmeg, but not as mild.

Whole dried red chilies. Yum! These will add such a kick. There is no such thing as “mild” garam masala, so don’t skimp. Add the heat.

Cumin seeds add a lovely smokey flavor to the masala. It’s not quite spicy, but it’s not bland either. I can’t explain it, except that it’s wonderful. Cumin seeds are used a lot on their own in other curries.

And finally we have black cardamom seeds. Cardamom is a very distinct spice used a lot in Indian cooking. Most people know cardamom as one of the main ingredients in Chai. That kind is the green pods, but these black seeds are used in garam masala. The more you know.

So those are the spices! They’re lovely and don’t fret. They aren’t as expensive as you might think. Most Indian grocery stores sell them in decent-sized bags for between $3-7. And believe me, they’ll last a long time, so it’s well worth your money.

To prepare the garam masala, you simply dry roast all these ingredients in a skillet over medium heat for 15 or so minutes.

Dry roasting is essential when making this. This will release all the oils in the spices and will create and incredible depth of flavor.

Every few minutes, lift the skillet off the heat and swirl it to stir the spices around. You want to dry roast the ingredients for up to 15 minutes, or until the air is aromatic. And believe me, you’ll know when it’s done.

Once it’s finished, turn off the stove and place the skillet on a cool burner. Let it cool completely (5-10 minutes) before you grind it.

Remove the cinnamon stick from the skillet and if you have a mortar and pestle, break it up and place only a few pieces back into the spice mixture. So basically what I did was roast the cinnamon to infuse the flavors into the skillet and then only using a little bit of it in the actual mixture so that it’s not overpowering. If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, just use a rolling pin or anything hard to help break up the stick. Save the rest of the cinnamon, too! You can use it in another dish or grate it over tea or cider.

Once the spices have cooled, you can take a little bit at a time and grind it down to a fine powder as shown above. Do this until the entire mixture is a fine powder.

The end result is this amazing little spice mountain of decadence. Store it into an jar or air tight container and it’ll keep for up to 6 weeks! You only need to use about 1/2 a tablespoon at a time when you add into your curries. Unless you’re me. Then you’ll be adding 1 tablespoon or more for that heat.

So that wasn’t too hard, right? The hardest part is finding all the spices, but once you get them, it’s smooth grinding from there.

Mattar tofu

I make a lot of Indian curries. There is one that REB absolutely loves, called mattar paneer. However, I don’t make it that often since it’s pretty much the most unhealthy thing one could eat. Paneer is a type of cheese, similar to feta, but it’s really bad for your health. Not only that, but this dish also has sour cream in it, which in large consumptions, also not that great for the figure.

I made a variation of the dish last night and substituted tofu for the paneer. It worked like a charm. I couldn’t cut out the sour cream, but using light, or fat-free works just as well. I’m sure you could even use milk instead of cream. However, the sour cream adds a tang that sort of brings the whole dish together.

If you do want to use paneer, you can buy a frozen block from any Indian grocery stores. Some even come already cut up into cubes for your convenience. If you want to make your own paneer, that’s not too hard either, but it takes a lot of time since…well, you’re making cheese from scratch. Ha.

Maybe I’ll post something on how to do that another time. Let’s make some curry though!

What you’ll need:
•1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil (1/2 for the tofu, 1/2 for the curry)
•1 1/2 cups firm tofu, cut into cubes
•2 cups pureed Roma tomatoes (maybe not pureed, but chopped up pretty finely)
•1/2 cup chopped onion (not pictured)
•1 tablespoon grated ginger
•1/4 teaspoon minced garlic (don’t need a lot in this dish!)
•1/3 cup fat-free or light sour cream
•1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder (not pictured)
•1 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
•salt to taste
•2 curry leaves
•1 cup frozen peas
•1/2 cup water (not pictured)
•1/2 teaspoon tamarind concentrate (not pictured)

Let’s talk about the garam masala. I’ve mentioned it once before I’m sure, but it’s the most common spice used in almost every Indian dish. It’s essential, it’s fragrant, it’s delicious. You make it by simply dry roasting several spices and then grinding them to a fine powder. I’ll have to make another post one day about how to make garam masala from scratch.
But for now, I have a mom who loves me dearly and made me this entire jarful of garam masala.
It’s OK to be jealous. Buying store-bought masala will never compare to the depth of spice and flavor of doing it yourself.

OK, enough spice-talk, let’s get cooking…

Start by preparing your ingredients, and puree or roughly chop two Roma tomatoes. I love Roma tomatoes. They’re tangy, juicy and de-li-cious! I have a mini food processor for this kind of task. You could just as easily use a blender to help you out, too. Or, if you don’t have either, warm up the tomatoes in the microwave for a few seconds, then use your hands to smush them. Yes, smush is a word. Use it. It works.

Put 1/2 tablespoon of oil in a shallow skillet or frying pan and wait for it to get screaming hot. Then, carefully place the tofu pieces (or paneer if you do want to use that) into the pan. It should start sizzling! Cook the tofu for about 4 minutes or until golden brown.

Like so. I had two batches I had to pan-fry, but they each took about 4 minutes for each side to get brown. Once of the tofu (or paneer) is cooked, transfer them to a plate with a little sprinkling of water on the bottom. This will help keep the tofu (or paneer) moist while you continue cooking.

In a saucepan, heat the other 1/2 tablespoon of oil and let it heat up a bit on medium-high.

Add the onions and the turmeric. Let them cook about 2-3 minutes (shouldn’t take long if your pan is hot!)

Next, add the garlic (very little!) and the tomatoes. You can also grate the ginger at this time. Give it a good stir and let it cook another 5-7 minutes. The juice from the tomatoes will help create a gravy, or masala as we call it.

Once that’s cooked a bit, stir in the sour cream. The color will turn a lot lighter and at this point you can add some salt (1/4-to-1/2 teaspoon). Also, add in your garam masala.

Add in the frozen peas and raise the heat a bit, since the peas (being frozen) will cool the down the dish. Add in the water (not more than 1/2 a cup). Cover and let the curry come to a boil.

Once it’s come to a boil, remove the lid and add in your tofu (or paneer).

If you are using paneer and not tofu, you must be careful not to break apart the paneer when stirring it into the dish. Since I used firm tofu, it was pretty good at holding its shape.

Add in the curry leaves and the tamarind concentrate. Tamarind concentrate is used in the tamarind chutney when eating samosas. It also adds a tang and burst of flavor when added to any curry dish. You don’t need a lot, since the flavor is so strong. Another bonus is that it helps to thicken the curry.

Cover the pan and let it simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Give your curry a taste. You may need to add more garam masala, ginger or salt depending on how spicy you want your dish to be.

Serve it hot over cooked basmati rice.

Nomlicious. Enjoy!

Indian Chex Mix

Otherwise known as bhel puri mix (bail purry mix). My brother-in-law started calling it Indian Chex Mix because well…it kind of is. It’s basically a hot mixture of Indian deliciousness combined with Rice Krispies, some onion, peanuts and spices. It’s perfect for snacking or putting out for guests to munch on if you’re having a party. It’s a very spicy mixture though, so for you spice loves out there…try this!
To be quite honest, I don’t have measurements of anything, because it’s really just how much you want of each ingredient. But to be all official, I’ll try to include the amount you’ll need for each. What I made was enough for 1 person.

•1 cup Rice Krispies. I didn’t have any, but I had some Rice Chex so I used that
• 1 cup Indian mixture – this can be found at any Indian grocery store. This brand is Haldiram – spicy! What’s in the Indian mixture is usually noodles (similar to La Choy noodles), dried peas, corn flakes, cashews, etc.
•2 tablespoons Peanuts (optional) – most of the Indian mixtures have peanuts already in them. If you like more, add more!
•1 tablespoon Onion (approx. 1/4 of a small onion)
•Pinch of Chili Powder
•Pinch of other Indian spices, which are in that silver tin

Let’s talk about that silver tin, shall we?
It’s OK to be jealous. This is my Indian spice tin. It’s where I store all the spices I use in Indian cooking, such as: chili powder, garam masala, cumin, cumin powder, Hing, mustard seeds, turmeric powder, salt, etc. This tin is probably one of my favorite things in my kitchen.

Combine the peanuts, Rice Krispies (or Rice Chex) and Indian mixture into a small tupperware container. This will make it easy to mix it all around.

OK so maybe the amounts of each ingredients I listed up there don’t quite match up. I told you! I just eyeball everything and put int a bowl to mix around, then take what I want to eat at that time.

Mix that container to combine the ingredients and spoon out however much you intend to eat at that time (or pour it all out if you’re serving more than just yourself). Finely chop 1/4 of the onion and add it to your own bowl. I can not stress that enough. Don’t add all the onion to the entire mixture because then you’ll end up with soggy mix! Yuck!

Also add the spices you want. I added salt, chili powder, a tiny bit of turmeric and garam masala to mine.

Then you end up with this:
It’s delicious, slightly salty, SPICY (yum!) and the perfect snack during the afternoon!

This is MY kind of Thanksgiving

My family and I don’t celebrate Thanksgiving unless my sister and brother-in-law are in town because well, they know how to cook a turkey, and really only those two and my dad will eat it. REB and I were busy on Thanksgiving Day with his families, so we planned on making a huge dinner at my parents house on Black Friday. Nothing fancy; basically what I’d eat every day if I were living at home, but more of it!

My mom and I spent a good portion of the day cooking. I love my mom more than anything. I love cooking with her, too.

Isn’t she adorable? (^_^)

Uh, apparently REB got a hold of my camera. Yep, that’s me. Cutting up some tomatoes…moving on…

The world’s cutest dog knew he wasn’t allowed in the kitchen. That didn’t stop him from giving me extra large puppy eyes and pouts. I don’t blame him. The house smelled soooo good.

Turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes might considered the norm, but nothing beats a home-cooked Indian meal!

For me, this defines comfort and a sense of home. All that and so much more is what I’m most thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Channa Masala (or Chole Masala) 101

I make Indian food. Scratch that. I make really good Indian food. It should come as no surprise that I picked up on these recipes as I watched my mom cook growing up. I love to cook Indian food and change it up so that I can experiment with new savory flavors. I made Channa Masala (or Chole Masala as it is also called) for some friends last week, and my friend took pictures as I made it. She wanted to learn how to make it, so I thought I’d post the pictures and explain how simple it is to make to make this popular North Indian curry dish.

Ingredients you will need:
2-4 cans of Garbanzo Beans (puree or mash up 1/2 of one of the cans) — reserve some of the can liquid but drain most of it.
2-3 Roma tomatoes, pureed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
Ginger, grated
Garlic, minced or grated
1/2 teaspoon Garam Masala (staple spice for all Indian cooking)
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon Chili powder
2-3 Curry leaves
Salt to taste
*Note: If you don’t have a food processor or blender, you can microwave the tomatoes and then mash them up to create a pureed look. For the garbanzo beans, you can use a potato masher or two forks to mash up 1/2 of one of the cans)

To Prepare:

Onions in panHeat oil in a pan, and add the onions. Stir and let them sweat out a bit.

TumericAdd the turmeric powder. I use a little more than 1/2 a teaspoon, but use as much you think you need. You want enough to coat the onions to add spice and color.

**Next you’ll add the 1/2 can of mashed, pureed garbanzo beans. If you do not have a food processor, you will do as illustrated in the photos below: add the 1/2 can, and then use a masher to help mash the beans up in your saucepan**


IMG_5496Next add your pureed tomatoes. Ordinarily I use 2-3 fresh Roma tomatoes and puree them in a blender or food processor. I tried a can for the first time. Use the fresh tomatoes. This didn’t add the depth of flavor I was looking for.

IMG_5497Once the tomatoes have been added, stir to incorporate all the flavors.

IMG_5498Let’s talk about spices! This is my spice tin (can be found at Indian goods store; spices not included when you buy the tin). These are used in most Indian recipes, though not all were used when making this dish. Starting from the top going clockwise: Coriander powder, turmeric powder, mustard seeds, garam masala (freshly ground), chili powder, Asofetida (Hing) and salt in the middle. Also used in most dishes, but not pictured: cumin seeds, cumin powder.

IMG_5500Add the garam masala and the chili powder and stir well. You can add more garam masala to make your dish more spicy (that’s how my mom and I do it!)

IMG_5501Add in the cans of garbanzo beans and stir. Think of it this way: About 1/2 a can is enough for one person, so make sure you buy enough to feed enough!

IMG_5502Almost looks like curry!

IMG_5503Add salt

IMG_5504At this point while the beans cook, your curry should be done.  Taste it and if you need to, add more garam masala. You can add as much garam masala as you want. depending on the spice level you wish to have in your dish.

IMG_5506Add the ginger. I usually grate the ginger right over the curry while it’s simmering away, but you can also finely chop it. Ginger adds immense flavor to this dish and also a bit of a kick.

IMG_5507Add your garlic. Again, I normally like to grate it right over the curry, but using the already-jarred minced garlic will do just fine. About two forkfuls (as you see pictured above) should do the trick. You may need to add more when you taste. Also add your curry leaves and stir the whole thing again.

**Let the curry simmer for 8-10 minutes. It may come up to a bubble and then turn your heat down to keep it simmering. You want the curry to be nice and thick and not too watery from the can liquid. If your curry does not thicken the way you want it, you can also add some Tamarind paste (1/2 tablespoon). This will add some darkness and thickness to your curry, as well as some tang.  If you do not have any tamarind paste, you can also use corn starch. Do not use too much or you’ll end up with a clump of curry!**

CholedoneThere you have it! It’s best served with Basmati rice or with naan. Enjoy!