Monday, July 27, 2009

Mega-Huge Indian Feast

After a few weeks in the UK, the gentle reader would be forgiven for thinking we might have had our temporary fill of Indian food...but they would be wrong (oh, so wrong)! The fact that even the teensiest, tiniest village can boast several good--and often excellent--Indian restaurants is one of the many things to love about England, even if you aren't vegan. If you are, however, it's a positive boon, because the variety of regional, subcontinental cuisines available means that not only will you never go hungry, there will always be something new to try. It took a few days to get over the jet-lag, reacclimate to "real life," catch up with the {{shudder}} bills, etc., but by the end of the week I was ready to get back in the kitchen and cook some serious food. The first two dishes are adapted from the awesome and invaluable Lord Krishna's Cuisine: The Art Of Indian Vegetarian Cooking, by Yamuna Devi; the rice is my own fevered invention, and the raita is a mash-up of several different recipes. If you don't have access to a good Indian market, you have my A. genuine sympathy, and B. encouragement to have a go anyway. Substitute bay for curry leaves, lemon juice for chaat masala, cayenne for the fresh chilis, etc. The flavors are so complex and enticing that you're sure to wind up with something wonderful (and if you live on a leafy New England street like mine, sending the seductive aromas of several different dishes wafting into the BBQ-laden suburban air only makes it better...)!

So. First up, we have:

Tamatar Kabli Chana Usal (Savory Chickpeas in Tangy Tomato Glaze)
Soaking time: 8 hours or overnight (if using dried chickpeas; you could use canned, but it won't be as good!)
Total cooking time: 2-3 hours

1.5 cups dried chickpeas (or about 4 cups drained, canned)
6 cups water
4 tbsp. oil (I used canola for all these dishes)
1.5 tsp. scraped, minced fresh ginger root
1.5 tsp. minced hot green chili
1.5 tsp. cumin seeds
½ mustard seeds
8 -12 fresh curry leaves, coarsely chopped
5 medium-sized tomatoes, peeled, seeded and diced
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. chaat masala (or 2 tsp. fresh lemon juice)
1 tsp. garam masala
2 tsp. ground fenugreek
¼ cup minced coarsely chopped coriander leaves (or parsley)

~ Place the chickpeas in a bowl, add 6 cups of water and soak for at least 8 hours or overnight at room temperature.
~ Place the chickpeas and their soaking liquid in a heavy 3-4 quart saucepan, add about a tbsp. of oil and bring to a full boil over high heat.
~ Reduce the heat to moderately low, cover with a tight-fitting lid and gently boil for 1-2 hours or until the chickpeas are soft but not broken down. Remove the lid. Drain the chickpeas, saving the cooking liquid.
~ Heat the oil in a heavy 3-quart saucepan over moderate to moderately high heat. When it is hot, stir in the ginger root, green chili, cumin seeds and black mustard seeds. Fry until the cumin seeds turn brown.
~ Drop in the curry leaves, and just 1-2 seconds later stir in the tomatoes. Add the salt, turmeric, chaat masala, garam masala, fenugreek and half of the minced coriander. Stir-fry over moderate heat, adding sprinkles of water if necessary to prevent sticking, for 15-20 minutes or until the oil separates from the sauce and the texture is smooth and even.
~ Add the chickpeas and ¼ cup of the saved cooking liquid. Reduce the heat to low, cover and gently simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If necessary, add small quantities of the chickpea cooking water to keep the mixture from sticking to the saucepan, but you want the tomato mixture to reduce to a thick glaze that coats the chickpeas, rather than a liquidy sauce.
~ Remove from the heat and stir in the remaining minced herb.


Gobhi Hari Matar Sabji (Sauteed Cauliflower & Green Peas)

4 tbsp. oil
1 tbsp. minced ginger
1.5 tsp. cumin seeds
1 bay leaf, crumbled
1 large (about 3 lbs) cauliflower head, trimmed, cored and cut into flowerets
1/2 tsp. turmeric
Heaping 1/4 tsp. cayenne or paprika
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, split in half
1.5 cups peas (I used frozen)
1.5 cups sliced okra (my addition, I used frozen)
2-4 tbsp. water
1/2 tsp. salt, plus more to taste
1/3 cup plain soy yogurt

~ Heat the oil in a large pot until it is hot but not smoking. Add the cumin seeds and crumbled bay leaf and roast them in though oil until they have darkened and are fragrant.
~ Add the ginger and fry it for about one minute, stirring.
~ Add the cauliflower and stir-fry it, tossing, for a minute. Sprinkle it with the cilantro, turmeric and cayenne/paprika. Stir fry until the cauliflower has lightly browned.
~ Add the water and the frozen okra, cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
~ Add the frozen peas and cook another 5-10 minutes.
~ Turn off the heat, add the remaining cilantro and the yogurt, and toss. Taste for salt and serve.


Saffron/Cashew/Coconut Rice:

2 cups lite coconut milk
1 cup water or vegetable broth
1/2 tsp. saffron threads
2 tbsp. oil
1/2 cup chopped, raw cashews
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp. salt
1.5 cups basmati rice, rinsed and soaked for about 30 minutes (you don't have to rinse & soak the rice, but it makes it nicer)

~ Heat the coconut milk and water almost to boiling, sprinkle in the saffron, and set aside for at least 10-15 minutes.
~ In a saucepan, warm the oil over medium heat and add the cashews. Cook, stirring constantly, for about 5 minutes, until they begin to brown.
~ Add the cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, salt and rice; continue to cook another 2-3 minutes, until the rice becomes fragrant.
~ Add the saffron/liquid mixture, cover and bring to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer.
~ Cook on low heat for 15 minutes; uncover and fluff with a fork before serving.

And last, though not least:

Cucumber Mint Raita

1 large English cucumber, peeled and coarsely grated
2 cups plain soy yogurt
1/3 cup chopped, fresh mint
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
Fresh black pepper to taste

~ Wrap the grated cucumber in a few paper towels and squeeze dry.
~ Whisk the yogurt, mint, salt, cumin, and cayenne pepper together in a bowl.
~ Add the grated cucumber and mix thoroughly. Season raita to taste with extra salt and pepper if desired.
~ Cover and refrigerate 1-2 hours.

Dish it all up with some sweet and/or spicy pickle and (ideally) cold beer or dry white wine. Best of all, this will make a ton of food, and since all of these dishes are pretty filling, you'll be sure to have leftovers!


  1. I definitely have to try all of these recipes!

  2. One of the best things about england is the amazing Indian food. I dont know if you had a chance to go to any of the Rasa restaurants in London - their (Indian) food is spectacular!

  3. Hey, Veggie Belly! Not this time, but other years (my mom's family are all in England); it's so easy to be spoiled there. Once again, I just found your blog and it rocks; I've already bookmarked a bunch of recipes!

  4. Hi... Andy Feland pointed me to your blog... I went to high school with him. I'm trying out some vegan recipes to see if I can make the switch from complete omni to vegan for health reasons. Any tips for me? I am looking forward to trying your recipes!

  5. Hey, Jess! The best advice I can offer is to go cold (tof)urkey. Get rid of or give away any animal foodstuffs in your kitchen and just start over; you'll be surprised how easy it is once you step outside the western construct of that meat/dairy/"food pyramid" we were raised within. Good luck, and feel free to e-mail me as you make this awesome and important change!

  6. The title alone had me a quivering!
    Awesome recipes.