Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Horse Gram, the Wonder-Bean

Everybody's heard of garbanzo, kidney beans, black eyes peas, red adzuki beans, cannellini beans, etc.... you find them in any grocery store. But do you know the horse gram? If you do, then great (and you can skip the next paragraph)! If you don't, then well, it is time to introduce you to this wonder-bean.

The wonder-bean- Horse Gram (cooked) 
Horse Gram, the wonder-bean: Used widely in Ayurvedic medicine, here are some important health benefits, in no particular order, of the horse gram:

1. Natural remedy for gall, and kidney stones

2. Reduces flatulence, and acidity, and keeps your innards in great shape (good fiber)! 

4. Used for treating rheumatism.

5. Used to treat obesity- and this one is a BIGGIE, especially in these times of biggie fries, super-sized cokes, double whoppers; heck, even those venti frappuccinos and whatnot! 

6. Used to treat menstrual problems in women. Forget those dozens of ibuprofen capsules that you ingest. Try incorporating some horse gram into your diet, instead!

7. Lowers cholesterol

So there, now that you have been introduced to this truly wonder-bean, here are a couple recipes for you. These two are in fact popular South Indian dishes.

First, and Foremost, before anything:

1. Soak the beans in water overnight. This will allow for easy cooking the next day. I haven't seen canned horse gram anywhere- if you do find it, then you can skip this step altogether, and proceed to the recipes.

2. Cook the soaked beans, along with the water that it was soaked in, and with extra water, in a pressure cooker. Add some salt, and a pinch of turmeric powder to this as well.

Note: If you don't have a pressure cooker, you'll have to cook the beans in a pot, like you would cook lentils in a pot. I prefer the pressure cooker, as it does the work in half the time- about 15 minutes.

Horse gram cooked in the pressure cooker
3. Once the cooking is done, separate out the beans from the water, and save that water- that is a key ingredient!

The Water

Cooked Horse Gram
And now we can jump right into the recipes!

Recipe 1- Horse Gram Soup/Hurali Saaru

You need:

1. The water from the above-mentioned cooking-the-horse gram-step

2. 1 teaspoon of ghee/clarified butter, or oil

3. 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

4. Some curry leaves (key to a proper south-indian recipe!)

5. Some tamarind water/concentrate- to add the tang factor. OR lemon juice.

6. 3-4 tablespoons of cooked horse gram, mashed into a paste. You could use a pestle-mortar for this, or just mash it up with a spoon.

7. Some salt, if needed. Remember- we had already added salt in the very first step, so there's salt in that water already.


1. Take a pot, add a teaspoon of ghee/clarified butter, get the heat going, temper some cumin seeds, throw in the curry leaves (careful here, the leaves tend to splatter up, so cover the pot with a lid immediately).

2. Then add the horse gram water into this, and the mashed horse gram to impart some texture (sort of acts as a thickening agent). Bring to boil. Spoon in some tamarind water/concentrate for tang, else squeeze lemon juice in the end.

3. Taste, and add salt if needed. That's it! You got yourself a wonder-soup, that can be eaten as it is, or if you can't do without your starch, mix with rice, and enjoy! We call it Hurali Saaru back home.

Note: If you love garlic, you could add some crushed garlic in Step 1. That'll add extra flavor.

Horse Gram Soup/Hurali Saaru
Recipe 2- Horse Gram Salad/Hurali Usali or Sundal:

You need: 

1. Cooked horse gram (remember, the one you get after separating the beans from the water)

2. Grated coconut- 2-3 tablespoons. Fresh coconut would be the first choice, but frozen, as well as dried coconut flakes will work just fine.

3. Curry leaves

Curry Leaves
4. A couple green chilies

5. Salt (again, don't go overboard with this, since we had salted the entire thing in the very first cooking step).

6. 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

7. A pinch of asafetida- I don't think I have ever mentioned this very important spice/resin used in almost all Indian cooking. I will have to dedicate one entire post highlighting the asafetida- known as Hing/Heeng in India. In fact, most of our cooking, almost always begins with a pinch of hing, especially when we cook legumes, beans, lentils-- all those proteins. But more about this in a later post.

8. 1-2 teaspoons oil


1. Get a pan going on the stove, add a couple teaspoons of oil, heat, add a pinch of hing, followed by a teaspoon of mustard seeds- get them to splutter. Then throw in the curry leaves, and the chilies. Cover with lid.

2.Once the spluttering (and potential splattering!) is over, switch off the stove, take off the lid, and add the cooked horse gram, with the coconut. Give it all a good stir. Add salt if needed.

And you got yourself a super-healthy horse gram salad! Yeah, that's it! We call it Hurali Usali or sundal back home.

Horse Gram Salad/Hurali Usali/Sundal
You could get creative, and add some chopped cucumber to this, or even finely chopped onions, and tomatoes, squeeze some lemon juice--- your choice.

Make this wonderful horse gram salad instead of the same old five bean salad. It might just become your new favorite dish to take to the next potluck! Don't forget the soup!

Friday, May 17, 2013

Shrimp Balchao

My brother made this really, as in REALLY, spicy HOT shrimp dish, called Shrimp Balchao, and believe you me, my tongue was on fire! And yet, since I am this crazy hot & spicy fanatic, I thoroughly thoroughly (yes, I had to say that twice) enjoyed it.

Traditionally, Balchao (pronounced Baal-Chow) is a form of cooking meat, usually pork, or sea food in a hot-sour-sweet sauce, that incorporates vinegar, red chilies, sugar, and tomato paste. It is almost like pickling, and the dish, or the pickle, really, can be easily stored for a few days. 

Here's my take on Shrimp Balchao, taking inspiration from my brother: 

The Balchao part: 


1 Onion

10 cloves of garlic (oh yeah!) 

1 inch (or more) ginger

I use 4-5 habanero chilies (My brother used 12-15 thai chilies!) 

Note on habanero: 

Like any other hot chili, don't touch your face after you have handled the habanero! I can assure you that you will be in trouble!! 

1 tablespoon vinegar (rice vinegar) for the tang

1 tomato 

A couple teaspoons of sugar


I take all the above ingredients, and blend them all together in my food processor. Easy! Don't be tricked by the color- that paste is fiery! 

Balchao Masala
The Shrimp:

I marinate the shrimp with salt, garlic powder, and pepper for 30 minutes or so (or overnight, if it needs to be thawed in the fridge). 

Shrimp marinating
When it is time to cook, I sauté the shrimp in a little bit of oil. You know that the shrimp is done when it turns pink, and curls up. Takes max 2-3 minutes! 

Cooked Shrimp 

Final Steps (I have underlined the extra ingredients you need):

1. I take a pot/pan/kadhai and pour in a few teaspoons of oil, and get the heat going. 

2. Splutter a teaspoon of mustard seeds, followed by some curry leaves (optional), a pinch of turmeric powder, and then throw in the Balchao paste. And start frying it all. 

Frying the Balchao paste
3. Fry it until the paste has gotten rid of the water, and oil has separated from the rest of the paste. At this point, I add salt to taste, as well as a teaspoon of garam masala. Fry it again for a couple minutes. 

4. I add about a cup to a cup and a half of water- based on how much shrimp I'm using (it is all about estimating!). And then, just for more color, I mix in a couple teaspoons of concentrated tomato paste. I give this a boil, and then simmer for 10 minutes. 

5. In the end, I fold in the cooked shrimp, and simmer for another 5 minutes. I don't like to simmer too long, else the shrimp gets overdone. 

Folding in the shrimp 
*My daughter doesn't like shrimp, and so for her, I add a couple potatoes. I first cook the potatoes in the balchao gravy, and then in the end, throw the shrimp in. 

Shrimp Balchao
Eat it with steaming hot, plain rice, and get ready to set your tongue on fire!! Don't forget to cool off with a nice, cold cup of buttermilk! 

Set your tongue on FIRE!! 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Cracked Wheat Pilaf/Dalia Upma

Cracked wheat is basically whole raw wheat kernels that have been crushed into smaller pieces. Cracked wheat and bulgur look very similar, however, they are different, in that the latter cooks much faster, because it is already pre-cooked. We call cracked wheat dalia or broken wheat back in India. The popular dishes they make are dalia khichdi, dalia upma, and also dalia kheer (sweet version- which is yum!). And of course, since this is whole grain we are talking about, this stuff is loaded with nutrients, is diabetic-friendly, good for the heart, etc.

Cracked Wheat/Broken Wheat/Dalia

Here's how I make cracked wheat pilaf, or dalia upma:


1. 2 cups of cracked wheat

2. Veggies- I like to use finely chopped onion, some green chilies, maybe a potato, carrots, bell pepper, and peas. Since I like tomatoes, I add a tomato as well

3. Peanuts- about a handful- I just like the crunch factor

4. A few teaspoons of oil

5. Mustard seeds, salt, chili powder (optional), a pinch of turmeric powder

6. Water (lots of it, to cook the cracked wheat)

7. Curry leaves- if I want a South Indian twist to the dish, just for the fragrance (available at the Indian Store)

Curry Leaves

1. I first toast/dry roast the cracked wheat. Just to get the nutty flavor going. And then set it aside.

2. Meanwhile I get the pan/pot going, add a few teaspoons of oil, heat, fry the peanuts, temper some mustard seeds, followed by a pinch of turmeric powder, and then I throw in the chopped onion+green chilies+curry leaves, and fry for about 5-7 minutes. I then add the other veggies. At this point, I salt it, and add some red chili powder.

Note: I sometimes add "vaangi bhath" powder, for extra flair. For those of you who may not be familiar with this, "vaangi bhath" powder is a special spice blend, that is used in South Indian cooking.

3. I then add the toasted cracked wheat into this, and mix it all. Meanwhile, on the other burner, I have a pot of water boiling. This water will be used to cook the whole pilaf/upma.

Cracked wheat+veggies
4. After about 5-7 minutes of frying everything together, I add the hot boiling water into the mixture of cracked wheat and veggies. (Be careful here, the contents of the pan/pot tend to splatter a little bit-- so watch out!) I add water so as to cover the entire mixture- so say, about an inch higher than the mixture.

Ready to cook....
 5. I bring this to a boil, and then cover it with a lid, and simmer it. It takes a good 30 minutes for the cracked wheat to really cook. After about 20 minutes, I add peas, and then let it all simmer again. Another 10 minutes, and I remove the lid, and this is usually what I see:

Note: I taste it (of course!), and if I think that the grain needs to be more tender, I just add some more of that hot water, give it a quick mix, cover, and simmer for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Cracked wheat pilaf or Dalia Upma is ready to be enjoyed! Super delicious, and super healthy! I like to spoon in a little bit of ghee or clarified butter on top--- mm mmm! ;)

Dalia Upma/Cracked Wheat pilaf

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Rajasthani Gatte Ki Sabzi

Gatte Ki Sabzi is a Rajasthani delicacy that my brother, and I were introduced to by our next door neighbor "Aunty," back in school days. Whenever she would make it, which seemed like pretty much every day, she would give us some, and it was so delicious, that we would literally gobble it all up within minutes! And then of course, our mom learned the recipe, and she would make it for us. And now I know how to make it too. Sadly, neither my kids, nor my husband really care for it, therefore I don't cook it very often. The only time I get to make it is if my brother happens to visit, which he did, a couple days ago.

Before I start off with the recipe, to those of you who may be unfamiliar with this dish, Gatte ki Sabzi is basically chickpea dumplings in a mildly spicy, tangy, yogurt based sauce. Can be eaten with Indian bread, or plain simple rice. This is not one of those quick recipes, so gotta give yourself at least an hour. Also, be warned that the gatta/chickpea dumpling making can get a bit messy. Typically the gattas, or the dumplings are shaped like sausages, but I like to shape them into discs. More about the shape towards the end.

The Gattas/Chickpea dumplings: 

You need: 

Besan (chickpea flour): If this is your first time, I'd start off with a cup and a half besan. Once you have figured out how to deal with this, you can increase the quantity.

Salt per taste

Red Chili powder- per your heat level

Turmeric powder- a pinch

Garam Masala powder (or coriander powder+cumin powder)- 1/2-1 tsp

1 teaspoon ghee/Clarified butter or a couple teaspoons of oil

Water to mix- you will need maybe 1/4 cup, or even lesser.

Gatta making: 

1. Mix up all the dry ingredients, followed by ghee, and then start adding water, in small quantities. As you add the water, start mixing the dough with your fingers (like you would knead dough for rotis/chapatis or pizza). Yes, it'll start sticking to your fingers, but be patient- use a butter knife to sort of scrape off the gooey dough off your fingers. This is how it'll look once everything is mixed:

Sticky mess! Not to worry! 
2. Then spoon in some oil on your other (clean) palm, and start making balls with the dough.

Ghatta on its way!
3. I would stop here, but if you prefer the sausage shape, you can go right ahead, and keep rolling until you get your desired shape.


4. Finish making all the gattas, like so:

Gattas ready to be cooked
Cooking the Gattas:

Now that the gattas are ready, they need to be cooked.

1. Pour some water (enough to hold all the gattas) into a pot/pan, and bring the water to a boil.

2. As the water starts boiling, start adding the gattas very gently, one by one into the boiling water. And reduce the heat a tad bit, and let them all cook for about 7-10 minutes.

Gattas cooking 
3. After they have cooked (you can check by cutting up a gatta- if it is hard, you know it is done), remove them from the water, and set them aside to cool. Don't be put off by the color- it'll come back! And do not discard that water- you will get to use it in the sauce. It has all the flavor!

Cooked gattas
4. After they have cooled off a bit, you can either leave them the way they are, or, if you prefer smaller pieces, like I do, just cut them up into whatever size you like. And see, the color comes back!

Gattas cut up into smaller pieces 
Phew! The major part of the cooking is done! The next part will take only about 15-20 minutes.

The Sauce:

1. Take about 1/2 a cup of yogurt, and whip it so it is nice and smooth.

2. Chop some onion, green chilies, garlic, grate some ginger. In a frying pan/pot/kadhai (wok), pour in a few teaspoons of oil. Get the heat going.

3. Temper some cumin seeds, and then throw in the chopped aromatics, fry until it is done.

4. Then add the cooked gattas into this, and stir fry it all. Add salt to taste, a pinch of turmeric powder, some red chili powder, if you so desire, followed by that water that you saved after cooking the gattas. Don't add all the water- just enough to cover everything. I like to add a chopped tomato, though the traditional recipe doesn't really call for it.

5. Finally fold in the yogurt. And stir everything.

Looks yum already! 
6. And now just simmer it, until ready to be served! Well, don't simmer it too long, though- because the more you heat it, the thicker the sauce becomes, because of the chickpea flour in the gattas. Make sense? So once you have achieved the desired consistency, you can switch off the stove.

Serve over a bed of jeera (cumin) rice, or alongside some rotis/parathas (Indian bread). Mmm mmm!

Gatte ki Sabzi
The Bizarre aspect: 

To a first-timer, gatte ki sabzi might appear a bit off-putting- especially if the gattas are shaped like sausages. I am trying hard not to say this-- but OK, I'll just go right ahead and say it- you might think it looks like turd curry! But give it a try- be open, you will like it! I'm pretty sure Andrew Zimmern would love to try this one. It is definitely not as bizarre as most of the foods he gets to eat on his show, but it could still pass off as bizarre, because of its appearance.

Final Note: Before I sign off, I'd like to point out that this dish is very diabetic friendly, because of all that chickpea flour.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Foodie's Garden

We finally get to see some sunshine here! In preparation for those summer BBQs, and well, just because I love nature, I have started putting my personal touch to our lovely backyard. The good thing is that there was already a lawn, and some plants, when we moved in. So all I'm really doing is prettying it up. Eventually, I hope to grow some vegetables as well. Hey, a foodie has got to grow her own vegetables!

Since I also like clicking photos-- here, do check out some pictures that I put up on my Facebook page

Looking forward to some much-needed sunny days!!

Exclusive Culinary Experience, anybody?

Most of us, Seattleites, are familiar with  Full Circle. They launched their Farm Dinner Sweepstakes last week. 5 lucky winners will win 2 tickets (a $400 value!) to an Outstanding in The Field event. The event consists of an exclusive culinary experience, in an exquisite setting. I believe a local chef will prepare some beautiful food, with all local, and organic ingredients. The idea is to connect us with our food source, and to honor our local farmers and artisans who cultivate it.

Here is the link to their entry form:

The last date to enter is May 15th 2013.

And I'm off to starting this new month by entering this sweepstakes. I wouldn't want to miss this! I wonder if writing about this has increased my chances of winning!? I hope the folks at Full Circle are reading this! ;)