Peas and Cumin Pulao – Matar aur Jeera Pulao

Peas and Cumin Pulao2

Recently, I’ve been experimenting with lots of rice dishes. I seem to go through these phases in my life as a recipe developer. I get into the mood of making rice dishes or sweets or meatless meat dishes and keep making them over and over again until I’m satisfied with the recipe. I’ve made at least five different rice dishes in the past two weeks. What amazes me is that my kids never seem to mind and they don’t complain! They eat whatever I cook even when I make similar variations of the same recipe. Thank you Jyoti, Sanjay, and Dharti. You are the best food tasters any mom could ever have, and you are brutally honest too!

Today’s recipe – peas and cumin pulao – has a subtle flavor and occupies a low-profile spot on my dinner table when I want my curry to be the star of the show. It plays its part to enhance and compliment rather than compete with the rest of the items on the table.

I made a bouquet garni or a “potli,” as we call it in Hindi, for this recipe. The process is simple. I crushed the coriander and fennel seeds with a rolling pin. Then I took a small piece of cheesecloth and put the crushed coriander and fennel seeds, cinnamon, black cardamom, and whole black pepper in the middle, brought up the corners making a small pouch, and then tied the mouth with a piece of twine. These spices added a lot of flavor to this particular rice dish, so don’t leave them out.

On another note, I prefer using frozen peas from an Indian grocer rather than from a regular supermarket as they are less sweet. However, both work equally well. Give this recipe a try and I guarantee that you’ll use it time and time again.

Peas and Cumin Pulao – Muttar aur Jeera Pulao
Prep time: 10 minutes (does not include time to soak rice)
Cook time: 30 minutes
Serves: 8

3 cups Basmathi rice, (soaked in water for 20 minutes)
¼ cup ghee
1 bay leaf, (torn into two)
½ cup sliced onion
3 large green chillies, (optional)
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 tablespoons fennel seeds
1-inch cinnamon stick, (broken into two)
2 black cardamoms
1 teaspoon whole black pepper
2 tablespoons cumin seeds
6 cups water
1 cup peas

Wash and soak the rice in water for 20 minutes. Cook the peas in two cups of water. Drain and place in an ice bath so they will retain their color. Put the coriander seeds and fennel seeds in a small zip lock bag. Crush them with a rolling pin. Cut a small piece of cheesecloth (about 4 inches by 4 inches). Put all the spices – crushed coriander and fennel, cinnamon stick, black cardamom, and whole black pepper in the center of the cheesecloth, bring up the corners making a small pouch, and tie the mouth with a piece of twine. Set this potli aside.

Heat a wide, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add ghee, bay leaf, onion, green chillies and the potli. Cook for two minutes and then add the cumin seeds. Stir and cook until the onion turns translucent. Don’t let the onion get brown. Add water and salt. Let the water come to a boil.

Next, drain the rice. Turn the heat down a bit and add the rice. Then once you’ve added the rice, stir gently and turn the heat to medium-high. Let the rice cook and absorb the water. When the water dries up and you see bubbles appearing on top of the rice, cover the pot with a lid. In a few minutes you will see steam escaping through the edges of the lid, turn the heat to low, and allow the rice to cook for 8-10 minutes. Turn off the heat but let the rice remain covered for at least five minutes before you remove the lid. Fluff the rice with a fork and gently mix in the peas. Cover with a lid and let it remain for another five minutes. Remove the potli and dish out the peas and cumin pulao on to a large platter. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.

Black Eyed Peas Curry – Lobia Curry

There are times when we need to whip up a curry in a hurry. I know many of my readers are mothers that work full time and they need to care for their families too. This dish is easy to prepare. For vegetarians, black eyes peas is a great substitute for meat and a low-calorie option. It is loaded with fiber, potassium, zinc, and iron.

You can buy dry black eyed peas, soak it overnight, cook it in the pressure cooker, and then follow my recipe to make the curry. Save one and a half cups of water that you cook the black eyed peas in because you can use it instead of the water that is called for in this recipe. Or, you can buy black eyed peas in cans from the grocery store and you can skip the soaking and pressure cooking part. The whole garam masala, that is, the bay leaf, cardamoms, cinnamon, star anise, cumin, and cloves add a lot of flavor to this dish so please don’t skip using them.

This curry goes well with rotis or rice. Try it out and let me know how it turns out. Also, if you have a good recipe for black eyes peas, please share it with me.

Black Eyed Peas Curry – Lobia Curry
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves: 6

3 15.5oz (439g) cans of black eyed peas, drained
¼ cup oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 bay leaf, torn into two
2 black cardamoms
1-inch piece of cinnamon, broken into bits
½ of one star anise
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 cloves
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste
2 cups blanched, skinned, and diced tomatoes
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder
1½ cups of water
1 teaspoon garam masala powder
2 tablespoons kasori methi, crushed
2-3 slit green chillies, (optional)

Place a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add oil and when it shimmers, add the onion, bay leaf, black cardamoms, cinnamon, star anise, cumin, and cloves. Fry the onion and spices until the onion turns light brown. Add the ginger-garlic paste. Stir constantly and cook for about two minutes or until the raw smell of ginger-garlic disappears. Add the tomatoes, turmeric, and chili powder. Stir well and let the tomatoes cook until the oil separates.

Next, add the black eyed peas, water, and salt. Let it come to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. Finally, add the garam masala, kasori methi, and green chilli. Stir and let it cook for another five minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro or whole green chillies.


Arugula Salad with a Middle Eastern Twist

Hannah's Salad 1Every now and then my friend, Hannah, and I cook together. It was at one of those sessions that she whipped up this salad for lunch and shared the recipe with me. A salad within a salad, might be the best way to describe this dish. It’s a complete meal, full of protein, and fiber. Thank you, Hannah. It has become one of my favorites.

The Middle Eastern twist takes the ever popular arugula, mango, and avocado salad from ordinary to extraordinary! The recipe that I’ve included for the chickpea, black bean, and spice relish makes more than what you will need for the arugula salad. But I love having extra. It makes for a great side salad, by itself, and keeps well in the refrigerator. You can also combine it with your favorite salads to make them more elaborate, fancy, and nutritious.

I used Trader Giotto’s (Joe’s) Balsamic Glaze to make the vinaigrette. But you can use balsamic vinegar, if you desire. And one more note, before I end. I like choosing an “almost” ripe mango for the salad. That slightly tart-sweet taste of mango adds another dimension to this flavorful salad. You’ve got to taste it, to believe it!

Arugula Salad with a Middle Eastern Twist
Prep time: 10 minutes
Serves: 6

1 tablespoon balsamic glaze
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely chopped shallots
¼ teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
5 cups baby arugula, (about 5 ounces)
1 “almost” ripe mangoes, (pitted, peeled and diced)
2 ripe avocados, (pitted, peeled and diced)
1 small red onion, (thinly sliced)
1 cup chickpea, black bean and spice relish, (see recipe below)

To make the vinaigrette whisk the balsamic glaze, lemon juice, shallots, and sugar in a small bowl. Slowly pour in the olive oil, while whisking constantly. Season with salt and pepper.

In a large salad bowl, combine the arugula, mango, avocado, and onion. Just before serving, add the dressing and toss gently to coat. Top with one cup of the chickpea, black bean, and spice relish. Serve immediately.

Chickpea, Black bean and Spice relish
Prep time: 10 minutes
Serves: 12

1 (15.5 oz) can garbanzo beans, (drained)
1 (15.5 oz) can black beans, (drained)
2 ripe Roma tomatoes, (blanched, skinned, and diced)
½ cup diced shallots
½ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon chopped mint
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ cup lemon juice
½ teaspoon cumin powder
1/8 teaspoon chilli flakes, (optional)
1 garlic clove, (minced)
¼ teaspoon black pepper powder

Combine garbanzo, black bean, tomato, shallot, parsley, mint, olive oil, lemon juice, cumin, chilli, garlic, pepper, and salt together in a bowl. Let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, for the flavors to blend. Use about a cup of the relish for the arugula salad and store the rest in the refrigerator for use later.

Eggplant in Tomato Curry

Eggplant and Tomato Curry1

My friends and I enjoyed the mild weather in Maryland last week by taking a long drive over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to the Eastern Shore. On our way back we stopped by a roadside market to pick up some farm fresh vegetables and fruits. That’s where I found these beautiful, deep purple, glossy-skinned eggplants.

Eggplant is also called aubergine in France and England. In Hindi, it is called baingan. The eggplant’s ancient ancestors grew wild in India and were cultivated in China, Africa, and other parts of the world. Eggplants come in a variety of colors, shapes and sizes. When shopping for them, choose eggplants that are firm and heavy for their size. The skin should be smooth and shiny. Avoid those with scars and bruises.

Eggplants have many nutritional benefits. They are good for heart, brain, and bone health. They contains antioxidants, fiber, and B vitamins. They are also good for weight loss and cancer prevention. With all these benefits, shouldn’t we add more eggplant to our diet? Here’s a recipe to get you started.

Eggplant in Tomato Curry
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes
Serves: 4

2 large eggplants, cut into large cubes
3 tablespoons oil
1 bay leaf
1-inch piece of cinnamon
1 tablespoon finely sliced garlic
1 cup finely diced onion
4 cups blanched and diced tomatoes
3-4 green chillies, (optional, depending on heat and your preference)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder, (depending on heat and your preference)
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon dry fenugreek leaves, (kasoori methi)
½ cup water
1 teaspoon garam masala powder
¼ cup chopped cilantro leaves

Place a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add oil and when it shimmers, add the bay leaf, cinnamon, and garlic. Fry for three seconds and then add the onion. When the onion begins to turn light brown, add the tomatoes. If you are using green chillies, slit them down the center without separating them into two, and add them. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the oil separates. Stir occasionally to make sure that the tomato-onion mixture is not catching to the bottom of the pan.

Next add the cumin, chilli, turmeric, crushed fenugreek leaves, eggplant, and salt. Add water, stir, cover, and cook for 10 minutes on medium heat. Sprinkle garam masala and two tablespoons of the cilantro leaves. Stir gently, cover, and cook for another five minutes. Garnish with the remaining cilantro and serve with rotis or chapatis.