Zaalouk - A Vegan/Glutenfree Eggplant Dip

I first tried Zaalouk at a Mediterranean restaurant in Hong Kong. After several coy tries of figuring out what exactly went into this delectable dip, I had asked the owner for the recipe (none of the ones online did it any sort of justice!). He obviously didn't reveal it all, but did mention that its "simply a blend of roasted eggplant, garlic, red pepper, lots of tomatoes and common spices". Ha, a sentence that didn't give away much, but just enough for the sleuth in me to set off on a culinary mission and decipher this recipe! After a few tries, I felt I had come pretty close to what I tasted in the restaurant - the missing ingredients was probably just the amount of oil I could get myself to use at home! 

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Herbs Dal (Lentil Curry)

"Herbs" Dal meant nothing to me till a few months ago, when I made a simple spinach lentil curry and my husband says "Oh, this reminds me of our Herbs Dal". Being of South African Indian origin, my husband's foodie language is sometimes just as confusing as their mixed culture, so I decided to dig deeper. I discovered that Indians households in SA make a version of spinach lentils with a bunch of mixed greens & sour leaves. I couldn't exactly find all the 'herbs' they used, so decided to make my version with a few favourite seasonal greens.

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Asparagus Poha

“A desi breakfast staple, goes mainstream this spring,

With asparagus for an oomph, I create this seasonal fling.

Humble and easy, this flattened cousin of rice,

Is ready in minutes, and bears nearly no vice.

Cook up for a weeknight, oh you’ll do so on repeat,

After you taste the magic, once you sit down to eat..”

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Watermelon & Cucumber Chaat (Salad)

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"I know I know, summer is over, but can't we celebrate anyway?

Slurp, crunch, savor, the red we love all May...

Spiced like the streets, on a scorching Indian afternoon

It's like those childhood treats, during holidays in June

July has come & gone, and Autumn is taking over the sun

So we'll hold on to the warmth, in this little glass of yum.."

Ingredients

1/2 watermelon, cut into cubes or rounds (using a melon baller)

2 large cucumbers, de-seeded, peeled and cut into 1inch pieces

Juice from 1 lemon

Handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped (the more the better!)

12-15 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon black/rock salt

1/4 teaspoon paprika or chili powder

1/4 teaspoon dry mango powder

1/2 teaspoon roasted cumin powder

Salt to taste

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Mix the watermelon, cucumber, coriander & mint and chill for 30 mins. When ready to serve, toss with lemon juice and spices.  Eat fresh. A quick, simple, super healthy spiced fruit salad that will change the way you see watermelon!

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Roasted Chickpea Salad w/ Tamarind Vinaigrette

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"Light & hearty, perfect for fall

Serve as a salad, or simply eat it all

The tang, that replicates flavors of the street

Busy, noisy, with a crowd of Indians at your feet!

An everyday snack, or Chaat as it's popularly known

Oh, for this how many miles I have flown!

Now right at home, I have a healthier clone

Though, I will still jump on a chance to go back home..."

Ingredients

For the Salad

2 cups boiled chickpeas, liquid drained

1/2 red pepper, finely chopped

1/2 green pepper, finely chopped

1 small red onion. diced

1 green chili, finely chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon coriander powder

1/2 teaspoon dry mango powder

1/4 teaspoon red chili powder

1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds

2-3 stalks of fresh coriander, finely chopped

Salt & pepper to taste

For the Dressing

2 tablespoons Tamarind chutney (available in all Indian grocery stores)

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Bunch of coriander (leaves + stem), finely chopped

1 tablepoon light olive oil

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon cumin powder

Salt to taste

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Make the Dressing - Mix all the ingredients and refrigerate for an hour to let the flavors fuse.

Make the Salad - Heat oil in a non-stick pan. Add the fennel seeds and cook till begin to brown. Stir in the remaining dry spices and roast for a minute. Add the chickpeas, mix well, and cook on medium-high flame till the chickpeas begin to turn crisp - approx 10 minutes. Make sure all the moisture has been absorbed. Turn off heat and cool to room temperature.

Once cooled, add all the chopped vegetables and mix well. Add the dressing, a teaspoon at a time, and mix well. Adjust seasoning and serve fresh.

A sweet & tangy [vegan, glutenfree] salad that compliments the colors of summer and the flavors of fall.

Try this and other delicious 29. creations at our social dining events. Don't like strangers? Simply book a private event!

Raw Grape and Ginger Soup

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"Grapes are a favorite, and not only as wine,

I love them as a snack, natural & fine

Sweet as Fall, they create a soup swell

Raw, vegan, glutenfree, and sugar-free as well!

Just blend it all up, with spices favorite few

Leave it to chill, and there's a recipe new

Not complicated, doesn't take all your time free

Delicious & easy, as easy as cooking can be!"

 

Ingredients

1 pound seedless green grapes

1 inch piece of fresh ginger

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

6-8 fresh mint leaves

1/4 teaspoon paprika/chili powder (adjust to taste)

1/4 teaspoon black salt/rock salt

1/4 teaspoon cumin powder

1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper

Pinch of salt

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Wash the grapes and remove from stem. Put in a blender along with ginger, lemon juice & mint. Blend till smooth. Stir in all the dry spices (adjust seasoning to taste) and refrigerate for 2-4 hours. Serve chilled.

Yes, that's it!

A refreshing, raw and uber healthy soup to accompany your fall table.

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Fresh Peach Rasam

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“I love biting into a ripe peach

That smells of summer, and the beach,

With juices that trickle down the chin

As I bend over the kitchen sink.

I eat one, then two, then three

And wish I had a peach tree,

I’d then dip them in syrup, bake a pie

Blend into a smoothie, or try in chai

Make chutney, perhaps pickle a few

Brew up this rasam, and serve to you!”

 

Ingredients

4 ripe peaches - peeled, de-seeded and quartered

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

1 tablespoon olive oil

¼ teaspoon red chili flakes or paprika

½ teaspoon roasted cumin powder

½ teaspoon dry mango powder

¼ teaspoon black/rock salt

Pinch of salt

Sugar to taste (only if the peaches are not sweet enough)

2-3 mint leaves, roughly torn

 

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Blend the peaches with ½ cup water.

Heat oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds and cook till they begin to splutter. Stir in all the dry spices, mint leaves and peach puree. Bring to a slight simmer & remove from heat immediately. Adjust sugar/seasoning and refrigerate overnight. Serve chilled.

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Frozen Watermelon Spritzer

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"I sink my teeth in, spit out the seeds black

Happiness in all it's glory, oh gee summer is back!

Juice it, eat it, mix in salad or freeze for fun

All the things I can do, to beat the cruel sun.

And it's healthy, oh boy the nutrition within

The juice that drips with each bite, keeps away all sin!

Filling, refreshing, a delicious snack of  choice

Love thy watermelon, says my inner voice...."

Watermelon is summer.

Crisp, juice & full of nutrition, it is not only a thirst quencher, but also an excellent cocktail mixer, hors d'oeuvre bite and 1-ingredient popsicle! Not convinced? Go ahead and try it for yourself....

Ingredients

1 medium watermelon

1 small cucumber

6-8 mint fresh leaves

Juice from 1/2 a lemon

Soda water

1 bottle of a light, crisp & fruity white wine (sauvignon blanc / pinot grigio)

A pinch of rock salt

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Method

Cut 1/2 the watermelon into small 2-3" cubes and freeze in an ice tray for 5-6 hours. These, in itself, makes pretty delicious popsicles, so make sure you save some for the cocktail! Cut the remaining watermelon into larger pieces and keep aside.

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Slice the cucumber in half, discard the seeds and cut into smaller pieces. Blend the cucumber together with 6-8 frozen watermelon cubes, bigger watermelon pieces, mint leaves & lemon juice. Pass through a sieve to discard any solids, and season with a pinch or two of rock salt.

When ready to serve, fill your flutes 1/2 way with white wine, top with the watermelon juice and finish it off with a splash of soda. Garnish with mint leaves and a couple of watermelon cubes - this not only keeps your drink chilled for longer, but also is quite a satisfying bite in the end.

There it is, summer in your mouth!

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Tandoori Chicken Drumlets

“Chicken so tender

It melts right through,

With flavor & spices

Oh-so fool proof.

Baked or pan-fried

That’s your call,

But the taste takes you back

To that late-night tikka stall!

Munch away, no guilt

It has not much oil,

But superior in every way

From that [yawn] soup on the boil…”

 

Ingredients

6 chicken drumlets (skin on)

2 tablespoons full cream yogurt

6 cloves of garlic, finely crushed

2 teaspoons grated ginger

1 green chili, finely diced

½ teaspoon cumin powder

½ teaspoon red chili powder or paprika

1 heaped teaspoon coriander powder

½ teaspoon garam masala

¼ teaspoon cinnamon powder

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

Juice from one lemon

Handful of fresh coriander , roughly chopped (leaves & stalk)

Salt to taste

Olive oil to cook

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Wash the chicken pieces and pat try on a kitchen towel.

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade.  Rub the mix all over the chicken pieces, making sure you rub under the skin as well. Refrigerate overnight or for 6-8 hours.

To cook, you can follow either of the below.

Baking method

Pre heat the oven to 400 F. Grease a cookie sheet/ baking tray and line the drumlets, skin side down. Drizzle some olive oil over the pieces. Cover with aluminum foil and bake for 20 minutes. Remove cover, turn the drumlets skin side up, and bake for another 30 minutes, till the skin begins to brown.  Give it a quick 5-6 minute broil in the end to crisp the skin. Remove from the oven and let it rest covered for a few minutes.

Stove top method

Heat 2-3 teaspoons olive oil in a non stick pan. Once hot, line the drumlets skin side down (they should sizzle immediately!). Cover and cook for 8-10 minutes on medium flame. Turn the pieces around and cook for another 8-10 minutes or till full cooked. Remove cover, turn up heat to crisp up the skin. Remove from heat and let it rest covered for a few minutes

Serve hot with a dash of yogurt or sour cream and your favorite salad.

Leftover tip: Remove the meat from the bones and refrigerate for a second treat the next day! Can be turned into a delicious lettuce salad, chicken sandwiches, nacho cups or a topping on your favorite pilaf or biryani.

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Spicy Corn Salad (Chaat)

“I walked streets

Of vendors full,

Frying & tossing

Aromas that pull..

A quick squeeze

For a perfected snack,

Spice, masalas & lemon

No flavors lack!

Chaat for family

Or when you’re lone,

A delicious memory

Re-created at home..”

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Ingredients

2 cups frozen corn kernels

½ red pepper, finely chopped

½ green pepper, finely chopped

1 green chili, finely chopped (remove seeds if you don’t want it too fiery!)

1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

Bunch of fresh mint, roughly chopped

Bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped (leaves & stalks)

2 tablespoons white vinegar

Juice of half a lemon

½ teaspoon paprika

½ teaspoon cumin powder

½ teaspoon chat masala (or dry mango powder)

Salt & pepper to taste

1 tablespoon light olive oil

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Heat oil in a non-stick skillet. Add corn, salt & paprika and roast on high flame for 10-12 minutes, till the corn is tender and all the moisture has been absorbed. Continue to sauté till the corn kernels start turning brown. Remove from heat & cool completely. Once cooled, stir in the green chili, peppers & tomatoes. (make sure you don’t mix the vegetables when the corn is hot, or they’ll wilt & become mushy).

Put the mint, coriander, vinegar, lemon juice in a mortar and pound to make a chunky wet paste.

Once ready to serve, toss the corn in the vinegar mixture. Season with chat masala, cumin and pepper. Adjust salt & serve fresh.

Try this, and other delicious creations, at one of my upcoming dining experiences!

Corn Chaat

Chilled Raw Cucumber Soup

“Green juice green,

You’re bitter & mean,

I am moving on today

I never took to you anyway!

This drink so refreshing

Has given me wings,

As good as a sip can be

Oh! that hint of lemon sneaky.

It’s health in a gulp

With or without pulp,

Makes me hum a new tune

Come on, let’s drink up June..”

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Ingredients

1 large cucumber

7-8 leaves of fresh mint

½ cup ice water

Juice of ½ lemon

¼ teaspoon cumin powder

¼ teaspoon dry mango powder

Pinch of fresh black pepper

Pinch of paprika

Salt to taste

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Method

Wash the cucumber, with skin on, and slice into 2 halves. Scoop out the seeds & discard. Cut the remaining cucumber into smaller pieces and transfer to a blender. Add ½ cup iced water along with the mint leaves, and blend till smooth. Transfer to a strainer and separate the pulp from the juice. Skip this step if you prefer your soup to be chunky.

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Mix the remaining ingredients into the juice, adjust salt and refrigerate for 15-20 minutes (or you can add an ice cube before serving). Serve chilled with a little dollop of yogurt or sour cream.

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Notes:

- If you are straining the soup, don’t discard the pulp! You can use it in your raita (spiced Indian yogurt) or add it to your salad. It has much nutrient value that don’t deserve in the bin!

- Make it fancy by serving with little chunks of frozen watermelon. Not only does it keep it cold for longer, the watermelon adds a great flavor!

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Sausage & Green Lentil Curry

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“Green lentils with a kick

Taste-worthy of every lick

A stew for the cold

For the mighty & bold

Herbed & spiced

With vegetables diced

With crusty ol’ bread

For a yummy dinner spread!”

Ingredients

1 cup green lentils, boiled [don’t drain the liquid]

2 Italian chicken sausages, casing removed and crumbled/finely chopped

1 small red onion, sliced lengthwise

2 plum tomatoes, diced

½ cup carrots, diced

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 small green chili, finely chopped

1 bay leaf

1 dried red chili, broken in half

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

1 tablespoon coriander powder

1 teaspoon roasted cumin powder

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

½ teaspoon garam masala

½ teaspoon red pepper flakes

4 tablespoons light olive oil

A small bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Salt to taste

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Method

Heat oil in a non-stick skillet. Add cumin seeds, bay leaf & dried chili and cook for a minute. Add garlic, ginger, fresh green chili and cook till the garlic begins to brown. Stir in the onions along with a little salt. Cook till they turn translucent. Now add the tomatoes, along with remaining dry spices. Cook covered on a medium-low flame till the tomatoes are tender and oil begins to separate. Crush any big tomato chunks and add the sausage & carrots. Sauté till the chicken is fully cooked and then add lentils, ½ cup water & fresh coriander.  Cover and let it simmer for 15-20 minutes. Serve hot with a dash of cream / yogurt & warm crusty bread. Healthy, wholesome & absolutely delish!

Try this, and other scrumptious dishes at my upcoming dining experiences!

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Baked Eggplant Fries

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“Eggplant, what can I say

You’re my hero true,

I put you in pasta

Or curry for two.

You are filled with iron

And that I like,

You char & sizzle

And soak up spice!

Now you’ve taken on fries

In an avatar new,

I’m not a stalker

But I’m so in love with you!”

Ingredients

1 small eggplant, washed and cut into strips

2 tablespoons gram flour (besan)

1/2 teaspoon crushed black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 teaspoons coriander powder

1 teaspoon dry mango powder (amchoor)

2 teaspoons chat masala (Indian mixed spice)

5 tablespoons + 1 tablespoon light olive oil

Salt to taste

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Toss the eggplant with all the dry ingredients [except the chat masala] and 5 tablespoons of olive oil, till the pieces are evenly covered with flour. Line on a baking tray and sprinkle the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil evenly across. Bake in a 400 F pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes, turning once in between. The pieces will turn brown and crisp on the outside, but will remain slightly soft on the inside. Cool slightly [will crisp up more] and eat it all up with some Sriracha or garlic aioli. Quite yummy!

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