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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Street Treat : Bun Omelette

Bun Omelette, true to it's name, is a soft bread roll smothered in butter and stuffed with the most delicious, spicy, omelette ever. It's a common street food in Northern India (although not the most hygienic!) and was a sporadic late night treat for us when my brother & I were home for the holidays from boarding school.

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Cucumber 'Noodle' Salad

When I served this at one of my events, I really didn't expect for people to ask me the recipe. Had the plain ol' cucumber salad cut un-laboriously for every childhood meal, suddenly become mainstream? Or was it that in an effort to appreciate complicated food, one had forgotten how simplicity tastes? Either way, I couldn't help but remember those summer days when mum used to serve this alongside a Rajma (kidney bean curry) Chawal night, and we always tried not to look at it (as though it would magically disappear!) - not that we didn't like it, but as kids, who wanted to have anything green!

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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

Wheat Gnocchi in Spicy Coconut Tomato Sauce

Gnocchi in Tomato Coconut Sauce2

“I said it before, but I say it again,

Rolling up some Gnocchi, will never go in vain.

Freeze for later, or finish it right away,

A weeknight dinner, that’ll make you stay.

Little pillows of comfort, that flavor take well,

A mild warm curry, or hot sauce from hell!

Floating to the top, I awe at the sight,

A meal you didn’t need, till you had the first bite..”

Gnocchi in Tomato Coconut Sauce3

[Adapted slightly from this recipe]

Ingredients

1 cup wholewheat gnocchi

2 tablespoons desiccated coconut (fresh or dried)

1 dry red chili, broken in half

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

1 bay leaf

2 cloves of garlic, minced

½ teaspoon fresh ginger, crushed

1 small green chili, finely chopped

1 plum tomato, diced

1 tablespoon dry coriander powder

3/4 teaspoon cumin powder

¼ cup whole milk

2 tablespoons heavy cream (you can substitute the milk+cream with ¼ cup thick coconut milk)

4-5 tablespoons light olive oil

5-6 fresh mint leaves, roughly torn

Salt to taste

Gnocchi in Tomato Coconut Sauce1

Cook the gnocchi, drain and keep aside.

Heat oil in a non-stick skillet and add the mustard seeds & bay leaf. Once the seeds begin to splutter, add the garlic, ginger, dry red chili, green chili and coconut. Cook for a minute or two and then stir in the tomato, along with all the dry spices. Mix well, cover and cook on medium flame till the tomatoes are tender and the oil begins to separate. Slowly add the milk and cream and mix well. Finally add the gnocchi and cover for a few minutes. Turn heat to high and braise for another quick minute. Sprinkle with chopped mint and serve hot.

 A warm comfort meal inspired by South Indian flavors.

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Baked Eggplant Fries

Eggplant Chips6

“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

Eggplant Chips2

Eggplant Chips3

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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Eggplant Chips1

Kale & Farro Fried Rice

Kale & Farro Fried Rice2“Farro is nutty

Farro loves spice,

It is my solution

To something other than rice.

Cooks in minutes

And blends in well,

Be it soup or curry

Or a bake so swell.

With a grainy bite

And a fragrance mellow,

I now turn everything

Into a version A-la-farro…”

Kale & Farro Fried Rice

Ingredients

1 cup Farro, cooked as per instructions on the packet [can be substituted with barley or brown rice]

2 cups kale leaves, roughly shredded

8-10 snow peas, halved

1 small red onion, sliced lengthwise

4 cloves of garlic, diced

½ teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

1 tablespoon light soy sauce

1 teaspoon Thai fish sauce

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon sesame oil

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

Kale

Heat sesame and olive oil in a non-stick pan. Keeping the heat to high, add the ginger, garlic and onions and sauté till the onions just turn transparent. Stir in the snow peas, farro and sauces and stir continuously till the farro is coated with the oil & sauces. Lastly add the kale, red pepper flakes, salt & pepper and continue to cook till the leaves just start to wilt – a quick couple of minutes. Remove from heat & serve hot. A quick, healthier alternative to fried rice packed with flavor and nutrients.

Notes:

  • Add your choice of vegetables like red/green peppers, mushrooms, cabbage, asparagus etc. Leafy vegetables should be added with the kale, but hardier ones can go in with the farro.
  • To include meat, simple add it before the farro, cook till tender, and then continue with the recipe.
  • Add a few dashes of hot sauce if you cannot eat a meal without a kick.
  • Love eggs? Fry one for the top!

Okra Lentil Curry

Okra Dal3“Make a pledge, starting today,

To add a vegetable, to your lentils everyday.

Wholesome & tasty, it adds something new,

Without complicating, your daily stew.

Experiment to taste, peppers red or leaves green,

Chop em all up, so they can’t be seen.

I know you’ll love it, get ready to be surprised,

And worst case? just eat it with french fries!”

Okra Dal1

Ingredients

¾ cup yellow lentils (toor dal), soaked for 1 hour in warm water

1 plum tomato, diced

2 cloves of garlic, minced

½ teaspoon fresh ginger, crushed

1 small red onion, diced

1 cup okra, cut into 1 inch pieces

5-6 stalks of fresh coriander, stems removed and roughly chopped

1 dried red chili

½ teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon cumin powder

2 teaspoons coriander powder

½ teaspoon dry mango powder (amchoor)

¾ teaspoon garam masala

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

½ teaspoon red chili powder (more if you want it spicy)

A pinch of asafetida (hing powder)

4 tablespoons olive oil

Salt to taste

Okra Dal4

Heat oil in a deep-bottomed pan. Add cumin seeds and wait for them to start spluttering. Add the garlic & ginger and sauté for a minute. Mix in the onions and cook till they turn translucent – a couple of minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, along with all the dry spices. Mix well, cover and cook on medium-low flame till tomatoes are soft & tender. Crush them well with a spatula and then add in the okra. Stir for a few minutes and stir in the lentils [you do not need to drain them]. Mix well and add approximately 4 cups of water. Turn heat to medium-high till the mixture comes to a boil. Then turn the heat down to medium and let it simmer for about 45 minutes-1 hour, till the lentils are soft and fully cooked [the time does depend on the quality of lentils and the hardness of water]. Continue to cook for 5-6 extra minutes till the consistency is thick and creamy. Sprinkle fresh coriander, remove from heat and serve hot with rotis, rice or bread.

Okra Dal2

Okra Dal5

Okra Dal6