No Worries Curries Blog: Home-Made

Pulses: Protein-Packed Plant Food

By Claudette D'Cruz

Pulses: Protein-Packed Plant Food

With today’s mantra of eat more plant food we see posh fruit and juice parlours sprouting around. Instagram is lush with tantalising pictures of luscious fruit and vibrant vegetables arranged in all manner of aesthetics by raw food enthusiasts.  But fruit and vegetables are not the only plant food we can enjoy.  Let’s take a look at what replaces a steak on an Indian plate - pulses.

With 47% of Indians following a vegetarian (lacto-ovo) diet there are a whole variety of pulses included in every meal.  They are cheap but provide high nutrition and the protein component in meals for millions.  Pulses are eaten at each meal both in sweet and savoury recipes.  In many Indian households lunch or dinner would consist of a dhal, a bean dish, 2 seasonal vegetables, rice and or chappati accompanied by pickle, papadums and a sweet dish.

Dhal for most Indians is synonymous with soul food.  A hot steaming bowl of dhal and some rice/roti to accompany it and you have a satisfying meal in minutes.  There are several varieties of Dhals and we will endeavour to explain some of them.

  • URAD (black coloured lentils) are black in colour and about the same shape and size as moong beans. They are highly nutritious and recommended for diabetics as are other pulses. Only needs washing before cooking.
  • CHANA (yellow split-pea lentils) have a deep yellow colour and look like the halves of a chick-pea, only smaller in size. They take a long time to cook and hence are perfect for use in a slow cooker. Need to be soaked to reduce cooking time.
  • MASOOR (orange coloured lentils) are most commonly used in many homes. They take the shortest time to cook and are excellent for quick meals. Wash thoroughly till the water runs clear.
  • MOONG (green coloured lentils) are easy to digest hence they are prepared for children. They are also used in sweet dishes like in the south (Godsheh in Goa and Vorn in Mangalore) and in the north (Moong Dal Halwa) – which is reminiscent of the Chinese Moon Cake.

The six major pulse groups grown in Australia are: Broad Beans, Chickpea, Field Peas, Lentils, Lupin and Mungbean.  Pulses are universally recommended as part of a healthy eating plan and feature prominently in some of the world’s healthiest diets such as the Mediterranean diet.  So feel positively pulsed and enjoy these easy recipes, which we have hyperlinked below:

  • DHAL MAKHANI - The richest of all the dhal dishes thanks to the addition of cream and butter. 
  • JEERA TADKA DHAL -  Basic everyday dhal that gets most of its flavour from the 'tadka', which is the tempering of condiments like cumin seeds, dried red chilli and curry leaves, in hot oil, which is then added to the lentil curry. 
  • CHANA DHAL - This lentil is much thicker than its counterparts and usually requires to be soaked in water before cooking. 
  • PALAK (Spinach) DHAL  - The addition of spinach in this dhal dish is so divine, you will want to consume it as a soup, rather than just a curry. 


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A Sure Way to Spice Up Your Valentine's Day

By Claudette D'Cruz

A Sure Way to Spice Up Your Valentine's Day

A typical image that comes to my mind when I think of ‘romantic cuisine’ is that scene from the Disney classic Lady and The Tramp, where the two dogs share a plate of spaghetti bolognese and unknowingly chew on the same strand until they accidentally kiss (I secretly longed for this to happen in my previous relationships but always forgot to order spaghetti when on dates. I also find spaghetti hard to share because it is one of my favourite dishes and I tend to devour it all). Another is the classic red and white checkered blanket spread across a green lawn. The blanket contains a spread of baguette, cheese and wine. French and Italian cuisines have no doubt provided us with many-a-romantic meal to share with our better halves but what other dishes can inspire romance?

 As Valentine’s day approaches, I challenge you to broaden your perception of romantic cuisine by cooking none other than Indian food for your special date/partner/friend.. Here are our top five picks (in random order) for you to try out this Valentine’s Day. These are commonly available dishes in most vegetarian restaurants.

  1. Nothing screams romantic like ‘Pani Puri’. This popular street food provides textural sensation; the crunch of the puri shell, the spicy water that floods the mouth and the pungent flavour of the raw onions. In true couple style, you can take turns feeding each other pani puri.

  2. Why not share a South Indian Vegetarian Thali with your valentine? Thalis are great because of the variety they offer; rice and roti, sambhar/dahl (lentil curries) and rasam (a spicy, watery soup with tamarind as its base), 2-3 different spiced vegetables, papad and fresh yoghurt. This is just in one serve! Get your fingers messy as they dip, dunk and scoop out all the deliciousness on offer.

  3. Nothing spells love as much as butter does and the dish Pav Bhaji is a testament to that love. ‘Pav’ means bread and ‘bhaji’ means vegetables fried in spices. What makes this dish extra delicious is the fact that the main vegetables (potato, peas, carrots, cauliflower and french beans) are first boiled in water so that they become mushy. They are then mashed and added to a mix of onions, tomatoes, capsicum and spices all sautéed with butter forming a thick, rich gravy that is dark orange in colour. Basically, knobs of butter are added in the beginning, middle and end stages of the cooking. This is gravy is scooped up with soft, buttered (of course) bread which you and your partner can devour. Licking of fingers post eating is mandatory and your valentine will be nothing short of delighted at the time spent preparing this dish (it is time-consuming). For time is love is not?

  4. Gulab Jamun and Vanilla Ice Cream is without doubt the best Indian dessert to share with your valentine. This sweet treat is made from milk solids which are deep fried and soaked in a sugary syrup spiced with whole cardamom pods. They are usually served hot with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. The temperature contrast of hot and cold and the textural contrast of moistness and creamy awaken the palate’s senses. Of course if you are a die-hard gulab jamun fan like I am and find the thought of sharing one bowl a little restrictive, you may always order two bowls at the outset to make it crystal clear to your valentine that this is a dessert best enjoyed individually at the same time, rather than shared.

  5. Another dessert is featured in this list because what would Valentine’s Day be without a little extra sweetness? Falooda is a colourful dessert cum beverage delight that will surely please your date. It is akin to a thick-shake but filled with vermicelli, basil seeds, chunks of jelly, milk, rose syrup and of course, ice-cream all mixed together and served in a tall glass. If this mere description itself does not fill you up, then you can imagine what the real dessert will be like. That is why Falooda is the ideal dessert to share with your loved one. Ask for an extra straw and spoon (to scoop up all that sweet, sweet goodness).

No matter whom you choose to celebrate Valentine’s Day with, we hope it will be in spicy company!

Image Source: www.mentalfloss.com

By Conchita A. de Souza

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'Curry' - A Diverse Dish with an Ancient History

By Claudette D'Cruz

'Curry' - A Diverse Dish with an Ancient History

I hate to burst your bubble of pride as you tuck into your home-made curry, but your success is old news – ancient to be precise. Curry is believed to be the oldest continuously-prepared food in human history, and early home cooks were whipping up a good spicy stew around 4,000 years ago in the ancient Indus Valley empire of India.

Of course our early ancestor's curries little resemble modern-day curries. Even in the 17th century the Indian 'kari' was merely one of many soupy-spicy dressings served with other dishes and not as the main event. The Europeans, while merrily colonising India, incorrectly assumed all these dressings were 'currys' (as they called them), and scurried back to their home countries with a recipe.

But then everything changed. While the English were making “currey the Indian way” (a rabbit stew with a spoonful of rice and various spices), the chilli journeyed from it's native South America to Asia and the curry became the fiery version we know today.

That said, curry remains one of the most diverse and varied foods on the planet. Eat a curry in Jamaica and it will likely contain goat, while South African's chew on 'bunny chow' and the hawker stalls of Hong Kong sell curry fish balls.

In the Maldives the top curry is made with fresh tuna, Germany's classic currywurst pairs a sausage with curried ketchup to great effect, and the first Australian settlers dined on bandicoot curry in 1864.

It all started in India though, so to India we must return. Curries vary by region, tradition and religion in India, but the general rule is that southern Indian curries are the spicier ones, and coastal regions use seafood more than chicken or red meat.

Your average curry contains around 60 ingredients, but before you scream and vow you will never cook one again, remember that many of these contain health benefits, so are worth the effort of adding to your meal.

Key spices like turmeric, cumin, allspice, ginger and garlic have anti-bacterial properties; onions help the body produce cancer-fighting molecules; and the hotter the spice the more calories you burn eating it!

Ultimately, what really matters is the pleasure that a good curry brings: it's both soothing and stimulating, explosively flavoured and endlessly varied. Let that pleasure be heightened by the effort that goes into making it, and the link it creates with our ancestors and the global society of curry eaters. Throw in the fact that you are doing your body some good just by tucking in and there is no reason not to open your next packet of spices and get cooking!

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Eating Food With Your Hands - A Tastier and Healthier Alternative

By Conchita de Souza

Eating Food With Your Hands - A Tastier and Healthier Alternative

In India, scooping up rice and curry with the fingers on your right hand instead of your fork or spoon isn’t any more normal than drinking beer chilled. It is a practice ingrained in children as soon as they start learning to eat on their own (which also happens at a very young age in India). It is also a practice far less messy and a lot more hygienic than that which is perceived by our utensil-loving friends. Why? Well for instance, only the top two rungs of your fingers get food on them, leaving the skins of your palms, wrists and sometimes your knuckles relatively untouched (unless of course you are new to this whole ‘eating with your hands’ experience and make a mess equivalent of a toddler left to eat spaghetti on their own). When you eat with your hands, you pay more attention to hygiene and wash your hands thoroughly with soap. That is why when you go to any restaurant in India (and other countries where eating with hands is a common practice), you will see a small wash basin with a soap. The wash basin may vary according to how remote a location you find yourself in, and may sometimes appear as a jug filled with water. It is the principle that counts though.

Eating is an all-involving sensory experience. Before the food reaches your tongue, you have already processed it using three of your senses; Sight, Smell and Sound. During preparation, you see the food before you and are able to smell its aromas and hear the sounds of it cooking. When you are about to eat, your eyes take in the dish, your nose smells it in its finality and your ears hear the sound of the food - the crack of the papad as it breaks or the sound of the kabab sizzling hot on your plate. As you eat, you engage a new sense - Taste. Your tongue and palate work together to taste the flavours. Yet one sense remains, restless and impatient for her chance to contribute to the sensory experience that is eating - Touch. With the advent of cutlery, the role of Touch has diminished during her favourite activity of eating. She watches sadly on the sidelines as all the other senses experience the delight of good food. She grudgingly holds the cold, metal utensils, her greatest obstacle to experiencing the food as profoundly as her siblings do so. It’s a bit dramatically told, but I believe senses have personalities of their own and certainly contribute to the development of our personas!

 Drama aside, eating with your hands is encouraged in Ayurveda (the Hindu system of medicine which translates to the science/knowledge of life). Traditionally, every finger on your hand (and for that matter, every toe on your foot) is symbolic of earthly elements; your thumb represents fire, your index finger is symbolic of air, your middle finger indicates the heavens, your ring finger - the earth and the little finger is water of course! When you put these five fingers together, they form mudra, a hand position central in meditation, yoga and classical Indian dance forms. The mudra is what you eat with, and therefore all five fingers play a role in purifying and energising what goes into your body. So eating with your hands and fingers is in fact, a much healthier way of eating.

 In the interests of presenting a well-rounded perspective on eating with your hands, there are a couple of downsides to this practice. Sometimes, your fingernails can become stained because of the spices used in Indian cuisines. This however isn’t permanent and will wear away after some days, as does the strong smells produced by the various spices. If you have an event coming up in which the aesthetics of your fingernails play an important role, you can ditch the fingers for cutlery in the days preceding the said event. Another downside is if the food is super hot, your finger might get a bit of a burning. However burning your fingers is far less worse than burning the tastebuds on your tongue and consequently, not being able to enjoy the ensuing flavours of your meal.

Eating with your hands is still practiced in Western cuisine with favourites like bread, tacos, fries, pizza, chocolate and burgers, to name a few, still being enjoyed by the trusty ol’ hands. Maybe that’s why they taste so damn good! If the practice is something that makes you feel uncomfortable, start doing it with Indian food and see just how much fun you can have. Then you can slowly work your way towards eating pasta, steak, and salad with your hands too! I guarantee that your food will also taste even better than it already does.

 By Conchita A. de Souza 

 

 

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An Indian Banquet for Your Christmas Celebrations

By Conchita de Souza

An Indian Banquet for Your Christmas Celebrations

This Christmas why not change your traditional menu for something a little more, let’s say, Indian? The richness of certain Indian dishes perfectly encapsulate that Christmas Day feeling of a belly full of food cooked with love.

If going all-out Indian this Christmas is a bit overwhelming, you can always choose to replace your traditional Christmas menu with one or two dishes that are Indian. You are the chef, so you decide!

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A Detailed Exploration of Indian Breads

By Claudette D'Cruz

A Detailed Exploration of Indian Breads
Limiting the plethora of Indian breads to merely ‘naan’ or ‘roti’ is akin to limiting cheese to just cheddar or gouda - there is just so much more where all that came from!

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