Saturday, January 30, 2010

Zuni Stew

I am re-posting this as an entry for No Croutons Required, hosted by Lisa this month. Zuni stew is a stew prepared by Zuni Indians who lived in New Mexico - this is my version.

Hi Kiddos,

I just wanted to tell you about the Zuni Stew we had for dinner over the weekend. I first tasted this on a visit to the US, at a new little restaurant called Spoon River Cafe. I loved the taste of it, and the amazing colours, so I decided I had to make it for you guys at home.

I felt it was particularly appropriate for dinner this Saturday since we would have gorged on cheese Fondue at Diva. At least, I knew dad and I would need the burst of wholesomeness that this dish would provide, and unlike many 'healthy' foods, it doesn't taste or look bland and boiled. In fact, it looks fabulous and is something I plan on feeding dinner guests in the future, since I have shifted to a 'no-fuss-entertaining' way of life.

I have to say, I loved shopping for it, buying the tiny orange pumpkins which the shop told me are referred to as 'disco' pumpkins. The orange and red capsicum, as you know, are my favourite, and I also love buying white onions - they look like giant pearls. The green capsicum and coriander add that dash of deep, rich colour, and the sweet corn kernels add their sweetness to that of the pumpkins. It was almost like therapy to cut each decide whether the dice should be large or small, depending on how fast that particular vegetable gets cooked, to add them one by one, knowing which one needs more cooking time and which less...inhaling the smell of the spices as they warm up in the oil and start smelling aromatic instead of harsh...

And the stew lived up to my expectations from the meal - colourful, flavourful, zingy and yet totally, sumptuously healthy! And guess what? I've taken some of my best food pictures ever with this dish. I know that's not saying much, but for me it's a huge improvement! And what's more, you fusspots had no trouble spooning this down with rice - Yaayy!!

1 cup garbanzo beans
1 small Pumpkin, skinned and cut into chunks ( about 600 grams)
1-2 onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 yellow bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced small
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
Half cup of sweet corn niblets
Handful of chopped fresh coriander
1 green chili, diced
1 cup garbanzo beans (chholey)
1.5 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
Salt to taste
Dash sugar if pumpkin isn't sweet
1/2 liter water
1 tbsp vegetable oil

Soak the garbanzo beans overnight, if you're not lazy like me. (Umm, I don't know if I should admit it to you kids...but then you should know this by living with me, right?)

Heat the oil in a deep casserole dish. When hot, add the cumin and coriander powders and fry on medium until you get a warm aroma. Add the minced garlic and saute until the garlic is soft but not brown. Add the onions and the green chili and cook until soft. Pour in the water and add the garbanzo beans and salt. Let it simmer until the garbanzo beans are almost cooked and then add the pumpkin. Adjust the water if you need - it shouldn't be too liquid. Once the pumpkin is almost done, throw in first the green pepper, then after 5-6 minutes the red and finally the yellow pepper and the corn. Let it simmer until the yellow pepper is cooked but not pulpy. Throw in the fresh coriander and simmer for one more minute.

Serve hot with, if you want to be authentic, corn bread but if counting calories, any multigrain country-style crusty bread.

Of course, that's the way you are supposed to make it. I like shortcuts, so here's what I did:
Cooked the garbanzo beans in the pressure cooker( 1 whistle). Sauteed the onions, garlic and green chile with the spice powders and then threw in the pumpkin. once that was almost cooked, added in the garbanzos and the peppers one by one and topped with the coriander.

You can also serve it on a bed of rice, or eat it just by itself, with some fruit for dessert if you want to feel particularly healthy.

Tip: You can adjust the level of heat depending on how hot the chili is, by adding chili powder ( or not).



This is my entry for My Legume Love Affair, hosted by Rachel of The Crispy Cook. I love this event, started by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook, because, as you kids know, I''m nuts about beans and always running around buying unknown varieties wherever we visit.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Pistou - Grow your Own January 2010

No, that's not a typo for Pesto. Pistou is apparently a Provencal dip-type thing that's made of similar ingredients to pesto and added to bean soup. I made a Provencal style bean soup last week and since I have a glut of basil leaves in my garden, decided to make some Pistou to go along with it. The soup was all right but the Pistou was so good that I've used the leftover drizzled on all kinds of things – crudités, a baguette slice at breakfast, with potato chips…just about anything. And it's definitely something I'm going to be making time and again. Here's how:


Basil leaves – 1-2 handsful (depends on how much you want to make)

Parmesan cheese, grated – 1-2 tbsp

Olive oil – 1 tbsp (I'm one of those low-fat people so always looking to substitute oil)

Water – as needed

Just wash the basil leaves and then whizz everything together in the blender and store in the fridge for dipping into.

This is my entry for Grow your Own January 2010, hosted by House of Annie

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sweet potatoes

I am a huge fan of potatoes but have never much liked sweet potatoes, especially in a curry form. The only way I have enjoyed them until recently is as chaat, served up with spicy chaat masala and nimbu and cut-up pieces of tart starfruit. However, in my quest to broaden my food horizons, I began experimenting with different was to cook this vegetable. It all started with baking the sweet potatoes wrapped in foil and then taking the foil off partway through the process to allow the natural sugars to ooze out and form a crisp, shiny, sweet crust. Then I started serving up baked sweet potatoes topped with a dip – either hummus, or Greek Tzatziki…

However, over the weekend, when I was left with a glut of baked potatoes and sweet potatoes, I decided to re-roast them in wedge form. I drizzled rosemary-flavoured olive oil onto a pan of wedge-cut sweet and plain potatoes and filled up the spaces in between with fat pieces of garlic, with the skin on. I sprinkled some salt and freshly ground black pepper on top and popped them into the oven at 100 degrees C for about 20 minutes – until they looked crisp and reddish.

What was amazing to me was that the sweet potatoes tasted better than the plain ones, what with the skin having turned crisply sweet yet juicy. We didn’t need any other accompaniments to this, and even the kids gobbled it up sans demands for ketchup. Definitely a do-it-again dish.


Yesterday I had lunch at a wonderful restaurant in Hauz Khas village. Hauz Khas village has been a much-loved haunt of mine for many years. My BFF and I and later A and I used to love going there on weekends, browsing through countless tiny little stores crammed with interesting jewellery, art, knick-knacks and designer clothes. Experimental restaurants would spring up there, from Ritu Dalmia's first venture, Mezza luna, to one whose name I can't remember that used to feature live jazz and Italian food. The Bistro always housed restaurants serving North Indian food, and then there was Naivedyam…

But I haven't been back there in a really long time, so it was fun to land up there for lunch with friends yesterday. Mansi took us to Gunpowder, which serves South Indian food – and not the standard idli-dosa-sambar, though you will find dosa and sambar on the menu. The menu here is more eclectic, from aapams (without the mandatory stew) to Malabar parottas, kadala curry kerala style and Andhra style gunpowder. The selection of non-vegetarian is quite extensive too.

We ordered pepper rasam which comes with two papaddams apiece – it was spicy, sour and laced with garlic, heaven on a cold winter's day. Quixotically though, they refused to serve us just the papad without rasam, even though we offered to pay extra, and said we could only get it with another order of rasam! We over-ordered out of sheer greed and hunger – aapams with kadala curry and spinach-toovar-garlic dal for veggie me, chicken ghassala and mutton korma with Malabar parottas for the carnivores, and gunpowder on the side, as well as plain rice.

The food came really fast, which was a blessing. The aapams with kadala curry were divine – didn't even notice the absence of stew – though the spinach toovar dal was a bit ordinary. The carnivores loved the non-veg and went at it with gusto. The gunpowder was served with oil though not til oil, whose fragrance I missed, and it was an excellent, highly spiced version. The kadala curry is already making me anticipate another visit to the restaurant – it was spicy and coconutty all at once. The downer was the filter coffee – had no fragrance and tasted foul, no matter how much milk and sugar we added to it. Another thing that didn't sit well was the service – the waiters were poorly informed and unable to even pronounce the names of the dishes, let alone make intelligent recommendations.

However, after trekking up four narrow flights of stairs, we were well-compensated by the incredible view over the Hauz Khas ravine. The restaurant looks out over the baoli or lake, which is beautiful right now, with some trees sunken into the water, and a vista of far-away trees painted in misty blue-green hues by the winter haze in Delhi. Just being there in that environment would have been enough for a great meal, and the delicious food was an absolute bonus.

A meal for four cost us Rs. 1500 approx, excluding dessert.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Looking back at 2009, foodwise

I had some awesome food experiences last year, both dining out and cooking at home. I had amazing Chili in Seattle, which I then recreated at home. I also bought lovely cherries covered in chocolate - truly sensual. Later this year, in Minneapolis, I had Zuni stew at the Spoon River Cafe, which I will blog about at some point, and also the most flavourful beans dish at one of Minneapolis' heritage restaurants, Szechuan green beans, which I plan to try and recreate tomorrow.

The Olive restaurant in Delhi moved back to its original, wonderful location in Hauz Khas,and A and I had a romantic dinner there on his birthday. One of the best things about that meal was when they brought a mortar and pestle filled with roasted garlic, extra virgin olive oil and herbs and we got to make our own dip to go with freshly baked bread hot from the oven.

Cibo was a lovely experience on our anniversary in terms of ambience and service, though I thought the food was nothing extraordinary. I wish I had known it was open-air so I would have dressed more warmly, but otherwise it was a great evening.

I discovered three tastes last year which I found delectable and hope to keep enjoying. The first was raspberries. In India, people often confuse ras-bhari ( physalis) for raspberry, which are very different fruit. I had tried rasps on occasion but probably never knew how to select them so hadn't quite cottoned onto their taste. But frozen raspberries gifted by a family friend made their way into A's birthday dessert and I was hooked on to everything about them. Their tart yet sweet taste. The aroma, reminiscent of the best summer roses. The texture, with the grainy seeds and the smooth puree...I even had the raspberry puree by itself as dessert for days after, and it was heavenly.

Peanut butter was something else I discovered after years and relished for the first time. With chocolate, with gongura pickle, on toast or by itself.

One more taste explosion that I have been gluttonously relishing is that of kino or Malta as it is commonly known here. This was a fruit we never enjoyed growing up, because peeling it like an orange just takes too much time and effort. But while at an otherwise dull Romanian food special, I came across Maltas cut into sections, and found their taste almost intoxicating - the sweet-sour juiciness, the fresh, clean feel of the little niblets of fruit...So ever since then they have become staples in our fruit basket, and the kids, A and I can happily tuck into some Maltas anytime.

I hope 2010 brings more such culinary adventures my way. I'm waiting with a clean and eager palate...!