Friday, February 28, 2014

Egg Roast


I traveled to India for the first time at the age of 4. There are photos of me squeezed between my siblings at the Red Fort of Agra and frolicking around the Taj Mahal in a gingham jumper. 


The monuments had no allure for me at the time. Instead, I marveled at being allowed to yell in my great grandfather’s ear without reprimand because he was hard of hearing. That had never happened before! I chased fluffy chicks in my  grandmother’s backyard and monitored tiny lizards (which I later referred to as dinosaurs) as they zipped across the wall.


Fortunately, our family visited the Taj and other historical treasures on subsequent trips. In Rajasthan, we peered through intricate marble screens that separate rooms at Amber Palace and dined at the Maharaja of Jaipur’s former hunting lodge. We trekked to the Ajanta Caves in Maharashtra to see ancient Buddhist paintings and explored the grounds of Padmanabhaswamy temple in Thiruvananthapuram.   

Egg Roast - 2

I was better able to appreciate the history and architectural splendor of India once I hit double digits. And yet, what really appealed to me was the chaos that helps to define my parent’s homeland. Traffic stopped without warning because of a wayward cow. Hulking lories weaved around chattering school children and overloaded scooters. The electricity came and went, slowing our movement and spotlighting the beauty of candlelight. 



Serves 4

It’s common to wake  up to the sound of crowing roosters in Kerala. By early morning, you’ll find them scritch-scratching in the yard with an entourage of chickens. Their eggs, which are as fresh as can be, are often used for Egg Roast. The full-flavored dish pairs well with savory pancakes (appam) or a serving of plain rice.


6 eggs
2 cups finely sliced onions
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
½ teaspoon cayenne
1/8 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 cloves
3 cardamom pods
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
3 tablespoons canola oil
1/8 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
1 tablespoon minced ginger
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon salt
10 to 15 fresh curry leaves


Place the eggs in a saucepan in a single layer. Cover with cold water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. Remove the saucepan from heat. Cover with a lid and let the eggs sit in the water for 15 minutes. 

Peel and score the eggs lengthwise at half-inch intervals.

Heat the oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the onions, ginger, and garlic. Lower the heat to medium-low and and cook until the onions are caramelized, about 20 minutes.

Blend the coriander seeds, cayenne, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom pods, and fennel seeds in a coffee grinder (used only for spices) or spice grinder. In a small bowl, stir the spices with 1 tablespoon of water to form a paste. 

Stir the spice paste into the onions and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook until they soften completely, stirring frequently.

Add the salt and curry leaves and stir. Add the eggs and the remaining 1 tablespoon of water. Gently layer the eggs with the spiced onions and cook on low heat for five minutes.
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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Aloo Bonda (Potato Fritters)


When we travelled to Kerala in the 80s, my dad always hired a driver for about a week so we could visit extended family, morning to night. We stayed at each house for about an hour and ended up stuffed with fried cuppa and avalose unda. The hot tea was milky and free flowing. On occasion, when we tried to take leave, the hostess would declare that she had just killed a free-range chicken, which had been pecking about the yard.  That move always delayed our departure for a few hours.


I loved watching the world from the back seat of the Hindustan Ambassador, which flew by as a riot of tropical green. At some point, we would see an elephant walking along the road with his trainer, and my siblings and I would scream out, “There’s an E-L-E-P-H-A-N-T!!!” The driver would chuckle wondering, no doubt, “What’s with these crazy Americans?”


When we crossed from the countryside into town, we would pass a main street with a tangle of open-air shops and a movie poster of Mammooty dressed in a mundu. The snack stands sold bananas galore, soda water in hefty glass bottles, and packs of beedi. On a hot day, we would indulge in a bottle of Campa Cola or Orange Crush. Around the corner, there would be a tea shop selling idli, dosa, and a variety of fritters.



Makes 20 to 25

When you crave the comfort of potatoes, try this snack. The crust is crisp and light. The festively colored filling is full of flavor. Be sure to eat the spicy potato fritters while they are still warm.

Spicy Fried Potato Balls - 4


¾ cup plus 1 tablespoon chickpea flour
½ cup water
1¼ teaspoons salt
2½ cups plus 1 tablespoon canola oil
¼ teaspoon brown or black mustard seeds
1 tablespoon skinned and split urad dhal (black gram)
1 cup finely diced onions
2 tablespoons minced ginger
Half a small jalapeno, quartered
½ cup diced tomatoes
2 cups potatoes, boiled, peeled, and cut into 2-inch pieces
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon ground cumin
2 tablespoons minced cilantro
1 cup frozen peas



In a small bowl, whisk together the chickpea flour, water, and ¼ teaspoon of salt. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the urad dhal and cook until it turns honey brown.

Add the onions, ginger, jalapeno, and stir. Cook until the onions become translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir until they soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the potatoes, turmeric, garlic powder, cumin, cilantro, and the remaining 1 teaspoon of salt.

Add the peas. Remove the jalapeno. Roughly mash the mixture with your hands leaving some of the potatoes in chunks.

Roll the spiced potatoes into 2-inch balls.

Line a large plate with paper towels.

Heat the remaining 2½ cups of oil in a deep skillet over medium heat. Add a drop of the batter to the oil. When it rises to the top and bubbles around the edges, dip 4 or 5 of the balls in the batter, coating them completely.

Lift out with a fork to allow excess batter to run off, and carefully place in the hot oil.

Cook until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on the paper towels to cool. Repeat with the rest of the potatoes and batter.

Serve immediately.

Spicy Fried Potato Balls - Cover
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Friday, February 7, 2014

Spinach Pachadi (Spinach in Spiced Yogurt)



Serves 4

This vibrantly flavored dish is a synch to prepare. For a simple meal, pair it with a plate of plain rice. Not looking for a main course? Let it serve  as a satisfying side. One more thing…since spinach is consistently on the Dirty Dozen list I suggest opting for organic.  

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1 (10 ounce) package frozen organic chopped spinach, thawed
2 tablespoons finely diced onions
1 tablespoon canola oil
¼ teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
2 small dried red chilies
1 tablespoon skinned and split urad dhal (black gram)
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1¼ cups low-fat yogurt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon salt

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Cook the spinach and onions in a saucepan over medium heat until the water evaporates, about 8 to 10 minutes. Cool completely.

Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add the red chilies and urad dhal. (For extra heat, tear the dried red chilies apart before you add them.) 

Cook until the urad dhal turns honey brown. 

Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat. 

Place the yogurt in a medium sized bowl. Stir the seasoned oil into the yogurt. 

Mix in the spinach, cumin, and salt. 

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. 

Serve chilled.

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