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stew

Comfort..

Moroccan Vegetable Stew & Jalapeno Scone

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This is a stew that comforts in the cold of Winter :)

Warm as a soft cashmere blanket on a cold, frosty day..

Gentle heat as welcome as from the burning wood at the fireplace..

Hearty as the expanse of the country side...

Complete with jalapeno scones, in case you need more of a palate awakening!


Moroccan Vegetable Stew

In season root vegetables, diced

half a head of cauliflower

any other winter vegetable

1 onion, diced fine

4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed

1/2 can of whole san marzano tomatoes

1/2 inch chunk of ginger grated

1 T sumac

1 T Ras el Hanout

2-1/2 or more cups of water

1/2 cup of cream

chives for garnish

salt, pepper and oil as needed

In a heavy bottomed pan, saute the onions, garlic and ginger until softened. Add the root vegetables and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the spice, tomatoes and other vegetables and one cup of water and bring to a boil. Add everything else and simmer for about 15 minutes, till the vegetables are soft. Adjust water content to desired soupy-ness and serve with garnish.

Simple South Indian Comfort - Bottle Gourd Kootu (Stew)

Bottle Gourd Kootu1


I am a South Indian but, oddly enough, I did not grow up with a particularly South Indian table. My mom always did like trying out new dishes and since she started her serious cooking while in the mid-West of India, North Indian cuisine was as much a staple as traditional Tamilian dishes.

As I grew up, I became more partial to rotis and less so to rice. I would be very happy to eat rotis for every meal and avoid the other carb entirely. Obviously, this meant more work for my mom, because, of course, I would expect fresh, hot-off-the-tava rotis for every meal.


Bottle Gourd Kootu


Finally, and I am sure, without any correlation to the convenience of it, mom insisted that I have to eat atleast one cup of rice a week. And, this was excluding those special treats of Biriyani that I had absolutely no qualms in overindulging in.

I would grumble but, in hindsight, rather enjoyed my Saturday lunches, which, were usually rice with a South Indian vegetable stew and a side of more veggies and paapad. All with generous teaspoons of homemade ghee! :-).

To be a vegetarian in India is very easy, not the least because of the variety of vegetables and greens you find there. Besides, South Indian cooking is quite partial to the use of fruits of the Earth, having endured centuries of the caste system, where, vegetarian Brahmins, occupied the pride of place atop.


Comfort Lunch - Bottle Gourd Koottu


So, recently, when nostalgia hit me and I wanted to go back to the comfort of my mom's cooking, I turned to this simple but deeply satisfying stew made with Bottle Gourd. It's a mild stew, that is tamely spiced with turmeric, green chillies and cumin powder, allowing the flavor of the vegetable to come through.

We ate it with dill rice and homemade ghee (made by MIL! :-) ) and a side of grated fresh turmeric salad. Ah! Bliss!!!


Brunch Bruschetta DMBLGIT Win


And, before I go, I want to share a bit of happiness that just made my Friday. A mail from Xiaolu in the morning put a smile on my face and kept it there. Yes, the DMBLGIT awards and I am honored to be listed amongst the winners for my photo of the Brunch Bruschetta. Thanks very much to all the judges for your appreciation! :))



Bottle Gourd Kootu

1 medium bottle gourd, peeled and diced
1/2 medium onion, diced fine
3-4 green chillies
2 cloves of garlic
1 inch ginger, minced
1 tomato, diced fine
1/4 cup fresh grated coconut
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp urad dal (ivory lentil)
3/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
3 -4 curry leaves
2 T chopped fresh dill
2 cups water + more if needed
salt, oil as needed

In a deep pan, fry the mustard and cumin seeds and ivory lentil until the lentils lightly brown. Add the curry leaves and wait for the mustard to start popping. Add the onion, ginger and garlic and saute until soft. Stir in the chillies, salt and ground spices and saute for a couple of minutes.

Add the bottle gourd and coconut and saute for a few minutes. Now add the tomato and water and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on medium for about 15 minutes or until the vegetable is fully cooked. Add more water if needed. Stir in the dill leaves and adjust seasoning if needed. Serve with rice and some melted ghee.

Cold Weather Comfort: Rosemary scented Harissa Beef and Lentil Stew

Harissa and Rosemary Beef & Lentil Stew

Someone, somewhere seems to have a vendetta with the North East US. We seem to have become quite the dumping ground for the impetuousness of our weather mother. Nary a week passes by without a severe weather warning in the horizon. In the last three weeks, we have had two snow storms, one leaving behind a mountain of white fluff and the other a hill, but still something to talk about!

The thing is, I think snow is beautiful, I mean to the point of breathtaking... as it is coming down. Or, if you are one of those catch-the-dawn kind of people, then perhaps, you get to witness it's ethereal beauty before it gets sullied by the reality of life.

Harissa and Rosemary Beef Stew


I look out my window as the light, delicate (sometimes clumps) flurries sway down and it triggers happy thoughts... of pristine landscapes, of dogs running happy in the white stuff, of wearing my sexy new hounds tooth pattern rain boots, of warm, comforting meals and if I pause philosophically, of fresh starts and clean slates...

Then come morning and in the light of day, the romantic thoughts are obliterated by real people and real vehicles trudging through the snow and turning it into grey and then black slush. Not to mention that the slush remains for many days, because the city has political turmoil! Dear elected representatives, please get your priorities right. Clean first, quibble later!

Photo Courtsey: CBS News

Nevertheless, even as the perfect white ground is obliterated with many many black tire tracks and icy slush and mutinous thoughts about city governance prey on your mind, you can atleast take solace in that warm, comforting meal you were planning.

Winter typically brings on cravings for stews and soups. Recently, I decided to go a bit light on the carbs. So, I have been thinking of ways to make a filling meal that does not depend heavily on a carb compenent to furnish that satisfied feeling. In walk, Lentils. Rich in protein, taste fabulous, and intensely satisfying to boot!

And nothing says comforting better than a good, hearty beef stew. Mine has an extra kick from the harissa marinated beef and the addition of rosemary infuses the stew with becoming earthiness!

Beef stew bowl

I have my bowl of stew ready. Now, I just need a blanket and good book and I am all set to brave a storm, whenever it wants to rattle my window!




Rosemary scented Harissa Beef and Lentil Stew

1/2 lb beef brisket, cubed into 1 inch pieces
1 T harissa
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp vinegar
salt to taste

3/4 cup lentils
3 cups stock
3 carrots, peeled and diced into 3/4 inch chunks
1 medium onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic
3 small sprigs of rosemary (about 2 T), tied together
salt and pepper as needed

Soak the lentils for an hour in warm water.

Mix together the salt, harissa, vinegar and cumin and coat the beef cubes evenly with the mixture. Let the meat marinate in the fridge for atleast an hour. When ready, saute half the diced onion in oil until soft. Add the meat and brown evenly. Add 1/2 cup of stock. At this point, you can transfer to a pressure cooker and cook for about 20 minutes or 7-8 whistles. If you are cooking in a regular pan, cook on medium heat until the meat is done. Add water as liquids are needed.

Meanwhile, saute the remaining onions and garlic in another pan in oil. Add the carrots and saute for a minute. Drain the lentils and add to the mixture along with the rosemary and remaining stock. Over low heat, cook the lentils until almost done.

Combine the lentils with the beef mixture and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Let the stew rest for 15 or so minutes and then it's ready to serve. You can fish out the rosemary at this point, if you want to.


Beef stew cup

Traditional Parsi Mutton Dhansak and Velveteers

Mutton Dhansak

Hope everyone had a fantastic Thanksgiving with not very pervasive hangovers! :) I'll tell you how our Thanksgiving went when I am back in town! :D. Can't wait to see how it goes!! In the meantime, I wanted to share with you an ethnic comfort food that will be perfect for that leftover turkey/meat - Parsi Dhansak.

Dhansak is the quintessential Parsi dish. It is a stew of lentils and meat flavored with traditional spices and brown sugar or jaggery. The dish is mild and tangy with just a touch of sweet to represent the balance of yin and yang in life.

Now, I am sure you want to know, who/what are Parsis. :) Well.. Parsis are Zoroastrians, originally from Persia who later, fearing religious persecution, took refuge on shores of Western India. Reflecting this confluence of cultures, old and adopted, their cuisine is a meld of Persian origins and Indian influences.

Mutton Dhansak closeup

Most of their dishes have a bit of sour (from vinegar, tomatoes, fenugreek) and a bit of sweet (white or brown sugar). Dhansak is the ultimate comfort food in their cuisine. Every Parsi family has a treasured recipe and getting that out of them is like pulling tooth out. I share with you an authentic family recipe, ours! :)

For Velveteers this month, we chose the challenge of finding a Dhansak recipe, by hook or crook. I share my family's recipe here. There are two major foot notes to this dish. One, the lentils have to be pureed. Parsis will not touch a lentil stew that is chunky. Two, Dhansak is always accompanied by a particular brown rice, the flavor and color of which come from caramelised sugar.

Also, Dhansak is never served on a good occasion.

Mutton Dhansak 1




Mutton Dhansak

Notes:

  1. You can use any meat in the stew but mutton is most popular for it's flavor.
  2. The pumpkin serves dual purpose. The protease in it will break down the meat proteins making them tender and it adds body to the stew. If you don't have pumpkin, substitute with potato.
  3. The distinctive flavor of the stew comes from the Dhansak masala which is somewhat similar to garam masala but different! :) You can purchase it from any Indian store or make your own.
  4. I use a pressure cooker to cook my lentils and pre-cook the meat. If you don't have one, then cook them in enough water over low heat until the lentils are tender enough to be pureed with a whisk.
  5. If you are using chicken or pre-cooked meat, add it directly to the cooked lentils while cooking the lentils.



1 cup split pigeon peas (toor dal)
6 cups of water
1/2 cup of pumpkin, diced
1 medium to large onion, julienned
1 inch ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tomato, diced
1 lb mutton or other meat, diced 2 inches and salted (you can also use equivalent amounts of leftover meat)
2 heaping tsp chili powder
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander-cumin mixture
3 heaping tsp Dhansak Masala
oil and salt as needed

In a pressure cooker, add half the onion, ginger, garlic, tomato, pumpkin and lentils. Add three cups of water. Place the red meat (previously uncooked) gently spread around the bowl. Cook the contents for 5 to 6 whistles. When the steam has cooled off, remove the lid and let any remaining steam escape.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the meat piece and set aside. Whisk the lentils mixture to a smooth puree. I find a handheld whisk works just as well here. Set the lentils aside.

In a heavy bottomed pan, saute the remaining onions until soft in three tablespoons of oil. Add the ground spices and saute for a couple of minutes over low heat. Add the remaining water and bring to a rolling boil. Gently add the lentil mixture and bring it back to another boil. Add in the meat pieces, bring to another boil and then simmer until the meat is tender.



Dhansak Rice (brown rice)

1/2 medium onion, julienned
2 cups long grained rice
2 tsp cumin seeds
5 whole cloves
1 stick cinnamon
2 cloves of cardamom, split
5 whole peppercorns
2 tsp white sugar
2 T ghee (clarified butter) sub: brown butter
salt as needed

Over low heat, saute the whole spices in the ghee until the aromas release. Add the onions and saute until soft. Add the sugar and let it caramelise and brown. Quickly add 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Add the rice and salt and cook until rice is fully cooked.


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Velveteers was started by Aparna, Asha, Alessio and Pam, who are passionate about different cuisines and food in general. Each month, we will attempt a new dish and share our experiences and the recipes we used. If you’re interested in joining the Velveteers, please feel free to drop by our food blogs and leave a comment or drop me a line at asha@forkspoonnknife.com. You can also visit our google group, The 4 Velveteers.

Please visit our group to check out what everyone has created this month!


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