The "F" of Indian Vegetables
The letter F inspired ten fantastic Indian flavors!
To start off, the beloved fenugreek, used in Indian cooking in three different avatars: First, as a leafy green vegetable, nutritious and delicious with a pleasantly bitter bite. Second, dried, as a herb known as kasuri methi, where the deep distinctive flavor of fenugreek can be added pinch by pinch. Third, as fenugreek seeds, a spice, often ground into a masala with other spices or added while tempering a dish. All three forms can be found in Indian or international stores. The leaves are usually sold both fresh and frozen.
First up, a delicious appetizer to whet the appetite: Asha of Foodie's Hope/ Aroma used fenugreek leaves combined with cornmeal and spices to fry up some crispy, golden, mouth-watering "Indian-style hush puppies" or Fenugreek Fritters.
Fenugreek leaves team up with radish to make a quick and nutritious Fenugreek-Radish Curry, a contribution by Trupti of The Spice Who Loved Me.
Pinki of Desi Fusion Corner packs a double fenugreek punch by combining fenugreek leaves and the dried kasuri methi with some cauliflower and potatoes to make a wholesome and tasty Aloo Gobhi Methi ka Tuk.
Fenugreek seeds play a leading role in the Fenugreek-Broccoli curry, an unusual preparation, again by Trupti of The Spice Who Loved Me. She says that even her little son loves broccoli cooked this way, which means that this is a must-try recipe for all broccoli-haters!
Want to learn more about fenugreek seeds and their uses? See them featured here by Lydia of Perfect Pantry.
We move on to three additional F vegetables...
First up is fuzzy melon, a wonderful asian squash (new to me) introduced by Pinki of Desi Fusion Corner. Pinki describes the melon and makes a creative dish called Fuzzy Melon ki Sabzzi.
Next comes fennel, that beautiful bulb with a frilly top, and the interesting taste of licorice or anise. Linda of Out Of The Garden creates yet another delightful preparation called Fennel with Toor Dal and Garlic by roasting the fennel and combining it with some garlicky dal. What an amazing flavor profile this dal has!
Finally, a vegetable that is easily available and well-known: french beans. Verdant and crunchy, fresh french beans or green beans certainly are used in countless Indian dishes.
Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine shares a family recipe for an unusual French Beans Stew. French beans combine with potato and the flavors of ginger and coconut milk...I can just imagine the subtle aroma of this stew.
Suma of Veggie Platter shares another delicious recipe with us: She combines french beans and toor dal to make the vegetable preparation even richer in protein, and comes up with a tasty French Beans Sabji.
I used french beans too, and combined them with another popular Indian vegetable, the cauliflower or fulgobi. In Hindi, cauliflower is sometimes called just "gobi" or then called "fulgobi" (ful= flower) to distinguish it from "patta-gobi" or cabbage (patta= leaf).
Finally, an entry that wowed me by its unusual nature. It reminded me that no matter how many years I spend marveling at Indian regional food, I will keep discovering surprising new preparations. Here, Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi introduce us to Fajeto. A traditional dish from the Western Indian state of Gujarat, it is an unsual curry featuring mango pulp, yogurt and chickpea flour that by all accounts is delicious, delicious!
F is for Foogath: The simplest stir-fry (South-Indian style)
In my eyes, the most incredible recipes of Indian regional cooking are the delicious vegetable preparations that prompted me to start this series in the first place. Stir-fried vegetables are especially dear to my heart. They require little preparation other than chopping of the vegetables, and they retain the essential flavor of the vegetables while, at the same time, dressing it up with a spicy kick.
One such regional stir-fry is called foogath. I really have no idea what the term means, except that this preparation is from the coastal state of Goa, the land that brings us those other exotic-sounding curries like the "vindaloo" and "cafreal".
A few weeks ago, we made a typical North-Indian stir-fry and now, we are making some foogath, which certainly is a type of Southern Indian stir-fry, judging from the classic combination of mustard seeds and curry leaves. From what I understand, here are the essential components of a good foogath:
1. Tempering with mustard seeds, curry leaves and chilies,
2. Garnish with some grated coconut.
Simple and delicious, foogath is generally made with cabbage or french beans, but I see no reason why one can't make it with, say, cauliflower, or carrots or any combination of vegetables. The dish has a very subtle flavor and you can make it with as few or as many chilies as you like. The vegetables are cooked just until they are tender, so the fresh and delicate of this dish is what makes it so special for me.
serves about 4
1. Prepare the vegetables: Cut half a head of cauliflower into small florets. Cut 2 cups of french beans (green beans) into small pieces (if the beans are not tender, you might have to remove the strings first).
2. Make the tempering: Heat 1 tbsp oil, then add 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds, 2 fresh chilies cut into thirds, 1/4 cup minced onion, 5-6 curry leaves. Stir around for a few minutes to infuse the oil with all the spices.
3. Add 1/2 tsp turmeric and salt to taste, stir for a few seconds.
4. Stir in the vegetables. Add 1 tbsp water. Cover and cook on medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender. The idea is to let the vegetables steam in their own juices to retain as much of the flavor and nutrition as possible.
5. Turn off the heat. Stir in 2 tbsp grated fresh coconut (can use fresh-frozen). Squeeze on the juice of half a lemon (optional) and garnish with minced cilantro (optional).
The background on the foogath above is a place-mat printed with a drawing from the celebrated Indian cartoonist Mario Miranda. He is based in Goa, and his cartoons and line drawings are infused with the joy and spirit of the people of Goa. Last time I visited Goa, my dear childhood friend Chinu (who lives and works in Goa, the lucky lucky thing) gifted me a set of these place mats.
Here is another one, a more typical representation of Miranda's style, depicting an Indian wedding: check out the disgruntled bridegroom and the gaggle of relatives!
Goa is a fascinating place and would have to be my favorite destination in India. Some day, I will devote a whole post to this lovely land. With its endless beaches and joyful, laid-back residents, Goa provides an oasis in the hectic frenzy that is India. For some gorgeous pictures of vibrant Goan life and some delicious Goan recipes, you have to visit Mahek's blog.
Another Indian blogger, Deccanheffalump, also writes often of her travels through Goa...for instance, check out this description of a traditional Goan dessert to see why I am such a fan of her writing.
How do you serve this dish?
I love it best with some rice and dal for a simple home-style meal, but it would go well with rotis (flatbreads) too!
Fellow bloggers have come up with many delicious regional stir-fry recipes:
A specialty from the Northern state of Uttar Pradesh (UP)...
Carrots, Peas, and Potatoes with Dill from A Mad Tea Party,
A Marathi stir-fry with peanuts (we Marathis certainly love those peanuts!)...
Nutty Green Beans from Indian Food Rocks,
The popular South Indian poriyal...
Brussels Sprouts Poriyal from Manpasand,
A typical Bengali stir-fry method for greens called shaak...
Radish Greens Shaak from Bong Mom's Cookbook,
A traditional stir-fry from Kerela called thoran...
Spinach Thoran from Malabar Spices,
A Konkani stir-fry style called upkari...
Corn Upkari from Aayi's Recipes.
Previously on the A to Z of Indian Vegetables...
A is for Aloo Gobi: North-Indian Stir-Fry
B is for Bharli Mirchi: Stuffed Vegetables
C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam: Desserts
D is for Dum ki Arbi: The Dum Method of Cooking
E is for Egg-Fried Rice: Rice and Vegetables