The "M" of Indian Vegetables
The letter M inspired twenty-seven mouthwatering Indian flavors!
Off to a start with the M vegetables, two green beauties and one root vegetable...
...we have those delicate pearls, the green peas or Matar (mutter), as they are called in Hindi. Tee of Bhaatukli starts us off with a healthy and tasty appetizer: she mashes some green peas and spices together and shapes the mixture into some yummy Matar Kababs.
...and after green peas, we have a green leafy vegetable, Methi or fenugreek. Methi hold pride of place in an Indian kitchen, playing multiple roles as a vegetable, herb and spice. Pictured: Three forms of methi...fresh methi leaves, dried methi (kasuri methi) and methi seeds.
Today, the versatility of fresh methi is being celebrated with four delicious entrees:
First up, Richa of As Dear As Salt comes up with an unusual (and addictive!) combination: she cooks together fresh methi and ripe bananas into a sweet-and-savory Gujarati dish called Methi Kela Nu Shaak.
Next, methi comes to the rescue when you are in the mood for some good ol' comfort food. Dee of Ammalu's Kitchen transforms plain chickpea flour into a steaming hot bowl of Methi Pitla with the addition of a handful of aromatic methi leaves.
Dal and rice are two of the most basic dishes on the Indian vegetarian table. I'm always looking for variations on both of these. Latha of Masala Magic shows us how fresh methi can be used to jazz up our old favorites with two great recipes for Methi Dal and Methi Rice.
The third vegetable is a pungent but well-loved root: the Mooli or radish, and is usually available as either the large snow-white radish or small globes of red radishes. We have two great home-style ways of using the radish here:
Musical of Musical's Kitchen writes an informative post about the diverse uses of the radish in Indian cooking, and goes on to make a typical Punjabi dish combining radish and Punjabi masala wadis (a dried cake of lentils and spices) into one hearty Mooli-Wadi Subzi.
TC of The Cooker makes a Marathi-style salad with the radish, combining grated radish with some cilantro, peanuts and tempering to make a fresh and tasty Moolya-chi Koshimbir. This is TC's debut post, so let's give her a warm welcome to the food blog world!
An M herb that remains a favorite of cooks (for its bold and bright aroma) and gardeners (for its prolific growth) is Mint! Summer's coming, and we will see an abundance of mint from the kitchen garden, plus a hunger for lighter fare like sandwiches. Sreelu of Sreelu's Tasty Travels puts the two together and comes up with a flavorful Mint Tea Sandwich that is sure to be a hit at picnics and tea parties.
Next, an M fruit that is so much more than just a fruit: it rules the Indian psyche and holds our memories captive: the Mango! I'm so thrilled that M for Mango is coming around in mid-April, for this is the peak of mango season in India. While ripe mangoes are prized for eating out of hand, and blending into milkshakes and ice creams, the tangy raw mangoes are equally, if not more, prized for their versatility in the kitchen.
First, a mango pickle! Pickles are a tasty way to preserve mangoes for the entire year. All regions of India seem to have their own favorites. Pickles vary on the sweet-sour-spicy spectrum, in the use of different spice combinations, and in the form of the mango itself- tender baby mangoes are pickled whole, larger raw mangoes might be cubed or shredded. One such extremely tasty and popular pickle involves mixing grated mangoes with a freshly ground spice mixture to make a mouth-watering Mango Thokku -a recipe shared by Sharmi of Neivedyam.
Other dishes featuring raw and ripe mangoes are made and savored specially during the mango season, making them all the more treasured and desirable.
Sigma of Live To Eat shares a traditional way in which raw mangoes are used in Kerala, blending green mango and coconut with other aromatic ingredients (ginger, chilies and shallots) into an amazing Green Mango Chutney. Conventionally, the chutney is served as a relish with meals, but Sigma shows her creativity in using this chutney as a dip for chips.
Sheela of Delectable Victuals chooses a traditional yogurt-based South Indian salad, and mixes tradition with ingenuity. She blends ripe mango with some Mexican flair, adding pickled jalapeno and dried ancho chilies, and then folds in some yogurt to make a cool (in more ways than one!), creamy and inviting Mango Pachadi.
Bharathy of Spicy Chilly also has her own unique spin on a classic! Instead of yogurt, she chooses to use some thick, creamy coconut milk, and mixes it with sweet-and-sour semi-ripe mango and a selection of fragrant spices to make a perfectly delicious Mango Salad.
After all those delicious mango salads and relishes, our appetite is whetted for some main courses, right? Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi serve up two traditional Southern Indian recipes, Mamidikaya Annam and Mango Thokku, using the raw mango. Each recipe comes from a new cookbook in their collection. The first dish is a tempting raw mango rice, combining tangy shredded mango with cooked rice, a delicate tempering and some cool coconut. The second is a shredded mango pickle that looks just fiery and inviting: the mango thokku.
In our final mango recipe, Sandeepa of Bong Mom's Cookbook makes another main dish, the dal. The humble everyday dal is elevated to new levels of flavor with the addition of sliced raw mango, chilies and tempering, resulting in a Mango Dal, known more lyrically in Bengali as Tak er Dal or "dal which is a little sour in taste".
Next, a whole slew of M dals that are an integral part of the Indian pantry: Masoor and Moong and Matki. A example to explain the nomenclature: the whole seed is called " sabut masoor" (sabut=whole or intact) or just "masoor" and when the masoor is split by removing the skin, it turns into the "dal" form, as in "masoor dal". I love the whole lentils/ pulses because they can be sprouted to make them even more nutritious, and I love the split lentils because they cook up quickly and are very convenient to use. Pictured: Supermarket-variety whole brown lentils or "masoor", pink and skinless split lentils or "masoor dal" and a bean that I just love but that is not sold in American stores: "matki", also called "moth".
Today, we have four dishes with all these little gems, a complete meal with appetizer, two main courses and dessert:
First, a rich and elaborate appetizer: Ayesha of Experimenting with Taste Buds makes a dough with cooked masoor dal and potato, then stuffs the dough with a rich savory egg mixture to make patties, then fries and garnishes the patties with egg whites and fried onions. All this labor of love results in a Masoor Dal Kebab that is fit for royalty...or just for the king or queen in your life!
Asha of Aroma/Foodie's Hope uses the tasty little "matki" beans and combines them with rice and spices to make a Matki Pulao that looks perfectly delicious and very versatile.
Swapna of Swad intended to make the traditional moong curry "moogambat" but ended up inventing a delicious recipe of her own: her Moogambhaat has rice and sprouted moong, and tons of flavor. Very clever way to save the day!
Aarti of Aarti's Corner, a brand-new food blogger (Welcome, Aarti!), gives us the final dal entry, a luscious and nutritious Moong Dal Kheer, made by blending cooked moong dal with some aromatic cardamom and saffron.
The next M dish is a popular one in restaurants: Malai Kofta. There are dozens of interpretations of this dish, although in broad terms, "malai" is cream and "kofta" is dumplings. Here are two home-made versions...
Pinki of Come Cook With Me makes a rich and festive version of Malai Kofta, complete with nuts and fresh cream.
NC of The Good Food makes two restaurant-style dishes, a version of the malai kofta and another that represents one of my favorite "M" foods: the mushroom! See her Malai Kofta and Mushroom Matar post here. This is NC's debut post, so here's wishing her lots of fun in the food blog world!
M also stands for mixed, the more veggies, the merrier! We have two ways of mixin' it up...
Mika of The Green Jackfruit can't really decide on one single "M" vegetable, so she cooks 'em all in a colorful and tempting Mili Juli Sabzi: mili-juli is a cute Hindi word that roughly translates as "all together" or "mixed".
Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine makes a festive curry studded with vegetables called Mixed Vegetable Chalna.
Some regional "M" words...
April is "Tamil Month" over at Lakshmi's regional food event, so it is only fitting that we start with four Tamil recipes.
Murungakai is drumstick in Tamil. This tasty and off-beat vegetable is cooked into a traditional Murungakai Vetha Koyamb by Ranjani of Eat and Talk.
Mor is buttermilk in Tamil. Prema of My Cookbook makes a beloved buttermilk curry called Mor Kuzhambu that is made even tastier with the addition of an assortment of veggies.
Manathakkali is quite an unusual berry, the black nightshade/sunberry that is often used in its dried form in Tamil cuisine. Santhi of Me and My Food Thoughts provides a traditional use for this berry with her recipe for Vatral Kuzhambu with Manathakkali.
The final Tamil dish is a technique rather than an ingredient. Masiyal is a way of mashing cooked greens. Nandita of Saffron Trail shares her mom's traditional technique of making Spinach Masiyal and also tells us the various ways in which spinach is cooked in the Tamil kitchen.
The next dish comes from the state of Andhra Pradesh. Mirapakaya is peppers in Telugu. Suma of Veggie Platter combines peppers and potato into a spicy and delicious curry called Mirapakaya Aloo Koora.
For the final dish (and what a finale!), we travel north all the way to Punjab. Coffee of The Spice Cafe tempts us with a Punjabi classic: Missi Roti with Sarson ka Saag. The Missi Roti is a classic roti made with a combination of wheat flour and chickpea flour, and served with some spicy mustard greens, or sarson ka saag, it is a match made in heaven!
M is for Malai Kofta: Dumplings
D-U-M-P-L-I-N-G: the word itself is so cute and cuddly! Dumplings of all forms and shapes can be found in a multitude of cuisines. They can take the form of little packets of dough enclosing a surprise filling- such as some of the dim sum treats of Chinese cuisine, or the Polish peirogi; or they can be little balls of dough in a flavorful sauce or stew- like the matzo balls of Jewish cuisine or the Italian gnocchi. Fried or steamed, savory or sweet, dumplings are just plain fun to make and eat!
In Indian cuisine, dumplings stretch across the spectrum from appetizers to desserts. Some examples of dumpling dishes I can think of are...
Appetizers: samosa, with flaky dough encasing a spicy potato-peas mixture,
Entrees: kofta curry, in which shredded vegetables are mixed with chickpea flour, shaped into balls, deep-fried and dunked into a spicy tomato-onion curry; kadhi-pakoda, in which dough-based dumplings are added to a buttermilk sauce,
Desserts: modak, made with a sweet coconut-poppy seed filling inside a pillow of steamed dough...the list goes on and on.
Today, I am making a trimmed-down version of a restaurant classic: malai kofta. As the name "malai" (cream) would suggest, the restaurant version consists of deep-fried dumplings soaked with a heavy, creamy sauce. I have seen two different categories of malai kofta in restaurants: one is based on a a pale white milky curry which is almost more sweet than spicy, and the other is a typical tomato-onion based spicy brown curry. My own version is infinitely lighter than anything you would find in a restaurant, but to me, it is quite delicious and I don't think I am sacrificing any taste. Just that artery-clogging fat :)
A. The curry base:
1. Soak 2 tbsp white poppy seeds (khus-khus) and 10-12 cashew nuts in 1/4 cup of warm water. Set aside for 15 minutes, then grind together to a thick and fine paste.
2. In a saucepan, heat 2 tbsp oil. Saute 1 large onion, finely chopped, and 1 tsp ginger-garlic paste until golden brown. Stir in 1 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp red chili powder and salt to taste.
3. Add 1 cup peeled chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned), 1 tsp garam masala and cook for 10 minutes on low-medium heat.
4. Add the cashew-poppy seed paste and stir well. Using an immersion blender, blend the curry to get a smooth sauce (you can use a conventional blender, but be careful as this stuff is hot; you can also leave the sauce chunky and not blend it at all). 5. Stir in 1/3 cup cream or milk (I used 2% milk). I also added 1/2 tsp of my Mom's magic masala (equal parts cinnamom, cardamom and cloves, toasted and ground together). Set the sauce aside.
B. The dumplings, or kofta:
1. Make the stuffing: Mix 1/4 cup green peas, 1/4 cup finely chopped green beans and 1/4 cup finely diced carrot. Cook until tender (I microwaved for 2 minutes). To this add 1 fresh chili, minced fine, 1/2 tsp garam masala, 1/3 cup shredded paneer, 1 tbsp golden raisins (I substituted with some dried apricot instead), 1 tbsp cashew nut pieces, and a sprinkle of salt.
2. Take 3 medium potatoes, boil, peel and mash them. Add salt to taste and knead into a dough. Make golf-ball sized balls of the potato dough. Take each ball into your palm, flatten it, add a tbsp of stuffing, then fold the edges of the potato to encase the stuffing. Flatten into a patty. Make all the patties, then shallow-fry them in a little oil until golden-brown.
When ready to serve, arrange the patties on a serving platter, pour the sauce over the patties and garnish with fresh cilantro.
How do you serve this dish?
Serve malai kofta with some parathas or naan to sop up the thick curry. Alternatively, serve it with a peas pulao or jeera rice.
Fellow bloggers have come up with many delicious dishes with dumplings. Here are some of my favorite finds:
Beetroot Kofta Curry from My Foodcourt,
Low-fat Kofta Curry from A Mad Tea Party,
Palak Kofta Curry from Sailu's Food,
Gheea Koftey from As Dear As Salt,
Marbled Minty Kofta from Mysoorean,
Punjabi Kadi from Neivedyam,
Kadhi Gole from Swaypakghar.
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: Dum Style of Cooking
E is for Egg-Fried Rice: Rice and Vegetables
F is for Foogath: South-Indian Stir-Fry
G is for Gobi Paratha: Vegetables in Breads
H is for Hariyali Tikki: Vegetables in Appetizers
I is for Idli with Vegetables: Vegetables for Breakfast
J is for Jalfrezi Vegetables: Restaurant Style
K is for Kati Roll: Vegetables and Paneer
L is for Lasuni Dal Palak: Vegetables and Lentils