PUMPKIN RAITA – PUMPKIN YOGHURT SAUCE

I love pumpkin – they are so versatile. Suitable for sweet or savoury dishes and lends well to all manner of cuisines and cooking methods. There are a few months during summer when pumpkins are in short supply and I do miss them. Pumpkins have become one of my staples that I buy each week.

This is one of my mum’s recipes.

Pumpkin raita

INGREDIENTS

2 cups plain natural yoghurt (Greek style)

200g pumpkin, peeled and grated

1 tablespoons ghee

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1-2 green chillies, chopped

2 tablespoons desiccated coconut threads

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

½ teaspoon mustard seeds

1 dried red chilli halved

½ teaspoon urad dhal (optional)

10-12 curry leaves (optional)

Salt to taste

METHOD

In a small fry pan, toast the cumin seeds. Place the toasted cumin seeds, green chillies and desiccated coconut in a spice grinder and blend to a fine powder. Mix this spice powder into the yoghurt, season with salt and whisk until smooth and creamy.

Heat the ghee in a fry pan and gently fry the grated pumpkin on medium heat for 8-10 minutes. Once cool, mix it in with the yoghurt.

Heat the oil in a small sauce pan. Add the urad dhal if using and let it become light brown. Now throw in the red chilli, followed by mustard seeds. Stir well with a spoon. When the mustard seeds start popping, add the curry leaves if using and remove from heat.

Pour the seasoning over the raita. Serve with rice and dhal as a side dish or to accompany parathas.

Serves 3-4

CORIANDER FLAT BREADS

I adapted these coriander flatbreads from King Arthur Baking Company’s recipe collection. It is kind of a wet dough and don’t be alarmed as they roll easily with a dusting of plain flour. I served mine with an herbed yoghurt (dill, mint, and lemon rind and lemon juice, sweetened with honey). Personally I feel they are a cross between Indian Nan and flat bread.

Coriander flatbreads

INGREDIENTS

½ cup warm water

½ teaspoon sugar

2 teaspoons instant yeast

200g atta or fine whole wheat flour

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KING ARTHUR BREAD ROLLS

I call these my King Arthur bread rolls as my recipe was inspired and adapted from the recipe collection of King Arthur Baking Company. I believe good things take time and while these rolls can’t be whipped up in a jiffy, they are so delicious and definitely deserving of the time spent making them. They are incredibly soft with just the right amount of chew. Serve them up for lunch with a hearty soup and you will be a winner.

King Arthur Bread Rolls with Pumpkin Soup

High grade flour or bread flour has a higher gluten content and this is first preference. I used atta (sourced from Indian grocery store or you can use finely ground wholemeal flour – the kind that does not have any bran or grain bits in the flour)

INGREDIENTS

241g high grade flour or bread flour

113g atta

43g oats

½ cup ground linseed or flax

2 and ½ teaspoons instant yeast

1 and ½ teaspoons salt

50g sunflower oil

1 large egg yolk, save the white for brushing on top of the rolls

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GRILLED FLAT BREADS (STOVE TOP)

I’d say these are my version of a pita bread. Knead the dough well and you will be rewarded with soft flat breads. With any bread, you have to plan ahead and can’t rush the proving time. I had a few leftovers which meant lunch was sorted. Heating in the microwave was not ideal but wasn’t bad either. They are yummy so do try them.

Grilled flat bread

INGREDIENTS

300g high grade flour or bread flour

200g white wholemeal flour like atta (from Indian grocer)

Salt

1 teaspoon caster sugar

1 teaspoon instant yeast

125g plain natural yoghurt

225ml lukewarm water

Extra virgin olive oil to brush on the flat breads

METHOD

In a large bowl, measure out the flours, salt, sugar and the yeast. Mix well with your fingers. Make a well in the centre and add the yoghurt. Pour the water in batches and knead well to form a soft dough. Cover with a wet cloth and leave to rest for one and a half hours. It should double in size.

Oil a large baking tray and set aside. Lightly grease your hands and gently knock back the dough. Shape dough into balls of about 60 – 65 grams. Place on oiled tray and cover with wet cloth. Rest for half an hour. Roll dough into an oval shape about 3 mm thick and 15 -16 centimetres wide. Cook on a preheated grill plate for 2-3 minutes on each side. Brush with extra virgin olive oil and serve immediately. Makes 8-10 pieces.

FRENCH ONION SOUP – VEGETARIAN

I have to make a confession – I did not want to mess with a classic. It is a favourite in our household and my son will order it whenever we dine out during winter. Due to COVID restrictions my son missed out on his graduation ceremony. So I made the vegetarian version for his graduation celebratory dinner (French themed) we had at home a few weeks back.

Traditionally made with a robust beef stock, I struggled to find something that would offer the same richness and depth of flavour. A few experiments later, I came up with this winning formula for a robust vegetarian stock.

You cannot whip up French onion soup in the space of half an hour. Please allow yourself plenty of time so you don’t rush the slow caramelisation of onions.

French Onion Soup

INGREDIENTS

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

1.2kg onions, finely sliced

3-4 bay leaves

1 teaspoon black peppercorns, crushed

500ml dry white wine (Riesling)

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ANDHRA STYLE LEMON PICKLE

Pickling is a way of preserving vegetables and fruits. Pickling likely first originated in the Indus Valley Civilization in northwest India around 2400 BCE.

The pickles in South Asia are different to pickles in the rest of the world. Mustard, chilli powder and some fenugreek are the most commonly used spices. South Indian pickles do not use any vinegar and the preserving agent was mostly salt and oil – so anaerobic if you want to get scientific.

Growing up in India, we had a distinct “pickling” season. Mostly mangoes were pickled during the height of summer in May. I fondly remember the time when mum shopped around for the best chillies and mustard along with mangoes, the variety being specific for the type of pickle she wished to make. In addition to mangoes, there was lemon, tomato, sour greens, fresh red chillies and gooseberry later in the year to be pickled. The pungent smell of ground mustard and chilli would linger in the air for a few days with the promise of taste tests in the ensuing days.

Andhra style lemon pickle

My lemon pickle recipe is a Westernized version and I like to make it because it adds zing to the blandest food. Believe me, it is most comforting to eat lemon pickle and steamed rice when you are recovering from the flu.

INGREDIENTS

10 large juicy lemons

Juice from 4 lemons

10 tablespoons salt

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KADI – ONION PAKODI IN A YOGHURT SAUCE

There are several regional variations of kadi. This one is with onion pakodis but you can substitute spinach for the onion. In the South, they use vegetables like choko or okra to make kadi.

Kadi – onion pakodi in a yoghurt sauce

INGREDIENTS

FOR THE PAKODIS

150g onions, diced

3 tablespoons chick pea flour (besan)

1 teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder

Pinch of baking powder

Salt to taste

Oil for deep frying

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APACHULU (RICE CRACKERS)

By now you may have guessed that I am trying to introduce you to more South Indian home cooking. This is another popular homemade snack from Andhra. These are crunchy, gluten free and really very moreish even if I say so myself.

Apachulu (Andhra style rice crackers)

INGREDIENTS

½ cup heaped rice flour plus more for dusting

2tsps channa dhal (split chick peas), soaked in water for ½ hour

1 heaped tsp cumin seeds

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MASALA VADA

We all love masala vadas and these are my mum’s speciality. I think she makes the best and the smell wafting from the kitchen is very telling of the spice and crunch that is to follow.  You can say they are a bit like falafel in the sense that they are made with 2-3 different kinds of lentils. I have tried making these a few times and until now, they were a flop. The trick is to soak for three hours or so, not grind it too much (pulse a few times) and lastly keep the lentils separate. Follow my tips and you can have mouth-watering vadas at home.

Masala vada

INGREDIENTS

1 cup urad dhal

½ cup channa dhal (split chick peas)

½ cup red lentils

2tbsps finely chopped ginger

2-3 red or green chillies

200g onion chopped

Salt to taste

Oil for deep frying

METHOD

Combine the channa dhal and red lentils. Rinse well and soak for three hours. Rinse the urad dhal well and soak in a separate bowl for three hours.

After soaking, wash well (a sieve works well) and using a food processor, grind the urad dhal with salt. Pulse and try to grind without adding water. If you must add only a spoonful at a time. Remove and set aside.

In the same food processor bowl, grind the channa dhal and lentils along with chillies and ginger. Add salt to taste and pulse. The lentils should be combined and half of them will be left whole and this is okay.

Heat oil to 180 degrees C (or if you add a small piece of lentil, it should spring up to the top immediately) in a kadai or a small sauce pan. Section the urad dhal and lentils mix into three equal portions. In a separate small bowl, combine one section of urad dhal and lentils mix. Mix in a third of your chopped onions.

Masala Vada

Wet the palm of your less dominant hand and shape a small lime sized mix into a patty or vada. You can also use a banana leaf or a plastic sheet instead of your palm. You want them fairly thin – too thick means they will take longer to cook and also won’t be as crunchy. Slide the vada very gently and carefully into the hot oil. Repeat with the remaining. Fry till golden (can take up to two minutes on each side) and serve hot. Makes about 30 medium sized ones.

BAINGAN BHARTA

I suppose this is India’s answer to baba ganoush. There are several versions but one common factor is charring the egg plants on open direct flame. This gives a unique smoky flavour. This is great with flat breads.

Baingan Bharta

INGREDIENTS

600g egg plants

100g onions, finely chopped

75g tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped

2tbsps tomato paste

1 generous handful of coriander leaves and stems, finely chopped

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