Serve warm garnished with extra coriander leaves.
What are Choyotes?
Chayotes are light green pear shaped fruit common in Mexican cuisine and are found in many warm climates. Chayotes are cultivated as vines and they belong to the gourd family together with cucumber and squash (See picture of Chayote Plant below). It has a mild flavor and crisp texture. It is either eaten raw in salads or cooked.
Chayotes have high water and fibre content and are relatively low in natural sugars. They are also prized for being high in Vit C, potassium and amino acids.
Because of is mild flavor, chayotes are quite versatile and can be cooked or baked in many ways. They can be added to dressings, casseroles, pickled, fried or even stuffed. They are very often used as a substitute to summer squash in many recipes. Here I have used chayotes in an Indian lentil curry. It makes a plain lentil curry healthier and gives a different look and texture to the curry.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
1/2 cup split husked mung bean (Moong dal)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
3 stalks of coriander leaves chopped
1/2 chayote, cut into big cubes
1 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp cumin powder
1/4 tsp chilli powder
Salt per preference
More coriander leaves for garnishing
Boil the mung beans with the cubed choyote in pressure cooker. After the first whistle reduce fire to the lowest and wait for 3 -4 mins. Then increase fire all the way to max and when the cooker whistles, stop the fire. Alternatively, it shouldn't take more than 10 mins to boil the mung bean in a pot with the choyote.
Take another pot, heat the oil and fry the cumin seeds.
Then add the onions and fry till translucent.
Add in the spice powders and salt and let it cook for 2 mins.
Add in the coriander leaves and pour in the cooked mung bean and choyote.
Let it cook for 2-3 mins and switch the fire off.
Serve with rice, wholemeal flatbreads (Chapathis) and a side vegetable dish.
Scallion (Spring Onion) Lentil Curry is a super easy lentil curry to cook with so few ingredients. It is simple and easy on the stomach with no chilli involved at all - be it as a powder or as a vegetable. Ranya (my older daughter) loves this dal and has been her favorite since her toddler days. We had a good helper when we were living in Singapore - Auntie Gloria - who makes this lentil curry very well.
Ingredients (for 4)
1 tbsp. canola oil
1 cup orange lentils (masoor dal)
1/2 tsp ginger garlic paste
1 small tomato , cubed small
3 stalks spring onions, sliced small
3/4 tsp turmeric powder
Salt per your preference
Boil the orange lentils in pressure cooker for 3 minutes after the first whistle or in a pot for around 10 mins.
Heat the oil in a small pot and fry the ginger garlic paste for a few minutes.
This will then be followed by the spring onions.
Spring onions don't take a long time to cook, thus add in the turmeric powder and salt now.
Give it a few minutes and then add in the cooked dal with the cubed tomato.
Stir and let the flavors combine well.
Switch off the fire in 3-5 mins and serve warm garnished with extra spring onions and tomato cubes.
Ridge Gourd is also called Loofah or Luffa. It is really a dark green ridge vegetable on the exterior with white seeds embedded in the white spongy flesh. It is the fruit of a fast growing warm climate vine plant (See picture below). It tastes rather mild thus it absorbs any spices it is cooked in. This gourd must be eaten before it turns mature otherwise, the flesh will turn woodsy and fibrous to consume. The mature ones are the source of the Luffa scrubbing sponge used widely for polishing our skin (See picture below).
Ridge Gourd has a number of health benefits as in it helps to purify our blood, alleviate constipation, fortifies our immune system among others. Ridge Gourd Lentil Curry or Luffah Dal Curry is an easy curry using only a few ingredients.
Ingredients (serves 4)
1/2 cup Toor Dal (Pigeon Peas)
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp. canola oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 red chilli (seeds removed), sliced thin
3 stalks of coriander leaves, chopped
1 tsp turmeric powder
Salt to taste
1 small ridge gourd (around 10 inch), peeled and sliced thin
1 cup water
Boil the pigeon peas or toordal in pressure cooker for 10 mins till soft and slightly mushy. Don't overcook the lentils. Set aside.
Take a medium sized pot and heat the oil.
Fry the mustard seeds and when it starts to splutter, add in the onion and the red chilli.
When the onion has browned add in the turmeric powder and salt.
After a few minutes, add in the sliced ridge gourd and pour 1 cup water. Let the ridge gourd simmer and cook for a few minutes.
After 5-10 minutes, add in the cooked toor dal and chopped coriander leaves and mix well.
Switch off the fire after 3 minutes of simmering and your Ridge Gourd Lentil Curry is now ready for your savoring. Serve garnished with more coriander leaves with a side vegetable dish and pickle.
Mint & Coriander Chutney (yields 1 cup)
1 cup mint leaves
1 cup coriander leaves
1/2 inch ginger
1 green chilli
1/2 tsp salt
3/4 cup yoghurt
Method for Mint & Coriander Chutney
Place all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. This chutney can be served with any Indian fried fritters or Samosas or even as a side with main meals.
Vegetable Rice Porridge is a time tested recipe of my mother's, Mrs Mumtaz Begum. She was born in a town Ayyampet in South India in 1942 where she pretty much learnt all her culinary skills from her own mother.
We are Muslims and during our annual fasting month, we would have this porridge every dusk when we break our fast. Even though I am unable to fast presently due to my long term ailment, I still make this for my daughters who grew up eating Nanimma's (or Grandma in Hindi) Fast Porridge.
It is gentle on the stomach after a long day of fasting and yet still nutritious and filling. The rice provides the carbs, the lentils the protein and the vegetables fiber, minerals and vitamins. This rice porridge is traditionaly served with dates, a cool light drink , fruits and other light snacks so as not to suddenly load our digestive system after 12 hours of abstinence from food and water. Here in Pennsylvania, Muslims fast for 16.5 hours as dawn breaks around 4 and dusk settles at around 8.30 in the evening!!
Growing up in Singapore, I would observe cooks in the mosque stirring a huge pot of rice porridge to give out to all the devout Muslims. The traditional rice porridge prepared in mosques contains minced meat. As the fasting month is approaching soon (starts 18th June this year), I have posted this for all Muslims out there to try a vegetarian option. For everyone else, it is always handy to have a recipe for Vegetable Rice Porridge, isn't it?
This Vegetable Rice Porridge is a rather bland dish so if you are planning to have on any other days, please do prepare a spicy side dish (for instance Spicy Garbanzo Beans ) or even serve it with just a mango or lime pickle. That should suffice.
Ingredients (for 2)
3/4 cup Jasmine rice
1/4 cup split skinned mung bean (moong dal), lightly roasted
2 tbsps. canola oil
1 piece of small cinnamon stick
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 onion, chopped finely
3-4 curry leaves
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
2 tsp coriander powder
1 small carrot, sliced thin
1 tomato chopped
2 sprigs coriander leaves, chopped
8 cups of water
Salt to taste
1/2 cup light (50%fat) coconut milk (optional)
Firstly, wash the rice and the mung bean together and set aside.
Take a deep pot and heat the oil.
Add in the cinnamon stick and fenugreek seeds.
When the cinnamon stick browns and opens up, add in the chopped onions and curry leaves.
After a few minutes of frying, add in the ginger garlic paste and fry further.
Once the beautiful aroma of onions, cinnamon and the ginger garlic paste fills the air (around 3 mins later), add in the coriander powder and sauté.
Pour in the water, rice and mung bean and let the porridge come to a boil.
After the first boil, add in the carrot and tomato and coriander leaves.
Add in the salt and let the porridge boil for 30-45 minutes till the vegs are cooked and rice is all mushy. If the porridge is too thick, add in a bit of hot water to dilute.
For the health conscious, you can serve the porridge just like that with more coriander leaves as a garnish.
Or for a little decadent taste, stir in the coconut milk (only just before serving) and garnish with more coriander leaves.
These vegetable and tofu skewers will brighten up any barbecue or parties. An easy marinade and an even easier way to get all the ingredients grilled, Who wants to bite into uncooked mushrooms or onion? Simple Fried Rice as a side dish helps to complete the meal. Vegan and Vegetarian. Gluten and Dairy Free.
These skewers can be prepared and cooked in 30 minutes (or an hour if you are marinating longer) and the simple fried rice prob another 30 mins? This whole meal can be prepared in an hour flat. In fact, I constantly challenge myself to cook a meal, be it lunch or dinner, in 1 hr. Do you think I succeed?
Ingredients for Vegetable and Tofu Skewers( 4 sticks)
1 small zucchini, sliced medium thick
8 white mushrooms, stems trimmed and washed
1/2 yellow onion, cut into big pieces
1/2 block of firm tofu, cubed medium
2 red baby bell peppers, sliced medium thick
Oil for grilling the tofu and Vegetables.
2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
3 tbsps EVOO
Freshly Ground Pepper
Method for Vegetable and Tofu Skewers
Whisk all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl.
Immerse all the vegetables and tofu in the marinade and keep aside for 30mins to an hour. The longer the better as the flavors would have then infused in the vegetables and tofu.
After an hour, take a grilling pan and heat 2 - 3 tbsp. canola oil. Grill the vegetables and tofu, turning over, until they are cooked and tofu is golden brown on all sides.
Pierce the vegetables and tofu with a skewer in an alternating fashion.
Serve warm with a Simple Fried Rice.
Ingredients for Simple Fried Rice (Serves 4)
1.5 cups of Jasmine Rice, cooked and cooled
2 tbsps. canola oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped finely
3 Garlic cloves, pounded
1 cup of mixed vegetables (carrot, peas, beans and lima beans)
1 tbsp. sambal oelek or any other chilli paste.
1 tbsp. mushroom seasoning
Light Soy sauce per your preference.
Method for Simple Fried Rice
Heat a deep pot and fry the onion and then the garlic till light golden brown,
Add in all the seasonings and the mixed vegetables and cook for 5-10 mins.
Put the cooked rice in and combine well.
Serve warm with any vegetable and tofu dish.
Rice Vermicelli is a thin form of rice noodles. They are sometimes referred to as rice noodles, rice sticks or bee hoon. Rice Vermicelli plays a big role in many Asian cuisines where they are often eaten as part of a soup dish, stir fry or salad. There are many dishes like Satay Bee Hoon, Mee Siam, Mee Soto, Payasam (Indian sweet dish) which all incorporate Rice Vermicelli.
Stir fried Rice Vermicelli with Vegetables and Tofu or Bee Hoon (in Malay) or Mifen (in Chinese) is very popular in Singapore. It is eaten during breakfast, lunch or dinner and it is a staple in all parties and family gatherings. Because it is made of rice, it is easily digestible and there are even brown rice vermicelli available nowadays. It is a very versatile recipe in that you can use many types of other vegetables like carrots, zucchinis, broccoli, cauliflowers or bell peppers. Some just leave it plain to accompany other side dishes.
This dish can be cooked in a Chinese, Malay or Indian way. In the traditional Malay and Chinese way, shrimps are added to enhance the flavor and are served with scrambled eggs mixed into the Beehoon. I have prepared a Chinese Vegetarian version with no eggs and no shrimp.
Ingredients (for 4 )
3 tbsps. Canola Oil
10 oz Rice Vermicelli, cooked and drained according to package
1 block of firm tofu (16 oz) cubed and grilled
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
6 garlic cloves, pounded
1/2 green chilli sliced thinly
2 tbsp. sambal oelek or any chilli paste (reduce to 1 tbsp. if you prefer less heat)
2 tsp mushroom seasoning
2 tbsp. light soy sace
2 cups Chinese Spinach (Bok Choy/Chye Sim)
2 cups of shredded cabbage
Red birds' eye chillies sliced and soaked in light soy sauce
3 stalks of scallions, sliced
Heat the canola oil in a big deep pot and add in the sliced onions.
After 2-3 minutes, add in the pounded garlic.
When the aroma of fried garlic and onion fills your kitchen, add in the mushroom seasoning and chilli paste.
Give it a stir and then add in the vegetables and tofu and let it cook.
Once the vegetables are cooked, add in the cooked vermicelli and pour in the light soy sauce.
Combine everything well and check for seasonings.
Serve garnished with sliced scallions and with any Chinese stir fried dishes. Keep the red bird's eye chilli in soy sauce and extra scallions nearby.
These curry potato stuffed flatbreads are called Aloo Parathas in our Indian cuisine. Aloo means Potato and Parathas refers to the wholemeal flatbreads in Hindi. It is a time consuming dish because it requires kneading, rolling out into flat breads, cooking the filling and lastly toasting the stuffed flatbreads on a skillet. Did I also mention that you have to make a simple non spicy lentil curry to accompany these flatbreads? This is important so that it makes a complete meal with protein, fibre and carbs. But I must say it is a fantastic dish and very popular with many Indians. The flatbreads can be stuffed with many other fillings which I will be posting in the future.
After all the toiling, when you take that first bite and the curry potato filling melts in your mouth and the heavenly taste of fried onions, garam masala and cumin seeds energizes your soul, it will be all worth it. I promise.
Ingredients ( 8 flatbreads )
Ingredients for the flat bread dough ( 16 pieces)
4 cups of wholemeal flour
4 tbsps canola oil
2 cups of skim milk ( + / -)
1/2 tsp salt
Mix all the above ingredients in a bowl and knead into a big ball. Place it on a wooden board and roll with your hand into a long tube. Cut into 8 equal pieces and then you cut these 8 into two pieces each. In the end, you should have 16 equal pieces. If the pieces don't look equal, pinch a bit of dough here and there to make them all equal.
Roll each of these dough into balls on your palms and then into a 3 inch round flatbreads. Keep aside ensuring that each flatbread is covered with a bit of wholemeal flour to prevent them from sticking to each other.
Ingredients for Curry Potato Filling
4 -5 medium sized potatoes boiled in salted water, then mashed well
3 tbsps canola oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 medium onion, chopped finely
2 tbsps ground ginger
1/2 green chilli, chopped finely
1/2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 cup coriander leaves
1/2 cup green peas
Salt per preference
Method for filling
Fry the cumin seeds, and then the onions till golden brown.
Then, add the ground ginger and the green chilli.
After a few minutes, add the spice powders and salt.
After the spices fry for a few minutes, add the peas and the coriander leaves.
Give it a good stir, and then add in the mashed potatoes.
Mix thoroughly and switch off the fire.
Place one flatbread round on the rolling board, then scoop 2 tablespoons of the filling and spread on this flatbread as evenly as possible. Cover this with another flatbread. Seal the ends and toast this sandwiched flatbreads on a skillet with a little oil. Cook the other flatbreads the same way. Serve warm with a simple lentil curry.
Lemon Garlic Lentil Curry or Lemon Garlic Dal is a simple curry incorporating whole garlic cloves and sliced lemon wedges. Pretty simple and just the perfect light curry for those busy days or convalescing days till you regain your energy.
Ingredients ( for 4)
1/3 cup orange/pink lentil (masoor dal)
1/3 cup split skinned mung bean(moong dal)
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
6 - 8 whole garlic cloves peeled and washed
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 green chilli ( optional if no heat preferred)
1/2 lemon slices into thin quarter wedges
1 tsp turmeric powder - divided into 1/2 tsp each
1/2 tsp cumin powder
Boil both the lentils in enough water with ginger garlic paste and 1/2 tsp turmeric powder. I used the pressure cooker and after the first whistle, lower the fire and let it cook for 4 minutes after which you switch off the fire. Wait for cooker to cool down before you attempt to open the lid.
If you are using an open pot to cook the lentils, it shouldn't take more than 10 mins. Once soft and mushy, leave aside.
Take a medium sized pot and heat the oil. Fry the garlic cloves till light brown.
Then, add in the cumin seeds and let it crackle.
Add in the sliced green chilli( if using) and coriander leaves.
After a few mins, stir in the turmeric and cumin powder and salt.
This will then be followed by the cooked lentils.
Stir and then add in the lemon wedges.
Check for seasonings.
Garnish with more lemon wedges and coriander leaves and serve warm.