We took off to Goa for a few days, hoping to soak in some sun and sand, but the weather played truant. The Monsoons descended ten days early. I was on the getty taking placid pictures of the Mandovi with Aparna while our daughters found common areas of complaints with their mothers. Without any warning the clouds burst into major showers. In a bid to run for shelter and save the camera, I ended up falling flat on my face, breaking the camera. That explains the dearth of posts on the blog. Unfortunately, I did not have any new dishes, stored on the hard drive to fill the gap.
When my camera came back, repaired, hale and hearty I could not wait to cook and shoot pictures. Monsoons are the best time for photography, as the clouds play natural screens allowing the right amount of light for good photography, without having to resort to diffusers. I call it ‘fairy light’, for I am sure this is the time when elves, fairies and gnomes work their magic on Nature. The winding tendrils of my new runner convinces me of that.
I have been baking a lot but mine is basically a cooking blog that showcases Indian food in all its glory. One feature I notice in modern Indian cooking is the elaborate time spent on preparing the spices while reducing cooking time. I am not an authority in this matter but this has been my observations from cookery shows and books. I have also noticed that our idea of ‘exotic’ has not undergone much change. The common interpretation is addition of cream / butter / ghee / paneer – all loaded with unhealthy fat. In a bid to prove that we can cook exotic Indian delights while leaving our animals in peace, I have been busy, veganizing milk laden dishes, one day at a time. Just the other day I perfected my vegan yogurt and served M Aunty. M Aunty, is my Rajasthani neighbour and a loyal aficionado of all culinary shows. She had a spoon of the curd. And started. She could not believe I had served her ‘dahi’. Ever since, I have been on a spree, veganizing one yogurt based dish a day.
Yesterday, it was methi matar malai.
The traditional cooking method is to saute fenugreek greens and peas with aromatic spices, and then balance it with a white gravy mixed with a few dollops of cream. If you take apart the layers of flavours and taste you will find that the key role is played by the fine balanced blend of cardamom, cinnamon and cloves, the consistency is imparted by cashews and poppy seeds. The milk and cream are redundant, having little effect on the taste, except for the final ’rounding off’. The same effect / texture is easily achieved by adding thick, creamy and cruelty-free cashew yogurt. Cashew has neither the bad fats that cream has, nor the guilt of consuming food that ethically belongs to other babies. Live and let live.
Dish: Methi matar bin malai ~ Fenugreek greens and peas in faux-cream gravy
Yield: Serves 4
Recipe, adapted from Tarla Dalal
Fenugreek leaves, trimmed, rinsed and drained – 3 cups (Optional – chop them if you do not like them stringy)
Green peas, podded – 1 cup
Onion, chopped fine – 1/2 cup
Tomatoes, medium sized, blanched – 3 nos. (1 chopped and 2 pureed)
Sugar – 1/8tsp. (to counter the bitterness of fenugreek and not to sweeten)
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp. (to temper)
Cashew yogurt – 2 tbsps.
Ingredients for paste:
Cashews, soaked – 2 tbsp.
Poppy seeds, dry roasted lightly without change in colour – 1 tbsp.
Fresh ginger root, chopped or sliced – 1″
Garlic, peeled – 5 cloves
Green chillies – 2 or more depending on heat tolerated
Ingredients for dry spice powder:
Cinnamon – 1″ stick
Cardamom – 4
Cloves – 4
Black peppercorns – 4
A petal of star anise (adds a sweet flavour)
Cumin seeds – 1 tsp.
Oil – 2 tbsp.
Heat a wok and dry roast the ingredients for the spice powder. I put them altogether and roasted till the cloves turned aromatic. Set aside to cool and grind into a fine powder. Set aside till needed.
Adding just enough water, grind the ingredients for the paste finely. Set aside till needed.
Puree two tomatoes and chop one finely.
Heat a tsp. of oil. Add green peas with a pinch of salt and fry till the colour changes to a different shade of green. Close with a lid, if needed to let it cook through. Remove and set aside till needed. Now add the fenugreek leaves in the same wok and let cook, stirring continually. Add salt to help the leaves wilt. Once wilted, set aside, along with liquid.
Wipe out pan. Heat remaining oil in the same wok. Crackle cumin seeds.
Add the onions and fry till transparent. Add the cashew paste and fry for about two minutes. Add tomato puree and chopped tomatoes and fry till blended and nearly dry. Now add spice powder and mix well till the whole things becomes aromatic.
Add the peas and fenugreek leaves with liquid. Add salt, sugar (as needed) and mix well. Boil water separately and add quarter cup if the gravy is thick. Add a tbsp. or two of cashew yogurt and swirl before serving.
Serve hot with rotis or naan.
Variations to the recipe:
Mushrooms can be used in place of fenugreek greens.