Skip to content
Advertisements

A vegan taste of India

October 30, 2008

Last night I took a vegetarian Indian cooking class though a community college here, and it was a blast! It was limited to ten people, and my friend Henry and I grabbed the last two spots. They held it in a home ec room in a high school. Our teacher was a cute little Indian woman who was both sweet and knowledgeable. The group barraged her with questions throughout, and she had an answer each time, whether it was on how to make homemade garam masala, or how Indian women eat during pregnancy. (Side note: she said her favorite local Indian restaurant is Touch of Asia, which I wrote about in early September—it’s a favorite of my crew as well.) We stood around the island at the head of the class and watched her cook each dish. Then, in between, we ate them! It was all delicious, and I took plenty of pictures. Though it’ll make this entry a long one, I really want to share these recipes and techniques with you; they are definitely worth the space.

First, she made vegetable kofta curry, something I had never tried before. Kofta are little fried veggie balls, and though I usually try to avoid fried things, I am known to indulge when it comes to Indian food.

2 cups of grated vegetables (any ratio of carrot, cabbage, and cauliflower)
1 small white onion, grated
2 green chiles, chopped
1 tsp grated garlic
1 tsp grated ginger
4-6 mint leaves, chopped, or 2 tsp dried
1 cup gram flour (also called chickpea flour or besan)
Salt to taste
Oil (such as canola) for frying

Heat the oil over high heat. Squeeze any moisture out of the grated veggies, and combine all ingredients except the oil in a large bowl. Mix well, adding a little bit of water if necessary to moisten. Turn the heat down to medium. Roll the mixture into 1-inch balls, dropping into the oil as you go. Turn them occasionally, and when they’re golden brown, remove them with a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to drain.

We got to try these on their own, and they were great. Consider this: I don’t like cauliflower, and I actually detest cabbage, but I still really liked these. I think the key is to grate, not chop, the veggies, so they’re virtually indistinguishable. Be sure to try one, but be careful, they stay hot for several minutes. As they cooled, we made the sauce portion of the dish.

1 small red onion, chopped
1 cup tomato sauce/puree
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 T grated garlic
1 T grated ginger
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
2 T olive oil
1 cup water

Heat the oil, add the onion, and cook and stir for several minutes, until translucent. (She cooked it for longer than I probably would have, and I think that was key. When in doubt, cook it a little more rather than less.) Add the coriander, cumin, chili powder, and turmeric. Add the tomato sauce and cook until the oil separates. (You’ll see it cling up the sides of the pan as you cook. This is an important step.) After that, cook and stir for several more minutes, until the sauce reduces and thickens. (This really concentrated the flavors and did a world of good.) Add the water (using more or less as necessary to get it to sauce consistency) and garam masala. Bring it to a boil and add the kofta, allowing them to re-warm.

Remove from the heat, and serve with basmati rice or naan. Lovely!

I’ll tell you right now, this dish was my favorite of the evening (which surprised me). The kofta were great on their own, but once they soak in that curry sauce, they become impossibly moist and savory. The sauce is a tomatoey amalgam of flavors that explodes on your tongue. I did not want to stop eating this.

The next dish we made is my favorite Indian vegetarian dish, dal makhani.

1 can kidney beans, drained
3/4 cup cooked lentils
1 small red onion, chopped
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cup tomato sauce/puree
1 T grated garlic
1 T grated ginger
2-3 green chiles, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1 tsp garam masala
Salt to taste
1 T olive oil
Cilantro, chopped

Heat the oil, and add the cumin seeds, garlic, and ginger. Stir for a moment, then add the onion. Cook and stir for several minutes, until translucent. Add the tomato and cook and stir till soft. Add the tomato sauce and cook and stir for several minutes. Add the turmeric, chili powder, garam masala, and salt to taste. Stir in the kidney beans.

Then stir in the lentils…

…and add water until it reaches a thick but saucy consistency.

If you’re not vegan, this is where you’d add a couple tablespoons of butter. But I recommend simply removing it from the heat, scattering on the cilantro, and enjoying as-is. Again, serve with rice or naan.

So good and very authentic. Again, cook the onion very well, and cook the sauce down after adding the tomato sauce in order to let the spices boil and bloom.

The next dish, made as we did last night, takes us out of vegan territory. Palak paneer is cubes of firm cheese in a creamy (dairy) spinach sauce. You can use milk/cream and paneer, like she did last night, but I’m going to modify the recipe here to be vegan. I’m excited to try this one, veganized, at home.

1 pkg chopped frozen spinach
1 T grated garlic
1 T grated ginger
1 cup plain soymilk, warm
1 pkg extra-firm tofu, cut into small cubes and microwaved till spongy
1 small red onion, chopped
2-3 green chiles, chopped
2 T olive oil
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 cup tomato sauce/puree
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp garam masala
1/2 cup plain soy creamer, or plain soymilk+1 tsp cornstarch
Salt to taste

Soak the microwaved tofu in 1/2 cup of the soymilk. Cook the spinach with the other 1/2 cup soymilk in the microwave for 10 minutes, until all the liquid is absorbed/evaporated. Heat the oil and add the onion and chiles; cook and stir for several minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and cook for several minutes more.

Add the chopped tomato and cook until soft. Add the tomato sauce, turmeric, and chili powder and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the stove and stir in the spinach; blend until combined. Put it back on the stove, add the salt, and cook until the oil separates. Drain the tofu and add to the pan.

*****DAIRY ALERT!*****
The picture you are about to see is not vegan. Nor is the next. That’s real milk ‘n cheese. Sorry.

Add the soy creamer or soymilk and bring to a boil. Stir in the garam masala and remove from the heat. Serve with rice or naan.

Yep, I tried a bite. It was good—anything that makes me eat spinach MUST be good. But I’ll tell you, it’ll be even better made with tofu and soymilk.

The last dish of the night was mango chutney. Her definition of chutney is NOT the jammy stuff you find in restaurants. She said it should be very chunky and not jelly-like at all. Sadly, we don’t have the best mangoes here in Kansas in October (actually we never really get great mangoes…but I digress), so the final product wasn’t as she wanted it, but you’ll get the idea.

2 mangoes, peeled and chopped
1/2 tsp cumin seed
1/4 tsp mustard seed
1/4 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 black peppercorns
2-3 dry red chiles
2 tbsp chopped mint leaves, or 2 tsp dried
1-inch piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 T sugar
Salt to taste
2 T olive oil
1 T lemon juice

Heat the oil and add all the spices, plus the ginger. Cook and stir for a couple minutes, until fragrant.

Add the mango pieces and cook and stir at low heat for 10-20 minutes, depending on your mango.

Ten minutes into it, add the sugar and salt, and continue cooking and stirring until the mango pieces are soft but still firm. Remove from the heat, stir in lemon juice and mint, and serve. The symphony of spices is so complex and rich, it’ll have you eating bite after bite.

And that draws to a close an evening full of gourmet homecooked Indian comfort food. It was fun, informative, and so, so delicious. I will definitely be making these dishes at home.

If you like this, you might also like…
Indian curried lentils

Advertisements
One Comment leave one →
  1. November 1, 2008 7:04 pm

    So how exactly do you make your own garam masala? Those dishes look delicious! I’m a HUGE fan of Indian food!

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: