Bhindi Masala ~ Indian-Style Spiced Okra

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Everyone should discover and eat more okra. Well that’s what I think at least, and for some reason I’ve always viewed okra as a ‘treat” vegetable. You heard it - a treat! Will get to the treat part in a moment.

Okra is ubiquitous in the South Asian diet and very often is found as a side to an authentic Indian meal or ‘thali’ (stainless steel plate containing various curries and vegetables including rice, a sweet and flatbread). There are so many variations of recipes that use Bhindi (okra) as the main ingredient but most of the time it’s just the okra itself that is simmered, fried, deep-fried, steamed or braised in masala and cooked to perfection. Once you get used to this vegetable you’ll see there is absolutely nothing that can act as a substitute for it and clearly no other vegetable that can stand in its place.

Okra, also referred to as “Lady’s Finger” contains a gooey-like centre membrane that some might argue makes it possibly off-putting. However, when cooked well (um, cooked right) all that gooeyness turns crispy and is utterly delicious making okra highly addictive. So this is where the “treat” part comes in. I always remember having okra cut up into small bits, deep-fried until crispy, served hot tossed in masala and garnished with sea salt. We used to pop these into our mouths just like popcorn! And a plate full would disappear in literally seconds.

Either way, when cooked well and spiced up with masala this can really create an unforgettable Indian meal. Here is a basic Bhindi Masala Recipe that should always be eaten with warm fresh Chapatis.


BHINDI MASALA ~ INDIAN-STYLE SPICED OKRA

METHOD OF PREPARATION:

1) In a frying pan add oil, mustard and cumin seeds. Cover pan with a lid allow mustard seed to pop and cumin seeds to become slightly brown.

2) Add okra, potatoes and onions. Add ARVINDA’S MADRAS MASALA and salt. Mix and stir-fry for a minute.

3) Cover with lid and cook on low heat until potatoes are tender. Uncover and cook until okra is slightly crispy. Serves 4.

INGREDIENTS:

1 TBSP. oil
½ TSP. mustard seeds from ARVINDA’S ESSENTIAL WHOLES SPICE KIT
½ TSP. cumin seeds from ARVINDA’S ESSENTIAL WHOLES SPICE KIT
1 LB. fresh okra, cleaned with wet towel, thinly sliced
3 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, sliced
1 TBSP. ARVINDA’S MADRAS MASALA
1 TSP. salt or salt to taste

This recipe will work equally well with Arvinda’s Curry Masala!


Memories of Miami Beach with a Mexican Fiesta 7-Layer Dip

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Happy 5th of May - it’s Cinco De Mayo! My ‘soft spot’ for Cinco De Mayo celebrations started many years ago on a trip to Miami Beach. We were there for a bachelorette party and while one group of the girls went to catch the sun at the beach for the afternoon, a couple of us decided to explore Miami Beach culture.

It just so happened to be Cinco De Mayo that day and there was a huge street party underway that we stumbled upon! Afternoon sun, mexican fiesta, delicious street foods and live latin music - it’s how I always remember Miami Beach and this very experience inspired us to create Arvinda’s Fiesta Mexicana spice blend. It’s interesting how each and every one of our spice blends that we’ve created for Arvinda’s has a story behind it. It is our memories and experiences through travel and culture that brought us to create each of our 24 international blends and Indian blends alike.

Since that year many years ago, I never miss the 5th of May as a chance to celebrate and create a feast of fresh Mexican foods. Cinco De Mayo is actually a celebration of the Mexican army’s victory over the French empire, however in North America, we tend to use it as an ‘excuse’ to throw a Mexican fiesta! :)

Here’s a great party food that’s easy to create and tasty for a crowd, a Mexican Fiesta 7-Layer Dip. You don’t have to be too picky about actually having seven layers, it’s just a guideline to make sure that you have enough layers of flavour to make it incredible and over-the-top delicious!

I used Arvinda’s Fiesta Mexicana spice blend in the refried pinto beans layer and in the sour cream and cream cheese layer to add a level of Mexican flavours. If you love the smoky flavour of chipotle, opt out for Arvinda’s Chipotle Taco seasoning as a substitute which will be equally as good.

Now onto the cheese layer, here’s where you can get really authentic. I discovered a beautiful cheese at The Food District called Queso Picante. It’s a soft-textured cheese (yet firm) and has a beautiful chili heat to it from Sabana Cheese. Paired with Craft Chippery’s tortillas, it’s all good to go!


MEXICAN FIESTA 7-LAYER DIP

METHOD OF PREPARATION:

1) Heat oil in a pan on medium high heat. Add pinto beans. Sprinkle in 1 TBSP. ARVINDA’S FIESTA MEXICANA and cook well for a few minutes. Mash with a potato masher until smooth. Add salt to taste.

2) In a small bowl, mash up avocados and mix in lime juice. Add salt to taste.

3) In a food processor, mix together sour cream and cream cheese until smooth. Blend in 1 TBSP. ARVINDA’S FIESTA MEXICANA, or add to taste.

4) In a casserole dish, add the bean layer, topped with avocado layer. Top with salsa and add a layer of sour cream and cream cheese mixture.

5) Sprinkle on tomatoes, red onions and cheese. Garnish with cilantro and serve with tortillas.

INGREDIENTS:

1 TBSP. oil
2 CUPS pinto beans, cooked
2-3 TBSP. ARVINDA’S FIESTA
MEXICANA
, to taste
½ TSP. salt, or to taste
2 avocados, mashed
½ TSP. lime juice
½ CUP salsa
250ML sour cream
¼ CUP cream cheese
2-3 plum tomatoes, diced
1 medium red onion, diced
2 CUPS queso fresco OR cheddar
cheese, grated
¼ CUP cilantro, finely chopped, to
garnish (optional)