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!


On the Pulse: Channa Dal with Zucchini

Channa Dal with Zucchini  using  Arvinda’s Curry Masala . If you can find  Lauki,  Indian bottle gourd you can use this instead of zucchini as it’s a very typical pairing.

Channa Dal with Zucchini using Arvinda’s Curry Masala. If you can find Lauki, Indian bottle gourd you can use this instead of zucchini as it’s a very typical pairing.

I can’t believe it’s 2019. Happy New Year to you all and hope you’ve eased into January and found a new rhythm to life as we inch ahead another year on our biological clocks! My mantra for 2019 is to be in the moment. It’s all we’ve got and we need to be reminded that our health is our wealth! That’s my favourite cliché because it’s so true.

Like them or not, our January resolutions always start with good intentions in the hopes that every year we become healthier, happier and better people with time. Every day is a fresh start and so is a new year, so why not take the opportunity to set some new targets?

For me, I like to ‘ease’ into January which means no resolutions on the calendar flip to January 1st. It’s actually taken me a couple of weeks to collect my thoughts, reflect on the last year and decide on my changes and goals for this year. Here’s a shortlist:

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1) Have more turmeric: My morning routine consists of detoxifying with a turmeric, ginger, chai-chili elixir that I mix with hot water and drink as a warm (not hot) tea to wake up the digestive system. I pre-make this concentrate and simply store it in the fridge and every morning mix 1/2 cup with 1/2 cup of boiling water. So far so good and fingers crossed, the winter sniffles should keep at bay!

2) Meditate more: I realize how important a meditation practice is and in 2019 I feel it is needed more than ever. This year adding more minutes of meditation to my regimen is a priority to reduce stress, increase awareness and bring forth more calm and happiness. So far these extra few minutes in the morning and night have worked wonders in an amazingly short time. Amazing and powerful!

3) Try more foods and recipes: In 2018 I pushed my culinary boundaries by trying new foods, cuisines and recipes from all over the world. We often get stuck making the same dishes over again, especially if these are the foods ourselves and our loved ones enjoy and it’s so easy to fall back on the tested, tried and true! But change is amazing and invigorating! By tasting new spice combinations and trying new recipes, I came to realize how many great flavours I was missing out on. So this year, I take that a step further and continue enjoying new foods and flavours—and not to forget sitting at the table to savour every new creation made by scratch!

That is the shortlist and there’s more to come!

There’s definitely something to be said about goal setting. When we set our sights onto something, it becomes our path and a ‘way’ to follow that takes us closer to what we feel will bring us happiness. One of the most famous pieces of research on goal setting is the Harvard MBA study from 1979 that found the 3% of graduates who wrote down their goals achieved them versus the 97% who did not! Exciting!

This year more than ever, we’re thinking about and concerned by the environment, excess waste, global climatic change and our ecological footprint. This is a great time to experiment with different plant-based proteins like pulses and beans. With Canada being the world’s largest producers of lentils, this is also an excellent local choice as well that supports our local farmers.

Low in fat, low on the glycemic index, low in sugar, high in protein, iron, fibre and vital minerals it’s a win all across the board. Not to mention, when paired with delicious and healthy Indian spices like turmeric, then this starts ticking off many New Year’s resolutions on the list!

One of our favourite dal recipes is Channa Dal with Zucchini and many people who have attended Arvinda’s cooking classes over the years will know this one very well! So we started the new year off right by having this dish…ticking off the many goals on our list! :) Enjoy!


CHANNA DAL with ZUCCHINI

Method of Preparation:

1) Wash soaked channa dal in 4-5 changes of lukewarm water or until water runs clear. In a medium pot, simmer channa dal and zucchini in water with salt on medium-high heat. Add enough water to cover dal and zucchini. Partially cover and cook until dal is thoroughly cooked, approximately 10-15 minutes.

2) In a separate pan, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds and fry until they pop. Take care spices do not burn. Add tomato and mix in ARVINDA’S CURRY MASALA. Stir in sugar and fry for 2-3 minutes to make a masala paste.

3) Add cooked channa dal and zucchini including liquid to masala paste. Mix and simmer for a few minutes until dal has thickened. Add salt to taste, if necessary and thin out with extra water if required.

4) Garnish with cilantro and a sprinkle of ARVINDA’S GARAM MASALA. Serves well with rice and Indian chapatis.

Ingredients:

1 CUP channa dal, soaked for 2-3 hours
1 small zucchini, cubed
6 CUPS water (add more if necessary)
1 TSP. salt
2 TSP. oil
¼ TSP. mustard seeds from ARVINDA’S ESSENTIAL WHOLE SPICES
2 TBSP. canned tomatoes, crushed OR 1 fresh ripe tomato, finely chopped
1 TBSP. ARVINDA’S CURRY MASALA
1 TSP. salt (or to taste)
1 TSP. raw sugar
½ TSP. ARVINDA’S GARAM MASALA
1 TBSP. cilanto, finely chopped, to garnish

Wishing you a wonderful 2019 and hope everyone receives many good things all year long!

Indulgence Curry: Shahi Paneer

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It's only been two days since the closing ceremony of the 2018 PeyongChang Winter Olympics, and I must admit I'm two days longing to bring back the emotions and exhilaration these games brought into our very cold month of February. A true form of escapism, I diligently tuned into the CBC live coverage and highlights each and every day, to be gently slipped away to the other side of the world where so much activity and excitement was happening, watching with anticipation and cheering on all the Olympians who worked so hard for years.

The feature event for me was watching our country's darling ice dancing favourites Tessa & Scott inspire and warm our hearts once again. Yes indeed, this free dance was inspiring and just plain beautiful.

And we had plenty of other great triumphs and moments to celebrate, marking this one victorious Olympics to remember.

Many athletes leave with medals in hand, ready to celebrate their victories and losses. After all that grueling training and months of hard work they definitely earn their fair share of an indulgent meal--or indulgent curry, shall we say!?

We have the perfect indulgent curry for a 'treat day', trust me to look no further! This would be Shahi Paneer which is almost like a double decadence. First there's the smooth, silky and creamy curry sauce laced with aromatic spices, cumin and chilies with bites of fresh ginger shreds. This is a curry sauce that can stand all on its own and will have you licking your plate at least twice - it's that good! But then comes the paneer.  Bits of soft, creamy paneer have a melt-in-your-mouth-feel after simmering away in the curry sauce. Another bite with some cumin scented basmati rice and you may just be able to take away the winter blues.

The word Shahi means royal and this is considered an indulgent dish that could be served on a special occasion. Here's a couple of tips: 

1) It's tradition to cut the paneer into triangles (instead of cubes), as at banquets or buffets guests will be able to identify this dish as Shahi Paneer and not a different paneer curry such as Matter Paneer.

2) Be sure to finely julienne ginger into shreds for a beautiful garnish. 


SHAHI PANEER

METHOD OF PREPARATION:

1) Boil onion in water until softened and cooked. Drain and purée in a food processor until smooth. In a heavy-based pan, heat oil on medium-high. Add onion and cook until caramelized, approximately 10 minutes. Stir in crushed tomatoes and cook for one minute. 

2) Add ARVINDA’S PANEER MASALA, garlic paste and salt. Mix well and cook for a couple of minutes to make a thick
paste. Add water and mix to create a sauce. Add ginger, sugar and lemon juice.

3) Gently stir in cream and stir. Delicately fold in paneer and cook on medium heat for a few minutes. Add a little
water to get desired sauce consistency. Simmer for a couple of minutes. Remove in a serving dish and garnish with cilantro and a sprinkle of ARVINDA’S GARAM MASALA. Serve with basmati rice and chappatis. 

INGREDIENTS:

¾ CUP PANEER, cut into triangles
1 LARGE ONION, cut into quarters
3 TBSP. OIL
2 BAY LEAVES
½ CUP CRUSHED TOMATOES, canned, unsalted
2 TSP. ARVINDA’S PANEER MASALA (use 1 TBSP. for hotter and added flavour)
1 TSP. GARLIC PASTE
1 TSP. SALT (or to taste)
1 CUP WATER (add extra if needed)
1 INCH THIN SLICE GINGER ROOT, cut into shreds
1 TSP. SUGAR
½ CUP HALF-AND-HALF CREAM (10% M.F.)
½ TSP. FRESH LEMON JUICE
2 TBSP. CILANTRO, finely chopped, to garnish
¼ TSP. ARVINDA’S GARAM MASALA, to garnish

Printable full recipe is here.

"Master Curry Sauce": 3 curries to warm up for winter

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Back in December, one of our customers inquired about Arvinda's Curry Powder, mentioning they were planning to try the "Master Curry Series" over the holidays. Master Curry Series?!?! Sounds fascinating! We were intrigued as this was something we wanted to try!

We later found out, LCBO Food & Drink Magazine writer Eric Vellend, published a "Master Curry" series of three recipes using a "Master Curry Sauce" in the coveted Holiday 2017 issue using Arvinda's Curry Powder and Arvinda's Garam Masala. Curries don't typically come first to mind during the festive time of year but of course it makes perfect sense! Post Boxing Day, after all the traditional holiday recipes are tested, tasted, eaten (and exhausted!), it is the perfect chance to try new recipes to share with family and friends.

Although I didn't get a chance to try the "Master Curry" recipes over the holiday season, I pulled out the magazine to try them this January. With all the cold weather and snowy conditions we're experiencing (not that I'm complaining), it's curries I crave and what I cook to keep warm. Chilies find a way to comingle with the fragrance of cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom and turmeric, which does a thing or two to help warm the body up. It really is the a perfect food for some of the coldest days of the year.

The Master Curry concept is genius - you make one master base sauce using a high quality curry powder to create the base flavours and use it to create three completely different curries. In this case, the recipes featured in Food & Drink are as follows:

  • Master Curry Sauce Tofu & Peas (I made it with paneer instead of tofu);
  • Master Curry Sauce Shrimp and
  • Master Curry Sauce Chicken

Recipes available on page 222, LCBO FOOD &DRINK HOLIDAY 2017.

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We found the curries to be delightful! Once the Master Sauce is created, making one of the curries takes only 10-20 minutes (less time for the tofu and shrimp curries, more time for the chicken curry). Making the Master Curry Sauce is the perfect task to take on over the weekend when you have a bit more time. In that way it will be easy to create various curries--each different--during the week when dinner needs to get on the table quickly! In addition, it's a great way to add some turmeric to the daily diet.

If you prefer more intensity, you can make the recipes using Arvinda's Curry Masala

If you have a chance to try out the recipes, please share your photos and comments. We'd like to say thank you to Eric Vellend for the Arvinda's Curry Powder mention - many thanks for the lovely recommendation which is much appreciated! :)

Tropical Winter Curry: Channa Masala with Coconut & Banana

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Switch up your next Channa Masala curry with a garnish of dried coconut and sliced bananas on top for a sweet tropical bite! 

It's surprisingly pleasing with the sweetness of the banana and warming curry flavours. Hint: This could be a good way to get your kids to try Channa Masala.

10-Minute Curry (from your pantry!)

I make this 10-minute Channa Masala when I need dinner on the table in a hurry. Believe me, this is the EASIEST CURRY you can make! All ingredients are basic and should be in your pantry.

I hope this recipe can find its way into your repertoire of healthy and quick dinners!


10-MINUTE CHANNA MASALA

I don't typically use beans from a can, so if you prefer using dried beans my suggestion is to boil a huge batch and freeze some for future use. I find the texture is a bit different, but it saves time when you’re in a pinch. Try using the leftovers stuffed into a pita pocket for a quick lunch.

Method of Preparation:

1) Rinse chickpeas and drain. Set aside. In a medium-sized pan, heat oil on medium-high heat. Add ARVINDA'S WHOLE SPICES. Fry for one minute taking care not to burn.

2) Add ground tomatoes and cook for one minute. Stir in ARVINDA'S MADRAS MASALA to make a paste and fry for a couple of minutes. Stir in cooked chickpeas and add water to make a thick sauce. Add sugar and salt to taste. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes.

3) Serve in a serving dish and garnish with ARVINDA'S GARAM MASALA and cilantro. Serve with basmati rice or flatbread and salad to make a healthy, well-balanced meal.

Ingredients:
2 CUPS chick peas, canned
1 TBSP. oil
2 EACH whole spices from ARVINDA'S WHOLE SPICES 
¼ CUP crushed tomatoes, canned (unsalted)
1 ½ TBSP. ARVINDA'S MADRAS MASALA
1 CUP water
1 TSP. sugar
½ TSP. salt, or to taste
2 TBSP. cilantro, finely chopped, to garnish
½ TSP. ARVINDA'S GARAM MASALA, to garnish