Since there are a lot of meat-related dishes on my docket right now, I wanted to create something vegetarian that I’ve never made before. Meanwhile, I was having a severe hankering for things Indian, and haven’t yet tracked down the local here-in- Massachusetts Indian grocery, although I’m given to understand there is one over by the Connecticut River Valley (usually a bit too far but if I partner up with a friend, the journey with companionship could be fun).
I stopped by Indian Food and Spice (Danbury, CT – I continue to have other reasons to travel down that way, as in still having a house there until I can get rid of it) to collect some Indian seasonings. I knew there was asafetida around somewhere, but I can’t find it (need to build my pantry!) Plus, I wanted curry leaves, and I wanted okra that actually looked fresh (unlike what I usually find in the local supermarkets, assuming I can find it at all!)
So, the photo below is of my winnings at the Indian grocery:
The fresh veggies: Okra, bitter melon (wow! A real jackpot!), curry leaves, turmeric root (I am considering planting two of the three), and small hot peppers whose name I do not know, but I do know they’re hot).
Pastes and spices: Garlic/ginger paste, tamarind paste, star anise, hing (asafetida).
Everything else: Methi (fenugreek) paratha (a very flat, flatbread), rice idli (a rice cake breakfast mix), and alu methi (curried potato and fenugreek leaves, in a ready-to-heat-and-eat package).
I’m going to divide the recipe into two parts: flavored Basmati rice, and the vegetable portion, since they will cook separately, but then come together. I use my rice cooker for the rice, as I’ve managed over the decades to ruin nearly every pot I’ve tried cooking rice in the old-fashioned way. Horrid confession, yes!
My personal challenge here is to cook a dish as authentically Indian as possible, without referring to a recipe.
Prep Time: 45 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Rest Time: Unnecessary, but one element of the dish can certainly wait for the other.
Serves: 4 for the rice, 6 for the veggies.
Cuisine: Indian vegetarian.
Leftovers: Sure. Although the veggies will last better than the rice. You could either mix them, or make some more rice later.
The Seasoned Rice
- 1 cup Basmati rice
- 1.75 cups water
- 1.5 teaspoons whole cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon of sea or pink Himalayan salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ghee or butter (if vegan, use cooking oil)
- 2 teaspoon methi (fenugreek) leaves, dried
- 5-6 crumbled curry leaves, preferably fresh, add a couple more if frozen
- 1-2 green onion/scallion, finely diced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed saffron, IF you have it! (I do not.)
Prep up this part AND the veggie part before starting the rice.
In your pot (or rice cooker) add the rice, water, cumin, salt, and optional saffron.
Set to a simmer (or set your rice cooker on the regular setting) and let it go.
Meanwhile start cooking the veggie portion of the dish. SEE BELOW!
If in a pot, stir occasionally, and cook until done.
If in the rice cooker, let it tell you when the rice is ready.
Add the rest of the rice seasonings, gently stir, and cover, keeping warm.
Okra, Bitter Melon, Eggplant, Onion
- 1 bitter melon (about 6 ounces/ 150 g), slice into 1/4 inch disks, remove seeds and pulps (you are left with rings). I found it quickest to cut the disks in half and use my thumbnail to remove the pulp and seeds.
- 10-12 okra, both ends removed, sliced lengthwise in half, then chunked into about 3 pieces each half
- Asian eggplants/aubergines (about __ ounces/ 450 g), chopped, up to 1/2 inch in thickness, although for quicker cooking, somewhat thinner will be best. (If you go with European eggplants, you may want to remove the thick skin.)
- 2 bell peppers, go colorful. De-stem, de-seed, and slice thin.
- 1 onion, sliced then roughly chopped.
- whole cumin
- 1 whole star anise
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced.
- 1 teaspoon guaram masala
- 1/2 teaspoon Ground turmeric
- 1 tablespoon tamarind paste
- 1 teaspoon ginger paste
- 1/2 teaspoon ancho powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1/4 teaspoon chili powder, more to taste. Or, omit.
- 1-4 small Thai-style peppers, de-seeded (depends on your heat preference). I went with two.
- 3/4 cup jarred diced tomatoes.
- Cooking oil; I use high heat avocado oil.
- Salt and ground pepper to taste.
Allow bitter melon to soak in salted water for 15-30 minutes to draw out excess bitterness. Add the eggplant to this. Drain and rinse excess salt away.
Start cooking your rice (see above).
In a large skillet heat up about a tablespoon of oil to medium/medium high.
Add the asafetida, use a spatula to mix into the oil.
Add the unground seed seasonings (whole cumin, star anise, coriander seeds). reducing heat to keep them from popping out. The cumin will toast quickly!
In about 30 seconds, upon the cumin being toasted, add the onions.
Allow them to go translucent.
Add the garlic and the ginger paste, mix.
Add the okra and hot peppers immediately after, mix.
Add the tamarind paste.
Add all the powdered seasonings – although hold off on the salt until the end, as you will still have some salt in the eggplant and bitter melon… you’ll want to taste.
Mix for about 3 minutes, working that tamarind paste in (some brands are better than others for rapid blending, but they should all get there eventually…)
Add the tomato, and stir.
Bring in the eggplant and bitter melon, stir some more until all are coated.
Cover for 20-25 minutes on medium heat, stirring once or twice. Adjust for salt, or other ground seasonings.
When the rice is ready…
Mix in the curry leaf/fenugreek leaf/methi leaf, and scallion, gently, as noted under the rice section. Keep covered and warm until the vegetables are ready.
To serve: Plate the rice per serving, and add the desired amount of veggies over.
And more fun at the What’s for Dinner Sunday Link Up!
Yes, even more at Blurred Living…
And, now off to Full Plate Thursday!