Whenever people tell me that they find it intimidating to use spices, I am reminded of “Garam Masala” and turmeric; the oxygen of my mother’s cooking. Every dish started out with half a teaspoon of turmeric in the beginning and ended with a sprinkle of about 2 teaspoons of Garam Masala, be it Daal, a vegetable side dish or a Pulao – Rice dish.
I have so many peppers; Poblano peppers and Bell peppers. All freshly plucked from Stephanie’s kitchen garden. When she asked me if I wanted three dozen peppers, I wasn’t sure what I would do with them. Then I thought of my dinner and I knew I could use them for my next dinner at the Creperie. Yes! Peppers stuffed with flavored potatoes. Just like my mom made them!
My mom would slice the top of the bell pepper and fill them with the spiced potato filing and sew back the top on with thread and needle. Then slowly roast them in oil for about an hour or so. It was one of my favorite dish to have. I like to slice the peppers vertically into four and fill them with the potatoes, and then bake them in the oven, it is easier and quicker..
The Poblano peppers have an intense spicy flavor, we ended up eating them all. The peppers were so fresh that when I sliced them there was about a spoon of water inside them… I could feel the freshness and the love with which they were grown by Stephanie with no chemicals whatsoever…Thank You Stephanie!
Here is the recipe
6 Bell Peppers
6 Med sized Yukon gold potatoes
1/2 t turmeric powder
1 T Coriander powder
1/4 – 1/2 t Cayenne Pepper
2 t Cumin Powder
1/2 t Amchur ( dry mango powder) or 1 T lemon juice
- Cut the peppers in half
- Wash & Steam them for 3 -4 mins in a steamer or 2 mins in a pressure cooker
- Boil the potatoes
- Mash them & add all the spices …also salt to taste
- Spread 1 Tbsp of oil on a baking sheet
- Place the steamed peppers on the baking sheet
- Fill the potatoes into the peppers
- Bake them at 350 degree F until the peppers & potatoes get crisp & the peppers shrivel.. for 20 to 30 minutes…
- Enjoy them as a side dish or a main dish with Pita bread or Naan
Hing or Asofetida is perhaps the smelliest of all spices. I had never thought of using it. “It is the worst smell on earth!”, according to my father, who endured smelly suits for a whole month – because of Hing! He was in Nigeria then, he had taken along a dozen bottles of hing in his suitcase, for a friend. As luck or ill-luck would have it, during the journey the hing sprinkled on his clothes, including his favorite suit. No amount of dry cleaning or washing helped him get rid of that “obnoxious” smell and he had to wear those smelly clothes for his business meetings.
My mother never used hing in her cooking, I did not feel the need either. Not until now. On our recent visit to India, I kept hearing about the medicinal properties of hing, it aids digestion, it can be substituted for onion, garlic and ginger. It especially helps make the daals and beans ( garbanzo/kidney) less gassy. I was sold.
I bought it freshly ground from a store just a day before leaving Bangalore. I put the bottle of hing in the outer pocket of the suitcase, which still smells of hing after two months. At first I was terrified that the smell would take over the entire house.
But then, it wasn’t that hard to isolate it, I encased it in a bottle containing lavender and tea bags.. Incidentally, I learned that used tea bags absorbed odors and smells of all kinds…I open the cap just a little bit, sprinkle it and snap it shut right away. All you need is “just a pinch.”
Now, that I have started using hing in my spice blends – Goda Masala, Sambhar Masala and daal & cholle, I have no idea how I lived without it. It adds a distinct flavor, and you can get away without adding garlic and ginger – makes life simpler!
Kashmiri Pulao is a rice dish with a difference. It has veggies, crunchy nuts, crunchy onions, saffron and fruit. Everybody likes nuts but nobody at home likes raisins, not even, if it makes an authentic Kashmiri pulao. So I made my pulao without raisins. As for fruits, I did not want to add apple, pineapple or grapes (that are usually added), but took a chance with some pomegranate and it turned out just fine in fact quite different from other kinds of pulao, that I have made before.
Another thing I did different was to prepare a broth and use it instead of water to make the Pulao. The broth was simmered with spices for about 12 – 15 minutes and that added a nice flavorful touch.
My Vegetable Makhani – (beans, carrots and cauliflower simmered in cashew milk ,tomatoes and a blend of spices) was rather bland. And I was going to be serving it to 40 people at a formal dinner. I tried adding extra coriander, coconut and cumin, but to no avail, something was still missing.
So, I added a touch of Goda Masala and lo-behold the dish magically transformed into a tasty dish with oodles of flavor. I finally ran out of my little stock of Goda Masala, so I made my own following Sujatha’s recipe..
2 1/2 C Coriander seeds
1 C Cumin
1 C dry red chillies
1/2 C shredded coconut
1/4 C Sesame
2 -3 Bay leaves
1 t Black Pepper
1 t Black Cardamom
1 t Cinnamom sticks
1 t Black cumin
1 t Hing
I t Poppy seeds ( brown)
1 t Fenugreek seeds
1 t Mustard seeds ( black)
1 t Cloves
Dry roast all the spices separately for 1 – 3 minutes
Blend them together and let cool
Crush them in a coffee grinder
I plan on using this Goda Masala in the chicken dish and the rice dish that I will be making for the dinner at the Creperie on the 12th of September.
My next post will be about – Sujatha’s kitchen & her delicious Masale Bhaat ( rice dish) and Aamti ( daal).