One of my favorite takeout-Chinese food items is scallion pancakes.  I know they’re loaded with salt and fat and have very little nutritional value, but they’re so tasty.  Not like I eat a ton of Chinese food or anything, but I’m sure one order of them is enough to clog at least one-tenth of my arteries.  (But they’re so tasty.)

So I was most gleeful to discover the Indian version, called “pudla” in Gujarati.  They’re made with chickpea flour and are ridiculously good.  I found this version on Nourish Me — the original is from Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian — and, having all the ingredients on hand, couldn’t wait to make them.  I actually made these for dinner, rolled like a dosa, stuffed with my coriander-ified version of Manjula Jain’s Aloo Masala.  Nom nom nom.

This recipe made 8 pudlas.

Ingredients:

  • 1 C frozen peas, cooked and mashed lightly with a fork
  • 2 C besan (chickpea/garbanzo flour)
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 C water
  • large thumb of ginger
  • 4 scallions, finely sliced
  • olive oil for frying

Instructions:

  • Sift besan, spices, and salt into a large bowl.
  • Make a well in the center and slowly trickle in water, mixing well until there are no lumps – it’s important that there aren’t any lumps.  (I ended up having to strain out some lumps via a mesh sieve.)
  • Grate the ginger and squeeze the juice out of it, and add to the mixture, whisking well.
  • Stir in the peas and scallions.
  • Let the batter rest, at room temperature, for 30-60 minutes (I let it rest for 60 minutes).
  • Heat a skillet with about a teaspoon of oil over medium-high heat, moving the oil around so you get it all around the bottom of the pan.
  • Ladle some mixture into the center of the pan.  (If you want to thin it out to use as a substitute for dosa, like I did, use the back of a ladle or spoon in an outward-spiraling motion to spread the batter in the pan.)
  • Cook until, like a pancake, the edges are dry and they’re golden underneath.  Unlike a pancake, before you flip it, spoon on a bit of olive oil and use the back of a spoon to spread it around, then flip.
  • Serve with any variety of accompaniments: chutney, raita, whatever you like.

This recipe for very tasty spiced potatoes is from Manjula’s Kitchen.  By happy accident, I reached for the coriander I’d just crushed for another recipe instead of the cumin I was putting in this one.  I looked at the coriander in the pan, said, “ah, what the heck” and added the cumin anyway (just a little less) and hoped for the best.  The hit of coriander ended up being really nice.  Manjula’s suggestions for variations include adding 2 Tbsp of shredded carrot or green peas.

Use this as a filling for dosa (like an Indian crêpe).  We found them tasty enough to act as a side dish.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large potatoes
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • pinch of hing (asoefetida)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds (I used yellow, since I didn’t have black)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 finely-chopped green chili
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp chopped cilantro (I used parsley)

Instructions:

  • Wash the potatoes and put them in a large pan with enough water to cover.  Boil until tender enough to easily insert a fork.  Set aside to cool.  *Don’t rinse potatoes with cool water to cool, or they will absorb the water and get soggy.*  When they’re cool, peel them, then dice small.  Set aside.
  • Heat oil in a saucepan on medium-high heat.  The oil is ready when a cumin seed will crack right away when you drop it in.
  • Add mustard seeds, cumin seed, (and coriander seeds if you’re klutzy like me) and hing.  (Give a quick stir and then get the cover ready – when the mustard seeds crack, they’re like popcorn and will just fly across the room.  You don’t want to get hit with one!)
  • As the mustard seeds stop cracking, add the turmeric, potatoes, chili and salt and mix well.
  • Stir-fry for a few minutes, until the potatoes are nicely finished but not over-done, and everything is fragrant and well-cooked together.
  • Add lemon juice and garnish with cilantro. (or parsley)

I found this made enough to fill 8 dosas nicely.

Braised leeks didn’t work out so well.  The taste was wonderful, but I absolutely could not handle the texture.

I thoroughly cleaned a few leeks, placed them cut-side down in a baking dish, added veg broth, dotted with butter, seasoned with salt & black pepper, and added a generous amount of thinly-sliced garlic cloves.   Then I braised them for maybe 50 minutes in the oven.  They smelled amazing.  Ah, well.  I’ve been advised that I’d be able to handle leeks much better if they were either pan-fried, or pureed into a soup, so in the future I’ll try that.

I’ll fess up right now:  before this morning, I’d never made pancakes from scratch.  To me, “making pancakes” has always meant taking the box of Aunt Jemima Complete (“Just Add Water!”) out of the cabinet.  Making pancakes from scratch has always seemed appealing, but the kind of task undertaken by people with more culinary prowess than I.  Or people whose pantries routinely contain things like baking powder and flour.

Well, that’s changed, now that I’ve been cooking and actually have stuff in the pantry with which to make things like pancakes.  It’s also turned out to be really easy to make pancake batter from scratch; there’s an extra bowl and measuring cups to clean, but it doesn’t take that much more time to do.  No more instant boxed mix!

I came upon this Martha Stewart recipe for Pumpkin Pancakes after searching for something to make with the canned pumpkin we bought.  I made a slight alteration by using 1-1/2 teaspoons of Pumpkin Pie Spice instead of separately adding the cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves (I make my own Pumpkin Pie Spice with those same spices).  I also only had Egg Beaters, not actual eggs, so I used 1/4 cup of that instead of 1 egg.  Make sure you use plain canned pumpkin puree, not pumpkin pie filling.

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/4 C all-purpose flour
  • 2 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg
  • pinch of cloves
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 C milk
  • 6 Tbsp canned pumpkin puree
  • 2 Tbsp melted butter
  • 1 egg

Instructions:

  • In a large bowl, whisk together flour baking powder, sugar, and spices.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together milk, egg, pumpkin and butter.
  • Fold wet ingredients into dry ingredients.
  • Use 1/4-cupfuls to drop batter onto griddle/pan.  Makes 8-10 pancakes.

I found it helpful, because the batter is so thick, to drop the batter and then use the back of a large spoon in a spiraling motion from the center to spread out the batter a bit, not *too* much like a crepe, but to get the pancake thinner.  This ensures the middle will be well-cooked by the time the outsides are golden brown.

We ate these with butter and maple syrup, but they’d probably be very awesome with applesauce, too, or some spiced simple syrup and whipped cream.

This is a riff on this recipe I found at Redchillies for Moong Dal and Vegetables with Chole Masala.  All I was able to find at the store was Chole Chaat Masala, which isn’t the same thing, but it does share some of the tangy/sour qualities of chole masala, with ingredients like amchoor (mango powder), ginger, and black salt.  It ended up working fabulously, and this has become my favorite recipe to make with moong dal.

Moong dal is a very small yellow split pea, graced in English with the unfortunate name of Mung Beans.  They’re easily found in Indian/Asian markets, and are nutritious, tasty and versatile. Because they’re so small, it doesn’t take too much time to soak and cook them.  Make sure you put the moong dal in a mesh sieve and rinse really well before soaking and cooking, until the water runs clear.

(It’s important to note that moong dal, while being a yellow split pea, is not the same thing as “yellow split peas” that you can easily find with the dried beans at your everyday supermarket.  Moong dal is smaller, with a more intense color.)

After rinsing the moong dal, put them in a bowl and cover with water, and let soak for about 30 minutes.  Then put them in a pot with enough water to cover, and cook on a simmer for 30-50 minutes, being sure to add more water as needed so that they stay covered.  When done, they should be soft and mushy and easily mashed.  This dal will comprise the bulk of the sauce in the dish.

You can play around with the amount and type of vegetables used.  I’ve used as little as 1 cup and as much as 2.5 cups.  For veggies I’ve used kale, cauliflower, broccoli, bell peppers, potatoes, chard (not all at once) – if it makes a good curry, it could probably find a home in this dish.

Ingredients:

  • Veggies of choice, cut/chopped medium-small, 1-2 cups
  • 3/4 C moong dal, soaked and cooked
  • 3/4 C  onion, diced or sliced, your preference
  • 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp grated or minced fresh ginger (try to use fresh, it tastes much better in this dish than ground)
  • 1 Tbsp minced garlic
  • 1/4-1/2 tsp chili powder, according to your taste
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp Chole Chaat Masala
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • Parsley for garnish
  • 1 Tbsp oil
  • pinch of salt

Instructions:

  • Cook the dal as mentioned above, mash it until smooth, and set aside.
  • Cook the veggies separately, by steaming or briefly sauteeing until tender.
  • In a good-sized saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.  When hot, add the cumin seeds, fry for a minute until the seeds have cracked and become fragrant.
  • Add onion and sweat until translucent.
  • Add the garlic and ginger and cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes and a pinch of salt; stir well and cook for another minute.
  • Add chili powder and chaat masala and stir well.  If the mixture is very dry, add a little bit more oil.
  • Add the vegetables and a little water.
  • Add the dal, stir well, and season to taste (a little salt, a little more masala, whatever you like).
  • Simmer the mixture for a few more minutes, until all the ingredients are well-blended.
  • Garnish with parsley.  Serve with cumin rice and a spoonful of raita.  Yum!

This is a very basic and simple raita, cobbled together from various recipes around the Web.  Greek yogurt, a cucumber, a little cumin, and a little chopped parsley, and you’ve got a cooling, tasty accompaniment to a spicy Indian meal.  Most raitas involve cilantro or mint leaves, which I really can’t stand.  Parsley is pretty strong too, but a bit more agreeable.  (To me, cilantro tastes like soap – although I rather like a dash of its milder Other Half, coriander seeds – and the flavor of mint just takes over everything.)  This recipe can be whipped up in a few minutes – the most time-consuming part is prepping the cucumber.

Ingredients:

  • 1 large cucumber
  • 1/2 C plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp finely-chopped parsley leaves

Instructions:

  • Peel the cucumber, de-seed it, then grate it on a medium sized grater.  Place the cucumber in cheesecloth and squeeze out the liquid.  Place it on a fresh cheesecloth in a colander to drain further.
  • Finely chop the parsley leaves.  You can use cilantro instead, if you like it.
  • Mix the cumin and parsley into the yogurt, then add the cucumber and mix well.  That’s it!  Put into the fridge until ready to serve.

I got this very easy, and very delicious, recipe from Syvum.com.   It makes a wonderful accompaniment to a variety of curries.

Ingredients:

  • 1 C basmati rice
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1-1/2 tsp butter or ghee
  • 2 C water
  • pinch of salt
  • dash of lime juice

Instructions:

  • Heat butter/ghee over medium heat for about 2 minutes.
  • Add cumin seeds and fry until they crack.
  • Add the rice and stir fry for about a minute.
  • Add lime juice, water, and salt, and mix well.
  • Bring to a boil on high heat.
  • Cover and reduce heat; simmer until water evaporates, 10-15 minutes

Allow to rest, covered, off the heat for five minutes, then fluff with a fork and enjoy!