Spiced Yogurt with Eggplants [Baingan ka Raita]

Regional and authentic cuisine has been a subject of interest amongst historians and foodies alike. As much as I appreciate and treasure a traditional dish for it’s originality and authentic flavors, the next generation and perhaps, to some extent, many of us have contributed in blurring the lines between authentic and fusion food.

Having been exposed to various cultures, the food that we eat or cook today at home is influenced by these cultural differences. Over a period of time, these regional recipes have become internalized by families who have adopted it and in due course given it a place in their “family recipe book”. The other effect that is a result of this migration process is a certain loss of identity of the original recipe, other than those documented by historians or food enthusiasts.

The migration of food is not a new phenomenon by any means. However, as the world becomes smaller, recipes are now only about two-clicks away. The evolution and migration of recipes seems much more fast-paced than ever before. A traditional dish from Peru if made with ingredients which are easily available, would very likely make its way to the kitchen of a family living in a remote town in India. In all likelihood, they would have improvised an Indian version of that dish and perhaps that would be a favorite of the youngest member of the family !

Today’s recipe goes back to my roots and has a nostalgic feel to it. A simple yet delectable dish made mostly in this form in Odisha (Orissa) and Bihar : Spiced Yogurt with eggplants or Baingan ka Raita. Having grown up under the influence of both Oriya and Bihari cuisine, Baingan Raita was made at home often and has been one of my favorite ways of having yogurt.

A Raita [pronounced rahy-tuh] is a condiment made with Yogurt as the base with spices and some vegetables. It’s made all over the Indian sub-continent in many different combinations but most commonly with onions, tomatoes and/or cucumbers.

To print the recipe, click here.

Baingan ka Raita (Spiced Yogurt with Eggplants / Brinjals) :

Serves : 3

Ingredients for preparing the Eggplants :
Eggplants (Brinjals) : 1 long, cut into thick rounds and then quartered)
Turmeric: 1/4 tsp
Salt: 1/4 tsp
Curry leaves : about 10
Black mustard seeds : 1/2 tsp
Asofetida (hing) : a pinch
Dry red chillies : 2 (torn in halves)

Ingredients for preparing the Raita :
Natural unsweetened Yogurt (Home made Curd / Dahi) : 1 cup
Low fat Milk (cold or at room temperature) : 1/3 cup
Roasted Cumin powder : 1/2 tsp
Chilli powder : a pinch
Salt : 1/4 tsp (adjust to taste)
Black salt (kala namak) : a pinch (optional)

How I did it :

Wash the eggplants thoroughly. Add turmeric and 1/4 tsp salt and leave aside for 5 mins.
In a Kadhai or frying pan, heat 1 tbsp oil. Add hing, mustard seeds and dry red chillies. Wait till mustard seeds pop. Next, add curry leaves. Stir for about 10 seconds and add the Eggplants.

Cook uncovered on medium-low heat until the skin is roasted and the eggplants are cooked but not mushy or breaking. Once done, take it out in a serving bowl and let it cool (5 – 10 mins).

In a bowl, whisk the yogurt using an egg whisker or spoon into a creamy smooth consistency. Add the milk. Mix it together.

Add roasted Cumin powder, Chilli powder, salt (1/4 tsp) as well as Black salt. Mix it into the yogurt.

Once the fried eggplants have cooled off, pour the yogurt mix into the serving bowl. Combine everything together using a spoon (without mashing the eggplants).

Let it chill in the refrigerator for at least 20 mins (or more) before serving.

Enjoy as a side with any meal.

Spicy Tomato Chutney

It was a very special day. Two weeks ago, K, a very close friend, had a beautiful baby girl.

K & I have known each other since high school. Although we spent only 2 years together, the friendship that we shared was one that will be with us for a lifetime.

As little school girls, we would talk endlessly about anything and everything under the sun! I don’t know what inspired us to talk about so much, but we just did. We were always running out of time but never out of conversation.

We had so many things in common, including the guys we liked;-) But, nothing, not even that mattered.

When I left for Bangkok, K & I decided that we’d keep a diary & write about our new lives. This was the pre-internet boom era. Overseas phone calls were simply unaffordable!

Six months later, we exchanged our diaries. When we look back, we laugh about it. As a young girl embarking on a strange new world with no friends in a foreign land, that diary was the only friend I had for many months.

Two decades later, I am on the phone with her again. It is the night before she is due to be admitted in the hospital for her baby’s delivery. She is anxious about one of the most important milestones in her life – just how I was was on the night before V was born. Emotions flow. As we continue talking, I know that of all the conversations we have had since I have known her, this one will be etched in our memories forever. I know that tomorrow the moon will  be a little bigger, a little rounder, a little shinier, to welcome the most beautiful baby to this world…

Moving on to today’s recipe..

Spicy Tomato Chutney:

A flavorful Chutney made by roasting tomatoes, ginger and garlic together and spicing it up with chillies (fresh and dry) along with other spices.

To print this recipe, click here.

Ingredients:

For roasting:
450 gms tomatoes (roughly 5 medium – big tomatoes)
Garlic: 5 cloves
Ginger: thick 1 inch pc
Mustard oil: a drizzle for roasting

Other ingredients:
2 dried red chillies: roasted in a pan until the outside is dark (about 3-4 mins) – use only 1 if you don’t want it to be too spicy.
Fresh green chillies: 3 (use less if you don’t want it to be too spicy).
Coriander leaves: chopped 1 1/2 – 2 cups
Onion: 1 cup chopped (roughly 1 medium sized)
1 tsp of roasted cumin powder
Lemon juice: 1 tbsp
Mustard oil: 1 tbsp to add to the chutney
Black salt: ½ tsp
Regular Salt: to taste.

How I did it:

  • Pre-heat oven at 250 deg for 15 mins.
  • Roast the tomatoes, ginger and garlic with a drizzle of mustard oil in the oven at 250 deg or higher for 20 mins until the tomatoes start to turn brown-black.

  • Dry roast the dried red chillies on medium-low heat in a pan (3-4 mins), stirring continuously. It should get darker. Once it cools, roughly break the dry red chillies with your finger tips into smaller pcs.
  • When the tomatoes are done, remove the skin of the tomatoes. Mash the tomatoes and the garlic with the back of a spoon/fork. Chop the roasted ginger. Add to the mashed tomatoes & garlic.
  • Next, add all the remaining ingredients listed above including the dry red chillies prepared above.
  • Combine everything with a spoon. Spicy Tomato Chutney is ready.

Enjoy this Spicy Tomato Chutney as a side with Roti and Jungli Mutton or as a side with any other meal.

For a less spicy Chutney:
The green chillies & red chillies in the proportion used make it very spicy and I love it this way. If you don’t like spicy food, tone down the chillies or remove the seeds first before adding them. Use 1 dry red chilli and 1 green chilli.

To a refreshing 2012: Avocado Chutney

After a 3-month hiatus, I am back to the blogosphere with plenty of good wishes for a belated but very Happy & refreshing 2012 to all. I hope the year has been good so far and you are looking forward to the rest of the year.

In the beginning of the year, a friend said that 2012 is a year of change. I made fun of him then, but I get a feeling – he is going to be right.

For me, 2012 kicked off in a memorable way. V started school this year. Play school – but a school nevertheless. He was excited about going to school and that was a good sign. I really didn’t expect him to be shy. I was more worried about the other kids as my little one can be too friendly at times and this goes beyond the social norms of what is acceptable as friendly. How do you teach your little ones to behave in the most “adult” like ways. Shake hands (don’t hug someone you just met 5 minutes ago… because that’s socially frowned upon). At the same time, we hug our kids at every opportunity we get. I tell him not to give instructions to other kids (the poor guy is just doing what he is told) because we should let other people be & honestly because it’s not what is expected of a kid his age. Other kids have their own parents to instruct them! Ironical, isn’t it?

I often wonder about the true meaning of the word ‘parenting’. I wish it were as simple as providing the best environment for our kids to turn out to be the smartest in every sphere of life – it is not. Is it us trying to be good parents or is it our kids teaching us how to be good parents – instinctively through their innocence? They inspire us to introspect. They make us want to be a better person – someone they will feel proud to have as their Parent.

It goes beyond the relationship shared between our children and us. It is also a constant reminder of our parents’ journey to get us to where we are today…

Leaving you with that thought and looking forward to your views, it’s time to talk about the refreshing Avocado chutney.

This one doesn’t have a very long history. When we were growing up in India, Avocado was something I’d never seen or heard of. However, I am told that it is readily available now, at least in the metros. This version of the chutney originated in my big sis’ home in Vancouver & it’s traveled a long way since. It’s been shared with friends and has become a part of their daily meals as well.

For a printer-friendly version of this recipe, click here.

Serves: 4-5

Ingredients:

Avocado: 2 (approx 300 gms)
Onion: ½ medium sized finely chopped
Ginger: 1 tsp (optional)
Garlic: 1/2 tsp (optional)
Green chillies: 2-3 finely chopped
Coriander leaves: 2 heaped tbsp chopped
Lime juice: 1 ½ tbsp
Roasted cumin powder: ½ tsp
Salt: to taste
Mustard oil: 1 tsp (can be replaced with Olive oil)

How I did it:

When you buy avocado from the market, you will most likely need to leave it outside the fridge for 2-3 days to ripen. This ensures that the avocado is soft and easy to mash. You can feel the softness by pressing on the outside. Once it is ripe, store it in the fridge. As a word of caution, do not leave it out for too long !

Now cut the avocado from the middle, as shown in the picture. Pull out the halves by twisting the 2 halves in opposite direction. Next, scoop the avocado out from the skin using a spoon. If the avocado is ripe, it will come off quite clean.

Using the back of a fork, mash the avocado in a bowl. I have used a blender to do this job but I prefer using the fork because the pulp is so soft that blending in makes it into a paste. I like its buttery and nutty texture and using a fork preserves that texture.

Now add the chopped onions, ginger, garlic, chillies, coriander leaves, roasted cumin powder and salt.

Finish it with lime juice and a drizzle of mustard oil for that extra zing! Mix all the ingredients with a spoon. Adjust the seasoning as per your taste.

Notes:

  • Avocado tends to brown very quickly and lime juice helps to maintain it’s vibrant color. Prepare this dish closer to the time when you want to eat it or the avocado may turn brown.
  • I like the taste of raw ginger and garlic in the above proportions. If you do not like the taste of raw ginger or garlic, you can skip it or alter the proportions.
  • If you do not like the flavor of mustard oil, use olive oil instead. I used olive oil for my little one when he was younger. Now he’s gotten used to the flavor of mustard oil too 😉

Enjoy it as a side with any meal!