Staple Corner: How to Make Your Own Garam Masala (Part 2)

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Homemade Garam Masala

Considering I keep so many staples on hand in my overstuffed kitchen, I was shocked to discover during dinner preparation that I was completely out of garam masala — is a key ingredient in so many Indian dishes. Thankfully, it is easy to make up your own fresh blend, which I have been meaning to do again anyways because the taste is far superior to store-bought blends and it keeps for a few months in a well-sealed jar. This flavorful, dark and rather complex and smoky blend is adapted from my treasured copy of 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer. Inspired Indian cooks will not want to be without this extensive collection of recipes for legumes, grains, spice blends, appetizers and vegetables. Informative, charming and entertaining, you won't be lacking for ideas if you consult Mr. Iyer's cookbook.

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Mughal Mushroom Curry and a Giveaway

I was recently treated to a lovely package of dried mushrooms, mushroom blends, a quick and easy smoked oyster mushroom chowder that was most satisfying and delicious and some delightful Balsamic Vinaigrette infused with White Truffle which is just perfect for dressings and marinades from FungusAmongus. I am pleased to offer my readers located in the US an opportunity to win some dried organic mushroom medley consisting of porcini, shiitake, crimini, maitake, oyster, and chanterelle as well as a pacific blend of seasoning and rub marinade. The seasoned mixes are a perfect idea to add to cream cheese or yogurt to make a dip that would go along well with veggies or pieces of flatbread. All you need to do is leave a comment for a chance to win. Please do leave your email address if you do not have a blog so I can contact you. The contest runs until May 8th. My Canadian readers will have a chance at winning some of these satisfying staples soon. I also encourage you to check out their facebook page and become a follower. Mushroom lovers such as myself will not be disappointed with these offerings.

I admit I was rather skeptical about serving apples and raisins with mushrooms, but I was pleasantly surprised indeed. Such a delightful blend of flavors - so earthy, and the addition of yogurt tempers the spices. The inclusion of dried mushrooms here adds a slightly chewy texture that is pure joy for mushroom lovers. I have made this dish twice already. The first time around I was foggy headed and missed the yogurt step and used some water instead. Either way, you can't go wrong with a spicy mushroom curry. Serve with rice and an Indian dal for an especially satisfying meal that even your carnivorous friends will enjoy.

I also made a delicious and super simple dip with 4 teaspoons of the Pacific blend of seasoned mushrooms combined with a cup of cream cheese. Just perfect with veggies and peta breads.
Mughal Mushroom Curry

Adapted from Silk Road Cooking by Najmieh Batmanglij

4 tablespoons of butter, ghee, or oil
1/2 cup of raw, unsalted cashews, broken into bits
1/4 cup of raisins
1 green apple, peeled and sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced or crushed
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
small handful of dried curry leaves
2 - 3 fresh green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
4 - 6 sun-dried tomatoes, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and drained
1/4 cup of dried mushrooms, soaked in hot water for 20 minutes and drained (I used the organic mushroom medley)
1 - 2 teaspoons of Pacific blend seasoning
1 pound of fresh mushrooms (I used portobellos)
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 teaspoons of sea salt
freshly cracked black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons of curry powder (or a dash of asafetida, 1/2 teaspoon of ground mustard powder, 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds, 1 - 2 green chilies, seeded and finely chopped, 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves, 1/4 teaspoon of ground cardamom, a pinch of saffron, freshly cracked black pepper and 3 tablespoons of dried fenugreek leaves)
2 teaspoons of garam masala
1 large tomato, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups of yogurt
2 teaspoons of cornstarch, dissolved in 2 tablespoon of water
fresh parsley or cilantro, chopped, for garnishing

In a wok, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium heat. When hot, add the cashews and stir and fry until browned. Now add the apples and raisins and stir and fry for a minute or two. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.

In the same pan, heat another 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Toss in the onions and stir and fry until translucent. Now add the garlic, coriander, ginger, curry leaves and chilies. Stir and fry for another minute or so. Add the mushrooms and celery and cook over medium-high heat for 5 minutes. Toss in the salt, mushroom seasoning, black pepper, curry powder, garam masala and tomatoes. Reduce the heat to low and cover and simmer for 10 minutes.

Gradually add the yogurt and cornstarch mixture to the mushrooms, stirring constantly. Simmer over very low heat for another 5 minutes. Garnish with the apple mixture, parsley or cilantro and serve warm.

Yields 4 servings.

More mushroom dishes from Lisa's Kitchen you are sure to enjoy:
Mushroom Curry
Best Ever Mushroom Sauce
Chickpeas with Mushrooms
Shredded Paneer with Tomatoes, Chilies, Mushrooms and Chickpeas

On the top of the reading stack: cookbooks

Audio Accompaniment: Arvo Part

Apple Pie Tart

Apple Pie Tart

My husband just loves pie, and when he comes across a recipe that makes his tummy growl he passes it along. In this case I was intrigued because I have never made a pie without a pie plate before. A cross between a tart and a pie, this pastry filled full of the goodness of apples is baked on a baking sheet. The pastry was easy to work with and any combination of apples can be used, though it is best to use apples that are especially good for baking, such as tart Cortlands, Empires and Granny Smiths as they tend to soften up better in baked goods without getting mushy. A combination of tart and firm apples works best here.

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Chickpea Salad with Tamarind Dressing

Chickpea Salad with Tamarind Dressing

Bean salads loaded with fresh crunchy vegetables are an incredibly easy way to pack plenty of protein, fiber, minerals and vitamins into your diet, and a zesty hot, sweet and sour tamarind and lime dressing make it a delicious choice as well. Add some toasted coconut and cashews, and you've got an extraordinarily attractive salad with bold Asian flavors. This is a real winner.

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Hummus with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Olives

A perfect appetizer that almost everyone loves. This creamy and flavourful dip is a perfect way to stimulate the appetites of your dinner guests. Just make sure you don't offer up too much before the main entree, as this hummus is most addictive and filling. Serve with fresh chopped vegetables, such as delightful Ontario carrots, and some baked pita breads and / or lavash bread.

This is my contribution to this month's My Legume Love Affair, a popular event started by lovely Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook and hosted this month by Jaya of Desi Soccer Mom.
Hummus with Sun-dried Tomatoes, Goat Cheese and Olives

1 cup of dried chickpeas
5 - 6 sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup of pitted black olives, chopped
a few generous scoops of goat cheese
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
juice from 2 fresh limes
2 - 3 tablespoons of tahini
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 tablespoons of parsley or cilantro, chopped, for garnishing

Soak the chickpeas overnight in enough water to cover. Drain, transfer to a medium saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover and cook until the beans are soft - roughly 1 hour. Drain and set aside.

Soak the sun-dried tomatoes in hot water for 20 minutes. Drain, reserving the soaking liquid.

In a food processor, combine the cooked chickpeas, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, garlic, salt, lime juice, tahini, goat cheese, cumin, cayenne, sugar, olive oil, 1/4 cup of the reserved liquid from the sun-dried tomatoes and a bit of parsley or cilantro. Puree until you have a thick paste.

Garnish with the remaining parsley or cilantro.

Serves 4-6.

More hummus recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Marinated Sun-Dried Tomato Hummus with Olives
Spicy Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Turkish Yogurt Hummus
Olive Hummus

On the top of the reading stack: Mysore Style Cooking by V. Sandhya

Audio Accompaniment: FLOAT AWAY - Robbie Rivera

Rice Croquettes

Rice fans won't want to miss out on this shallowed fried concoction. I typically don't use a lot of oil or butter in my cooking, but there are times when you just want a slightly more decadent treat. An ideal accompaniment to a bean dish, this is surely a healthy meal, so long as you use a good quality cooking oil, such as pure virgin olive oil, sesame oil or peanut oil.

Spicy Rice Croquettes

1 cup of basmati rice
2 tablespoons of butter or oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cups of vegetable broth or water
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
1 egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon of dried basil
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne
1 teaspoon of paprika
dash of ground coriander
dash of ground cumin
3/4 cup of fresh Parmesan, grated
sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
1/2 cup of cornmeal or bread crumbs
oil for frying

Rinse the rice well in a strainer and soak with enough water to cover for at least 20 minutes. Drain and air dry for another 20 minutes.

In a large saucepan, heat the butter or oil over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and stir and fry for 10 minutes. Now add the rice and stir and fry for another few minutes. Stir in the broth or water, along with the parsley and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook until the water is absorbed - roughly 15 minutes. Cool for 30 minutes.

Stir in the beaten egg, basil, cayenne, paprika, coriander, cumin, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Shape into 1/4 cup logs and roll in cornmeal or bread crumbs.

Heat 1/4 inch of oil in a wok or frying pan over medium heat. When hot, fry a few croquettes at a time for 5 - 6 minutes until golden brown, turning often. Drain on paper towels and keep warm in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve.

Serves 4 - 5.

More Rice Recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Baked Italian Brown Rice Balls
Green Bean and Borlotti Bean Risotto
Chickpea and Brown Rice Patties

On the top of the reading stack: multiple cookbooks

Audio Accompaniment: Ben Harper

Makki Di Roti (Griddle Cooked Corn Bread)

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
A staple in Punjab, and often served with Sarso Da Saag, a popular curry made with mustard greens, these spicy flatbreads go well with any Indian dal. These breads are also gluten free if you make sure your corn flour does not contain any wheat. I served them with a Mixed Lentil Indian Dal for a nourishing and filling meal. The time spent in the kitchen is well worth the effort.

I adapted the method suggested by Raghavan Iyer. His 660 Curries cookbook is a treasure for sure. I've yet to try one of his recipes that did not impress me. Lots of traditional and unique ideas for legumes, breads, rice, vegetables, paneer, spice blends and condiments. Not strictly vegetarian, but no matter, as there are lots of tasty options for vegans and vegetarians alike. This book comes highly recommended from Lisa's Kitchen.

Makki Di Roti (Griddle Cooked Corn Bread)

2 cups of yellow corn flour
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
2 inch piece of ginger, finely grated
8 green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
1/2 - 2/3 cup of warm water
a few tablespoons of ghee, melted butter, or oil

In a medium bowl, combine the corn flour and salt. Stir in the ginger and chilies. Gradually some of the warm water, stirring as you go. Add enough until the dough comes together. Knead the dough a few times on a floured board until you have a soft dough.

Divide the dough into 10 balls. Cover with plastic wrap to keep the dough moist.

To prepare for the cooking process, you will need a large sheet of aluminum foil folded in half. Also need is one large piece of waxed paper (roughly 12 inches wide) and another 11 sheets, roughly 8 inches wide.

Take a ball of the dough and transfer it to the large piece of waxed paper. Depending on how moist the dough is, you may wish to sprinkle a bit of flour on the sheet. Roll out with a lightly floured rolling pin or stretch the dough out with your hands until it is shaped into a 4 inch round. Gently peel the round off of the waxed paper and transfer to a small piece of waxed paper and cover it with a second sheet. You may want to use a flipper so as not to break up the round. Repeat this process with the rest of the dough.

Brush a small non-stick pan with some ghee, butter or oil and preheat over medium heat. When hot, transfer one of the rounds to the pan, Cook until lightly browned, (roughly 3 - 4 minutes), flip and cook the other side for a few minutes. Flip again, brush with a bit more butter, flip again and then transfer the cooked roti to the folded sheet of foil. Continue until all of the rotis are cooked, brushing the pan with more butter as necessary. Keep warm in a 150 degree oven if desired, though they will keep warm in the foil for a good while.

Yields 10 rotis

More Indian flatbreads from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Paratha with Sweet Potato and Potato Filling
Besan Roti
Savory Rice and Urad Dal Pancakes
Savoury Rice and Split Pea Pancakes with Buttery Green Beans and Tomato-Cilantro Sauce

On the top of the reading stack: Mysore Style Cooking by V. Sandhya

Audio Accompaniment: Shutov Assembly by Brian Eno

Creamy Potato and Green Bean Salad

Salads are a frequent addition to my table, no matter the time of year. Though soups are much preferred during the winter months, potato salads are always a comfort food, even if there is a few feet of snow building up outside. Thankfully, most of the snow has melted and the temperature is gradually creeping up into double digits. Serve this hearty salad with your favorite legume soup for an extra dose of nutrients and warmth. Add some biscuits into the mix and your tummy will thank you.
Creamy Potato and Green Bean Salad


2 lbs. new potatoes, scrubbed and chopped
1/2 lb. fresh green beans, trimmed and chopped
1 celery stalk, diced
1 large radish, diced
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
2 green onions, sliced
large handful fresh parsley, chopped


1/2 cup mayonnaise
1/3 cup whole milk
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
fresh ground black pepper

Garnish (optional):

1/2 cup kalamata olives, pitted and chopped

Using a steamer, steam the potatoes for 12 minutes or until just tender. Add the green beans and steam for 5 more minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.

Place the potatoes and green beans in a large mixing bowl and add the celery, radish, jalapeño, green onion and parsley. Whisk together the dressing ingredients, pour over the salad, and gently toss to coat the vegetables. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.

Serve cold, with olives scattered over if using.

Serves 6 to 8.

Other potato salads you may enjoy:
Mexican-Style Potato Salad With Avocado and Jalapeño
Potato Radish Salad
Warm Baby Potato and Asparagus Salad

On the top of the reading stack: Mysore Style Cooking by V. Sandhya

Audio Accompaniment: laundry

Poppy Seed Muffins

When the weather is cold outside, what better way to warm up then to bake? These savory muffins are very easy to prepare and simply delightful with some butter. My photos here do not do these muffins justice. Serve for breakfast, as a light lunch or along with dinner in place of rolls. Peace can be found in the kitchen and your tummy won't mind at all. I made these for my darling father-in-law as I certainly enjoy treating him to homemade treats. Light a candle and enjoy.

Poppy Seed Muffins

1 cup of whole milk
1/2 cup of poppy seeds

1/4 cup of butter, softened
2 tablespoons of sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla

2 cups of unbleached white flour
1 tablespoon of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt

Grease 10 muffin cups.

In a small bowl, combine the milk and poppy seeds. Let sit for 10 - 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, cream together the butter, sugar and egg. Stir in the vanilla and poppy seed / milk mixture.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Make a well in the center of the ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients. Stir with a spatula until just combined.

Divide the mixture evenly into the prepared muffin tins and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven for 15 - 20 minutes until nicely browned.

Makes 10 muffins

More quick breads from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Buttermilk Cheddar Biscuits
Mixed Berry Cornmeal Muffins
Blueberry Goat Cheese Muffins
Jalapeno Cheddar Scones

On the top of the reading stack: The Well by Sinclair Ross

Audio Accompaniment: Putumayo Presents Yoga

Mixed Lentil Indian Dal

Visit the Indian Food Glossary for information on the ingredients in this recipe
Spicy, nourishing, easy to prepare and a treat to the palate, this mixed dal recipe, inspired by 660 Curries - one of my favorite Indian cookbooks that I often rave about - goes so well with rice and flatbreads. My dinner guests raved about the combination of this dal served over jasmine rice, and when they requested a second helping some hours later, they also delighted in a homemade roti that is popular in Punjab. I will be sharing the roti recipe with my readers soon.

Any combination of dal can be used in this dish and if I had not been out of toor dal, I would have included that too. Toss in some finely diced carrots with the dal or any other vegetable if desired.
Mixed Lentil Indian Dal

1/2 cup of urad dal, without skins
1/4 cup of split mung dal
1/4 cup of green lentils
1/4 cup of chana dal or yellow split peas
1 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
1/2 teaspoon of turmeric
4 green chilies, seeded and finely chopped
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
2 tablespoons of ghee, butter, or oil
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
small handful of dried curry leaves or a 2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon of asafetida
1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley or cilantro for garnishing

Rinse the dal in a strainer, making sure to remove any debris. Transfer to a medium-large saucepan, along with 3 cups of water, bring to a boil, add the salt, turmeric, chilies and ginger, reduce the heat to medium low and cover and simmer, stirring occasionally until the legumes are tender - roughly 30 minutes.

Puree a portion of the cooked dal in a blender or with an immersion blender. If using a blender, transfer the puree back to the pot.

In a small frying pan, heat the ghee, butter or oil over medium heat. When hot, add the cumin seeds and stir and fry for a minute. Add the asafetida, curry leaves (or bay leaves) and cayenne. Stir and remove from the heat. Transfer to the cooked dal, stir and let sit covered, for five minutes.

Garnish with fresh herbs and serve hot.

Yields 4 servings, along with rice.

More Indian Lentil dishes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen you are sure to enjoy:
Spicy Lentil Rasam
Spicy Green Lentils and Yellow Split Peas
Brown Lentils and Moong Dal in a Cashew-Almond Sauce
Savoury Rice and Urad Dal Pancakes

On the top of the reading stack: Mysore Style Cooking by V. Sandhya

Audio Accompaniment: Trentemøller

Sweet Potato and Mushroom Quiche Cups

This is a meal suitable for a gathering of friends and family. My house guests raved about this slightly sweet yet spicy baked egg delight and had second helpings later in the evening. Easy to prepare, just fine for breakfast or alongside a meal that requires a bit of filling out. These custard cups are a good way to satisfy any egg craving. To add a bit of spice, include some finely chopped hot green chilies and a sprinkling of cayenne. You can easily craft them to appeal to the savory epicure, as well as the sweet.
Sweet Potato and Mushroom Quiche Cups

1 large sweet potato
1 1/4 cups of ricotta cheese
1/4 - 1/3 cup of Parmesan cheese, grated
1 teaspoon of sea salt
1 tablespoon of fresh basil
dash of nutmeg
6 large eggs, beaten
4 sun-dried tomatoes
1/4 cup of dried mushrooms

Grease 12 muffin tins.

Soak the sun-dried tomatoes and mushrooms in a small bowl in hot water for 20 minutes. Drain, finely chop and set aside.

In a 425 degree oven, roast the sweet potato until fork tender. Let cool, peel and mash in a large bowl. Stir in the ricotta, Parmesan, salt and nutmeg. Now add the eggs, basil, sun-dried tomatoes and dried mushrooms.

Evenly distribute the mixture to the prepared muffin pan and bake in a preheated 375 degree oven for 20 - 25 minutes or until golden brown. Half way through the cooking time, sprinkle some additional Parmesan cheese over each cup. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes or so and carefully remove.

More sweet potato recipes from Lisa's Vegetarian Kitchen:
Paratha with Sweet Potato and Potato Filling
Caribbean Sweet Potato Soup
Sweet Potato and Apricot Croquettes

On the top of the reading stack: Mysore Style Cooking by V. Sandhya

Audio Accompaniment: relative silence