Food Truck Adevntures

I have always loved food trucks. I love the whole experience of eating at a food truck. I love the whole casual vibe that comes with it. No frills. And the food tastes SO GOOD!

Recently I have embarked on this new adventure of trying out food at different food trucks.

Lexington, MA had a food truck festival recently and I fell head over heels with this vegetarian/vegan truck rhythmnwraps.com.

OMG their vegan wraps are to die for. The smoky flavored tempeh with their unique dressing and sauces the wrap tasted out of this world. At least  I have never eaten a veggie wrap that is so good ever before. I tried out their fire wrap and Gangsta wrap and I can’t wait to go back to this truck again!!!

Clover is another truck which has been on my list from the past 4 years. I first heard of it when we lived near MIT in Cambridge,ma.

My friends raved about their chickpea or eggplant sandwich or something like that…Don’t know. I have to try it out yet!

Now Clover has spread out across the neighboring towns with even their restaurants. I still would love to go to one of their trucks nearby!

My latest discovery is the food truck festival at Arsenal mall, Watertown,ma. Can’t wait to be there one of these Wednesday, to grab a bite from a Mediterranean truck!

Will write more about these adventures soon.

Until then Happy eating!

Minty Aloo Tikkis (Potato cutlets)

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At a time of crisis, Like a good friend, A potato is there. Always there. Anytime everytime.

Those brown muddy spuds are lifesavers for me . I feel desolated without their presence  in my kitchen.

And all that thoughts and talks about starch and carbs does not matter, when you are hungry and every member of your family is restless and asking for something to “EAT RIGHT NOW” !!!!

I cannot tell you how grateful I am for those potatoes that saved my evening the day before. It was seemingly a long day. The heavy rains would not stop. They started the moment I opened my eyes  in the morning  and persisted the entire day.

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The rains would not stop, but the rains would not stop our day either. Life has to go on.

Wake up time, brush, breakfast, backpack, lunchbag,off to school, with an umbrella- That was my 5 year old.

wakeup time, breakfast, bath , off to work- that was my hubby.

Wakeup time and hang around with me , on me, all over me, make a mess of the house and bring the whole house upside down, no nap, just play, play with kitchen utensils, play with gadgets, play with dangerous objects, making my heart skip a beat and almost making me collapse by noon- That is my 18 month old.

So I take a deep breath and look at the clock, and it  is already time for my kindergartener to come back from school. I am startled but  gather myself up, with my 18 month old still lurking by my side, grab my coat,slide into my shoes when I suddenly heard a knock on the door.

It was my hubby !!! “Oh thank god you are here. Ok here is Sahana.  I am leaving. I have to take Mahati to the piano class”. I dashed out of the door.

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The rain did not cease. I picked my daughter from the bus stop, drove her straight to the piano class, which lasts for about two hours.

By the time we came back home by  evening, every single person in the house is STARVING. Remember, I did not feed my hubby when he came home?

So now it calls for quick action. I peered inside the fridge and what did I see? Some boiled and mashed potatoes from last night. Problem solved!

I decided to make tikkis. Darn that rain and darn those cravings for spicy tangy chaat. When I announced what I was making , my husband raised his eyebrows and sat up straight on the couch almost ready to eat. My daughter said  “yaaay, but Amma this time can you make it Yummier?”

I rolled my eyes, but smiled and promplty said “I will try” :)

Thus, these tikkis, which I very quicky put together for our evening chaat. Then there was dinner time. But that is another story :).

Minty Aloo Tikkis:

2 potatoes boiled peeled and mashed without lumps.( any kind. I used 2 big russet potatoes)

3 slices of bread (i used just white bread from pepperidge farm)

1/2 a cup of mint finely chopped

Oil for deep frying

Seasonings:

1tsp Jeera, 1 tsp Chaat masala, 2 tbsp lemon juice, salt, 1 tsp red chilli powder, 1 tsp garam masala, 2 cloves of garlic-grated, 1 green chilli finely minced.

Method:

In a wide bowl, combine mashed potatoes, mint, salt and all the  seasonings.

Take the bread slices,  dunk them in luke warm water. squeeze out all the water and throw them in the bowl with potatoes.

oil your palms and start kneading the potato bread mixture. After kneading for a few minutes, the whole mixture comes together like a nice firm dough.

Next divide the dough into equal portions. Roll them into a ball and pat them flat on your palms.

Frying:

I chose to deep fry them because they will cook evenly inside out. Alternative is to shallow fry them on  a griddle.

( if the dough gets too sticky or has some water content , then sprinkle some all purpose flour(maida) to the mix)

Methi Thepla

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Methi or Fenugreek is often considered as a superfood in India. It is believed to have cooling properties. It is very therapeutic. Breastfeeding moms are often seen consuming fenugreek seeds in quite high amounts, as it is believed to increase milk supply. I have tried it too , and I must say it works!

Because of its cooling properties fenugreek powder is added in spicy pickles  to compensate all that heat from the chilli powder. I remember my grandmother using fenugreek to help her digestion. Just before bedtime she used to make herself a glass of cold buttermilk with little salt and  adding some freshly powdered fenugreek seeds.

I just so love methi too. It is so fragrant and therapeutic. Be it the seeds or the leaves, I love to use them quite often. The leaves are very tender and fragrant and hardly bitter . The seeds carry a nutty and  quite bitter taste but the bitterness subdues when we dry roast them . And that aroma!!! ….

I always wish that methi was available in American supermarkets. Unfortunately it is not and I always have to visit the Indian store to grab a bunch or two and always will have to make a choice of what to make out of Methi. Those are hard choices to make, as anything made out of Methi  leaves is absolutely delicious.

There is a whole array of dishes both South and North Indian that uses fresh Methi leaves in its cooking. Parathas, rotis, gravies,curries, fritters, dals you name it!

This time I chose to make Theplas out of Methi. Theplas are similar to rotis or parathas. They have all spices incorporated in them and typically needs no side dish to go with it. They can be enjoyed as a snack, brunch, lunch or dinner. Kids Love them too. Just pay attention to the spice levels when making for kids. It makes a great lunch box recipe too.

The process is quite simple and here is how to make theplas out of these ever green Methi:

What we need:

2 cups of whole wheat flour

2 tbsp gram/chickpea flour

1 cup of finely chopped fresh methi leaves

2 green chillies

1 tsp cumin/coriander powder( optional)

1tsp turmeric

salt

Method:

Combine all ingredients together.

With little sprinkles of water, knead into a soft dough.

Divide into equal sized balls

roll them into round rotis

On a hot griddle roast them by sprinkles of oil.

Serve warm or not so warm with yogurt.

 

 

Tawa Pulav with Pav Bhaji Masala

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Tawa pulavs are quick fixes and a delicious alternate to the much time consuming Biriyanis.Although,the way I make Biriyani is not often very elaborate or time consuming. check it out here.  For this recipe, All we need is some cut vegetables and precooked rice. The rest of the proccess goes very easily by adding our favorite masalas.

This time I just wanted to try it out with the Pav Bhaji masala(store bought). And it turned out pretty darn good!

Check it out!

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Ingredients in order of appearance are:

Oil 2 tbsp

turmeric- 1/2 tsp

Jeera – 1 tsp

Ginger garlic paste- 1 tsp

finely chopped onions

finely chopped toamtoes

finely chopped capsicum

fresh corn kernels

fresh peas

fresh carrots cubed.

Pav Bhaji Masala 2 tsp, garam masala and red chilli powder 1 tsp each

Pre cooked rice,( basmati preferred)

Salt to taste.

Method:

Heat oil in a wide skillet or tawa on a medium to high heat. Add ingredients in the order above. Mix well to make a thick curry. FInally add rice and mix.

serve with raita.

About being authentic.

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It is very natural to imitate. That instinct to be wanting to be “like” someone else. Someone who is better than us. We all do that. Try to be like someone else. Mostly because, when we are surrounded by people who are doing better than us, we often feel low and inadequate and the pressure builds to be good and achieve success “like” others.

This is so true especially in the world of blogging. I will tell you my story.

I started a blog because I wanted to have a blog. Not because others have their own blogs.

But over the period of time, when I started browsing hundreds of others’ blogs and noticing how great they were, be it their writing , be it their photographs or just their post titles, I felt awful. I felt  ” I am pathetic”. This feeling is strong, especially when your readership is so low and when the clicks on your blog is almost close to zero.

 

But then something happened. Something dawned on me. And it happened TODAY.

In today’s morning show, the popular blogger of Smitten Kitchen was featured on TV. She is the famous food blogger with her famous site, I realized. I was further intrigued when the TV segment featured her famous kitchen on TV. Her kitchen is famous, famous for being teeny tiny!!! Her kitchen looked like a warm, cozy place where you can find solace by making your favorite comfort foods and just enjoy them even if you are alone!

My curiosity rose and  in the afternoon I visited her site. This was the 10th time I was visiting her site. 9 times before the TV feature!

And what I read there caught my attention. She writes, “food has to be accessible”. And “she does not believe in fancy ingredients like an expensive bottle of pink Himalayan salt”.

I realized there was a song beneath these lines. A song of authenticity. A song of originality. A song of what she believes in. And that is what differentiates her and makes her unique. So unique to be featured on the TV show!

I took a deep breathe, refreshed my thoughts and came to a conclusion. Imitating, trying to BE Like someone else due to mere pressure to succeed, will not take me anywhere.

There is great strength in being original, being authentic, being yourself. Drawing inspiration from others is one thing, but completely trying to live other peoples lives while losing complete focus on yours is nothing short of ridiculous.

SO here I am. The new me. Trying to be myself again. In this humble blog of mine. Renewing and reflecting in what I believe in related to food and life. Mainly because when food and taste  is such a personal thing, it does not make any sense to imitate others.

Cilantro rice with Vegetable Blend

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I would like to call this dish as a perfect blend of the two most beautiful seasons: The spring and the Fall.

The bright fresh green of the cilantro and specks of brown , orange and green of the vegetables and beans combine together to form this visual treat.

Just as I finished grinding the cilantro, its fresh scent wafted and swept across the kitchen and hit my nose and got into my head :). It took me hours to get the aroma out of my head. And, It tasted as good as it smelled.

On a typical day, my lunch menu includes a rice item with combination of rasam and raita. Hence I always have a bag of frozen vegetable in the freezer, as they come in handy when I need them.

So this time I had this bag of frozen veggies which was a combination of both vegetables and beans. It’s  called the Mediterranean Blend.  It had broccoli, snap peas, kidney beans, lima beans, chick peas, carrots, cauliflower , all of  it in one bag!!!

That  mixed with fresh ground cilantro resulted in this beautiful and tasteful rice dish which I relished ( and I am sure you will too!) for the rest of the day. Yumm!

What we need:

2 cups of rice cooked and cooled( preferably Basamati)

2 cups of mixed veggies ( fresh or frozen)

To grind:

2 cups of fresh cilantro

1 medium onion

5-6 green chillies

Masalas:

1 tsp Jeera (cumin)

1 tsp ginger garlic paste

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp biriyani masala ( home made or store bought)

oil

Method:

Cook the rice and spread it out to cool.

Next grind everything under “to grind” section above. Add very less water to form a thick paste.

In a pan pour 3 tbsp of oil. once hot, add cumin. When the cumin crackles add the mixed vegetables and fry them until they are tender.

Add the ginger garlic paste and fry for a minute more.

Add the rest of the masalas and salt  and cook for a minute more.

Then add the ground coriander paste to the mixed vegetables and fry until the raw flavor of the coriander paste fades away and the whole mixture cooks through and separates oil. The final mixture is dark green with vegetables.

Turn off the heat.

Finally mix the cooled rice with the vegetable mixture. adjust salt.( I usually add a tbsp of oil while mixing rice. taht gives a nice shine and texture to the rice, which otherwise might look dry).

Serve with raita or just plain yogurt.

Crispy Karela/ Bittergourd Fries/Chips(haagalkaayi chips)

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Would you make a resolution for the  upcoming New Year to add some bitterness into your life?

Whoa , that is crazy. Who would want  bitterness in life when all we crave is for sweetness and more of it ?:)

May be you DO. When you try this recipe of Karela or bitter gourd chips :)

It is just the perfect thing for the deep winter that sets in at the dawn of the New year.  The crisp, the crunch and the spice will definitely makes you crave for more and more of it.

 

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One of the key things a food blogger does is the Blog Hopping. Just sit for hours in front of the computer and just flip, scroll, sway and hop from one blog to another. That is how we learn new stuffs and new recipes and get inspired by amazing photographs.

One good afternoon while I was browsing through my favorite blogs and more, I found this amazing food site. By far, for me,  this is the only  site loaded with great vegetarian dishes that are simple and delicious to make.

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When I browsed across the site it was unbelievable, as each and every recipe was simple and tasty enough to tempt me to try them all at home.

Believe it or not, I visit this site every single day!!! It has amazing tamil recipes, different dosa recipes, the chutneys and poriyals that are so so tempting to make them all at once.

And this where I also found this sweet gem, the bittergourd fries!

And that website is none other than, Raks Kitchen.

Please find the recipe for crispy karela fries here.

A Simple Tomato Chutney

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A very simple recipe of tomato chutney that tastes great with Dosas, Idlis or just plain rice and ghee.

Here ,ripe red tomatoes sauteed in oil and cooked until smooth paste with red chilli powder and salt. A generous amount of Hing is a must in this recipe.

This dish is a keeper. Meaning it stays good without refrigeration for about 2 days as it is cooked in just oil and there is no extra water content.

What we need:

4 Juicy red tomatoes, diced

2 tsp red chilli powder

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 big pinch of asafoetida

salt per taste

3 tbsp oil.

Method:

In a pan, heat oil.  Once hot add mustard seeds and Hing. Once it splutters, add the diced tomatoes. stir a couple of times, bring the heat to simmer. Cover the pan and let the tomatoes cook in its own juice and oil until completely soft and mushy.

Keep stirring once or twice in between. Do NOT ADD ANY WATER.

After a while , check the tomatoes. By now the oil would have separated from the tomato paste. At this point add salt and red chilli powder. stir well. cook for 5 more minutes.

turn off heat. Serve hot or cold.

Spicy and Lemony Cucumber Corn Kosambari

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I have never eaten so much corn in my life as much as I have since I came to the US.

The all famous American sweet corn is quite sweet indeed. And that makes you just want to eat more of it, almost like candy.

The tender, juicy and sweet corn is a great accompaniment in the form of salad or  our desi version called Kosambari.

Kosambari is a South Indian version of salad. Typically, it involves some soaked lentils like Moong dal or Chana dal mixed with fresh raw vegetables like grated  carrots or crunchy cucumbers. The tempering involves a typical south indian tempering with mustard seeds, Asafoetida and green chillies. Finally it is topped of with fresh grated coconut and finely chopped cilantro. A generous amount of fresh lemon juice is a must .

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Kosambari is a very important part of a festive spread. Hence, in special occasions and festivals, Kosambari is served in the very beginning of the meal.

During the Diwali festival this month, I decided to make this Cucumber-corn Kosambari as a part of my traditional meal.

In my version I have avoided the lentils as well as the coconut. But tastes great!!!!

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What we need:

1 cup of fresh corn,scraped out from the cob

1 cup of finely chopped cucumber ( skin peeled)

5 green chillies finely minced

2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro

1/2 a lemon, juice squeezed

1tsp mustard seeds

hing or asafoetida

2 tbsp oil

Method:

In a wide bowl, mix corn and cucumber. Sprinkle some salt. add in the cilantro. squeeze the lemon.

Next is the tempering. Heat 2 tbsp of oil, add the mustard seeds and Hing. when the seeds splutter, add the green chillies. saute the green chillies until it wilts . Then add this tempering to the salad.

MIx everything well and serve chilled or as it is.

Kodabale- A Karnataka Classic.

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Pronounced as  Kod-ba-ley.

Recreating a classic dish always is challenging. Because the dish ,with its long history and reputation will already have set a standard.  Hence, naturally , we have expectations to meet those  standards. These dishes have the signature recipes that have been passed on from generations to generations and hence when we try to make them at home, we inevitably compare them with the original taste.

Classic dishes also are nostalgic. they take us down the memory lane and bring out our best memories of childhood .They remind us of the sweet moments we spent with our family. We tend to recollect and relish the memories of family members or  may be a particular person, otherwise whom we may have long forgotten. That is the power of food. It brings people together to share some great moments.

Kodabale is one such classic for me. Whenever I think of kodabale, I think of my little-girl days. Coffee and Kodabale was the most common combination in my mom’s house. At late evening hours, with fresh cup of filter coffee in hand, daddy, amma , my brothers and I used to sit in the patio of our house and enjoy some crisp and spicy kodbales.

My mom often used to make Kodbales at home and it was a great team project. While my mom, kneaded the spicy dough, my dad and the three of us used to help them roll and shape them into rings. we used to make these rings in batches and arrange them on a plate and then my mom would deep fry them in oil.

It was a fun activity for us kids to play with the dough and make funny animal shapes and ask my mom to fry them in oil. Couple of hours later big tall boxes fllled with Kodbales were ready to enjoy. It was a great time for togetherness and laughter.

Coming to the taste and specifications of this snack, there are many variations. As I mentioned before, the classics have certain standards and specifications . However as per individuals convenience and tastes the recipes often  gets modified. That does not make it a classic anymore, does it?

Many love coconut in the recipe while many ,including my mom, does not worry too much about adding coconut. Some add Ajwain, while others add jeera(cumin). Some like it crisp while others like it chewy.

Taking all these recipes into considerations I finally have my own version here. Finally a Classic recreated!

What we need:

1 cup of rice flour

1/4 cup fine semolina/sooji

2 tbsp Maida

2 tsp cumin

1 big pinch asfoetida

2 tbsp hot oil/melted butter.

salt to taste.

Oil for deep frying.

To grind:

1/4 cup of fresh coconut

10 dry red chillies

Method:

First grind the coconut and chillies into fine powder without adding any water.

then in a wide bowl, combine all the dry ingredients. add the coconut mixture and mix well. do not add any water yet.

Once all the ingredients mix well, add hot oil or butter. mix again. Now the mixture turns into a crumble. now add salt.

Next slowly sprinkle water and start bringing the mixture together into a pilable firm dough consistency. Caution: sprinkle water, gradually.

Once the dough is formed , knead very well for about 5 minutes.

Set aside.

Rolling into rings:

Take a small amount of dough and roll into a small ball on your palm or any flat surface. then slowly roll the ball into a long string . the thickness and length of the string should be like that of a string bean.

Once the string is is formed, roll it inwards to form a ring.

Make several of these rings and keep them on a plate.

Once the oil is hot, deep fry these into a golden brown /darker brown color on a medium flame.

Enjoy them with coffee.

Mixed Vegetable Vaangi Baath

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So, typically, Vaangi baath consists of eggplant. Literally Vaangi means eggplant and Baath means rice. Vaangi Baath = eggplant rice.

But, care for a change?Then insteadof just vaangi, why not add some mixed vegetables and go about preparing the dish as usual.

Here is how

We need:

1 cup of cooked rice,cooled and grains separated.

1 cup of mixed vegetables( carrots, capsicum, peas, green beans)-preferably cut  lengthwise.

2 tbsp oil

1tsp mustard seeds

1tsp urad dhal(black gram dal)

2 red chillies slit

2 tbsp Vaangibaath powder(MTR or ANY brand)

asafoetida-a pinch

Method:

In a wide pan heat oil on medium heat. once hot, add mustard seeds, asafoetida and Urad dal.

When the seeds splutter and urad dal turns red add the red chillies followed by the mixed vegetables. Saute the  veggies until tender on a medium heat. once the vegetables are tender, add  the Vangibaath powder and salt and stir well.

Turn off heat. Finally add the cooled rice and mix well evenly.

Squeeze lemon before serving.

Ajwaini Tadka pulav

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Some of the strong flavors are coming together in this recipe. As the title says, the basic seasoning or the tadka for this pulav is ajwain or the carom seeds,and nothing else!

Typically, the tadka consists of cumin seeds, Hing(asafoetida) turmeric and such. But here, in this recipe I have not added anything except a teaspoon of Ajwain. I could not believe the dens flavor of ajwain once the dish was done.

Now, this dish may not be for all. because, I know, many people hate Ajwain. But for those who Love them, like me, you are in for a treat.

I love ajwain in many cases, like parathas, masala buttermilk, pakodas etc. So here is another dish with Ajwain.

Along with Ajwain, the pulav also have other usual strong flavors of ginger-garlic paste and  garam masala.

What we need:
2 cups of cooked Basmati rice

1 cup of mixed vegetables

1 tomato sliced

1 onion sliced

3 tbsp oil

1 tsp ajwain

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ginger garlic paste

1 tsp red chilli powder

salt.

Ajwain seeds

Method:

In a pan heat oil and add the Ajwain

once ajwain crackles, add the onions, tomatoes and mixed vegetables. Add Ginger garlic paste and saute for few minutes until the raw flavor is gone and then add salt

next add the spices and fry until the oil separates

turn off the flame.

Add the cooked rice to the vegetables and mix well. adjust salt.

Palak Rajmah- Spinach and Kidney Beans.

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Tall cardboard boxes unpacked. Furniture set in place. Suitcases full of clothes slowly making their way into the large closets. All toys found intact, for the girls. The house is set. The kitchen’s got going.

We have moved!

Not very far from Cambridge though. It is the next town literally.we moved to  lexington,Ma.

This is our fifth move in 10 years. and our third move within Boston. All our moves have been for great reasons and have worked out well for us. Touch wood. We moved from NY to Boston for my husband’s Grad school. Once  he finished school, we had our second child, while our first one turned 5.

5 is a big number in USA. we realized! It is the age when the kids start school!!! The official, real life, mainstream, public school.

We have been hearing about the American school system, the public schools, the way it works, the school districts, the registration and all that from the past few years. But  just that , it was not our turn yet. We were just very relaxed and were enjoying our first born girl while watching other friends of ours frantically moving and changing homes and places. All for one reason. GSD! Good school district!

Little did we realize that time flies by so fast. Our daughter is already 5 and now it is our turn to find the GSD.

It is amazing how Kids take up all the priorities in life and suddenly we as parents are thinking everything from their point of view.

We did  our part of research, discussed with friends and neighbors and also paid attention to word of  mouth and we finally settled down for Lexington. Apparently, it is the good school district. We just do not know what it exactly means or what we have to expect from the school or even from our daughter,being in a good school district, here in the US. It is so different from our country, the curriculum, the system, everything.

As much as I am not sure about how this school might work for my daughter, I am  excited about  being introduced to the American system of education. I am curious to see my daughter getting blended and integrated into her school with great diverse set of students  and begin her lifelong journey of education. Starting now, from Kindergarten!

While we wait for the school to start next week and while we settle in our new apartment, I made this wonderful dish in  my new kitchen. It is my first dish in my new place.

PAlAK RAJMAH

This a spectacular combination of beans and greens. Double dose of health in one dish.

This is  a simple twist to the traditional Rajmah masala.

1 cup of cooked kidney beans

2 cups of finely chopped Spinach

1 onion (medium size) finely sliced

3 ripe tomatoes pureed

3-4 green chillis

1 tbsp ginger garlic paste

3 tbsp oil

Spices: 

1 tbsp, good quality Garam masala, 1 tsp red chilli powder, 2 cloves, 1 stick cinnamon,  1tsp turmeric.

salt to taste

Method:

Heat oil in a wide pan. add cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, and green chillis and ginger garlic paste and saute for 10 secs. Next, add onion and fry till they turn translucent

Next, add the chopped spinach and cook until it wilts and becomes soft. Spinach cooks very quickly.

Once the spinach is cooked, add the tomato puree. add salt. turn the flame to low. Cook the tomatoes on a low flame, until the color changes to a bright red and until the oil separates.

Next add the garam masala and red chilli powder and mix well and cook for 5 minutes until the rawness fades. Finally add the cooked Kidney beans. Add some water. Mix well and let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

While simmering, all the flavors blend well and the kidney beans soak up all the flavors from the tomato and the spices.

Turn off flame. Serve with rice or rotis.

Notes: Add water according to the consistency needed. If it tends to get too watery, then simmer for a longer time. Watch out for the salt, specially if you have already cooked the beans with salt. You may add a chunk of butter or heavy cream in the very end, if you please to do so. You may add the same water that you had used to cook the beans to get that rich dark brown color for the dish.

Believe it or not we ate this as a side dish with rice and rasam as we did not have any wheat flour to make rotis.  And yet, it worked out so well.

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