Indian Khana, Made Easy

The word "khana" in Indian Khana Made Easy means food. So come on, let's explore and cook some easy Indian food together including Gluten Free dishes.

June 2, 2021

The Story of Idlis

Growing up every South Indian child remembers eating idli in many different ways. Idli is considered healthy, nutritious, and easy on the tummy (digestion); hence, it’s a friend to both mom and child alike. 



Plain idlis with tomato chutney

Traditionally, idli is made of soaked lentils and rice ground and fermented, and ladles of the dough steamed on Idli plates the next day. Many varieties of idlis are made with lentils and different grains in the 4 to 5 southern states of India; namely Tamil Nadu, Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Telangana. It became so popular that these days you can eat them all over India as well as abroad.


One of my fondest memories of eating idlis (aka steamed spongy white dumplings by westerners) is with sugar and a ton of ghee (clarified butter) drizzled on it for extra flavor. That sounds good right about now! 


After all these years of making Idli, I was intrigued by a news article on Idli in a science magazine that India has developed a recipe for Idli to be enjoyed by their crew in Space. Idli undergoes a technological makeover as a space food; cool for a traditional mundane food!!


Reading this article made me think about how Idli came into existence? What was its history? I immediately sought help from Google. According to food historian K.T. Achaya, Idli probably arrived in India from present-day Indonesia around 800-1200 CE. The region we now call Indonesia was once ruled by Hindu kings of the Shailendra, Isyana, and SaƱjaya dynasties, and cooks accompanying the royals on their visits to India probably brought the recipe along with them. Acharya points out that Indonesian cuisine has a long tradition of consuming fermented and steamed foods, and the Kedli appears to be the closest relative of the Idli. Also supporting the Indonesian origin theory is the close ties between India and Southeast Asia in ancient times, although, with time, the Kedli seems to have disappeared from Indonesian kitchens.

 

However, there’s another twist in the Idli tale. Using references at the Al-Azhar University Library in Cairo, food historian Lizzie Collingham traces the Idli to Arab traders who settled on the South Indian coast in medieval times. According to the Encyclopedia of Food History, edited by Collingham and celebrity chef Gordon Ramsay (Oxford University Press), the Arab settlers insisted on consuming only halal (food and drink permissible by Islamic law) food. They found rice balls as a safe option. These rice balls were slightly flattened and eaten with bland coconut gravy.


 

However, as Acharya pointed out, the process of mixing Urad dal and Rice grains, and fermenting the mixture seemed to be a later innovation even though there weren’t any references to this process being invented at any particular time. 



Regardless of its origin, Idli has become a popular South Indian breakfast item, which is commonly eaten with sambhar and coconut chutney. We enjoy eating idlis with tomato chutney as well as chutney powder (aka gunpowder). 






We hope you enjoyed reading about the Story of Idlis. We will be discussing more on idlis in Part 2, so please stay tuned...

April 27, 2021

Easy Lentil and Veggie Kofta Curry


Lentil and Veggie Kofta Curry

Working from home has become the norm in the last year. It has its advantages because you don't have to commute and you can spend more time with family. The downside is that everyone in my household has been home for school or work and we had to figure out how to work cooperatively. It's been tough but we are working on it. 

One thing is for sure...working from home means more time to cook and experiment. In the beginning, we didn't do take out and cooked mostly at home. We tried to cook meals that weren't too fattening so we don't gain too much weight. 

We are constantly looking for new ingredients and recipes to refresh our meal plan. If you ever dined at IKEA, you'd know that they are known for their "balls" on the menu. Whether it is Swedish meatballs, chicken meatballs, or Veggie balls.  


Frozen Huvudroll Vegetable balls

The picture above is of the Vegetable balls, which are made from pea protein and vegetables. The serving size is 5 balls with 7 grams of protein in each serving.  

We incorporated these veggie balls and made curries; specifically kofta curry. The balls are the koftas so there is minimal preparation of the koftas. The most you have to do is make the gravy for this dish. It's so tasty. We wished we bought more of these Vegetable balls bags so we make this curry again. You won't be disappointed. 

Ingredients

  • 15 frozen Huvudroll Vegetable balls*, microwaved for 1 to 2 minutes
  • 1 cup Crushed tomato (alternately you can use 1/4 cup tomato paste)
  • 1 medium onion, diced and crushed for few pulses
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder (or as per taste)
  • 1 Tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream*
  • 1 cup water (or as needed)
  • 1/2 tsp salt (or as per taste)
  • 1/4 cup Fresh coriander/cilantro, chopped (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp cooking oil (Vegetable, canola, coconut, or as per taste)
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/4 tsp sugar


Procedure

1) Heat oil in a saucepan or a saute pan on medium heat. Add cumin seeds and when cumin sizzles, add crushed onion and stir fry it until transparent. Now, add chili powder and stir for about 10 seconds. Next, add ginger-garlic paste and garam masala. Stir again for another 30 seconds. Follow up with crushed tomato (or paste) and sugar. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. 






2) Add the vegetable balls into the gravy and cook under a closed lid for 2 to 3 minutes to allow the balls to soften and absorb some spices.  Now, add water and salt, mix into the gravy and bring the curry to boil, mix in the heavy cream and cook for another couple of minutes. 



3) Remove from stove, transfer into the serving bowl and garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve hot with naan, roti, rice, or quinoa. 




Quick Tips
  • You can substitute heavy cream with coconut cream, nut cream, or evaporated milk. Please note that the consistency may be a little different depending on what you use.
  •  You can substitute the Huvudroll with other vegetable balls if there isn't an IKEA close by. Check out our other kofta curry recipe