Monday, December 29, 2008

Aloo Paratha and Aloo ka Mattar

So a couple of nights ago I made my first rotis. I was surprised at how incredibly easy it was! I was motivated to make them because I brought a dozen back from the States, and we discovered that my boyfriend really likes them. The thought occurred to me: "He's gonna eat all my rotis. I'm not going to have any left!"

And so, even though I'd always been intimidated in the past at the idea of making my own, I did so.

They came out ok. I decided to use only wheat flour and water, so they were a little brittle and definitely could've used some salt. But they made me brave, by coming out ok and tasting decent. Thus, tonight I felt up to making something a step up: aloo paratha.

This is a roti, basically, with spiced potatoes mixed into the dough before it's cooked. And lucky everyone, today I'll basically be posting 4 recipes: basic spiced potatoes, Aloo ka Mattar, basic roti dough, and Aloo Paratha.

First I made the spiced potatoes.

Spiced Potatoes
(I used 1/2 for the paratha, 1/2 for dinner):


4 small potatoes
1 t cumin seed
1 t black mustard seed
1 chili
1 t tumeric
1 t cumin ground
1 t coriander ground
salt to taste
1 t chopped ginger
1 clove garlic chopped
1 small onion chopped
2-3 T oil (I used sunflower)
Fresh cilantro (1 handful)


Cut the potatoes into cubes, peeling if desired. Boil the potatoes till very soft (soft enough to mash). Drain and set aside for the moment. In a pan, heat the oil, and sautee the onions. When they become translucent, add the chili, ginger and garlic. Stir, sautee a little less than a minute. Now push all the stuff in the pan to one side, and let the oil pool on the other side. I like to position the pan such that the oil side is over the flame/heating element and the onions etc. side is cooler. Dump the spices into the pool of hot oil. You should be able to hear them cooking, and smell them becoming fragrant. Cook for about 30 seconds, then stir everything together in the pan. Add in the potatoes and stir well, mashing with a wooden spoon as you do it. Chop the cilantro, and mix it in too. You can now turn off the heat and salt to taste. Reserve a little less than 1/2, about 1/3 for the paratha. The rest you can eat, or you can make more paratha dough and use it all. I used the remaining to make aloo ka mattar (potatoes with peas), recipe to follow. Or you could just eat this by itself! Or use it to stuff samosas ... hm, that sounds like a future post! ;-)

Aloo ka Mattar


Spiced Potatoes from above (you can use a portion, or all of them. I used about 2/3.)
1/2 a medium sized tomato
1 c frozen green peas
1 T oil (I used sunflower)
Salt to taste


Heat the oil in a pan. Chop the tomato. When the oil is hot, drop the tomato in it. It will sizzle and make the skin wrinkle. When the tomatoes begin to get soft, add the peas and the potatoes. Stir all together. You may have to add more salt to taste. We ate this with fried eggs, it was tasty.

Just before we ate, I prepared the basic roti dough, so it could rest during dinner:

Basic Roti Dough


1/2 c whole wheat flour
1/2 c white wheat flour (all purpose flour)
Sprinkling of salt
Drizzling (about 2 t) of vegetable oil
water (no specific amount, depends)


Put the flours in a bowl with the salt. Mix well. Drizzle the oil uniformly, then begin to pour in water into the center of the mound of flour a little at a time, stirring as you pour it, stirring from the inside out. It will be sticky on your hand at first, stir in more of the flour. If there's not enough water it'll be crumbly. Add water, stirring/mixing the dough with your hand until it's not sticky, but not crumbly. You should have a silky ball of dough. Knead it a bit. The dough should start to spring back when you lightly push it with your finger. Let it sit in the bowl covered with a damp towel for 30 minutes at least. This isn't to make it rise like other breads, but to make sure the flours absorb the water. This is the basic dough! This can probably make about 6-8 rotis. To make them, split the dough into balls of equal size. Roll out with a rolling pin until they're about 8 inches in diameter. I do this one at a time. When I have the first rolled out, I put it on a very hot pan. I just use a large concave non-stick skillet (kinda wok-like, but not as sharply sloped at the sides). The roti will start to puff, which is fine. When brown spots start to appear on the bottom, flip the roti and cook the other side (about a couple of minutes each side). When it was cooking, I usually roll out the next one, so it's ready to go into the pan when the other one comes out. The one that's ready I put on a plate, and smear all over with butter (helps make it tasty and pliable). Continue till done.

Aloo Paratha


Spiced Potatoes from above
Basic Roti Dough from above
extra flour, about 1/2 to 1 c


Take your big ball of roti dough, roll it out into a big circle. Sprinkle a bit of flour, add the potatoes in the center, sprinkle a bit more flour, then fold the dough over the potatoes, closing the ball up well. Now roll the whole thing out again, as before, this will well distribute the potatoes. They are wet, though, and will make the dough a bit more sticky, so add flour to it as needed, to make it silky, not sticky, in texture again. Roll it into a ball. Now you have a ball of dough with potatoes well mixed in. Separate into 8 equally sized balls. Heat a pan, as described above for rotis. Roll out one ball at a time, you will need to dust the board and the ball itself with flour, likely. Roll till 6-8 inches in diameter, place in the hot pan, and cook both sides as directed above. Transfer to plate when finished and spread each side with butter.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: The parathas came out really well. I like the mix of whole wheat and white flours. You may use more white flour, or all white flour if you like for rotis, but parathas really benefit from the whole wheat. I think it's good, because they're traditionally a travel food, so they should provide tons of nutrients! You can eat them with some yogurt, or a raita, or by themselves. Rotis are better for curries and dhals because they're plain and don't distract from the flavor of the dish. Adding some fat (oil) to the roti dough makes them pliable, I find. I like my breads not very salty, but my boyfriend wants me to add more salt next time. To each their own, I guess. Rotis are also delicious with butter and sugar, or dipped in mango puree that's been mixed with some whole milk. That is a great breakfast! (So is roti crisped up a bit in the toaster or a skillet, served with eggs!)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Sour Cherry Rice

Tonight I made this rice in an attempt to duplicate one of my favorites from a Persian restaurant in Dallas. It came out really tasty, but it just needed a little more lemon juice and some chopped fresh dill added in at the end. But I'm posting what I did:

Sour Cherry Rice

Main Ingredients:

1/2 glass of uncooked white basmati rice (about 1/4 c)
1 glass water (important ratio is 2 parts water to 1 part rice)
about 1/4 c (a small handful) of dried sour cherries (I get mine at Whole Foods in the bulk foods aisle)
one VERY small onion (or about 1/2 of a regularly small one)
1 clove of garlic
Salt to taste
1 T oil (I used sunflower seed oil)
Squeeze of lemon


1 black cardamom pod
2 small green cardamom pods
2 whole peppercorns
1 "petal" of a star anise
1 small bay leaf
2 whole gloves
1 tsp. of cumin seeds


Wash the rice well, then set it aside. Have the water ready to pour into your saucepan. In the saucepan, warm the oil. When it shimmers, add the onion, chopped, fry till golden brown (careful not to burn!) and stir in the garlic, minced. Push the onion-garlic mix to one edge of the pot, and let the oil pool on the other side. Add the spices (except bay leaf) into the oil. The oil should be hot enough that you can hear a quiet sizzle. Once you can smell the fragrance of the spices (about 30 seconds), stir everything in the pot together, add the rice, let the whole thing lightly fry for another 30 seconds or so, and then add the water, cherries and bay leaf, salt and a squeeze of lemon. Let the rice gently boil until it's just almost dry, then remove from heat and let sit covered for about 10 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork. If your rice is still a little too wet, you can pop it in the microwave for a few minutes, or gently cook it on the stove, stirring, until it's drier.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: I thought this was really tasty, and a good approximation of the rice at the restaurant. Theirs is a little drier and fluffier than mine came out, and also less pink (from the cherries). Probably they add the cherries in just at the end, and they get kind of plumped from the steaming rice, but aren't cooking with it. Chopped fresh dill would've been great, but I didn't have any.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cheap but Good: Convenience Food Make-Overs

I generally try to cook things from scratch, but being a busy college student, sometimes I need to open a box and have a meal ready in 20 minutes or less. Usually--for myself and others in the same position--that means something like Ramen noodles, mac and cheese, or canned soups. That's also because these items aren't really very expensive; but there's a way to make them even cheaper, tastier and better for you.

The solution is really simple: add a bunch of other stuff, and by "stuff" I mean veggies. If you choose the right ones, it's cheap, and it makes more food so you get more leftovers, and hence more meal for your money.

Some ideas:

For mac and cheese, I like to mix in an equal amount of cooked frozen peas. I love frozen peas, so I buy a huge bag of them and it's very inexpensive. By doing this, I double the volume of the meal for much less money. I don't find that I need any extra cheese sauce, but if you do, then try stirring in a couple of tablespoons of sour cream.

For Ramen, there are a lot of options. Again, I often add the peas. :-) But thinly sliced cabbage is also very good. Cabbage is definitely not an expensive vegetable, and slicing it very thin means it cooks quickly. One of my favorite ways to enhance Ramen: I start with my favorite flavor, Beef and Black Pepper (I think beef flavor works best for this particular flavor combo). I put the water in the pot, add the cabbage, a few mushrooms and an onion also thinly sliced. I stir in the seasoning packet. I let the water come to a simmer. You'll need to use more water than usual if you want to maintain the same soup consistency, because you're going to be increasing the amount of "stuff" in the pot. If you prefer soup with less broth, maybe you don't need to adjust. When the cabbage is just soft (about 10 mins) bring the water to a boil, and then add the noodles and about a cup of frozen peas. Give it a stir, then turn off the heat. I don't like the noodles overcooked, so I let them sit there for 3 mins before eating. Usually just the seasoning packet isn't enough. I add extra salt, pepper, maybe a little soy and chili sauce. But I get easily 3 times the amount of food from one soup packet.

For canned soups (although making your own is cheap, tasty and fun, it's not really fast) you can add extra veggies, cooked rice or noodles, and then keep it's consistency by adding broth or water.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Beet Raita (Shakunder ka Raita)

This is a tasty yogurt salad that's a nice twist on the classic cucumber raita. If fresh cucumber and beet isn't available in the winter time, skip the cucumber and use canned beets.

Shakunder ka Raita


1/2 English cucmber
1 small onion
2 small beets
1/2 c plain yogurt
small bunch fresh cilantro
1/2 t ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste


If using fresh beets, boil them until tender, and then rinse under cool water, peeling the skins off. Allow them to cool completely. Cut them into circles and then cut the circles into half. If using canned beets, drain them well, and (they usually come already in circles) cut into half moons. Cut the cucumber into half moons (slice into rounds and cut into half). Slice onion into thin semi-rings. I think it's nice texture-wise if everything is kind of the same shape. Whisk together the yogurt, the cumin and the fresh cilantro (chopped). Stir in the vegetables, and then salt and pepper to taste. The beet will turn the raita a lovely pink color.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: This salad (like all raitas) for me is especially good in the summer time with kabobs straight of the grill. But since the yogurt is so cooling and soothing, this is a perfect side dish for any spicy curry, or biryani, or even for something non-Indian, like plain grilled meats (or baked meats, or pan fried). If you want the raita to be spicier, then you can add a chopped serrano chili.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cheap but Good: Canned Tomatoes

This post is early because I'll be very busy with work the next couple days, but I have some time now.

Let's start by acknowledging this: I love a delicious, fresh tomato--in the summertime. They never taste as good in the winter, that's my main complaint, but they're also (usually) much more expensive! This July I was paying 2.95 euro a kilo for some of the most gorgeous tomatoes I've ever seen in a store, in a bounty of varieties. Now the price is closer to 5 euros a kilo, and for tasteless, dull, homogeneous light red orbs.

That's in France: I'm back in the states for a week, and I noticed that here the price is more consistent. I haven't actually tried one of these winter tomatoes yet, but I remember from my time living here that they were not good.

So what to do? Many recipes that may otherwise be cost-efficient, like pastas with sauces, and various soups, require some amount of tomato, and are perfect for wintertime.

My solution is to substitute canned tomato products. Tomato juice, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, whole peeled tomatoes--all these have been starring in my winter cooking. If you keep your eyes open for them, you can sometimes find a really good deal, too. I bought recently about five 765 g cans of peeled whole Italian tomatoes; they were on sale for 82 euro cents a piece! I use these in the following dishes on the site:

Sweet and Sour Schi
Eggplant Dhal
Cheese Fondue (They're not in the posted recipe, but adding one or two chopped tomatoes to cheese fondue can be very tasty.)
Borsch (Uses tomato paste, in the recipe I posted. I've before used chopped canned tomato or crushed tomato when I didn't have paste. Or you can use a combo of both.)

Some other applications that I haven't posted (yet):

-Many other soups, including plain, simple and tasty tomato soup
-Meat curries
-Tomato Sauce for Pasta

I would say that you can safely replace fresh tomato for canned in any recipe that will actually cook the tomato. Some things, which call for the fruit to be eaten raw, are better saved for summer. It leaves something to look forward to, don't you think?

Monday, December 15, 2008


I made a big batch of this tasty Russian beet soup before I left, and left it in the fridge for the boyfriend. The way to a man's heart is through his stomach, isn't it? :-) Every cook has his/her own version of this, so don't be afraid to try someone else's! Mine's quite basic, but I love it anyway. And so does someone else!



*For stock:
*2 beef short ribs
*1 onion
*1 carrot
*bay leaf

1/4 small head of cabbage
3 small potatoes
1 carrot
3 small cooked beets
sunflower oil and butter for frying (a tablespoon or two of each)
1 tablespoon of sugar
1 tablespoon of vinegar
2-3 tablespoons tomato paste (I use roughly somewhere between the two)
salt to taste


*Start by making stock. I use my handy 3 quart pot for this (and for everything). Use a bigger one if you want more stock; I end up with about 2 quarts of quite rich stock. Place the ribs your pot with an onion peeled and halved, a carrot halved and a bay leaf. Add water (I add as much as my pot will take) and bring to a boil, then simmer for 2 to 3 hours, or until meat is soft. Fish out the onion and discard; fish out the carrot and eat it. :-) Remove the meat; take it off the bones and cube it, removing any huge globs of fat. Salt the broth to taste.*

If you already have stock, begin to warm it. For veggies, start with the cabbage; shred it. Cut the potatoes into 1/2 inch cubes (I peel them first). Bring the stock up to a boil, then add the cabbage and potatoes. Grate the carrot and beets. 20 minutes after the cabbage and potatoes were added to the stock, melt the butter in a frying pan and fry the beets. You can add broth from the pot if it's too dry. After the beets sautee about 10 minutes, add the sunflower oil and carrots (my boyfriend's mom fries them separately, carrots in oil, beets in butter. I mix it all together and it's fine). Sautee another 10 minutes. Now add the tomato paste and the sugar and vinegar (I stir them together first in a small glass). Stir well and sautee another few minutes. NOTE: If at any point during the sauteeing the mixture is too dry and may burn, add stock! Now, add the mixture in the frying pan to the pot with cabbage and potatoes and stock. Also add the cubed meat. Let it all cook together for a few minutes, then taste and add salt as needed.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: the best way to serve this is with a generous dollop of sour cream, and chopped dill and parsley scattered over the top! Also have some rye bread on the side. Delicious! You can make the stock beforehand; if you want to take the fat from the stock, just put it in the fridge overnight. The fat will rise and solidify and you can just scoop it off the next day. My boyfriend would be horrified if I did this, though. :-) You can play with the flavor by adding more/less vinegar and/or sugar; I find that the amount listed here works pretty well. You can also use lemon juice instead of vinegar, and experiment with adding a mix of crushed tomatoes, or chopped tomato, and tomato paste. For vegetarian borsch, leave out the meat and use a vegetable stock. For fast borsch, you can use boxed stock (I've used chicken with decent results) and just follow all the directions (except you won't have meat).

Food in America

So, it isn't a recipe, but this is a food related post.

I came back home (to the States) for a visit starting on Thursday, after having lived in France for the past 7 months. French food is DELICIOUS, but naturally, there were some American foods that I missed. Surprisingly, a lot of them are fast food/restaurant food, which I never ate very often at all when I actually lived here.

I came here with a list of foods to buy and bring back, and a list of restaurants I wanted to go to. Now, after just being here a few days, several are crossed off, not because I've gone there and eaten the food/bought it, but because I've realized that my palate has changed and there are certain things that I don't want anymore. Also there are certain things (peanut butter and marshmallows, brownies) that I've been able to find or recreate in France in the past couple of weeks.

Here's what I've eaten so far being here, and what I've thought about it:

-Thursday: A reuben sandwich in Newark airport. It was great, but I had to take half the cheese off of it. The fries were disgusting! They were so different from the crispy French ones I'm used to now; they were so doughy!

-Friday Lunch: I had some refried black beans that I made, and some microwaved plantains (Goya brand). They satisfied most of my craving for Mexican/Latin American food.
-Friday Dinner: We went to an Indian chaat place. I had some pani puri, some dahi wada, some masala dhosa, and for dessert, gajar halva and rasgulla. The dessert was ok. The pani puri and dhosa were dissapointing, the dahi wada was the best dish (yogurt was good, the wadas were not). It was something I had been CRAVING, but I realize now that after India, no chaat in America will ever compare. A dissapointing realization.

-Saturday Lunch: We went to a new Vietnamese restaurant. I had very decent eggrolls and spring rolls, and the best pho I've ever eaten!
-Saturday Dinner: It was a religious holiday at my dad's mosque. I am no longer an observant muslim, so I didn't attend, but I joined my family afterward for the food (at my dad's request, I'm not freeloading here). It was biryani made with mutton or goat (I think mutton), and a really tasty salad (yogurt, beets, onion, cucumber and cilantro). The cake afterwards was tasty, just white cake layered with cream and fruit. The beverage was milk with tapioca pearls and rooh afza (sharbat). The sharbat was fantastic, as was the salad and cake. The biryani was ok. My portion had too much masala, not enough rice. The mutton was fatty and mostly bones.

-Sunday Dinner: My dad made steak, and my mom made mashed sweet potatoes, sauteed spinach and sauteed mushrooms. I feel bad saying it ... but tonight was when I realized I've become a much better cook than my parents. Things were mostly poorly seasoned and overcooked. :-( Sorry parents!

Things still to eat on my list: some good tex-mex, some more southwestern mexican food, my favorite thai restaurant, chik-fil-a, a burger from this place by my university, some lemon-chicken soup from this one Greek restaurant, sushi from my favorite sushi place and this one Persian restaurant. Out of all of them ... I think that only the sushi and the Greek place, maybe the tex-mex, will be disappointing. I've taken a few things off my list: Quizno's and Subway (which for some reason I was craving), several things that Mom makes that I can now make too. I think there were others, but I already deleted those so I don't remember!

In general I think the food in France is much better quality. I bought expensive organic eggs here, and they don't compare in color or taste to the cheapest ones in France. But there are some things that just AREN'T in France, like good cheddar cheese. I had a cheddar cheese pretzel today and it was great. Only in America: German pretzel, English cheese. :-)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cheap but Good: Chana

This is a very easy Indian recipe. It's perfect for winter: warming, cheap, good the next day, hearty. It's nice and spicy too!



1 large can garbanzo beans
2 small onions or 1 large one
1 t cayenne pepper
1 T chili powder
1 T cumin
2-4 T oil
about 5 cups of water
salt to taste


Open your garbanzo beans, and drain them and rinse them well. Set aside. Sautee chopped onion in about 2 T of the oil. Let them get really nice and brown (but not burned). If you don't let them caramelize, this will have almost no flavor. So be patient. When they're ready, push them to one side of your pot. Pool the oil on the other side by tilting the pot a little. You may need to add a bit more oil if the onions have soaked almost all of it up. Ok, put the pot back on the burner now, and dump your spices into the oil pool (not on the onions). Let them fry for about 30 seconds, and then stir everything in the pot together. Dump the beans into the pot, and stir them well. Let that cook for about a minute, then add the water. Allow it to come to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes. It can cook longer if you want, but should cook at least 30 minutes for nice soft beans. Add salt to taste. You can also add a bay leaf when you add the water.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: This is perfect with a loaf of French bread ... soft on the inside, crusty on the outside. And soup + bread makes for a pretty darn cheap meal. To make the soup more or less spicy, you can change the amount of spices in it. The important thing is the ratio: 1 part cayenne pepper to 3 parts chili powder and 3 parts cumin (ground).

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Cheap but Good: Don't buy flavored yogurt!

I'm always kind of wary about buying things that come in portable, individual packages, when I have several small plastic containers at home. I also don't like to buy flavored stuff if there's a plain option available, unless there's a flavor I really like.

So, I don't ever buy flavored yogurts. Instead, I buy a 1 kilo tub of delicious plain yogurt, and take it to work in a small 1 cup container. I can make it taste different by adding nuts, honey, dried fruits, or fruit jams/jellies. These are things that I have on hand anyway, for snacking and breakfast.

This is also great because then I can use the yogurt in savory applications. I can serve it with rice and dhal, or make a sauce to go with kebabs. I can use it in a salad. If I had bought vanilla or strawberry, I couldn't, and would have to buy twice as much--one plain, one flavored. This would make a lot of it go to waste.

When I was in the States, I compared the prices of individual cups of yogurt, and the plain ones were 10 cents per cup cheaper! Besides that, in the large (cheaper) tubs the available flavors are usually only plain or vanilla.

So, I don't buy flavored, or individual cups, of yogurt. The only exception for this is that I sometimes treat myself to cups of Wallaby Mango Lime flavored. It's so good, and the consistency is more like kefir.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Spicy Eggplant Rolls

These are a really tasty and simple appetizer. I had them in Ukraine this summer at someone's dacha (countryside home).

Spicy Eggplant Rolls


1 eggplant
1 T oil
1/4 c flour
sprinkling of salt
1 tomato
1 bunch of parsley
2 cloves of garlic
2 T mayonnaise


Cut the eggplant into long thin strips. I do this by cutting it top to bottom in half, and then each half into half (top to bottom again), progressively until I have eggplant slices (cross sections of the whole veggie) that are about 1/4" thin. I then cut those in half to make 2 strips from each cross section. Sprinkle with salt on each side, and toss in a plastic bag with the flour so it coats them lightly. Pan fry the strips in the oil on medium-high heat until soft and golden brown on both sides. Set aside on paper towels to drain and cool slightly. Dice the garlic finely, and cut the tomato into strips that are about the same length as the width of the eggplant strips. Rough chop the parsley. To make the rolls, take a fried eggplant strip, spread with a little mayo, sprinkle a little of the garlic over that. Put a couple of the tomato pieces at one end, then roll up. Stand it up like it's a piece of sushi, then sprinkle parsley over the top. Complete procedure for all eggplant strips.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: For thicker slices of eggplant, you may need to use a toothpick to keep them rolled up. For thinner slices (or if you can cram a bunch of rolls into a bowl) it's not necessary. These are really tasty, they're kind of a summer food, which I'm missing. They were so good on a hot summer day, eating in the backyard of a house near the sea.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Pumpkin Pie and Thanksgiving Report

Saturday Thanksgiving was a great success. The turkey legs came out awesome! Actually, everything came out really good. Here's the basic report:

Turkey legs: Rubbed the outside with butter, put butter and homemade poultry seasoning under the skin, cut slits into the flesh and stuffed chunks of celery in there. When 1/2 an hour of baking time was left, made a huge mound of stuffing between the legs and baked some more. Link to recipe
Stuffing: Sauteed 1 white onion, 1 red onion, 2 ribs of celery in a ton of butter. Added a melange of mushrooms, a mix called forestiere that is popular in France. They were frozen and the juice from them smelled great. Added cubes of bread from a baguette, some poultry seasoning and one beaten egg.
Apple Cake: Link to recipe
Mashed potatoes: Boyfriend took care of this. They were GOOOOD. He mashes them with onions sauteed in oil and lots of cream, salt and pepper.
Glazed sweet potatoes: Used a recipe that comes out of the Betty Crocker cookbook. My mom's been making it for years. Sweet potatoes in an orange juice glaze. REALLY good. Found a really similar recipe online. Link to recipe
Cranberry sauce: It's crazy expensive here, so we used lingonberry jam from IKEA. Just as good!
Gravy: Skipped it because we couldn't wait to eat! Spooned the juices over turkey and potatoes instead. Didn't miss it.***UPDATE:*** Made gravy the next day using leftover pan drippings, flour and milk. BF was sorry he wasn't patient the day before!
Pumpkin Pie: recipe follows.

My family came to visit me here in August, and my mom brought two 15 oz cans of pumpkin specifically for the Holidays. :-) She's a cool mom. People here do eat pumpkin, but I've only seen it as a savory side dish, and I prefer my pumpkin with at least some sweetness. My mom always buys the Libby brand canned pumpkin, or the canned pumpkin pie mix (already is sweetened and has some spices in it). She also always uses the Libby recipe on the back. The pumpkin she brought with here was a different brand (not that it matters), and I didn't look up a recipe before cooking because I figured it would be on the can as it always is. When I started cooking today, I made the pie and cake first (pie before cake). When I read the recipe I realized that it was different than the one I was used to, but decided to give it a try. I'm glad there happened to be a can of sweetened condensed milk around! I hadn't been planning on using it.

Pumpkin Pie


1 15 oz can of pumpkin puree
1 14 oz can of sweetened condensed milk
1/2 t cinnamon ground
1/2 t nutmeg ground
1/4 t ground clove
1/4 t ground ginger
1/2 t salt
2 slightly beaten eggs
1 9" deep dish pie crust


Mix pumpkin with the spices. Add all other ingredients. Pour into pie shell. Bake at 425 Fahrenheit for 15 minutes. Lower heat to 350 Fahrenheit and bake for 30-40 more minutes.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: I made mine without the pie crust. I'm weird, but I hate pie crust, so I didn't feel like making it. I cooked this in a nonstick pan, and the sugar in the pie made the bottom just slightly caramelized, so it was kind of like a crust anyway. I had to add about double the spices though, except for salt; I really like to taste them! (The recipe presented is what was on the can). The recipe mom has always used takes sugar and evaporated milk. I thought this was so much simpler, faster and tasted great! The pie will be puffy when you take it out, but then it will fall. It's really a more typically custardy pie than the usual recipe, not only does it have a "crust" on the bottom from caramelized sugar, there is one on the top, too. I loved this pie and was really happy with it. The only thing I was missing was whipped cream! Then it would have been perfect.

Thursday, November 27, 2008


Today is American Thanksgiving! Canadian one was last month. ;-) I'm planning on cooking it on Saturday though, or Sunday, since I don't get today or tomorrow off. It's not a holiday here, after all.

We'll have roasted turkey legs, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, stuffing, gravy, pumpkin pie, and apple cake.

I hope I can cook it all ...

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Cheap but Good: Tuna Salad with Rice and Corn

This is a really tasty salad, and it's very filling, too. I use tuna packed in oil, because I ALWAYS use tuna packed in oil. I find it much more flavorful.

Tuna Salad with Rice and Corn


1 can of tuna packed in oil, 160 gram can
1 can of corn, 300 gram can
2 cups of cooked white rice (I prefer long grain)
2 hard boiled eggs
Salt and Pepper


The rice should not be hot, warm is fine, or room temperature. Cold is fine too, but I prefer it warm or room temp. This is a perfect use for leftover rice! Combine the rice with the (drained) corn and the (undrained) tuna. I guess if you're really watching your fat grams or whatever you could toss the oil from the tuna, but it seems like such a waste! :-) Roughly chop the hard cooked eggs and add them to the bowl. Stir everything together well, salt and pepper to taste.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: You can also add chopped fresh herbs, or dried ones, like parsley or dill. I hear thyme is tasty with corn. I don't eat a whole lot, so for me a small plateful of this is a complete dinner. If you're compelled to have something green in there, I'd stir in some peas or some baby spinach (that sounds really good). My boyfriend also considers this as a complete meal, but he needs about 3 times more than I do, and he *always* has to have bread. With anything. :-)

****Cost and Nutritional Analysis coming soon!!!!!****

Monday, November 24, 2008


Sharlotka is a delicious Russian apple cake. I made it last night because we ended up buying 6 kilos of apples yesterday. I love apples, and it's apple season ... there are several varieties in the stores here. We went to the grocery store today (along with everyone else in the village, it seems) and I saw a 3 kilogram box of a type I know I like. I bought them, despite my boyfriend was whining at me not to. He's been saying he knows of a guy right by our apartment, who sells apples, onions and potatoes in bulk. But, he's been saying it for weeks, and we haven't actually gone there, so I bought my apples. After the grocery store, we walked by this place he knew about, just to see, we didn't think it was open because it was Sunday. But it was! So we got some gorgeous onions, a mix of white and red, and 3 kilos of different tasty apples. The guy let us try a bunch, too. We already had about a pound of apples at home, so now I've got to think of what to do with nearly 15 lbs of the things. Step one: Sharlotka. I love it because it's so simple and good. There are very few ingredients, and the numbers are easy to remember.

Apple Sharlotka


3 apples, tart kind best
3 large eggs
1 c sugar
1 c flour + a bit for dusting
oil to grease pan


Core and slice the apples thinly. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (180 C), on my oven this is gas mark 6. Crack the eggs into a bowl, beat with the sugar. Add the flour, stir until flour is incorporated, then beat a bit until the mix is nice and smooth. Grease a cake pan with a bit of oil, then dust flour all over to prevent sticking. Arrange apple slices in a thin layer on the bottom of the pan, and pour the batter over (it'll be kind of thick). You can do more than one layer if you like. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Allow to cool, and then remove from pan. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serving Suggestion: This is a really yummy cake. I like it for breakfast sometimes, or with tea.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Stuffed Trout

Whole trout was on sale last week, and so I made this tasty dish. My boyfriend loved the rice stuffing.

Stuffed Trout


2 whole trout prepared for cooking (scales off, insides out)
1 lemon
1/2 c chopped herbs (I used a mix of parsley, dill and tarragon)
olive oil (enough to drizzle)
1 T butter unsalted
6 medium white mushrooms
2 c cooked white rice
1 small onion
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. On the stovetop, prepare the stuffing. Melt the butter in a pan, and when it is melted add the onion, chopped. Sautee until it's soft, then add diced garlic and chopped mushrooms. Sprinkle with salt and sautee gently; there's nothing worse than burnt garlic. While the veggies cook, place the fish in a shallow baking dish. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the inside and outside of the fish. When the mushrooms are soft, add the rice and 3/4 of the herbs to your pan of stuffing. Mix thoroughly, the herbs will start to wilt. Remove from the heat. Fill the fish with the rice stuffing and lemon slices (about 4 slices each fish). You can put extra stuffing in the baking dish surrounding the fish, or you can just save it to serve at a different meal. Drizzle olive oil over the fish and rice, sprinkle the remaining herbs over the fish and top each one with two more lemon slices. Put the pan in the oven on a middle rack. The time will depend on how big/small your fish are. Mine took about 18 minutes (I was cooking 4, I don't know if that affects the time). The best strategy is to check frequently; take it out when it looks not very done and then let it rest for five minutes. I said there's nothing worse than burnt garlic, but I think that's not really true: there's nothing worse than dry, overcooked fish.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: I didn't think I could eat one whole fish by myself, but I was wrong! Trout aren't very big, so I would assume 1 per person. There's about 1/2 c of stuffing in each one. I think that 1 stuffed trout is a pretty complete meal. The extra stuffing in the pan gets all the juices from the fish, the oil, and the lemon, so it's really tasty. This meal was also fast; the fish took about 20 minutes to cook including some rest time, and the stuffing didn't take even 10 minutes.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Cheap but Good: Buy plain oatmeal in bulk!

I love to have oatmeal for breakfast, a hearty snack, or even for a light dinner on a cold winter night. But I hate buying those little pre-made packets. Why? For me it just doesn't make sense. I don't like the extra packaging, most of them have too much sugar for my taste, and the ones using simple, natural ingredients can be pretty expensive!

But buying a large container of instant oats is definitely not expensive.

I like to do just that. The oats can be combined with other things that I already regularly buy to make many varieties of tasty oatmeal. Ideas for things to put in your oatmeal: almonds, dried fruit, hot cocoa powder, honey, ground spices, milk, other nuts, peanut butter, molasses, jam, applesauce or sliced apples.

In all cases I use 1/3 c of dry instant oats. I add the ingredients I want (except wet ones like milk, molasses, jam or honey) and then add enough boiling water to just cover the mixture. Stir, and cover the bowl using a plate or a pot lid. Let it sit for about 3 minutes, stir, and add your wet flavorings (or a little more water if you don't want any wet flavorings). If the oatmeal is too thick, add hot water a tiny bit at a time, stirring as you go.

Some of my favorite combinations:

-About 10 dried sour cherries, 10 almonds, 1/2 t ground cardamom, 1 t sugar/honey/molasses, 1 T milk
-A generous dash of cinnamon, 1 T milk, 1 T honey
-15 raisins, 4 crumbled walnut or pecan halves, 1 t hot cocoa powder, 1t sugar
-1 t peanut butter, 1 t molasses, 1 T milk

This really is just as fast as opening a package. I don't know if you'll save money if you're currently buying the cheapest oatmeal out there. But if you're buying one that is high quality and has natural ingredients (like I was), this will probably be a more cost-effective option for you, especially since you probably have many of these things on hand for snacking or cooking/baking. In fact, it can help you use up things that you otherwise wouldn't! Maybe you have a jar of pumpkin pie spice from holiday baking, but you never use it the rest of the year. You can put it in your oatmeal! Maybe there's a banana that's all mushy inside, and you don't really want to eat it on it's own. It's also perfect for oatmeal. What I like best about this, and another thing that makes it money saving, is that it doesn't leave me with a bunch of flavors I don't like or eat. When I used to buy the packets, I had to buy a combination box to get the one or two flavors I like, and the rest I hated, so those would go to waste! Plus, if you have plain oatmeal in bulk, you can combine it into breads, muffins or cookies. You can even coat chicken breasts with it to make an easy fried chicken.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Tamago: Japanese Omelette

I think this omlette is so pretty and different!



6 eggs
1 T soy sauce
1 T mirin (very sweet rice wine)
1 T rice wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic
2 pickled hot peppers (optional)
note: can substitute 2 T white wine for the mirin and vinegar
a fairly large pan, something like a non-stick griddle is best (I use a crepe pan)
a little bit of oil to grease the pan.


Mince the garlic cloves very finely, and slice the peppers into very thin rings. Beat all the ingredients together as you would for an omelette. I use this method for greasing the pan: dip a sort of balled-up paper towel into about a tablespoon of oil. Wipe the towel on the surface of the pan, which you should heat to medium/high level. When it's hot, spread a very thin layer of the mixture on the pan. When the egg is pretty set, roll the omelette. begin with the edge closest to you and roll it up like you would a rug. You'll end up with a log on the side of the pan away from you. Now, wipe the pan again with the towel, and spread another layer of egg mixture, keeping your log where it is. The new egg mixture will sort of flow under the log and stick to it. That's good. When the second layer is pretty set, roll the log towards you. The new layer will be incorporated, and you'll have a thicker log on the side of the pan closest to you. Repeat the process as many times as you can. You may have to alternate the heat between medium and medium/high to keep the omelette from burning. The recipe will give you about 6 to 7 layers. When you have the finished log, cut it into equal pieces. I like to do this by cutting the log in half, and then cutting each half in half, and so on, until I have 8 pieces about 1 inch in thickness.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: These are really pretty on a plate, I think they look like the rings in tree stumps, you know, the ones that tell you how old the tree is. You can serve them with stir fried veggies, cooked rice, or a simple clear soup. They have an interesting yet familiar taste, and I like to add the sliced hot pepper. It adds just the right amount of heat.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Cheese Fondue

I absolutely love cheese fondue! I like meat fondue too, but something about the taste and the smell of the cheese combined with the alcohol drives me crazy. It's traditional to the Rhone-Alps (and some other) regions of France and to Switzerland.

Cheese Fondue


1/2 Gruyere, shredded
3 c Emmental/Swiss, shredded
1/2 Comte
1 shot cognac
1/2 c white wine
2 cloves garlic
2 T flour or cornstarch
2 t lemon juice


Peel the garlic and chop it very finely. Warm the garlic and wine together in a pot you'll use for the fondue (non-stick is best). In a small bowl, mix the flour well with the lemon juice and a bit of the warmed wine until it's smooth. When the wine starts to boil, turn the heat to medium/low and add the shredded cheeses, stirring. When the cheese becomes melty, stir in the flour/starch mixture and continue to stir. It'll help make the mixture smooth. When the mixture is smooth, stir in the cognac. It's ready to serve now.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: You have to keep this warm. If you have some way of suspending your pot over a tea light or two, that works. Traditionally you dip slightly stale cubes of bread or pieces of baked potato into the cheese and eat a piece at a time. Dipping vegetables and apple chunks is also really tasty. You could also pour this as a sauce over asparagus, steamed broccoli, or baked potatoes. In Switzerland, the folk wisdom says that it's bad to drink water with fondue. This is because it supposedly makes the cheese harden in your stomach, leading to a stomach ache. So, you're supposed to drink wine, or hot tea. I've had room temperature water with it without any stomach ache, though.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Mattar Palao: Rice with Peas

This is a very basic Indian recipe that you can serve on it's own or with curry or dhal.

Mattar Palao


1.5 cup basmati rice
3 cups water
1/4 t salt
1/2 t cumin seeds
2 whole peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 whole cloves
optional: 1 cardamom pod
1/2 c frozen peas
1 T oil


Wash the rice very thoroughly, until the water runs clear when you rinse it. Set it aside. Warm the oil on medium/high heat in a saucepan that you'll use to cook the rice. When it shimmers, fry the cumin seeds, but keep aside the clove, peppercorns, and if you're using it, the cardamom. Fry the cumin for about 30 seconds, you'll be able to smell them cooking and they may pop. Put the rice, water, salt and bay leaf and other spices into the pot. Set the heat to high, and let the water come to a boil. Once it boils, set the heat down a little so it's still boiling, but very gently. When almost all of the water has evaporated/absorbed, and small "holes" may appear in the pot of rice, stir in the peas, turn off the stove, and cover the pot for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes has passed, you should open the pot up and stir/fluff the rice with a fork. If the rice is still too wet, turn the heat back on to a low setting, stirring everything till it's not too wet anymore. Probably it'll be just right, though.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: This recipe can easily be expanded/scaled down. For basmati rice, the important ratio is 1 part rice to 2 parts water. You can add more spices to your taste or as needed. For a complete (and inexpensive) meal, I like to scramble some eggs and combine them with the cooked rice, especially the next day. You could also add cashews or some other nut. It's also good garnished with chopped cilantro and/or a squeeze of lemon. Serving this with plain dhal (recipe posted earlier, just leave out eggplant) makes it a bit more complete.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Cucumber and Cauliflower Salad

I made this for the first time a month or so ago, because we had a cauliflower head, and we always have cucumbers and onions. I read a recipe on some site, I think, but I can't find it now. Anyway, this is only loosely based on that, so I hope I'm not stealing anyone's recipe without giving credit. :-)

Cucumber and Cauliflower Salad


1/2 medium head of cauliflower
1/2 small onion
1/4 english cucumber

2 t salt plus extra to taste
2 t balsamic vinegar
black pepper to taste
1/2 c cream or sour cream
fresh dill


Cut the half head of cauliflower into 2 quarters, and then cut each quarter into half. So you'll have 4 equal sized wedges of cauliflower. Now slice the cauliflower as thinly as you can and put it into a salad bowl. Slice the onion into semi-rings as thinly as possible, and also cut the cucumber as thinly as possible. Add them to the bowl. Sprinkle some of the 2 t of salt, then mix the veggies, repeating this process until you've added the whole 2 t. Move the bowl to the refrigerator and let it sit for a 2-3 hours. When the time is up, rinse the vegetables and drain them really well. The salt will have softened the cauliflower. Now you can add the balsamic vinegar (you could use lemon juice if you don't have it), the cream, chopped fresh dill (about 2 T, or more if you like it) and pepper and extra salt to your tastes.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: The longest part of this is the waiting for the veggies to soften. I must emphasize that rinsing is important, otherwise the veggies will be very salty. I learned that the hard way. I like to eat this with one or two other salads (like the Simple Tomato Salad from yesterday) and a piece of baguette.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Simple Tomato Salad

This is one of my favorite salads. My boyfriend made it for me when we first started dating, and I was surprised by how delicious, yet simple, it is. In the summer when fresh tomatoes are at their peak, this salad is also inexpensive. Right now tomato prices are higher, and the tomatoes aren't as tasty, but it's still a nice recipe.

Such salads are traditional in many parts of Europe. This particular rendition is a common summer recipe in Russia and Ukraine. There are variations adding more stuff; mozzarella cheese, olive oil, garlic, cucumber, different herbs, apple ... but I prefer this most simple version.

Simple Tomato Salad


3 medium sized tomatoes
1 small onion
1/2 c cream (we have creme fraiche easily available and inexpensive here in France, but you can also use sour cream. Some people use mayo. I think you could use thick Greek yogurt with excellent results.)
salt and pepper to taste


Dice the onion very fine and place them in your serving bowl. Chop the tomatoes and add them, making sure that you add the juice to the bowl too. Mix the cream into the mixture thoroughly.

Serving Suggestion and Notes: This salad is best eaten the same day, because fresh tomatoes change consistency dramatically if you refrigerate them (which you shouldn't do!). It is, however, tastiest not immediately after preparation, but after it sits for maybe 20-30 minutes. This allows it to come to room temperature (assuming your cream was cold), and the salt extracts juices from the vegetables. These juices combine with the cream to make a delicious sauce that you can dip nice bread into! In the summer, I think this is a perfect accompaniment to burgers. The rest of the year, I like to eat it for dinner or lunch with a few other salads. It's great for parties, too.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Cheap but Good: Sweet and Sour Cabbage Soup

This soup is delicious, low fat/calorie, and full of vitamins! It reminds me of the sweet and sour cabbage soup I used to get at a Jewish Deli style restaurant (Ella's Deli in Madison, WI) when I was a kid, but without the meat. Actually, this recipe came from an attempt to recreate that taste. I use a 3 quart pot to make this.

Sweet and Sour Schi


1/2 medium head cabbage (I used what was leftover after making Golubtsy)
1 small onion
1 medium carrot
1 T oil
2/3 of a 765 g can of peeled roma tomatoes packed in juice + juice from can
3 T balsamic vinegar
3 T sugar
bay leaf
sprinkling of caraway seeds
salt to taste


Warm the oil in a pot. When it shimmers, you're ready to sautee veggies. First add the onion, sliced thinly in semi-rings, and sprinkle some salt. When it is soft, add the carrot, peeled and diced, and sprinkle salt. While it's cooking you can cut the cabbage. Add the cabbage sliced into thin strips about a handful at a time. Sprinkle salt after each addition, and don't add the next handful until the one in the pot is soft. I do this because I have a small pot; if I put it all in at once, it would be too much. At this point, the salt has caused the vegetables to release their juices, and the veggies are stewing. When the cabbage starts to become soft and translucent, add tomatoes chopped and their juice. Add about a can and a half (using the can from the tomatoes) of water, the caraway and a bay leaf (basically, I add enough to fill the entire 3 quart pot). Bring to a boil and simmer until the cabbage is soft enough to your liking. Stir in the vinegar and the sugar. You can add more sugar if you want it sweeter, less if you like it more sour. Likewise with the vinegar; more if you like it more sour, less if you like it sweeter. Add salt to taste. Serve hot. You can serve it with sour cream (I prefer it without), a lemon wedge, or chopped herbs like parsley or dill. Приятного Аппетита!

Serving Suggestion and Notes: I think that this soup is filling enough that 1-2 bowls is a complete dinner. My boyfriend needs a couple of slices of bread with it. We had this last night for dinner with black (rye) bread. For dessert (and tea today) we had pancakes, the thick kind Russians call oladi. Americans will recognize them as silver-dollar pancakes. Было очень вкусно! You can also serve this with crusty bread or grilled cheese sandwiches.

***Cost Analysis***
Cabbage: 1 head = 1.30 euros. 1/2 = .65 euros
Carrot: 8 carrots = 1 euro. 1 carrot = .125 euro
Onion: ~100 onions = 5 euros. 1 onions = .025 euro
Oil: 500 mL = 5.67 euro. 1 T = 14.79 mL = .168 euro
Tomatoes: 1 can = .82 euro. 2/3 can = .547 euro
Balsamic vinegar: 1 bottle= 250 mL = 1.70 euro. 3 T = 44.36 mL = .302 euro.
Sugar: 1000 g = 1.80 euro. 2 T = 24 grams = .043 euro.
Water: 0 euro
Bay Leaf: ~50 leaves = 2 euro. 1 leaf = .04 euro
Salt: cost negligible

Number of Servings: 8 bowls

Total cost of recipe: 1.90 euro = $2.40 at today's currency exchange
Cost per Serving: .24 euro = $.30

Nutritional Info:
Calories per Serving (calculated using info at
Calories in Recipe: 559

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Cheap but Good: ideas, tips and recipes for eating well without spending a lot

I want to start something on this blog that I'm going to call the "Cheap but Good" series. The idea is to feature bi-weekly a recipe that costs under 1 euro per serving. The cost will be based on what I pay where I live. On weeks I don't post a recipe, I'll post a tip or an idea for saving money but eating well. So this means that each week there will be a "Cheap but Good" blog entry. I think I'll go for doing this every Wednesday, with the first entry being tomorrow.

Golubtsy (Cabbage Rolls)

Cabbage is a staple food in Russian cuisine. These cabbage rolls are really delicious! Use a high fat content ground beef; it makes the rolls more juicy. You can also use a mixture of ground meats or substitute cooked chopped mushrooms for a vegetarian and vegan option. I use canned whole tomatoes in this dish and chop them up. I prefer to save fresh tomatoes for non-cooked applications, since they're expensive.



1 medium head of green cabbage

3 cups cooked white rice
600 grams ground beef
1 large or 2 medium/small carrots
2 small or 1 large onions
3 plum/roma tomatoes or 1 medium/large tomato
salt and pepper (lots)

caraway seeds (optional, but they keep you from farting all night)



Place the cabbage in a large pot and cover with water. Add some salt and the caraway. Bring to a boil, and then let simmer. It's going to need to simmer for about 20 minutes on each side (put it in core side down, then flip it over. Or the other way around.), so use this time to make the filling. Mix the cooked rice with the raw ground beef, grated carrot, onion and tomato chopped small. Add tons of salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly; use hands! When the cabbage has cooked for about 40 minutes, drain the water (you can save it for soup). Rinsing under cold water makes it easier to handle but isn't required. Carefully peel leaves off the cabbage. You'll need about 20 leaves. The remaining cabbage can be used for something else. Leaves: there will be a very tough, thick stem at the bottom. You can mash this a bit with the bell of a spoon to make it bendable, or you can cut it out and eat it like I do. Your call. Basically, you'll have a little cabbage cup in your hand. Place about 2 T of filling (about the size of a hard-boiled egg) in the center, more towards the bottom. Fold the sides in together first, then roll the lump of filling from top to bottom. You should have a neat little roll. Place it in the now empty pot you were cooking cabbage in. Continue making rolls and putting them in the pot; when a whole layer is formed on the bottom of the pot, start a new one. Stacking doesn't hurt. When you're done, add water to the pot, enough to cover at least 2/3 of the rolls, more if you like. You can also add more caraway. It's tasty! Bring to a low boil and then simmer until cabbage is translucent and soft; about 2 hours.

Serving Suggestion: Serve these warm/hot with sour cream, chopped dill and parsley. The cooking water is also delicious; it tastes like soup. You can serve the rolls in deep plates or shallow bowls and add a little of the broth. People can cut open their roll and add some broth to make it juicier.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Eggplant Dhal

Dhal is a staple food in India. It is made with many kinds of lentils. I usually use red dhal, because it cooks quickly and doesn't need soaking, or chana dhal (garbanzo beans), because I can buy it canned and I like them. This recipe uses red lentils (dhal). The original recipe, my Mom's, is an adaptation from the book A Spicy Touch. Both those use yellow lentils.

Rozmin's Red Dhal With Eggplant


1 tsp. fresh ginger
1 tsp. fresh garlic
2 Tbsp oil

½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp cumin seeds
2 – 4 whole cloves
1 – 2 whole hot peppers, split in half
1 small tomato, chopped
¾ tsp. cumin powder
¾ tsp. tumeric
¾ tsp crushed red pepper

about 500 g red lentils
1 eggplant

1 Tbsp. cilantro leaves
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
salt to taste


Sautee garlic and ginger in the oil. Cut the eggplant into cubes (you can leave the skin on). When the ginger and garlic is soft, push them to the side of the pot and let the oil pool on the opposite side. Fry the spices in the oil for about 30 seconds. Set heat to a low simmer. Mix the contents of the pot together, adding the tomato. Let cook for about 30 seconds. Add the eggplant and stir well, coating all the eggplant with the mixture. Add the lentils and immeadiately add water to cover everything (probably about 4 or 5 cups). Keep an eye on the dhal, stirring from time to time, and adding 1-2 cups of water when it becomes too thick to stir; this means all the moisture has been absorbed into the lentils and it'll burn if you don't add more. You can cover it if you want to lose less moisture to evaporation. Make sure the heat is on low so the bottom doesn't burn. It's ready when the lentils and eggplant are completely soft; when red lentils are cooked they turn mushy and yellow. Salt it to taste.

Serving Suggestion: Serve garnished with lemon juice and cilantro. It's also very tasty with plain yogurt.

First Post

Since so many of my posts are about food, I decided to make a separate food blog. Cooking is one of my main hobbies. I really enjoy it, and I especially enjoy experimental cooking: cooking with whatever's around, or maybe with only an idea, or a general recipe. Sometimes my creations are delicious, most of the time they're not bad to pretty good, but once in a while things don't turn out so well. Part of the motivation for this blog is that I want to remember what I did when I make something damned good. I especially enjoy cooking Indian food and Russian food. I also like to cook with a focus on eating well without spending a lot of money.