The "G" of Indian Vegetables
The letter G inspired fourteen gorgeous Indian flavors!
First, a bountiful harvest of verdant vegetables, many of them the lush shade of green.
We start with Green Beans, also called French beans or haricots verts, those tender pods that are so versatile in Indian cooking. Usha of Samayal Ulagam stir-fries the fresh green beans with some toor dal for some extra oomph and ends up with this delicious Green Bean Poriyal.
Sheela of Delectable Victuals talks about her lovely kitchen garden and how she had to harvest her lovely grape tomatoes while they were still green and unripe. She cooks these tiny, gorgeous Green Grape Tomatoes into a delicious and filling Green Grape Tomato Rice.
A beloved tropical fruit/vegetable all over the coastal regions of India is the Green Jackfruit. The sight of these gigantic prickly green fruits swaying from the high branches of a jackfruit tree is quite a spectacle (and just a little bit scary)! Here, canned jackfruit is cooked into a quick and easy Green Jackfruit Curry by Sheela of Delectable Victuals.
Another tropical green vegetable, nah, fruit, follows: the mouth-puckering, tender Green Mango. In India, this (mid-March) is just about the time when green mangoes make their appearance in the market, at least where I come from, and people are busy considering what pickles and chutneys and relishes to make this year.Linda of Out Of The Garden found a stash of green mango in brine (it looks so juice and tender) in her fridge, and promptly converted it into a wholesome Green Mango Dal.
Next come the ever-popular Green Peas. Although fresh green peas are not very easy to find, frozen green peas are an excellent ingredient to stash away in the freezer, with handfuls ready to be used at any time. We have two recipes featuring these little pearls, each pairing green peas with another vegetable.
Green peas make a delightful appearance in a tasty curry of Green Peas with Capsicum by Swapna of Tastes From My Kitchen.
The other green peas recipe is also by a different blogger with the same name! Swapna of Swad makes a juicy curry of Green Peas with Mushrooms.
After all these green vegetables comes a bright orange one! The carrot or Gajar is abundantly harvested during the winter months in India. Here in the US, I find that carrots are one vegetable that are inexpensive, easily available and lend themselves to a thousand delicious uses. Here are two carrot recipes: one for brunch and the other for dessert.
Asha of Aroma/ Foodie's Hope starts the day right with a veggie-rich breakfast. She combines carrot and whole-wheat flour to make these nutritious and pretty Gajar Masala Rotis, which she serves with a chutney made with another "G" vegetable/spice, Garlic!
Meanwhile, carrots are a sweet treat at the end of a meal. Cooked carrots combine with almonds and cashew nuts into a creamy and rich Gajar Kheer, made by Suma of Veggie Platter.
Our next vegetable is on my shopping list every single week: the Gobi or cauliflower, with its beautiful off-white florets that pack a nutritional punch. We have two Gobi curries from two different regions of India.
Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine roasts some cauliflower florets and then cooks them in a Northen-Indian style tomato-based curry to create the decadent Gobi Masala.
Sandeepa of Bong Mom's Cookbook makes an exotic Bengali dish called Chaal Kopi or cauliflower cooked in spices with a smattering of rice, studded with peanuts and raisins. Sandeepa also shares some valuable career advice given by her little girl...you just have to read this post!
We now come to a vegetable is usually used more like a herb or spice, and is indispensable in Indian cooking: the knobby but delicious Ginger! It is the star ingredient in a spicy, sweet-and-sour treat of a Ginger Curry made by Sigma of Live to Eat. This dish is a traditional one from the Southern Indian state of Kerala, and Sigma shares her Mom's recipe, which is simplified, yet has a unique blend of flavors.
With all this talk of vegetables, let's not forget the chickpea or Garbanzo Bean, a valuable source of protein in the vegetarian diet. Here, we have a traditional family recipe for "chole" or Garbanzo beans in a spicy gravy shared by Pinki of Desi-Fusion Corner.
We end with two more delicious regional specialties!
The first is a popular dal from the Southern Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. Shivapriya of My Cookbook uses the sunshine-hued pumpkin, called Gummadikaya in Telugu (the Andhra language) and cooks it into a beautiful, nutritious dal called Gummadikaya Pulusu.
The second regional favorite comes from the Western Indian state of Gujarat. Gujarati food is famous for its delicious snacks and appetizers, such as the ghugra, little boat-shaped turnovers that are plump with a filling of spiced peas. Bee and Jai of Jugalbandi share their recipe for a oven-baked ghugra, made with whole-wheat flour to add to the taste and nutrition!
G is for Ginger-spiced Gobi Paratha: Vegetables and Bread
Grains form the basis of any diet, and in that respect, one might consider India to be divided horizontally down the middle: the upper (Northern) part of India is predominantly a wheat-growing region, and breads, mostly flatbreads, feature prominently in the traditional diet. India is a peninsula, and the whole Southern part has a coast, and is predominantly a rice-growing (and consuming) region. In the middle of the country, where I am from, I grew up eating a little bit of bread and a little bit of rice at every meal, a very satisfying compromise! Times have changed, and today, people all over India enjoy both wheat and rice, but the best traditional recipes reflect these regional differences, with bread recipes usually deriving from Northern India.
Breads in Indian cuisine are a world all on their own. Most Indian breads are made with whole-wheat flour that is ground to a finer consistency than the whole-wheat flour sold in the US. We call it atta, but you may also find it being sold as chappati flour. I remember, growing up, that we never bought flour from the store, we bought whole kernels of wheat instead. These would be taken to a local grain mill, where, for a small fee, they would pour your grain into an industrial-strength mill and give you freshly ground flour made right in front of your eyes. What a way to ensure quality and freshness! When you said whole-wheat, you meant just that, nothing more and nothing less. Anyway, I do think that the atta you buy here is basically packaged flour that is made the same way, by grinding whole wheat grains and not robbing them of any nutrition.
Where do the vegetables come in? Many delicious recipes combine cooked, spiced vegetables and the whole-wheat dough into one tasty bread. In general, I can think of two major ways in which this is done. In the first, easier, method, the flour is mixed in with vegetables (typically, chopped greens or mashed vegetables) and spices to make one dough. Then the dough is rolled into breads that are griddle-baked with a little oil or ghee. In the second type, the dough is kneaded with just flour, water and salt, and a separate filling of spicy vegetables is cooked. Then, while rolling the dough, the filling is encased in the dough, and you get a delicious stuffed paratha with vegetables hiding in layers of flaky griddle-baked dough.
Some of the most popular stuffed parathas come from the Northern Indian state of Punjab; one is the aloo paratha (paratha stuffed with potato) and the other is the gobi paratha (stuffed with gobi or cauliflower). For the G of Indian vegetables, I took some gobi and paired it with ginger (a match made in culinary heaven) and made stuffed parathas. Madhur Jaffrey's book, World Vegetarian, provided help in two ways: (a) she suggests that olive oil can be used to make this paratha: in the dough, to stir-fry the filling, and to cook the parathas. This is quite a bit healthier than the traditional fat (ghee), especially for breakfast! The flavors of the paratha are bold enough that I thought olive oil worked very well here. (b) Her recipe was useful for determining the proportions of filling and dough that I needed for this recipe.
I find stuffed parathas quite a challenge to make. I do not consider them a recipe for beginners. To roll out stuffed parathas into thin perfect circles without letting the filling spill out is not the easiest thing, but the only way is practice, practice, practice :) A soggy filling can ruin the paratha-rolling effort, so the filling should be as dry as possible. My parathas are still not as thin as I would like them, but they manage to taste good, so what if they are a bit thick and imperfect?
Recipe adapted from World Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey; Makes 5 filling parathas.
1. Make the dough: Mix 2 cups atta (see recipe introduction), 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tbsp olive oil. Add enough water to make a soft dough and knead it for 10 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Cover with a damp towel and set aside in a covered bowl for 30 minutes.
2. Make the filling: This is easily done while the dough is resting. You need 2 cups of finely minced or grated cauliflower, one minced fresh green chili and 1 tsp minced fresh ginger. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a skillet. Add 1 tsp cumin seeds, chili and ginger and stir until fragrant (few seconds). Add the grated cauliflower, 1/2 tsp turmeric, 1/2 tsp ajwain seeds (carom seeds, optional), salt and pepper to taste and stir well. Cook on low heat, uncovered, until the cauliflower is tender. You want the mixture to be very dry.
3. To make the parathas, knead the dough again for two minutes and then divide it into five portions, like so:
In the skillet, divide the filling roughly into five portions too:
Take a portion of the dough and roll it out into a fat circle (try and make the edges of the circle thinner than the center). Place one portion of the stuffing in the middle and pull up the edges to cover the filling. Press down flat and roll it out gently into a flat evenly-thick circle. Fry the paratha in a hot griddle, using a few drops of olive oil to fry each side until it is golden and well-cooked.
Left-over parathas can be refrigerated. Simply heat them in a toaster oven until they are sizzling hot and they will be as good as new.
Variations on a theme
1. Use ghee or butter to fry the paratha for a decadent treat.
2. Stuff the paratha with any combination of vegetables of your choice; it should work as long as the vegetables are minced finely/ grated and the filling is fairly dry.
How do you serve this dish?
Stuffed parathas can be devoured in endless creative ways. Here are a few...
(a) Simply serve the gobi paratha with Indian-style pickles or relishes and a cup of yogurt for a delicious breakfast, brunch or lunch. As the picture above shows, I served the paratha with some store-bought Punjabi pickle, an amazing blend of spices and some everyday vegetables like carrot, lime, raw mango, and some unusual ones like lotus root and fresh turmeric root.
(b) Cut the paratha into quarters and serve as part of a larger brunch buffet.
(c) Wrap the paratha around salad and eat as a...well, wrap!
(d) Make a "panini" by wrapping the paratha around a slice of cheese and grilling it.
(e) Cut the paratha into wedges and serve as an appetizer with some chutney as a dip.
Fellow bloggers have come up with many delicious Breads featuring Vegetables:
Potato-stuffed paratha, probably the most popular type...
Potato-Pea Paratha from Manpasand,
Quick non-stuffed potato paratha from My Khazana of Recipes,
Two breads with nutritious greens...
Spinach Cheese Paratha from Saffron Hut,
Radish Greens Paratha from The Cook's Cottage,
Two unusual creations with bread...
Beet Bread Roll from Bong Mom's Cookbook,
Avocado Paratha from Spice is Right,
Previously on the A to Z of Indian Vegetables...
A is for Aloo Gobi: North-Indian Stir-Fry
B is for Bharli Mirchi: Stuffed Vegetables
C is for Carrot-Cashew Payasam: Desserts
D is for Dum ki Arbi: Dum Style of Cooking
E is for Egg-Fried Rice: Rice and Vegetables
F is for Foogath: South-Indian Stir-Fry