Recipes Beyond Borders- sometimes Exotic, mostly Healthy, always Delicious

Ingredient: Fenugreek (methi) seeds

Baingan Badi Sabzi – Curried Aubergine with Black Gram  Fritters

Baingan Badi Sabzi – Curried Aubergine with Black Gram Fritters

Exploring the cuisine of each State in India by turn, is such an enriching experience. This Baingan Badi Sabzi, a delicious eggplant and lentil fritters curry from the traditional Bhojpuri cuisine prevalent in the Indian states of Bihar and UttarPradesh, is interesting to make and has ingredient options that make it nutritious too. The main ingredient is the brinjal or eggplant/ aubergine. This is accompanied by small sun dried badis which seems to have many names – wadi, wadiyan, mangodi etc. The basic ingredient for making a badi is flour – though the flour and spices, herbs to be added differ across regions. I have made a simple Bihari  Urad dhal ki badi, with black gram lentils. The recipe is given in the instructions below.


Kothavarangai Paruppu Usili – Cluster Beans Dhal Paste Curry

Kothavarangai Paruppu Usili – Cluster Beans Dhal Paste Curry

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A childhood favourite, I loved the Paruppu Usili made by my Mom – she would make it with banana flower (vazhaipoo) or guar / cluster beans (kothavarangai). I had attempted to make the this curry once or twice but was not happy with the results. Now that my daughter Mridula wanted a recipe for an authentic paruppu usili, I decided to make it once more. This time I researched the various steps for making the curry. Meenakshi Ammal’s  Samaithu Par or Cook and See cookbook, Vol 1, has the recipe for the Plantain Flower Dhal Paste Curry, and for the Cluster Beans Dhal Paste Curry. I have modified the recipe quite a bit, following what I recollected of the process my mother used.

Cluster Beans Paruppu Usili_Paruppu Usili
Cluster Beans Paruppu Usili

The Paruppu Usili is a simple dry curry which goes well with a kuzhambu such as a vathal kuzhambu (which I prepared today for lunch) or with sambar, milagu kozhambu or mor kuzhambu. It tastes good with rasam too. In fact you can have this curry with just about any South Indian style gravy (kuzhambu or rasam) or with chappaties and dhal.

Slice the beans finely
Slice the beans finely

The Cook and See book suggests that the vegetable be cooked with water on the stove top. I prefer to steam the sliced vegetables. All you need is for the vegetables to be cooked well with a bite still remaining and not overcooked and soggy, and for the dhal paste to have the right consistency. Again, the cookbook does not suggest steaming the dhal paste, but I have seen my mother steaming it, and I preferred the dhal to be well cooked, so I have also steamed the dhal after grinding it to a paste.

Kitchen Tips for making Cluster beans Paruppu Usili:

  1. I saved time by steaming the cluster bean slices and the dhal paste in the steamer container in my pasta cooker. Both need about the same amount of time so this was convenient. You will need 10 minutes after the water begins to boil, for the vegetables to cook.
  2. An idli plate kept in the idli cooker/ pressure cooker, with adequate water for 10 minutes of steaming, and without the weight on the cooker lid, could be used. Alternatively, steam the paste and the vegetables on a plate fitted into a kadai or frying pan, again with sufficient water for steaming for about 10 minutes(from the time the water begins to boil).
  3. After steaming the dhal paste, allow it to cool and then crumble it with your hand, as it would have caked after steaming. Crumbling will help stir it nicely into the cooked vegetables and the tempering.
  4. This is a dry curry and moisture would impact the consistency and taste. Squeeze out any excess water from the cooked beans. Also,  grind the dhal -chilli paste without adding water to it.
  5. Select young tender cluster beans as more mature ones tend to be stringy, fibrous and bitter.

Health & Nutrition benefits of Cluster Beans:

  • The Cluster beans or Guar Beans are known to have various nutritional benefits: They contain potassium and folate and are said to be heart -healthy and improves cardio health; they are rich in water soluble dietary fibre which helps reduce blood cholesterol as well as improves digestion and reduces bowel complaints. They have a low glycemic index and hence are good to include in a diabetic diet.
  • Cluster Beans are rich in vitamins such a Vitamin K, minerals such as calcium and phosphorous and hence can help strengthen bone health and teeth, as well as a soluble form of iron which is easy for the body to absorb. They are said to help maintain blood pressure. Low in calorific content carbohydrates, the cluster beans are a good source of folic acid for pregnant women.
  • Cancer Fighting: Cluster beans have properties that attack and destroy free radicals in the body, and may be helpful in fighting Cancer.
  • The plantain flower paruppu usili is very tasty, but the process of removing the stamen from each little flower and then slicing the sticky blossoms is a little time consuming. Making paruppu usili with cluster beans, French beans, snake gourd, raw plantain (raw banana) cabbage or yam, is easier and faster.

Lunch today is something I  am looking forward to: kotavarangai paruppu usili, orange peel vathal kuzhambu (again my mother’s recipe) and  hot rice with potato chips!

The paruppu usili tastes real good. Im wondering whether I can make a quesadilla with some of it. With a yogurt dip as an accompaniment. Will let you know how that goes!


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Sarson Ka Saag – Flavourful Mustard Greens

Sarson Ka Saag – Flavourful Mustard Greens

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When Winter comes, can Sarson ka Saag be far behind! The ultimate greens dish, a classic from Punjab in Northern India. Mustard greens are cooked with spinach and bhatua saag and traditionally served with hot makki rotis, though they are great with phulkas or tandoori roti. Actually I like mine with hot rice and rasam!

Mustard greens are an ancient crop, grown in the Himalayan and sub Himalayan regions of the Indian Sub -continent, and have been known to have been cultivated  for more than 5,000 years. They are a popular ingredient in a wide range of cuisines, from Asian (including Japanese, Chinese Nepalese and Indian) to Southern American. They are generally available during the cold season, from November to March. In India, the Sarson ka Saag, a curry, is the most popular.

I have made sarson ka saag both with the regular Indian greens, and with the peppery pungent and delicious Mizuna or japanese mustard (Brassica rapa). Actually here in Bangalore, it is easier for me to source zero pesticide fresh Japanese mustard greens from First Agro Farms, rather than the  sarson ka saag from Northern India, which is not easily available.

Japanese Mustard at First
Japanese Mustard at First Agro Farms, Mysore

Health and Nutrition:

Mustard greens, (Botanical name Brassica juncea) are a veritable powerhouse of nutrients and cancer fighting properties. Low in calorific value (about 27 cals for every 100 gms of raw leaves), they are rich in dietary fibre as well as in phytonutrients, vitamins and minerals. The dietary fibre helps control cholesterol. The leaves have been known to have a high content of vitamin K which is an anti-inflammatory nutrient, and Scientists consider that Vitamin K  helps in bone mass building as well as in reducing neuro damage in the brain for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s.

The greens are also a great source for other vitamins such as vitamin A (beta-carotene), Vitamins C, E, B6, B2 as well as minerals, copper, calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, iron, and potassium, magnesium, niacin, pantothenic acid, folate as well as protein.

Cancer fighting properties:

Research suggests that Mustard greens are an excellent source of anti-oxidant like flavonoids, indoles, sulforaphane, carotenes, lutein and zea-xanthin. website states that Mustard greens contain Indoles, mainly di-indolyl-methane (DIM) and sulforaphane which have proven benefits against prostate, breast, colon and ovarian cancers by virtue of their cancer-cell growth inhibition, cytotoxic effects on cancer cells.

The key phytonutrients in mustard greens or sarson ka saag, are said to give antioxidant support which can help lower the risk of oxidative stress in body cells, thereby reducing  cell damage and bringing down a risk factor in development of most cancer types.

Mustard greens helps the body to detox through its antioxidants nutrients, sulfur-containing nutrients and phytonutrients. Toxins building up in the body can increase the risk of cells turning cancerous, and hence consumption of these greens  can help to counter the ill effects of toxins.

The other ingredients all contribute to the nutritional values of this tasty curry.

Spinach is again, like mustard greens, a good source of fiber as well as magnesium, which is needed for healthy nerves and muscles.

Ginger, garlic and onions, which are the remaining ingredients, have anti-inflammatory benefits and are high in antioxidants.