◊ Jaldi hai

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Dear mom,

In just one day I said a sweaty goodbye to Bombay, cooled down with a walk by the sea in Istanbul, and cozied up to a cup of coffee in Copenhagen. Today I am in Hamburg with sore arms and bags chubbed out with jars of pickled mango and Indian snacks. Tomorrow I will be in Berlin. I am delirious and what is time? How does it happen and where does it go and why is it cold outside?

I need new shoes.

Time. I don’t know what to say about it except that I’ve spent so much of it in kitchens – rooms that harbor much more than space to cook. I am grateful to all of the women in India who invited me in… The space below my recipes is dedicated to some of their kitchens.

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And to initiate my transition out of India I’ll share the recipes that have sustained me for the past four months: vegetables and chai.

IMG_3499First is a base recipe for Indian vegetable dishes. Each vegetable I ate in India was unique to its region and its cook, but was similar to others in its underlying flavors.

Almost all of your vegetable dishes start with a base of garlic, salt, pepper and onions. In India, most vegetable dishes begin with a fragrant combination of mustard seeds, coriander, turmeric, chili, and cumin. Other common flavors in Indian vegetable dishes are curry leaves, ginger, onion seeds, anise, fenugreek, fennel and cardamom. Similar to your salad creations, once you’ve got the basics down, the variations on the Indian vegetable experience are endless.

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Second is hot chai chai chai chai CHAIIII – I can hear the chai walas belting out their song. I’m addicted… Just like all the other Indian professionals I know, I can’t function without it. Chai is simple – black tea, milk and sugar often spiced with ginger and cardamom. Sipping piping hot milky tea on a piping hot humid day doesn’t sound as fun as it is. I promise it’s necessary.

See you so soon I can’t believe it.

Love,
Shaina

Ps. I must reiterate that the the two basic vegetable recipes below are just starters –  you can use any vegetable combo you choose and add or subtract spices for variation.

Bhindi Masala
serves 4-7 people as a side dish

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I’m coming home and I’m thinking about okra. I’m imagining the markets in Birmingham chock full of fresh okra waiting to be chopped up, deep fried and served next to mac n’ cheese and greasy cole slaw. Hopefully the recipe below can help mix things up – the Indian version of fried okra is much tastier, in my opinion.

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  • 2 tbs vegetable oil
  • 5 cups raw okra, cut into thin discs
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup potatoes diced into 1 inch slices
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 5-8 curry leaves (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seed
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder (to taste)
  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)
  • fresh cilantro for garnish (optional)
  • fresh coconut, shredded for garnish (optional)

Heat oil and cut okra in small pieces. Fry okra on medium heat for 15 minutes until okra pieces lose their mosture.  Remove okra from pan and keep aside.

Add onions, tomatoes and potatoes to the leftover oil along with ginger, garlic and remaining spices. Cover and cook on medium heat until potato is soft, stirring every 2 minutes. Then, add okra pieces to spice combination and stir. Cook over low heat for three minutes. Eat plain, with yogurt, over rice or flatbread.

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Mixed Vegetable Masala
serves 4-7 people as a side dish

  • 3 tbs vegetable oilIMG_3493
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chili powder (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 4 whole cardamom pods
  • 5 cloves
  • 1 cinamon stick
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen peas
  • 1 medium eggplant, chopped
  • 1/3 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tsp salt (to taste)

Saute tomatoes, onions and spices in oil over medium heat in a deep pan until onions are translucent. Then, add chopped vegetables, raisins, water and whole spices. Cover pan and simmer for around 15 minutes until vegetables are soft.  Garnish with cilantro and eat over rice.
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You can modify this recipe to include vegetables of your choice.

Chai

Makes 7 – 9 small cups

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  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 4 tbs of black tea
  • 5 whole cardamom pods
  • 5 whole cloves
  • 1/2 star anise
  • 1 inch fresh ginger
  • pinch of black pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups milk (or soy) – it’s best with whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons honey, sugar or agave syrup to taste

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Crush the star anise, cloves, ginger and cardamom. In a deep pot, bring tea leaves, spices and water to boil.
Then, add milk and sugar and simmer. Stir occasionally for a few minutes. Strain the tea leaves from the mixture. Take a breather. Enjoy with your favorite biscuits or cookies.
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Kitchens:
Thank you for sharing with me.  I love the way that you store your spices and how you stack each of your plastic, steel and bronze vessels like a prize. Holy. Your kitchens have inspired me to decorate and preserve and use. Thank you for inviting me in.
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Ajrakpur, Kutch, Gujarat

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Tumling, West Bengal

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Ajrakpur, Kutch, Gujarat

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Salt Lake, Calcutta, West Bengal

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Andheri East, Mumbai, Maharashtra

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Bhuj, Kutch, Gujarat

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Andheri East, Mumbai, Maharashtra

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Ajrakpur, Kutch, Gujarat

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Nootan Society, Bhuj, Gujarat

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Kutch, Gujarat

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Tumling, West Bengal

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Kutch, Gujarat

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Singalila National Park, West Bengal

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