Two Indian comfort food recipes, from a communities editor’s mom

In Communities, COVID-192 Comments

Reading Time: 4 minutes

More ghee. More. Don’t be shy, put some more. Come on, don’t be shy, put some more 

By Dhriti Gupta and Sumita Matta

Nobody does comfort food like brown people. We will douse anything in sugar syrup. Ghee aka clarified butter is a condiment in our households. Hell, we even deep fry bread…as a breakfast food. But while there are tons of sugary, rich, cream-filled dishes in my culture, comfort for me lies in the simpler things. Take a break from stress-baking your coronavirus bread rations and try out these easy and light recipes as your next quarantine cooking venture. For that extra special touch of brown mom love, force everyone in your house to eat your creations by telling them they’ve gotten too skinny. 

Sooji ka Halwa

Serves 4-5

Growing up, whenever I was sick, the only thing that would get me out of bed was the nutty aroma of roasted sooji. This warm, porridge-like dessert is made of semolina, almonds, raisins and water, and only takes about 15 minutes to prepare. Absolutely nothing hits like a warm bowl of sooji ka halwa when your throat is sore and the clouds are grey—or in this case, when the streets are empty and the social interaction is lacking.

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons (tbsp) ghee or olive/vegetable oil 

1 cup sooji (Semolina/cream of wheat)

1 cup granulated sugar 

3 cups water

¼ cup raisins 

¼ cup slivered or crushed almonds 

One pinch green cardamom powder for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

1. In a large non-stick pan, heat up the ghee or oil for about 30 seconds to a minute.

2. Add in the sooji and roast it on medium to low heat until it turns a nice golden brown. Remove from heat and let stand while completing steps 3 and 4.

3. In a saucepan, heat the water and dissolve the sugar in it. Switch off the heat and let stand for five minutes.

4. Add the raisins and almonds to the sugar water in the saucepan.

5. After about five minutes, once both the sooji and sugar water have cooled down a bit, carefully transfer the warm sugar water into the sooji pan. If you start to hear a sizzle as you start pouring the water in, things are still too hot and the steam might hurt you! Give it a few more minutes to cool down and go watch some TikToks (sigh—if only you had a recommendation list).

6. Once you’ve poured the sugar water into the sooji, cook the mixture on medium-high heat, stirring until the sooji absorbs the water. It should have a porridge-like consistency and be light-brown in colour. 

7. You’re done! Scoop the warm halwa into a bowl and top with a shake of cardamom powder and more almonds to enjoy. If you wanna get fancy with your presentation, you can pack it into a small bowl and invert it onto a plate to make a lil halwa cake. 

Rajma

Serves 4-5

One of my other favourite foods, rajma, is basically Indian chilli. One time, my mom even entered her rajma into a chilli-making competition and won. Everyone thinks their mom makes the best rajma, but how many moms can say their rajma has won a chilli competition? Yeah, that’s what I thought. Either way, there’s no better way to beat the quarantine blues than settling down to rewatch the flu season episode of Parks and Recreation with a steaming bowl of rajma.

Ingredients:

2 cups dry light red-kidney beans OR 2 cups canned red-kidney beans 

4 cups water if you’re using an instant pot, or 1 ½ cups water if you’re using canned beans

3 tbsp olive or vegetable oil 

1 teaspoon (tsp) fresh ginger, grated or ginger paste 

½ tsp garlic, minced

½ of a medium-sized onion, finely chopped 

2 tomatoes, finely chopped

1 whole black cardamom

A pinch of powdered clove (optional)

A pinch of asafoetida powder (optional)

⅓ tsp red chilli powder

2 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 ¼ tsp salt or to taste 

Instructions:

First, let’s talk beans. If you have an instant pot:

1. Wash and soak light red kidney beans for four hours 

2. Place 4 cups of water in the instant pot and boil them on pressure cooker mode for 1 hour and 30 minutes.

If you’re using canned beans, start here:

3. Heat oil in a large non-stick pan for 30 seconds before adding the cumin seeds. Once the seeds start to splutter, reduce the flame to low heat. 

4. Add asafoetida powder (if you have it), ginger, garlic and onions. Sauté till the onions look translucent in colour. 

5. Now add in tomatoes and stir the mixture, letting it cook on low heat with the lid on for about 10 minutes. It’s ready when you can see the oil separating from the rest of the mixture. 

6. If you cooked your beans using the instant pot, transfer them to the tomato mixture, without draining the water. If you use the canned beans, transfer them in without draining as well, but add in 1 ½ cups of water. 

7. Put the lid on and simmer for about 30 to 40 minutes, until the tomatoes and beans are integrated. If you prefer a thicker curry, you can remove the lid and let some of the water evaporate. 

8. If you want to keep it traditional, serve on top of basmati rice with a squeeze of lemon and fresh cilantro. If you want to swindle some white people like my mom did, take the chilli route and serve in a bowl, topped with sour cream and shredded cheese. 

If you make either of these recipes, take a picture and tag us on social media! We’re at @the_eyeopener on Instagram and @theeyeopener on Twitter. Please, just do it—it’ll make my mom so happy.

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