Here is an email I received a few weeks ago that got me thinking, testing and dreaming recipes. Until last night, when I finally saw the table clearly laid out in mind waiting for hungry mouths to dig in, I was seeing ginger, garlic and onions everywhere! I tell you people, the things I do for the love of cooking!
I have a co-worker from India who is Jain. I’d like to invite him and his wife to dinner one of these days. Now the problem is I have no idea how to make anything without onion, ginger, potato etc! They are very strict about their food. Help! I want to serve at least three entrees and rice and/or roti. Can you give me suggestions and/or recipes?
– Confused Cook
Dear Confused Cook,
Truth be told, I’ve never attempted to cook Jain food, much less ever had a chance to eat it. So the scary thought of creating a menu for you without any ginger, garlic and onions, without which my kitchen would seem barren and in need of a desperate makeover, turned me into a mad woman that surprised even sweet little Hubby Dear. Ever little thing I cooked and ate over the past few days was scrutinized in hopes of finding a way to recreate it without the bare essentials of my cooking. But as they say, prespiration gives way to perfection (I can swear I heard that somewhere!), and I’m happy to note that your very first Jain dinner party will soon take shape.
The menu I designed for this dinner includes the classic favourites like Pulao, Dal, and Rotis. The vegetable dishes I’ve picked for this menu are either traditionally cooked without onions and garlic, or can easily be made without them, without compromising much on flavour.
- Dal: Cook your choice of Dal in the normal way, omitting the addition of onions, ginger and garlic. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.
- Kadhi-Pakodi: This wonderful dish, prepared from yoghurt and gram flour is a personal favourite of mine. While in most cases onions are used in the end as a tempering with dried chillies, it can easily be avoided to accommodate a Jain diet. Bring a mixture of 2 tbsp gram flour, I cup yoghurt and 2 cups water to a boil, stirring occasionally to avoid forming lumps. Season with salt, turmeric and chili powder. Add in pakodas made with vegetables of choice, and stir in a tempering of cumin seeds, dried red chillies and a pinch of dried fenugreek leaves for added flavour.
- Paneer Tak-a-tak: recipe follows
- Dahi Bhindi: Follow the recipe avoiding the addition of onions and ginger powder.
- Fried Baingan
- Peas Pulao: Again, omit the addition of onions.
- Plain Rotis and/or Puris
Add in a Raita, salad and Papad, and there you have it CC, a wonderful, Jain accommodated hearty meal! For dessert I suggest the usual favourites, kheer, gulab jamun or halwa.
Do you have any trouble planning a menu or fixing a meal? I’m only a few lines away…
PANEER TAK-A-TAK (SPICED CRUMBLED PANEER)
Prep time: 10 min | Cooking time: 10 min | Serves: 4
2 tbsp light cooking oil
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
400-500 gms of Paneer, crumbled
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
salt, to taste
Heat oil in a deep non-stick pan and sauté cumin, fennel, and coriander seeds in hot oil till they start to sizzle. Add in spice powders, and once fragrant, stir in paneer coating it well with the spices.
Add in tomatoes, green peppers, and salt, and let cook covered for a few minutes.
NOTE: For a vegan version, substitute paneer with firm tofu.