The most violent weapon on earth is the table fork.
-Mahatma Gandhi

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Sunday, December 5, 2010

"The Indian Slow Cooker" book by Anupy Singla

The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes
Seriously, A Masterpiece!!
Vegans, don't overlook this book just because it's in the "Crockpot" or "Indian Section".  This is the Holy Grail of Vegan Indian............
The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes

Yesterday we went to our favorite Indian place in town, Gokul's. We would probably go there more, but they are a little far from us.  Apparently a location in the loop is opening very soon.  Gokul's is all vegetarian and they have vegan night the 1st and 3rd Mondays of each month. So the kormas are made with coconut milk, the rice pudding with soy milk, and the paneer with tofu. While we love vegan night, I have developed a certain affinity for dosas. And these are served in the daytime on weekends. The super-chat bar and dosas command a dollar or two extra for the buffet. I usually have to compete against some Indian man to ensure I get a few, but it's worth it! Its harder for them to keep the dosa tray full since they have to be individually made. They aren't the huge, main entree type of dosas but more of a small serving dosa. There is always one Indian man that is finished eating everything else on the buffet (not the same one each time), and me, who has already downed 2 pounds of beans ( I don't eat white rice so I binge on the dals and chana masala) who are anxiously awaiting a freshly made batch of dosas. Well, yesterday I didn't have to completely gorge myself because Indian food is no longer a scarcity in our home since I discovered "The Indian Slow Cooker",  a modern day miracle,  by Anupy Singla.  While I haven't been making dosas, I have been making just about everything else that I normally eat on the "Vegan Mondays".  After lunch we went to stock up on ingredients at the Indian grocery next door called "Seema" Enterprises".

"Seema" Indian Grocery next to Gokul's
Page Ave., St. Louis, MO.

Well this gal Anupy Singla has spent a LOT of time figuring out how to make traditional Indian dishes in the slow cooker. What is great about the slow cooker, in comparison to the pressure cooker, is that the beans will hold their form a lot better. Apparently the crock pot emulates how traditional Indian food would be cooked, by simmering on a flame for hours while needing consistent attention. We had received a slow cooker a few years back from my husband's mom and simply never opened the box. It wasn't really something I identified with since I was using the pressure cooker nearly every day to cook dried beans for the dogs and the husband. But then I needed to order a part for my the lid, and I decided to drag the slow cooker up from the basement. Problem was that everything on the Internet seemed to be focused on super American food, which really turned me off. I am imagining 1950's housewife cuisine and as a whole foods, raging vegan kind of gal who voted for Dennis Kucinich, I was just not identifying with pot roasts and carnivorous roasts at all. I don't even remember how it happened, but I just stumbled on this book and immediately ordered it, from Amazon. Apparently the wait time on Amazon was so great since they had run out of copies, that I went to the Anupy Singla's blog site and ordered one from her, signed! Indian food, slow cooker, that was something with which I could identify.  

So many to choose from!

Papads and MORE legumes at Seema.

At Seema, we loaded up on the spices we didn't already have such as black cardamom, amla (dried Indian gooseberries) and fresh curry leaves. They don't carry fresh curry leaves at Jay's International, which is a bummer because I don't think there is place right in the city that sells them. They were in little plastic bags and were unmarked. So unless you are familiar with what curry leaves look like, you might need to ask to ensure that you aren't picking up some other fresh leaves. At Seema they were in the small refrigerator across from the produce and cost 99 cents a small bag. It took me a bit to figure out "amla" because I didn't know where it would be located. She calls for unsalted, but I could only find 2 varieties dried (we bought some fresh frozen ones). One had amla and salt and the other had amla, sugar and other nasties. So I opted for the one with salt. The man working there seemed to think I wouldn't use this type to cook but that people eat them after meals. At this point I just went with my gut and trusted Anupy's "dried amla" instruction and thought maybe the man working at the counter didn't actually cook? The other questionable item was the "nigella" seeds. Well, he didn't know what those were either, but I actually took the book inside with me and found the other name "kolanji" and then it was apparent to him what I wanted. But those things were just minor learning curves.


Some boxed spices, premixed, such as "Chana Masala".
CAREFUL! of which ingredient salt is listed as.  Many have salt as the second ingredient.

Things I didn't already have included the black cardamom, green cardamom pods, curry leaves, amla, black salt, black mustard seeds, yellow mustard seeds, parsley seeds,  white poppy seeds, tamarind paste and the whole dried red chilies (I chose an Indian variety).  Other "basics" are garam masala, cumin, red chili, and tumeric (haldi).  I buy whatever I can organic at Mountain Rose Herbs.  They do carry garam masala, cardamoms, mustard seeds, tumeric, cumin, etc.....I will try to make a list of all the Indian spices you can buy from them.  They are great because they are very inexpensive and nearly everything they carry is organic and fair trade.  A little company in Oregon that carries spices, soaps, green and black teas, powdered seaweeds, tea supplies and essential oils.  

The elusive "Kallonji", a.k.a. "Nigella" seeds.

More Chanas!

I am also fortunate enough to have parents that are part of a food coop. So I had them order me some flax seeds in bulk and about 25 pounds of organic brown basmati rice, grown in the states. The price was just barely over $1.00 a pound. And that prompted me to finally replace our rice cooker since the lid had broken. I ended up getting the Miracle ( same brand as our manual wheat grass juicer) which has a stainless steel interior and also a stainless steaming basket. It is a simple cooker, but that's what I wanted. I didn't want non-stick anything. Just basic and no toxins.  It has been GREAT! And I figured out good rice ratios. So I am now putting 3 cups brown basmati to 4.5 cups of water and that seems perfect. I have been really happy with it so far!

My new "Miracle" Rice Cooker.
Stainless Steel interior and veggie basket.
No teflon or non-stick finish for me, Thank you.

Some new spices......
The beans, lentils, legumes, etc......are also a cinch to find. I bought all the ones I could from Whole Foods as I could get them organic. So the organic ones would be whole green mung, black eyed peas, whole white chickpeas, the small red lentils, and red kidney beans. I don't think any of them are more than 2.00 a pound. The other beans are available at international store or online. They are very inexpensive, especially if you buy in bulk. The beans there might include, black lentils (matpe beans, not the lentils that look black at Whole Foods), split black lentils (urad dal), kala chana ( black chickpeas which are smaller than white chickpeas and never get as soft but packed with protein), and chana dal.  The really cool thing is that she always uses dried beans, UNSOAKED.  Yep.  This is awesome because dried beans are so cheap AND they don't have the BPA's that canned beans do.  Eden brand is the only one I am aware of that carried BPA free cans, and those are about 1.99 a can.  I buy those if I must, but it actually states to use the dried types for the slow cooker.  That way they absorb the water and you can make food for your entire family for a couple of bucks, if that.  The beans at the international places cost far less than 2.00 a pound and if you buy them in bulk it is even less.  We are talking about eating some of the healthiest food available on the cheap.  Not only healthy, but delicious.  And if you eat like this on a regular basis, it is my opinion that you may be able to reduce the risk for America's greatest killers like diabetes and heart disease.  Low fat, lots of fiber, and if you do them vegan style, ZERO cholesterol.  Fiber fills you up so it is hard to get obese eating beans.  Trust me, I have tried.  I have a major bean addiction and that is the thing I crave whenever I am doing "raw foods".  Beans.  I crave beans and then I eat so many of them that I think I may burst!  My point is that it takes a lot of beans to create the same caloric load that say, donuts would, and they make it difficult to eat a whole lot more!

Aren't they pretty?
Beans from Jay's International and Seema Markets.
I couldn't find these types organic yet.

Thankfully she has a section in the book explaining different names for these things and also some photos. The only confusing part is that she calls a lot of beans "lentils" which is probably the "norm" for Indian cuisine. However, I grew up with lentils being specific types of beans so it is just kind of different that what I was used to. But I was happy to learn and understand that in India they probably don't classify the beans exactly the same as we do. It is useful information to be armed with when you go shopping. As I wasn't 100 percent sure that whole green moong dal were "mung" beans, the type that are often sprouted. Since they were also referred to as "lentils" I thought perhaps that it was one of the types of green lentils at Whole Foods.  I have made about 8 dishes from this book so far, some multiple times.  In the next posts I will let you know how they turned out!!  I can tell you this though; since we received this book I believe that the slow cooker has been used every single day.  And often overnight as well.  It's pretty cool that if you awaken for a moment or two at night, that the smell of curry is wafting through your house.  And nothing better than waking up early in the morning to a finished Indian dish.  Coffee and Black Chickpea Curry for my husband and Yerba Mate and the same for me.  It is a small miracle!

Do any of you have this book yet??  Curious as to what you guys think.  Do you make vegan dishes in your slow cookers?  What are your favorite vegan friendly Indian Cookbooks?

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  1. I, naturally, love your posts. It warms my heart to think that someone really is benefitting from a way of eating that we as Indian Americans have taken for granted our whole lives. One thing I wanted to let you know about the AMLA in the Channa recipe. My mom just told me that my own grandmother came up with it! At the time in Indian most were darkening their chana with teabags. But she recommending using Amla (we had a ton growing in our backyard in India) and it's so so there you go. I was very very impressed when I heard that story! Happy eating, my friend!

  2. I'm looking for a good aloo palak recipe... my favorite Indian in town so far is Saffron, but I'm finding it nearly impossible to approximate it at home. Any spinach and potatoes dishes in that book?
    It's great to find a vegan blog that uses St. Louis resources! I get so envious reading all those blogs from vegan mecca cities. I know we have it better than small towns, but still....


    Are a couple of links to recipes. The Indian Slow Cooker has lots of potato & spinach & mustard dishes too! I didn't see one specifically with both potatoes & spinach. Anupy eats pretty much veggie though so we should bug her for that recipe!!

  4. @ Anupy...So neat that your Grandmother started the "Amla" tradition! It
    so fun to buy ingredients that you have never heard of, or seen before! And how cool to have them in her backyard!

  5. Hey there --

    I wanted to tell you how much I have enjoyed all your posts on Anupy's book. I like to triangulate recipes (I love reading all the comments and variations on in order to get a better sense of them before cooking. It was nice seeing all your notes on the recipes, which I used to make some of my own adjustments.

    I am not vegan (I am vegetarian) but I do try to eat mostly plant-based meals. Thanks for recording your cooking experiences for all of us!


  6. I am so buying this book, immediately! I love that the book calls for dried beans, as I don't use canned beans. All of the slow cooker recipes I've found online thus far have called for canned beans or beans that have already been cooked -- which kind of defeats the purpose of using a slow cooker altogether. I'm so excited to sit down with this book with a hot cup of tea and then start (slow) cooking! Thanks for sharing. :)

  7. I also wanted to mention that I live in St. Louis too! I grew up about ten minutes from Gokul's (the original one on Page). When I became a vegan in high school, I practically lived on Gokul's take-out! I now live in the city, but I'll stop in at Seema (I've never been) to stock up on spices the next time I visit my parents.