Recipes sans onions

Indian cuisine might vary across regions, states and communities, but one thing that remains constant, more or less, across these cuisines is the use of onion. With onion prices shooting through the roof, however, the quintessential Indian kitchen has been left in the lurch.

“You can replace any vegetable in a recipe, but onions are irreplaceable,” says Radhicka Agarwal, one of the finalists on MasterchefIndia, a cooking contest show on STAR Plus. Onions not only enhance the flavour of dishes but are a key factor in creating a texture for the gravy.

“It’s definitely a challenge to cook without onions,” says Agarwal after giving the challenge deep thought. “I’d use herbs and condiments to make up for the flavour and I’d use yoghurt, cashew or melon-seed paste to get the right texture.”

But for Agarwal’s fellow contestant Pankaj Bhadouria, cooking without onions is no big deal. “Jains, Vaishnavs and so many other Indian communities have been eating food without onion for centuries and these traditional dishes are delicious and wholesome!” she says.

But how does she plan to cope with this sudden paucity of onion in her kitchen? “I’d use a lot of ginger, tomatoes and vegetable puree for thickening the gravies. Another option is to make a dry preparation without any onion.”

Jayanandan Bhaskar, the third finalist on the show, steps in to help us make a non-vegetarian curry. Bring out the spatulas, we are cooking a ‘full Indian dinner’ sans onion!

Radhicka’s Chane ki Dal Ke Kebab:

You will need:

1 cup chana dal, soaked overnight

4-5 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tbsp coriander leaves, chopped

1 green chilli, finely chopped

1 tsp ghee

A pinch of hing

Salt to taste

Maida, just enough to bind

Oil or ghee to fry the kebabs

Method: Boil or pressure-cook the dal till tender. Drain and grind the dal to a fine paste. Heat a tsp of ghee in a pan and add hing and the dal paste to it and sauté till dry. Set the mixture aside to cool. Once the mixture cools, mix in chopped coriander, garlic, green chilli and salt. Add the maida and bring the mixture to a dough-like consistency. Roll into medium-sized flat rounds and shallow fry in a pan. Serve hot with coriander mint chutney or a yoghurt-and-garlic dip.

Pankaj’s Dal Makhni:

You will need:

¾th cup whole udad dal, soaked overnight

2 tbsp rajma, soaked overnight

½ tsp cumin seeds

2 green chillies, chopped

1 inch stick cinnamon or ¼th tsp cinnamon powder

2 cloves

3 green cardamoms

1 tsp red chilli powder

¾ tsp turmeric powder

¼th tsp dry ginger powder

300 gms fresh tomato pulp

150 gms fresh cream

3 tbsp butter

Salt to taste

Ginger julienne, chopped coriander and butter to garnish.

Method: Drain the soaked dal, add salt, and cook in a pressure cooker with 2-3 cups of water. Once cooked, mash the dal completely. In a frying pan, heat the butter and add the cumin seeds. Once the cumin starts to crackle, add the chillies, cinnamon, cloves and cardamom and sauté well. Once you start getting the distinct aroma, add in chilli powder, turmeric, dry ginger and the tomato pulp. Cook on medium flame till the butter starts separating from the masala. Now, add the dal mixture with ¾th cup water and let it simmer for 10-15 minutes. If you want the traditional flavour, add about ½ cup of milk, 2 tbsp at a time, and let the dal simmer for half an hour. Once the dal has thickened, add the cream, mix well, and garnish. Your Dal Makhni is ready!

Jayanandan’s Tango Creamy Chicken:

You will need:

200gm chicken, boneless and cubed

300gm tomato puree (preferably freshly made)

100ml fresh cream

2 pinches nutmeg powder

½ tsp black pepper powder

1½ tsp cumin powder

½ tsp garam masala

2 tsp kasuri methi

½ tsp ginger, finely chopped

½ tsp garlic paste

50gm butter

Salt to taste

Method: Marinate the chicken pieces with nutmeg and salt and set aside for 10-15 minutes. Pan sear the marinated chicken for about a minute using 1 tsp butter and set aside. Heat the remaining butter in a pan, add in crumbled kasuri methi, chopped ginger and garlic paste, and sauté till slightly brown. Next, add in the tomato puree and let it simmer for two minutes. Now, add the pan-seared chicken to the pan and stir well. Let the curry cook for another minute or so. Now add the cumin, black pepper powder, and salt. After a minute, add fresh cream and garam masala and cook for two minutes. Remove from heat and keep the pan covered for 2 minutes. Garnish with ginger juliennes and voila!

Originally published on on Dec 23, 2011

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