cashew and cardamom fudge

by Stevie on August 31, 2012

This tofu dessert… yes, you read correctly, tofu dessert, is another super recipe from Nguyen’s Asian Tofu. She touts it as a higher protein version of the Indian kaju barfi, typically made with milk, sugar and cashew nuts.

cashew and cardamom fudge

cashew and cardamom fudge

Mine was delicious but didn’t quite have the consistency of what I consider to be fudge. This was soft. Perhaps I should have simmered the sweetened condensed milk longer to have less liquid? In any event, the flavor was wonderful and unlike most tofu-bearing recipes, you’ll never even know it is there.

cashew and cardamom fudge

8 oz super-firm tofu, grated with your finest grater
3½ oz raw cashews
1 can sweetened condensed milk
¾ tsp cardamom—I used whole pods which I ground and removed some of the fibrous shells
2 tbsp chopped pistachios

Line a small pan (she recommends 8”x8” but I didn’t have one so improvised) with parchment paper.

Grind cashews in food processor to a coarse texture. Add to shredded tofu (shredding the tofu was the hardest part of this recipe.) Toss to combine.

In a medium pan on medium heat, add the sweetened condensed milk and the tofu cashew mixture. Cook, stirring periodically, about 15 minutes. Don’t let it boil. Remove from heat and add ground cardamom.

Press into prepared pan. Press chopped pistachios on top. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate several hours or overnight.

When ready, cut into squares, bars or diamonds. Enjoy.

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fish biryani

by Heguiberto on November 8, 2011

This is our recipe for the biryani cook-off that the delightful Heavenly was so good to sponsor. Though after making this marvelous, complex dish; I’m starting to think that she might have been misnamed, as it appears that a tiny bit of a devilish streak lies hidden among all that domestic goodness and glamour. Have you ever seen one of those cartoons with the good angel and the bad angel sitting on the main character’s shoulders, giving opposite confusing advice? Then you know where I’m coming from here.

fish biryani

fish biryani

Okay I always promise myself whenever I’m about to cook Indian that I’ll get the spices out first, so I don’t get mixed up or forget anything, then proceed to the actual cooking adventure. But no, I didn’t do that again! Perhaps that was my evil angel’s counsel. I got dizzy from relentlessly having to go back and forth to the pantry and spinning the lazy-susan over and over and over again to locate the next needed spice for this dish. How funny that now that we have a new kitchen with a dedicated place for spices, I still find myself unable to find anything. I hope that one day they add some computerized artificial intelligence with a soothing voice to kitchen cabinets that will both find anything that I want via verbal-command and will calm me with his/her flattery and encouragement as I freak out at the stovetop. Then no more getting lost in the aromatic black hole I call my spice cabinet.

spice chaos as I look for ingredients for fish biryani

spice chaos as I look for ingredients for fish biryani

I must confess I think I have never made a dish that was so complicated. Lots of steps! I quite liked the result, but this was an effort. I am going to test the recipe again using spices in different proportions. I feel sure each time it will come out tasting slightly differently, so I can mix it up some. I’m excited to read about everyone else’s versions in the cook-off. You should be too. Follow these links for the other “contestants’” biryani masterpieces.

Heavenly Housewife from donuts to delirium
Vanessa from sweet artichoke
Glamorous Glutton
moinetteTeczcape: An Escape to Food
Laura from healthyjalapeno

fish biryani

Make Masala powder first. See below for recipe.

toasting the spices for the Masala powder

toasting the spices for the Masala powder

for the rice:

2 cup basmati rice
1 bay leaf
2 inch piece of cinnamon stick
Few peppercorns
¼ tsp kosher salt

Soak rice in plenty of water for about one hour. Drain. Place rice in a saucepan with 5 cups of water. Drop in salt, bay leaf, pepper corn, and parboil the rice for about 10 minutes. Do not overcook it! Drain and set aside.

for the fish:

1 lb monkfish cut into individual pieces, or any other firm white fish
Juice of 1 lemon
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chili powder
1 tbsp Masala powder*
1tsp coriander powder
1 tbsp ginger paste
1 tsp kosher salt

Make a paste by mixing lemon juice, garlic and ginger paste, salt and powders. Rub on fish pieces and marinate for about ½ hour. Keep it refrigerated if your kitchen gets too hot.

gently poaching the monkfish in the Masala sauce

gently poaching the monkfish in the Masala sauce

for the Masala sauce:

1 large onion, cut into thin half moon slices
4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and cubed
2 Serrano peppers, minced, ribs and seeds partially removed
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
A few mint leaves, julienned
1 tsp Aleppo pepper
¼ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp fresh garlic paste
1 tsp fresh ginger paste
2 tbsp Masala powder *
1 bay leaf
1 tsp ajwain seeds
1 tsp black peppercorn
½ tsp allspice powder
¼ tsp clove powder
¼ tsp onion seeds
1½ cups plain yogurt
2 tbsp canola oil
A few strands saffron
1 tsp sugar

Add oil to a large skillet followed by onion and minced Serrano pepper. Cook until onion becomes wilted and translucent. Push onion to the side of skillet. Add ginger and garlic pastes, ajwain seeds, bay leaf, black peppercorn, Aleppo pepper, Masala powder, turmeric, allspice and clove powder, saffron, onion seeds, sugar and cook until raw smells dissipate. Add tomato, stir everything together and cook until tomatoes begin to dissolve. Mix yogurt with half cup of water and fold into the sauce. Carefully lay fish pieces over the Masala sauce, cover pan and cook on medium heat for about 8 minutes. Mix in cilantro and mint leaves.

At this point heat up the oven to 450F.

ready to layer the baking dish with rice and fish

ready to layer the baking dish with rice and fish

several layers of rice and fish to form my biryani

several layers of rice and fish to form my biryani

*for the Masala powder for fish

5 whole cloves
4 green cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks ~3 inch each
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp cumin leaves
1 bay leaf
½ tsp grated nutmeg
1 tbsp ground coriander

Place cloves, cardamom, fennel and bay leaf in a saucepan; put it over burner over high heat. Dry roast spices for a few minutes until aromatic, being careful not to burn it. Transfer to a coffee grinder and pulverize. Mix in ground nutmeg and coriander. (My coriander was already ground, if you have seeds use them instead).

to assemble the fish biryani:

Using an oven-proof baking dish with a cover, assemble the biryani with one layer of rice, followed by a layer of fish masala, and finish with the remaining Masala sauce. Repeat so you end up with three or four layers of all ingredients. Cover and bake for about 30 minutes. The rice will finish cooking in the masala sauce without becoming overly cooked. Remove from oven and let it rest for about 10 minutes before serving.

If you haven’t had enough fish biryani yet, look here, here and here for other related versions.



by Stevie on June 2, 2011

This recipe comes from the amazing book by Najmieh Batmanglij, Food of Life. I made advieh for basmati and fava rice.



Personally, I find spice mixes fascinating and mysterious bordering on scary. They’re so puzzling when you buy them pre-made. Whatever could be in these things? Chinese five spice is a perfect example. I look at it in its little jar on the supermarket shelf and become baffled. Yet when Heguiberto made it recently from scratch it suddenly became familiar and easy.

So with advieh, though there are some apparent variations. For example, Persian Kitchen adds nutmeg to the ingredients. Chowhound and make theirs the same as Najmieh. However, Javaneh recommends lots more potential spices like star anise, zaafaran, pistachio, turmeric, ginger and many others. She seems to take a more free-form approach, which I always welcome.

Since I’m new at advieh, I basically stuck with the book. Of course, less is more when it comes to cinnamon at my house, so I reduced the total amount.

This is fun. In the act of preparing a spice mix, I always feel connected to the ancient and ongoing history of food.

basic advieh

2 tbsp dried rose petals
2 tbsp cardamom
1 tbsp cinnamon
1 tbsp cumin

Blend everything together in a spice mill or coffee grinder. Store in air tight container.


This delectable dish comes from the sublime Najmieh Batmanglij’s book, Food of Life. I made it with some success for a recent dinner party on a day when I felt little inspiration. Najmieh always cheers my mind and appetite.

basmati rice with dried yellow fava beans

basmati rice with dried yellow fava beans

Her recipe calls for dried peeled yellow fava beans, which I happened to have. Hegui picked them up at Mi Pueblo long before I’d considered this dish. She uses a special Persian spice mix for rice called advieh. The recipe can be found towards the end of the book, so I prepared my own. Made from cardamom, cumin, rose petal and cinnamon, it was quite aromatic. Since Hegui isn’t too into cinnamon, I reduced the total amount in my advieh and left out the additional ½ teaspoon that’s recommended for the yellow rice.

You’re supposed to use a non-stick pot and allow the rice on the bottom to burn and caramelize a bit. When you plate, you carefully remove the rice, which is served in a large platter in a cone shape with the garnish. Then you remove the burned crust and offer it on the side. I don’t have that kind of pan so omitted the extended cooking at low temperature and stirred my rice to try to prevent sticking. Too bad. The crust sounds quite interesting.

My only real objection to the recipe, since it was fabulous, is that she writes it “makes 6 servings.” This is absurd. I could have fed an army with the amount of finished rice. So be warned.

basmati rice with dried yellow fava beans

3 cups basmati rice, rinsed thoroughly
2 to 3 large onions, peeled and thinly sliced
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tbsp turmeric
2cups dried yellow hulled favas
1 tbsp or more salt
black pepper to taste
1 tsp advieh or Persian spice mix
½ cup olive oil
raisins and fried eggs for garnish

Soak beans in water for at least two hours or more.

In a deep pot, brown onions in vegetable oil, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add turmeric, soaked rinsed beans and warm water to cover (she says 7 cups). Bring to boil then simmer for about thirty minutes to cook beans. Add salt, black pepper and rinsed rice. Simmer for another 20 minutes to cook rice. Sprinkle advieh onto cooked rice then pour olive oil over it. Cover and let rest off the heat for about ten minutes.

Plate rice on a large platter forming a cone shape. Decorate with raisins and fried eggs.


This recipe was adapted from VegNews, a vegan magazine I got for free at the 26th Toronto vegetarian food fair Steven and I attended recently on a trip to Canada. It attracted my attention because it uses healthy ingredients that I happen to love: bulgur, black-eyed-peas and kale. It also requires a homemade spice mix which I enjoy preparing. Toasting, mixing, and grinding spices fill the house with magical aromas.

Mediterranean bulgur black-eyed-pea pilaf

Mediterranean bulgur black-eyed-pea pilaf

The original recipe calls for a coarser bulgur than I had. Since I didn’t want to go shopping for that special bulgur last minute, I made do with what was there. The dish tasted great though it didn’t turn out as fluffy as I expected. I’m sure that’s due to the bulgur. When you try this recipe use the coarser type. The VegNews recipe doesn’t call for toasting the spices, but I did as I think that toasting brings out the flavors. The spice blend is called baharat and many countries in the Mediterranean have their own version. This one is sort of Lebanese inspired.

Mediterranean bulgur black-eyed-pea pilaf

1 cup bulgur (preferably the coarser type)
1 cup warm water or vegetable broth
1 large white onion, cut into tiny cubes
1 bunch kale or collard greens, rinsed and chopped fine
½ bunch whole scallions, chopped into thin rounds
4 tbsp olive oil
3 sweet Nantes carrots, cubed
2 cups cooked black-eyed-peas
4 tsp baharat spice mix (see below)
Kosher salt
Fresh black pepper
A few squirts of lemon or lime juice
2 ears sweet corn, cooked and broken into small pieces
several Kalamata olives

baharat spice mix

1tbsp black pepper
1½ tbsp coriander seeds
1½ tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp fenugreek
5 cardamom pods
1 tbsp ground ginger

Soak bulgur in liquid for about a half hour.

Add all spices for baharat mix, except ginger, to a skillet and toast for a minute to bring out their aromas. Pour spices into a grinder and pulse until powdered. Add ground ginger and pulse again. Set aside.

Add 2 tbsp olive oil to a large pan. Add onion and cook until browned a bit. Add kale, carrot, scallion and sauté until kale has wilted. Add black-eyed peas, baharat mix and bulgur. Reduce heat to low and simmer for a few minutes to warm through. Adjust flavors by adding more baharat, salt and perhaps a bit more black pepper. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with sweet corn and olives. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Squeeze lemon over everything.

I served this with quibebe clássico or savory winter squash with garlic and olive oil.


I’ve been thrilled lately to be cooking from Najmieh Batmanglij’s Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey. Her rice dishes all turn out exciting and quite different from things that I’ve ever made before. This Susa polow is no exception. The book says that Susa was the capital of Elam, an ancient bronze-age kingdom in what’s now part of Iran. Najmieh suggests that this rice dish might have been packed for travelers on a famous highway that went 1,500 miles. I don’t know about that (and I wonder how she would know that?) But this dish is filling, aromatic, and tasty. Hegui thought it a bit too sweet. However, Heather at my office, whose husband makes a lot of Persian food, seemed to like it a lot.

Susa polow with lentils, currants and dates

I did use less sugar than the book recommended. Also I had beluga lentils, which I ended up cooking longer than the mere fifteen minutes recommended in the original recipe. It took about 35 min before they tasted tender to me. I sprinkled some chili flakes on the rice at the end, too.

some key ingredients for Susa polow

Susa Polow with Lentils, Currants and Dates

2 cups basmati rice, picked over and rinsed
1 cup lentils, picked over and rinsed
3 cups water
2 ½ tsp salt
½ cup vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 2-inch cinnamon sticks
2 cardamom pods
2 medium onions, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups currants
2 cups dates, pitted and cut in half (I used Majool)
Zest from one orange
1 tbsp sugar
½ tsp black pepper
3 cups vegetable stock or water
1 tsp ground saffron dissolved in 2 tbsp hot water

Boil lentils in three cups water with ½ tsp salt until tender (15 to 30 minutes). Drain.

Heat ¼ cup vegetable oil in large skillet or wok on medium heat. Add cumin, cinnamon and cardamom. Cook for 20 seconds. Add onion and fry for 15 minutes until golden brown. Add rice, currants, dates, orange zest, sugar, 2 tsp salt, pepper and 3 cups water or vegetable broth. Bring to boil then simmer covered until water absorbed.

Add lentils and mix gently. Mix remaining oil with saffron water then drizzle over rice. Cover and cook for 15 minutes more. Remove from heat and let stand covered 10 minutes. Transfer to serving platter and enjoy.

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my spicy chana recipe

by Heguiberto on August 28, 2009

Chana is the Indian name for chick pea or garbanzo bean. My recipe is inspired by a wonderful chick pea dish called Kaabli Chana that I order from Rotee Express, an Indian restaurant that I go to for lunch every now and then. This restaurant is conveniently located around the corner from my office on Howard and Spear in San Francisco. Since I really love the place, that’s great for me!

my spicy chana recipe

my spicy chana recipe

I don’t actually know their recipe so mine turned out a little spicier than theirs. Nevertheless it’s delicious! I think they use ghee but I wanted to go vegan so left it out. I think that the dish is already full of flavor anyways.

Chana is an excellent source of protein and combined with my delicious carrot cumin basmati rice it was a perfect meal. Don’t be scared to cook Indian. It’s true that there’re a lot of unusual spices and names to get the hang of and I do sometimes feel like a mad scientist in a culinary laboratory. But it’s super fun, and the results are always rewarding.

My Spicy Chana Recipe


2 cup cooked chick peas (chana)
3 tbsp canola oil
1 bay leaf
A few cloves
3 cardamom pods
3 medium onions, peeled
few pepper corns
5 ripe Roma tomatoes
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp fresh ginger ground into paste
Pinch of turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp chili powder
2 tsp Sambar* for extra spice, extra kick and thickening
½ bunch chopped fresh cilantro
Kosher salt to taste
1 to 2 cup hot water

*Sambar is a spice mix from South India made with coriander seeds, besan flour (chick-pea flour), fenugreek, black pepper, mustard seeds, chili powder, turmeric, cinnamon, curry leaves, asafetida and amchur powder (mango powder). You can find it at Indian specialty stores.

How to:

Place tomatoes, 2 onions, minced garlic, and ginger in food processor and pulse till puréed, then reserve. Cut remaining onion into thin slices. Heat oil in a non-stick pan; add cardamom pods, bay leaf, pepper corns and cloves cook for about 1 minute till fragrant. Add onion and sauté till soft and translucent but do not burn it. Add puréed tomato mix, turmeric and salt. Cook on high heat stirring constantly for 18-20 minutes. Add coriander, cumin, chili pepper and Sambar, give it a good stir. The powdered spices will soak up the juices and make a thick mass. Keep stirring it for few more minutes. Add chana, about 1 and ½ cup water and simmer on medium heat for another 10-12 minutes, stirring few times. The dish should have a thick consistency like a hearty marinara sauce. Adjust salt. Toss in cilantro and serve over rice.

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