Friday, 25 February 2011

Bal's Quick and Healthy Indian

Bal's Quick and Healthy Indian
Bal Arneson
Softcover, 208 pages

Bal Arneson is a Canadian cook and television personality who can be seen on Canada's Food Network as well as the U.S.'s Cooking Channel. She came here almost two decades ago from a small village in the Punjab and has made Western Canada her home. There she teaches her unique fusion of Indian flavours and western ingredients. With a passion for healthy yet lively food, she balances flavour, fun, and diversity in this, her second cookbook.

This is a family cookbook, with kid-friendly recipes like Masala Chicken Fingers with Mint and Mango Chutney and Zucchini and Cheese Quesadillas, as well as more traditional Indian fare and inspiring East-West fusion dishes.

The recipes are easy to follow and, as long as you have good access to spices, easy to find the ingredients for.

In our KitchenPuppy test kitchen, we whipped up her Avocado and Chickpea Salad, combining two of my favourite superfoods with earthy Indian spices - delicious!

Avocado and Chickpea Salad
The first time I tried avocado was here in North America. I was intrigued by its creaminess, and I suspected it would go well with Indian spices and with chickpeas.

To grind cumin and cardamom, I use a coffee grinder set aside for this purpose. With cardamom, I remove the seeds from the pod and just use the seeds. I prefer green cardamom to black.

Serves 4

Avocados are a good source of dietary fiber, health-promoting monounsaturated fats, vitamin C, and potassium (good for preventing muscle cramps). Once I learned all this I began using them on a regular basis in my cooking.


2 Tbsp (30 mL) olive oil

1 Tbsp (15 mL) lemon juice

1 Tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped ginger

½ tsp (2 mL) ground cardamom

¼ tsp (1 mL) ground cumin

¹⁄8 tsp (0.5 mL) Spanish paprika

¹⁄8 tsp (0.5 mL) salt


4 avocados, sliced

14 oz (398 mL) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

¼ cup (60 mL) finely chopped green onion

1. To make the dressing, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, ginger, cardamom, cumin, paprika, and salt in a small bowl and mix well.

2. Combine the avocados, chickpeas, and green onion in a large bowl and toss gently. Just before serving, pour the dressing over the salad and toss to thoroughly coat the ingredients.

We also whipped up the Spiced Sweet Potatoes Cooked with Split Red Lentils, great source of fibre and very tasty with brown basmati rice and a salad. I did find that I had lentils left over, but they were wonderful in a wrap with some sautéed greens.

Spiced Sweet Potatoes Cooked with Split Red Lentils
In my kitchen I cook with lentils, chickpeas, and beans very frequently. There is really no end to what you can do with them. The best part of this recipe is the spices that form a nice crust on the sweet potatoes.

Serves 4


3 cups (750 mL) split red lentils (masoor dhal)

6 cups (1.5 L) water

½ tsp (2 mL) salt

1 tsp (5 mL) ground turmeric

Spiced sweet potatoes

2 Tbsp (30 mL) grapeseed oil

1 Tbsp (15 mL) finely chopped ginger

1 Tbsp (15 mL) cumin seeds

1 Tbsp (15 mL) Ginger Masala (page 8)

½ tsp (2 mL) coriander seeds, crushed

½ tsp (2 mL) mustard seeds

10 to 12 curry leaves

¹⁄8 tsp (0.5 mL) salt

1 small sweet potato, peeled and cubed

½ cup (125 mL) water

1. To prepare the lentils, place all the ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to low and simmer until the lentils are soft, about 15 to 18 minutes.

2. To prepare the spiced sweet potatoes, heat the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the ginger and cook for 10 seconds. Add the cumin seeds, Ginger Masala, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, curry leaves, and salt and cook for 5 seconds. Stir in the sweet potato and water. Bring to a boil and turn the heat to low and simmer, stirring regularly, until the sweet potato is tender, about 12 to 15 minutes.

3. To serve, add the cooked sweet potatoes to the lentils and mix them gently. Enjoy over rice or with rotis.

Bal's Quick and Healthy Indian - Definitely healthy, definitely delicious!