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Apr 25, 2012 04:01 AM

Cooking without tomatoes, onion, garlic, chilli, coconut, dairy

I have family members who can't eat tomatoes, onion, garlic, chilli, coconut or dairy and am looking for new recipe inspiration for evening meals.
I often just leave out the onion/garlic/chilli in recipes, but would like to find ideas of seasonings to use instead to add that depth/interest in flavour.
Tomatoes are used as a base for sauces both for their liquid content and flavour. I've sometimes substituted pumpkin - eg: in a Shepherd's pie - but am wondering whether there might be some other options I haven't thought of.
So I'd love any suggestions of yummy meals that aren't based on these ingredients, or of substitution ideas. I'm particularly interested in vegan meals, but do also eat some meat.

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  1. Asafoetida (hing) will be your best bet to replace the garlic/onion flavor. It smells like a foot when it's raw, but when you fry a little pinch in oil, it tastes wonderful. You can get it at Indian groceries or on the Internet.

    Along the same lines, tofu is a good substitute for certain dairy applications - either pressed, cubed, and pan-fried for "paneer" curries, or whisked silken tofu as a substitute for yogurt or cream in curries, desserts, and smoothies.

    I would substitute roasted red peppers for tomatoes, if your family can tolerate bell peppers. (Are they allergic to nightshades, or are they just sensitive to the heat of chilis?)

    3 Replies
    1. re: kathleen440

      All brahman cooking of north India, and most of South India has no onion or garlic, and the authentic dishes have no tomatoes either. The cooking of Rarh Bengal for the most part has no chilies in the brahman and Vaishnava redactions. At most, green chilies may be added for aroma, and even that is a modern touch not found in the orthodox temple food. The type of food you mention is exactly what I have grown up on, and also prepared by the Shivalli brahmans of Karnataka. I have posted a recipe today, where you can substitute the ghee with a veegtable oil of your choice, e.g. peanut oil, cold-pressed sesame oil, or canola oil. Instead of potatoes, cauliflower florets may be used, or cubes of peeled acorn, hubbard or butternut squash. Orange sweet potatoes can be mixed in with potatoes as well. try working first only with Nigella seed, then we shall add in cassia leaf, then Nigella, cassia leaf, +whole cumin seed, later, fennel seed, and last brown mustard seed, and fenugreek seed. You will notice how each addition changes the flavor profiles!

      Next, we shall begin adding mixtures of vegetables, e.g. Potato, cauliflower, winter squash, daikon, etc. showing you essentials of steaming + final caramelization that lies at the heart of Rarh Bengal dry veegtable cookery. Of course, if you want, and if these appeal to you!

      then we can move to the semi-wet, where we introduce the use of mustard paste, in these very same mixes, along with its use in shredded cabbage and Lagenaria, to which we add frozen, squeezed tofu!

      Next, the "wet" vegetables and rices.

      Meanwhile, please go to Manjula's Kitchen where she cooks with Jain principles, devoid of onion and garlic. Just leave out chili pepper and dairy. Our Rarh cookery is already evolved to do without chilies, because those were foreign to India. Mustard oil and paste, along with ginger, and fresh cassia leaf were our seasonings, and Bengal was the entrepot for the Indonesian spice trade since time immemorial.

      1. re: GTM

        Thanks for that. I'm new to this site - where do I find the recipe you posted?

        1. re: Trebleinthekitchen

          "A great number of brahman cooking styles all over northern India can scarcely be called "spice heavy"!! There is simply no use of chilies, pepper or many spices you think are associated with "Indian" cooking! Begiining in Maharashtra, a well-loved daily meal for many is "saada varan", which is plain boiled tuvar dal/cajanus/pigeon peas, with or without turneric. This is served with plain rice, salt, fresh lime, and a few drops of ghee. In Bengal the same is true, except the legume may be mung beans, red lentils or urad dal. I myself eat plain red lentils boiled, in the above manner, almost every other day, and I am an Indian to the core!

          Let us come to the next step, where the dal is given flavor with a simple "tarka" of oil or ghee heated with Nigella seed and cassia leaf. This is a classic treatment of red lentils in West Bengal. That is it, and balanced by salt and cane jaggery.

          You should study the cooking of Odisha, where dal is also simply flavored with cumin seed, grated coconut, and ginger or curry leaves.

          Let us return to Bengal, where I could write volumes on the flavor principles. Start with cubed russet or Yukon potatoes. Ghee just hot enough, then Nigella seed, add potatoes stir to coat, and go on for a few minutes without browning. Sprinkle a tiny bit of water, and a very little bit of sea salt and cover tight, lowering flame. Cook until tender. Remove cover, add a tiny bit of sugar, to effect a hint of sweetness. This is why the saltiness should be greatly understated. the potatoes should be almost crumbling along the edges. Evaporate all liquid, and fry just a bit. Your dish is ready. You should savor the earthiness of the potatoes, their skin, the Nigella, as well as the ghee. The tastes are sweet and salt, plus the indefinable thing of potatoes. Eat with toasted baguettes or chapatis."

          "For Rarh cooking, cauliflower and potaoes are cooked in two different styles, one reserved for the lunch and "snack" type meals served with fried breads and the other for the evening and/or "big" occasions such as religious festivals or important guests and celebrations. The spicing is different too, and never mixed up. Much of Rarh cooking, for brahmans and Vaishnava vegetarian meals never employ garlic or onion, and that is a characteristic feature of this style of Bengali cuisine, and its flavor palette. ...

          First, the "dark" evening "curry" properly termed a "daalnaa". The cauliflower must be cut in BIG WHOLE florets, and there is a particular technique where you slice into the flower stalk, the pedicel, and then gently tear apart the flower bud portion. Now gently sautee the florets in a hot SS pan or steel pan with scant oil so that you scorch them a bit; you will begin to smell a typical cauliflower aroma arising. Set apart. Cut russet potatoes or yukon gold , both with skin on, into very large chunks, and lightly fry, set aside. Now prepare your masala!

          Take root ginger and finely grind it on stone; this is going to be the base for your gravy; it should be silken smooth. Use your judgement, a couple, three tablespoon, because ginger varies in pungency and fiber content.

          Next, if you can manage such, the finest taste comes from stone ground turmeric rhizomes. Soak in water, and grind. Good quality turmeric powder mixed with water and allowed to sit, become a slurry, is fine. This way, the spice will not scorch.

          Then, whole coriander seed, whole cumin seed, whole black peppercorns, by volume, 2: 1.5: 0.5. wash, soak, grind on Indian stone metate to silken paste. Use judgement how much. For convenience, you can use a dedicated coffee grinder, $10-type cheapo ones, to finely grind the spices, and make a slurry in cool water, along with the turmeric. Or, for the truly ambitious, buy the expensive table top grinder like the SOWBHAGHYA or ULTRAPRIDE. Only if you are seriously into Indian, Thai and Mexican cooking!!

          Now your aromatics to flavor the hot oil: CASSIA leaf [never bay!!], cassia bark, whole cloves, green cardamom lightly crushed, a little bit of whole cumin seed. Please note, NOTHING else! Asafetida is another aromatic that is useful, but not strictly necessary here. These aromatics will be used for a whole range of vegetable cookery so it makes sense to purchase them in 4 oz packages in Indian grocery stores. You can use them in Christmas baking, or in Scandinavian breads, as well as in mulled cider, wine or cranberry juice.

          [CHAI = fresh ginger crsuhed and crushed green cardamon pods steeped in scalded or simmering milk to which strong Red Label tea liquor has been added. It is messy to "cook" the tea leaves in the milk, Indian style, and strain them out, hence, the last modification.


          You can use mustard oil or refined peanut oil or canola or any oil you choose. [ pure ghee for preference, but you don't do dairy].

          Gently heat enough oil just to the point the aromatics will release flavor, and pop them in with a short prayer. When they swell and swim around, you may add a pinch of asafetida, if you have any, but do not bother; add ginger paste, then stir to release aroma, followed by turmeric slurry, and the coriander/cumin/peppercorn paste.

          There needs to be a fair amount of fat, but control the heat, and keep water handy to sprinkle so that the spices never scorch but cook with equanimity and give off a satisfying fragrance. If you have been adding tiny splashes of water, you will have a mass of spice coming together into a ball around your spatula, to which you will now add the potatoes, and gently "fry" them for a wee bit of time, but NOT long enough to drive away all that aroma. Remember that the more aroma you smell, the more aromatic oils are escaping into the air! Not good!!

          This is where in vegetarian cooking, an apprenticeship is invaluable, and learning this type of Indian cooking from cookbooks is often fraught with failure.

          OK, now add sea salt and brown sugar, or cane jaggery (quite a bit of sweetener) because the dalna will be distinctly sweet. Gradually build up the gravy with 1/2 cups boiling water at a time, and cover, cook until potatoes are half tender, and then add cauliflower, cook until just tender and the gravy is thick and to your liking. Thin very slightly if need be. This is your dalnaa. Add ghee, if necessary, just before serving and eat with a freshly sliced lime, and whole wheat tortilla toasted on a griddle or directly on a gas flame until they are puffed and develop dark spots. Chinese grocery frozen roti prata also ok, but very rich. Oven toasted baguette slices are delicious too."

          modified from "Seductions of Rice....."

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      1. We never used tomatoes in Shepherd's pie; always a brown gravy, but a mushroom gravy would serve well.

        Experiment with different herbs and spices: see what thyme, tarragon, oregano, cumin, basil, smoked paprika and other additions do to your dishes.

        Try almond milk as a dairy substitute.

        ETA: Roasted red peppers are a nice colorful topper for pasta if your family isn't allergic.

          1. I know how you feel, I have an allergy to garlic, but it's in everything so I have to make my own curry's ay home but I want to learn more about tumeric, as it is good for cancer which I have just been treated for . Any one with any good receipe's for this please pass on many thanks pixie55