Tadka, which goes by many other names, is one of the most spectacular flavor-building techniques used in Indian cooking. In the tadka method, whole or ground spices and other aromatic ingredients such as garlic or curry leaves are dropped into a small quantity of hot fat with a high smoke point. The heat and the oil help draw out the aromatic molecules from the spices to create a flavorful concoction, which is then poured, warm, to finish your dish. Serve it with warm bread.
1. Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C).
2. In a large cast-iron or other oven-safe skillet over medium heat, melt 1 tablespoon ghee or extra virgin olive oil. Add 2 large leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced. Sauté until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes. Add 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced; 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes such as Aleppo, Maras, or Urfa; and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper. Sauté until fragrant, 30 to 45 seconds. Add 1 large bunch (about 1 pound [455 grams]) chard leaves and stems, shredded. Sauté until the leaves start to wilt and the stems become tender, 5 to 6 minutes.
3. Remove from the heat and fold in one 14-ounce (400-gram) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed, and 1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice. Taste and season with fine sea salt.
4. Using a spoon or spatula, make 4 wells in the skillet. Crack and drop into the wells 4 large eggs. Place the skillet in the oven and bake until the egg whites become opaque and the yolks are still runny, 5 to 6 minutes. Remove from the oven.
5. While the eggs cook, prepare the tadka. In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, melt 2 tablespoons ghee or extra virgin olive oil. When hot, add 1 teaspoon whole caraway seeds, 1 teaspoon whole black or brown mustard seeds, and 1 teaspoon ground coriander. Swirl gently until the seeds stop sputtering and turn a light golden brown, 30 to 45 seconds. Remove from the heat and add ½ teaspoon smoked sweet paprika.
6. Ladle the hot oil with the spices over the eggs and greens and serve immediately. This is best eaten within an hour of making; leftovers can be stored for up to 1 day in the refrigerator but keep in mind runny eggs won’t reheat well.
THE COOK’S NOTES
• With a tadka, the oil is very hot, and spices can easily burn and turn bitter. I recommend either removing the hot oil from the burner and then adding the spices or cooking them for only 30 to 45 seconds.
• To test whether the oil is hot enough for the tadka, drop one or two mustard seeds into the oil. If the seeds start to sizzle and pop, the oil is hot enough.
Excerpted from Veg-Table: Recipes, Techniques + Plant Science for Big-Flavored, Vegetable-Focused Meals by Nik Sharma. © 2023. Published by Chronicle Books. Photographs by Nik Sharma.
Originally featured in Cozy Vegetable-Forward Recipes from Nik Sharma