Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Sweet Chocolatey Morsels


It was in the middle of a very busy week, but a celebration was in order. A special meal was organised (sort of). But dessert? For once I was stumped. But a celebration without dessert? Not on my watch.

I usually have a couple loaves of plain or chocolate cake stashed in the freezer for just such emergencies.

Earlier in the week I had picked up a tub of mascarpone cheese without any specific use for it in mind.
I remembered book marking a recipe for rich (not that there is any other kind) chocolate mascarpone mousse and set out to make that.
The cake was cut into small bite-sized pieces, topped with some raspberry jam and a small amount of the mascarpone frosting. I tried to pipe pretty rosettes, but the frosting didn't oblige. Next time I'll just use a melon baller.

The combination of chocolate cake and marcarpone mousse with raspberry was simply heavenly. The mousse was quite rich. It was a good thing the cake pieces were small; moderation and all that.

I'm sharing these chocolate morsels with Deepz of Letz Cook who is hosting JFI:Chocolate. JFI is the brainchild of Indira of Mahanandi.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Masoor Without a Tongue

Masoor Ma Jib (without the jib)

It was in the New Books section of the library and I almost didn't pick it up thinking 'My Bombay Kitchen' was yet another generically titled Indian cookbook. But as the extended title said 'Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking', I picked up the book.
Within minutes of reading the book I knew I had to have it.
'My Bombay Kitchen: Traditional and Modern Parsi Home Cooking' by Niloufer Ichaporia King is a treasure.

The writing is casual (though different from Madhur Jaffery's casual-chatty style), liberally sprinkled with information about Parsi life in Bombay (yeah yeah Mumbai), Parsi customs, eating habits, and evolutions of those over time. Her style of writing and the language used had me absolutely hooked. I read the entire book in a couple of days. The book is chock full of simply brilliant observations. Here are two of my favourite ones:

Most important in cooking is reliance on one's senses, all seven - touch, taste, smell, sight, hearing, sixth, and common .
(emphasis mine)
Reminded me of a dinner party where I overheard a lady very sincerely asking the hostess 'If I skip the mirchi all together, do you think it will be less spicy?'.

It keeps for at least a week refrigerated and can be successfully thawed. (Note, I didn't say 'frozen'. Anything can be successfully frozen).
Of course! Anyone who has ended up with mush instead of the boiled potatoes that were (successfully) frozen knows this.

There are so many recipes and cooking/prepping techniques (for example, grating tomatoes instead of finely chopping them) that I want to try out. If one can disregard the various anatomical parts that go in the preparation (lamb tongue, pig ears to name just two) the seasonings and masalas used for preparing meat sound delicious too.

The first recipe I tried was a masoor preparation as masoor is by far the favourite lentil in our family. This is a modified version of the original Masoor Ma Jib (masoor with tongue).
The original recipe calls for both dhansak masala and sambhar masala (not to be confused with the masala used for making sambaar). As the Parsi sambar masala is not commercially available outside India, I skipped it.
Here is the recipe with some minor modifications of my own.

Ingredients
2 cups whole masoor
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1-2 cups assorted vegetables (I used carrots and potatoes)
1 green chili, chopped
4-5 stalks coriander leaves (cilantro) finely chopped
2 tsp ginger garlic paste
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp Dhansak masala (though the book has a recipe for this, I used the storebought masala)
1 tsp turmeric powder
salt, to taste

Method
Wash the masoor and let it soak in 3-4 cups of water for a couple of hours.
Heat the oil in a wok/ kadhai.
Add the onions and cook till they soften.
Add the garlic-ginger paste, dhansak masala, chili, turmeric. Cook for a couple of minutes. If the masala starts sticking to the bottom of the pan, add a little water.
Add the tomatoes, the vegetables, masoor and about 4 cups of water.
Cook covered for about 30-40 minutes, till the masoor is cooked through.
Add the salt and cilantro.
Enjoy!

We enjoyed the Parsi-style masoor with brown-rice and a simple salad. The dhansak masala made quite a difference. The book has a recipe for sambhar masala, which I'm now tempted to make as I'm curious to know what it brings to the party!


Faux Pho?
On a recent afternoon, got back from work and headed straight for the kitchen. The kids (I'm hunger Aai, really really hungry.) and the cat (meow) had to wait. I turned my attention to them only after I set a pot of water to boil along with a handful of cilantro, a couple of ginger slices, a jalapeno, peppercorns, and salt.
Thanks to EvolvingTastes and her post about lemongrass and cilantro broth, the kids were sporting what-has-gotten-into-her looks.
Ideally I would've liked to add rice noodles to this broth, in its absence had to make do with buckwheat soba noodles. Carrot peels added some colour and crunch to this delicious pho-style soup.
I will be making broth like often. Thanks ET!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Nankatai


My Aai made nankatai quite often (it definitely is nankatai and not nankhatai at least for us). Technically she didn't bake them, rather they were baked for us by a local bakery. We provided the raw material in the correct amounts (sometime even the prepared dough) and they did the rest. This happy errand was always mine. After handing over the ingredients/ dough, the clever thing to do was to arrive at the bakery a few minutes ahead of the pickup time. As more often than not, the baker would offer something right out of the oven. It could be a waati-cake (literally cake baked in a katori), a plain bun, or a khari biscuit. Bliss!

Since Aai's nankatai was made with Dalda (as was the nankatai made by my mother-in-law), I never thought of making nankatai any other way.
Recently I tasted nankatai made using butter. What a difference! It was so decadent.
The difference was not only in the taste, but in the texture as well. The vegetable shortening nankatai seemed much lighter and finer in texture than it's makhan counterpart.

Shortening is not the healthiest thing to use, but I don't worry about that too much as I make nankatai just a couple of times a year. Also, this is the only thing I prepare using vegetable shortening.

I especially like the texture of the vegetable shortening nankatai because of the associated childhood food memories and so continue to make it that way.
Though the the shortening contributes to the texture and general appearance, it does very little in the flavour department. Nothing a pinch of keshar and elaichi cannot fix. For even more flavour, I add some powdered almonds.

My kids just absolutely love this nankatai. Even more than chocolate-chip cookies, so that is saying something. It makes me happy to share my childhood foods and the memories that go with them. To see them enjoy such foods while (hopefully) forming memories of their own makes me uncharacteristically sappy!


Ingredients
1 cup sugar
1 stick vegetable shortening (I usually use Crisco)
a pinch of saffron, soaked in a little water
elaichi powder, to taste
3-4 tbsp ground almonds (optional)
1 ½-2 cups all purpose flour

Method
Preheat oven to 350F.
Grease a cookie sheet and set aside.
Cream together the shortening and sugar till the mixture is light and fluffy. A hand mixer works best for this task.
Add the saffron, elaichi, and almonds if using.
Add &frac12 cup all purpose flour. Using your hands knead this dough slightly.
Add more flour as you go along. You want a dough that is soft, moist, and smooth. Do not add more than 2½ times the quantity of the shortening used.
Use your finger tips to pull off a piece of the dough, or you could use a melon-baller. Roll in between your palms to form a ball.
Place the cookies on the sheet, about 2 inches apart. Sometimes I press each cookie with the tines of a fork.
Bake for about 15 minutes (oven times may vary).
After 10 minutes, keep a close eye on the cookie.
Take them out of the oven at the first sign of any browning around the edges.
Let them cool slightly before using letting anyone steal them for taste-testing purposes.
Enjoy!

A generous batch of the nankatai goes to Suganya's Vegan Ventures .

Monday, November 26, 2007

Mirchi Achaar (Pickle): Bihari Style

This is the first time I made this pickle. And it tasted just like the pickle my sister-in-law sends us all the way from Jharkhand. So I guess it did turn out ok.

The pickle masala on its own tastes great; stuffed into mirchis it is divine.
Try some of the leftover masala (and there will be some leftover after stuffing the mirchis) with some cooked mung daal and steamed rice.

Ingredients
3 tbsp amchur (dry mango powder)
2 tsp kalonji (nigella seeds)
2 tsp ajwain (bishop's weed)
1 tsp kala namak (black salt)
2 tbsp saunf (fennel seeds)
1 tbsp hing (asafoetida)
1 tbsp methi seeds, lightly roasted
½ cup black mustard seeds
10-12 mirchis (chillies), wash and de-seed. Save the seeds.
(ideally this pickle is made with red chillies, but I used regular jalapenos)
8-10 tsp mustard oil for the masala + 1/4 cup to pour over the pickle.

Method
In a spice grinder, coarsely grind the methi and mustard seeds.
Mix all the spices together. You could also mix in the saved mirchi seeds at this point.
Add the mustard oil.
Stuff the mirchis with the masala.
Store them upright in a glass jar.
Heat 1/4 cup mustard oil till it smokes, pour the oil over the stuffed mirchis.
Seal the jar and let it cook in the sun for at least 4-5 days. The more it stays in the sun the better it tastes.


This pickle goes to Sangeeta of Ghar Ka Khana, who is hosting Regional Cuisines of India: Bihar. The RCI food blog event is a brainchild of Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Let the Baking Begin: Chocolate Cake

Lately the kids have started rubbing their hands, exclaiming 'Let the feast begin!' before digging into their meal. This is followed by chuckling at their own silliness. It doesn't matter what they are digging into, it is always a feast.
The first time I stood in front of my new oven, I couldn't help thinking aloud 'Let the baking begin!'.
How I missed baking!
First up is a chocolate cake. A simple, moist chocolate cake. One that is not too chocolatey but still quite satisfying.



Ingredients
1 ½ all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup brewed coffee, or water (I used 1 tbsp of instant coffee mixed in a cup of water)
½ cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp coffee liqueur (optional)
2 tbsp white vinegar


Method
Preheat oven to 375F.
Grease an 8x8 square pan.
Sift together the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt).
Mix all the wet ingredients except the vinegar till well combined.
Mix the wet and dry ingredients.
Add the vinegar. Using swift strokes mix it in.
Immediately pour the batter in the cake pan.
Bake it for about 30 minutes, or till a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean.
Enjoy!
This is my first entry to Suganya's Vegan Ventures event.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Cooking In The Garage: A 'Zero' Pulao

The kitchen as we knew it has been demolished. The kitchen that we now know is in the garage. These are interesting times.
The microwave oven, a rice cooker (borrowed), a waffle maker, and a toaster oven are all I have. Though a mixer and a food processor are available, they are a pain to use as there is virtually no counter space and the only dish washer is the manual kind (read: the husband).
These are the chronicles of our meals prepared and enjoyed in the garage.



A recently acquired cookbook was No-Oil Vegetarian Cooking by Sanjeev Kapoor. While I'm not a fan of the extremist freestyle of cooking (fatfree, sugarfree, carbfree etc.) there are times of extreme indulgence after which a 'free' meal is not such a bad idea.

One recipe from this cookbook immediately caught my eye: Chole Pulao.
But with the kitchen and its contents in a wild disarray, locating the book was a herculean task.

So I had to do what I do best, work on winging the meal.
As is true with all improvised meals, a happy outcome is not guaranteed. But in this case, the results were extremely satisfying. The combination of anardana, mint leaves, and yogurt made it very chaat-like. Here I use the term chaat in a very generic way. For me cooked chana, mint, yogurt, anadana and some sev and crushed puris (of the pani-puri type) sprinkled on top is chaat-like. Purists will frown, I know.

A few days after the pulao was made, I found the book and noticed that I had deviated a lot from the original. Frankly, I would've deviated in these places anyway. For example, the original recipe called for saffron and kewra in addition to the mint. That seems a bit much! For similar reasons I would've omitted the ginger-garlic paste.

Here is the modified recipe. Since I was winging it, the quantities are at best approximate. But this is quite a forgiving pulao, so if one uses more yogurt and less mint...Pfff.

The Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook features several 'zero' soups. Soups that have insignificant quantities (almost zero) of fat and are much lower in calories are called 'zero' soups. This pulao falls in the same category and hence the name.


Ingredients
2 cups chickpeans (chana), cooked
1 cup rice, washed
½ cup fresh mint leaves
1 ½ cup nonfat yogurt
2 tsp anardana powder
10-15 stalks of cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp (or less) red chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric powder
2-3 green cardamoms
1 tsp garam masala (optional)
1 cup assorted vegetables (I used cauliflower and carrots)
salt, to taste

Method
Coarsely chop the mint leaves.
Mix all ingredients except the rice and set aside for at least 30 minutes.
In the rice cooker pan, layer the rice and chana-mixture starting with the rice at the bottom.
Add about ½ cup of water. The quantity of water needed to cook the pulao will depend on how watery the chana-mixture turns out and also on the rice cooker. I started with ½ cup water, expecting to add more along the way; but eventually didn't add any.
Cook till the rice is done.
Enjoy!

Notes: Though the consistency of the pulao was satisfactory, the next time I make this pulao I'll probably cook the rice first, layer the the slightly cooled rice with the chana mixture and bake it for about 30 minutes (or till it heats through).

Usually when I make such pulaos, the quantity of rice is almost half that of the beans. Equal quantities of rice and beans should work as well.

The garam masala is an optional ingredient, I didn't add any nor did I miss it. But next time I'll probably add dhana-jeera powder.


Rice Cooker
Initially I borrowed a rice cooker from my friends N & M. Since I hadn't used one before didn't know what to expect. But it turned out to be quite a versatile appliance and I am now using it to make making pulaos, daal, several daal-rice one dish meals, soups, steaming vegetables etc. It became so indispensable that I had to get my own.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Cooking In The Garage: Waffles for Dessert

The kitchen as we knew it has been demolished. The kitchen that we now know is in the garage. These are interesting times.
The microwave oven, a rice cooker (borrowed), a waffle maker, and a toaster oven are all I have. Though a mixer and a food processor are available, they are a pain to use as there is virtually no counter space and the only dish washer is the manual kind (read: the husband).
These are the chronicles of our meals prepared and enjoyed in the garage.


Since the kids (and their father) have been so patient and such great sports these past few weeks, a treat was in order.

Hadn't made dessert yet in the garage-kitchen as it was some what of a challenge, given the limited resources available. Finally zero-ed in on waffles as they don't need any appliance or kitchen gadget that I don't have access to. Nicole's recipe for plain waffles is simple and versatile. The only change made to this recipe was that I used whole wheat flour and a tablespoon of wheat gluten.

In our family, any dessert that doesn't contain chocolate is not fit to be eaten (just a slight exaggeration). So the waffles were served with a drizzle of ganache and toasted pecans.


Variations: Omit the salt and vanilla; add finely chopped onions, green chillies and cilantro for a delicious savoury waffle.
Add chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, or hazelnuts) and chocolate chips for a crunchy variation.
Instead of the ganache top the waffles with honey or maple syrup.


Chocolate Ganache
8 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I used Trader Joe's Pound Plus)
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbsp coffee liqueur or any other liqueur of choice(optional)

Bring the cream to a boil and pour it over the chocolate.
Mix well and let it stand for about 4-5 minutes.
Add the liqueur (if using) and mix well.

Any leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to a week and can be used to top ice-cream, to make chocolate milk shakes, or for those times when you just need chocolate.
This is probably one of few recipes where I use heavy cream. I've experimented replacing a portion of the cream with whole milk, but the results are less than satisfactory. The good thing is that a little does go a long way.
If anyone any recipe for a lite-ganache, I'd love to hear about it.

Had I managed to get things done on time, this would've been my entry to MBP-Breads .

Coffee very graciously accepted my much delayed entry for this month's MBP-Breads. Thanks, Coffee!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Cooking In The Garage: Couscous

The kitchen as we knew it has been demolished. The kitchen that we now know is in the garage. These are interesting times.
The microwave oven, a rice cooker (borrowed), and a toaster oven are all I have. Though a mixer and a food processor are available, they are a pain to use as there is virtually no counter space and the only dish washer is the manual kind (read: the husband).
These are the chronicles of our meals prepared and enjoyed in the garage.

Several months ago I accompanied my son's Boy Scout troop on an overnight backpacking trip. Since most of the accompanying parents weren't experienced backpackers, the senior scoutmaster wisely took on the responsibility of putting dinner together. It was a fantastic meal, spiced couscous with nuts and pita bread. The ambiance made the meal more memorable; the beautiful campsite dotted with tents put up by the scouts all by themselves, the proximity to the Pacific, the cold spring wind blowing in our faces, the realisation that your first born is no longer a li'l Cub Scout but a Boy Scout!

I was remined of that campfire-couscous when preparing our garage-couscous.
To a cup of boiling water add a cup of couscous (I used the whole wheat kind), some salt and optionally a little oil. Cover for about 4-5 minutes before very gently fluffing it with a fork. I served this couscous with vegetables sauteed in the rice-cooker.


Along with the sauteed vegetables (tomatillos, red peppers, corn, and leeks) I also added a handful of roasted pistachios (walnuts, pine nuts, pecans will work too) and a couple of teaspoons of cumin-coriander powder. The result was a few curry leaves away from being called an upma!

We had a green salad to go with the couscous. Speaking of green, the plates and the bowls we are currently using are green as well; 100% bio-degradable and compostable. Since all the produce we used was locally grown that meant less fuel was used to bring them to our table from the farm; our meal was green in more ways than one.

Coming back to the versatile couscous, what are some of the ways in which you prepare couscous?

Monday, September 10, 2007

A Perfect Weekday Dinner

Recipes that can be compartmentalised into tasks that can be done ahead of time and assembled before meal times keep me sane! If I am sane, the rest of the household (including the cat) follows suit.

Any recipe that shows 'do-aheadability' and'compartmentability' potential immediately catches my eye.
This recipe from Saptahik Sakal, a Marathi magazine, for bisi bele bhaat using pohe (avalakki, puffed rice) scored high on both these accounts.

Saptahik Sakal is a weekly magazine from the stable of Sakal newpapers. Sakal (literally means morning) enjoys a wide and loyal readership in Pune and the surrounding area. The other widely read newspaper in Pune is Kesari (founded by Lokamanya Tilak). Folks from Pune can be broadly classified as Sakal-readers or Kesari-readers; with each side ferociously and fiercely loyal to their newspaper and to the views expressed in those newspapers. So typical! Puneris don't experience normal pride, it is always fierce pride.
But I digress.

Every year, Saptahik Sakal publishes a special issue titled Rucheepalat (change of taste). These issues are choc full of readers recipes, theme recipes, kitchen tips and tricks etc. etc. Each issue is a keeper.
This recipe for Avalakki Bisi Bele Bhaat is from the 1998 issue of Saptahik Sakal from the article 'Karnataki KhaadyaBahar' (loosely translates into Feasts from Karnataka).


The Bisi bele was delicious! Since the main preparations were made ahead of time, getting dinner ready was a snap.
This dish has it all; rice, daal, and vegetables.
Unfortunately I wasn't able to glam it up for the photo. Anyway, take a look:



Here is the recipe with some minor changes I made based on the ingredients used.
The original recipe used a waati (katori) as a measure; I've made modifications using a standard cup .


Avalakki Bisi Bele

Ingredients

3 cups thick pohe (puffed rice)
1 cup mung daal
2-3 cups assorted vegetables, chopped (I used 4 small brinjals, 1 large potato, some chard stems, 1 carrot)
2 tomatoes, chopped
15-20 curry leaves
1-2 tsps tamarind concentrate
1-2 tbsp oil
12 green chillies, sliced (optional)
The phodni kit (mustard seeds, turmeric, and asefetida)

For the masala:
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp chana daal
2 tbsp urad daal
10 (or less) dried red chillies
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut

Method
For the masala: roast each ingredient separately using a little oil. Let cool before grinding it in a spice or coffee grinder.
Steam the vegetables. I used a microwave but you could aways use a pressure cooker.
Cook the mung daal with about 3 cups of water using a pressure cooker.
(The above three steps can be made ahead of time).

Mix the daal, vegetables and the masala.
Do the phodni (heat the oil, add mustard seeds, when they start dancing add the asefetida and turmeric), add the green chillies (if using) and the curry leaves.
Mix in the daal mixture, tamarind, salt, and some water. (The quantity of water depends on the consistency that you want. I used about 2 cups.)
While the daal is simmering, wash the pohe , allow to drain and set them aside.
Adjust the salt keeping in mind that you still have to add the pohe.
Also, adjust the quantity of the tamarind.
Before serving, add the pohe and let them cook for just a few minutes.
Serve with ghee, papads, or both!


This is my entry for Regional Cuisines of India: Karnataka Food, hosted by Asha (who no longer has any use for her glasses).
This incredible food blog event is Lakshmi's idea.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Chocolate, Chocolate & More Chocolate

How do card carrying members of chocoholics-r-us spend a lazy afternoon? Why, with a chocolate tasting party!
We (the members of the aforementioned club) eat much chocolate on a regular basis and spend a lot of time talking about all things chocolate and looking for unsual types and brands. Often we let the brands influence our perception and liking.

So it was time for a blind taste test.

Here is what we did: filled bowls with the chocolate bars broken into bite sized pieces. Each bowl was numbered and a label with the matching number was inserted in the empty chocolate bar wrapper. I held on to the wrappers to prevent any cheating!
Each taster was given a piece of paper that listed the numbers for each category and all they had to circle the one they liked the best.

I have to mention here that we did not evaluate the chocolate on the basis of the smell, colour, snap etc. the way chocolate is usually evaluated.....we used a simple way: did we like it? Liked it more than the others in the category? Were there any overtones that we liked or disliked?


Our tasting tray:

Extra dark (>70% cocoa)
Villars 72% Swiss dark chocolate
Unique Origin 71% Ocumare
Trader Joe's Swiss 71% Dark

Dark (>60% & <70%)
Vintage Plantation 2006 Harvest Equador 65%
Lindt Madagascar 65%
Chocolatour Grenada 2005 60%

Milk
Scharffen Berger 41% Milk
Villars Swiss Milk
Trader Joe's Swiss Milk


(National brands that start with H and N were not included; we are such chocolate snobs. )

The Results?

There were no clear winners.

But these brands got the most votes:
In the extra dark category: Trader Joe's Swiss 71% Dark (Some detected fruity undertones, some liked the texture, but overall this was most liked.)
In the dark category: Chocolatour Grenada 2005 60% (This was by far the smoothest.)
In the milk chocolate category: Villars Swiss Milk (This one had more 'personality' that the others.)

One surprising discovery was that no one picked the Scharffen Berger Milk chocolate! In fact some of the comments on the evaluation sheet were quite negative.

We all had a lot of fun and the only thing we all unanimously agreed upon was that we should do this again, using more chocolates.

When (not 'if') we do this again, I want to include Guittard, Valhrohna (I use it very often for baking though), and any Cadburys (manufactured outside the US).

The kids, too, had a wonderful time. So much chocolate, so little time!

It is oddly amusing to see a 6 year old pop a piece of 71% dark chocolate in her mouth, close her eyes and go 'Hmmmmm hmmm'!

What are some of your favourite chocolates?


Acknowledgements
Manisha, Richa, Tee, and Manasi think I Rock and Schmooze. Ahem!
Thanks a lot. Something like this is partcularly encouraging for a new blogger like me.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Who is Mohan and What is He Doing In My Puri?

The small amount of oil that is usually added to fried foods such as puris, chaklis, sev, bhaji (pakoda) batter etc. is called mohan. During frying season Diwali, the ladies in the kitchen would always talk about mohan. If the quality of the fried goodies was not satisfactory, it was mohan's fault....either too much mohan or not enough mohan. As kids, we found this incredibly hilarious.

I was reminded of this when at first what emerged from the frying pan were cluris and not puris.
Yes, I was frying puris today. The last time I fried anything was almost six months ago. A pretty good run, huh?
But when the lady in Delhi (not Madam President) issues an edict to either fry puris or consider yourself uninvited from the party you are left with no choice.


So here I was frying puris in the kitchen while the kids (who couldn't believe their good fortune) were doing the jig in the family room.

We enjoyed tikhat mithachi puri (masala puri). My aai usually pierces the puri with a fork before frying them. This results in a lovely crunchy puri; one that doesn't puff much.

Anita, hope there is place on your table for these?

Friday, August 17, 2007

Orissa: Food & Images

Last month we spent a couple of days visiting Puri and Bhuvaneshwar in Orissa.
In addition to sightseeing, sampling the local cuisine were the only things on our agenda. OK, the local food part was only on my agenda.
While the first part was a total success (more on that later), I was unable to sample anything local.
We stayed in a very lovely resort. It was very well done, rooms were spacious, had it's own private beach etc.
But the restaurant menu was quite disappointing. It had the typical run of the mill, national integration type menu. It had everything: idli-dosa-naan-kulcha-paneer tikka-chole-avial-macher jhol-gobi manchurian. You know what I mean?
"What about any Odiya specialties?", I asked the waiter.
"Sorry we don't carry any.".
What really annoyed was that he wasn't even apologetic about it.
Since we were there for two short days, didn't get a chance to hunt out the local foods. So the second part of my agenda was a total flop show!


Since I wasn't able to bring back a book on Oriya cuisine, I was glad Swapna provided several pointers.
Using these resources I prepared Tomato-Khajur Khatta and Jhanni Posta.

The khatta was wonderful, tomato and dates made a wonderful combination. Though it wasn't too sweet, next time I'll skip the jaggery and maybe add more chillies. Will it still be an Oriya-style khatta?
The real surprise was the posta; it is such a tasty and minimalistic dish. In retrospect I shouldn't have been been so surprised as the other well known version of the posta, the alu-posto, is a favourite Bengali comfort food.

Here is our Odiya thali. In the background is an ikat stole bought in Puri.


Here are some pictures taken in Orissa.
The Rath carrying Lord Jagannath, Balaram, and Subhadra, waiting to enter the Jagannath Puri temple. The atmosphere outside the temple was drenched in bhakti rasa. We passed several folks standing there facing the Rath, singing aloud, tears rolling down their cheeks.




One of the twelve wheels, each of which works as a sun dial.

The entrance to the temple.


This is my entry for Regional Cuisines of India: Oriya Food, hosted by Swapna. This incredible food blog event is Lakshmi's idea.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Great Grandmother's Recipe

Sprouted Methi Bhaat

Last month my mother's aunt had invited us for dinner. Amongst all the fabulous food that were served, the rice really stood out as it was unsual and unlike anything I've had so far. It was a spicy sprouted methi (fenugreek) pulao/bhaat. As soon as I started raving about it I noticed all the you-didn't-know-about-this looks directed towards me. Turns out that this rice dish was greatly favoured by my great grandmother and one that she made frequently. But I didn't know all this; thanks to a certain someone.
The only thing I could do that this point was direct how-could-you-not-tell looks glares at my mother.


Methi, the seeds and the greens, are an all time favourite with us. Sprouted methi seeds are slightly sweet and bitter all at the same time. A lot of folks(including mine) routinely eat a couple tablespoons of sprouted methi with their morning tea. Read more on the nutritional benefits of methi here.


Coming back to the methi bhaat: this simple bhaat is a perfect accompaniment for any meal but is also quite satisfying on it own with some raita/ salad. Initially it seems quite ordinary (it certainly looks that way), but that is only till you bite into a methi seed; sweet bitterness!


As the cumin-corriander powder is the only masala used, ideally it is freshly made as it makes a huge difference if it is. But if the powder is slightly old, roast it on a pan for about a minute to wake it up.




Ingredients
1 cup rice, wash and drain
½ cup sprouted methi seeds (Unf. I didn't measure how much of the dry methi seeds yield ½ cup sprouted methi seeds.)
1-2 (or more) chillies, finely chopped
½ medium sized or 1 small onion, finely chopped
6-7 stalks cilantro, chopped
1 tsp cumin-corriander powder
phodni kit (oil, mustard seeds, asafetida, turmeric)
6-7 cashews (optional)
salt, to taste

Method
Do the phodni (heat 1 tbsp oil, add mustard seeds, when they start dancing add the asefetida and turmeric).
Add the chillies and the onions. Cook still the onions start browning.
Add the methi seeds; cover and cook for 1-2 minutes.
Add cashews, if using.
Add the rice, half of the cumin-corriander powder, and 1.5 cups warm water.
Mix well. Cover and cook for about 15-20 minutes.
After all the water is absorbed, add salt and the rest of the cumin-corriander powder.
Cover and cook for additional 5 minutes.
Before serving add the cilantro and mix gently.
Enjoy!

I'm sending this to Sharmi who is hosting the JFI-Rice food blog event. Jihva For Ingredients is the brainchild of Indira of Mahanandi.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Blogging Break

Taking a small break.
Will be back in a couple of weeks with recipes from my Aai's kitchen in Pune and SIL's kitchen in Jharkhand.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Sunshine Salad (aka Yellow Beet Salad)

The moment I saw these yellow beets, I knew my 'Y' was taken care of.
That is my entry for 'Y is for ...' of Nupur's A-Z of Indian Vegetables .
The red/purple colour of beets is due to a combination of betacyanin (a purple pigment)and called betaxanthin (a yellow pigment). The yellow beet have more betaxanthin and less of betacyanin.
Besides being slightly sweet, the best thing about yellow beets is that they don't bleed any colour like the red beets. They taste much like regular beets; maybe just a tad sweeter.



Ingredients
2-3 cooked yellow beets, cubed (I microwaved the beets, which turned out to be a bad idea as they started blackening in a while. Next time I'll be cooking them in the pressure cooker.)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
handful of chopped cilantro
1 (or more) jalapeno, finely chopped
¼ cup roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped
salt, to taste
juice of ½ lemon (or more)

Method
Mix all ingredients.
Adjust the salt and lemon juice as per your taste.
Cover and let it rest for about an hour.

Serve as a salad to accompany your usual meal or mix with a couple of cups of cooked pasta to make a wonderful summery one-dish meal.


This is my entry for Nupur's A-Z of Indian Vegetables food blog event.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Homemade Granola

If you like granola but hate the expensive, sweet, preservative laden grocery store varieties, read on.
This granola is based on a recipe I found online but I've tweaked it so much that it bears no resemblance to the original.

I started making this granola around the time I started reading food labels and started worrying about preservatives, trans fats, corn syrup etc being in the foods we consumed. I figured at least I know exactly what went into our breakfast.

Though this granola doesn't have any preservatives and not much fat, it is fairly high in calories. What with all the nuts and dried fruits.

This granola is supposed to have a shelf life of about two weeks but it is gone within a week. So I have never been able to verify that claim.

Variations: Too many to list.
By just changing the nuts and dried fruits and the proportions in which they are used, you can create so many versions of this granola.
Substitute the honey with maple syrup for a completely different taste.
Use nutmeg instead of cinnamon for an interesting twist.

Though we usually have this granola for breakfast, the kids like to munch on it as a snack, or use it as a topping for ice-cream.





Ingredients
6 cups rolled oats
1.5 cups chopped nuts (I usually use almonds and walnuts)
1 cup dried fruit ( I like to add black raisins, golden raisins, cranberries, and apricots)
1/2 cup oil
3/4 cup honey (1 cup to make it extra sweet)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup wheat germ
1/4 tsp salt
10 tbsp flax seeds or flax seed meal (optional)


Method
Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine the oats, nuts, cinnamon, salt, and wheat germ. Mix well.
In a large wok or pot, heat the oil over low heat and add the honey. Mix well.
Add the oat mixture and toss well making sure the oil-honey mixture coats as much of the oat mixture as possible.
Divide the mixture onto two baking sheets. Spread well.
Bake for about 25-30 minutes, stirring the oats every 7-8 minutes. If you prefer a lighter coloured granola, reduce the baking time by about 5-6 minutes.

Remove from the oven and stir in the dried fruit and flax seeds (if using).
Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.



This is my entry for WeekendBreakfastBlogging#13: Oats, hosted this month by Madhuli of My Foodcourt.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Me-Me & a Divine Flower

My first me-me (clap-clap). I was beyond thrilled when Richa tagged me. But when I started thinking about random facts about myself, I hit a huge speed breaker.

Anyway, here are some random facts about me:
1. I don't like ice-cream. Don't hate it but don't enjoy it much either.
At times, I'll taste an unusual flavour but rarely will I have an entire serving or scoop.
2. I can have bhel-puri for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
3. Once while riding my bike to school (8th grade) I met with an accident. Nothing major, no broken bones etc. but the doctor did mention that for a split-second my 'brain had moved'! My family has been milking this ever since.
4. My kitchen is my domain. I just hate hate hate anyone intruding. My mother and MIL are the only ones to whom I've handed over my kitchen.
5. My husband describes my dress sense (style?) as mix & mis-match (instead of mix & match). He exaggerates, just slightly. It is true that I can't wear salwar-kameez where the dupatta matches the kurta which matches the salwar...ugh. Boring.
Even though all the three pieces don't have to be in the same colour, texture, or print....it all goes together in my opinion...so mis-matched it is not. Fabindia rocks!
6. I very regularly wear mismatched earrings. Not to make a statement (stylistic or otherwise), but because I feel like it.
7. I've always wanted to take pottery classes. A few months ago, I finally did. Only to realise that it is not for me. At least I got one item ticked-off from my to-do list. Check out some mementos from my class here and here.
I'd like to tag Dhana, Dr. Bhat, and Evolving Tastes. Though you don't have to play along, I sincerely hope you do.


Divine Flower
Now on to the divine flower. Last week, a bud of my mother's favourite flower, Bramha Kamal (Epiphylum Oxypetallum) was ready to bloom. This flower starts blooming in the late evening and blooms fully at midnight. A few hours after midnight it virtually collapses back into a bud-like state.
Here are some pictures I took. Let me warn you that the pictures do no justice to the beauty of this flower. Also don't pay any attention to the timestamp on the photos; the kids were playing with the date and time settings. Grr.

This photo was taken around 10pm.


This photo was taken around midnight.

Monday, July 16, 2007

X = Lamb's Quarters

Lamb's quarters a.k.a goosefoot, pigweed, and fat hen. So many names and each one more glamorous and appetising than the previous one. As if this wasn't enough, this edible weed thrives on muck.
But since I was on the look out for something unusual, something I hadn't used before for Nupur's A-Z event, I wasn't going to let anything get in the way of trying this green.
More on this weed here and here.

Lamb's quarters can be eaten raw, but the taste and rough texture just did not appeal to me.
They had to be cooked. I could've taken the easy way out and used them to make daal. Nah, too boring and predictable.
Since I am in a major bread making phase, it didn't take me long to figure out how I'd use the lamb's quarters: whole wheat buns stuffed with seasoned lamb's quarters!
On a whim I used pav bhaaji masala instead of garam masala. So glad I did that. The pav bhaaji masala worked really well here.
The buns were delicious, just delicious!
I like the idea of making such stuffed buns, the possibilities are endless.






Ingredients
whole wheat bread dough, divided into 12 pieces
4 cups lamb's quarters, finely chopped
1 carrot, shredded (optional. I used this only for the colour contrast.)
1 cup cilantro, chopped
2 tbps pav bhaaji masala
1 tbsp oil
salt and lemon juice, to taste

Method
Make the filling:
Heat the oil, first add the pav bhaaji masala and then the lamb's quarters.
Cook for about 10 minutes.
Add the salt, lemon juice, carrots, and cilantro and mix well. Turn off the heat.
After the mixture cools slightly, taste it and adjust the salt and lemon accordingly.

Make the buns:
Preheat the oven to 350F.
Roll each piece of dough into a roughly circular shape, the size of your palm.
Put about 2 tbsp of the filling on the dough and fold the edges to cover the dough and press slightly.
Place the bun, fold side down in a 13x9 pan.
Prepare the rest of the buns in the same manner.
Cover the buns with a moist kitchen towel. Let them rest for 10-15 minutes.
Brush the buns with a bit of melted butter.
Bake the buns on a pizza stone or in the pan, about 15 minutes.
Enjoy!


This is my entry for Nupur's A-Z of Indian Vegetables food blog event.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Wild Arugula-Batata Bhaaji

Wild arugula has a much stronger flavour than regular arugula.
Regular arugula is pretty bitter to begin with and even for most adults, it is an acquired taste.
In other words, there was no way the kids would've eaten it as-is.
To reduce the bitterness I combined equal parts of spinach and wild arugula to make this bhaaji.
It was delicious!
The bitterness was noted, acknowledged, and (surprisingly) appreciated by all.
I'm definitely going to make this again, and again....

The potatoes play a supporting role in this dish, the wild arugula is the real star.




Ingredients
2 cups wild arugula, washed & chopped
2 cups spinach, washed & chopped
10-15 small potatoes (Halve the smaller ones and quarter the slightly larger ones)
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
4-5 heads of spring onions (or 1 small onion), thinly sliced
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste (optional)
1 jalapeno, minced
salt, to taste
lemon juice

Method
Heat oil, add the mustard seeds and when they start spluttering add the jalapeno and onions.
Saute on low heat till the onions start browning.
Add the ginger-garlic paste, if using.
Add the potatoes and give them a good stir.
Put the lid on and let them cook. If they start to stick to the pan, add a bit of water.
When the potatoes are almost cooked, add the wild arugula, spinach, salt, and the lime juice. Stir well.
Continue cooking till the arugula and spinach wilt.
Adjust the salt as required.

Serve with phulkas/ rotis/chapatis/pita or rice.


This is my entry for Nupur's A-Z of Indian Vegetables food blog event.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Whole-Wheat Flour & Vital Wheat Gluten

A recent issue of Bon Appetit magazine had a recipe for whole wheat pizza dough that used vital wheat gluten. The recipe called for only whole wheat flour (wwf). Usually I substitute part of wwf with either all purpose flour, bread flour, or even pastry flour.
Without these substitutions, the bread turns out rather dense; though it taste great.
So the idea of using only wwf with wheat gluten was something I just had to try.

I added the gluten to my usual recipe for flat bread.
The outcome was outstanding!
The texture was just amazing; soft and spongy similar to the bread made using all purpose flour.
I'm totally sold on the idea of using wheat gluten with wwf.


Whole Wheat Flat Bread
You can also use this versatile dough to make pizza dough, buns, or foccacia-style bread.

Ingredients
3 cups 100% whole wheat flour
1 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 packet active yeast
3 tbsp vital wheat gluten
1 - 1.5 cups warm water (about 100F)


Method
Into a food processor bowl add all the dry ingredients.
With the motor running, first add the oil and then the water. It helps if you add the water in small amounts, literally let it trickle in.
You may need to push down any ingredients that may stick to the sides of a bowl.
Run the food processor till the dough all comes together and moves around as one entity.

Now comes the fun part. (Though I try not to dwell on the manipulative p/a characters in my life, this is one occasion where thinking of them is actually beneficial.) Transfer the dough to a work area and for the next couple of minutes, think of the *%$#@ personalities while kneading the dough! Yeah! Keep kneading till you get a soft and smooth dough.

This kneading achieves a dual purpose; first it distributes the yeast while incorporating air into the dough which improves the texture of the bread and second, it cleanses your mind by providing a wonderful egress channel for any suppressed (-)ve thought(s).

Transfer the dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a wet towel and place it in a warm place.

The dough will double in about 2-3 hours.
At this point you could punch down the dough and let it rise once more, but I'm usually so impatient that I skip this step.

Preheat the oven to 400F.
Gently knead the dough once more. Spread the dough in a lightly oiled 13x9 pan. Let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle some salt.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes (time will vary for each oven) till the bread is brownish-reddish.

Remove from the oven and let it rest for a couple of minutes.

We enjoyed this bread with some soup.
The next day, we split the bread and used it for sandwiches.

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Guchhi Te Paneer & Punjabi Lobhia

Surili's (Musical) guchhi te paneer di sabzi has been on my must-try list for sometime now. Last week I finally got around to making it.
I followed her recipe (using fresh button mushrooms) without any changes or substitutions.
The paneer dish turned out finger-lickin good. In spite of the many spices that went into making it, the result was a dish that had a clean honest taste to it. All the spices blended in perfect harmony. Loved it!


Next, I made Punjabi style black-eyed peas (lobhia) based on a recipe from Madhur Jaffery's A Taste Of India.
To this recipe, I made several substitutions. One significant change was that I added a couple of handfuls of chopped spinach. I was out of garlic cloves but had freshly made ginger-garlic paste, that was used instead. Used amchur instead of yogurt.
This dish seemed hearty to begin with, but the addition of spinach made it heartier!
It was delicious, simply delicious!

We enjoyed the paneer and black-eyed peas with fresh phulkas and a simple salad of sliced tomatoes sprinkled with kala-namak (black salt).




Here is the recipe for punjabi black-eyed peas with my modifications

Ingredients
2 cups black-eyed peas (lobhia), soaked in water for a couple of hours
2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
2 tbsp oil (or ghee
1 tsp cumin-coriander powder
1 large tomato, chopped
1 tbsp amchur
1 tsp (or more)chili powder
salt, to taste
4-5 stalks cilantro, finely chopped
2 cups spinach, chopped

Method
Cook the beans in a pressure cooker (one whistle only).
Heat oil, add the onions and fry them till they start turning brown.
Add the ginger-garlic paste and cook for another minute.
Add the cumin-coriander powder, cook for another minute.
Add the tomatoes, cook till they turn soft, 2-3 minutes.
Add the amchur, beans (with the liquid), chili powder, spinach, and salt.
Mix well and let it simmer over low heat for 6-7 minutes.
Taste and adjust the salt and amchur accordingly.
Sprinkle the cilantro before serving.
Enjoy!

This is my entry for Regional Cuisines of India-June: Punjabi Food event hosted by Richa.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Watermelon Lemonade: Two Ways

Watermelon (kalingad, tarbooz ) is the perfect summer fruit: more than 90% water, sweet, refreshing, and totally guilt free.
What more would you want in a summer treat?

Though chilled plain watermelon is our preferred way to enjoy this fruit; watermelon lemonade is a fantastic alternative.

Not much of a recipe, but here it is:
Use your favourite recipe (or check this one) for lemonade and add watermelon juice instead of water. Start with a little less sugar as the watermelon will bring along some sweetness.
Chill and enjoy!

You could also use the watermelon lemonade to make a granita.
Pop the lemonade in the freezer, let it freeze overnight. To serve use a fork to scrape the granita into a bowl . So easy!


If you use regular white sugar, the colour is much brighter than what is seen in the picture above. I used raw sugar, which made the lemonade just a little muddy.



The lemonade and granita goes to Jai&Bee as my entry to AFAM: Watermelon that they are hosting this month.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Mock Panha (Green Mango Drink)

Whenever I bought kairee (unripened mangoes) to make panha, it either turned out too raw (just a white tasteless mass) or it was way too ripe to use it for panha.
Bad kairee-karma?

Ever since I had this mock panha at a friend's place, I've given up making it any other way.
Though it doesn't taste exactly like the real thing; it comes close, quite close.


Here is how I make it:

Ingredients
This makes a tart panha. If you like yours on the sweeter side, reduce the amount of lemon juice.
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
6 tbsp lemon juice
4 tsp sugar
1 cup water
pinch of elaichi (or more)
pinch of salt
a couple of strands of saffron (optional)

Method
On low heat, cook the applesauce still it changes colour a tad, about 10 minutes.
Turn off the heat and add the rest of the ingredients.
Mix well.
Let the mixture cool completely before tasting it.
Adjust the lemon juice and sugar per your taste.

Notes: I've noticed that the brand of applesauce make a significant difference to the quantity of lemon juice and sugar that is needed.
Traditional ways of making panha are here , here, and here.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Parathas for Breakfast

Parathas for breakfast? Who has the time or the inclination for the work involved (cleaning and chopping the veggies, kneading the dough, rolling the parathas etc. etc) especially on a weekend morning? Certainly not me!
Though I had heard that parathas can be rolled ahead of time and cooked/ fried just before serving them, I hadn't tried making them this way.
So, yesterday I made the parathas and stored them between layers of wax paper.
Today morning, we had ta-da parathas for breakfast.

'Thap' that is the sound of me slapping my forehead...why did I not try this earlier?
They were good, so good.

I used spigarello (an Italian cooking green related to broccoli and sometimes also called broccoli raab), but any any other cooking green, such as chard, kale, spinach, dandelion greens, or methi will work just as well.
Sprigarello is a sturdy green which can handle quite a bit of seasoning; which explains the quantity of ajwain I used.
A milder green like spinach will need a much lesser quantity.
Garlic can be added as well; especially when if you don't plan to have the parathas for breakfast.
Next time I'd like to make the parathas using toasted cumin and fennel seeds.

Here is how I made the parathas...
Ingredients
4 cups cooking greens, packed
1 handful cilantro, chopped
1 tbsp owa (ajwain)
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp (or more) mirchi powder or 1 jalapeno, finely chopped
2 tsp amchur (optional)
1 tsp sugar
salt, to taste
4 tbsp oil + extra for cooking the parathas
2 cups whole wheat flour

Method
Heat oil in a large kadhai (wok) , add ajwain, sesame, mirchi, turmeric, and salt.
Cook for about a minute.
Add the sugar and mix well.
Add the cooking greens and the cilantro.
Cook till the greens wilt and then turn off the heat.
After the greens have cooled slightly add the flour and mix well.
Adjust the salt and heat levels keeping in mind that we have yet to add the flour.
Add water as needed to make a soft dough. Use more flour if needed.
Let it rest for 10-15 minutes.
Divide the dough into about 20 pieces.
Roll the parathas and store them in a box, adding a piece of wax paper between parathas like this:

Store the parathas in the fridge.
When ready to make the parathas, heat a pan, add a touch of oil and cook both sides of the parathas till small brown dots/ spots appear.
Serve immediately.
Enjoy with dahi (yogurt), pickle; or both!

I'm sending these parathas to Trupti who is hosting WBB#12. The theme this month is Spice It Up.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Vangyache Kaap (Eggplant Fritters)

When Sangeeta announced the ingredient for this month's JFI (Jihva for Ingredients), I was thrilled.
Not because I like eggplants; au contraire. I hate, dislike don't like them much.

The only acceptable form is vangyache kaap (vanga is the Marathi word for eggplant) and so I knew exactly what my entry for this event would be.
I waited till we got around to the letter V of Nupur's A-Z of Indian Vegetables event so I could submit this for both events.

So here they are, vangyache kaap which are, in my not so humble opinion, the only way eggplant is made palatable.






Ingredients
7-8 ¼ inch thick slices of eggplant
1 - 1.5 cups besan (or rice flour)
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp (or more) chili powder
1 tbsp amchur
2 tsp cumin-corriander powder
a pinch of salt
oil, as needed

Method
Slice the eggplants and let them sit in a bowl of salted water for about 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, mix all the dry ingredients and set aside.
Heat a non-stick pan or skillet and add a little oil.
Take a slice of the eggplant, shake off the water slightly and dip it in the besan mixture.
Lightly press the eggplant slice so that the besan mixture sticks to it. Flip the slice and repeat.
Add the eggplant to the skillet.
Cook each side for about a minute.
Cook other slices similarly. You may need to wipe the pan (or skillet) clean between batches.
Serve immediately.
Enjoy these kaap with a cup of hot tea or as a side-dish.

Serve the pretty looking slices to the others; save the slightly blackened ones for yourself. Believe me, they are the tastiest.


One batch of these eggplants go to Nupur as my entry for Nupur's A-Z of Indian Vegetables


And another one goes to Sangeeta who is hosting the JFI food blog event this month. JFI is the brainchild of Indira.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Varan-Bhaat & Amti-Bhaat

For most Maharashtrians varan-bhaat is the ultimate comfort food. It nourishes you mind, body, and soul.

At a given time, there are any number of 'You know you are a Maharashtrian if....' lists circulating. The contents of these lists keep varying, but one item is bound to figure: 'You know you are a Maharashtrian if you think varan-bhaat is the best food on Earth'. I agree completely.

Varan is cooked toor daal (yellow split peas), mashed, and spiced with a bit of turmeric and asafetida. At times a tiny amount of of jaggery is added as well.

If it is a festive occasion, the bhaat is basmati, other times it is either ambe mohor or ambe mohor-tukda.

Add some homemade toop (ghee), a dash of salt and a squeeze of lemon, and there you have it: varan bhaat.

Varan usually refers to cooked toor daal. If moong daal is used, it is moga-cha-varan. As moong daal is easy to digest, moong-daal and rice is usually the first solid meal given to toddlers.

On the simplicity spectrum if varan is at one end, on the other end is the glorious chincha-goola-chi amti (daal with tamarind and jaggery). In between the two lies the Phodni-Cha Varan.

Phodni-Cha Varan
Phodni is the Marathi word for tadka, tempering.
Toor daal varan with a simple phodni is another satisfying variation on a theme.
This is also referred to as saadhi amti (plain amti). This amti is perfect when you want a daal that is not too spicy but neither do you want just varan.

Ingredients
1 cup cooked toor daal
1 tsp oil (ghee is better)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp asafetida
1-2 mirchis, chopped
5-6 curry leaves
5-6 stalks of cilantro, chopped
1/2 tsp sugar
salt, to taste

Method
Heat the oil (ghee). When hot add the cumin seeds.
When seeds start changing the colour add the asafetida, then the turmeric.
Next add the mirchi and curry leaves. Let them cook a bit (about a minute).
Add the varan, a cup of water, the salt and sugar.
Bring to a boil.
Adjust the salt and add the corriander leaves.
Enjoy with hot steamed rice.

There are umpteen variations to phodni-cha varan. We like it with tomatoes, spinach, methi (fenugreek) leaves, sauteed onions, or ginger (especially in the winter months).



Chincha-goola-chi Amti (Daal with tamarind and jaggery)

For this amti you have to have goda masala. Sure, substitutions are ok; but what you get is not amti.
Recipes for making goda masala are here and here.

Ingredients
1 cup toor daal, cooked
½ methi (fenugreek) seeds
phodni kit (1 tbsp oil, 1 tsp mustard seeds, pinch of asafetida 1 tsp turmeric )
4-5 curry leaves gul (jaggery)
2 tsp tamarind paste
2 tsp goda masala
4-5 stalks of coriander leaves, chopped salt, to taste


Method
Heat oil, when hot add the methi seeds. Be careful as they burn quickly.
Add the mustard seeds, as they start dancing, add the asafetida, then the turmeric.
Next, add the curry leaves.
Add the cooked daal, the tamarind, jaggery, goda masala, and salt.
Adjust the quantity of water depending on the consistency that you want. Bring to a boil.
Adjust the tamarind and jaggery as per your taste.
Let the amti boil for a couple of minutes.
Garnish with the coriander leaves.
Enjoy with steamed rice and a dollop (or more) of toop (ghee).

As children, we'd also eat amti with poli. Crumble a couple of polis in a bowl, a ladle full of amti and some toop. This can be eaten with a spoon; perfect for those times when you didn't want to get your hands dirty cos you were eating and reading at the same time!

This is another entry from me for RCI-June: Maharashtrian Cuisine.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Shikran Poli

If it wasn't for RCI-June: Maharashtrian Cuisine, I wouldn't have thought of writing about shikran.

This quick, simple, and homely (that last adj. belongs mostly in matrimonial ads, doesn't it?) dessert often gets ignored when listing favourites.

You won't find shikran in any restaurant menu, nor would it be part of any religious or celebratory meal. But shikran is made regularly in Maharashtrian homes everywhere.

It is made with bananas, milk, and sugar. That's it. The end result is considerably more than the sum of it's parts.

A waati (bowl, katori) of shikran with poli transports you into comfort food heaven.

My Ajji (grandmother) always added dudha-cha-masala (a 'masala' made of powdered almonds, pistas, cardamon and a bit of saffron used to make masala milk) to shikran. A habit that I've picked up. A little masala goes a long way in jazzing up a family favourite.


I like the bananas sliced in my shikran, others like them mashed.

How do you like your shikran, Nupur? This shikran-poli is making it's way to you as another entry from me for RCI-June: Maharashtrian Cuisine.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Usal Edamame-chi (Soybean Usal)

Usal is a simple and healthy dish made using sprouted beans such as matki, moong, kala chana (black chick peas) etc., or sometimes even green peas. Besides being freezer friendly, usal is extremely easy to make and the variations are endless.

Ever since Trader Joes's started carrying shelled edamame (Japanese for soybeans) in the freezer section, I use them instead of green peas.
Here is one such dish that I now make using edamame: Edamame Usal.
The original recipe came from Ruchira, which I have tweaked just slightly.



Edamame Usal
Ingredients
1 packet edamame (16oz)
1 cup kothimbir (cilantro) loosely packed
1/2 cup grated coconut
2 tsp khus-khus (poppy seeds) lightly toasted
2 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 chillies, chopped
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp sugar
salt, to taste
lemon juice
The phodni kit (mustard seeds, turmeric, and asefetida)

Method
Heat 1 tbsp of oil, add the edamame and cook them slightly. You may need to add a little water.
Meanwhile, grind the coconut, cilantro, chillies, cumin, and poppy seeds to make a coarse chutney.
Add the chutney to the edamame and mix well.
Do the phodni (heat 1 tbsp oil, add mustard seeds, when they start dancing add the asefetida and turmeric) and add it to the edamame.
Add the salt, sugar and a bit of the lemon.
Cover the edamame and cook till soft (about 5-6 minutes). Stop cooking before the edamame get mushy-gooshy. They should retain a little bite.
Adjust the salt. Add more lemon juice if required.
We enjoyed our usal with poli. (Check Tee's step-by-step pictures for making Maharashtrian rotis: poli.)


This is my entry for Nupur's A-Z of Indian Vegetables series.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Is He A Foodie Sidekick Too?

Cynthia's friend Susan is her Foodie Sidekick.
Susan is subjected to all of Cynthia's culinary creations. Readers of her Tastes Like Home blog know that this is such a sweet job, and lucky Susan gets to do it.

Everyone in my family is my foodie sidekick. Adventurous, patient, and always encouraging.
Ever since I started blogging about our foodie adventures, I've acquired another sidekick.... of the feline kind.
This guy is subjected to most of my attempts at improving my (non-existent) photography skills.
That makes him a foodie sidekick as well. Doesn't it?

Friday, June 8, 2007

Til-Kobi (Sesame-Cabbage) Cutlets

In the fridge, there was an assortment of vegetables in various quantities that needed a fitting farewell.
Nothing more glorious than to end in a scrumptious cutlet, an all-time favourite savoury snack. For vegetables, that is.

Usually cutlets are either deep fried or shallow fried. But my kitchen is a fry-free zone, so I baked'em.

They were wonderful, the crust that formed was just perfect.
Most of the cutlets disappeared as is. With the others, the kids made a desi-burger.

The next time I make these, an accompanying chutney such as this or this would be nice.


Til-Kobi Cutlets
(the quantities are approximate)

4 cups cabbage, finely chopped
1 cup vegetables (carrots, beans, corn etc.) either grated or finely chopped
1 large potato, steam and grated
10-12 stems cilantro, chopped
1-2 jalapenos, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 -2 tsp garlic-ginger paste
1 tsp amchur
1-2 slices bread (more if required)
1 tsp sugar
salt, to taste
1-2 tbsp oil + more to drizzle on the cutlets
bread crumbs and sesame seeds for coating


Mix all ingredients except the bread crumbs and the sesame seeds.
Set it aside for 10-15 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Depending on how much the dough sweats, add more bread slices to get a dough that can formed into cutlets.
Do a taste test and accordingly adjust the salt and amchur.
Form the cutlets and let them rest for a bit as you prepare two bowls, one filled with bread crumbs and the other with sesame seeds.
First, lightly coat the cutlets in the bread crumbs. Then, gently press the breaded cutlet in the bowl of sesame seeds.
Arrange the prepared cutlets on a lightly oiled baking sheet.
Drizzle a bit of oil on each cutlet. (Do not use a pastry brush to brush the oil; it doesn't work. The sesame seeds get caught in the brush leaving you with a mess.)
Bake for 10-12 minutes, flip the cutlets and bake for another 10-12 minutes.

These cutlets are on their way to the Gateway City as my entry for Nupur's A-Z of Indian Vegetables series.

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Sakhar (sugar) Bhaat

It would be very unfair to describe sakhar bhaat as just sugar rice or sweet rice.
Though technically it is a sweet rice made using sugar, the addition of lavanga (cloves) and keshar (saffron) elevates the humble rice to heavenly heights. Sakhar bhaat is simple, uncomplicated, and delicious; Maharashtrian food at its best.

I used raw sugar instead of regular white sugar, which gave it a light brown colour and totally masked the colour imparted by the saffron. As this wasn't the familiar colour of sakhar bhaat, I added some more saffron. In the process, went a little overboard and ended up with something that looked more like keshari bhaat (saffron rice) than sakhar bhaat.

The original recipe is from Kamalabai Ogale's Ruchira, a definitive cookbook of Maharashtrian cuisine. Read more about Ruchira here.


Ingredients
1 cup Basmati rice, washed and drained
1 tbsp ghee
1 ¼ cup sugar and a little more than ½ cup water for the paak (sugar syrup)
4-5 lavanga (cloves)
¼ tsp cardamom powder
8-10 cashewnuts, halved
a good sized pinch of keshar (saffron) strands, soaked in a little milk or water
1 tsp lime juice (optional)

Method
Heat the ghee, when hot add the cloves and cook till the colour of cloves starts changes (don't let them burn).
Add the rice and sautee a bit.
Add two cups water and cook the rice.
When the rice is cooked, gently spread it in a plate and let cool.
Combine the sugar and water. Let the mixture cook till you get a thick syrup. You know the paak is done when a drop of paak put on a metal plate holds it shape and doesn't run. This is referred to as a golibunda paak.
Add the lemon juice (if using), saffron, cardamom powder, cashews, and the rice to the syrup.
Cover and cook till the water evaporates.
The rice tastes better the next day, after all the flavours have had a chance to mingle.

The Regional Cuisines of India (RCI) was started by Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine. After Tamilian and Andhra cuisine, it is now the turn of Maharashtrian food.
This another entry from me for RCI: Maharashtrian Food hosted by Nupur.

Friday, June 1, 2007

Shevgyachya Shenganchi Amti (Drumstick Daal)

Amti (daal) is a cornerstone of any Maharashtian meal.
There are countless versions of it and rightfully deserve a separate post (coming soon).
Here is a simple everyday amti using shevgyachya shenga (drumsticks).
The addition of chincha-gool (tamarind-jaggery) makes it typically Maharashtrian.


Shevgyachya Shenganchi Amti

Ingredients

1 cup toor daal
4-5 curry leaves
4-5 drumsticks, cut into 2-3 inch pieces
gul (jaggery) a 2 inch piece
2-3 amsula (kokum) or 2 tsp tamarind paste
2 tsp dhanya-jeerya chi pood (cumin-coriander powder)
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
pinch of asafetida
1 tsp turmeric
salt, to taste
4-5 stalks of coriander leaves, chopped


Method
Wash the daal and cook with 2 cups water. When cooked, mix it well till there are no clumps.
Heat oil. When hot add the mustard seeds, as they start dancing, add the asafetida, then the turmeric.
Next, add the curry leaves and the cumin-coriander powder.
Add the drumsticks and saute for 1-2 minutes.
Add the cooked daal, the tamarind, jaggery, and salt.
Adjust the quantity of water depending on the consistency that you want.
Bring to a boil.
Adjust the tamarind and jaggery as per your taste.
Garnish with the coriander leaves.
Enjoy with steamed rice.


This is my entry for Nupur's A-Z of Indian Vegetables series.



This is also my first entry for the RCI-June: Maharashtrian Foods event, this month hosted by Nupur.
 
Add to Technorati Favorites