Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Difficult Daughter

"Difficult daughter"!
That is what my father was surely muttering under his breath as he went up and down the bylanes of MG road in Pune.
He was, on what was turning out to be, a fools errand.
Who knew it was going to be so difficult finding Parsi sambhar masala in Pune?
Finally he was lead to the home of the Parsi couple who ran a home-based business selling Parsi fare.
By the cold and terse reception he got there he was convinced the couple was Parsi in name only.
Noted playwright, author, musician, composer P.L. Deshpande (fondly known as Pu La) observed that the most inconsequential, useless, bothersome, and ignored entity in a shop run by a true Punekar is the customer.
(Put two and two together, people.)
The masala justified the means. I know, easy for me to say that.

One of the first recipes I tried with this masala was the Chana ni Dar from My Bombay Kitchen.
I had made it once before but without the fiery sambhar masala. This time around I wanted to make the chauli (black-eyed peas) variation that she suggests. Since I did not have enough of those beans on hand, used dried peas (vatana) instead.
Though I started with the recipe for Chana ni Dar, I cheated quite a bit. Didn't use some ingredients either because of a lack of resources (dhana-jiru masala) or simple laziness (potatoes).

We loved the Parsi Vatana; sambhar masala is fierce. Most certainly not for the faint of heart.

I was happy and relieved with the outcome. Relieved because after some consecutive bad meals, I was back!
Note to self: file radicchio+methi+paneer under bad ideas.

Parsi Vatana
adapted from My Bombay Kitchen

1 ½ cup vatana (dried green peas), wash and soak overnight
½ large onion, chopped
1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
1 large chilli, de-seed and chop
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped (or grated)

2 tbsp oil
1 tsp turmeric
salt, to taste
5-6 stalks of cilantro, chopped
juice of a lemon

Drain the water that the vatana was soaking in.
Add about 3 cups of water along with the chilli, tomatoes, turmeric, and salt.
Pressure cook for 2 whistles.

Heat oil. When hot add the onions till they start browning. Add the ginger-garlic paste and the sambhar masala. If the mixture starts sticking to the pan, add a bit of water to keep things moving.
Add the cooked vatana along with a cup of warm water. More if you want it soupier.
Cook over medium heat till the oil separates and floats to the top.
Add the cilantro and lemon juice.
Adjust the salt level.

The first day we enjoyed the vatana with steamed rice and plain parathas.
The next day the flavours deepened fantastically. Needed no accoutrement except maybe some yogurt.

If you have any questions or comments, please write to me the.best.cooker@gmail.com. Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

He Cooked. And How!

As the kids get older they are no longer satisfied staying on the other side of the kitchen counter. As a result, the kitchen is getting crowded and I couldn't be happier.
I will be using this space to list some basic recipes, family favourites, and ideas for quick meals for their reference.

The son usually plays the role of a consultant. Sitting by the kitchen counter very generously doling out comments, advice, and suggestions.
      You could go with less garlic!
     Potatoes and Paneer, now that's some combination.
     This tastes too healthy.
     Are you stressed? Cos this really doesn't taste that good.
     etc. etc.

When he actually attempts to cook something he, like his father, asks so many questions that in exasperation I ask him to step aside and end up finishing what he tried to start.

The daughter on the other hand gets into the kitchen and just gets it done. A couple of weeks ago, amongst other things, we got a bunch of radishes and a jar of basil-sunflower seed pesto in our CSA bag. As soon as we got home she went into the kitchen, washed & sliced the turnips and spooned a bit of the pesto on it! It was wonderful.

He wanted to repair his reputation. So he offered to make something simple, all by himself. So we switched spots and I took my place on the other side of the kitchen counter.

About the recipe: years ago it started as an attempt to re-create a restaurant style pineapple rice but it has morphed into something else. Though the ingredients are similar it tastes nothing like the offerings of a Thai restaurant. But we like it anyway.

Pineapple Fried Rice
3 cups rice (brown or white), cooked.
4 large cloves garlic, minced
1½ inch garlic piece, minced
4-5 spring onions, chopped (we used 4-5 baby leeks)
6-7 pineapple rings, chopped
½ cup chopped nuts
3 tbsp soy sauce
1 jalapeno, chopped. Discard seeds.
1 (or more) tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp oil
1 cup chopped vegetables (carrots, peas, green beans)
½ cup Thai basil leaves, roughly chopped. We used baby basil leaves and didn't chop them
salt, to taste
juice of a lemon

After the rice is cooked, spread it on a plate making sure the rice doesn't clump together.
Heat oil over medium-high heat.
When the oil is hot add the garlic, ginger, and the jalapeno.
When the mixture starts browning slightly add the leeks (or the white part of the spring onions).
When the leeks (or spring onions) start browning add the soy sauce, red pepper flakes, and the vegetables.
Cook for about a minute.
Add the rice, salt, nuts, and the pineapple pieces.
Cook for another minute.
Adjust the level of spice and salt levels.
Cover the pot and turn off the heat.
Squeeze the lemon before serving.

If you have any questions or comments, please write to me the.best.cooker@gmail.com. Thanks for stopping by.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

How to cook rice

The crowded kitchen
As the kids get older they are no longer satisfied staying on the other side of the kitchen counter. As a result, the kitchen is getting crowded and I couldn't be happier.
I will be using this space to list some basic recipes, family favourites, and ideas for quick meals for their reference.

The easiest and quickest meal, I think, is varan-bhaat. Especially if both the rice and the daal is cooked at the same time in the pressure cooker. The downside of this approach is that the rice is almost invariably overcooked because of the difference in the cooking times for the daal and the rice.
This is one reason why I prefer to cook rice in a pot. The other reason is that the excess water and starch can be drained off from the pot!
Though this post talks of white rice I hope to update it soon with information about brown and red rice. This post is very much a work in progress.

1 cup rice (Basmati, ambemohar, or sona masuri)
2 cups (or more) water

Wash the rice in several changes of water.
If you have time, soak the rice for a couple of hours.

**Pressure cooker method (results in a stickier rice)
Add about 2 ½ cups water to the pressure cooker.
In a pan/ pot that fits inside the pressure cooker add the rice and water (1:2 proportion)
Put on the whistle and pressure cook for 1-2 (not more) whistles.
Allow the pressure to come down (7-8 minutes) before you open the pressure cooker.

**Pan method
In a pan add the rice and enough water to cover the rice and then some more.
Cook over medium-high heat for approx 8-10 minutes.
Drain the excess water, cover the pan with the lid and leave undisturbed for 4-5 minutes.
Fluff with a fork.

While such a rice is perfectly fine as an accompaniment to amti or daal sometimes what you need is just plain fluffy rice where each grain stands apart, phad-phadeet bhaat as we say in Marathi.
If cooked in a pan the rice grains do not stick to each other as much, but for me this is a hit-or-miss sort of thing. So when I need rice for a pulao-type dish such as this one here is what I do:

Wash the rice (preferably Basmati) in several changes of water.
Add enough water to cover the rice and set aside for several hours or at least one hour.
Drain the rice.
To a pot add the rice and three times as much boiling water.
Cook over high heat for exactly 10 minutes.
Drain the water.
Add about ⅛ cup water and ½ tsp butter for each cup of rice, give a gentle stir, cover with a kitchen towel and put the lid on.
Leave undisturbed for about 15 minutes.
Fluff with a fork and serve!

This results in phad-phadeet bhaat each time.

This is my entry for Jaya's Back to Basics event.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Cake Pops: Finally

I've wanted to make these cake pops for the longest time.
Today I finally got a chance to make them.
Here they are:

Seriously, how cute are they?

They were quite easy to make: crumble cake/ cupcakes, mix in some frosting, make the balls of this mixture, poke in a candy stick, freeze them for a bit, dip in melted chocolate or candy melts, decorate, and finally ready yourself for the oohs and aahs.
There were a couple of botched cake pops before we (daughter and I) got the hang of the dipping process. But once we did, we were just cranking them out. The sprinkles were fantastic in covering up the mistakes; just made them more colourful!

These cake pops go to the anything goes a.k.a the Potluck edition of BB6 hosted by Nupur of One Hot Stove.
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