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:

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)

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...
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

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.

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

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, dab it as dry as you can and then 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.

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

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.

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

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
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)

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.

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)

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


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

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.
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