Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Just for the party: Shimla Mirch and Paneer :).

Yeah, there is an actual new post here :). Gone are the days (months?) of being greeted by the same old batata-vada, in case you happened to visit this blog in the past year ;). I'll be honest, it's not been an easy post to write-there is more than year's worth of laziness to shrug off :).

But, the occasion demands it. A Mad Tea Party has been organized and our gracious hostess has been kind enough to allow late comers to be a part of the fun fiesta. After having two crazy parties which involved lots of frying, she has chosen the theme of instant gastronomic gratification, desi ishtyle. Make something quick, easy, delicious. Something that does not exotify Indian cooking, but rather highlights the vast variety that Indian food boasts of, with the myriad regional twists and flavors.

I debated a lot on what to prepare for this event. It had to be simple, amenable to adaptations and quick to make. I chose a simple combination of bell peppers and Indian cottage cheese, the two ingredients i had available at hand. The dish is very quick and easy, and you can play any number of combinations on it. The main reason, though, is that this was one of the first few dishes I ever prepared :). Besides, there is a lot of nostalgia factor involved. This is also the dish that a dear teacher of mine fondly mentioned in several conversation.

Trivia: Since this recipe involves paneer, it has some Punjabi flair. This is a slightly unusual combination for a Punjabi meal though. Bell peppers in Punjab are a summer vegetable, while paneer dishes are usually either reserved for special occasions or winter/autumn/spring season. So this is not something you would typically find in rural Punjabi homes for an everyday meal, though it does make an popular choice for special occasions. However, where I currently live, bell peppers are available all year round and the weather is usually mild, making this an appropriate everyday dish for my kitchen.

As for versatility, the bell peppers and onions combination is one of my favorites. I have tried this dish replacing paneer with tofu, eggplants, zucchini and crook-neck squash, and replacing cumin with mustard seeds/nigella/panch-phoron and the results have always been delightful! Sometimes I've just used ground Sichuan-peppers/Teppal and enjoyed it immensely. I recommend each of these variations.

Here is how we prepare this dish:

Key ingredients:

1 onion,sliced thin
2 bell peppers, diced
20-25 bite size (1") cubes of fresh paneer
Seasonings: 1/2 tsp cumin, 1/4 tsp. turmeric, salt to taste
1-2 tsp. oil

Optional ingredients: Kashmiri red chilli powder (for color), 1/4 tsp. amchoor or one tomato (cubed) for a tangy twist, crushed garlic/garlic salt or garam masala for a different flavor.

Preparation: Let's begin with the stereotypical "heat oil in a pan". While the oil is heating, we cut the onion into two halves and chop each half into thin slices. Next, we splutter the cumin in hot oil, saute' the onions for 2-4 minutes. During this time, we chop the bell peppers and prepare paneer cubes. Add the paneer cubes and pan fry them next on medium to high heat. They should turn golden. Next, we add the bell peppers and stir-fry some more (4-5 minutes). We then add salt and turmeric, reduce the heat, cover and cook an additional 10 minutes (or till the bell pepper pieces are tender). This is the basic version of the recipe and can be jazzed up with additional seasonings mentioned in "optional ingredients". Total time involved in preparing this dish was close to 25 minutes or so. This is a great everyday and party dish. I enjoyed this dish along with a simple matar kadhi and plain rice, for dinner with my friend Ms. AK and sent some over to buddy MD via pictures. My friends loved it, and that's what counts :). I hope you will love it too.

Here's to fun-times! Thank you, Anita!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Batata vadas, at long last :-D.

Yay!! I finally made it. I mean, the batata-vadas and the blog-post :). I am out of my hibernation, atleast right this moment ;). Sorry for having left with that spider/star-anise staring at you :-D.

By now, you all know that i love playing hide and seek :-D. But every, now and then, you do come up with stuff, that's simply too tempting to resist, stuff that totally wakes you up. Our dear host of the Mad Tea Party, Anita, is the master-mind behind one such idea. Her love for potatoes, deep-fried goodness and mad tea parties is well known. Aloo+deep-frying+madness translated into poori-bhaji last year, and it's batata-vada this time around. So, Anita, Happy Blog Anniversary to you, and thank you for these rocking mad tea parties. Thank you for putting up with my lazy ways and for the enjoyable evening tea :).

Here's to madness and deep-fried goodness: batata-vadas.


My recipe takes shape from the different versions I have enjoyed. Here's how I made it:


  • Chickpea flour (1 cup)
  • Rice flour (1 tbsp.)
  • 1/4 tsp. cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp. coriander powder
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Red chilli powder (to taste)
  • A pinch of baking soda or baking powder (optional)
Mix these ingredients and make it into a thick batter with water.

Potato mix:
  • Two big potatoes (boiled, peeled and mashed)
  • Ginger-garlic paste (1 tsp., I used 1 tsp. grated ginger and 1/4 tsp. garlic powder )
  • 1 serrano pepper (chopped fine)
  • Cilantro, finely chopped
  • Salt (to taste)
  • Juice of half a lime/lemon
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • A pinch of hing
  • A pinch of turmeric
  • 1 tsp. oil
Add ginger-garlic paste, chopped chilli peppers, cilantro leaves, salt and lime juice to the mashed potatoes and mix well. Spultter mustard seeds in hot oil, add hing, curry leaves and turmeric to it and add to the potato mix.

Frying and savoring:

Heat oil in a kadahi. Meanwhile, make round balls from the potato mix, dip it into the batter and fry them to golden, crispy perfection. Enjoy with a chutney of your choice. I love them with hot coconut chutney, thecha, or simply with salted small green chillies soaked in lime juice. But these ones, i had them with Sriracha sauce and a slice of toasted sourdough bread.

A perfect accompaniment to my evening tea. Best enjoyed when you share them with family and friends. When you can't, just think of all the good people around and have some on their behalf too :). Friends, this one is for you all. Anita, hope you enjoyed these. Sorry for the late entry-i promise i'll make up for it by singing and dancing to my heart's content :).

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Eggplants and tomatoes: a starry combination :)

This has to be the post that has enjoyed the cozy comfort of draft-box for the longest ;). Originally meant to be posted more than a month ago, it was lovingly forgotten there as i switched from a "cough", through an "achooooo" (and finally), to my everyday life :-D. But here it is, finally!

Tomatoes and eggplants are a very regular combination in my kitchen and i enjoy them together in many different ways. The title of this post says that this combination is really starry, so that should give you a hint of what is to show up next ;). Yup, a very simple recipe, where the main spice is the pretty, starry, Star Anise. Don't get me wrong, the intent of the following picture is not to scare anyone ;). Just that this piece of star anise was breaking all stereotypes for the said spice and looked more like a spider :-D.

This sweet and tangy combination is very quick to make and super delicious.

Here is how we make it:

We need:

  • 2 long eggplants (Chinese ot Japanese variety), cut into 2" long pieces
  • 2-3 big and juicy tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 2 piece star anise (one whole and the other ground into powder).
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar (or as per taste)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • Red chilli powder (to taste)
  • 7-8 basil leaves
  • 1 tbsp. oil

In a pan, heat the oil and splutter the cumin. Add the eggplant pieces and stir-fry them on high-heat. Set the eggplant pieces aside. Now add the chopped tomatoes and cook till tender. Add the sugar, turmeric, red chilli powder and star anise powder. Add 2-3 tbsp. water, if needed. Add salt, and the stir fried eggplant pieces. Reduce the flame and cover to cook another 10-15 minutes or so, till the eggplant pieces have absorbed the flavors. Add the basil leaves. Garnish with the whole star anise and enjoy hot with rice or chapatis :).

And you are so right, the inspiration for this dish is from Chinese sweet and sour eggplants. Oh, and before i forget, do try out Star Anise in your chai, its the best!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Going green: Chard and mushrooms :)

Having gotten back to blogging very recently, i have been full of enthusiasm :). So after posting the recipes celebrating kokum, the plan was to post another recipe the very next day. That would have made it a hat-trick :-D. A post a day, i would have been onto a blogging spree! But how could i, Ms. Musical (the lazy one), get around doing that :-D. So, here i am, after having put the pictures in draft a cpl. of days ago, finally typing the recipe ;).

This is a quick one, but immensly delish! A hearty combination of the beautiful chard and the delectable mushrooms,
something that can be prepared in a matter of minutes and is a great accompaniment to any meal :).

I've used rainbow chard and baby-bella mushrooms here, but other varieties also work fine. Here's how we go about it.

Chard and mushroom sabzi:

We need:

  • 1 bunch (7-8 leaves) Swiss chard (regular, red, rainbow-they all are good. I love red and rainbow varieties though, because they look so pretty)-chopped coarse.
  • 1 and half cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1/2 onion, sliced fine
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • Salt to taste
  • red chilli powder to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • A pinch of garam masala (equal proportions of cinnamon, cloves and fennel seeds: roasted, cooled and ground into a fine powder. This recipe is one of my favorite masala recipes and works really well with green leafy vegetables. Its a very typical Kerala style spice recipe and i was first introduced to this one by my very dear friend, Ms. Moon).
  • 1 tsp. oil
We start by the obligatory (ahem!) step of heating the oil in a pan and spluttering the cumin seeds (which can be replaced by mustard seeds for another delicious variation). Next, sliced onions are added and saute'ed. We then add the chopped mushrooms and stir fry them till tender (takes about 4-5 minutes). Next, we add the chopped greens and stir in the salt, red chilli powder and turmeric. We let the veggies cook on low heat till done.
Finally, we sprinkle a pinch or two of the garam masala powder and enjoy this dish with chapatis and dahi or sambar- rice or (you guessed it right) as a sandwich stuffing :).

Other variations:

Add a lil' bit of grated coconut to this dish (use some chopped green chillies in this case, instead of red chilli powder). Try eggplants (the Chinese and Japanese varities) instead of mushrooms, or even green peas or corn. Each results in a delicious quick fix side-dish. Enjoy :).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Kokum: celebrating the surprise and a wonder ingredient :).

Time to flaunt the lovely surprise in my mailbox :). The lovely surprise that i got from Nupur is the tangy, beautiful and fragrant kokum. Kokum (botanical name: Garcinia indica) is also known as amsul/amsool and mangosteen (English). It is widely celebrated in Marathi, Konkani, Mangalorean and Coorgi cuisines, to name a few and adds a mellow tanginess and a beautiful pick blush to the dishes :). The kokum seed oil/butter is considered to be very good for the skin and has found immense use in the cosmetic and food industry. Several health food stores here in the US now flash products using kokum butter :). Read more about its myriad uses here.

Sra brings an interesting question to fore: The Wiki link claims that Kokum=Mangosteen. However, as it turns out, Mangosteen is Garcinia mangostana. Close cousins, but not the same. Her question is: Can we make kokum from Mangosteen? It should be theoretically possible-i guess they have similar fruits, and its a matter of drying the peel. I am very positive on this, because apparently kudampuli (a prized ingredient in Kerala cuisine) is also from genus Garcinia (Garcinia gummigutta, Garcinia combogia) ! No wonder they look quite similar :). So, if anyone knows here how to prepare kokum from the fruit, please do share the information :). Sra kindly shared the following links, do check them out:

The two yummy dishes i associate kokum most with, are amti and sol kadhi :). The former is daal (mostly toor daal) cooked with kokum extract (prepared by soaking kokum in water), gul (jaggery)/sugar and phodni (tempering: includes asfoetida, mustard seeds, curry leaves and turmeric) and the latter is a delicious blend of coconut milk, kokum extract, gul, green chillies and cilantro :).
And surely i am going to use this lovely surprise to make amti and sol kadhi. But i wanted to enjoy this present by trying it with something different :). So i went ahead and though of the following:
  • Chayote squash curry
  • Quick aloo-matar
I chose these dishes randomly, the former because of what i fancied in the grocery store and the latter to fit my plans to make a quick fix dinner :). Hope you'll enjoy these!

Chayote squash curry:

There is something about the kokum-coconut reminds me of Goa, each time i think of it, each time i relish it! I took the chayote squash, paired this lovely vegetable with coconut milk and dressed up the combo with kokum. The result was a delicious curry, which totally made me nostalgic about my Goa trip and the food i enjoyed there. Here is how i made it:

We need:

  • Two chayote squashes (cubed into bite sized pieces)
  • 1/2 can coconut milk
  • Kokum extract (4-5 pieces kokum soaked for 20-30 minutes in 1/2 cup water)
  • 1/2" piece of ginger, grated (optional)
  • 1 clove garlic, grated (optional)
  • A pinch of turmeric
  • 7-8 curry leaves
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • Salt to taste
  • Red chilli powder to taste
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. oil
Boil the cubed squash pieces in water (enough to completely cover the pieces) along with turmeric and salt, till tender. Add coconut milk, grated ginger, garlic, kokum extract, red chilli powder and sugar. Bring to boil. Prepare the tempering by heating the oil, spluttering the mustard seeds and adding the curry leaves. Add the tempering to the curry and simmer to desired thickness. Enjoy hot with rice and pickles :).

If you are short on time, you can also cook the kokum pieces directly with the vegetables, after addition of coconut milk. I leave the kokum pieces in, they add a certain flavor to the dish. It is really fun to chew on a fruity piece of kokum as you relish the curry :-D. If you want the curry to have a subtle flavor, you may omit ginger and garlic. I have to add; this kokum was so good, that despite using ginger and garlic, i could feel the distinct aroma from these purple-pink fruits. Do include sugar in the preparation to balance the tangy flavor, it adds a lot to taste.

Quick aloo-matar:
This is quick indeed and involves use of microwave :-D. Yes, when i rush, i resort to microwaving the aloo/potatoes :). To top it all, this version of aloo-matar is a no-oil recipe!

We need:

  • 1 potato (wash, microwave for 4-5 minutes and peel)
  • 2 cups shelled green peas/matar
  • 1" ginger piece (chopped)
  • 2 cloves garlic (chopped)
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • Red chilli powder (to taste)
  • Extract from 4-5 pieces of kokum
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. rosemary leaves (fresh or dried, your choice)

We start by microwaving the potato. The potato is peeled, cubed and kept ready to go. We heat the pan and roast the cumin, add 2 cups of water, ginger and garlic and bring the water to boil. We now add the microwaved and cubed potatoes and cook these while mashing it a lil' bit. Now its time to add the shelled green peas, salt, red chilli powder and kokum extract (or kokum pieces, if you are like me). We stir the dish gently once or twice, add 1/2 cup more water, cloves and simmer the aloo-matar on low/medium flame till the gravy is thick. Time to garnish the aloo-matar with rosemary leaves and we are all set to enjoy :).

Kokum here gives a subtle tanginess and pretty color to aloo-matar and lifts the dish to a whole new level. Rosemary and garlic (simmered, not roasted here) together create a warm and sweet-spicy aroma along with cloves, and build on the subtle warm notes from kokum. I enjoyed this variation of aloo-matar a lot!
Hope you'll enjoy these dishes too :). Here's to friendship, here's to the beautiful ingredient!

More ways to enjoy kokum:

Bakar Bhaji (Anita)
Bhendi Sukhem, prawns kokum garlic, lobster pepper kokum (Upper Crust India)
Daanyachi Amti (Tee)
Drumstick vegetable (Alpa)
Footi Kadhi/Kokum kadhi without coconut milk (Red Chillies)
Gujarati Daal (Vegetarian Delight-1, Amisha-2), Thanks Richa, for the pointer (now bring you recipe too) :-D.
Kalya vatanyachi amti (Anjali)
Kokum aloo (ARAD)
Kokum Fish/Sola Bangade (Shilpa)
Kokum Shrimp/Sola sungat (Shilpa)
Kokum Sharbat (Mehak)
Moong daal aamti (Indira)

Do let me know if any one of you have any related recipe ideas or links to share, i'll update the post accordingly :).

Thanks Nupur, the flavors from your kitchen have brought with them a message of friendship and sharing! I am truly enriched!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Here's to fun and friendship :)

Hi, friends! I finally am back from my hibernation :). Now, haven't you heard similar stuff on this blog before :-D. This probably could have ended up as one more of those posts :). But what makes this one different is a very special word called "Friendship". Its the power of friendship that's finally brought me back.....

I'll narrate you a lil' story. Sometime ago, i prepared a simple soup for dinner-a simple fair, yet something that tasted great! It was then, that i felt this sudden urge to share.....share that bowl of goodness, that thrill of enjoying good food! It was then, that i felt that i would love to get back here again.....

Several days later, i received a heart-warming note in my mailbox, from a person whose enthusiasm and passion for food is infectious. She, who weaves foodie dreams at her "One Hot Stove", wanted me to send a foodie surprise. The note had "hello friend" written all over it. The spirit behind the Arusuvai Friendship Chain is to share foodie surprises and extend a hand of friendship through blogosphere. This exchange of lil' surprises first started in India, and is the brain child of Latha ji and her daughter Lakshmi from from The Yum Blog. Dear Latha from Masala Magic has now brought this wonderful concept here.

And the surprises now travel from one kitchen to another, carrying along smiles, thoughts, flavors and fun :). Nupur, thanks for thinking of me, dear friend.....

Also, thanks Sunita and Sia, for the tempting events that totally got the better of me. I'll be sending my entries soon :).

Last weekend, i received a package, full of lovely surprises :). I now take you through those beautiful surprises, one picture at a time :).

The surprise:

This had to be the freshest, tangiest and most fragrant and vibrant kokum i have seen in recent time, paralleled only by what i relished at my friend Golden Girl's house, a home grown treat, which her Aayi had brought all the way from India :). It was so tempting that soon as i opened the package, i popped a cpl. of pieces in my mouth :-D. And i knew that the meals in the coming few days would be livened up by this beautiful surprise :). Watch out for the recipes tomorrow :).

The sweets:

Trust Nupur for her innovative creations. The tangy kokum was accompanied by what has to be one of the best chikkis ever! The caramel treat loaded with almonds was topped by chocolate and more nuts :). YUMMY!

The suvenir:

This chappal has to be special :-D. Guys, this is no ordinary slipper i am talking about. Its a lovely suvenir from Kolhapur, the place where our buddy Nupur comes from. Yes, the famous Kolhapuri chappal :). The miniature is just as gorgeous as the real deal!

The thoughts:

And all this, along with a beautiful note on a pretty card, made from hand-made paper :). Thanks again, Nupur......for all the affection, for all the goodness you packaged in that envelope and for all the yummy foods that you've shared through your hot stove. Above all, for thinking of me as a friend. Here's to the power of friendship :).

From my kitchen to yours:

The Arusuvai Friendship Chain would like the fun to travel along. So, time for me to mail lil' surprises to few friends. It really means a lot me, dear friends:

Sig, Richa and Pel, thanks for all the affection and for being the great friends that you are. Hope you enjoy the lil' surprises. This is so exciting and am really looking forward to the yummy creations from your kitchens. Let the fun times roll :).

And now a special recipe. Remember that soup i mentioned about in the beginning. That is the friendship soup, my friend and embodies the warmth of friendship :). This one is to friendship :).

Coconut milk-beans soup:
This soup combines the milky sweetness and aroma of coconut, with the hearty and comforting
texture of beans. Topped with the lively and fragrant ginger, flavorful garlic and spicy sambal, this one is perfect for relaxing after a long day :).

We need:

  • 2 cups cooked (boiled) beans, i used canned Pinto beans (1 can)
  • 1/2 can coconut milk (preferably light/low-fat variety, i used Chao-Koh brand)
  • 1 bunch spring onions, chopped
  • 2" piece of ginger (julienned)
  • 1 clove garlic (grated)
  • 1 tsp. (or to taste) sambal oelek
  • Salt to taste
  • Ground pepper (to taste)
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp. oil
Heat oil and saute' the spring onions. Add the cooked beans and stir. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, sambal oelek and water. Bring to boil, and add the salt and coconut milk. Cook till the soup thickens to desired consistency. Add a lil' ground pepper and serve hot :). Enjoy!

Variations: The variations on this are endless. I've made the soup so many times, and it turns out yummy each time. Try it with corn or peas instead of beans, try it with bell peppers and tomatoes, try changing the spices to dried herbs instead of ginger and garlic. I've even used sour yogurt instead of coconut milk once and ended up with an entirely different, but equally yummy soup.

Have a wonderful day. I will see you all tomorrow with the recipes with this lovely surprise :).

Friday, November 16, 2007

Sweet-potato stew (Thai-style) :)

Hi! all :). i am back after my hiatus ;). I apologize for not posting, late replies to the comments and lazy blog-hopping. Not that i didn't have any time, i probably did, atleast on some days.....but may be, i was tired.....and not in the right mood to post. If i would have posted something in a rush, it wouldn't have come out well :-D. And when i did feel like posting, i got sick. Hmm, so today i am back, hoping that i can post something :). I am sure you understand :).

What i want to share today is a lovely stew made out of sweet-potatoes, prepared in Thai style. Yup, Thai style (and not Thai, because i have only had it in a restaurant and have approximated it from an online recipe, so am not sure if its authentic Thai or not, but it definitely does use a lot of popular ingredients from Thai cuisine). The sweet potato cubes are simmered in coconut milk with green peas (which are either used as such or as a replacement for Thai pea-eggplants when they are not available. The restaurant dish used green peas), ginger, red chillies paste and basil. The result is a yummy, creamy stew :).

As i mentioned, i first had this dish at a restaurant and really loved it. So, i looked up the recipe online, and modiefied it to include similar ingredients and get a similar taste. The original recipes can be found here. I've mostly relied on the second recipe, and included basil and peas.

Yup, and ginger plays a key role in this recipe. You now know where this recipe is heading to :). Yup, for the thoughtful get-together celebrating ginger, at Sunita's place :). Now, if you really look around this blog, you'd notice my love for ginger :-D.

Majority of the recipes here rely heavily on ginger, especially the daal/beans recipes :). If you are all for ginger, you'll enjoy those too :). So, most of my regular, everyday food does celebrate ginger-that's why i thought to write about something different, using ginger. Since its a Thai recipe, galangal would do well here. But from the taste, i guess the restaurant used ginger.

So, here is how i made it:

Thai style sweet-potato stew:

We need:

  • 1 big sweet potato, peeled and cubed in to 1/2" cubes (i used garnet sweet-potato)-gives about 30-35 cubes.
  • 3/4 can of light coconut milk ( i use Chao-Koh or thai Kitchen brands)
  • 1 cup green peas
  • 1/2 onion (chopped-optional)
  • 1 heaped tbsp. grated ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
  • 1 heaped tsp. red chilli paste (you can use sambal oelek)
  • 1 tsp. lemon grass (pounded into paste)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. oil
  • 5-6 basil leaves

First, prepare the sweet potato. Its difficult to cube, so you can soften it a bit by microwaving it for 1-2 minutes. Make 1/2" cubes out of it, and to reduce the preparation time, drizzle the cubes with some water and microwave an additional 4-5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in a deep pan and saute' the onions. Now add the crushed garlic and grated ginger and saute' for another minute. Add the lemongrass paste and red-chilli paste next and mix well. Add 1 cup of water and cubed sweet potatoes (original recipe calls for vegetable broth, water is good enough) and bring to boil. Next, add the coconut milk, salt and 1-2 basil leaves and simmer on low till the stew thickenes a bit. Garnish with remaining basil leaves and serve hot with plain boiled rice of your choice. Enjoy :).

As i said, i am taking this to our ginger themed potluck hosted by the lovely Sunita. Thanks, Sunita, for celebrating my ever favorite spice :). And did i tell you, that ginger is really good to relieve minor coughs and colds and body-aches :). Not to mention that it smells "oh, soooooooo fresh" :). Hope you all enjoy this and will pardon me for being a not-so-regular blogger :-D.