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.


Sunday, October 28, 2007

Salad, sabzi, or both and a weekend brunch idea :)

I am sure you are all familiar with the days, when you get back home tired and really hungry: the times when you don't have much energy to do some elaborate cooking, but would still love to have some yummy food! On one such day last week, i felt really lazy to cook much, yet craved something spicy and filling. In this bus, i had been dreaming about making some baked vegetables in some cilantro based marinade. When i got home, i checked out the vegetables in the fridge and wondered what all to use. Finally, i decided to go for some bell peppers, some mushrooms, a lil' paneer and some spring onions and marinate them in a cilantro based marinade. The cilantro chutney/marinade was made by simply blending together cilantro, green chillies, ginger, garlic salt, salt and lime juice. I mixed the marinade with the veggies in the baking dish and the whole thing looked really appetizing. I then wondered, if i should go for a salad, a sabzi or both :-D. I decided to take some in a bowl as a salad, which was yummy! and put the rest in the oven. As i feasted myself upon the lip-smacking chutney-vegetables combo, i simultaneously had been making some baked vegetables, which turned out to be equally delicious, if not more :-D. I am sure you all have your own variations on this theme, here's my version:

Baked vegetables in cilantro marinade:

We need:

  • 1 big bell pepper (chopped into bite-sized pieces)
  • 2 Roma tomatoes (sliced)
  • 20 or so bite sized pieces of paneer
  • 1/2 cup sliced crimini or baby bella mushrooms
  • 1 bunch spring onions (chopped)
For marinade:

  • 1 small bunch/3/4 th cup equivalent chopped cilantro
  • 1 serrano pepper or 2 green chillies (adjust chillies to your taste)
  • 1 inch piece of ginger
  • 1 tsp. lime/lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. garlic salt
  • Salt to taste

Grind together the ingredients for the marinade. Mix these with the chopped vegetables. In case you are making the salad, leave the spring onions and chill the salad in the fridge. Mix the chopped spring onions before serving.

The salad :)

For making baked vegetables, mix the marinade with all the chopped vegetables and let rest for 15-20 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 F meanwhile. Bake in the oven for about 35 minutes, mixing once in between (or till the bell peppers are tender-rest of the stuff doesn't take long to cook). The end result should have slightly crisped paneer and well done bell peppers, with some thick gravy. If you want grilled vegetables, add less marinade, and bake a lil' longer. Enjoy the baked vegetables with crispy toast :).

The sabzi :)

As i was having the salad, i wondered about all those laments that one gets to hear from time to time, as to how Indian food doesn't have much to do with salads! Indian cuisine boast of such an enormous variety of salads, from the lovely koshimbirs, to kosumbari, to the sundals, raitas and pachidis and the regular kheera-tamatar with lime, salt an pepper and many many more. Just that we don't label them as "salad" :-D.

Oh, and here's a quick weekend brunch idea. i am sure again that many of you make this in your own way as well. i am talking about the sandwich made with (aloo ki) sabzi :-D. i use left over aloo sabzi (dry) or any dry sabzi, stuff it in the sourdough or rye bread, along with a lil' skim mozzarella or five cheese blend and toast it on tava/griddle. i'll be honest with you, i use a lil' ghee (just a cpl. of drops) to toast :-D. It gives such a heavenly aroma!

Here's a quick aloo ki sabzi-a zero oil version:

We need:

  • 1-2 potatoes (boiled/microwaved and mashed)
  • 1/2 tsp jeera/cumin
  • 1 ripe tomato
  • 1 bunch spring onions (optional)
  • 1 tsp. grated ginger
  • 1 clove garlic (chopped fine, optional)
  • 1 chopped green chilli
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. lime juice or 1 tsp. sour curds
  • Chopped cilantro for garnish

Wash the potatoes and keep them in the microwave for cooking. It takes about 4 minutes per potato, and 7 minutes for two potatoes in my micrwave. Alternatively you can boil the potatoes. Meanwhile, heat a pan and dry roast the cumin seeds till they release the aroma. Add the tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the grated ginger and onions and garlic, if using. Stir and cook for a cpl. of minutes. (By now the potatoes should be done. Quickly peel them and mash them roughly). Add the microwaved/boiled and mashed potatoes to the pan and mix. Add the salt and souring agent of your choice (lime juice or curds) and mix well. If the mixture is getting too dry or sticking to the pan, drizzle some water. Cook for another 5 minutes with occasional stirring. Add the green chillies and cilantro.

Enjoy as a sabzi/side dish or as a sandwich/parantha stuffing :). Don't go by the picture, it tastes really good :).

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Food, festivals and memories :)

For people like me, festivals, food and memories form a heady combo :). Food and festivals go hand in hand and create everlasting memories. The celebrations one enjoys together with the family, the meals on cherishes with the loved ones, they all hold a special place in our book of memories :). Navaratri time is one such festival in India, when people celebrate togetherness, weave memories and have lots of fun. Food ofcourse plays a central part here too, like any other Indian festival. The word Navaratri blends the word Nava, meaning nine and new (the two meanings of the word "nava" blend well together here) and, ratri meaning night. The nine new nights, the beginning of a new season.....There are two navaratris, one celebrated during the month of Ashvin (Assu in Punjabi), leading to Mahanavami and Vijayadashmi and another one during the month of Chaitra (Chetar in Punjabi), leading to Ram Navami. The Ashvin Navaratri is one of the most popular Indian festival, celebrated across different Indian subcultures.

In Punjabi, Navaratri time is referred to as Narate/Navratre. Both Assu and Chetar Narate are celebrated with equal fervour. People f(e)ast through the Narate and celebrate Sri Durga Ashtami and Maha Navami with lots of festive foods. Throughout the Narate, people worship the various forms of Mother Goddess. To me, this festival reflects the celebration of womanhood.

During fasting, ideally one is supposed to eat light, stick to mostly fruit diet or "phalahaar", no whole grains, no salt etc. However, that usually makes way for the alternative sources of yumminess :-D. People enjoy goodies made out of swaang (literal meaning, pretend) da chawal (samo), singhare da atta (water chestnut flour)-relished as rotis, choora and halva, kuttu de atte di roti (rotis made out of kuttu flour) etc. Salt is replaced by kala loon/kala namak/sendha namak (black salt). The sabzis, daals and kadhis are made sans and onion, garlic and even tomatoes! People enjoy the laddoos/pinnis made out of jaggery and red amaranth seeds (boor, seel, rajgira). Read some notes about samo and rajgira here.

I'll confess, i used to fast when i was a lil' kid :). The fun of doing things together with my friends was what drove me to sustain on bananas and other fruit for the whole day, with an occassional treat in the form of khatte wale aloo :).

Its a simple dish, made out of potatoes, dry spices and tamarind. Really yummy and tangy, and has a lovely deep brown color! I recently made it as an ode to good old times :). Here's how we make it:

Khatte wale aloo:

We need:

  • 3 potatoes (peeled and cut into big cubes. I use Russet/Idaho varities)
  • A pinch of hing/asfoetida
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin (jeera)
  • 1/4 tsp. kalonji (nigella seeds)
  • 1/2 tsp. coriander powders (dhania powders)
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • Red chilli powder (to taste)
  • 1 tbsp. thick tamarind pulp
  • Salt to taste (people who fast traditionally use black salt)
  • 1/2 tsp. oil (preferably mustard) or ghee

In a deep vessel, heat the oil/ghee and temper the hing, followed by cumin and nigella seeds Now add the coriander powder and turmeric and mix. Add one and half cup water to this and bring to boil. Now add cubed potatoes, salt and chilli powder, cover and cook the potatoes on low heat till done. Stir in the tamarind pulp and cook for another 4- 5 minutes. Serve hot with thin phulkas. Enjoy :).

On the Durga Ashtami day, or Jyot, as it is known in Punjabi, people invite lil' girls home for a feast. This is called Kanjak Pooja. Kanjak literally means lil' girl. The lil' girls are literally worshipped and enjoy a great feast and are given really pretty presents including beautiful bangles, red chunnis/duppattas/scarves with golden/tilla boder, toys and some pocket money. As lil' girls, my friends and i used to get together and the night before Durga Ashtami, we would apply mehndi and have lots of fun together. The traditional Jyot fiesta includes sooji halwa or kadah (made with either jaggery or sugar, along with cardamom, sometimes saffron and garnished with roasted almonds, raisins or thinly sliced dried coconut ), bhangoor (pronounced like angoor, with the Punjabi BH sound, which is actually a combination of P, B and H sounds rolled into one), which is dry savory dish made from black gram or kale chane, which are soaked, boiled and then cooked in oil and dry spice powders like a lil' hing, dhania and jeera powders, amchoor and chilli powder etc, pooris or phulkas , and dahi-bhalle (vadas in yogurt). The dahi bhalle are kept simple for the festival. No sweet and green chutneys here. Just simply flavored with salt, ground black pepper, roasted jeera and red chilli powder. The bhalle usually are fried in mustard oil and are usually spiced with whole or ground black peppers, very lil' hing, salt and red chilli powder. And yet the taste eclectic! There is certain way of enjoying the kadah, bhagoor and poori, and it is the best way to enjoy it!! You keep a poori in a plate, flatten the poori, top it with kadah/halwa and top it all with some bhangoor, roll it and enjoy!

The Narate culminate in the Dussehra, which is the day to enjoy Ram Leelas and in Punjab, it also marks the first day of welcoming and enjoying the new sugar-cane crops :).

Here's to the cultural pot-pourri that India is, a beautiful land with so many diverse festivals and customs. Lets enjoy each festival by sharing smiles and celebrating our diversity, which also marks our unity.


This is my contribution for the JFI-Dussehra, being hosted by dear Vee of Past, Present and Me. JFI celebrates the different ingredients of our food and culture, and is a get together envisaged by dear Indira.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

A really different, really healthy aloo-gobhi :).

Yes, indeed-its different! One, its really simple to put together (the only things you chop are aloo and gobhi) and two, its a zero oil recipe! And it packed with flavor! I have previously posted Mom's aloo-gobhi recipe, which ofcourse is an all time favorite. Today's recipe, retains the key spices from that recipe: ginger and green chillies and combines them the tangy taste of sour curds. I made it this weekend, and i had to share it with you :). Oh, talking about sharing: here's a cute piece of diary turned one y'day :-D. Blogging has been fun. So, here's to blogging and fun :).

Dahi wali aloo-gobhi

This dish is a simple one, but really yummy! We marinate the aloo and gobhi in a mix of sour curds, grated ginger, garlic salt, green chillies, cumin and coriander powders and salt, cook the aloo-gobhi first on low heat and then on high heat, and there it is: zero oil, flavorful aloo-gobhi.

We need:

  • One Cauliflower (cleaned and cut into big florets, check the recipe mentioned above)
  • 2 Russet/Idaho Potatoes (peeled and cubed)
  • 1 cup sour curds (i used store-bought fat free yogurt, to make it almost completely fat free)
  • 1 tbsp. grated ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic-chilli salt ( i used Cholula brand, you can use any other brand garlic salt or 1 clove crushed garlic, which should work just as well)
  • 1 tsp. each cumin and coriander (jeera and dhania) powders
  • 1-2 green chillies (chopped)
  • Salt to taste
  • Fresh cilantro for garnishing

In a bowl, mix all ingredients except aloo, gobhi and salt, to make the marinade. Coat the aloo and gobhi pieces with this marinade and let rest for 10-15 minutes. Now you can choose one of the two ways to cook this dish:

Either tranfer these pieces and any remaining marinade into a pan. In this case, cook on low till the cauliflower florets are tender (takes about 25-30 minutes).


Place the aloo-gobhi in a baking dish and cover with aluminium foil. IIf using the baking method, bake the aloo-gobhi at 400 degrees F for 30-40 minutes and transfer the contents to a pan.

From here on, the method is the same:

Now add salt to the aloo gobhi and cook on high heat to dry all the liquid. This takes about another 10 minutes. The end result should be a well done, non- soggy, non-mushy aloo gobhi. Garnish with cilantro and enjoy with chapati or paranthas. Trust me, you won't miss the oil!

Notes: 1.Baking with yougurt/curds retains some liquid even after 30 minutes, hence cooking in the pan is essential. It not only dries up the liquid, but also makes the aloo-gobhi firm yet well cooked.
2. The marinade is really yummy! Add some boiled and mashed potatoes or some fried eggplant slices to it and enjoy a yummy raita!

Monday, October 15, 2007

FAHC: Share a smile :)

Words synonymous with food/khana are integral part of our vocabulary, they indicate sustenance, comfort, connection, affection and whole lot more to all of us. A lot of fond memories are woven around food and eating. However, food also indicates survival, the most basic necessity of life.....It always gives one immense satisfaction to feed someone, to share some food.....because your share the spirit of life, the spirit of survival.

By extending your hand to help feed children, you can share smiles, and this instinct to live.....

By contributing whatever lil' you can, you can help a great cause. Nothing is too lil' or too small to share. Every bit counts-do your bit today. Share a smile.....

Fellow blogger V.K. Narayanan (VKN), from My Dhaba has taken up a wonderful initiative, called Feed A Hungry Child (FAHC). is a not-for-profit charitable organization formed in a collaborative effort of the like-minded people from all around the world. It aims to replace the empty plates of the underprivileged children and replace them with ones of food. While FAHC addresses the holistic needs of each children it supports, it believes illiteracy, malnutrition, and other concerns can only be addressed when hunger is appeased.

Immediate Mission:

  • Join the fight against global poverty.
  • Help feed hungry children one by one.

Larger Vision: aims to improve the lives of a good many underprivileged children in their efforts to support themselves, their families, and their communities by giving them the chance for better food, better education, better healthcare, and other welfare.

Lets join him in his effort and extend whatever help we can. VKN and Indira (Mahanandi) have together invited everyone to come, join and share.

Along with Indira, Sh. Suvir Saran (well-known chef), Anjali Damerla (Supreme Spice), Bee and Jai (Jugalbandi), Manisha (Indian Food Rocks), Shilpa (Aayi's Recipes), Padmaja (Spicy Andhra), Mythili (Vindu), Siri (Siri's Corner) and Richa (As Dear As Salt), have come up with some great raffle prizes for the participants too! The prizes include Ammini Ramachandran's great book (Indira), Suvir ji's lovely books (Suvir ji), a beautifully packaged set of spice extracts (Anjali), a fantastic book on digital photography (Bee and Jai), beautiful ready-to-wear saris for lil' girls (Manisha), a fair-trade gift hamper from the UK (Padmaja), a beautiful painting, which is Shilpa's own breathtaking creation, a gorgeous, customized platter, hand-painted by Mythili Rachel Ray's "30 minute meals" by Siri, and lovely gourmet dark chocolatefrom Richa! The list is growing fast. Find out on how to enroll for the raffle at Mahanandi/Jugalbandi.

Fellow bloggers, if your read this, please support the FAHC cause on your blog. Readers, friends, lurkers, please share whatever you can through the Chip-in button in the side-bar, or contribute in other possible ways. Sharing always feels good :).

Host unlimited photos at for FREE!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

A chutney, strange lemons and a meme :)

A cpl. of days back, dear Mansi lovingly said, "Your next post better have some peach in it" :). So, here i am, with some peaches. I have a question for you, dear reader-how many people do you know who purposely pick sour/tangy/un-ripe peaches :-D. If you are reading this, you sure know atleast one: moi! I love peaches, actually i LOVE peaches. When i have peaches in my kitchen, i just have them as such-i don't even wait to cut them ;). I prefer yellow peaches and ectarines to white ones, because of their sweet n' tangy taste. To be honest, i don't have enough self-control to cook with fruits. The best dessert for me is to peel/cut a fruit and enjoy it. At the most i pair it up with some home-made frozen yoghurt/ice-cream. Mansi, then, had me real worried. I had to make something out of a fruit. That demanded a lot of self-control. Hence, i decided in favor of semi-ripe peaches/nectarines, hoping that i won't finish this dish even before i began making it, by gobbling up the fruit :-D.

The next worry was, what to make with tangy nectarines.....i looked up Google, and saw the words "Peach" and "Chutney". I felt grateful, immediately headed for the kitchen, prepared my version of the chutney (which included finishing up half of the fruit as i was dicing it!), got back, read the recipe from Google, decided to add a lovely ingredient (roasted walnuts) from it to jazz up my version a bit. The end result was great, a khatti-meethi (sweet and sour) chutney!

Here's the original recipe (It uses tomatoes, raisins, Vanilla syrup, and a lot of ground walnut-more sweet relish like chutney. Kids would really enjoy it). And the following is my version:

Nectarine chutney:

We need:

  • 2 yellow nectarines, diced (i started with three, but ate one!)
  • 1/4 onion (chopped)
  • 1 tbsp. grated ginger
  • 1-2 green chillies (chopped)
  • 1/2 tsp. each cumin and coriander powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. lime juice (optional, to be used if you use really sweet peaches)
  • 2 tbsp. coarsely ground walnuts
  • 1 tsp. oil
In a pan, heat the oil and saute' onions and ginger. Add the cumin and coriander powders and the chopped green chillies. Stir and add 1/2 cup water. Now add the diced peaches and salt. Stir, cover and cook the peaches on low till they are tender.
Cool down the peaches (at this stage, it makes a nice side-dish too). Grind into a smooth paste. Add coarsely ground walnuts to the chutney, mix and enjoy :).

When i had a spoonful, the taste reminded of the traditional sweet aloobukhara/plum chutney.....which gets a lot of its flavor from the ground walnuts too. So plz. don't miss out on this ingedient. I thank the chef Mr. Frankenthaler for this ingredient. I finished this in one sitting :-D.

This goes to Mansi for AFAM:Peach/Nectarine. AFAM is a great, fruity get-together envisaged by Maheshwari from Beyond the Usual.

Now over to some interesting stuff from the supermarket:

I was at the Whole Foods Market in Westwood to pick up some vegetables when i sighted the following.....

Needless to say, it was spellbinding.....i looked around, with my cell phone ready to take a picture, trying to find someone to get permission for the same. One of the staff saw me, gave me a broad smile and said,"it is worth a picture, really" :). Now, i won't keep you guessing about it.....look right below to find the answer!

Buddha's hands.....thats the name for this grogeous beauty.....its actually a citron and apparently originated in northeastern India. I had never seen this one before, so it was quite a pleasant surprise.....

I also saw these cute looking fruits, the tamarillos. They really look like eggplants....(i actually did buy some golden eggplants y'day, will post pictures next time i write about eggplants). I think i'll buy them once to see how they taste. From what i read, seems like they would be great. Any ideas on this, anyone.

And now its time for a me-me :). Dear buddy Sra from "When my soup came alive" tagged me for the "life in fours" here's me, talking about me :-D.

Four places i've lived:

India (Amritsar, New Delhi, Bangalore), my beloved country
New York City
Los Angeles

Four jobs i (dream i) had:

Owner of the best cafe' and pastry shop in your neighbourhood (or your neighbourhood chai-wallah)
Cook ;) at your favorite bistro (or your favorite dhaba)
A loving and beloved teacher
Owner of a cute lil' book store

Four favorite places i've holidayed:

Home (thats blissful, i tell you: people cooking for you, caring for you) :-D
US, for the lovely cities on both East and West coasts
Goa and Kerala, for their breathtaking beauty
New Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad for the shopping sprees ;)

Four favorite foods (only four, not fair!):

Mom's Rajma chawal, namkeen churi and paranthas (how Punju!)
Kara baath, shavige and rave idli
Haak/dum olu/ kalan/ moong-masoor daal/ kadhi with plain rice
Chaat-pakodi: gol-gappas, tikkis, samosas, paav-bhaaji, khatte laddu, bhel-poori etc.

Four places i would rather be (as per my current mood):

Sitting outside in sun with a good book
Santa Monica-Third Street Promenade
My buddy Golden Girl's home, for a chai and upma that we would cook together
At a neighbourhood Indian restaurant, for lunch with MD

Four bloggers i would like to tag:

Richa@As Dear As Salt
Pel@Elaichi etcetera
Shweta @ Fresh Flavors

Please take it up at your leisure :). Enjoy :).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Thoughtful paneer :)

Isn't that a thoughtful and lovely name for a dish :). How else could i have named a dish, that was born out of deep thinking ;). This month, dear Sunita wants us to think about saffron/kesar/zafraan/kong/keshar/kumkuma, a really pretty, fragrant and alluring spice. So, i had no choice, but to put on my thinking cap and dish out something that would celebrate this spice :). Saffron usually graces a lot of Indian sweets and rice dishes such as pulaavs and biryanis. Now, i usually make sweets only when i have friends visiting and i had already prepared some plain rice for dinner. So, i was more and more inclined to prepare a savory side dish featuring saffron, to go with my rice :). A look into my fridge had some paneer waving at me.....and we all know how well saffron goes with dairy :). Hence the thoughtful paneer :).

This thoughtful dish brings together paneer, sour curds and a blend of spices, with saffron playing all the three major spicy roles: as an aromatic spice, a pretty garnish and a gorgeous coloring agent :). This dish also brings together the different flavors: saffron and shah-jeera for the warm, fragrant and bitter-sweet note, sour curds for the tangy taste, black pepper for the hot factor and a combination of cinnamon and star anise for mellow sweetness. The spices used along with saffron here complement its flavor, rather than overpowering it. I didn't have Indian saffron with me (which i consider to be the best), so i used whats available locally (which is quite good too). The end result was a really flavorful, fragrant and delectable side-dish :).

So here is how i thought out this dish:

Thoughtful paneer:

We need:

  • 25-30 bite size paneer cubes ( i am not sure about the weight of the paneer block i had, hence this measure)
  • 1 cup sour curds
  • 2 tbsp. milk
  • A pinch of asfoetida/hing
  • 1/4 tsp. black cumin/shah-jeera
  • 1 star-anise/badiyun-khatai
  • 1 small cinnamon stick/dalchini
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper/kali mirch powder
  • Salt to taste
  • A few strands of saffron
  • 1 tbsp. oil
In a deep, flat pan, heat the oil and pan-fry/toast the paneer cubes to light brown. Drain on a paper towel and set aside. Next, splutter hing and shah-jeera in the hot oil, followed by star-anise and cinnamon. Roast the spices till a mild aroma is released. It takes about a minute-take care not to burn the spices. Now add one cup water to the pan and bring it to boil. Add the toasted paneer cubes and cook for 5 minutes on high. Meanwhile, mix the black pepper powder and salt with curds and whisk it well. Reduce the flame and slowly add this mixture to the paneer while stirring (to avoid curdling). Simmer on low heat for another 10 mins. The gravy should thicken at this point. Switch of the flame. Dissolve 4-5 strands of saffron in 2tbsp. warm milk and mix well with the paneer. Top the dish with few more strands of saffron and cover and let rest for few minutes before serving. Goes very well with plain rice and a spicy side dish/pickles of your choice :). Tastes even better the next day.

Do not use too much saffron. Its a garam taseer (heat producing) spice. A few strands are more than enough to get the desired color and aroma. Kala jeera should also be used in suggested amounts, excess leads the dish to taste slightly bitter. I like that taste actually, and hence the excess in the picture :). But if you like it mellow, then stick to 1/4 tsp. kala-jeera.

Good show Richa and Pel, this indeed drew influence from Kashmiri cuisine :)

Here a few saffron flavored favorites from blogosphere: do check them out.

Zafraani zamodod and kheer (Anita)
Kesaria (Richa)
Kesari bhath (Ashakka)
Zafraani Pulav (Manasi)

Enjoy :).

Monday, October 1, 2007

Plantain-Palak sabzi :)

Huff-puff! I am finally here :-D. I had promised dear Mandira that i would be posting my entry for JFI-Banana over the weekend.....which just flew by ;). So, here i am, i my usual late-lateef avatar, posting a last minute entry for JFI, one of my favorite events. JFI celebrates one special ingredient each month and was envisaged by dear Indira from Mahanandi.

I love bananas as a fruit, they are just yummy! They help energize a tired mind, as they boost the production of serotonin, a neurotransmitter. My favorite way of having bananas is as a chaat, with cut bananas, guavas, with some cayenne pepper, salt and lime juice thrown in to jazz it up :). Or as spicy banana raita. Or as such! I particularly love the lil' Yellaki bananas that we used to get in Bangalore. And as a vegetable, the plantain and raw bananas make my day as a part of Kalan, Undhiyu, Mocha ghanto and many more dishes :). Even the banana stem is edible and delicious. Read more here about bananas and plantains :).

My first experience of eating banana as a vegetable was really unique (kinda'). I was in fifth standard then, a lil' girl who would only think of school, playing and her cats, besides ofcourse food :-D. One of those days, the normal daily routine in our village came to halt, there was a curfew in the village.....for fifteen days, with just half an hour allowance time a day to buy essentials! No fresh vegetables and fruits would be in sight. Fortunately, we had a Kalpvriksha (as its been rightly referred to in ancient texts) planted in our haveli.....the banana tree came to our rescue, supplying us with the much needed freshness.....For those few days, we cooked and ate raw banana, enjoyed the ripe fruit and felt fortunate and blessed.....

I am pretty sure that the particular banana preparation that Mom made was more or less like arbi sabzi with gravy, somewhat like this. And indeed raw bananas and plantains work well like that, with or without eggplants. They also make yummy khatte kele ki sabzi, like here. Or a quick and delicious sabzi with Punjabi wadis. But all said and done, had it not been for the necessity driven consumption of raw bananas as a sabzi, i would not have discovered this goodness in life that early, certainly not in a Punju culinary way!
For JFI though, i wanted to make something i combined greens with raw plantain and gently spiced them. The result was delicious!

So here goes:

Plantain-palak sabzi:

We need:

  • 2 green plantains (cut into discs/circles)
  • 1 (9 oz.) bag baby spinach (chopped)
  • 1 heaped tsp. grated ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. Shah-jeera (black cumin)
  • A pinch of strong hing/asfoetida
  • A pinch of turmeric (optional)
  • Red chilli powder (to taste)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. lime/lemon juice
  • 1-2 green chillies
  • A pinch of garam masala
  • 2 tbsp. oil
First, lets peel the plaintains and cut them into 1/2 cm. thick circles. In a pan, heat oil and splutter the shah-jeera. Add hing and let it release the aroma. Add the grated ginger and saute' for a minute or so. Add the plantain slices and stir fry till they change color into slightly pale/brown. This would help avoid the raw and slimy feel. Add the chopped spinach, salt and chilli powder. Stir and cover to cook on low heat till the plantain slices are tender. Add lime juice, 1-2 broken green chillies and a pinch of garam masala. Let rest for 5 minutes. Serve hot with chapatis or rice. Enjoy :).

Sending this with lots of love to dear Mandira. My apologies to you, sweetie, for the delay. Hope you'll enjoy it :).

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Kara baath and Mangalore bajjis :)

Every week, on a certain day, the hostel mess used to serve something sumptuous for breakfast: the Kara baath (or upittu), and i would always ensure that i had breakfast in the mess on that day. On the days that the mess didn't serve kara-baath, i would get my fill from the coffee-board. It used to be particularly exciting when the mess would serve kara baath or shavige or chow-chow (in the mess it meant a mix of shavige and rave upppitu; not to be confused with THE chow-chow baath, which is an equally delish platter of kesari and kara baath served together, or chow-chow, the chayote squash) for evening tiffin! Those would be the days, when i could have kara baath for both breakfast and thindi (tiffin)! I still feast on kara baath every single weekend :-D.

There are bajjis, and then there are Mangalore bajjis! Piping hot, best enjoyed with hot coffee, this yummy snack can totally uplift your mood :-D. What with all the green chillies and ginger! Mangalore bajji is the name Bangaloreans use to refer the much beloved Goli Baje :). When it comes to fried food, they are definitely a must have!

Together, Kara baath and Mangalore bajjis represents two different wheat preparations: one with rava, the coarse one, and the other one with maida, the really fine wheat flour. There's something about Bangalore style Kara baath! Those who have ever enjoyed it in small, but great corner eateries like my ever favorite Veena Stores would easily vouch for that! Kara baath, whether with or without that dash of turmeric, comes with certain must adds! Like chillies (dried or green; how else is it gonna' be kara), an occassional ginger, and often with the heavenly aroma of curry leaves or sometimes even coriander leaves, besides vegetables like carrots, beans, tomatoes and bell pepper etc. The things make it different from the usual upma. There's a pleasant tangy taste to it, courtesy tomatoes and lemon juice. All this makes this wonderful snack what it is! And if you use roasted rave (or Bansi rave, like its popularly known as), it just is pure bliss! Goli baje too is made out of wheat (maida), with a lil' besan and sometimes, a lil' rice flour too, with ginger and green chillies and ofcourse, buttermilk. So here goes:

Kara baath:

Kara baath with turmeric
We need:

  • 1 cup rava/sooji
  • 1 small onion (chopped)
  • 1 cup mixed vegetables (chopped: i used bell peppers, beans, carrots and tomatoes)
  • 8-9 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp. each urad and chana daals
  • A pinch of turmeric (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1-2 green chillies (chopped)
  • 1 tsp. lime/lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. oil
In a pan, roast the rava to very light brown (to a point when it starts emitting a warm aroma) and set aside. If using Bansi roasted rave, omit this step. Heat oil in a pan and splutter the mustard seeds and add the daals. Toast them till light brown and add the onions. Saute' the onions and add the chopped vegetables. Cook for 5 minutes. Add turmeric (if using) and salt, and stir. Add 3 cups water and bring to boil. Now slowly start adding the rava, while stirring (to avoid lumps). Add some lime juice, chopped green chillies and may be some chopped cilantro. Enjoy hot with your favorite chutney.

Sometimes, when i am in a hurry, i mix the roasted rava with vegetables and then add boiling water slowly (its quicker because you keep some water for boiling on another burner as you cook the vegetables). The end result is the same in both cases. Occassionally i add some chopped ginger to the seasoning. It gives a distinct flavor.

Goli baje/Mangalore bajji:

We need:

  • 1 cup maida
  • 1 tbsp. besan
  • 1/2 sour curds
  • 1" piece ginger (grated)
  • 2 green chillies (chopped)
  • 4-5 curry leaves (chopped)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. baking soda
  • Oil for deep frying
Mix the maida and besan with curds, with a drizzle of water and beat into a smooth batter. Add the ginger, green chillies, curry leaves, salt and sugar. Allow the batter to rest for 30'. Heat oil and deep fry small portions of the batter. The end result should be crispy from outside, soft and fluffy from inside bajjis. Enjoy with your favorite chutney :).

If you are in a mood to do some deep frying, then try this! Its a must try for anyone who craves more hot and spicy stuff. Shilpa has a great recipe at her corner for yummy Goli Baje. Do check it out.

Sending two of my favorite foods to my dear Ashakka, who's hosting a Karnataka Oota get-together for us this month :). This concept of regional flavors is a proud brainchild of dear Lakshmi.

Enjoy this marvellous feast :).

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Hot and spicy stuff!

Despite it officially being the fall season now, i have shamelessly decided that i'll be posting some summertime vegetable recipes in the coming few days! But before i do that, i want to placate the audience by sharing something season appropriate ;). As if i haven't bragged enough about it to everyone around me, i'll say it again: It rained here last night, after a long time! And i enjoyed it quite a bit :). So i thought, may be i should share some hot and spicy stuff! Stuff that goes well with the mood of the season: like hot pakodas and bajjis and some spicy pasta!

How could i not be frying some pakodas! Few days back, my dear friend Ms. Wisdom, who's currently visiting home in Hyderabad, chirped that it was raining there. Before i could say it, she had already typed it clear "and that makes it perfect weather for chai and pakodas, why don't you post some" :-D. Such a loving suggestion, no reason not to fry some! Thus the pakodas! But where does this pasta thing come from? Answer lies in another evening, when moi was looking for some hot comfort food, preferrably spicy :-D. So here they are: the pakodas n' bajjis platter and the hot n' spicy pasta!

Pakodas and bajjis:

Hmm, even though in Punjabi the term "pakoda" refers to both these goodies, they are actually different! While pakodas imply fried stuff made from besan mixed with chopped veggies, bajjis indicate vegetable pieces dipped in besan batter and fried. Pakodas are crispier, crunchier and bajjis on the softer side. But to a Punju, they are all pakodas, they get specified by prefixes like khasta te karare (crispy/crumbly and spicy hot) vs. naram/polle (soft). Whatever the name may be, this dish is a favorite all over India, in its myriad varities. I am sharing one the multiple kinds of pakodas we enjoy !

Clockwise: Palak, mirchi and gobhi pakodas and bajjis

There is this signature Punju style batter which is spiced with anardana (pomegranate seeds), ajwain (carum), dhania (coriander), jeera (cumin) and yes, hing, a must for palak pakodas! The bajjis don't use hing, nor do onion pakodas. Onion pakodas are made out of either sliced onions alone, or along with chopped potatoes. There exist onion bajjis too! A cpl. of really famous shops in Hall Bazaar, Amritsar, make whole onion bajjis out of small red onions. Potato and eggplant bajjis are made from sliced potatoes and eggplants. Sometimes poeple make bajjis from whole baby potatoes too. Then there are methi pakodas and the paneer pakodas (err, techincally bajjis!). Paneer pakodas deserve a separate post, because there are many ways to make them! So i'll post them along with onion pakodas sometime soon. Often these pakoda shops in Punjab sell an aloo-bonda kind of stuff too, with a potato filling dressed up with red chillies, ginger and garlic. Punjabis traditionally use mustard oil, but that tradition is fast fading! I stick to it though! It gives a certain flavor to the pakodas. Today's platter here has two kinds of bajjis: Gobhi and Anaheim pepper and the palak/spinach pakodas. So here goes:

For basic batter, we need:

  • 1 cup besan (gram flour)
  • Salt to taste
  • Red chilli powder (to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp each ajwain (carum), jeera (cumin) and dhania (coriander) seeds,
  • 1 tsp. anardana (pomegranate seeds)
  • a pinch of baking soda (optional)
  • a pinch of strong hing (must for palak pakodas)
  • Oil for deep frying

Heat mustard oil in a kadahi/deep pan to smoking point. Cool it down for 2-3 minutes and keep it for heating again (medium heat). This would be the right temperature for deep frying. As the oil heats, prepare the batter.Add the salt, chilli powder to the besan and sift the besan through a sieve or remove all the lumps with hand. Add the spices and anardana. Slowly mix water and prepare a thick paste like batter, by beating it vigorously with a spoon after you add a lil' warm water. Mix well, add more water and repeat. The paste should not be too thick, nor should it be runny. The end result should be a fluffy batter (well aerated). You might like to you use baking soda to aid this process. However, its not necessary, if you really beat the mixture well. For making bajjis, chop the vegetables into big chunks (I cut the Anaheim pepper into 3-4 pieces each), dip each piece into the batter, coat it throughly and deep fry. For making pakodas, add the finely chopped vegetables like palak or methi, or sliced onions to the batter and mix well with your hand. Take lil' portions and deep fry. The pakodas should come out light brown and crisp, the bajjis should be a bit softer. Enjoy the pakodas with your favorite chutney or sauce.

Spicy hot pasta:

I used whole wheat spaghetti for this and dressed it up with a home-made pasta sauce made from tomatoes and rosemary, and added some vegetables like spring onions, corn, beans, peas and carrots to make a one-pot comfort meal! The final (blasphemous) touch was some chopped green chillies ;). So here it is:

We need:

  • 1 packet whole wheat spaghetti
  • 1 big, ripe tomato, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 sprig rosemary/1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1 cup chopped mixed vegetables
  • 1 bunch spring onions (chopped)
  • 1-2 green chillies (chopped)
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 tsp. olive oil

Prepare the pasta: In a big pot, boil water with 1 tsp. salt . Add the spaghetti to the boiling water and add a drizzle of olive oil. Cook the pasta al dente (easy enough to chew, yet firm). Use a colander to drain the water. Its now ready to go.

Prepare the sauce: As the water boils and the pasta cooks, we prepare the sauce. In a pan, heat 1 tsp. olive oil and saute' the crushed garlic, add the chopped tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes till tender, add a lil' water and make a nice paste. Add half of the rosemary leaves. The sauce is ready. In another pan, heat remaining oil and saute' spring onions, add the chopped vegetable and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add salt to taste, the remaining rosemary leaves and green chillies if you want. Mix with the sauce. By this time, the pasta is ready too. Add the sauce with vegetables to the pasta and enjoy a spicy hot meal :).

Here is to the spirit of friendship, my friends!
P.S: The Mangalore bajjis and Kara baath are showing up soon :).

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Beans, greens and the magic of mustard :).

Yes! that sounds quite poetic, isn't it :). Time to share something yummy made out of beans, greens and mustard. Ahem! Sorry, if that is a lil' misleading, but the beans here refer to the dried beans :-D. And which dried beans at that? The ones that poets have described as "beans wearing kohl", the ever pretty, easy to cook and experiment with: white lobia :-D. I must repeat that by itself lobia to me would taste a bit bland, though it has a unique subtle needs something else.....some spicing up, to bring out the real taste. Addition of bell peppers or ginger and garlic do wonders to these humble beans. It even works wonders in khichdi. And now, i pair them up with greens, the lovely beet greens, which add another dimension to this dish. The final touch is the magic of mustard.....

I am ever thankful for the e-potlucks and their lovely themes. But for them, i would usually not be as adventurous :). Sunita hosts one such cute get together, where we are supposed to think, about spices :). I enjoy that kind of thinking, the spicy thinking ;). This month, she wants us to think about mustard. As for an idea on mustard, i kept wondering.....and then finally decided to go to the good old mustard and garlic seasoning that i used for saru besara, with some modifications. So here's to the power of spices :).

Lobia-saag with mustard:

Today, lets bring together the pretty and subtle lobia and the gorgeous, delectable beet greens and spice them up with mustard, garlic and ginger. This topped with green chillies makes a yummy meal :).

Pretty looking beet greens :)

We need:

  • 1 cup lobia
  • 2 cups greens (chopped, i used beet greens)
  • 2 heaped tsp. mustard seeds (gorund coarse)
  • 2-3 cloves garlic and a 2" piece of ginger (both chopped or crushed)
  • 1 big ripe tomato (chopped)
  • 1-2 green chillies (slit)
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. amchoor or 1 tsp. lime/lemon juice
  • 1 tsp. oil
Pressure cook the lobia and beet greens for 4-5 whistles with 1 and 1/2 cup water (soaking is not necessary). Grind the mustard seeds into a coarse powder and prepare the chopped ginger and garlic. In a pan, heat oil and add 1 tsp. equivalent of ground mustard powder. Once the ground mustard leaves an aroma, add the ginger and garlic and saute'. Add the tomatoes and turmeric, and cook for 5 minutes. This should result in a thick paste. Mix the remaining mustard powder with this masala and add to the cooked lobia with greens. Add salt and amchoor/lime juice and simmer on low heat for 10 minutes (till the gravy thickens). Top it with slit green chillies, cover and let rest for 5 more minutes before serving.

Enjoy with chapatis, paranthas or rice :). Equally yummy with a nice dinner roll or Ciabatta bread :).

The greens add body and their unique flavor to the beans. While whole mustard seeds in a tempering primarily provide aroma and warmth, the ground mustard used here gives a spicy and pungent flavor to any dish. This magic of mustard, paired with ginger and garlic, uplifts the mellow beans and greens combo to a totally different level :).

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Majjige huli and beans palya: a simple, homestyle meal :).

It happens to me a lot! You know how, sometimes we meet other people of Indian origin and the question comes up, "Which city are you from?" :). I usually answer after a lil' pause, for i can not single out just one city! I feel i belong equally to Amritsar, New Delhi and Bangalore (and all the other cities here i have lived in) :-D. But many a time, i just end up saying "Bangalore", because thats the city where i had my first taste of independent (well, almost) living :-D. I simply love the city!

When Ashakka announced RCI-Karnataka, i was really thrilled! For, here was my chance to write about some of my ever favorite comfort foods :). That brought back fond memories of my time in Bangalore.....Back in New Delhi, i had a few Kannadiga friends in the college and like it usually happens, we sampled each others lunch boxes quite often ;). I got even closer to the delicious Karnataka cuisine when i moved to Bangalore for my graduate school. It was here that i learnt about the myriad sub-regional varieties of Karnataka cuisine. The A-mess in IISc provided decent food most of the times and included a lot of preparations from our theme cuisine. I learnt more from my friends and colleagues, about the preparations, the Kannada names for spices and vegetables etc etc. :). Most of my "recipe learning" was from tasting good food and asking "so how do we make this" :-D. This usually left me with a decent idea, though not the exact proportions. I stored all this information in my mind and once i moved to the US and began cooking myself, i tried out many of these recipe ideas.....surprisingly, they turned out decent enough :-D. A senior colleague in my lab in Bangalore, Mrs. R, would often treat us, the graduate students, with yummy home cooked meals. Courtesy her, we sampled great food, and i had many of my "how to" queries answered. Her face would have this really nice glow as she watched us eat.....and ofcourse the lil' tid-bits from many friends.....

So in a way, this lovely cuisine is my own.....the yummy goodness that nurtured me through those years :). Ooh, the thoughts of good food.....the fiesta is on!

For RCI, i decided that first and foremost, i should share one of my most favorite comfort meals with you.....its my everyday kind of food.....a combination of majjige huli, beans palya and rice.....So, here is to yummy food :-D.

Majjige huli:

Majjige huli takes its name from majjige (buttermilk) and is one of the best ways to enjoy the flavor of a single vegetable! With the warm aroma and smooth texture from coconut and the tangy taste from buttermilk, this one is surely a comfort food! Traditionally, the vegetables chosen are: Ash-gourd (kumbalakayi), chayote squash (seemebadnekayi), bottle gourd (sorekayi), bell-pepper (dodda-mensinakayi; the big pepper) and long eggplants (badnekayi).....but hey, nothing should stop you from trying this out with other vegetables. I especially recommend the squashes and gourds! This is surely one the best ways to enjoy them! For RCI, i have prepared majjige huli with dodda-mensinakayi and another one with the pretty looking patty pan squashes.

So pick your vegetable of choice and lets start :-D.

We need:

  • 1 big bell-pepper or 4-5 pieces patty pan squash (chopped into bite-size pieces)
  • 3/4 cup grated coconut (fresh/frozen)
  • 1 tbsp. soaked bengal gram/chana daal
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
  • 1-2 small green chillies
  • Turmeric (just a pinch)
  • 1 cup sour buttermilk (or sour curds, diluted to 1 cup)
  • Salt to taste
  • A pinch or two of sugar (~ 1/4 tsp., almost mandatory)
  • For seasoning: 1 tsp. oil, 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds, a lil' asfoetida, 5-6 curry leaves and 1-2 dried red chillies (broken)
Lets first cook the chopped vegetables by boiling in water, till tender. While this goes on, we grind the coconut, daal, cumin seeds, green chillies and turmeric into a smooth paste (add a lil' water if needed). Once the vegetable pieces are done, we add the coconut paste, salt and simmer for another 5-10 minutes for the flavors to blend in. Now, remove it from the flame and slowly add the buttermilk/curds (which should be at room temperature, to prevent curdling). Prepare the seasoning by heating the oil and spluttering the mustard seeds, followed by adding the asfoetida, curry leaves and red chillies. Add the seasoning to the prepared huli, stir in and let rest for 5-10 minutes. Enjoy this delicious goodness with rice :). Or just drink it up (like i do) :-D.

After i prepared this for RCI, i just wanted to cross check if i had gotten my stuff right (given that i had no written down recipe). So, i set about searching on Google. There were a lot of recipes, most of them with a long list of ingredients that i wasn't sure i had ever tasted in the homemade authentic majjige huli. I finally found a recipe, that i bet is authentic and is really simple and it eased my worries as my recipe was quite like this recipe, and that recipe is from our very own Supriya :-D. Thank you, sweetie for letting me know that i was on the right path all means a lot to me.....I usually have this with regular Sona Masuri rice, but i listened to Sia and tried it with Basmati! It was just delicious!
Over to beans palya :-D.

Beans palya:

This is another must eat! A simple dish with a vegetable and coconut, a total delight! I love this preparation the most with french beans, cluster beans, carrots, beets and cabbage! Squashes are good to, i especially enjoy this preparation with zucchini. Kohlrabi also makes yummy palya. Here's the recipe with cluster beans:

We need:

  • 2 cups chopped vegetable (i used cluster beans)
  • 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp. urad daal (uddina bele)
  • 1-2 broken dried red chillies
  • 5-6 curry leaves
  • Salt to taste
  • A pinch of both turmeric and sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp. grated coconut
  • 1 tsp. oil
Heat oil and splutter the mustard seeds, add the urad daal and allow it to lightly brown, followed by turmeric, curry leaves and red chillies. Stir for a cpl. of minutes and add the chopped vegetables. Drizzle with lil' water, add the salt and cook on low heat after covering the pan till the vegetable is done. Top it with grated coconut and sugar. Stir and cook for another 4-5 minutes. Enjoy the palya with rice and huli or as a fabulous sandwich stuffing!

This recipe at Payaswini's cookbook adds kadlabele too, but i didn't. Also i normally use more coconut than the recipe in the link. This site seems to have a decent recipe collection and sounds authentic (from the recipes i checked out).

This is my contribution for RCI-Karnataka, an being hosted by our dearAshakka :). RCI is an event celebrating the yummy regional Indian cuisines,coneptualized by dear Lakshmi at Veggie Cuisine. Thanks Ashakka, for hosting this, despite your Lasik plans.....and for the Benne Biscattu post :-D.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Enjoying eggplants and mushrooms :)

Eggplants are really good, so are mushrooms. What's even better is the two of them together! Few days back (actually many days ago, when we were enjoying poori-bhaaji. Yes! that long back!), i had mentioned about an eggplant-mushroom recipe :). And then i just waited and waited to post it.....and came up with another eggplant-mushroom recipe, and still kept on waiting.....and finally, i am posting these :). and did i tell you that like many of the recipes here, these recipes originated while i was enjoying my bus ride ;).

Today, we'll enjoy the eggplant mushroom combo two ways: a yogurt based gravy dish and a coconut based dry sabzi! So yes, eggplants rule, as do mushrooms and together they are just divine!

Eggplant-mushrooms in yogurt gravy:

We need:

  • 4-5 small eggplants or 2 Chinese or Japanese eggplants (cut into 2" pieces)
  • 1 cup baby bella or crimini mushrooms (diced, i used dried crimini mushrooms, soaked. Fresh mushrooms work equally well).
  • 1/2 tsp. each jeera/cumin and dhania/coriander
  • 1 big, ripe tomato (chopped)
  • 1 heaped tsp. chopped ginger
  • Turmeric and red chilli powder (to taste)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup beaten curds (preferably sour)
  • 1 and 1/2 tbsp. oil
  • A pinch of garam masala
  • Cilantro (for garnishing)
In a pan, heat oil and splutter the cumin and coriander seeds. Add half of the chopped ginger and saute'. Now add the eggplant pieces and stir fry. This should take about 6-7 minutes. Add the diced mushrooms and stir fry another 5 minutes. Add rest of the chopped ginger and tomatoes, salt, turmeric and red chilli powder. Stir , cover and cook on low flame with 1/4 cup water to allow the vegetables to abosrb the flavors of the spices. Now add the curds slowly and mix. Cook another 5 minutes for the gravy to thicken. Add a pinch of garam masala. Garnish with cilantro and enjoy!

The brown color of this dish is from dried mushrooms and tomatoes. I enjoyed this dish with pooris and also with rice.

Eggplant-mushrooms stir fry:

We need:

  • 4-5 small eggplants orr 2 Chinese or Japanese eggplants (cut into 2" pieces)
  • 1 cup baby bella or crimini mushrooms (diced)
  • 2 bunches (8-10 pieces) spring onions (chopped)
  • 1/2 cup grated coconut
  • 1 tbsp. Sriracha chilli sauce (or any hot sauce, my favorite substitute is green chilli chutney)
  • Turmeric (a pinch)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. lime/lemon juice
  • 1 and 1/2 tbsp. oil
In a pan, heat 1/2 tbsp. oil and saute' the spring onions, followed by grated coconut. Now add the eggplant slices and stir fry till crisp. Add the mushrooms and stir fry another 8-10 minutes. Add the turmeric, salt, chilli sauce and lime/lemon juice. Cook for another 5 minutes. Enjoy the heavenly aroma of coconuts and chillies. Serve hot with chapatis, paranthas or as a side dish with rice. My favorite way of enjoying this: as a sandwich stuffing!

I decided to make this dish, because i still had some eggplants and mushrooms in my fridge and wanted to enjoy these vegetables in a different way. I am glad i thought of this! The taste and aroma of this dish was amazing, so was the texture: soft mushrooms and eggplant pieces and crunchy grated coconut and spring onions! Oh and if you don't enjoy eggplants as much, chances are that you will, after this :)). And yes, it works well with just mushrooms or eggplants too :).Don't go by the pictures, this one is really yummy!

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Lobia-black beans khichdi :)

Hi, everyone! Today i'll share another simple yet delicious khichdi with you. Khichdi is the ultimate comfort food to me, and thats what i crave for now.....This one is a twist on the most regular khichdi in my kitchen, which is moong and masoor daals cooked with white rice, usually Basmati, along with vegetables like matar/peas and a whole bunch of frozen vegetables, along with cumin, black pepper, cloves, ginger, turmeric and yes, ghee! Instead of using moong-masoor daal mix and white rice, i have used a mix of white lobia and black beans along with brown rice. The result is really yummy! So, here is how i make it:

We need:

  • 1/2 cup soaked beans (i used black beans and lobia)
  • 1/2 cup brown rice
  • 1/2 cup green peas
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh/frozen vegetables (your choice, i used cauliflower, broccoli and carrots)
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/4 tsp. of black peppers (whole) and cloves each
  • 1 tsp. ginger (julienned)
  • 1/4 tsp. turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. ghee

Wash rice and mix with soaked beans in a pressure cooker. Add the vegetables and 2 cups water, followed by the spices and salt. Mix and add the ghee. Pressure cook for 4-5 whistles. Let the pressure cooker cool off. Enjoy the khichdi with dahi/curds and pickles of your choice.

You might like to try this preparation with moong-masoor daal mix as well. Its even simpler to prepare, the cooking time is only two pressure cooker whistles.

This khichri is my contribution for JFI-Rice, hosted by dear Sharmi at Neivedyam. JFI is an event that celebrates one special ingredient each month and is the proud brainchild of dear Indira from Mahanandi.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Saru besara, dahi baigana and mixed vegetables: Culinary trip to Orissa and the warm aroma of cumin :)

The title tells you all, doesn't it ;). Has it ever happened to you that you plan days in advance before a certain event that you really want to enjoy, and then suddenly you get all busy and have almost no time to prepare the much planned khana, let alone blog about it :-D. Why o why, does it happen just before the events :-D. What do you do then? Ah! you day dream, cook those delicacies in your dreams, think of them during the bus rise, during lunch time, write imaginary posts in your mind ;). You also try to sneak some time out, get disappointed, etc etc. when that doesn't happen. and you look for simple, quick and yet delicious recipes to come to your rescue! This certainly was my story this week :)). I had been thinking and imagining about RCI:Orissa since the day it was announced.....and now its the 25th, and i am yet to post anything :). Same for my love for Cumin :). But i decided that i won't give up ;). So last night, i went all out: it took a lil' effort, but it was totally worth it :).

So here are the lovely, easy breezy dishes for RCI:Orissa (being hosted this month by dear friend Swapna of Swad. RCI is an event celebrating the myriad lovely regional cuisines of India, conceptualized by the creative Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine), and for Think Spice:Think Cumin, the spicy event at Sunita's World, a brain child of Dar(l)ing Bakerina Sunita :).

As i looked for dishes for RCI, i wanted something that was quick and easy and yet something that would convey the flavors of Oriya Cuisine. So i zeroed on to Saru besara, a yummy taro and mustard based dish and Dahi Baigana, a culinary meeting of eggplant and curds: the result was fantastic! I loved the Dahi Baigana even more, because it boasted of cumin and hence i could take it to two e-potlucks :). Talking of cumin, how about a really easy mixed vegetable preparation, that primarily derives it flavor from cumin? So friends, here goes: my recent tryst with Oriya cooking and enjoying cumin:

Saru besara:

It is a simple dish made out of taro/arbi (saru in Oriya) in a mustard base (the besara). I adapted the recipe from Oriya Kitchen. Here's my version of Saru besara:

We need:

  • 6-7 taro roots, peeled and cut into 1" long pieces
  • Mustard paste (2 heaped tsp. mustard+ 2 cloves of garlic: ground into a coarse paste)
  • 2 tomatoes (cubed)
  • Chopped green chillies (to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp. Panch phutana (cumin, mustard, fennel, nigella, fenugreek seeds spice mix)
  • 1/4 tsp. Turmeric
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil (1/2 tbsp. for cooking, 1 tsp for tempering)

Peel the taro roots and cut them into 1" long pieces. Microwave these for 4-5 minutes and set aside. In a pan, heat 1/2 tbsp. oil and add the mustard-garlic paste. Saute' for 1-2 minutes and add the taro pieces. Stir fry for about 5-7 minutes till the pieces are slightly toasted/golden brown. Now add the tomatoes, turmeric and salt. Add 1 cup of water and stir. Bring to boil and cook on low heat till the gravy thickens. In a small pan, heat oil and splutter the paanch phutana. Add the cut gbreen chillies and saute' for 1/2 a minute. Add this to the besara and cook another 1-2 minutes. Serve hot with chapati or rice :).

Dahi Baigana:

This is one of the favorite combinations in Indian cuisine, this pairing of eggplants and curds :). Sample e.g. Dahiwala baingan bharta, Baingan Boorani, Buzwangun, Kathrikai pachadi etc. This is the delicious Oriya version of this national favorite. I adapted the recipe from Oriya Nari.

We need:

  • 2 Japanese or Graffiti or Chinese eggplants or 4 small eggplants(cut into 2" long pieces)
  • 1 and 1/2 cup curds (beaten)
  • 1/2 tsp each Cumin and mustard (jeera and sorisha)
  • 6-8 curry leaves
  • 4 green chillies (cut into 1" pieces)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp. oil
Beat the curds with some salt and set aside. Heat oil in a pan and splutter the cumin and mustard and add the curry leaves. Stri in the curry leaves. Saute' the cut eggplant pieces with a lil' salt till the eggplants are fried well and the raw look and smell goes away. Add the cooked eggplants to curds, garnish with lil' bit of chopped green chillies and enjoy with rice :).

I have deviated a bit from original recipe here, because i felt stir frying the eggplant with salt and spice instead of deep frying them and later mixing with spices will enhance the taste of eggplants.

The end result for both these recipes was a yummy virtual trip to an Oriya household. During my M.Sc. i had a chance to work in a lab for my summer training where i met many Oriya colleagues. I still remember the taste and aroma of the delicious tiffins i had the pleasure of enjoying :). These closely matched the taste in my memories :).

Now for the simple mixed vegetable jeere wali ;)

This is a quick and easy preparataion and is a regular in my kitchen.

We need:

  • Carrots, Cauliflower and Broccoli mixed (i used frozen California style vegetable mix-1 packet) about 1 and 1/2 cup equivalent.
  • 1/3 cup green peas
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1 small tomato chopped
  • Turmeric and red chilli powder (to taste)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp. oil

In hot oil, splutter the cumin and saute' the onions. Stir in the mixed vegetables and green peas and cook for 4-5 minutes on medium heat. Add the turmeric, red chilli powder, salt and tomatoes. Stir well, cover and cook on low heat till done. Enjoy with parantha or as a sandwich stuffing. Also works well as a side dish with rice and daal :).

Saru besara and dahi baigana are my contributions for RCI-Orissa at Swapna's corner. I am also sending dahi baigana along with mixed vegetables jeere wali, to Sunita's Think Spice-Think Cumin get together.