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 taste.....it 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 along.....it 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.