Friday, September 4, 2015

Baingan Ka Bharta



I was never a fussy eater. I just love all the vegetables and eggplant or the aubergine was, and still is, one of my favorite vegetables. I loved aubergine in all forms but when it came to baingan ka bharta was something I couldn't bring myself to like. I couldn't understand how someone could love a fish mash that had burnt flavor in it. But dislike for this earthy curry changed to pure love a few years back.



It was during a get together at a friend's place that I actually tasted baingan ka bharta for the first time. My friend had made this curry as an accompaniment for rotis and I saw the others eating this "mishmash" of a curry with great gusto. "Can it really be that good?" I wondered. I decided to take the plunge and taste the curry. After all, half a tea spoon wouldn't do a lot of harm. I braced my self and tasted a small tea spoon of the bharta and the rest as they say is history. It was love at first bite.



Baingan Ka Bharta is typically a North Indian Dish. Baingan which literally means aubergine and Bharta means mash. It is a simple recipe with ingredients that are readily found in the pantry. But what really draws me to this dish is the bold and rustic taste that it imparts. There is something about that earthy aroma that makes your mouth water whilst preparing the dish.



This Punjabi dish makes a great accompaniment to both rice and rotis. Yes, the roasting of the egg plants is a little time consuming and messy but then this scrumptious dish is worth every bit of all the time and mess it can create.


Baingan Ka Bharta Recipe:
Preparation time: 20-30min
Cooking time- 10min
Serves- 4

Ingredients:
Aubergines- 2med sized (approximately 700-800gms)
Oil- 1/2 tsp for greasing
Ghee- 1tbspn
Cumin seeds- 1/2tsp
Onion- 1med sized, finely chopped
Ginger-Garlic paste- 1tspn
Green chili- 1, finely chopped
Fresh or frozen peas- 1/4 cup (optional)
Tomatoes- 2 med, finely chopped
Salt- to taste
Sugar- 1/2tspn
Turmeric- 1/2tsp
Coriander powder- 1tspn
Cumin powder- 1/2tsp
Red chili powder- 1/2 tsp
Garam masala- 1/2tspn
Coriander leaves to garnish


Method:

  • Smear some oil on the aubergines and roast it on an open flame till they turn completely black and are cooked through.
  • Once roasted, take off the heat and set aside to cool. Peel the skin once they are cool. Cut the stem and mash the cooked aubergine thoroughly and keep aside.
  • Heat ghee in a thick bottomed pan and add the cumin seeds. Once they crackle, add the chopped onion, green chili and fry for a min.
  • Add the ginger-garlic paste and saute till the raw smell is subsided.
  • Stir in the peas and the chopped tomatoes and fry for a few seconds. Add the turmeric, salt, red chili powder, sugar, coriander-cumin powder and fry for a minute more and cook cover for 2-3minutes or till the oil separates.
  • Add the mashed aubergines and Garam masala and mix well. Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rice or rotis.

Notes:
  • The peas are an optional ingredient. You can omit them if don't want them in your bharta.
  • You can roast the aubergines in the oven. But the egg plant will not have the distinct smoky flavor in it.
  • For this recipe choose eggplants that are large with a smooth surface. For they are likely to have fewer seeds in them.
  • For a vegan version, the ghee can be replaced with mustard oil or any other oil.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Nuchinunde- Steamed Lentil Dumplings


For those of you how don't know what nuchinunde is, it is nothing but steamed lentil dumplings. These dumplings are loaded with protein and rich in fiber. This dish is perfect if you are watching your waistline. When I say that this dish is healthy and steamed, it doesn't mean that nuchinunde lacks in flavor. The liberal use of green chilies and herbs and coconut is sure to leave your taste buds tingling. 

Since it is customary to make steam baked dishes on the occasion of Naga Panchami, you are sure to find nuchinunde on the festival menu. These dumplings can be made either using only pigeon peas or with two to three kinds of lentil combinations. It can also be flavored with herbs like dill, coriander, mint, and vegetables like carrot, french beans and Cabbage. This is one versatile dish that can be experimented with various flavors. 


Ironically, this wholesome snack is not something that you will find in restaurants. I feel that it's appearance at home cooked meals is also becoming rare. To me, nuchinunde is one of those dishes that almost always transports me back to my mother's and my grandmother's kitchen. The scene of piping hot nuchinunde served in a small plate with a big dollop of ghee is still vivid in my mind. 

Nuchinunde can be served with coconut chutney or with ghee. But I like it best when it is served with hasi majjige. Hasi majjige is nothing but a yogurt based gravy, in which all the ingredients are raw. This gravy is delicious and it takes about five minutes to whip it up. Try having nuchinunde with this spicy tangy sauce. I am sure you will not be able to stop at one.


Nuchinunde recipe:
Preparation time: 20min+soaking time
Cooking time- 15-20min
Makes- 12-14 pieces

Ingredients:
Toor dal or Pigeon peas- 1 cup or 120ml
Moog dal or yellow lentils- 1/2 cup
Ginger- 1" piece, grated
Turmeric- a pinch
Green chilies- 3-4, finely chopped
Freshly grated coconut- 1 cup
Curry leaves- 1 sprig, finely chopped
Coriander leaves- 3tbsp, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Oil or Ghee to grease the pan


Preparation:
  • Wash the toor dal and the moong dal and soak in enough water for atleast 5hrs or overnight.
  • Drain the soaked lentils and transfer to a blender jar. Add the grated ginger, green chilies and turmeric to the drained lentils and pulse in a blender for five to six times. The lentils should not be ground to a fine paste. It is ok if some portion of the lentil is left whole.
  • Transfer the ground lentils to a large bowl and add the grated coconut, curry leaves, coriander leaves and salt and mix well.
  • Divide the lentil mixture into 12-14 portions and shape them into oval shaped dumplings. 
  • Grease a pan or steaming plate with oil or ghee and place the dumplings in it. Steam the dumplings in a pressure cooker or steamer for 10-12mins. 
  • Serve hot with coconut chutney or Hasi Majjige.

Hasi Majjige Recipe:
Preparation time: 10min
Cooking time: nil
Makes- 2cups

Ingredients:
Coconut- 4tbsp
Mustard seeds- 1/2tsp
Roasted gram or Dalia- 1tbsp
Green chlies- 2
Ginger- 1/2"piece, chopped
Salt to taste
Coriander leaves- 1tbsp
Yogurt- 1 cup, whisked

For the seasoning:
Oil- 2tspn
Mustard seeds- 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves- 5-6
Asafetida- a pinch.

Method:
  • Combine the coconut, mustard seeds, ginger, green chilies, roasted gram, coriander leaves and salt in a blender jar and blend till the mixture is coarsely ground. Add quarter cup of yogurt to the mixture and blend till smooth.
  • Transfer the ground mixture to a bowl. Mix the remaining yogurt and mix well and set aside
  • For the seasoning, heat oil in a pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they crackle, add the curry leaves and asafetida and fry till the curry leaves turn crisp. Take off the heat and add the seasoning to the hash majjige and serve immediately.
Notes:

  • You can substitute the moong dal with equal quantity of toor dal or chana dal.
  • The coriander leaves can be substituted with baby dill and an onion.
  • If you want to serve nuchinunde as a side dish, then simply dunk the steamed nuchinunde in majjige huli gravy. The majjige huli should be made without any vegetables though.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Restaurant style Methi Matar malai



Methi Matar Malai...For some reason I find the name quite stylish and interesting. Maybe because of the alliterative nature of the name, this dish, simply seems to stand out. To me, this recipe is an all time favorite. I just love the way the bitter fenugreek leaves compliments the sweet green peas.  If you are looking for a dish that is rich, creamy and an indulgent dish that makes you feel pampered then this dish is the one.


There are many recipes for the Methi Matar Malai on the web. But I just love the methi matar malai that is served in a restaurant near our house. In this restaurant's version, the fenugreek leaves and the peas are cooked in rich cashew nut and poppy seed gravy and then topped with cream. As if this wasn't enough there is also bits of paneer floating in the gravy. This version, is as rich as it can get!!



I normally make Methi Matar Malai during weekends or when I am entertaining. It's almost always a hit. Just the thought of flaky Parathas with Methi matar malai can lead to culinary nirvana. Apart from Naan or Parathas, this creamy dish tastes great with Ghee rice or Jeera rice as well. The combo of the fragrant rice with this creamy curry is just heavenly. 


This version of Methi Matar Malai may seem tedious and time consuming. But I assure you, once you try this version, you will not have it any other way. It is that good!!!



Methi matar malai Recipe:
Preparation time: 30min
Cooking time- 20mins
Serves- 4-6

Ingredients:
For the ginger-garlic-green chili paste
Ginger- 1"piece
Garlic- 2cloves
Green chili- 2
For the cashew poppy seed paste
Chopped cashew nuts- 3tbsp, soaked for 15-30min
Poppy seeds- 1-1/2tsp, lightly toasted.
Other ingredients:
Oil- 2tbsp
Fresh fenugreek leaves-1 cup or 120ml, tightly packed
Fresh or frozen green peas- 1-1/2 cup
One large onion- Blanched and Pureed
Salt- to taste
Sugar- 1/2tsp
Cumin seed powder- 1/2tsp
Coriander seed powder- 1/2tsp
Kasuri methi- 1tsp
Milk- 240ml
Garam masala- 1/4tsp
Grated or crumbled paneer- 1 cup
Fresh cream- 2-3tbsp

Method:

  • Make a paste of ginger, garlic and green chili and keep aside.
  • Blend the soaked cashew nuts along with the roasted poppy seed to a fine paste in a blender and set aside.
  • Heat oil in a thick bottomed pan and add the ginger-garlic- green chili paste and fry till the raw smell goes.
  • Add the chopped fenugreek leaves and the green peas and fry for 5mins. Stir in the onion puree and fry for two mins more.
  • Add the salt, sugar, cumin-coriander seed powder, kasuri methi and mix well. Add the 1/4 cup of water to the mixture and cook covered for 4-5mins.
  • After the peas are completely cooked add the cashew-poppy seed paste and mix well. Add milk and allow the mixture to simmer on low heat for 5mins.
  • Add the garam masala and the crumbled paneer and allow it to simmer for a two more mins
  • Stir in the cream and mix gently and take off the heat. Serve hot with parathas or rotis.



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Grandma's Rasam Powder



The rasam or saaru is a staple dish in our household. Considering how often I make this dish, this should have been my first post. The saaru Pudi or the rasam powder is one of the most resourceful condiment in my kitchen. Apart from making Rasam, I use the rasam powder to flavor stir-fries, gojjus and anything I can think of. I had tried adding this spice mix in pumpkin soup a long time ago and it had turned out awesome. You can find the recipe here.


Although the term Rasam and Saaru is used interchangeably, there is a world of a difference between them. The saaru is made mostly with pigeon peas or toor dal. Whereas the rasam, is made with the stock of any lentil that is cooked. The saaru or the rasam is basically a consommé type of soup that is ideally served with piping hot steamed rice and a dollop of ghee. Just pair this with a simple stir fry and a bowl of yogurt and you can be assured of a simple yet satisfying meal.


This recipe for the Saarina Pudi comes from my maternal grandmother or Ajji's Kitchen. As far as I am concerned, her saaru and sarina pudi were the best in the world. Whenever I make the Rasam Powder, I am always transported to my Ajji's tiny Kitchen. I can almost see her in a neatly draped sari and a big red Kumkum (vermilion dot) on her forehead, measuring all the ingredients. By measuring, I don't mean, measuring with cups and spoons. All her ingredients were eyeballed to exact measurements and the outcome was simply magical. Since, she eyeballed all the ingredients, she couldn't give out the recipe for the rasam powder with exact measurements. It took almost a year and at least a hundred phone calls to get the quantities right.


My ajji, considered the preparation of the Saaru pudi as a sacred event. I remember she would not make this powder on Tuesdays and Fridays. The times at dawn and dusk would be forbidden as well. Surprisingly, even I follow some of these rituals. 

The humble Rasam powder is known to have therapeutic properties. Coriander seeds, which is the main ingredient of this spice mix is believed to have antibacterial, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Apart from that, the rasam powder as a whole is extremely beneficial for digestion and immune system. It helps keep the cold and cough at bay and it is known to aid sluggish metabolism. To me, the saaru is not only a delicious accompaniment to rice but also an appetizing health tonic.


In the days when ready made spice mixes line the shelves of every department store, making them at home might seem a daunting task. But once you start making these spice mixes at home, I assure you, you will not have it any other way. For nothing can be compared to the aroma and the flavor of the home made Saarina Pudi!!


Ajji's Rasam Powder Recipe:
Preparation time: 15min
Cooking time: 30min
Makes-approximately 1-1/2 Kilo

Ingredients:
Coriander seeds- 4 cups or 480ml
Cumin seeds- 1 cup
Mustard seeds- 1/2 cup
Black Pepper corns- 1/2 cup
Fenugreek seeds- 1/2 cup
Poppy seeds- 1-1/2 tbsp
Ghee or oil- 1tbsp
Curry leaves- 1 cup, loosely packed
Good Quality asafetida- 2tsp
Kashmiri red chilies- 14 cups, loosely packed

Method:
  • Remove the stalks from the red chilies, break them into pieces and keep aside.
  • In thick bottomed pan or wok, dry roast the coriander seeds, cumin seeds, mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, black pepper corns and poppy seeds separately one after another. Combine the ingredients after they are roasted.
  • Heat a tsp of ghee or oil in the same pan and add the curry leaves and fry till they turn crisp. Add the asafetida at this stage and fry for a few more seconds and take off the heat.
  • Heat the remaining ghee in the pan and add the red chilies and fry them on low heat. Do not let them burn. Fry till they are very hot to touch. Take off the heat and let it cool completely.
  • Mix all the ingredients together and grind them in a spice grinder or blender to a fine powder. Empty the ground powder to a large plate or tray and allow it to cool completely before storing it in air tight container.
Notes:
  • My measuring cup measures 120ml.
  • I have used only Byadigi or Kashmiri red chilies in this recipes. But my grandmother always used a combination of guntur and Byadigi. If using guntur variety of chilies, then reduce the quantity to 12 to 13 cups.
  • Avoid roasting the ingredients together as it can lead to uneven roasting.
  • Avoid over roasting the red chilies as it can give out pungent, choking fumes. It can also change the taste of the spice mix.
  • You can consider cutting down the recipe to half if you do not make Rasam often.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Nimbekai Uppinakai- South Indian Lime Pickle


Yes. I know. I have been away for more than a month. But what can you do when family and life demands all your time and attention? During the last few weeks, there have been a number of religious togethers, Birthday parties, the kiddos Graduation from Kindergarten and some ill health as well. Both Purvi and S suffered from the seasonal flu. It was both frustrating and heart wrenching to see them suffer. So when so much is happening around you, blogging and photography invariably takes a back seat. Things have settled down since the last couple of days. So I could finally sit down to work on this post that has been in my drafts for a long time.



The nimbekai uppinakai or the South Indian Lime pickle is a staple in most South Indian houses. Since lime and lemons are available all year long, we were sure to find a big bottle of lime pickle in my Grand parents home. According to me, my grad mother made the best lemon pickle. I still remember her sitting in the tiny portico with an aluminum colander filled with bright yellow lemons. Some times she would be working alone. Sometimes, she would have a neighbor or a friend to accompany her. They would patiently cut and squeeze out the limes and gossip. Her lime pickle would taste slightly different from others because she used to add makali beru or the sarsaparilla root. It is a root that is known for it's cooling properties. It also gives an astringent taste to the pickle. Gosh how I miss her and how I miss her lime pickle.


I have always believed the process of pickling to be an art. You either get it or you don't. And I certainly didn't. At least I thought so, as my first couple of attempts were a huge disaster. Despite observing all the cleanliness and hygiene, my pickles ended up in a rotten mess. It was very discouraging and I gave up making pickles. It was almost a year back when my good friend Sailaja who is an expert in making pickles and preserves, volunteered to help me. She suggested I try making lime pickles as they are easy to make and quite forgiving. She patiently taught me every step of making the pickle and the final outcome was very encouraging. The pickle turned out finger licking  good!!! From then on, there was no looking back. I made the lime pickle two more times and I even tried my hand at making the mango pickle. All thanks to Sailaja!!!


If you have never tried your hand at pickling for the fear of ruining it, or whatever, then I suggest you give it a try. The process might seem a little too laborious and stringent but it is very gratifying at the same time. There is something about that distinctive aroma that hits your senses. Especially when you wait for at least a month of the pickle to marinate. You can be assured to be transported to heaven.


Nimbekai Uppinakai recipe:
Preparation time: 1-2hrs+marinating time
Cooking time- nil
Makes- approximately 3cups

Ingredients:
Lime- 35-45 (quantity varies according to the size)
Iodine free Salt- 1/2 cup
Kashmiri Red chili powder- 1/4 cup
Fenugreek seeds- 1/2tsp, Roasted and ground to a fine powder in a mortar and pestle
Seasoning ingredients
Groundnut oil- 1/4 cup
Mustard seeds- 1/2tsp
Asafetida- 1/4tsp

You will also need:
A glass or a porcelain jar with a tight lid of 1ltr capacity.
Parchment paper or a clean cotton or muslin cloth
A wooden spoon
A large steel or glass mixing bowl.


Method:
  • Wash, wipe and clean the limes with a clean towel and allow it sundry for 30min.
  • Cut the lime into eight portions with a clean knife. Deseed them as much as possible. The chopped lemon should measure 3cups or 720ml.
  • Extract the juice out of the remaining limes. The juice extracted should measure 3/4the cup.
  • Layer the bottom of a clean sterilized Jar with a tea spoon of salt and top it with a layer of cut lime. Continue add the salt and lime pieces in alternating layers till all the lemon pieces are covered with salt. 
  • Add the extracted lemon juice and cover the jar with a parchment paper or a clean muslin cloth. Secure it tightly with the lid and allow it to stand for 2-3 days in a dry area. Keep shaking the container every 12hrs.
  • By the end of the third day, the salt would have dissolved and mixed well with the lime pieces.
  • Empty the jar of the preserved lime to a clean bowl. Add the red chili powder, fenugreek seed powder and mix well with a clean wooden spoon. Transfer the pickle back to the jar. Secure the mouth with the parchment paper and the lid and allow it stand for at least 3-4 weeks. By the end of the 4th week, the lime pieces should be very soft. To test if the pickle is done, spoon and piece of lime and try cutting it with your fingers. If the pickle is done, then the lime piece can be cut with minimum force. Also, the pickle should NOT taste bitter.
  • Heat the peanut oil in pan and add the mustard seeds. Once they crackle, add the asafetida and turn off the heat. Allow the seasoning to cool completely before adding it to the prepared pickle and mix well. The Pickle is now ready to be relished.
Notes:

  • Make sure all the utensils, jars, ladles and knives are thoroughly washed, wiped and dried. 
  • The bottle that is used for pickling should be washed with hot water and dried in the sun before use. Alternatively, the jar can be microwaved for 30 seconds to ensure complete dryness.
  • Avoid using your hands to mix the pickle. Unless you want a spoilt pickle.
  • The quantity of limes will vary depending on the size and the juice content. You could use less than the number of limes mentioned in the ingredients.
  • The Kashmiri red chili powder gives the pickle and a rich red color without making it too spicy. If you prefer you pickle extra hot, then increase the quantity of the red chili powder by a tbsp.
  • I have used powdered sea salt. The quantity of the salt may vary if you are using rock salt.
  • Make sure the seasoning is completely cool before adding it to the pickle. Otherwise, the pickle will develop an odd odor.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Mediterranean Pizza


I am back with a recipe for pizza this time. But this recipe is not for a pizza that is made with refined flour and a sauce that is high in sodium. This pizza breaks all rules by using whole wheat pita bread for the base and hummus for the spread. In short, this recipe is just perfect for a light summer meal.



This mediterranean Pizza is a fun way to enjoy new flavors. If you have some Pita bread and hummus stocked, then this Pizza can be put together in minutes. 


After making this pizza, I have become a huge fan of mediterranean flavors. Combining hummus with the sweet bell peppers, olives, sun dried tomatoes and tangy feta cheese creates a wholesome mix of colors and flavors.


This is one of those recipes that is kid friendly. My Pizza obsessed Purvi tasted this and said it was the best Pizza she had ever tasted. The only sinful ingredient in this pizza is the mozzarella cheese. Other than that, the pizza is really nutritious and delicious!!


Mediterranean Pizza recipe:
Preparation time: 30min
Baking time: 10mins
Serves- 4-6

Ingredients:
6"Pita breads- 4
Olive oil to brush the Pita breads
Hummus- 3/4 cup
Sliced yellow, red and green bell pepper- 1 cup
Sliced Olives- 1/4cup
Sun dried tomato- 1/4 cup
Feta cheese- 100gms
Mozzarella cheese- 100gms
Salt and pepper to taste
To serve
Chili flakes and dried Oregano


Method:
  • Brush the Pita loaves with some olive oil and toast them in the oven till they are warm. 
  • Remove and spread 1-1/2 to 2tbsp of hummus evenly on each bread. 
  • Scatter the sliced bell peppers, olives, sundries tomatoes all over. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the vegetables.
  • Mix both kinds of cheese and spread evenly over each loaf.
  • Preheat the oven to 200 C and Bake the prepared pizzas for 4-5 mins or till the cheese melts.
  • Cut the pizza into wedges and serve with chili flakes and herbs.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Spicy Tomato Orange juice


Tomato juice was a favorite beverage of ours during my teenage years. During the scorching summers in my home town, my sister and I would drink gallons of tomato juice. We would just dunk six or seven tomatoes in the blender jar. Add water, just pour sugar straight of the container, gave the blender a whirr and whipped a mean sugar loaded tomato juice. We would pour the juice in tall glasses and drink it up to the last drop and then smack our lips with delight. Gosh!! This juice always manages transport me back to my teenage days.



After I moved out of my home town, I somehow stopped drinking tomato juice. With time, I even forgot about this beverage. But thanks to S, I started drinking this juice all over again. It was during our flight to India. I saw S request the air hostess for tomato juice with salt and pepper. When I heard his request, I saw him with a quizzical look. "How does it taste?" I asked him. "Haven't you tasted tomato juice with salt and pepper?" he asked back. When I said I hadn't he asked the hostess to give another glass of tomato juice with salt and pepper. I took a reluctant sip and boom!!! It had the most amazing flavors. It was salty, spicy, tart, and a tad sweet. It was like falling in love with the tomato juice all over again. After that, I stared making spiced tomato juice from time to time. 


A few days back, I decided to experiment and include some citrus flavors into this drink. The inclusion of orange and lemon juices, gives a subtle citrus flavor to the drink. It does enhance the taste but doesn't over power it. I also added some cumin seed powder and some paprika powder for some smoky flavor. And I was pretty impressed with the outcome. Even if I may say so myself. 


What I like most about this drink is that, it can be had anytime of the day. It makes a perfect drink to be served during a brunch or as an aperitif. But I think this can be an ultimate drink for a healthy breakfast. The vibrant colors and flavors are sure to wake up every cell of your body.


Spicy Tomato Orange juice Recipe:
Preparation time: 30min
Cooking time- 10min
Serves- 6-8

Ingredients:
Tomatoes- 1Kg
Oranges- 3
Juice of 1/2 a lime
Sugar- 1tbsp
Salt toaste
Paprika powder- 1tsp
Pepper powder- 1/2tsp
Roasted cumin seed powder- 1/2tsp
Mint leaves to garnish

Method:

  • Blanch the tomatoes in hot water for 5mins or till the skin splits open.
  • Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a large vessel containing cold water. Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel the skin and chop them in half.
  • Blend the peeled and halved tomatoes along with 3/4-1 cup of water in a blender till the mixture is smooth. Strain the juice and set aside.
  • Extract juice from the oranges and set aside.
  • Combine the orange, tomato and lime juices in a large pitcher. Stir in the salt, pepper, sugar, cumin and paprika powders and mix well. Chill the juice for at least an hour.
  • Pour the juice into individual glasses. Garnish with mint leaves and serve immediately.
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