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.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Hummus


In Arabic, The hummus literally translates to Chick peas. And It makes sense. Doesn't it? For this humble dip has chick peas or the Garbanzo beans as the main ingredient. What I have for you today is a recipe for the basic hummus. It has some everyday ingredients like lemon juice, Garlic, herbs and  salt. And it tastes amazing just like that. This wonder dip/ Spread is like a blank canvas. It can flavored or dressed with all kinds of herbs and spices. Or, the chick pea itself can be replaced with other beans or vegetables. So the variations with which this dip can be made is endless.



Hummus is my new found love. Until a few days back, I used to think that hummus was a flavorless, bland dip. I am not sure why I thought this. But sadly, I did. I tasted this dip at a friends place a few weeks ago and I was shocked by how delicious it was. A few days after that, I made a small batch of this dip and had it with my sandwiches consistently for a week. That's how obsessed I was. 


After I began making this dip, I realized that hummus is a power packed dip. The health benefits is mostly because of the chick peas which is the main ingredient. Apart from being protein rich, the garbanzo beans are rich in fiber as well. They calorie count is relatively low and they are known to reduce cholesterol levels. The Tahini which is nothing but ground sesame seeds is a rich source of calcium. It is filled with Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids that is vital for brain development. So you see. Hummus is much more than a tasty dip it is a condiment with numerous health benefits. 


So dip it, spread it and top it. What I have given you is a basic recipe for the hummus. Do you have any other version for this condiment? Do share them with me. For I would love to give your version a try

Hummus Recipe:
Preparation time: 25min+soaking time
Cooking time:nil
Makes- 2cups

Chick peas-250gms
Tahini paste- 3tbsp
Lemon juice- 3-4tbsp
Cumin seed powder- 1/2tspn
Salt to taste
Garlic- 3 cloves
Coriander leaves- 1tbsp, finely chopped
Olive oil and Chili flakes to garnish



Method:

  • Soak chick peas in enough water for 6hrs or overnight.
  • Pressure cook the soaked chick peas for 5-6 whistles or very soft. Drain and cool. Reserve the drained water.
  • Place the chick peas in a blender or food processor with the tahini paste, salt, Lemon juice, Garlic, and coriander leaves and blend till the hummus is coarsely pureed. 
  • Add 3-4 tbsp of the reserved water and blend till smooth. 
  • Transfer the ground paste to a serving bowl and adjust the salt and lemon juice.
  • Pour olive oil over the prepared hummus and sprinkle chili flakes. Serve at room temperature with Pita bread.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Strawberry Fool for mother's day


I am not sure what is foolish about this elegant and super simple strawberry dessert. Except maybe, for the name. The fool is a very popular and common english dessert. The word fool is was originated in the 16th century to describe pureed fruit with custard or cream. The most popular fruits that were used were apples and Rhubarb.


In my version of the fool, Fresh strawberry compote is folded with whipped cream. And then there is also the custard that is prepared separately. The custard and the whipped cream are then spooned in layers in a clear glass tumbler or flute so that the pretty bands of red and white are seen through. 


I had made this dessert a couple of weeks back and the recipe has been in my drafts since then. Since mother's day is round the corner, I think this is a perfect time to share the recipe. 


It's a perfect dessert that is a breeze to make and yet makes you feel incredibly pampered. The strawberry fool is fluffy, fruity and bursting with berries. It's a lovely light dessert that can be had after a meal. Or when you craving for a dessert that is not overtly sweet.


Strawberry fool recipe:
Preparation time: 20min
Cooking time: 15min
Serves- 4

Ingredients:
For the custard:
Milk- 250ml+2tbsp
Custard powder- 2tbsp
Sugar- 3tbsp
For the strawberry compote:
Strawberries- 200gms, hulled and sliced
Sugar- 2tbsp
Other ingredients:
Whipping cream- 250ml
Icing sugar- 2tbsp
Strawberries- 3-4, for garnish


Method:
For the custard:

  • In a bowl, mix the 2tbsp of milk with the custard powder to form a smooth paste and set aside.
  • In a pan, Bring 250ml of milk to a boil. Add the custard mixture and sugar and allow the mixture to simmer on low heat. Keep stirring the mixture till the mixture has thickened. 
  • Remove the mixture from heat and allow to cool.
For the strawberry compote:
  • Place the strawberries and sugar in a sauce pan and cook over medium heat till the strawberries release their juices and the mixtures turns pulpy. Continue to cook until the juice turns into syrup and the strawberries break down. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.
To assemble the Fool:
  • Whip the whipping cream and icing sugar till soft peaks form. Gently Fold in 3tbsp of the compote and mix leaving it partially swirled.
  • Spoon 2tsps of strawberry compote in four wide mouthed tumbler or dessert glass. Top the compote with 2-3tbsps of custard. Drizzle a tspn of compote over the custard and top it with 2-3tbsp of the whipping cream.
  • Allow the fool to chill for an hour or two. Garnish with sliced strawberries and serve immediately
Notes:

  • If the whipping cream that you are using is sweetened then you can omit the sugar.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Jade and Ruby in Ginger sauce



I am back with another Pan-Asian recipe. This recipe has been in drafts for a long time now. As the kiddo had her easter break, hitting the "publish" button somehow took a back seat. Now that her school has reopened, I have started working on all the back logs.


As you may all know about my love for broccoli from this post. I love broccoli and I try to include this healthy vegetable in my meal atlas once a week. Whenever I come home with a broccoli head, it is mostly taken for granted that I would be oven roasting it. While the oven roasted broccoli is still a favorite, I have to give in to the fact that variety is the spice of life. And since I seem to be having a Chinese food kick lately, I thought of preparing broccoli in such a way that it would complement the noodles and the fried rice that I have been making.



In this recipe, the broccoli florets are stir fried along with the gorgeous red bell peppers and garlic. The ginger sauce is prepared separately and then poured over the cooked veggies. This cooking technique works best with the broccoli florets. The vegetables retain the crunch and the color, making them look like jade and rubies. Isn't that beautiful? Although this recipe is great as it is, you might want to add more chili flakes or pepper powder if you prefer your curries extra hot!!


Jade and Ruby in Ginger sauce recipe:
Preparation time: 20min
Cooking time- 15min
Serves- 4

Ingredients:
Broccoli florets- 250gms, Blanched
Red bell pepper- 1 large, deseeded and cubed
Sesame oil- 1tbsp
Garlic- 1/2 tbsp, crushed
Red chili flakes- 1/2tsp
Vegetable stock or water- 3tbsp
Salt to taste
For the Ginger sauce:
Corn flour- 1tbsp
Water- 3tbsp
Oil- 1tbsp
Ginger- 1tbsp, finely chopped
Tomatoes- 2med, blanched and pureed
Vegetable stock- 1/2cup
Soy sauce- 1tsp
Vinegar- 1tsp
Sugar- 1tsp
Salt to taste
Pepper- 1/2tsp
Other Ingredients:
Spring onion greens to garnish

Method:
  • Heat the sesame oil in a wok and fry the garlic till it turns brown. Add the chili flakes and fry for a few seconds more. 
  • Add the broccoli florets and the red bell pepper and fry for two mins. Add the stock and salt and cook until the vegetables are tender yet crisp.
For the ginger sauce:
  • Mix the corn flour along with the water to make a paste and set aside.
  • Heat a tbsp of oil in a pan, add the chopped ginger and fry for a min. 
  • Add the pureed tomatoes, the vegetable stock, soy sauce and bring the mixture to a boil.
  • Stir in the corn flour mixture, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper and cook till the mixture thickens.
To proceed:
  • Pour the sauce over the cooked vegetables. garnish with spring onion greens and serve immediately.
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