31 October, 2008

Music for the Soul

Music is the mediator between the spiritual and the sensual life.
~Ludwig van Beethoven

I leave you with this beautiful composition of fusion music, classical Carnatic music with Jazz, from a movie “Morning Raaga”.

Let there be love, peace and music!

Have a wonderful weekend, dear readers.

30 October, 2008

Stuffed Bhindi Masala: My Okra Love Affair

Stuffed Bhindi Masala
Remember me?
It’s great to see you after all these years.
Can we be friends?
Your profile is so cute. I would love to add you as friends.
Are you so-and-so?
Aren’t you so-and-so’s cousin or friend?
Wondering what’s this all about? Well, these are the friendship requests I get on social networking sites. Some are from old friends whom I have almost forgotten and some from total strangers and some simply wanting to increase the number of friends in their profiles and some from lonely guys and girls seeking ‘real fun’ (Duh?!). Having it said, these social networking sites are really cool as I got to meet my long lost (not at your usual Kumbh ka Mela ;) friends all around the world. I always believed I had just few friends until I saw my friends list crossing 3 digits and then hitting close to three centuries. Now who would have thunk I made so many friends over all these years.

Well, meeting all these friends also means travelling back in time and remembering and sometime painfully reminding all those funny and embarrassing moments. Most of my recent friends think me to be a no-nonsense, serious kind of person to walk on this planet. Imagine their shock when they read my primary school friend’s message with bold letter flashing on my scrapbook asking me if I still play pranks on my boss or colleagues as I used to do with my teachers by placing the duster or the most common trick of spilling ink on their chair and snatch my colleagues lunch box as I did to my juniors and classmates. And an enthusiastic scrap left by my close friend about hitting that pimple faced boy with my metal compass box for teasing me for wearing gaudy pink lipstick and matching nail polish in my high school was enough to shake the foundation of my sophisticated image that I had built (but not completely succeeded is another matter all together). And one friend decides to write a long testimonial on how smart I was to mix hair remover solution and face bleach cream with shampoo to teach a unforgettable lesson to our hostel warden for stealing my favourite shampoo and that piece of information was enough to make me turn from serious working girl into a total prankster! My close friends are hell bent on spoiling all my reputation. ~sighs~ I say friends can also be your worst enemies (I can prove it, may be in another post) but they are the kind whom you cherish.

When people compare marriage to chewing gum, I couldn’t help but compare friendship to Okra. I know it sounds weird but I can be weird sometime! ;) You see my theory comes from the fact that Okra can be annoyingly slimy yet it tastes delicious when cooked right. Similarly friends can be annoyingly irritating yet they are the best part of your life. ~clap, clap or slap, slap~ Whoosh… Ok, I made that all up as today we have this lovely Okra or Bhindi recipe. So no need to break your head on the weird comparison of Okra and friendship. Without much delay (!!??) let us go to the recipe bit.

By now the regular reader of my blog would have realised how much I love Bhindi. This time I am posting a recipe of Stuffed Bhindi Masala which I cooked last night without following any recipe in particular. I used the ingredients which I thought would enhance the flavour of Bhindi and pleasantly they did. By the time I finished stuffing and sautéing, one quarter of the stuffed okras were stuffed in our mouths. Since I had already sliced the onions and chopped the tomatoes I had to use them in cooking. May be next time I will just stuff the okras and simply stir fry them or bake them. The stuffing used is roasted peanuts and few spices which gave pleasantly nutty flavour with touch of spiciness to sweet okras. While onions add more crunch and sweet note, tomatoes lends lovely tangy flavour to the dish. Try this recipe when you have time and see how okra can beat any vegetables hands down when cooked right.

Stuffed Bhindi

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Stuffed Bhindi Masala (Okra stuffed with roasted Peanut and Spice powder and cooked with sweet Onions and tangy Tomatoes)
Prep Time: 15-20 mins
Cooking Time: 20-25 mins
Serves: 4-5

24-30 tender baby Okra/Bhindi (1 and half to 2 inches long) or 18-24 tender Okra, tips removed and cut into 2 inch pieces
1 large Onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 large Tomatoes, finely chopped
3-4 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 Green Chillies, slit (Adjust acc to taste)
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
Few Curry Leaves
1 tbsp Lime Juice (Optional)
2 tbsp Fresh Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
2-3 tbsp Oil

For Stuffing/Filling:
¼ cup Roasted Peanuts
1 tbsp Channa Dal/Split Chickpeas
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
½ tbsp Coriander Seeds
4-5 Dry Red Chillies (adjust acc to taste)
¼ tsp Hing/Asafoetida
1 tsp Amchur/Dry Mango Powder
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
Salt to taste
Stuffed Bhindi Masala

Wash okras and spread them on dry kitchen towels to remove excess water or simply pat them dry with kitchen towel.
While the okras are drying, heat a pan and dry roast channa dal, dry red chillies, hing, jeera and coriander seeds till they turn golden red and fragrant. Let them cool completely before you powder them. Add these roasted spices with roasted peanut, turmeric, amchur and salt to taste and grind them to coarse powder.
Now trim the okra ends and carefully make a slit on one side and stuff it with ¼-½ tsp of spice powder. Don’t worry if you are left with excess spice powder as it will be used later.
Heat about tbsp of oil in a pan and sauté stuffed okras on high flame, if required in batches, for about 4-5 minutes till brown spots start to appear and it is half cooked. Place them on paper towel till needed.
Now heat another tbsp of oil in a pan and add cumin seeds to it. When jeera starts to sizzle and turn light shade of brown, add curry leaves, finely chopped garlic and slit green chillies. Sauté till garlic turns light shade of brown, about one minute.
Add thinly sliced onion and sauté on medium flame till it turns golden brown, about 3 mins. Mix in finely chopped tomatoes and remaining spice powder and cook till tomatoes release it juice and turns pulpy, about 3 minutes.
Now add stuffed okras and sauté for 5-7 mins on medium flame till the okra is cooked through and the flavours blend well.

28 October, 2008

Rest in Peace, dear Bri...

Briana Brownlow

May the roads rise to meet you,
May the wind be always at your back,
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
The rain fall soft upon your fields
And, until we meet again,
May God hold you in the hollow of his hand.

Rest In Peace dear Bri.

27 October, 2008

Banana Appam: Sweet Treats for Festival of Lights

Sweet Banana Appams
First and foremost,
Wishing you all a very happy Deepavali.
May this festival of lights bring happiness and prosperity to you and your loved ones.

I hope you all are having a wonderful time celebrating Diwali with your friends and family. As for us, it’s another working day with deadlines to meet and usual grind. So we are enjoying quite Diwali with long day at office and simple dal and rice for lunch and dinner :) These days by the time I reach home I feel physically and emotionally drained after staring long and hard at the jumble of codes on screen and breaking my head in trying to figure out that small bit of code responsible for creating havoc in the main system. No wonder I prefer to snuggle under the blanket with warm bowl of soup and toast than actually stand in front of stove for hours together cooking an elaborate meals for the festival. Ahem, it’s not like I used to cook elaborate meals before ;) No wonder weekends have become real luxuries for us and are spent either reading books or watching some movies and sleeping till noon. When it comes to kitchen part, we have been cooking very simple food these days and we have been cooking everything in bulk which lasts for 3-4 days. It helps a lot when you come home exhausted and want to eat some home cooked food immediately.

I had no plans of cooking anything for Diwali this time. But somehow I got caught with the festival spirit while I talked to my Amma, Atte and sister who were busy making their menu for this festival of lights. I made up my mind to make something as long as it doesn’t exceed half an hour of cooking time and first thing that came to my mind was the sweet Appams that my mother makes. Last summer during our short trip to India, I had purchased the non-stick Appam pan which I had tucked on top shelf and it has been acquiring dust since then. With in a minute I washed and soaked two cups of rice in water for an hour and went on to finish few chapters from the novel I was reading. Then it was just the matter of using two poor looking bananas which were on the last stage of their life, a cup of powdered jaggery, few pinches of cardamoms to ground rice paste and voila, the smooth batter for Banana Appams was ready with in few minutes. With small ladle of batter poured on every hole of appam pan with a touch of Ghee for flavour, I was left with two dozens of small, sweet Banana Appams to enjoy for this Diwali. The aroma of sweet jaggery, bananas and cardamom wafting from my kitchen sure made me feel festive and transported me back to my home back in India. And off this goes to four events, Sweet Vegan hosted by Vaishali where Ghee can be substituted with oil, JFI-Festival Treats guest hosted by dear Valli, Sweet Celebrations at Aparna’s space where she is celebrating her first blog anniversary and WYF-Party Foods hosted by EC.

Sweet Banana Appams

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Banana Appams (Sweet Rice Cakes with Banana, Jaggery and Cardamom)
Prep Time: 5-10 mins
Cooking Time: 15-20 mins
Makes: 20-25 small Appams
2 cups Rice, washed and soaked in water for 1-2 hours
1 cup Jaggery (Adjust acc to taste)
½ cup fresh/frozen Coconut
½ tsp Green Cardamom Powder
2 very ripe Bananas, peeled and roughly chopped
A pinch of Salt
Little Oil or Ghee
Sweet Banana Appams

Grind rice to smooth paste adding very little water in which it is soaked. Now add jaggery, grated coconut, bananas and cardamom powder, pinch of salt and pulse the mixer till all the ingredients blend well.
Let this batter rest for at least 15 minutes for all the flavours to blend well before you proceed to next step.
Now either you can deep fry or use Appam pan to make these Banana Appams. If using Appam pan, grease the Appam pan with little ghee and heat it on medium flame.
Pour the batter into each hole and cover the pan with a lid and let it cook on low-medium heat on both sides till it turns golden brown and cooked through.
Serve it hot with any spicy Chutney or hot Tomato Ketchup or as it is and enjoy.

Sweet Banana Appams

If deep frying, make sure the paste is thicker. And if using Appam pan, the batter can be little thinner, of pancake consistency.
I used non-stick Appam pan and it hardly required any oil of ghee due to coconut used which releases its natural oil when cooked. If using iron pan, make sure that you grease it properly.

24 October, 2008

Maa Di Dal: Mother of All Dals

Maa Di Dal

Last weekend I grudgingly removed my long jackets along with matching gloves and scarves. The sun still shining on clear blue sky made me almost believe that it’s still summer. But ten steps away from home and I started shivering like a dry leaves about to fall from the maple tree around the corner. Winter is almost here…

Gone are the days of my sexy sandals and sleeveless summer dresses and I look like a stuffed teddy bear sporting long jackets, long boots and woollen scarf. There is still little greenery and colours around me which seems to be quickly fading away leaving naked tree branches against grey sky. Our BBQ kit is snugly sitting in our garden shed along with lawn mower. I am getting up to dark skies every morning and bowl of my favourite cereal with cold milk is not much appealing these days. Driving to office with headlights on is not helping either. Thankfully we are still away from the days of scrapping the thick coat of ice from car windows. But nevertheless winter is almost here…

Two things always cheer me during winters- shopping and food, in no particular order. In spite of gloomy global market slowdown, my winter shopping is going at full fledge. This winter I am adding more colours to my wardrobe and I am happily trotting around wearing my new crimson red long jacket. Yup, colour of love and passion is what I am wearing among all that black and greys. I can’t help but feel like a queen when I tread upon the carpets of gold and crimson, brown and bronze coloured leaves… Silly? Well, I am happy to be silly then…

And coming to food, do I need to say anything about the way it cheers me? Lot of hot and comfort foods are churned every day in my tiny kitchen. I don’t need any central heating when I stand near a gas stove, stirring a pot of hot soup or curries and let the steam and aromas coming from them tickle my nose. Everyday meal turns out be special, not because they contain rich and special ingredients, but because of the experience of sharing it with someone you love. Yes, winter is almost here and now I am loving every moment of it…

To celebrate the true spirit of winter, I cooked a special dish called Maa Ki Dal from Raghavan’s 660 Curries. Maa Ki Dal is probably the mother of all Dals. And this is nothing like a simple dal I make so often to go with rice and pickle, my comfort food. This Punjabi dish is very rich and bit fattening with all that cream and ghee that goes into making this simply superb creamy dream. This lentil recipe uses very few spices and they don’t over power the nutty taste of whole urad dal, channa dal or rajma. Don’t be afraid to use all that cream and ghee as it is ‘once in a while indulgence’ kind of food. Served with freshly made batch of hot Phulkas, it was simply divine. And how can resist from sending this mother of all dals to witty Sra of When My Soup Came Alive as she is guest hosting this month's My Legume Love Affair, a lovely event started by lovely lady Susan. Sorry girl for bombarding your mailbox with my entries but this recipe has to waltz around for MLLA :) This is also my entry for dear Sunshinemom's FIC-Brown.

Whole Urad Dal, Channa Dal and Rajma

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Maa Di Dal (Slow cooked Lentils in Creamy Gravy)
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 40-80 mins
Serves: 6-8
Recipe Source: 660 Curries
1 cup Whole Urad Dal/Black Lentils
½ cup Channa Dal/Split Chickpeas
½ cup Rajma/Red Kidney Beans, cooked and roughly mashed or 1 cup Cooked/Canned Rajma
2 Bay Leaves
2 pieces of 2 inch Cinnamon Sticks
4 Green Cardamoms or 2 Black Cardamoms
½ - 1 tsp Kashmiri/Deggi Chilli Powder or Paprika
½ tsp Turmeric Powder (Optional)
1 large Onion, finely chopped
4 large Tomatoes, very finely chopped or pureed
1 tbsp Tomato Paste (Optional)
¼ - ½ cup Fresh Cream (I used ¼ cup single cream)
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
¼ tsp Hing/Asafoetida (Optional but I recommend)
2 tbsp Fresh Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
1-2 tbsp Ghee/Oil
Salt to taste

Grind to Paste:
2-4 Green Chillies
1 inch Ginger
4-5 large or 6-7 medium Garlic flakes
Maa Di Dal

Wash urad dal and channa dal 3-4 times in water till all the impurities are removed. Place it in a heavy bottomed pan or pressure cooker and add about 4-5 cups of water and bring it to boil. Skim the foam formed on surface.
Now add the ground paste of chilli-ginger-garlic, bay leaves, cardamoms, cinnamon stick, and turmeric powder. Cover the lid and let it cook for 60 minutes, stirring in between, till the lentils falls apart. If using pressure cooker cook for 20-25 minutes or 4-5 whistles. Let the pressure be released before you open the pressure cooker lid.
Heat ghee/oil in a pan and add jeera and hing. When jeera starts to sizzle and turn golden red shade, add finely chopped onion and sauté till it turns golden brown, about 2-3 mins. Add finely chopped tomatoes or pureed tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes in medium flame till the oil separates from the mixture.
To this add chilli powder, salt to taste, cooked lentils and mashed red kidney beans. Add about a cup of water to the pan in which lentils are cooked to deglaze it and mix this water to the gravy. Mix in the cream and let the whole gravy simmer for at least 15 minutes for all the flavours to blend well. Add little more water if needed but make sure that the gravy is thick and not runny. At this stage you can also add dash of lime/lemon juice needed.
Serve this delicious creamy Maa Di Dal, garnished with finely chopped coriander leaves and a dash of ghee if needed, with any Roties or Chapatti and enjoy. And yes, it tastes better when served next day.

Addition of Hing is optional but recommended.
To cut down the cooking time, you can soak whole Urad dal in water overnight or for 4-5 hours.
Replace cream with yogurt for healthy option.

21 October, 2008

Chavli Amti: Recipes from Your Kitchen to Mine

Roasted Spices for Amti Masala

Yes, it’s a time for this month’s “Recipes from Your Kitchen to Mine”. This month I have tried 2 recipes from different blogs and if time permits I will post the second recipe before the clock strikes 12 on 31st October. So today I am posting a recipe I tried from Nupur’s One Hot Stove.

Nupur’s One Hot Stove is one of the inspirational blogs where she takes us on virtual culinary journey of authentic and delicious Marathi cuisine. Coming from a beautiful city of Kolhapur, Nupur warmly welcomes us to savour simple yet heavenly home food which she grew up enjoying eating and later creating the same magic in her kitchen. Well, I don’t think I need to write more about Nupur or her blog as most of us visit her very often to see the Marathi culinary gems she churns from her One Hot Stove.

On one of such visits I stumbled upon delicious looking Chavli Amti. Amti is as dear to Maharashrtians as Rasam is to South Indians. I have come across many recipes of Amti in last two years of blogging but surprisingly never ventured into making it till now. Since I am quite partial to Black Eyed Peas these days, I couldn’t resist the temptation of trying her Chavli Amti. Well cooked plump black eyed peas in delicious creamy coconut, onion and tomato gravy was something which is hard to resist. And with freshly made batch of Amti Masala from her blog it was everything any true foodie can think of.

Except for the soaking bit I followed Nupur’s recipe without twisting and tweaking. In recent experiment with cooking the black eyed peas in Methi Lobia, I have learnt that black eyed peas can be directly cooked without soaking them overnight. Since I had few other things to do, I could soak these beans for 2 hours and it came out just perfect when pressure cooked. So don’t worry if you don’t have time to soak the peas in water. Just bring a pot of water to a boil and add these beans. Cover and pressure cook for 15 minutes till they get nicely cooked and plumped. The freshly ground Amti Masala is sure to find its way into many other recipe I am going to cook. As Amti Masala doesn’t contain over powering spicy ingredients, it is just perfect for the recipes which needs little kick of aromatic, fresh spice powder. Roasting of lentils and spices along with onion and coconut simply jazzes the whole dish and gives creamy base gravy with a touch of sweet and nuttiness. I made it little thick on first day to go with fresh batch of Phulkas and added little more water on next day to get thin gravy to serve with a pot of steam cooked rice and needless to say we licked our fingers and plates clean ;) Thank you, Nupur for inspiring me to cook this extra ordinary dish which has become talk of our home :) This is my third and final entry (I hope so;) for dear Sra’s My Legume Love Affair-Fourth Helping, initiated by lovely Susan. Well, this should show my love affair with legumes and lentils, I think ;)

Chavli Amti

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Amti Masala Powder
Prep & Cooking Time: 5 mins
Makes: ¾ cup
Shelf Life: 3 months
Recipe Source: One Hot Stove

½ cup Coriander Seeds
¼ cup Jeera/Cumin Seeds
2 tsp Shah Jeera/Black Cumin Seeds
1 inch Cinnamon Stick
10 Cloves
Freshly Ground Amti Masala

Dry roast all the ingredients in a pan at medium-low heat till they change colour to lovely golden red and fragrant. Let it cool completely before you proceed.
Grind these roasted spices to smooth powder and store this aromatic Amti masala powder in an air tight jar or container and use as and when needed.

Chavli Amti

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Chavli Amti (Black Eyed Peas in delicious spiced gravy of Coconut, Onion and Tomato, a recipe from Maharashtra)
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins
Serves: 4-6
Recipe Source: One Hot Stove

1 cup Black Eyed Peas, washed and soaked in a bowl of water overnight
1 medium onion, thinly sliced or finely chopped
2 large tomatoes, pureed or finely chopped
1½ tsp Amti Masala Powder or use any Curry Powder of your choice (Garam masala, Sambar masala etc)
1 tsp Jaggery/Sugar
Salt to taste

For Masala Paste:
1 tsp Urad Dal/Split Black Lentils
1 tsp Channa Dal/Split Chickpeas
1 tsp Coriander Seeds
½ tsp Methi/Fenugreek Seeds
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
3-4 Dry Red Chillies (Adjust acc to taste)
1 small Onion, finely chopped
3 tbsp grated Coconut, fresh or frozen or desiccated
½ -1 tbsp Oil

For Tadka/Tempering:
½ tbsp Oil
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
Few Curry Leaves
A big pinch of Hing/Asafoetida
½ tsp Turmeric Powder

Chavli Amti

Cook soaked beans along with the same water used in soaking in a pressure cooker for 10-15 mins till it is cooked thoroughly. I soaked these peas for about 2 hrs in water and cooked them in pressure cooker. Alternatively if you don’t have enough time to soak the peas in water, bring 2-2½ cups of water to boil in a pressure cooker and to this add washed beans. Cover the pressure cooker lid and proceed to cook for 15 mins or for 3 whistles. Let the pressure cooker cool slightly and let it release all its pressure before opening the lid to avoid nasty accidents in your kitchen.

For Masala Paste:
While black eyed peas are cooking, add all the ingredients listed under the masala paste ingredient list in a pan and fry them in a little oil till they are lightly roasted, about 2-3 minutes on medium flame.
Switch off the flame and let the spices cool slightly. Grind it to a smooth paste by adding little water at a time. Keep it aside until required.

Proceed to make Chavli Amti:
Heat oil in a pan and add mustard, hing, curry leaves and turmeric powder in that order and let the mustard pop and splutter. To this add finely chopped/sliced onions and sauté till it turns golden brown, about 2 mins.
Now add chopped tomatoes or tomato puree, sugar, amti or other curry powder, ground masala paste and salt to taste. Fry this on medium flame for another 2-3 mins.
Add cooked black eyed peas along with the water in which it is cooked and bring the whole mixture to a boil. Add little more water if needed and simmer for another 5-10 minutes. Serve it hot garnished with finely chopped coriander leaves along with roties or steaming bowl of rice and enjoy.

16 October, 2008

Aloo Palak: Green Indulgence

Aloo Palak

Ever since we came back from our adventurous trip to north Wales (more of it in coming posts, hopefully!), we have hardly been entering our kitchen except for heating the food in microwave. Simple Dal and Rasams is all we managed to cook when it became too agonising to even lift a spoon after all those adventurous sports. Well, all that climbing, biking, and walking seemed like a good way of relaxing at that time, but at present I can’t help but think that we may have overdone it when I try to walk without limping with back and leg pain!

Tired of eating same dal and rasams with rice for last few days, we set out into making something of a treat to ourselves to cheer our taste buds. With few sad looking potatoes in a pantry and a bag of wilted baby spinach on the verge of committing suicide if it was not used in a day or two, I decided to cook much loved Punjabi dish called Aloo Palak. Aloo Palak, delicious gravy of spinach with tender potatoes doesn’t need any introduction. For me Aloo Palak is a dish which serves as a benchmark for many good cooks/chefs at home and restaurants. Like many other recipes in India, Aloo Palak can also be cooked in many ways using as little as 5 ingredients to as many as dozens of ingredients. Sometime you will be served Aloo Palak in a gravy form or simple stir fried form. But whatever way it’s been cooked or served, it remains to be one of the most loved Indian foods among many foodies.

I have been cooking this dish for around 3 years and at last I can say that we have found the recipe which we love the most. The base gravy is little thick due to addition of cashews which not only thickens the gravy but gives it little nutty and wonderful taste. With cashews, I add wee bit of dried fenugreek leaves which gives it very pleasant bitter taste along with extraordinary aroma and flavour it imparts. Both these ingredients are optional, and I don’t think they are used in a traditional recipe of Aloo Palak. But at the same time, these two ingredients add that oomph factor to my recipe of Aloo Palak. So try this recipe when you want to cook little different Aloo Palak and enjoy the whole goodness of greens this winter.

Baby Spinach and Potatoes for Aloo Palak

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Aloo Palak (Potatoes in delicious Spinach Gravy)
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 20-30 mins
Serves: 4-5

5-6 packed cups of Spinach, washed, drained and roughly chopped
3 medium Potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, chopped and cooked with salt
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2-3 Tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tbsp Mint Leaves, roughly chopped (Optional)
1 tsp Ginger Garlic Paste
5-7 Cashew Nuts
3-5 Green Chillies (Adjust acc to taste)
1 inch Cinnamon Stick
2 Green Cardamoms
2 Cloves
1 tsp Sugar
½ tsp Garam Masala
½ tsp Aamchur/Dry Mango Powder or 1 tbsp Lime Juice
½ tbsp Kauri Methi/Dried Fenugreek Leaves (Optional)
1+½ tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
1+½ tbsp Oil/Ghee
Salt to taste
Aloo Palak

Heat about ½ tbsp of oil in a pan and add cinnamon, green cardamom and cloves. Sauté it for few seconds and add ½ tsp of cumin seeds. When cumin seeds start to sizzle and turn golden red, add cashews and green chillies. Sauté it on medium flame till cashews turn light golden brown in colour.
Mix in roughly chopped spinach, sugar and cover the lid. Cook this spinach cover for few minutes on a medium heat till it is wilted. If needed sprinkle little water in between to avoid them sticking to the pan. Cool the mixture and grind it to smooth paste with mint leaves adding as little water as possible. Keep aside this mixture till required.
Heat ½ tbsp of oil in the same pan and remaining cumin seeds. When it starts to sizzle, add finely chopped onion and sauté it for a minute. Now add ginger-garlic paste and sauté it till the raw smell disappears, about a minute. Mix in chopped tomatoes and sauté till it becomes pulpy.
Add kitchen king masala, garam masala and kasuri methi and keep stirring till nice aroma of masala fills the kitchen, about a minute. Mix in ground spinach paste and add about 1- 1½ cups of water and salt to taste. Let it cook on a low to medium flame for about ten minutes.
Add cooked potato pieces and amchur powder to spinach gravy and mix well. Cook for another 5-10 minutes so that potato absorbs all the flavours. Serve this Aloo Palak with any Indian bread of your choice and enjoy.

08 October, 2008

Lauki-Channa Dal Masala: Original Recipe

Lauki-Channa Dal Masala

Bored and exhausted, that was me when I came home yesterday. Exhausted because of work load and little too close for comfort deadlines approaching at lightening speed. Bored because I was not in a mood to cook same dal or rasam to go with leftover rice cooling in refrigerator. I had an option of either ordering food from takeaways or opening a can of soup sitting on top shelf of pantry since Dark Age. That’s it then, oily takeaway food or canned soup for dinner.

Who am I kidding?! I would rather eat some fresh salad than actually order oily, unhealthy food from takeaway or forcefully stuff my mouth with soup from tin can. When I opened a fridge, I found small bottle gourd happily (err, may be not that happily as it was beginning to get all wrinkly) snuggled under packets of fresh herbs and had managed to hide itself quite nicely. Intensely staring at wrinkled bottle gourd on kitchen counter with both my hands on hips was how Krish found me when he came home. With in few mins we went over the list of possible recipes we had tried with bottle gourd and nothing seemed to fit into my day’s objective of cooking something simple and quick and something different from usual stuff.

Just when I was about to give up on cooking something new, I remembered tasting a curry made using Channa Dal and Bottle gourd at one of my friend’s home some decades ago. Although I had no idea as how it was made I went along with the idea of combining nutty split chickpeas with little sweet and watery bottle gourd. With in few minutes I had this recipe in my mind and I could almost taste the final dish. I soaked quarter a cup of channa dal in water to soften while I went on chopping the other vegetables. And by the time Krish finished roasting frozen chapattis; this delicious Lauki-Channa Dal Masala was ready to seduce our taste buds. It was light, mild, delicious, quick, simple and different; everything I wanted it to be. This is my entry for Lore’s Original Recipe event and also my second entry for this month’s My Legume Love Affair hosted by Sra and initiated by Susan.

Channa Dal, Bottle Gourd and Kasuri Methi for Lauki-Channa Dal Masala

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Dudhi-Channa Dal Masala (Bottle Gourd and Split Bengal Gram cooked with crunchy Onions and tangy Tomatoes)
Prep Time: 5-10 mins
Cooking Time: 15-20 mins
Serves: 3-5
1 medium Bottle Gourd (Approx 4-5 cups), washed, peeled and cut into ½ inch cubes)
¼ cup Channa Dal/Split Chickpeas, soaked in water for 10-30 mins
1 medium Onion, thinly sliced
2 large/3 medium Tomatoes, finely chopped
1-2 Green Chillies, slit
½ tsp Jaggery/Brown Sugar (Optional)
1 tsp Garam Masala
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
1 tbsp Kasuri Methi/Dried Fenugreek Leaves
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
¼ tsp Hing/Asafoetida
½ tbsp Oil
Salt to taste
Lauki-Channa Dal Masala

Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds and hing. When jeera starts to sizzle and turn light brown in colour, add sliced onions. Sauté on medium flame till they turn translucent, about 1-2 mins.
Mix in kasuri methi, slit chillies, garam masala and turmeric powder and sauté for half a minute. Now add chopped tomatoes and mix well. Let it cook for 2-3 mins till tomatoes become pulpy and releases its juice.
Add soaked channa dal, bottle gourd pieces, jaggery and salt to taste and mix well. Pour ¼-½ cup of water and cover the lid. Cook the curry on medium flame for 10-15 minutes on medium flame, stirring in between, till bottle gourds are cooked well.
Serve this delicious Lauki-Channa Dal Masala, garnished with coriander leaves, with Chapatti or Rice and enjoy.

06 October, 2008

Methi-Lobia: Flavours of Life...

So you are a vegetarian? Then how you manage to stay healthy?
How can you survive eating just vegetables, greens and beans? I bet it must be boring to eat same stuff everyday!
Oh! You belong to ghas-phus family then!
I have lost the count on number of times I have been asked similar questions by many people, both in India and abroad. I can hear genuine concern when asked by someone who is unaware of vast vegetarian food choices available in India but I really get annoyed when asked by someone who was bought up in India, at least first two and half decades of their life, eating more vegetarian meals than non-vegetarian and have been living here in western land for two and half years. WTF!!! Either they are suffering from short term memory loss or selective amnesia.

And again we have another set of people back home who thinks we stuff our mouth with every possible living/non-living animals (includes birds, reptiles, etc etc…) as soon as we step out of India!!! Why? Because of their distant relative who had left India some neons of years ago has told them that they cook and eat non-veg due to lack of availability of fresh vegetables in some corner of the world where they live! So they simply assume, there is no way we too can stick to strict vegetarian diet! There are some people who simply ask us the very same question again and again every time we visit India, and are still hopeful that one day we will say we eat meat. Wow!!! You genius people!!!

I have no qualms or issue with any people who have converted from being a vegetarian to non-vegetarian or vice versa. But I do hate it when people repeatedly ask me the same questions, in spite of knowing how easily we vegetarians can survive in meat loving country without tiny-winy bit of a problem. And even if I decide to eat meat, I don’t see why I need to give any kind of explanations. At first I used to find these questions very amusing and later I found it very irritating. And right now I feel much better after ranting away and can’t help but laugh at myself for being so silly and get easily irritated by bunch of jokers! Blogging is therapeutic!!! Ahh...

Now that I have taken out all my frustrations, I can proceed to writing a recipe of Methi Lobia which was inspired from Raghavan’s 660 Curries cookbook. I have combined the main two ingredients, fenugreek leaves and black eyed peas, from the book but went on to cook using my own method and technique. These pleasantly bitter fresh fenugreek leaves combined with nutty black eyed peas and cooked in a sweet onion-tomato based curry was an instant hit with us. Addition of kasuri methi simply enhances the flavour. And did you notice there is no soaking of beans is required? Because I used pressure cooker for cooking it, it doesn’t require too much of stirring and standing in front of a stove. You can simply substitute fenugreek leaves with other green leafy vegetable for different taste but cook this for sure. This curry has all the flavours of life- bitter, sour, sweet and spicy. I am sending this to dear Sra who is guest hosting this month’s My Legume Love Affair event initiated by lovely Susan.


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Methi Lobia (Fresh Fenugreek Leaves and Black Eyed Peas in sweet Onion and tangy Tomato sauce)
Prep Time: 15 mins
Cooking Time: 20-30 mins
Serves: 3-4
Recipe Inspiration: 660 Curries
1 cup Black eyed Peas, washed and drained
2 packed Cups fresh/frozen Fenugreek Leaves
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
3 large/4 medium Tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tsp Ginger-Garlic Paste
1 tsp Garam Masala
½ tsp Kitchen King Masala (Optional)
1 tsp Red Chilli Powder (Adjust acc to taste)
1 tbsp Kasuri Methi/Dried Fenugreek Leaves (Optional)
1 tsp Jaggery/Brown Sugar (Optional)
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
¼ tsp Hing/Asafoetida
1 tbsp Oil
Salt to taste

Heat oil in a pressure cooker and add cumin seeds to it. When it sizzles and turns light reddish brown, add hing and finely chopped onions. Sauté it on medium flame till onion turns translucent, about 2 mins.
Now add ginger-garlic paste and sauté on medium flame for another minute. Mix in garam masala, kitchen king masala, chilli powder and kasuri methi and fry for few seconds.
Mix in finely chopped tomatoes and cook till turns pulpy and releases its juice, about 3 minutes. Add fenugreek leaves and sauté on medium flame till they wilt, about 2-3 mins.
Now add washed black eyed peas, salt to taste, jaggery and 3 cups of water and mix well. Cover the pressure cooker lid and cook on medium flame for about 20-25 mins till the beans are cooked well and start to break down.
Let the steam release completely before you open the pressure cooker lid. Serve this delicious, tangy curry with chapatti or any other roties and enjoy.

Food Blog Events & Round-ups

Participating in food blog events is real fun. But the problem comes when you want to refer to the round-ups and unfortunately you forgot to bookmark them. I am one among those people who always forget to bookmark the page and end-up wasting good amount of time searching for those round-ups.

That’s why I decided to make a list of food blog events which I often participate. I know how time consuming it is to host an event and then post the round-up. This is my way of saying Thank you to all those wonderful blogger friends, who spent hours together to put up the round-up. This page is listed on top horizontal bar, titled “Blog Events”, for future reference. I am sure its going to help most of us to refer back to the event round-ups. If you have hosted any particular food blog events and want to be included in this page, please drop me a line at comment section with Your Name, Event Name, Event Theme(s) and the Perm Link(s) of the round-up. I will be updating list of round-ups once in a month. So please bear with me!

Find out more about the on-going food blog events at Sailu’s Taste of India, Is My Blog Burning and Red Chilli’s Food World.

Food Blog Events hosted on Monsoon Spice
~by Sia of Monsoon Spice
A Fruit A Month (AFAM)
~by Maheshwari of Beyond the Usual
A-Z of Indian Vegetables (AZIV)
~by Nupur of One Hot Stove
Dosa, Roti, Curry, Rice & Mithai Mela
~by Srivalli of Cooking 4 All Seasons
Eat Healthy (EH)
~by Sangeeth of Let's All Cook
Herb Mania
~by Dee of Ammalu's Kitchen
Jihva for Ingredients (JFI)
~ by Indira of Mahanandi
Monthly Blog Patrolling (MBP)
~by Coffee of The Spice Cafe
Microwave Easy Cooking (MEC)
~by Srivalli of Cooking 4 All Seasons
Monthly Mingle (MM)
~by Meeta of What's for Lunch Honey?
Regional Cuisines of India (RCI)
~by Lakshmi of Veggie Cuisine
Safety Moments (SM)
~by Jyothsna of Curry Bazaar
Summer Express Cooking (SEC)
~by Shaheen of Malbar Spice
Sunday Snacks (SS)
~by Pallavi of All Things Yummy
Sweet Series (SS)
~by Mythreeye of Pajaka
Think Spice (TS)
~by Sunita of Sunita's World
One-Off Events hosted at various Blogs
~by Sia, DK, Sra, EC, Suganya
Tried & Tasted
~by Zlamushka of Spicy Kitchen
Weekend Breakfast Blogging (WBB)
~by Nandita of Saffron Trail