01 December, 2008

Semiya Upma: Most loved Tiffin item

Semiya/Vermicelli Upma
What would you like to have for breakfast?
~Without blinking~ Maggi…

Anything particular you want for dinner?
~Eagerly~ Yes, Maggi please!

What does my special girl wants for her birthday meal?
~Clapping hands happily~ I want Maggi Amma.

There are not many vegetables for curry today. I am wondering what to cook for Sunday lunch!
~Screaming~ How about Maggi?

What should I cook for…?
~Jumping up and down and screaming at top of my voice~ Maggi, Maggi, Maggi….
Well, that’s how much I loved (still love) Maggi Noodle. Be it morning or evening or night, be it Sunday or Monday or Friday, and be it some special days or bad days or festival days. All I wanted to have was bowlful of Maggi noodles with good helping of Tomato ketchup. Then one day unimaginable thing happened at home.

It all happened many years ago and I still remember that particular day in July. I was at school and the last period we had on that particular day was boring class on Geography. I was happily dozing in the corner bench and was suddenly awakened by the heavy thunders and screeching school bell. And then it started raining heavily; you know the typical Monsoon rains. Rubbing my eyes and yawning I came out of school building and got into the waiting school bus to take me back home with my sister and friends. While the heavy drops of rains lashed the bus windows I imagined reaching home in few minutes and my Amma waiting for us with large umbrella near door. I was all eager to get home and sit in my high wooden stool in warm kitchen and eat big bowl of Maggi noodles with Tomato Ketchup as I had told my Amma that morning I wanted Maggi Noodles when I got back from school. Just few more minutes of wait…

Everything was same as I imagined it to be. Amma was waiting for us near large cast iron gates. And she was indeed holding big umbrella for us. The kitchen smelt heavenly from the aroma of something delicious wafting from big Kadai on gas burner. And yes, Amma had indeed prepared Noodles for us. Eagerly I reached out for my bowl of delicious Maggi Noodles… But… But… But…

There was something really wrong with the Maggi Noodles that Amma had made for us. These noodles were pearly white with specks of gold and were studded with jewel like vegetables. There were carrots that looked like corals and peas and beans which just resembled beautiful glittering emeralds. While tomatoes looked like red rubies, mustard seeds glowed like black pearls. That was not definitely my favourite yellow Maggi Noodles. My yellow Maggi Noodles were definitely missing…

After little bit of dissecting, poking, twisting and turning around I tasted a spoonful of this special noodles. Mmm… They tasted fine… Took another spoonful… Mmm… It tasted little better… Yet another spoonful of noodles… And I was hooked… That’s how I fell hard for Semiya Upma or Vermicelli Upma.

Semiya Upma is usually served as breakfast or Tiffin in South India. For all those who are wondering what Tiffin is, it is in-between-meals snacks served at most homes in India. I usually make this during weekends for lazy brunches or serve as dinner. Addition of mixed vegetables makes it a wholesome and delicious meal. If you are too lazy or not very fond of vegetables, all you have to do is just skip them. Add little bit of Garam Masala if you want it to be little spicier. I usually like mine simple, without many over-powering spices. While chopped onions add nice crunch and sweetness, tomatoes and lime juice gives is a tangy note. Green chillies and ginger are the basic ingredients that give mild spicy note to this dish. Mixed vegetables not only add more flavour and nutrition, it also adds lot of colour to otherwise plain vermicelli. I usually roast vermicelli in little ghee till golden as ghee gives wonderful aroma and flavour to this dish. If you are too health conscious then skip ghee and add any vegetable or sunflower oil. But please restrain from using strong flavoured oil, especially Olive oil as it will simply spoil the taste. So shall we proceed to today’s recipe of Semiya Upma?

Roasted Vermicelli and Vegetables for Upma

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Semiya Upma (Rice Vermicelli/Noodles cooked with Vegetables and flavoured with tempering of Spices)
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 20 mins
Serves: 4-5
Recipe Source: Amma
2 cups Vermicelli (I used MTR Vermicelli)
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
2 large Tomatoes, finely chopped
1 medium Carrot, peeled and cut into 1 cm cubes
6-8 French Beans, trimmed and cut into 1 cm pieces
¼ cup Green Peas (I used frozen)
2-3 Green Chillies, slit (Adjust acc to taste)
¾ inch Ginger, peeled and finely chopped or grated
2-3 tbsp Fresh Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
½ tsp Sugar (Optional but recommended)
1-2 tbsp Fresh Lime Juice
½ tbsp Ghee or Oil
Salt to taste

For Tadka/Tempering:
1 tsp Mustard Seeds
1 tbsp Channa Dal/Split Chickpeas
½ tbsp Urad Dal/Split Black Lentils
1-2 Dry Red Chilli, halved
2 strings Curry Leaves
10-12 Cashew Nuts or 2 tbsp Roasted Unsalted Peanuts (Optional), roasted to golden in little oil or ghee
1 tbsp Oil or Ghee
Semiya/Vermicelli Upma

Heat ½ tbsp of Oil or Ghee in a pan and add Vermicelli to it. Roast this vermicelli on medium to low heat till it turns light golden brown in colour, about 3-4 minutes. Let it cool.
Bring about 3-4 cups of water to boil and add little salt to it. Now add roasted vermicelli and let it cook uncovered till it is cooked through. Add more water if needed. It takes around 4-6 minutes to cook all the vermicelli. Drain water using a colander and keep it aside until it’s needed.
Heat tbsp of oil or ghee in a pan and add mustard seeds to it. When it starts to pop and splutter, add channa dal, urad dal, halved red chillies and curry leaves. Sauté till lentils turn golden, about 1 minute.
Now add finely chopped onion, slit green chillies and ginger. Sauté till onion turns light golden brown, about 1-2 minutes. Now add finely chopped tomatoes and cook till they turn pulpy and release their juice, about 2 minutes.
Add sugar, carrots, beans and green peas and cook covered for 2-3 minutes till vegetables turn tender.
Mix in cooked vermicelli, finely chopped coriander leaves, roasted cashews and lime juice. Adjust the salt and cook for another 2 minutes for all the flavours to blend well. Serve hot with any chutney or pickle and a dollop of chilled yogurt, the way I like it.

On other note I am taking break from blogging. Yes, you guessed it right. I am in India, enjoying both sun and sea in my native. :) I might post in between but can’t promise anything at this time. So have fun friends….

Chao… Till we meet again

27 November, 2008

Angry, Sad, Horrified yet Hopeful...

At the terrible happenings in Mumbai.

When will it all come to an end!
Helplines: Help Mumbai

Hotels(Via Twitter):
Taj: 022-66574322, 022-66574372, 1800 111 825
Trident: 022-23890606
Oberoi Hotel: 022-23890606, 022-23890505

St. George Hospital: 022-22820242
J J Hospital: 022-23735555,
Bombay Hospital: 022-22067676 (extn 216)

Blood Donations:
J J Hospital Blood Bank: 022-23739400
Cama Hospital Blood Bank : 022-22611648
St. George Hospital Direct Blood Bank: 022-22620344

Helplines for Foreigners:
Foreign Affairs: 1-613-996-8885 from Canada
From elsewhere: 1-800-387-3124

Help line number US: State Department number: 888.407.4747
Foreign Affairs: 1-613-996-8885

United Kingdom:
Forgeign Office Emergency Telephone Number: 0207 00 800 00.

Brazilian help line: +919820686143 (C)

In Mumbai: 1800 002 214
International: +61 2 6261 3305

(Source: http://vignettinglife.com/shot-through-the-heart/)

Live news streaming @ CNN/IBN
Follow Twitters: http://search.twitter.com/search?q=%23mumbai
Journal @ Arun's blog
List of people injured/dead: http:///mumbaihelp.blogspot.com/
More Photos: http://flickr.com/photos/vinu

P.S: Please feel free to post these details in your blog.

25 November, 2008

Moong & Spring Onion Dal: Bit of Sunshine for Winter Days

Moong & Spring Onion Dal

Yes Saar, you, remember we meet everyday, and almost every working hour in office? Yes, you, the one who comes to my office without any particular reason and talk and talk and keep on talking when I am trying hard to debug the code. Oh! You think it is simple task to find this error among thirty thousand lines do you? Don’t you think it’s high time you went back to your office and did some constructive work or would you rather prefer me to cut your tongue off and gift warp it and give it to you for Christmas?

And you Miss the one on telephone from last one hour. I know you had fun last weekend with your new boy friend but I am not interested in knowing the details. I don’t think other people want to know about your new pink silk bed sheet. Would you like to hear me talking loudly about that ugly yellow skirt you are wearing with my friend on phone? No? I didn’t think so. So why don’t you shut up or use your cell phone and just walk out of the office? The main door is just 5 feet from your desk you see!

And you Mr & Mrs. Neighbours, would you kindly reduce the volume of your new home theatre system. I know that it’s all nice and all but I don’t think heavy metal music at 2 in the morning is my cup of tea. And I don’t think you will like the rocket I want to fit into your system which will hit the roof and reach sky within a blink of your eyes. Would you?

And you Madam, yeah, we met near office cafeteria today afternoon. Yes, you, the one with dark glasses. Didn’t you notice it is winter and it was cloudy and dark outside? I don’t think you are blind because I have seen you many a times without your cool shades. Do you think energy saving lights is too harsh for your eyes? No? Oh! That is your new Gucci shades, is it? I know they are expensive and but it is absolutely fine to remove them when you are inside office building. That doesn’t mean you have to wear them on your head when we all know you will be here till evening. Do I mind? Actually no, but I feel it’s rather uncool to wear cool Gucci shades inside your office building.

And you my dear friend, yes I am talking to you, who took her 2 year old to see this awful horror movie. Did you say you have kept your brain locked safely in locker? I thought as much. Any lady with little sense wouldn’t take her kid to these movies and later complain about her kid screaming and wetting his bed at night. And stop bothering me with the details. No, I am not against kids. In fact I adore them. But I would rather prefer to watch Cars, Shreak and Kung Fu Panda with my niece and nephew and scream with them in delight than be a reason for their sleepless nights. So shut up and please grow up!!!

Ufff… I am done for the day! At least for now… I had a rough day and needed something to cheer me and lift my mood. Every time its comfort foods that keep me sane and going during days like this. And yesterday it was simple Moong & Spring Onion Dal which boosted my energy and brought back smile on my face. I wanted to fix something with sorry looking, wilted bunch of spring onions in my veggie rack and wanted to cook something that will take just few minutes in kitchen. Dal is something that I like to have either with Rice or Chapatti and Pickle or simply served as soup. This time I chose Moong Dal because it is light and easy on stomach and cooks very fast. I could feel day’s stress slowly fading away while chopping the vegetables for Dal and the aroma of roasted spices lifted my spirit. By the time I finished preparing this Dal and tasted a spoonful of it, I was smiling. What more a person wants for cold, winter days… A bowl full of sunshine… A bowl full of comfort… And a Bowl full of happiness…

Cooked Moong Dal & Spring Onions

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Moong & Spring Onion Dal (Indian Soup of Split Green Lentils and Spring Onion)
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 20-30 mins
Serves: 4-6
1 cup Moong Dal/split Yellow Lentils
4-6 Spring Onions, thinly sliced (Keep the green part separate from the white ones)
2 medium Tomatoes, finely chopped
2-3 large Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
1 inch Ginger, finely chopped or grated
2-3 Green Chillies, slit
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
½ - 1 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Jaggery/Sugar (Optional but recommended)
½ medium Lime Juice (Adjust acc to taste)
2 tbsp fresh Coriander Leaves, chopped finely
Salt to taste

For Tadka/Tempering:
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
½ tsp Mustard Seeds
½ tsp Kalonji/Nigella Seeds (Optional)
Few Methi/Fenugreek Seeds (Optional)
¼ tsp Hing/Asafoetida
1-2 Dry Red Chillies, halved
Few Curry Leaves
½ tbsp Ghee/Oil
Moong & Spring Onion Dal

Add turmeric powder, a drop of oil and 2 cups of water to washed moong dal and cook till the lentils are cooked though without loosing their shape, about 10-15 mins.
Mean while, chop all the vegetables and keep them aside. Heat oil or ghee in a pan and add cumin seeds, mustard seeds, nigella seeds, fenugreek seeds, halved dry red chillies, hing and curry leaves. Sauté for a minute till the spices turn golden brown and aromatic.
Next add finely chopped garlic and slit green chillies and sauté for half a minute. Mix in white parts of spring onions along with chopped ginger and sauté till onions becomes translucent, about 1-2 mins.
Add garam masala and chopped tomatoes and cook on medium heat for 2 minutes till tomatoes turn pulpy. At this stage add cooked moong dal, jaggery and salt to taste. Pour 1- 1½ cups of water and simmer the dal. Let it cook for another 10-15 minutes so that all the flavours blend well.
Mix in lime juice and greens of spring onion and let it cook for another 2-3 minutes. Switch off the flame and add finely chopped coriander leaves. Serve it hot as a soup or along steam cooked Rice or any Indian bread and enjoy.

19 November, 2008

Spicy Lentil & Roasted Butternut Squash Soup: Winter Warmer

Spicy Lentil & Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Half butternut squash….
And half minded me…
Half finished office work…
Half hearted-ness for cooking…

And half an hour later….

2 full, big bowls of soup…
And two satisfied people…
And two big Dagaar’s, ahem, burps…

Now all the mathematicians hear me loud and clear… it’s time you come up with a new theorem that proves ½ = 2… And all you nursery, primary, secondary, higher secondary, college students… time for you to learn another maths theorem… Mu ha ha ha ha…

Ok, I don’t have anything to say today… So without much dilly-dallying with my usual rants and ramblings let me give you today’s recipe.

Remember this Risotto I had posted few days back? Yeah, the very same Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto. I had used half of butternut squash in that and was left with other half. No, not my other half but other half of butternut squash. Since I loved the taste of roasted butternut squash I thought of making another batch of risotto. So I chopped the butternut squash and coated them with oil and pepper and salt. After that I popped them into oven to roast I realised there was no Arborio rice. No it didn’t vanish just like that. I simply forgot that it got over last week itself. My boss is to be blamed for this. No silly, he didn’t take that risotto rice but he is responsible for truck load of work on my desktop and by the time I get back home I look and talk (?) like a zombie.

Since I had no risotto rice I had to think of some other way to use all those delicious roasted butternut squash. I found it difficult to think with my half dead brain and half asleep grey cells. But thankfully other half grey cells were still awake and reminded me of some Soup recipe on some cookery show which I had watched during my usual finger exercise sessions a.k.a. channel surfing sessions. My other half grey cells could vaguely remember some of the ingredients used; some lentils with some spices and some pumpkins…. So with this precious information I went on to make this Spicy Lentil & Roasted Butternut Squash Soup. Yeah, much like our Indian Dal if you ask me with little twist and surprises thrown in between… Very much Fusion cooking… But hey, it is lot simpler and tasted heavenly. And full heartedly I am sending this to Suganya who is hosting Vegan Venture.

Spicy Lentil & Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

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Spicy Lentil and Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 30 mins (Including Roasting time)
Serves: 3-4
1 cup Masoor Dal/Red Lentils
1 small Onion, finely chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
½ inch Ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
½ tsp Garam Masala or Any Curry Powder
1-2 tbsp Lemon/Lime Juice (Adjust acc to taste)
½ tbsp Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

For Roasted Butternut Squash and Seeds:
½ medium Butternut Squash, peeled and diced into ½ inch cubes
1 tbsp Oil
Little Salt and Pepper Powder
Spicy Lentil & Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

Pre heat the oven at 200C/400F/Gas 6. Take cubed butternut squash, oil and salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix well. Spread them in a baking tray lined with an aluminium foil and place it on a middle rack of oven and let it roast for 10 minutes. Take it out from the oven and gently mix again and place it on the top rack and let it roast for another 5-10 minutes till it is cooked through.
To roast the butternut squash seeds, simply spread them in a baking tray and place them on a top rack of your oven and let them roast for 3-5 minutes till they turn golden.
While the butternut squash is roasting, wash and cook the masoor dal with turmeric, few drops of oil and 1½ cups of water. Add little water in between if needed and cook till the lentils starts to fall apart, about 10-15 mins.
Take half the amount of roasted butternut squash and add it to the cooked lentils. With a help of stick blender, grind this mixture to smooth. If using food processor or mixer make sure that the dal and squash have cooled little bit. You can also use potato masher to mash lentil and squash mixture. Keep it aside till needed.
Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds to it. When it starts to sizzle and turn golden red, add finely chopped onion, garlic and ginger. Sauté till onion turns translucent, about 1-2 mins.
Now add mashed lentil and butternut squash mixture, 2-3 cups of water or vegetable stock and garam masala. Let it cook uncovered for 5-7 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and add more water if needed.
Switch off the gas and mix in other half of roasted butternut squash and lemon juice. Serve them hot garnished with roasted butternut squash seeds and spring of coriander leaves and enjoy with freshly baked bread or even Tandoori Roties.

17 November, 2008

Baingan Ka Bharta with Sorry Tale of my Life...

Baingan Ka Bharta

One month after our wedding…
Dial 009108£$%^&*!”
~Trinnnnn, trin…. Trinnnnn, trin~ (oh, that’s old dial mode-walah telephone ringing)

Amma: Helloooo…
Me: Amma… ~sob, sob~
Amma: ~Little worried~ What happened dear-first-born-and-at-last-married-and-gone?
Me: Amma, I want to come back to India.
Amma: Err… Why? Where is apple-of-my-eyes-son-in-law?
Me: He is in his office and I am all alone. I am bored here. I want to come back.
Amma: Oh! That’s all? Read books. I will send you few more novels by your favourite writers as soon as possible along with another jar of your favourite Mavina kai midi pickle.
Me: No, I want to come home! To my own house, my room, my books and my things. Don’t you miss me at all?
Amma: ~Clears her throat~ Well, not that much. You see now we have Bubbly with us now and she keeps me on my toes 24/7. She has shifted to your room and she likes to sleep under your bed. And naughty girl that she is, other day she climbed your bed and hid under your favourite blanket.
Me: What? How could you let her sleep in my room?
Amma: She loves your room as it is spacious and clean unlike your brother and sisters. And as it has got that large balcony looking at the street, Bubbly likes to sit in your swing and practice her singing. She is very talented singer you know. Such a small baby girl, yet so smart and talented.
Me: ~trying hard to disguise the pain~ But Amma, you sure must miss talking to me.
Amma: Actually, I am so busy knitting new blanket for my baby girl that I hardly get time to miss you. She is a great company and follows me everywhere I go. Poor child, other night she woke us up at middle of the night. She was crying and wailing in her sleep. She must be missing her mommy. So we decided to let her take your room. And anyways, you won’t be coming for one full year. Well, I got to go now. It’s dinner time for Bubbly. She must be hungry by now. Don’t know where your dad is. I asked him to get a bottle of calcium tablets along with shampoo for Bubbly from medical shop. Oh, I must remind him to get that new food pack of food for her. You know Dentasticks or something like that which keep their teeth and gums healthy. Yeah, Pedigree one… Good night Sia. Give my love to Alimayya. Will talk to you some other time.
Me: ~Stares at the phone with puzzled and confused and $%^& look~

That is how I have been disowned by my own parents. The day I stepped into an international flight with tears in my eyes and pain of separation from my dear and near ones, my parents and this-janam-ka-dushmans a.k.a. my brother and sister, they steered their car to my cousin’s house to pick new member of the family, 5 weeks old Bubbly. When it comes to breed, Bubbly is doubly(?!) pure breed. Well, she is a cross breed of Dachshund mother and Pomeranian father and has thus inherited her mother’s body and her father’s ears and nose ;)

That auspicious Friday (auspicious because I decided to not just leave my parents home but also my country as my siblings keep reminding me) morning 5 weeks old white with block spots roly-poly came to our home with band and banners!!! Every dog has a day and this dog, oopsy Bubbly, sure has many days! I am not only disowned and replaced by a dog at home but I am forced to talk to her every time I call home. So the conversation between me my mother goes like this…

Call 1:
Me: Hi Amma… What’s up?
Amma: Bubbly won’t let me give her bath. I bought this new shampoo for her because the last one didn’t smell good! But now I can’t find her. She is hiding somewhere! I don’t know how she finds out that I am going to give her a bath!
Me: Err…

Call 2:
Me: Hi Amma… How are you?
Amma: Oh what can I say? Trust me, I didn’t worry so much when you were teenagers. It’s becoming difficult to manage the ever growing list of Bubbly’s admirers coming to meet her. You know our neighbour’s Tommy right? The very same dangerous Alsatian who barks non-stop? What a shameless dog!!! He jumped our 6 feet high compound wall other night. Thank god, Bubbly was sleeping inside that night!
Me: ~thud, thud, thud~ Censored~

Call 3:
Me: Hi Amma…
Amma: wait, Bubbly wants to talk to you. I will hold the receiver near her ears and you talk to her…
Me: But Amma…
Amma: Shhh… She is listening. Talk to her…
Me: Err… Bubbly… err… How are you?
Bubbly: Bow…wow…. Grrrrr… (Translates: Don’t you dare to come back. It’s my home now!)
Amma: Choo chweet. She knows that its you calling.
Me: Whatever…

And this week’s call:
Me: Hi Amma… How are you?
Amma: ~sob, sob~ Hello…
Me: What happened?
Amma: I don’t know what to say? ~sob, sobs~
Me: Amma, please tell me what happened?
Amma: Our Bubbly is pregnant. We don’t know who the father is…
Me: ~Thud, thud, thud~

So our dear, heartthrob of every male dog in our street/neighbourhood/city, Bubbly is turning 3 year old this week and also heavily pregnant with her first child. While my mom is taking good care of her first grandchild’s arrival I celebrated it with Baingan Ka Bharta. Please pray that all goes well with my sistahhhhh…. Mu ha ha ha…

Baingan Ka Bharta is hot favourite of mine when it comes to Aubergine/Eggplant dish. Wonder why it took this long for me to post this recipe. My Amma makes the best Baingan Ka Bharta back home where she roasts the eggplants on direct burning charcoal which gives it a very heady and smoky flavour. Here I grill it in my ancient gas grill and sometimes cook it in oven. Although the end dish is not as flavourful as the one roasted on charcoal it always gets thumbs up when I cook it for my friends. Like many other Indian foods, Baingan Ka Bharta also has zillions of recipes from different kitchens across the India. So here is one of those zillions of recipes for Baingan Ka Bharta.

Baingan Ka Bharta

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Baingan Bharta (Smoky and Spicy Mashed Eggplants)
Prep Time: 5 mins

Cooking Time: 30-35 mins

Serves: 3-4

1 large purple Eggplant
1 large Onion, finely chopped
2 large Tomatoes, finely chopped
2-3 Green Chillies, finely chopped (Adjust acc to taste)
½ inch Ginger, finely chopped
4-5 cloves of Garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
½ tsp Roasted Cumin & Coriander Powder
½-1 tsp Garam Masala (Adjust acc to taste)
½ tsp Red Chilli Powder (Adjust acc to taste)
½ tsp Aamchur/Dry Mango Powder
½ tbsp Oil+ ½ tbsp Ghee or 1 tbsp Oil or Ghee
2-3 tbsp Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
Salt to taste
Baingan Ka Bharta

Prick the surface of eggplant with knife or fork which will help in even roasting of eggplants. Heat oven or grill and broil or grill the eggplant till its surface is wilted/charred and cooked, about 15-20 mins depending on the type of oven/grill you use. Or you can roast the eggplant on direct flame, on medium heat turning it around, till its surface is charred and the whole egg plant is cooked. This gives a lovely smoky flavour to the egg plant.
Place this grilled eggplant in a large bowl and cover it with a lid or cling film. Let the eggplant cool completely and sweat. Once cooled, peel the charred skin, stem and discard. Mash the cooked eggplant with a potato masher or by hand and keep it aside.
Heat oil and ghee in a pan and add cumin seeds. When it sizzles, add finely chopped garlic and sauté for 30 seconds. Now add finely chopped ginger and green chillies and sauté it for another 30 seconds on medium flame. Mix in finely chopped onion and sauté it on medium flame for 1-2 mins till it turns light golden brown in colour.
Now add garam masala, red chilli powder and cumin-coriander powder and sauté it for 30 seconds. Mix in finely chopped tomatoes and cook for 2-3 minutes on the medium flame till it releases its juice and turns pulpy.
Add mashed eggplant, dry mango powder and salt to taste and combine well. Let it cook on medium flame for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, till the whole mixture becomes little dry. This gives the second layer of smoky flavour to the eggplants.
Serve hot garnished with finely chopped coriander leaves and chopped red onion with any Indian flat bread or Rice and enjoy.

To get smoky flavour to the eggplant, place mashed eggplant in a wide plate and place a small steel bowl in a centre. Then place few pieces of burning coal in the bowl and pour 1 tsp of oil or ghee on it. Cover the plate with wide lid and let it rest for 2-3 mins. This is the simplest way to get smoky flavour to your Bharta.
Insert 3-4 small garlic cloves in the eggplant by making small slit and roast it on the oven or on gas fire. The garlic inserted will get roasted along with the eggplant and gives it wonderful aroma and flavour.

12 November, 2008

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto with Some Crabby Bites...

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

Disclaimer: Author can not be held responsible for any pain in the eyes or fingers caused by reading this lengthy post and scrolling the page and also if you were to get caught sleeping/dozing during office hours. So proceed with caution.
Inspiration for this article: Mumbai Meri Jaan (Of course, a Bollywood movie) and 24/7 News channels

Do you know the consequence of watching 24/7 news channels continuously for one week? I know. And I can tell you that they have helped me in making life changing decision. I am going to become a TV news reporter.

It sounds really exciting, isn’t it? No more sitting in front of a monitor and hitting the key board and then hitting my head on wall or my desk or whatever that can take my head banging sessions when the latest code/program I am working on goes haywire! Becoming a TV reporter is my free ticket to exciting world tours (well at least some trip to Jhumri Thalayya or Timbuktu) and chit–chatting with all those so called hot celebrities. I’ll get to hang on the top branch just outside the celebrity’s house where everyday I will be breaking the 'breaking news 'on how and when they sneeze, how it sounds, how different it is from common man’s sneezing! And other days when I get a glimpse of them, I will be able to report another breaking news of colour and type of dress they are wearing which sure will become season's trend setter in the fashion world. Who knows I may even get to hear juicy gossip from Ramu Khakas and Driver John and create a big scoop of the year.

And since I have closely watched all the breaking news in the past one week I also have learned how to be a good interviewer. It is so easy that even a kid in diapers next door can do it. All you need is an ability to ask probing, intelligent questions which will extract juicy information that will make the couch potatoes like me to get glued to their TV screen. Hear these tips and tricks I have collected after watching one of the top 24/7 news channel and you will kow how simple it is! Well, only one question is enough to start your budding TV reporter career, “Aap ko kaisa lag raha hai?” Ask this same question with different tones, depending on the place and situation. When you see this devasted farmer looking sadly at the flooded water in his farm which has completely destroyed his hard work of past 6 months and his family is going to starve for next 6 months you simply have to push the furry mike to his face and ask “This flood has destroyed all your crops. Aap ko kaisa lag raha hai?” When you see a victim of serial bomb blast who is bleeding to death and waiting to be taken to the nearest hospital, you just have to ask him “you have lost your family members in this serial blasts. Bhai saab, Aap ko iske barey mein kya kehna hai aur aap ko kaisa lag raha hai?” When you see the family members of a rape victim fighting for justice, all you need to do is hold the mic high and ask “So you will continue to fight for justice for your daughter who was raped and then brutally murdered. Aap ko kaisa lag raha hai?” you know what is the best part? I can get away asking the same question as I am yet to see any interviewee slapping/hitting the interviewer back and asking “Ab aap ko kaisa lag raha hai?” Well, this kind of freedom is impossible in my current work place! And I can save all the money which goes to my monthly healthy insurance and spend it on shoes and books! How cool is that?

Well, I can see all the awards I will get for all my “breaking news” and I can see my bright, rosy future as a TV reporter. Who knows, I might even own my 24/7 news channel in near future. And I have already thought about the name for my news channel and its tag line: “24/7 Breaking News Channel… Aap ko rakhe aage…Pechey se…

Oh yes, the crabby in me is wide awake and ready to bite!!! So all “breaking news” reporters back off…

And all foodies, here is today’s recipe. A simple, delicious and comforting bowl of Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto which is perfect for this cold weather. This recipe is from my archive which I had made some weeks back when there was sudden dip in temperature in our neck of woods. One spoon of this creamy delight and we could feel the warmth spreading. I have made risotto many a times but wonder why I haven’t posted it till now. So without much delay let me give you a simple recipe of this delicious Risotto. And this bowl of creamy goodness is packed for Valli’s Rice Mela.

Roasted Butternut Squash

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Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 60-70 mins (including roasting time)
Serves: 2
1 cup Arborio or other Italian risotto rice
1 small Onion, finely chopped
2 medium Garlic cloves, finely chopped
¾ - 1 litre Vegetable Stock, heated
¼ cup White Wine (Optional)
1-2 tbsp Butter
1-2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Small handful of fresh Coriander Leaves, finely chopped
A pinch of Saffron
Cheddar or Parmesan Cheese
Salt and Black Pepper Powder to taste

For Roasted Butternut Squash:
½ medium Butternut Squash, peeled, deseeded and diced into ½ inch cubes
1 tsp Dried Italian Herbs
2 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Salt and Black Pepper Powder to taste
Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

Preheat oven at 200 degree Celsius/400 degree Fahrenheit/Gas mark 6. Line a backing tray with aluminium foil and keep it aside. Take all the ingredients listed for roasted butternut squash in a large bowl and mix well. Spread them in a baking tray and pop it into the oven and let it roast for 10 mins till it roasted well. After 10 mins, open the oven and take out the baking tray and gently toss the butternut squash pieces and roast again for 10-15 minutes till it is cooked through. Keep it aside until needed.
Heat 1-2 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil in a large pan and add finely chopped onion and garlic. Sauté till they turn translucent.
Now add Arborio rice and stir it for a minute till every grain is coated with oil. Pour in a good ladle of hot stock and the white wine, if using, and stir continuously until it has cooked into the rice. Turn the heat down so the stock is simmering gently.
Keep adding ladles of stock as it cooks into the rice, stirring the rice continuously. Add salt and pepper to taste along with a knob of butter and good pinch of saffron in the halfway. It will take about 15-20 minutes for the rice to become soft but still have a bit of bite left in it. Remember that the texture of the risotto should be thick and creamy, but not runny. Add extra stock if necessary. It may seem tedious standing and stirring but the end result will be worth it.
Remove the pan from the heat and gently stir the roasted butternut squash and finely chopped coriander leaves into the risotto with the parmesan or cheddar cheese and the remaining butter. Adjust the seasoning and add any extra stock if the risotto seems particularly thick. Cover the pan with a lid for a couple of minutes as this will give the risotto an even creamier texture.
Serve this delicious, creamy Risotto topped with extra gratings of cheese and enjoy this creamy delight.

10 November, 2008

Breadfruit Song/Saung: Sing Along...

Breadfruit Song/Saung

“Akka, look at the sun I made for you”, said my kid brother who had lost his first milk tooth just few days back, smiling radiantly with deep dimple on his right cheek. There it was, bright orange sun with bunny teeth that almost resembled like amoeba I was drawing in my science homework book.

“That’s beautiful. Thank you dear… Amma…” I screamed, “Have you seen my maths homework book? I can’t find it in my bag”.

“Akka, see I drew your picture too”, said my brother, pointing to the stick figure with two ponytails with gaudy red ribbons. I looked at it in horror, no not because of gaudy red ribbons, but it was my maths homework book which I had been looking for since half an hour which now looked like M.F. Husain’s canvas with amoebas, sea weeds, and skeletons dancing around. The tears were welling in my eyes, and it was tears of blood. It didn’t take too long for little devil to realise what he had done. It was not the first time he was knee deep in trouble for displaying his artistic skills in his two elder sister’s class notes and homework books. Unlike my little sister who never thought twice to send him back with red finger prints on his back, I was Gandhiji’s follower when it came to punishing my brother. And importantly I didn’t want to be grounded for one week for hitting defenceless, poor little siblings even when they drew moustache on my face with permanent marker while I slept. Well, I did take full revenge by sticking long, bushy tail to their skirt and shorts but for now we shall keep this secret between us, OK? I tell ya, it’s not easy being an eldest in the family of major trouble makers.

So there was this amoeba, oops, sun with bunny teeth, stick portrait of yours truly with gaudy ribbons and few butterflies and birds suspended from God-only-knows-what-things; all artistically drawn using Camlin crayons, my own crayons which my dad had gifted for my birthday. Now not only I was left with my homework book full of my brother’s drawings but also broken crayons. It was no ordinary 12 coloured crayons but beautifully packed (yellow box I think) 48 different coloured crayons which I had proudly showed (more of a show off) to my class and enjoyed watching them twist their nose with envy. I didn’t know what hurt me more, ruined homework book or crayons. And the fact that my math teacher who adored my brother to bits didn’t help either. I knew she would simply accuse me for not being careful with my books and she wouldn’t like me pointing finger at this little fella who without any iota of doubt could beat Sherlock Holms hands down when it came to solving the case of hidden, out-of-your-reach, big-no-no books of mine!

That was the day where I almost lost my temper and was overpowered by violent waves urging me to spank the little devil responsible for my colour blindness. He too must have got the whiff of devil in me waking up as by the time I could lift my hand he had dashed out the room at lightening speed. For next half an hour I searched every nook and corner of the house; under the bed and tables, inside the cupboards, inside dark pantry and kitchen cabinets, every possible place where 4 year old guy could easily hide. It took me another quarter of an hour to search every bush and pots in our garden but I couldn’t find my brother anywhere. By then I almost forgot the reason for my anger and was getting panicky about my missing kid brother. The headlines on next day’s news paper and news channels were flashing in my mind, “4 year gone missing due to abusive and malicious elder sister”. I closed my eyes and prayed to every possible 3 millions of God and Goddess and also began with “Hail Mary’s and Our Father” by crossing my fingers for extra prayer effect and looked up at the sky to see if God was listening to my prayers. And yes, he was there and listening to all my prayers! No, not God but my 4 year old kid brother perched on top of Breadfruit tree, with toothless grin. Holly molly!!! I have no idea how 4 years old managed to climb the tree, and I made a mental note for my next science article on Darwin’s “Theory of Evolution”.

After another quick thank you’s to all 3 million Gods plus Jesus and Virgin Mary, I promised my brother that I will not beat him to purple. Yet, it didn’t look like he had any plans of climbing down, not because he didn’t want to but simply he couldn’t. Although he had successfully managed to climb the tree without breaking his leg or hurting himself, little brat had no idea how to get down. After few minutes and after good earfuls of scolding from my panicky mother and father, my brother was at last standing on ground in one piece. The tight hug with sloppy kisses from him was the one that stopped everyone screaming at each other and spread the smile of relief…. And if you are thinking they lived happily ever after, then think again!!! It was one of the thousands of panic attacks that our parents had to go through because of us, three toofani siblings.

And if you are wondering about my brother’s budding artistic talent then let me tell you that it took good long 8 years for my brother to finally restrict his handiwork to his own drawing books. At last my homework and note books along with every wall in our house could take a breath of relief from inches of crayons that suffocated them for years. And it took us quite sometime to get used to the clean walls and books without colourful pictorials that covered every inch, except for ceilings (thank God for that!).

I don’t have to explain this sudden gush of childhood memories that had flooded this post. Whenever I see a Breadfruit or Gujje (DeGujje in Tulu), my mind automatically switches to the day when my 4 years old kid brother had climbed the Breadfruit tree that we had in our small garden. My heart begins to sing the songs of wonderful, mischievous childhood. And to complete that song with a delicious dish today I am posting the recipe from my native, Mangalore. This is Breadfruit Song/Saung… This fiery, utterly delicious dish is usually made using Potatoes. But Breadfruit which is very common in my native is also used when it’s in season. Rubbery Breadfruit transforms into a melt in mouth delight when cooked in mouth watering gravy of chillies, coconut, tamarind and spices. You can’t help but lick your fingers clean when you taste this. If you don’t get breadfruit, try it with potatoes and they will taste equally delicious. So come along and sing a Song with me….

Breadfruit Song/Saung

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Breadfruit Song/Saung (Buttery Breadfruit cooked in fiery Coconut and Tamarind Gravy, a Konkani Delicacy)
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 25-30 mins
Serves: 4-5
Recipe Source: Home Spices
¼ of large Breadfruit, peeled, cored and diced into 1-1½ inch pieces
1 large Onion, finely chopped
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
1-2 tsp Jaggery/Brown Sugar (Adjust acc to taste)
Salt to taste

To roast and ground to smooth paste:
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
½ tbsp Coriander Seeds
6-8 Dry Red Chillies (Adjust acc to taste. Preferably Byadagi/Kashmiri Chillies)
¼ tsp Hing/Asafoetida
1 large Garlic clove
1+ ½ medium marble sized Tamarind Pulp or 1-1½ tsp Tamarind Paste (Adjust acc to taste)
¾ cup grated Coconut, fresh/frozen

For Tadka/Tempering:
1 tsp Mustard
½ tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
1 Dry Red Chilli, halved
A big pinch Hing/Asafoetida
2 springs of Curry Leaves
½ tbsp Oil (preferably Coconut oil)
Breadfruit Song/Saung

Cook bread fruit with ½ marble sized tamarind pulp, jaggery, turmeric and salt to taste, in enough water till it is cooked through, about 10-13 minutes.
Meanwhile, dry roast cumin seeds, coriander seeds, dry red chillies and hing till the spices turn light golden red and are aromatic, about 1 minute, on medium flame. Let it cool completely. Now add this with 1 marble sized tamarind pulp, coconut and garlic clove and grind to smooth paste adding little water at time.
Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. When mustard starts to pop and splutter, add cumin seeds, hing, broken red chilli and curry leaves. Sauté till cumin turns golden brown.
Now add finely chopped onions and sauté till it turns golden brown, about 2 minutes, on medium flame. Mix in ground masala-coconut paste and keep stirring till it becomes little dry, about 3-4 minutes.
Now add ½-1 cup of water and cooked breadfruit and mix well. Simmer and let it cook for another 10 minutes so that all the flavours blend well. Add little more water if you need more of gravy and adjust the seasonings.
Serve hot with plain Rosematta rice or white rice or with Chapatti and enjoy. It tastes better next day.

Replace breadfruit with potatoes and follow the same ingredients and instructions.
If over cooked, breadfruit can become mushy. So keep an eye on it while cooking.

06 November, 2008

Kasuri Methiwale Gobi ki Subji/Subzi: Sweet Romance

Kasuri Methiwala Gobi Ki Subji

Tall, dark and handsome…
Rich, powerful and charismatic…
Beautiful, fair and simple…
Young, virgins and innocents…

You don’t need to appoint detectives from Scotland Yard to figure out what I am talking about. This is how almost all the heroes and heroines of Mills & Boon novels. For all those people who are twitching their nose in disgust at the mention of M&B, did you know it’s been a whole century since Mills and Boon began publishing? Yes, 100 years of romance and romance alone and surprisingly even now at 21st century it has vast readership by selling 130 million books a year in 26 different languages. And did you also know that the company turnover is over £21 million and it has 1,600 writers dedicated to writing romantic novels?

The documentary on BBC channel on a Century of Romance: Mills & Boon triggered the memories of my teen days when I read first M&B book which was stuck in between Hardly Boys and Nancy Drew novels I was addicted to. It was the story of rich, powerful business man falling in love with a pretty secretary of his. And since then I have had read hundreds of similar stories with the same storyline with almost similar characters. The men are always rich, handsome and powerful millionaires or billionaires who are either successful business men or doctors or Arabian sheikhs or business tycoons with a smile that would set every (submissive) female specie’s heart ablaze.

I have lost the count of numer of times I have had read M&B novels, tucked safely in between thick text books of logistics or graphic designing, at boring college lectures. They were notoriously famous among girls as the books were small enough to hide comfortably between any texts books which almost resembled large print oxford dictionaries and dream of their prince charming between coding and programming. Since the book was small with 40 to 50 thousand words, it was easy to finish in a session or two. Well, you don’t need to use your mind when you read M&B novels, just turn pages and finish it and pass it on. Ever wondered why these books were so famous? Do share your stories and thoughts with us :)

Moving on to recipe part, I have different things to romance these days, food and cooking. What did you think? Tsk, tsk… Anyways, I have been seen lately romancing with Dudhi which ruled our kitchen for the past few months and also other vegetables which make regular appearance in our kitchen. But Gobi/Cauliflower is one vegetable which I buy reluctantly, mainly it stinks!!! Did I say that? Hmmm… It does stick when over cooked and I know you too know that!!! Even when I buy Gobi I disguise it among other vegetables, especially I like to pair it with potatoes which makes it much bearable. And I absolutely hate over-cooked cauliflower. But this time hubby dear was particular about cooking it alone without pairing with other veggies. Well, it took me more than one week to think and decide and by yesterday I was almost ready to give up and cook Aloo-Gobi if not for very intriguing recipe posted by dear Indira of Mahanandi.

Indira’s recipe of Gobi Kasuri Methi with Raisins sounded too interesting to be ignored. Kasuri methi rules my kitchen and I usually buy big packs of it from India instead of buying here which hardly gives any flavour. So I was all set to try this recipe and with in few minutes I was chopping cauliflower into medium florets. My recipe of Kasuri Methiwala Gobi Subji/Subzi uses three main ingredients cauliflower, kasuri methi and raisins used by Indira but my recipe is slightly different from the original. I skipped coconut and added little bit of garam masala and aamchur powder. And I also used fresh ginger and garlic along with sweet onions and tart tomatoes. While kasuri methi gives a mild, pleasantly bitter taste, sultanas soaked up in spicy tomato gravy gives it a nice sweet bite to this absolutely delicious Subzi/Subji. Thank you Indira for this delicious inspiration and I am packing this bowl of delicious Kasuri Methiwala Gobi Subji/Subzi to dear Zu for her T&T-Mahanandi event.

Cauliflower, Kasuri Methi & Sultanas

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Kasuri Methiwala Gobi Subzi/Subji (Sweet and Spicy Cauliflower Curry cooked with pleasantly bitter Dried Fenugreek Leaves and sweet Sultanas)
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 20-25 mins
Serves: 4-6
Recipe Inspiration: Mahanandi
1 medium Cauliflower, cut into medium florets
1 large Onion, finely chopped
1 can or 3 large Tomatoes, finely chopped
1 inch Ginger, peeled & finely chopped
3-4 large Garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ cup Sultanas or Raisins
1 tbsp Kauri Methi/Dried Fenugreek Leaves
½ - 1 tsp Garam Masala
½ tsp Kitchen King Masala (Optional)
½ tsp Turmeric Powder
½ - 1 tsp Aamchur/Dry Mango Powder (Adjust acc to taste)
1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
¼ tsp Hing/Asafoetida (Optional but recommended)
1 tbsp Oil
Salt to taste
Kasuri Methiwala Gobi Ki Subji

Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seeds and hing. When cumin starts to sizzle and change golden red, add finely chopped ginger and garlic and sauté them for about 30 seconds. Then add finely chopped onions and sauté till they turn golden brown, about 2-3 mins.
Mix in kasuri methi, garam masala, kitchen king masala and turmeric powder and fry for half a minute. Add canned chopped tomatoes or finely chopped tomatoes and cook for 3-4 minutes on medium flame till they turn pulpy.
Now add ½ - 1 cup of water, salt to taste and aamchur powder and mix well. Mix in cauliflower florets and cover the lid. Let it cook for 10-12 minutes on medium flame, stirring in between, till cauliflower is almost cooked.
Uncover and mix in sultanas or golden raisins and let it simmer for another 5-7 minutes. Mix in finely chopped coriander leaves and serve the delicious Kasuri Methiwala Gobi Curry with any Indian Breads or steaming bowl of Rice and enjoy.

05 November, 2008

Creamy Mushroom-Matar Curry

Creamy Mushroom-Matar Curry

How many days or hours have you spent cooking in your mom’s kitchen before you left to pursue higher education or got married and moved to different city/state/country? I am talking about whole cooking process which includes peeling, trimming, chopping, grinding, cooking and also cleaning the whole mess you have made. Is it years, months, weeks, days, hours or just few minutes?

If I were to include everything, then the fingers in my hands will be enough to do all the calculations. Growing up in India, kitchen was my Amma’s territory. Sometime I would help my mother in peeling the potatoes or chopping the beans. Other times I helped her in roasting the spices and grinding them. And when I was too lazy to do anything I declared myself as a certified quality control officer by tasting and testing for salt and spices. And embarrassingly I was not even good at that as many a times I failed to figure what was missing in the dish; whether it needed a sprinkle of chilli powder or dash of lemon juice. ‘Little bit of this and little bit’ of that is what we call ‘andaJu or andaz in cooking’ and little did I know it all comes from experience!

After moving to UK and sampling few foods cooked by my dear husband I realised that I needed to improve my culinary skills if I were to eat different kinds of food which will also taste differently. Krish is a good cook but his culinary skill is limited to making a bowl of Rasam and Sambar using the same curry powder which was used in almost all the curries he made. I can’t blame him completely as his pantry was stocked with a bottle of all purpose curry powder, dried Italian herbs and a jar of dried coriander leaves. You can hardly cook any curry with them, let alone authentic ones. That was the time I decided to learn cooking seriously. To my surprise I was blessed with beginners luck when it came to cooking and luckily some how most of the things I cooked tasted good if not best. After countless late night overseas SOS calls, few burnt pans and some over cooked veggies with little extra dose of spice and salt, I was blessed by goddess Annapurna and rest all, as we say, is a history.

Today when I cook I can’t help but think of my the initial days of cooking adventures. I can see the improvement in the way I cook and the way the food tastes. Gone are the days of hesitating and confused girl who spent half the time refering particular recipe on cookbook or website. Today in her place I see a person who is confident enough to use and change the ingredients which she knows will enhance the flavour. There is a girl who is not afraid to try her own recipes, using whatever is available in her fridge-freezer and pantry and still be assured that it would be well accepted by her family and friends! So do you see that girl in your kitchen too? Do share your stories with me…

Today’s recipe of Creamy Mushroom-Matar Curry is a result of my successful cooking experiments which seems to be increasing these days. This is a rich, creamy dish of sweet green peas and delicious mushrooms cooked in wonderful gravy of onion, tomato and cream or milk. The ground onion paste along with ginger-garlic and red chillies gives a lovely creamy texture to the gravy and hence the cream used in it can easily be forgotten.

Creamy Mushroom-Matar Curry

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Creamy Mushroom-Matar Curry (Delicious Mushrooms and sweet Green Peas cooked in a creamy and spicy gravy of Onion, Tart Tomatoes and Cream or Milk)
Prep Time: 10 mins
Cooking Time: 20-30 mins
Serves: 4-6
15-20 Button or Close cupped Mushrooms, cleaned, pat dried and quartered
¾ cup fresh/frozen Green Peas
2-3 tbsp fresh Cream or ½ - ¾ cup Milk
1 cup Onion, finely chopped
3 large Tomatoes, pureed
3-4 Garlic Flakes, thinly sliced
1 inch Ginger, finely chopped
3-5 Dry Red Chillies, halved (Adjust acc to taste. Preferably Byadagi or Kashmiri Chillies)
½ tsp Garam Masala
½ tsp Kitchen King Masala (Optional)
¼ tsp Aamchur/Dry Mango Powder or ½ tbsp Lime Juice (Adjust acc to taste)
1 tsp Sugar (Optional but recommended. To help in balancing the tart taste of tomato)
1+1 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
1 + ½ tbsp Oil/Ghee
Salt to taste
Creamy Mushroom-Matar Curry

Heat ½ tbsp of oil in a pan and add a tsp of cumin seeds to it. When cumin starts to sizzle and turn reddish in colour, add finely chopped garlic and ginger to it. Sauté on medium flame till the garlic turns light golden on the edges.
Now add finely chopped onions and halved red chillies and sauté till onion turns light golden, about 2 minutes. Switch off the flame. Once the onion mixture has cooled a bit, grind it to a smooth paste without adding any water to it.
Heat a tbsp of oil in a pan and add a tsp cumin seeds to it. Again when cumin starts to sizzle and change in colour, add ground onion paste to it and fry till the whole mixture becomes dry, about 4-5 minutes, on medium flame. Make sure that the ground onion mixture turns little brown in colour.
To this, add garam masala and kitchen king masala and fry for half a minute. Mix in quartered mushrooms and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Add tomato puree, green peas, cream/milk, dry mango powder and salt to taste and mix well. (If using just cream, add ¼ cup of water to the pan.)
Simmer the flame and let it cook covered for 10 minutes, stirring in between. Add little more water or milk if needed to get the required consistency of gravy and adjust the seasonings. Then remove the lid and let it cook for another 5 minutes for all the flavours to blend well.
Serve it hot, garnished with finely chopped coriander leaves, with any Indian flat breads or flavoured Rice and enjoy.

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.