Monday, June 28, 2010

Veg Balls and Penne Pasta


I have been down with terrible hyperacidity. Credited to nights up trying to do experiments I do not get to do at work. I was on a diet of curd rice and that meant perfect timming for pampering Dad with single serves that need elaborate preps.

The Veg balls and Penne Pasta is not your quick pull out the packet of pasta and dinner is ready types. It calls for shredding, kneading, frying, sauce making and then cooking with the pasta. All worth the effort, when I ask Dad, "How is it?". He gives a quite nod. Nice and holds out the plate for me to poke the fork.

Ingredients

For the Veg Balls

1/2 cup cabbage
1/2 teaspoon green chili sauce
1/2 cup all purpose flour

Mix together, knead and shape balls. I have not added salt as the green chili sauce is ready made and really salty. Shape tiny balls. Deep fry to golden and drain on a paper napkin till you use them.

For the Pasta

1 cup Penne Pasta
4 cups water

Heat the water in a saucepan. When the boiling is on a roll add the pasta to it. Cook al dente. Drain on a sieve and pour cold water over it to stop the further cooking and also to prevent sticking of the pasta to each other.

For the Sauce

3-4 garlic cloves chopped fine
1 green chili chopped fine
1 bulb and sprig of spring onion chopped fine
1 tablespoon dark soya sauce.
1 tablespoon tomato sauce
2 teaspoon oil
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar 

Heat oil. Fry the chopped garlic, follow in with fine chopped spring onion. Add the soya sauce and sprinkle the salt. The sugar must go in to balance the taste. The tomato sauce brings the slight tang to the dish so put that in. Boil.

Once the sauce starts thickening add the cooked and drained pasta. Mix and check the pasta for salt and adjust it if required. Cover and let it simmer for 5 mins. Spoon it onto a serving plate and hand it out to the person you are pampering.

You will win some smiles I promise.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Thal Brand Chicken/ Mutton/ Mushroom Curry


Yesterday Sulekha and me decided to dine out. So thought I would treat Dad to a lunch that is reminiscent of the special meals in Thal. He does not like anything that tastes like non-veg and I actually was thinking let me atleast once attempt the Chicken/ Mutton Curry like they do it in Thal but with vegetable substitutes. Obviously with Mushrooms like I always do. We don't like soya products so those never figure on my list of sustitutes.

The challenge was creating a curry with the same masala but not tasting non-veggy. Phew! I always fear that my Dad might snub such dishes. Over last five years he has finally learnt to eat mushrooms without complaining, that in itself is a big thing for me as I can enjoy mushrooms with him else mushrooms used to be made only for myself all these years.

I asked him what goes into the masala. He was fairly right with the spices but I was not too confident about his memory as it has been more than 4 decades since he last made any non-veg. In Thal coconut is part of the masala you see as it is on the west coast. Dad said fresh coconut. My memory said dry. So I called up Mothi Aai my elder paternal aunt. She is growing old and hates to talk on phone but the moment Mothe Baba told her that I wanted the masala recipe she came on line and started instructing me. I followed her to the T. She warned the spices have to toasted till they become fragrant along with the coconut and to put off the heat once the dry coconut turn slightly golden. She gave a tip if fennel is used used in curries they spoil faster. Humm  but I don't save curries yet it tells a lot about the culture in Thal, since Chicken/ Mutton curries were made as specials, they were made in large qauntities and enjoyed over 2 days. Carefully boiling the curry 2 or 3 times  to make them last and keep them fresh. Alright I told her I will be careful. 

Almost always when I went to Thal my eldest Mama, maternal uncle invited me for lunch or diner that would be a special one. It began with selecting a chicken from the pen by my cousin bro Parshuram and preparing it for cooking by my other bro Vishnu. While Nirmal my cousin sis would make the rice roti on the terracota tava. My Mami, maternal aunt sat in front of the chool to make Gharis. The younger sisters ran for errands to the baazar to get fresh lime. Lime is a must without that Chicken/ Mutton curry was not complete. My mother was my Mama - Mami's favorite and so was I. Dwarkanath, my Dorkya Mama was an absolute sweetheart. He could spoil children silly. He was so innocent too. To him my Mom was the best sister, I was the best niece. He wore one of my hand painted T-shirts for eons till it was completely out of shape, all this beacuse I gave it to him.

So you see Chicken/ Mutton curry was not just any meal. It was a very special one. I would sit on the huge wooden chest (Peti) which is used to safe keep food in Thal and talk endlessly while the meal got ready, watching the masala being ground, the Yelnicha Dhaan being made.Curious, I would ask why it was kept on charcoals after draining the water, Mami would tell me "Sutta, sutta hoto" which means it becomes fluffy. This curry is made for Narali poornima, after Gauri visrjan, Bhau bij or anyreason for special meals. 

Oh yes I must mention it is a tradition to make this curry a special treat for all the crew as a send off meal. It is made before the monsoon break in the fishing business families when their crew go home to far off villages for a 4 month vacation as the fishing business does not operate in the monsoons when the sea gets ferocious.

I know you are asking for the recipe already...

Ingredients

For the masala
1 red Byadgi chili rehydrated
1/2 cup shredded dry coconut
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Koli masala OR red chili powder+garam masala
15-20 pepper corns
8 cloves
2 Black cardamoms/ Badi elaichi
5 green cardamoms
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 bay leaf
2 inch piece of cinnamon
1 handful of cilantro (not in picture)

Lightly toast the spices and shredded coconut till the kitchen smells of the essential oils emanating from them. Then transfer to the chutney grinder and grind to a fine paste along with cilantro. Add little water for easy grinding. Keep aside.
1 teapoon of ginger + garlic + green chili paste
1 tablespoon oil
20-30 whole mushrooms washed/ 500 gms mutton or chicken
2 potatoes made into 4 pieces

In a handi or a saucepan heat oil. Add the ginger + garlic + green chili paste and fry a bit. Now let in the whole mushrooms and large chunky potatoes into the handi. Stir to coat with oil. Now pour about a glass of water. Cover and cook till potatoes look like they are about to crumble. Yes keep the skins on the potatoes you will know why when you taste it.

Once the potatoes are done its time to add the ground masala paste. Mix with the veggies and top up with another glass of water. Cover and cook. The curry turns this blackish green color due to the cilantro in it. The oil starts floating on the top a bit and you see a ring on the edges of the curry in the handi as it simmers. That's when you can remove it from the heat and serve with rice and roti or go all the way and make the Ghari too.
The good news is this curry with mushrooms turns out a fragrant one not quite umami but just a little. I loved it with a generous squeeze of lime. I tell you but with Chicken/ Mutton it is superlative when the juices permeate into the chunky potatoes.

To truly enjoy this experience you have to use the tactile sense. The lime has to be squeezed between the forefinger and the thumb. The potato chunks need to be mashed using the 4 fingers except the little one. The skin to be relished while doing it. Meditate on it. Scoop up with the Ghari and later mix with rice and relish it. Burp we did!

So here is the Thal brand special meal of Ghari, Yelnicha dhaan and Brand Chicken/ Mutton/ no no Mushroom Curry. Try it and don't forget the lime.


Note:
* The Ghari I made today are with wheat flour with sesame seeds not the traditional ones.
* In Thal a non veg meal is never accompanied with sweets! No desserts please let the tastes prevail.
* This is a very spicy and hot curry so tone down the heat if you are not used to it. It has shocked our tummies and I ate curd rice all day today.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Jumpstart with Ragi Shevige Bhat


Ragi Shevige! I exclaimed as I spotted it on the shelves. These are not common and knowing it is from the Anil brand you are promised of the thinnest possible ones. I picked up the 180 gms packet. It costs only 13 Rs. Ragi is a locally grown millet so you are helping the farmers by buying it besides getting your power packed calcium dose. Though I had been introduced to Ragi or Nachani as it is known in Marathi early in life, it is rarely that we had it as part of our food. Here in Karnataka it is more ubiquitous.

Keep a packet handy and give your day a jumpstart with Ragi Shevige Bhat for breakfast. You will need just your pantry staples.

Ingredients

1 packet of Ragi (180 gms of Anil)
1 big onion, chopped fine
1 green chili chopped fine
few curry leaves
1 tablespoon oil
2 teaspoons urad dal
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
salt to taste
1/2 lime

Boil 3 cups of water. Add the ragi shevige to it. Press it down so the boiled water cooks the shevige evenly. Stir once and keep covered. Till you prepare the seasoning.

Heat oil and fry the urad dal to a golden hue, splutter mustard seeds after that. Add the onions and fry till transluscent. The chopped green chilies go in after this and the curry leaves to add a color contrast besides the fragrance and heat. Now add the shevige and mix with a fork to make them fluffy and distribute the seasoning through out the bhaat. Cover and let it rest for 5 mins before serving.

Mix once and then fill mould with the cooked shevige and unmould onto a plate. You may sprinkle some grated coconut over it. I did not. Yummy and healthy Ragi Shevige gives you a jumstart and keeps you full till lunch time.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Garlic and Greens Dal

Garlic and Greens Dal with Roasted Arbi 

This time I got a lot of greens from the hypermarket. One among them was a thick leaved spinach like bunch that got me interested. It stayed good in the fridge while I was away for a couple of days and the last week didn't see much of me in the kitchen. So on this weekend I made this dal rich with the greens and flavored with strong tadka of garlic.Yes Garlic, its rarely that I use it but when I do it stands out as a flavor.

This to you readers can you help me identify these greens? I forgot what the name board said in the hypermarket. It has a thick juicy looking stem and thick leaves. Just like spinach would be your reaction, when you do spot them but they are not!




Ingredients

1 bunch  greens
1/2 cup dal
5-6 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons oil
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
 2 tablespoons tamarind pulp
1 glass water
salt as much as you like

Wash dal and along with the chopped greens pressure cook. Heat oil and get the seasoning right with crackling mustard, garlic sauted in the oil. Add the spice powders. Boil vigorously. Then add the tamarind pulp for a tang.

I am using less tamarind to avoid using jaggery for balancing the sourness. The sweetness of the dal is enough to balance the 2 tablespoons of tamarind.

Serve with steamed rice. I had made Roasted Arbi as a starter for this dal and rice meal. It is a very satisfying meal.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Banana Pith Thoran

Banana Pith Thoran, Kakdi Koshimbir, Chapati and Coconut chutney

It was lunch time and Seema mentioned her Mom had packed Banana pith thoran for her box. I was curious. It reminded me of my friends at Mumbai University had commented once that Bengalis and Malyalis never waste anything they grow. They eat all the ghaass phoos. The Bengali went on to tell how potatoes are deskined for currying and the skins turn into a roast. While all things banana have a recipe among the Malayalis said the other. I didn't have the heart to touch the banana pith sabji that my Bengali  or Malyali friends ate in their lunch box atleast one a week. But  then I was a young girl with all my prejudices in place.  Now having got rid of them this time seeing it in Seema's box I wanted to taste it. Well I'll soon cross over an age milestone and am happy I am still adventurous, incase of food its more evident though! I picked up a bit and liked the subtle flavor. It was a simple stir fry but Seema told me that when her Mom has more time she adds ground cocomut masala to it.

To prepare the banana stem for this stir fry or Thoran as it is called in Kerala, remove the outer layer. Chop of thin disc from the ends to get fresh white and clean ends of the log. Chop up into tiny even sized bits. Seema had told me that among Keralites they use a kitchen contraption to remove the extra fibres in the pith. I have never seen any thing like she explained and was unable to even visaulize what it might look like.  It is put in the center and rotated and out come the fibres! This must be like a curd beater used to make buttermilk!  OR is it like a Baby's feeder bottle brush? Seema was not of much help to derive and conclude. So I decided to keep the fibres. The next morning they will prove their worth anyways I thought aloud.
 
So here is the recipe.

Ingredients
A small log of banana stem (2X4 inch) cleaned and chopped to bits
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
a sprig of curry leaves
salt to taste
2 teaspoons oil

For the masala
1 green chili
1/2 cup grated fresh coconut
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds


Heat oil in a wok. Make the seasoning with mustard, curry leaves then add the banana pith bits. Sprinkle the turmeric over it and give it a stir. Add the salt and mix once. Cover and cook for 10 mins. 

Meanwhile grind the masala to a coarse consistency. Remove the lid and add the coarse ground coconut and stir to mix. Cover and cook for another 5 to 7 mins.

Serve with chapati or with rice. The thoran is quite dry so have a koshimbir or wet chutney at hand like I did.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Cherry Clafoutis

Sunday nite dinner of Dhokla, Guava nectar and Cherry Clafoutis

I came home with a tiny box of Cherries. Some how Cherries always means exotica to me. Here in India we get it only in season and they are expensive plus the red color makes them Cherished ! LOL

So a handful get popped in the mouth after cleansing in water. Couple of them are saved for decoration. The others are part of a plan for a Clafoutis. Joy of Baking comes to my help. A fruit dessert is always a preference than a rich creamy one. It gets me wondering just reading a recipe what is the difference between  a Cobbler and a Clafoutis? Besides one being an English nomenclature and the other French. Anyways whatever it is this one did taste good. Pat my back for being brave and not pitting the cherries! The whole theory of the kernels releasing the essential oils to lend a sublime flavor to the dessert drove me to do it. But then while eating I felt like what I used to experience while eating fish. Its scandalous to even think that way for a now vegetarian moi.

Well when its warm the buttery and cherry flavour are sublime. People suggest it to be enjoyed with whipped cream. I suggest go the extra mile but pit your cherries and then jog the extra mile.

The Cherry Clafoutis is a handsome dish. I don't know if the gender is right but that's the way I want to think about it. Enjoy it

Monday, June 07, 2010

Green Dosa and Making Seed Balls

Stir fried Amarath and peas wrapped in a golden dosa and glass of Guava nectar

I have Greenfection. Do you?

5th June is celebrated world over by people with a green consciousness as World Environmental Day.

My enthusiasm for Indian festivals has waned away as it does not hold much relevance in today's world for me. I end up making some sweets and if I feel like it I do a pooja. So I don't mean to start another tradition that I cannot keep up but will try to do some things on a daily basis for the Environment. So you ask me how I celebrated my Environmental consciousness?

At work the Enviromental group had organized a drive for making Seed Balls. I joined in. There were many women rolling the balls post lunch and a lot of laughter and story sharing and exchange of green ideas on green habits. Then came a large group of men. I don't know why it reminded me of community activities in my village all of a sudden. We rarely see community activities in cities. Enjoyed it.

Here are my Environmental choices for shrinking my carbon footprint.

  1. I segregate my waste. Only my biowaste is dumped in the garbage van.
  2. My plastic bags of all thickness are reused. When they spoil I sell them to the Kabadiwala or Barter it with a Garlic seller (this is if I spot him)
  3. The bottles, jars, tubs and tins of processed food are always reused and then sold to the Kabadiwal.
  4. When hosting parties, I make a choice of dried banana bark plates whenever possible. Styrofoam plates and cups are a no.
  5. For all poojas the mass feeding is done on fresh green banana leaves in Bangalore or Patravali  in Thal and Mumbai.
  6. In the Toilet. I use the flush only after full download. After soo soo I pour water with a large tumbler. Many do not know that when you flush you use 10 to 15 litres of water at a time. After defecating it is a must to flush but be consciousness when using water after urination. If too smelly you must flush to spare the trouble for person who uses the toilet after you.
  7. I control the flow of water with a extra nozzle fitted on the kitchen tap to avoid using more water.
  8. When I chose my car after much study I opted for diesel. I plan all my car trips and never waste fuel for small errands.
  9. I lived for 4 years without electrical appliances like fridge, washing machine etc. All I had was a mixer grinder and a TV (I don't watch much). There were many reasons why I avoided buying them. In Bangalore I actually did not need the fridge as badly as I did in Mumbai. This was my way experienceing a life I had not known. I survived. Then I succumbed. Yet for 4 years I DID IT!
  10. I am moving away from using leather slowly. Hope I am successful.
  11. I am a vegetarian since 1988. Making food choices that are less taxing on the food chain is also about Environmental consciousness. Well actually it started off as a change on the spiritual path. I realized how Hinduism incorporates Environmental consciousness in its way of life.
  12. I use electricity only when and where required. Lights are put off after use promptly.
  13. I use the dishwasher half load setting when its not fully loaded.
  14. At work our Environmental group provides us with scribble pads made from single side printed papers. This has become a habit at home too.
  15. This year I plan to grow my own herbs on the terrace of my building.
  16. I plan to get back to using more millets for rotis. I have stopped using since couple of years as getting them ground means starting the hunt for a mill. We used to make a lot of different Bhakris before. I mean to use more local grains.
  17. I have reduced buying imported foods.
  18. Plan to move towards including more raw foods in the diet with the aim of consuming lesser fuel for cooking and increased focus on health.
  19. I use washable kitchen napkins and a lot less paper napkins in the kitchen, dining and no you will not find paper in my toilets. 
  20. I plan to bring change from using liquid soap for hand wash to fragrant ayurvedic powder kept in a sprinkler in the kitchen and near the wash basin.
I wish to continue doing this much and will try to make small choices that will make a difference in the long run for a better Environment.

I wore a green dress to show support for the Environmental initiatives at work and the community I live in on the 4th.

On the 5th June green crept into the food too!

We had stir fried greens wrapped in golden dosas for dinner with a glass of Guava Nectar. Here is a basic recipe for stir fried greens but this time I used Amaranth and added two handfuls of green peas too.

Hope this is viral and you catch it too :) !!

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Beet and Onion Rasam

Beet and Onion Rasam with fried South Indian Sandage

On days when you are bored with dal and typical tomato rasam, this colorful sour, sweet, spicy rasam is wonderful. It looks a lot like my Mom's Kokum saar but only in color. The taste is different and the sourness is from the tamarind.

Ingredients

1 beetroot cubed
5-6 baby onions peeled
pulp of tamarind 1/4 cup
2 tablespoons jaggery powder
1 green chili
few curry leaves
1 table spoon rasam powder
2 teaspoons oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seed
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida

Heat oil in a vessel. Splutter the mustard seeds, add asafoetida, chopped green chili and curry leaves follow in with cubed beetroot and peeled baby onions. Fry a bit to coat everything with oil. Add salt and cook covered till vegetables are soft. Add the tamarind pulp, rasam powder and jaggery and let it simmer for 10-15 mins. Top up with 2 glasses of water.

When the rasam powder's rawness changes to integrated flavors with the broth it is ready to  remove off  the heat. Cover for a while and serve with hot steamed rice.

Enjoy a simple lunch or dinner and feel satisfied.

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