Sunday, March 24, 2013

Tricolored Chili Paneer

In a vegetarian family serving starters always means making fried stuff or sandwiches, most times. Chili Paneer is a favorite and how much that my nieces and nephews choose it over chocolate cake. The last time we had a function is our home I was serving this tricolored Chili paneer to my uncle MJ, the kids saw it. It was not yet their dinner time and they were playing video games, on spotting it they immediately dumped their play and instead demanded that I serve them the chili paneer. I offered chocolate cake but they chose this lovely colorful chili paneer!

So here is the recipe


1 block of paneer about 400gms
2 tablespoons corn flour
1 red bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 tablespoon dark soya sauce
2 tablespoon chopped garlic
2-3 onions chopped into squares
3-4 spring onions chopped fine
1/2 cup baby corn sliced
slit green chilies (as much as you can handle)
2 tablespoon oil
salt to taste
sugar to taste

Keep a pot of boiling hot water ready to dunk paneer after frying to make it super soft.

To begin lets fry the paneer first. Make a thin batter of corn flour water and salt. It should coat the paneer chunks thinly. Cube the paneer to finger sized pieces. Dip each piece in the batter and fry in hot oil. Remove once golden and dunk in the hot water. Once all the paneer pieces are fried and dunked in hot water to soften. Drain them on a sieve. Separate out each piece if they are sticking together.

Heat oil in a wok. First fry the garlic then add the chopped onions and fry till translucent. Chop all the three colored bell peppers into long fingers. Add them to the saute. Cook for 5 mins. Add the white parts of the spring onions and cook for another 5 mins. Follow in with the slit green chilies and baby corn slices. Add the soya sauce, lastly add the paneer and stir well and fast on high heat just to caramelize a bit. Salt it and add sugar as per taste.

Remove from heat and serve immediately with sprinkles of the spring onion greens.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Gongura Pappu

Is my most favorite spicy dal. Especially if my ex-neighbor Rani has made it. The dal is cooked to creaminess with the gongura leaves in it and the single way to enjoy it is drizzle ghee and mix it with the fingers. I have seen thinner version of gongura pappu but this is how Rani makes it, thick and creaminess characteristic of gongura.

The thick dal mixed with rice and made into a mudda is how Rani would love to enjoy but since we always teased her she would go to the kitchen and eat her muddas but never in front of us. We would tease Anu, my pilloo that she would have eaten rice balls on the day gongura dal was made and she would go, "Noooo". Such precious memories!

Then life does a 360 on you. Today if I have to thoroughly enjoy gongura pappu I must make muddas with rice!

Two years ago when I did my Andhra Pradesh Road Trip I was in search of a good gongura pappu but found none. Which only means that this recipe is priceless and good recipes are the ones that are made at home. My belief is strengthened.

So here I am sharing with you.


1 large bunch of gongura 
2 cups tur dal
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon red chilli powder 

For more authentic taste use the red chili and mashed garlic masala that Andhraites make in bulk. The garlic lends a very slight fermented taste to the masala and a beautiful flavor to the Andhra specialties.

Pluck the leaves of gongura. Wash and clean. Chop them fine. Wash tur dal. In a pressure cooker add the dal and the gongura. Add the spices. Top up with 6 cups water. Cook for 20 mins with whistle or for 3 long whistles. Open the cooker. The dal should be crumbled completely on cooking. Mash it and keep aside.

For the poppu/ tadka

1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 tablespoons oil
as many Garlic cloves as you like, peeled
curry leaves (I was out of stock)

Heat oil till smoking point. Splutter the mustard seeds add asafoetida, curry leaves and finally garlic cloves. Fry till golden. Pour the poppu over the cooked dal and bring to a rolling boil. Serve hot and enjoy.

P.S: In the picture I have used a red Pochampalli cloth done in Ikat style of dyeing which is unique to Andhra Pradesh. I love ethnic fabrics and these weavers need encouragement.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

Kache Popaya Chi Chana Dal Ghalun Bhaaji

Raw papaya (Koli: Popaya) and chana dal in green coconut masala.

Traditionally this gets made in two ways, one with chana dal and the other with sode (peeled and dried prawns) but in our home its the veg version ofcourse. It would sound scandalous now if I say it, since I am a  vegetarian for the last 25yrs but this tastes the best with sode. This a very much Koli Style bhaaji, what we call esavana chi bhaaji which means bhaaji with essence of non veg, mostly dried fish.

Yesterday, I visited Thal to see my youngest Mama/ Maternal Uncle who suffered a paralytic stroke. I realized one thing that we are becoming people who show apathy to even the most grim circumstances that affect our life. In the village if a person falls ill, he is immediately considered useless and left to die. It is a lot to do with not having money and no humanity! Fortunately Shankar Mama has people who love him around him and I am praying he recovers well.

In Thal popaya is considered "bhutacha khana". To ward off evil many a times the popaya is waved around the body of a person and then discarded on the seashore faraway from the residents and their commonly used areas. See even the ghosts are fed in our culture!

I was touched by my cousin sisters in Thal. I saw a terracotta handi filled with water lying out in the backyard. I told them I wanted another one like it. Nirmal Tai immediately wanted to give the same handi to me but then explained that it was kept for the birds and animals. In my city home for decades we have stopped doing this. Why?

Few things I can think of is nesting problems, messy window sill. Are these problems so big that we must let our birds and animals die? 

Join me in celebrating World sparrow day on March 20th and add a feeder to your window sill to keep celebrating everyday. 
Here is what Mohammed Dilawar is doing for the sparrows.

Last weekend when I stayed over at my friend Gauri's home she shared with me this bouquet of dried paddy she had brought back from Kolkata. It is a symbol of fertility and prosperity in Bengali homes and is hung in the doorway. Yes the doorway was open to birds and animals in the villages but in our modern vertical growth concrete jungle the doorway is mostly a maze thru which humans, themselves hate to make passage. So I chose to hang that bouquet of paddy in my window.

I had taken the day off on Friday, I spent the entire morning watching the sparrows feed on the paddy. It was such a calming experience for my nerves that had been wrecked by some unnecessary burden I had invited. Yeah I am like that some times, 'Kunachya khandya var kunache oze' must have been written for me ;P.

Oh lets get back to the recipe.


1 kg raw papaya/ kacha popaya
1/2 cup chana dal
1 tablespoon oil 
salt to taste

For the masala

1/8 piece of a fresh coconut 
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
3 green chilies
1/2 cup chopped coriander leaves
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon Koli masala or garam masala

First grind the masala. Keep aside.

Peel the raw papaya and chop into bits. Wash the chana dal and keep aside Heat oil in a wok. Add the raw papaya and the washed chana dal to it. Top up with water about a litre and cook till chana dal starts crumbling just a bit. Salt it to taste.

Add the ground coconut masala. Add more water to get a nice gravy but not too thin.

Note: If you are using peeled and dried prawns, you need to soak them in water for 30 mins to plump them up. Use them instead of the chana dal.

Enjoy the Kache popaya chi bhaaji with chapati or Chavlachi roti.

 I'll leave you to listen to this beautiful Abhang by Tukaram and sung by Lata Mangeshkar which is what this post is about.

On Trail