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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Chiwda - Savory Dish made with Pressed Rice

Continuing on the theme of items made at home during Diwali, another staple is the "Poha Chiwda". Pohe/Poha is pressed rice. The one I use for making Chiwda is the thin version though. The thick one is used to make the breakfast dish "Pohe". This is a very easy recipe, especially if you use the microwave for assistance. I do make it during the rest of the year too. It is just the perfect accompaniment with a nice cup of afternoon tea and definitely makes a healthy snack, especially my low fat version.

6 cups thin poha
2 tbsps oil
1/8 tsp turmeric
10-12 curry leaves
1/8 tsp mustard seeds
1/8 tsp jeera seeds
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2-3 green chillies, sliced
pinch of hing
1/2 cup peanuts
1/4 cup dall/daliya/roasted gram
1/4 cup dry coconut slices
2-3 tbsp raisins
salt to taste
1 tsp sugar
pinch of citric acid

Roast the poha till it is crispy. The color doesn't need to change. The texture will change and it will become crispy and crumble easily when crushed. The poha starts curling up a bit as it gets crispier. I generally roast the poha in the microwave. Start with heating it for 2 minutes at a times and then reduce this to 1 minute and then 30 seconds as it is roasted. Stir it in between to avoid heat from being concentrated on one patch. Keep a close eye on it to avoid burning as it gets closer to being completely done.
Mix the citric acid, sugar and salt together and sprinkle it on the warm roasted poha and mix it togther so that the poha is well coated. In a pan large enough to hold the poha, heat the oil. To this add the mustard seeds. Once they crackle, add the jeera, hing, curry leaves, chillies, peanuts, and roasted gram. Fry the peanuts  and gram they turn start changing color. Add the sesame seeds, coconut slices and then roast these for another minute. Then add the turmeric, raisins and the seasoned poha. Stir all the ingredients well so that all of the poha is coated with the seasoning and turns a light yellow color. If you feel that the oil is less compared to the quantity of poha, you can add a little more oil to the pan before adding the poha. Cook this for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust the salt and sugar as needed. Store in an airtight container after it cools down completely. This will last a few weeks and doesn't need to be stored in the fridge.

You can serve this with a few slices of onion with some lime squeezed over it. The combination tastes fantastic.

Check for the poha variety before you buy it. Do no use thick poha, the taste will not be the same. You can substitute red chillies for the green ones. Use 4-5 if using red ones. If a small quantity of turmeric you are using is sufficient to impart the yellow color, use a smaller amount. Adjust it as needed. Do not add more than 2-3 pinches, as turmeric has an overpowering taste. Add the coconut slices before the peanuts and gram turn brown, else they will burn while the coconut is fried. Also, sesame and coconut slices take lesser time to brown, so add them after the peanuts and gram. You can increase the quantity of oil to almost twice the amount noted above for a richer taste.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Besan Laddoo/Laadoo - A Sweet made from Chickpea Flour

I enjoy the festive season. It starts with Shravan and then there's Ganpati followed by Navrati, Halloween, then Diwali.  And of course, I love  Thanksgiving and Christmas. Every place is decorated and it's a ton of fun. I love the holiday and festive season. I look forward to the many long weekends after August and there are plenty of excuses to have parties, and cook a variety of delicacies. This year has flown by and Halloween and Diwali are right around the corner. I am still coming up with my list of items to make for Diwali. It's an evolving list, with requests coming in every other day. I enjoy the challenge of making something new each year. There are always a few staples though, and one of them is the ever loved "besan laddoo". It always has a special place on the Diwali menu.
I will be posting a few recipes over the next few days that you can try for Diwali this year. Hope you are enjoying the festive season.

1 cup clarified butter/ghee
3 cups besan/chickpea flour
2 and 1/4 cups of powdered sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
3 tbsp raisins

Heat the ghee and besan together in a pan.  Roast the besan till the besan turns light brown. Take care of stir it often so that it doesn't burn. Alternately, you can roast this mixture in the microwave oven. Start with roasting it for about 2 minutes a couple of times and then you can roast it in 1 minute intervals or lesser depending on how poweful your microwave is. It is very important to keep an eye on the besan when using the microwave, as its very easy for it to burn if its kept for a few seconds more than necessary. Once the besan is well roasted, you will notice a lovely aroma. That indicates that the besan is being cooked. Also, the taste will change from raw to a nice roasted taste. The color, smell and taste are great indicators to determine if your besan is well roasted. If it is not, and if you add the sugar, you will not be able to cook the besan further and will be stuck with raw tasting laddoos.
After the mixture cools down slightly where it feels warm, add the cardamom powder, powdered sugar and raisins. The mixture should not be cold, else it will be difficult to incorporate the sugar. Mix it well till all the sugar is incorporated into the besan. Then take a handful of the mixture and roll it between the palms of your hands to roll it into small balls. Store in an airtight container. I generally store them in the fridge to ensure that they do not spoil, however they do not last for too long.

This recipe makes about 20-25 small sized laddoos, about 1.5 inches in diameter. Do not use confectioner's sugar. If you do not find powdered sugar, you can grind regular sugar in the blender till it is fine and use it. If you add the sugar when the besan is still being heated or is too hot, it will melt and turn into a syrup and the texture of the laddoos may get spoilt. The sugar should be added when the mixture is warm and can be touched without burning your hands. You can roll the laddoos when it's warm or when the besan and sugar mixture is at room temperature.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Adzuki Beans/ Red Chori/ Red Chawali

I must confess that while I had eaten black eyed beans freqently, I had never eaten the red variety or even seen it until two years ago. I was looking for pulses that I could add my menu when I came across this. I decided to experiment with it and I really liked it. It has become a regular feature these days. Black eyed beans are called "chori or chawali" and the red variety is called "red chori or red chawali". These beans are also known as Adzuki or Azuki beans and you should be able to find it in regular grocery stores as well. This is a great alternate to your daily dal. The best feature of this bean is that it doesn't need to be soaked overnight and cooks fast. It makes for a perfect recipe for a quick meal.

1 cup adzuki/chawali beans
2 cups water
2 cloves garlic, grate one clove
1/2 inch ginger, grated
1 green chilli
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
1 medium red onion, diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 tsp garam masala
salt to taste
2 tbsp oil

Pressure cook the beans, 1 garlic clove and water for 1-2 whistles depending on your pressure cooker. In another pan, heat oil. To this add the onions, chilli, grated ginger and garlic. Cook this till the onions turn a nice brown color, but do not burn. Then add the tomatoes. Cook this till the tomatoes reduce and the mixture starts turning brown. Add the turmeric powder and garam masala and cook for a couple of minutes more. Add the cooked beans and  salt. Cook this for a few minutes. Add some water if you want to thin the gravy and boil it all for a few minutes.

Serve hot with white rice or chapatis. Add a slice of lemon, some sliced onions and enjoy your meal.

If using the Instant Pot, use the beans mode or 12 minutes high pressure, manual mode with natural pressure release.

See the tips below which describes how this can all directly be made in the cooker itself which is a much faster method instead of using a separate pan for the gravy.

If you are running short of time, prepare the gravy in your pressure cooker as described above instead of a separate pan. Then add the beans and water and pressure cook for 1-2 whistles. Then boil it for a few minutes without the lid as needed to thicken the gravy. Add some water if the gravy is too thick and you want to thin it out. This is a faster way to make this vegetable for a quick meal.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Strawberry and Walnut Salad

This is a great recipe to whip up for a quick dinner. Its light and a perfect starter to a meal. Pair it with some soup and you have a ready to eat meal in less than 20-30 minutes. Its also a great way to get your daily servings of vegetables and fruits and tasty too!

2-3 celery stalks - thinly diced
4-5 strawberries - sliced
2 cup of assorted lettuce leaves - diced
1 cucumber - sliced
1/3 cup walnuts
1/2 orange - diced

For the dressing
juice of 1/2 orange
1 tbsp honey
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt to taste
pepper to taste
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing till the olive oil is well blended into the rest of the ingredients.
In a bowl, toss all the salad ingredients together with the dressing. Add salt and pepper if required. You can grate some parmesan cheese over the salad, if you want.

Fresh orange juice enhances the salad dressing taste. However, if you do not have oranges, you can substitute with store bought orange juice. You can experiment and change the vegetables mixture in the salad.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dharwadi Pedha

This is possibly my most favorite pedha. I have eaten it very few times while growing up. It was mainly offered in weddings as a sweet. I rarely ever found it in a shop and when I did, it wasn't necessarily chosen by the others. I guess the rarity made it even more irresistable. I have heard that this is a speciality of the Dharwad region which is at the border of Maharashtra and Karnataka. It is also famous by the name "Kandi Pedha".

I was thinking about this sweet quite frequently for the last few weeks and lamenting on the fact that it is so rare to find it in shops in India, that it would be impossible to find it here. Then I thought, why not make it? I searched the internet and while I found references to this delicacy, I couldn't find a recipe. So, of course I called up my Mom and as usual she knew the recipe and gave me guidelines and offered a warning that this would take a long long time to make. So for those of you about to embark on the path to this recipe, I am duty bound to pass on this warning. This recipe can take a couple of hours to about 3 hours to make and you must pay close attention while its cooking. You don't want it to get spoilt at the end of 3 hours! If you make it, I am sure you will agree with me that it was well worth the effort.

1/2 cup clarified butter/ ghee
2 cups ricotta cheese (use the one with the maximum amount of fat content that you can find)
3/4 cup sugar
4 tbsp sugar (for garnish)
5 green cardamom pods, ground into a powder
couple of teaspoons of milk

Process the ricotta cheese  in a food processor or blender, till it has a paste like consistency. Ricotta cheese is granular and we want it to be fine before heating it. In a pan, add the ghee and the processed ricotta cheese and heat it. Cook this for the next hour or more till the ricotta cheese slowly loses the watery consistency and takes on the mawa consistency. It is very important to keep a close eye on the cheese to make sure that it does not get stuck at the bottom of the pan or burn. Keep stirring it frequently. Once it is close to mawa consistency, you will also notice that the smell and the taste of the cheese changes significantly. At this point, you are half way through the cooking process.

Continue to reduce this mawa till it takes on a pink color and then keep roasting it till it turns light brown. Be very careful at this point and do not let it burn. You will notice that the mawa will become very granular and start separating out. Once you have a nice brown color, turn off the heat and let it cool for a few minutes. The color and consistency should be similar to the picture above.

Then add the cardamom powder and 3/4 cup sugar to this. Process it in a food processor, till the sugar mixes well into the roasted mawa. If you have browned your mawa really well, the sugar will not blend into the mawa completely. At this stage, sprinkle a few drops of milk. It is important that you do not pour too much milk into the mawa-sugar mixture. Process this again. Keep adding the milk as required till it all comes together in a dough form.

Then move it back to the pan and heat it again for a few minutes. The mixture will come together in a ball. It will be the right consistency to roll into pedhas at this stage. Turn off the heat and then knead the mixture really well. Then roll out small balls, about 3/4th inch in diameter. The mixture should still be a little warm at this stage. In another plate spread out a layer of sugar kept aside for garnish. Flatten the ball onto this sugar and make sure both the sides are coated with sugar. Keep aside. Use the entire mixture till all the pedhas are ready.

Enjoy your hardwork!!!

For the pedha to taste like kandi pedha, the mawa must be well browned. It is a key requirement. Cook this throughout on a low heat, else there are chances of burning. If you burn the mixture, you will need to start from the beginning. Do not use powdered sugar. You can feel the sugar texture in kandi pedha, so you must use granulated sugar.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mint and Cilantro Chutney

Green chutney is an absolute must when you make any Indian snack like samosas or patties or chaat items. Make it as an accompaniment for any meal and you will end up enhancing the dining experience for sure. There are different ingredients and recipes and proportions that are used to make green chutneys all over India. Recipes vary by each household. In fact, I myself make different versions of it based on what I plan to serve it with. The green chutney below is one I most commonly make and serve with snacks. And of course, it’s my mom’s recipe!!

5-10 green chilies (adjust the number to taste)
1 cup of mint/pudina leaves, packed
2 cups of cilantro leave, packed
1 tbsp lime juice
1.5 tsp split roasted gram
1-3 tbsp water
½ tsp sugar
Salt to taste

Put all the ingredients together in a mixer/blender, except the water. Add a little water at a time till there is enough so that the ingredients can be blended together. Blend till the ingredients are pureed completely and have a paste like consistency. Add a little more water to adjust it to the consistency you want. Taste and adjust the salt and add more lime juice if needed.

Split roasted gram looks like yellow lentils, but it is soft and easy to bite into. It is also known as “dall” or “phutane”. Do not substitute with split yellow lentils! Add water to change the consistency depending on how you want to use it. If you want to serve it with a snack and use for dipping, it should be thicker. If it is to be used to mix into bhel then you want to make it watery.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Mooli/Muli Paratha - Daikon Flat Bread

Its been ages since I ate muli parathas. I visited the Asian store recently and found these large daikons there. That was irresistable and I bought one. In India I had always bought these white radishes also known as muli, mula in the local languages in a bunch, similar to carrots. I have only seen bunches of red radishes here though. Daikon is what comes closest to the white radish. It is not that pungent in taste and I have never seen it in bunches. Most often its really long and sold in pieces. We ate some raw with lemon and salt and I decided to make parathas with the rest of it. It was absolutely delicious.

1-2 white radishes or about 6 inch piece of daikon, grated
red chilli powder to taste
salt to taste
1 tsp ajwain/carom seeds
1 cup besan/gram flour
whole wheat flour - enough to knead the dough
2 tbsp oil
oil to cook
water to knead the dough

Add a little salt to the grated daikon/radish. As soon as you do that, it will start releasing water. We want to knead the dough using this water. Additional water is not required. Add the carom seeds, chilli powder, salt to taste, 1.5 tsp oil and besan. Mix well. Then add enough wheat flour to be able to bring all the ingredients together and knead the flour. You may need around 1-1.5 cups. Add a little at a time. Once the mixture comes together in a dough, coat it with 1/2 tsp oil.
Then roll these out into 6-8 inch rounds. These should be a little thick, about 2-3 mm. Add a few drops of oil to your pan, cook it one one side for about a minute till it looks slightly cooked. Then flip it, add some oil around it and then cook it till the side is well cooked, indicated by light brown spots. This will take a little longer than the first side. Then flip it again, and cook it on the semi-cooked side, till that side is completely cooked.

Serve hot with butter, chutney or raita.

The daikon/radish will keep releasing water, so you may need to add a little wheat to the surface it's being rolled on so that it doesn't stick.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Tomato Bisque

This is inspired by Ina Garten's recipe. I made modifications to make it vegetarian, used ingredients that I generally have in my fridge and reduced the amount of oil and cream. The result was mouth watering. I had made a big batch, about forty servings for my daughter's birthday this year and it was a huge hit and was completely gone by the end of lunch. The recipe was requested by many, but I didn't have pictures. I made this a couple of weeks ago and took pictures, so now its ready to be added to the blog. This time around I added home made croutonsCroutons add just the right amount of crunch to this warm, filling soup. This is a perfect dish to make on cold fall nights. Pair it with a sandwhich and you have a quick, comforting dinner.

1 tbsp of oil
1/2 red onion, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 cup of fresh basil, chopped
4-5 tomatoes, diced
2 cups water or vegetable stock (I use water)
1/2 tsp sugar
3 tbsp heavy cream
salt to taste
pepper to taste

Heat the oil, add the garlic and onions. Fry this till the onions turn pink and then add the carrots. Cook the carrots till they are tender, then add the tomatoes. Cook the tomatoes till they are tender, then add the basil, cook it for a couple of minutes and then add the water. Boil the water and then puree the soup. If the soup is too thick, add a little more water and boil further. Add salt to taste and some pepper. Turn off the heat and add the cream. Garnish with some basil. Top it with croutons and serve hot.

You can make this in the pressure cooker too. Follow the same directions above to add the vegetables to the cooker and after adding the water, pressure cook for 1-2 whistles or if using the Instant Pot, cook for 5 minutes on manual mode, high pressure and do natural pressure release.

If you don't have fresh tomatoes, and want to use canned ones, use the canned diced or entire tomatoes. Don't use the paste or pureed tomatoes as this has a very concentrated ketchup like flavor, which is not ideal for use in the bisque. You can increase the amount of cream to upto 1/4 cup if you want it to be very creamy.

Homemade Croutons - Freshly Baked

I enjoy making things at home. There is a different kind of satisfation to watch raw, basic ingredients come together and turn into something completely different and beautiful. This is true for any activity which provides a creative outlet. Be it cooking or making jewelry or painting, the list is endless.  So, whenever I have an opportunity to make something at home instead of buying it readymade, I try it out. I made tomato bisque recently and we had run out of croutons which are an absolute must, for this dish. So, instead of going to the store, I decided to make them at home. I had some home made bread and presto, I had delicious croutons ready in lesser time than it would have taken to go to the store.

4 - 5 slices of white bread, crusts cut off
1 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
1 tsp garlic powder (optional)

Preheat the oven to 400F. Cut the slices into cubes, roughly about 3/4 by 1/2 inch rectangles, basically bite size rectangular pieces. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle the garlic powder and salt over these bread cubes. Mix it all together. Bake for about 10 minutes, till the bread is brown and has a toast like texture. Top your favorite soup with these freshly baked croutons.

You can skip the garlic powder if you want plain croutons. If you want Italian croutons, sprinkle Italian spice mix or if you want spicy croutons, add red pepper flakes. The options are endless.
Keep an eye on the croutons. Ovens vary in cooking time, based on how efficiently they retain heat, so it may brown fast or take additional time.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Strawberries and Cream, Absolutely Heavenly

This is one of the easiest, and most elegant desserts one can ever make. Good quality strawberries and a good presentation and you have the perfect sweet to end your dinner with. That too in a matter of minutes. And it is mainly fruit, so you won't feel too guilty eating your dessert either.

When I was in India, we rarely used to get strawberries. It was a seasonal fruit and not available in large quantities and could be classified as exotic perhaps. There was a restaurant in town which did have it on their menu as a seasonal dessert and I used to always choose it. They used to have the most beautiful presentation in a margharita glass, absolutely delicious. The only other place I had it was in Mahabaleshwar, a tourist destination famous for its strawberry farms.

Strawberries are easily found here and this year due to the bumper crop, they are still available at a very low cost. Surprisingly though I don't remember having seen it on a restaurant menu here. I bought some strawberries last weekend and I also had a pint of heavy cream in the fridge. That was the perfect reason to put this dish together. The pictures turned out so beautiful, that I had to push this one to the front of my recipe queue, so that I could share this wonderful dish and lovely pictures with you.

1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tbsp powdered sugar ( do not use confectioner's sugar -see tips)
7-8 strawberries, washed and sliced (along the vertical axis/length)

Chill your whisk (manual whisk/hand blender) and the bowl in the fridge for a few minutes. Add the cream and sugar to the chilled bowl and whip. Do not overwhip. You know it is the right consistency, when the peaks in the cream do not deflate immediately. If you overwhip, the cream will turn to butter. If this happens, start with fresh cream.
Arrange your sliced strawberries in your favorite dessert bowl. Add cream. You can mix a few strawberries in the cream and then arrange the rest on top. You can be as creative as you want. Enjoy!

Confectioner's sugar contains cornstarch in addition to the sugar, so try to avoid it so that it won't affect the taste. If it's difficult to find it in your grocery store, you can grind regular sugar in the mixer/blender to get the powdered sugar.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Batatyachi Bhaaji - Curried Potatoes with Ginger

This is possibly one of the simplest but tastiest potato preparations. It demonstrates the basic principles of cooking any vegetable in an Indian style. A basic "seasoning" or "tadka", followed by the addition of vegetables. And then you can choose to add any spices if you want. This was the very first recipe I made when I learnt how to cook. I remember standing at my mom's elbow and walking through the steps with her. It seemed like a lot to remember at that age (I was about 10 years old) but once you know how to create the initial seasoning, you have learnt the basic principle for Indian cooking and can cook practically any dish.

This potato curry is a very popular dish and is generally made for traditional Maharashtrian lunches or dinners. Since garlic and onions are not used in the dish, this is a popular choice during traditional and religious events. I really love the taste of this dish and make it whenever I want to eat food that takes me back home.

3-4 medium potatoes, boiled, peeled and chopped into cubes
1 tsp ginger and green chilli paste
salt to taste
2 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard/rai seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
pinch of asafoetida
5-6 curry leaves (optional)
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
1/2 tsp sugar
cilantro to garnish, chopped

Coat the boiled, cubed potatoes with the chilli and ginger paste mixture, add some salt and the sugar. Mix well and set aside. Heat the oil in a pan. Add the mustard and cumin seeds. Once they start to crackle, add the asafoetida, curry leaves, turmeric. Stir and add the potatoes. Cook this for a a few minutes. Turn off the heat. Garnish with chopped cilantro. Serve with hot chapatis.

If you pressure cook the potatoes, be careful to take it off the heat after the time required to cook them in your pressure cooker, do not over cook them, else you will end up with mushy potatoes. To make ginger and chilli paste, grind 1 inch of ginger with 2-3 green chillies and a couple of pinches of salt. You can reduce the number of chillies depending on spicy you want your curry to be. Boiled potatoes should not be rinsed with cold water to cool them down. Just drain the water, and keep them aside to cool down before cutting. If they are rinsed in cold water, it may make them mushy, specially if they have been slightly overcooked.