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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Beet Root Halwa - Beet Root Pudding

I have eaten beet roots in a variety of preparations in both the raw and cooked form, including cooked curries, salads and raitas. However, I had never tasted a sweet made from beet root. A few weeks ago, I had gone to a local Indian restaurant and I got a serving of sweet with my order. It was something I had never eaten before. It had a dark purple, blackish color, and it looked like the main ingredient had been grated. I hesitated a little before tasting it and I am quite glad that I did, because it turned out to be delicious. It was sweet and had a caramelized taste. Unfortunately, I never did get a chance to ask the server what it was made of or what it was called. I kept pondering over this dish the entire evening and finally came to the conclusion that it was probably made from beet root. Well, luckily for me, I had a couple of beet roots in my refrigerator and I was able to carry out my experiment the very next day. And the conclusion was that the sweet I had was beet root halwa indeed and it is one of the most delicious ways to use beet root.

2 large beet roots, peeled and grated
2 tbsp  ghee/clarified butter
2 tbsp mava/khoa/khoya (optional)
1/4 cup roasted cashewnuts (optional)
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
4-5 tbsp sugar, adjust to taste
1 tbsp raisins

In a pan, heat the ghee. To this add the grated beet root and stir. Cover the pan. Let the beet root cook completely till softened. Stir occasionally to ensure that the beet root is not sticking to the bottom of the pan. Then add the mava (you can skip this), cardamom powder, raisins and sugar. The sugar will melt and the mixture will turn liquidy. Now, cook the mixture till the mixture solidifies. You can cook a little longer to let the sugar caramelize a little. Make sure that the halwa doesn't burn. Add cashews and serve warm. A healthy and tasty dessert which is fast to cook as well.

This is a faster cooking halwa compared to ones made carrots. Also, you can add some powdered milk instead of the mava to give it a creamy texture. I did not try adding milk or cream, and it wasn't needed either. To roast the cashews, in a pan, add a little ghee. Once heated, add the cahews and stir them, till they are a lightly browned. You can add more or lesser sugar based on how sweet the beet roots are as well as how many raisins are being added.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Sabudana Vada/Wada - Tapioca and Potato Fritters

This is an absolutely delicious delicacy. Tapioca is called "sabudana" in the Hindi and Marathi languages (the pronounciation varies a little), and Vada/Wada refers to deep fried dumplings. "Sabunada Vada are deep fried fritters/dumplings made with tapioca and potato, with a lot of ground peanuts sprinkled in. Absolutely lip smacking!! This is a dish that is reserved for special occasions and is one of the foods approved to be eaten on fasting days. However, most folks make it because it is so tasty. Over the years I have eaten this often, in different restaurants, at home and cooked by others and I must say, sometimes the vada can taste terrible, very chewy and dry. As a result, I had always been hesitant to make it, thinking that the recipe to get it perfect could be quite complicated. Finally, upon my family's repeated requests, I decided to try it out. I followed the advise of mom and lo and behold the end result was delicious. I am always thrilled when I am able make a recipe that I have always thought to be difficult. This one has a great end result,  and I hope you enjoy this recipe as well.

2 cups tapioca/sabudana (it should measure 2 cups after being soaked. Start off with 1 cup dry tapioca)
2 large potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 cup shingada/singada/singoda flour (water chestnut flour)
1 cup ground nut powder (see tips for how to make this)
1 tsp cumin powder
green chillies, finely chopped (5-8, to taste)
1/4 tsp baking soda
salt to taste
1/2 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp sugar
1 tsp oil, luke warm
oil to fry

See tips on how to soak the tapioca. Take the soaked tapioca and then crush it lightly, by processing in a blender or food processor. This will make it easier to mix it in with the potatoes. Then mix together the processed tapioca, singoda flour and potates. Add salt, cumin powder, ground nut powder, baking soda, and the cilantro. Add the lemon juice, sugar and the luke warm oil. Now mix this all together and knead a little, to form a dough. Take a fistfull of this dough and form it into a ball. Then flatten it to make a disc. Rest these discs on a plastic paper/sheet, so that it doesn't stick to the plate. The discs should be about 2-3 inches in diameter.

Heat the oil in a deep pan. There should be at least 3 inches of oil so that the vada can be entirely immersed in it. To test if the oil has heated enough, drop a inch of dough into the oil. If it rises up slowly, the oil is hot enough. The vadas need to be fried medium heat, so that they cook through. If fried on high heat, they will get cooked on the outside but will stay raw in the center.  Now, slowly release one vada from the side of the pan, it will go to the base of the pan and then slowly rise, once the vada starts gettting cooked. The vada will puff up and once browned, is ready to be taken out. Let the vadas rest on a paper towel to absorb the oil. These vadas will be light and very crispy. Serve with green chutney.

Singoda/shingada is water chestnut. You can find singoda/shingada flour in the local Indian store. Fry only 1-2 vadas at a time. As soon as the vada is added to the oil, the temperature of the oil decreases. So, fry only a couple at a time so that they get fried evenly and cooked through completely.
I also baked this dough, at 405 F for about 10-15 minutes, turning it over once, but these were not as crispy, though definitely low in calories.
To soak the tapioca, cover it completely with water such that there is enough water to cover all of hte tapioca and then add some more so that the water level is about a centimeter above the level of the tapioca. Soak this for at least 3-4 hours or overnight and then drain the water.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Dal Fry - Seasoned Lentil Soup

I must start by acknowleding the long gap between the last post and this one. And for those of you who read the blog regularly, I owe an explanation. Generally, I write about only food related topics on this blog, however since the explanation is non food related, here goes. For the longest time I have tried to stay away from synchronizing my email account to my phone and hence had to long in daily to check and respond to emails. And usually after I did that, I used to start my next blog post. However, between the last blog and this, I finally caved in and added my email account to my phone. Since then, I have noticed a significant impact on the amount of time I spend on my computer. I have become more of a consumer of information rather than producing it and I didn't even realize it. Have any of you faced the same issue? Are you spending a lot more time away from your computer and on your smart phone (for non-office related activities)?

Well, now that you know the reason for my absence, I hope you will take some heart in the knowledge that I have made a conscious decision to attend to my blog more regularly. With that said, let me dive into the absolutely delicious recipe for making "dal fry" which is made from lentils and has a spicy seasoning. It is one of the most versatile recipes and I will be posting many different versions of the same in the future as well. The following is one I make most regularly and the dal goes well with rotis or rice.

1 cup split pigeon peas/tur dal
2 cups water
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
A pinch of hing/asafoetida powder
1 tbsp oil
1/8 tsp cumin seeds
1/8 tsp mustard seeds
1 red onion, finely diced
1 tomato, finely diced
1-3 green chillies, to taste
1 tsp garam masala (optional)
1 tsp ginger garlic paste
some cilantro/corriander for garnish
salt to taste
additional water to thin out the dal

Mix together the tur dal, water, hing and turmeric and cook it. I generally use the pressure cooker  to cook the dal (see tips for how to cook the dal if you don't have a pressure cooker). Cook it for 5-6 whistles or in the Instant Pot for 12 minutes on manual mode at high pressure. Let the pressure release naturally. Once cooked, mash the dal a little with a spoon and keep aside. In a deep pan, heat some oil. Then add the mustard and cumin seeds. Once they start to crackle, add the chillies, onions and ginger garlic paste. Cook this till the onions start to brown and the raw ginger garlic smell goes away. Then add the tomatoes and cook them well. Then add the garam masala and fry for a couple of minutes till you can smell the aroma of the masala. Now, add the dal and mix well. Add some water if the dal is too thick. Generally, dal fry is thicker dal (similar to creamy  soups) and not very watery. Add salt. Bring it to a boil and turn off the heat. Sprinkle some cilantro for garnish. Serve hot with rice, pulao or roti.

If you don't  have a pressure cooker, this is how you can cook the dal without having to boil it for hours. Soak the dal for an hour in warm water. Then in a deep pan, boil the dal with at least two times the water, turmeric and hing. Stir occasionally, so that the dal at the bottom of the pan doesn't burn. Turn off the heat when the dal is cooked through, soft and can be easily mashed (about 30-40 minutes) . Add a squirt of lemon/lime juice to the dal for a tangier taste.
You can use the same method and ingredients to make dal fry using chana dal (yellow split peas).