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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Mung Dal with Garlic

Sometimes one comes across a dish in their life that stays with them forever. The taste and fragrance of the food gets so deeply embedded in your mind that just a whiff of a similar smell and it can take you back to the first time you tasted it. This dish for me is this particular prepartion of mung dal (split yellow mung). I still remember the first time I tasted it. I was a kid in school and had accompanied my parents to a place near Nashik (a city in Maharashtra). For the week that we were there, we lived in the guest house which had a large dining hall. We had to go to the dining hall for every meal and I was absolutely fascinated by the place. It was large, had lots of tables and the plates and bowls used to always be arranged on the tables, but were always kept inverted. We needed to place them back in the upright, correct position and then the servers would come out and serve us the food. I can't remember a lot about the trip, but the memory of this dal is deeply entrenched in memory and my senses. Ever since I started experimenting with recipes, I have been trying to determine the right ingredients and proportions, so that I could taste it again. And I finally got the exact taste last week!!  I am delirious with joy that I was able to recreate the recipe. While it is extremely simple, it is delicious and the perfect comfort food to take me back into the cosy comfort of childhood.



Ingredients
1 cup mung dal - split, peeled yellow mung dal
a pinch of asafoetida/hing
1/2 tsp turmeric
2-3 tsp oil
1/4 tsp jeera/cumin seeds
3 large garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 green chilli, slit lenghtwise into two
10 curry leaves
1/4 cup cilantro/corriander leaves, chopped
3-4 cups  water
salt to taste


Method
Wash the mung dal three times and then add two cups of water, asafoetida and turmeric to it. Pressure cook it if possible as it will be the fastest method to cook ot. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can boil it on the stove top till it is cooked through and is soft and mushy. You may need to add more water if needed.



In a deep pan, heat the oil, add the jeera seeds. Once they start to crackle, add the curry leaves. Then add the garlic and green chilli and let that fry for a minute. We don't want the garlic to start turning brown. As soon as the garlic looks cooked, add the cooked mung dal. Then add water. Add at least 1 cup of water. You may want to add more water if you want a thinner consistency. Add salt. Bring the dal to a boil. Turn off the heat and immediately add the cilantro leaves. Serve hot with rice or roti/chapati. You can also serve it as a lentil soup. It is just delicious on its own.


Tips
If you are not pressure cooking the dal, you can soak it for an hour before you cook it. That will reduce the cooking time. You can also use dry red chilli instead of green chilli, but that will change the taste of the dal slightly. Mung dal thickens up as it cools down and you may want to add additional water to thin it out while reheating.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Potato Chips

This is a recipe that takes me right back to childhood. When I was a little kid, I used to help my mom in all her tasks around the kitchen, well whatever she allowed me to do. One of the things she used to do in summers was to prepare various kinds of chips. Now these were special dried chips, which used to be stored in big bins and fried for special occasions or when we were expecting guests. She used to make these chips out of tapioca, raagi, and other grains but one that she used to always make were these dried potato chips. She used to make a few versions.  They used to be the regular flat chip, the wavy kind, shredded chips and  a lattice one. The lattice shaped chip was probably the most fascinating. in fact I used to think it was magic because the grater she used just had a wavy edge and I couldn't understand how she managed to get the lattice pattern in the potato. It always felt like magic.


Well last year, I spotted these chips at a friend's house. She mentioned that she had the grater and so I borrowed it. Again, I saw that this grater just had wavy edge and so naturally I called up my Mom to ask her how to get the lattice patter. This was when the mystery was finally solved. The key to making this lattice lay in the way the grater was used. Read ahead for instructions on how to use the grater. 

I finally made the chips and enjoyed making these and reliving childhood.


Ingredients
2 large potatoes
water, enough to cover the potoato chips completely
salt, to salt the water
a pinch of alum, optional

oil to deep fry the chips
salt
chilli powder (optional)
powdered sugar (optional)


Method
Wash and peel the potato. Grate the first chip, using the wavy edge of the grater. This first chip will be a wavy chip. Then, turn the potato 90 degrees to the original position and then grate the 2nd chip. This chip will have a lattice pattern. Again, turn the potato 90 degrees to grate the 3rd lattice patterned chip. Continue this till the entire potato has been grated.





As you grate out these chips put them in a bowl full of salted water. This will stop the oxidation of the potatoes and help keep it blemish free. Make sure that the water covers the chips completely. Once all the chips have been created, start heating the bowl. Bring it to a boil and then turn off the heat. Let it cool down a bit. At this stage, the chips will be slightly transluscent. At this stage the chips are cooked however not so soft that they will fall apart or get mushy. Now, drain the water and on a large cotton or plastic sheet, spread these out. Space them out and lay them flat to dry. You can dry these in the sun or even in your kitchen. It will take a little longer indoors, however they dry up completely in about 3-5 days depending on the season.



The chips shrink to almost half the size and become very tiny. Once the chips are completely dry, they will turn hard and brittle. You can store them in an airtight box at this stage.

When you are ready to eat them, heat up oil in a frying pan. Once the oil heats up, fry the chips and as you scoop them out, sprinkle a mixture of salt, sugar and chilli powder on the warm chips. 

You can also store these fried chips for a few weeks in an airtight box.


Tips
Sometimes it may happen that the dried potato chip may turn red or brown in color,  upon frying . To avoid this and to ensure that the potato chip remains blemish free and doesn't become red or discolored while frying, alum is used. However, this is optional. A couple of large potatoes will make several chips.
You can use the same method to make shredded potato chips or flat potato chips. Just use the appropriate grater edge.
Turn off the heat when the chips are transluscent. We don't want the chips to be over cooked.
To determine if the oil is hot enough, drop a small chip in the oil and if it comes up immediately, then the oil is hot. Turn the heat to medium and fry the remaining chips.
Though the chips shrink to a very tiny size upon drying, they will puff up as they are fried.
Make sure the chips are cool before storing them in a box.
This is also a side when an elaborate, traditional Indian meal is prepared along with a variety of fried chips and papads.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Veggie/Garden Burger - Another Flexible Recipe

This is a great recipe to get your kids to eat their vegetables. The veggie patty in this recipe includes lots of vegetables as well as soy granules. It is delicious and very nutritious at the same time. Patties are great recipes to use leftovers too. I like to experiment with ingredients in the fridge as well as different vegetables to come up new and innovative ways to make the burger patties at home. Any extra patties can be frozen for a couple of months. They are very handy on days when you are rushed to make a quick meal.

If you don't wish to use these patties in burgers or sandwhiches, you can also make mini-sized medallions as sides to your meal or even as an appetizer which can be relished with some ketchup or green chutney.


Ingredients
2 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 cup of soy nugget granules
5-6 green beans, chopped
1 carrot, cut into fine pieces
1/2 cup broccoli florets
½  cup peas
Green chillies, to taste
1inch ginger
Salt to taste
2 bread slices
1/4 cup rava or bread crumbs
oil to shallow fry the patties

burger bun
onion, sliced
lettuce
tomato, sliced
pepper
salt
ketchup
mustard
cheese slice


Method
Boil the soy granules  in 4 cups of water for 10 minutes. Drain and upon cooling, squeeze water out of the cooked granules. Wash the green beans, carrot, broccoli, peas.  Place these vegetables in a vessel and pressure cook for 1 whistle. Alternately, you can also steam cook the vegetables till soft or cook in the microwave for a couple of minutes till softened.

Make a paste of green chillies and ginger.

Mix together the potatoes, soy granules, pressure cooked vegetables and peas.  Mash all the ingredients together. To this add the chilli and ginger paste and salt. Add bread slices if the resultant mixture becomes watery, else you can skip the bread.  Spread out rava or bread crubms in a flat dish. Roll out the mixture into a small ball and flatten it. Then roll it in the rava or bread crumbs. Shallow fry in a flat pan.


To assemble the burger, apply ketchup and mustard on one half of the bun. Next lay a cheese slice, a lettuce leaf, a couple of onoin rings, a slice of tomato and then the patty. Serve with chips or a fresh salad.



Tips
If you are using frozen peas, wash them and then cook them for a minute or two in the microwave. These are pretty soft already and if you cook them in a pressure cooker, they will turn mushy.
If it is just a little soft, you can add a little cornflour. Also, if you want to avoid wheat and not use bread, substitute cornflour instead of bread.
I have also used some lefover beans or lentils and rice in lieu of soy granules. You can also use a variety of vegetables in the patty.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Chunky Vegetable Soup - Healthy, Delicious and Low Fat

I have been quite busy for the past couple of months, spending time with family and visiting them and I have a lot of catching up to do with regards to my blog. I am hoping to be more regular with the posts.

Today's recipe is absolutely delicious and suprisingly very healthy. I had bought ingredients to make minestrone soup and didn't get around to making it. After a couple of days I realised that some of the vegetables would spoil if not used soon. It also happened that I didn't have a lot of time to cook that evening and I wanted to put dinner together real quick. So, in an attempt to use those vegetables and also cook in under 30 minutes, I decided to make this soup and fried rice. The result was just delicious. The fried rice turned out scruptious too, but that is another recipe. Another great feature of this recipe is that it is made with very less amount of oil and as a result is very healthy. I can't wait to eat this again.


Ingredients
1/2 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/4 tsp dry basil leaves
1 zuccini, sliced
1 carrot, sliced
1 can of diced tomatoes
2 cups of vegetable stock
salt to taste
1 tsp extra virgin olive oil



Method
In a deep pan, heat the oil and add the onions and garlic and let them cook till the onion is transparent. Then add the basil and stir. Next, add the carrots and cook for a couple of minutes till they are slightly softened. Next add the zuccini and again cook till slightly softened. Then add the can of tomatoes, stir and then the vegetable stock. Bring the soup to a boil. You can let it boil for a couple of minutes till it is slightly thickened.  Add salt as needed. This is a clear soup and the broth will not be thick. Enjoy hot.


Tips
Taste the soup before adding additional salt to it as the vegetable stock will already have salt. It is easy to forget that and it may result in the soup being too salty. You can substitute vegetable stock with any other stock or even water. You can also use fresh tomatoes. If you do, then use at least 4 tomatoes. The base of the soup has a tomato flavor and that should be the prominent vegetable. It does take longer for the tomatoes to cook if you add fresh ones to the pan and then boil them in stock or water. Alternately, you can cook the tomatoes separately in a pressure cooker. Cook for one whistle and then use these instead of the canned tomatoes in the recipe.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Vegetarian Burrito- An Incredibly Flexible Recipe

This is one of those easy recipes that you can pull together with ready made, store bought ingredients or make most of them a day previously and put them together when you are ready to eat. Another great feature of this recipe is that it is very flexible. You can change many of the ingredients based on what you have in the pantry and your fridge. The main components are tortillas, rice, beans and you can add different vegetable and salsas and make it as decadent or as healthy you want. You will notice that a lot of ingredients in this recipe are optional or ones that can be substituted for something else.


 Ingredients (for 1 burrito)
1 large tortilla - whole wheat/ flour/ corn
2 tbsps cooked rice
2 tbsps cooked beans - red or black beans (can use canned or read tips)
1 tbsp fresh salsa
ready made salsas- to taste (optional)
hot sauce - to taste
avacado (can be used instead of guacamole- optional)
shredded cheese - mexican blend/mozarella/cheddar
sour cream (optional)
guacamole (optional)
pinch of cumin powder
bell pepper, sliced- green, red/orange/ yellow (optional)
onion, sliced (optional)
1 tsp oil
cilantro
salt, to taste


Method
In a pan heat the tsp of oil and once hot, add the sliced onion and cook till softened and light brown. Then add the sliced bell pepper and cook till the bell pepper is cooked through. Alternately you can also cook this on the grill for a smoky flavor.

Add a little oil (optional) in a pan and then add the cooked beans to the pan with a little water (about 2 tbsp). Then add the cumin powder to it and a little salt to flavor these beans. Set them aside. It is now time to assemble the burrito.

Warm up the tortilla. In the center, add the cooked rice. Top it with beans and then add the cooked onions and bell pepper mixture. Next add the salsas that you want. These can be fresh or store bought. Then add guacamole if you have some ready or avocado. It gives a nice decandent taste to the burrito and you can easily skip the sour cream. Then add a dollop of sour cream and sprinkle cheese on it. If you like your burrito hot, then add some hot sauce into the burrito itself. Sprinkle a little cilantro. Then fold the burrito to create a neat packet. A complete meal created in a matter of minutes.








Tips
You can use canned beans, which are pre-cooked. If you want to start from scratch, then soak the dry beans overnight and then cook the beans with water in a covered pan, by boiling it till the beans are softened. Or you can cook the soacked beans in a pressure cooker. It takes about 5-10 whistles in my cooker depending on how well the beans have been soaked and is much quicker than waiting for it to cook in the pan.
The grilled pepper and onions mixture is called Fajita and you can even grill these.  The grilled smoky flavor really flavors the burrito. This addition is optional.
Guacamole or just plain avacado adds a buttery rich taste and is a great substitution to the sour cream. The plus point is that avocado has healthy fat, rich in omega 3. You can also whip up some yogurt and use it instead of sour cream.
When you cook rice, add a little salt to flavor the rice and then you can mix in chooped cilantro into the warm rice which will impart a nice herby flavor to the rice. You can also squeeze some lime on it for additional flavor.
You can also use chapatis instead of tortillas.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Focaccia Bread - A No Knead Recipe

If you have been following this blog for a while or have browsed through this blog, you may have noticed that I enjoy baking. One of the things I have come to enjoy baking, over the last couple of years, is bread. I have realized as I read recipes, watch shows on tv and make different breads that every bread you bake is unique, even when you repeat the same recipe, it will always turn out a little different than the last time (maybe even better). Also, the main ingredients remain the same - i.e. flour, salt, water and yeast. Some recipes call for addition of oil, some of milk and then you can customize breads by adding in different spices. I saw an episode of America's Test Kitchen a few months ago in which they demonstrated how to make focaccia bread and I just had to try it out. The holiday season during the November-December time frame was the perfect time to try it out and oh my, the result was lip smacking, bowl licking delicious. I made two loaves (one plain and one rosemary) and both were gone in less than 24 hours. I finally got a chance to transfer my notes to the blog, so here is the recipe.

Note: This recipe is even more alluring because there is no tedious kneading involved and fancy mixers are not needed to make the job easy either. A bowl and wooden spoon suffice.




Ingredients
Starter dough (biga)
1/2 cup bread flour (the original recipe calls for unbleached all-purpose flour)
1/3 cup warm water
1/4 tsp instant yeast

Dough
2 1/2 cups bread flour
1 1/4 cups warm water
1 tsp instant yeast
2 tsp (and a little bit more) salt 
4 tbps extra-virgin olive oil
1 tbsp dried rosemary (the original recipe called for 2 tbsp of fresh rosemary) [optional]


Method
Mix together the ingredients of the biga in a big bowl, using a wooden spoon till all the ingredients are thoroughly mixed and the water has been completely absorbed. There shouldn't be any dry flour. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let the biga ferment over night or for about 8 hours.


To make the dough, to the biga add flour, yeast and water, and mix thoroughly till no dry ingredients remain. Then let the dough rise for 15 minutes. After this sprinkle two teaspoons of salt over the dough and mix it in to the dough. Then let the dough rise for another 30 minutes. Keep this dough in a large bowl.

The dough will rise around the edges of the bowl. Coat a scraper or spatula with some oil and then use it to fold the dough in towards the center, while turning the bowl. Fold the dough and then turn the bowl 90 degrees, this is the first turn. Do this 7 more times for a total of 8 turns till all the dough is folded towards the center. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap  and then let the dough rise for another 30 minutes.

Again repeat the process of folding the dough and then let the dough rise for another 30 minutes. Again fold the dough and let it rise for 30 minutes. (At the end you would have a total of 3 foldings and 3 rises)

Place a pizza stone or baking stone, in the center rack and preheat the oven to 500F. Heat the stone for at least 30 minutes. This is best done after the 3rd fold when the dough is rising for the final time.

Now place the dough on a floured surface and then divide the dough into two equal parts. Shape each into a round, roughly about 5 inches in diameter, by tucking the dough under the edges.
Oil two round cake baking tins (8/9 inch), each with 2 tbsps of oil. Then sprinkle a little salt to coat the base of the tins. (Be careful not to put too much salt as you have already added salt to the dough). Next, place the dough top side down and slide around to coat the dough with the oil, then flip the dough over and coat the other side.

Cover the pans with plastic wrap and let it rest for 5 minutes. Then using fingertips, gently spread the dough to cover the entire base of the pan. If the dough resists then let it rest for a few more minutes. Then poke the dough with a fork over the entire surface. At this stage, if you want to flavor the bread, you can sprinkle the chopped rosemary leaves. Let the dough rest for another 5-10 minutes till the dough looks bubbly.




Then turn down the temperature of the oven to 450F and then bake the bread for 25-30 minutes. The bread will be golden brown and when you tap on it, you can hear a thud to indicate that it is hollow.





Tips
Make sure to use luke warm water and not hot water. The water should be about 100-110 F. The easiest way to determine this is to touch the water and if it feels warm and you can easily hold your (clean) finger in the water, then it is not too hot. If in doubt, go for a slightly lower temperature. If the water is too hot, it will kill the yeast and your dough will not rise.

In this recipe, we make the starter and let it ferment overnight and then add it to the main dough and then let the bread rise two times. The additional fermentation of starter dough adds a great taste to the dough due to the alcohol and sugars created during this process. The biga/starter can be refrigerated for upto two days.


I had to go out of the house after the stage of folding the dough the second time, so I kept this dough in the fridge. Once I came home, I let the dough come to room temperature and then let it rise and then proceeded with the recipe. Since this is a lengthy process, if you do need to go away from the dough, refrigerate it. The cold temperature slows down the rising process.

The pizza stone provides a kiln effect and helps create a crispy crust for the dough.

Although the original recipe called for all purpose flour/maida, I used bread flour as it was handy. Bread flour had a higher gluten level and will make a softer bread. However, if you don't have it, it is perfectly okay to use all purpose flour.

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