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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Three weekends and Three Great Menus

I have spent the last three weekends in a cooking frenzy. We were entertaining friends and had them over for lunch or dinner over the three weekends. And I wanted to make it a special occasion each time. So, I put in a lot of thought in creating the menu for each meal. In total I made three exotic meals. Each meal had mainly Indian dishes though most of the desserts were quintessentially American.  I didn’t make any appetizers because the main course consisted of several dishes. Each meal had two vegetable preparations, dal or yogurt based curry to be eaten with rice, a rice preparation, salad and Indian bread.  Homemade yogurt was an additional side.

As a result of these wonderful weekends, I now have a lot of food photos and will be posting all the recipes in the upcoming weeks. (I am yet to move the older photos, back to my laptop from the back up hard disk. So the addition of these new photos comes at the most opportune time. I can procrastinate that task for a few more weeks).

It took a few days for me to come up with each menu, after a lot of careful thinking and some discussion with family and friends about what combinations of food would work the best. So, the final menus were as follows.


Main Course
  • Shahi Paneer - A preparation of paneer (Indian cottage cheese) in a rich cashew nut and saffron based sauce)
  • Aloo  Gobhi – A curried preparation of potatoes and cauliflower florets, with ginger and cumin flavorings
  • Vegetable Dum Biryani – An exotic rice preparation which has alternate vegetable and rice layers, with exotic flavors and dressed with fried onion, cashew nuts and saffron.
  • Boondi Raita –A yogurt based dip which has boondi (a fried snack made from chickpea flour)
  • Lachchedar Paratha – Layered bread made from wheat flour
  • Home made yogurt
  • Sliced salad – A mix of cucumber, onions, green onion, tomato, and radish slices. Served with lemons and green chillies
Peach, nectarine, plum and raspberry cobbler with vanilla icecream and fresh fruit


Main Course
  • Matar Gravy – Peas prepared in a rich and exotic gravy of onions and coconut.
  • Baingan Bharta – Roasted eggplant in Indian spices
  • Dal Fry – Lentil soup with tempered seasoning of garlic and chillies
  • Jeera rice – Cumin flavored rice
  • Puris – Fried Indian bread made with wheat flour
  • Aam Ras – Mango pulp
  • Salty Lassi/Taak/Mattha – Salted, spicy yogurt drink
  • Homemade yogurt
  • Sliced salad – A mix of cucumber, onions, green onion, tomato, and radish slices. Served with lemons and green chillies
  • Gulab Jamun – Deep fried, milk based (mava) balls  soaked in sugar syrup
  • Chole – A spicy chickpea/garbanzo beans preparation
  • Kadhai Paneer - A preparation of paneer (Indian cottage cheese) in a tomato based spicy gravy with green bell pepper and onions
  • Pakode Wali Kadhi – A yogurt based preparation made with besan/chickpea flour, with onion fritters added to it
  • Jeera rice - Cumin flavored rice
  • Naan
  • Homemade yogurt
  • Sliced salad – A mix of cucumber, onions, green onion, tomato, and radish slices. Served with lemons and green chillies
  • Mango Cheesecake
  • Mixed Berry Ice cream

So if you are in a fix and need a menu to impress your guests with an exotic Indian meal, just choose one of these menus above, and I can guarantee that your guests will thoroughly enjoy the meal.

I will be posting the recipes for each menu in the following blogposts. I will try and go in sequence, however, if you want me to post any one of these recipes earlier than the other, please let me know in the comments section or on the Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/pages/Recipes-for-all-Occasions/146379555394858).

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Sindhi Kadhi - A Delicious Stew

This is a recipe that my aunt gave me recently and asked me to try it out. It is called Sindhi Kadhi. It is a delicious stew or curry prepared with chickpea flour (besan) and vegetables. However, it does not conform to my traditional view of what “kadhi” should be. All the different versions of kadhi that I have made or eaten so far have always had yogurt and besan/chickpea flour as the main ingredients. The main difference in all these versions was the seasoning that I used, however the main ingredients always stayed the same i.e. yogurt and besan. I had never made or tasted Sindhi Kadhi prior to this attempt, and I am glad I finally did. It has definitely changed my perception of what kadhi can be. This particular version of the kadhi does make use of the besan flour, however it differs in the fact that, instead of using yogurt, tamarind water is used to give it a sour taste. Also, this recipe has a lot of vegetables. And while I made it with the vegetables that my aunt listed, I am sure you can change the combination of the vegetables based on what is available. The end result is a hearty, healthy and delicious stew. We enjoyed the preparation and I will definitely be making it again.

1 tbsp oil
1/8 tsp jeera/cumin seeds
pinch of asafoetida
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
1 cup okra/bhindi/ladies fingers ( diced)
3 tsps besan/chickpea flour
1 cup potatoes (1 large or 2 small potatoes), diced into big pieces
1 cup banana squash/red pumpkin/laal kaddu/ laal bhopla,
1 cup cluster beans /gavar /gowar, diced
1 drumstick, cut into 1-2 inch pieces
chilli powder to taste
5-6 curry leaves
1 tsp tamarind paste or 1 inch ball of tamarind
salt to taste

If using tamarind paste, dissolve it in about 2 cups of water and keep aside. If using regular tamarind,  soak it in warm water and then remove the pulp and dissolve it in 2 cups of water and keep aside.

Heat the oil. To this add the cumin seeds. Once they being to crackle, add the hing/asafoetida, and the okra pieces. Stir fry the okra till well cooked and a little browned. Then add the besan flour and cook the besan flour till you get the fragrant roasted smell for the besan. Then add the cluster beans, drumstick pieces, potato and pumpkin. Stir it and add the turmeric powder and chilli powder and cook it all for a minute.  Then add the tamarind water, stirring continuously while adding the water, so that no lumps formed. Add the curry leaves. Add more water if needed. All the vegetables should be covered with the water. Then cook till the curry till it starts to boil and thicken. Add the salt. Taste and add a little more of tamarind paste if you want a more sour taste. Check to see if the vegetables are cooked. The curry shouldn’t be too watery or too thick. Garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve hot with white rice.

Steam cook or pressure cook (1 whistle) the guvar/cluster beans and the drumsticks so that they are semi cooked and softened.  This will reduce the overall cooking time. Do not precook the potato and pumpkin, since they do not need a long cooking time and will get cooked through as the curry boils. If precooked, they will turn to mush. Fry the besan and the okra well. The okra needs to be crispy and the besan needs to be a brown color which will impart a brown color to the curry.
If you decide to change the vegetables, use hearty vegetables which will not become mushy when the kadhi is being boiled. You can also add in some tomatoes in this recipe. They should be added along with the potato and other vegetables. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Fennel Pasta

I formatted my laptop recently and along with that deleted all the photos that had been stored on the machine over the past few years. These included ALL the photos that we had taken over the last few years. I panicked and called up my husband to report the terrible news to him.  That was when he gave me the good news that he had backed up the photos two days before and we hadn't lost all our photos. Whoosh! That was a terrible 10 minutes, while I tried to figure out how to retrieve the photos or what I could do. I am so glad that he had backed up the photos by chance and it is definitely a lesson in backing up data more frequently.
Well, so I still haven't gotten to moving the photos back to the laptop, but I did take pictures of some dishes I made recently, so I have something to tide me over for a while. This is a fabulous dish. It has a wonderful aroma and a very mild and pleasant taste.

I hadn't cooked with fennel before, well not the plant itself, just the seeds  I had a great time exploring this new vegetable. The fragrance took me back to the old days when we used to plant fennel in our backyard and wait for the plant to bear the tender seeds. Those seeds used to taste so sweet and delicious, we used to enjoy it. However, we never thought of using the actual plant to cook any dish. This was a pasta dish that was introduced to me by my sister-in-law made when I visited them this summer. It is a perfect pasta dish for summer! I absolutely loved it and she graciously shared her recipe with me. So here it is.

1 fennel bulb and its leaves (discard the stalks. See details in method below)
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon, zest and juice (optional)
1/2 packet of linguini pasta (about 16 ounces)
water to cook the pasta
parmesan cheese

In a pan deep enough to hold the linguini, take enough water to submerge the pasta. Add salt to the water, sufficient enough to make the water salty and then cook the pasta per directions on the package.

Cut the leaves off the stalks of the fennel and chop them finely. Do not use any stalks. Next, cut the large stalks off the fennel bulb and discard them. Then, divide the bulb into two and then remove the core of the bulb. Then slice the bulb into thin slices.

In a large pan (sufficient to hold the pasta), heat the oil and then add the fennel slices to the oil. Cook the fennel for about 10 -15 minutes till the fennel slices are cooked through and become soft. Cook on medium heat, so that they don't burn. The fennel slices are tough and will take some time to get cooked through. Next add the garlic and the fennel seeds to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes, till the garlic is cooked through. Then season a little with salt and pepper. Then add the cooked pasta to the pan and mix it all together. Next, add the chopped fennel to the pasta and lemon zest. Mix well. Add a little lemon juice and mix well. Cook for a minute or two till all the ingredients are well blended. Sprinkle parmesan cheese over it and serve hot.

You can cook the pasta till it is al dente if you wish or cook it for a few more minutes till it is softer. I prefer the pasta being at a softer texture. Al dente is when the pasta is cooked through, but it still has a bite to it. The fennel core is pretty obvious and can be seen as a triangle at the base of the bulb when you cut the base into two parts vertically. If you are confused, it will be the tougher, central part of the bulb which is difficult to cut through.
When you zest a lemon, remember to stop grating the lemon rind when you reach the white part of the lemon skin called the pith. This is the bitter part. The zest is just the yellow part of the rind.