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Sunday, December 29, 2013

Apple Crumble - A delicious fruit dessert

This is a delicious fruit dessert. It is warm and perfect for a cold winter night. Add in a scoop of vanilla ice cream and it is the perfect dessert to satisfy your sweet tooth. Now, there are several recipes of apple crumble out there, however, when I wanted to make this, I turned to a recipe from America's Test Kitchen Cooking School Cookbook. I wanted a recipe which would taste great and have a crunchy crumble and knew that I could rely on this recipe. I needed to make it nut free, and the original recipe called for almonds, so I made a few substitutions and it turned out delicious. Best of all it could be eaten by everyone and I didn't have to worry about those with allergies.



Ingredients
For the crust
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar + 1 tbsp sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/8 tsp salt
7 tbsp butter, cut into cubes at room temperature
1/2 cup traditional rolled oats
2 tsp vanilla essence

For the filling
8 medium sized apples, peeled, cored and diced into 1/2 inch pieces
1/2 tsp cornstarch
4 tsp lemon juice
2/3 cup sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp nutmeg powder
1/8 tsp cinnamon powder



Method
Preheat the oven to a temperature of 350F. Place one rack in the middle of the oven and another baking rack at the lowest level in the oven.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together the lemon juice and cornstarch. Add in the apple pieces, sugar, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg powder. Toss all this together till the apple pieces are well coated. Pour this into a 8 inch square baking tin and cover it tightly with aluminium foil. Keep aside

Keep 1 tbsp of sugar aside. In a food processor, mix together the all purpose flour, salt, both sugars, and vanilla essence. Then add the butter pieces and 1/4 cup of rolled oats. Pulse it all together till the mixture comes together into lumps. Use a spatula to scrape the bowl down. Add the remainder of the 1/4 cup of rolled oats and pulse a couple of times till it is blended into the the mixture, but not completely powdered down.

Place this on a baking tray lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Shape it in a square similar to the size of the baking tin containing the apple crumble. It will be about 1/2 inch in thickness. Place this baking tray with the topping  mixture onto the middle rack and the baking tin containing the apple mixture on the lower rack in the oven.

Bake these for 20 minutes. Turn the baking tray once by 180 degrees, so that the crust gets cooked evenly. The crust will be lightly browned at this time.

Remove both the baking tray and tin from the oven. 
Increase the temperature of the oven to 375F.
Remove the foil covering the baking tin and then by lifting the mat/paper slide the crust onto the apple mixture. Sprinkle 1 tbsp of sugar on the top of the crust. Place this tin back into the oven on the lower rack and bake it for 25 minutes till the crust is browned and the apple mixture is bubbling.

Serve warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.



Tips
If you do not have 8 apples, you can also substitute some pears instead. 
You can use a spatula to break the crust and place it piece by piece onto the apple mixture, till the mixture is covered completely.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Chicken Tikka Masala

I am fairly new to the art of cooking chicken, though I have been eating it all my life. I finally decided to take the plunge and start cooking it at home. The main  motivation was to be able to control the quality of the meat that was being used. Another was being able to control the spice and taste levels of the chicken being served. I have tried Indian style chicken dishes in many restaurants but find most of them lacking in spice and flavor. There are just a couple of places that cook chicken curries well, but they don't come close to the taste of the food that I ate when growing up. The results have been great so far and my family has been very happy being taste testers, as I cook up new dishes.

When I decided to take the plunge and start cooking chicken, I had no clue about how to buy the chicken, whether it needed to be cleaned and how I could check if the chicken had been cooked completely. So, I looked to family, friends, and the internet for help. After reading up on it for a while, and taking advice from several people who cooked chicken very frequently, I finally was able to cook my first piece of baked chicken breast. Once, I had the basics down, I was able to move onto experimenting with marinating and making tandoori chicken and finally start cooking chicken gravies.

I have always loved eating chicken tikka masala and butter chicken in restaurants and decided to make chicken tikka masala as my first curried chicken recipe. It turned out great. In fact, we finished the entire dish in one meal, with no leftovers.

Note: For my tips on how to buy chicken, see the Tips section below.


Ingredients
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast (the one I used was about 10 oz/ half pound)
1 onion, cut into thick slices (to be used to bake the chicken)

marinade for the chicken
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cumin/jeera powder
1/2 tsp corriander/dhania powder
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper/red chilli powder
1 cup yogurt
1/2 inch ginger, grated
3 cloves of garlic, miced/grated
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp garam masala
2 tsp lemon juice

for the gravy/curry
2 tbsp oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 tsp ginger paste or 1/2 inch ginger, grated
2 cloves of garlic, minced/grated
2 tsp garam masala
1 tbsp tomato paste
1, 14 oz can of tomatoes, approximately 4-5 tomatoes, diced
1 tsp butter
1/4 cup yogurt, whisked well till smooth
salt to taste
1 tsp sugar
1/2 - 1 cup water


Method
Mix the salt, corriander powder, cumin powder and cayenne pepper together and make a spice rub.
Cut the chicken into strips of similar size, so they cook evenly and take around the same time to cook. Pat each chicken piece dry and sprinkle some of the rub on both sides of the chicken piece and place in a glass container. Keep this in the fridge and marinade the chicken pieces in the spice rub for about 1-2 hours.
Next, whisk together the yogurt, ginger, garlic, oil and garam masala. Pour this mix over the chicken pieces and coat the chicken pieces in this yogurt mixture. Keep the container back in the fridge and let it marinade for an additional 3-4 hours.









Preheat the oven to 400 F. Take a baking tray with sides and line it with foil. Slice the onion into thick slices and layer them at the base of the foil covered tray, creating a bed of onions. Layer the yogurt coated chicken pieces in a single layer on top of this onion bed.  Discard the excess yogurt. Bake the chicken in the oven for about an hour or till the temperature registers 165 F.  When you bake the chicken, the moisture from the yogurt keeps it moist and succulent. Alternately, you can also skewer the chicken pieces and broil the chicken for about 20-30 minutes. Check the chicken temperature which should be 165F. This will give it the authentic chicken tikka texture, however the meat does get a little dry.


Start cooking the gravy when you start cooking the chicken. Heat the oil and add the diced onion to it. Cook this till it is golden brown in color. Next, add the tomato paste, garam masala, ginger and garlic paste. Cook for a couple of minutes till the ginger and garlic are well cooked. Then, add the tomatoes and cook them for a few minutes till the tomatoes are cooked down. Add a little water to the gravy and let it cook for a couple of minutes. Then add the yogurt mixture to the gravy and cook it for a couple of minutes. Turn off the heat and once the gravy cools down a bit, puree it. Pour it back into the pan and then let it boil. If the gravy is too thick, add a little water to thin it down. Add salt, sugar and butter and let it simmer.

Once the chicken is cooked, let it rest for a few minutes. Then, cut the chicken strip into bite sized pieces (about 1/2- 1 inch) and then add it to the hot gravy. Do not simmer the chicken in the gravy.

Serve hot with warm rotis or white rice, along with a side of sliced onions, and lemon slices.


Tips: If you do not have tomato paste at home, you can use tomato ketchup. If you are using fresh tomatoes, blanch them and peel the skins. To blanch them, boil some water. Add the tomatoes one at a time to the boiling water and let it remain in there, till the skin of the tomato starts to break up. At this point, remove the tomato and put it into cold, ice water. Once the tomato is cool to touch, you can easily peel the skin out and then use the tomato.
Lining the pan with foil, makes it easy to clean up after the chicken is cooked. To measure the temperature of the chicken, insert a meat thermometer, into the thickest part of the chicken.

Chicken buying tips: If you are beginner like me, and not comfortable with cutting up the chicken, then the easiest method is to go to the meat department of the grocery store and speak to the butcher. Generally, someone there will help you select the meat, even cut it for you and give you advice on how to store the chicken. I was told that if you do not intend to use the chicken in the next 2-3 days, then to freeze it for up to 5 days. After 5 days the chicken can get freezer burns and is no longer good to use.

Make sure to clean your hands, the cutting board and the countertop well after handling the chicken to avoid cross contamination with other food. A plastic cutting board is easier to clean. Use a separate cutting board to cut the vegetables. Do not reuse the cutting board or knife used to cut the chicken without cleaning it thoroughly with soap and hot water.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Champakali - A Diwali Delicacy

The "Plumeria" flower is called Champa/Chafa in Marathi. "Champakali" refers to the bud of this flower. As you may have guessed, the snack is supposed to be in the shape similar to the bud of the plumeria flower. It is a delicate snack and tricky to shape and fry, but looks very pretty and tastes similar to chirote or shankarpali covered with syrup. I have fond memories of making these with my Mom, for Diwali, as a child. The process of shaping a round dough disc into the bud of a flower was a lot of fun and it was a delight to see them being fried by Mom. This time around, I decided to make these with my daughter and I was transported back to those good old days from childhood. Both of us had a lot of fun making the Diwali snacks together and I hope that these memories stay with her forever.




Ingredients
1 cups all purpose flour/maida
2 tbsps oil
1/8 tsp salt
water, to knead the dough
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
oil to deep fry the champakali


Method
Mix together the flour, salt and oil. Adding a little water at a time and mix the ingredients together to make the dough. Knead the dough till it is supple but firm and stiff.

In a deep pan, mix the sugar and water and heat it till you get a thick syrup. The syrup should be at the 2 thread consistency. This means that if you take a drop of syrup between the tips of your forefinger and thumb and stretch it out, you will see two strands of syrup. Test the syrup once you start to see it thicken. The syrup should be warm when you add the fried champakali to it. So make it just before you start the process of frying the champakali

Take a small piece of dough and roll it into a ball about an inch in diameter. Flatten it into a disc and roll it out into a small circle about 2 inches in diameter. The disc should be thin, about 2-3 mm in thickness. Now, make parallel cuts in this disc. These cuts should not be from edge to edge, but should end about 3/4 to 1 cm before you reach the edge. Now, holding this disc with both hands between your forefinger and thumb, and twist the disc such that the parallel cuts remain parallel and the disc gets shaped into a "flower bud". Make sure to pinch the two ends of the disc together, so that it will not unravel when frying. See the photos which illustrate this. You can make all of these before you start frying.





Make sure that the oil is hot. Then, add the molded champakali and deep fry it till it is nice and a deep golden brown. Remove it onto a paper towel to remove the excess oil. Dip each champakali in the warm syrup, to coat it entirely with syrup and set it onto a plate. Shake off excess syrup, so that you will get a thin layer. As the syrup cools, it will form an outer layer on the champakali.

Store these in an airtight container after completely cooled. Refrigeration is not needed. It will last for 2-3 weeks.


Tips
If you are rolling the dough and it ends up sticking onto the rolling surface and you need to use oil or flour to stop it from sticking, then the dough is not stiff enough. Add a little more all purpose flour and mix well. Knead till the dough is supple. The dough tends to relax and may soften when you let rest, so you may have to add a little flour and knead it again before rolling it out.
You can add a couple of drops of food color to the syrup. This will make the champakali colorful. I dipped a batch in plain syrup which got a white coating and the rest of the batch was dipped into the syrup, after adding a couple of drops of pink food color to it. These turned pink upon cooling down.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Mango Barfi/ Mango Vadi

A very popular sweet in Maharashtra, it is a combination of two rich ingredients viz. mango pulp and mava. This was one of the first sweets that I had tried making at home once I figured out how to make mava. The result was so tasty, and my family loved it. The next year, I taught another friend how to make it and we made it together for her Diwali party. However, I didn't cook it to the right consistency and it turned out a little soft. It set into a semi-soft barfi in the fridge and I got several compliments on it. In fact, this softer version was compared to the one made by a famous Mithai house in Pune. Hence, this is a very forgiving recipe. Whether you cook it to the right consistency or make it a bit softer, the taste doesn't get affected, and is delicious.


Ingredients
2 cups mango pulp
1.5 cup mava/khoya/khava
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar (not icing sugar)


Method
Mix the sugar and mango pulp in a microwave safe bowl, and cook it in the microwave for 10 minutes, till the mixture thickens and changes color and darkens. Cook it in 2 minute increments and stir.
In a separate bowl, heat the mava in the microwave for 1 minute and then add this sugar and mango pulp mixture to the mava. Mix this well.

Grease a pan with some clarified butter and keep aside. 

Now, transfer this mixture to a thick bottomed pan and reduce the mixture till it starts to thicken. Make sure you are doing this on low-medium heat, so that the mixture doesn't burn. Keep stirring often. Let the  mixture thicken, till it is so thick, that when you stir it, you can see the bottom of the pan and the mixture doesn't flow back to cover the base of the pan easily. You can also try and take a small drop of the mixture onto a plate, let it cool slightly, and try to roll it into a ball. If you can roll it into a soft ball without it being very sticky, then the mixture is at the right thickness.





Take this mixture off the heat and let it cool down a bit till it is easy to touch without burning your fingers, but still warm. Then add the powdered sugar to it and mix well.

Pour this into the greased pan and using the base of a measuring cup or a steel cup, flatten it out into the pan. The thickness of this should be about 1/2 -3/4 inch. Let the mixture cool down a little more till luke warm and then cut it into squares about 1X1 inch in size.




As you can see from the pictures, I prefer making the softer version. It is great, irrespective of the consistency. 


Tips 
You can use any canned pulp. If you use fresh mango pulp, remember that it may be more watery than the canned one and you may need to use more pulp, else the taste of mango may not be very strong. Also, canned pulp already has some sugar added to it. If you use fresh pulp, you may need to increase the amount of sugar being used, based on how sweet the mango is.
If the mixture is too thick and you are unable to flatten it, add a little milk and cook it till it softens. If it is too soft, that you are unable to cut it without it sticking to the knife, then cook the mixture for a few more minutes. You can also let it set in the fridge over a couple of days. This easily lasts in the fridge for about 10 days to 2 weeks.
Don't use icing sugar, because it is a mixture of powdered sugar and cornstarch.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Multi-seed Crackerbread

This is a wonderful cracker bread to be server prior to dinner as an appetizer or as a snack with some drinks or tea. I visit an Italian restaurant nearby and one of the things that I enjoy most is the bread basket that the bring out once  you are seated. The bread basket comes with sourdough bread and multiseed crackebread which is sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, which is lightly browned. The crackerbread is absolutely delicious. I have searched in the bakery section of may stores, but unfortunately have never come across it. So, it made me very excited when I came across a multiseed cracker bread recipe in a King Arthur Flour cook book. This recipe came very close to the one I enjoy in the restaurant. The main difference is that the one in the restaurant is made of all purpose flour while this is made with whole grain flour. This is definitely the healthier version and was enjoyed by everyone at the last dinner party we had. Serve it with butter and it makes a perfect accompaniment to warm soup.



Ingredients
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 cup ragi flour
1/2 cup whole yellow cornmeal
2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup water
1/2 cup assorted seeds - like white sesame, black sesame, poppy, fennel, caraway, anise and cumin
(adjust the ratio based on your preference.)
2 tbsps assorted dried herbs like rosemary, basil, dill, taragon and thyme
(adjust the ratio based on your preference.)
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper


Method
Mix the assorted seeds, herbs and cracked pepper in a bowl and keep aside.

Take a large mixing bowl, and add the flours, salt and olive oil to it. Adding a little water at a time, mix the ingredients till the dough is formed. The dough should be stiff and not crumbly. So make sure to add a liittle water at a time till you get the desired consistency. If the atmospheric conditions are humid, you may need less water versus making this recipe in dry weather. Knead the dough till it is well mixed and supple.

Divide the dough into small pieces (about 8-10) and cover this with a slightly damp cloth or plastic wrap.
Take one piece and flatten it into a disc. Sprinkle some of the seeds, herb and pepper mixture on to the rolling surface. Press the dough disc into the seeds and roll it out. If the dough starts to stick to the surface, pick it up, sprinkle a few more seeds and continue rolling. Roll the dough as thin as possible, about 2 mm in thickness. Try to roll it into a rectangle, which will make it easy to cut the dough into triangles. Cut this into small triangles about 4 inches in length and 2 inches in width at the largest side.

Preheat the oven to 450F.  Arrange the crackers on a baking sheet and place on the center rack of the oven. Bake for 7-10 minutes till the top is medium brown.

Store in airtight container after all the crackers are completely cool.



Tips
The original recipe called for pumpernickel or whole rye flour instead of ragi flour. However, I didn't have this, so I used ragi flour instead. The recipe also called for 1 tbsp of coarse salt to be added to the mixture of seeds, herbs and pepper. However, this made the crackers quite salty and so I skipped it in subsequent batches. If you do want to have a salty feel on the outside of the cracker, then reduce the salt that is added to the dough. You can grate and sprinkle some parmesan cheese on the crackers after they have been baking for about a couple of minutes. If you add the cheese at the beginning, it may burn. You can also add shredded cheddar cheese.
Alternately, you can add the cheese and toast the crackers in the oven just before serving, heating the crackers till the cheese has melted and turned a golden brown.
When baking, the initial few batches will take longer, but as the process continues, the subsequent batches will get baked faster. So keep an eye on the crackers and remove them as soon as they are medium brown.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Anarsa/Anarse - A Delicacy

Anarsa (plural- Anarse), is a sweet snack made during Diwali. It is a delicacy and is known to be one of the trickiest things to make. Anarse must be fried in pure ghee/clarified butter and not shortening to get the authentic taste. Commercial sweet shops have turned to making these in shortening, but you can make out the stark difference in taste and quality between the two. These are sweet, deep fried and have a lace like texture making and absolutely delicious. Well made anarse will melt in your mouth.

Anarse is considered difficult to make, mainly because if there are any missteps in the dough making or frying process, the anarsa will completely disintegrate into the ghee while being fried.  And, that can be very frustrating especially considering the amount of time and effort that going into preparation. However, the end result is so delicious that I would encourage you to give it a try.

Now, I made this using input from a lot of sources. My Mom gave me tips from her memories of my grandma making it. Then, my Mom-in-law gave me her process of making the dish and I also did a lot of searching online and in recipe books. The reason why I had to refer to so many sources was that while the basic recipe that was provided was similar, the tips that were provided by each source were invaluable.



Ingredients
1 cup rice (I used basmati)
water
1 cup jaggery, finely chopped/grated
2 tbsp white poppy seeds/khus khus
clarified butter, enough to fill your frying vessel to a depth of 2-3 inches
1 tsp cornflour
2 tsp ghee
1 tsp powdered sugar (not icing sugar)


Method

Dough preparation
Soak the rice for 3 days, changing the water every 24 hours. At the end of 3 days, discard the water and spread the rice to dry on a clean cotton cloth. This can be your kitchen counter top or dining table. It is not to be dried in the sun. I ended up drying the rice till there was no trace of moisture, however I was later told that you are supposed to dry the rice only till it is damp.  Next, grind the rice to a fine powder and then sieve it with a fine sieve, so that any large particles are removed. This was another step that I missed, however the rice powder was fine enough to not cause any issues with the dough.
Once you have the fine rice powder, mix it thoroughly with the jaggery and 1 tsp of ghee, without adding any water. The moisture from the damp rice and the stickiness of the jaggery should be sufficient to bring the mixture together to a hard dough like consistency (it maybe a little powdery and not dough like, but that is okay). Keep this in an airtight box and set aside on the counter in a moisture free area, for a few days. Your mixture is ready to use after a week.


Now, when you are ready to fry the anarse, add the cornflour, 1 tsp ghee, and powdered sugar to the rice and jaggery mixture and knead it into a dough. If necessary, add 1-2 tsp milk to form it into a dough. The dough should be hard (puri consistency) and not soft and easily stretchable.


Frying process
Heat the ghee in a pan with a small diameter. There should be enough ghee to fry the anarsa, about 2-3 inches. Ghee will bubble when the anarsa is added to it. Hence, the pan must have high edges to prevent the ghee from spilling over. The smaller the diameter, the easier it will be to control the frying process. I used a 15 QT/1.4 L saucepan which has a diameter of about 6 inches and I could fry  only one anarsa in there at a time.

Spread some poppy seeds onto your rolling surface. Then, take a small piece of dough and roll it into a ball, about 1 inch in diameter. Then, flatten and roll it out on the poppy seeds, into a flat disc. This way the poppy seeds will be embedded into one side of the disc. The disc should be about 2 inches in diameter and 3-4 mm in thickness, like a thick puri.

When the ghee is hot enough, set the temperature to medium heat and slip the flat disc carefully into the ghee, with the poppy side on top. As the anarsa is cooked, it starts to spread in the ghee. Using a spoon lightly hold the anarsa against one side of the pan, so that it doesn't spread a lot and start breaking.

As, the anarsa gets fried, a lot of bubbling will occur and lots of froth will be formed, making it a bit difficult to check if the anarsa is cooked.  Keep pouring ghee on the top of the anarsa as it cooks, to cook the top side. Do no flip the anarsa over or the poppy seeds will burn.

As the bubbling subsides, you will be able to see the anarsa starting to brown. Remove it as soon as it is a light brown and let it rest on a paper towel. The excess ghee will get absorbed.

When the anarsa is taken out of the ghee, it is very soft. It will harden as it cools down.

Note: Since, I had very dry rice powder, my resultant mixture was also in a powder form. I kept it covered for 10 days hoping that some moisture from the jaggery would be released, but the weather was too dry and I had no luck with that. So, I finally was able to knead the dough only upon the addition of the ghee and other ingredients before I fried it and I also had to add a couple of tsps of milk to get it all together.


Tips
Use rice that is not sticky or glutinous for this recipe.
Do not dry the rice completely i.e. till it is completely free of moisture. The rice should be slightly damp when you grind it, so that when you mix it with the jaggery, a dough can be formed. Sieve the rice and discard any large rice pieces or grind the rice again till you get a fine powdered texture.
I checked on the rice, jaggery and ghee mixture every couple of days, to make sure that it wasn't getting spoiled.
Use enough ghee to fry the anarsa. Use a deep saucepan with a small diameter, just enough to fry one anarsa at a time and the depth of the pan should be sufficient so that the ghee doesn't spill over as it bubbles while the anarsa is being fried.
To check if the ghee is hot, add a pinch of anarsa dough into the ghee and if it starts bubbling and floats up, then the ghee is hot.
Do not flip the anarsa while frying, to prevent the poppy seeds from burning.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Butternut Squash Soup

I have been unable to update the blog during the past couple of months. However, it was for a very good reason. I participated in my first Art fair where I presented jewelry designed and created by me. So, I spent most of my nights and weekends working on these jewelry  pieces. It was a great experience and it felt good that so many people appreciated my work. I have also been working on my first video post, but that still needs a bit of work, before I can publish it. So, that is something else that I am looking forward to. With those updates I will go onto the recipe.

This is a wonderful, velvety soup. Butternut squash is a kind of pumpkin that can be found in the grocery stores almost through the year. I use it to make a pasta sauce, as well as, stir fry it. It also makes a great side dish. It makes the most delicious soup. The sweet taste of the squash is balanced using the onions. This is a great winter soup and since it is a thick soup, it can also be a light meal. 


Ingredients
1 butternut squash
1 small red onion or 2 shallots, diced
1 tbsp butter or oil
2-3 cups of water/vegetable broth
salt to taste


Method
The butternut squash has a very tough exterior skin and it is difficult to slice it through or to peel it. So be careful when you are handling the squash. Cut the squash along the length of the squash. Remove the strands and the seeds at the center of the squash. Apply a little oil to the squash (inside and out) and then bake the two pieces, cut side down, in the oven at 350 F. Alternately, make a few more pieces and pressure cook the squash. It takes about 30-40 mins for the squash to get cooked and softened in the oven and about 15 mins in the pressure cooker. Then, take the squash out and once it cools, scoop out the squash with a spoon. Discard the skin/peel. 

In a saucepan, heat the butter and add the diced onions. Once the onion is cooked and softened, add the scooped out squash. Cook the butternut squash for a couple of minutes and then add the water or broth. Add salt. Let it boil for a minute and then puree the mixture, till you get a fine velvety consistency.  This is a thick soup and it will taste watered down if it is made too thin. Garnish with some cream and pumpkin seeds. Serve hot.


Tips
The easiest way to remove the strands and seed is to use a spoon with sharp edges and scoop it out. If the soup is watery, boil it for a few mins. You can also dissolve a little cornflour in water and then add the paste into the soup to thicken it if it is too thin. If it is too thick, then add some additional water.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Green Peas Gravy - A Rich Peas Preparation for Special Occasions

This is a recipe made using fresh green peas. I remember the good old days, when I used to spend, what seemed like hours, shelling peas with my mom. When the peas were tender and sweet, most of them used to end up going into my mouth rather than the bowl. And it always seemed unfair that the heap of shells used to be much larger than the small mound of peas in the bowl. Ah the good old days. I haven't done this for several years now because all I can find in the way of fresh peas in the local grocery stores in the US are snap peas or snow peas. These are so tender, that the peas are barely formed and they are meant to be eaten, shell and all. The frozen peas, which I use instead, are a great convenience and make it much easier to make any dish with peas. However, these are generally sweet and not best suited for spicy curry preparations. But one must make do with what one can find and try to make the best of it.
I am always on the look out for fresh peas, shelled or un-shelled and am hopefully that I will run across this sometime soon.


This is my Mom's recipe and a fantastic one. It needs time and preparation before you can start the cooking process, and the cooking process is lengthy as well, but the end result is finger licking delicious. If made with fresh peas and fresh coconut,  a lot of manual labor is involved, in terms of shelling peas and grating the coconut. That was probably the reason that my Mom made it as a treat and it has been my most favorite peas preparation to date. It tastes amazing with puris or hot chapatis and I too save it for celebratory occasions when I have time to make it right. The last time I made it was a few months ago when I had invited my friends over for lunch and it was a great hit. I hope you make it and it becomes one of your favorites too.


Ingredients
1.5 tbsp oil
1 large or 2 medium red onions, diced finely
1 cup fresh coconut, grated
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste
1-2 green chillies to taste
1/8 tsp jeera/cumin seeds
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp dhania jeera/ corriander cumin powder
1/8 tsp turmeric
2 cups frozen peas, washed
salt to taste
2 tbsp to 1/4 cup water to grind ingredients
1- 2 cups water for the gravy


Method
Grind together the coconut, green chilli, cumin seeds and some salt. Add water to the mixture depending on your blender. Add as little as possible to get a smooth paste.
In a pan, heat oil and add the onion to it. Fry the onion till well cooked. Then add the coconut paste as well as ginger and garlic. Fry this mixture, stirring the ingredients often so they don't burn, till it is well browned. The ingredients need to be so well cooked and fried, that you can see the oil start to separate out.  Do this on low heat. If this is done on high heat, the ingredients at the base of the pan will start to burn while the ones at the top will remain under cooked. Then, add the turmeric powder, garam masala and dhania jeera powder and fry this for a couple of minutes. Finally, add the peas and stir to cover them well with the spices. Frozen peas don't need a lot of time to cook through. Finally, add enough water to form a semi thick gravy. Add salt to taste and let the gravy boil for a few minutes. Serve hot with puris or chapati.


Tips
Since you cook the recipe on low heat, it takes about 20-30 minutes for the ingredients to brown. Avoid the temptation of turning up the heat. Cook it on a day when you have the luxury to spend a lot of time to prepare this dish.
You can also use fresh peas instead of frozen peas. If you use fresh peas directly, then it will take longer for the peas to get cooked through as they boil. To speed you the process, you can also boil the peas in a separate pot while your onion mixture gets cooked. Add a tsp of salt to the water. Use enough water to cover the peas. Cook till soft. Then, put them in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain and keep aside. You can use these instead of the frozen peas.

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