Saturday, June 30, 2012

Neiappam/ Neyiappam


If  Vashi, is still what it was a decade ago, there is still a  small shop tucked away in the Mini Market, in sector 9, if I remember correctly. I cannot recollect the name of the shop, but we called it the Kerala Shop. It had all South Indian delicacies one would want. Banana wafers ( Plantain chips) , Murukku, Jackfruit chips...  and many others I have no idea about. I would visit the store every week and come back with what I loved, Neiappam/ Neyiappam. I was addicted to to the little dumplings. 

But first, let me explain how the system works in Mumbai and Navi Mumbai ( and many cities across India), 
There is a small set of apartment buildings and on the ground or first ( as it is known in the USA) floor, there are small stores selling everything one needs, including a Doctor's office and a pharmacy next door. So in short, Life sustaining and life saving, all in the same place. 

Walking  down to the stores means coming home laden with fruit, vegetables, grocery items, utensils ( spoons to stockpots and more), hardware, software, gadgets and appliances as required,  restaurants if you plan to eat out or dinner to go  and the most important part: Snacks galore! 
Among the numerous small shops, lined side by side, there is a small shop, with a name one cannot read, that is because it is a South-Indian language, but who cares? first you notice, there is a flock of  Middle aged South Indian ladies, buying plantains and Coimbatore butter, murukku . Make a beeline for that store. You are in for a treat. 
On one side of the cashier table you will find rows upon rows of snacks of all types, sweet, savory. Many are home made and are packed in plastic bags and sealed over the flame of a candle. Pick one up and you will not regret it. 
If you do not have access to store brought Neiappam, Try these.You will not regret it! 


Makes about 28 Neiappam/ dumplings
You need:

2/3 scant  Cup All Purpose flour (Take off 2-3 tbsp. from top)

2/3 Cup Rice Flour

2 Tbsp Coarse Semolina/ Sooji/ Rava
1 large Ripe Banana
3-4 Green Cardamoms, remove seeds and powder using a mortar- pestle
4 Jaggery Cubes if you have them or about 2/3 cup crumbled jaggery
Hefty Pinch Bicarbonate of Soda/ ENO regular
Fistful Shredded Coconut/ Copra
Ghee, as required

In a microwave safe bowl ( preferably glass) add 2-3 tbsp of water, place the Jaggery cubes and microwave for a minute. The jaggery will melt , stir to combine any leftover small lumps and set aside. 

Mix the flours and mash the banana. I prefer to  run the banana thru the small  mixie attachment to get a smooth paste.

 Add the jaggery syrup, shredded coconut and cardamom powder and add water as required to make a smooth batter ( like idli batter). Set aside for 10-15 mins. If you do not want to wait, go ahead, to the next step. It does not make a huge difference.

Heat the appey / abelskiver pan on medium high. Add the bicarbonate of soda and whisk to incorporate.

Add a few drops of ghee in each slot.
Carefully drop a spoonful of batter into each slot, to fill no more than 2/3 of the slot.

Cover and cook for about a minute, remove cover, the appams, you will notice that they are a nice golden brown around the edges and the tops, will look solid.

Flip the appams and cook on the other side, uncovered. Cook for another minute (or less, since the pan is well heated now, especially if it is a cast iron pan)

Remove. Repeat the same process for the remaining batter

Serve when slightly warm.
NOTES: 

There are many versions of Neiappam, many using only rice flour or soaking and grinding rice. This is my preferred ( and never-fail) method.

If using smaller sized bananas, use 2. Also intensifies the banana flavor.
My Son does not like t too banana-ey, so I keep it at 1 large, well mashed/ pulverized banana. I call them banana round cakes for him, works for me and for him! 

I sometimes find a particular batch of Jaggery a tad less sweeter than the other, in which case, add another lump or 1 tbsp. Sugar. 


I have used Jaggery lumps in this recipe - this quantity therefore, should not be confused with jaggery powder or soft jaggery, which would be used in a lesser quantity.  


In any case, once the batter is ready, taste a drop of it to ensure that the sweetness is as per your liking. I like mine mildly sweet. The kind that makes you want another bite! 

Do not skip the ghee, there is no replacement. If you do, however, be prepared for an inferior taste, you have been warned!!



Enjoy your weekend! 
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Humble and Simple: Pohe

"मग काय ? आज कांदे - पोहे  का?"  my Mother asked somebody on the other end of the telephone line. I sighed to myself. Why do all Mother's make such a big deal out of this? and WHY? the code language?
 कांदे - पोहे (Kande-pohe) is the code for the 'arranged marriage' scenario. Typically, the boy, comes to meet the girl at her house, both are well dressed, the house is spotless, the best china is brought out. The girl and boy meet, talk, hesitantly, then the mother calls her dear daughter to take a tray out to the guests, laden with snacks, typically,  कांदे - पोहे ( Kande-pohe), and follows with water glasses. Over the first few spoonfuls, the Mother elaborates that her daughter has made the snack, like she always does. She is so fond of cooking, gushes the Mother, goes on to add a long list of things her daughter does so well! Awkward! 
The program concludes and both parties are left to discuss the details of the meeting and decide, the future.

Times have changed, the boy and girl meet outside and discuss what they expect of one another, but the term  कांदे - पोहे still means the same thing! 


Apart from being the code word for a 'program', kande pohe is a regular on the breakfast table and many a times, in the lunch box. Best served hot, these still are a filling option otherwise. Today, we add in vegetables, to up the nutritive value and also enhance taste.

But first, let's see how to go about it,shall we?
Step one: pick the right variety of Poha/ Pohe.
You need to know that there are 3 basic varieties. super thick, medium thick & thin.
We use the medium or super thick for 'cooked' poha/ pohe.  I know of a certain girl, who fell in love with poha and attempted it at home for the first time, with thin poha. I leave the rest to your imagination! (if you still haven't guessed, read the recipe below and you will understand).
Going back to Poha.
Thick ( super thick or medium thick) is the one we use to make this dish. It requires soaking.
Thin poha is used  to make Chivda or Dadpe Pohe 

In this recipe, I have used Super thick Poha, also called Dagadi Poha. This variety requires a longer soaking time than the medium thick variety and is a bit more 'chewy, than regular medium- thick poha.
Now that we have step one well understood, let's move on.

To make Pohe for 2 people, you need:

1/2 Cup of Thick / Dagadi Pohe
1/2 Onion, chopped
1 Small Potato, cubed( place the cubes in water to prevent browning)
1/4 cup or a little less, Green Peas ( I use frozen peas)
1/2 (slender) Carrot, cut in cubes

1-2 Green chilies, chopped
Few curry leaves
Salt to taste
1 tsp Sugar
1 Lime ( squeeze the juice or quarter and serve with pohe)
2-3 Tbsp. Cilantro, finely chopped, to garnish
1-2 Tbsp. Fresh or thawed, grated Coconut,  to garnish






Wash in running water and Soak Poha( medium thick)  in water for at least15 mins. If using super thick / Dagadi Poha, soak longer or add water ( level of water just above the poha) and microwave for 1 minute and set aside for 15 mins.

Heat oil in a wok over medium high heat.

Add the  mustard seeds. Once the seeds pop, add in the cumin seed. These should sizzle  on contact with hot oil.

Add asafetida, chopped green chilies and curry leaves.Mix well.

Add chopped onion and mix. Cover and cook for a couple of minutes  till half done. Add the potato cubes sprinkle salt and cover. Cook till onion is lightly browned and fully cooked and potatoes are fork tender.


While the onion and potatoes are cooking over heat, in a microwave safe ( preferably glass) container, add the washed, frozen peas and cubed carrot pieces, add 2-3 tbsp water and microwave oh high for 1 minute.


Add the peas and carrots to the onion-potato mixture, add turmeric, mix well. 


Add the soaked Poha, sprinkle 1 tsp sugar, mix well. cover and cook for 3-4 minutes on medium heat. 


Check for salt, add more if required and cover and cook for another minute or two.


Switch off heat, add lime juice and mix well.. Spoon the pohe in plates/ bowls, garnish with  cilantro and coconut. 
Serve.



NOTES:
You can make pohe using just onions or onion- potato combination.

To add a bit of crunch, add raw peanuts to the tempering stage, that is before adding onions and saute till golden brown.

Add lime juice after switching off the heat or alternatively, serve pohe with a wedge of lime, to be squeezed if needed.

Poha is very filling and also carbs, addition of vegetables helps to tilt the scale  towards nutrition slightly!

If you like, sprinkle some sev/ shev on top just before serving.

I found these cute 'Funtensils' and they are great for kids. I kinds like them myself ;). Just wanted to share this for Mommies here, maybe your little one would like them too.


That's it for now! Enjoy your weekend.
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Thursday, June 21, 2012

Celebrating Sweetness in my life with Classic Shortbread

I peeped from the 2nd. floor , crouching , like a cat, looking at  who was caught and who managed to stay hidden.
We were playing hide-and-seek. 
One by one  the players were caught, I crouched in my place and peeped every few minutes, glad I was 'safe'. 
After a while, I was tired, my knees scraped, my hands, filthy from crouching and adapting the normal behavior of a cat, my nose had a smut from pressing it against the brick walls of the building passage where I had concealed myself and seriously, how was it that no one could find me? Was I really *that * ingenious at finding a hiding place?
It was because I was a kacha- limbu.
I was always the kacha- limbu ( a person of no consequence, when playing) when I was in my lower K.G class. The big boys and girls ( ages 8-11 or more) would let me tag along and play hide-and-seek with them, but  I was never 'caught'. It took me a while to catch on! But it was okay. I was in a group of over 20-25 kids, around my age and it was fun to play anything, even if in many games, I was a kacha-limbu!

Sadly, I cannot say that for my little one. He does not have  a big group of friends and playing together means setting up 'play-dates' something my parents (or I, for that matter) had no idea of. 
We play a modified version of hide-and-seek, around the apartment. Somehow, of late this too has undergone a modification, S will hide under the comforter and yell, " Mommy, lapu (I'm hiding)" and I am supposed to hunt him down. Where am I, did you ask? Why, right next to him , on the bed, a few inches away from him! 
I have to then think and ask, "hmmmm, are you in the laundry room?", 
a giggle and " noooooo", 
" hmmmm, are you hiding in the closet?"
" noooooooo"
" I know!!! you are n the bathroom!"
"hehehheh! nooooooo"
" where are you???"
Where upon, he throws the comforter back, with a flourish and declares, "I am here"!!! 

Rinse, Repeat ( modification: hiding places change to kitchen / in the dishwasher/ wal-mart/restaurant/ school/ park/ Baba's office, all the way to the other end of the country). 

Last weekend was another such day, this time, he dragged his father in the game, of course M obliged, and taught him a further modified version, Look at Father and Son playing hide-and-seek in the picture below! 
M had dozed off, the opportunist that he is and Little S was giggling waiting to be found. This game went on for a good 20 mins. until I stepped in and started asking questions.
Talk about a kacha-limbu! 

Summer activities r us
Of course, four year old's find other games to play. And if anything, I have learned that silence, lasting longer than 1 minute spells d-i-s-a-s-t-e-r.
I was down with a blinding migraine and after swallowing 2 tablets I sank into the comfortable sofa groaning inwardly. I sat like that, letting  the air conditioning cool my throbbing brow and covered my eyes with a limp hand. I sat like that, perhaps a minute or two before it hit me, 'itna sannata kyon hai, bhai' (why this pin drop silence) and I propelled myself out of my comfort zone and tottered into the bedroom only to meet a - fragrant, cloud of- fine dust? I was delusional, I thought for a second. And then the haze cleared, I saw a 4 foot *something* caked  in talcum powder. Head to toe covered, bathed in powder. My head exploded, another few thousand hammers set to work and then I heard a small sound, issuing in the general direction of that *something*, " Mommy, I'm being careful and quiet ". I stood in utter disbelief, how could a 4 year old, within a span of a minute or two cause *all this* and SO quietly? And then I burst out laughing! There was nothing else I could do, well, apart from  grabbing the camera and capturing the moment forever.
All I could manage was catching him when he was taking it off. His face was still white with eyes shining like beads, I wanted to hug him and squeeze him, but that could wait, until he was cleaner. I sat him on a chair and he sat quietly (surprise) while I vacuumed  the powder from the carpet, changed the bed-sheet. Well, the boy and the room smell fresh, something in that!
Sweetness does not go unrewarded! 




Today, feeling better, I made these Classic Shortbread, cookies for him. When Borders went out of business, I went in, late and found this book  that I liked. Picked it up for about $5! What a steal:)
The book has many recipes I want to and can try. Today's recipe is simple, no fuss and few ingredients, which makes it a must - try for me!
They remind me of the famous Shrewsbury Biscuits from Kayani's Pune.So if you like Shrewsbury cookies, do try these.


You need:
8 oz/ 225 g Unsalted Butter
4 oz (1/2 cup)/ 115 g Caster (superfine) sugar, plus extra to dust
8 oz(1 3/4 cup) / 225 g All Purpose Flour
4 oz (2/3 cup) / 115 g Rice flour
Pinch Salt


Preheat the oven to 375 deg. F




Cream the butter and sugar in a bowl using a hand mixer until light and fluffy.


Sift in the A P Flour, rice flour and pinch salt and using a wooden spoon, stir into the creamed mixture until it resembles fine breadcrumbs.


Transfer to a lightly floured work surface and knead gently to form a  soft dough.


Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.


Divide the dough in half and roll out one half on to a lightly floured work surface to form an  8 inch round.


Carefully transfer to a prepared tray, using a sharp knife ( or pizza cutter), score the surface of the dough into equal wedges, prick the surface lightly using a fork and using your fingers, press the edges for a fluted effect.


Repeat for the second  ball of dough. sprinkle lightly with extra sugar.


Bake  for 18-20 minutes or until the shortbreads are  light golden.


Remove from the oven and while still hot, follow the score marks and cut into wedges.


Cool on the baking tray for  minutes and then transfer to a wire rack. makes 16 wedges


I rolled the dough and Little S cut out the star shapes. It is time consuming, but the child had a great time. It was worth the effort. We also made wedges, but the star cookies were a hit with S! 


* Notes:
The Rice flour makes these shortbreads light and crisp. 
If you do not have rice flour, use All purpose flour
They are not overly sweet. A hint of sweet, just how I love it! makes it an ideal tea-time snack or even a treat in the lunch box.



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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Good Morning, Sunshine Cheelas!

I was about my son's age when I first sat on a bicycle seat, about 4 or maybe 5 years old. 
I lived in a colony surrounded by friends, big and small. Just across from our colony, beyond the railway tracks, there was a slum area, and in it lived 'Ghani Bhai' -he had a small 'business' of renting bicycles. He had many cycles, all sizes and would charge 0.50 paise for 30 minutes. When tiddlers like me went to him, he'd sometimes help us carry the bikes across the rail road crossing
His bikes did not have training wheels, we usually had a parent or elder sibling or an older (and stronger) friend hold on to the seat and run behind, thus keeping the bike stable.
A few tumbles, bruises and scratches, crashing into the pavement and a grubby handkerchief hastily tied to a bigger and bleeding wound was how I learned to use a bike. 
One summer day, I had rented the bike as usual and a friend was helping me. I guess after a round or two of running behind my cycle, he had enough and decided I could manage well and after the first few feet, silently let go. I had no idea and peddled away talking, soon on not hearing a reply or even labored breathing, I shot a quick glance behind and wobbled in disbelief! WHAT! where..?  and my confidence collapsed like a pack of cards...the aftermath was something very natural, I crashed headlong into what was just up ahead of me, an old gentleman. He hopped  around for a few seconds before sitting down beside me and  saying everything impolite he could think of.. all I saw was stars. 
Somebody helped the poor old man up and walked him away from the scene. Many others came to my rescue, somebody picked me up, another  took charge of the bike and it's return to Ghani bhai and yet another ran all the way home to tell my parents. Of course that person was not the smartest, he ran all the way and panting  up to my parents said, " Pallu chi Aai, Pallu na cycle varun padli, tini na tya Ajobana thokla, doghe padle, te doghe radtayt..." (Pallu's Mom, Pallu fell from her bike and crashed into Grandpa, they both fell and they are both crying..) In his excitement, the boy had jumbled up some facts and my parents, with their hearts in their mouth, ran to where  the 'accident' had happened. They did not have far to go,  there I was, being carried by some 'uncle' from the colony, with a lollipop in my hand and a hanky tied to my knee,and some other resident, carrying my flip-flops, one 'aunty' caressing my hair at intervals, all reassuring me that it was okay, no problem.

How different from now, when  my son has a 12" bike, with training wheels and a helmet and all kinds of safety stuff! Thank God, I do not have to stoop and hold on to the bike seat and puff and pant  behind him in this monstrous heat. All I have to do is saunter behind him, enjoying my walk as he carefully cycles  around the community we live in.

As easy as it is for me, it does get tiring in this heat and I prefer to make a quick snack / dinner. And that is what I made just last weekend!  I have been making these 'cheelas' for sometime now. The original recipe is from American Masala and I am so used to making these now,that I eyeball the ingredients.

These cheelas/ crepes make  a great and quick breakfast and IMHO are best served right off the skillet.

Adapted from : Here


For the Cheelas /Crepes:


1 cup Besan / Gram Flour
2 Hefty pinches Ajwain / Carom Seeds ( about 1 tsp) 
1-2 Green Chilies, finely chopped ( I leave the seeds in, but if you prefer a milder flavor, de-seed and chop finely)
Salt to taste
2 heaped Tbsp finely chopped Cilantro
Water to make a batter


Mix all the ingredients listed above and make a smooth batter ( like dosa batter) and set aside for 10-15 minutes.
Heat a non- stick / cast iron skillet over medium heat. here is what I do, I spray lightly with oil and then with a tissue wipe it gently but deftly ( hot skillet, be careful and quick!)
Drop a ladleful of batter and in a quick motion, spread the batter into a circle, like a dosa / crepe.Drizzle oil along the corners. Let it cook for a minute or so until the bottom is a nice golden brown. Flip over and let the other side cook, till brown spots appear.


Serve hot, with Tomato chutney ( recipe below)
 


Tomato chutney:


2- 3 Tomatoes ( I use Roma), finely chopped
2 Shallots, finely chopped
2 Green chilies, finely chopped
fistful Cilantro, finely chopped
Salt to taste
2 tsp. Oil


Heat oil in a sauce pan/ kadhai.
Add the chopped shallot and saute till it is translucent.
Add the tomato, chilies,salt and cilantro. cover and cook till it is soft and mushy and mixed together.


* Notes:
This makes a great  quick meal


Best served right off the skillet


Do not omit the Ajwain / carom seeds, they not just taste good, but are essential ( for those of you who are not aware, Gram Flour / Besan causes tooting ( flatulence)! Ajwain helps control it.


This is a Gluten free and vegan  preparation






A big thank you to Nupur, who introduced me to Picmonkey a very easy photo editing software. It was really nice of her to share her knowledge, not just where recipes are concerned, but for all the little tips and tricks in other areas too. There aren't many like her!  I made the collage using that software. 


Till next time....
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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Simple Quinoa Pilaf

I keep making a resolution to eat right. Eat sensibly, cut carbs, reduce gluten, I even explored the idea of going grain free. All these, though excellent diet plans and great for health, did not really work for me. I did manage to hold on for a bit, but caved in to my cravings. Guilt sweeps over me when I do that, I feel low, I crave.. It is a vicious circle. Finally, I have come to the conclusion,  I cannot get rid of my current eating habits in one day, it has to be a gradual change ( not too slow, of course) and once I am on track, I will overcome the cravings and naturally go for healthier choices. 
Many will argue that, if you want to get rid of  a habit, do it in one stroke. Do it, NOW! I guess everyone is different. I tried that, I failed. It was a setback. What do I plan now? I will start off, slow and steady. A few changes every day, every week.
The first change was to include Quinoa in my diet, on a regular basis. My first stop was at the library and I picked up The Eat-Clean Book. I found it explained facts in a simple manner and made it easy for me to want to make the changes. There are many simple recipes I hope to try out in my effort to eat and live well.
The book has recipes and many are vegetarian! This solved my problem to an extent. My main problem is getting enough protein in my diet. This is my first step in that direction.

I tried this basic 'From India with love Quinoa Pilaf' recipe, to start off with (another reason was, it was almost weekend and the fridge was almost bare, so this was perfect for me)
I paired this with a simple raita ( coming up soon) and also with Choley for a complete meal.

Here is the recipe, from my kitchen to yours, courtesy Tosca Reno , with my substitutions in bold.

You need:
1tsp Oil
1 cup Quinoa (  rinse thoroughly to remove all traces of saponin that cause bitterness)
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1/4 tsp coriander seeds ( I used coriander powder)
1 stick Cinnamon ( I used a small stick)
1 Jalapeno, thinly sliced ( I used Thai chili)
1 tsp Turmeric powder
1/4 tsp Ground Green Cardamom
1 tsp Sea Salt
1/4 tsp fresh Ground Black Pepper
juice of 1 Lemon
1/4 cup Chopped fresh cilantro
1/4 cup Toasted Almond slivers

Heat Oil in a large pot. Add cumin, coriander seeds, cinnamon and jalapeno and saute until fragrant.
Add Quinoa, turmeric and cardamom and stir well with toasted spice mix.
Stir in 2 cups of water, salt and pepper.
Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat to low and simmer until all liquid is absorbed and quinoa is plump.
Remove from heat and fluff and let it sit for 5 mins.
Stir in lemon juice, cilantro and almonds.
Serve! 


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