Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Raw Banana Vegetable - RCI

A long, long time ago..... when I was a college student and pocket-money was a mere trickle at the end of the month.... we lived upon the mercy of our friends (Mother's) who lived nearby. Dropping in at their apartments needed no second thought.. and the yummy food was too good to resist.

On one such day, we trickled in, as was our custom to appease the pangs of hunger, gnawing at our insides.. to find Mrs. Iyer chopping raw bananas.... First though.... " umm... doesn't that look a tad too thick for kela wafer (plantain wafer) ?" second thought.... on seeing Auntie pop the plantain pieces in boiling water.... "Yow! aren't you supposed to deep fry those?" But these words were never said out aloud... curiousity as to what will happen next and delicacy prevented me from putting my foot in my mouth.

Now that Lakshmi is hosting RCI- Tamil, I thought this would be perfect time to try a recipe that I had tasted long ago and liked, despite the initial misgivings, for myself.

I used to classify everything into the 'banana' category, honestly knew nothing except the fact that the big ones are used to make chips and the regular ones that we eat.

Just some info I found on the net .. thot I should share it...
Used as a vegetable
Longer than bananas
Thicker skin
Resemble green bananas, but may be green, yellow or black

Eaten as a fruit
Shorter than plantains
Thinner skin
Color is green when not fully ripe, yellow when ripe

For the recipe... well, it was the usual 'hath ka andaz' information I got.... soak chana daal in water for a few hours. Roughly chop the plantain , and cook it for a few mins. in boiling water... grind coconut and green chilly and a bit of cilantro... temper ... cook ..add salt. You are done!!

Right... how useful is that now?

So with this information I kinda did it myself.. the result was, let me assure you, not at all disappointing!

(For 2 people)

1 big Plantain

1/4 cup Chana daal ( you can reduce this, but I like chana daal.. so i put in a generous amount)

1 Serrano green chilly

1/2 cup dessicated / fresh coconut

1/2 tsp. Cumin seeds

1/2 tsp. Mustard seeds

Dash Asafetida

1/4 tsp. Turmeric

Salt to taste

3-4 Curry leaves

1tbsp. Oil

Do the Prep:

Wash and soak the chana daal in water for an hour

Grind the coconut, chilly and cilantro (without using water) into a paste

Peel and chop the raw banana into cubes

In a sauce pan boil water.

Once the water boils, add the plantain cubes and cook them for ~ 5 mins.

Drain the water and keep aside the cubes

Heat oil

Add the mustard seeds

After they pop, add cumin seeds

Add the Asafetida

Add curry leaves ad turmeric

Add the chana daal and cook for a few minutes

Add the ground paste, salt.

Add Plantain. Mix well.

Cover and cook for a couple of minutes

Mix again... cook for another 2-3 mins.

Serve with Rice and sambar, fulkas

Lesson learnt : I bought the plantain , but left it sitting for a good 3 days, as a result it ripened and became slightly sweet (which tasted good nevertheless).. however this also had a direct impact on the cooking... 1) As it was ripe , boiling in water for 5 mins. was not necessary, infact what I did was make the cubes softer than needed

2) The final mixing and cooking time was also reduced to 3-4 mins.

3) The palntain was a bit too soft.... as in the cubes did not stay cubey... if you know what I mean.

4) End result: Very tasty despite the above mentioned points. Will make again... and keep in mind the lessons learnt!
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Saturday, April 14, 2007

L is for Lal Bhoplya chi Bhaji

The everyday pumpkin is Lal Bhopla in Marathi. This is my entry for Nupur's A-Z of Vegetables....
All thru my childhood I associated 'bhopla' with a zero (that I used to get in my math paper!) my Father would count, re-count the marks and send a prayer upward for the unseen hand which guided me to passing marks , I would count the 'bhoplas' and grin impishly (and shamelessly)!
As for eating pumpkin vegetable, I did not mind it... though not a particular favourite of mine. My Mother made it with a sweet-sour tamarind jagery gravy and peanut powder. I used to call it 'Upvasachi bhaji' (vegetable consumed during a Fast).
Then came a delightful version of Gharge, which satisfied my sweet tooth and my respect for this bland vegetable went up.
Today I am trying out another version, taken from Lokpriya

1/4 kg Red pumpkin
1 tablespoon Grated coconut
2 Red chillies
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
1/4 teaspoon Fenugreek seeds
1/4 teaspoon Mustard seeds
1 pinch Asafoetida
2 tablespoons Grated jaggery
1 tablespoon Oil
Salt (As per taste)
1/4 tsp Cumin - I added this

Chop the pumpkin into 2 inch cubes.Heat oil in a deep bottomed pan and add mustard seed, red chillies, turmeric and asafoetida. When the mustard seeds start crackling add the fenugreek seeds. Fry for 1-2 seconds.
Add the chopped pumpkin and saute for 2-3 minutes. Cover and cook for another 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour 1/2 cup of water on top of the lid, this enhances steaming. Add water into the pan only if required.When the pumpkin is half-cooked, add the jaggery and stir well and cook covered till it is thoroughly cooked. Add the coconut and simmer for 2 minutes.Serve hot with rotis.
Verdict: Simple and Tasty! I was a bit apprehensive as there are no spices (lesson learnt... spices are not always necessary!), but the methi (fenugreek seeds) and jaggery are sufficient.
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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Ruz Wa Banadoura & Falafel in Pita pockets....

Wow... I wish I had a genie like this... oh, and more than just 3 wishes!!
This is my very first attempt (like many of you) at cooking Middle Eastern food. In fact when I saw this theme on Meeta's blog I wanted to try it out! All I knew then, was that there is this dish called Falafel, which I had once seen on some Cookery Show on Star TV... that was waaaay back, when I was a student in India, and I also recollected that this was a vegetarian preparation.

So I popped into the library and made a beeline for the cookbook section... where, a few weeks ago I had seen this book on middle eastern cooking , glanced thru it, but since I had a lot of books already, I shoved it back in to the shelf!

Thankfully I found it there, grabbed it and headed home, where I could sit and go thru the whole book.
What first struck me was the simplicity of the ingredients (for the recipes I chose). The combination of two or three spices bring out the wonderful flavors of the dish. I followed the recipes to the T.

Ruz Wa Banadoura... if that has confused you, how does Rice with Tomato sound? That's just what this is!!
And here's how you make it:

1 Small Onion, chopped
1 tbsp. Olive oil
1 Small Ripe Tomato, Diced
2 cups Water
1 tbsp. Tomato Paste
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
1 cup Rice
Salt to taste
Saute the onion in the olive oil until transparent.
Add the diced tomato and cook for a couple of minutes
Add water, tomato paste and pepper
Bring to a boil, then add the rice
Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 mins. or until rice is tender and the juice has been absorbed.

For the Falafel :
1 lb. dry Chickpeas (Kabuli chana / dry choley)
1 medium Onion
1 cup chopped Parsley
1 cup chopped Cilantro
1 tbsp. ground Corriander
1 tbsp. Cumin
1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
1 tbsp. Baking powder
Salt to taste

Soak the Chickpeas in cold water for 24 hrs.
Mix all the ingredients, except, the baking powder
Grind the mixture in a food processor until it turns to a paste
Add the baking powder and let the mixture set for 30 minutes.
Then, shape into patties
Deep fry (in Olive oil)
* Traditionally falafel are deep fried, but if you want to drastically cut down on the calories, they can be broiled in the oven
For the lack of a better pic...
** Leson I learnt... I do not have a food processor... and so, I had a tough time grinding the mixture... all I have is a small Chopper and a Blender (which needs an adequate amount of water to work well!) So (after a few unladylike words!) I first ran the whole thing in the chopper.. then thru the blender, ended up using water when not required.. the end result was not disappointing ( as my friends, who have eaten falafel before, told me), but on the whole... tedious.
Falafel is served on mini pita loaves with its condiments of chopped onion mixed with sumac, sliced tomatoes, pickled turnips and tahini sauce. I liked them as they are too! As an accompaniment / dip I used (store bought) Hummus Tahina sauce, and mixed ground garlic, lemon juice and some red chilly flakes in it (for a bit of a punch!)

Till date I had only heard of Pita Bread, but never tasted, and so I was a little apprehensive of making them. So I hunted around on the net and finally settled down for this recipe and boy, was it GOOD!! I was thrilled to see the dough rise.. then the pita bread puff up in the oven!! Here's how they turned out...

For your convenience, here is the recipe ( link above )

Pita Bread
Makes 8 pitas
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 Tablespoon sugar or honey
1 packet yeast (or, if from bulk, 2 teaspoons yeast)
1 1/4 to 1 1/2 cups water, roughly at room temperature
2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil, butter, or shortening

If you are using active dry yeast, follow the instructions on the packet to active it (see the note on yeast above). Otherwise, mix the yeast in with the flour, salt, and sugar. Add the olive oil and 1 1/4 cup water and stir together with a wooden spoon. All of the ingredients should form a ball. If some of the flour will not stick to the ball, add more water (I had to add an extra 1/4 cup).
Once all of the ingredients form a ball, place the ball on a work surface, such as a cutting board, and knead the dough for approximately 10 minutes (or until your hands get tired). If you are using an electric mixer, mix it at low speed for 10 minutes.
(The purpose of kneading is to thoroughly combine the ingredients and to break down the flour so that the dough will become stretchy and elastic and rise well in the oven. A simple hand kneading technique is to firmly press down on the dough with the palm of your hand, fold the dough in half toward you like you are closing an envelope, rotate the dough 90 degrees and then repeat these steps, but whatever technique you are comfortable using should work.)
When you are done kneading the dough, place it in a bowl that has been lightly coated with oil. I use canola spray oil, but you can also just pour a teaspoon of oil into the bowl and rub it around with your fingers. Form a ball out of the dough and place it into the bowl, rolling the ball of dough around in the bowl so that it has a light coat of oil on all sides. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp kitchen towel and set aside to rise until it has doubled in size, approximately 90 minutes.
When it has doubled in size, punch the dough down to release some of the trapped gases and divide it into 8 pieces. Roll each piece into a ball, cover the balls with a damp kitchen towel, and let them rest for 20 minutes. This step allows the dough to relax so that it'll be easier to shape.
While the dough is resting, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. If you have a baking stone, put it in the oven to preheat as well. If you do not have a baking stone, turn a cookie sheet upside down and place it on the middle rack of the oven while you are preheating the oven. This will be the surface on which you bake your pitas.
After the dough has relaxed for 20 minutes, spread a light coating of flour on a work surface and place one of the balls of dough there. Sprinkle a little bit of flour on top of the dough and use a rolling pin or your hands to stretch and flatten the dough. You should be able to roll it out to between 1/8 and 1/4 inch thick. If the dough does not stretch sufficiently you can cover it with the damp towel and let it rest 5 to 10 minutes before trying again.
Open the oven and place as many pitas as you can fit on the hot baking surface. They should be baked through and puffy after 3 minutes. If you want your pitas to be crispy and brown you can bake them for an additional 3 to 5 minutes, but it isn't necessary (in the batch pictured here I removed them at 3 minutes).

For the Final step... stuffing the falafel in the pita bread....
I sliced the bread in 2. Chopped a tomato in thin slices.
I had very little lettuce, so I usedthat too (but you cannot see it in the snap :( ... )
Arranging it was simple, open the pita pocket, layer with shredded lettuce, tomato, some hummus , Falafel... eat!!

Oh how I wish I could take better pics!!
This is my contribution to Monthly Mingle @ Meeta's. Thank U Meeta, for this wonderful theme which gave me an opportunity of exploring a wonderful cuisine!!
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Monday, April 09, 2007

Kothimbir Wadi

This is a typical Maharashtrian snack! The main ingredient being... you guessed it, Kothimbir (Cilantro). This savoury cake is available in most restaurants who serve predominantly Maharashtrian cuisine. Shivaji Park (Dadar,Mumbai), is where I had my first taste of this wonderful snack.We used to do our Diwali shopping in SP and after the shop-till -u-drop session we would head for the nearby restaurant and tuck in!
There is also a place on the Mumbai-Pune OLD highway, where one takes a turn for Mum-Goa road.. (DattaGuru Snacks) where brisk business happens and the snacks (the usual highway snacks batata wada, samosa, pakodas and Kothimbir wadi are sold). This is one of the BEST places to get kothimbir wadi.
The first time I made this was at my cousin's house. She had to meet this guy (the arranged marriage scenario) when just an hour before the guests were to arrive, my Grandma bustled in with 2 bunches of fresh cilantro and said, "let's make kothimbir wadi.... the usual kande-pohe is so boring!"
So while my cousin went to get ready, I made this snack with my Grandma's directions.
2 bunches (fairly big) of Cilantro
1 cup Besan (chickpea flour)
2 Green chillies (+/ - to taste, I used Serano, so 2 were enough)
1/4 tsp. Tamarind paste ( I use readymade concentrate)
1/2 tsp. Jaggery
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp Baking Soda
Sesame seeds to sprinkle on top
2 tbsp Rice flour (Grandma's tip: to make the wadis crisp)
Steamer / pressure cooker (without the whistle/ weight)
Do the preparation... if you are using a presure cooker, do not use the whistle/weight, pour adequate water in the cooker/ steamer and get the water boiling.
Grase a pan ( I used a cake tin) with oil and set aside.
Wash and chop the cilantro. Keep aside 2 tsp. for garnish
Finely chop the green chillies
Add the besan,rice flour, salt, tamarind pulp, jaggery, soda
Add water and mix well.
The mixture must look like a thick cake batter at this point of time
Pour the mixture in the greased pan , sprinkle sesame seeds on top
Place the pan in the cooker/ steamer and steam for 20-25 mins (do the usual toothpick test, the toothpick should come out clean when inserted). This is how it looks:
Let it cool, then cut into squares. The traditional way is to deep fry them , but this time I shallow fried them (like patties/ tikkis) and they turned out great!
The steamed wadis and the fried wadis.. before and after

Garnish with the cilantro kept aside.Serve hot, with Coconut chutney, tomato ketchup.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

A quick snack.. Semiya upma

What do you do when you are feeling lazy? What do you do when you want to have a quick snack? I make Semiya Upma.
Until a couple of years ago I probably would have raised an eyebrow and said huh?!? if anyone would have told me about Semiya upma.Then I tasted this in a friend's lunch box,and i quite liked it... she just chuckled it and said, " you like this? its a quick fix ! who has time for more when you have to report here at 8.00 am?!" True, who has time.. hmmm..
At home, my parents are fans of the sooji upma, they did not quite fancy semiya version, so I never had the chance to make it. But now, M & I both like it, so it has become a regular evening snack.M likes it as it is, I prefer it with tomato ketchup.
So this evening I was feeling a bit lazy... maybe the weather... or maybe the book I'm reading, don't feel like putting it down, just want to curl up in the rocking chair and keep reading..but I'm hungry too, and so will M be, once he gets home from work. Lazy as I was feeling, it was definately not a chai- biscuit evening, something better... semiya upma - bingo!

SoI dragged myself to the kitchen, took out

2 cups semiya
1 med. size onion
1/4 potato
A few florets cauliflower
1 tbsp. oil
1/4 spn. cumin seeds
1/4 spn. mustard seeds
Dash asafetida
1/2 spn. cumin-corriander pwd. (optional)
2-3 green chilies
2-3 curry leaves
1/4 spn. turmeric
Salt to taste
2 cups water

Heat oil in a kadhai, lightly roast the semiya till they turn a nice light golden colour or u can just microwave it too for about 2 mins. Keep aside. Chop the green chilies,onion, potato and cauliflower. In the kadhai, add oil, once hot, add mustard and cumin seds,. After they crackle, add asafetida, green chilly, curry leaves, turmeric, onion and chopped vegs. Mix well, cover and let them cook till tender.
Add Semiya, saute. Add water, salt, dhania-jeera powder.Mix and cook till soft. If after a while the upma looks sticky, just add a dollop of butter, mix and cover and cook for a couple of mins.
Garnish with chopped cilantro.Serve hot.

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