Saturday, March 15, 2008

Ode to Potato with Til Aloo

So Sia has us blogging about the Potato! What could be easier? Don't we all love this tuber?

The best that happens in an emergency, no vegetable at hand, guests drop in... make a potato bhaji in a jiffy.... or if you just want to increase the volume to accommodate one more guest!

Err... vegetable side dish too salty, add potato!!

Wake up groggy in the morning to put together the husband's lunch box in a haste...

It's raining outside so you are craving for that aloo bhajji and garam chai .

If you are in India and returning from work, tired and irritated and hungry, what better than a vada-pav or a dabeli roti ?

Quick lunch? Pav-bahji ho jaye?

Fasting? Potato chips!

Burger and fries! (I mean Indian burger, potato patty!!)

Aloo ke parathe makkhan pa ke!

Sev-batata puri anyone? Ragda Patties?

So are you guys nodding reading all this? nod-nod..
Drooling Bouncy Smiley

Anyone remember playing 'bhaatukli' as kids? a gang of girls coming together to make lunch? Each bringing one food item... the vegetable would be potato (99.9% of the times)..nod-nod!!!

When I first came to the USA a couple of years ago we had no car to zip out and buy groceries as required, so the first thing I loaded up was potatoes, if nothing, this would come to my rescue anytime. It was the first time in my life that I also came across so many varieties of potato! White, red, Idaho, purple (?) potatoes.. Grabbing one bag of potatoes which looked like the Indian Potato we walked out confused.. purple??? potato??? Jet lag wore off a couple of days ago!! Purple?? Potato??

Huh? 2

Then there was a time, before I started blogging, that I would visit websites, blogs (not knowing the difference between the two.. still don't as a matter of fact.. dhuh!!) and drool at recipes and take print outs like crazy and carefully file them for later. It was possibly then that I printed out the recipe...

That later happened in this post almost after 2 years ( I should be ashamed, 'cep that I am not..)

I honestly have no idea where I got the recipe from, so if it is from one of the blogs do let me know, I can link it. I am keeping the recipe as it is so as the original webmaster/ blogger can alert me.
To me puri-bahji is a classic combo and one that does not fail! so I was in the mood for deep fried food and a side which was not time and energy consuming, so flipping thru that carefully maintained file, I chanced upon the recipe that hit the mark!

You need:

4-5 medium size potatoes

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp mustard seeds

1/2 tbsp beige sesame seeds

1/2 tbsp black sesame seeds ( optional)

1/4 tsp ginger paste

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1/2 tsp red chilli powder

lemon juice

1-2 tbsp oil

salt to taste

Wash and peel potatoes. Cut into wedges or large cubes and boil them in salted water until tender (they cook faster this way so keep an eye).Heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds. When they begin to splutter add cumin and sesame seeds. Add ginger paste, turmeric and red chilli powder and saute for a few minutes (on low heat or the seeds will turn bitter).Add potatoes and season to taste. Stir until they are well coated with spices. Sprinkle lemon juice and serve hot.
Simple and tasty (and not time consuming!!) this was a very satisfying meal. Add to the side a bit of pickle and it tastes even better!

Other Potato / that have potato as a necessary ingredient recipes I have blogged :

Pav Bhaji
Dabeli Roti
Batata Vada
Sabudana Vada
Aloo Tikki Chat
Sabudana Thalipeeth
Potato Dosa
Alu Ki Rasdar Subzi
Alu Paratha
Hara Bhara Kebab

Thank U Sia, for hosting this event and making me go back and look at the recipes I have blogged ! Can hardly wait for the round up to see what other super bloggers churn out!!

That's it for now folks!!!

Weekend 1

Found it!! I mean she found me!!! Errr... what do I mean? Remember, I said I did not know the source of my recipe... well, I found it.. I mean she found me!! it is fom our own Ashwini!! Thank you Ashwini for letting me know!

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008


Shilpa asked me if I was interested in participating in the Arusuvai Friendship chain which has gained momentum in the USA. I jumped at the chance! Thank You SO MUCH Shilpa!
The Arusuvai Friendship chain was started by Latha Mami and in her own words:

“is about sending along a surprise ingredient as a gift to your friends for them
to prepare something tasty with it, share the recipe, and pass on other surprise
ingredients to more people. Arusuvai means six tastes (aru=six, suvai=taste) in
Tamizh and is used to refer for Tasty preparation with six tastes - inippu/
thithippu (sweet), orappu/ karam (hot), kassappu (bitter) , pulippu (sour),
uppu(salt), tuvarpu (tastes that one gets in raw leaves).”

Lazy, is what I can be labeled when it comes to opening the mail box.. I mean how exciting is it to view a stack of bills and other junk? But when Shilpa was going to mail me the surprise ingredient, I was thrilled and did not think twice about opening the mailbox!In due course the package arrived with its mystery ingredient. In all eagerness, I tore off the cover and pulled out the contents! The moment I opened the ziplock bag I knew I had received a WONDERFUL ingredient! The aroma of the 'mystery powder' was all over the house and was so tempting.. I wanted to try it then and there! But wait!! there was more!! a slab of Lindt chocolate and Tomato Pickle and a very sweet greeting card!! In a haste I took this picture ( and the only one I did' coz M was in a rush to eat the chocolate).. well I am no less than the husband! I opened the Tomato pickle and shamelessly dipped my finger in it and licked! those who went, "eeewwww" reading that.. let me tell you folks.. THAT is the way to enjoy pickles!! Uuummmmm!! So tasty!!!
Back to the powder.. I made M take some hearty sniffs at it and he concluded it was Goda Masala.. I too swayed to that conclusion.. but a little whisper kept on in my right ear.. it must be something Konkani!! And it was!! It was PohaPowder !! I was all for making Kalayile Pohvu , but had no fresh coconut on hand ( and I really am not a fan of frozen coconut, it - for some reason.. or maybe something I do here: forms a yucky oily , slimy layer on thawing) and so that had to wait.
And then I had a brain wave ( yeah! yeah! not being modest..) I decided to make Chivda out of it!
I have this weakness to end all weaknesses, for chivda. I can have it for any meal. Don't cringe here, but I love mixing my chivda with a generous dollop of plain yougurt and eating it! Oh YUMMMM!
To elaborate more on the brainwave part (lest you guys stick out your tongues at me!) was, I thought of me Dad.. who is also a chivda aficionado and though rather particular (or as I call, peculiar- he does not believe in eating anything but two meals : that's why peculiar ! imagine no munching!! ) about his food habits likes to have a bit of chiva with his evening tea.
So it came about that i made a big batch of this chivda and sent off a portion of it to my father, who I am sure enjoyed it!
For the chivda:
2 cups Thin Poha
3-4 tbsp Oil
1 heaped tsp Mustard seeds
1 heaped tsp Cumin seeds
1 heaped tsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp Raw Peanuts
2 tbsp Dalia
2 tbsp Dry coconut pieces
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
2 Dry Red chilies broken into pieces
15 or so Curry leaves
2 tbsp Sugar
Salt to taste (just be careful when adding salt, even a little goes a long way)
2 tbsp Poha Powder

Heat a kadhai and add about 2 fistfuls of poha and on a low flame, dry roast them till they are crunchy. Do this for the entire lot. A faster way to do it is to zap them in a microwave for one minute ( toss after 30 secs for even roasting) or line a baking tray with foil or parchment paper, preheat the oven to a 350 deg. F. and roast the entire batch of poha for about 10 mins ( that is an approx time)
Remove poha and set aside. Heat oil in the kadhai, add raw peanuts, dalia, mustard seeds and cumin. The peanuts and dalia should be well browned and crunchy. Add the sesame, dry red chilli, coconut and curry leaves. Sauté until the curry leaves are crunchy. Use a medium flame and ensure that none of the ingredients gets burnt ( or even a dark brown, which will make them bitter). Add the poha and mix thoroughly.
Add the Poha Powder , sugar and salt. Mix thoroughly and switch off the heat.
When the chivda is cool, transfer to an airtight box.
Enjoy with ur cup of tea or coffee or just about any time you feel like munching.

The Poha Powder adds a punch to the chivda and leaves you wanting more!! I have some of the powder remaining and am now looking at using it in some other way, may be in a curry!

I am extending the Arusuvai Frienship Chain and am delighted to have Trupti and Mythreyee join the growing group! Your Mystery Ingredient is on its way!! Thank You for accepting my hand of friendship!

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Sunday, March 09, 2008

Bisi Bele Hulli Anna for Meeta's Monthly Mingle.

I am a one dish dinners person, there is no denying that.. there are times that I go the whole roti-subzi, daal- rice deal, but one dish meals are perfect for weekdays. Tired and beat, just put together a few things and that's it.. not just lessens cooking time, more importantly cleaning up time!

When Meeta announced MM- One dish Meals, I knew just what I wanted to make. This dish makes its appearance very often on our dinner table.. but with variations every time! Nevertheless, I felt that the Monthly Mingle deserves special attention and decided to go all the way with a long and involved recipe. Relying on Chandra Padmanabhan's Dakshin, I tried out a 'new' type of Bisi Bele Hulli Anna.
South Indian cuisine is distinguished by its liberal use of Rice and not to forget coconut! But coconut is not a very popular item with M, he dislikes it and just about tolerates it in a typical dish!
This meal has everything, rice, daal, vegetables.. as I said, everything for a power packed meal. the best part is, it tastes better the next day (and with the mentioned quantities, it will feed a good 6 people!) So if you try this method, be prepared for leftovers or halve the quantity.

You need:
1 cup Toor Daal
1 cup Basmati Rice
4 1/2 cups Water
1 lime size piece of Tamarind pulp
2 cups Hot Water
½ cup chopped shallots
1 Bell pepper finely chopped
1 small eggplant finely chopped
2 tbsp Green peas (optional)
1 Potato diced
½ tsp turmeric
Salt to taste
6 Tbsp Ghee
Cilantro to garnish

For the Paste:
4 tsp Oil
3 tbsp Coriander seeds
1 inch Cinnamon stick
3 tsp Chana Daal
1 ½ tsp Poppy seeds
4 cloves
½ tsp Methi / Fenugreek seeds
½ Coconut grated (or ½ cup flaked coconut)
1 tsp Asafetida powder
Little water

Dry Masala:
3 tbsp Fried Gram daal / Dalia
1 ½ tsp Poppy seeds
3 tsp uncooked Rice
2 -3 tbsp fresh / flaked coconut
For Tempering:
2 tbsp Oil
1 tsp Mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp each Chana Daal & Urid Daal
1 Red Chilli
Few curry leaves

Rinse rice and toor daal and cover with 4 ½ cups water and set it to cook (stove top method). ( I used a shortcut, I pressure cooked the rice and daal) do not drain any excess water if using stove top method.
For the paste: Heat oil in a heavy frying pan, add red chillies, coriander seeds, cinnamon, chana daal, poppy seeds, cloves, fenugreek seeds, coconut and asafetida. Sauté for 2-3 mins. Place in blender , add little water and make a fine paste (or place all the dry ingredients in a spice grinder and grind to a powder)
For the Masala: In a heavy saucepan, dry roast the dalia, poppy seeds, rice, coconut for about 5 mins or till fragrant. Cool and make a powder.
Soak the tamarind in the hot water for 15 mins, squeeze out all the pulp and discard solids. Set aside
Tempering: In a heavy sauce pan, heat oil. Add mustard seeds, cumin, chana and urid daal, red chilli and curry leaves.
When the mustard seeds sputter, add the chopped shallots, sauté for 2-3 mins. Add the bell pepper, eggplant potatoes and peas (if using). Sauté until the vegetables are partially cooked. Add tamarind juice, turmeric and salt to taste. Cook till vegetables are tender. Add the paste and cook for a few mins. Gradually add the rice and daal mixture, ensure that there are no lumps formed. Simmer on low heat. Add the ghee, cook till thoroughly blended.
Lastly add the dry masala. Remove from the stove top.
Garnish with cilantro, serve hot with fried papad as an accompaniment.

This procedure is long drawn out, and therefore aptly a one-dish meal!!! However the end result is very satisfying.
P.S: there have been times I have skipped all these steps and also totally changed what BBB means.. I have added rice to normal sambar and cooked it for a quick ,no-fuss version of BBB!! MTR band has a mix that also is very yum. and not to mention quick!
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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Bangla Daal with a Hit of Lime

Oh my ears and whiskers, how late it's getting! Excuse me!! .. 'scuse me, please... ! Bit of a rush here!!! Now you know why I am late? Missed it again! Old age and all that!! Then the decision.. what to make? I mean SO MANY things have lime juice in it! The mind boggles!
After a lot of thinking, just thinking, and missing the deadline (as usual) I stumbled upon a book Mangoes and Curry Leaves and picked it up ( and literally stumbled home with it! Gosh!! It's SO heavy!!)

So far I have just thumbed thru it and my eye caught this daal! Just what I needed for JFI (Yaaay!!! Coffee will accept the late entry) and also a chance to explore Bangla cuisine , in a safe manner! the author states

The name of this Bangladeshi classic is tok dal and
it's become one of our favorite versions of simple dal. Tok means sour in Bengali.

To go straight to the recipe: ( with slight modifications on my part and halving the original measures)
1/2 cup Masoor Daal, washed and drained
2 cups water
1/2 tsp Tamarind pulp
2 tbsp Oil ( recommended oil: Vegetable and Mustard in equal proportions)
1/4 tsp Ground Coriander
1/4 tsp Ground Cumin
1/4 tsp Cayenne
1/4 tsp Turmeric
1/4 tsp Ground/ finely minced Garlic
1/2 Onion, thinly sliced
Salt to taste
Juice of 1/2 Lime
Chopped Cilantro to garnish

The original recipe states that the Masoor dal should be boiled in an open pan till it is soft and mushy and also to skim off the hot water from top to soak the tamarind in and extract pulp. I skipped all the long procedure here and took a shortcut.

Pressure cook the masoor daal. Once done, mash and set aside. Soak (marble size) tamarind and extract pulp and discard solids or use Tamarind pulp (as I did, except that, in this case, the daal gets a dark hue).
Heat oil, add the coriander, cumin cayenne and stir fry ( be careful that you don't burn it)till fragrant. Add turmeric, garlic and onions and stir fry till onions are soft. add the tamarind pulp, daal and water to the desired consistency. Add salt. Let the daal boil. After switching off the heat, add the lime juice. Garnish with cilantro. Serve hot with rice.

Verdict: Simple and superb! The hubby had to be convinced that the daal was Masoor and not the usual Toor! Wonderful change from the usual and a keeper!

This daal is on it's way to Coffee at The Spice Cafe who is our hostess for JFI . Thank U Coffee, for accepting my late entry!

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Monday, March 03, 2008


When I am talking of Kadhi and Khichadi... can Dhokla be far behind?(and after revealing to all of my M.O for getting a tid bit )...
Borrowing fom Nupur's term, Pillowy Goodness- dhokla spring to my mind ( oh yes, other yummy food also form a medley, but let me apply this term here.. and later you will see why I SO wanted to borrow this term!)
Going back to my alluring (!) ways of raking in samples of dhokla or being rewarded for my patience or just a matter of Mom buying the mandatory 'khau' for me on her way home from work on a Saturday ( a half working day for her), dhokla found its way in our home very often.
As also for small get together at tea-time or just a snacking option for me and my cousins when we collected at my Grandma's for summer ( a better option than chips and cookies and chocolates). However, there was this one time I found myself choking on a dhokla...

One summer.. 4 over optimistic , enthusiastic and highly over confident kids decided to rent a horror movie and watch it all by themselves. Getting the atmosphere right... Draw all curtains, bring out a pitcher of Rasna (orange) :), set out dhokla and some other snacky stuff we found. Rewind the tape. Hushed silence and fast breathing and nervous grins.. yes, all set!

Now who could think that a stupid doll would terrorise human lives? yeah, right! that same 'Chucky' or whatever he was called, made our hair stand and several large spiders do a tap dance routine down our spine! Wait... theres' more........"ssshhh, it's getting closer."

One look at me would have been enough to convince a blind and retarded person that a scream was working its way out of my body and when it surfaces, there won't be a single window un-shattered in the housing complex.
My cousin sensing this, cupped his dhokla sodden hand over my mouth to hoarsely whisper.." it's ok.." Ok? Ok?!!!!! Ok??? with that sound getting louder and adding to that the low guttural breathing a crunch and shuffle....!!! ok!!!!????!!!!
So now, we are all huddled up clutching one another with our eyes the size of dinner plates and a hand clamping my mouth and a bit of cilantro tickling my left nostril... shaking it away, I did what any person frightened out of her wits would naturally do... SCREAM. A scream that went right through flesh and bone with the others now rounding off the sound with shrill harmonics.. only to emerge out of the house seconds later, pelting out into the bright sunlight as if our und... errr.. intimate articles of clothing were on fire. I swore off dhoklas for a while.

Coming back to the present, my cooking experiments in the kitchen were many a times the hit and miss affairs, either an adventure would come off splendidly or meet a hushed up funeral and a few tears shed at the short life span. One thing that never failed to reduce me to wringing my hands in despair was Dhokla. For a seemingly simple snack, it was an insurmountable mystery to me how in the world did the others get that spongy look.. how on earth did my attempt always look like ( I had better not describe what!) a mess?

I finally gave up after about 4 failed attempts and resorted to buying a ready pack with idiot proof instructions to satisfy the craving. But that did not erase the memory of the mess..

Then one day my friend P emerges out of the mists and hands me on a platter PERFECT dhokla. I stare, gulp, poke it with an inquisitive finger to have it bounce back at me! This is it!!! I hound her for the recipe and she breezily doles it out to me. I want it writing, I cannot remember all of this.. with that promise I come to a start and realise that I have been talking so long, I haven't tasted it!! so I start stuffing away like a squirrel before winter. It tastes as good as it looks!!

So P mails me her recipe just before she leaves for a vacation in India.

Here is her secret to making spongy dhoklas!

3/4 Cup Gram flour / Besan

4 tsp Sugar

1/2tsp Salt

1/2 tsp Citric acid

1/2 tsp Soda / Eno regular fruit salt

For Tempering:

2 Tbsp Oil

10 Curry leaves

1 tsp Mustard seeds

1 tsp Sesame

1/2 tsp Cumin seeds

Cilantro to garnish

1/4 tsp Salt

5- 6 Green chillies (+/ - to taste)

1/4 cup water

Phase I : Combine the besan, salt sugar and citric acid in a mixing bowl and mix with water. Mix it like you would make bhajji (fritters) cover (should not be runny) . Keep aside.

Phase II: is to make the tempering: Heat oil, add the mustard seeds, Cumin, sesame, curry leaves, green chillies and salt. To this add 1/4 cup water and bring it all to a vigorous boil. Set aside to cool and to be used later.

Phase III: We start off making the dhokla. Do the prep. Get the pressure cooker ready, remove the weight/ whistle ( to steam the dhokla in). Pour water in it and set it on the stove to boil.

Get the utensil, you want to steam the dhokla in, ready. I used my idli stand ( P's idea). Grease the molds with oil. Now set half a cup of water to boil (separately, as this water will be used to add to the batter). Once the water is boiling, add the soda to the batter, pour 1 ladle (no more) of the boiling water to the batter and whisk it briskly (fermentation). Now quickly pour the frothing batter to the molds and set the stand in the pressure cooker. Steam for 12 minutes. Switch off the heat in 12 mins. But let the dhokla sit in there for another 12 mins. Remove and set the stand (or plate , as you are using) at a slant, the logic here is that if kept flat, the dhokla 'sits' and loses it sponginess (err.. I could not come up with a better description). When cool remove from the molds , set in a plate, pour the tempering evenly all over. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro. Serve!

== Notes & Tips: The first time I made dhoklas I halved the quantities, reason: my idli stand is a mini idli stand and can make only 15 idlis/ dhoklas at a time. I did not want to waste the rest of the batter.
I used 3/4 tsp Salt for the batter instead of the prescribed 1/2 tsp.
The green chilies added to the tempering were whole, not slit or chopped, this imparts a mild flavor which is perfect for the dhoklas. Those who can bear it, can enjoy eating them as an accompaniment.
Fresh grated coconut is also used for garnish.
Serve with green cilantro chutney as an accompaniment.
Thank you very much P, for this wonderful recipe!! Now that I have had success with this recipe, I must hound her for more!!!!
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