Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Classic White Pan Bread

When I was little, we did not have whole wheat bread, multi-grain bread or maybe we did , we were unaware and as far as we knew, everyone went in for the 'regular' kind of bread. It was white bread and Paav.

You either buy a loaf of Wibs or Britannia sliced bread and if you want  paav, you scoot down to the local bakery and buy a slab (called 'laadi') or even individual rolls.  Making bread at home was not even thought of and we did not have an oven. In fact, there was this bhaiyaji who would come to our home and those in the neighborhood on his cycle carrying bags full of fresh baked bread and new laid eggs. He would wrap the bread in newspaper and hand over what we wanted and I would hand over the money ( .25 paise for a paav) he would then jokingly ask me, "baida chahiye kya baby?" (baida meaning egg) and hold an egg in his hand and offer it to me, knowing fully well that we did not eat eggs and cackle when I would shudder!

I would slather the paav / bread slices with Amul butter and dip it in my tea or maybe I'd add a slosh of ketchup or jam and eat it, enjoying every soft bite. 
I never dreamed I'd make bread at home. Well, not successfully that is. Years ago, when I went to a cookery class, the instructor taught us bread, she made it look kinda easy.  By that time, we had purchased an oven at home and my cousin and I were VERY eager to try our hand at making bread. The whole thing is a bit of a blur, but I do remember this, they made excellent paper weights. 
I gave up on baking. At least for the time being. I was down, but not completely out.
I made a couple of attempts after that, with no success. Gave up, yet again.
Then I hit the jack pot......I read the recipe over and over for days, tempted yet I had not the courage. I then attempted and succeeded in making pizza. I had overcome my fear of yeast, in part. This gave me courage to try bread and boy! am I glad I did!!!

Just like the last time, I chewed my nails to zero when the bread was in the oven, this time around as well. But I should have believed. The result was a  perfect loaf! Yaaay! 
I could not keep still, I could hardly stand the wait,  I even 'fanned' the loaf with the oven mitt to cool it faster and sliced it. Look at the picture below and learn from my mistakes. Let the loaf cool. Completely.
Over excitement? Take a deep calming breath, count to 10 and then slice, if you do not do this, the knife shakes and cuts unevenly, see? No harm done to the loaf, just don't look very pretty.

I made this a couple of times and with equal success. My friends shared it with me and  gave me the thumbs up sign. I only wish my parents were here with me to enjoy it. 

Makes: Two - 8 1/2 x 4 1/2x 2 3/4 inch loaves

2 1/2 tsp ( 1 envelope) Active Dry Yeast
2 Cups warm  Water
5 - 5 1/2 Cups All Purpose flour (APF)
1 Tbs. Sugar
1Tbs. Salt
5 Tbs. Unsalted Butter or Vegetable Oil

Whisk the yeast into the warm water and set aside and prepare other ingredients

To mix dough by hand:  place 5 Cups APF, salt and sugar in a mixing bowl and stir in yeast mix and melted butter

Continue to mix until the mix resembles a rough dough

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured  work surface and knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 mins. If the dough is too soft and sticky, add flour 1 tbs. at a time.

Place the dough in an oiled bowl and turn to oil all surfaces

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour

Turn the risen dough onto a lightly floured surface (you may need a scraper). Deflate the dough and divide into 2.

To form a loaf, make sure the surface is free of any excess flour, then stretch the dough until it is approximately the length of the pan, then fold in the short ends, then fold in the far long edge over  tot he middle. Fold over the  other long side and  compress to form a tight cylinder 

Place the loaf in the pan, seam side down and cover with plastic wrap. Repeat with second loaf and allow it to rise until double ( about 1 hour) 

When loaves are almost double, set a rack in the middle level of the oven and pre-heat to 400 deg. F

When the loaves have completely risen, place the pans in the oven and bake for 30 mins ot until golden brown and firm and internal temperature is 210 deg.

Unmold  the loaves to a cooling rack  to cool on side.

Cool completely and slice. Enjoy.
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Sunday, December 19, 2010

Kairi Aamti / Raw Mango Curry

Before I forget and before this year ends, I need to clear the huge backlog in my drafts folder. I have  pictures and references to the recipes or the actual recipes lying in the drafts for nearly 6 months now. I have some recipes I tried in India, took pictures, and well, I left it at that.

Summer seems like a memory, hot, humid, noisy and mangoes. My whirlwind India visit is still fresh in my memory. The joy of  buying raw mango, thinking of a 100 things you want to make with those, finally keeping one aside,  using the rest to make this nectar .

Panha in one hand I  rummaged thru my old bookshelf, my favorite authors, the books I had patiently collected  in my school, college and MBA days. the books I would read when I was eating alone ( which was frequently as I worked in shifts and was at home at all odd hours), books I read when I could not sleep  or books I carried in my purse to read on my way to work. So many memories, so much I gave up.. of all the things I miss from home I miss my books the most. Sure I can go to the library and borrow what I want, but it isn't the same, it's not the same as holding the copy in your hands and lovingly adding it to the shelf, not the same as running a light finger on the spines of the books and trying to pick one. Not the same as smiling  and picking up an old, old copy of a much loved comic book or delighting in classics  or laughing out loud just looking at my collection of P G W 
And there, among the lowest  shelves are a few old books my Mother had kept, these looked different from my collection. And they were! they were my Mother's  knitting books and some cookbooks!  Now I am no knitter so I glanced at them and pounced on the cookbooks. 
She has this Marathi cookbook, 'Suruchi', which I had never really paid attention to before I got married. But now, things are different and I eagerly read the recipes. 

I absolutely LOVED this raw mango curry, couldn't get enough of it!  the taste, the texture in every bite is a delight. A burst of sour with sweet undertones of the jaggery and a hit of red chili powder, tickles the tongue  and  leaves you wanting more.

Recipe source: Suruchi

1 Big Raw Mango / Kairi
1/2 Fresh Coconut (Grated)
1/2 tsp Coriander seeds
1 tsp Mustard seeds (divided)
 7-8 Curry leaves
1/2 tsp Asafetida
 1 tsp Ghee
3/4  tsp Red Chilli Powder 
1/2 tsp Turmeric 
Jaggery lime size (grated)
1/2 tsp Urid dal 
10-12 seeds Methi  / fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp Wheat flour / Atta 

Peel the raw mango and make medium bite size pieces. Marinate the raw mango pieces with turmeric , red chili powder, jaggery and Salt.

Place the grated coconut, 1/4 tsp mustard and coriander seeds in the mixer and make a paste

Put ghee in the pan and add mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafetida. Add Urid dal when it turns light brown add Methi / fenugreek seeds.

Add 1 cup water

Add marinated raw mango pieces.

When the raw mango pieces become soft add the coconut paste, water (as per the desired consistency )wheat flour / atta -make a slurry if you want , flour +water,  and salt.

Bring it to boil. Serve hot with rice.
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Tuesday, December 14, 2010

So I decided to rusk it.

When you have parents who work, there is a certain advantage, they both bring home 'khau' ( snacks) on their way home from work. 
My parents worked in V.T (Yes, I still call it that) Fort area and  there were several bakeries, snack shops  and dairies in the vicinity and many famous for a single item, which was usually sold out by evening. 
We were regulars at Pancham Puriwala a humble food joint serving  deep fried heaven on a platter. Or the fabulous Mathura Pedha  and of course a small dingy store which sold baked items, we started out with their crisp and light, flaky and calorie rich khari biscuits and go on to other mouth watering items like  Mawa cake, fruit cake, were regular items in our cookie jars. 
And then came the cake rusk/cake toast. I fell in love with those. I don't remember when exactly I first tasted  cake rusk, but  I do remember the taste and how much I liked it and  also remembered I had not tasted these in 4 years! A few months ago, when I was still living in Los Angeles, my friend Vandana dropped in and  gave a big box of cake rusk for my Son. Well, he did not eat so many, actually, he probably had a couple, umm... one, maybe. M and I devoured the lot! Down to the last crumb. Delish! 
We ate, we liked and we forgot. 

A few days ago, I made Banana nut cake and to own the truth, I was distracted. Too many things going on and some where I knew I should have stopped, but  the oven was pre-heating and I decided to go ahead.
To cut a long story short, I made some mistakes, no idea what - multi tasking when baking = bad idea = mistakes, but the cake turned out dense and could have done with a tad bit of extra sugar. I was disappointed, I was so looking forward to handing over a warm, soft slice to S and watching his smile as he ate it. 
Oh well, that bombed :(
As the cake sat cooling on the rack, the image of  cake rusk came floating on my mind and I decided to risk it!  I mean, rusk it!
The oven was still hot and the pizza stone was inside. I quickly sliced the cake and placed the slices on the pizza stone and baked them for about 10 minutes ( turning once) until golden brown. Cooled them and store in airtight container.

Verdict: YES!! loved it :) this does taste like the regular cake rusk/ toast you can buy at the Indian store for  $5 or $7, but so much better and cheaper when you make at home  ( even if you bungle it up!)

Try this with eggless banana bread  and you cannot go wrong.

Just to round it up nicely:

Bake Banana cake/bread using the above linked recipes or any cake recipe of your choice.

Cool the cake completely

Cut into 1/2 inch thick slices

Place the slices on a hot (pre heated) pizza stone or if you do not have one, line a  oven safe tray with  foil / parchment paper and place the slices in a row and bake for about 10 minutes, turning once so as to bake both sides. 10 minutes is not the exact timing, use it as a guideline only, keep an eye on those slices ! 

Remove from oven once they are golden brown on both sides

Cool completely and store in an air tight container 

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Monday, November 29, 2010

Pizza at home! Conquering the 'yeastophobia'!

Does anyone remember (or have you been a part ) of the time when 'Pizza' was a very rare (if at all) treat? It was, when I was in my tweens.  We rarely ate pizza and never made at home, that is if you do not count buying Monginis base.
I would look at the small  ready to eat pizzas at the bakery and wonder why a sandwich, a round one at that, was left open and would *anyone* - *ever* want to buy something that looked so cold and (pardon me for saying this) ugly.
I don't remember the first time I ate pizza, but I do remember that I loved it! And then I was addicted, I could have eaten pizza everyday for every meal.
Pizza at home was a big affair, believe me, when I say this, not because of the effort involved- which was minimal, but because we were 'making pizza at home' the very idea and  a snack so 'foreign' in our totally Indian kitchen with it's usual, pohe, upma, idli-dosa and the likes.
We did not, for many years, have an oven ( does anyone remember these?) at home and  baking was out of the question, it was best left to Monginis and the like.
So, when we did make pizza, we hopped out to the nearest  Monginis or the grocery store and bought ready made pizza base the sauce and the cheese ( sometimes just cheese cubes, we did not really bother about mozzarella or cheddar or any type, indeed , I hardly knew about the different types! ) and used the good old 'tawa' to make and bake the pizza.
I used to help my Mother with the prep work and assembly and watch keenly, every nerve tingling in anticipation of the feast. I would gingerly lift the pizza  corner with a wooden spatula to check how evenly brown the base was getting and  wonder at the melting cheese. So different from what it is today, where one can walk into a pizza parlor and buy an entire pie or slice and not think twice or wonder and anticipate and enjoy every bite .
But over the years, I have grown weary of store bought pizza and have always wanted to re-create the magic at home, to once again feel the thrill I used to as a child. I wondered if I was capable of such enthusiasm now.
 For all those who have lately started reading this blog, I want to admit, I was afraid, *very* afraid of yeast and making breads. In my opinion, there was nothing as daunting as baking breads, for all the simple list of ingredients, I shied away from making pizza base at home, I would willingly walk a mile in tight shoes, but not bake. Yes, that about sums up my phobia! 
Then one day, the blogger in me reared  her head and demanded that I drop my cowardly attitude and swap it for the yeast packet and APF (all purpose flour) and use them up. What, if at worst can happen? a disaster, pshaw! so what, there is a large trash bin, dump it and move on....  Made sense. 
I popped in at the library and after a lot of pondering ( and finally using the 'in-pin-safety-pin' method) settled for this book on 'How To Bake'.
Leafing through the book I realized, I had picked the best book, for a person like me, who had limited knowledge and a lot of fear to deal with. The book outlines simple steps for making basic pizza dough and clear instructions. 
I bookmarked this dough and basic White Bread ( recipe to follow) as my favorites.
The Pizza base was *awesome*! It worked, I watched the flour yield to the kneading, I watched it rise, reducing my nails to shreds and listening to a drumming in my ear (which in a calmer moment I  realized was my heart) . I put it in the oven and watched it bake, yes, I did, I placed a small step stool in front of the oven and parked myself in front watching like a hawk. And boy! was I rewarded!  I sliced it up and gave M the first slice.... the  drumming was louder now, as he took his first bite and then the next and the next and gave me the thumbs up sign! I DID IT!  I MADE PIZZA AT HOME! I felt a rush of the thrill I had felt long ago. I was happy and this was a feast.

Here's how I made the Home Style  Pizza Dough: (Makes 1 - 101/2 x 15 1/2 inch Pizza)

2 1/2 Cups Unbleached All Purpose Flour ( APF)
1tsp. Salt
1 Cup Warm tap Water
21/2 tsp. or 1 envelope Active Dry Yeast
3 Tbsp. Olive Oil

Stir the flour and salt in a 2 quart mixing bowl to combine and make a well in the center

Measure the water and pour onto a small bowl, whisk in the  yeast and 2 T Olive Oil

Pour the liquid mixture into the well  in the flour and stir with a rubber spatula, until a soft sticky dough forms
Beat the dough for a minute until it looks  smoother, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap  and allow the dough to rise doubled in bulk (about 1 hour)

Grease the jelly-roll pan  with the remaining  Tbsp. of Oil. Without stirring or folding the dough, use the rubber spatula to scrape it from the bowl into the oiled pan. Oil your hands and press, pull and pat the dough into the pan. If it resists, let it rest for 5 mins. and then continue. Let the dough  rise for 30 mins or until it puffs slightly

Prepare topping of choice ( I used a ready made sauce from Trader Joe's, red and green bell pepper and red onions and mozzarella cheese)

Set rack at the lowest and highest level of the oven and preheat at 450 F

Bake the pizza  on the bottom rack for 25-30 minutes 

(After about 10 minutes, lift the end with a spatula and check that the bottom is not burning, if it is  coloring too quickly, slide a pan under the first one.)

Remove the pizza, slice and enjoy! 

* Notes: 
I used a fork to poke small holes ( do not stab at the dough)  in the pizza dough, this is not a part of the chef's recipe, it is my own
I baked the pizza on a pizza stone. I ensured that the stone was heated through and this takes a great deal longer than the normal pre- heating, I'd say about 25 minutes or more. The end result is a crisp and amazing base! 
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Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Kuch khatta, kuch meetha- Anaras Ambol

I am back after what seems to me, a very long break and more importantly a self imposed break. I have been busy, packing. yes, yes, packing once again, only this time it was on a larger scale, we were moving out of California. It was a sudden decision, well almost. I could not bear the thought of M traveling through the harsh winter or getting stuck  in IL, unable to travel home for weeks, months ( ok, I am going overboard here) or worse, driving to  the airport thru snow at breakneck speed so as not to miss his Los Angeles flight.  these horrid thoughts kept haunting me  and so finally we decided that we had to move. Barring a small hitch because of the office policy things went smoothly in the small time we had, 2 weeks. We donated some stuff, packed and shipped some, discarded a lot and moved, bag, baggage and baccha ( meaning- child) to Illinois. 
It was a  sentimental moment for us to leave the city  that was home for well over 4 years, a city where we first came to in the USA and had come to love , a city where our son was born.  All I can say now is, Thank God, we had very little time to  move, kept me so busy that I had very little time to get sentimental.
At times like these friends are invaluable! Mrudul and Binaifer, Thank you with all my heart, for all the support and help you guys gave me! For leaving behind all your chores to help me pack, Mrudul, for  doctoring my sprained back ( oh yes! I did that! sprained my back and still suffering), taking care of S (feeding him lunch, making laddus for him!) ,waking up at dawn to make me a cup of tea and  breakfast. Bini, for walking all the way to my home, for taking care of S when I was busy with  all that I had to do, helping me pack and putting them in my car, you guys are the best! 

Prajakta, you and your energy are inspiring! Thank you for coming in  on the eve of our departure and helping me sort, pack and trash all that was needed! 

This sweet and sour ambol is for you all, for being the sweet part of my life!

Source: 660 curries
Serves 8

2 Tbs Canola Oil
1 tsp. Mustard Seeds
2 cups Fresh cubed Pineapple
1/2 cup Golden Raisins
6-8 Dry Red Chiles
1/2 cup crumbled Jaggery or firmly packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp Sea Salt

Heat oil over medium high
Add Mustard seeds, after they pop add pineapple chunks, raisins and red chiles
Reduce heat to medium and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until raisins are plump and the pineapple is lightly browned, 5-8 mins.
Add jaggery and cook. Stir so it melts, 2-4 mins.
Pour 1 cup water and sprinkle salt 
Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally until sauce turns syrupy thick, 10-15 mins
Serve ASAP or cover and refrigerate for 1 week, re-heat to warm before serving.

*M and I enjoyed this ambol with almost everything, plain daal- rice, yogurt - rice, dosas. Pin It

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Neetu's Daal

Before I went to India and moved to the new apartment, my afternoons were always full. Our group of 5 would meet everyday for lunch and pool whatever we had and enjoy  the meal,  on one such afternoon , Neetu, my friend and then my neighbor, made this delicious and creamy daal. Hearty and full of rich protein, it pairs well with jeera- rice (cumin scented rice) and even with Indian breads. 
I had to have the recipe. every mouthful was full of flavor and kept me asking for more. Neetu gave me the recipe and warned me, she cooks with 'andaaz'( eyeballs ingredients) and just does not like using tsps. and tbsps.! Not willing to give up, I badgered her into giving me the closest measurements and the resultant daal is just as delicious, creamy and hearty. 

1 cup Black Whole Urad Daal 
1/2 Cup  Rajma / Kidney Beans
1 inch Ginger
3 cloves Garlic
2-3 Green chilies
1/2 tsp. Kasuri Methi
1 tsp Cumin
1 stick  (1 inch) Cinnamon
2-3 Cloves
Pinch Aafetida
2-3 Roma Tomatoes
1/2 tsp. Red chilli powder
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Butter
1 tsp Amchur powder
1/2 Onion , finely chopped
2tbs Cilantro, finely chopped to garnish

Wash and soak the  urad daal and rajma in water for  at least 2 hours 
Throw the water ( in which the lentils/ daal  and rajma was soaked)  and in a saucepan, add water, daal - rajma and turmeric and green chiles and boil until  the daal is soft

Crush the cinnamon and cloves using a mortar- pestle or zap it in the coffee mill
Heat oil, add cumin,after it sizzles, add asafetida, cinnamon-clove powder, ginger- garlic and sauté, then add onion and cook until translucent, add tomato, red chilli powder, garam masala, amchur powder, kasuri methi
 Pour this seasoning over the cooked and softened  lentil-bean mixture
Simmer for about 10 mins and let the flavors mingle
Before serving add a pat of butter and garnish with chopped Cilantro
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Thursday, September 23, 2010

A peep in to my world- My Kitchen

If you ask M about my whereabouts, his reply would be, " she's in the kitchen". If I am not running around S, I am in the kitchen. 
So when Nupur let us peep into her kitchen and invited us to reveal our kitchens, it was an invitation I could not pass up. 
When I moved to this new apartment, I had swapped it for a galley kitchen, slightly larger than the current one, a  fridge in the apartment and most importantly, a gas stove.
I was lucky that a friend was moving to India and she sold me her fridge just as I moved in.
So here I am , with a new kitchen with an electric stove, and  still loving it all (much to my surprise- I mean about the stove)
My kitchen at a glance

The counter space I have available is just around the stove 

I also want to take this chance to show off to you guys my NEW  SUMEET MIXIE!! My Parents gifted me this 'must have' on my recent trip to India. My parents are the GREATEST! 
I try to keep the counter tops uncluttered, but since I have very little space, I have to place a few things within easy reach. So right next to the stove is my 'Masala Dabba/ Spice Box' and a small plastic container with  wheat flour(used for dusting when rolling chapatis), underneath the rack is a packet of wet wipes to clean up the space after I am done cooking and next to it is an orange tub, I use that when I am chopping up something to discard stems, covers, peels etc. 

Now with a small kitchen and tiny counter tops, you might wonder how I make  rotis/ chapatis.. well, I have  this small rolling island, which doubles up as a medium to roll the rotis and  storage, I keep some cook books  and my electric rice cooker on it and I roll into the tiny kitchen when I want to make rotis,

Like so... 

One thing that was  in favor of this kitchen was the dishwasher, it may surprise many  of you however, this is my first kitchen with a dishwasher.
The storage near the stove is  full of the usual grocery items, pots and pans, crockery. I do have a narrow pantry, but it is useless as it is has no shelves, just one big cavity. I am planning to get the manager to put in a couple of shelves, if he will..

I can look into the living room from the kitchen and keep an eye on S as he plays  or chat with M as he works or relaxes.
What I love about my kitchen is that I have trimmed some stuff and I have also firmly decided  that I will not buy something unless I REALLY need it and in the process, I will try to throw out / donate something old and  unwanted , before I bring in the new item. I will try and maintain the balance and the manageability.

So here we are, at the end of the tour.  Have you clicked to join Nupur's party?
I am looking forward to all the entries. A peep into  your kitchen, to see where all the fantastic recipes are churned out!
See you all soon at the link party! Have a great weekend! Pin It

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Dudhi Kofta Curry

I was in the mood to cook (as always) but the weekend was different, we have this cloudy days with a slight mist rolling in, in the evenings weather and that makes it perfect for eating something warm, comforting and deep fried! Making fritters was not on my mind however, I had mentally bookmarked 'Doodhi Kofta Curry' a few months ago and finally got down to making it this weekend.  After I had gotten over my 'Aloo Palak' and 'Chana Masala' ordering days I was open to most vegetables(except baingan anything) and then came the 'kofta' phase. I fell in love with vegetable balls, as I called them, covered with a tomato-ey gravy. A kofta disguises the vegetables so cleverly.. makes it a bhajji /fritter I used to tell myself, so who wouldn't want to eat  something as yummy as this? But this does not get made at home much. it does involve a lot of work and most importantly a lot of deep frying, which all of us tend to shy away from.

I have recently moved to a new apartment and  while there are good things with this apartment, the only minus was , it has an electric stove. I had given up my gas stove and settled for this vastly inferior coil stove. Oh well, you win some .....  yada, yada.
I have now learnt to use it well ( pat myself on the back) and find that I need not grumble over it as much, except  on those occasions when the tea boils over and spatters over the surface and smells like the California wildfires and emits as much smoke. I feel justified in using a few of the juiciest and choicest swear words and mopping up the remains and getting on with it.

To move on to the star feature of this post... Dudhi/Lauki / Bottle gourd/Opo squash takes on a completely different avatar in this curry and transforms into crisp dumplings which absorb the flavors of the gravy and make every bite a delight and leave you (and your guests, if you make this when you invite some one over) wanting more and asking for the exact recipe. I know my friends did! 

For the Dumplings:

2 lbs. Bottle Gourd / Doodhi
2 tsp.  kosher /sea salt
1 small Red Onion, coarsely chopped
2 Tbs, raw Cashew nuts
4 large cloves Garlic
4 lengthwise slices , Fresh Ginger (2" l x1" W x 1/2 " t)
4 fresh Green Thai  or Serrano chiles
1/4 cup Chickpea Flour / Besan
2 Tbs. Rice Flour
2 Tbs. finely chopped Cilantro
Oil, to deep fry

For the Sauce:
2 Tbs. Ghee or Canola oil
1 tsp. Cumin / Jeera seeds
1 small Red Onion, coarsely chopped
4 fresh Green Thai  or Serrano chiles
1 can (14.5 oz) Diced Tomatoes
2 Tbs. EACH Raw cashew nuts and Golden Raisins
1 tsp. Salt
1/4 tsp. Turmeric
1/2 cup Half and Half
1 tsp. Punjabi Garam Masala
2 Tbs. Finely chopped Fresh Cilantro

To make the dumplings: cut and discard the stem and heel ends of the  squash. Peel the squash and cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the  seeds and spongy mass leaving being firm pale green 'boats'.
Shred the squash using a food processor or box grater. collect the shreds in a medium size bowl and mix in the salt. Allow the squash mixture yo stand for about 30 minutes to release its liquid.

Meanwhile, place the onion, cashews, garlic, ginger and chiles in a food processor and pulse to form a slightly chunky blend

Grab a handful of the shredded squash and squeeze tightly between the palms of your hand to drain the liquid completely. Transfer the squeezed squash to another bowl and  repeat this for the remaining squash. Discard the drained liquid.
At this stage I usually start with heating the oil ( on medium eat) to deep fry the dumplings. 

Add the minced onion mixture and sprinkle in the two flours and cilantro.Combine quickly to make a slightly wet batter. Take a Tbsp. of the batter and  condense it in the palm of your hand to form balls. You should get about 25 rounds. (the longer you let the batter rest the more liquid the squash will continue to leach making it impossible to handle. If you add more flour, it will make it manageable but also will make the dumplings dense).

Line a cookie sheet with  3-4 sheets of paper towels. Once the oil is ready, gently slide in the dumplings into the wok, without over crowding the pan. 
Fry turning occasionally until they are honey brown and crisp. Remove them with a slotted spoon and allow to drain on the paper towels. Repeat for the remaining dumplings

To make the sauce: Heat Ghee in a large sauce pan / wok over medium - high heat. Add the cumin seeds and cook until they sizzle. Immediately add the onions, cashews, chiles and raisins. Stir-fry until the onions are dark brown, the chiles pungent and the cashews have turned honey brown and the raisins have swelled and darkened, about 5 mins. 
Add the Tomatoes, salt and turmeric to the sauce, stirring once or twice.
Then transfer the mixture to a blender jar and puree, scraping the inside of the jar as needed to make a smooth and spicy red sauce,Pour this back into the wok / pan. Pour 1/2 cup of water in the blender jar and swish it around to wash it out.  Add this to the pan. Stir in the half and half and garam masala.

Gently add the dumplings to the sauce, making sure they do not break apart. Heat the curry over medium- high  until the sauce starts to bubble. Then lower the heat, cover the pan and simmer until the dumplings are warmed through and have absorbed some of the sauce, about 5 mins. 
Do NOT stir the sauce, for fear of breaking the dumplings) Sprinkle with cilantro and serve.

*The koftas and the sauce can be made a day in advance and kept separate. Cover and store in the refrigerator. Heat the sauce  over med- high heat and  then add dumplings as in the step above, to serve.
*Zucchini can be used in place of bottle gourd. it does not need peeling or seed removal, just cut the stem and heel and grate.
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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Masala Paav

I am back home in Los Angeles. Oh how glad I am! While I liked Peoria (IL) where we had temporarily re-located, I missed all the conveniences of home, like walking to the stores ( Indian stores at a stones throw, it don't get better than this) , meeting friends, going to the park with S, going for a drive and cooking in a regular kitchen.
We are more or less settled in the new apartment, less... of furniture,that is. Just before our India trip, we donated all our furniture, save the bed. The apartment as of now is a blank canvas. I kept  the kitchen stuff as is, I am NOT parting with that! Moreover, in this new apartment, I have a stove [:(] as opposed to the gas in the previous apartment. Well, you win some and you lose some.
Now that I am back home, I feel like cooking and hunger pangs in the evening, on weekends, assert themselves. I crave Mumbai junk food. While I am wary of deep frying, I am not opposed to the array of other snacks that have been a part of growing up in Mumbai. One such snack is Masala Paav. 
Those who are fond of Paav - Bhaji (who isn't?) are familiar with Masala Paav. Masala paav is basically a paav with pav bhaji masala (sans the  potato, cauliflower and peas) stuffed in the middle. where paav-bhaji is filling, masala paav makes a not-so-stuffy snack.
I remember eating Masala paav at DP's (Durga Parmeshwari's - Matunga, Mumbai) opposite my college. A dwindling pocket money scenario made this snack all the more tempting. Specially in the monsoon season.
Sometimes I feel sunny weather is wasted on me. I LOVE rainy days. I like waking up and looking at overcast skies and hoping for rain. 
Heavy rains, masala paav and steaming cup of masala chai = Happiness!  Add a book in one hand, couldn't ask for more! 

I use these mini buns  for making Masala Paav, when I can get them easily at the store. Otherwise the regular Burger bun works fine too, except that the filling is sufficient for 4 burger buns.

You need:
4 Burger buns ( about 6 mini buns)
2 Tbs. Butter

For the filling / stuffing:
1 large Onion, finely chopped
2 large Tomatoes, chopped
1/2 Green Bell Pepper, finely chopped
2 fat cloves, Garlic
1/2 tsp. Red chili powder 
Pinch Turmeric
3/4 tsp Pav-bhaji masala ( I used Everest Brand)
2 Tbs. Oil or Butter
Salt to taste
2-3 tbs. Cilantro finely chopped

Heat oil/butter in a kadhai/ wok on med-high
Add onion and bell pepper and sauté till onion is transparent and the bell pepper is soft
Add the chopped garlic and sauté till the garlic turns golden brown and the raw smell disappears
Add the tomatoes and cook till they are are soft and mushy
Add the red chili powder ,turmeric salt
Mix well and cook for a minute
Now add the Paav-bhaji masala and mix well and cook till the mixture will comes together
The mixture should not be runny (from the juice of the tomatoes)
Add the cilantro and turn off the heat.

Heat a skillet and butter the buns on the inside and brush a bit of the butter on the top and bottom of the bun
lay the buns on the hot skillet and toast them to a light golden brown on the inside and just briefly on the outside
Scoop a portion of the filling onto the bottom bun and cover with the top. Press down lightly.Serve hot with lime wedges ( optional for those who want the extra tang)

*Verdict: These make a lovely evening snack but rather on the mild side and even little ones can try, as you can see. Next time I will try increasing the  paav-bhaji masala to 1 tsp. and red chili powder to 3/4 tsp. 
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Saturday, August 14, 2010

Simple Aloo Gobhi

Ever since I came back from my trip to India, things have been crazy. I had planned on coming back and taking it easy for some time, giving myself a break, so to speak, and spend more time with little S, since he was so used to the constant  company of  grandparents, aunts and the humongous amount of attention and pampering. But..... within 24 hours of landing I was out apartment hunting, before 48 hours had elapsed, I had selected one and we signed the lease. Now came the hard part, M had gone back to IL and I had to start packing ( for moving to the new apartment) and packing- part II, for making a temporary move to IL with  bag, baggage and baccha.
I struggled with  jetlag and home sickness. What am I doing here? was a question I asked myself  many a times. 
However, I managed and landed safely in IL with  BB&B  and  am now in a hotel suite with a tiny kitchenette and a not-so-full pantry. And in the hope of going home, I keep my stock to a minimum.
I was in no fit state to cook for a couple of weeks now.  My Grandmother passed away a little over a fortnight ago and  I  was broken. I feel her loss so keenly that it hurts, physically. I hated  that I was not there. I was grieved that I was no comfort to my Mother. I was angry with God for taking her away. The tears fell thick and fast and everything was a blur. The only thing that helped me move on was finding comfort in the fact that I had the chance of meeting her during my recent India visit and also that she met and blessed my baby and also in realizing that my Son needed me and would  be confused  at the sudden change in me. It is amazing how a toddler can make an adult realize and accept the reality. Life goes on. Just that, accept it. 
Aaji will be missed, a LOT, there are just so many things she did for me and the rest of the family that are etched in my memory. Her warmth, her wisdom, her love, her voice, her humor, her caring ways, her inner strength that radiated from her and her will power, so inspiring. She lives in my heart and always will. 

For all those who comforted me with kind words/ comments, during this rather difficult time, Thank You, with all my heart.

When I finally got back to my routine, I realized I had  precious little in the fridge and a yearning to eat simple and comforting food. 
To make this simple yet tasty curry, you need:

1 medium sized Cauliflower
1 medium Potato
2 medium Tomatoes ( chop, remove seeds and puree) 
3 Tbs. Oil
1/2 tsp. Mustard seeds
1/2 tsp. Cumin seeds
1/2 tsp. Asafetida
2 tsp. Dhana-Jira powder ( ground Cumin- Coriander)
1/2 tsp. Turmeric pwd.
3 large or 4 medium cloves Garlic , crushed or finely chopped
Salt to taste
Cilantro to Garnish

Heat oil on a wide kadhai / wok
Add mustard and cumin seeds. After the mustard seeds pop, add asafetida 
Add the chopped Garlic and sauté until it turns golden brown
Add the Cauliflower and Potatoes and mix well so that the vegetables are coated with the tempering.
Reduce the heat and add the dhana-jira powder,  turmeric, chili powder
Stir well to combine and coat the vegetables
Add about 5-6 Tbs. of water to the kadhai/ wok ,cover and cook for about 17-20 mins. until the potatoes are almost cooked ( they should retain some crunch)
Add the tomato puree ( I use a sieve for the puree so as to remove any tomato seeds left behind), add salt, stir gently and cook for another 4-5 mins until vegetables are tender.
Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro before serving.

*Notes: To make this vegetable even better:
- Add 1/2 Cup of peas 
- Add 1/2 tsp.  Kasuri Methi to enhance the flavor ( after adding tomato puree)
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Friday, July 30, 2010

Kothimbir wadi

A few months ago life was  great. I had a terrific group of friends. We were a group of five and would meet everyday for lunch and share whatever we had made in the morning (for the husband's lunch boxes) and end the day with a good cup of tea. Sometimes we would go to the nearby mall after lunch and window shop or buy  or return stuff. 
Then things changed. One girl, S had to go back to India (only to come back on another project in another state). Then N, went back. A little later, I visited my family back home. M ( or Amma, as we fondly call her) has relocated to another state and I have temporarily relocated to IL, where the Hubby has his current project and  am now living in a hotel. Only N, stays  in the same apartment and she too misses the pleasant afternoons and the fun.
I cannot help but fondly recollect those cold winter and spring days when we met and shared so much over food. 
At one such get together ( with partners) I made these as  starters and they were crisp and tasty and gone in no time!

You need:

1 Cup Chana Daal , washed in 3-4 changes of water and soaked in enough water for at least 5 hours

1/2 cup Fresh cilantro ( firmly packed)

~ 1 inch piece of Fresh Ginger

2-3 green Chilies

Salt to taste

Hefty pinch Soda- bi- carb

Oil to deep fry

Wash the daal in 3-4 changes of water ( till the water runs clear)  and soak it (8 hrs being ideal, if not, at least 5 hours)
Drain the water and add all the ingredients listed, except the oil and soda-bi-carb and blend to make a gritty mixture (add a couple of tbsp. of water at a time only if needed)
Remove mixture and add the soda.
The next step is to steam the mixture, you can use something like this or just the good ol' idli stand like I did 
Lightly oil the stand and steam the nuggets for as long as  it takes  to make idlis. I usually keep the cooker (minus the weight/ whistle) for 7 minutes after it starts letting the steam come out.
Cool and remove the nuggets 
In the meantime, heat oil in a wok /kadhai over medium high heat  and line a plate with paper towels
Once the oil is hot (drop a bit of the steamed nugget and if it rises easily, but not too fast to the surface) carefully slip 4-6 nuggets, depending on the size of the wok, and deep fry till they turn a nice golden brown
Drain onto a paper towel and pierce with  toothpick (optional)
Serve with ketchup or green chutney  and/or sweet chutney 

I have another version of KothimbirWadi on this blog, which my Grandmother (Aaji) taught me. Today my Aaji , who is 84, is fighting for her life and never before have I wanted God to work a miracle so desperately. Everyday I call up just to hear that she is still there, that makes my day, just to know that she is hanging in there and thinking it is  her will power, of which we have been witnesses before, that is keeping her alive. 
Hang in there Aaji, we all love you. 

*Edited to add: My Aaji passed away last week, a day after I posted here. Words cannot describe the pain of her loss. All I am left with are memories.
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Monday, July 12, 2010

Stuffed Vegetable Cutlets

"Hmm.. here is your butter. Hold out your hand. No! No! don't come near me!! Don't touch me!! ugh! Here!  and remember, don't come into the house  like this. Clean yourself thoroughly." He grinned , accepted the white butter and slathered it on to this 'paav' and eagerly devoured it. He then went to the back of the house, to a lone tap and  'thoroughly clean up', chuckling to himself and then entered the house. 

My father is a raconteur and this kind of family talk and laughter were the highlights of my India trip. I enjoyed this little anecdote my Father told me as I soaked slices of brown bread in a saucer of water and squeezed them. We were sitting at the family dining table and I was doing the prep work for Vegetable Cutlets. 
I love hearing tales of his childhood and how things were in India before Independence and how VERY orthodox and traditional  his family was, in fact, how ultra conservative Bijapur was. Eating out was not acceptable and 'western' or non-Hindu / Brahmin food was a big no-no. Eating bread or paav ( baked in a non-Hindu) made my Grandmother shudder! How different from this day when one does not stop to consider anything except  in making  a choice in the various brands or very occasionally , white or brown bread! 

Makes 8
For the Potato Shells:
3 Medium ( 1lb.) red Potatoes, peeled and cooked
12-15 Slices White bread ( I use Brown, whole wheat)
4 Cups Warm water
1tsp. salt
1tsp. Veg. Oil

For the Filling:
1 tsp. Veg Oil
1 tsp. Cumin
1/2 Cup finely chopped Onion
1tsp. Chopped Ginger root
2  med. Garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 med. red Potatoes(2/3 lb.) peeled and cut into 1/4 inch cubes
1 med. Carrot Finely chopped
1/2 cup Frozen peas
1/4 cup Cilantro, chopped
2 tbs. Amchur pwd. or 1 tbs. lemon/lime juice
1 tsp Salt
1 tsp.Ground Cumin
1 tsp. Cayenne
1/4 cup Water

For the coating:
1 Egg lightly beaten ( I used a runny paste of flour and water)
1 cup dry Plain Breadcrumbs
Veg. Oil to brush

Make Potato Shells:
Mash potatoes in a bowl and set aside
Dip bread slices in warm water,just until moist. remove immediately and press between palms  and remove all water
Add bread and salt to the potatoes and knead the mixture until smooth
* If the mixture is too sticky, add 2-3 DRY slices and knead
Brush with oil and keep aside

Make the Filling:
Heat 1 T. oil in a wok/kadhai on medium high heat
Add cumin and sizzle  for 30 secs.
Add Onion and Ginger root, Garlic
Stir-fry 2-3 mins. or till onion is golden brown
Stir in remaining  filling ingredients, except water
Stir-fry for 1-2 mins. cover and simmer till potatoes are tender
If the mix is wet, open lid and cook till water evaporates and mix is dry
Cool Completely

Assemble Cutlets
Divide dough into 8 equal parts
press or roll each into a 6 inch circle on a lightly floured surface and spoon about 1/4 cup filling onto the center
Carefully fold the dough  over the filling to make a semi circle
Press with a fork to seal
Brush with oil on a 12 inch skillet and heat over medium heat
Coat cutlets with egg/ flour+water , coat with bread crumbs
Place cutlets on skillet, do not overcrowd
Cook 16-20 mins, turning once until shells ate Golden brown.
Serve with Ketchup

Changes I made:
Used Brown bread instead of white. Also unsure of the number of bread slices, so used my judgement. 12-15 slices were too much for me.
Used flour and water instead of egg for coating.  Made a thin and runny solution of  flour + water to dip the cutlets 
I made smaller cutlets
Did not put cutlets on the skillet once they were filled, directly dipped them in flour-water and coated with breadcrumbs

These are a bit time consuming to make but totally, totally worth the effort! You and/or your guests won't waste time polishing them off! 
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