Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Blog Bites: Sweet Pongal

I have a sweet tooth. I confess. I like most sweets, barring all 'malai' ones, that is. There is one wish I have cherished for as long as I remember, to be as lucky as some people who can east as much and what ever they fancy and NEVER, EVER, EVER gain an ounce. sigh! How I envy them! I envy them, here they are tucking into every thing, mopping up stuff like vacuums, never once caring what it might do to them and here I am, just 'looking' at sweets makes me gain lbs.
My case is different, I gain weight even if I breathe. So might as well enjoy something sweet ( in moderation).
I find my resolution ( of quitting sugar) weakening  everytime I look at something like this or this or this . And so, I only look, sigh and move on. but then once in a way a simple recipe comes along and  I give in, I sigh, I read, I drool, I try to move on but I find myself retracing  my steps back to the same place, again and again and a little voice whispering in my ear, egging me on and I give in. So much for will power !
I found myself going back to Suganya's blog to look and drool at her Sweet Pongal recipe. Her recipes are accompanied with stunning pictures and are a visual treat! 
I picked out this particular recipe for Blog Bites: Cooker event at Nupur's OHS 

Here is the recipe ( linked above) with  small modifications on my part

Sarkkarai Pongal from Suganya's Tasty Palettes.
(serves 3-4)
If you are making just the sweet pongal for dessert, cook rice-dal mixture with more milk. Also, instead of making the sugar syrup separately, the sweeteners are added directly to the rice. But for that, the recipe remains the same.
Raw rice – 2/3 cup ( I used Sona Masuri)
Moong dal – 2 tbsp
Chana dal – 1 tbsp
Milk – 2 cups, ( I used whole milk)
Water – 2 cups
Jaggery – 1½ cups, powdered or grated
Sugar – 1 tbsp
Ghee – 1 tbsp... oh, I used a lot more! More like 5-6 Tbs. over all.
Cashew – 10-15
Raisins – 2 tbsp
Ground cardamom – 1 tsp
Edible camphor – a teeny bit  ( left this one out, did not have any on hand)
Roast the dals until lightly golden. Cool, and rinse along with rice. Transfer to the pressure cooker with milk and water, and cook for 6 whistles- here I used my electric rice cooker and doubled the water, the rice I have is an aged one and hence requires extra water, 1:3  ( or more to make the rice REALLY soft) ratio of rice to water.

When the pressure has subsided, remove the lid and add jaggery and sugar and mix until everything is combined well, here I transferred the cooked rice to a wok / kadhai and added the jaggery and sugar

Continue cooking this mixture for about 10 minutes on low flame. If the mixture tightens up too much, add small amounts of boiling water to maintain the consistency. The jaggery should have melted completely and should not smell raw. When good aroma wafts from the pongal, switch off the stove.
In another small pan, melt ghee, roast cashews and raisins. Add this to the prepared pongal, along with cardamom and edible camphor. Whether you serve it warm, cold or at room temperature, sarkkarai pongal tastes divine. I agree, it tastes ABSOLUTELY divine! 

This post is off to Nupur's Blog Bites event and the Sweet Pongal to my dear friends who keep me company  everyday and brighten up my day! 
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Monday, March 15, 2010

Narali Bhaat: Sweetened Coconut Rice

Every year we would all meet at my maternal Grandma's home for festive occasions. It was the happiest of times ( and the noisiest- for the elders) when all cousins could gang up for the day.  Laughter was heard from every corner and a roar of annoyance in case one of us overstepped our limits of rowdiness ( which was just as often as the laughter) till all of us ( 5 cousins) were thrown out and kept out till it was lunch time.
One such holiday was Narali Pornima / Rakshabandhan. The heavens would open up and rain would pour and we would jolt in the local trains and auto-rickshaw which offered NO protection in the pelting rain to reach 'Aajicha ghari' (Gandma's home). There is nothing as heart warming as  a Grandmother, nothing!  Her gentle hands ushering us in, handing out soft towels ( 'pancha') to dry ourselves and a hot cup of tea to warm us and her concerned voice, "barach vel jhala, mala kalji vatayla lagi hoti, mhatla  pavsaacha lakshan  bara nahi, faslat ki kay?...  aga dhamey, bas ki jara majha javal, lagech kay khelaychay ( that was for me)?" ( meaning : I was worried about you all, time was getting on and it is raining such a lot, I wondered if you guys were stuck somewhere.... addressing me: sit down beside me for a few minutes, do you have to rush to play?)
One by one  the others would trickle in and something like a routine would set in, the ladies would head into the kitchen, the gents would sit in the living room and discuss cricket, politics and we found ourselves either thrown out or thrown in one bedroom (in case of heavy rains) and the door shut to ensure sanity of the elders. 
Lunch time was invariably delayed on such a day but nobody complained. The yummy food made up for lost time.
Narali Pornima meant Narali Bhaat ! Warm fragrant coconut rice, sweetened with jaggery, served on babana leaves.  I don't  remember the other items on the menu, good as they were, we usually pounced on the star item! 
In many of my previous posts I have let it drop that the Husband has a psychological allergy to coconuts and so it's been a while since I have enjoyed Narali Bhaat . 
I made some  'Undhiyo' ( a Gujarati mixed-vegetable dish ) and had some frozen coconut left over. And so, on a Tuesday ( when the husband was FAR away from home) I made this  rice dish to share with my friends.
On a weekday ( Mon- Thurs) we are a group of 5 and gather every afternoon and spend time together, talking laughing, eating , watching a movie or simply going to the mall. We usually mix and match our meals ( bring whatever you have). This rice is fairly simple to put together and if you have an electric rice cooker, there is no monitoring !

You need:

1 cup Rice ( I used Sona Masuri)
1 cup Shredded Coconut ( fresh or frozen)
1 cup Jaggery ( this makes the rice mildly sweet, increase the quantity by 1/4 cup if you prefer a sweeter version)
4 Cloves
2-3 tbs. Ghee

Wash rice in 3-4 changes of water and set aside for 15 mins.
Heat 1 tbs. Ghee in a wok/ kadhai and add the Cloves
Add the washed and drained rice and mix well so that every grain of rice is well coated and aromatic
At this stage, I usually put  rice in the rice cooker and  add water (3 cups for Sona masuri) and set it to cook mode
In the same wok add and heat over med-high heat, 2 tbs. of the remaining ghee, add the jaggery and let it melt ( keep an eye, it tends to burn all too easily), immediately add the shredded coconut and mix well
Cook for 1 min, just until the  whole things comes together
Add the coconut-jaggery mix to the rice, stir and allow to cook thoroughly
Once done, fluff and serve.

* If you like,  crush 2-3 cardamoms and add the powder to the rice  ( once cooked)
Briefly fry cashews in ghee and add them to the rice along with cardamom powder

If using Basmati rice, use water in proportion ( 1:2 - 1 rice, 2 water)
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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Palak Pulao

Long recess ( lunch break) in school was something to look forward to. Books and pens were hastily shoved in the desk- drawers and lunch boxes whipped out. The group would gather  in a circle, some sitting at their desks, some standing  and an assortment of 'dabbas' (lunch-boxes), mostly wrapped in polybags. 
Square, rectangular, round, two tiered or sometimes three tiered, stainless steel or plastic boxes opened to display a variety of food. 
The roti-subzi ones were scoffed at ( unless the subzi was 'a-ma-zin-g') the parathas, idli- dosa, rice dishes were welcomed and devoured in a matter of minutes and sweet treats, if any were sparingly distributed or better, traded for books ( Enid Blytons, Hardy Boys, Three Investigators and Archie comics). 
Does this all sound familiar? 
I would harass my Mother for fancy stuff everyday and beg, plead, cry for 'canteen- money' on the day she planned roti- subzi for the lunch box. I would rather eat a batata-wada chutney or a hot dog roll ( Vegetarian, in the Indian context).
I always liked pulav /pulao/ pilaf. Tiny vegetable pieces, that never got in your way, mildly flavored with whole spices and when served with a wedge of mango or lime pickle I was content. A fried  papad and a dahi raita would be like icing on the cake! 

This Spinach Pulao came as a wonderful change. I read the recipe in 660curries when I had it from the library and the simplicity caught my attention and  stamped itself in my memory. Though this is not the exact version, it comes close, I believe. This is my version.

You need: 
1 cup Long grained rice
1 cup Spinach (8 oz.) washed and chopped
1/2  Onion, thinly sliced
1 tsp Cumin seeds
2 Tbs Ghee ( or oil) 
1 Bayleaf (optional- NOT a part of the original recipe, my addition)
Salt to taste
2 cups Water

Wash rice , drain and set aside
Heat ghee/ oil over medium high heat and add the bay leaf (if using), cumin seeds. After they sizzle, add the onion and saute till till translucent
Add the chopped spinach and cook till it wilts. 
Add the rice, salt and water
Cover and cook till the water is absorbed and the rice is fully cooked
Alternatively, after adding the rice, combine well and at this stage, transfer all the contents to a rice cooker, add water and cook.
I served this pulao with daal fry .

I entered thefoodie blogroll giveaways and won  2 jars and a few sachets of Almond Butter !!! I am looking forward to using these. Any suggestions?
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