Saturday, October 22, 2011

Rava Ladoo, learning with Pedatha!

A while ago I ordered my copy of Cooking at home with Pedatha the award winning cookbook that won the best vegetarian cookbook in the world 2006 . I had heard so much about it and also the cover drew me like nail to a magnet, I can say it very emphatically in this case- judge the book by it's cover, you will not be let down.

Visit the website of the authors Jigyasa and Pratibha to see this cookbook of traditional Indian recipes and the second one of healthy Ayurvedic recipes.

The eager wait for the book finally ended one fine afternoon as I almost snatched it out of the postman's hand and my impatient fingers fumbled to open the careful packaging. I got it! I felt like my 3 year old when he fetches his ball and holds it aloft triumphantly and yells, I got itttttttttttt!
There is something about a brand new book and the ownership of it that intoxicates me! Does it happen to you too?
With the little one napping and my work done, or almost, who cared then! I sat down on the sofa, legs tucked under me and opened  the book to peruse the contents.
The description, the  page of contents and then the recipes.... the first thing that strikes you is, she makes them look so simple! 
I was transported to my Grandmother's home, when I was a child and watched her bustling about in the kitchen... I felt like I almost was in Pedatha's kitchen and she was instructing me, like a loving Grandma, who knows everything.

I have tried a few recipes from the book- so stay tuned for some authentic Andhra magic,  but I am posting about these awesome ladoos first. It is only fitting that I introduce Pedatha's  stellar recipes with a sweet offering for this festive season! 

The other reason I  chose to  start off with this particular recipe is because I have always heard everyone ( including my Mother) saying that making rava ladoo is difficult! One needs to make the perfect syrup, the dreaded one string consistency... something I have never accomplished, maybe because of the fear factor. I made excuses for my failure , you see I have an electric stove, the horrible coil, that is the reason why it will fail. Strangely, nothing else failed, but I was un- willing to admit the obvious to myself. It was the coil.

Well, I admit to myself and you all, I was wrong, I just did not know and I needed to know when to stop, andaaz in this case was not useful.

And enters Pedatha in my kitchen and lovingly and gently guides me to making my first successful  batch of rava-naral ladoos. 

One bite of this delectable ladoos  and you too will assert, like I did (quote from the book),

whose food I eat, her song I sing!

1 Cup Semolina/rava ( I used Fine) 
2 Cups Fresh Coconut, grated ( I used frozen coconut, thawed)
1 1/2 Cup Sugar 
8-10 Cashew nuts, broken in bits 
8-10 Raisins ( I used Golden raisins)
Pinch Saffron / kesar
Pinch Cardamom powder
1 cup  Ghee

Dry Roast the Semolina on a low flame for a couple of mins

Mix with grated coconut and set aside for 1 to 2 hours

Heat 1 tbsp. ghee and fry the cashews till olden, remove and set aside,  no in the same ghee, saute raisins till puffed up. Set aside

Prepare the saffron by rubbing it in 1 tsp. warm milk to infuse color. Set aside

Add a little more than 1/4 cup water to the sugar and bring to a boil. Strain to remove scum, boil again for a couple of minutes. When the syrup starts bubbling, switch off the flame and set aside

In a wok, heat ghee and roast the semolina- coconut mixture on a low flame  for 5-8 mins or until the mixture turns a light pink

Switch off the flame and add the mixture to the sugar syrup. Add the cashews, raisins, cardamom powder and saffron

When the mixture has cooled a little, make lemon sized balls. Rava-coconut ladoos are ready!


Sending off this Diwali sweet  to Sukanya at Saffron Streaks for the Healing Foods event by Siri 
and also to Priya who is hosting Veggie/Fruit A Month - Coconut
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Monday, October 17, 2011

Paneer Bhurji

There was a time when I inhaled spicy food. I mean really spicy. India spicy. I did not shudder when I saw bright green chillies set on a table and people bit into them. 
I asked for extra 'bukka chutney' and fried and salted green chillies at the vada paav stall. 
My pani-puri, sev- puri etc. was always 'tikha'
After coming to the USA, the taste buds have undergone a transformation, they have become wimpy! But I also feel that I have discovered the natural taste of vegetables when not drowned in spices and red or green chillies. I now work towards maintaining a balance and more so because I have a little one who  likes to taste everything, at least once before saying the customary "nnnnnako" to everything, sigh! 

I had a mental block about Paneer bhurji,  just because it sounded like anda-bhurji  and looked a bit like it. As I type this I can see where my son gets his 'nnnnnako' from, sigh! 
But then, I had not tasted this 'dhasu' paneer bhurji........
At the time I was working with one of India's leading cell phone companies, food was the highlight of the day. The company had 3 large cafeterias, large, spotless and dishing up a large variety of food, large variety of so-so food. We craved for tasty food, something that was value for money. Then one day we 'discovered' the drivers canteen. It was a small congested place with  dull colorless walls and rickety chairs and wobbly tables. And yet, despite the lack of fine interiors, this nondescript eatery was teeming with  hungry employees from the call center!
We soon found out why! Everything we ordered was fresh, hot and perfectly spiced. We were hooked. The food was amazing and  I particularly remember the paneer bhurji, oh! 
The only word I can think of describing it is 'mulayam' ( silky). Every flavor was distinct, the paneer was silky and melt in the mouth quality! 
We spread the word and soon the trainees from our training batches would also go there to enjoy the tasty food. 
Goes to show that a beautiful setting and bright lights do not mean good food and  shabby interiors can be diamonds in the rough ... much like people, no?

Now that I make Fresh paneer at home, I want to indulge in the various methods I can use all the wonderful cheese ! 
This is my humble attempt to recreate the  fantastic bhurji we used to eat at the drivers canteen ! 
Why this particular recipe? Because it has  **ingredients I never thought can be paired and used in it! Read on and find out what! 

Serves 4-6
Source :Here 

You need:

1 tsp. Red Chilli powder
1/2tsp. Turmeric powder
4 Tbsp Ghee
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 small Onion, chopped ( I used red)
2 1/2 tsp Ginger paste
2 1/2 tsp Garlic paste
1 medium Tomato chopped
1 1/2 cup  cooked Chana Daal
1 lb. Paneer (mashed/ crumbled)
4 Green chillies, de-seed and julienne
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tsp ground Green cardamom
1 tsp ground Cloves
1 tsp ground Nutmeg
1 tsp ground Fenugreek
Salt to taste
Ginger juliennes and cilantro to garnish

Mix the turmeric an  chilli powder in 2 Tbsp. water and mix and mix in the paneer

Heat ghee  in a heavy based pan over medium heat andadd cumin and let the cumin seeds sizzle

Add onion and fry till it is light brown in color, about 5 mins.

Add ginger - garlic pastes and stir fry till the moisture evaporates.

Add  in the tomato and fry till moisture evaporates

Add cooked chana daal  and mix well and cook till oil oozes/ separates

Add paneer and stir. Add green chillies and season with salt. 

Stir fry for a minute before adding the ground spices

Remove from heat and garnish with ginger juliennes and cilantro 

Serve with roti / fulka / paratha or naan.

** The surprise ingredient for me was the chana daal. I could not envision paneer and chana daal together! But, everytime I feel a seed of doubt in my mind, I tell myself, 'trust the chef' and I rarely regret. 
The chana daal  ( I mashed it) goes well with paneer and in this bhurji ( scramble) compliments the soft cheese and blends well.
I am glad I ried this recipe, it is a keeper! 

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Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Curry leaves for Black and White Wednesday

Tender Curry leaves

This is off to Susan for Black and White Wednesday.
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Monday, October 03, 2011

Of memories and doe eyes and Chivda

Three years ago, around time I was sitting alone in my living room, holding my 3 month old and trying to choke back tears that threatened to cascade down, just like the un-seasonal rain that beat down in my patio. 
I felt all alone. M had just started traveling and I, for the very first time, was left all alone, alone with an infant. I would constantly worry and hear imaginary noises and stay awake all night, doze off just as it was light, only to wake up to my infant's cries. 
Over time, I got used to being alone,  not that I liked it, but it became routine, just like drinking tea, eating lunch or taking a bath.

Just like always, I wondered at time flying! So much has happened in these 3 years, my Parents and in-laws visited us, we went to India, moved to a different city, leaving our hearts behind in Los Angeles. 

We watched our little one growing, steadily acquiring new skills, toddling, running, laughing, throwing a tantrum, obsessing with 'wheels on the bus' and 'eka makdane kadhlay dukan', the short phases of his intense liking for a certain toy Thomas( the steam engine) , hot wheels cars  (there was a time when there was one tiny car underfoot- all the time, we could not step anywhere without landing on one and yelling out in agony and hopping like crazy bunnies, to his latest Trash Truck and now his demand for a Fire Engine! 

Today my little one goes to pre-school, he waves 'bye to me, very cheerfully, every morning. I am happy that he does not cry and mope and has adjusted so well in school, at the same time, I feel a tug at my heart, I miss him around, messing around. I miss saying, "  arey kay kartoys!? jara shanta bas ki!" (what are you doing? Will you pipe down for a bit), I miss his, " uh-oh!" and investigating the cause for it, I miss his voice exclaiming "Oh! Man!"  when he misses kicking the ball around the house.

I love it when he comes home and sits down to lunch and we laugh over Tom and Jerry's silly antics. I love it when I lay him down for his afternoon nap and the silly games we play before he closes is eyes and sleeps. 

I love weekends when he and his Baba spend time together and do crazy things ( many a times ending in me yelling at both and warning that if they do not cease the tomfoolery this instant, I will spank both!) I laugh out loud when M tells little S, " ssssshhhhh,  ata bas kar, nahi tar aai ordel"(enough or Mom will yell now!) I quite feel like Gabbar Singh from Sholay  (yaha se pachas -pachas kos door gaanw me jab bachcha raat ko rota hai to maa kahti
hai ..beta soja ..soja nahi to gabbar singh aa jaayega. ) So much for discipline!

Last night the little one slept early and M and I were just about to watch a movie, we were
looking thru our dvd's to decide when looking up I saw my baby standing in the bedroom 
doorway, blanket clutched in his small fist and his beautiful doe eyes brimming with tears,
just looking at us. My heart lurched, casting the dvd's to a corner I ran and scooped him up
in my arms and held him tight and kissed him. 
At that moment, I felt, like so many times before, he is is everything to me , holding my 
precious baby in my arms, laying my cheek against his oh-so-soft one, to look into his 
beautiful innocent eyes and read every emotion in them.

We both love it when it rains - my baby and I run out on the lawn and skip about for a couple of minutes and he informs me that it is raining- pauss!
I enjoy it when he and I share a bowl of snacks, such times (rainy days) call for chivda ( a spicy mix, call it the Indian Trail Mix!). Where I am concerned, I like chivda anytime and am glad my son also seems to like it :)

Before I get on to the chivda recipe, here is how I go round to making it. About 3 years ago, I was talking to my Father and we got to talking about chivda, which we both like a lot. He mentioned that if I want to kick up the taste a few notches, I should add Coriander seeds and Fennel seeds ( roughly pounded in a  mortar-pestle) and add the mixture to the 'tadka'. Now Dad denies having given me this tip, insisting that he would never - ever say such a horrendous thing, fennel seeds indeed! Pshaw!
Neither will budge, however, what matters is, the chivda is delicious and makes me want to refill my bowl every time. Even M, who dislikes chivda liked it and asked for a second helping.

There is really nothing that can go wrong when making chivda. Not even if you eyeball all ingredients ( just be careful with the salt, a little goes a long way)

You need: ( these are approximates, use your judgement, you won't go wrong)

2 cups of THIN poha
2-3 Tbsp of Raw Peanuts ( or you can use roasted peanuts if you have those handy, but with a slightly different  taste)
2 Tbsp Dalia (Roasted gram)
1 tsp. Mustard seeds
1 tsp. Cumin seeds
1 tsp Sesame seeds
5-7 Green chillies Chopped ( seeds intact) - Adjust to your heat tolerance
4 fat Garlic cloves ( peel and chop)
1 tsp each Fennel seeds (saunf/ badishop) and Coriander seeds ( pound roughly)
Salt to taste
10-12 Curry leaves
1 tsp Turmeric powder
2 tsp Sugar (optional) 
4  TbspOil

Heat a wok on medium high heat.  Add a fistful of the thin poha  and roast for a minute or two ( this is to make the poha light and crisp). keep a watch, you do not want the poha to curl up, that will make it too crisp. 

Transfer all the poha  to a plate. Heat oil in the same wok. Add the raw peanuts and mustard seeds. The peanuts will start browning and the mustard seeds will pop, add cumin seeds, asafetida.
*If using roasted  / roasted and salted peanuts, add them just before adding thin poha

Add the chopped garlic, green cillies and curry leaves. 
Let the garlic turn a nice golden brown. Add the dalia, sesame seeds and the fennel- coriander seed mix and turmeric.

Stir well till well incorporated

Add the poha and mix well so that the poha is coated with the spices. Add sugar and mix. Done.

Switch off the stove (if you have an electric stove, the heat from the coil will keep the poha chivda warmed for a while) 

Let the chivda cool, store in an airtight container. Enjoy with a cup of tea or anytime you want! 
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