Monday, November 21, 2011

Farasbichi Bhaji/ French Beans Stir Fry

The last time I opened my dashboard was in Illinois, where I was ( note the past tense) living until last Friday the 18th.  We have moved, again! 
We made an ambitious plan, and moved in 2 weeks. I am still recovering from the whole ordeal. Moving is never a pleasant experience and any plan that is made with a short time gap is rather upsetting. But it was done and done for the best. 
We are now in Texas and so far, very well satisfied with everything. Our greatest relief was that our road trip was a success! We covered all the 875 miles smoothly and above all, Little S was fantastic, not a whine, no demands, no tears or tantrums! I am so thankful for that. We would have loved to explore  more on the trip but our priority was  making good time and ensuring that the little one was not overwhelmed by the journey, nor irritated by the bags surrounding him.
We have selected the apartment we want to live in signed the lease, sealed the deal, updated the mover so he can get our stuff moving out of IL and in to TX.  All in a span of 3 days and we are exhausted.

But what of food? While there are TONS of options to eat out here, in Dallas and Irving and surrounding area, what happened on the way? What happened back in IL? Well, I had to empty out everything and give away or trash  lots of things, lots! Sudden moves leave you with no choice. I also picked up a few ready-to-eat packages from the Indian store, just to be on the safe side. Needless to say, it was not the wisest thing to do! Packaged food is terrible. Period.
I am surrounded by many Indian restaurants ( and indeed, the first evening here we  made a beeline for Indo-Chinese food and tucked in with  such enthusiasm that must have shocked any observers! not that we cared, we just wanted to eat!) 
And now, I am more than ready to cook and eat. I want to cook and eat what I cook. Something simple, very simple and uncomplicated. Home cooked, comfort food, food that nourishes and satisfies.
And what comes to my mind is a simple, everyday stir fry. French beans chopped and cooked with few seasonings and enjoyed with a warm fulka/ roti smeared with ghee  or even mixed with some plain soft, steaming white rice and a bit of pickle on the side. 

This simple stir fry comes together in no time at all and requires little skill , limited spices and is tasty! Is that a winning combination or what! Here's what makes it even better, eyeball ingredients, and it still tastes great, every time! 

You need - (all measures approximate)

2 Cups Chopped French beans ( chop off  the beans at both ends and discard, now cut the beans small even pieces)
*1/2  Onion Chopped fine - Optional
2 Tbps Oil
1 tsp. each  Mustard seeds and Cumin seeds
1 tsp Chana daal
2 Green chilies (slit lengthwise) or use 1/2 - 1 tsp red chili powder
Few curry leaves
Hefty pinch Asafetida
Salt to taste
1 tsp Sugar ( brown or white) 
Grated coconut to garnish ( fresh or frozen)

Heat oil and add the chana daal and mustard seeds, let the daal brown and the mustard seeds pop. Add Jeera and let it sizzle.
Add the asafetida, slit green chilies curry leaves and give it a stir.
Add onions - if using and stir fry for 10 seconds.
Add in the cut beans and mix thoroughly.
Sprinkle the salt, mix and now spoon in about 2-3 tbsp of water, mix, cover and cook till almost done.
When the beans are almost done- but not quite, add in the sugar and cover and cook for  a couple of minutes or until tender.
Garnish with shredded coconut and serve! How simple is that! 

* Notes: The onion is optional. I add it when I am a tad low on french beans- just to increase the volume. The vegetable tastes great with or without the onion.

Wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving!  Happy shopping to those who are into the door buster thing, we will snore our heads off and head out once Mr. Sun is out! 
Till next time and till I get my internet connection folks! AC@H signing out from the hotel and will see you in a few! 
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Thursday, November 03, 2011

Baklavanji (?)

Though this is late for Diwali, I  would like to consider this a new twist on the traditional Diwali sweet. Karanji made like Baklava =  Baklavanji! Get it? Clever!! ~clap, clap~

When I was in college and we lived in Santacruz (Mumbai) my neighbor was a home maker with amazing energy and enthusiasm. She cooked, cleaned and  ran a day care at home! All this and Diwali confusion... can you imagine it?  about 8 kids ( age group 6 months to 8 years) some crying, some squabbling, one trapped in the bathroom, the other scribbling on the walls....phew! 
Amidst all this, she would make Diwali faral (goodies). She made everything. She even made some extra for her sister ( by extra I mean 3- 4 kilos at least of most items)..... 

One year I helped her make karanjis, the tedious way. The process involved rolling out thin 'rotis' of the dough, then spreading each roti' with butter/ ghee and layering 4 such 'rotis' , one on top of the other. Wait! it does not stop there.... once you are done layering, roll the whole thing into a fat cigar and then cut pieces. Roll the pieces into small uniformly shaped rounds ( to get layers on the outer cover) fill, seal and deep fry.
I have always loved karanji.  Making it however is time consuming ( I am talking of the one with layers on the outer cover ) and a daunting task  for me to take on with a nosy 3 year old running around! 
So while he napped, I made the usual, Chakli, shev, chivda, besan ladoo, rava-naral ladoo, shankarpali and left the karanji for the last. With  a vague idea that I'd like to make something 'different', I left the filling aside ( I made the filling earlier on, before I made anything else) 

 The filling recipe is given by my mother, one she has used earlier and probably from a Maharashtrian cook book ( we have the typical ones at home, Annapurna, Ruchira , Suruchi) 
My twist on the traditional karanji cover was using Phyllo/ Fillo sheets and shaping them like Baklava but without the syrup poured over it.

Here's how I made the filling:
2 Cups  Dry shredded Coconut- available at all Indian grocery stores
2 Cups Sugar- powdered ( I used regular powder an ran it thru the mixie)
1/4 Cup Poppy seeds/  khus-khus
1/4 cups Fine Sooji / rava/ farina
1/4  - 1/2 Cups  Nuts (I used almonds and pistachios) and Golden Raisins
Hefty pinch saffron (heat a small skillet on low,switch off heat, add and toss the saffron very briefly and transfer to a small bowl/ plate and crush between fingers.**
Approximately 6-7 Cardamoms powdered

**Alternatively powder the cardamom and saffron in a mortar-pestle to a fine powder if you want to play it safe. It still tastes wonderful

For the final assembly:
Melted Ghee to smear on the phyllo sheets
10 Phyllo Sheets
Baking tray
Cooking spray
Heat about 1/2 tsp of ghee in a wok and add the shredded coconut and roast till it is light golden brown. Once cool, crush with your fingers ( coarsely)
Transfer to a plate / bowl. To the same wok, add the fine sooji and roast till a nice aroma wafts from it and it turns a nice  light golden brown. Transfer to the plate / bowl.
Now add a smidgen of ghee and roast the poppy seeds. Transfer to the plate / bowl.  
Add another drop of ghee ( well, not a drop, but enough to fry the golden raisins ) add the raisins and remove them when they plump up. Crush the almonds and pistachios in a mortar- pestle or run briefly thru the coffee grinder (do not powder) 
After the above mixture has cooled , add in the powdered sugar, saffron and cardamom and nuts.
Store the mixture in an airtight container till you are ready to use.
To make the Baklavanji, thaw the phyllo sheets in the refrigerator overnight. Before you open the packet, assemble everything you need. 
Read the instructions on the phyllo sheet package.
Keep the filling ready (filling with a spoon in it) 
Melt the ghee (in the microwave ) and keep aside - the ghee should not be hot
Keep a pastry brush  ready to brush ghee on the phyllo sheets
Keep a damp towel  ready to cover the phyllo sheets.
Prep the baking tray. spay with cooking spray or smear with ghee or line with parchment paper  and then spray. Keep aside
NOW.... assembly time. Preheat the oven to 350 F.
pen and carefully unroll the phyllo sheets and lay them flat ( I keep them on the plastic sheet they were in, just unroll and lay them flat)
Carefully pick one sheet - cover the rest with the damp towel- and lay the sheet in hand on the counter or flat surface you want to use, you can place it on the baking tray directly and then using the pastry brush carefully apply the ghee evenly on the sheet, cover it entirely.
Take another phyllo sheet and using the same technique, layer it on top of the first sheet.
Do this for 5 sheets.
Spoon the coconut mixture generously on the phyllo sheets and carefully spread it evenly to cover the entire sheet. 
Back to the phyllo sheets. Pick one sheet, cover the rest apply ghee evenly and place it ghee side down on the coconut filling. Apply ghee on the top as well and go on to layering the remaining  phyllo sheets. Make sure yoy apply a thin layer of ghee on the top sheet as well.
Once done, with a sharp knife make squares or diamonds. 
Place the tray in the oven ( middle rack) and bake for approximately 20 mins until the baklavanji  crust is a lovely golden brown.
Keep a watch on the baking time as there are just 5 sheets on the top and bottom each and it will bake fast. We do not want the top to turn a dark brown.
Remove from the oven and let it cool in the tray for a few mins. and then gently lift the pieces and place on a cooling rack to cool it completely. Store in an airtight container till you are ready to eat / serve it. 
Notes: I have used only 5 sheets each on the top and bottom, you can use more or even make multiple layers if you wish. I found this proportion perfect for me, bite size pieces and not too layered, the crunchy cover with the sweet filling  pair perfectly here.
If you want to make a small batch, I recommend you halve the filling, you will still have a bit left on hand afterwards.
The filling has a good shelf life. 

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