Monday, April 30, 2012

Summer Cooler: Kewra Sherbet : Screwpine Lemonade

On 3rd. April, the alarm on my phone went off, it was time to pick up Little S from school. As I started up the car, the first drops of rain hit the windshield, I smiled, I love rain! As I drove out into the street, the raindrops thudded loudly and within seconds there was a deluge. Free car wash, I giggled to myself. I reached school, the teachers were looking a bit tense as I picked up my Prince. I did not ask, I just waved  the customary 'bye and left. Little did I know what was in store for me! Within a minute or two  it clouded over, so much so that one might think it was 8 in the evening!  and how windy it was! We were at the railroad crossing and it was closed and there was a sea of cars in front of me, I was surprised, I've never seen a train at this odd hour...  and then, THWAP!  THUD! THUMP! I jumped out of my skin... got back just in time to see hail bouncing off my windshield.  
I parked on the side and sat out the terrible storm and drove back home, glad  that there was no damage! 
So, I thought to myself, 'this' is Spring in Dallas!  3 weeks down the line, I am relaxing in my air-conditioned living room, looking at the hot patio and wondering, do they call 'this' spring in Dallas? It's 95F outside.. heat : that does no good to man or beast. 

I hate the heat.

I try to do everything to beat it, air conditioning and a glass of chilled, refreshing 'Kewra/ Kewda Sherbet' are perfect for such horrid days. 

4 Cups Water
1 2/3 Cup Sugar
6 Tbsp Lemon juice

Heat Water and Sugar in a pan stirring until the sugar has dissolved

Remove from heat and cool slightly

Add lemon juice and kewra Essence

Cool completely and store in a glass bottle in the fridge

To serve, dilute the concentrate with some water and add crushed ice/ ice cubes

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Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Bhinda Sambhariya (Gujarati Style Stuffed Okra)

Okra is my favorite vegetable. It surprises me, as almost everyone, when I say this because I am known for my picky habits where many food items are concerned. 

The humble okra however, to me, tastes good in all forms. The only issue I have with it is, you start out with a lot of okra and after cooking it shrinks to half the quantity! What a loss! One way I make it often is okra smothered in coconut or another is the 'upvaas' or the fasting version, which is a peanut based curry version. But the stuffed version, I believe takes it to the next level! Stuffing does that to most things, doesn't it? Take for example the everyday humble Roti (Indian flat bread) and the big fat potato, match the two, add some spices and viola!you have Aloo Paratha! or, or... take Paav ( bread / burger buns) and use this recipe to transform it into one of Mumbai's favorite street food! See what I mean?

The same theory applies to okra, now there are so many combinations of stuffed okra, what appealed to me about the recipe I am going to present, is the simple list of ingredients and  how well balanced they are to create a harmony in your mouth. The second reason why I zeroed down on this version, it has coconut, an ingredient I indulge in, when the hubby is away from home. he has a psychological allergy to coconut, and this recipe packs in a lot of that! 

Tarla Dalal works her magic with this stuffing and the slightly sweet taste, the natural one in coconut and the added sugar and with the heat coming from ginger and green chilies, cilantro lends flavor and lemon juice the tang! What's not to like?

Here's what you need, right from the Mistress of Gujarati food :

2 cups Okra / ladies finger (bhindi)
1/4 cup oil
1/2 tsp Asafetida (hing)

For the filling

6 tbsp Grated Coconut (fresh or frozen)
6 tbsp chopped Cilantro(dhania)
3 tsp sugar
1 tsp Ginger-Green chilli paste
1 tsp Turmeric powder (haldi)
2 tsp Coriander-Cumin seeds (dhania-jeera) powder
1 tsp Garam masala
1 tbsp Sesame seeds (til)
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp oil - I skipped this
Salt to taste

Wash and cut the ladies finger into 50 mm. (2") pieces and slit lengthwise carefully, so that the segments do not separate. Or choose tender small Okra pods.

Fill each ladies finger with a little of the prepared filling and keep aside.

Heat the oil in a kadhai and add the asafetida. A cast iron skillet works well.

Add the stuffed ladies finger and mix well.

Cover and cook on a medium flame for 15 to 20 minutes or till the okra is cooked, while stirring occasionally.

Serve hot.

You can also add 2 tbsp of coarsely ground peanuts to the filling.
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Sunday, April 01, 2012

Chana-Toor Daal Fry

Lisa once asked me if we cooked with Arhar ki daal everyday. I looked at her and while my ignorance buzzed in my mind, I confidently said, " no, we use toor daal". She nodded understandingly and said," oh ok". Many meals later we realized we were talking of the same legume! 

I grew up eating Aamti it was a 'necessity' at every meal, unless of course Mom made kadhi. Katachi Aamti was with Puran Poli and was made only on special occasions and many a times, we would buy PuranPoli from the stores.The idea of  anything else being used ( read:  chana daal, masoor daal or urad daal) was unbelievable! I did not even know the different names  the same daal went by! 

Blogging  and many cookbooks later, I love the idea of experimenting with new legumes and also combinations, which earlier were unknown.
I reserve all new experiments in the kitchen for when the hubby comes home over the weekend. It also helps to have just one more adult who can eat a bit more (really, I mean, a bit more) than my almost 4 year old! 

Daals are the main source of protein in my household. I know, that in itself is not much, but I still shy away from eating eggs (except in cakes... HAH! did you say?) and it looks like Little S is not too fond of eggs as well. Oh well, as he says and shrugs his shoulders! 

Like me, many of my friends are also vegetarians and legumes and pulses are the main source of protein in our everyday meals. I was talking to my friend Rucha, the other day and one of the things we talked about was adding some more protein sources to our kids meals and a variety, after all, one does get tired of the daily daal and rice! 

I flipped thru my 660 curries cook book, THE reliable source, for simple (and complex) and latched on to this particular recipe. It combines the goodness of Yellow Split Peas (Chana daal) and Pigeon Peas (Toor daal) cooked with onion and garlic. It is easy to make, even on a busy week  night. So, this recipe goes out to you, Rucha. Hope you and your family like this daal fry as much as we did.

Source: Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries
Makes 4 cups

1/2 Cup Yellow Split Peas ( Chana Daal)
1/2 Cup  Pgeon Peas (Toor Daal)
1/4 Cup Ghee ( which is about 2.5 Tbsp)
1 tsp Black Mustard Seeds 
1 Medium sized Red Onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced
8 medium sized Garlic loves, peeled and finely chopped
2 fresh Green Chillies (Serrano or Thai, stem removed and chopped into1/4 inch  rounds (do not remove seeds)
2 tsp Salt or to taste
1 tsp Cumin, ground
1/2 tsp Fenugreek seeds, ground
1/2 tsp Turmeric powder
1 large Tomato, cored and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
2 Tbsp fresh Cilantro, finely chopped

Wash  the daals in 3-4 changes of water, clean thoroughly and pressure cook till soft ( 3 whistles). These can be cooked on the stove top as well, if you prefer that. Once the peas are cooked, I use my immersion blender and puree them to a smooth consistency. 

Heat Ghee in a pan over medium heat. 

Add the mustard seeds and let them pop

Add the chopped onion, garlic and chillies and stir-fry till the mixture is brown and smells pungent-sweet (2-3 mins)

Stir in the salt, cumin, fenugreek and turmeric and allow the spices to cook, about 30 seconds.

Add the chopped tomato, cilantro and 1/2 cup water. Simmer the sauce, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the tomato has softened about 5 mins.

Add this to the cooked daal/ legumes and stir once or twice. simmer the curry, uncovered, over medium-low heat until the legumes are infused with the flavors, about 10 minutes. 

Serve with steaming hot rice.
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