Friday, November 30, 2012

Leftover magic! Phodnicha Bhaat and a Sweet Paratha.

" Mommy, I want waffles today", my son requests. I bustle into the kitchen, make the batter ( I use ready made mix and heat the waffle iron and serve up golden, delicious waffles with a pat of butter and syrup glistening and running down the corners and hand him the plate.
Mom and son, happy! He because he got what he wanted and I, because it was *such* an easy option. 
Or some days it is just pancakes, easier! No need to lug out the waffle iron ( I live in an apartment where the kitchen was probably an after thought and appliances and anything extra needs to be stored away and lugged out as and when needed)

In my childhood, I had never heard of pancakes, breakfast was pohe, upma, idli, dosa, even poli-bhaji (roti/ flat-bread with vegetables). My mother was a working woman, she would cook lunch in the mornings ( my Father would eat lunch and go to work) pack our lunch boxes and trot off to catch her local train to V.T. station.

Just as in my kitchen, there used to be leftovers in my Mom's too. Usually rice. Occasionally, fulkas
And just like her, I too never trash food, indeed I feel very guilty if I do. Wastage of food is an unbearable thought. I always  remember my Father saying, "what you throw, could well be some body's meal, that somebody who is starving and has not eaten in days! Can you justify this wastage?"

The rice was always sauteed and made into 'Phodnicha bhaat' simple, tasty and quick. It also made a good lunch box option, specially for me. I would happily carry this in my lunch box over fresh  roti-subzi that my mother had made. 
Tastes good when eaten as is, I liked it even more if I had a spoonful of pickle or chutney podi

This simple version of stir fried rice can be made with many variations.While Chitranna is famous in the south, Maharashtra boasts of the simple, no-fuss, minimum ingredient 'Phodnicha bhaat' 

In moderation, eyeball the ingredients, it is a forgiving recipe. However, here are the guidelines.

2 cups, Cooked Rice
2 tsp Oil
1 tsp each mustard seeds and cumin seeds
2 Green chilies
Few Fresh Curry Leaves
A Dash of Asafetida / Hing
1/2 Onion, chopped (big sized) if you have a medium sized onion, by all means, use the whole onion.
Salt to taste
1/2 tsp Sugar
1/2 tsp Turmeric Powder

Chop the onion, set aside.
Chop the green chilies and set aside with the curry leaves.
Make sure the rice is lump free and each grain is separate. if you have removed the cooked rice from the fridge, wet your hand under running water and  break the lumps in the rice. This will ensure that all grains are separate and the rice will not stick to your fingers.
Heat oil in  wok, add mustard seeds, after they pop, add the cumin seeds, asafetida, chopped green chilies and curry leaves.
Add the chopped onion and stir to mix everything.
sprinkle  a bit of salt, this will help in cooking the onion, quickly.
Once the onion is cooked, add the turmeric powder, mix well.
Add the rice and sugar. Mix, cover and cook for a couple of minutes.
Check for seasoning ( salt) if all is well, switch off the heat.
Serve with chopped cilantro as garnish.

* If you like, add raw peanuts and shallow fry them - after you have added the mustard seeds and before adding cumin. Once the peanuts are golden brown, proceed as outlined above.

The sugar is optional, but it balances the taste.

Squeeze  half a lime after you switch off the heat.

The other leftover I had was My Mom's Naral Wadi, she sent me some in a care package that came around Diwali. And then my friends in the apartment community also gave me some more. all in all, a lot of coconut fudge! and then I had a small brainwave! why not? I thought! hmmm... can it be done?
I tentatively put 2-3 pieces in the small jar of the mixie and gave it a buzz.. it groaned a bit and then without warning the top flew open and one piece hit me squarely on the forehead and other flew and landed with a dull thud- I know not where. 
I cleaned up the mess, broke the remaining pieces, into smaller bits and then put them thru the mixer once again.

If you are still clueless as to what I am planning, let me tell you about the idea. I planned on stuffing the fudge,  now powdered in some dough and making  a sweet paratha!  Like so.....

Can you detect a bit of sunshine yellow  in the paratha in the picture? That, is the stuffing. Well, one of them anyway.
I had naral wadi in 3 colors, white, yellow and pale orange, just blend it all up , stuff and roll!
When roasting on a hot skillet, brush with ghee.

To sum up, here is what you need:

Left over Naral Wadi
Some Dough ( regular roti/ chapatti dough)
flour ( atta) to dust

Place the left over naral wadi pieces in a chopper or your chutney attachment jar and pulse to make a powder. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Heat a griddle (medium high).
Take a small piece of the dough and dust it in flour and roll into a circle. carefully spoon about 2 tbsp. of the naralwadi powder into the middle and bring up the sides of the dough to make a parcel and seal. Pinch off the excess dough and dust with some flour.
Roll out a small disk and carefully transfer it onto the hot griddle.
Turn after about 15 seconds and brush with ghee. Turn again, brush the other side with ghee.
Cook on both sides until golden brown spots appear and the paratha puffs up.
Serve warm.
This makes a mildly sweet paratha.

Have a great weekend, everybody ! 
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Sunday, November 25, 2012

Daal Biryani- a quick weeknight meal

One pot meals are most convenient, whether it is a weeknight or a lazy weekend (especially if you have shopped all night on Thanksgiving) whether you are a working or a stay-at-home Mom / Dad. 

One very popular one pot meal is Khichadi which is light and mild and pure comfort. but sometimes you just to glam it up. Enter Daal Biryani! 
For many, Biryani conjures up a very distinct image, aromatic Basmati rice cooked with vegetables and spices and for many others who enjoy non-vegetarian version, chicken or mutton biryani. 

One of my favorite versions was Paneer Biryani, that was served in a restaurant just outside the bus depot in CBD Belapur (Navi Mumbai). My BFF Lisa and I would go there very often and on days we were starving, we would order this between us, it was a complete meal and would tide us over the entire afternoon and evening when we had back to back classes.This biryani was served on a huge platter with aromatic basmati rice mildly spiced with whole spices  and  an almost untraceable hint of saffron mounded  over a delicious, rich paneer and some vegetables gravy. 

Of course, it also made us sluggish like pythons after swallowing whatever that pythons swallow and we would consume unimaginable cups of 'cutting chai' to keep awake. 

While a 'regular' biryani is something I make when I have guests coming over ( and deserves a separate  post) Daal Biryani  is a treat when you want something special but not too elaborate and time consuming.

I have this recipe, hand written in my notebook, and in all likelihood the author is Pushpesh Pant, but I am unsure and if one of you, my dear readers, can verify, please do let me know in the comments so I can link it to his cook book.

In the mean time, here is my version (modified to suit  us)

You need:
1 cup Basmati Rice
1/4 cup Toor Daal
2 Potatoes (peel and cube, submerge in cold water until ready to use)
2 small Onions (thinly  sliced lengthwise) I used fried onions -readily available in Indian grocery stores
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp Garam Masala ( I use Badshah Rajwadi Garam masala)
Cilantro, chopped, to garnish

Tadka 1:
2 Tbsp Ghee
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp each Ginger paste and Garlic paste, I used ready-made Ginger-Garlic paste
2 Green Chilies, slit lengthwise

Tadka 2:
1 ( 1/2 inch) stick of Cinnamon
1 Black Cardamom ( the original recipe uses 2 black cardamoms, but I find the smoky flavor overwhelming and do not enjoy it at all)
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder

Prep work:
Wash and soak rice and toor daal, separately.
In a small wok, heat oil and deep fry the potato cubes and then the sliced onion. drain on a tissue. set aside
** I used my cast iron pan to shallow fry the potato cubes and have used store brought fried onion.

Heat Ghee in a saucepan/ wok and add the cumin seeds, they will sizzle on contact with the hot ghee. 
Add the ginger and garlic paste and saute for 30 seconds.
Add the slit green chilies ( alternatively you could use finely chopped chilies)
Stir to mix well.
Now add the cinnamon stick, black cardamom and turmeric powder and mix well.
Drain the rice and daal of all the water it was soaked in and add to the above and mix well.
Add 2 cups of water  and salt to taste.
At this stage, you can cover the pan and cook on the stove top or just combine and add the contents to your rice cooker and let it cook. 
Once the rice and daal is cooked fluff with a fork.
Add the fried potato and onions, sprinkle with Garam masala and cilantro. Serve with accompaniments like raita or papad and pickles.

I served this with a simple raita. I usually eyeball the ingredients.
Peel and grate on medium Cucumber 
Chop or thinly slice a Green Chili
Finley chop Cilantro
2 Pinches (or more to suit your taste) Chaat Masala 
Salt to taste
Pinch sugar ( optional)
Thick Plain Yogurt

In a bowl combine all the above and serve! 

* If the yogurt you have at home is not very thick, try this : grate the cucumber and sprinkle with salt, set aside for 10 mins. Squeeze out all the water and then add it to the yogurt.
* Boondi / onion / Beet can be used in place of cucumber

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Sunday, November 18, 2012

5 cup Mithai- Kid approved!

This Diwali, I tried a new sweet, it's called 5 cup Mithai. Just that. 

It is simple, straight forward. No fuss, no extra prep work and  tastes good. 

The recipe credit goes to my Mother's childhood friend, Gayatri, she spoke to my mom and  quickly gave her the recipe and added that, she made it every year and it is  fool proof and time tested. Of course I wanted it! 

What struck me, when I read this recipe first was, errr.. really? is that all? but...but...  I doubted the very first step of the recipe, usually when this happens, I abandon the project. Not very mature, I know, but IMHO, better than dumping the end product unceremoniously into the trash bin and fretting over the loss of ingredients and kicking myself over it.

What struck me odd was that this recipe calls for chickpea flour (besan) but did not follow the usual norm of roasting chickpea flour like in Besan Ladoo. Unheard of! 

And most Indian sweets have cardamom and, or, saffron for flavoring, this sweet does not have *any*! gasp!

Doubt 3, the recipe calls for using rava / semolina, un-roasted, again

Now do you see why I was in two minds! 

But I sometimes tell myself, a little sternly, trust! Good recipes are not always in cook books.
I am glad I trusted and went ahead.

Little S approved! he would walk up to the table where I had placed all my Diwali goodies and open the container and help himself to these delectable squares. The mithai has the seal of approval! 

You need:

1 cup Milk  
1 cup Ghee + 2 Tbsp Ghee
1 cup Rawa / Semolina
1 cup Besan / Chickpea flour
2 cups Sugar  (I used a little less) 

Apply ghee on a plate with an edge and set aside.

Heat 2 spoons of ghee in a thick bottom non-stick pan and Lightly roast Besan / chickpea flour. When I asked how much is lightly, pat came the answer, heat ghee, add flour and mix, that's it! no more roasting.

Add cold milk. At this point, I use my immersion blender to make  a uniform paste. I found it impossible to break the lumps with the back of the spoon, but a 15 second whirl of my trusted immersion blender and I had creamy paste! 

Melt 1 cup ghee and add to the above. 

Add rawa (semolina) and sugar.and mix thoroughly.

Keep stirring until it solidifies. when I asked how solid the reply was  Gola zala pahije, meaning it should from a ball.

Pour onto the greased plate and pat to form an even surface using a  bowl (vati) with a flat bottom. 
Here you have 2 options, grease the bottom of the bowl with a drop of ghee or water- just a drop! that will prevent from the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the bowl.

Form squares or diamonds using a shankarpali cutter or Pizza cutter and cool on the plate. 

Store in an airtight container.

It does not have to be Diwali to make this sweet! 

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Sunday, November 04, 2012

Braaibroodjie( Panini) : Stop Pinning and Start Doing! And a small step towards saving the Earth!

The thing about sandwiches is, you want to try every one of them. Not that it helps to decide which one you like better, just helps in choosing from a wide repertoire that you have built up, the next time you crave one.

It also helps to have a Pinterest account. There are tons of things that catch my fancy and I pin them on my board. It is amazing ( and humbling) at how much people know or how  many are into DIY-ing. I get my ' craft bug through here! I like the simple tutorials ( I choose the *simplest* of the simple, for those who 'really' read the posts, know about the missing craft gene and how I rarely try anything that is a combination of DIY, cut, glue and paint etc. But Pinterest and Ashwini, of Indulge-Ashcorner blog have me hooked to a few things. Soap Making and Lotion bars are two of the simplest things I have tried and successfully at that! Yaay!  
DIY aside, I pin a lot of food pins too ( but natural) and drool over many recipes, some simple some complex ( well, not so complex, I am mostly into simple things. Why complicate things more than they already are?) 

So to add to my Sandwich love, I have for you Braaibroodjie 

If you just said, Braabayabadabadoo, I quite understand. I did too! 

If you want a simple name, it is South African Cheese, Grilled Onion and Tomato Panini. As simple as that!

I just wanted you all to try saying Braaibroodjie! 

I  made a few changes, which I will list after the recipe. 

What made me try this sandwich is the use of Fruit Chutney.  This was  different for me, I have heard of fruit chutneys and tried one so far.  The idea of using it in a sandwich caught my fancy and I was longing to. 
This is also my entry for the  Stop Pinning and Start Doing  Pinterest Challenge Fall Edition                                                 


I made this for our Sunday Morning Breakfast. Daylight saving, I love it! I woke up at my usual body clock time and  was up an hour early. no, I did not roll back into bed and doze off, instead I had a leisurely cup of chai  and a long chat with my parents and surfed the net and decided to make this for breakfast.


The Recipe  adapted from the Kitchn and what you need for one sandwich is:

2 Slices of white bread ( I used French bread)

2 Scallions, trimmed and halved lengthwise
1/2 Cup White Cheddar cheese, grated ( I  had regular sharp cheese, used that instead)
1 Tomato, sliced

Fruit chutney ( I used Mango chutney- store brought)

The original recipe uses a grill, I do not have one, instead, I used my reliable Cast-Iron skillet.

Heat the grill / skillet until hot, add 2 tsp oil and toss in the scallions and  grill until soft and  brown. Set aside. 

If you are well prepared to assemble the sandwich, lower the heat under the skillet to low and start the assembly

On one slice of the bread, sprinkle 1/3 of the cheese.

Lay tomato slices on top, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Add cheese
Lay the scallions on top and top with cheese

On the second slice of bread, spread the chutney and cover the sandwich.

Slather the top of the slice with butter and transfer the buttered slice down  to the skillet and press down the sandwich . Turn, after buttering the second side( after a minute or so, after the side is brown and crisp).
Grill on both sides till golden brown



You can use Whole Wheat bread if you do not eat white bread. It will change the taste.  I recommend White.

Use White Sharp Cheddar. I did not read carefully and got regular (yellow) sharp cheddar.  We liked the sandwich, no doubt, but next time, I will try the original.

The original recipe uses a Panini Press. I do not have one. 

Sliced red onion can be used instead of scallions. I plan to do  that the next time.


I also want to send this post to Ashwini and her event Save the Earth, which focuses on  reducing wastage, reusing  material around the house and recycling stuff and lead a greener life.

While I am no expert or even any authority on this matter, I do some things in my day to day life and take a small step to lead a greener life.
I am sure you all do the same, but if you do things differently ( I am sure many of you do) Please feel free to share your ideas in the comment section.

I make it a point to switch off the lights and fan when exiting the room. This  is an old idea and we all know about it, but consider this, the next time you forget to switch off the  lights, there are people today who do not have any or regular electricity. Look no further than New York, Sandy has disrupted their life!  It is Fall and the temperature dips to low, on such cold days and colder nights, people are without power, no heat, no hot water! Old folks and young children are suffering. 

Use water carefully. I do not mean be stingy, but little things help. Do not leave the faucet running when you are brushing your teeth or when cleaning up in the kitchen after a cooking session. 

My Father always reminded me when brushing my teeth. He told me of the hardships he had faced when young and living in Bijapur, Karnataka. Of the times when summer was intolerable and water scarce.  
I am thankful that I never had to face these hardships but that does not mean I misuse  the privileges either. 

When out shopping use your own cloth shopping bag. This is not a new fad. I have seen my Grandmother following this rule since my childhood and so has my Mother! On my last visit to India, I got back my old bag, stuffed with goodies ( it can take a lot of weight!) 

These are very convenient and fold up too! Such a small pouch in your purse!

You can buy one, like this, tough I am not sure if they have the fold-away-pouch, for $1 at the grocery store. Every store carries them! 

The other thing I used to do ( sadly, in the past tense) was use yogurt containers to store my beans, sugar, tea etc in the pantry. but after a while it became  a problem- Out of  sight, out of mind! Since these containers are not transparent, I could not see the contents and many a times, I would neglect some containers and have also ended up buying extra beans thinking I had none. So now, I use these containers as seed starters!

When I go out, I carry my own bottle of water, the reusable one I have at home. 

We have, in the past, moved a lot. new apartments, new city, new state. I save my U-Haul boxes  and re-use them. These are very sturdy and last up to 4 uses!  Open them and lay them flat and store, they do not take up any space! 

I store my comforters, woolens in Space Bags saving space and clothes also remain fresh. This is no big deal and many of you may not consider it going green, but IMHO, once I remove these woolens from the bag, they are fresh, do not smell at all and no need to wash them! 

We use space heaters instead of using the furnace during fall, as and when needed. Dallas is not a cold place and small space heaters work well, saving electricity and heating the entire apartment when we use just one or 2 rooms at most. Of course as winter sets in, we do not hold back, we switch on the heat. 

I try to use household  items in cleaning as much as I can, for example baking soda, lemon, vinegar are efficient cleansers, not to mention pure and green! Google to find a cleaning solution that suits your purpose.

Carpool when possible.

On a lighter note, I do not iron my clothes until absolutely necessary! The husband calls it being lazy to boot, I call it energy conservation! 

Some more steps I plan on taking:

We have a lot of old clothes, the good ones go into the donation box. The ones which are not good or torn and frayed  will be used as cleaning cloths, in the kitchen. To wipe down counter-tops, appliances.

Compost  (a dear friend has recently installed a small composter in  her yard and I plan on contributing to it.

Any ideas, from you, dear reader, are welcome! 
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