Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Khandeshi Pithla

And so it happened again. Sigh!
My tendinitis is back. Every time I use my right hand (which is ALL the time) I get shooting pain and I feel immobilized for a minute.
The pain subsides and I try again, it hurts. And so it has been going on for a few days now. I decided to take it easy.
Making fulkas was out of the question, so I got some Wheat Tortillas from Kroger to use instead.
( I am not advertising here, merely sharing my experience with you all ) a few months ago, my friend Samta, introduced me to these tortillas and I was surprised that they worked so well as a substitute for fulkas. All it needs is a grill to set atop the stove and high heat, just roast them and smear with ghee and you are set.
I find these very convenient to use when in trouble like now or even on days I cannot make any at home. 

I am also very lucky, I have friends who pitch in and help.
My friend, Tanu, made and sent over some choley and sheera, that took care of our dinner and M's lunchbox and I got invited to lunch at her place, the next day. 
This was one invitation I did not turn down. Tanu and I, apart from being good friends, share quite a few things in common, we both like good food, we both love a good laugh. This makes for a very good combination and we look forward to eating, laughing and sharing recipes.
Our cooking styles are pretty similar too and that makes us very comfortable and confident of what is being served.

Maharashtrian food

So when I rang her doorbell today, I knew what she was making, however, I was not prepared to be dazzled by the taste of her version of 'Khandeshi Pithla' a recipe passed on to her by her Mother-in-law.
Now pithla is typically the poor man's food and is paired with bhakri (a gluten free and fat free skillet flat bread). This classic combination is comfort food to most Maharashtrians. In the USA, it is a big deal! Making bhakri requires skill, patience and believe it or not, luck. If you are lucky, you will get fresh flour ( Jowar, in this case). So you can imagine my delight and eager anticipation!

The bhakri making began in earnest, with a warning not to expect something wonderful,which was quite unnecessary.  In the meantime, I checked the Pithla and stirred it around, letting the aroma whet my appetite. I knew then, this was a wonderful recipe and I had to blog about it. 

As I broke off piece after piece of the bhakri and scooped up pithla and ate, I realized that this recipe was a bit different than what was made in my home, Tanu explained that this was the 'Khandeshi' style.
And in between her explanation and my eager shoveling the fire alarm went off like a banshee, scaring us out of our wits. We ran around like squawking chickens, grabbing a towel here or a t-shirt there and flapping away at the alarm and switching on the fans and opening doors letting in the cold breeze.
It almost became a routine, talk and eat, run around flapping some odd garment to make the pealing alarm stop, rinse....repeat...
But overall, a great meal packed with the usual dose of fun and laughter and a common love of good food.

To make pithla , you need,

2/3 (scant) cup Besan ( chickpea flour)
1 medium Onion, finely chopped
3-4 green chilies ( +\- depending on how much heat you can tolerate)
A few curry leaves
3 cloves of Garlic
2 tbsp Oil
1 tsp Mustard seeds
1 tsp Cumin seeds
1 tsp Turmeric powder
1/4 tsp Kashmiri red chilies powder ( just to enhance the color) - optional
1/2 tsp Asafetida powder
Salt to taste
2-3 tbsp Fresh Fenugreek ( Methi) chopped  or 1 tbsp Kasuri Methi
Warm water ( thrice the quantity of besan)
Cilantro  to garnish

In a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic and green chilies or pulse them in a mixer/ blender to a rough paste. Heat oil in a pan. Add the mustard seeds. As they pop, add cumin. As the cumin sizzles, add the asafetida followed by garlic-chilies paste. Saute briefly (so the raw smell goes away) and then add onions and cook till done. Add curry leaves, turmeric, salt and red chilies powder, if using. Add the besan and mix well to incorporate all the spices into the besan and roast the besan till it smells nutty.
The color will change to a warmer shade. Ensure that you roast besan on medium heat.
Once the raw smell of besan is replaced by a nutty spicy aroma, add the fresh or Kasuri Methi and mix well.
Now slowly add the warm water while constantly stirring the besan mix. Break any lumps that have formed and stir to make an even pasty gravy.
As it cooks, the gravy will lose the pasty look and will be replaced by a deeper shade and a glossy look. Taste and check salt, adjust if necessary.  Cook for 3-4 minutes stirring at regular intervals.
Switch off the heat, cover and let the flavors mingle for 10 minutes.
Garnish with cilantro and serve with bhakri or even white rice.
If you like, serve finely chopped onion alongside.

-The above proportion will make plenty of pithla, will serve 4 really hungry adults.

- Be sure to roast the besan well, that lends a wonderful depth of flavor

- The longer the pithla sits ( or in case of leftovers) the heat quotient goes up, so make sure to add green chilies judiciously

- The besan will soak up the water and make the pithla dry and thick.

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Sunday, February 08, 2015

A Bake Sale Adventure

As the new year rolled in, I promised myself, I will blog.
The days passed, I kept reminding myself, but I did not follow through.
I made excuses, I'm tired. Parents were visiting, I wanted to spend time with them and cooking for them.
Then came the annual 'Sankranta Mela', li'll S was in a dance group and I had booked a stall for myself at the 'Anand Bazaar' (food stalls).
Drawing courage from my previous experience, I jumped right in, this year. 

I got busy with dance practices and homework and squeezing in as much time as possible for other activities.

And so, finally, I am back with pictures of my Cupcake stall. The cupcakes sold out and I couldn't be happier. 
M and li'll S were my helpers ( S being the main helper and cashier, a job he loves!) 

I made egg less Vanilla and Chocolate cupcakes and made butter-cream frosting.

These pretty hydrangeas were a hit with the girls.


Who doesn't love a Minion?
These were sold out within minutes! I wish I had made more.
I got this idea from Pinterest.
Here's how you make the Minion cupcakes
1 box Twinkies 
Butter cream frosting ( dyed Blue)
Smarties / White chocolate chips / Mini marshmallows (for the eyes)
Black frosting
Chocolate sprinkles for the 'hair'
Place the Twinkies in the fridge for about 15-20 minutes.
Frost the cupcakes ( I used the basic round tip to put the frosting on)
If you plan on using marshmallows for the eyes, prep them. Apply a thin coat of oil to kitchen scissors and gently cut the marshmallow into 3-4 rounds.
I used White chocolate chips, they were the right size and I just poked the pointed end into the Twinkies.
Pull the Twinkies out of the fridge, slice them in half.
Poke one or two chocolate chips in the 'head' part. If you are using marshmallow, put a tiny spot of frosting on the underside of the marshmallow and stick it on, do the same ( spot of frosting) fro Smarties.
Pipe on glasses  and smiles using black frosting. I used Wilton's ready to use tube, it was a mistake.
Poke chocolate sprinkles for hair.
Gently place the decorated Twinkies on the frosted cupcakes. Ta-Dah!  Minion cupcakes are ready!
The most popular cakes, Minions.
I made these flower cupcakes using the 'leaf' tip. These were also a hit with all the kids.
This anti-gravity cake was a last minute thought. I made it towards the end and this is the only picture I have of it, an unfinished one.
I found this tutorial very useful.
The children marveled at the cake and wondered if  the M&M's would keep pouring out. Some of them, out of curiosity also tried to pluck the bag out and see how I made it happen.
Anti-gravity cake

In all the hurry of the dance performance and the baking, I did not carry my camera at all, but that's when friends chip in! 
One of the Mom's in the dance group stepped forward and clicked these wonderful pictures and has shared them with me. Thank you, Vaishali! The pictures are great! 

I'll leave you all now, with all this sweetness. See you soon. Hope you all have a great week ahead.

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