Friday, February 27, 2015

Sol Kadhi

'Sol kadhi bhaat and bazlela masa' - 'sol kadhi' rice with fried fish, is a dream menu of mine. Needless to say, it a regular at my home. A must have when I visit my parents back home. 

'Sol kadhi' is a digestive drink with it's roots in coastal Maharashtra. Quick to make, 'sol kadhi' is a perfect appetizer for those hot summer days.

'Sol' refers to 'Kokum' or 'Amsool'. It comes from a fruit bearing tree called Garcinia indica. The fruit from this tree is dried in the sun to get 'kokum'. It is used as the primary souring agent in Maharashtrian coastal foods. Tamarind, though not so common even now, is a recent replacement.

You really have to taste an authentic 'sol kadhi' before you try this recipe out. You cannot jump in blind here as every ingredient is to taste and has different levels of flavor in different regions. 
It is easy to get your hands on fresh coconut and 'kokum' in India. Making 'sol kadhi' is always convenient there. But trust me you can make an almost authentic 'sol kadhi', even when you do not have access to a few fresh ingredients. Let me make this simpler.. If you get your hands on some dry 'kokum', you are good to go.

Before we start, even if you think the 'sol kadhi' that we make in India is a little more tedious and time consuming, remember that there is a reason why it tastes so great! So do take that little extra effort in straining fresh coconut milk. The color of the 'sol kadhi' depends on the 'kokum' quality. Poor quality will give you a fainter pink. Do not fuss too much over it. It will still taste the same. 

Let me share my secrets to making a great 'sol kadhi' in India and beyond!

Source: My family
Level: Easy
Serves: 2 - 3 people

Ingredients (When NOT in India):
250 ml coconut milk, details below
10 - 12 dry kokum, details below
1 cup water, or as required.
5 - 6 garlic cloves
2 green chillies
Salt to taste
Coriander for decoration

Step 1 - In a small pot, add 3/4 cup of water and the dry kokum. Start heating the pot and let this mixture boil for a good 5 - 6 mins. Turn off heat and leave it aside to cool. 

Step 2 - Drain the water and keep this water for later use. Also, grind the cooked kokums till they form a rough paste. Keep this aside too.

Step 3 - Grind together the garlic cloves and green chillies with a little water till it forms a smooth paste. Keep aside.

Step 4 -  Now we are all set. In a larger bowl, pour in the coconut milk. Pour in the kokum water from step 2, garlic-green chilly paste and salt. Mix well. Start tasting the kadhi. If you find your sol kadhi a little less sour, start adding the ground kokums from step 2. Keep adding and mixing till you get your desired sourness. Always remember that the kokums will keep making your kadhi more sour over time. So do not add too much if you plan to consume the sol kadhi at a later time.

Step 5 - Once all the flavor is adjusted, strain the sol kadhi. Decorate with chopped coriander and refrigerate till you want to serve it. If you plan to indulge with rice, I would suggest getting the sol kadhi down to room temparature.

Sol Kadhi is usually of a very thin watery consistency. So adjust water as desired.

Coconut milk - Usually we do not have access to freshly grated coconut outside India. Using frozen freshly grated coconut according to me, compromises the taste. I found Aroy-D to be the only brand from all those I have tried, which claims to be 100% pure coconut milk (no preservatives). You should easily find these in the Asian markets. That being said, I have made sol kadhi with canned coconut milk and also with coconut milk powder before I met Aroy-D. Small compromises on the taste.

Kokum - These quantities are for the not-so-great kokums we get in Indian stores in the US. 

Now, moving on to perfection...

Ingredients (When IN India):
1 small coconut, freshly grated
5 - 6 kokum, details below
Water as needed
5 - 6 garlic cloves
2 green chillies
Salt to taste
Coriander for decoration

Step 1 - In a large blender bowl, grind together the coconut, garlic and green chillies. Add 1.5 cups of warm water. Grind for a good 3 - 4 mins. Strain the coconut through a fine mesh and squeeze out the fresh coconut milk. Keep this thick coconut milk aside. This will be your first extract.

Step 2 - Now for the second extract, add back the squeezed out coconut into the blender bowl. Add 3/4 cup warm water and grind it for 2 - 3 mins. Strain the coconut again through a fine mesh to squeeze out the coconut milk. Add this to the thicker coconut milk from step 1.

Step 3 - To the coconut milk, add salt and decorate with coriander. Refrigerate till you want to serve. If you plan to indulge with rice, I would suggest getting the sol kadhi down to room temperature before you serve it.

Sol Kadhi is usually of a very thin watery consistency. So adjust water as desired.

The kokum used here is the good quality kokum that you get in India. 

Indulge by itself or with some hot steamed rice!
Hope you enjoy making this recipe.  Happy cooking everyone!

I have heard of people giving a cumin seeds tadka to the prepared sol kadhi before serving. Feel free to try that, but that is not how any of my family members prepare this drink. Just sayin...

Adding a little food color into the sol kadhi to look according to me an absolute NO NO! Authentic sol kadhi has no ingredients that will make it look shocking pink like it does in restaurants!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Matki chi Usal (Stir fried moth beans)

Pulses are low in fat and cholesterol, high in dietary fiber and rich in protein. This makes them a fantastic heart healthy food choice.

Indian cooking incorporates a lot of pulses in it's cuisines. Especially regional cuisines. You might not find all pulses at most of the restaurants but you will surely find them in most homes.

I enjoy making pulses for our regular lunch and dinners, mostly because there is minimal or no chopping required. Just soak the pulses in water and a few hours later, you are ready to use them.

The recipe I am sharing today is a simple one I cook almost once a week at our home mostly because of it's simplicity. This recipe has No Onion and No Garlic, which makes it ideal for days when you choose to offer it as 'Naivedya'  to God on auspicious days. I personally follow this recipe as it involves no chopping! Couldn't ask for more on a busy day.

Level: Easy
Serves: 4 - 5 people

3/4 cup matki (moth beans), soak in a lot of water overnight or for 6 - 7 hrs.
1 tblsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 pinch asafoetida
6 - 7 curry leaves
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilly powder, or to taste
1.5 tsp goda masala, or to taste
2 - 3 kokum/ Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp jaggery (optional)
Water as required
Salt to taste
Coriander to decorate

Step 1 - Heat oil in a pot. Add mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add cumin seeds and let them sizzle and turn a little brown. Add the asafoetida and curry leaves. Stir for a couple of seconds.

Step 2 - Add the turmeric powder. Stir for a second and immediately add the drained, soaked matki. Saute for 2 mins. Add the red chilly powder and saute for 2 - 3 mins. If you notice that the mixture is too dry and the spices might burn, sprinkle some water over the mixture and keep mixing. Then add enough water, such that the matki are almost all under water. Reduce heat to medium low, cover and let the matki cook well. Keep mixing occasionally.

Step 3 - Once you notice the water has substantially reduced and your matki is almost cooked, add in the goda masala, jaggery, kokum and salt. Mix well. Cook till the matki is well done. This can be checked by lightly pressing a few matkis. They should easily give way, but should not be all mashed up.

Decorate with coriander, squeeze some lemon if you are not using kokum and serve with some hot rotis.

Do not add the kokum or jaggery before the matki are almost cooked, this could prevent the pulse from cooking properly.

If you do not have goda masala, you could add some garam masala (3/4 tsp) instead. This will alter the taste of the preparation, but it will still taste great.

Some homes decorate this preparation with some fresh grated coconut. This makes for a great topping.

Using sprouted matki, would make this dish even more healthy. So if you have time, go for it.