Monday, November 12, 2012

Going Green with Palak Sev (Spinach Sev)

Once you realize how easy it is to make Sev, you are bound to go crazy! This year we decided to try out Spinach Sev for Diwali. Initially, I was a little worried that the dough would not retain it's lush green color post frying. But they did retain their color and how! 

I needed these sev to be spicy as they had to perfectly compliment the sweet ladoos that are made for Diwali. So I added some ginger and green chillies to the batter too. All in all, these turned out very interesting. 

Your chakli press has 2 discs for making sev. Thicker sev and thinner sev, as shown below. Just remember that if you are using the thinner sev disc, try and avoid whole spices as it is difficult to press the sev out of the chakli press and the spices get clogged inside the contraption.

Now let's get started.

Level: Easy
Serves: 8 - 10 people

2 cups chickpea flour
10 tblsp rice flour
2 cups packed palak/spinach
2 inch ginger, finely chopped
8 green chillies, finely chopped
5 tblsp cilantro, roughly chopped
1.5 tsp turmeric powder
1 tblsp red chilly powder
1 tsp black pepper powder
1 tblsp carom seeds/ajwain, coarsely crushed
1 tblsp cumin seeds/jeera, coarsely crushed
1/4 tsp asafoetida
Salt to taste (I used 2 tsp)
2 tsp clarified butter (ghee) / oil (I used oil)
Warm Water as required
Oil for deep frying
Thin sev disc

Step 1 - Heat 5 to 6 cups of water. When it comes to a boil, dunk in the the spinach and boil it for 1 min. Take them out and immediately wash it with cold water. This process retains the green color of spinach.

Step 2 - In a mixer bowl, blend the spinach, ginger, green chillies and cilantro to a fine paste. Strain this mixture and keep aside.

Step 3 - Take a flat large pan and fill it with an inch of oil. Start heating it on medium high heat.

Step 4 - In a large bowl, measure out the chickpea flour, rice flour, red chilly powder, black pepper powder, crushed carom seeds, crushed cumin seeds, asafoetida and salt. Mix it with a spoon or with your hand till everything is incorporated well.

Step 5 - Add in the clarified butter or oil and mix the ingredients well. It should have a crumbly texture, which indicates that you have mixed all ingredients well with the grease. 

Step 6 - Now slowly add in the spinach puree from Step 2 and start kneading it into a dough, similar to a chapati dough. Use a little warm water if you have to. The final dough should be of a soft texture. Check for salt. If you need to add more salt, don't just sprinkle it into the dough. Mix the salt in a tsp of water, heat the water in the microwave for a few seconds. Mix till the salt dissolves well. Add to the dough and knead well again.

Step 7- Spray the interiors and the rod of the chakli press with some oil spray or just smear some oil with your hand to make sure the dough comes out well and does not stick to the surface.

Step 8 - Divide the dough into 2 parts, mould it into a cylindrical shape and push the dough into the chakli press. Close the contraption in place. The remaining dough needs to be oiled and covered well. We dont want the dough to form scales on the top while it rests.

Step 9 - Let us check the oil now. By now it should be perfectly hot. Take out a pinch of dough from our resting dough and add it to the oil. It should immediately come up and start sizzling. This indicates the oil is ready. Now take the chakli press and start rotating the rod till it starts squeezing the dough out. Holding the press above the hot oil, quickly squeeze out the dough. Keep moving your hand around so the pan is full of sev.

Step 10 - Let the sev fry for 5 - 10 seconds. With the help of tongs, turn the sev over carefully. Fry for another 10 - 12 seconds. Remove off the pan and place on a tissue lined tray. Start next batch. Make sure you do not brown the sev too much.

Step 11 - When the sev has cooled down, just slightly crush them down with the palms of your hand on the tray, so they break down. You can crush them as small or as long as you like them. Store them in an air tight container and gobble away.

Hope you enjoy munching on these.

For more Diwali recipes, don't forget to check out the Diwali Faraal tab on your right.

Make sure you are careful when you push down the sev into the hot oil. You dont want the chakli press to fall into the hot oil and splash oil all over you. To avoid this, before you start frying, make sure your hands or the chakli press is not oily.

Use a flat pan to fry these, so you can fry a large batch at one time.

When the dough touches the oil, there will be a lot of bubbles. Slowly the bubbles will start disappearing. This is the indication of the sev being cooked. Don't wait too long for the sev to change color here. They might end up burning.

When I was frying the sev, I did not pile them a lot as my pan was very flat. Due to this my cooking time was just a few seconds. If you have a deeper pan, and can pile your sev together into a heap, don't forget to  increase your frying time.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Rava Besan Ladoo

Ladoos (Sweet Indian Rounds) are an integral part of Diwali celebrations at Indian homes. Though Indian cuisine boasts of making ladoos out of a variety of ingredients, Diwali celebrations mostly involve Besan Ladoos (chickpea flour ladoos), Rava Ladoos (semolina ladoos) or a combination of both these ingredients Rava Besan Ladoos (chickpea flour and semolina ladoos).

My personal favorite ladoos are Rava Besan Ladoos. I think they just have the perfect texture which takes me to 'Ladoo heaven'! Not too soft like Besan Ladoos and not too gritty like Rava Ladoos. Now that does not mean I am not a fan of the other ladoos. I just have a soft corner for these cuties. 

Everyone at our home likes simple ladoos. No fancy nuts or raisins in them. Maybe because that is how we remember eating them as kids when our ajjis made them. But you are free to add cashewnuts, almonds and raisins to this recipe. Just remember to toast the nuts well before adding them.

Now let us get to making these ladoos.

Serves: 20 medium ladoos
Level: Medium 

2 cups semolina/rava (fine)
1 cup chickpea flour/besan
6 tblsp ghee
2 cups + 2 tblsp sugar
1 cup water
3/4 tsp cardamom powder
2 pinch saffron strands
pinch of salt

Step 1 - In a heavy bottom pan, roast the semolina well on medium heat stirring continuously. Roast till it smells awesome and turns brownish. Keep aside to cool.

Step 2 - In the same pan, heat the ghee and roast the chickpea flour on medium heat till it turns golden brown in color. This mixture will not be dry like the semolina. It will form a paste. Take the pan off heat. Add the roasted semolina from Step 1 and mix well. Keep aside till we work with our sugar syrup.

Step 3 - In another pot, add the sugar and water. Start boiling on medium heat. Initially the syrup will foam up a lot. Keep boiling it for 5 mins. Till then you should see clear liquid bubbling. After 5 mins of rapid boiling, start testing the syrup. Dip a steel spoon into the syrup and stir it around well. Take out the spoon and swipe your index finger on the back of your spoon to test the syrup. Now touch your thumb to your index finger and gently pull the two fingers a little apart. A single thread should form in between these fingers. Keep joining and releasing these 2 fingers a couple of times rapidly. If you see a single thread form each time, you are done. Usually this should be achieved in 2 to 3 mins from your first boil.

Step 4 - Pour this sugar syrup into the dry mixture from Step 2. Mix well with a spoon. Make sure there are no lumps. Cover it and let this mixture rest till it cools down, absorbs all the syrup and thickens enough to form a ball. 

If you make this on a warm day, the mixture could take 4 to 5 hours to cool down and thicken up. On the other hand, if you make this on a cold day it could take just 30 mins. So do keep an eye on it. Once you realize that you are able to press the mixture together, you are good to go.

Step 5 - When the mixture is still a little warm, add a pinch of salt, the cardamom powder and the saffron strands. Mix well. Let the mixture cool completely.

Step 6 - Take a heaped tblsp of mixture into your hand and just press it together till it holds shape. Once you have the mixture clumped up well, roll them in the center of both your palms till it forms a smooth ball. Do not apply pressure while rolling as this might break the ladoos. Also, when you start rolling you might realize that the mixture is not looking as smooth as a ladoo. Do not worry. Keep rolling it into a round shape with minimum pressure. The heat in your palms will mold it into a smooth ball. 
If you are uncomfortable while rolling the mixture as it sticks a lot to your hand, you can apply some ghee on your palms before you start rolling.

We are done! Enjoy these any time of the day!

Hope you enjoy these ladoos as much as we do.

Even though it is true that the sugar syrup consistency is key to making ladoos, do not let that scare you. Try to get the one string consistency as correct as you can. This does take time. 
Just remember that if you under cook the syrup, all that will happen is your ladoos will be soft and will not hold shape. They are not going to taste bad.  And if you notice that you have boiled the sugar a little too long and now see 2 strings instead of 1 between your thumb and index finger, you have gone a little too far and you might not be able to roll out the ladoos well. When this happens, just put the ready warm mixture into a greased plate, cut them into squares or diamonds before they completely cool off and make Rava Besan Wadi (Bars) instead of round ladoos. 

The sugar testing process has to be done by testing the syrup when it is hot. When you touch your steel spoon to test the syrup, do not try to take a lot of it on your finger. Do understand that it is boiling sugar that you are handling. Also, just a tiny amount is necessary to test the consistency. When I was new to making ladoos (I am fairly new even now), I was paranoid about touching the syrup. So I always kept a bowl of cold water right next to me in case I burn myself. It is only after a few tries that you realize that such small quantities don't really burn you.

If you want to add nuts to this recipe, toast them well and add them at step 2 when you mix the roasted semolina and chickpea flour.
If you want to add raisins, add them when you start molding the ladoos in Step 6. You need not fry or roast these.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Quick Poha Chivda (Flattened Rice Snack)

With Diwali around the corner, the "faraal" (festive snacks) making has started at my home. The easiest and  most common snack prepared is "Poha Chivda". The recipe which I am sharing with you is a regular at Maharashtrian homes during Diwali.

Before we get to the recipe, I would like to mention that a lot of tips have been provided below the recipe to change the flavoring of the chivda to your liking. Do go through them to tweak the chivda as per your preference.

Let me also go through certain important tips before we start cooking:
When it comes to flattened rice, your supermarket may carry 3 different varieties: Thick Poha, Thin Poha and Nylon Poha. For this chivda recipe I would recommend the thin variety of poha.

I generally make my chivda with less oil. My measure is :
4 cups of flattened rice needs 2 tblsp oil. 

The most common problem new cooks face while making chivda is guessing the salt content. Though this is a personal preference for everyone, I have a fixed measure for that too.
4 cups of flattened rice needs 3/4 tsp ground salt. 
Do keep in mind that this is our personal preference. You can work around this figure to get your flavors right where you want.
You noticed I mentioned 'Ground' salt? It is nothing fancy! I just put some salt in a mortal pestle and grind it till it is powdered down well. This prevents the salt from settling to the bottom of your pan or the box where you store this chivda. Also, powdered salt perfectly coats the flattened rice and there is no residue at the bottom that makes your last batch of chivda too salty to consume.

I generally dry roast the nuts before adding them to the chivda when I make it at my home just as a regular snack. But when it is prepared during Diwali time, the nuts are shallow fried in oil.
Afterall Diwali is about (over) indulging. Isin't it!

And last but not the least, like most of the snack recipes, you will need to have all ingredients prepped and ready before you get to making the chivda.

Moving to the recipe..

Level: Easy
Serves: 8 heaped cups of chivda

(Chivda with onions, cilantro and a squeeze of lime)

8 cups of thin poha/flattened rice
3/4 cup raw peanuts
1/2 cup roasted chana dal
12 garlic pods, thinly sliced
4 tblsp oil + oil for shallow frying nuts and garlic
1 tsp mustard seeds
3/4 tsp asafoetida/hing
3/4 tsp turmeric powder
15 green chillies, wiped dry and finely chopped
15 -18 curry leaves, wiped dry
Salt to taste, powdered in a mortar and pestle

Step 1 - In a small pot, heat 4 tblsp oil. When the oil is hot, add the raw peanuts and fry till they turn light brown. Drain onto a paper towel. Next add the roasted chana dal and fry till they turn light brown too. Drain these onto the paper towel. In the same oil, add the garlic and fry it on a high flame till they turn brown. Drain these onto the paper towel too. Keep aside. Discard remaining oil.

Step 2 - Let us roast the flattened rice. Take 4 cups of flattened rice in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave cook on high power for 1 minute. Take out the bowl, stir the flattened rice around with a spoon and microwave cook again for 1 more minute. Keep aside. Repeat the steps with the next 4 cups of rice. You will notice that the puffed rice curls up a little, looks brittle and is crisp when it cools down.

Step 3 - In a huge pot, heat 4 tblsp oil. Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add the asafoetida and curry leaves. Stir for a couple of seconds. Add the green chillies and saute them for a minute or two till the chillies turn brown.

Step 4 - Add the turmeric powder and immediately add all the fried nuts and garlic from step 1. Stir for a few seconds. Add the ground salt and mix well. Immediately add the roasted flattened rice and saute well till the oil coats each and every ingredient. Roast for 4 to 5 mins on medium heat.

The chivda will be crisp as soon as it cools down. Store it in an air tight container and indulge!

Unlike my folks at home, a lot of Indians enjoy their chivda a little sweet. 2 ingredients can help you with this. Raisins and Sugar. If you plan to add some raisins, make sure you fry them well in Step 1. If you plan to use sugar, you will have to powder it in a mortal pestle like we did for the salt and add it right at the end after your chivda cools down a little. If you add sugar when the chivda is hot, the sugar will caramelize and you will not get your desired texture and taste.

You can add dry coconut flakes in this chivda too. Like raisins, you will have to fry them till they are light brown in Step 1.

You need to remember that whenever you are using garlic in your chivda, it is the last ingredient that you will fry. While frying, as we are using less oil, garlic tends to cling to your spoon and become sticky. You may not be able to fry anything else after you fry garlic.

If you do not own a microwave oven, you can roast the flattened rice in a flat pan on medium to low heat stirring continuously. This process would take upto 12 - 15 mins. Do not rush.

A lot of Indian stores have 'Chivda Masala' available. You can substitute this spice mix instead of turmeric in this recipe.

If you are not comfortable adding green chillies into the chivda, you can substitute it with red chilly powder. Just add it immediately after the turmeric. Make sure you do not let it burn.

Roasted chana dal is readily available in the market. If you do not have it, just skip it. Do not roast the regular chana dal you have at home. It does not mimic the store bought version.

We enjoy this chivda with some chopped onions, lots of cilantro and a squeeze of lime. Perfect with our evening tea or coffee.

If you have any further questions or if I have missed any points, please feel free to drop me your queries in the comment box below. I will try my best to answer them.


Monday, November 5, 2012

Goan Egg Drop Curry

This curry is stunning both for your eyes and tastebuds! Personally I have never tried egg curry in Goa. With so much fish in front of me..I never looked at anything else. But being the only one at my house who indulges (read over indulges) in fish, I have to be nice sometimes and prepare dishes which could help my loved ones experience the amazing flavors of Goa.

Eggs have taken a beating in recent years, due to its impact on cholesterol and heart problems. Inspite of this, I do not believe it needs to be completely avoided. I wouldn't be surprised if a decade later people find out how much harm has been caused by banning eggs from our diets.
Don't get me wrong here, I am not one of the crazies! I do not deny that egg yolks are bad for you, but a couple of eggs in a month, should not kill you anyway. Unless a doctor specifically asks you to stay away from them.
I believe that our bodies need to achieve a balance. We cannot forget that eggs are a good source of low cost high-quality protein, providing 6.3 gms of protein in 1 egg for a caloric cost of only 68 calories. Numerous vitamins, including vitamin A, potassium and many B vitamins like folic acid, choline and biotin are also packed into this oval-shaped staple. Very few foods share the same diverse nutrient makeup available in a single egg. Many of these nutrients are specifically needed for the health of the nerves and brain.

That being said, I do not completely ignore the tons of research available that link eggs to increase in cholesterol. We just reduce them in our diets, instead of banning them for life!
We mostly include more of the egg whites in our diets as it contains no cholesterol, but it is in dishes like the  one I am sharing here, where you really cannot do without the egg yolks. Using only egg whites would give you just scrambled egg white curry, which would not be as interesting.

A lot has been said. Let me share the recipe with you now..

Serves: 4 people (1 egg per person)
Level: Easy
Adapted from: Goan food recipes

For the Egg Curry Masala:
10 dry kashmiri red chillies (mild variety)
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
4 tblsp grated fresh coconut (I used frozen)
1 tsp tamarind pulp
3 garlic flakes
Other Ingredients:
1.5 tblsp oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 garlic flakes, finely chopped
1/2 cup thick coconut milk (I use Maggi coconut milk powder)
4 eggs
Water as required
Salt to taste
Coriander to decorate

Step 1 - Let us make the masala first. Take all the egg curry masala ingredients in a blender and blend well with a little warm water till it forms a smooth paste. Keep aside.

Step 2 - Let us make the coconut milk. Make 1/2 cup of coconut milk with the coconut powder by following the instructions on the packet. (I added 1.5 tblsp in 0.5 cup of warm water). Keep aside. You can use freshly squeezed coconut milk or canned coconut milk for this recipe too.

Step 3 - Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the onions and garlic. Saute till the onions turn brown. Add the egg curry masala from Step 1 and some salt. Stir well and saute for a good 7 - 8 mins, till the masala starts to shine. Do not hurry here. You need to cook the ingredients well as all raw ingredients were used in the paste. Add water till the curry reaches your desired consistency. Let it boil for 5 mins. Adjust the taste to your liking, by playing with the tamarind pulp and red chilly powder if you would enjoy more heat  and tang.

Step 4 - Reduce heat to medium-low, wait a couple of minutes for the boil to slow down and carefully drop in the eggs one at a time, a little apart from each other. Take care and try not to break the egg yolk while dropping them in the curry. Do not stir at this stage. Immediately cover the pot with a lid and let the eggs cook in the curry for 3 - 4 mins. Open the lid. If your eggs are completely in the curry, you are good. If they are slightly above the curry (if your pan is too flat), gently toss some of the curry over the eggs to help it cook. When you notice that the eggs are steady and won't break when touched, gently stir the curry from the base so it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Boil for 2 more mins.

Decorate with coriander and serve piping hot with some plain white rice or paav.

Hope you enjoy this curry as much as we did!

I am sure you can add boiled eggs to this curry instead of dropping eggs into the curry. Just don't forget to call it Egg Curry instead of Egg Drop Curry.

Some more information on eggs: Head here.