Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Kurmuryache Ladoo (Puffed rice balls)

A super quick and simple snack, which gets me back to my childhood vacation time, which I usually spent with my cousins and ajji. She used to make the best kurmuryache ladoo I have ever tasted ! I used to sit in the kitchen with her, when she made these ladoos and always made sure at least a couple went right from the plate into my mouth. ohhhh...I miss her so much.

Though these ladoos are quick and easy to make, the kurmura/murmura/puffed rice that I manage to get hold of in the USA are as chewy as they get. Tried many brands and types of puffed rice, but they all were chewy. Now, when you make chivda, you dont have to worry too much about the puffed rice being chewy. You roast them in the preparation, which gets them crunchy again. But while making sweets, chewy puffed rice added to jaggery is going to result into a chewy ladoo. But there is a way around this. Isn't there always...
So here is a recipe, which will first get your puffed rice crunchy and then helps you make lovely ladoos which will stay cruchy for a couple of days. That is if they last that long...

Another thing, which I need to stress here is that, like all sweet preparations, you need to have all ingredients ready and then start making the ladoos. Once, jaggery is added to the kurmura, it turns hard really quickly. If you lose time here, it will be difficult to mold it into a circle. And don't worry too much about the temperature here. Trust me,once you add puffed rice, the temperature drops really quickly and unlike Til ladoo or rava ladoo these ladoos can totally be handled. But if this still scares you, go right down to the Tips section and see what else can be done.

So let us get cooking some kurmura ladoo. Ajji this one is for you!

Level: Medium
Serves: 12 - 14 medium sized ladoos

4 cups heaped puffed rice/kurmura
1 cup jaggery, grated (any kind)
1 cup water
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1 pinch nutmeg powder (optional)
1 bowl of water (for syrup testing and molding)

Step 1 - Let us get the puffed rice crunchy. Place a paper towel onto a microwave safe plate, spread the puffed rice in a single layer and microwave for 40 to 45 seconds. Remove and place the warm kurmura in a pot. Do not panic! They will be crunchy only when they cool down. You will have to do this in batches, without over crowding the plate till all 4 cups of kurmura are done. If you think the kurmura is getting brown at the edges, reduce your microwave cooking time by a couple of seconds.

Step 2 - In a wide bottomed pan, heat the jaggery and water together on medium heat. Initially, it will start melting and then gradually it will start foaming as shown in the picture below. Once the jaggery foams up completely for 2 to 4 minutes and gets a caramel-like color, start testing the syrup. Drop a tiny drop of the syrup into the bowl of water. It should hold it's shape and should not dissolve in water. Put your hand in the bowl and try and form a soft ball (underwater) out of this jaggery with your thumb and index finger. When you can do that, the syrup is ready. This syrup making process should take you only about 15 mins from start to finish.

(Clockwise - Syrup making, from a slow boil to a fast boil to a caramel colored boil)

Step 3 - Add the cooled kurmura, cardamom powder and nutmeg powder if using into the syrup and mix well till the jaggery is well coated. The kurmura will soak in all the syrup and this mixture will just look like a thick golden mass.

Step 4 - Let this cool only till it can be handled, which will not be more than 2 mins out. Start shaping into balls. Press them lightly into shape. If the mixture is sticky or warmer than what you can handle, just dip your hand in some cold water and continue shaping them.


Hope you enjoy them as much as I do!

If you think making round balls is not upto you, just press the puffed rice mixture into a greased baking tray or on a plate. Run a knife through it, while it is warm to get your desired shape. Do not break them apart until they cool down. This way the entire 'handling warm puffed rice with your bare hands' process is avoided.

Generally there are 2 varieties of puffed rice you use in Indian snacks. One is the regular long variety you use for bhel and another is the round smaller variety (Kolhapuri kurmura) you use for ladoos or bhadang. Ideally Kolhapuri puffed rice is used for these ladoos but you can use any kind that you have on hand. It really doesn't matter.

Generally people add peanuts, dry coconut or roasted chana dal to these ladoos. But I remember eating these plain and that is how I make them. Please feel free to add your favorite ingredients in Step 3 along with the kurmura. Don't forget to roast or fry these ingredients before adding them.

Submitting this recipe to CookEatDelicious for her 'Picnic Dessert' event.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Velvety Tomato Soup

Soup? Again? Hell yeah! The chilly weather demands it!

I am sure Tomato Soup is one of the most popular soups in the world. Unfortunately, people think tomato soups are best had off a can or from packets. I do not deny that having ready made soups is convenient. But unless you make some homemade tomato soup, you will never realize what flavors and freshness you are missing out on. And don't get me started on what actually goes into these cans. That post is for some other time.

Though simple, this recipe is not super quick. It is posted so you can enjoy some awesome Tomato Soup. I wouldn't say that it mimics the quality of the canned version of this soup. It is far far superior and delicious!

If you grew up in India like I did, you most probably have had your lifetime share of Cream of Tomato Soup. It would not surprise you if I told you that those soups rocked because of the cream and sugar added to them.
When going all out and making soups at home, you don't really want to make it unhealthy. It is no fun drinking bowls after bowls of this soup if you are going to end up feeling guilty and miserable.
So after a lot of experimenting and reading up different Indian recipe books for Cream of Tomato Soup, I have finally devised an amazing way of making this soup so delish, that you won't mind missing out on the cream.

Let's get cooking this Velvety Tomato Soup.

Level: Easy
Serves: 6 to 8 people

6 - 7 medium tomatoes, ripe and firm cut into halves
1 medium carrot, roughly cubed
1 small potato, roughly cubed
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 inch cinnamon stick
8 to 10 black peppercorns
1.5 tblsp butter
2 tblsp sugar or to taste
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
3 cups water

Step 1 - Heat the butter in a pressure pan. Add the cinnamon stick and black peppercorns. Saute for a few seconds. Add the onions, carrot and the potato. Saute till onions turn transparent.

Step 2 - Add the halved tomatoes. Saute on medium high heat for 3 to 4 mins. Add 3 cups of water and pressure cook for 2 whistles or till every ingredient is thoroughly cooked. Open the pressure pan, once the pressure is released and it cools down.

Step 3 - Mash the ingredients in the pressure pan together and strain. Blend the ingredients that did not strain through, with a little water and strain again.

Step 4 - Heat the strained mixture in another pot. Adjust water till it reaches your desired consistency. Add salt, pepper and sugar and adjust sweetness as per your taste. Bring to a boil for 2 mins.

Serve hot with some croutons and pepper.
If you are in a particularly indulgent mood, you could swirl some fresh cream on top, plop in some tiny cubed cheese or sprinkle some shredded cheese to get a richer flavor. I have also seen recipes that added tiny cubed paneer (cottage cheese) in their tomato soups.
So just go crazy with these suggestions or keep it as simple as we do!
A little sprinkle of pepper. That's it!

The color of your soup will depend on your tomatoes. If they are in season, you will have a brighter soup, else it will be slightly orange. Whatever the color, the taste will still be great.

I generally store half of the strained mixture (after Step 3) in the freezer for later use. This stays great for a couple of weeks and you don't have to go through this entire process to enjoy your tomato soup again.

The quantity of sugar, will depend on the acidity of your tomatoes. So adjust sweetness as per your taste preferences.

Tomato, a nutritious fruit commonly used as a vegetable, is a wonderful gift from the Mayans. Interestingly, it has more health benefiting qualities than that in an apple!
Tomatoes are one of the low calorie vegetables, containing just 18 calories per 100 gms. They are also very low in any fat content and have zero cholesterol levels. Nonetheless, they are excellent sources of antioxidants, dietary fibre, minerals and vitamins.
Because of their all-round qualities, dieticians and nutritionists often recommend them to be included in cholesterol controlling and weight reduction programs.
Need some more details? Head here.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Green Peas Soup for St. Patrick's Day

GOING GREEN....a vibrant comforting soup for all of you to enjoy on St. Patrick's day.

This soup is effortless which makes it a go-to candidate for those cold winter nights. The recipe involves minimal ingredients and chopping which makes it even more appealing.
The texture of this soup is really smooth and the smell and taste are oh so comforting.
So wrap yourself in a blanket with your loved ones, turn on some cheesy flick and sip away....

Without further delay, let us get to making some green peas soup.

Level: Easy
Serves: 4 to 6 people

2.5 cups green peas (I used frozen)
5 garlic pods, roughly chopped
0.5 medium onion, roughly chopped
8-10 black pepper corns
1/2 inch cinnamon stick
1.5 tsp butter
1/4 cup milk 
3 cups water or as required.
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Cheese/Croutons for garnish (optional)

Step 1 - Heat the butter in a pressure pan. Add the cinnamon stick, black peppercorns and garlic. Saute till the garlic turns light brown. 

Step 2 - Add the onions and saute till they turn slightly brown too.

Step 3 - Add the frozen green peas and saute for 4 to 5 mins till they start to sizzle. 

Step 4 - Add water till the peas are just soaked under water. Pressure cook for 3 whistles or till the peas are totally cooked. Let the mixture cool down and then blend it with a little water to form a smooth paste. Strain.

Step 5 - Put the strained mixture in a pot. Add the milk and water. Adjust water till you get your desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil for just a minute.

Serve hot with some bread. You can decorate the soup with some pepper, croutons or some shredded cheese. 

I generally use the Vadilal brand frozen peas from Indian stores. They somehow are not as sweet as the green peas you get in the general supermarket freezer section. If you get hold of fresh peas, it would surely make your soup much better. That being said, any kind of frozen peas would work in this recipe. You might just have to add a little more pepper before indulging.

Peas are one of the most nutritious leguminous vegetable, rich in health benefiting phyto-nutrients, minerals, vitamins and anti-oxidants.
100 gms of peas provide only 81 calories and they contain a good amount of soluble and insoluble fibre.They do not contain cholesterol.
Fresh pea pods are an excellant source of folic acid. Peas are a good source of Vitamin C, A and K. 
Need some more information? Head here: Peas

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Moogha Gathi - Goan Style (Sprouted Moong Curry)

Bean Sprouts are a storehouse of a number of vitamins and minerals.
Did you know that the sprouting process of beans, not only increases the nutritive value of beans but also reduces its calorific value?
Sprouted beans increase the digestive enzymes, which facilitates the digestion process of your body. But before indulging into the sprouting process, make sure you allow appropriate amount of humidity and warmth which are needed for proper sprouting, else you might end up growing harmful bacteria.

If you want to know how I sprout these moong beans, go right below to the Tips section.

Getting to the Star of this post...
This Goan style curry is my favorite way of using moong bean sprouts. A mild yet flavorful coconut paste added to this curry, takes this dish to a whole new level. As far as I am concerned, I don't think I need to hunt for any other moong curry recipes after I found this one, as it just somehow feels like it can't get any better.

This curry does not involve the use of onions, ginger and garlic. This makes it an ideal dish to cook during Hindu festivals like Ganpati when people generally refrain from using these ingredients.

Don't miss out on the tips section..

Level: Easy
Serves: 4 to 6 people
Adapted from: Tuka Mhane

2 cups sprouted moong
3/4 cup fresh coconut (I use thawed frozen shredded coconut)
6 to 8 curry leaves
2 green chillies
6 - 8 black peppercorns
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp jaggery
3 pieces kokum/2 tblsp lime juice
2 pinches asafoetida
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 cup water
Salt to taste
3 tblsp oil

Step 1 - Heat 2 tblsp oil in a pan. Add green chillies. Fry for a minute till they get slightly charred and brown. Drain them onto a paper towel. To the same oil add the black peppercorns and coriander seeds. Saute them till the coriander seeds turn brown in color. Drain these onto your paper towel too.

Step 3 - In a mixer bowl, pour in the fried green chillies, black peppercorns and coriander seeds. Add the coconut and turmeric powder. Grind with little water to form a smooth paste. Keep aside.

Step 4 - In a large pot, add the sprouted moong and the coconut paste from Step 3. Mix well. Add 1 cup of water or as per your desired consistency. Turn on the heat and let this mixture start boiling on medium heat. Adjust flavors to your liking. It should have all the 3 flavors: spice (red chilly powder), sour (kokum) and sweet (jaggery).

Step 5 - In a small pan, take your remaining 1 tblsp oil. Add the mustard seeds and let it splutter. Add the asafoetida and curry leaves. Pour this tadka into your boiling dal from Step 4. Mix and boil for 2 more mins. till the moong sprouts are completely cooked and all the flavors mix in well.

Serve hot with chapatis or over hot steamed rice.
Hope you enjoyed this as much as we did!

Generally this curry is made with a lot of oil. Once cooked, there is a layer of oil on top of the curry. This is the authentic way of having this curry. Personally, I can live without it. Moreover, a layer of oil on top of my curries is a total turn-off for me. But if you would like to indulge in the authentic experience, do feel free to increase the oil quantity in Step 5.

To quicken this recipe, while making your masala preparation, you can steam your moong upto 80% cooked and keep them ready for Step 4. Then you need to boil this curry for just 5 to 7 minutes.

Kokum gives this curry a very specific tangy coastal flavor. Tamarind makes this curry really dark and somehow results in a weird flavor. So replace kokum with lime juice for the tangy flavor, if you cannot get your hands on some kokum.

I do not over-sprout moong for curries. Feels like thread in my mouth when I eat them. Here is how I sprout them:
Day 1 (nighttime): Rinse the moong beans thoroughly. Keep them in a vessel with a lid. Keep the vessel in your oven (oven should not be turned on), which is the warmest place in your house. If you live in a hot weather place, you can just keep this vessel on your kitchen counter.
Day 2 (morning): Drain out the water. The moong beans should have plumped up now. Rinse again. They are ready to use at this stage.But if you have time to sprout them, which increases it's nutritional value, rinse the plumped up beans again. Close the lid and again place the pot in the oven (oven should not be turned on). This time, if you think your day is really cold, turn on your oven light. The heat from the light, should make the oven a warm and cosy place for your beans to sprout.
Day 2 (evening): Use. If you don't plan to use it right away, rinse the sprouts thoroughly. Do not over handle them, else the sprouts will break off. Place them in a zip lock bag or in an air tight container and put them in your refrigerator to halt the sprouting process. This stays good for upto 3 to 4 days in your refrigerator and upto a month in your freezer.

To know more about the sprouting process go here. It has more information than what you will possibly need.