Friday, December 20, 2013

Batata Kaalvan (Potato Curry) CKP Style

For everybody who do not understand why fish curries rock!

As my husband does not eat fish and I can't stop eating them, we are almost always in a fix as we have to prepare two separate meals whenever I get my hands on some fresh fish. I also do feel a little bad that he misses out on the amazing curries that fish are cooked in.
The recipe I am sharing today is exactly how fish curry is made at my husband's home. We just replace the fish with potatoes, so 'anti-fishitarians' can have a good time, while we gobble down on our fishy meals.

Do give it a try on a cold winter night, cuddled up in a comfy chair with a large bowl of some hot steamed rice and this amazingly flavorful curry. Trust me this recipe is a keeper.

So here is how we make it!

Level: Easy
Serves: 4 people
Source: MIL (Nita Pradhan)

3 large potatoes
4 - 5 garlic cloves, crushed
3 pinches asafoetida
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1.5 tsp red chilly powder
1.5 tsp ginger garlic paste
2 tsp tamarind pulp (or to taste)
1/2 cup fresh coconut
4 tsp oil
Water as required
Salt to taste
Coriander to decorate

Step 1 - Cut the potatoes into even thin slices and then cut them into medium pieces. Place the cut potatoes in water till you are ready to use them. This will prevent discoloration. Grind the coconut with 1/4 cup water to form a smooth paste.

Step 2 - Heat oil in a pot and add crushed garlic in it. Saute till the garlic turns golden. Add the asafoetida and stir it for a few seconds.

Step 3 - Add the drained sliced potatoes and stir them well till all the potatoes are coated with the garlic oil. Add the turmeric powder, red chilly powder and ginger garlic paste. Stir well for 5 - 10 mins till you see oil in the sides of the pot.

Step 4 - Add enough water till it is 1/4 inch above the potatoes. Stir for a minute. Cover the pot with a lid and let the potatoes cook on medium-low heat for 5 - 7 mins till they are almost done. Keep stirring occasionally.

Step 5 - When the potatoes are 90% cooked, add salt, tamarind pulp and coconut paste from Step 1. Adjust the taste of the curry as per your liking (mostly for red chilly powder and tamarind pulp). Boil the curry for 2 more minutes till the potatoes are cooked through. Decorate with coriander and we are done!

Serve hot with some steamed rice. Indulge!

You can chop the potatoes in any shape you prefer. Just make sure they are even, so they all cook at the same time.

Do not add tamarind pulp until the potatoes are almost cooked. Adding tamarind to uncooked potatoes prolongs the cooking time.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Baked Karanji, a healthier take on deep fried heaven!

'Karanji' is a traditional Maharashtrian sweet prepared during the festival of Diwali. This dessert has soft sweet coconut warmly wrapped with crunchy pastry.

There are two reasons why Baked 'karanji' are a blessing during Diwali. Firstly, they are a lot healthier than the traditional fried version and secondly they save a lot of time. You don't have to fry them one or two at a time, all of them get baked together! With so much to do during Diwali, a healthier sweet which saves time is always a win-win.

Similar versions of the 'Karanji' called 'Gujiya','Ghugra', 'Kajjikayalu', 'Karchikkai' and many more are prepared all over India. The fillings keep changing with changing regions, but the basic concept remains the same.
Today's recipe is a healthier take on the Maharashtrian version of the 'Karanji'. You can use my recipe or your family's recipe for the filling. But I have narrowed down on the outer cover recipe after trying a couple of online recipes last Diwali. So just go with it! Also, if you have a better version with you, please feel free to share it with all of us.

Before we start, I should mention that Baking the 'karanjis' does not make this dessert calorie free, so maintain caution while indulging in this addictive dessert!

Level: Medium
Serves: 15 - 16 medium sized karanjis
Source: Madhura and Sudha Kulkarni's Microwave cookery guide

For Cover:
3/4 cup all purpose flour
2 tblsp tuup/clarified butter
2 tsp cornflour
Pinch of salt
Cold milk for kneading, as required

For Filling:
1 tsp poppy seeds
1 tsp semolina, any variety
1 cup desiccated coconut
1 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
Nuts and raisins, optional

Step 1 - In a bowl, mix together the cornflour, tuup and salt till it forms a smooth creamy paste. Do not rush here. Do this for at least a couple of minutes.

Step 2 - Add the all purpose flour and mix well with your fingers, till it resembles bread crumbs.

Step 3 - Add cold milk a couple of tablespoons at a time and knead it to form a dough. The dough should be a little stiffer than your regular chapati dough. But don't lose your head over the consistency here. Just make sure it isin't too soft. Keep covered for 15 mins.

Step 1 - Dry roast the poppy seeds, till they slightly change color. Keep aside to cool.

Step 2 - In the same pan, dry roast the semolina till it slightly changes color. Keep aside to cool.

Step 3 - In a large bowl, mix together the coconut, powdered sugar, cardamom powder, nuts and raisins if you are using and the cooled roasted poppy seeds and semolina.

Step 1- Divide the dough into 1/2 inch round balls. Roll out the dough balls into thin discs. Use some dry all purpose flour, if the dough is sticking to the rolling board.

Step 2 - Place a tablespoon of the filling in the center of the rolled out disc. Apply milk on half of the border. This will act as a glu to hold the shape in place. Carefully flip one end of the disc onto the other to form a half moon shape. Press the joint well. Cut off the corners with a Karanji cutter or a pizza cutter for a perfect finish.

Step 3 - Place the prepared 'karanjis' on a foil lined baking tray and place it in the refrigerator for 30 mins.

Step 4 - Preheat oven to 350 deg F. Bake the 'karanjis' for 7 - 8 mins or till they are golden brown. Keep a watchful eye here as every oven works differently and you do not want to end up with burnt karanjis.

We are done!

Hope you enjoy these 'karanjis' as much as we do!

Happy Diwali Everyone!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Bhajaniche Thalipeeth (Multigrain Flatbread)

'Thalipeeth' is a spicy, flavorful multigrain flatbread very popular in Maharashtra. Usually accompanied with a huge dollop of 'loni' or yogurt, I am yet to come across anyone who doesn't fall in love with this dish.

Every family has it's own secret recipe for the Bhajani (spiced multigrain flour) which is used to make these flatbreads. A combination of spices, lentils and grains are first roasted on low heat and then ground to a fine powder. This flour is then kneaded along with onions, green chillies and some more spices to form 'Thalipeeth'.

The main thing to remember before you make 'thalipeeth' is that, due to the lack of gluten in the dough, you will have to pat the dough into shape with your fingers as you will not be able to roll it out into discs. This will be a little more time consuming than your regular roti making, but it is going to be so sooo worth it. Trust me on this one!

I usually use the 'K-Pra' or 'Bedekar' thalipeeth flour which we get very easily in the Indian grocery stores around the place we stay. But if you don't find one around your home, do email me and I will be more than happy to share my familiy's thalipeeth bhajani recipe with you.

So let us get started..

Level: Medium
Serves: 8 - 10 medium thalipeeth
Source: Aai (Vandana Thakur)

2 cups thalipeeth bhajani (any kind. I used 'K-Pra')
2 tsp oil
Water for kneading, as required
1 tsp yogurt
1/2 tsp goda masala (optional)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 stalks of spring onion greens, finely chopped
2 - 3 green chillies, finely chopped
1/2 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
Salt to taste (I din't use any as my Thalipeeth bhajani had salt added in it)
Aluminium foil/Parchment paper
Oil for pan frying

Step 1 - Place the thalipeeth bhajani in a large plate or pot. Add 2 tsp oil and mix well. Add the yogurt, goda masala (if using), onions, spring onion greens, green chillies and coriander leaves. If your bhajani does not have salt added to it, do add some at this point. Mix well using your hands or a spoon.

Step 2 - Knead the flour into a soft dough with water. Use water sparingly. The dough is not going to be elastic like your regular chapati dough. Due to this, it may not form into a ball. To check if your dough is ready, gather a large lump of dough in your palms and press it lightly. If it holds shape, you are done.

Step 3 - Place a parchment paper or an aluminium foil over your rolling board. Pour a few drops of oil onto the sheet and spread it around. This will ensure that the thalipeeth does not stick. At the same time, start heating a pan on medium heat to roast the thalipeeth.

Step 4 - Grease your hand with a little oil. Take a fairly large sized dough (around 3 tbslp) and roll it into a smooth ball in your palms. Place the ball onto your well greased rolling board. Grease your fingers with a little oil and start lightly pressing the dough into a disc. This will be really easy as the dough would be very soft. You might notice that the corners keep cracking. Don't fuss over it. The dough is very forgiving. Just patch the cracks into place. If you think your hands have started sticking to the dough, grease it again with some more oil. Try your best to flatten the thalipeeth evenly. Flatter the disc, crispier the thalipeeth. Once done, form a small hole in the center of your thalipeeth.

Step 5 - Lightly pick up the parchment paper or foil you are using and carefully flip the flatbread onto your palm. Slowly place the thalipeeth from your palm onto the hot pan. Pour a tsp of oil around the corners of the thalipeeth. Pour some oil into the hole created in the center. This will help cook and crisp the thalipeeth well. If you want your thalipeeth very crisp, you can poke 2 - 3 holes around the thalipeeth and pour oil in all the holes.

Step 6 - Once the sides of the thalipeeth turn deep brown, pour a tsp of oil over the thalipeeth and slowly flip it to let the other side cook well. Cook till both the sides, turn to a deep brown color. Do not keep flipping the thalipeeth around too many times. You could end up breaking it in the process.

Serve hot with some 'Loni' or some yogurt. Being a garlic lover, I prefer eating my thalipeeth with some spicy garlic chutney.
You can indulge in these for breakfast or as a meal. If you are in a fancy mood like I was when I made these, you can cut them into quarters using a sharp pizza cutter and serve them to your guests as appetizers!


Once you buy your thalipeeth bhajani, do read the ingredient list on your box. Some flours have salt and red chilly powder added before hand. This should help you make proper decisions regarding adding spices and green chillies.

Do grease your parchment paper/aluminium foil well before you start pressing the dough into shape. It has to come off it when you are done.

If you have fresh homemade flour, you can dip your hands in water and flatten the dough into discs, but I have not had a great experience with store bought flours and water. Due to this, I grease my hands with oil to flatten the dough into shape.
You should try using water on your first thalipeeth and check if it works for you.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Easy Egg Biryani

Once a dish of the royals, today the 'Biryani' reflects local sensibilities and traditions and is a very popular and common dish.
India has witnessed many invaders and with every invader came a different culture and a new cuisine. Muslim invaders like Turks, Arabs, Persians and Afghans introduced the culture of feasts to India. The Mughlai cuisine that India is famous for developed from the 15th century to about the 19th century during the reign of the Mughals. The Mughals raised cooking to an art form, introducing several recipes to India like biryani, pilaf and kebabs.
While 'Biryani' is popularly associated with the Mughals, there is some historical evidence to show that there were similar rice dishes prior to the Mughul invasion.

Let us begin our royal journey into history with some simple 'Biryani' recipes to boost our confidence. Nothing better to start off with than - Egg Biryani!
Egg Biryani unlike Meat Biryani always fails to impress due to the lack of flavoring. We need to understand that unlike meat, eggs are not going to share any of it's flavor with the rice or the masala. Due to this reason, we need to prepare a very flavorful concoction to help an Egg Biryani impress you. This is one such recipe. A definite keeper!

When I first started trying out 'Biryanis', the main thing that bothered me was the 90% cooked rice bit! What is 90%! How am I supposed to know I din't cook it 80% or 95%...? Sounds familiar? This kept me from trying out 'Biryanis' for far too long... until I came across the 1:1.5 method. Every 1 cup of rice will use 1.5 cups of water instead of 2. This ensures that the rice cooks 90% and the grains can stay separate. The remaining 10% gets cooked when all the assembled layers are cooked on 'dum'. Will break this down for you when we make this Biryani.
Ideally, Long grain or Basmati rice are used in 'Biryani' preparations. But we usually do not have it lying around at home. So unless I am feeding a crowd, I use the regular rice we have at home (Kolam). Please feel free to use Basmati rice for a prettier outcome.

Level: Easy
Serves: 5 - 6 people
Adapted from: ReadySteadyEat

For the rice:
- 1. 5 cups rice (Soaked in water for 10 mins and then drained)
- 2.5 cups water
- 2 tsp ghee/clarified butter
- 2 green cardamoms
- 4 cloves
- 6 black peppercorns
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 3/4 tsp salt

For the Egg Masala:
- 6 hard boiled eggs, Sliced into 2 lengthwise
- 3 tsp ghee
- 1.5 tsp oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- 2.5 tsp ginger garlic paste
- 2 green chillies, finely chopped
- 1. 5 tblsp cashewnuts, broken
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1 tblsp coriander powder
- 1 tblsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp red chilly powder
- 1.5 tsp garam masala (any kind)
- 1 tblsp tomato paste (or 1/4 cup tomato puree/1 tomato, finely chopped)
- 1/4 cup yogurt, lightly beaten
- 3 tblsp fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
- 6 - 7 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
- Salt to taste

For Layering:
- 1.5 tblsp ghee
- 2 large onions, thinly sliced (or more if desired)
- 1/4 cup coriander leaves, finely chopped
- 3 - 4 mint leaves, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
- 1/4 cup milk
- 2 pinch saffron strands

Step 1 - We will begin with our layering prep. Warm the milk in the microwave for 10 seconds. Add saffron and let it soak till needed. (At least 30 mins)

Step 2 - Fry the onions in oil till they turn deep brown and drain onto a paper towel. Do not let them stay clumped. Separate them a little with a spoon or fork. This will ensure that they crisp up as they cool down. Keep aside.

Step 3 - Let us work on our rice. Start heating water in the microwave or stove top till it boils. While this is happening, heat ghee in a pressure pan. Add the cardamom pods, cloves, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick and bay leaves. Saute for a few seconds till they sizzle. Add the drained rice. Fry for 2 - 3 mins. Add the boiling water and salt. Mix well. Pressure cook for 2 whistles. When done, separate the rice grains lightly with the back of your spoon or with a fork. Remove them onto a large plate and keep aside. We will be using the same pan to cook the egg masala and the final layering.
Due to the 1:1.5 ratio of rice and water used, the rice will be 90% cooked when done. We will cook the final 10% with all the eggs and spices post layering.

Step 4 - Heat the ghee and oil in your pressure pan. Add onions and saute till they turn transparent. Add ginger garlic paste and green chillies. Saute till the mixture turns light brown. Add the turmeric powder, coriander powder, cumin powder and red chilly powder. Saute till the mixture turns deep brown. Add a few tsps of water if you think the masala is sticking to the bottom and burning. Add the tomatoes. Reduce heat to medium low and let this mixture cook till the masala leaves oil.

Step 5 - Add cashewnuts and salt. Mix well. Add the lightly beaten yogurt. Mix again. Add mint and coriander leaves. Taste and adjust salt.

Step 6 - Place the eggs in the masala and lightly toss them with a spoon till the masala coats them well. Do not overwork them. We do not want to separate the yolks from the whites.

Step 7 - Remove half the egg mixture from your pressure pan into another bowl. The other half of the egg masala will be your bottom layer. Spread out half the rice over the egg masala. From the layering tab, sprinkle half the fried onions, half the coriander leaves, half the mint, half the garam masala, half the ghee and half of the saffron milk mixture. Place the remaining egg masala on your rice layer and repeat the process. Remainder rice, fried onions, coriander leaves, mint leaves, garam masala, ghee and saffron milk mixture.

Step 8 - Place a large pan on medium low heat. Once it heats up, place your covered pressure pan without the whistle over it. Cook for 20 mins. This type of indirect cooking ensures that the masala at the bottom does not burn.
Alternatively, you can do the layering in your rice cooker and cook covered for 20 mins. It will switch from the cook mode to warm in 3 - 4 mins, but we have to let it continue cooking on warm till we hit our 20 mins time frame.
Both methods give excellent results. So use whichever you think works for you.

Right before serving, lightly mix the mixture with the back of a large spoon. Make sure you do not break the eggs or the rice grains.

Serve hot with some yogurt or raita of you choice.

Hope this biryani impresses your family as much as it did mine!
Happy Cooking Everyone!

Biryani info: Here!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Bharli Keli for Gokulashtami (Stuffed Bananas)

'Gokulashtami' or 'Krishna Janmashtami' is an annual commemoration of the birth of the Hindu deity Krishna - the eight avatar of Lord Vishnu.
Hindus celebrate this festival by fasting and staying up until midnight, the time when Krishna is believed to have been born. Images of Krishna's infancy are placed in swings and cradles in temples and homes. At midnight, devotees gather around for devotional songs, dance and exchange gifts. Some temples also conduct reading of the Hindu religious scripture - 'Bhagavad Gita'.

The legend behind Krishna's birth: Mathura (present day Mathura district, Uttar Pradesh) was the capital of the 'Yadavas', to which Krishna's parents Vasudev and Devaki belonged. King Kansa (Devaki's brother) had ascended the throne by imprisoning his father. Afraid of the prophecy that predicted his death at the hands of Devaki's eight son; Kansa had the couple locked into a prison cell. After Kansa killed the first six children, and Devaki's apparent miscarriage of the seventh, Krishna was born. 
Since Vasudev knew Krishna's life was in danger, he was secretly taken out of the prison cell to be raised by his foster parents -Yasoda and Nanda in Gokul (also in present day Mathura district).

'Gokulashtami' is celebrated all over India and every place has it's own unique way of celebration. Let me share with you how it is celebrated in Maharashtra. 
Popularly known as 'Dahi Handi', this festival is celebrated with enormous zeal and enthusiasm. The 'handi' or clay pot filled with buttermilk is positioned at a convenient height prior to the event. A human pyramid is formed and the topmost person tries to break the 'handi' by hitting it with a blunt object (mostly coconut). When that happens, the buttermilk is spilled over the entire group, symbolizing their achievement through unity. 

Moving on to star of this post. The delicacy prepared at my husband's place on this day is 'Bharli Keli' or Stuffed Bananas. My FIL celebrates his birthday on 'Gokulashtami' and this is his favorite dessert. So it is a birthday tradition to prepare this dish for him. And as it is his 60th birthday this year, I shall be making this dish at my home too, to make us feel a part of the celebration with him. 
Particular type of bananas known as 'Rajali Keli' are used for this recipe. They are found only for a month or so in India. I am not going to find these where I stay, so I use regular bananas and it works quite well.

Wish we were together today. Happy 60th Birthday Pappa! 
This one is only for you.

Level: Medium
Serves: 3 - 4 people (1/2 banana per person)
Source: Nita Pradhan (MIL)

3 firm bananas (pref. Rajali Keli, I used regular variety)
1/4 tsp ghee
4 tblsp fresh grated coconut (I used frozen)
2 tblsp jaggery, grated
2 pinch cardamom powder
1 pinch nutmeg powder (optional)
1/2 cup coconut milk (I used Maggi coconut powder)

Step 1 - Let us get our filling ready. Heat 1/4 tsp ghee in a pot. When it melts, add the coconut and jaggery and saute it till the jaggery melts. Turn off heat immediately and transfer the contents into a bowl to cool down. Add the cardamom powder and nutmeg powder when the mixture warms down. Mix well with a spoon. Keep aside.

Step 2 - While the coconut jaggery mixture cools down, let us prep our bananas. Peel off the outer cover and carve out the banana carefully in the middle to make it resemble a boat as shown below. Make sure you handle the bananas as delicately as possible. Even a little bit of pressure could break it. Also, we need a cavity to hold our filling. Do not dig too deep.

Step 3 - Stuff all the bananas with the cooled coconut jaggery mixture from Step 1.

Step 4 - Heat a flat pan on low heat. Carefully place the stuffed bananas one beside the other. Spoon out the leftover filling around the bananas in the pan. Carefully pour in the coconut milk. Do not pour it on the bananas. The filling will fall out. Cover and let it cook for 2 minutes on each side till the banana is cooked through and it turns slightly brown.
 - Carefully flip the bananas. Using 2 spoons to flip each banana works best for me.
If you get hold of 'Rajali Keli', you will have to cook each side for 5 - 10 mins as this variety of bananas are firmer in texture and thus hold shape beautifully for this dish.

Serve hot or cold. It tastes delicious either way!
If only this dish looked as good as it tastes!
The nuts and saffron are only for decoration. They are not usually added in the dessert. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Narali Bhaat for Narali Poornima (Sweet Coconut Rice)

'Narali Poornima' marks the end of the monsoon season in Maharashtra, India. It is celebrated on the full moon day in the month of 'Shravan'.
Fishermen and fishing community (koli) in Maharashtra celebrate 'Narali Poornima' or the Coconut Festival in a jubilant manner. Singing and dancing are the main attractions of this festival. They worship and offer coconuts to the Sea God 'Samudra' and the Rain God 'Varuna'.
This festival marks the beginning of the new fishing season.
A special sweet rice made with coconut - 'Narali Bhaat' is prepared at most homes on this day.

'Rakhi Poornima' or 'Raksha Bandhan' is also celebrated on this day. This festival celebrates the special bond and the sacred relation between brothers and sisters. The word 'Raksha Bandhan' means the bond of protection. On this day sisters tie a sacred thread which comes in many colors and designs, on their brother's wrist and in return the brothers offer gifts, presents and promise to protect them against all harms and troubles. Well...almost all!

At our homes we celebrate this day by exchanging rakhis and indulging in 'Narali Bhaat'. Every Maharashtrian home prepares 'Narali Bhaat' differently. The main difference is the use of sugar v/s jaggery. Personally I prefer jaggery as I love the mild flavor and the beautiful golden color it gives this rice. Also, that is how my Ajji made it.
I have tried my best to simplify my grandmom's recipe. Hope it does invite you to try this dish out and enjoy an almost forgotten Maharashtrian tradition.

Level: Easy
Serves: 5 - 6 people
Source: Mamata Wagh (Mamata mami)

1 cup rice (uncooked, any variety)
2 cups water, boiling
1.5 cups jaggery, grated
3/4 cups fresh coconut (I used frozen)
1/3 cup ghee
5 - 6 cloves
2 - 3 green cardamoms
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
2 pinches saffron (optional)
1/4 cup milk
2 tblsp cashwenuts, chopped
1 tblsp almonds, chopped
1 tblsp raisins
2 pinches salt

Step 1 - Wash and soak rice in water for 10 mins. Drain out the rice in a strainer and keep aside.

Step 2 - Warm the milk in the microwave for 20 seconds. Add the saffron strands. Mix lightly and let this rest for at least 20 mins.

Step 3 - In a rice cooker or a regular pressure pan, heat 1 tblsp ghee. When the ghee heats up, add the cloves and green cardamoms. Saute for a few seconds. Add the strained rice and saute well on medium heat for 4 - 5 mins. Add boiling water and pressure cook the rice for 2 whistles or till done. Once cooled, fluff up the rice with a fork, taking care not to break down the grains and leave aside to cool. Do not get rid of the pressure pan here. We are going to cook the rice in it again.

Step 4 - While the rice is cooking, take a flat pan and heat 2 tblsp ghee. Saute the cashewnuts and almonds till they are light brown in color. Drain onto a paper towel. In the same ghee, saute raisins till they plump up and drain them onto a paper towel. Keep the nuts and raisins aside to cool.

Step  5 - In the same pan, add another tblsp ghee, coconut and jaggery. Saute for 2 - 3 mins till the jaggery melts. Pour the mixture onto a plate. Add the cardamom powder and mix well. Let this mixture warm down a little.

Step 6 - Once your rice and coconut jaggery mixture is ready, take a large pot, add the cooked, fluffed rice, the nuts, saffron along with the milk it is soaked in and coconut jaggery mixture. Gently mix everything together.

Step 7 - Grease the rice cooker/pressure pan with ghee so the rice does not stick to it's bottom. Put the rice mixture from Step 6 into the rice cooker. Pour in the remaining ghee on top. Cook covered for 20 mins on low heat. If your pressure pan is too thin or you plan to use a regular pot, keep it over a pan so the rice gets cooked with indirect heat. You do not want it all burnt up at the bottom.

And we are done!
Serve warm.

This preparation is not supposed to be too sweet. So if you have a very sweet tooth, do add more jaggery.

You can use any dried fruit of your choice and in any quantity as per your preference. I have used raisins, almonds and cashews as I generally have them on hand at home.

Using saffron is optional, but it does give a great aroma and flavor to this dish. Also the dark golden bits in the rice look very appetizing.

In step 6 after you have mixed everything together, the mixture if tasted, will be very sweet. While you cook the rice, all the sweetness in the jaggery gets soaked up and a mild sweet flavor remains.

If you have leftovers, reheating the rice in your microwave will dry out the dish. So sprinkle a little water on the rice and then heat it up. Other option would be to steam this rice in a pressure pan, but that is too labor intensive if you have too little remaining.

Narali Poornima source: here and here!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Dinda for NagPanchami

The fifth month in the Hindu calendar is 'Shravan'. It usually starts in late July or in the first half of August. The star 'Shravan' rules the sky during Poornima (full moon) night. 'Shravan' month is considered the holiest month of the year as it comes with innumerable religious festivals and ceremonies. Almost every day of the month is considered auspicious. But the first major festival we celebrate is the 'NagPanchami'.

'NagPanchami' is a Hindu festival dedicated to the worship of snakes and serpent deities. It is observed across India on the fifth day of the moonlit fortnight in the month of 'Shravan'.
Plausible reason behind this festival: It is the monsoon season in India. This is the time when serpents invariably come out of their holes that get filled with rain-water, to seek shelter in gardens and more often before, than now, into houses. As they pose a danger to man, people must have started worshiping snakes on this day.
The most popular legend around this festival: 'NagPanchami' celebrates the victory of Lord Krishna over the mythical Kaliya; a monstrous black python that was killed by Krishna in the Yamuna river.

At our home, we try to celebrate all Hindu festivals like we did in India even if we do not fully understand the reasoning behind it. We hope our family and future generations can also enjoy these festivals like we did when we were little. Getting up to some customs and delicacies which were followed and prepared only on these particular days just make these festivals very special.
In most families, no sharp objects are to be used on NagPanchami. No knives in the kitchen. This keeps the food simple. There isn't any need to understand customs that make our lives simple now is there?
Also a delicacy called 'Dinda' is made on this day. These are steamed wheat flour parcels filled with cardamom perfumed chickpea and jaggery mixture. Served hot with a dollop of homemade ghee gets you right in your ajji's lap.

Here is how we make it...

Level: Easy
Serves: 10 medium parcels
Source: Vijaya Pradhan & Nita Pradhan (Grand MIL & MIL)

For the filling:
1 cup chana dal,
2.5 cups water
1.25 cup jaggery, grated
3/4 tsp cardamom powder
2 Pinches nutmeg (optional)
Pinch of salt

For the cover:
1 cup wheat flour (atta)
3 tblsp oil
1/8 tsp salt
Water for kneading

Step 1 - Let us get out filling ready first. Wash the chana dal well. Add 2.5 cups water. Keep aside for 5 - 6 hours.

Step 2 - Pour the chana dal along with its water in a pressure pan and pressure cook it for 4 - 5 whistles or till the chana dal is done.
If you do not have time to soak the chana dal, add 1/4 cup additional water to your pressure pan and pressure cook it for a good 8 - 10 whistles for it to be done. 
The final product by any method should be overcooked soft daal.

Step 3 - Drain out excess water (if any) carefully without wasting the daal and mash the daal till pasty with a vegetable masher. You can also do this with a hand blender or in your food processor.

Step 4 - Transfer the mashed daal in a pot and add the grated jaggery and a pinch of salt. Start heating the pot and keep stirring the mixture well on medium heat. Initially, the mixture will liquify and then start bubbling up and thickening. Once the mixture starts thickening turn off the heat. After 2 mins, add the cardamon powder and nutmeg and stir well. Consistency of the puran does not matter too much in this recipe as we are not going to roll out parcels once filled. This is your puran. Keep aside to cool.

Step 5 - Now let us work on the cover of these parcels. Couldn't be simpler. Place the wheat flour in a bowl. Heat oil till it smokes. Pour the hot oil in your flour. It should sizzle. Mix well with your hand. Knead into a smooth dough with water. The dough should be tougher than your regular chapati dough. More like a dough you would knead for puris. Cover the dough and let it rest for 15 mins.

Step 6 - Assembly. Roll out a small dough ball into a disc. Usually these are 2.5 inch in diameter but you can roll them in the size you prefer. Place a tblsp of puran on the center of your disc. Try to shape it into a rectangle so your parcels get a proper shape. Fold all four sides into a parcel. Take care to cover all of the puran well.

Step 7 - Oil the vessel you plan to place your parcels in, to ensure that they do not stick. Place the vessel in your steamer and steam for 20 - 25 mins till the parcels are glossy and the cover does not look raw.

Serve these hot with a small or a big dollop of ghee.

When you cook your puran, make sure you do not thicken it too much. On cooling, the mixture thickens even more. We do not want it too hard.
This is how my MIL taught me to test puran - Once the chana dal - jaggery mixture starts getting a little thick, place a teaspoon - wide side down in the center of the mixture. If it falls quickly, you have to continue cooking. If it falls really slowly, your puran is ready. That being said, you really need not over analyse the consistency for this recipe as it just gets steamed.

Dinda hardens a little over time. So make a small batch to avoid leftovers. But if you do have leftovers, do not heat them in a microwave. Steam the dinda for 5 - 6 mins in your steamer.

I use 1.25 cups of jaggery to 1 cup of chana dal, as the jaggery that I buy in the US, is not too sweet. Originally, 1 cup of jaggery to 1 cup of chana dal is used.

I have not elaborately explained the dough kneading process. That is for another post. So if you are new to that, do browse the net for puri recipes to understand the dough consistency.

Make sure you roll out the dough into thin discs as a thick piece of steamed dough is not too pleasant.
For people who do not like these parcels steamed, you can always fry the parcels
in oil.

Resources on NagPanchami: Here and here!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Veg. Frankie

A sizzling, spicy, tangy, cheesy wrap. 'Frankie' is a well loved roadside snack!
If you have grown up in Mumbai, a 'Tibbs Frankie' stall would get back fond memories with friends. The enticing aroma around this food stall just commands your brain to walk towards it. Biting into a HOT frankie and cursing yourself for not having the patience to let it cool down a little, sure has happened more than a few times to most of us!

Did you know frankie has an interesting history? Well, I sure din't. And guess is quite a story. In the year 1967, Mr. Amarjit Tibb on returning back from England has a stopover in Beirut. Here he tried the Pita Bread wrap and this fascinated him. Upon his return, he kept innovating this dish to suit an Indian palette. After a years worth of research along with his wife they hit upon the perfect concoction. Once the Indianised wrap was a hit with his family and friends, they introduced it to the Mumbai markets. The rest is history.

Today I am sharing a Potato filled frankie recipe with you. The most popular pick for vegetarians. My husband thinks it tastes quite similar to the one you get on Mumbai streets but with less grease and ignoring the sorrow on his face while mentioning less grease, I take that as a compliment.
As far as I am concerned, I cannot make myself choose a potato frankie when chicken/mutton frankie is listed just below it! So even though I enjoyed this frankie a lot I can never be absolutely sure if it tastes like the ones you get on Mumbai streets. Nevertheless, I can guarantee this would make a great wrap!

Level: Medium
Serves: 4 people
(Makes 5 - 6 medium sized wraps)

Ready to cook flour tortillas/rotis (or any flat bread)
1/4 tsp butter per bread

Potato Filling:
4 medium potatoes
1/4 tsp turmeric
1.5 tsp ginger garlic paste
2 green chillies, finely chopped
2.5 tblsp frankie masala/kathi roll masala
2 tsp dry mango powder (amchur)
1 tsp chaat masala
Few sprigs of coriander
3 tsp cornflour or as needed
Salt to taste
Oil for pan frying

Onion Mixture:
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
3/4 tsp red chilly powder
1/2 tsp chaat masala
Pinch of salt

Tangy Sauce:
1.5 tsp dry mango powder (amchur)
1/2 tsp red chilly powder
1/2 tsp garam masala (any mixed spice)
1/4 tsp chaat masala
Salt to taste
1/2 cup water or as required

Chilli Vinegar:
2 chillies, finely chopped
3 tblsp vinegar

Cheese (optional)

Step 1 - Let us get our chilli vinegar ready. Quite self explanatory. Mix chopped chillies and vinegar together. Keep aside.

Step 2 - Let us get our Tangy sauce ready. Mix all the spice powders mentioned under the tangy sauce tab in the ingredients above with water. Beat well till the mixture is lump free. Add water till the consistency is very liquidy. Keep aside. Over time, this paste will keep thickening. So remember to adjust the consistency with water right before you use it. A thick paste can be too overpowering.

Step 3 - Moving on to the onion mixture. In a bowl, mix the onions, red chilly powder, chaat masala and salt well. Once well coated, keep aside. Add very little salt here. Remember the chaat masala already has salt in it.

Step 4 - Getting to the star of the show - our potato filing. In a large bowl, mash the potatoes well. Add the turmeric powder, ginger garlic paste, green chillies, coriander, frankie masala, dry mango powder, chaat masala and salt. Knead well and adjust the taste to your preference. If the potato mixture is too pasty, add cornflour till it is possible to form shapes with the filing. Oil your palms and shape the potato into elongated patties.

Step 5 - Pour a few tblsp of oil in a flat pan. When it heats up, place the patties on the pan and fry them till the bottoms turn brown. Pour a few drops of oil on the top and gently flip the patties. Fry the other side till it browns. Do not over handle the patties. This will ensure even browning and less breakage. Once done, drain them onto a paper towel.

Step 6 - Let us assemble the frankie now. Keep the flame on medium to low heat for the entire process. Get all our ready ingredients closer to your pan.

1) In a flat pan, heat a 1/4 tsp of butter (or more) and place your uncooked roti on it. Once you notice light brown spots on the bottom, flip the roti.

2) Without wasting time, place your potato patty in the center of your roti.

3) Add some of your onion mixture all over the patty.

4) Pour some tangy sauce over the onions.

5) Pour a little chilli vinegar over the sauce. Make sure you drop a few chillies on it for that extra kick.

6) Sprinkle some grated cheese over it.

Roll it up and pierce a toothpick to keep the wrap in place, if it doesn't behave!

Indulge immediately. It does get soggy if you let it sit for too long.

Hope you enjoy this one!

You can get Frankie masala in your Indian store. If this is missing, Kathi Roll masala works well.

You can make your own bread at home, but readymade works best for me. Rolling a highly elastic all purpose flour dough makes me an unhappy cook!

You can saute the onions a little while making your onion mixture, but we like the sharpness of a raw onion when we bite into a soft potato filled wrap. So we leave it as it is.

Source: History of frankie - Click here!

Friday, June 28, 2013

Street Style Maggi Noodles!

Our 'Bakasoor Kitchen' is celebrating 100,000 page views! Yay!

Let me take a moment and thank all my readers for taking time out to read my ramblings. Your emails and comments make me feel really special. This little hobby of mine, which started off as a means to stay sane while going through a tough time in my life, has given me so much more than what I hoped for. Oh I could go on and on... but let us cut the drama and put on our aprons, as that is what this blog is all about. 

Snapping back into the food world, does watching rain make you hungry? I sure crave something warm and soupy on rainy days. I always want to head back home, drag my chair to a large window, wrap myself in a large blanket and slurp on some warm comfort food. There is something really peaceful, cleansing and comforting in watching and hearing heavy rainfall. No. 1 reason of getting home sick in June. Well my folks are reading my blog these days so let's make it No. 2 reason for getting home sick...
California rains suck! They are over even before you notice that it was raining. So a quick rain, calls for a super quick comfort snack and maggi noodles has quick and comfort written all over it. So let us jazz up these noodles a little and rush to watch the rainfall.

Level: Easy
Serves: 2 people (1 noodle cake per person)

2 packets maggi (I use masala flavor)
3 cups water
1 small onion, roughly chopped
1 small tomato, roughly chopped
2 tblsp green peas
3/4 tsp red chilly powder/2 green chillies
1/8 tsp salt or to taste
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp garam masala (any mixed spice will work) - optional
1/2 tsp chaat masala
1 tblsp coriander leaves, roughly chopped
2 tsp oil

Step 1 - Microwave cook the green peas in a small bowl with 1 tblsp water for 2 mins or till the peas are cooked. Keep aside.

Step 2 - Heat oil in a small pan. When the oil heats up add the onions and saute till they turn transparent. This should take just 2 mins.

Step 3 - Add the tomatoes, red chilly powder/green chillies, salt, pepper and garam masala. Mix well and cook till the tomatoes soften up. Turn off the heat. Add coriander leaves, mix well and keep aside.

Step 4 - In another pot, heat 3 cups of water and add in the maggi tastemaker sachets that come along with the maggi cakes. Once the water boils, add in the noodles and cook till they are done and the water is soaked up. Do not dry out the maggi too much.

Step 5 - Mix the peas from step 1 and the onion-tomato mixture from Step 3 into the cooked noodles. Sprinkle chaat masala over it and serve immediately.

Maggi is best enjoyed hot or warm. It gets too glu-like once you let it sit. So cook only when you are ready to eat.

Enjoy and thank you all once again for all your support. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Spaghetti Bolognese (Turkey)

A hearty and juicy meat sauce, ladled over spaghetti has comfort food written all over it. The perfectly soft cooked carrots and celery in the sauce add a whole new texture, flavor and warmth to this dish. 
Bolognese sauce known in Italian as - 'ragu alla bolognese', is a meat based sauce originating from Bologna, Italy. The earliest documented recipe of ragu served with pasta comes from the 18th century Imola, near Bologna. Traditionally, Italian ragu is served with flat shaped or tube shaped pasta. But as I was introduced to this dish in Italian restaurants as 'Spaghetti Bolognese', spaghetti is my favorite pasta to go with this sauce.
There is plenty of room for creative interpretations of this recipe and that is apparent from the fact that every chef seems to have their very own variation. 
I have tried to put together the healthiest and easiest of the techniques and ingredient options and it has worked really well for us. Hope it works just as well for you.
Yes on going through the recipe, you might notice that it does take a long time to reach the perfect flavor, but trust me, it is a small sacrifice to achieve the most luscious meat sauce you have ever tasted!

Getting to the recipe..

Serves: 3 - 4 people
Level: Easy

1 lb (500 gms) minced meat - I used turkey
250 gms uncooked spaghetti
1 medium onion, roughly chopped
1 medium carrot, roughly chopped
1/2 stick celery, roughly chopped
3 - 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1 tsp red chilly flakes
3/4 tsp dry basil
3/4 tsp black pepper powder
1/2 tsp kashmiri red chilly powder/paprika
1/2 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
1 can crushed tomatoes (14 - 16 oz)
1/2 can tomato puree (7 - 8 z)
1.5 cups water (or 1 cup water and 1/2 cup red wine)
1/2 tsp hot sauce - I used tobasco (optional)
2 tblsp parmigiano-reggiano cheese + some more while serving
3 - 4 fresh basil leaves + some more while serving
3 tblsp oil - I used olive oil
Salt to taste

Step 1 - Heat oil in a large wok. Add the onions and saute till they turn transparent. Add 6 - 8 garlic cloves and saute for 4 - 5 mins till they soften up. Do not brown the ingredients.

Step 2 - Add the minced meat and break it down well with your spoon to make sure there are no lumps. Saute for 3 - 4 mins. Add 1/2 cup of water or wine if using, salt, red chilly powder/paprika, dry basil leaves, black pepper powder, red chilly flakes and fresh thyme. Saute well till the meat turns brown.

Step 3 - Add the carrots, celery and mix well. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato puree and 1 cup of water. Cook covered on medium heat for 10 - 12 mins. stirring occasionally. After 10 - 12 mins, cook uncovered on medium low heat for another 35 - 40 mins till the sauce looks all glossy, due to the oil separating and the acidity of the tomatoes is gone. The sauce should not be too runny nor too thick. If you think the sauce is thickening too quickly, add a few more tblsps of water. But do not reduce your cooking time.

Step 4 - Add some freshly grated parmigiano-reggiano cheese and some freshly chopped basil leaves. Add some hot sauce if you think you would enjoy a spicier version of the sauce. Your bolognese sauce is now ready!

Step 5 - Now let us get to the pasta. Cook the spaghetti as per the instructions on the package till they are cooked al-dente (cook till firm but not hard).

Step 6 - Plate up the spaghetti in your serving dish. Ladle the saucy bolognese over the spaghetti. Grate some cheese and sprinkle some basil leaves on top. Serve hot or warm.

Transport yourself to Italy by enjoying this with a glass of red wine and some garlic bread. Watching 'The Italian Job' could very well enhance your experience!

Few things to remember before we start cooking this dish:
- Do not get fooled by the simple set of ingredients. This dish is not something you throw together quickly. We have to cook the meat for almost an hour till it absorbs all the flavors well. 
- My recipe calls for canned crushed tomatoes and puree. I have tried this recipe with different types of fresh tomatoes and pastes. It just did not work for me. Moreover, cans make my life easier and the sauce brighter which is a huge bonus.
- Try and use freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. Makes a difference.
- You can replace turkey meat with beef or a combination of beef and pork, which I am sure will give this dish a better flavor. I do not generally do that as most of my friends and family do not consume beef. I have also tried this recipe using minced chicken, but I was quite disappointed with the outcome. So I would avoid it.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Oatmeal Cookies

If you are one who stares at the jar of oatmeal, wondering how to make yourself like it, you are in for a treat. This is by far the most convenient and tasty way of introducing oats in your diet.
These cookies are crisp and soft and nutty and crunchy all at the same time. A flavor explosion in your mouth! The huge amount of oats in each cookie, makes it a great grab and go breakfast or snack bar. Perfect for those busy mornings or when you are stuck in traffic with a growling tummy dying to get home to food!

You can load these cookies with your favorite ingredients. If you plan to eat these for breakfast or as a healthy snack, add your favorite nuts and dry fruits. If you plan to replace your dessert cravings with these, throw in some chocolate chips along with the nuts...just let your imagination go wild!

An important detail to remember - You need to use Old Fashioned Oats/ Rolled Oats for this recipe and not the instant variety. Although they are quite interchangeable, you will need the thickness of the rolled oats to get the perfect texture in this recipe.

Getting back to the recipe...

Serves: 24 medium-large size cookies
Level: Easy
Source: JoyOfBaking

3 cups old fashioned oats
3/4 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup nuts (I used pecans)
1/2 cup dry fruit (I used raisins)
1/2 cup chocolate chips (I used bittersweet and white mixed together)

Step 1 - Preheat oven to 350 deg F (177 deg C). Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Step 2 - Mix together the plain flour, baking soda, salt and ground cinnamon until they are well combined. Keep aside.

Step 3 - In a bowl, whisk together the butter and sugar until creamy and smooth. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat well to combine.

Step 4 - Combine the flour mixture from Step 2 into the butter mixture from Step 3. Beat well till combined.

Step 5 - Stir in the nuts, oats, dry fruits and chocolate chips. Use a wooden spoon or spatula to combine all the ingredients well.

Step 6 - With a large spoon, plop fairly large blobs of batter (1/4 cup each) onto your lined baking sheet. Space the cookies about 2 inches from each other, giving them room to expand while baking. Then wet your fingers with water and roughly shape the cookies into rounds that are 1/2 an inch thick. Bake for 18 - 20 mins or until golden around the edges. Once done, transfer them to a cooling rack and let them cool completely, before transferring them to an air tight container.

Sit back with a glass of milk or some coffee and indulge!

We need 2 cups of your favorite addition in this recipe. You can use all nuts or all raisins or all chocolate chips or any other ingredient for that matter. Just make your favorite combinations to enjoy these cookies.

You can use salted butter for this recipe. Just skip the additional salt.

Baking time could vary depending on the oven sizes. So do keep an eye on these.

The original recipe calls for baking for 12 - 15 mins. But I prefer my cookie bottoms a little brown and crisp. Hence the 18 - 20 min baking time.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

CKP Ambat Varan

'Daals' have been an integral part of all Indian homes. But isn't it boring to have the same daals over and over again? Even slight variations can do wonders in brightening up simple meals. Over time my friends have been kind enough to share their family recipes with me. But before I share many of their exciting variations, let me share a few family recipes I haven't yet shared with all of you.

Having shared our basic daal - 'Varan' and my mom's version of 'Ambat Varan', it was about time I shared my MIL's version of the 'Ambat Varan'.
As my husband's job keeps him on the road for days at a time, he is always welcomed home to this ambat varan and a simple sabzi. Even if he reaches home at 2am or 3am in the morning, this is what he will eat before going to bed. Needless to say, this is his favorite 'daal' of all times (as he would put it).

Just like most of the daals, this one is ready really quickly and has a lovely garlic flavor. So for all you garlic lovers out there, this one will hit all the right spots!

Level: Easy
Serves: 4 people
Source: MIL - Nita Pradhan

1 cup tur dal
2 pinch asafoetida
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
3/4 tsp red chilly powder
1.5 tsp jaggery
1 tsp tamarind pulp
1/2 cup coriander, lightly packed and chopped
1.5 tsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
6 - 8 garlic pods, chopped
Salt to taste
Water as required

Step 1 - In a pressure pan, Add the washed tur dal and 2 cups of water. Add a pinch of asafoetida, turmeric powder and red chilly powder. Pressure cook for 3 - 4 whistles or till the dal is overcooked and completely mashable.

Step 2 - Once the pressure is released, open the pressure pan and mash all the dal till it is smooth and pasty. Add water till the dal reaches a watery consistency. Add jaggery, tamarind pulp and half of the chopped coriander. Bring the mixture to a boil on medium heat. Let it boil for a good 10 - 12 minutes or till it reaches your desired thickness. If you want to, this would be the right time to adjust the red chilly powder, jaggery and tamarind based on your personal preference.

Step 3 - Heat oil in a small pan. Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add another pinch of asafoetida and the garlic pods. Saute the garlic till they turn brown. Pour this flavored oil into your boiling dal and let everything boil together for 3 - 4 more minutes.

Sprinkle the remaining coriander just before serving. Serve piping hot with some steamed rice and a dollop of ghee. Perfect!

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Couscous Salad

Couscous is a coarsely ground pasta made from semolina. It is a staple in the North African Maghreb region.
Like pasta, couscous is made from semolina flour, but rather than mixing the semolina with a prescribed amount of water and/or egg into a dough, couscous is made by rubbing the semolina between moistened hands until the flour combines with just enough water to form hundreds of tiny grains. Needless to say, it is the simplest forms of making pasta and one that is practiced in villages all around the Mediterranean basin.

Couscous comes in instant and non-instant variety. The instant variety is pre-steamed and then dried before it is packaged. This makes the cooking process really quick.

Today I will share a really interesting couscous salad recipe. By just glancing through the ingredients you will realize how refreshing and hearty it is going to be. This is the first couscous recipe I tried at my home and needless to say we are hooked. I am sure you would be too. So let us get started.

Level: Easy
Serves: 4 people
Adapted from: Laura in the kitchen

2/3 cup instant couscous
2/3 cup water
1 tomato, scoop out the seeds and liquid and cut into small cubes
1 medium cucumber, scoop out the seeds and cut into small cubes
3/4 cup cooked chickpeas (I use canned chickpeas - washed)
1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1 cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped
1 green chilly, finely chopped
Zest of 1/2 lemon
Juice of 1 large lemon
2 tblsp olive oil
Salt to taste
Pepper as needed

Step 1 - Heat 2/3 cup of water covered and let it come to a boil. Turn off the heat. Add the instant couscous. Mix quickly with a spoon and cover the pot with a lid for 5 minutes.

Step 2 - Let us get to our dressing now. In a large salad bowl, zest 1/2 a lemon with a zester or the smallest grater you have. Make sure you use only the yellow portion of the lemon. Do not zest the white rind. This will make your dressing bitter. Once done, cut the lemon open and squeeze the life out of it. We need all the lemony goodness. Add the olive oil. Beat all the ingredients well with a whisk or a fork.

Step 3 - Add the chopped veggies, chickpeas, chilly and coriander leaves into the salad dressing. Add salt and pepper. Lightly toss everything together. Do not over mix. This might break the veggies. We do not want that to happen.

Step 4 - By now the 5 mins of couscous standing time would be up. Using a fork, start pulling out the layers of the couscous till they separate well. They should be lump free. Drop this couscous, while it is still warm in the bowl of veggies. Toss lightly with a fork. Adjust the salt and pepper.

The couscous should taste refreshingly lemony and be perfectly salted.
Serve warm or cold. This dish makes a meal in itself.

Happy Cooking Everyone!

This dish can be enjoyed warm or cold out of the fridge.

The more this dish sits in the refrigerator, the more the flavors intensify. I generally make this dish the night before we plan to enjoy it for brunch.

Make sure all the veggie preparations are done before you cook the couscous. We need to use the couscous while it is still warm.

Do not forget to scoop out and discard the seeds and liquid from the tomato and cucumber. If used, they will completely water down the salad.

Give this salad your own touch, by adding or omitting the ingredients of your choice. As couscous does not have any flavor of it's own, it tastes great with any vegetables.

For this recipe, do not follow the cooking instructions on your couscous box, to cook  it. The instructions are to make a really mushy and soft couscous. We do not want that texture for our salad.

Other Sources: Here

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Kheema Pattice (Turkey Patty)

These melt in the mouth pattice are everybody's favorite. Originally these pattice are made with minced goat meat at our home. As goat meat is not readily available around where I live, I have replaced it with minced turkey meat. Turkey being a healthier option than goat meat, is an added bonus.

These kheema pattice are my mother in law's specialty.  I still remember the first time she made them for me. I was in meat heaven! So moist and juicy and flavorful..I just could not have enough. Even today, inspite of learning how to make these, my MIL always makes these for me when either of us visit each other.

Just wanted to let you know a few tricks involved in making the perfect pattice, before we head to the recipe. The thumb rule to moist and juicy pattice is minimum handling. When we are mixing everything together you cannot knead the mixture like you do with your bread dough. The mixture needs to be handled with total baby love! Over handling the mixture leads to tough pattice.
Secondly, you can replace the turkey meat with any other minced meat except chicken. Using chicken compromises too much on the taste. This of course, is my personal opinion. I know people who enjoy chicken pattice made this way. I just fail to get along with these people. Don't be one of those. :)

I usually prefer rolling the pattice in bread crumbs before shallow frying them in oil. But traditionally fine semolina was used. So you can try both the options and decide what you enjoy more.

Now let us get to the recipe.

Level: Medium
Serves: 15 - 18 medium sized pattice
Source: MIL (Nita Pradhan)

1 lb minced meat (I use turkey meat)

1/2 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp red chilly powder
1.5 tsp ginger garlic paste
1/2 tsp garam masala (any kind)
Salt to taste

Pattice ingredients:
4 tsp oil
1/2 inch cinnamon stick
2 cloves
2 pinches asafoetida
1/2 cup chopped onions
3 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed
1/2 tsp ginger garlic paste
3 slices sandwich bread (white or wheat)
Salt to taste

For rolling:
1 egg, lightly beaten
Breadcrumbs/semolina for coating

Step 1 - Place the minced meat in a large bowl. Add the turmeric powder, red chilly powder, ginger garlic paste, garam masala and salt from the marination list. Lightly mix all the ingredients till the minced meat is coated well. Refrigerate for minimum 30 mins to an hour. Do not over knead here. Over kneading makes though pattice.

Step 2 - In a pressure pan, heat 2 tsp oil. Add the cinnamon sticks, cloves and asafoetida. Immediately add the onions and stir fry till they turn light brown.

Step 3 - Add the marinated minced meat from Step 1. Saute till the minced meat loses it's pink raw color and turns whitish. Add water till the meat is just under water and pressure cook for 2 whistles or till your meat is thoroughly cooked.

Step 4 - Once the pressure pan opens on it's own without any resistance, you might find the mixture a little watery. Cook the meat mixture again on high flame till it is absolutely dry. Adjust salt once the mixture dries up. Leave aside to cool down.

Step 5 - While the meat mixture cools down, take 3/4 cup of water. Add in 1/4 tsp of salt and mix well till it completely dissolves in the water. Soak each bread slice in this water for just a couple of seconds, take them out and squeeze out the excess water. Place the wet squeezed bread into a large bowl. This along with the potatoes will help in binding our pattice together.

Step 6 - In the same large bowl, place the mashed potatoes, 1/2 tsp ginger garlic paste and cooled meat mixture from Step 4. Mix very lightly till the mixture is well combined. Taste the mixture and adjust the salt to your liking. Again, do not over handle the batter.

Step 7 - Take a tablespoon of batter in between your palms and roll the mixture lightly into any shape that you desire.

Step 8 - Let us get to the frying now. Beat the egg lightly in a bowl. Keep aside. Take a flat plate and spread out some breadcrumbs for coating.

Step 9 - Place a frying pan on heat and pour enough oil to shallow fry these beauties. The pattice should not drown in the oil, just the bases should be in contact with oil. We are not deep frying here. How do you know the oil is ready? Just drop in a few breadcrumbs in the hot oil. If they sizzle, you are ready.

Step 10 - Take each piece of pattice, first dip them in the beaten egg from both sides. Pick them up and place them in the bread crumbs. Roll these pattice well in the crumbs and place them lightly in the hot oil. Fry for just a couple of  minutes on each side as we have to just brown the breadcrumbs. We do not need to cook the pattice again. And we are done.

Serve hot with some ketchup or chilly sauce. Sit back with a glass of wine in one hand, a pattice in another and welcome yourself into my MEAT HEAVEN!

You can roll these pattice and keep them in the refrigerator for a day or two. On  the day you plan to indulge, just fry and serve.

You can also freeze the rolled pattice and store them in the freezer for almost 2 to 3 weeks. Just thaw and fry when you need them.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Brahmani Ambat Varan (Tangy Dal)

Time flies! The little sister in law who was always excitedly helping me with my cooking experiments is living on her own away from home. Now she has requested me to put up some simple recipes for her on my blog so she and her friends can have some fun cooking them! So the next few posts are a few of her favorite things that I will be sharing with all of you.

One of the simplest things I know she likes is this daal I make very regularly at home. Whenever she comes down to spend time with us or when we visit my in-laws back in India, it is imperative that I make this daal in large quantities. She will then devour it like she was not fed for weeks! 

Every Maharashtrian family has their version of 'Ambat Varan'. This is my mom's version.
To give you a background of this daal, 'Ambat Varan' is a very simple daal to make. I have grown up with this recipe as it was a regular at my home when we were kids. The tamarind, green chillies and the fenugreek seeds gives this daal it's unique flavor. 
The goda masala/kala masala used is a very typical Maharashtrian addition in this dish. Very few Indian stores carry this spice mix with them. If you don't find it anywhere, it is time to make some Maharashtrian friends!

Now let us get to the recipe..

Level: Easy
Serves: 4 people
Source: Aai

3/4 cup toor dal
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
3/4 tsp tamarind pulp 
1 tblsp jaggery
3/4 tblsp goda masala/kala masala
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/8 tsp asafoetida
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/8 tsp fenugreek seeds
4 curry leaves
2 green chillies, finely chopped
Water as required
2 tsp oil
Salt to taste
Coriander to decorate
1 tsp ghee/clarified butter (optional)

Step 1 - Soak toor dal for 15-30 mins in 1.5 cups of water. Add salt and turmeric powder to the soaked dal. Stir will a spoon and pressure cook this daal for 3 whistles or till it is completed cooked.

Step 2 - Once the pressure is released take out the daal from the pressure pan and while the daal is still warm, add the tamarind pulp, jaggery and goda masala. Mix well. Taste this daal. At this point the daal should taste of the goda masala and the tamarind. Do not worry if it tastes of raw spices. We are going to boil this daal till all the raw flavors disappear. Keep aside.

Step 3 - Heat oil in a large pot. Add the mustard seeds and let it splutter. Add the asafoetida and cumin seeds. Stir for a few seconds till the cumin changes it's color to dark brown. Add the curry leaves and fenugreek seeds. Immediately add in the green chillies and saute till they wilt down.

Step 4 - Add in the daal from Step 2 into the oil. Be careful as it will splatter all over. Add water till the daal reaches the consistency you desire. Cover the pot and let the daal boil for 10 - 12 mins. Keep stirring occasionally. Adjust the salt content and also check for the flavors. You might need to adjust the tang (tamarind) or the sweetness (jaggery) as per your liking.

Decorate it with coriander and spoon in a little ghee if you like. Serve piping hot with some steamed rice.
My mom and I have a weird way of enjoying Ambat Varan. We take the daal in a large bowl. Tear off some hot chapatis and start adding it to the daal till it thickens up and then eat it with a spoon like porridge. That is our little randomness which we enjoy when both of us are alone at home and need to spend most of our time catching up on gossips!

Hope you enjoy making this simple Ambat Varan.

Tamarind can be exchanged for kokum in this preparation too. If you cannot find both you could squeeze some lime into the daal just before serving to take care of the tangy flavor.

Substituting sugar instead of jaggery really spoils the flavor of this daal. So I do not recommend it.

Leftover Varan makes for a great Ambat Varan recipe.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Traditional Anda Curry (Egg Curry)

Every family has it's own take on this delightful preparation. The recipe I am sharing today is my absolute favorite. It has a perfect balance of spice and tang. Not the simplest recipes for egg curry around, but definitely worth all the efforts.
The masala that I use in this curry, is a very traditional coastal masala (Bhajani) that we use at home to prepare chicken or mutton curries. So you can imagine how awesome these simple eggs are going to taste.

I am going to simplify this recipe by breaking it down into two parts. The first part will show you how we make a typical 'Bhajani' at home and the second part will show you how the curry is made using this 'Bhajani'.

These cold winter days make this dish even more desirable. So get your aprons on and dive in!

Level: Medium
Serves: 4 to 6 people
Source: Aai

Bhajani (1 portion)
1/2 cup fresh grated coconut OR 1/4 cup dry grated coconut
3/4 cup onions, roughly chopped
7 peppercorns
4 cloves
1.5 inch cinnamon stick
2 tsp coriander seeds
1 tblsp oil

Step 1 - In a flat pan, heat the oil on medium power. Add the peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon stick and coriander seeds. Saute these spices till the coriander seeds turn brownish. Take them out of the oil and place them in a plate to cool off.

Step 2 - In the same oil, add the onions and stir fry continuously on medium-high heat till they turn brown all over.

Step 3 - Once the onions get properly browned, turn the heat down to medium and add the grated coconut and saute continously till the whole mixture gets a deep brown color. Do not let this mixture burn. Add the spices from Step 1. Mix everything together for a minute and remove this mixture onto a plate to cool down.

Step 4 - Grind this mixture in a blender with as little water as needed to form a smooth paste.

This is your basic 'Bhajani' or Coastal Masala !

Tips: The color of your curry is dependent on the color of this bhajani mixture. So make sure you roast the ingredients really well.

Anda Curry:
4 hard boiled eggs, slit vertically into two
1 portion Bhajani (recipe above)
1 large onion, finely chopped
1.5 tblsp oil
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 pinch asafoetida
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilly powder, or to taste
3/4 tsp jaggery
1 tsp tamarind pulp
Salt to taste
Coriander to decorate

Step 1 - Heat oil in a large flat pot. Add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the asafoetida, turmeric powder and onions. Saute till the onions turn light brown.

Step 2 - Add the red chilly powder, jaggery and tamarind pulp. Saute well. As we have used less oil, your spices might start burning. Sprinkle some water into your pan to prevent burning.

Step 3 - Add the bhajani paste and 1/2 cup of water. Mix well and saute for 5 - 6 mins. At this point the mixture will start oozing out oil. Add 2.5 cups of water. The curry will be very thin now. Turn the heat to low and let this curry boil for 10-12 mins or till it thickens to your desired consistency. Adjust the taste at this point. The curry needs to be spicy with a very slight hint of sweet (jaggery) and sour (tamarind).

Step 4 - Just before serving, slide in the hard boiled eggs and sprinkle some chopped coriander.

Serve hot with some Indian paav or steamed rice.

If this doesn't warm up your cold winter nights, I don't know what will !