Saturday, March 7, 2015

Malwani Kala Watana Amti (Traditional black peas curry)

'Kala Watana' or black peas is my favorite vegetarian delicacy from Malwan - a coastal town in Maharashtra. It is a roasted coconut based mildly spiced curry typically had with 'amboli' - a thick slightly sour pancake made out of rice flour.

Black peas are not to be confused with black chickpeas that are easily available in the indian grocery stores in the US. Till date, I have not found these in any of the regular or specialty stores that I have been to. But being a fan, I always get black peas from India.
That being said, who is to say that you cannot make this dish if you don't have access to black peas. Go ahead and make these with any beans that hold shape really well, like black or green chickpeas.

'Kala watana' are much harder than your regular peas and hence hold shape really well even when cooked for longer periods.
The masala (Bhajani) I use in this recipe is the traditional malwani masala that we usually use in our meat curries at home. The addition of cashewnuts is again very authentic to this curry, so try not to skip these. I am sure you will love it!

Let us get to the recipe...
I have divided this recipe into three parts for easier reference. First part is the pre-preparation, then details on how to go about making your masala and the last part discusses the curry preparation.

Source: Aai
Level: Medium
Serves: 5 - 6 people

Part 1 - Pre-preparation:
1.5 cups black peas
4 cups water

Step 1 - Wash the black peas thoroughly under running water. Soak these under 4 cups of water or till the black peas are well submerged and leave them to plump up for a good 6 - 7 hours. Once done, drain the black peas and use them in your curry or keep them in a vacuum sealed box in your refrigerator if you do not plan to use it immediately. They stay well for 2 - 3 days.

Part 2 - 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
1.5 tsp poppy seeds
1 tblsp oil

Step 1 - In a flat pan, on medium heat add  the peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon stick, coriander seeds and poppy seeds. Dry roast these spices till the coriander seeds and poppy seeds turn brownish. Take them off the pan and place them in a plate to cool off.

Step 2 - In the same pan, heat 1 tblsp 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 continuously 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.

Part 3 - Black peas curry:
Soaked black peas (instructions above)
1 portion Bhajani (recipe above)
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tblsp broken cashewnuts
1.5 tblsp oil
3/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 pinches asafoetida
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilly powder, or to taste
3/4 tsp jaggery
1 tsp concentrated tamarind pulp
Salt to taste
Coriander to decorate

Step 1 - Heat oil in a pressure pan. Add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the asafoetida, turmeric powder, cashewnuts and onions. Saute till the onions turn transparent.

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

Step 3 - Add the soaked black peas, bhajani paste and 3/4 cup of water. Mix well and saute for 5 - 6 mins. Add the jaggery and tamarind pulp. Mix again. Then add enough water till all the peas are a just below the liquid. Mix well and pressure cook for 2 whistles or till the peas are well cooked. Do not overcook the peas. The peas should be easy to crush when pressed, but should not break easily when you just stir them around a little. Adjust the taste and consistency as desired at this point. The curry needs to be spicy with a very slight hint of sweet (jaggery) and sour (tamarind). Decorate with coriander leaves.

Serve piping hot with some 'ambolis' or steamed rice. Heaven!
I usually make pancakes (thick dosas) using store bought idli batter to make pseudo 'ambolis'. They serve the purpose well.

Hope this recipe brings a little Malwan into your homes.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Sol Kadhi

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Now, moving on to perfection...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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