Friday, June 28, 2013

Andhra Egg Roast

Recently, a very close friend invited me over for a casual lunch party. My friend cooks yummy Andhra dishes and her food has a great home-style flavor. The lunch table was decorated with matching table scape, silverware and linen. I was very much pleased and delighted for the time we were spending together. For lunch, she made delicious Andhra Egg Roast, the recipe for which comes from her Mom.

She informs me that this Andhra Egg Roast makes use of lots of garlic pods which are never peeled, plenty of caramelized onion bits with lots of green chillies. Another interesting thing about this dish is its supposed to be an accompaniment to a lentil based dish, the everyday Indian Dal. "The Andhra Egg Roast goes well with Dal," she added. I agreed completely with her. The heat comes from green chillies and she asked me not to add any red chilli powder as the powder affects the texture and alters the taste of the dish. I nodded and made notes and replicated the same in my kitchen.

The result was an out-of-world egg recipe that I'll be making often. I concluded that this recipe is a keeper. Use a non-stick if you are frugal about the amount of oil required to caramelize the onions. 

Andhra Egg Roast
Simple Egg Roast with caramelized onions and whole unpeeled garlic pods

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 30-45 minutes

Hard boiled eggs (boiled, peeled and long gashes made) - 4

Onions (finely chopped) - 3, medium
Green Chillies (finely chopped) - 2
Garlic pods (unpeeled, lightly crushed) - 8-10

Coriander powder - 2 tsp
Cumin powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/3 tsp


Hard boil the eggs. Cool, peel the shell, make four wide long gashes on each egg. Sprinkle salt and turmeric powder on the eggs. Give a good toss and keep aside.
In a skillet, heat some oil. Once the oil is smoking hot, add the chopped green chillies. Saute for a minute and add the onions. The idea here is to get a crispy texture for the green chillies. Caramelize the onions to a brown color. Add oil, if required. Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar to aid the brown color of caramel. This process takes around 10-15 minutes.
Crush the garlic lightly with a pestle. Once the onions are partially brown, add the garlic pods and saute well. Lower the flame, add the spice powders, adjust salt. The onions and garlic will get an even coating of spice powders, also turning into crispy textured bits. Add the Eggs now, give a good toss. This will take another 15 minutes. 
Cook for couple of minutes and turn off flame. The dish goes well with home made Dal.

Black Jamun/ Java Plum (Jambul)

I am back after a brief hiatus.

A recent activity of fruit tasting prompted this post. The fruit in question here is, Jamun also known as Black Plum which I am very fond of. With that, I am back doing what I do best - writing and documenting about food, memories, people who influence the experiences and the tiny world that weaves stories around them. People who blog and write regularly will understand what I am referring to and why, writing as an occupation gives a different kind of joy to many writers who simply have to write. On a different note, I am pleased to announce that I've moved to India with family. For now, all is well and we are busy settling down. I look forward to my journey in my home base and have a lot of gratitude to the US, the land that adopted me and moulded me with lot of love and gave me some of the most cherished experiences of my life.

Black Jamun aka Jambul/ Java Plum is  a fruit native to Indian heritage and finds appearance in local markets, hawkers and street vendors between May-July. The berry of sorts, is unripe and once it turns ripe blossoms into a purple fruit which is a mix of sour, sweet and astringent flavors. A dash of salt is what Mom added to the fruits once they were thoroughly rinsed and drained in order to balance the flavors.

Growing up, my school had tiny hills which served as a great ground for our annual summer camps. Mom sent us for all the camps religiously, may be for a decade. The hardest part was waking up at the crack of dawn and learning Yoga at 5:30 in the morning. As much as I despised it, I went for the class because Yoga made me feel good about my body. All of a sudden, I could do cartwheels and spin like a top. The tiny hills were dotted with Cashew, Wild Berries and Black Jamun trees. I was gifted a wood and leather Catapult by one family friend. All my friends made good use of the Catapult to pelt the stones at the perfectly aimed trajectory to ensure that the fruits fall right into a cloth towel, which we balanced according to the location of the fruit. Our teachers used to get mighty annoyed with our adventurous pursuits, particularly because the forests were owned by private parties. 

That was the first time I actually saw Jamun berries happily perched on the tall, gigantic trees. The sight made me respect all the vendors who would sell the berries during sweltering hot summers, in a small leafy cone for a paltry sum. I think its experiences like these that help you connect the dots and enable you to respect Mother Nature all the more. The purple stains it left after it splashed on the hay and grass covered forest terrain was certainly a sight to behold. Adding to that the sweet scent of berries wafting around in the forest attracting birds of all kinds made it perfect ecological base for curious minds like ours.  

A tiny bit on the health benefits of Black Jamun -
- Its a great digestive aid and has cooling effect on the body.
- The fruit is a great medicine for Diabetics and is believed to be instrumental in reducing blood sugar levels.
- The seeds of the fruit also find use in ancient medicinal practices like Ayurveda and Unani.
- The bark of the tree is also used for many herbs and medicinal concoctions.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Mexican Black Bean Wrap with Pico De Gallo

Mexican cuisine is very dear to my heart for various reasons. One of the first cuisines I tasted, after I came to US was undoubtedly, Mexican. Since the food packs quite a punch with good level of heat and tangy flavors, it sings to my heart and appeals to my Indian palate. Be it the gooey Guacamole with rich buttery mashed Avocados dipped in Corn chips, the overloaded and stuffed Tacos which is a super cheap, quick meal if you are a student in US studying on a limited budget for food or the humble everyday dish of re-fried beans served with Mexican rice, the truth clearly stands out - they are all made with zesty and fresh ingredients, have a spicy edge and are very easy to fix.

One of the biggest blessing for the Roti lover in me is the unlimited options and varieties of Tortillas available at my local grocery. From the traditional Corn Tortillas made from Masa flour to the healthy variety of Tortillas made of Whole Wheat Flour and often even Spinach Tortillas, the options are endless and one can plan a decent meal with less than 15 minutes of prep work.

Days when I do not have the inclination to move a muscle, I happily opt for Black Bean Wraps made of Honey-Wheat Tortillas. They have a mild sweet taste and do not break easily when added with a stuffing. Pico De Gallo is the version made in many Mexican homes similar to what Kachumbar or Koshimbiri is to all Indians.  The wraps are very portable and great as outdoor foods.

Mexican Black Bean Wrap with Pico De Gallo 
A quick and easy wrap made of Black Beans

Prep Time: 5 minutes
Processing Time: 10 minutes

For Pico De Gallo -
Tomatoes (ripe, finely chopped, pulp drained) - 1 cup
Shallots (finely chopped) - 1/4 cup
Jalapeno (seeds and membranes removed, finely chopped) - 2 tbsp
Lime juice -  1 tsp

Black Beans (soaked, pressure cooked with salt) - 2 cups
Cheese of choice (grated) [Monterey Jack Cheese with Jalapenos] - 1/2 cup
Coriander leaves (roughly chopped) - 3 tbsp
Crushed Black Pepper - 1/2 tsp

Tortillas (Honey-Wheat variety) [store bought] - 4-6

Remove the inner membrane of Jalapeno and finely chop into tiny bits. Mix with chopped Tomatoes, Shallots, lime juice and salt (remove the seeded pulp of Tomatoes as the water content will make the wrap soggy, just retain the outer thick skin).
Mix the cooked black bean with little salt and crushed black pepper powder and keep aside. Grate the cheese on box grater.
Warm both sides of a Tortilla on Tawa for a minute. Transfer to a work surface. Place a tbsp of Pico, add a tbsp black beans, garnish with a a tsp of grated cheese and coriander leaves. Add a dash of lime juice. Fold the sides and then wrap like a log. Too much stuffing and the wraps break, stuff with caution. Slice diagonally with a knife to divide into two portions. Transfer to a serving dish. The wraps are portable and great as appetizers. Warm for 30 seconds in MW just before serving for home style flavor.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Horsegram Side Dish - Konkani style (Kulith Upkari)

Horsegram also known as Kulith in Konkani is a popularly used pulse. I've earlier blogged about Kulith Saaru, a family favorite and Kulith Koddel, which is another personal favorite dish. Once cooked, Kulith beans pack a powerhouse of energy and are equally high in Calcium and Protein. In India, its also popularly cooked and offered to cows as cattle feed.

Kulith Upkari, a side dish made in many Konkani homes pairs well with Rotis. Strangely, it was not the most sought after dish in my parents home nor in my grandparents home. Guess, the default option was always a Koddel because it was a one pot meal and fed many mouths. Much respite and easier day for the home cook!

Kulith Upkari 
A Konkani style side dish made with Horsegram

Prep Time: 6-10 hours
Cook Time: 45 minutes

Horsegram (soaked, pressure cooked) - 3/4  cup

For Seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Red Chillies (split into two) - 2
Green Chillies (slit lengthwise) - 1
Curry leaves - a sprig
Asafoetida - 1 pinch
Coconut oil

For Garnish -
Grated coconut - 2 tbsp

Clean the beans and remove any grime and dirt. Wash and rinse in multiple changes of water. Soak for 8-10 hours. Pressure cook for 4-5 whistles. Allow to cool. Save the stock of cooked beans for  making Kulith Saaru.
In a deep bottomed vessel, heat a few spoons of coconut oil. Once the oil is hot enough, season with mustard seeds. Once the seeds splutter, add the curry leaves and broken red chillies. Add the asafoetida now and give a good stir. Transfer the cooked beans to the seasoning, give a good mix. Season with salt, sprinkle 1/2 cup of warm water and cover with a lid. Cook for 5-10 minutes by bringing to boil and then simmer away. Once done, garnish with grated coconut. Fish out the chillies if required before serving. Serve with Rotis or as a side dish.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Pan roasted Asparagus in Za'atar with Orange Zest

Spring season implies the entry of few of my favorite vegetables and greens - Asparagus, Artichokes, Arugula and many versions of Chard greens. Asparagus - grilled, roasted or steamed is a favorite in my home. I've tried to doctor the vegetable with Indian spices, but they seemed too overpowering. 

A recent hot favorite in my home are two Middle Eastern spice powders - Za'atar and Sumac. I've been using Sumac in Indian food as well since it renders a nice tangy finish, much like lemons to a dish. Sumac is a much darker, brown colored spice blend with a deep, lemon like tangy flavor. Za'atar as a spice blend is like a silent soldier whose presence is felt yet is very understated and subtle. Za'atar spice blend comes in various combination of spices blended to a dry powder depending on various geographies of Middle East. For instance, a Lebanese version of Za'atar is very different from the ones used in Jordan. The one I use is a blend of Thyme, Oregano, Sumac, Sesame seeds and Marjoram. The usage of Za'atar is diverse and plenty - garnish a bowl of Hummus, season the Falafel sandwich, add as a topping on a Pizza or Bread or use it for a salad.

Za'atar spice blend - Sumac, Sesame seeds, Thyme, Oregano and Marjoram

The interesting things about Asparagus is, it retains the moisture and remains juicy even after cooking owing to high water content. We prefer the spears when they are a bit overcooked, but you could stop after 15 minutes and serve. 

Pan roasted Asaparagus in Za'atar and Orange Zest

Prep Time: 5 + 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15-25 minutes

Asaparagus (stem removed) - 5-10 spears

For the seasoning -
Za'atar spice blend - 1/2 tsp
Black Pepper Powder (crushed) - 1/3 tsp
Turmeric powder - just a pinch
Sea Salt
Extra Virgin Olive Oil 

For garnish -
Orange zest - 1/2 tsp

Cleaning Asparagus - The Asparagus spears you get at local markets here are cleaned, trimmed and banded together. Wash the spears under cool water, pat dry. Hold the bottom half and snap off from the top end. The trick here is it will snap at the point where the woody part separates from the tender part. Reserve the bottom pieces for soups, stocks. 

Make a marinade of the seasoning ingredients and add the spears. Give a good toss and leave aside for 10 minutes. Heat a cast iron pan to smoking high heat. No need to add oil. Add the spears side by side. Do not use a spatula. Cook on a high flame for 2-4 minutes and cook on low flame for 15-20 minutes. Frequently, give a good toss by gently shaking the pan. Once they are lightly charred, turn off flame and serve hot with a dash of orange zest.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Jackfruit Seed Saar (Bikand Saaru)

Few weeks back, I found a small portion of ripe Jackfruit at Indian grocery store. I was delighted and almost had the mind to buy the entire lot had it not been the cleaning process (which is a messy task) and that thought which promptly curbed my brimming enthusiasm. I had initially planned on making Gharayi, a sweet dish made of Jackfruits which Ma would often make for us when the ripe fruits were in season. I was happy to have found this fruit after ages. The Jackfruit kernels were super sweet and both of us finished the plate clean in no time. Left, were the seeds which I saved without a rhyme or reason. Everyday when I spotted the dozen seeds sitting on the counter, it filled me with memories of one women whom I owe a lot in my life in addition to my dear Ma. 

The Jackfruit seeds reminds me of my Ammama (my Grandma). She was one woman who was very fond of seasonal produce and more specifically - Mangoes and Jackfruits. I had earlier written about the Jackfruit tree in the backyard of my Grandparents house which I am obsessively fond of. I left the seeds on the counter in open air to dry off. After 5-7 days, the ash grey skin easily comes off. What remains is the brown seed which is suitable for this recipe.

When we were kids, Amamma had the official responsibility of feeding over a dozen mouths during our summer vacation. I dread to think how she pulled off the job with lot of grace and dignity. During hot blazing summer, when the sun would hit the zenith, she would save the seeds after cleaning the Jackfruit which was a communal task in my home. You want to eat the fruit - you contribute to the chore was the norm. She saved the seeds to simply air dry them. Once the skin was off, she would boil them in salt water and roast them on the warm ash laden hearth. Yes, we had two stoves in the home - one fueled by Gas and the other fueled by wood. The smoke coming from the wood stove left me teary eyed but the fragrance of the food cooked on this stove was simply divine and incomparable. She would pat dry the ash smeared seeds and present it to us. For me, it was close to a comical science experiment laced with excitement!

Jackfruit Seeds - Freshly plucked from the fruit
I got this recipe from my Aunt who frequently cooks many Hayvaka style dishes including their crunchy Mung dal Koshimbiri and spicy Huli. She likes to dry different regional cuisines from Karnataka and the flavor of her food is spot on. Hayvaka cuisine is very popular in Udupi-Mangalore region and the food is very rich in color, texture and unique in taste. This was my Ammama's favorite cuisine after GSB Konkani cuisine.  The nutty flavor of jackfruit seeds is a welcome change for this recipe where otherwise a substantial amount of cooked lentils are used, serving the purpose of a base to many kinds of Saar/ Saaru recipes.

Jackfruit Seed Saar/ Bikand Saaru
Simple spicy Saaru cooked in Jackfruit seed paste

Prep Time: 5-7 days
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 3-4 Servings

Jackfruit Seeds (air-dried, skin removed) - 10
Tamarind pulp - 1/2 cup
Grated coconut (fresh or frozen) - 2 tbsp
Rasam powder - 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp
Jaggery - 1/2 tsp
Coriander leaves (finely chopped) -  1/2 cup + 1/3 cup
Green Chillies (slit lengthwise) - 2
Coconut Oil
For Seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Red Chillies (broken into pieces) - 1
Air-dry the Jackfruit seeds. After 5-7 days, peel off the ash grey skin and save the brown skinned seed. Pick the seeds which have a smooth finish, discard the rest. Bring 2 cups of salted water to boil and cook the seeds well in the water. Check if cooked completely, drain the water and allow to cool.
Make tiny pieces of the cooked seeds, grind to a smooth paste with strong Rasam powder and grated coconut with little water. Bring to boil the tamarind pulp, jaggery, green chillies and jackfruit seed paste. Once the raw flavor of the broth goes off, add turmeric, asafoetida and 1/2 cup of coriander leaves. Season with salt as per taste and bring the broth to boil. Turn off the flame.
In a small frying pan, heat a tbsp of coconut oil, season with mustard seeds. Once the seeds splutter, add curry leaves and broken red chillies. Turn off flame and pour this seasoning over the cooked broth. Garnish with 1/3 cup of chopped coriander leaves. Drizzle little coconut oil over the broth. Cover with a tight lid. Strain and serve to enjoy as a drink. Else, serve with warm rice.

Note: Use a very strong and potent Rasam powder for this recipe. Use a tad bit more coriander leaves to balance the  flavors.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Rice and Mung Dal Khichdi

These days I am besotted with Khichdi. Plain, nutritious yet tasty mushy mess full of goodness.

A dear friend asked me if I am into spring cleaning diet with a focus on cleanse. I explained that it was a sheer coincidence. Eat sensibly, be happy and take time out for exercise and activities you enjoy is my mantra. Many of my American friends follow a spring cleanse routine during the switch in weather from winter to spring. For those who are clueless, spring cleaning is an activity undertaken in US where a lot of cleaning activity happens on the home front. This is more applicable if you live in geographies that have a relatively colder climate. Much before I could even think of spring cleaning, there was a weird snowfall with freezing cold weather couple of days ago.

Pure home made Ghee is a must for Khichdi. In my opinion, its a match made in heaven. The Khichdi recipe has many variations with respect to Indian kitchens. I am very picky about my Khichdi and do not like too many spices, vegetables intervening in the recipe. Ma makes this Khichdi for us regularly and I adore the simplicity of this dish, although my Dad dislikes rice based foods unless its an authentic Konkani recipe. :-)

Rice and Mung Dal Khichdi
Simple mushy Rice and Mung Dal with ghee and spices 
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20-30 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

Rice (Jeeraga Samba Rice) - 1 measure
Mung Dal (split variety) - 1/2 measure
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Black Pepper Corns (whole) - 1/2 tsp
Pure homemade Ghee - 1 tbsp
Sea Salt 

For Garnish -
Homemade Ghee - 1 tsp
Coarse Black Pepper powder - a pinch

Rinse the rice and mung dal in multiple changes of water, till the water is clear. Drain the water and keep aside.
In a non-stick pan, heat a tbsp of Ghee. Once the ghee melts and is hot enough, season with cumin seeds. Once the seeds bloom in ghee, add the pepper corns. Give a good stir and add the washed rice and lentils. Mix gently and add three times the quantity of warm water. Add sea salt to taste. Give a taste test. Bring to boil. Simmer away and let it cook for 20-25 minutes with the lid on. Check after 25 minutes, the rice and lentils will be mushy and cooked completely. The consistency will be like that of a porridge. Turn off flame and serve hot. Garnish with homemade ghee and coarsely crushed black pepper powder.

Note - Use good quality of rice which carries a nice aroma. I prefer not to use Basmati rice for Khichdi. Add three times the quantity of warm water to the rice and lentils ratio [3:1].