Saturday, December 11, 2010

Paasponus Ambe Gojju

Many a times there are certain recipes which you hold dear to your heart. For me, Paachponus Ambe Gojju is one of them. Paasponus is a small jackfruit variety fruit which has tiny seeds which bear bear a very sweet flavour when ripe. Some address it as Paasponus or Paachponus. Somehow, the one made by my Ammama is superb. Its simple with a rustic raw feel to it. I even tease my Mom saying that the taste of Ammama's recipe is foolproof, far cry from the one made by her and delectable; she readily agrees with a firm nod. Many years back I had been to Udupi to visit my Ammama (konkani for grandmother) on a vacation. I requested her to make the dish in my presence so that I do not miss on the finer aspects of this recipe. I thoroughly enjoyed preparing this Gojju with her and the taste was divine. The pictures were taken in a hurry so excuse the technique, exposure and food styling for this one.

During the season, Paachponus and Raw Green Mango are cleaned and soaked in salt brine for months and even years in a Porcelain jar also known as Bharnee. After they are completely cured in salt water, they are ready to be used for any Gojju's or side dish. This process typically takes 3-4 months if one wants the perfect salt cured vegetable. Mom has a perennial stock of Mango, Paachponus and Saal (Raw Jackfruit). This is primarily a side dish and does well with Paej, soupy parboiled rice. My grandmom's proportion is always 1:2 which implies one serving of Paachponus for 2 Mangoes. This is a no cook recipe and can be fixed together in a trice. Unfortunately I do not know the English name of Paachponus, will update the blog should I find more details relevant to this vegetable and the recipe.

~ Paasponus Ambe Gojju ~
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Processing time: 5 minutes

Paachponus (cured in salt water brine) - 1
Raw Green Mango (cured in salt water brine) - 2
Green Chillies - 2
Garlic - 3-4 big pods

Clean the Paachponus to remove the seeds. Extract the pulp and the seed at the core in a vessel. Discard the numerous peripheral seeds in the Paachponus. Smash the Mango and add to the Paachponus pulp. Crush the Garlic pods along with Green chillies. Add this to the mashed pulp. Add salt and keep aside. This gives sufficient time for the Gojju to steep. Few minutes before serving the dish, add just one cup of water and mix well with a spatula. Do not add too much water as this Gojjju is supposed to be bit thick but not too runny either. Serve with parboiled rice aka Paej.

Step By Step Pictorial Illustration:

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Orange Dwarf Coconut (Gendale)

Orange Dwarf Coconut, is a beautiful yellow and orange colored variety of Coconut commonly grown in Konkan region of India. In Konkani, this variety is known as Gendale. Many of my family members who own farmlands and ancestral fields take great pride in harvesting this variety of Coconut.

I have vivid memories of sipping farm fresh coconut water drawn from freshly plucked Coconuts from my Grandfather's farmlands. In those days, Coconuts were an easily available commodity and paying for a bunch of them was certainly unheard of.

The Orange Dwarf coconut tree grows to about 10-15 metres in height as opposed to conventional Coconut trees which shoot anywhere from 20 to 50 metres in height depending on the soil, climate and type of nutrition provided to the tree. When I was a child this variety was a common one. However now with less forest regions and dwindling green fields and farmlands this Coconut is becoming a very rare and precious variety. A chilled glass of this coconut water is by and far the best and tastiest one I've ever had. Many agro and horticulture based initiatives are currently being undertaken to propagate and multiply this rare and precious variety of Coconut.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Seared Baby Brinjal (Vaangi Talaasana)

Vaangi or Vaingana is Brinjal/ Eggplant in Marathi and Konkani respectivey. Growing up, we preferred soupy parboiled rice few days in a week for dinner, it is also called as Paej or Ganji Utaa. I love to combine Paej with Vegetable side dish of different sorts.

When I was a yuppy fussy teeny bopper, Mom delegated the task of preparing and planning dinner side dish to me. I discovered cooking wasn't that difficult if one had the relentless pursuit pepped with creativity to keep trying. It was much of a training period for me in disguise. As much as I vehemently protested, spending time in the kitchen discovering the otherwise alien sort of spices and vegetables certainly pleased my senses!

I also began to respect the effort which every individual puts in the meal preparation process be it for family dinners, lunches or large gatherings for that matter. I learned to perfect this recipe and over a period of time everybody used to relish this preparation, especially my Daddy. For best results, use tender Brinjal. I used Kokum, the tangy sour konkan fruit to neutralize and balance the spicy flavour.

~ Vaangi Talaasana ~

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes

Brinjal/ Eggplant (diced into 1/4" pieces) - 2 cups
Garlic (crushed) - 2-3 jumbo pods
Red Chilli powder - 1 teaspoon
Turmeric powder - 1/3 teaspoon
Green Chilli (optional) - 1
Kokum (wet) - 2 shells

Wash the Brinjal and dice them into thin 1/4" slices. In a deep dish pan, heat few spons of oil, temper with crushed garlic and green chillies. Saute till they are seared. Add the diced Brinjal pieces now. Add the spice powders, salt and stir for couple of minutes. All the Brinjal pieces should get an even coating of spice powder. Add the Kokum shell now and stir. Sprikle handful of water and cover with a lid and simmer on low flame. Brinjal steam cooks in it own juices. Cook till completely done. The pieces wilt and reduce in size upon cooking. Remove Kokum shells while servings if required. Serve warm as a side dish.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Saffron Flavoured Milk (Masala Doodh)

As we slowly move into colder days and darker twilight's, I walked down the memory lane to recall some of my cherished memories of chilly winters spent with family.

One such event which I recall is Kojagiri Purnima. Growing up, we used to enjoy a fun potluck evening at our friends place on this day. Every year this day comes during late October and is observed in a symbolic fashion with friends and family. Everybody gathered for an entire night by staying awake and singing hymns in praise of goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth. This was many many years ago.

As generations have progressed, so have the cultural ethos & practices. Large cohesive families have converted to smaller nuclear units. Practices adapt, evolve, change and bear a relative meaning based on lifestyle, profession, personal interest and priorities. Now its limited to the food alone and a small ceremony to praise the goddess and if possible a small effort to get your loved ones together. The delicacy served that night on this occasion was mostly Masala Doodh and some light snacks like Bhadang - a dry Bhel version. Masala is a dry concoction of spices & choicest herbs; Doodh is Milk in Hindi. This along with a splash of Saffron and the milky flavour took on a whole new meaning. As a nonchalant kid the rituals and religious practices did not make much sense to me but the food certainly did. :)

I love this recipe because it doctors Milk, the simple snow white docile pantry item in a very tasteful manner. Saffron, the spice which was weighed in gold in olden days, is still quite expensive one in the world by weight. Addition of Saffron adds extra warmth and zing to the milk. Interestingly, Saffron strands are extracted from the stigma attached to the Crocus flower and thrives and flourishes in the Mediterranean region. This also goes to explain its wide usage in various Persian, Moroccan and Spanish dishes. Sip it warm and you are on an odyssey to heaven!

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

Whole Milk - 2 cups

Masala -
Saffron - 1/3 teaspoon strands
Almond powder - 2 teaspoon
Pistachio powder - 2 teaspoon
Cardamom powder - 1/4 teaspoon

For garnish - Rough chopped Pistachio pieces - 2 teaspoon

Soak the saffron strands in Milk and leave aside to steep for 1/2 hour. The milk catches the light orange hue of Saffron. Crush it gently after 1/2 hour along with the milk. Pound Almond, Pistachio and Cardamom to a powdery consistency without any water. Bring the milk to a gentle boil. Add the powder, sugar and stir well for 3-5 minutes. Garnish with rough chopped Pista pieces. Turn off the flame. Let the beverage rest for few minutes. Serve warm with snacks.

Note - Boiling the milk is an essential step which enables sweet flavour to the milk. Do not skip this step.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Seared Masala Pointed Gourd (Parvalaa Talasaana)

In India, we get fresh, tender Pointed Gourds which are palm sized, bit sweet flavour and very tasty. They are also known as Parval. In US, the ones we get are slightly smaller, less sweet and tender as well. I made Talasaana, a Konkani style stir fry. To omit the chewy texture of these Gourds, I peeled the skin off. A good side dish to rejoice during chilly winters.

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes

Pointed Gourd (peeled and chopped) - 1 and 1/2 cup
Garlic pods - 1-2
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Turmeric powder - 1/3 teaspoon
Coriander powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Cumin powder - 1/2 teaspoon

Wash the Gourds and peel the skin. Chop them into thin strips and keep aside. In a sauce pan, heat a teaspoon of oil, season with crushed garlic. Once garlic gets seared, add the chopped vegetables. Give a good toss to get a good coating on all the vegetables. Next add the spice powders and lower the flame. Mix gently and cover with a lid. Since the Gourds are tender they'd cook fast with just little water. Sprinkle a generous hand of water and cover with a lid. Allow to cook completely. This process takes around 5-8 minutes. Once completely cooked, turn off the flame. Serve warm as a side dish.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Rum Balls - A Popular Indian Christmas Sweet

Rum Balls are a very popular Christmas sweet made during the festive eve. Some of the sweets I remember eating during Christmas are - Rose Cookies, Plum Cake, Marzipans, Jujubes, Bebinca, Bolinha, Coconut Barfi, Angels Ribs, Snowball (Naan Katai), Kulkuls, Nevri and Guava Cheese. Guava Cheese & Plum cakes are my favorite treats amongst all.

Rum Balls being a sweet, sinfully rich treat is prominently made amongst Anglo-Catholic communities in India during the festive eve of Christmas. These are also available in local patisserie & confectionery shops during the season. Use aged Rum for good results. I found the recipe here and was a good discovery! I've adapted it to befit our taste and improve the texture of the dish. I gave the goodies a generous coat of Cocoa powder and Coconut powder. Both were decadent and very flavourful. This is a no cook recipe and can be made very quickly. If making these for festival platters, prepare couple of days ahead thereby providing some sitting time for the flavours to mingle and mix.

~ Rum Balls ~
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Processing time: 10 minutes
Recipe: Adapted from Joy Of Baking
Yield: 15-18 Rum Balls

Walnut/ Pecan/ Almonds/ Pistachio - 1 and 1/2 cup
Cocoa powder - 3 tablespoons
Light Corn Syrup or Glucose Syrup - 2 tablespoons
Crushed wafers (Vanilla/ Chocolate) - 1 and 1/2 cup
Powdered Sugar - 1/2 cup
Aged Rum - 1/4 cup
Topping/ Coating - Cocoa powder/ Dry coconut powder/ Chopped nuts

Follow the basic process of mixing as observed in baking - dry and wet ingredients separately. First toast the nuts (I used Walnut) lightly till warm. Allow to cool completely. Remove the skin if desired and crush to a coarse powder but not a pasty one. Else, chop them into small pieces and keep aside. Crush the wafers to a fine powder. Preferably match the flavour of your wafers with the flavour of Cocoa powder.
In a mixing bowl, mix the chopped nuts with Cocoa powder. Add the crushed wafers and mix thoroughly. Add the Rum now and slowly mix in Sugar and the Corn Syrup now. Add more Rum now if desired. The dough will be a sticky dark collective one. Set in the fridge for 1/2 hour. Remove and make balls of 1" in diameter. Coat them with a topping of your choice - Cocoa powder or Coconut powder or powdered nuts. Store in the fridge in an air tight container and consume within 1-2 weeks. Thaw and bring to room temperature before serving.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Coriander Leaves Side Dish With Chickpea Flour (Kothmir chi Peeth Perun Bhaaji)

Recently a bargain buy of Coriander leaves compelled me to try the recipe of Kothmirichi Peeth Perun Bhaaji. Peeth Perun is a Marathi style of cooking vegetables thereby coating them with a nice spicy coating of flour and spice powders. Mom apart from her busy schedule took time for various social welfare and development projects, one of it being - participating & hosting volunteer lunches and dinners. Once Mom cooked some yummy dishes for a crowd of 100 for a charity banquet! Mom's friend who was part of this project group got this dish for her weekend Lunchbox. We loved the taste & Mom quickly got the recipe from her friend and frequently has been making this for all of us. Mom added her own twist of a snow white garnish of grated Coconut which aids as a good accent for the dish. The good thing about this recipe is it makes use of Coriander leaves and stems as well. A good way to reduce & reuse kitchen waste and maximize resources.

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Servings: 2-3

Coriander leaves and stems (finely chopped) - 3 cups
Cumin seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Turmeric powder - 1/3 teaspoon
Coriander powder - 1 teaspoon
Chickpea Flour - 3 tablespoon
Grated coconut (fresh or frozen) - 2 tablespoon

Wash the Coriander leaves and stems thoroughly. Chop them finely and keep aside. In a deep sauce pan, heat few spoons of oil, temper with Cumin seeds. Once they begin to pop and crackle, add Chickpea flour spoon by spoon and saute. The flour will now mesh with oil to form tiny globules. Add rest of the spice powders. Toggle between low to medium flame. The Chickpea flour should be properly sauteed and should not be raw. This process takes around 5-8 minutes. Once completely done, add chopped leaves and stir well. Adjust salt and spice levels. Cover with a lid and steam cook for 5-8 minutes. Once done, turn off flame and garnish with coconut powder or fresh grated coconut. Serve hot with Chapathi or Phulkas.
Note - Its very important that Coriander leaves are dry before use. Wash them and pat dry to remove any moisture and then use for the dish. Else, the entire dish will turn lumpy and soggy.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Simple Butter Cookies (Naan Katai/ Narayan Katar)

The first cookie I ever had in my life - Naan Katai or Narayan Katar. The name sounds funny and used to tickle the funny bone in me as a kid. Simple, delicious melt-in-mouth cookie with irresistible flavour and simplicity personified! These are made during Christmas and are also known as Snowballs.

I have quoted the exact proportion so that its easier for anyone to follow this recipe. This is a recipe demanding lot of ghee so don't get petrified with the amount of ghee being added. This recipe takes me back to childhood days. My mom made these when we were tiny tots. Those days cool, sleek Ovens cosily adoring one corner of your kitchen were unheard of, forget about owning one; she slogged in the kitchen for hours, made a huge mammoth batch and carried them all in a large aluminum tin to the local bakers. The whole bakery would have the redolent aroma of clarified butter (ghee) wafting all around. I still remember rushing to the baker with a sense of glee and excitement just to collect our cute looking cookies. Fast forward, decades later, I find myself baking these goodies on a crisp, cosy autumn evening in my humble kitchen in US. There is a brimming sense of nostalgia and I happily reminisce the joys of an exuberant childhood that was full of memories, mommy's love and good food. I only wish my Mom and Dad could sample my cookies and I could be with them to celebrate the festivities. I certainly miss home today and vow to enjoy the festivities with my family and friends out here.

Happy Diwali To Everyone!!
All Purpose Flour - Maida - 1 and 1/2 cup
Melted Clarified Butter (Ghee) - 1/2 to 3/4 cup
Powdered Sugar - 3/4 cup
Cardamom powder (optional) - 1/2 teaspoon
Baking powder - 1/2 teaspoon

For Garnish - Almonds, Pistachio, Tutti-frutti bits.

Melt the ghee and allow to cool. Mix the sugar with ghee. Sieve the flour along with baking powder. Mix well and slowly add the flour-baking powder mix spoon by spoon. This will form a dough which is malleable. The dough is not stiff but not loose either. Add ghee spoon by spoon to form a ball. Leave in a cool place for 3-6 hours. Make cookies which are 2" in diameter. Flatten them and spread them on a baking tray lined with a baking sheet. Plonk a tutti-fruitti, almond or pistachio bits. Pre-heat the oven for 10 minutes. Bake them at 350 F for 15 minutes. Bake till the crust is done and light cracks are formed. Transfer to a cooling rack and store in air tight containers. They remain good and fresh for a week and little beyond.

Note - Do not tamper with cookies once baking is done. Transfer to a cooling rack in a cool place, let them cool down and the cookies come together to form a perfect tasting one. Do not compromise on Ghee, as its the chief binding agent for the flour and other ingredients. Use good quality Ghee for best results.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Stuffed Bitter Gourd Fry With Peanut Powder (Bharlela Kaarla)

I had eaten this yummy way of cooking Bitter Gourd (Karela) many years back at one of my friend's place. The spicy stuffing is sauteed abundantly with Peanut Powder (Daanyaachey Koot) and stuffed in the parboiled Gourds. The Gourds have occasional bites of Peanut which is a highlight of this recipe. Go easy on oil else you will not enjoy the real flavour of this recipe. The taste of this recipe is an acquired one; however I enjoy the flavour of Gourd cooked in this fashion. Pass it off if you are not friendly with this gourd. Use tender Bitter Gourds for best results.

~ Bharlela Kaarla ~
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20-30 minutes

Bitter Gourd Melon (small to medium size) - 2-3
Onion (chopped) - 1 cup
Peanut powder (coarse) - Daanyachey Koot - 1/3 cup
Turmeric powder - Just a pinch
Cumin seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Green Chillies (split) - 1
Cumin powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Coriander powder - 1 teaspoon
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Ginger-Garlic paste - 1/2 teaspoon
Kitchen Thread - 1 metre

Wash the gourds and scoop off the inner membranes and seeds. Do not discard the inner membranes, keep them aside. Sprinkle salt and turmeric powder all over the Gourd and keep them aside for 10 minutes. You could also par boil them in water and then keep aside. Since the gourds I used were tender, I skipped this step.
In a deep sauce pan, heat few spoons of oil, add cumin seeds and once they proliferate, add onions, green chillies and ginger-garlic paste and sweat them in oil. Allow the onions to get charred, add the spice powders and adjust salt. Add Peanut powder now and give a good stir. Cook on low to medium flame all the time else your spices could burn off. Once the mixture becomes an even consistency, turn off the flame and allow the stuffing to cool. Stuff the Gourds one by one. Tie them with a kitchen thread to prevent them from oozing the stuffing out. In the same pan previously used, heat oil and fry the gourds together. You could also add rest of the stuffing masala on the side and cook it along. The Gourds will get seared on all sides. This will take around 3-5 minutes. Once that's done, add 1 cup of water and cover with a lid. Steam cook till the gourds are completely cooked. Garnish with some peanut powder on top. Serve with the seared masala and steam cooked rice. Chop them into blocks or serve them as they are.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Coconut Rice (Nucchi/ Kanee Phanna)

Coconut Rice is a very simple, coconut-rich recipe enjoyed by all in my family. Its a one pot meal and serves any meal plan and menu. In India, the rice which you get at local Kirana stores are anything ranging from long grain, short grain to short broken ones. This recipe calls for the use of the broken variety of rice (Kanee in Konkani). Mom painstakingly separated them with a Siever or Sifter (Channi) when we were kids to make this dish for us. Surprisingly, now you get them at local groceries in India as well and can be bought in bulk. This broken rice is known as Kanee in Konkani. I can't find broken rice here in Indian stores so used my stash of Sona Masoori rice for this recipe. Growing up, this was my favorite breakfast item. Its also a very portable food item for work, school or outdoor picnics.

This dish is popularly known as Nucchi or Kanee Phanna in GSB Konkani and Nucchi in Kannada. There are also variations in practice with respect to the seasoning and the variety of rice used. One can also add Peanuts (Kadale) for extra crunch, Chana Dal for enhanced texture. The entire seasoning is done with Coconut oil in the original recipe. Fenugreek seeds, the innocuous element in this recipe renders a unique aroma to the fluffy rice grains and is also soothing on the tummy. I prefer having a warm bowl of this seasoned rice with Raw Mango Pickle liqueur and a drizzle of warm Coconut oil.
~  Nucchi ~
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 20-30 minutes
Yield: 2 servings
Broken Rice or any available variety - 1/2 cup
Grated coconut (fresh or frozen) - 1/4 cup
Peanuts (optional) - 2 tablespoon

For Seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Curry leaves - 2-4
Fenugreek seeds (Methi) - 1/4 teaspoon
Urad Dal (split) - 1/2 teaspoon
Coconut oil
Green Chilli (split lengthwise) -2
Hot water - 1/4 less than 1 cup

In a deep dish non-sick pan, heat coconut oil. Once the oil is sizzling hot, temper with a seasoning of mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add split urad dal, green chilli and peanuts. Saute on low flame. Add rice (pre-washed and rinsed) now and less than double the quantity of hot water [rice:water - 1: 1 and 1/2 proportion]. Add enough salt. Mix gently and bring to boil. Simmer on low flame for 20-25 minutes or till the rice gets cooked completely. Turn off flame and fluff it with a fork. Leave aside undisturbed for 5 minutes. Then, garnish with fresh coconut. Serve warm with pickle liqueur and a drizzle of coconut oil.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Yard Long Beans Side Dish - 2.0 (Alsande Upkari/ Waal Bhaaji)

Fresh crisp winter vegetables are hitting the local scene. A huge bunch of Yard Long Beans caught my fancy. They are known as Waal in Marathi/ Konkani and Alsande in GSB Konkani. I had made similar Upkari some time back. This time around, I changed the seasoning and the cutting style. The tender beans can be just chopped with hands, you just got to 'snap them off by an inch'. I learnt this interesting technique from Mom. She insists that tender beans be chopped in this fashion. That way they do not disintegrate after cooking and remain intact in shape and form. She also uses a seasoning of Byadgi Red Chillies instead of Green Chillies. I am documenting this for my future reference although its a very simple recipe.
~ Yard Long Beans Side Dish - 2.0 ~

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Yard Long Beans (chopped in 1" pieces) - 3 cups
Coconut powder or grated coconut (fresh or frozen) - 1/3 cup

For Seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Curry leaves - 2-4 leaves
Red Chillies (Byadgi) - 1-2

Wash the slender beans with lot of water. Pat dry. Snap them off with your hands to break them off into 1" pieces. Since they are tender they break off easily. Keep aside. In a deep vessel, heat few spoons of oil/ghee, temper with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Finally split each Red Chilli into two and add to the seasoning. Give a gentle stir. Add the chopped beans now and stir for couple of minutes. Immerse in water completely. Adjust salt as per taste. Bring to boil. Cover with a lid and simmer on low flame for 15-20 minutes or till the beans are completely cooked & the water evaporates. Garnish with Coconut powder and serve hot as a Side dish.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Kundapur Chicken Curry (Kori Rotti)

Kundapur is tiny city perched in the tranquil harmony of a beautiful seashore strip, swaying coconut palms and plenty of greenery, flora and fauna. Its located in Udupi district of Karnataka State, India. Kundapur is known for places of historic significance which includes scenic beaches, ancient temples with splendid architecture and best of all a cuisine which needs no further mention. If you ask any meat eating individual from Mangalore, they would proudly speak for hours together boasting about the few distinct & famous dishes which are part of Kundapur cuisine - Kundapur Chicken Curry, Chicken Ghee Roast, Kane Fry and Ghee Rice. Some also address the dish combination as Kori Rotti; Kori is Chicken and Rotti is the flaky bread eaten with this Chicken gravy.

Kundapur Chicken Curry is the fiery hot, spicy curry loved and adored by many. This humble red hued spicy curry with lot of broth and Ghee Rice get along like house on fire. It is an act of blasphemy to visit Kundapur and not partake in any of the sinfully rich dishes. The popular eating spot in Kundapur is Shetty's Lunch Home which is most sought after place when it comes to these dishes. If it is to be believed, Chicken Ghee Roast & Ghee Rice were all born in the cosy confines of this famous eatery.

I was wondering what makes this dish so special until I got a chance to sample this unique style of cooking Chicken one day at one of our dear one's place. I got the recipe and lot of tips and suggestions on getting the right flavour. Some of my friends informed me that Chicken and the broth are key components which define the flavour and taste of this dish. My MIL also makes the best Kundapur Chicken Curry and her other Non-Veg curries are simply amazing. Some of my friends opined that Farm Chicken (Naati Koli) gives best results. The broth is made by a fiery paste of Onions and Tomatoes seasoned with lots of Curry leaves resulting in a rich red colored paste known as Kundapur Chicken Masala. One could also use ready store bought spice powder of Kundapur Chicken Masala. Infact, some of my aunts and cousins opine that the store bought spice powder easily beats the one we make at home. Curry leaves offer a very nice balance and earthy flavour to this curry. Traditionally, its eaten with Ghee Rice, Kori Rotti, Idli (Khotte) or Rice String Hoppers (Shevai). I do not claim that this is the original recipe. This is my interpretation of this recipe and we both liked the flavour.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30-45 minutes

Chicken (Thigh - Skinless variety) - 1 pound or 1/2 kg.
Onion (chopped) - 2 cups
Tomatoes (chopped) - 1 cup
Ginger paste - 1 tablespoon
Garlic paste - 1 tablespoon
Butter - 1/2 cup
Bay leaf - 1
Curry leaves - 10-15
Coconut milk (thick) - 2 cups

Kundapur Chicken Masala -
Red Chillies (Byadgi) - 8-10
Turmeric powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Cumin seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Coriander seeds - 2 teaspoon
Cloves - 2-4
Cinnamon stick - 1" piece
Fenugreek seeds - 1/3 teaspoon
Toast the Red Chillies and grind them all to a paste with less or little water.

Yield - Around 2-3 tablespoon of spice powder

Heat a teaspoon of oil in a pan, roast the red chillies and spices for 2 minutes and allow to cool. Grind all of this along with Turmeric powder to a smooth red paste. This is Kundapur Chicken Masala. Wash Chicken thoroughly, defrost if required, wash multiple times till water is clear; pat it dry and chop them into bite sized pieces.
Puree Onion and Tomato separately and keep the paste ready. In a deep stock pot, heat the entire quantity of butter, allow to melt. Add Bay leaves and Curry leaves and saute for a minute or two. Add Ginger and Garlic paste and saute to eliminate the raw flavour. The fragrance and aroma now gets imparted to the oil. Add Onion paste and Tomato paste and sweat them in oil till the raw flavour disappears. Add the Chicken pieces now and gently give a stir. Cook for few minutes. All the Masala paste now, add enough water and bring to boil. Cover with a lid and simmer on low flame for 20-30 minutes till the Chicken is cooked. Once done, add thick Coconut milk and allow to simmer on low flame. Do not cook a lot after adding coconut milk. Turn off flame and serve hot. Suggested serving with Kori Rotti, Rice String Hoppers (Shevai), Idli (Khotte) or Ghee Rice.

Note - Do not use white meat of chicken (breast portions) since it remains hard after cooking. Best portions would be red meat - thigh or leg portions. They soften upon cooking and are apt for this curry. I made a big batch, lessen the proportion for smaller quantity.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ginger Powder (Sonth Pudi/ Sonthi Pitti)

I have an ongoing fascination for Herbs, Spices and Spice powders. To withstand the long and chilly tormenting winters in US I had bought a pack of dry Ginger powder this year. Mom insisted I keep this powder handy in my kitchen. Little did I realise there were so many benefits which are packed in this aromatic powder. I am sure you would be thinking that if fresh Ginger root can be used why bother to use Ginger powder. The biggest advantage of Ginger powder is that you can control the portions and the effect is many times stronger than that of fresh Ginger root. Ginger powder is known as Sonthi Pitti in Konkani. Its also known as Sonth Pudi and is a yellow, rough powder with strong aroma. As a kid, Mom gave me tiny portions of this mixed with honey to keep cold and cough away.

I am listing few health benefits of Ginger powder in daily diet:
- Ginger powder can be added in beverages like Tea or Coffee to improve metabolism and aid digestion.
- Ginger keeps bloating, nausea, indigestion at bay and strengths your immune system.
- The oils in Ginger are very strong and if taken regularly aid in combating Arthritis.
- Ginger being a stomach friendly herb, packs lot of benefits to keep toxic elements, worms and harmful bacteria away.

Kitchen use of Ginger powder:
- Ginger powder can be easily added in soups, stews, breads, cookies and pies.
- They are also widely used in Asian, Thai cuisines to make hot piping stews with vegetables and meat.
- Ginger powder can be mixed with honey to soothe sore throat, cough and cold.
- Mix Ginger powder (about 1/3 teaspoon) wit Tea to cure chills, cold and flu symptoms. Ginger has this uncanny ability to elevate body temperature thereby making you feel warm.
- Make Kashaya - a soothing herbal drink with 1/3 teaspoon Ginger powder, 1/3 teaspoon Pepper powder, 1/2 teaspoon Jaggery, 2-3 straws of Lemon Grass and bring to boil. Mix in 1/2 cup of milk and 1/2 cup of hot water and gulp it down in one shot. I will be posting a detailed recipe on this soon.

This is a work-in-progress post. I would be updating it regularly as and when I get more info around this wonderful spice powder.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Empire Ghee Rice

Bangalore - A workaholic city bustling with IT professionals offers myriad choices for Foodie's around the globe. Be it gourmet & fine dining options or the simple to humble inexpensive Tiffin items, there is something for everyone in this city with great affordable choices & tasty options to suit your palate and pocket. In Bangalore, if one visits Hotel Empire they have a special menu which is most sought after by me and my friends. It was a combination of Veg/ Chicken Kebabs, Ghee Rice served with Salad on the side and Veg/ Chicken Gravy. Over a period of time, this became so famous amongst my friends that every time we went there, we knew what we wanted to order. The flavour has left an indelible mark on my memory. This ubiquitous combination is quite enjoyed by some of my dearest friends in Bangalore.

I usually use the cooked rice from previous day for a good fluffy textured Ghee Rice. Its important to thaw the rice at room temperature before use. The cooked rice has to be dry with less moisture. The more grainy and separated the rice is, the better your Ghee Rice. I added Cashew Nuts to spruce up the flavour. My husband is a big fan of Ghee Rice and he enjoys this with Chicken curry with thick gravy or Fried Chicken. Its an occasional treat for us owing to the high calories involved. The recipe is quite simple and is an effort to recreate the same long forgotten flavour.

~ Empire Ghee Rice ~

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Rice (cooked) - 4 cups
Onion (sliced) - 3/4 cup
Cashew Nuts - 1/2 cup

Thaw the rice at room temperature at least 1/2 before use. Use a large faced deep sauce pan, that way your rice gets evenly warmed. First heat a huge quantity of Ghee, allow to melt and saute the cashew nuts. Let them turn golden brown with a nutty aroma. Remove from heat and keep them aside. Next saute the sliced onions and saute them till they turn crunchy and golden brown. The texture should be like deep fried onions. This whole process takes around 10 minutes. After the onions are fried completely, transfer them to a paper towel and keep aside. Now, add the cooked rice in ghee, give a good stir, much better if you can shake up the rice without using a spatula or ladle. The intention is to get the ghee coated and not to break the rice. Adjust salt now. Once rice is fluffy, turn off flame. Garnish with fried onions and cashew nuts. Serve warm with a gravy of choice.

Note - For best results, use good quality Ghee or Unsalted Butter. Fried Onions render a good layering to the dish. Ensure they are completely fried to get a good bite of crunch. Do not add too much salt as your complementary dish would have sufficient salt.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash is an uncommon vegetable making a bold scene during the Fall season. I love the silky, butter like flavour of the vegetable and enjoy adding it for Stews and Soups. I discovered on recent Food shows on TV that Nutmeg is a great spice to go along with any Butternut Squash preparations. Chopping the skin of this vegetable can be a hard task, best way to tackle that is half the squash, drizzle some oil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Allow to cool and scoop out the cooked portion from the skin for cooking purpose. A warm pot of simmering soup on a hot stove for a quiet chilly evening certainly wows the child in me. To neutralise the taste of sweet Butternut, I added Soup cubes and Red Onions with a free hand of mixed herbs (Thyme, Rosemary and Chives) and a dash of Nutmeg as well. I did not add salt at all. Unlike other soups, this one was not brothy at all; instead I chose to make it very pasty and thick.

Soups are also a great way to build appetite, rev up your metabolism with less calories, camouflage the unfavored vegetables in the family (especially for kids!) and are a potent source of nourishment.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

Butternut Squash (boiled and mashed) - 2 cups
Vegetable Stock - 1 cup or Water - 1 cup
Nutmeg (grated) - 1/3 teaspoon
Milk - 2-4 tablespoon
Soup Seasoning Cubes - 1
Onion (chopped) - 2 tablespoon

For Garnish - Mint leaves & Mixed herbs [Thyme, Rosemary & Parsley]

Peel the hard skin of the Butternut. Dice the vegetable chunks. Pressure cook for 4-5 whistles. Allow to cool. Mash and keep aside. In a deep saucepan, heat Oil, saute the chopped Onions till they wilt and charr a bit. Add the mashed puree of vegetable & milk. Give a gentle stir and add vegetable stock. Add water if you don't have vegetable stock handy. Add soup seasoning and mix well. Do not add any salt as the Soup cubes have enough Sodium to hold and bring the flavours together. Bring to a boil and simmer for 2 minutes. Garnish with grated Nutmeg, Mint and mixed herbs.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Spicy Lentil Soup (Pappu Chaaru)

Occasionally, we get lunch and dinner invitations which are seldom easy to forget. I mean, its not about the FOOD always! Its about the people, their hospitality, warmth, finally the company which is what matters the most. They'll cook and present the most simple dishes you can find on the face of earth; yet you feel the love all around. This also compels me to think that any simple dish cooked with love is far more tasty than a banquet dished out in a grumpy mood. I recall this amazing lunch we had at one of our office friend's place in India.

My friend makes the most amazing Chekkalu, Pacchadi, Pappu, Poriyal's and Biryani's. She made this simple spicy lentil soup which is popularly known as Pappu Chaaru in Andhra Pradesh state of India and is a quite a staple recipe in many a Andhra homes. A very simple soupy textured broth with a healthy seasoning of garlic and augmented with lot of tangy flavour of Tamarind juice. This broth is neither too thin nor too thick. Some versions of Chaaru are also made with vegetables of choice primarily Okra, Baby Onions, Tomatoes, etc; I prefer this simple plain one for the simplicity. I was in love with the Chaaru flavour and asked her for the recipe. The compliments surely made her day! I have made this countless times and love the taste. Every time I slurp the soup, it reminds me of the wonderful time we had at her place.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Toor Dal (cooked) - 1/2 cup
Turmeric powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Tamarind extract broth (concentrated) - 1/3 cup
Jaggery or Sugar - 1 teaspoon

For Seasoning -

Red Chillies (Byadgi) - 2-3
Garlic - 3-4 pods
Mustard seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Curry leaves - 3-4
Garnish: Chopped Coriander leaves and hot melted Ghee.

Pressure cook Toor Dal and keep aside. In a vessel, cook the boiled Toor Dal with water in 1/2: 4 proportion. Which means, for half cup of cooked Toor Dal, add 4 cups of water. Dilute the Dal entirely in water and bring to boil. Add Turmeric powder and Red Chilli powder. Soak Tamarind pulp in warm water for 10 minutes. Squish it with your hands and add the juice in the cooking broth. Add Jaggery or Sugar now. Give a gentle stir. Adjust salt and water consistency as per choice. The broth will be brown in color now. Bring to boil and simmer on low flame for 10 minutes and turn off the flame.
In a separate pan, heat few spoons of oil/ghee. Add mustard seeds and once they begin to pop, add curry leaves and crushed Garlic. Let the garlic brown and char a little. Pour this piping hot seasoning over the Chaaru. Cover and close with a lid. Garnish with chopped Coriander leaves if desired. Mix while serving and enjoy with hot steam cooked white rice. Top it up with some hot Tuppa or Ghee.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Steamed Rice & Spinach Spicy Balls (Palak Piyava Mudde/ Spinach Onion Mudde)

The cold spells and chilly weather makes me yearn for warm home cooked food all the time. Couple of days back, I made this traditional style of eating spicy rice and vegetable balls called as Mudde or Muddo in Konkani. It is cooked batter, usually mixed with vegetables of choice. We make different versions of Mudde at home. Essentially, Mudde is a lump or dumpling of batter cooked with or without vegetables of choice. In olden days, during my Grandmom's era, they were shaped as balls and steam cooked just on its own. Later, Idli moulds came into the picture, my aunts also steam them in Banana leaf & Jackfruit leaf containers. I prefer cooking them in Idli stand with indendations; that way the quantity is just right for a bite!

Mix the basic batter with vegetables of choice - Cabbage, Onion, Taro Leaves, Cassia Tora leaves (Taikilo), steam them and serve with warm coconut oil. Don't skip this step else you will miss the flavour. For best flavour, devour them when they are piping hot. The Mudde is very healthy since it is steam cooked. It blends well as a side dish for many a Konkani curries and daals. The blend & balance of coconut and rice is key; if you add more coconut, the steamy cakes fall apart, less coconut they turn hard and unedible. My Grandmom makes the best Onion and Cabbage Mudde. You could use Idli Steamer stand (with indentations) or Idli steel moulds which you get at Indian or Ethnic stores to steam cook the little goodies.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20-25 minutes
Yield: 10-12

Batter -
Rice (Sona Masoori variety) - 1 cup
Coconut (grated - fresh or frozen) - 1 cup
Red Chillies - 5-7

Tamarind - small lump
Asafoetida - Just a pinch
Pure Coconut oil

Vegetables (chopped) - 3 cups
[Any of these - Onion, Spinach, Cabbage, Taro leaves, Cassia Tora leaves]

Contraption - Idli Steamer and Idli Stand or Idli moulds

Wash vegetables, chop them and keep aside. Wash rice in multiple rounds of water till clear and soak for 2-4 hours. Drain rice and keep aside. Heat few spoons of oil and roast the red chillies for couple of minutes. Allow to cool. Grind to a coarse paste with rice and red chillies. Add salt and Asafoetida. The paste should be very coarse so rice should break into 2-4 pieces for better flavoured Mudde. Add less or no water and make a coarse paste. Mix in the chopped vegetables in the paste. Pour scoops of this paste on each of the Idli stands indentation and steam cook for 20-25 minutes. Serve hot with a garnish of coconut oil. Serve as a side dish along with Paej/ Kanji/ Soupy Brown Rice.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Spinach Cheese Delight

In US, Spinach n' Cheese dip is a popular one which can be matched with Chips of choice. You will find them listed on most dining menus. This recipe is inspired by the delecious combination of gooey Cheese and the humble Spinach. Recently, I made these warm Spinach Cheese Delight adapted from the original recipe available on Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry website. This along with half of Maggi Soup Cube added the right blend of spice and flavour. This was a good discovery for me. I skipped egg wash as suggested. Warm cup of Tea and a snack sets the tone for a perfect comforting evening.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Baking/ Cooking time: 40-45 minutes
Recipe Source: Pepperidge Farm

Puff Pastry Sheet (Pepperidge Farm) - 1
Spinach (chopped) - 3 cups packed
Processed Cheese (chopped into bits) - 1/3 cup
Onion (chopped) - 1/2 cup
Maggi Soup Cube - 1/2 of the cube
Garlic powder - 1 teaspoon
Red Chilli flakes - as per taste

Thaw the Puff Pastry at room temperature for 30 minutes or till the sheet is easy to handle. Dust the work surface lightly with flour, run a rolling pin lightly on the Pastry sheet to stretch it evenly. Clean with a wet kitchen towel.
Pre-heat Oven at 400 F.
Heat little oil in a pan, saute Onions till they are translucent, add chopped spinach now and cook till they wilt and reduce in size, add garlic powder and red chilli flakes. Add in the chopped cheese and soup cube. Adjust salt with discretion as soup cube has sufficient amount of sodium. Allow to cool. The stuffing will form a collective consistency. Pour this stuffing on the sheet and roll the edge facing towards you to form a log. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 400 F. Flip them over and bake again at 400 F. Bake further more for 10 minutes. The pastry will be crisp, flaky and adopt a golden brown texture. Transfer to a cooling rack. Eat while they are warm.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Soya Chunks Cutlet

With Fall setting in, the landscape is nicely dotted with crimson red and burning brown hues everywhere. Its a bit windy with long spells of mild showers and wind chill on some days. Warm food seems to be the order of the day. I love the chewy goodness of Soya Chunks, especially on days when I wish to avoid meat, this recipe comes handy for a nice tasty snack made with the wholesome flavours of Soya Chunks. I got the inspiration for this recipe from Chef Sanjeev Kapoor's Mixed Vegetable Cutlet. I made few changes to suit out taste. The good thing about this recipe is that you can shape the Cutlets and refrigerate them for consumption within 2-3 days. I added some chopped Spinach and Fenugreek leaves since I had them handy. Add or discard as per choice & preference.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 20-30 minutes

Soya Chunks - 4 cups packed
Potatoes (boiled and mashed) - 2 cups
Fresh chopped leafy vegetable (Spinach & Fenugreek leaves) (optional) - 1 cup

Cumin powder - 1 teaspoon
Coriander powder - 1 teaspoon
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Ginger paste - 1" piece
Garlic pods - 3-4
Coriander leaves - 1/2 cup
Green Chilli - 1-2
Onions (chopped) - 1/2 cup
Garam Masala powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Sooji or Semolina - 1/2 cup

Boil the Soya chunks and wash in water multiple times till they are soft and evenly cooked. Mince to bite sized flavours in a blender and set aside.
Make a paste of Ginger, Garlic, Green Chillies and Coriander leaves. Heat oil in a pan and saute the paste till the raw flavour disappears. Add mashed Potato chunks and add all the spice powders. Do not add water at all. Add minced Soya chunks and greens if you are adding them. Let the mixture form a collective semi-dry consistency.
Make palm sized cutlets and set aside.
While frying Cutlets, heat oil in a pan, add Cutlets dredged in Semolina and shallow fry on both sides till they are crispy, done and lightly browned.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Chicken Cafreal - A Goan Portuguese Delicacy

Chicken Cafreal is a very popular ambrosial dish of Portuguese origin found in the Indian state of Goa. If you visit any non-vegetarian joint in Goa, you are sure to be enthralled and welcomed by this dish. The charm of the interplay of flavours comes from the fiery, hot spicy green hued paste. The heat enduring combination of Green chillies, Garlic cloves, Ginger aptly balanced with a generous hand of Coriander leaves. Cumin, Cinnamon, Cloves, Pepper add the zing with the spicy flavours; add a bite of the odd spices with strong dominant flavours - Poppy seeds, Nutmeg and Mace. If you don't like meat, make your own Vegan or Vegetarian Cafreal version with vegetables like Potato, Soya Chunks.

In the Goan version, the grilled chicken drumstick is first cooked for good 30 minutes in a bubbly mix of the green spice paste. Thereafter, the chicken drumsticks are bathed in butter and charred on the heat for the crispy fried finish. I prefer to soak in the green pasty marinade for 24 hours for better retention of flavours. The lime juice supports the meat tenderising process which enables the breakdown of tissues and absorption of the spices. Chicken Cafreal is the Goan Tandoori Chicken if I may say so. I have eaten this version which was a home cooked one at a friend's place and then many of them at restaurants. The flavour is distinct since the Chicken pieces are cooked and then pan fried. Served with Salad on the side, this one surely opens up your senses and is a unique quintessential Goan way of eating spicy hot Chicken.

Preparation time: 24 hours (includes the steeping time for the chicken in marinade)
Cooking time: 30-45 minutes
Note - This is a spicy dish. Use spices as per discretion and preference.

Chicken Drumstick (skinless) - 5
Coriander leaves (chopped) - 2 cups packed
Green Chillies - 4
Mint leaves - 1/2 cup packed
Garlic - 10-12 flakes
Ginger - 1 and 1/4 " piece
Poppy seeds - 1 teaspoon
Whole Black Pepper corns - 1 teaspoon
Cumin seeds - 1 teaspoon
Cinnamon stick - 2" piece
Cloves - 2-3
Mace - 1/2 teaspoon
Nutmeg - 1/2 teaspoon
Lime juice - 1 tablespoon
Lime zest - 1 tablespoon

Clean the Chicken Drumstick thoroughly in water and pat dry. Defrost the Chicken completely before use. Soak Poppy seeds in warm water for 20 minutes. Make a smooth paste with just enough water of all the ingredients except Butter. Apply this paste to the Chicken, drizzle some juice and refrigerate in a tall zip lock bag for 24 hours. The lime juice aids as a good meat tenderising agent and makes the Chicken soft and supple.
Next day while cooking, remove and thaw for 1/2 before use. Heat the pan, add oil and the ground paste. Add Chicken Drumstick one by one and cook till the chicken is cooked completely. Cover with a lid to aid faster cooking and gravy reduction. Add Lime zest at this stage to make the meat tender and soft. Once done the gravy will reduce 1/4 in volume, add butter shavings on the side and fry the chicken on all sides. If you are health conscious omit the step of adding butter and just leave the chicken on its own. Add lime juice and pan-fry for 2 minutes. Turn off flame and serve hot as a side dish. Support with Salad of choice.
Note - For better tasting Chicken, marinate for 24 hours. The flavour of Chicken has a profound difference. Do not overcook your Chicken. By doing so you run the risk of disintegrating the meat from the bone.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Onion Fritters (Kandya chya Bhajya/ Piyava Bajo)

Onion Fritters or Kandya chya Bhajya is my childhood tea time favorite. The recipe takes me back to my good old school and college days when Mommy dear made a huge batch of piping hot Pakoras with hot Elaichi Chai (Cardamom Tea) for me. The yummy treat were good enough for me to forget the hectic projects, timelines and gruelling study schedule. The thing which I like most about Mom's recipe for Kandya chya Bhajya is the simple secret ingredient she added - Danyachey Koot, in layman's terms coarse Peanut Powder which adds extra zing and biteful flavour to the recipe. This recipe takes me back to Mom's memories and the wonderful things she did for our entire family. I think I am missing her a lot these days. :(

This spicy hot treat is a big hit at home and my husband loves the combination of Kandhya chya Bhajya with hot Tea a.k.a Elaichi Chai. The Bhajya get over in no time, thanks to mighty gluttons hoovering in the kitchen.

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 5-10 minutes

Onions (sliced) - 4 cups
Coriander leaves (chopped) - 1 cup
Green Chillies (chopped) - 2
Ginger (minced) - 2 tablespoon
Peanut powder (Daanyachey Koot) - 1/2 cup
Red Chilli powder - 1 tablespoon
Garam Masala powder (optional) - 1 teaspoon
Turmeric powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Chickpea Flour or Besan - 6-10 tablespoon
Rice Flour (optional) - 1-2 tablespoon
Baking soda - a pinch

Slice the Onions one by one and mash them with the hands to disintegrate each of the thin slice from the calyx which is the base. Add chopped Ginger, Coriander leaves, Green chillies and salt and mix them gently. Add rest of the spice powders and baking soda except Besan. Leave aside for 20 minutes.

Keep adding Chickpea flour, to form a thick gooey clump of Fritters mix. Do not add water at all. Heat oil in a deep frying pan. Pour the batter with a spoon or with your hand in scoops and fry 8-10 fritters at a time. Deep fry till golden brown and transfer to a clean kitchen towel which is absorbent. Consumer hot Fritters with Elaichi Chai.
Note: Pick smaller scoops of batter to make Pakoras which are crisp and well done. With big scoops, the Pakoras remain uncooked in the centre. Add more Rice Flour if you want crispy fritters, you could then omit adding baking soda.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Fenugreen Leaves Flatbread (Methi Paratha) & 250th Post

Methi Paratha is a healthy, nutritious snack/ lunch/ dinner item. I prefer making them in bulk and packing them off for office lunchbox. They remain intact for 2-3 days and avidly support batch cooking needs. If you are tired for the day, just pop them on the griddle for 2-3 minutes. Eat them away with cream cheese or a cheese spread of choice. They are great for kid meals and breakfast.

There is a particular version of these Parathas which you find at local Indian stores in US. I am very fond of them and this is an attempt to reproduce the same flavour. Glad they turned well and they remained fresh for 2-3 days when packed in Aluminum foil.
Turns out that this is my 250th post. Kudos to Konkani Foodie! The journey has been tough but sweet with loads of good food along the way!

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Yield: 8-10 Parathas

Fenugreek Leaves or Methi (chopped) - 1 bunch or 2 cups
Whole Wheat Flour - 3 cups
Red Chilli powder - 1 tablespoon
Cumin powder - 2 teaspoon
Coriander powder - 1 teaspoon
Amchur Powder or Mango powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Ghee (molten)
Water to knead the dough

Contraption used: Rolling pin and Base to roll the Parathas

Take the whole wheat flour in a huge mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add molten ghee and salt. Mix well with hands and add the spice powders one by one. Also add the chopped leaves and knead a stiff dough like Chapati. Cover with a wet muslin cloth and keep aside for 1/2 an hour.
While making Parathas, pinch a lemon sized ball of dough; roll out thin parathas to the shape of circle. Fry them on hot griddle, one by one, slather ghee while frying on both the sides. This enables the Parathas to be soft and pliable. Cover them in a foil and refrigerate them if using for the day after. Consume within 2-3 days. Preferably heat up before eating for better flavour.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Mixed Vegetable Curry (Gajbaje)

In my ancestral place, any Ganesh Chaturthi celebration is incomplete without the staple dish - Gajbaje. It's a simple, nutritious dish with all the possible vegetables which you can think of. Primarily the vegetables which crop up in early September are used in abundance, hence more of gourds and pumpkins. This dish is also made in Goa, sometimes cooked with Sichuan Pepper (Teppal or Tirphal) or without it and is known as Khatkhate. In GSB Konkani parlance, its known as Gajbaje. This is a one pot dish and is quite easy to make.

Gajbaje is also making an appearance in wedding menus, important celebrations and family festive events. My Dad asked me if I am planning to make Gajbaje for Ganpati lunch, hence the idea struck me. This is his favorite dish and he enjoys the one made by my Mom for obvious reasons. Mom makes use of atleast 5 vegetables to make this dish - Ridge Gourd, Pumpkin, Raw Plantain, Potato, Yam, Radish, Ladies Finger, Bottle Gourd, etc. I made use of all Fall vegetables - Butternut Squash, Yellow Squash, Corn on the cob and Bottle Gourd. The buttery flavour of Butternut Squash bowled me over. I like to munch on this nutritious dish just on its own slurping it hot from a big bowl. I plan on making on many such One Pot dishes during winter like Valval, Undhiyo, Khatkhate (with Tirfhal).

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Yield: 6-8 servings

Vegetables (assorted) - 5-7 cups
** Primarily early Fall veggies - Corn, Butternut Squash,
Yellow Squash, Corn on the cob, Yam, Bottle Gourd, etc***
Grated coconut - 3 cups
Red Chillies (Byadgi) - 5-10
Turmeric powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Jaggery - 1 teaspoon
Tamarind pulp - 1 teaspoon

For Seasoning:
Mustard seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Curry leaves - 6-7

Chop all the vegetables into 1/2" bite sized pieces. Bring them to boil in a huge pot with water good enough to immerse the vegetables, add little salt. Bring to boil and simmer on low flame. Cover with a lid and cook till partially done. On the side, roast red chillies in little oil separately for 2 minutes. Allow to cool. Grind to a coarse paste with grated coconut and tamarind. Add this paste to the cooked vegetables. Allow the gravy to cook along with the vegetables and cover with a lid. Adjust salt, add jaggery and water as desired. Cook till done and turn off flame. In a separate pan, heat ghee/oil, add mustard seeds and once they begin to pop, add curry leaves. Pour this seasoning on the curry, mix gently and cover with a lid. Serve hot as a side dish.

Note - Do not peel the skin of the vegetables. Retain some skin, otherwise vegetables will dissolve and disintegrate in the curry even before consumption. This curry is semi-dry but not too dry, hence do not make it too watery. I made a huge batch, reduce the quantity by half for a smaller batch.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Karanji/ Nevri (Baked): A Popular Festival Sweet

Nevri or Karanji is a popular festival sweet made during Ganesh Chaturthi festival. This is a must-have sweet snack while offering prasad to Ganpathi Bappa. This recipe belongs to my Foster Aunt also called as Maushi. She makes the best Nevri and knows many a varieties of it like Jaggery based, Copra based and this one which is Semolina based. Maushi is a dextrous woman who can multi-skill and make 10-12 dishes on Chaturthi day all by herself within 2-3 hours.

She taught me the essential skills required to make the yummiest Modak and Karanji. In her opinion, the Saaran is the essence of a good Nevri. This Nevri is a small way remembering her kindness and generous spirit which has fed many a friends and family members of mine. I got my culinary lessons from her during my teenage days and would always thank her for the lovely meals she dished out for me. I made the baked version of it and we loved it a lot. The stuffing added in the Nevri is known as Saaran. I also used a dough cutter cum carver which I got from India. You can also find this at any Indian grocery & essentials store. The Nevri's were crisp with a nutty and sweet stuffing.

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi To One & All!! Ganpati Bappa Moriya....Pudchya Varshi Laukar Yaa...

Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 40 minutes
Yield: 10-12 Nevri's

Nevri outer shell -
All Purpose Flour - 3 cups
Milk - 1/2 cup
Baking Powder - 1/3 teaspoon
Sugar - 1 teaspoon
Ghee (melted) - 1 tablespoon

Nevri Stuffing or Saaran -
Semolina (thin variety) - 1 cup
Poppy seeds or Khus-Khus - 1 tablespoon
Coconut powder or Copra - 5 tablespoon
Raisins - 1/4 cup
Cashew Nut - 1/2 cup
Almonds (slivered) - 1/2 cup
Sugar - 1/2 cup
Cardamom powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Split Dalia/ Putaani/ Futaani/ Split Chana - 1/2 cup

Baking Essentials & Contraptions - Parchment Paper, Dough Cutter and Baking Tray

Saaran: Toast the Semolina on low flame till its fragrant and little brown. Transfer to a tray and allow to cool. Toast the Cashew Nuts and Almonds separately, transfer to a tray and allow to cool. Toast Putaani, Khus-Khus and Coconut Powder together and allow to cool. Grind the Coconut powder and Putaani together. Add all the rest of the ingredients, except Cashew and Almonds and grind to a coarse powder without any water. Set aside. Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.
Nevri: Knead a soft and pliable dough of Maida, Milk, Sugar, Salt and little baking powder. Cover with a wet muslin cloth and leave aside for 1/2 hour. Once 1/2 hour passes, pinch a lemon sized ball and roll out a medium sized Puri. Place a spoon full of the Saaran on one half of the Puri. Slather some water on the other half, meet the ends to form a semi-circle as shown in the picture. Run the edge with a Dough Carver. Add suitable design with a fork.
Baking: Line the tray with Parchment Paper. Arrange the Nevri's side by side. Bake on one side for 15 minutes on 375 degrees, turn over after 15 minutes, bake for 20-25 minutes more till they are light brown and crispy. Transfer to a cooling rack and consume after 2 hours.

Note -
All ingredients should be at room temperature. The Ghee should be in molten state. Do not over-stuff the stuffing in the Nevri. Store in air-tight container and consume within a week. Use dry fruits of your choice.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Gauri Pooja/ Vaina Pooja/ Tai - An Essay

We celebrate Gauri Pooja/ Tai/ Vaina Pooja the day before Shukla Chaturthi which falls in Bhadrapad month as per the Hindu calendar. It's a holy and auspicious occassion for married ladies or 'Savashini'. This pooja is performed the day before Ganesh Chaturthi. This pooja honors Gauri also known as Parvati, mother of Lord Ganesh.

The rituals begin the day before where married women get dehusked coconuts and decorate them. During the entire process of pooja, the ladies are advised to follow no garlic - no onion diet. Some do it the previous day for sheer ease or convenience. Coconuts in batches of odd numbers of 3, 5, 7, 11 or 21 are worshipped. Some families who have this as a ritual practice, some families do not have it as a ritual hence do not practice it. The choicest, fresh and large coconuts brimming with water are chosen for the pooja. My grandmon, the pious, strict and precise person that she is, did the decoration the first thing after early morning head-bath without partaking breakfast and with no onion-no garlic diet.

The coconuts symbolic of Gauri devi are de-husked with a sharp sickle (Koita in Konkani) to look completely huskless. Thereafter, the coconuts are washed in Turmeric water (Haldi Udda). Once they are washed, the coconuts are ready for decoration. The three holes in the Coconut symbolise Gauri's face. The eyes are decorated with 'Kajal' the Indian black colored kohl, the mouth is decorated with 'Sindhur', an orange colored vermillion which is usually adorned by married women on their forehead. Even Turmeric (Haladi) is used as a substitute. The forehead is adorned with Sandalwood paste made from fresh ground sandal wood, ground on Saani. The area where the coconut can be exactly halved is covered with a while line usually done with a white chalk. Thereafter the Vaina as they are called, are spread on a huge plantain leaf, each of the Vaina perched on a mound of rice. Neivedyam of choice is offered, some offer Godu Phovu, Karanji, Chane Panchakajjaya, etc. At my native, the lunch components are also offered as part of the Neivedyam. A potrait of Gauri and Mahadev is worshipped along side. The Gauri is adorned with mangalsutra, bangles. Before the traditional Arathi (traditional hymns sung in praise of the lord) and Pooja, the earthen lamps are placed in front of each of the coconuts.

Pooja concludes with the Coconuts offered to every married lady attending and participating in the pooja ceremony. Some even distribute the coconuts/ Vaina after the ceremony is over. These Vaina can be given any time to any married lady, preferably within the period of Bhadrapad or before Anant Chaturdashi, the 14th day before the Shukla period concludes. The traditional food includes Khotto, Patrodo, Phodi, Daalithoi, Upkari, Godshe, Saaru, Modak, Chakuli, Undo, etc. After the Pooja, the food is partaken by all members of the family.

This ritual is also symbolic of the significance of a mother and also celebrates the respect and reverence offered to women in the family. This is the time of the year when I miss my family the most - especially my Mom, Dad and my In-Laws. I believe when you are miles away from your kith and kin, you learn to value and appreciate the importance of family, togetherness and happiness that's come along with it which is often taken for granted. Hence, I celebrate this in my own little way with my family around to relinquish the moments gone by, welcome & appreciate the present and aspire for a bright and prosperous future for my family and friends.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Rotti of Kori Rotti Fame ~ A Manglorean Delight: An Essay

Kori Rotti is a pop Manglorean delicacy which in my opinion is a rockstar dish! Hot, spicy Chicken Curry and Rotti to go along - a lip smacking dish loved by many a folks in my family. The flavour of Kori Rotti can get many a foodie's drooling over the combination. From a culinary standpoint, the Rotti used in Kori Rotti has always caught my attention.

Rotti is a thin, slice of bread which is more often than square shaped. You will find these crispy goodies in local grocery stores in Mangalore and Udupi area. The Rotti is made with a rice paste on a griddle (I have never tried making it but my Mom has) crisped to perfection and then dried off. Today, owing to the invasion of gadgets and easy-lifestyle choices which people are making, many people prefer buying the ready-to-eat Rotti packs which you get in local grocery stores. This is also a very popular dish amongst Tulu (Bunt) communities. This is also a rockstar food for large family dinners, banquets and weddings in Mangalore and Udupi should the menu be non-vegetarian.
Kori is Chicken and Rotti is the thin crispy wafer like bread which is supposed to be partaken with the Chicken dish. The easiest way to eat this dish is grab a handful of Rotti, crush them with your hands, and dunk them and mix them in the chicken curry and enjoy the crunch with the munch! :)

Surprisingly, in my house one Rotti pack gets demolished in a jiffy for dinner or lunch. I prefer dunking the Rotti in hot Sambhar, the spicy hot combination is simply awesome. The shelf life of a Rotti pack runs from a week to two, so you can customise and use this thin bread for your choice of recipes and dishes. The local grocery pack's Rotti quantity is good enough for a banquet. These quintessential regional culinary styles and the way of eating a particular dish simply amaze me.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Egg Bafat Curry

I had earlier written about Manglorean Bafat spice blend ~ a smooth spice powder used in many a Goan-Portuguese, Anglo-Catholic and Catholic cooking in Goa and Mangalore. I used the spice powder to make Egg Curry with ample amount of onions and tomatoes. I did not saute the duo's but sweated them to get the mushy texture. This one goes well with cooked rice, I specially liked the tangy flavour owing to the vinegar flavour embedded in the Bafat spice blend. Another discovery was making long gashes in the cooked eggs enables them to absorb the spices giving a good flavour to otherwise bland egg whites and yolk, the egg whites indeed tasted spicy and yummy! Retain or discard egg yolk as per choice. Most important - allow the curry to rest for atleast 30 minutes you serve. This is certainly not the original way of making Egg Bafat curry; I have adapted and changed the recipe to suit my family's taste.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes (including boiling eggs)

Eggs (hard boiled) - 3-4
Onions (sliced into quarters) - 2 cups
Tomatoes (chopped) - 1 cup
Bafat spice blend - 1 tablespoon
Coriander powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Cumin powder - 1/3 teaspoon
Turmeric powder - 1/3 teaspoon
Green Chilli paste - 1/2 teaspoon
Ginger paste - 1/2 teaspoon
Garlic paste - 1/2 teaspoon
Garam Masala powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Coriander leaves (chopped) - 1/2 cup

Hard boil eggs, once done peel them and make long gashes in the egg white and set aside. Heat few spoons of oil or ghee and add Ginger-Garlic paste and let the oil catch the flavour. Add chopped onions and tomatoes and let them sweat in oil, so do not saute, just leave them the way they are. After few minutes, they will turn mushy and soft. Add all the spice powders and green chilli paste except Bafat and Garam Masala powder, adjust water and salt and bring to boil. Once the gravy is cooked and not raw, add the Garam Masala powder and Bafat blend and cook for some more time. Add the eggs now, mix gently and turn off flame. Leave the curry aside for atleast 15-20 minutes before you serve. Garnish with chopped Coriander leaves. Goes well with cooked rice.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Carrot Vermicelli Kheer (With Condensed Milk)

A quick and easy Kheer ~ Indian sweet dish for a nice occasion. Today is Shraavana Shukla Poornima. In laymans term, 15th day of the first cycle of the holy month of Shraavan, an auspicious month according to the Hindu calendar. In Hindu custom, today is the day for the renewal of sacred thread (Janwa). In Konkani custom, this day is known as Sutta Punnav. In Konkani language, Sutta = thread and hence the correlation with thread change (janwa change) and celebration of Rakhi festival as well. I prefer making Vermicelli based Kheer on this day for the simple reason that its a family tradition to eat Rice String Hoppers (Idiyappam or Shevayee) or Vermicelli Kheer on this day.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Carrots (grated) - 1 and 1/2 cup
Vermicelli - 1/2 cup
Whole Milk - 3-4 cups
Condensed Milk (sweetened) - 1 can
Sugar - Just a little
Cardamom powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Pistachio (chopped) - 2 tablespoon
Cashew Nuts - 2 tablespoon
Saffron strands - 3-5


Toast the Vermicelli lightly in ghee till they turn reddish brown and keep aside. Mix the whole milk and condensed milk together in a non-stick vessel. Bring to boil together along with the grated carrot and toasted Vermicelli. Cook till the carrots are soft and well cooked. Keep the flame from low to medium and not high else you run the risk of burning the food. Separately, toast the nuts in little ghee and add to the kheer. Once boiled, add sugar (keep in mind condensed milk is already sweetened) and keep stirring at regular intervals. The mixture will thicken and begin to be gooey. Adjust consistency by adding more milk as desired. Once done, turn off flame and garnish with Saffron strands.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Sprouted Green Gram Soup (Mugaa Saaru)

There are times when you want to eat simple, delicious and sobre food with oil and spice within tolerable limits or less (Saatvikk food as known in Ayurveda parlance). Mugaa Saaru or Bengal Gram Soup is one such recipe which I relish.

The second day after Ekadashi (a holy day observed in Hindu calendar for fasting and symbolic of sacrifice and penance) is Duadashi. Amongst Konkanis (atleast the ones I know), its a common practice to make dishes using Green Gram or Moong Bean on this day. The common quote in our house on Duadashi day as propounded by my Pop till we get bugged to no end was Duadashi - Mooga Ghashi. Mooga Ghashi is another delicious common recipe for cooking Green Gram sprouts in Coconut and Chilli paste. The scientific rationale behind this practice, in my opinion is that post all the fasting, human body needs nourishment after the wear and tear. Sprouted Green Gram have tremendous cooling and healing properties within them. Green Gram in sprouted form carries lot of nourishment and nutrition value so much that one cup of Green Gram easily gives rise to 5 cups or more of sprouted ones. Some retain the green skin, some prefer to discard it. I remove them as much as I can, rest I just use for my recipes as per choice. Since I am miles away from the prospect of a fast, leave alone a lame attempt, I thought of making this Soup to remember the day and celebrate the spirit of sacrifice!

This recipe is tweaked from my mother's original one. I added tiny helping of Rasam powder to zap up the flavour. Much better is you pick the vegetable stock fresh from the pressure cooker after boiling sprouted beans for a whistle. The taste is very subtle and nutritious. The taste of this soup is an acquired one; if bland soup with a subtle flavour and minimal seasoning appeals you, then try out this recipe.

Preparation time: 2 days (includes sprouting)

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Green Gram Stock - 3 cups
Green Gram (sprouted and boiled) - 1/2 cup
Tomatoes (chopped) - 1/2 cup
Rasam powder (optional) - 1/2 teaspoon
Garlic (crushed) - 4-5 pods
Coriander leaves (optional) [chopped] - 1/4 cup

Wash the Green Gram and soak to enable sprouting. Once done, remove the green skin to expose the sprouted green gram. Pressure cook for a single whistle. Extract the stock and bring to boil along with the cooked beans. Simmer and Rasam powder, salt as per taste and chopped coriander leaves.
In a separate pan, heat a spoon of oil. Add crushed Garlic pods and saute till get reddish brown hue. Turn off flame and pour this seasoning on the soup. Close the lid. Mix while serving either on its own or with rice and pappad on the side to spruce up the flavour.