Friday, November 30, 2012

Cucumber Idli - Kadamb (Taushe Idli)

Do not know if I have ever confessed but I love one salad vegetable a lot - Cucumbers. This all began when Ma would insist that we eat one salad item as kids (which we hated at that time). I began with Cucumbers and Baby Onions. Few times, I would use Small Baby Onions and slather them in lime juice and salt (the ones we get in South Canara). They are available in the local markets as Bundled Onions (Ghonche Piyav) and are usually sold as a cluster of 20-30 onions. We always had 2-3 of the bundles as reserve stock in my Ammama's (Grandma) pantry comprising of vegetables, lentils, pulses, spices and flours. All the grand kids would compete on who would jump higher to grab the onions from the bundle. She would tie them with Plantain threads (Vayu) and suspend them to an iron rod which was hung between the wooden beams. We had traditional wood ceiling in our grandparents home. She would stock up Chinese Cucumber (Magge) and Ash Gourd (Kuvale) in this fashion.

My Ma made Cucumber Cake in the traditional Aluminum oven with sand at the bottom during our summer vacations. The cake was baked on the gas stove on very low flame cooked for a long period of time. The cake was so big that we would never be able to finish all of it. Some of the portions went to our extended family and friends. She also occasionally makes Cucumber Dosa (Taushe Bhakri) which turns out very tasty. A special variety of Cucumber which are pale light green skinned are best for this variety of Dosa. This is usually available during monsoon season in India. Another item Ma frequently makes is Cucumber Idli. Its also known as Taushe Kadamb. I wanted to steam these Idlis at home on many occasions but the lack of essential ingredient - Turmeric leaves (Haldi Paan) held me back. This time, I had a good stock of them and used the fresh leaves for the Idli. My Ma uses dried Curry leaves stem (Shigir in Konkani) to stitch the Idli containers made from Jackfruit leaves also known as Khotto. I used our good old toothpick to stitch the leaves together. The aroma wafting in the kitchen when the Idlis are steaming is simply awesome. It takes me right back to my parents home. 

The Idli is supposed to be eaten with fresh home made butter (Loni) and is best enjoyed when eaten straight out of the steamer when its piping hot. The essence of Turmeric leaves seeps in the Idli thereby taking it a few notches higher in terms of flavor and uniqueness of this Idli. I have also tried to steam the Idlis in pressure cooker (without the whistle) and they turned out fine. Take your pick for choice of steamer. Either ways, the result should be the same. The preparation is a bit labor intensive but the taste compensates for all the hard work.

~ Taushe Idli - Kadamb ~
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 4-6 Idlis

Cucumber (Grated, seeds removed) - 1 and 1/4 cup
Idli Rava - 1 and 1/4 cup
Grated Coconut (fresh or frozen) - 1/4 cup

For Steaming -
Turmeric leaves - 4

For Garnish -
Home made Butter cubes

Contraption -
Idli moulds - 6

Lightly rinse the Turmeric leaves. Cut a tiny portion from the tip and the bottom of the leaf. Dab the leaves with a kitchen towel to absorb any excess moisture. Allow to dry on a mat.
Peel the cucumbers and remove the seeds. Grate it using the biggest holes on the box grater (I use a box grater which has many options for grating). Collect the cucumber water as well and do not discard it.
Once done, measure the amount of grated coconut. Add equal amount of Idli Rava. Add salt and keep it aside. The water from cucumber is absorbed by Idli Rava. Keep aside for 30 minutes. Heat water in an Idli steamer. Lightly grease the Idli moulds with Oil. Once the water in the Idli steamer is hot enough, mix the grated coconut to the previously mixed batter.
Place the leaves inside the Idli mould and pour the batter inside the mould lined with turmeric leaves. Bring the edges together and stitch it with a toothpick. Steam with the lid on for 15-20 minutes.
Check if done using a knife. Leave aside for couple of minutes and unmould by running the knife across the circumference of the mould. Serve hot with a cube of butter.

Step-by-Step Illustration -
1. Rinse the Turmeric leaves, dab the extra moisture with a towel and dry them out in a cool place.

2. Grease the Idli mould with oil, add the turmeric leaves one at time in each mould as shown.

3. Add the batter over the lined turmeric leaves and stitch the two ends of the leaf with a toothpick.
Steam for 15-20 minutes in an Idli steamer.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pumpkin Side Dish - Konkani Style | Pumpkin Sukke (Duddya Sukke)

Pumpkin is the flavor of the season. I see Pumpkins in all shapes and sizes appearing at the local grocery store. Lucky me, our local grocery store sells slices of Pumpkin. They are individually cling wrapped and packed which makes grub-for-two a snap.

Ma makes use of Pumpkin (Duddi in GSB Konkani) for Gajbaje, Duddya Sukke, Duddya Phodi. Recently, I was craving for the sweet and spicy flavor of Sukke. Sukke is a quintessential Konkani dish and typically has a semi-dry to dry texture. More often than not, its served as a side dish. The highlight of this dish is the finish, which is garlic seasoning aided with coconut oil. It certainly offers a different layer of flavor to the dish. Since its made with Coconut, I prefer to pair it with a lighter dish like Tomato Rasam (Saaru) etc. One could also pair it with Phulkas/ Rotis. If you like the marriage of sweet and spicy, then you are ought to love this simple dish.


~ Duddya Sukke ~
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Yellow Pumpkin (skin peeled, diced into chunks) - 3 cups
Jaggery - 1/2 tsp
Coconut Oil

For Sukke Masala -
Coriander seeds - 2 tbsp
Urad Dal - 1 tbsp
Red Chillies - 3-4
Grated Coconut (fresh or frozen) - 3/4 cup

For Seasoning -
Garlic cloves - 5-6
Coconut Oil

Wash the Pumpkin and trim the tough skin from the surface. This can be a bit difficult considering that the skin is a tough one. Dice the Pumpkin into chunks of 1/2" each and set aside.
In a pan, heat a teaspoon of oil and roast Coriander seeds, Urad dal, Red chillies on low-to-medium flame. Allow to cool completely. Grind to a smooth paste with grated coconut and little water. Save the rinsed water as reserve to be added later.
In the same pan, heat the ground paste and add the Pumpkin pieces now. Mix gently so that the masala coats all the pieces evenly. Bring to a boil, add the reserved water, add salt, jaggery and cover with a lid. Let it simmer and cook till completely done and the nature of this dish is semi-dry to dry.
In a small frying pan, heat few teaspoons of Coconut oil. Crush the garlic cloves lightly and add to the hot oil. Allow the garlic to sear and brown lightly. Pour this seasoning all over cooked Pumpkin in masala. Mix gently and cover with a lid. Serve hot and pair with Tomato Rasam and cooked rice of choice or Phulkas.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Bansi Rava Upma | Broken Wheat Upma (Bansi Rava Rulav)

Any self-confessed Konkani would wax eloquent on his love or hatred for the most common breakfast item - Rulav or Upma. There are different variations followed by most homes, but the conventional Rulav recipe remains the same. You can either love it hate it, but the dish is here to stay. I am a self-confessed Rulav lover. Rulav is a Konkani version of Upma and is usually made with Ghee aided seasoning and bits of Cashew Nuts. In my home, we rarely use onions and vegetables for Upma hence by default the Upma always ended up being a sweeter version.

A specific type of Rava is used for this dish which is the darling of many Konkani homes - Bansi Rava. The rava is essentially broken wheat and upon cooking renders itself to a soft, smooth and chewy sago like texture but very pleasing for the palate. The tiny broken grains proliferate in size once they come in contact with hot water and since the broken pieces cook very fast, its become a very popular go-to breakfast dish. The tiny wheat granules are made from broken wheat and is a healthy and low-calorie alternative to high-carbohydrate items. The rava can also be used to make Masala Upma, Peas Upma, etc. The dish is very portable and holds well for lunchbox as well.

I am extremely fond of this Rava and could not find a similar tasting brand in US, so the only option for me was to lug a small bag and enjoy hot Rulav in chilly winter mornings for breakfast.

~ Bansi Rava Rulav ~
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

Bansi Rava - 1/2 cup

For Seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Green Chillies (split lengthwise) - 2
Red Chilli (split into two) - 1 
Urad Dal (split) - 1/2 tsp
Chana Dal - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - small pinch
Cashew Nuts (chopped) - 2 tbsp

Hot water - 1:3 (for any standard measurement)
1 part of Rava with 3 parts of hot water

For Garnish -
Grated coconut - 1/4 cup

In a deep dish, lightly toast the chopped Cashew Nut  pieces in little ghee. Once lightly browned, transfer to a separate dish. In a separate vessel, bring hot water to boil, add desired amount of salt and sugar in it and stir well. 
Add a bit of Ghee in the same pan used before for toasting Cashew Nuts and season with Mustard seeds. Once they begin to pop, add curry leaves and Green chillies along with one red chilli. Give a good shake and add the rava now. Toast it well on low heat till nutty aroma oozes from the rava and the color turns a shade darker. This process takes around 2-4 minutes.
Once the rava is toasty enough, add the hot water, give a gentle stir and cover with a lid. The rava cooks very fast in less than 7 minutes. Once water's evaporated, open the lid and garnish with grated coconut. Mix well and serve warm with Sev.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sprouted Mung Bean Curry with Cashew Nuts - Goan Style (Mung Gaathi with Biyo)

Sprouted Mung Gaathi with warm Phulkas


I am just back from India vacation and its taking a lot of effort on my part to get back to the daily routine. Ma pampered me a lot and now I have to force and drag my homesick self to the kitchen. Given a chance she will gladly cook for me day and night (I kid you not!) but this time I put my foot down and said NO. Many times we had home style lunches and dinners and we also went out often and met most of my family members and relatives. I am glad that Ma got some break due to the outings. Sometimes I get very annoyed seeing her in the kitchen all the time. I also realize that my parents have grown old and do not have the same energy levels as before. I was delighted to spend my time with my parents and together we had a gala time. We enjoyed out time together and chatted till our jaws ached. Now, back home its not an ideal situation but I am learning to move along though I'm feeling homesick yet again.

While in India, I got to know about Sandy and the mayhem she caused everywhere on East Coast of USA. I spent long hours watching CNN and the destruction left me teary eyed. My area has been badly affected as a result of Sandy. I see rebuilding and reconstruction effort everywhere and it makes me sad to see nature's fury which sometimes lies beyond the human realm of control. Things are getting better and slowly, bit by bit every effort is being made to ensure things are back to normal. For now, I don't have access to Indian groceries and I am managing with what I can procure from my local stores.

One of my favorite ingredients to cook with is sprouted Mung Beans. There is a different sort of deja vu when you soak the seeds, see them germinate and then the beautiful sprouts peeking out of the seeds - such a tiny experiential joy yet, so nurturing and nourishing. Ma often reminds me to eat them because of the cooling properties of Mung Beans especially the sprouted ones. 

Back home, Ma makes two varieties of sprouted Mung Beans - Muga Ghashi - Konkani style and Mung Gaathi - Goan style. Goan cuisine is close to my heart and part of my heritage as much as GSB Konkani food which is also a domineering part of my ethnic origin.

Mung Gaathi is often prepared on days when vegetarian diet is followed in Hindu homes which is on Monday and Thursday. My Maushi in Goa strictly follows the routine even to this day and by any chance if you reach home for lunch, you are sure to have a hearty thali served with one green vegetable, one bean/lentil/sprouts based dish, a small piece of stuffed Mango pickle (Bharlele Tor) and a shallow fried item. I had earlier posted a short-cut version here which I resort to when I don't have time. This recipe which I have posted today is a bit long drawn but made during festivals with cashew nuts. Typically, its paired with Puri/ Vade (made with Wheat flour and tad bit Rice flour). I have a small community of friends and family in Goa and everytime I visit them, they fondly remember my favorite dishes and make them for me without fail. Aren't they sweet? 

Today, years later when I tell my Aunts about my interpretation of their recipes, they gush and feel happy and nice. Gaathi as its called popularly in Goa has a thick, non-runny consistency and is often made with added Cashew Nuts/ Biyo or the tender version of these nuts available mostly during Yugadi/ Gudi Padva time in the market. They are also known as as Bibbo/ Bibbe/ Biyo

~ Mung Gaathi with Biyo ~
Prep Time - 8-12 hours of soak time
Cook Time - 30 minutes

Mung Beans/ Green Grams (sprouted) - 3-4 cups
Jaggery - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 2 pinches

For Gaathi Masala -
Coriander seeds - 1 tsp
Black Pepper corns (whole) - 4-6
Grated coconut (fresh or frozen) - 1/2 cup
Green Chillies - 2
Red Chilli (Byadgi variety) - 1

For Seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 4-5
Coconut Oil

Sprouting the beans - Soak the Mung Beans  in water overnight. Rinse the beans on day 2 and cover with a wet cheese cloth. On Day 3, tiny sprouts will spurt from the beans.

Par-cook the beans in hot water with turmeric powder, jaggery and salt. In a small frying pan, heat coconut oil and sear the green chillies. Make sure you slit the chillies else the seeds burst owing to high pressure built inside. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool. In the same pan, roast coriander seeds, red chilli and whole black pepper corns. No need to add extra oil. Roast for 2 minutes and allow to cool. Grind all of the above to a smooth and thick paste. Add this paste to the cooked sprouts and bring to boil. Simmer with lid on 5-10 minutes.

For seasoning, in a small frying pan, heat oil and season with mustard seeds once hot. Once they splutter, add curry leaves and turn off flame. Pour this seasoning on the curry and mix well. Serve hot with Puris/ Phulkas/ Vade.