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.