Thursday, December 29, 2011

Apple Pie

On a day when I had lot of time on hand, I set myself up for a herculean task - making a Pie from scratch. An Apple Pie is an American favorite and makes an appearance on special occasions everywhere in US. The crust of the Pie baked perfectly, the stuffing was delicious and it was certainly a dessert suited for the kings. I am incredibly proud of this giant stuffed-to-seams pastry! :)

I used Granny Smith Apples, the light green hued apples are apt for Pie cooking, have a good crunch and bite, and can withstand higher temperatures of baking without losing their shape and form. I played around with the stuffing and added powdered Oats for a crumbly texture. A slice of Pie and a scoop of Vanilla ice-cream is a delicious marriage. I put good 2-3 hours aside from my schedule when I was preparing the Pie. This Pie is a cool way to enjoy cooked fruits with pastry and is a relished labor of love!

~ Apple Pie ~
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 60 minutes + 10 minutes

Recipe adapted from Joy of Baking with few changes
Yield: 9" Pie


Basic Pie Crust -
All Purpose Flour - 2 and 1/2 cups
White Sugar (powdered) - 2 tablespoon
Butter (unsalted) - 1 cup, chilled and cut into tiny cubes
Salt - 1 tsp
Ice water - 1/4 to 1/2 cup

Apple Filling -
Apples (Granny Smith variety - Peeled, cored and sliced) - 4
Oats (Old fashioned Oats, coarsely ground) - 1/2 cup
White Sugar (powdered) - 1/4 cup
Light Brown Sugar (powdered) - 1/4 cup
Golden Rum - 2 tbsp
Cinnamon (ground) - 1 tsp
Nutmeg - 1/5 tsp
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Cornstarch - 1 tbsp
Lime juice - 1 tsp
Butter (unsalted) - 1 tbsp

Pastry Blender
Pie Dish - 9" wide

Pie Crust - In a mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt. With the help of pastry blender, cut the cold butter into tiny chunks and blend in the dough. Slowly, add ice water part by part and bring the dough together. Do not overwork the dough, just mix in to form a ball, wrap in a plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Apple Filling - Mix the apples, lime juice, cinnamon, nutmeg, rum and sugar and leave aside for 30-45 minutes. Strain the juice oozing out and boil it on low to medium flame with unsalted butter till it reduces to 1/3 of the original proportion. The resultant syrup will be sticky, caramelized and concentrated. Mix the drained apples with cornstarch. Add the cooked syrup and ground Oats now and give a gentle toss. Stuffing is now ready.

Baking the Apple Pie - Preheat the oven at 425 degrees F. Remove the dough from the fridge and divide into 2 equal portions. Roll out 1 portion to fit into a 9" pie dish. Add the stuffing into the pie dish and roll out the second portion and cover the Pie. Crimp the edges to seal the pastry, make four 2" slits from the center of the Pie (as shown in the picture) and refrigerate for about 5 minutes. Bake at 425 degrees F, cover the edges of the Pie with foil to prevent burning. Bake till the toothpick runs out smoothly from the slit after 55-60 minutes and the juices bubble away through the slits. Transfer to a cooling rack and leave undisturbed for 4-5 hours. Serve with a scoop of Vanilla ice-cream warm or cold. Finish within 3-4 days and refrigerate after day 1 of baking.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Oatmeal Jam Filled Cookies

I adore Jam filled Cookies. They are reminiscent of Jim-Jam Tea Biscuits Ma would get for us from a nearby city bakery. Since they were not easily available, we would eagerly await for Ma to travel for her social visits and engagements. The biscuits were oval shaped much like cream biscuit with two biscuits sandwiched together with a jam filled exposed center sprinkled with crystal sugar. These biscuits along with Vegetable Curry Puffs were my all time favorites as a tiny tot.

Christmas All!

The good things about this recipe is it makes use of Oats, Honey and Maple Syrup instead of Sugar, which was a great discovery in terms of flavor. They also double up as munch food and health food while at work, school or play. The cookie batter is easy to put and quick to bake. I really wish I could send these goodies to my family in India.

~ Oatmeal Jam Filled Cookies ~
Preparation time: 15 minutes

Baking time: 10-12 minutes

Yield: 24-30 Cookies

Oats (uncooked old fashioned whole grain) - 2 and 1/2 cup
Wheat Flour - 1 and 1/2 cup
Honey - 3/4 cup
Maple Syrup - 1/4 cup
Unsalted Butter - 3/4 cup
Egg - 1
Vanilla extract - 1 tsp
Cinnamon powder - 1 tsp
Ginger powder - 1/2 tsp
Baking Soda - 1/2 tsp
Walnut (toasted and chopped) - 1/4 cup
Almond (toasted and chopped) - 1/4 cup
Turkish Apricot (chopped) - 1/4 cup
Prune (chopped) - 1/4 cup
Strawberry Jam - 1/4 cup

Sheet Pan - 1
Ice-cream scoop (medium) - 1

1. Cookie Batter - Lightly toast the nuts and allow to cool. Combine the dry items - wheat flour, cinnamon powder, baking soda and ginger powder. Keep it aside. In a mixing bowl, whisk honey, butter and vanilla extract. Add egg, one by one, if making a bigger batch. Add the dry ingredients now, slowly and blend with whisker. Fold in the oats, nuts and dry fruits. The batter is now ready.
2. Baking - Line two sheet pans with aluminum foil and lightly grease them with butter stick. Pre-heat the oven to 350 F. Pour a tablespoon of cookie mixture, use an ice-cream scoop for accurate measurement. Lightly pat the mixture to flatten them. Take care to space the cookies as they expand further upon baking. Bake for 10-12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
While they are still warm, take a measuring spoon with round bottom and gently apply light pressure in the center of the cookie to create an indentation. Fill 1/4 tsp of Strawberry Jam. After 20 minutes, transfer to a cooling rack and leave aside for an hour till cool completely. Store in a cookie jar or an air tight food container.

Note - Do not disturb the cookies while they are warm.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Root Vegetable Soup

Cold, chilly winters are ahead. It gets dark by 4:30 evening and suddenly you feel like the day's finished early. The good thing is we wind up dinners early, most of the cooking is left to the oven and the sheet pans, bakeware have been put to good use. The kitchen is substantially warmer owing to the heat generated by the oven. I spend less time in the kitchen and get to catch up on a book soon due at the library or watch a favorite TV program of my choice.

I love a Soup and Bread dinner. The bread makes up for the carbohydrate intake and the soup provides simple nutrition without adding lot of calories. This soup is very mild and holds good for diverse palates. Few years ago, when I was working in Bangalore, my parents were out of town and I fell sick. It took me a week to recover from flu and cold. My dear friend, Deltu took care of me for couple of days and made this soup inspired by Root Vegetables available in the season. It had a light seasoning of ground cloves and cinnamon richly smothered and cooked in the vegetables mashed to perfection. This soup is a comfort blanket for cold, winter days. Its very easy to prepare and pairs well with grilled bread.

~ Root Vegetable Soup ~
Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Servings: 4-6

Potatoes (peeled and diced) - 2 cups
Carrots (peeled and diced) - 1 cup
Beetroot (peeled and diced) - 1 cup
Parsnip (peeled and diced) - 1/2 cup
Turnip (peeled and diced) - 1/2 cup
Red Onion (chopped) - 1/2 cup
Bay Leaf - 1
Black Pepper (coarsely ground) - 1/2 tsp
Olive oil

For Garnish - chopped Coriander leaves

Contraption - 1 Soup Croc

Rinse all the vegetables to get rid of grime and dirt. Peel off the skin and dice and pressure cook for 4-5 whistles. Allow to cool and mash in the cooked broth with a vegetable masher. In a deep bottomed pan, heat few spoons of olive oil, season with a bay leaf, saute chopped onion till they are lightly browned. Add the mashed vegetables now and adjust water, salt and pepper as per taste. Bring to a rolling boil and simmer on low flame with the lid on for 5-8 minutes. Once done, blend with an immersion blender until pasty and smooth textured. Serve hot in a Soup Croc with grilled bread slices on the side. Garnish with chopped Coriander leaves. A Ciabatta or Portuguese roll blends well with this rich soup.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Couscous with Mushroom & Green Squash

Truth be told, I dislike shopping however enjoy shopping for selective items - cooking supplies , pantry items and the works. My recent love has been shopping at Whole Foods. Whole Foods is a joint spread across US selling organic ingredients which are of highest quality and locally grown. Many years back, if anyone said they prefer organic foods to regular ones, I would guffaw and smirk for the obvious reasons. However after coming to US and tasting organic supplies, one can easily reason out and judge based on the taste and quality. Their spread of pantry items, grains, lentils, spices, herbs are of the finest quality and for a foodie - sheer joy to shop around!

Pearly white Couscous grains

Recently, a visit to the library warranted a hop-skip-jump visit to Whole Foods. I have visited their stores many a times before, but had to shop and whiz out like a breeze. This time around I had a lot of time on hand and could not contain my excitement when I found the precise grain, herb or the lentil I was looking for in the longest time. Best part is you can shop by weight for grains, dry fruits and lentils, select your items from the respective food bin, this also saves me from the trouble of buying large bags of grocery supplies when all I need is a pound or a quarter of a particular grain or lentil. Of the two kinds of Couscous they sold - French and Mediterranean, I chose the latter because my husband is fond of Pasta and Middle Eastern dishes specifically. I am not a big fan of pasta, although the tiny bits of Couscous were hard to pass. I cooked them with stock and Mushroom and Green Squash which has a delicate tender flavor and added an Indian twist of spices. The meal was filling and needless to say, I would be trying Couscous more often now.

Couscous is a wonder grain and has double the amount of vitamins and has a lower fat content in comparison to rice. The look and feel of the grain is like Sago (Sabudana). Since it is a delicate grain, over seasoning is not recommended. Light seasoning and fresh vegetables, the grain comes to life. I am not sure if these are available in India, however I think they should be available in specialty grocery stores in India.

~ Couscous with Mushroom & Green Squash ~
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Couscous (Mediterranean) - 1 cup
Green Squash (diced) - 1/2 cup
Button Mushrooms (sliced) - 1/2 cup
Onion (chopped) - 1/2 cup
Crushed Black Pepper - 1/2 tsp
Vegetable or Chicken stock - 1 can approx. 2 cups (1: 2 - double the quantity of grain)
Olive Oil

Rinse the grains multiple times in water till clear. In a deep bottomed pan, heat a few spoons of Olive oil, saute onions till they turn translucent. Add the chopped vegetables and season with salt and crushed pepper. Separately, bring the stock to a rolling boil. Once the vegetables are par cooked, add the grains and saute to coat the vegetables and seasoning on the grain evenly. Add the boiling stock now and cover with a lid & lower the flame. The stock should be the double the amount of grain. Once cooked through open the lid and gently fork the grain. If not cooked through, add more stock and keep stirring till they are cooked and the texture is pillow soft. Serve as a main course with a side of meat or vegetable dish.

Note - Do not cook the grain with water, the flavor of couscous is enhanced with the stock one adds. Do not wash the grains a lot as the starch buildup facilitates the cooking process. Too much washing eliminates the starch thereby hindering the cooking process.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Malabar Spinach Curry with Coconut & Papaya (Vaali Papayi Ambat)

If there is one curry I can eat for breakfast, dinner and lunch, its got to be Vaali Ambat. Incidentally, my husband also loves this Ambat. Vaali is the Konkani term for Malabar Spinach also known as Basale Soppu (Kannada), Pui Shaak (Bengali). Adding unripe Papaya adds a different dimension to the dish taking the flavour a notch higher.

Vaali Papayi Ambat

Growing up, Ma made cooked Vaali with Raw Papaya also known as Papashphala in Konkani. Interestingly, we make use of the leaves (paan) and the tender stems (dentu). Ambat is a Konkani curry which typically is made with Gourds, Vegetables and Lentils and has a seasoning of fried onions which offers a unique taste to the dish. The days when she made this curry without Raw Papaya, I refused to eat it. So every time when my parents went for shopping, they made sure there was Spinach with Papaya. So much just to make a little girl happy! I also realise today as a woman that only your parents would understand your quirks and pamper you and make every wish of yours their command. Even last time when I visited India, Ma made these and Dad made sure he found the finest Papaya in the market.

An unripe Papaya on the tree

The trick for this recipe is to bung all of it on in a large pressure cooker and let the cooker to do the job for you. Place all the vegetables and lentils in the order of boiling point which means the one which takes longer to cook goes in first. So throw the lentils, Vaali (Dentu), Papaya (peeled and chopped), Vaali (leaves chopped) and last but not the least onions (chopped). I like this curry a lot and enjoy a bowl of this curry with great elan!

~ Vaali Papayi Ambat ~
Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Malabar Spinach (Vaali) [Leaves and stem] - 6 cups
Raw Unripe Papaya (peeled and chopped) - 2 cups
Toor Dal (washed, rinsed and soaked) - 1/2 cup
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp

For Masala -
Grated coconut (fresh or frozen) - 1 cup
Red Chillies (Byadgi) - 5-7
Tamarind (pulp) - 1/ tsp

For Seasoning -
Onion (chopped) - 1/2 cup + 1/2 cup

Peel and dice Papaya into bite sized cubes. Wash, clean the leaves and stem of Spinach. Drain off the water and chop the leaves and tender stems. Roast red chillies with a teaspoon of oil on low flame for couple of minutes. Once cool, grind to a fine paste with grated coconut and tamarind pulp. In a pressure cooker, add the washed lentils, Spinach stem, Papaya, Spinach leaves and Onions (1/2 cup). Cook upto 4 whistles and allow to cool. Bring the boiled lentils and vegetables to a boil, add the ground masala and adjust water, salt as per taste. Add Turmeric powder and once the curry is cooked, turn off flame. In a separate pan, heat a few spoons of oil, fry the chopped onions till they turn reddish brown. Pour this seasoning on the curry and mix well. Cover with a lid and serve warm with cooked white rice.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Coriander Leaves Saar (Kothmiri Saaru)

Saar/Saaru, a soupy vegetable broth supplemented with spices and condiments is my all time favorite. I think its genes, because my Ma also loves the combination. She makes this Saaru often when we wish for lighter, simple satisfying meals. I had a huge stash of Coriander leaves which needed attention, so simply made Kothmiri Saaru for a hearty meal. Kothmiri is Coriander leaves, I use Coriander leaves and stems for making this delicious broth, you could omit the coconut if you wish to, however the Saaru broth becomes rich upon adding coconut. One could also use coconut milk instead of using grated coconut.

~ Kothmiri Saaru ~
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes

Coriander leaves and stem - 3/4 cup
Grated coconut (fresh or frozen) - 1/2 cup
Green Chillies - 2

For Seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Red Chilli (split into two) [optional] - 1

Grind grated coconut, coriander leaves and stems and green chillies to a smooth paste. Sear the green chilli in little oil before grinding if you want less spicy flavor. Bring this to a boil, add 1/2 cup of hot water and adjust the consistency desired. Add salt and bring to a rolling boil. Simmer on low flame till the broth gets completely cooked and turn off the flame. In a separate frying pan, heat few spoon of oil, season with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Pour this seasoning on the cooked broth and cover with a lid. Mix while serving with cooked white rice and vegetable side dish of choice.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Indian Ber & Lemon Pickle (Tarne Bor Limbe Nonche)

The combination of Ber and Lemon is unorthodox but I combined both to mesh the textures of two different kind of fruits which hold well for any kind of pickling process. Ber (tender) has a Granny Smith Apple texture minus the sweetness and Lemon has a citrus aroma with a crunch hard to miss. The Lemon peel pickled well in the liquor. I used a process called Maceration where the fruit is soaked in liquor of choice for few days before finishing the dish. The tissue of the fruit gets broken down by the acidic agent and hence well absorbs the flavour. The flavour was similar to my Ma's Bilimbi Pickle.

Ber enabled me to reminisce childhood memories once again. My high school was perched at the foot of a tall, steep hill which had Hanuman temple atop. The school compound stretch was dotted with Ber (Bor) trees which were laden with beautiful round leaves and tons of thorns. During the season, which began during winter, the ripe fruits would ooze sweet scent and all kids would throng to pluck those within reach. We also had fruit vendors who would sell Ber in a paper cone. They were marble ball sized, juicy to the core, sweet and tangy. Ma often dissuaded us from eating the Ber that grew in our school campus and began buying them from local market since we liked it lot. The ripe ones need close examination as they are often infested with worms. I once encountered one with worms and that was the end of my Ber eating saga. As I grew up, I spotted larger version of Ber which were from hybrid versions but not as tasty as the ones I had when I was a kid.

The shelf like of this pickle is 2 weeks maximum, so making a small batch seems best.

~ Ber Lemon Pickle ~
Preparation time: 5 days (including the maceration time)

Processing time: 20 minutes

Indian Ber [tender] (chopped into tiny cubes) - 5
Lemon Peel (chopped into tiny cubes) - 2

For Maceration -
Lemon juice - juice of 2 Lemon's
Red Chilli powder (hot variety) - 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - Just a pinch

For Seasoning -
Vegetable oil - 2 tbsp approx.
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp

Wash and air dry the vegetables to dry off any moisture. Extract the juice of Lemon's and chop the peel and Ber into tiny cubes discarding the core (seed). Macerate with lime juice, red chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt. Store in a cool dry place and stir once every day for a week. End of the week, heat oil in a deep frying pan and once the oil is hot enough, season with mustard seeds. Once the seeds begin to pop, turn off the flame and allow to cool completely. Pour the seasoning on the macerated fruits and mix well.

Note - Do not pour the seasoning immediately on the macerated fruits as they could begin cooking owing to the heat of the oil. Store in refrigerator if dwelling in hot terrains.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Jujube (Indian Ber/ Indian Plum)

I am back after a brief hiatus. A long ghastly spell of flu and throat infection kept me away from the blog. The weather went crazy with October snow and sudden drop in temperature. I am still on the road to recovery albeit much better now. We had a quiet sombre Diwali celebration owing to the death of a close relative. I made couple of sweets for Diwali which I will post soon.

Recently, I found Tender Indian Ber (Tarne Bor) at Indian store. At first I was led to believe that they were Hog Plums (Ambado) but then on close examination, they were the tender version of Indian Ber (Bor). They are known and available as Ber in India; the popular names are Jujube/ Ber/ Indian Plum.

Jujube/ Indian Plum/ Ber
is a fruit which hits the market during winter time or early summer depending on the crop and yield. The ripe fruit and unripe fruit are both relished by kids and adults alike. The unripe fruit is pickled in salt water or sold as candies in the market in some regions in India. The ripe fruit is also preserved and used as a acidic/ souring agent for culinary use, but mostly relished and eaten on its own in India.

The medicinal value of the fruit is unprecedented and not known by many. The ripe fruit is of great medicinal value and supports blood pressure lowering, aids stomach and diarrhoea infection, cures sore throat and regulates excess bile secretion. The unripe fruit on the other hand causes throat pain and sore throat if eaten in excess. The fruit is applied on cuts and wounds and the leaves are also loaded with medicinal properties and deemed edible in some cultures and geographies.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Tomato Saar with Ginger (Alle Tomato Saaru)

In my household, using Ginger/ Alle as an herb for Saaru is unheard of. Saaru is a soupy broth of herbs and condiments, couples well with rice and constitutes as a light and soothing lunch and dinner. Having said that, one cannot undermine the importance of Ginger and its curative properties in Indian food. This recipe is from my Ma's collection, sourced from Kannada magazine - Taranga. Interestingly, this one is a favorite among our household. The flavour of this Saaru has a very soothing effect, hence holds good for kids as well as elderly and senior citizens in the family. I added a stash of red lentils which needed to be used and it added a good texture to the Saaru.

My Ammama - maternal granny, is an octogenarian, a true matriarch of our family, hale-o-hearty woman, however cannot eat boiled or cooked rice and needs a good mash of food before she can eat. She is on dentures, hates to wear them, rebukes them as artificial aid and like a true Konkani, loves her dose of Dalithoi, Upkari and Patrode. Funnily, she enjoys spicy and savoury food and dislikes bland food. If she dislikes what is made for lunch or dinner, she will grab a bite and stop right there. She will pompously declare that the food is no good. She jokes around by saying - Don't give me patient food when I am ok. We all oblige with laughter! Ma makes Alle Tomato Saaru for her on many occasions and she enjoys her lunch with a satiated calmness which only my Ma and Pachi's can read and comprehend. She eats a little bit and then declares with a grin that this food makes her soul happy. I like this recipe for the tenderness and nostalgic memories built around it.

~ Alle Tomato Saaru ~
Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 1o-15 minutes

Source: Original recipe from Kannada magazine - Taranga

Tomato (ripe, chopped and pureed) - 2 cups
Red Lentils (washed and drained) [optional] - 1/2 cup
Ginger (grated) - 1 tbsp
Garlic (grated) - 1 tbsp
Onion (finely chopped) - 3 tbsp
Coriander powder - 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder - 1/3 tsp
Green Chilli (split lengthwise) - 1

For Seasoning -
Red Chillies (split into two) - 1
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 3-4

Rinse the tomatoes and puree them in a blender. Bring this to a boil along with grated ginger and garlic. Adjust salt, add green chilli and chopped onions when semi-cooked. Add 1/2 cup of hot water if desired. Add washed red lentils at this stage. After it comes to a rolling boil, simmer with the lid on for 5-8 minutes. Once done and lentils are cooked, add coriander powder and give a good stir and turn off the flame. In a separate frying pan, heat few spoons of oil/ghee, season with mustard seeds and once they begin to pop add curry leaves and red chillies. Pour this seasoning on the Saaru and cover with a lid. Serve hot with cooked white or parboiled rice.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Snake Gourd Side Dish (Poddaley Upkari/ Padwal chi Bhaaji)

Fall is one of my favorite season primarily because we find the freshest of Gourds in various sizes and shapes, brightest greens and the crisp air makes me reach out to the warm food and slurpy hot soups cooking on the stove. A good bowl of Poddaley Upkari, is comforting and nurturing. As guilty as charged, this was one dish I despised as a kid and today I crave for this super delicious Upkari. The Snake Gourd is known as Poddaley in Konkani, Padwalkaayi in Kannada and Padwal in Marathi/ Kokani.

I know many who still detest this motley vegetable. :) In my home, my Mom had certain rules which we had to obey, one of them being following table manners and guest visit manners. It meant that while we had guests at home and while we visited our friends and family for breakfast/ lunches/ dinners we graciously respect what is served on our plate and never fuss around and most importantly behave in theory and practice. If we disliked something, we were told to take a tiny portion and not offend our guests. If we crossed our boundaries, when we reached home, we got to hear the music for days together!

Since I hated eating this vegetable, she always told me to take one tablespoon of any dish in my plate which I never liked; but I stealthily obeyed and obliged out of love, even if I hated it at that point. Later as I grew up, I began craving for the same vegetable in question. Strange how taste buds evolve and your palate changes over a period of time! Many a times, I used to force Mom to buy the Gourd so that she would use the seeds to make Poddaley Biye Sanna Pole, which taste yummy! The golden rule of one tablespoon lingers in my mind even to this date and I follow it even for the dishes that I dislike.

~ Poddaley Upkari ~
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Snake Gourd/ Padwal/ Poddaley (chopped) - 1 and 1/2 cup

For Seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 3-5
Green Chillies (slit lengthwise) - 1

For Garnish - grated coconut (fresh or frozen) [optional] - 2 tbsp

Rinse the Gourd and scrape off the outer dark skin with a knife. Once done, extract the seeds and keep aside. Chop the remaining gourd into tiny pieces and keep aside. Heat a deep dish pan with a few spoons of oil, season with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Add green chillies and give a good stir. Lower the flame and add the chopped vegetables. Add 1/2 cup of hot water, adjust salt as per taste and cover with lid on. Bring to a rolling boil and simmer on low flame for 8-10 minutes. Once water evaporates and the vegetable is completely cooked, turn off the flame and garnish with grated coconut. Serve warm as a side dish.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Cannellini Beans Usal ~ Goan style

Usal and Pao is a staple adored in many homes in Konkan region especially Goa and Mumbai. Pair the fiery rich curry with Roti or the humble Pao sourced from the local Poder, either ways its a match in heaven. I like the buttery texture of Cannellini Beans available in US grocery aisle. The taste of these beans comes pretty close to Tingalore or Northern Beans. The curry flavour comes close to a typical Goan dish made out of beans called as Feijoada, a dish which finds its roots in Portugal and some parts of Brazil. It is a staple and commoner amongst Goan meals. To me, this is a short cut version to eat vegetarian Feijoada version, especially when one does not have the time to grind the masala from scratch. The original dish of Feijoada, is made with Pork and Beans cooked together in a coconut masala gravy. Its relished and paired with Pao and is opined to be the national dish of Brazil.

Cannellini Beans worked well as they do not fall apart easily and hold their shape well when cooked, plus are a rich source of protein.
They are very popular part of Tuscany and Italian cuisine and also blend well for stews made with beans and meat.

~ Cannellini Beans Usal ~

Preparation time: 12 hours (soaking time)
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Cooked Beans (water drained) - 1 and 1/2 cup

Grated Coconut (fresh or frozen) - 1/2 cup
Garlic - 2 pods

Green Chillies - 1

Grind all of this to a smooth paste with little water

Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Garam Masala powder - 1 tsp
Jaggery/ Brown Sugar - 1/2 tsp

Garnish - Coriander leaves (chopped)

Soak the beans overnight and pressure cook next day upto 4 whistles and cool. Grind the coconut, garlic, green chillies to a smooth paste. Bring the ground masala to a boil with the cooked beans. Add Jaggery, Turmeric powder and Garam Masala powder. Adjust salt as per taste. You could add 1/2 cup of hot water if gravy is desired or choose to have it semi-dry. Cook with lid on after bringing to a rolling boil, simmer on low flame for 5-8 minutes. Turn off once done and garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Pairs well with Roti/ Phulka/ Pao.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Radish Fritters (Mulya chi Kaap/ Mulyaa Phodi)

A simple fritter made out of Radish/ Mooli which tastes amazing and goes well with cooked white/brown rice. This is very popular in Goa, India and is made during the days when one follows a vegetarian diet i.e Monday and Thursday. I was anti Radish growing up and these tender, succulent fritters converted me to be a Radish lover. Radish is also high in Folic acid, Ascorbic acid and Potassium content. Here in US, they are available as Daikon Radish and are relatively larger, firm and robust in size.

~ Mulya chi Kaap ~
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

Radish (peeled and cut into 1/4" discs) - 3-8
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Rice Rava - 3 tbsp

Peel the skin off Radish and cut them into 1/4" discs, rinse well in multiple changes of water and pat dry with paper towel. Allow little moisture to be present on the vegetable. Apply salt, red chilli and turmeric powder. Leave aside for 30 minutes. Heat a frying pan and dredge the radish discs one by one in rice rava. Once the pan is hot enough, shallow fry all of them. Drizzle oil on sides of the vegetable; flip them over and fry on both the sides till they get a nice golden brown crust. Alternately, one could sprinkle a handful of water and cook with a lid on and flip them till both sides are done (to avoid oil). Serve hot with cooked white rice and Shengya cho Ros.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Harekala Chillies (Dabbi Mirchi/ Dabbi Mirsaang/ Guddi Mirsang)

Harekala Chillies/ Guddi Mirsaang/ Dabbi Mirchi are a popular variety of Chillies available in Southern region of India. It gets its name from the popular village Harekala located in Dakshin Kannada, Karnataka. These chillies are very seeded, non-crinkly, also have a smooth texture and are very spicy as compared to the other popular variety of Chilli, also known as Byadgi Chillies. This variety of Chilli finds lot of importance and use in GSB Konkani cuisine.

Typically, once the harvest season is complete, sacks of these chillies are out for sale and available in local groceries and market places. In Konkani cuisine, they are specially used for getting the most sought after red colour and also to take the heat levels a few notches up. In many households, for any curry and masala, a 1:1 ratio of these chillies and Byadgi chillies are added to balance the flavour, heat and the rich red colour. Apart from regular green chillies, these two varieties of red chillies are always found in any GSB Konkani household.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Seasoned Patrode (Patrode Upkari/ Alu Vadi Bhaaji)

A quick and easy way to use the crumps left over from Patrode or pretty much use Patrode in a creative way for the next day. This one is very popular in my home, everyone loves the flavour of Patrode crumps seasoned with Garlic and Red Chillies. This dish goes well with Paej.

Patrode tastes better the next day around. In my home, we use them in many ways - plain Patrode pan roasted on frying pan, Patrode dredged in Rava, Patrode steeped and soaked in Ghashi (red chillies and coconut broth with Methi seeds) and finally Patrode seasoned with Garlic and Red Chillies. Many of my cousins who do not have access to perennial Taro leaves, freeze the rolls and use them as per choice to dish out savoury Patrode dishes whenever the heart desires. Since its quick and easy, its siesta time for the cook the next day around after the hard labor. :)

~ Patrode Upkari ~
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

Patrode (steamed and cooked, whole) - 6

For Seasoning -
Garlic (crushed) - 3 jumbo pods
Red Chillies (Byadgi) - 3

For Garnish -
Grated Coconut (fresh or frozen) - 3 tbsp

Thaw the Patrode at room temperature for atleast 30 minutes. Crumple them to form pieces. You could use a fork or mash them with hands. Once done, set aside. In a cast iron pan, heat few spoons of oil and once the pan is hot enough, roast crushed Garlic lightly. Add Red Chillies split into two. Add the Patrode pieces now and turn over the flame to high. Keep stirring constantly for next 2-3 minutes till the pieces get a roasted texture. Reduce the flame to a low-to-medium now. Add oil if the mixture goes dry. Once done, turn off flame. Garnish with Grated Coconut just before serving. Goes well with Paej or as a side dish.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Patrode Rava Fry (Steamed Taro Leaf Dredged in Rava)

Recently, I got a huge bargain loot of Taro Leaves (Patrode Paan) from my local Indian grocery. Its a chance opportunity which I grabbed with open arms and weird enough, they were fresh, not bruised and available in plenty. I rejoice Patrode made at home and so does my husband. The only problem is here in US, we don't get them as often as we do in India and I miss them a lot. :(

In India, my parents get a perennial supply of these leaves from a kind friend, neighbour or a close relative. This is a dish which fills me with nostalgia purely because its labor intensive and reminds me of the hours Mom slogged in the kitchen to make these for us. Any Konkani Foodie, either loves Patrode too much or would blatantly hate it because of the itchy sensation it causes in throat upon consumption.

I always tease Mom that if there is a competition to make these steamy goodies, she will win the first prize. The Patrode made by my Mom are divine and hit the taste buds with precision and accuracy which is hard to express. Everyone loves Patrode made by Mom and waste no opportunity when she invites folks for lunches and dinners. I made the conventional steamed Patrode from one roll and froze the rest in my freezer to make Patrode Rava Fry and Patrode Phanna Upkari. Cover the rest of the rolls with tight cling wraps layer by layer and plonk them in freezer bags and enjoy them at leisure.

~ Patrode Rava Fry ~
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes maximum

Taro Leaves/ Patrodey Paan/ Tere Paan/ Marvala Paan - 8-15
Red Chillies (Byadgi preferred) - 5-8
Rice (Sona Masoori) - 1/4 cup
Grated Coconut - 1 cup
Asafoetida - 1 tiny ball - use the edible gum and not the powdery one
Tamarind/ Bilimbi (any souring agent) - 1/2 tsp
Salt - As per taste
Water - For batter consistency
Rava/ Sooji (Fine) - 1/2 cup
Oil - For pan frying

Contraptions used ~ Idli Steamer/ Pedaavan or Patrodo/ Sanna Steamer

Follow the procedure provided in Patrode recipe and once steamed and cooked, allow to cool. This takes around 15-20 minutes. Dredge them in Rava one by one. ensure the top and bottom surface of Patrode are evenly coated with Rava. Pan fry on both sides for 5-8 minutes. Drizzle oil on the sides. Once done, they are crisp and get a beautiful roasted brown color on both the sides. Enjoy hot with Dalitoy and cooked Rice.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Mando (Mande/ Chavde/ Mandige)

As a child in India, our second semester exams followed Ganesh Chaturthi vacations. We got school holidays for a week to celebrate the festival. I hated this, simply because this was the only time of the year I could play with my community friends and burst an array of unlimited crackers. We badly wanted to help Mom in the kitchen (trick to dig in some sweets) and she in turned pushed us back to our books. Unlike other households where a girl child had extra pressure to learn culinary skills in kitchen, my Mom would always pester us to study and get good grades and excel in exams and co-curricular studies.

Mom dedicated 3-4 days before Ganesh Chaturthi festivities exclusively for sweets and snacks preparation. The good thing is all ladies from neighbourhood helped out each other and together we all would have finished a hundred's of Chakli, kilo's of Chivda, hundred's of Karanaji/ Nevri, 2-3 large platters of Besan Laddo's and more. Some of the sweets were prepared at home just because they needed a deft hand and craft which requires good practice. One such sweet which is dear to my heart is Chavde/ Mande/ Mandige. By the time, she would finish making the sweets, some of them would have already disappeared from the platter. Incidentally, this was one of the sweets served during my wedding along with Gava Pitta Undo/ Wheat Flour Laddo. This seeking inspiration from the traditional marriages from olden days where every person attending the wedding would leave with a bag of sweets - Undo/ Mando and the rest of the heavenly and tasty ghee laden sweets.

Incidentally, they are known as Chavde in Marathi, Mando/Mande in GSB Konkani and Mandige in Kannada. The crispy disc needs a a very deft hand while cooking because if the disc gets over fried, you will get a crispy disc which cannot be maneuvered, if you fry less then the disc is not pliable at all. Timing is crucial and once done, I dare you to eat just one! They are uber delicious and super tasty. This time around when I visited India, my Pachi got me a pack of Mando which she made at home. I liked that they were tiny as compared to the conventional size of regular Mando and were super delicious. This festive season I wanted to make these at home and recreate the childhood memories of super fun festive season.

Happy Ganesh Chaturthi to all those who celebrate!

~ Ghaas Mando ~
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Yield: 15 Sweets

Flour Disc - Mando -
All Purpose Flour - 1/2 cup
Milk (optional) - 1/2 cup approx.
Ghee or any vegetable shortening - 2-3 tbsp
Vegetable oil - for frying

Sugar Mixture -
Powdered sugar - 3/4 cup
Flattened Rice or Pohe (Thick Pohe) - 5 tbsp
Cardamom powder - 1 tsp

First knead a smooth pliable dough with flour, ghee and salt. You could also use milk for kneading the dough which results in a well flavoured texture. Spread the dough with little oil all over and set aside. Cover with a damp kitchen cloth to prevent drying of dough.
Roast 5 tbsp of Pohe on a low flame on its own, just lightly roast and allow to cool. Grind it to a coarse powder along with Sugar and Cardamom seeds. Mix the sugar mixture well and set aside.
Heat oil in a deep frying pan and let the oil reach a high smoking point. Begin rolling out Puri sized discs of the kneaded flour. Do not dredge them in flour as they are already coated with oil. The discs have to be 3-4" in diameter. Fry them in batches of 5-6 at a time. Keep in mind, the discs should not be crisp like a Papad, so once its pliable enough, transfer to a plate, dab kitchen towel to absorb extra oil. Sprinkle sugar mixture and fold over 2 times (the same way you would fold over Neer Dosa). Spread them on a platter and not over top of each other. The heat causes sugar to turn viscous owing to which they may stick to each other which is something you should avoid. Allow to cool, they turn crispy and gain firmness. Munch over before they disappear!

Verdict: I was apprehensive initially when I decided to make these for 'neivedyam'. With little confidence I followed my Mom's instructions and kept in mind the texture which was etched in my mind when I had eaten these last. The discs were melt-in-mouth delicious and were so tiny that we almost forgot how much we ate! :)

Note - Do not fry the discs to a golden brown; once they wilt in oil and are puffed up, transfer and begin the sugaring process. Make sure you sugar atleast 3 times to ensure all the layers and folds of the discs get the sugar-cardamom flavour. Do not compromise on adding the shortening, because that's what offers holds the dough together and adds crispness and texture to the sweet.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Soyi Saakhar Prasad

Today is Krishna Janmashtami, the holy day when Lord Krishna was born. Growing up, Janmashtami or Ashtami as popularly known in GSB Konkani was a revered festival and still is. I loved to rush home from office and enjoy Mom's festive banquet. Her standard dishes were Gajbaje, 5 types of Phodyo, Gava Pitta Undo/ Lhaaye Godda Undo, Dalithoi, Sheet, Chakkuli, Kodbale and Doodh-Paak.

I love the flavour of Soyi Saakhar Prasad. Soyi implies grated coconut and Saakhar implies Sugar. Prasad is festive food which is blessed by Lord and then offered to everyone in household. I learnt this from our Konkani friend who was a hale and hearty septuagenarian. I love the flavour of this prasad item and serves apt for smaller to larger portions.

~ Soyi Saakhar Prasad ~
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Processing time: 10 minutes

Grated Coconut (fresh or frozen) - 1 cup
Crushed Cashew nuts - 1/4 cup
Crushed Almonds - 1/4 cup
Sugar (powdered) or Honey
Cardamom powder - 1/2 tsp

Crush the cashew nuts and almonds separately. Do not powder, but crush in a pestle and mortar to a coarse powder. Mix all the ingredients together. For best results, mix and serve just few minutes before eating.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Horsegram Soup (Kulitha Saaru/ Hurali Saaru)

This year we witnessed an uncommon heat wave. With temperatures soaring high my tiny matchbox kitchen feels like a furnace, my motivation to cook elaborate dishes has changed to quick cook recipes. I prefer recipes which takes less than 15 or 30 minutes to cook. More often than not, Saaru and Upkari seems to be the order of the day - simple, healthy and nutritious.

Horsegram is one of the most widely used pulse in Konkani cuisine. It is also known as Kulith in GSB Konkani and Hurali in Kannada. I get my stash from India; the only problem with the quality of pulse we get is more often than not they have lot of stones and grime. Hence the entire stash needs a round or two of thorough cleaning before use. Another quirky nature of this legume is that its loaded with heat giving property (garmi). Ammama served this with a dollop of home made butter and I prefer it that way. Use your choice as per your dietary practice. Many many decades ago, we had a tiny stable with cows who were my Ajja's and Ammama's beloved ones, their names were Ganga and Yamuna. She soaked couple of padee's of horsegram and boiled them in a gigantic copper pot the next day; the stock was preserved for making Saaru for the entire family and the cows happily munched on the boiled legume.

Horsegram is a storehouse of Iron. It is primarily a cattle feed, it is believed to improve the dexterity of their calve muscles and improve their bone strength. In many Konkani homes I know, this Saaru is regularly fed to growing kids for strong calf muscle strength and dexterity. The horsegram is of dubious nature when it comes to cook time, sometimes the legumes cook in a blink and sometimes they take hours together, all this is relative to the yield of crop, gene pool of seeds and the harvest season as well. Some of the other dishes made using Horsegram are Kulith Idli (Sannan), Kulitha Chutney, Kulith Koddel, Kulith Upkari.

~ Kulitha Saaru ~
Preparation time: Soak time of 8-10 hours

Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Horsegram (Kulith) stock - 3 cups
Cooked Horsegram - 3 tbsp
Green Chillies (slit lengthwise) - 2

For seasoning -
Red Chilli (Byadgi) - 1
Garlic jumbo pods (crushed) - 4-6

Soak the horsegram in ten times the volume of water after thoroughly cleaning them and rinsing them in three changes of water. They will proliferate in size the next day around. Pressure cook them for 4-6 whistles with little salt and a tsp of oil. Once cool, strain off the stock (cooked liquor) and set aside 3 tbsp of cooked horsegram. Set aside the rest of the cooked horsegram.
Bring the cookes stock to a rolling boil, season with salt, green chillies. Blend the cooked horsegram to a puree with little water. Add this paste to the boiling stock. Bring to boil and simmer on low flame for 5-8 minutes, cook till the rawness goes off and the stock is a smooth blend. In a separate frying pan, heat few spoons of oil and season with red chilli split into two and crushed garlic. Saute till the garlic turns light brown. Pour this seasoning on the cooked stock and cover with a lid. Mix while serving and if desired, serve with a dollop of butter (home made). Pair with white rice.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Temple Saar (Devasthan Saaru)

Devasthan is temple in GSB Konkani. Saar or Saaru is a soupy version of spices, herbs and vegetables cooked in vegetable stock/plain water. While I was growing up, this was the version of Saaru available during festivities and celebrations with mass lunches and dinners served in temples, thus was coined the name - Devasthan Saaru. There are many different variations which are practiced. The taste of this Saaru is superb and very spicy. Certainly not for the faint hearted and meant for those who enjoy a spicier version of Saaru. Some versions add the seasoning some don't, either ways the broth tastes awesome with cooked white rice.

~ Temple Saaru ~
Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Coriander leaves (chopped) - 1/4 cup
Turmeric powder - 1/3 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1/3 tsp
Warm filtered water

Saaru masala -
Coriander seeds - 1 and 1/2 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 and 1/2 tsp
Red Chillies (Byadgi) - 4-5
Grated Coconut (fresh or frozen) - 3 tbsp
Asafoetida (edible gum) - one small lump
Curry leaves - 5-6

For seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 3-4

In a frying pan, heat few spoons of oil and roast coriander seeds, cumin seeds, red chillies, curry leaves and asafoetida. Allow to cool. Set aside. Grind to a smooth paste with grated coconut and warm water to form a paste. Bring the ground paste to a bubbly boil, add turmeric powder, red chilli powder and salt as per taste. Once cooked, cover with a lid. In the same pan used previously, heat few spoons of oil and season with curry leaves and mustard seeds. Pour this seasoning on the cooked broth. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Mix before serving and serve with cooked white rice.

Note: Use whole spices for good taste and flavour. Do not use powdered asafoetida, use the edible gum which is lumpy and strong flavoured. Add seasoning or omit seasoning as per choice. Cooked Toor Dal and Tomato can also be added to bring about volume and lessen the spice level.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Lemon Rasam (Lemon Saaru/ Nimbe Saaru)

I love Lemon Saar or Nimbe Saaru (Nimbe's Lemon in Konkani/ Kannada) along with white rice. Mom has been making this Saaru for many years now and we all appreciate the tart and tangy flavour of Lemon juice in the Saaru. Fresh green chillies are pan seared with little oil and then ground to a smooth paste with coconut and spices. I like this simple Saaru for light lunches and dinners during scorching hot summer days.

~ Lemon Saaru ~
Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 15 minutes

Lemon juice - 5 tbsp
Coconut grated (fresh or frozen) - 5 tbsp
Green chillies (fresh) - 2
Coriander leaves - 5-6 strands
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp

For seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 3-5

In a deep pan, heat few spoons of oil and sear the chillies. Be careful to protect your face from spurting chillies which could potentially have the seeds flying in all directions. Allow the chillies to cool. Grind grated coconut, turmeric powder, fried chillies and salt together with little water. During the last spin of blender, add the coriander leaves and blend to smooth paste. Bring this paste to bubbly boil, add lemon juice and adjust salt, once done & cooked, turn off the flame and set aside. In the same pan used previously, heat the remaining oil and temper with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Pour the seasoning mixture on the boiled broth. Mix well and serve hot with rice.

Note: The searing of chillies should be carefully done since they have a tendency to burst open and fly everywhere around. Immerse the chillies completely in oil and use the same flavoured oil for seasoning later. If you are allergic to the heat of chillies, wear kitchen gloves to protect your hands.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani (Pakki Dum Biryani)

My husband and I love Biryani. Recently, we visited our cousin for the long weekend. Our cousin's wife has been an inspiration to me in more than one ways, one of the reason being she cooks amazing food which is tasty, healthy and marries the best of eastern and western world. She is a working woman, hands-on mom, plus she dishes out the tastiest meals and is a bundle of energy. She'd made Hyderabadi Chicken Biryani for our evening supper. I loved the flavour and she gladly shared the recipe. I've made few changes to suit our palate, but the end result was the best and very easy to cook as well. Of all the Chicken Biryani version's I've made this one is the easiest and the best tasting. This recipe is a common go-to recipe for Biryani now. The cooking style suits anyone who is learning to cook Chicken and Biryani together. Since the meat gets cooked earlier, this is known as Pakki Dum Ki Biryani. Original Biryani version's par-cook and cook them for longer periods. I've changed that to reduce the Dum cooking time. The best is chicken in marinade gets all squished up in a large giant zip lock bag. Less cleaning, lesser sanitizing chores and even lesser post-cooking mess!

The secret ingredient here is meat tenderizer powder which has a profound impact on the texture and softness of the meat. I also added oil to the chicken marinade. This keeps the meat moist and prevents dryness, both result in soft and juicy meat upon cooking. This also takes away my apprehension while cooking meat, primarily because at times its difficult to know if the meat is done or not especially while cooking biryani's in large quantities. This powder is available in India in select grocery stores, if not, one could also use raw papaya paste which can be made in advance, stored in refrigerator and used as per convenience.

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 35-45 minutes
Serves: 6-8

Onions (sliced) - 3 cups
Tomato (chopped) [optional] - 1 cup
Bay leaf - 1
Cinnamon - 2 of 2" stick
Nutmeg - 1/2 teaspoon
Saffron water (a pinch of saffron in 3 tbsp of water or milk)
Biryani Masala - 1 tablespoon of masala for 1 cup of rice: 1 and 1/2 tablespoon used here

Chicken in marinade -
Chicken (thighs chopped into chunks) - 1.5 pound
Coriander leaves (finely chopped) - 1 cup
Mint leaves (finely chopped) - 1/2 cup
Turmeric powder - 1 teaspoon
Red Chilli powder - 1 tablespoon
Coriander powder - 1 teaspoon
Cumin powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Mace (Javitri) [crushed] - 1 teaspoon
Whole black pepper corns - 10
Meat tenderizer (I use Shan brand) - 1 tablespoon for a pound of meat
Garam Masala - 1 tablespoon for 1 pound of Chicken
Yogurt - 2 cups for a pound of meat

Cooking Rice -
Rice - 1 and 1/2 cups
Star Anise - 1
Bay leaf - 1
Cloves - 4
Cinnamon - 2 of 2" sticks

Marinating Chicken - Clean the chicken and trim off the fat and skin. Cut into bite sized chunks. Add all the ingredients of the marinade and set aside in refrigerator for overnight/ 2 hours or at least 30 minutes minimum. I use a zip lock bag for this purpose.
Cooking Rice - Cook rice with oil, salt and the whole spices (1 rice:1 and 1/2 water proportion). Half cook the rice and once done, fork the rice gently, if possible spread on a plate and allow to cool. Set aside.
Cooking Chicken - Heat oil/ghee in a wide mouthed deep bottomed vessel. Once oil is heated and coats the bottom of vessel evenly, add sliced onions. Allow them to sweat, which implies you need not stir it often. Save about 1/2 cup of fried onions and set aside. Once the onions turn to a soft pale hue, add the chicken in marinade. Do not add water. The Chicken packs in lot of water to cook. Bring to a boil, simmer on low flame. Add grated nutmeg & Biryani Masala now. This process takes around 20-30 minutes. Cover with a lid. Check if chicken is fork tender. The gravy will be dry with very less cooking liquor. Once done, add the rice and mix gently. Garnish with saffron water, chopped herbs (optional) and fried onions (optional). Cover with a lid and place heavy weight on top. Seal the sides with a Chapati dough else use an aluminum foil. Cook for 5-8 minutes.

1. Meat tenderizer powder and oil keep the meat chunks in good shape both in terms of taste and texture.
2. Instead of layering the Biryani, I mixed the rice and chicken in gravy, the taste is fabulous. I add Tomatoes to cut through the spices, in addition they also add moisture to the Biryani texture. This is purely optional.
3. Chicken and Yogurt pack in lot of water, so do not add water while cooking chicken.
4. Cook Biryani in a wide mouthed vessel. Cooking process is better and faster for large quantities with meat.
5. Meat with bone has more flavour than boneless, but personally I prefer boneless meat. Pick your choice as per preference.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Edible Silver Leaf | Chaandi Ka Varq

I was introduced to this delicate as a damsel, thin leafy edible goodness as a kid. The leaf was nicely attached to multi colored mithais we got for Diwali or Dussehra from local sweet shop vendors. I wondered how easy or difficult (?) it was to put these tiny leaves on confectionery items. Both my parents adore Paan; if we visit restaurants for lunches or dinners, its considered an unpardonable aberration if we forget to chomp a delicious juicy Paan from the vendors who typically own a quiet pigeon hole sized shop right outside the corner of restaurants. Seeing both my folks chomping away Paan, I got into the habit of savouring my Paan Bidaa and now my husband also enjoys a Paan if we have one within accessible limits.

Before I digress, whether its occasional festive platter of Mithais or Paan, the silvery leaves enamoured me to bits. I hunted down some local vendors in India to procure my book of silver leaves much opposing the protest of my family, aunts and uncles who believe they are all contaminated and banned for health reasons. Use your discretion as per your preferred dietary choice. I was delighted to discover this rectangular pack which has a book of silver square cut paper. Each time you lift a sheet of paper, you are exposed to the tiny, thin, delicate and uber special - Chaandi Ka Varq. One can also find edible gold leaves or Sone Ka Varq but are quite rare and prized owing to the rarity and exquisiteness. I use them to decorate mithais, desserts which require that something extra to spruce up the presentation.

I was amused when one of our american friends causally asked me during one of the dinners if Indians consume silver as part of regular food? I laughed my heart out and explained the history and delicateness of this leaf which we all either proudly consume or detest or plainly disregard but is an inherent part of out culinary culture and has been so for many many decades now beginning from the royal families who used them in abundance to the contemporary weddings and festive cuisines where a bit of bling just adds to the overall ambience.

If you wish to use the silver leaf as embellishment for desserts or sweet items, just invert the paper on the portion of item desired. The silver leaf immediately clings to the surface. The leaves have a tendency to stick to any of kind of surface in contact so avoid using hands or fingers while transferring to the edible item of choice. The silver as such does not have a flavour or taste, it is just used as garnish cum decor item.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Raw Jackfruit Biryani (Kadgi Biryani/ Kathal Biryani) - 1.0

Recently, I bought a small bag of precooked raw jackfruit (young and tender) on a whim from the Indian grocery store and made an impromptu Biryani out of it. My husband loves the meaty texture of jackfruit and I love jackfruit in any form! I added lot of ingredients to the precooked jackfruit as a marinade which took the jackfruit taste few notches up.

This recipe is inspired from our cousin's wife's Chicken Biryani recipe which I will be posting soon. Taking inspiration from her I added little bit of tenderiser powder to soften the jackfruit pieces, not required for vegetables as much for meat, the flavour was nice, succulent and soft. Instead of layering the rice and gravy curry, I mixed them to mingle the delicate flavours and we both liked the change. Not to mention, Mace and Nutmeg add the extra zing which every Biryani dish requires. This is a good Biryani for vegetarians who do not eat meat yet wish to relish the flavour of Biryani.

~ Kadgi Biryani ~
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 mnts (rice) + 30 mnts (assembly)

Onions (sliced) - 2 cups
Bay leaf - 2
Tomatoes (chopped) - 1/2 cup
Nutmeg (grated) - 1/2 tsp
Saffron water - 2 tbsp

For Raw Jackfruit marinade -
(Precook Raw Jackfruit with salt and turmeric water, cool and then use with marinade)
Yoghurt - 1 cup
Mint leaves (chopped) - 1/2 cup
Coriander leaves (chopped) - 1 cup
Red Chilli powder - 1 tbsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp + 1/2 tsp
Cumin powder - 1/2 tsp
Coriander powder - 1/2 tsp
Mace (Javithri crushed) - 1 teaspoon
Garam Masala powder - 1 tbsp
Biryani Masala powder - 1 tbsp
Meat tenderiser powder - 1 tsp
Mix all of it and refrigerate till use.

For cooking rice -
Basmati rice - 1 and 1/2 cup
Star Anise - 1
Black Cardamom - 1
Cinnamon sticks - 2 of 2"
Cloves - 2
Cook rice with 1: 1 and 1/2 water, 1 tbsp oil and salt

Jackfruit marinade - Precook the jackfruit pieces in turmeric powder and salt water and drain water. Do not throw the water away. Keep aside. Allow to cool. Add all the ingredients of the marinade to the jackfruit pieces in a bowl, mix well and refrigerate till use. Add oil as it keeps the jackfruit pieces moist.
Cooking Rice - Wash rice. If possible soak the rice in salt water and oil for 1/2 and hour before use. Cook with whole spices in 1:1 and 1/2 cups of water. Cook till rice is half done. I cook in an electric rice cooker which gives me precise granularity. Once done, spread rice on a plate and allow to cool.
Jackfruit gravy and mixing rice - In a deep bottomed pan (the same will be made to prepare Biryani so use your judgement), heat few spoons of oil/ ghee. Once oil is hot enough, add bay leaves and add onions. Sweat them in oil till they turn light yellow and are fried. Pick half of fried onion and keep aside. In that add the jackfruit marinade and saute till completely cooked and the gravy is thick and not watery. This takes around 20 minutes. Mix the cooked rice now and give a good stir. Sprinkle the other half of cooked onions, garnish with chopped coriander leaves and saffron water. Cook covered for 5 minutes. Serve hot with Raita or Mirchi Ka Saalan.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mango Sheera

Today is my Ammama's birthday. Although she is very old, frail and ailing octogenarian, she is very active with her wit, humor and one-liners. When fit and in good health, she fed almost anyone who dropped by our door step. Ammama's favorite fruit is Mango especially the ripe ones which is as sweet as sugar. Her most relished ones being Mundappa and Kalapaadi. Ammama's favorite dish is a konkani one called as Ambe Upkari. Its a dish with ripe mangoes simmered in a spicy tangy sauce cooked on low flame. She loved waiting for the first bout of showers which would mean our vegetable vendor Koraapol would come with the most juiciest mangoes harvested from the nearby villages. Even if it was a small produce she would make sure all of them were sent to her sons and daughters. She has the highest regard for those who cook and share with their loved ones. That being said she has trained both her sons and daughters to cook a decent meal with the aim of making them self-sufficient.

Mom made Sheera for us on festive occasions. All of us like sheera made with fruits so she made Pineapple sheera, Mango sheera and Banana (Nendra Baale) sheera. All of them taste good with the subtle flavour of fruits found in the Semolina underbelly. Sheera being a Marathi/ Goan dish is a common one reserved for warm summer evenings with friends and a hearty jabber session thrown in.

Ammama's love for mangoes makes me nostalgic. I thought of making Mango Sheera keeping her in my thoughts. I only wish USPS could do a express air delivery of my sheera for Ammama. That being a wishful thinking here's wishing my dear Ammama a very Happy Birthday. Its been a privilege to be her grand daughter!

~ Mango Sheera ~
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes


Roasted Upma Sooji/ Semolina - 1 cup
Mango pulp - 1 cup
Sugar - 1 and 1/2 cup
Warm whole milk - 1 and 1/2 cup
Cardamom powder - 1/3 tsp
Cashew nuts (chopped) - 2 tbsp
Golden yellow raisin - 2 tbsp
Ghee/ Unsalted butter (melted) - 1/4 cup

Heat ghee in an non-reactive non-stick deep bottomed pan. Once hot, add the cashew nuts and raisins and saute till they are plump and crisp. Transfer to another dish and add the roasted upma sooji. Stir well till you get a nutty aroma and the mixture becomes crumbly. Add milk and mango pulp now. You will feel the mixture is too pasty, but don't worry. Keep stirring to avoid the mixture sticking to the bottom of vessel. Add the fried dry fruits now and stir well. Once mixture is not raw and cooked, add sugar and keep stirring. The mass will be very pasty, adjust sweet taste as desired. Turn off once completely cooked. Garnish with ground cardamom. Smear ghee on a cookie tray. Spread the mixture while hot and level and cut into squares. Remove and transfer to an air tight container once cooled off.

Note - Replace with different fruits to make variety of Sheera. Add sugar only after mixture gets cooked in milk and pulp. There is a particular variety of semolina available as Roasted Upma Sooji. This one gave me the desired results v/s other brands with no good results.