Sunday, January 30, 2011

Apricot Sweet Dish (Qubaani Ka Meetha)

Hyderabad is an Indian city wrapping within itself an iconic legacy of history, sumptuous cuisine and splendid architecture. One can experience the tasty food at traditional Hyderabadi Muslim homes all eaten in a symbolic eating space known as Dastarkhaan. I had the good fortune of witnessing many such Sehri and Iftaar meals partaken before sunrise and after sunset during the holy Islamic month of Ramzan. During the month of Ramzan, the whole city soaks in the festive flavour. Streets selling various fast food items display huge iron Kadhais cooking piping hot Haleem which whet your appetite all the more. Myriad succulent Kebabs and Biryanis get readied with spice rubs, salad and a drizzle of lemon aptly shown off as a tantalising treat.

Few of my favorite Hyderabadi dishes are Hyderbadi Biryani, Qubaani Ka Meetha, Mirchi Ka Saalan, Sheer Khurma and Double Ka Meetha. Qubaani Ka Meetha is a traditional Hyderabadi dessert made of Apricot sauce reduced to a rich, light brown broth and topped with dry fruits and cream or custard of choice. Qubaani is Apricot in Urdu and Meetha implies a dessert hence the name Qubaani Ka Meetha. The thing which wowed me about this recipe is it contains less than 5 ingredients and does not require much of your dedicated kitchen time.

~ Qubaani Ka Meetha ~
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Serving: 2-4

Apricot - 2 cups
Sugar - 3 tablespoon/ cup of Apricot
Ghee (optional) - 1 tablespoon per cup of Apricot
Almonds - 1 teaspoon per serving
Heavy cream or Custard (optional) - 1 teaspoon per serving

Wash the Apricots and remove the seed if any. Soak in water for 4-6 hours. Upon soaking they proliferate in size, become more soft and malleable. Crush with a pestle gently or blend roughly in a blender to a coarse paste with little of the water used for soaking (approx 1/2 cup of water). Add desired quantity of sugar, ghee and cook on low flame. The consistency thickens over a period of time and reduces to form a thick sauce of Apricot. This process takes around 15-20 minutes. Cover with a lid throughout the process. Once completely cooked to a fine light brown broth, turn off the flame and allow to cool. Refrigerate for 4-6 hours. Serve chilled with a sprinkle of chopped Almonds and a drizzle of heavy cream or custard of choice.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Malabar Spinach Tambli (Basale Soppu Tambli/ Vaali Bhajji Tambli)

There are zillion varieties of Spinach one can find in India. One particular variety which we widely use in Konkani preparations is Malabar Spinach. It is known as Vaali Bhajji in Konkani and Basale Soppu in Kannada. Few Konkani dishes which we make out of Vaali Bhajji are Vaali-Papaya Ambat, Vaali Upkari, Vaali Tambli, Vaali Bhajji (Pakoras), etc.

Tambli is essentially a cold curd or yoghurt based blend of ground spices and leaves served primarily during the summer months. It goes well with steam cooked white rice. Since this is a no cook recipe, I prefer making it often. There are many varieties of leaves which can be prepared in a similar fashion and used aptly for Tambli - Pumpkin, Radish, Vitamin leaves (Vitamin Pallo), Fenugreek (Methi), Indian Spinach (Palak) and Cassia Tora/ Negro Coffee (Taikilo).

~ Malabar Spinach Tambli ~
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 5 minutes

Malabar Spinach leaves - 6-8
Cumin seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Whole Black Pepper - 3-4
Grated Coconut (fresh or frozen) - 3/4 cup
Red Chillies (Byadgi preferably) - 4-6
Curd (optional) - 2-3 tablespoon

Wash the Spinach leaves throughly and pat dry. Allow the moisture content to dry off completely before use. In a separate pan, heat few spoons of oil, season with Cumin and Pepper. Add Red Chillies and saute well for couple of minutes. Add the grated coconut and Spinach leaves. Turn the flame on low and saute till the leaves wilt in size & the coconut turns light brown. Turn off flame & allow this mixture to cool. Once done, blend to a puree, adjust salt as desired. Do not add too much water as the consistency should be thick and concentrated. Mix few spoons of Curd if desired. Serve on its own with white steam cooked rice.
Note - The shelf life of Tambli is a day alone if using Curd or Yoghurt. Use your discretion accordingly.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Cuban Oregano (Dodda Patre)

Cuban Oregano is a precious herb with very intense and deep flavour. The leaves of this herb have abundant medicinal properties and pack in lot of health nutrients. There is a particular variety of Cuban Oregano which you get in India which goes by the scientific name of Coleus Aromaticus. They are also known as Dodda Patre in Kannada. The plant grows as a shrub and spreads easily in gentle weather with minimum care. The leaves are round, spongy with a very aromatic flavour.

Growing up, we always had a small shrub and many a times Mom would pluck a leaf or two, boil it in water and given me the potion to sip when I was sick and recuperating from stomach ailments. Interestingly, the herb is recommended a lot for child care and well being. Only few specialty stores sell these in powdered form in India which can be used if one can't find the sapling.

Few recipes for which we used Dodda Patre at home is Tambli, Pakoras (Bhajji) and Chutney. The Tambli tastes very delicious and is soothing on the palate when combined with yoghurt.
Few health benefits of Dodda Patre are as listed below:
- The herb is used for curing stomach related ailments hence their popularity for curing various stomach related diseases like Cholera, Diarrhoea, Dysentery, etc.
- The herb is very effective for various skin ailments and skin related diseases.
- A light juice or Kashaya made out of the leaves boiled in water serves as an excellent medicine for curing common cold.

*** This is a WIP post; will update with more information as and when I find it ***

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Spicy Gobi Fry

There are days when I want to push the envelope and challenge myself to cook with just couple of teaspoons of fat. This recipe was born out of one such attempt and we both enjoyed it. The taste was amazing with the extra addition of Chaat Masala which gives that zing and tart-tangy flavour. The good thing this recipe serves the purpose of a snack or as a side dish.

The inspiration for this recipe comes from one of my favorite chef - Giada De Laurentiis. While watching one of her cookery shows, I remember the beautiful chef dishing out a simple low calorie entree. She suggests to make the dishes tasty, add one ingredient which provides that zing, you thereby counterbalance the low calorie focus with more flavour and variety of taste.

Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

Cauliflower (Gobi)- cut into florets - 4-5 cups

For Seasoning -
Garlic (chopped) - 2-3
Onion (chopped) - 1/2 cup
Cumin seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Turmeric powder - 1/3 teaspoon
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Garam Masala powder - 1 teaspoon
Coriander powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Cumin powder - 1/2 teaspoon
Chaat Masala - 1/2 teaspoon

For Garnish -
Coriander leaves (chopped) - 3-4 strands

Wash and chop the Cauliflower into medium sized florets. Bring hot water to boil and steam cook the florets. Do not completely cook but par boil and run cold water over them. Drain and keep aside.
In a separate pan, heat a spoon of ghee, season with cumin seeds and garlic. Add onions and saute them till they get caramelised. Add the spice powders and saute the entire bit over a low flame else the powders could burn rendering a bitter flavour to the dish. Finally, add the florets and give a gentle stir. Adjust salt and sprinkle little water and cover with a lid and cook for few minutes till the florets are completely cooked. Garnish with chopped Coriander leaves and serve hot.

Serve this as a side dish else as a snack. If you prefer chat-pata flavour, then sprinkle some chaat masala and serve.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Northern Beans Soup (Tingalore Thoi)

Growing up, we used to get enjoy a special kind of bean, primarily a legume called as Tingalore in Konkani. Mom used to serve this hot for lunch when her little munchkins were back from school. She used to make soupy textured broth based side dish seasoned with Garlic known as Tingalore Thoi in Konkani.

Since the dish used to be mushy one, I used to love slurping on it like a regular soup. The seeds are known & available as Northern Beans are available in US grocery stores as well. They are shiny, white and oval shaped. The beans cook well to a mushy texture when soaked previously for atleast 4-6 hours.

Preparation time: 5-7 hours of soaking time
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 2-4 individuals

Northern Beans or Tingalore - 3/4 cup
Green Chillies - 2

For Seasoning:
Garlic Pods - 5-6
Oil/ Ghee

Presoak the beans ~ Tingalore overnight (atleast for 5-7 hours). Upon soaking, the beans proliferate in size. Pressure cook for atleast 5 whistles. Mash rigorously after boiling. Add Green chillies which needs to be slit in the centre. Bring to a gentle boil. Adjust salt as per taste. Once completely cooked, turn off the flame. In a separate small pan, heat few spoons of oil and saute the crushed Garlic pods. Once the pods are charred and lightly browned, pour this seasoning over the cooked broth. Serve hot with white steamed rice.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Steamed Ripe Banana (Ukdicha Kela)

There is a particular variety of Banana which is available on perennial basis in India and in US as well. We call it Nendra Baale in Konkani. In US, its available as Ripe Yellow Plantain in the fruit section. Its a large, fleshy, long Banana variety with a blackish yellow skin and tastes amazing when consumed boiled, steamed, fried or deep fried. In Marathi, we called it Ukdiche Kela at home. It implies steam cooked Banana.

Many many decades ago, I was invited for a tea party. My best friend's mom, Chechi G served ripe plantain deep fried in Maida batter which I relished eating. This recipe is inspired from the same long forgotten flavour. Essentially, this is inspired from Kerala style of steam cooking ripe Nendra Baale variety of Banana and serving either on its own or with some garnish of choice, either grated coconut or light spice powders. I took a healthy route while treating the ripe bananas. I removed the skin and marinated them in salt and red chilli powder. Steam cooked them in little water and then sauteed in tad bit fat. We both liked it and relished the sweet and spicy flavour. The good thing was we escaped the deep-fry bit and yet enjoyed the flavour! Serves as a good breakfast/ snack item.

Happy Makar Sankranti to all those who celebrate it!
Til Gool Ghyaa Aani God God Bola!!

Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

Ripe Banana Yellow Plantain - 1
Red Chilli powder - 1/3 teaspoon

Peel off the skin and chop the ripe Banana into 2" pieces. Marinate in salt and red chilli powder and keep aside for 30 minutes. Take a deep dish pan and steam cook the pieces in just enough water. Do not overcook, just cook for few minutes. Once done, transfer on a clean kitchen towel and let the water content get absorbed. Discard the water and saute them in little ghee on low flame. Keep a watchful eye as the ripe par-cooked plantain pieces cook very fast. Serve hot as a breakfast item or evening snack item.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Indian Pennywort (Brahmi)

Brahmi is a very popular herb and is mainly known as a brain food. It is known as Centella Asiatica in Latin and in common parlance Indian Pennywort. In Konkani, Brahmi is known as Ekpaani. Brahmi is rich herb loaded with anti-oxidant and brain enhancing properties. They thrive and flourish in wet, damp and marshy areas.

Several kinds of Konkani items which are made of Brahmi are Brahmi Tambli and Brahmi chutney. Since its a perennial herb, one can find it all through the year and is available in plenty in local markets. Those who do not have access to fresh herb, can buy the powdered version of this herb. Another interesting revelation was that Brahmi finds a honorable mention in various ancient Hindu scripts and holy books - Sushruta Samhita and Vedas.

Following are several health benefits of Brahmi -
- Brahmi is a brain food and plays a vital role in brain cell development, enhancement, memory and growth.
- The leaves are loaded with antioxidant properties thereby making them beneficial for consumption.
- The herb has a calming effect on the nervous system.
- The herb has lot of curative properties for various mental disorders like Epilepsy, Convulsions and boosts mental health.
- It is also proved to cure other diseases like Asthma, Insanity and serves as a wonderful brain tonic.
- Various research proves that the herb supports and augments the improvement of learning capacity which in turn keeps the mind sharp, alert and agile. Cognitive abilities have found a marked improvement after consumption of this herb.
- It also improves hoarseness in voice and tremendously benefits the vocal chords which is a very lesser known fact.
- The herb is also effective in curing Leprosy and some specific skin diseases.

*** This is a WIP post; I will update the benefits as and when I find them ***

Monday, January 10, 2011

Black Tori Saar (Kaali Tori Saaru)

Its interesting how your spouse influences your eating habits. Turns out that my husband is very fond of lentils and legumes (Dhaanya in konkani). Years later I smile as half my pantry is stocked with zillion varieties of seeds, beans, pulses, lentils, legumes etc.

One such tasty variety of legume is called as Kalee Tori in Konkani. Usually we make Ghashi, a coconut based curry with Kooka/ Jackfruit (Kadgee)/ Magge added along with Black Toree as supplement. I have not found these seeds in US Indian ethnic grocery stores and get a small pack from India. I am not sure the English equivalent of this bean. If anyone is aware, kindly enlighten.

In India, one can find 2 varieties of these - dry variety and fresh variety (Jeevo Tori). Personally, I like the fresh one but its a chance catch and is full of flavor. Once during a casual conversation, my MIL had suggested Saaru out of these chubby little black seeds. I tried this and we both liked the flavour. Although its a non-conventional approach I found the dish quite tasty and easy on the palate. Goes well with with steamed white rice.

~ Black Tori Saaru ~
Preparation time: Soaking time of 4-6 hours
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Black Tori/ Kaali Tori - 3/4 cup
Ghee/ Oil
Green Chillies - 2
Asafoetida - a pinch

For Seasoning:
Mustard seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Curry leaves - 3-4
Red Chillies (optional) - 2

Wash and soak the seeds in water for 4-6 hours. Pressure cook the seeds upto 4 whistles or till completely cooked. Transfer to another cooking vessel. Adjust the consistency by adding enough quantity of water, adjust salt as well. Mash up a little for better taste. Add slit chillies & asafoetida. Bring to boil and simmer on low flame for 5-8 minutes or till completely cooked. Turn off the flame.
In a separate vessel, for tempering, heat few spoons of Ghee, once hot add mustard seeds and once the seeds begin to pop, add curry leaves. If using green chillies, omit red chillies and vice-versa. Pour this seasoning on the boiled broth and cover with a lid. Mix while serving with white steamed rice.

Note - For seasoning, one can use both approaches either use crushed garlic and ghee seasoning or mustard, curry leaves and ghee. Take your pick as per taste and preference. The quality of seeds is key while determining the boiling point for these seeds hence do not skip the soaking time of 4-6 hours else the seeds will remain undercooked.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Amruta Balli (Giloy/ Guduchi)

We have a small community garden at my parent's place. Of late, owing to health consciousness amongst people, lot of herbs and unique varieties of species are finding their rightful place in the garden. Mom takes keen interest in studying and learning about various herbs which support health and well being. She passes on her knowledge to friends and family who have benefited immensely on the health front. She also provides rare herb saplings to our gardener who happily obliges and tends the plants.

The garden has become a mini herb garden now so to say! Folks from the community are also taking active interest in maintaining and preserving the green eco life. :)

I was recently introduced to this precious variety of herb popularly known as Giloy in Hindi. Giloy grows in a creeper form and has large heart shaped leaves which grow in abundance. Mostly they are found clinging to large Mango trees. Giloy is known as Amruta Balli in Kannada and Guduchi in Sanskrit. The scientific name of Giloy is Tinospora Cordifolia. The leaves have mild bitter flavour and are effective when consumed raw or in processed form. Owing to the popular demand for this creeper, many nurseries are also selling the saplings for a reasonable sum. For individuals who do not have facility to grow the sapling, the powdered form of this herb is available in India which can also be substituted and used in regular diet.

Few health benefits of Amruta Balli are as follows:
- The leaves, stems protect the body against various forms of toxins and are very useful in flushing them out.
- It is used for curing fever, urinary disorders, rheumatism, jaundice and various other diseases.
- If taken regularly, the body's immune system gets strengthened and gains balance.
- The plant is particularly important and known for curing swine flu symptoms and gained lot of demand during the swine flu epidemic in Bangalore some time back.
- The leaves are recommended for daily intake (1 per day) for Diabetic patients. Preferably to be consumed early in the morning on empty stomach.
- Regular consumption of Amruta Balli is also supportive in weight regulation and balance of vital body nutrients.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Bilimbi Soup (Bimblaa Saaru/ Bilimbi Saaru)

Here's wishing all the Foodie's around the globe a very HAPPY NEW YEAR!! Great health and prosperity to everyone.....

Last few week's have been hectic hence been MIA from the blog zone. Special thanks to all my readers who inquired on my well being and whereabouts. After all the year long festivities are done, a good way to detox one's diet is to partake simple, nutritious food. I prefer this version of Bilimbi Saaru which is very apt and soothing on the palate as well.

This is my Mom's version of Saaru. Her recipe mixes sweet and sour flavours to create a different taste all together. Its a very simple recipe but very dear to my heart. As kids, we had couple of Bilimbi tree's growing in our ancestral farms.

We had a gala time climbing the huge slippery branches only to pluck the purple flower of this fruit which is very tangy. Chewing the flowers leaves a tangy purple coat on the tongue which was a sought after childhood delight for us as kids. In US, its very difficult to find Bilimbi, but these are available in plenty in India and a must-have-sapling if you are a Konkani and have a backyard. :)

The taste of this Soup is neither sweet nor tangy. For my non Konkani friends, you could just slurp this on a cold winter evening on its own if you do not wish to combine it with rice. This is a very simple recipe but I wanted to document it for the simple reason that with the advent of fast food choices and changes in tastes and preferences, these simple recipes are long forgotten and pushed into periphery.

~ Bilimbi Saaru ~

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes
Bilimbi (chopped) - 2 cups
Jaggery - 1 teaspoon

For Seasoning -
Red Chillies (split into two) - 2
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Mustard seeds - 1/2 teaspoon

Remove the calyx attached to the fruit. Chop them into tiny bits. For one cup of chopped Bilimbi add 1 and 1/2 cup of water and bring to boil. Simmer on low flame till the pieces are soft and cooked. Add a teaspoon of Jaggery while boiling. Adjust salt as per taste. Add more water if desired. Once completely cooked, turn off flame and cover with a lid.
In a separate vessel, heat few spoons of Ghee, once the oil is hot enough, temper with Mustard seeds and Curry leaves roughly chopped. Once the seeds begin to pop, add the red chillies (split into two) and pour this seasoning over the cooked broth, cover tightly with a lid. Mix while serving, enjoy with steamed white rice.