Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lemon Grass (Takka Tana/ Gavathi Chaha/ Nimbe Hullu)

Lemon Grass is an interesting herb with lot of healing and soothing properties. It is known as Gavathi Chaha in Marathi (Gavat = Grass, Chaha = Tea), Takka Tana in GSB Konkani, Nimbe Hullu in Kannada. The oil present in Lemon Grass, also known as Lemon Grass oil is endowed with lot of anti-bacterial properties and is used in lot of perfumes, oils, incense sticks on a commercial basis. From a culinary standpoint, they are of Indonesian native origin and find wide spread use in soups, stews, curries and herbal teas.

Many years back, I treated my Mom on her birthday with yummy Indonesian & Vietnamese food. We both loved the version of soup we had; recreating those memories we attempted adding this strong smelling herb to soups now and relish the flavour. Some time back, I found the fresh version of thin, stalks of this grass in a Chinese grocery store. The stalks are sold in a bundle of 3-4. They are also available in Indian ethnic stores here both as a powder or as a dried herb. Mom adds a stalk or two to add that extra zing to a hot cuppa Tea or Chai. I prefer using the young, fresh stalks as they can be easily used to unfuse flavour into liquids of choice. Apart from Tea, I prefer adding them in Kashayam, a herbal drink popular in Konkan/ Konkani household.

On a separate note, Konkani Foodie celebrates its 3rd Anniversary today! I am very elated when I take a step back and look at the journey traversed in a span of three years. The journey has been worthwhile and in restrospect, I have been able to learn a lot about food and nutrition which helps me when I plan meals, cook large batches of food, bake a cake or for that matter plan my grocery list. I also want to thank my Mom and my readers who offer intelligent input and feedback which enables me to learn, improvise and progress.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Yard Long Beans Side Dish (Waal Bhaaji With Goda Masala)

A fairly simple side dish seasoned with Goda Masala and Coconut powder. I used Yard Long Beans/ Waal /Alsando, instead of chopping them I manually snapped them off by an inch. This cutting style holds good for tender beans. This side dish goes well with Rotis and serves great with the vegetables sealing in juicy flavours of Goda Masala. Goda Masala adds a different dimension to dry or semi-dry side dish.
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Yard Long Beans (manually chopped to 1" size) - 3 cups
Coconut powder or grated coconut (fresh or frozen) - 3 tablespoon
Goda Masala - 1/2 teaspoon

For Seasoning -
Asafoetida - a pinch
Green Chillies - 2
Curry leaves - 3-4
Mustard seeds - 1/2 teaspoon

Wash the beans and snap off them manually to 1" sized pieces. In a deep vessel, heat few spoons of oil. Once the oil heats up, season with mustard seeds. The seeds will begin to pop, add the curry leaves and sliced green chillies. Add the asafoetida and give a gentle stir. Let the vegetables cook in the seasoning, add little water, cover with a lid. Once completely done & cooked, sprinkle Goda Masala and add the coconut powder. Stir gently for couple of minutes. The water will evaporate by now and the vegetables will be cooked but not mushy. Turn off the flame and serve hot with Rotis.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Byadgi Red Chillies (Byadgi Mirchi/ Byadgi Mirsaang)

Byadgi Red Chillies is a peculiar variety of Red Chillies which finds abundant use in Udupi and Konkani GSB cuisine. The thin, tall crinkly Chilli gets its name from a small town Byadgi, located near Haveri district of Karnataka, a state located in South of India. The chilli packs in less heat, is less seeded and provides the distictive red color and flavour to Konkani food. These are also known as Kaddi Chillies (Kaddi = Thin and slender in Kannada). These chillies find lot of demand in South Indian cuisines and are harvested with great aplomb in many central Karnataka districts in India.

When season's best Byadgi produce hits the market, many buy a huge stock and trim off the stem and store in bulk. When we were kids, many a times we sourced a bulk stock from local farmers who used to harvest these thin lanky slender goodies in their farmland. The close cousin of this Chilli is the Dabbi Chilli which is heavily seeded and has an albeit short stature. Dabbi Chilli (Guddi Mirsaang) is very strong, spicy, non crinkly and also gives a rich red color.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Green Herb Paste (Hirwa Thecha)

Mom often makes Hirwa Thecha – a green herb paste which she uses to combine as a sauce for curries, as chutney for breads and sandwiches, a side dish for rotis and parathas. (Hirwa = Green in Marathi language). I find this paste very handy and a small batch can be used for many different purposes. Traditionally, Coriander leaves, Garlic, toasted Cumin seeds and Green Chillies are ground to a coarse paste and used as per need.

Interestingly, the one Mom makes is a bit different from the traditional one, but nevertheless tastes yummy! I got this recipe from my Ratnagiri Kaaku. We simply loved the multi purpose paste and its abundant use. This paste is not a simple one and don’t be fooled by the timid look and the nice green color. Just a few spoons pack in lot of heat, spice and taste. So I tweak the proportions as necessary. I had a bunch of Mint leaves handy so used them up for this paste. Use tender, light green Coriander stems else use leaves alone.

Every Maharashtrian household has a different way of making this paste. Some grind them coarsely, some make a fine paste. I prefer the smooth paste and also found two methods which are practised in my family - the first one is a regular paste which can be used for Curries and Sauces; the second one which is my favorite one for summer - a spicy sandwich chutney spread. The taste is simply delicious and makes you fall in love with your otherwise regular boring sandwich.

Preparation time: 10 minutes
Processing time: 5 minutes

Coriander leaves & stems – 1 cup
Mint leaves (optional) – ½ cup
Green Chillies – 3
Garlic pods – 4
Cumin seeds (optional) – ½ teaspoon
Ginger (chopped) -1 tablespoon
Onion (whole) – 1 medium

Method: 1
Wash Coriander leaves, Mint leaves and stems. Chop them coarsely. Toast the Cumin seeds & Green Chillies lightly on low flame in little oil for couple of minutes. Allow to cool. Be careful as chillies tend to burst open being subjected to excessive heat and pressure. Grind Coriander leaves, Mint leaves, Green Chillies, Garlic (chopped), Ginger (chopped) and Cumin seeds to a fine paste or a coarse paste. Adjust salt as per need. Do not add too much water. Store in a jar and refrigerate. Use within 2 weeks.
Suggested Use: For Curries and Sauces

Method: 2
Wash Coriander leaves, Mint leaves and stems. Chop them coarsely. Toast the Cumin seeds & Green Chillies lightly on low flame in little oil for couple of minutes. Transfer to a separate plate and allow to cool. Now, in the same pan, sauté an Onion split into two in oil. Once lightly crisp and brown transfer to a separate plate and allow to cool. Grind Coriander leaves, Mint leaves, Green Chillies, Garlic (chopped), Ginger (chopped), pan fried Onion and Cumin seeds to a fine paste or a coarse paste. You could add more chillies to increase the spicy flavour of the chutney spread. Adjust salt as per need. Add little or no water while grinding as this paste needs to have a chutney consistency. Refrigerate once done and use within 2-3 days as onion are prone to rapid spoilage.
Suggested Use: For Sandwich as a spread

Friday, February 11, 2011

Stone Flower (Dagad Phool)

Stone Flower or better known as Dagad Phool in India is a soft, brown and black colored lichen. The spice is used in many popular Indian dishes. I have not been able to locate them in Indian ethnic groceries in US and hence got my stash from one of my generous Paachis from India. These are available in specialty grocery chains in India. I also found them at exclusive spice and condiments store.

This spice is used for making various masalas like Goda Masala/ Kala Masala. It does have a strong earthy aroma and a very dry, light fluffy texture and feel to it. All said and done, no Marathi masala preparation process would be complete without these. The spice gives the signature black color to the masala. I recall a certain Maushi once refused to prepare her Kala Masala till she found Dagad Phool!! For more reference and better understanding of Marathi/ Maharashtrian cuisines, I found Ruchira - By Kamlabai Ogle very handy; a useful 2 book compilation originally written in Marathi dissecting and exploring the basic Marathi Amtis, Usals et al. Now, the English version is also available which makes it easier for anybody to explore the nuts and bolts of Marathi cuisine.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Bitter Gourd Pickle (Coated With Spice Powders)/ Kaarate Kudko

Bitter Gourd is one of my favorite vegetable (as weird as it sounds). My octogenarian Ammama makes the best Bitter Gourd Pickle which I will save for another post. When hale-o-hearty, she regularly sent a jar full of Bitter Gourd Pickle and other goodies for me. Last time when I visited my Ammama, she told me about this recipe of another version of Bitter Gourd pickle which her MIL used to made - Kaarate Kudko. She said she remembered it had a powdery coating of spices. She asked me to research more about it.

Few years later, I was invited for lunch at one of my dear Aunt's place. Since she knew I love Bitter Gourd, she had saved her latest batch of pickle for me. I was thrilled and delighted when she gifted me the tiny jar. I quickly grabbed a spoon and tasted a piece and indeed it was heavenly! I asked her the recipe and she informed me its called Kaarate Kudko. My quest ended there with the discovery. I quickly got the recipe and dabbled around with it till I got it right. Aunty perpetually has a jar of this pickle and her kids relish the flavourful pieces to the last bite. I make a small batch and refrigerate them in a glass jar since Bitter Gourds are prone to quick spoilage. The name essentially comes from Kudko which implies pieces and Kaarate implies Bitter Gourd in GSB Konkani, hence the name Kaarate Kudko. This recipe has an old world charm and a certain element of originality which fascinates me. I know very few families who pickle the gourds at home in this fashion. If you detest eating Bitter Gourd, you can pass off this post.

There are many versions of this pickle in practice, some where the spices are toasted and ground and some where the powders are directly added. Take your pick as per choice.

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Bitter Gourd (chopped) - 1 cup
Turmeric powder - 1/2 teaspoon + 1/3 teaspoon
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 to 1 teaspoon
Coriander powder - 1 and 1/2 teaspoon
Asafoetida - Just a pinch

Wash the Bitter Gourd and trim off the ends. Chop them into 1/2" pieces, boil them in water which is salted with turmeric powder (1/2 tsp). Once the pieces are par-boiled, turn off the flame and drain the water off. Transfer to a kitchen paper and allow to cool thereby absorbing the moisture.
In a separate deep pan, heat few spoons of ghee and add all the spice powders. Reduce the flame to low. Add the boiled Bitter Gourd pieces and saute to get an even coating of spice powders all over the gourd. Adjust salt as per taste. The pieces would be crisp, bit fried by now. Turn off the flame and allow to cool. Transfer to a clean, sterilised glass jar and refrigerate after use. Goes well as a pickled serving with white rice or Paej.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Instant Carrot Pickle (With Oil)

I am a big fan of home made pickles. The more spicy and tasty the pickle the more happy I am. Growing up, I had a big aversion for Carrots. No matter what trick what my Mom tried, I refused to eat them. Mom found a quick fix for it. She made Instant Carrot Pickle and I today I find myself hooked to this tangy treat for a lifetime! The thing which attracted me most was the cutting style she used - Julienne. The thin matchstick strips of Carrot were a delight to bite and munch on as a kid! Pick Carrots which are firm, free of blemishes and sturdy - they are apt for pickling and have a better shelf life. This pickle takes very less cook time and is extremely tasty. The shelf life however is less than 3 days, so I make a small batch to avoid wastage.

Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Processing time: 15 minutes (for marinade)

Carrot (Julienned into strips) - 1 cup
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 to 1 teaspoon
Turmeric powder - 1/3 teaspoon
Lime juice - 3 tablespoon
Asafoetida - 1/3 teaspoon
Mustard seeds - 1/2 teaspoon
Coconut Oil or Canola Oil

Wash the Carrots, peel off the skin and chop them into julienne cuts. Pat them dry and spread them on a clean cheesecloth to dry for 1/2 hour. Once the moisture is completely off, add salt, lime juice, turmeric powder and chilli powder in a mixing bowl and add the carrots. Give a good toss and keep aside for 15 minutes. Lime juice makes the carrot tender and nimble taking away the crunchy texture.
In a separate deep dish pan, heat few tablespoons of oil. Once the oil is hot enough (not smoky hot), add the mustard seeds and asafoetida. The mustard seeds would pop completely. Turn off the flame and allow the seasoning to cool completely. Once the seasoning cools off completely, gently crush the mustard seeds with a pestle and powder lightly. Pour this seasoning on the carrots and give a good stir. Store in a clean, sterilized glass jar and consume within 2-3 days. Preferably, refrigerate after use if staying in humid/ damp/ hot terrains.