Monday, January 30, 2012

Dal Makhani ~ An Indian Classic

Of all the North Indian and Frontier West cuisines, Dal Makhani is one of my many favorites. The warmth of this dish easily spells comfort and is my go-to dish if we are out for dinner at any Indian restaurant. Dal is Lentils and Makhani comes from the hindi word Maakhan which is Butter, hence a buttery version of Dal. Many a times, I wondered if I could re-create the flavors in my home kitchen with minimum fat and added flavor. The creamy taste of the Tomato rich Dal & Kidney Beans dipped in pillow soft Naan is something I yearn when I crave for restaurant kind of Khana.

Dal Makhani uses Skinned Split or Whole Urad Dal as one of its primary components. This pulse is a new entrant in my kitchen. I must confess though I had eaten this dish at my friend Sandy's place many years ago and instantly loved the soft texture of this pulse. His Mom hails from Delhi and cooks delicious Mughlai and Old Delhi dishes. Seeing my enthusiasm, she invited me to her kitchen and gave me the recipe of Dal Makhani and Roz ke Chole, her version of Chole which is less loaded with oil and can be made daily for family dinners served with Roti.

Urad Dal (Split and Skinned)

Later, I made this dish in India for a few hungry friends with chopped Tomatoes and was not happy with the results. Next time around, I switched to Tomato Puree and was amazed at the difference it did to the texture of the dish. Her recipe has a home style flavor and uses two main ingredients - Split Ural Dal (skinned) and Red Kidney Beans in 1: 1/3 proportion. The best part is a cup of Ural Dal yields plenty of slow cooked soft textured Dal which can easily feed an army of hungry people!

~ Dal Makhani ~
Preparation time: 6-8 soaking time + 15 minutes
Cooking time: 45 minutes

Split Urad Dal (skinned) - 1 cup
Red Kidney Beans (Rajma) - 1/3 cup
Tomato Puree - 2 cups
Ginger (chopped) - 1" piece
Garlic (crushed) - 3-4 Jumbo pods
Green Chillies (slit lengthwise) - 2
Vegetable stock - 1/2 cup

Masala -
Red Chilli powder - 1 tbsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Garam Masala powder - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp

For Seasoning -
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp

For Garnish & Finish -
Cream (optional) - 1/2 cup
Coriander leaves (chopped) - 1/2 cup

Contraption -
Vegetable Masher

Clean the Dal for any usual suspects. Soak overnight or for at least 8-10 hours. Once done, wash and rinse in multiple changes of water (3-4) till water is clear. Pressure cook Rajma and Urad Dal together along with Ginger, Garlic and Green Chillies for upto 4 whistles. Allow to cool. Mash with a Vegetable masher till its gooey and soft. Do not over-mash and make it mushy. Keep it aside.
In a deep dish pan, heat few blobs of butter and temper with Cumin seeds. Once they crackle, add Red Chilli powder, Coriander powder and Turmeric powder. Turn the flame to low while you do this. Add the mashed Dal now and mix well to form a consistency. Adjust salt and add more chilli powder to increase heat. Add vegetable stock to adjust consistency. Bring to boil and simmer on low flame with lid on for 8-12 minutes. Once cooked, cover and serve warm with Unleavened Bread (Naan)/ Roti/ Parathas. Garnish with a drizzle of cream and a gentle sprinkle of coriander leaves.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Brown Rice Salad with Chickpea

I love the aroma of cooked Brown Rice wafting in my kitchen and the steam venturing into every crevice and corner of my abode. It brings back memories of my Ammama (Grandma) cooking a large pot of brown rice for our jumbo joint family of over a dozen. We enjoyed it soupy with a drizzle of Ghee and Whole Raw Mango Pickle (Appe Midi Nonche). The other dish she made was Brown Rice Mini Dosa (Ukhdo Tandla Bhakri). Now, conventional wisdom says - cook the brown rice and eat it like a porridge. At least my South Indian upbringing would vouch for that. Well, that's what I believed for the longest time.

One day at work, my American colleague got a lunchbox of Brown Rice Salad. I peeked into her box and wondered how Rice can be eaten as a Salad! Rice as a Salad was an explored territory for me till then. She gave me a lowdown on Salads and the conversation offered a healthy dimension to my creativity in kitchen. I got a stash of this nutty, chewy aromatic grain from Whole Foods and loved the texture upon cooking. My colleague's word of advise while constructing a salad - have at least five different colors and textures of food components. I dished out a simple salad and adored the portability of this dish. It travels well and is great for outdoor picnics.

~ Brown Rice Salad with Chickpea ~
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Brown Rice (short grain) - 1 cup
Chickpea (soaked and cooked) - 1/2 cup
Carrot (chopped) - 1/2 cup
Red Onion (chopped) - 1/3 cup
Coriander leaves (chopped) - Just a sprinkle

For Vinaigrette -
Light Olive Oil
Lime juice - 1/2 tsp

Wash and rinse rice in multiple changes of water. Cook in an electric rice cooker with a pinch of salt and fluff with a fork once done. Make a Vinaigrette of Olive Oil, Lime juice, Salt and Pepper. Add rest of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and pour the dressing. Mix well and serve immediately.

Note - A Salad takes very less salt, so add with a deft hand.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tomato Saar with Asafoetida (Tomato Hingaa Saaru)

Many moons ago, my Pachi (Aunt) invited me for a casual lunch at her place. Since she is a busy Mom she sheepishly informed me that the spread was very simple and she was wee bit embarrassed to serve me Tomato Saaru along with the other simple dishes. I chuckled as I enjoy her food either ways!

The version of her Saaru caught me unaware and has become my go-to recipe now. This is a simple 15-minute-fix kind of a recipe. Every recipe has that one secret ingredient which demystifies the taste of the dish and takes it a few notches higher and in this case she had used Hing (Asafoetida). The recipe has a very Saatvik touch and is very simple. I turn to this once in a while just to experience the departure from my regular Coconut laden recipes which I also enjoy unabashedly. Another tip is the kind of Tomatoes one chooses. For this Saaru, she used the semi-ripe one (the one that is not too bright red but just ripe for use, if you know what I mean) so that the acidity is not way too high in the final broth. The third and final tip she gave was use only Ghee, better if home made. Ghee supplements the flavor, use a sparing helping if you are diet conscious. This recipe holds good for the taste buds of kids, elderly and those convalescing.

~ Tomato Hingaa Saaru ~
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 15-20 minutes

Tomatoes (diced) - 2
Coriander leaves (chiffonade thinly) - 1/2 cup
Sugar - 1/2 tsp

For Seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Asafoetida (Hing/ Edible Gum) - 1/4 tsp

Dice the tomatoes and boil it with three cups of cold water. Add the coriander leaves as well and bring to a boil and simmer away for 5-10 minutes till the Tomatoes are cooked. Add salt and sugar now and turn off the flame. In a separate frying pan, heat few spoons of Ghee, season with mustard seeds and curry leaves on medium flame. Once they splutter and are cooked through, add asafoetida, wait for few seconds and turn off the flame. Pour this seasoning on the cooked stock, cover with a lid. Serve warm with cooked Par-boiled/ Basmati rice.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Okra Gojju (Bhendaa Gojju)

I love the combination of Paej and Gojju especially during cold winter days. Gojju takes on a humble and simple avatar in Konkani preparations and are relished with Paej in my household. Ma makes many different versions of Gojjus which are super delicious.

This is a quick and easy recipe which goes well with Paej. I specially like this combination because Okra is one of most favorite vegetable. The recipe followed by my Ma is very runny in consistency. I like the semi-dry version and the addition of Yoghurt which adds a tangy flavor to the dish.

Happy Makar Sankranti! Til gool ghyaa aani goad goad bolaa!

~ Bhendaa Gojju ~
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes

Okra (sliced) - 2 cups
Yogurt (1 tbsp/ cup of Okra) - 2 tbsp
Grated Coconut [fresh or frozen] (2 tbsp/ cup of Okra) - 4 tbsp
Tamarind - 1/2 tsp
Green Chillies - 2
Rock Salt

For Seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig

For Garnish -
Coriander leaves [optional] (chopped) - 3-4 strands

Slice the Okra cook with yogurt on low-to-medium flame with the lid on. This process takes approx. 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a serving bowl once the vegetable is completely cooked. In a Kolambi/ Blender, crush rock salt, green chillies, tamarind pulp and grated coconut to a coarse paste. Add enough water to rinse the blender and adjust the consistency and salt of Gojju as desired. Add this to the cooked Okra. In the same pan, heat a few tsp of oil and season with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Pour this seasoning on the cooked Okra and mix well. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve warm. Gojju goes well with Paej.

Note - The addition of yogurt aids the cooking of Okra and inhibits the slime formation.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Stuffed Baby Brinjal (Gulla Puddi Sagle)

In Konkani cuisine, we make two kinds of dishes with 'Sagle' masala. In my household, Ma makes Okra (Bhendaa) Sagle and Gulla Puddi Sagle. I love the flavor of Sagle masala/ masolu, though the approach and method to Bhendaa Sagle is little different from Gulla Sagle. Sagle masala is made of Urad Dal and Coriander seeds (Urad Kothambiri). Everyone in my family loves this dish, especially my father.

Traditionally, for Brinjal Sagle, a typical variety of Brinjal is used, also known as Udupi Mattu Gulla in Konkani. It is a tiny, oblong, shiny seasonal variety of Brinjal and available only during particular times of the year. Upon cooking, its soft and succulent with tiny little seeds staring at you in the face. I used tiny green hued baby Brinjals for this dish which are easily available in Indian grocery stores in US between Fall and Winter time. The masala is ground to a coarse paste, the Brinjals are rinsed with double gashes added on the stem side. Once cooked, the tender Brinjals soak in the divine smelling coconut paste and taste uber delicious! The dish goes well for tender Brinjals, especially the pale green skinned ones.

~ Gulla Puddi Sagle ~
Preparation time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 10-12 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

Baby Brinjal ~ Gulla (stem trimmed and double gashed) - 6

For Seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig

For Masala -
Grated Coconut - 3/4 cup
Urad Dal - 2 tbsp
Coriander seeds - 1 and 1/2 tbsp
Red Chillies (Byadgi preferred) - 7-10
Jaggery - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp

Getting the Brinjal ready - Rinse the Brinjals and trim off the stem. Make double gashes on the stem side of the trimmed Brinjal. Throw them in a bowl of cold water. Leave it aside.
Masala - Roast red chillies, coriander seeds, urad dal on a low flame with few tsp of oil. Once done turn off the flame, add the grated coconut and let the coconut wilt for a while in the hot pan. Add salt, jaggery, turmeric powder and grind this to a coarse paste with very little water. The paste should be stiff, thick and not runny (sukke). Stuff this paste in the gashes added in the Brinjal. Finally, cap each of the Brinjal with the remaining ground paste. Rinse the blender and save the water for cooking Brinjals.
Cooking the stuffed Brinjals - In a deep bottomed pan, heat few spoons of oil and season with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Place the stuffed Brinjals side by side with the stem side up, pour the remaining masala by the side of the Brinjals. Add the rinsed water from the blender and bring to a boil, simmer on low flame for 5-8 minutes with the lid on. The Brinjals turn a shade lighter and should be completely cooked. Use a toothpick and run it through the centre core of the Brinjal, if it comes out clean, the cooking is done. Turn off the flame and serve warm as a side dish.

Step-by-Step Pictures:
1. Trim the cap off the stem and add double gashes and immerse in cold water. This enables the gashes to open up and make the masala stuffing process easy.

2. Add the seasoning and pour the rinsed water, arrange the Brinjals side by side and bring to boil and cook on simmer.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Potato Spicy Fritters (Batate Tandla Pitta Phodi)

I made these fritters some time back from an inspired version which comes from my Ma's traditional Phodi preparations. Since I did not have time to soak the rice, I used Rice flour (Tandlaa Peet) and Idli Rava. I prefer using Rice based batter over Gram Flour (Besan) because the fritters are super crispy and work well on our health and metabolism. Incidentally, my Ammama never liked using Besan and used Rice flour all through for deep fried preparations when she managed the kitchen and the daily meals. The batter for these fritters are not runny but should be sticky and thick (chikchiki). The only thing is one needs to guard the fritters with hawks eye and fry them on medium-to-high flame and remove them once they are crispy (kurkuri).

Ma soaks the rice and grinds the washed rice to a coarse wet batter along with red chillies. I refined her recipe for an easier version with less labor. In the bargain, I also save my blender from extra load as my blender hates grinding rice and lentils. The batter can be frozen and thawed and used to deep fry smaller batches of Fritters /Phodi.

Happy New Year to All!

It feels great to usher and welcome yet another year and still find the time and liberty to pursue one's hobby and passion. Last year has been a pleasant discovery of flavors, textures and aromas on the food front. I also became an efficient cook and baker which in turn helped me plan my time well so that I am not caught up in the kitchen all the time. I also decided to jam the breaks on the postings and thereby enable myself to focus on other personal and professional goals. All this for the love of food and eating!

I plan to dig deep and discover more facets of Konkani cuisine this year. No matter which food I eat, my heart still comes back to Dalitoy and Patrodo. :)

~ Batate Tandla Pitta Phodi ~
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes

Potatoes (peeled and sliced) - 10 slices

For the batter -
Rice Flour - 1 and 1/2 cup
Idli Rava - 1/2 cup
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - a pinch

Wash and peel the Potatoes to get rid of grime and dirt. Wash the slices to get rid of all the starch. Pat dry with a paper towel and keep aside. Make a thick sticky batter of rice flour and idli rava. The batter should not be runny at all, so add water little by little. Add red chilli powder, salt and asafoetida now. Mix well and keep aside for 5-10 minutes. Heat oil for deep frying and dip the potato slices so that each slice has an even coating of the batter. Deep fry on both sides till they are crispy (kurkuri) and are a shade darker upon frying. Serve hot or warm as a side dish.