Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rosematta Rice Dosa (Ukhdo Tandla Bhakri)

After contemplating for several months, I finally bought a 20 lbs. bag of Rosematta rice last year. Rosematta Rice also known as Kerala Red Rice/ Matta Rice/ Palakkadan Rice is easily available in few Indian groceries and is very nutritious as compared to its counterpart, Basmati or Sona Masoori Rice which is a part of our regular diet. Eating it frequently needs a certain acquired taste which comes with time. Since the bag is huge in quantity I wanted to be completely sure before I buy it. For so long, my Red Rice stash from India came to my rescue and it dwindled very fast. I like Soupy Red Rice (Ukhde Paej) and Cooked Red Rice (Ukhde Sheet).

Ma also made this tasty, crispy Bhakri out of Red Rice for breakfast. Do not mix this with its familiar counterpart - Akki Roti or Tandla chi Bhakri, both are different from this Bhakri. At one point as a kid, I went through a phase of only-Bhakri-for-breakfast, so much to my Ma's chagrin that she had to pull all the stops to make me eat something else. In my home, both of us like the taste of this Dosa - its soft, has the nutty taste of Rosematta rice and is very filling for breakfast. Best part the whole process is fermentation free. My Dad loves eating the Bhakri with fresh home churned butter, Loni which Ma makes everyday without fail. On few days, he also prefers honey and he promptly tells me his sugar level is low. Dad still loves the Bhakri with a dollop of butter dunked on top. Come to think of it, my late Grandma often told me that her MIL never made Chutney and the entire family had Dosa paired with Honey or Butter. A very odd combination for me but I certainly see why they like it. The diffident me stays away from butter and enjoys plain Bhakri paired with spicy Pitti Chutney powder.

~ Ukhdo Tandla Bhakri ~
Preparation time: 8-10 hours
Cooking time: 10-15 minutes
Yield: 12-15

Rosematta Red Rice - 1 cup
Grated Coconut (fresh or frozen) - little less than 1/2 cup
Oil/ Ghee for frying

Contraption: Cast Iron Pan if possible

1. Wash and rinse the rice in multiple changes of water to get rid of grime and dirt. Once the water is clear enough, soak the rice in 3 times the quantity of water overnight.
2. Next day, blend the rice along with grated coconut to a stiff paste with little water which is thick and non-runny but easily spreadable. Adjust salt as required.
3. Heat a cast iron pan. Ladle a tablespoon of the batter (just to the size of a pancake) and drizzle oil/ghee on the sides. Flip them after 5 minutes and fry on the other side. Once crisp and light brown on surface, serve hot with a dollop of butter or with Pitti Chutney powder.

Note - The balance of grated coconut and rice is crucial for Dosa. If coconut is more, the dosa would be crumbly and fall apart, if coconut is less, the dosa sticks and is difficult to flip over. The shelf life of batter is only 2 days since coconut is added. Use cast iron pan for best results.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Bhadang ~ A savory Marathi snack

Bhadang - a savory snack is a dry, crunchy concoction made of Puffed Rice, Peanuts and Spices. It is a common one made in Marathi/ Maharashtrian homes. Bhadang is quick-to-fix and once done, if stored in air tight containers come handy to satiate mid-day hunger growls. The husband likes Bhadang a lot, so is regular in my home.

I distinctly remember that Bhadang was a must-have during Kojagiri Purnima/ Sharad Purnima. It is a harvest festival marking the end of monsoon and is part of the lunar cycle of the hindu month of Ashvin. It is a popular belief that Lakshmi, the hindu goddess of wealth hops from one house to another asking people if there are awake and she ushers happily in homes where the folks are awake. Boiling milk on this day is an age old tradition and few recipes were common in my home - Masaale Doodh, Vada Pav and Bhadang. It is also considered auspicious to have the milk dessert blessed under the moonlight before enjoying it.

It is a commonly observed festive practise on this day to stay awake till midnight and enjoy dinner as post-midnight food. All our friends and their families gathered during the potluck and we played games till midnight. Some also sang songs ushering goddess Lakshmi. If the weather permitted, we indulged in midnight trekking under the moonlight - we called it Moonlight Picnic. There was a small temple on a hill near my home with lush greenery and we kids loved to run and play games in the open. We left our homes munching on light snacks, each of us carried our own dinner box and we trekked a steep hill which was at 60 degrees incline. The hardest task was locating the Moon, the kids were assigned with the responsibility of informing the elders once the pristine white mass rose in the sky. The joyous part of the festival was locating the Moon and beginning our dinner which always happened around midnight. Even if we had to beat the hunger pangs, every year all of us waited for our Moonlight Picnic which sounded very exciting and still does!

~ Bhadang ~
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

Puffed Rice (fresh, crispy) - 4 cups
Peanuts (toasted and cooled) - 3/4 cup
Garlic pods (finely chopped) - 1 tbsp
Green Chillies (split into two) - 2
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp.
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp.
Asafoetida - 1/3 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp.
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp.
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Salt - 1/2 tsp

Sugar - Just a pinch

Toast the Peanuts in microwave for 2 minutes. Allow to cool and keep aside. In a large mouthed Kadai, heat few spoons of oil and once the oil is sizzling hot, temper with mustard seeds, cumin seeds. Once they begin to splutter, add curry leaves followed by chopped garlic and reduce the flame to medium. Add the toasted peanuts and all spice powders now. Toss gently and adjust salt and sugar.  Add the puffed rice now and toss well for couple of minutes. Taste test for flavor and crispness. Turn off the flame, allow to cool and store in air tight container. Serve as a snack or during tea time.

Note - Garlic if fried for long turns bitter. Once brown enough, reduce the flame.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Sol Kadi with Ajwain (Owya chi Sol Kadi/ Ove Sol Kadi)

I relish Sol Kadi and enjoy the soothing beverage during warm summer days.

I like adding Ajwain in my daily cooking, so more often than not, it gets limited to Pakoras which I don't make very often. Ajwain is known as Bishop's weed or Carom seeds. It is known as Owa in Marathi and Ovo in GSB Konkani. Recently, I was on a pantry clean-up spree and I found a jar of Ajwain lying in the far dark corner of my kitchen shelf. I knew I had to use it immediately and found this recipe scribbled in my recipe journal.

I made this Sol Kadi with Ajwain and Pepper Corns, it turned out delicious. My Ma makes this on days when she observes special diet for e.g no onions and garlic or a fast for Sankashti/ Vinayaki. One of my Pachi (Aunt) who hails from Goa also makes this version at home. My Ma learned the approach from her. I enjoy this Kadi for the tangy flavor rendered by Kokum shells which mingles beautifully with mildly pungent taste of Ajwain. In GSB Konkani, Ajwain is known as Ovo, hence Ove Sol Kadi.

Carom Seeds | Ajwain
Ajwain/ Carom seeds/ Bishop's weed packs quite a lot of health benefits:
- Ajwain is effective due to its anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-spasmodic properties.
- It is effective for stomach infection, stomach ache and flatulence (gas).
- It is helpful for tooth ache, ear ache and relaxes muscle pain.
- It is effective for stomach pain when eaten with a little salt. 

~ Ove Sol Kadi ~
Preparation time: 60 minutes (includes soaking time)
Processing time: 10 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

Kokum Shells - 5-8
Thick Coconut Milk (Canned or freshly extracted) - 1 cup
Green Chillies (slit lengthwise) - 2

Ground to a fine paste -
Grated coconut (fresh or frozen) - 2 tbsp.
Green Chilli (seared in oil) - 1
Ajwain (Carom seeds) - 1/2 tsp
Whole Black Pepper Corns - 5-7

For Garnish (optional) - freshly chopped Coriander leaves bits - 1 tsp.

1. Soak Kokum shells in approx. 3/4 cup of cool water along with two slit green chillies.
2. In a small frying pan, sear a green chilli in very little oil. Be careful as the chilli bursts due to pressure with seeds flying in all directions. Allow to cool.
3. Grind the seared green chilli, ajwain and whole black pepper corns to a paste along with fresh grated coconut. Add little water just enough to get a smooth paste.
3. Extract thick coconut milk out of one fresh coconut (approx. one cup). One can substitute with canned Coconut Milk. Add this to the Kokum water along withe ground paste. Adjust salt as per taste. Mix well. Discard or retain  green chillies and Kokum as per choice. Serve with warm rice.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Mushroom Chilli

Sunday, May 13th was Mother's Day. I prayed for my Mother's well being and good health. I also wish all the Mom's around the world good health, peace and happiness.

My Ma is the wind beneath my wings. She is the reason I began this blog, thinking of which fills me with pure, undiluted, nostalgia. She is a short, petite, fair lady who has a unique sense of humor and an inspirational way of looking at life. She likes Roses in particular. Freshly brewed filter coffee,  Paej (soupy Rosematta rice) and deep fried Pumpkin Buds (Dudya Kalo) are her favorite foods. Ma keeps giving me gyaan on the phone and I miss her a lot as she is thousand miles away from me. She tells me to use more of my heart and less of my head because she feels the world needs more compassion and kindness which is depleting nowadays. She advises me to offer hope to the less fortunate, share as much as I can and be kind with words and actions. I try to assimilate as much as I can and challenge her with few theories and beliefs which I don't accept, some which she agrees with a firm nod. So, in essence we have a unique, symbiotic, enriching friendship and a deep fulfilling bond. Best of all, she accepts me the way I am.

Ma keeps herself busy with social work, helping women and children in need, care for senior citizens, providing aid for widows in distress, community work projects, etc. In hindsight, she has brought a big difference to many people and their lives, few of them are extremely grateful to her for changing their lives. But she rarely talks about her social work and her accomplishments. For me, that's a big lesson in humility. While in India, I often take my parents out on short holidays and trips. On few special days, I cook for my parents and get their favorite movie DVD and we enjoy pop-corn, hors d'oeuvre and funny jabber with each other. My home in India has a very open, democratic culture. We are together yet are our own individual selves. Of the few dishes which I've cooked for her, she likes Mushroom Chilli a lot. Ironically, my Ma likes Indian Chinese but my Dad prefers Konkani food 24/7 and I enjoy anything cooked by Ma. She likes her food spicy, Dad also likes spicy food and I like mine super spicy, so you get the drift. In the end, we enjoy each others company a lot. Coming to the recipe - this is a simple, quick-to-cook Indian Chinese and is special to me because my Ma likes this a lot.

~ Mushroom Chilli ~
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes

Baby Bella Mushrooms (cleaned, rinsed and pat dried) - 8 oz. ~ around 12 mushrooms
Spring Onions (onion bulb and greens separately chopped) - 1/2 cup and 1 tbsp  greens for garnish
Salad Oil

Green Chillies (thinly sliced) - 3
Soy Sauce (light with low sodium) - 2 tsp
Chilli Sauce (green) - 1 tsp
Pepper powder (coarsely ground) - 1/2 tsp
Garlic (finely chopped) - 3 jumbo flakes
Ginger paste - 1/2 tsp

For Garnish -
Coriander leaves (chopped) - 1 tbsp
Spring Onion Greens (chopped) - 1 tbsp

Contraption needed - Wok

1. Rinse, wash and pat dry the mushrooms. Pluck out the stem and halve them. I do this because mushrooms in US are bigger. The Indian ones are smaller in size so you can leave them whole. In a hot wok, heat salad oil and add the sliced green chillies first. Once they are part fried, add ginger paste and garlic. Saute well till they wilt. This takes around 3 minutes. Keep the flame on medium.
2. Add the chopped onions now and saute till they caramelize. Add the chopped mushroom stem, pepper powder, add soya sauce and chilli sauce. Adjust salt as required. Do not add any water.This should take about 5 minutes.
3. Add the halved mushrooms now and toss them on high heat. Mushrooms release water upon cooking and this creates a flavored sauce. Cook for about 2 minutes and stop at this stage if you are pairing the Mushroom Chilli with Noodles and need extra gravy.
4. Cook on high heat. The water released from Mushroom creates a self-saucing stock which thickens with high heat. This process  is called reduction in culinary art and it intensifies the flavor of the sauce. The stock evaporates and high heat thereby softening the mushrooms. Once the sauce is thickly coated on all the mushrooms, turn off the heat. Transfer to serving plate and garnish with coriander leaves and greens of spring onions. Serve hot or warm. Pair with Chinese Noodles or on its own.

Note - I strictly avoid MSG (Aginomoto) in my cooking, you could add it while adding salt, in which case reduce the quantity of salt added. Soya Sauce has high sodium so be careful while adding extra salt. In US, I prefer BabyBella mushrooms (baby Portobello Mushrooms). They hold their shape  and are firm for Indian-Chinese cooking. Salad oil tastes better, else use any neutral flavored cooking oil.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Dill Pakoras (Shepu chya Bhajya/ Shepu Bajo)

I have to confess - I like deep fried food and as guilty as charged. Few weeks ago I was craving for these and had to make them soon. I really miss the roadside Angadis in India where the vendor packs all assorted fried foods in newspaper and hands them over to you for a small sum. This recipe was sitting in my draft collection hence thought of feeding my hungry blog. 

Many years ago, my Mom made this for me during a super rainy day when I was a teenager. She wanted to convince me that Dill is edible. I had earlier refused to eat a vegetable side dish made out of Dill leaves. I told her she cannot make me budge with a wispy hint that I may like it, since it was deep fried. The deep, herb like smell put me off completely and today decades later I find it very fragrant and soothing. Strange how everything keeps changing in life.

Dill Pakoras are not made in many homes yet are super delicious, soft and spongy. Dill is known as Shepu in Marathi, Sapsige Soppu in Kannada and Shepu chi Bhaaji in Kokani. The Pakoras cook super fast so guard and watch them till finish. The flip side is it absorbs lot of oil, so have your kitchen  towel handy. Adding Baking soda is optional, however it adds crispness to the texture.

~ Dill Pakoras ~

Preparation time - 25 minutes
Cooking time - 10 minutes

Dill leaves (washed, dried and finely chopped) - 1 and 1/2 cup
Onions (finely chopped) - 3/4 cup
Oil for frying

For the Batter -
Chickpea flour ~ Besan - 1 cup
All Purpose Flour - 3/4  cup
Green Chillies (finely chopped) - 1 tsp.
Ginger paste - 1/2 tsp
Rice Rava - 2 tbsp.
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 2 pinches
Baking soda (optional) - a pinch

For Garnish -
Chaat Masala - 1/2 tsp.

Wash and clean the leaves. Remove the stem and pat dry the leaves and chop them finely. In a mixing bowl, make a stiff batter of Chickpea flour, APF and Rice Rava. Add salt, ginger paste, turmeric powder, green chillies and red chilli powder. The batter should be very thick and not runny, like any Pakora batter but more stiffer and thicker. Mix in chopped Dill and Onions. Set aside for 15 minutes. 
Heat oil and once the oil is hot enough, scoop a morsel by hand and pour in oil. Deep fry in batches of two or three. They fry very quickly so once they turn reddish brown, scoop them out of oil with a large slotted spoon and transfer to an absorbent kitchen towel. Serve with Tomato Ketchup or any sweet chutney like Plum/ Mango/ Cranberry Chutney.

Note - The oil should NOT be smoking hot. The temperature of oil can affect the frying process.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tava Pulav - Popular Mumbai Street Food

These days I feel my culinary muse is on a sojourn to a dreamland, never to return back. For last few weeks, both of us have been on a hectic schedule with very less time to cook in the kitchen and upkeep my dear home. Quite unlike me however, after umpteen orders of food packed from malls in Styrofoam and McDonald's takeaways (try their Spicy Chicken Burger, its yummy), both of us got sick of takeout food. With energy levels dipping, I promptly resorted to One Pot Meals purely due to lack of inspiration and interest. They save me from excess slavery in the kitchen, work out well as a complete meal. I pair them with a salad and/or Cucumber Raita. The first one I made was Tava Pulav

Tava is an Indian skillet made of cast iron or iron and is found in every home. Few years back when I wasn't married, our entire jumbo family got packed in one piece to attend my cousin's thread ceremony in Mumbai. Needless to say, considering our fetish for great home made food, my Pachi (Aunt) hired a cook who whipped out delicious meals morning, noon and night. For a week, we enjoyed the stay in suburban Mumbai lodge-cum-hall arena which overlooked a huge expansive play ground and park. The cook stole our hearts and we were happy not to bother about lunches and dinners esp. since it was a large gathering. We got to sample different cuisines everyday since my Uncle is in food business and is very enthusiastic and passionate about the offerings for his guest. One evening's dinner was Tava Pulav. The cook informed me that the dish is very popular in Mumbai and is made with Pav Bhaji Masala. The rice is cooked al dente, then mixed with the cooked vegetables and then tossed in air with a deft hand, not to forget the high flame which gives the rice and vegetables a toasted and crunchy flavor. I bugged the cook for all his cooking methods, recipes and styles. Initially, he was reticent to share his secrets but soon he gladly obliged. For a week, the women in the family enjoyed no-cook days and it was one crazy family party! The memory in etched in my mind and the I savor the moments spent in my large maternal family's warmth and care.

For making this Pulav, one needs a large-mouthed iron Tava which is thin in gauge and is black colored. These Tava's are easily found in utensil shops. Even a wok serves the same purpose. One can also use cast-iron for the same flavor. The food cooked is iron rich and has the prominent cast-iron flavor which is ubiquitous & soul-satisfying found in Mumbai or for that matter that from any street food vendor in India.

~ Tava Pulav ~
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 15 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Cooked and cooled Basmati Rice - 4 cups
Pav Bhaji Masala - 1 tbsp
Red Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Carrots (finely chopped) - 1/2 cup
Green Beans (finely chopped) - 1/2 cup
Onion (finely chopped) - 1/2 cup
Bell Pepper (finely chopped) - 1/2 cup
Vegetable stock - Around 1/2 cup

Shahjeera - 1 tsp
Ginger paste - 1 tsp
Garlic paste - 1 tsp
Cinnamon - 1" stick
Cloves - 2
Bay Leaf - 1
Cardamom (coarse powder of seeds) - 1/2 tsp
Green Chillies (slit lengthwise) [optional] - 1

For Garnish -
Coriander leaves (finely chopped) - few strands

Contraption needed - Iron Tava/ Wok

Heat the Tava on a medium flame. Hew few spoons of ghee, add Shahjeera. Once the seeds splutter, add Cinnamon, Cloves and  Bay Leaf. Once the oil is flavored with spices, add the ginger-garlic paste and fry well till the aroma oozes out and the raw flavor goes away. This takes around 5 minutes. Add chopped onions now along with green chillies and saute them till they brown, add chopped carrots, bell pepper and beans, turmeric and red chilli powder. Turn down the flame while adding the spice powder else they turn bitter soon. Add a few tbsp. of vegetable stock for moisture. Once the vegetables are par-cooked add the coked rice and sprinkle Pav Bhaji Masala. Toss the rice a few times. Do not mix a lot else the rice turns mushy. If the rice is going dry, add few tbsp. of water or vegetable stock. Bump up the heat and mix well. Do not use a spatula else the rice turns soggy. Sprinkle a few drops of ghee or melted butter and serve hot. Garnish with chopped Coriander leaves. Pair with Raita/ Salad and Papad.

Note - This dish is an efficient way of using Pav Bhaji Masala lying in your pantry. High heat aids shock cooking of the vegetables hence is important.