Saturday, July 28, 2012

Passion Fruit Juice

My Ma has a green thumb and she adores her plants, her tiny garden and loves the baby saplings. A tiny sapling growing into a a fruit bearing tree certainly adds to the motivation. When we were kids, she potted few seeds of Passion Fruit which were gifted by a dear friend. The fruit grew into a wild climber and crawled over half of our house and atop the terrace. There was a certain method to the madness as our house now had a canopy of green foliage. For couple of years, we enjoyed a pleasing harvest of Passion Fruit during summer days. 

Passion Fruit Pulp

Finally, the climber took official possession of our property so much that the house was completely covered with the tendrils, woody twigs and wild vines. The beauty of the vine were the fruits which bore a light green color (there are many different varieties of Passion Fruit) and the flowers looked very pretty, purple like a dainty dame. The vine caused damage to the property and much to our dismay, a professional tree feller was called to trim the vines. I assume that the poor plant was dejected and sadly thereafter the climber stopped growing beyond a expected height. That was the tragic end of Passion Fruit saga in our home. Ma felt sad as we could not salvage the climber and restore her to grow and flourish. Finally, we moved from the home and the new owner weeded her out which breaks my heart as I write this. I choose to address the climber as 'her' as Ma personified the climber as a woman who bore children and needed constant help and care.
Purple Passion Fruit

For the first time we got these fruits as a gift, we did not know what to do with it. Happens in your home? I am sure. Finally, after some expert intervention, my Ma figured a way out to deal with the pulp. Hence, I decided to post the recipe for everybody's benefit. I found Purple Passion Fruit at Whole Foods. The store associate told me that they are very seasonal and are available for a brief period of time is US during late summer. The taste of this fruit is very mild, natural, a bit tangy and tastes better when freshly extracted. It comes very close to Rasna Mango, a summer beverage I loved as a kid. 

~ Passion Fruit Juice ~
Processing Time: 20 minutes
Yield: 12 oz of concentrate

Passion Fruit: 6
Sugar - 2 tsp/ Fruit
Ice Chips

Contraption Needed: Large Sieve

Rinse the fruits and halve them. You will spot a yellow pulp which is seeded. Extract the pulp in a large metal sieve. Add sugar to the pulp and stir well with a strong ladle. This is a painstaking process and could take long. At regular intervals, add little water to support the stirring process. Extract the concentrate in a bowl. Store the concentrate in a non-reactive jar and use within 3 days. For making the juice, use 1 part of concentrate for 3 parts of water. No need to add extra sugar. Serve with ice chips.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Mixed Vegetable Pickle (without Oil) - Konkani style

Mixed Vegetable Pickle is a popular Konkani pickle prepared with all winter fresh vegetables you can find. This is the way Ma makes it for us when the fresh bounty of winter vegetables surfaced in the markets. Of late, she has stopped making large batches of pickle because both of them cannot finish the batch and then it just gets wasted. The pickle Ma made was without oil and had lot of pickle liquor (nonche kholu). If there is one item which I refuse to buy from store then its got to be Pickle. I feel the flavor of home made pickle is a sure shot winner and you can also control the amount of sodium and oil content that goes in.

Every time I tell her I making a batch of pickle at home, she reminds me to sun dry the jars or sanitize them crisp and dry in the dishwasher. She even goes the extra mile by storing them in special pickle jars (Bharani) and covers the porcelain jars with tight cheesecloth on top to be used only during the rainy season, next year around. The husband is not a big fan of pickle, so I made a small batch just for me over the weekend. I did not add water so the pickle has a semi-dry consistency. Soon after the jar is ready, I store it in refrigerator after two days. The shelf life of this pickle is 1-2 months and goes well with Dosa, Idli, Paej and Parathas. Check here for elaborate notes on different types of Konkani pickles.

~ Mixed Vegetable Pickle (without Oil) - Konkani style ~
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Processing time: 5 minutes
The measurements are good for 4 cups of vegetables (approx.)

Cauliflower (chopped into tiny florets) - 2 cups
Ivy Gourd [Tendle] (chopped into thin strips) - 1 cup
Carrot (chopped into thin strips)  - 3/4 cup
Ginger (peeled and chopped into tiny bits) - 1/4 cup
Lime (juiced and chopped into tiny bits) - 1/4 cup
Lime juice - 2 medium Limes

For Pickle Masala -
Mustard seeds - 1 tbsp
Red Chillies (Byadgi) - 10
Red Chillies (Harekala/ Guddi Mirsang) - 5
Asafoetida - 1/5 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp

1. Chop the vegetables and wash them well. Air dry on a cheesecloth or a paper napkin till the water content is gone. Add salt and lime juice, give a good toss and set aside for 2 hours.
2. In a mixer, add the red chillies and grind to a fine powder, add asafoetida now and turmeric powder and blitz for a while to mix it all up. Now, add mustard seeds and run the mixer once to crush it all up to a fine powder. Spread this powder on a plate and allow to cool completely. Once cooled off, mix the powder to the chopped vegetables and adjust salt as per taste (leave for 2 hours undisturbed). 
3. In a dry non-reactive jar, transfer the pickle. After 2 days, refrigerate for further use. Finish within 1-2 months. 

Note: If you live in tropical/ hot terrains, heat 1/3 cup of neutral oil (Vegetable or Canola oil). Allow to cool and pour over the pickle stored to prevent from any bacteria/ fungi attack and store in a cool place. Any kind of moisture ruins the pickle, so store it well.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Idli Roast

A quick no-brainer recipe and a family favorite. In my home, excess Idli is saved for Idli Roast prepared the next day for breakfast/ tiffin snacks. Sliced Idlis roasted in Ghee and a divine snack gets ready in less than 10 minutes. This snack made its way into my school and college snack box. 

I pair it with Curry Leaves Dry Chutney powder (Karbev Palley Chutney Pitti). For best results, use a Cast Iron pan for roasting. You will get a nice crust and a crispy texture.

~ Idli Roast ~
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Yield: 6-8 Slices

Idlis (sliced into thin bites) - 2

Contraption needed - Cast Iron Pan

Heat a cast iron pan and place the slices side by side. Drizzle ghee on the sides. Flip them once the golden crust is formed and they are crispy. Turn off the flame and serve hot with Dry Chutney powder.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Idli Sambhar

My all time favorite breakfast item is Idli-Sambhar. The Idlis made by Ma are pearl white, fine edged and spongy. While in school, Ma made this for us early morning on weekdays for which she woke up at the crack of dawn. For me, Idli is a sunny bright symbol of a happy childhood and growing up years. For the longest time, I presumed making a batch of Idlis got to be the simplest thing in the world. Well in my case, the story was little different.

I began cooking many years ago and my dishes since then have been quick and simple. I like my food but do not believe in spending long hours in the kitchen unless I am exceptionally motivated. So Idli was always pushed to the bottom of my list. Coming to the US, I spent many many months testing, trying, cooking Idlis which resulted in hard, stone like Idlis. A few times I chose to give up because the effort disappointed me to a great extent. Determined to master the recipe, I took the bull by the horns and took tiny baby steps. With every attempt I changed the recipe here and there, altered the fermentation approach, sometimes the ingredients and finally made it. This is a work-in-progress post, so will update with more notes as I move ahead with the blog. I stick to my mother's recipe finally because its given me best results. I also enjoy Idli Roast, Idli Usli from leftover Idlis from the previous day. I got to confess, sometimes Idlis are made in our house just to enjoy Idli Roast. :)

We both like Idlis which are a bit coarse and non-pasty (Raval in Marathi). I grind the Urad Dal and add Idli Rava (washed). The mould I use results in about 1" thick Idlis. Idli is super healthy, steamed, nutritious food, a complete meal when paired with Sambhar and good source of protein and carbohydrates. Ma garnishes Sambhar with chopped Coriander leaves which adds a unique aroma to the broth. Try different permutations and combinations (if you live outside India and in cold terrains) and eventually you will succeed.

~ Idli Sambhar ~
Prep Time: 8-10 hours (fermentation time)
Cook Time: 20 minutes + 15 minutes (to get the steamer to a rolling boil)

Yield - 20 Idlis

Idli Rice or Idli Rava - 2 cups
Urad Dal - 1 cup
Contraption needed - Idli Steamer/ Pressure cooker and Idli Mould

Wash the Urad Dal just couple of times and soak in filtered water (atleast 8 hours soak time required). Grind the Urad Dal till you get a soft batter which is thick (do not add too much water and if possible add some of the soaked water). Wash Idli Rava in water for few times and add this to the batter. Transfer the batter to a steel deep-bottomed vessel and cover with a loose fitting lid. Throw salt on top and keep a sheet pan below the vessel to prevent any spills. Leave the pilot light of the oven on all through the fermentation process.
The next morning, the batter volume will double up. Give a good mix and set aside. Grease Idli moulds with oil and add boil water in the Idli steamer (takes around 15 minutes). Add batter to fill half of the mould and place in the steamer side by side. Cover the lid tightly and steam on medium flame for 15-20 minutes. Once time has elapsed, check with a knife. It should come put clean. Unmould using a butter knife or a sharp pairing knife. Serve with Sambhar.

1. Do not wash the Urad Dal a lot. The starch in Dal is essential for aiding fermentation.
2. Check if its a warm day. A warm day encourages wild yeast presence in air and supports fermentation.
3. Use Gota Ural Dal (whole) for softer Idlis. Second preference would be for split Urad Dal.
4. Once batter is ready, mix it well with your hands. The warmth from the body kick starts fermentation. Do it twice during the fermentation process for speeding up the process.
5. Do not cover the lid of the batter vessel tightly. Use stainless steel vessel for storing batter.
6. Use a little quantity of soaked water for grinding Urad Dal. 
7. Unmould the Idli as soon as you transfer from the steamer.
8. If the Idli rises in volume after adding in mould, its a good sign of complete fermentation.
9. If you live in a colder region, heat up the oven a little during winter time and avoid opening the oven door frequently once you put the batter in.

Yield: 8-10 servings

Mixed Vegetables (finely chopped) - 4 cups
[Beans, Carrot, Cauliflower, Potato, Ivy Gourd, Onion]
Boiled Toor Dal - 1 cup
Sambhar powder - 2 tbsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - 1/5 tsp

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

For Garnish -
Coriander leaves (chopped) - 3 tbsp

Rinse and chop the vegetables. In a deep bottomed vessel, boil the vegetables with little salt, turmeric powder and hot water (2 cups). Once par cooked, add the boiled Toor Dal, Asafoetida and Sambhar powder. Add enough water as per consistency desired. Bring to a boil and simmer for 8-10 minutes till completely cooked. Turn off the flame. In a separate seasoning pan, heat few tsp. of oil/ghee, season with mustard seeds and once they splutter, add curry leaves. Pour this seasoning on the soupy curry and garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Cover with a lid and serve hot.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Blackeyed Beans and Baby Red Potatoes Usal (with Goda Masala)

Recently I made Marathi style dish called Usal with Goda Masala. The simple addition of Goda Masala gives a new refreshing dimension to this dish. I use the masala to make Marathi style Amti, Usal and the aroma the dish oozes out is very close to my heart.

I have few Marathi friends who are hold a special place in my life and everytime I visit their homes, their Mums make Triangle Roti (Ghadichi Polya), Moth Beans Usal (Matki chi Usal) and Amti for me. The dishes from Malvan, Kolhapur have a very unique aromatic flavor and I make them often.

~ Black-eyed Beans and Baby Red Potatoes Usal (with Goda Masala) ~
Preparation time: 20 minutes (includes pressure cooking time)
Cooking time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4 servings

Black-eyed Beans (cooked) - 2 cups
Baby Red Potatoes (Peeled, diced into two) - 4
Onion (finely chopped) - 3/4 cup
Goda Masala - 1tsp
Turmeric Powder - 1/2 tsp
Red Chilli Powder - 1/2 tsp
Coconut (grated) [optional] - 2 tbsp

For Seasoning -
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 5-6
Green Chillies (sliced lengthwise) - 2
Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp

For Garnish -
Coriander leaves - 1 tbsp

1. Soak the beans overnight and pressure cook with little salt for 2 whistles. Drain water and keep aside. Peel the baby Potatoes, dice into two and rinse to get rid of excess starch. 
2. In a deep bottomed vessel, heat a tsp. of oil and season with mustard seeds. After they splutter, add curry leaves, green chillies and asafoetida. Reduce the flame and add onions now. Saute the onions and once they wilt down, add the  turmeric powder, goda masala and red chilli powder. Brown the onions till they caramelized (This is a very important step. Please don't skip this). This step takes around 10-12 minutes.
3. Once the onions are browned enough, add the black-eyed beans and baby potatoes. If you are adding coconut, add it now. Mix well and add water if you want gravy. I prefer the dish semi-dry so added just enough water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil and simmer on low flame. Cover with a lid. Once done, sprinkle coconut, mix well and garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Serve warm with Rotis.
Note - Brown and caramelize the onions, else your dish will have the raw flavor of onions. I like adding coconut toward the end to finish the dish (just like garnish in GSB Konkani dishes), that way the coconut flavor is little prominent and fresh. Add it earlier, if you want the coconut to be cooked.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Poha Chutney ~ Konkani Style (Phova Chutney/ Phanna Phova)

Poha Chutney or Phova Chutney is a GSB Konkani breakfast staple made in many homes I know. It is also one of the breakfast/ tiffin items made during religious/ celebratory ceremonies like Weddings, Thread Ceremony etc. 

The chutney in question for this dish is very spicy, works well with thin beaten rice (Paatal Phovu). This is my Ma's recipe and she has been making this since we were kids. They are different variations in this recipe practiced by families based on culinary traditions followed. This recipe makes use of Sambar powder (Kolmbo Pitti) and is usually paired with Sev/ Upma or any mild tiffin item. This is a spicy dish, adjust the spice level as per choice.**

~ Phova Chutney ~
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Processing time: 10 minutes
Yield: 2 servings

Beaten Rice (Poha) - 3/4 cup
Red Chillies (Byadgi) - 2
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig

Grated coconut (fresh) - 2 tbsp
Konkani Sambar powder (Kolmbo Pitti) - 1 tsp **
Jaggery (optional) - 1 tsp
Sugar - 1 tsp

1. Rinse the Poha with little water. Squeeze out all the water and leave aside (traditionally, this is not done, but I find the flakes going dry if not rinsed earlier, so I rinse in little water and pat dry).
2. In a small pan, heat a tsp. of oil and saute two red chillies. Allow it to crisp well, then season with mustard seeds and curry leaves. Allow all of it to crisp without burning. Turn off the flame and allow to cool.
3. In a mixing bowl, add the seasoning items and crush lightly with your hand. Add the jaggery, sambar powder and grated coconut and mix well to make a collective coarse textured chutney. This is the Chutney for the Poha.
4. Add the Poha (wet) to the chutney and mix well. If it turns dry, sprinkle little water. Serve immediately with Sev/ Upma along with Tea/ Coffee.

Note: If you don't have jaggery, increase the amount of sugar. If you like the Poha with a little dry texture, skip the Poha rinsing step.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Seasoned Wheat Noodles (Govaa Shevya Usli/ Govaa Shevayi Phanna))

Last weekend was probably one of the best one we've had in a long time. For a change, it was great to be pampered with home style Konkani food and immerse ourselves in Konkani culture, talent shows, intellectual discussions and talks on heritage and the road ahead for preservation. Past weekend saw us attending Konkani Sammelan held at Edison, NJ. We had booked the tickets few months ago and were eagerly waiting to attend the event.

The Konkani Sammelan is a flagship event for the Konkanis in North America. The event was amazing with three days of fun fare and great food. I also got to taste some dishes which I had tried years ago at my Ammama's (Grandma's) place. Couple of pictures from Konkani Foodie were added in the slide show showcased at the Sammelan. For next few months, I will be preparing few dishes inspired by the Sammelan menu. Those eager to know the menu can access it from here.

Pre-made Wheat Noodles
Konkani Foodie also got featured in the Sammelan souvenir published, with a poem written by me on Konkani obsession with food dedicated to my dear mother. In addition, I got a chance opportunity to attend Creative Writing workshop which was graced by Shobhan Bantwal, one of my favorite commercial fiction writers. In addition, they had an interview with famous Iron Chef Floyd Cardoz who also spoke in detail about his love for home cooked food, his inspiration and selected few recipes which were judged my him for various categories as part of a cooking contest held during the Sammelan. I regret that I could not send my recipes for the contest, but a busy school year has kept me away from many things I love doing. One interesting thing said by Mr. Cardoz was - Know your food first before you go and explore a different cuisine. I ruminated on that thought for quite a bit. Few other dignitaries who attended the event were TV Mohandas Pai, Amrita Rao, Shyam Benegal and Kalpana Lajmi.

One of the days for breakfast, we had Shevya Usli which is a typical Konkani breakfast item. My palate was pleased and I remembered the dish so dearly. I have given my mother a lot of heartache over this breakfast staple which I lament and I'm certainly apologetic about. As a kid, for some weird reasons, I hated this dish and Ma constantly reminds me of the trouble I caused her. Shevayi is pre-made wheat noodles and Usli is seasoning, Govu means Wheat kernels. This dish is also known as Shevayi Phanna. These days, in specialty grocery stores in India, one gets variety of these noodles (Rice, Wheat, Ragi, Rulaav are the popular varieties available) which require a soak time of 20-30 minutes and can be cooked immediately for a super quick breakfast/ supper.

This spring, the husband's Uncle and Aunty visited us for an evening spend. One of the goodies they got for us were pre-made Wheat Noodles also known as Gova Shevayi. These noodles are not the commercially available kinds but are mostly hand-made and sold. It takes a bit of effort, but the taste of these noodles are a far cry from the popular semiya/ vermicelli brands. Back from Sammelan, I used the Shevayi immediately and felt transported to India. This Usli is neither sweet nor salty and the seasoning adds the extra kick. Instead of adding salt and sugar directly, I follow my Ma's approach - Add a solution of sugar and salt mixed and sprinkle it on the Shevayi. My Ma makes this Usli on special days when she observes Fast (Upvaas) or when she wants a special Saatvik diet.

~ Shevya Usli/ Shevayi Phanna ~
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes

Wheat Noodles (Govaa Shevayi) - 4 cups
Salt (1/2 tsp) + Sugar (1/2 tsp) mixed in 3 tbsp. water 
Coconut Oil

For Seasoning -
Urad Dal (split) - 1 tsp
Chana Dal  - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Green Chillies (sliced lengthwise) - 2
Curry leaves - 1 sprig

For Garnish -
Grated coconut (fresh or frozen) - 4 tbsp

1. Check the noodles if they dry enough, if they have moisture content in them, dry them in the sun till they are evenly dry.
2. Soak them in water for 20-30 minutes (regular room temperature water is fine but I soak them in hot water). Once done, they will proliferate in size and become a bit tender. Drain off the water and lightly crush them with your hands to break them gently.
3. Heat a deep dish pan and once hot enough, add coconut oil and season with mustard seeds and green chillies. Once they splutter, add curry leaves, Chana Dal and Urad Dal. Reduce the flame to medium and saute lightly for a minute till the Dal turns light brown. Add the soaked noodles now and mix well. Add the salt and sugar mixed in water now and give the noodles a good toss. Toss for 2-3 minutes till the noodles form a homogeneous mixture. Taste for spice and flavor. Turn off the flame and garnish with grated coconut.

Note - The pre-made noodles need to be stored well in a dry place away from moisture. The noodles turn bad as soon as they come in contact with moisture. Sun-dry or lightly toast in oven on low temperature for few minutes if they have absorbed moisture.