Thursday, August 23, 2012

Jackfruit Chips (Ghare Karo)

Jackfruit Chips are one of my childhood favorite snack items. These chips are made from a special variety of unripe Jackfruit kernels which yield good, tasty chips. The kernel of Jackfruit from which the chips are made are known as Gharo (in Konkani), Karo implies chips hence Ghare Karo

Growing up, my grandparents' sprawling backyard had few of my favorite trees easily touching 50 metres in height. We had a massive Jackfruit Tree which was used for Ghare Karo, a large Mango tree which bore tangy-sweet Kairi, a sweet smelling Champa tree (Champe) which blossomed with divine smelling Champa flowers of light orange shade, followed by a medium high Guava tree which yielded  pink, ripe Guava (Peru or Pear) during summer season. Needless to say, our favorite summer activity was to raid the trees. My Grandfather (Ajja) was the only one who supervised the tree and chose the Jackfruits to be used for these chips. He loved the tree and guarded it like a pot of gold. The tree was in demand just for the chips and a source of joy for all of us. With the onset of summer, all cousins and relatives would call us to book for a Jackfruit from the tree. Later my Grandparents moved from that home and the tree was chopped off, only to retain the trunk. Everytime I visit India, I make a point to visit the old home. Large buildings have mushroomed, but the tree stands tall with the trunk sans the foliage, a silent testimonial to an era gone by.

The chips were made by all the family members as a joint activity. Three, strong red and crimson Laterite bricks held a wide mouthed Iron Kadhai which was used once a year, specially lugged and hauled from the family attic, cleaned and sun-dried. The entire cooking was done in the backyard. The flames went high and the heat left us teary eyed all the time. All the kids had paper cones ready to enjoy the fresh batch of these fried chips. We squealed with joy when the salt water was added to the oil, the sound only indicating that we would be enjoying the chips soon.

The biggest chore in making these chips is separating the kernel from the bark of Jackfruit which is a super labor intensive activity. The entire family participated in the activity by oiling their hands and pulling out the kernels, de-seeding them and then slicing them for the chips. Once done, the chips have to be stored in an airtight container. The chips remain fresh and crisp for 2 weeks if stored well.

~ Ghare Karo ~
Prep Time: 60 minutes
Cook Time: 10-15 minutes for each batch

Jackfruit Kernel (Gharo) (sliced into thin strips) - 4 cups

Salt Water Concentrate -
Water - 1 cup
Salt - as per taste
Turmeric powder - 1/3 tsp
*** Mix everything to form a solution ***

1. Slice the kernels into thin strips and keep aside. If they are wet, air-dry them by spreading them on a paper towel.
2. Mix all the ingredients of salt water concentrate to form a salty yellow solution. If the salt is less, the chips will not catch the salty taste. Adjust salt as per taste.
3. Heat oil in a big Kadhai and let the oil be smoking hot. Pour a handful of sliced pieces of Jackfruit and stir occasionally to prevent them from sticking to each other. Once they are done (they will get a reddish-orange color and will become crispy), add 2-3 tbsp. of the salt water concentrate. Give a good stir and pull them off heat and transfer to a paper towel to absorb excess oil. 
4. Store in airtight container and enjoy.

Note: The chips are made from unripe Jackfruit kernels. Not all unripe Jackfruit kernels are suited for making these chips.

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Ma's Mixed Vegetable Kurma

My Ma's Mixed Vegetable Kurma is a recipe which is very dear to my heart for many reasons. This is one of my Ma's signature recipes.

When I was a teenager, Ma got a chance to participate in a community kitchen event for charity. She signed up for it and gave a commitment almost 3 months before the event was slated to be held. Just a months before the said event, she fractured her right leg owing to which she was bed ridden for few weeks. With the event around the corner, all of us advised her to back out because there was no way she could have pulled it off. She chose this recipe of Mixed Vegetable Kurma. Finally, the decision was taken by her and she agreed to do it although her health was in shambles. I was the Sous Chef and together we cooked for a large gathering of 450 people. I distinctly remember the day when we sat in our tiny kitchen chopping the vegetables one by one and offering her a helping hand. For the first time, I saw 2-3 industrial size cooking utensils used in my home. There were no fancy gadgets nor Italian modular kitchen with marble floor to boot, just a small 3 burner gas stove, a 10X8 kitchen and nerves of steel to see the event through finish. Finally, she taste tested and approved and it was delivered to the venue for the event. Everyone liked her dish and we were relieved to know it was over.

I learn a few additional things from that event - Honor a promise made even if its hard. Keeping a promise for a cause strengthens your character and broadens your viewpoint in life at large. Few days back, I was browsing through my blog to check if I missed any one of Ma's signature recipes, I found this one missing. I asked her for the exact recipe and she went on - little bit of this and sprinkle that and a pinch of this. She rarely measures the ingredients for her daily cooking and the taste is perfect.  Finally, she measured everything and gave me the recipe. Thank you Ma. You are precious. 

I used Carrots, Green Beans, Lima Beans, Peas and Cauliflower. I forgot to add Potatoes as I was in a hurry to wrap up the dinner. Do add a couple for diversity of flavors and textures. If you are pressed for time, add a pack or two of frozen vegetables.

~ My Ma's Mixed Vegetable Kurma ~
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings

Cauliflower (cut into small florets) - 1 and 1/2 cup
Potatoes (peeled, cubed and rinsed of starch) - 1 cup
Fresh Green Peas - 1 cup
Carrots (peeled, chopped into small chunks) - 1 cup
Lima Beans- 1 cup
Onions (finely chopped) - 1/2 cup
Coconut oil 
Turmeric powder - 1/3 tsp

Kurma Masala -
Grated Coconut (fresh or frozen) - 1 cup
Onion (chopped finely) - 3/4 cup
Ginger knob - 1"
Garlic pods - 2 
Coriander leaves - 1/2 cup
Green Chillies - 2
Tomato (pureed, best if whole canned are available) - 1
Clove - 4
Cinnamon stick - 1"
Peppercorns (whole) - 5-8
** Grind everything to a paste, except pureed Tomatoes **

For Garnish -
Coriander leaves (finely chopped) - 3 tbsp

1. Chop all the vegetables into uniform pieces and cook with hot water and little salt. Drain and keep aside.
2. In a mixer, blend the grated coconut and green chillies. Add the rest of the ingredients including the whole spices and blend to form a thick paste. Do not add a lot of water. Rinse the blender and save the rinsed water as well.
3. In a deep bottomed pan, heat a few spoons of coconut oil. Add the onions (1/2 cup) and brown them. Once done, add the ground masala and saute on a medium flame. Once the masala is half way cooked, add the pureed tomatoes and cook till the raw aroma goes away. This process takes 15-20 minutes. If the masala dries out, add little rinsed water to awaken it. Stir occasionally to bring it all together.
4. Add the par-cooked vegetables now and add little of the rinsed water from the ground masala. Add the turmeric powder and salt. Adjust taste and bring to a boil. The Kurma gravy is thick and not runny in consistency. Simmer on low flame, covered for 5-8 minutes. Turn off the flame and garnish with chopped coriander leaves. Serve with Phulkas/ Rotis.

Note: I used whole canned tomatoes, its easier to puree them as compared to regular store bought Tomatoes. Ma's Kurma recipe uses all ingredients raw, so no need to pre-roast the ingredients.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Brinjal-Drumstick Sambhar (Gulla Maskasange Kolmbo)

Brinjals/ Eggplant are in season these days. Ironically, whenever I found a nice plump Eggplant, the freshly plucked Drumsticks were out of sight and vice-versa and that prevented me from making this Sambhar for the longest time. Finally, the day dawned and I found them both at the local Indian store and I was darn happy. This is a variety of Sambhar I grew up eating. Incidentally, this is my Dad's favorite dish and he enjoys this Sambhar served with cooked white rice along with Papad and Vodi.

In India, my parents use a special variety of Brinjal known as Gulla which is available only for a short time during particular months of the year in Udupi/ Mangalore region and surrounding areas. Since I can't find them here, I use the purple skinned Brinjal also known as Japanese Eggplant. Gulla is Eggplant, Maskansang is Drumstick hence Gulla Maskasange Kolmbo.

Another interesting thing about this dish is the vegetables cook quickly, all you need is boiled Toor Dal to put everything together. This in turn helps me save a lot of time and on a busy day it matters quite a lot. 

~ Gulla Maskasange Kolmbo ~

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes

Eggplant (diced into big chunky cubes of 2") - 5 cups
Boiled split Pigeon Peas/ Toor Dal - 2 and 1/2 -3 cups
Sambhar Powder/ Kolmbo Pitti - 2 tbsp
Drumstick (peeled and cut into 3" sticks) - 2 cups
Asafoetida - 1/5 tsp
Tamarind pulp - 1/2 tsp

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

For Garnish -
Coriander leaves (finely chopped) - 3-4 tbsp

Rinse the vegetables, trim off the tip and stem of eggplant. Dice them into large chunks of 2" pieces. Peel the Drumstick with a peeler to get rid of the thick green fiber and cut them into sticks which are 3" long. Cook the vegetables with lightly watered down boiled Toor Dal. Bring to boil and simmer on low flame, covered with lid on till par-cooked.  This takes around 5-8 minutes.
Once par-cooked, add salt, add Sambhar powder, and tamarind pulp in little warm water. Mix well to get a smooth paste, add this paste to the boiled vegetable-daal broth - adjust salt, spice level, add asafoetida and adjust consistency as desired. Simmer for few minutes till completely cooked. Turn off flame and set aside.
In a small frying pan, heat few spoons of oil, season with mustard seeds and once they splutter  add curry leaves. Pour this seasoning over the freshly made Sambhar and garnish with chopped Coriander leaves. Mix few minutes before serving, goes well with cooked Basmati Rice.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Malabar Spinach Side Dish - Konkani style (Vaali Upkari)

Currently, the month of Shravan is going on. It also means lot of fresh vegetables and greens available in the market. 

For vegetarians it does not make a difference but strict non-vegetarians pine for the month to end to begin meat eating once again. I recently made Malabar Spinach side dish which is very tasty and simple to make. I make use of both leaves (Paan) and tender stem (Tarne Dentu) for this dish. This vegetable side dish is commonly made in many Konkani homes and finally garnished with grated coconut. A dash of red chilli powder is added to camouflage the bland taste of vegetable. The taste of this vegetable dish is an acquired one and it takes time to get acquainted to like it or for that matter hate it. I also enjoy Malabar Spinach Ambat with Papaya (Vaali Papayi Ambat).

~ Vaali Upkari ~
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes

Malabar Spinach | Vaali - 4-5 cups
Red Chilli powder - 1/3 tsp
For Seasoning -
Garlic pods (crushed) - 2 
Red Chillies (split into two) - 2 
Coconut oil 

For Garnish -
Grated Coconut (fresh or frozen) - 1/4 tbsp

Wash and rinse the spinach leaves and separate the tender stem from non-tender ones. Use the tender ones for this side dish. In a deep bottomed vessel, heat few spoons of coconut oil, once the oil is hot enough, season with crushed garlic and red chillies. Add the spinach leaves and tender stem now and adjust salt and add a dash of red chilli powder. Sprinkle a little water and bring to boil. The leaves wilt to 1/4 of the size once they cook. Simmer with lid on low flame till completely cooked. Garnish with grated coconut just before serving and serve warm as a side dish.