May 28, 2006

Fast food - Jeer-meerya Kadhi

Not the fast food of the golden arches or the colonel, but fast food that comes to the table in as little time as possible. The past week was hectic for several reasons so dinners were simple, no frill affairs that didn't keep me in the kitchen for longer than twenty minutes.

jeer4edited

Jeer-meerya kadhi is one of the easiest curries in the Konkani repertoire. It is made with cumin (jeera) and peppercorns (meeri). In keeping with our predilection to truncate words and make dishes sound like melodious songs, the curry is called 'jeer-meerya' kadhi. Tres francais if you ask me!

What elevates it from a humdrum curry to a super flavorful one is the tempering of crushed garlic cloves. These semi soft, semi crunchy cloves are so delectable that believe you me, fights can break out at the dinner table over who gets more!

Serve the curry with steaming hot rice, roasted papads and your favorite pickle and you have a satisfying meal at the end of a hard day. In less than the time it would take you to watch Rachel Ray's show :-)

garlic

JEER MEERYA KADHI (Cumin Pepper curry)
(serves 2)
3/4 cup coconut, grated
1 tsp cumin
7-8 peppercorns
1-2 dry red chillies (Kashmiri or Bedgi chillies will give you the right color)
7-8 garlic cloves, peeled
1/4 tsp tamarind paste
salt to taste
2 tsp oil

Heat half a teaspoon of oil in a pan. Fry the cumin, peppercorns and chillies until well toasted and aromatic. Let cool, then grind with coconut, tamarind and 2 cloves of garlic into a fine paste (adding about half a cup of water gradually).

Transfer to a sauce pan, add a cup of water (or more/ less to get desired consistency) and simmer over moderate heat. Season to taste.

Smash 4-5 cloves of garlic lightly with the back of your knife. In a separate pan (tadka ladle) combine remaining oil and garlic cloves and place on heat (this will infuse the oil as well). Saute until they turn reddish brown. Pour the tempering over curry and serve hot.

May 21, 2006

Teatime snack - Methi Muthia

This was actually going to be my entry for Stephanie's blog party, but I missed the bus. I just realized the party is long over and the guests have all gone home! Never mind, we can still have the snacks can't we?

I came across this recipe in a cookbook in the library and wrote it down to try later. Muthias are usually steamed or fried but the recipe called for baking them instead; which of course piqued my curiosity immediately.

The word snack in the Indian context often means deep fried foods that aren't too friendly on the waistline. So a baked Indian snack sounded interesting. The second factor in its favor was the use of dried fenugreek, rather than the commonly used fresh leaves. This was again convenient because I don't always have fresh fenugreek handy.

After all that anticipation thank goodness the muthias didn't disappoint. They took very little time to prepare, weren't heavy because they were made with a combination of whole wheat and chickpea flours and went perfectly with cilantro chutney and hot cups of tea.


muthia2

METHI MUTHIA (Fenugreek Crisps)
(adapted from 'Indian in minutes' by Monisha Bharadwaj)
(makes 6)
1 1/2 tbsp dried fenugreek (kasoori methi)
5 tbsp whole wheat flour
5 tbsp chickpea flour
1-2 tsp ginger-green chilli paste
1 1 /2 tsp cumin, crushed coarsely
1/ 4 tsp pepper
1/2 tsp garam masala
a pinch of asafoetida (hing)
1-2 tbsp oil
salt to taste
cooking spray

Preheat oven to 400°F. Combine all ingredients (except cooking spray) in a mixing bowl and knead into a soft dough using a little water.

Take walnut size balls of dough and shape into circles (traditional muthia are barrel shaped). I made them a little on the thicker side.

Place on a greased baking dish and bake for 10-12 minutes or until the muthias brown on top and become crisp. Turn over and brown on other side if preferred.

Serve hot with cilantro chutney and lemon wedges.

In case of leftovers, use in Gujarati style vegetable curries like this one.

Trivia of the day - Qasoor in Pakistan is said to have the finest fenugreek in the world. So dried fenugreek is called "kasoori" (qasoori) methi in tribute.

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May 19, 2006

A New Look

My blog has a new look, thanks to a dear and kind friend. It was about time too, as I was getting a headache from all that pink :-)
I have finally been able to add all the stuff that I wanted to for so long but had no clue how - from the recipe index, to the food quote to a list of my cookbooks.
Thanks for all your compliments, its made my blog happy with her new environmentally friendly green dress!

May 16, 2006

A 'handful' of nutrition - Mushti Pole

Try asking my mother or aunts for a recipe and it is possible that at the end of the conversation, you will have a complete understanding of what goes into the dish, how long it takes to cook, what you could serve it with... essentially everything except the exact measures!

Before leaving for the U.S. when I wrote down recipes of my favorite dishes from the women in my family, instructions included such gems as 'add abc ingredient with a light hand' or 'mix as much of xyz ingredient to make the batter just so'! Utterly frustrating for a new cook as you can imagine :-)

There is a word in Marathi that encompasses this cooking philosophy - "andaaz"; which requires the cook to "sense" how much of an ingredient to add. Mushti pole (pronounced po-lay and is Konkani for dosa) has its roots in this old school of cooking I guess. Mushti means a 'handful' in Konkani, so I assume women just soaked handfuls of rice and lentils overnight and rolled out pancakes for breakfast.

pole

MUSHTI/ MUSTI POLO (Rice-Lentil Dosa)
2 cups rice
1 cup poha
1/2 cup urad dal (split black gram)
1/3 cup grated coconut
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
salt to taste
oil for frying

Soak dal, rice and fenugreek seeds in enough water to cover for 2-3 hours. Wash then grind to a fine paste in a blender. Next add (washed) poha and coconut. Grind till well blended. Remove in a large bowl, season and mix well. Set aside in a warm place overnight for fermentation.

To make dosa -
Heat a tawa/ skillet with a teaspoon of oil. Drop a ladleful of batter in the centre of the pan and spread lightly with the back of the spoon into a fairly thick pancake. Cover and fry on one side only. Serve hot with chutney.

Entry for ARF/ 5-a-day Tuesday at Sweetnicks.

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May 12, 2006

A Birthday cake - Tavsalli

As a child I often celebrated my birthday in May at my grandparent's house along with a horde of mischievous cousins and whichever aunt or uncle happened to be chaperoning us that summer (the poor things!). The party would be a riotous affair in the big, old house and the cake would be the 'tavsalli' made fresh that morning.

My birthdays were actually a sore point for me then, for the one reason that I never got to wear a "color dress" to school like the other kids who had the good sense to be born during school term (does anyone identify with this?). So these spontaneous, whimsical and often chaotic parties were an apt consolation.

I particularly remember one birthday when my aunt decided to jazz things up by decorating the cake with Gems. She ran out of the candy mid-way (the house had 7 kids; what was she thinking?) and my cake read "Hap BDay"! Even this abbreviated wish lasted for about a second after I blew the candle as we picked them out immediately!

I had several birthday parties at home of course with elaborate cakes that are attractive to a girl of that age, but those simple parties continue to be a treasured memory.


tavsali1.

TAVSALLI (Cucumber Cake)
(serves 3-4)
2 cups grated cucumber
1 cup cream of wheat (rawa/ sooji)
3/4 cup grated jaggery
5-6 cashews, chopped
4-5 cardamoms, peeled and powdered
5-6 tbsp grated coconut (slivers of coconut would be ideal)
a pinch of salt
ghee

Roast semolina in two teaspoons of ghee over moderate heat for 2-3 minutes. Do not allow it to brown, roast only till it changes texture. Mix cucumber, jaggery, cashews, cardamom powder and salt. Break lumps of jaggery if any. Add this mixture to the wheat and mix well. Keep aside for half an hour.

Grease a deep steel container. Pour the batter into the container and steam in a cooker for 10-12 minutes (without the weight). Let cool. Insert a toothpick in the cake to see if it's done. Cut into pieces, drizzle with ghee and serve.

Alternately you can cook the cucumber-semolina mixture and then bake it in the oven till it browns on top. The cake lasts for several days if stored in an air-tight container in the refrigerator. It makes a great tea time snack.

tavsalli2

* Tavsalli is named after the large cucumbers that are used to make it (taushe). Long English cucumbers that come individually wrapped in plastic work well as a substitute.
* Amount of jaggery/ sugar will vary; however tausalli is not an overly sweet cake. The flavor of the cucumber should be stronger.

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May 07, 2006

Weekend Treat - Falooda

pottery

Not one but two treats actually. First we visited an arts & crafts village that was great fun for a pottery buff like me. Tlaquepaque (say that fast three times in a row!) has an abundance of art galleries, crafts shops and restaurants set in a charming Mexican-inspired setting. I particularly liked the hand painted lizards and the surprised looking sun in this shop :-)
This was followed by a glass of falooda to soothe our sun baked nerves.

falooda

(rose falooda with vanilla ice cream)

Summer in Bombay is made bearable by ice cold treats like the falooda. During April and May everyone seems to be sipping and eating their way through tall glasses of this frothy pink concoction. The combination of chilled rose milk and ice cream is indeed hard to resist.

Falooda appears to have been introduced in India by the Parsis of Iran. The community makes this drink to celebrate the spring equinox on March 21. The drink, though it is more like a sundae is named after the noodles that are used in making it.
Eating a falooda is great fun because of the different texture of each ingredient, in particular the chewy, gelatinous seeds and the soft noodles.

falooda ing

(clockwise from left: tukmaria seeds, rose syrup and noodles)

ROSE FALOODA
(for 1 glass)
1 tbsp of tukmaria (basil seeds/ sabja/ falooda seeds)
2 tbsp of rose syrup
3/4 cup cold milk
2 tbsp of vermicelli (falooda sev)
a scoop of vanilla ice cream

Place tukmaria in a bowl, cover with just enough water and refrigerate for at least an hour or two.
Break the noodles into tiny pieces and boil in hot water (or as per directions) until done, about 3-4 minutes. Cool. Beat milk until it is frothy.
Take a tall transparent glass, add 2 tbsp of rose syrup, then gently spoon in the noodles and the seeds (they should be swollen by now). Pour the milk over this layer slowly. Top with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and serve immediately.

* Falooda can also be made in saffron (a pinch dissolved in milk) and mango (substitute mango pulp for rose syrup) flavors

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May 01, 2006

Jihva for Mangoes # 1 - Uddamethi

In every cuisine there are a couple of dishes that stand out for their unique combination of flavors. You wouldn't think some ingredients could be married harmoniously, then you'd taste a dish combining just those very ingredients and you'd realize you were mistaken. There are a myriad such examples in Konkani cuisine, and where mangoes are concerned, there are two very famous ones.

One is sasam which has a pronounced mustard flavor and the other is uddamethi, which has a strong fenugreek-y taste. Mango and fenugreek in a curry - can you get more exotic than this?

Uddamethi is made in both a vegetarian and a non-vegetarian version. Mackerel is used for the non vegetarian one and sour ingredients like hog plums (ambade) and raw mangoes for the vegetarian one.
How does it taste? It has a slight tartness from the mango, a creamy texture from the coconut and a bitter undertone from the fenugreek. Like I said, unique.

udid5aeditd

UDDAMETHI (Raw Mango Curry)
(serves 2-3)
1 unripe mango
2-3 tsp grated jaggery
salt to taste
Masala -
1 tsp black gram (urad dal)
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
2-3 dry red chillies
1/4 cup grated coconut
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
Seasoning -
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds
a pinch of asafetida
a few curry leaves
oil

Peel mango and cut into cubes. In a little oil lightly roast urad dal, methi seeds, coriander seeds and red chillies. Grind to a fine paste with coconut and turmeric. Keep aside.

Add a tablespoon of oil to pan. When hot add mustard and curry leaves. Next add fenugreek seeds and let brown. Toss in mango cubes. Add jaggery, salt and enough water for mango to cook.

When it is soft to the touch, add coconut paste and mix well. Simmer for five to six minutes until well combined. Remove from heat and serve immediately.
* Entry for Jihva for mangoes!

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