July 25, 2006

Monday Mooghambat

I know, I know it's Tuesday but this moong sprouts curry was so often made in our home on Mondays that we got around to calling it in this manner. Once you plan the sprouting routine in advance it's a breeze to put this dish together, so it's perfect for week nights, especially blah Mondays (or Tuesdays...and really any day upto Friday!).

mugh2a

MOOGHAMBAT (Mooghagathi/ Moong Sprouts Curry)
(serves 3-4)
For curry -
2 cups moong bean sprouts
4-5 cashews, broken into pieces (optional)
1/2 tsp tamarind paste
salt to taste
For masala -
1 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
5-6 peppercorns
3-4 dry red chillies (adjust to taste)
3/4 cup fresh/ frozen grated coconut
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
For seasoning -
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
a pinch of asafoetida
5-6 curry leaves

Combine sprouts, cashew pieces and a pinch of salt in a sauce pan. Add enough water to cover and cook until sprouts are tender but hold their shape. If you use a pressure cooker be careful that the beans don't turn mushy. Drain the sprouts while reserving the water.

Meanwhile heat a skillet on moderate heat. Roast all ingredients for the masala (except coconut and turmeric) until aromatic. Add coconut and roast for 1-2 minutes. Remove and grind along with turmeric into a fine paste using a little water.

Heat oil in a sauce pan. Add mustard seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves. Next add coconut masala. Saute for a minute.

Add cooked sprouts and as much reserved pulse stock as needed to make the curry of desired consistency.

Season to taste. Add tamarind paste and mix well. Bring to a gentle boil. Serve hot with rice or roti. (This curry can also be made with black eyed peas/ chawli).

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

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July 21, 2006

Sour and sour - Potato Curry

Looking at the many dishes that incorporate this flavor in our cuisine, I think it's safe to say that Konkani people are partial to tangy curries. We have kairas which is sweet and sour; sasam which is sweet, sour and spicy; uddamethi which is nutty and sour and what do you know, even a karaate randhai which is bitter and sour. Is there a combination we have missed do you think?!
Popular in Malwan is ambat batata, a potato curry that is sour and well....sour.

Of course none of these curries are overtly tangy; there is only a feathery touch of tamarind or mango. It is further balanced by jaggery to create a zen like harmony for your tastebuds :-)

I could sing some more praises but as Confucius has said "talk doesn't cook rice" (or for that matter, potato curries!). So here is the recipe.


ambatba.

AMBAT BATATA (Tangy Potato Curry)
(serves 2)
2 medium size potatoes
3/4 cup grated coconut
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 + 1/2 tsps fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
a pinch of asafoetida
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chilli powder
1-2 tsp tamarind paste (or a marble size ball of tamarind soaked in water)
salt & jaggery to taste
oil

Peel potatoes, wash and quarter them (make wedges). Toast a teaspoon of fenugreek seeds in a pan until aromatic. Grind along with coconut and cumin seeds into a smooth paste, adding water as required. Keep aside.

Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds, remaining fenugreek seeds and asafoetida. Once the seeds begin to pop add the cut potatoes. Stir once. Add turmeric, red chilli powder, tamarind water and jaggery. Add just enough water to cook the potatoes and cover the pan.

When potatoes are done add the coconut paste. Mix well. Adjust seasoning. Bring to a boil on low heat. Serve hot with rotis.

Variation: use okra/ lady fingers for Ambat Bhendi

This recipe is from my eldest aunt who I call Aunt Teresa in jest because she is always helping someone or the other! Whenever we have a get together this curry or her equally delicious Malwani mutton is most often requested.

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July 17, 2006

Blog Party - Mini Tortilla Quiches

quiche3.

Stephanie is celebrating a year of Blog Parties by going global. She has asked us to pack our bags and visit our favorite places or dream destinations. I decided to revisit Singapore for sentimental reasons.
I took the trip some three years back to visit my best friend who stays there. This wasn't a planned, discussed over several phone calls kind of trip. It was entirely sneaky - my friend had no idea I was coming. The look on her face when she got back from work and found me standing in front of her was priceless. Those shrieks must have woken up the dead :-)

Looking back all I remember of the trip is the laughter. We were laughing in her apartment, in the glitzy malls, in the restaurants.... just about everywhere and all the time. Not without reason I might add, as we had some really funny incidents.
But what is a trip without a little adventure? So a weekend trip to a small island in Malaysia included among other things, a dog chase and a jump from one ferry to another in mid-sea. This sounds very James Bond-ish now but at the time we were shaken and stirred :-)

My friend made sure I tried everything that Singapore had to offer - from kaya (coconut jam) toast in traditional kopitiams; seafood, curry and noodles in foodcourts; satay and roti john in roadside stalls to Singapore Slings in noisy pubs! We reconnected over meals; oohing and aahing over the food, catching up on each other's lives, talking about books and music, jobs and bosses.

The meal that stands out in my memory was in a Turkish restaurant called Ephesus. We ate delicious pide, hummus, kebabs ... and because we were the only customers at the time the owner gave us a quick lesson on Turkish cuisine along with our lunch.
It has been a long time since we got to spend time like that so this trip still looms large in our minds. "Remember the time in Singapore when"...we say and launch into a nostalgic conversation even now.

On to the recipe then. The idea to use tortillas as quiches is from an issue of Better Homes. I am a big fan of quick snacks so this fifteen minute, faux quiches appealed to me immediately. I used cilantro and red pepper hummus in place of the original cream filling.

MINI TORTILLA QUICHES HUMMUS
(makes 12)
a packet of chile flavored flour tortillas*
nonstick cooking spray
For the hummus -
a can of garbanzo beans
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1-2 tbsp of tahini (sesame paste; I used store bought)
1/2 cup cilantro leaves
salt to taste
olive oil
a pinch of paprika (optional)

Drain and rinse the garbanzo beans. Combine all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Add a little olive oil if the mixture becomes too thick. Adjust seasoning with lemon juice, garlic and salt. Sprinkle paprika on top. Store in an airtight container and refrigerate for an hour before using.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly coat a mini muffin pan with cooking spray. Using a round biscuit/ cookie cutter cut 12 circles from the tortillas (you get about 2 circles per tortilla)**.

quiche1.

Press each circle into a muffin cup, pleating the edges if necessary. Fill each tortilla with 1 tablespoon of the filling. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until the filling sets.

quiche2.

Taste test -
The tortilla cups are great - perfect as a quick snack or for a potluck. The original recipe had eggs in the filling which I suppose sets well. The hummus on the other hand set only on top, inside it was still a bit creamy. This did not taste bad at all though. The quiches as very versatile as you can use possibly any filling you like.

* Chile tortillas and red pepper hummus were from Whole Foods.
** The tortilla scraps can be toasted and used as croutons

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July 15, 2006

Interesting Weekend Read

It's an issue most food bloggers grapple with at some time or the other. What am I talking about? Copyrights.
Check out Brendon's thoughts on this over at Something in Season.

Get all your olive oil fundamentals right with this Gilded Fork article - The golden elixir

July 13, 2006

Soup-er Lunch - Cream of Broccoli

I was on the lookout for a good soup book for a long time and after a steady search on Amazon I finally zeroed in on 'Twelve months of monastery soups'. Maybe it was the word 'monastery' that did it; I thought of a maroon robed monk stirring a pot of bubbling soup in a quaint French kitchen. Why maroon and why France I don't know, but not a bad reason to buy a book huh?!

The author is a Benedictine monk and shares his monastery's soup recipes in the book. The recipes are simple and easy to make. No frou frou stuff here, or even tedious simmering and stewing. Whether it is the uncommon solyanka, the rich cheese veloute or the popular gazpacho, the soups are all hearty, delicious and easy.

So if the thought of curling up on the sofa with a bowl of hot soup on a chilly evening appeals to you, this book is right up your alley. On the flip side some recipes call for a lot of oil or cheese but this is a minor flaw as one can easily make adjustments while cooking. Overall I'd say the book really works because I find myself referring to it time and again.

broccoli.

CREAM OF BROCCOLI SOUP
(serves 3-4)
1/2 a pound of broccoli
2 medium size potatoes
1 onion
4 cups water
1/2 bouillon cube (such as Knorr)
1/2 cup half & half (I used low fat)
a pinch of cayenne
salt and pepper to taste
grated cheese to garnish

Wash broccoli and cut into small florets. Wash, peel and thinly slice potatoes.

Pour water into a large stock pot. Add vegetables and bouillon cube. Cook on low heat for an hour.

Let cool, then puree the soup in a blender. Transfer to pot, add cream and cayenne. Season to taste.

Simmer for a few minutes, garnish with cheese and serve hot.

broccolisoup

Other excellent books for soup aficionados -
Soup, a way of life
Splendid Soup

Entry for: FMR - Comfort food hosted by Revathi

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July 10, 2006

Summer Bites - Watermelon Pancakes

Here is a dish straight from my grandma's kitchen. When the days really warm up in the Konkan, dishes like these are favored over traditional, heavier breakfasts. This way you get a filling meal first thing in the morning, that's also cool and refreshing enough to beat the heat.

The traditional way of making these pancakes is to soak rice and then grind it along with the rest of the ingredients. My mother however often adopted the 'short cut' of using rice flour; which is right up my alley because I often forget to soak rice and then crave dosas for weekend brunch!!

Here I must add that these pancakes are actually an ingenious way of using a part of the fruit that would otherwise be discarded - the white part just under the juicy, red slices. I am always amazed at the extent to which life in the villages is respectful to nature. People in rural India have been environmentally conscious long before the rest of the world even coined the term.

Since packaged, pre-cut chunks are more common in the supermarkets here, it's fine to use them instead of the white part. Cut into smaller pieces and give them a whir in the blender. This by the way will give you the prettiest batter ever - candy floss pink in color!

pancake

KALINGAD POLE/ GHAVAN (Watermelon Pancakes)
(makes 6)
1 1/2 cups grated white part of a watermelon or thick watermelon puree
1 cup + 1-2 tbsp rice flour (available in health stores or Indian grocers)
4-5 tbsp brown sugar/ powdered jaggery (adjust to taste)
a pinch of cardamom powder
salt to taste
oil for frying

Mix together watermelon and rice flour gradually. Use a whisk to ensure there are no lumps. Add jaggery, salt and cardamom powder. Adjust consistency with water or flour as required and make a smooth batter.

Cover and keep aside for an hour. Heat a griddle with oil, when hot drop a ladleful of batter in the centre and spread into a circle with the back of your spoon (be careful while doing this as the batter tends to bubble).

Fry till the pancake turns reddish brown, then flip and fry on the other side. Serve hot with a spicy chutney. Or do an all American with maple syrup and butter!

Variations:
* use grated cucumber or pumpkin instead of watermelon
* make a savoury version by omitting sugar and adding cilantro and green chillies

Entry for:
Weekend Breakfast Series at Nandita's Saffron Trail
ARF/ 5-a-day Tuesday at Cate's Sweetnicks

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July 06, 2006

Marriages and Masale Bhaat

Masale Bhaat is inextricably linked with Maharashtrian weddings. It is a spicy, Marathi version of the vegetable pulao and is usually served after the first course of varan-bhaat. Once the wedding rituals are done with, guests head for lunch in a shaded 'mandap', sitting in long, orderly lines that extend from one end to the other. Servers run along these 'pangats', balancing trays of food and plopping it on a plate with amazing speed and dexterity.

First come the salt, lemon, and pickle/ chutney, followed by the glorious trinity of varan-bhaat-toop (dal-rice-ghee). Once your tastebuds have reveled in this comfort food, they are taken on a gastronomic journey that might begin with puris and batata bhaji, make a short stop at alu or kothimbir wadi, take a breather with mattha, get a fresh start with masale bhaat and finally end in the sunset of a jalebi or shrikhand.

It is hardly necessary to persuade a person to eat well when the spread is this delicious but it is the done thing. "Lazoo naka" (don't be shy), the father of the bride or groom will tell the guests as he walks by their table. When they can finally eat no more, the guests make way for the next 'pangat', basking in the warm vibes of this glorious meal and blessing the new union as they leave.

Back to the dish at hand, it is a fairly simple preparation, relying on roasted spices for flavor. The recipe comes from Wadke 'kaku' (aunty), our lovely neighbour for a few years, who is responsible for most of the authentic Mahasrashtrian dishes in my mother's repertoire. Though the authentic version is made with the short grained but fragrant 'ambe mohar' rice, sona masuri makes a good substitute too.

bhaat1

MASALE BHAAT (Spicy pulao with ivy gourds)
(serves 2-3)
1 cup Basmati rice
1 cup ivy gourds (tondli/ tindora), quartered
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
a few curry leaves
a pinch of asafoetida
3-4 green chillies, slit
5-6 cashewnuts, broken
3 tbsp oil
salt to taste
Masala -
heaped 1/3 cup dry, shredded coconut (copra)
4 cloves
2 (2cms) cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp sesame seeds
2 1/2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
Garnish -
fresh coconut and cilantro

Wash the rice in two to three changes of water. Drain and keep aside. On moderate heat, roast the copra, coriander seeds, cumin, sesame, cloves and cinnamon till the coconut turns golden. Let cool. Put in a spice/ coffee grinder and grind into a powder. Keep aside.

Heat oil in a pan. When hot, add mustard seeds. When they begin to pop, add curry leaves, asafoetida and chillies and saute for a few minutes. Next add gourds and saute some more. Add rice and mix well. Add the powdered spices and mix until the rice is well coated. Add cashews and season to taste. Add two cups of water, cover pan with a lid and cook until rice is done.

Garnish with fresh coconut and cilantro. Serve hot with a raita.

bhaat2edited

* Brinjals, bell peppers, peas or a combination of vegetables works just as well as ivy gourds in masale bhaat.

Here are some great recipes from fellow bloggers if you feel like making a 'wedding lunch' -
Nupur's waran-bhaat
Priya's alu wadi
Vaishali's flower-matar cha rassa
My strawberry shrikhand and mattha

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