August 31, 2006

Light Dinners - Sprouts Sandwiches

I like to incorporate sprouts into meals as often as possible and am always on the lookout for different recipes using them, since the usual curries can get kind of boring. I came across this recipe for sprouts sandwiches on one such 'search'.
I haven't really tried a lot of Tarla Dalal's recipes for some reason, but this one sounded too good to pass up. Luckily my hunch was right - the sandwiches were just delicious. Maybe it was the onion sauteed in butter, or the pav bhaji masala but it all added up to something you'd eat at your favorite snack joint in India. Now if only I could get a Thums Up and the background score of a bustling Bombay on the side, I'd be right at home :-)

I am sure any masala can be used in place of the recommended pav bhaji, but it actually gives the filling that 'street snack' taste we love so much. I reduced the spices and tomatoes from the original recipe and added some alfalfa sprouts for a crunch.
The sandwiches will make a great kiddie treat, brunch or as they did for me, a light solo dinner when the other half is away.

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GRILLED SPROUTS SANDWICHES
(makes 4)
For the sandwiches
8 bread slices
4 cheese slices
butter
cooking spray
For the filling
1 cup green gram sprouts (moong)
a handful of alfalfa sprouts, or your choice of mixed sprouts
2 small potatoes, boiled and mashed
1 onion, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
1 tsp pav bhaji masala
1 tsp coriander-cumin (dhania-jeera) powder
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
a pinch of turmeric powder
1 medium size tomato, finely chopped
finely chopped cilantro
1-2 tablespoons butter
salt to taste

Cook the moong sprouts in enough water until tender.
Heat butter in a pan. Add onion and saute till it turns pink. Add the ginger-garlic paste and saute for another minute.
Add spices - pav bhaji, coriander-cumin powder, turmeric and red chilli. Add tomatoes and salt and cook till the mixture becomes thick.
Add the sprouts and potatoes and mix well. Sprinkle cilantro and keep aside.
Butter bread slices lightly. Spoon a little filling on one slice, top with cheese and make a sandwich with another slice.
Heat a sandwich grill. Grease with cooking spray or butter and grill sandwiches until well browned.
Serve immediately.

* Even if I had the sandwiches for dinner, they'd actually make a great weekend breakfast so I will send this off to Weekend Breakfast Blogging hosted by Pavani
* And the cheese makes it perfect for JFI - Milk hosted by Vineela this month.

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August 28, 2006

Sweet Offering - Nevryo

Up until a few days before Ganesh Chaturthi I was all set to make the traditional modak but then I dropped those plans in favor of these unique 'nevryo'.

Incessant rains, rickety buses and a general risk to life and limb notwithstanding, we would travel from Bombay to visit my grandparents' house in the Konkan, to celebrate the Ganpati festival. After the evening arti at our own home we'd visit the neighbouring houses, relishing the prasad served in every home, joining in their arti and returning home late in the night with our tummies full and our voices hoarse.

I remember eating these sweet potato nevryo on one such visit and the first bite was enough to hook me forever. Nevryo or 'karanji' as they are known in Marathi, are usually made by deep frying crescent shaped turnovers filled with coconut and jaggery. This version (popular in Goa from what I have been told) is made with sweet potato. The nevryo are then lightly roasted on a griddle.

Considering this was my first attempt at making them, the nevryo didn't turn out too badly. Even shaping them wasn't too difficult. Sweet potatoes are often called yams in the U.S. by the way. Weird, I know.
I used white sweet potatoes from the local Chinese market; they turned out to be really fleshy so I didn't need to add even a teaspoon of flour.

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RATALA NEVRYO (Sweet Potato Turnovers/ Karanjis)
(adapted from the book 'Ishtann')
Dough -
4-5 sweet potatoes
1/4 cup refined flour (maida)
salt to taste
Filling -
1 1/4 cup grated coconut
3/4 cup jaggery (adjust to taste)
8-10 cashewnuts, broken
a pinch of cardamom powder
salt to taste
ghee

Put potatoes in a stock pot, cover with enough water and cook until done (they should be mushy to the touch). Drain and let cool.

Mix grated coconut, cashew pieces, salt and cardamom powder. Add jaggery and cook on moderate heat until the mixture is thoroughly combined. Keep aside.

Peel potatoes, mash them and form a dough. If you have trouble forming a dough add refined flour (maida) with a spoon just till it can be gathered into a mass (you don't want flour-y nevryo). Flatten into puris/ circles with your fingers. Spoon a little filling on one side and fold over into a crescent. Make ridges with a fork, press lightly and keep aside.

Heat a griddle on moderate heat. Fry the nevryo using ghee until it gets a couple of brown spots here and there. Turn over gently and fry on the other side. Drizzle with ghee and serve hot.

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August 25, 2006

Bridging the divide - Shrimp Pulao

It has been brought to my attention by two avid readers of this blog (that would be my husband and my brother but I still take them seriously :-)) that I have been partial to vegetarian food on this blog. And it is true, there are only two non vegetarian recipes compared to some fifty vegetarian ones. How did this happen? For sure I was making seafood and meat dishes at home; I just didn't blog about them for some reason. Well it's time to bridge this widening gap, because in my family we love our seafood. Too many days without it and we get get restless!

Since red chillies and coconut are the most commonly used ingredients in any Konkani masala, this pulao makes a refreshing change with its base of cilantro and green chillies. This 'hirwa' (green) masala is super versatile; you can make a big batch, store it in the freezer and use as required in a variety of dishes. I use it in shrimp curry, stuffed fish (like patrani macchi) and with a slight variation, in a mixed vegetable curry that I will post soon because I do not want to alienate my vegetarian readers entirely!

This pulao can be made with a lot of variations; you can add some grated coconut to the cilantro masala while grinding, you can add a little coconut milk to cook the rice along with water, you can use carrots instead of peas...whatever strikes your fancy.

prawnpulao

KOLAMBI BHAAT (Shrimp Pulao with Peas)
(serves 2-3)
For pulao -
1 1/2 cups Basmati rice
1/2 cup green peas
2 large onions, finely chopped
a pinch of turmeric
15-20 medium size shrimp
salt to taste
lemon juice
oil
For masala -
1 1/2 tsp ginger-garlic paste
2-3 green chillies (don't use too many since the whole garam masala adds heat as well)
1" piece of cinnamon
1 black cardamom
2-3 cloves
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp black cumin seeds (shah jeera, or substitute cumin)
2-3 peppercorns
1 small bunch of cilantro (discard tough stems and use the rest)
10-12 mint leaves
For garnish -
finely chopped cilantro and grated coconut

Wash, peel and devein shrimp. Place on a kitchen towel and pat dry. Sprinkle salt and lemon juice over top and keep aside.

Wash rice in 2-3 changes of water. Grind all ingredients for masala into a fine paste using very little water.

In a dutch oven or sauce pan heat about 3 tablespoons of oil. Add onion and saute till it turns reddish brown. Add the ground masala and saute till it loses its moisture. Next add shrimp and stir for about 2 minutes. (Don't saute shrimp for too long as they become chewy).

Add rice, peas and turmeric and season to taste. Mix well, taking care not to break the grain. Add 2 3/4 cups of water and bring to a boil on medium heat. Then lower heat, cover and cook until water has almost evaporated.

Place a griddle (tawa) over flame, then rest sauce pan over griddle. Cover and cook till rice is done. This prevents rice from sticking to the pan as well as cooks the pulao on 'dum' (steam). Garnish with chopped cilantro and coconut and serve hot.

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August 17, 2006

Protein packed - Peanut Curry

Inspiration for a blog post can come from the weirdest of places... like a calendar for instance :-) Well not just any calendar but the trusted almanac of almost all homes across India. I was browsing through the recipes at the back and saw a peanut based curry which reminded me of the curry my mother made sometimes.
Peanut curry is generally considered an 'upvaas' dish and accompanies sago or samo (vari) khichdi. But there is no good reason why it cannot be enjoyed on any day you feel like it, is there?

The curry makes a nice spicy side dish to a weekday meal of roti and vegetables. If you use store bought roasted peanuts like I did it takes very little time to make it too. If you do want to serve this with rice, a simple khichdi pairs better than plain rice in my opinion. Peanuts by the way pack more than 20% of protein so rest assured you won't miss dal in this meal.


amti7a

DANYACHI AMTI (Peanut Curry)
(serves 2)
3/4 cup roasted peanuts (I used store bought unsalted ones)
1/2 tsp tamarind paste dissolved in 2 tbsp water
1-2 tsp grated jaggery/ brown sugar
5-6 green chillies, slit
1 tsp ghee/ oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
salt to taste
finely chopped cilantro to garnish

In a coffee/ spice grinder powder the peanuts coarsely. If you don't want bits of peanuts in the curry make a finer powder.

Mix peanut powder, chillies, jaggery and tamarind water in a sauce pan. Add 3 cups of water. Season to taste and bring to a boil on low heat. Add more water if necessary.

In another pan heat ghee till hot. Add cumin seeds and let them sizzle. Pour evenly over curry and cover. Garnish with cilantro and serve hot.

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August 09, 2006

Look what I got...

In the mail today was a postcard from my blog buddy Molly, of Somewhat Refined (aren't we all :-)). She is from Alaska - a place I have been wanting to visit for a long time now and the postcard only confirmed my idea of how beautiful it is. Don't take my word for it, check out Molly's photo album of Alaska's flora and fauna.
And also take a look at the creative way in which she photographed the postcard she sent me. Thanks for the card Molly!

card

August 04, 2006

Not your usual - Pindi Chana

When I first ordered Pindi Chana in a restaurant, I thought it wouldn't be too different from chana masala. I was wrong. What was eventually served to me looked nothing like the dish I liked. It had no gravy, the chickpeas were almost black in color and the dish had a very heady aroma. I decided before taking a bite that I wasn't going to like the dish. Well, I was wrong again.

Pindi chana (named after its city of origin Rawalpindi) is different from the way chickpeas are commonly cooked (which I think is Amritsari). It doesn't have the omnipresent duo of onion and tomato and uses not one but two souring agents for a strong tang. As for the black color originally it came from powdered gooseberries (amla), now it comes from tea bags.

After that first sampling I tried quite a few recipes in the hope that I could recreate the same taste. No such luck; until the day we got a new pressure cooker and a booklet of recipes along with it. An authentic recipe for pindi chana in a cooker booklet?! "No way", I thought. But ... (y'all should know what's coming!) I was wrong; and here it is.

chole

PINDI CHANA (Spiced Chickpeas)
(serves 2-3)
1 cup chickpeas (kabuli chana), soaked overnight
1 tea bag (optional)
1 1/2 tbsp pomegranate seeds (anardana)
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 black cardamoms (badi elaichi)
2 small sticks of cinnamon
3-4 cloves
1 1/2 tbsp coriander powder
1 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp garam masala
1-2 tsp mango powder (amchur)
3-4 green chillies, slit
3-4 thin slivers of ginger
2 tbsp oil + 1 tbsp ghee
salt to taste

In a pressure cooker or deep saucepan, combine (drained) chickpeas, tea bag, cardamoms, cinnamon and cloves. Add 3-4 cups of water, season with salt and cook until the chickpeas are done. Allow to cool then discard tea bag and whole spices.

Meanwhile roast cumin and pomegranate seeds on moderate heat until they become aromatic. Let cool then powder in a coffee/ spice grinder. Keep aside.

Drain excess liquid from the chana into a bowl. Add spices - pomegranate-cumin, coriander, mango, pepper and garam masala. Mix thoroughly until chickpeas are well coated. Add ginger and green chillies.

In a tadka ladle heat ghee and oil till they smoke (with an eye on your alarms please!). Pour evenly over chickpeas.

Next add the reserved cooking liquid and cook chickpeas on medium-high heat until it dries up. Adjust seasoning. Garnish with finely chopped onion and cilantro. Serve hot.

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August 01, 2006

Feast for a fast - Sheera

It's the first of the month already and time for another edition of JFI (Jihva for Ingredients). The ingredient chosen by Santhi this month was flour, which means I only had about a million dishes to choose from. Easy-breezy :-)

To help make the decision easier I decided to look at some of the more uncommon flours that are used in Indian cuisine. These as far as I know, are generally associated with fasts. I thought this would be appropriate also because it is the auspicious month of Shravan.

As a child I used to exasperate my mother with questions on why certain foods were allowed and others were not whenever she observed a fast; "why potato and not onion?", "why cumin and not garlic"? and on and on. Later I learnt the idealogy behind the ritual. Upvaas in Sanskrit is made up of two words - near (up) and residing (vaas). It suggests one becomes closer to God by practising austerity. So meals have to be as 'sathvik' as possible. Well at least that was how it was meant to be, but I suppose hunger overrode religious sentiment because the rules have relaxed a lot since!

In general flours such as buckwheat (kootu), samo (vari), water chestnut (shingada/ singoda) and amaranth seed (rajgira) are considered kosher whereas wholewheat, chickpea, rice and semolina are avoided. My original plan was to make 'upvaas thalipeeth'. My mother warned me over the phone that they weren't as easy as they sounded. "How difficult can they be?", I asked her. Umm, very very. Since these flours do not contain gluten, it makes rolling, shaping, in fact doing anything with them (except messing up your countertop) difficult!

A quick phone call back home and I got a better alternative, after the inevitable "I told you so" speech - sheera. Shingada flour even in its raw state smells so sweet that I knew the sheera would be delicious. There is nothing much to the recipe as you can see, it is the flour that is the star of this dish. The sheera has a nutty flavor like lapshi, only stronger. It reminded me of temples, poojas and prasad.

sheera

SHINGADA PEETHACHA SHEERA (Pudding made with chestnut flour)
(serves 2)
1 cup shingada flour
1/4 cup ghee
1/4 cup sugar or to taste*
a pinch of cardamom powder
a handful of chopped cashews/ almonds/ pistachios/ raisins
1 cup + a little more water

Put water to boil. Heat ghee in a pan, add flour and roast till it turns golden brown and becomes aromatic.

When the water comes to a boil, add to flour along with chopped nuts. Add sugar, mix well and cook for a few minutes. Add cardamom powder and mix again. Serve hot.
* Ladoos can also be made with shingada flour

Blogger Postcards from the World

postcard

In this age of email its fun to actually pick a card, write a note and mail it all the way across the world. Well mine isn't going all that far but its fun nevertheless.
I picked up this postcard on our trip to Edinburgh, a city I loved for its old world charm and beautiful architecture. The Edinburgh castle seemed to follow us like a protective chaperone wherever we went in the city, looming large and fairy tale like in the distance. This particular postcard is my favorite because it captures the castle's stony facade perfectly against the blue Scottish skies. Hope my blog buddy likes it too. Meanwhile I am eagerly waiting for my postcard.
Thanks Meeta for hosting this novel event.

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