August 29, 2007

Gold Rush

Teppal (also called tirphal), an unique ingredient to Konkani cuisine is pure culinary gold. It is valued not because it is rare or expensive, but because a mere whiff of it is enough to elevate a dish to a gastronomic experience. Of course gastronomic experiences are highly subjective, so don't expect to open a jar of teppal and fall in love at first sight. This won't be an instant infatuation, but a relationship that builds over time. You might perhaps wrinkle your nose at first, then gradually grow to like it's lemon scented aroma, then be adventurous enough to use it, and then finally acquire a taste for it.

teppal

If a recipe calls for teppal, beg, borrow or steal it. Or raid your sister in law's pantry and accidentally drop a packet in your bag when she isn't looking but get it by whatever means necessary. Because there is no close substitute (so stop judging me!)

Teppal is generally not ground in a masala or eaten. It is used fresh when in season then dried and stored for future use. The inner berry is discarded and the outer layer is crushed lightly and added (by itself or mixed with water) to a vegetarian or non vegetarian curry. Of course this dish is still worth a try without teppal so I'd suggest giving a smoky 'tadka' of garlic in coconut oil to compensate.

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DUDHYA ROS (Dal with Pumpkin)
(serves 2-3)
1 cup large pumpkin cubes (use leaves too if fresh)
1 cup split red gram (tur dal)
1/4 cup coconut
2-3 red chillies
2-3 kokum (or 1/4 tsp tamarind paste)
jaggery to taste
3-4 teppal
1 tsp coconut oil

Wash dal and cook in 2 cups of water with a pinch of turmeric till soft. Grind coconut and red chillies (tamarind if using) to a fine paste. Keep aside.

Combine pumpkin with enough water to cook in a sauce pan. When cooked (don't let them get mushy), add dal and coconut masala. Lightly crush teppal and add to dal along with jaggery, kokum and salt. Bring to a boil. Spoon a teaspoon of coconut oil over dal and cover to let flavors blend. Serve hot with rice.

* So which ingredient would you nominate as 'gold'? Off the top of my head I can think of Kashmiri saffron because Anita raves about it so passionately, and marathi moggu, which adds that something special to Bisibele Bhaat...

* Use bamboo shoots, drumsticks, raw jackfruit, gourds etc. in place of pumpkin. To make dudhya khatkhate, omit red gram and use a seasoning of crushed garlic in coconut oil.

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August 28, 2007

Bagels for Breakfast

Blame it on all those Enid Blytons as a child but for the longest time I was utterly fascinated by scones. And clotted cream. Coming home exhausted after their investigations, Julian, Anne, George et al always tucked into "hot, buttered scones with clotted cream and strawberry jam". It all sounded so exotic, so delicious. And so far removed from Rasna and masala Maggi that I pestered my parents endlessly to bring me some scones! Now that I think about it, with all their talk of food, Blyton's books were more a 'what'scookin' than a 'whodunit'!

The next phase of food curiousity came with high school French. In the text Pierre and Henri taught us how to conjugate difficult verbs. Were they content going to the libarary two days in a row so we could learn present and future tense? Non, they also found time to visit the boulangerie and buy croissants, gateau and pain au chocolat so we could learn more about French food. In an 11am class. To drool, am drooling, will drool....

When I saw the WBB theme this month was for breakfast from other cultures, I decided to either make an English or French breakfast in honor of these old obsessions. But a busy week tossed my plans out the window and I fell back on the good ol' American favorite - bagel. Since bagels originated in Austria I suppose my entry spans not one but two cultures.

This is by no means a consolation menu - sauteed wild mushrooms sprinkled with herbs, topped with melting cheese and sandwiched between a golden, toasted bagel is a great way to start the day (take that Blyton!)

bagel

BAGEL WITH MUSHROOMS & CHEESE
(adapted from 'Great Grilled Sandwiches')
bagel of choice
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1-2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 cup wild mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
taleggio cheese, to taste (or any other cheese that melts well)
salt and pepper to taste

Heat a pan with oil and butter. Add garlic and saute for a minute. Add mushrooms and saute until they lose their moisture. Season to taste. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Arrange mushrooms on one half. Top with cheese and place second half. Grill in a sandwich/ panini grill until cheese melts (I used the broiler). Serve hot.

Entry for WBB # 14 hosted by Glenna of A Fridge full of Food

Trivia of the day - Bagel is the only bread product that is boiled before it is baked. More here

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August 26, 2007

JFI Rice - Sanna Polo

Having my mother in law stay with us the last few months has ensured my recipe book gets updated regularly! Page after page has been filled with my hurried, illegible scrawl as she makes yet another variety of dosa for breakfast. Sweet, savory, bitter sweet, tangy, spicy... no flavor has been left untried.

We invariably follow a pattern as she sets about prepping the ingredients -
MIL: soaking rice
Me: "are we making paan pole tomorrow"?
MIL: "I was thinking of methi dosa actually"
Me: get book, scribble...

MIL: soaking dal
Me: "so it's mushti pole for breakfast"?
MIL: "how about sanna polo instead?"
Me: get book, scribble...

Sanna polo is a spicy dosa made with cabbage and served as a side dish in a rice-dal meal. This is one of those convenient (no fermentation yay!) and versatile dishes that you can quickly adapt to your own tastes. Use any leafy vegetables lying in your fridge, make idlis (called sanna mudde) instead of dosas and serve it for brunch or make vadas/ bondas (called ambado) and serve as a snack.

sannapolo2

SANNA POLO (Spicy Cabbage Pancakes)
(makes 7)
2 cups rice
1/4 cup split red gram (tur dal)
1/4 cup coconut, grated
3 or more dry red chillies*
1/4 tsp tamarind pulp
1/2 cup cabbage, finely shredded
1/4 onion, finely chopped*
salt
oil to fry

Wash then soak rice and dal separately overnight or for a minimum of 2 hours. Grind coconut, tamarind, chillies to a fine paste using a little water.

Drain rice and dal and grind further to make a thick, slightly coarse batter. Add only as much water as needed to grind. Combine with onion and cabbage. Season to taste.

Heat a griddle with oil, drop a small ladleful of batter on it. Don't bother to make perfect circles. Sanna pole are free form and small in size. Just spread the batter with the back of your ladle and fry for 1-2 minutes. Flip over and fry on the other side till golden brown. Serve hot.

Entry for JFI Rice hosted by Sharmi of Neivedyam

* These pancakes are supposed to be really spicy so add more chillies if you prefer
* Use a pinch of asafetida instead of onion
* See Vee's sanna mudde

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August 24, 2007

Same difference - Morkholmbo

For almost every Konkani recipe I post, I unfailingly receive a comment that goes, "we make something similar called xxx" or "this is called yyy in my language". It's made me realize that our cuisine has more in common with its' South Indian counterparts than a deep and unwavering love for coconut.

For an upperi and kootu, we have upkari and koot; for a kuzambu, we have kholmbo and for moar kuzambu, there is morkholmbo. Who'd have thunk?

morkholmbo2

MORKHOLMBO (Vegetables in Buttermilk)
(serves 2-3)
1 colored cucumber (maggen/ mogge)
1/2 green bell pepper
1-2 green chillies
2 tbsp coconut, grated
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp split black gram dal
a few curry leaves
a pinch of asafetida
1 cup thick, slightly sour buttermilk (or beaten yogurt)

Peel cucumber and dice into cubes. Deseed and chop bell pepper into cubes. Grind coconut and chillies to a fine paste. Keep aside. Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard and fenugreek seeds. Add dal, asafetida and curry leaves and saute till golden.

Combine cucumber and pepper with just enough water to cook. Once soft add the coconut masala and buttermilk. Season to taste and simmer for 3-4 minutes. Serve as a side with rice and dal.

* Use gourds, beans, leafy veges etc. intead of cucumber and pepper. If using lady fingers fry in a teaspoon of oil then cook either with kokum or tamarind pulp

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August 08, 2007

Express Meals - Kohlrabi Dal

As if all the events in blogosphere weren't tempting enough, my friend Mallugirl has gone a step further and thrown a challenge in the face of us exhausted bloggers - express meals. She wants to know if we can whip up a decent meal in 10-30 minutes.

10 minute meals in my kitchen are heated leftovers, but 30 minutes is right about the time I spend on a weekday meal. For Mallugirl's challenge, I stuck with good ol' rice and dal, letting the pressure cooker do most of the work. If you have the standard 3-4 burner stove and a good knife to make prepping easy, express cooking can be a breeze. Some tips I follow -
- keeping most of the ingredients at hand before I actually begin cooking (mise en place)
- preparing vegetables (ie. peeled, chopped and stored in ziploc bags in the refrigerator) whenever I can
- planning menus in advance
- multitasking!

dal

NOL KOL - MASKA SANG AMBAT (Kohlrabi & Drumstick Dal)
(serves 2-3)
2 small kohlrabi
4-5 pieces of drumsticks
1 cup red gram (tur dal)
1/2 tomato, chopped*
salt to taste
Masala -
1/4 cup coconut, grated
1/4 onion, sliced
2 tsp sambar masala*
Seasoning -
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
curry leaves
pinch of asafetida
oil

Express Cooking -
Rinse rice and dal in 1-2 changes of water. Set aside for 7-10 minutes. Meanwhile remove drumsticks from freezer and place in a bowl to thaw. Wash, peel and chop kohlrabi into cubes. Slice onion and chop tomatoes.

Place pressure cooker on fire. Combine kohlrabi and 2 cups of water in a sauce pan. Cover and let cook on moderate heat.

Lightly roast onion on a pan. Grind along with coconut and sambar masala into a fine paste. Keep aside. Add chopped tomato and drumsticks to kohlrabi. When soft add coconut masala and cooked dal. Add enough water to reach desired consistency. Season to taste and bring to a boil.

On another burner, prepare a tadka of mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafetida. Pour over dal and cover. Serve hot with rice.

Make a quick raita, roast a few papads, add a dollop of pickle and you have a complete, satisfying (2-3 vegetables + protein from dal) meal.

* Traditionally Konkani ambats use tamarind pulp but I prefer tomato to tamarind in this curry
* Sambar masala is not the South Indian sambar but the Konkani version. Use any mild, red masala instead
* Use radish, mangalore cucumber, ash gourd etc in place of kohlrabi

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August 03, 2007

New Friends - Radish

Radish, dill, kohlrabi, pumpkin... armed with new recipes from my mother and mother in law, I am trying to see beyond their rather overbearing personalities. Admittedly we aren't the best of friends yet, but the ice has definitely melted.

So, if my temperamental grocery store permits, I am going to try introducing them over the next few weeks.


radish2

MULANGI UPKARI (Sauteed Radish)
(serves 2)
1 white radish, peeled and diced into small cubes
1/2 onion, chopped
1-2 green chillies, slit
1 tbsp coconut, grated
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
a few curry leaves
oil
salt to taste

Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds and when they pop, add curry leaves, chillies and chopped onion. Saute on moderate heat till soft (not brown). Add radish cubes and steam cook till just tender. Season with salt. Top with grated coconut and serve.

* Add black gram (urad) dal or cashews for a different taste
* The second bowl has radish raita similar to this one

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