Saturday, February 22, 2014

Green Apple Chunda/Pickle


This year Christmas was just the 3 of us. We could not have a party at home nor could we attend any parties because I was just recovering. The hubby decided to make Christmas an event for us. So, it was roast chicken, mashed potatoes, roasted veggies, stuffing, gravy and ofcorse cake.
I had asked him to get green apples for the stuffing. Sadly, I did not say - get just one. And he got about 5 of them. Only one was used for the stuffing recipe. The other four green apples had been in my refrigerator since then. Well, I am not a fan of green apples just like that - they are sour and tart. Hubby and kiddo refused to eat it just like that too.
Two days ago, I was looking at the drawers in my fridge to take stock before grocery shopping and I saw these apples looking at me. I knew I would not like to throw them, and I also knew that we would not eat them just like that. So, I started to think of ways to use all of them in one go. Mind was racing and I came up with many ideas - cakes, muffins, bread, pie ......... but, the one that took my attention was pickle/chutney. I remembered the shredded green mango pickle called 'chunda' and how we all liked it with parathas. So, instead of green mangoes it was going to be green apples. 
Well, traditionally this chunda is kept in sunlight for a couple of weeks to get that authentic taste. But, here in this weather - even if there is sunlight, its so so cold - I could not do the traditional stuff. So, the instant chunda came in handy. Its the same process followed by almost all - expect with a few tweaks here and there.



Ingredients

2 cups packed grated green apple (I used 4 of them - peeled and grated)
2 cloves
1 inch cinnamon stick
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 cup sugar (you can add upto 1 cup)
2 teaspoons red chilli powder
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (jeera)
1 teaspoon fennel seeds (saunf)
1/8 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi dana)
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida (hing)


Method

In a saucepan add the grated green apple, salt and turmeric. Mix it well and let it sit for about 1 hour. The apple does not turn brown here and this process releases the natural water from the apples. After and hour, add the sugar and mix well till all the sugar melts. This should take about 15 to 20 minutes. In that time, roast the cumin seeds, fennel seeds and fenugreek seeds til you get a nice aroma and then grid it to a fine powder. Once all the sugar has dissolved, put the saucepan on medium low heat along with the cloves and the cinnamon stick. Keep stirring occasionally. You need to get the sugar syrup to get thick and all the water to get evaporated - the sugar syrup should be a half string consistency (when tested between the thumb and forefinger it forms a thread but breaks off immediately). To this add the chilli powder and the roasted seeds powder and mix well.
Once it cools down, you can store it in a dry and airtight bottle. Like a chunda this should stay for a year too - but, the bottle in my house is already half empty.
Savor it with parathas, rotis, dosas or even as a sandwich with bread. We like it with dal and rice or khichdi too.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Rajma Palak - Simple Recipe

Something that I do very regularly at my place is soaking pulses like rajma (red kidney beans), alsande (black eyed peas), kale vatane (Black peas), safed vatana (white peas), kabuli chana (chickpeas), kulith (horsegram) and the likes. I generally soak all these pulses at one time and then after 12 hours of soaking, they are transferred to different different containers and are kept in the freezer when I need to cook them. This way, I do not need to remember to soak them the previous night, and I can make some pulses when I feel like it.
This Rajma was in my freezer for over 4 weeks. Yesterday, I had no vegetables in the fridge and did not know what to cook before my lil one came back from school. Well, suddenly I remembered the rajma in the freezer and thought of making a curry.
Now Rajma - well................... its a ritual to cook it the way a punjabi aunty thought me. It takes quite a bit of effort and love. I did not have the time for efforts - but, there was loads of love. Hence made this jhatpat rajma the way my mom always made it for us. Just added spinach to get some veggies into it too.
Verdit - kiddo loved it - she had it for lunch as well as dinner.


Ingredients

1 cup rajma (red kidney beans) - soaked for atleast 12 hours
1 onion - roughly chopped
1 tomato - roughly chopped
2 cups water
1 teaspoon mustard oil (use can use any other oil)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/4 teaspoon asafoetida
1 tablespoon butter/ghee/oil
7 cloves garlic - finely chopped
1 teaspoon kashmiri chilli powder (you can add more if you like)
2 teaspoons meat masala (I used everest meat masala) - the masala does not contain meat
2 cups baby spinach - roughly chopped
salt to taste


Method

In a pressure cooker add the soaked and drained kidney beans, water, onions, tomatoes, turmeric, asafoetida and mustard oil. Pressure cook it for about 5 whistles. Let it stand untill the pressure cooker releases its pressure.
One you open the pressure cooker, use the back of your ladle and just mash the bottom of the cooked kidney beans a couple of times to mash just a few of them.
In a saucepan, add the butter/ghee/oil. When it gets hot, add the chopped garlic and let it sizzle - be careful not to burn the garlic. To this add the rajma mixture - be very careful as it will splutter - add the rajma very very slowly. Add the chopped spinach, the meat masala, chilli powder and salt to taste. Let the mixture come to a boil, then cover and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
Serve with Rotis or Rice.

DaliToy - Simple Dal

Dalitoy is a staple in almost all konkani homes. I can eat rice and this dal all through the year. You need nothing else - just maybe papad and pickle or some chutney - if you love fish....... well, fried fish goes amazing with this dal.
There are various ways of making this humble stuff. Its nothing but yellow pigeon peas (Tuvar Dal) thats pressure cooked - and then a tempering of mustard seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves is all that is to it. Not to forget the salt to taste. I added a few extra ingredients - something that my grandma used to do to just enhance the taste a bit more. It still remains that same simple dalitoy.


Ingredients

1 cup dried split pigeon peas (Tuvar Dal/Toor Dal)
3 cups water
1/2 inch ginger
1 teaspoon oil
2 teaspoons ghee/coconut oil (you can use any other oil too)
1 green chilli - slit in the middle
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
5 to 7 curry leaves
1/2 teaspoon asafoetida
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
salt to taste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
chopped cilantro for garnish

Method

Wash and rinse the pigeon peas very well. Then add 3 cups of water, turmeric powder, 1 teaspoon oil and chopped ginger and pressure cook them untill you get 4 to 5 whistles. Once the pressure is released, open the cooker and mash the cooked dal.
In a karahi or saucepan, add the 2 teaspoons ghee/oil. Once it gets hoe, add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, add the cumin and the chilli and curry leaves and let it all splutter for about 5 seconds. Then add the asafoetida and the cooked and mashed dal - be careful when you do this and the dal will splutter, add the dal into the tadka/tempering very very slowly. Add sugar and salt to taste and let the mixture come to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and let it simmer for about 5 minutes. Garnish with chopped cilantro and savor with rice and accompaniments of your choice.

Semolina Banana Bread (Eggless)

have been experimenting baking banana bread with semolina flour. Finally got the recipe right and loved the outcome.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups fine semolina (rawa)
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup oil.ghee/butter
3 ripe bananas
1 cup sugar (you can make it 3/4 cup to make it a little less sweet - I did that)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon cardamom powder
1 teaspoon nutmeg powder
1/2 cup coconut flakes/coarse powder (optional)


Method

Warm the milk a little  and add the semolina to it and mix well. Let this mixture sit for about 2 hours. In a mixing bowl, mash the bananas well and add the sugar and the oil/ghee/butter and mix. Add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, cardamom powder, nutmeg powder and mix well till everything is formed into an incorporated mixture. Now fold in the semolina and milk mixture and form a cake batter. Do not overmix.
Pour batter into a greased baking dish (9X5 loaf pan) and bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 40 minutes. The toothpick test to see doneness - inset a toothpick int he middle of the cake, if it comes out clean, your cake is done.
Cool it on a wire rack and enjoy for breakfast or snack or as a dessert.

Strawberry & Banana Cake with semolina (rawa)

Baking is fun - Baking is passion - Baking is everything nice - Baking is indulgence - Baking............. well, you know I love baking. The oven, the heat, the batter, the dough, the process, the aroma and ofcorse not to forget the yummy goodies once out of the oven.
I have been baking banana bread with Semolina flour and All Purpose flour for sometime. Have been experimenting only with semolina - and I must say, the results are good and I am loving it.
I have tried a banana bread too with just semolina flour - shall update the recipe soon.
Here - I tired the famous smoothie combo - Banana & Strawberry in a cake form. My family liked it. 


Ingredients

1 ripe banana
7 to 8 strawberries
1/2 cup milk
1 cup fine semolina (rawa)
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
a pinch of salt
1/2 cup butter/oil/ghee
1/4 cup milk or 1 egg


Pit the strawberries and puree it with the peeled banana in a blender - do not add water. Mix the 1/2 cup milk, the 1 cup semolina and the strawberry banana puree and let it sit for about an hour.
In a mixing bowl, take 1/2 cup oil/butter/ghee and add 3/4 cup sugar and mix well. Now add the milk or egg and baking powder and mix everything well. Add the semolina mixture and fold everything in together very well. Do not overmix once you add the semolina mixture.
Add the batter into a greased baking pan and bake in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 to 40 minutes. To check doneness, just insert a toothpick in the middle of the cake, if it comes out clean, the cake is done.
Cool on a wire rack and enjoy.
Makes a loaf in 9X5 loaf pan or a flat bundt cake in a bundt pan (as I made mine)

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Curry Leaves Fish Fry

We are fish lovers - and with the variety of fish that we get here, the love has increased three folds. I generally buy the frozen fish fillets and hence there are no bones to deal with and no messy hands either - now...... who would not like that?
We do get fresh pomfrets and king fish too at the local Asian Store - we do get fish and shrimps from there too. But, I prefer the pre-cut and vacuum packed frozen fillets as its easy for lil miss "A" to eat on her own and I have no worry about pins and bones.
Back home - the only way mom used to fry fish was using the red masala or the green masala - and these fish pieces would be coated with semolina (rawa) and shallow fried - something we savored with dal and rice. However, over the years I have tried to make something different with the fish, just to keep our taste-buds alive and to make mealtimes fun. There are so many varieties to prepare everything around the World. And especially in India - food differs from state to state.............. it differs from town to town actually. So, thats what we try at our home - preparations from different different places. This is one of those different preparations.


Ingredients

4 fillets of Swai (Sea Bass or Tilapia work too)
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons sesame seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/8 teaspoon fenugreek seeds
4 stalks curry leaves (use only the leaves)
3 to 4 dried red kashmiri chili (use more or less as per your choice)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
1 tablespoon lemon juice OR vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt (add more or less as per  taste)
coconut oil for shallow frying (you can use canola, groundnut, sunflower or olive oil too)
1/4 cup fine rawa semolina
1/4 cup rice flour


Method

Dry road the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, fenugreek, coriander seeds, sesame seeds, kashmiri chillis and curry leaves till a nice aroma fills the place - be careful not to burn the stuff. Let it cool and then grind it to a fine powder. Mix this powder along with the turmeric powder, the ginger garlic paste and the lemon juice or vinegar and salt and mix well. Add a couple of teaspoons of water to get a thick paste. Spread it on the fish fillets and let this sit for about 20 to 30 minutes.
Make a mixture of rawa (semolina) and rice flour. Carefully coat the fish pieces in the rawa and rice flour mixture and shallow fry on a tawa till you get a nice crust. Garnish with cilantro/coriander and serve with rice and dal or just as an appetizer.
Alternatively, you can bake it in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for about 20 minutes.

Mango & Date Milkshake

Milkshakes and smoothies have become a regular at our home since the arrival of the Blendtec. Oh! I love that machine. It purees everything so smooth and in a matter of minutes. Smoothies and Milkshakes have become fun to make and have. And the beauty is - cleaning that pot takes minimal effort. Who would not like that right?

Last year I was a bit down healthwise and my blood levels were at its lowest. At one time my hemoglobin level was at an alarming rate of "5" - I had to be hospitalized and had to have a blood transfusion. I was advised to bring my levels up before my surgery and was asked to go the natural way. So it was spinach, beets, dates and all other things that would boost my blood count which had become a staple at home.

This milkshake became a regular at home during those days. Dates added sweetness and hence we did not add sugar.


Ingredients

2 cups milk (I used 1%)
1 cup frozen mango slices (I used deep Alphonso mango slices)
8 to 10 pitted dates
4 to 5 cubes of ice

Method

Combine everything in the Blendtec and blend it together using the smoothie function. If you are using a normal blender, chop the dates a bit to make the blending process easy and then combine and mix everything together till a smooth shake forms.
Makes about 2 tall glasses - a filling drink.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Rustic Chicken Curry from the Ghaat village of Maharashtra (Ghati Masala Chicken)

The villages in the mountain areas of Maharashtra are called "Ghaats" and the people who reside here are called "Ghaatis" - it is not an offensive term if used in the right sense. Well........ I do not want to get into the lingo debate here - just trying to clarify why the name for the dish.
This is a rustic dish prepared by the villages of the Ghaat areas of Maharastra and hence the name. My grandma used to cook this and thats how I know of it. We love the aroma and the rustic taste. It is a great accompaniment with jowar/bajra/rice bhakris or even with the humble rice.


Ingredients

2 pounds chicken (I used boneless skinless thigh meat) cut into pieces
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons yogurt
2 teaspoons ginger garlic paste
1 medium red onion
1 medium tomato
7 garlic cloves
5 dried kashmiri chilis (add more if you want it hot)
2 tablespoon dried coconut slices (kopra)
2 teaspoons sesame seeds (til)
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon fennel seeds (saunf)
2 green cardamoms
4 cloves
1 inch cinnamon stick
1/8 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi dane)
1/2 teaspoon peppercorns
small piece of mace
2 tablespoons coconut oil
salt to taste

Method

Marinate the chicken pieces in turmeric, salt, yogurt and ginger garlic paste and let it sit for atleast half an hour.
n the meantime - on an open flame (I did it on my gas stove) - roast the whole onion (with the outer cover peeled off) till you get a nice char on the outside. Do the same with the tomato and the garlic. Take a pair of tongs and get a char on the red chilis, just 5 seconds on an open flame. Put all these charred items into a blender and let it cool.
In a karahi, dry roast the dry coconut slices till they turn a nice brow color. Add this to the stuff in the blender. Now dry roast the sesame seeds, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds, cardamoms, cloves, fenugreek seeds, cinnamon, peppercorns and mace for about 30 seconds to a minute till you get a nice fragrance - be careful not to burn the spices. Add this to the blender too.
Once the stuff inside the blender has cooled  bit, add some water and blend to a coarse paste. You can make it into a fine paste if you like it that way.
In a karahi, add the coconut oil and the blended paste and 1 cup of water and bring it to a boil. Once the mixture boils - lover the heat a little and add the chicken pieces, add salt to taste. Cover and cook for about 20 to 25 minute till the chicken is cooked through.
Serve it with Chappatis, or Bakri of your choice of even with rice.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Cilantro Salmon Bake


Salmon - that beautiful orange colored fish is an acquired taste. I still remember the first time I had tasted this fish......... I nearly spit it out. But, over time we have developed a love for this fish. We have tried cooking it with Cajun spices, Indian spices, even added it to curries. We love the fish cutlets made with salmon.
I always wanted to bake salmon using a crust - like most of the pictures that I had seen on pinterest and on various food sites. But, at the same time, wanted it to have some spice. So, we came up with this spicy cilantro mixture to be added on top and also in between the salmon fillet to fit our taste-buds. The result was - well, just awesome. We loved it.


Ingredients

4 center-cut fillets of Salmon (I used frozen Salmon)
2 cups cilantro / coriander leaves
4 green chillis (you can add more if you like it spicy)
8 garlic cloves
1/2 inch ginger
1/2 onion
1 teaspoon salt (you can add more or less - as per your taste)
juice of a lemon
1/4 cup olive oil


Method

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. In a food processor, add the cilantro, garlic, chillis, ginger, onion, salt, lemon juice and 1/2 of the oil and pulse about 10 times to get a coarse mixture - it should look like the mixture does in the picture above. Take the salmon fillet and using a paring knife, make a small incision in the middle of the fillet, fill it with a little of the cilantro mixture and set aside - repeat the same process with the other fillets. Take a baking tray and grease with some of the remaining oil and place the salmon fillets in a row. Smear the remaining mixture on top of the salmon fillets evenly. Add a sliced onion or if you like a sliced tomato and pour the remaining oil all over. Bake in the preheated oven for about 15 to 20 minutes till the Salmon is well cooked.
Serve with Salad of your choice.

Masala Dudh & Fresh Strawberry PannaCotta (Veg)


Today is Valentines Day - well, its the day of love and hearts - Its a day of red and pink overdose. Come to think of it........ why should we celebrate love only on one day???? Why cannot everyday be a celebration of love???? 
Well, Valentines Day has no particular significance at our place - According to my hubby........ everyday is Valentines Day if we can make it happen - and I agree with him.
Well - everyone was making something special for Valentines Day - and I wanted to try this dessert for ages. So, took the opportunity and made it. Very happy with the way it turned out. Hubby is not a great fan of milk based desserts - the only one he likes is rasgullas. Even he gave me a thumbs-up for this.
I remember as a kid we used to get these packets called 'china grass' - there were various flavors available - pista, chocolate, strawberry, mango. kesar, elaichi and many more. I used to love the milk jelly - yes, thats what we called it.
After I started cooking, I found out that china grass is actually 'agar agar' a veg substitute for gelatin and is used to make vegetarian jelly, pannacotta and many other such desserts. It is actually a seaweed used in Southeast Asian cuisine. That is what I have used in this too. Makes it fully vegetarian.



Ingredients

9 strawberries
6 tablespoons sugar - divided (add more if you want it more sweet or less if you want it less sweet)
1 cup water
1 & 1/2 cups milk (I used 2%)
1 tablespoon dudh (milk) masala (I used Everest)
7 grams agar-agar flakes


Method

Quarter the strawberries and add 2 tablespoons of sugar to it. Let it sit for about an hour. In the meantime, bring the 1 cup water to a boil and add the agar agar to it. You have to be patient as the agar agar will take some time to get completely dissolved - almost 15 minutes. Once it is dissolved, you will get a nice liquid without any particles. Keep this aside. In another saucepan, add the milk and the remaining 4 tablespoons of  sugar and bring it to a boil. To this, add the dudh masala and let it simmer for about 10 minutes.
Now, back to the strawberries - In the one hour that the strawberries were left with the sugar, they will have released some water and the sugar gets dissolved. Grind this into a fine paste and set aside.
Now divide the agar agar solution into 1/4th cup and 3/4th cup. Add the 1/4th cup to the strawberry mixture and mix well - add the 3/4th cup to the milk mixture and mix well.
Now to assemble them - I had used 4 medium sized ramekins - you can use small ramekins too or you can even use a silicon mold which has those beautiful flower or any other designs. I am still awaiting my silicon mold, thanks to the weather - its taking its own sweet time coming to me. Here is the link - Rose Mold
Add the milk mixture about 1/2 of the ramekin/mold. Let it set for about 15 to 20 minutes at room temperature and then in the refrigerator for about 5 minutes. Now add the strawberry mixture to the top of the milk mixture - just to form a small thin layer, about 1/4th inch. Now let it set in the refrigerator for about 3 to 4 hours.
Before serving, dip the bowl in some hot water, then run a knife along the edge of the pudding/pannacotta and invert onto a plate. And enjoy this yummy goodness.

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