Monthly Archives: February 2013

Delicious Pineapple Rasam

Pineapple Rasam

Traditionally when my aunt used to make pudachi vadi, she used to serve it with Srikhand – a very sweet rich creamy Indian dessert. I didn’t want to make or buy anything that rich but knew that we would need a little something a couple of hours later after eating the vadi’s.

Anand brought home made rasam recently when we met for dinner and I thought rice and rasam would be a perfect complement to the hearty pudachi vadi. A twist to the traditional rasam, a pineapple rasam is a sweet and sour soup that can be served as is or with rice and a dollop of ghee. Its one of those simple dishes that make weeknight cooking a breeze and yet with its variations (tomato, garlic, ginger, lemon, sprouts, beets or even leafy greens like spinach) keep the family enthused.

I used the ingredients on hand, left out the tamarind pulp and while the rice cooked had a piping hot soup, ready to be served. This is a no fuss recipe with ample of deviations from traditional cooking. Yet its full of flavor and perfect for cool spring evenings!

Pineapple Rasam Recipe

  • 1/4 cup toor dal + 1 cup water
  • Pinch turmeric powder
  • 1 medium tomato finely chopped
  • 3- 4 slices of pineapple finely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon rasam powder
  • Pinch of hing or asafoetida
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 cups water

For the tadka or tempering

  • 2 teaspoon ghee or oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 2 – 3 whole red chilies
  • 1 spring curry leaves

1. Cook the dal with water in a pressure cooker with turmeric ( or in a saucepan with lid on for about 30 minutes till the lentils are mushy and disintegrate in the water.)

2. Add the tomato, pineapple, hing, rasam powder, chili powder and salt with remaining water and let this come to a boil. Lower to a simmer.

3. In a separate saucepan, heat some ghee. Add mustard seeds, red chilies and curry leaves and let them sizzle. Add this to the rasam saucepan. It will crackle as you add the seasonings and ghee to the soupy rasam. Let the mix boil for a few minutes.

Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Garnish with coriander leaves and serve hot with rice or as is as soup.

Nagpuri Pudachi Vadi, An Indian Spring -Roll

Pudachi vadi

There are some recipes that invoke images of large family get together, where everyone pitches in. Uncles get fresh vegetables from the market. Everyone sits around cleaning the vegetables, shelling the beans and peas, separating the tender greens from the tough stalk like cilantro or mint. Tea and snacks follows a tedious session. Gossip overflows and kids play around. Such sessions were always in my aunt’s house where we used to gather for family weddings or special occasions.

And the session used to be amply rewarded with special snacks – pudachi vadi ( or spring roll), anarse ( or sweet pancakes made from a poppy-seed – rice flour batter), or simple roti’s with home-made relishes ( mango or berries). The crispy crunchy gram flour filling of pudachi vadi was a special attraction for both kids and adults alike. Similar to the crisped bits of bacon that stick to the pan or crusty ends of home-made bread loaf. As a kid I wasn’t fond of the cilantro filling but have grown fond of it. Either my taste buds have evolved or I had begun to love recipes that my family made traditionally while I missed them in US. It brought me closer to them in some sense.

Corriander chopped up for vaid

I used to ask my aunt to make it for me on every visit – though I never attempted to make it myself. Till this past weekend, wanting to eat something interesting, I asked my cousin sister to share the recipe. My cousin shared the recipe with a lot of step by step instructions ending with “I will come over and help you make them” assurance. My task was to make the filling which she was sure I wouldn’t mess up.

Rolling out the vadi

I agreed and secretly planned to surprise her with the ready-made goodies when she came over. And boy, she was in for a treat. These rolls turned out to perfectly crunchy with a very savory filling. It was perfect for the cool evenings that we have although the days are warm. Filled with finely diced cilantro, poppy and sesame seeds and seasoned lightly with Indian spices, it is a satisfying snack. Complemented with a salad and a bottle of white wine it makes a filling vegetarian meal. I am sure this has the power to convert cilantro haters but the recipe can be adapted with any other greens – kale, mustard, mint, baby spinach comes to my mind.

Vadi before frying

Pudachi vadi cooked

Although I must admit that if my cousin had rolled them up, they would have been more artfully made with crisp edges!

Ready to eat with some thandaai

Pudachi Vadi Recipe

For the Filling

  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 1 cup finely diced onion
  • 7 – 10 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 cup dried coconut flakes
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 inch ginger root minced
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 2 teaspoon garam masala powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 cups finely chopped coriander leaves (or any other greens that you prefer)
  • 1/4 cup raw mango grated (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons raisins(optional)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

For the cover dough

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup chickpea flour or besan
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/4 cup curd beaten
  • 1 teaspoon hot oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup water

To make the rolls

  • 1/4 cup curd in a bowl to spread on the rolls
  • Oil for frying

1. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a pan and then fry onion till translucent. Add the garlic and fry till the garlic gives out a fragrance but has not browned. Add coconut, poppy and sesame seeds and fry till cooked through. Further add ginger, chili powder and garam masala and cook for another minute or sauce.

Once cooked, remove from the pan and set aside.

2. Add the remaining oil to the same pan and fry the coriander leaves till they crisp up. Add the onion-coconut mix. Season with salt. Take off heat. Add lemon juice, raw mango, and raisins (if using them) and mix well.

Adjust seasonings if necessary and set aside to cool.

3. Mix the ingredients for the dough to form a soft but firm dough. It should be soft enough to be able to roll out into a thin sheet or roti.

4. Take a ping-pong ball sized dough ( or lemon in US) , and form a 4 – 6 inch thin disc. Spread a bit of yogurt on the sheet. Keep a generous helping of coriander mix on the dough and then form a triangular pocket/ roll.

Make sure you crimp the edges so the rolls won’t open up while frying. Make all rolls and set aside.

5. Heat oil for frying while you make the dough. Once the oil is heated through but not smoking, fry the rolls one by one.

Serve hot with mint chutney or yogurt though they are savory enough to be eaten as is.

Thandai – A refreshing Milk Drink for Summer

Thandaai

“Mamma lets buy a rickshaw.”

A very specific and a very unique ask from Varun. Ever since our move Varun is fascinated with auto rickshaw’s and scooters – so much so that he insisted that we buy one this past weekend.

I took it lightly and it resulted in a crying fest. The only way I could console him is that we can’t buy one as I didn’t know how to drive one. And also that the stores are closed on the weekend.

Thandaai ingredients

On and on the discussion continued, sometimes appended with a ‘please’ and other times with cries. I was fed up not knowing how to change topics. So we decided to make something together. A thandai came up to my mind – a milk based drink with nuts, seeds and pepper. A touch of saffron adds to its taste and color. It’s usually made in summer and is THE drink for the festival of Maha Shivratri and Holi where it is spiked with Bhaang.

Thandaai being made in grinder

Varun helped me – rather created a mess with poppy seeds, pumpkin seeds and almonds. Then he helped me shell the cardamoms. A whirl in the grinder, the mix was ready. This powder can be stored in any cool place for weeks. Boiled with milk and then chilled for a few hours, this mix elevates plain milk into a creamy nutty drink. Replace with almond or soy milk to make it dairy free. It makes a refreshing snack on a hot summer day which is already making an appearance here.

Thandaai mix

Thandai Recipe

Makes 2 servings

For the Thandai mix

  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds or saunf
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • 9 – 10 green cardamom shelled
  • 10 – 12 peppercorns

To Make the drink

  • 2 cups Milk ( Regular, soy or almond)
  • 4 tablespoons Thandai mix
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • Few Saffron Strands

For garnish

1. Whirl the ingredients in the  Thandai mix in a coffee grinder or the small masala grinder till nuts are finely chopped and mixed well.

2. Boil milk with sugar, thandai mix and a few saffron strands. Let cool for 4 – 6 hours.

3. In the serving cup, put a dollop of gulkand or a few drops of rose-water. Add the cooled thandai. Garnish with chopped nuts and a pinch of saffron.

Serve immediately.

Kolhapuri Misal Pav

IMG_9421

It seems unreal to write a recipe related post when the city is still reeling in the aftermath of the two bomb blasts that shook Hyderabad. Last night around 7:00 pm, during peak hour, there were two bomb blasts in Dilsukhnagar area of Hyderabad. We didn’t know about it till messages started pouring on Facebook from concerned friends and family abroad. We watched live news, devastated about the blasts and in fear. Politicians and leaders made statements partly to cover their asses and party to blame others. It was a sad day worsened by politicians caring for their own benefit than the families in distress.

We were safe in our house and were relieved that our friends and family were safe as well. Today, life was like normal. Office, meetings, day care and even a Ship party. Guess, these things happen in India frequently enough that while you feel helpless and enraged you bounce back to normal quickly. In our safe cocoons of white-collar jobs, gated communities and elite day cares/schools, we don’t have to worry about the same things that a middle class Dilsukhnagar has to. Sad, but true.

So how do you tide over shocking news items like bomb blasts, horrific rape incidents and political apathy? You make friends and hold them close. Check on them and make sure that your little circle is safe. And be grateful that your little corner is safe this time from the general chaos. It helps even when life is less tumultuous. This is true regardless where you are.

One of our favorite recipes to go to when we had friends over in Redmond was Misal Pav – fiery dish from Kolhapur. Literally misal means a medley – a medley of sprouts, fiery kat sauce, crunchy farsan and assortment of toppings. We recently made it as its healthy, one-pot, vegetarian and can be customized a myriad of ways with multiple toppings. Its one of those dishes that taste better as they simmer longer and even better the next day as the flavors blend overnight. Its comforting, filling and nurturing. It can be made spicy or mild though fiery is its signature tone. Diced onions, tomatoes, lemons and crunchy farsan add to the drama of the dish and it can be easily tempered down with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.

IMG_9411

A perfect companion to this is a crusty bread or a soft dinner roll to soak up all the gravy. Try it when you need comforting – from man-made or nature’s calamities: snow, storm or hurricane. You will feel better after having made it for your loved ones. After all its a dish that tastes better when its made with love.

Kolhapuri Misal Pav Recipe

  • 2 cups sprouts (moong, moth or matki, green peas, lentils, black-eyed peas etc)
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • Dash of asafoetida or hing
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 sprig curry leaves
  • 1 tablespoon garlic chopped
  • 1 cup chopped onions
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon garam masala
  • Salt to taste

For garnish

  •  Farsan, sev
  • Coriander leaves chopped
  • Onions finely chopped ( optional)
  • Tomatoes finely chopped ( optional)
  • Lemons quartered
  • Yogurt
  • Kat ( recipe below )

For Kat or Spicy Sauce

Depending on how spicy you want kat,

  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon each of chili powder , cumin powder, garam masala
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup water

1. Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds. Once they crackle, add cumin, hing, curry leaves and let it sizzle for about 10 – 15 seconds. Then add the onions and let them cook for about  5 – 7 minutes till soft. Add tomatoes, chili powder and garam masala. Mix well and let cook till soft and well mixed.

2. Take about 2 -3 tablespoons of this mix and set aside to make kat or a spicy sauce.

3. Add the sprouts. Season with salt. Add a cup of water and let this simmer on low heat for 20 – 30 minutes till the sprouts are well cooked. Taste and adjust the seasonings.

4. For Kat : Take the onion- tomato mix in a separate sauce pan and sauté this in oil. Add water, chili powder, salt and garam masala. Bring to a boil and lower to a simmer.

Serve the misal piping hot along  the kat and garnish platter. Top misal with kat, lemon juice and farsan with a side of pav for a satisfying vegetarian meal.

Roasted Pineapple and Raw Mango Cooler

Aam pora sorbot

Or Roasted pineapple and Raw mango Sarbat as we could call it in India. I was introduced to this concoction at Aheli where I had dinner with IIM C recruitment team. A sip of it and it seemed like spring – early summer brought to us in a glass. Light tangy notes of roasted raw mango, hint of cumin and black salt and smoky sweetness of jaggery.

This drink brought out our inner culinary expertise. We dissected its ingredients and discussed how it is different from Aam panhaa which is made from steamed raw mangoes v/s this being made from roasted raw mangoes. This went on for sometime till the meal was served. Good times!

Last weekend, I bought raw mangoes as they are in season. Varun took a fancy to the plume and knobby body of a whole pineapple and in it went into the shopping cart. Once home, as I roasted the raw mangoes, I remembered grilled pineapple and ice-cream that most folks serve at their outdoor grill parties. I thought grilled pineapple would go perfectly in this Sarbat. And it did. Once the rest of spices were added to grilled pineapple and mango pulp, and pressed through the sieve we had a thick concoction that was light and refreshing.

Serve it as is with iced water or soda, or spiked with rum or any other liquor you want, it’s a crowd pleaser. Bottled up the concoction lasts in the fridge for weeks for a sip here or there, after work, on the weekend or at any time you need a little pick me up.

Roasted Pineapple and Raw Mango Cooler

  • 2 medium raw mangoes
  • 1/2 a ripe pineapple, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1/4 cup jaggery
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon amchur powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon chilli powder
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Salt to taste
  1. Roast the raw mangoes on a low flame one at a time till they are soft and charred. Let cool. Peel and discard the skin and the seed. Smash the pulp with a fork.
  2. Grill the pineapple pieces till soft and add it to the mango pulp.
  3. In a sauce pan, heat the pulp, with jaggery, sugar and rest of the spices till cooked through for a few minutes. Mix well.
  4. Pass the pulp through a sieve to remove any fibers or tough pieces.

Spike, garnish and serve or bottle up in an airtight container to enjoy later. Cheers!

Paneer in Tender Coconut Gravy

Ready to eat paneer in tender coconut

We had a fantastic weekend – the kind that makes you want to rewind to Friday night all over again. Sure, even on a mundane Monday I want to rewind to Friday night so I can make weekend special and different and not so routine. But today, after a weekend with friends and family, get-togethers, clinks of wine glasses, laughter and teasing, I want to savor it even more.

Friday night started with Varun’s favorite kaka and mavshi joining us for dinner. He was so over-joyed that he didn’t sleep till past midnight. On Saturday, after dinner and paan,  he went over to Sushil- Athika’s house with Krish bhaiyaa and Bhavya didi to sleep but came back after 15 mins as he missed his mama! Same story on Sunday night where post dinner with friends, he wanted to go home with Aarvin and told me to stay at home while he goes out. Made my heart skip a beat. He is growing fast!

Anyways, back to Saturday night dinner. Inspired by our Kolkata trip, I wanted to make something Bengali for Sushil- Athika. An accomplished cook and baker, Athika loves food. We love what she makes. Her recipes are so detailed that her husband, a novice, followed them to the T and came up with finger licking curries for her baby shower. Single handedly for 30 odd people on first attempt. Impressive!

Paneer in Tender coconut

I decided to make a vegetarian version of Daab Chingri or prawns in tender coconut shell. Soft paneer and red bell pepper for the color and crunch. Cooked with tender coconut meat and then steamed to a delicate perfection in the shell. Traditionally the curry is cooked in the shell in a water bath for an hour or so. But I decided to fake it and made the curry in the pan and then steamed it in water bath to let the subtle tender coconut taste seep through.

Paneer and tender coconut gravy

The subtle flavor of tender coconut is very refreshing. The texture and the aroma is a change from the typical Indian curries that are heavy with either cream or spices. Its smooth and almost sweet – a perfect base for fresh paneer , tofu and any other vegetables that you choose.

The presentation in green shell adds to the drama and makes an amateur fake a professional finish! If you really want to impress someone with least amount of effort this is THE perfect recipe. Try it for a special night or to for a dinner party or just to perk up a wintry weekend into a tropical delight! I am dying to make this again with prawns!

Paneer in Tender coconut shells being simmered in water bath

Paneer in Tender Coconut Gravy

  • 2 green tender coconuts – water ( 1 1/2 cups water) and flesh ( 1/4 cup) removed
  • 2 tablespoon mustard oil + 1 tablespoon vegetable oil or canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil ( for sautéing red bell pepper)
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 large bayleaf
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 5 -7 green cardamoms
  • 1 green chilli finely sliced
  • 3- 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1 inch knob of ginger root , peeled and then minced.
  • 3 small onions finely chopped
  • 300 – 400 grams paneer  or tofu
  • 1 bell pepper diced
  • Salt to taste
  • Pepper to taste

For the water bath

  • A large pot to hold both the coconut shells
  • 4 cups water

1. Carefully carve the top of tender coconut with a large enough opening so that you can fill the gravy back in. Also try to carve in a single piece and retain the head piece so it can be used as a lid while the gravy simmers.

Save the water in a bowl and then scoop out the meat with a spoon. Keep the water and the meat aside.

2. Heat both oils together ( vegetable oils cuts the bitterness of mustard oil). Once heated, add the mustard seeds, bayleaf, cinnamon stick , garlic and chopped green chilies. Let them sizzle and then add the onions. Fry the onions for a few minutes with the rest of the spice mixture till they are well cooked but not browned.

3. Take this onion spice mixture and remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaf. Blend it smooth with coconut meat and ginger root along with a cup of coconut water.

4. Add oil in the same pan and sauté the red bell pepper till they are partially cooked. Add the paneer and sauté it for about half a minute. Then add the pureed coconut mix to the pan. Add salt, a bit of black pepper and cinnamon stick and bay leaf that was removed before pureeing. Let simmer for couple of minutes. If its too thick add some more coconut water to thin it out. Taste for seasonings and adjust per taste.

5. Put the water bath on low heat. Take the gravy and fill it in the empty coconut shells carefully. Place the shells in the pot. Cover with lid and let it cook for about an hour.

The gravy stays warm in the coconut shells even after you take it off the heat. Serve with warm rice or pilaf.

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