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Pepper Rice With Hot Tomato Carrot Soup

Pepper rice

Its raining, in fact pouring all day here in Hyderabad. So much so that when I went to pick up Varun I was soaked to the skin. I somehow managed to keep him dry.

We came home, a bit cold and wet. And I wanted something light and piping hot for dinner.

Soup came to my mind. Or rather rasam did. I didn’t have any curry leaves on hand so wondered how rasam would taste without it. Without another moment’s hesitation I decided to make simple tomato carrot soup. Now that  alone wouldn’t be sufficient for dinner. I always wonder when people say they had soup for dinner, how much of that tureen of soup they had? I decided to make some rice so Varun could eat plain rice if everything else failed.

When I opened the fridge to take out carrots and tomatoes, I saw the red and yellow bell peppers smiling at me. They wanted to join the party and thus the idea of a simple bell pepper rice along with the soup was born.

Rice was being cooked. Tomato and carrot were merrily boiling with a clove of garlic and a couple of peppercorns. I diced up green onions and bell pepper and then went to solve a couple of puzzles with Varun.

Once the rice cooled, I quickly stir fried the pepper with simple spices ( turmeric, bay leaf and cinnamon), puréed the soup’s vegetables and then added cooked rice to the pepper stir fry.

Within minutes we had a hearty and comforting dinner ready to eat.

Varun was hungry by now and we sat down with our respective meals.

Making the dinner was super easy, if only other things in life were as quick and easy!

Pepper Rice and Tomato-Carrot Soup  Recipe

For Pepper Rice

  • 1 cup long grained rice
  • 2 cups water to cook rice
  • 1/2 cup green onions sliced ( just the white and pale green parts)
  • 3/4 cup yellow bell peppers cubed
  • 3/4 cup red bell pepper cubed
  • 1 teaspoon oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 inch cinnamon stick
  • 2-3 medium-sized dried red chillies
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon urad dal soaked in water for 10 minutes or so
  • 1 tablespoon channa dal soaked in water for 10 minutes or so
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • Pinch of red chilli powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup green onions ( green parts) diced (for garnish)

For Tomato Carrot Soup 

  • 2 roma or 1 beefsteak tomato
  • 1 carrot – peeled and chopped into 1 ” peices
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 pepper corns
  • 1 1/2 – 2 cups water
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

To Make the Pepper Rice

1. Set the soup ingredients (other than salt and pepper) to boil while  the rice cooks. Once rice is done, fluff it and set aside.

2. Heat oil in a wok. Once it is hot, add mustard and cumin seeds.

After they sizzle, add bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Keep stirring for 20 – 30 secs. Now add the dried chillies. Crush them if you prefer a spicier rice. Keep stirring while the spices cook without burning them.

3.  Now add urad and channa dal after draining the water. Let this cook for about 1/2 a minute. Keep stirring to prevent them from sticking to the pan.

4. Add the green onions, flash cook for 30 seconds. Add the bell peppers.

Cook for another couple of minutes.

5. Once peppers are partially cooked, add turmeric powder, chilli powder and salt. Taste and adjust seasoning’s.

6. Add the cooked rice, stir well. Taste and adjust seasoning’s. Cover with a lid and let cook for a minute or so on low flame.

7. To make the soup, blend the cooked soup ingredients together till there are no lumps. You can strain the soup to remove any lumps or skin.

Add salt and pepper to taste.

Serve soup with rice while its still piping hot.

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Andhra Special: Gongura Chicken ( Chicken in Sorrel Leaves Gravy)

Gongura chicken

For my 201’st post, I thought I should post a regional recipe. When I first moved to US in 2001, we all had packed food items from home – be it pickles, papads or even pulses. While we were getting adjusted to the new life there, we all bonded over homemade simple meals. News,updates,learning’s were shared. Daal-chaawal for the dil ( aka Chicken soup for the soul).

Most folks from Andhra had a bottle of gongura pickle.The tangy sour sorrel leaves picked in a hot oil tempering. The combination is amazing and most Indian stores across US stock this.  It soon became a staple in our house and even today stands next to mom’s sweet and sour pickle.

When we moved to Hyderabad, we were introduced to another Andhra specialty made with red sorrel leaves – Gongura chicken. And the pairing is classic. Italians have their Chicken with Spinach, North Indian with fenugreek leaves (Methi– chicken) and Andhra has it with gongura leaves.

Renuka making chicken

Alas not all places make it well and we have had varying degrees of luck. Some places it was too sour,others it was too bland. Till recently, Renuka, our cook made it when she saw chicken and gongura leaves. And it was lip-smacking good. So, good that I asked to make it again when we had friends over.

Cooking

She willing shared her recipe and blushed when I told her I would share it with you all on Internet.

I hope you all love this tangy chicken recipe as much as we did 🙂

Gongura Chicken Recipe

Serves 4

  • 1 lb chicken(boneless skinless cubed into bite sized pieces)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1/2 cup red onion diced
  • 1/4 cup mint leaves roughly chopped
  • 1/4 cup coriander leaves roughly chopped
  • 2 1/2 cups Gongura leaves – washed and roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon – turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon – garam masala powder
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons -coriander powder
  • 2 teaspoons – red chili powder
  • Salt to taste
  • 2 cups water

For the Marinade

  • 2 tablespoon yogurt
  • 3- 4 garlic pods minced
  • 1 inch ginger root peeled and grated
  • 1 green chilli diced
  • Juice from 1/2 a lemon ( about 1 tablespoon)
  • Salt to taste

 For the Coconut Paste

  • 2 teaspoons Desiccated coconut ( thawed if frozen)
  • 10 -14 cashew nuts ( unsalted)
  • 3 garlic pods -roughly chopped
  • 1 green chilli – roughly diced

1. Marinade the chicken in the ingredients listed above. Set aside for 30 minutes to an hour.

2. Heat oil in a pressure cooker ( or a pot with tight fighting lid). Add onions and fry till translucent. Add the coriander and mint leaves and saute them for about 30 seconds till wilted.

Then add gongura leaves and saute them for about a minute.

3. Now add all the spices – turmeric powder, chili powder, coriander powder, garam masala and salt. Keep stirring as you add the masalas so they wont stick to the pan and burn.

4. Add the coconut paste and cook through for another minute.

5. Finally add the chicken along with the marinade. Mix well. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add water.

Pressure cook for 2 whistles or cook till chicken is cooked through but not tough about 8 – 10 minutes.

Serve hot with rice or parathas.

Slow Cooked Spring Lamb Stew

Cooking lamb and veggies

When we were Seattle, we were jet lagged most of the days. It was only after 4 days that I began to feel human and stay awake during normal day time. On Monday, when everyone went to work, Varun and I played, watched TV , went for a walk and generally had fun. And along side we made some lamb stew.

Lamb

Now, I don’t normally make a lamb stew on a whim. But my friend’s house is so well stocked and it has an island with a Viking cooking range, that I wanted to cook something nice. Plus, I haven’t cooked with lamb, baby carrots and baby potatoes in a while. So, while Varun and I enjoyed together the lamb thawed. And it was cooked to a slow perfection with spring vegetables while he slept. The stew bubbled merrily as I enjoyed the afternoon catching up on the world of Barefoot Contessa, Rachel Ray and Giada! Not to mention the stacks of Better Home and Garden and Veranda magazines! What a blissful way to spend an afternoon!!

Browned

This truly is an entrée to surprise and impress. It takes minimal effort and with simple ingredients on hand can be made while doing something else – watching a movie, playing poker or simply catching up with friends. The vegetables make the stew colorful and refreshing. And not to mention hearty. And when you enter the home after cooking this stew, the aromas draw you in. You will want to sample this from  the pot.

Spring veggies

Spring vegetables

We ate it with crusty bread to mop up all the gravy but it should go well with some rice pilaf as well. The original recipe is from Whole Foods that my friend had cut out and stuck on her fridge. I made a few tweaks to bring out the flavors. Hope you enjoy it as much as well all did. Pairs perfectly with friends, white wine and cheesecake. Now all you need a spring weekend to enjoy this!

Ready to eat

Spring Lamb Stew Recipe

Serves 5

  • 1/4 – 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 lbs – Lamb Stew meat cut into small chunks
  • 3 tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 cup White Wine
  • 1  1/2 teaspoon rosemary
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 cups baby potatoes halved ( mix of white, red and purple)
  • 2 cups baby carrots halved
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen green peas
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/4 cup spring onion diced for garnish

1. Mix the flour, pepper, paprika and salt and dredge the lamb in the mix.

2. Heat oil in a thick bottom flat pan and working in batches, brown the lamb on all sides.

3. Once all the lamb is browned, in the same pan, add the lamb, white wine and the spices ( rosemary and oregano). Mix well. Lower the heat to a slow simmer and cook for an hour.

4. Add the potatoes and carrots. Mix and cook on low heat for another hour.

5. Add lemon juice and peas. Adjust seasonings as necessary. Cook on simmer for another 15 – 20 mins till peas are tender.

Ladle in bowls. Garnish with spring onions and serve warm immediately.

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.

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.

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