Friday, October 1, 2010

Spicy Avarakkai (Broad Beans) Fry






Up until a few years ago, Avarakkai (Indian Broad Beans) was not in my favorite list of vegetables. There are some vegetables that I used to take it for granted while growing up - the vegetables that I used to see cooked regularly at households. Beans, Avarakkai, Brinjal etc are few of them (Potatoes are exceptions!). Plainly, a simple poriyal (stir-fry) of any vegetable seemed to be so ordinary and did not excite me. So, when I moved to the US, I did not miss those vegetables much. With the years passing by, I had developed a true interest in dining out and exploring variety of cuisines - to learn about new spices, new cooking methods and mainly, to get a break from the kitchen. In fact, I had forgotten about those traditional vegetables altogether. Also, I loved the fact that I found some of my favorite vegetables in abundance here. Cauliflower, beets, Green Peas, Mushrooms enthuse me to cook often.




Well, that all changed after a few years and I started relishing all those simple yet flavorful vegetable dishes all of a sudden. Whenever I visited India for vacation, those vibrant traditional home-made vegetable recipes sparked my liking towards them and I realized nothing can beat this traditional taste. Now, any poriyal is my my favorite and avarakkai poriyal is my first choice! I must say, nothing will never replace the taste of a homemade traditional meal. Thankfully, some of the local Indian groceries here sell these wonderful vegetables on a regular basis. This recipe has a vibrant flavor, and best of all, an easy recipe anyone can make it. Its simple taste practically goes with anything.


Ingredients:


Avarakkai (Indian Broad beans) - chopped - 2 cups

Onions - chopped - 1/2 cup (1 small sized onion chopped)

Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp

Corriander seeds - 2 tsps

Black Pepper corns - 1 tsp

Red Chilly - 1

Fresh shredded Coconut - 2 tbsps (optional). If you don't have coconut you can use 4 or 5 cashewnuts.

Mustard seeds - 1 tsp

Urad Dal - 1 tsp

Curry Leaves - a hand full.



Procedure:


Grind the coconut, corriander seeds, pepper corn and red chilly to a fine paste, by adding a little water. Set aside.


Heat oil in a pan, season with mustard seeds, urad dal and curry leaves.


Once they splatter, add chopped onions and fry for a few mins until onions are well fried.


Add chopped avarakkai, turmeric, salt and fry for a min. Add some water, cover and cook in low heat until the vegetable is tender.


Now add the paste and mix it well. Simmer and let it boil for a few more mins.


Increase the heat and stir until the mixture becomes thicker and dark colored (roasted).




Serve hot with Rice and Dal.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Paneer Koftas in a Coconut gravy


Paneer is becoming a staple food in my household nowadays. I used to love Paneer in any form. But not anymore. I have been making Paneer dishes atleast once a week since my daughter loves it, and at one time it was colossally boring for me to make the same paneer dish again and again. Its everywhere. Whether its a party, or a Indian restaurant, a Paneer dish ends up on our plate certainly. Any Indian Restaurant menu has majority of dishes under Vegetarian made with paneer. Nowadays I repeatedly choose a paneer dish to prepare for a potluck party, so I can be sure my daughter will eat something.

However, I love to cook Paneer dishes regularly, because a good thing about Paneer is, its so versatile that it can be used with any combination of spices to give a delectable dish. I think, my blog itself has quite a few paneer recipes with different variations, and there's quite a few sitting in my drafts waiting to be posted.

Well, here is one of them - a Paneer dish with a different twist. Paneer Koftas soaked in a creamy coconut gravy. Koftas are usually combined with a thick and rich creamy gravy, primarily using fresh cream for thickening. This dish goes much like the usual gravy, but mostly uses coconut milk instead of fresh cream. I used 75% coconut milk and 25% fresh cream. I followed this recipe from different sources and I think vahrevah video cooking was very helpful to make the Koftas. Overall, this dish came out quite well and gave a completely new and different flavor.


Ingredients:
For Koftas:
  • Grated Paneer - 1 cup (I run the fresh paneer cubes in a food processor or you can also grate the paneer)
  • Boiled and Mashed Potatoes - 1 cup
  • Boiled and mashed peas and carrots (don't mash the vegetables too much) - 1 cup
  • Raisins - a few
  • Chilli Powder - 1/2 tsp
  • Corriander powder - 1 tsp
  • Grated Ginger - 1/2 tsp
  • All purpose flour or Corn flour - to dust the Kofta balls
  • Chopped corriander leaves - a hand full.
  • Salt as required
For Gravy:
  • Onions - 1 medium
  • Tomatoes - 1 large - diced
  • Ginger/Garlic paste - 1 tsp
  • G.chillies - 2
  • Corriander Powder - 2 tsp
  • Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
  • Crushed paneer - 1 tbsp
  • Broken Cashews - 2 tbsp
  • Cream - 1/4 cup
  • Coconut milk (light coconut milk is better) - 1 cup
  • Chopped corriander leaves - a hand full.
Procedure:
For Koftas:
  • Combine the crushed paneer, mashed potatoes in a wide bowl.
  • Squeeze the water out of the boiled vegetables (you can use this water for the gravy), and mash the vegetables until they lose shape (don't make it a paste). Add this to the paneer and potatoes.
  • Add Chilli powder, corriander powder, ginger, salt and corriander leaves. Mix well.
  • Make a small balls from this mixture, pat it a bit flat, place 2 raisins in the middle, and roll it back to a ball. Adding raisins is completly optional, I make it this way as my daughter enjoys it and also definitely adds a kick to the koftas. You can certainly make just a plain ball.
  • Roll over these balls on the flour (I use all-purpose flour). Set aside.
  • Deep fry the Koftas in oil. Set aside.
Tip: To get perfect Koftas, all the ingredients should be free from water as much as possible. I remove the potatoes from water as soon as they are cooked and let it dry for 5 mins before I mash them. I also drain the water from the vegetables as soon as they are cooked.
Try to deep fry only one first. If it breaks, add some Rava or bread crumbs to the mixture and mix well. This may absorb that extra moisture.
For Gravy:
  • Heat oil in a pan. Fry the onions until they trun color, then add ginger/garlic paste and tomatoes and fry again.
  • Add turmeric, chilli powder and corriander powder. Add salt and fry for a few mins until the tomatoes are well cooked. Let this cool, add cashews and grind this mixture to a paste.
  • Heat a little oil in the pan again, and add this blended mixture. Fry for a min or two and add the squeezed vegetable water. Cover and cook for 5 mins.
  • Now add the crushed paneer, boil it for a min.
  • Finally add the coconut milk and fresh cream. Boil for 2 mins. If required add some water.
  • Add the Koftas and remove from heat immediately. Garnish with corriander leaves. The Koftas will absorb the gravy quickly. So the gravy should not be too thick.
Serve hot with Rotis/Parathas.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Pal Kozhukattai (Dumplings in Coconut milk)


Happy Ganesh Chathurthi!

I'm back from a extra-long summer break.. Hope everyone had a wonderful summer! I was at India for the majority of this summer and time just flew away. I know I missed a lot of yummy recipes from my blogging world here, but actually I've also been checking some blogs now and then and have bookmarked some interesting recipes too. Though it feels good to blog after a long time, I have to say that my brain is completely blank now. In fact, a few minutes back, I felt like I have plenty to ramble, but as I sat down to write this post I feel as if there is nothing to write. I can't seem to form rational sentences, and have seem to lost touch in my usual scrawling. Hope to get back to my regular blogging mind set soon.

Well, Today is Ganesh Chathurthi and I cooked a traditional lunch special after a long time - ofcourse with our Ganesh Chathurthi special Kozhukattai too. I always relate our traditional Kozhukattai (Modak) to the Japanese dumplings called Mochi. Somehow, the basic concept seems to be the same, although the ingredients are slightly different. Actually, there are quite a bit of our traditional dishes that I can relate to the dishes across the border, but this one I feel is closely tied to the Japanese dumplings. The sweet filling, rice flour base, steamin process etc. sound so similar to each other. Ofcourse, me and my family enjoy the Indian Kozhukattai more, as we all grew up enjoying that version.

Though I had prepared the regular steamed Kozhukattai for puja and lunch, interestingly during lunch time, my daughter asked me why this time I did not make the Pal Kozhukattai which she enjoys more! It didn't strike me until then, that I missed making her favorite. But as I had some left over rice flour, I decided to prepare this sweet just for her in the evening. Glad I was in a cooking mood yesterday!

Ingredients:

Fresh Shredded coconut - 2 cups
Regular milk - 1/2 cup
Rice Flour - 1.5 cups
Cardamom powder (or crushed cardamom) - 1.5 tsp
Sugar - 1.5 cups (or as required)
Raisins - a few for garnishing

Procedure:

1. Add 2 cups water and 1.5 cups of shredded coconut in a blender. Strain the milk using a strainer and then squeeze out the milk from the coconut remains. This will be a thicker version of coconut milk. Set aside.

2. Repeat this process with the squeezed coconut and the remaining 0.5 cup of shredded coconut and strain the milk one more time. This will be the lighter version (diluted) of coconut milk. Set this aside too.

3. Take the rice flour in a large pan. Add salt and mix well with the rice flour.

4. Boil 4 cups water in a pan and pour this in the rice flour slowly. Mix the flour rapidly with the back side of a wooden ladle and keep mixing until it becomes a thick dough (like chapathi dough). Pour only the required amount of water so the dough is in the right consistency.

5. In a thick bottomed pan, pour the lighter version of coconut milk, add sugar, cardamom powder and the regular milk and mix well. Bring it to boil, then simmer the heat and let it boil continuously.

6. Make small balls with the prepared dough and drop them in the boiling coconut milk. Once the balls are cooked, they come up to the surface of the milk (float).

7. Once all the balls are cooked well, add the thicker version of coconut milk, mix well and remove from heat immediately. Garnish with raisins.

You can enjoy this either warm or cold.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Omlettes in a spicy gravy!


Its February already! Before I realized, January is gone. And February usually goes by fast too, since its a shorter month. Overall, it feels like winter is going super fast this year! By march, the hope for Spring starts, and its manageable even if its cold now and then. I can't wait for Spring already. I haven't been in an elaborative cooking mood lately. One reason, I've been busy finishing up my school assignments for the term and I just had the time to manage with simple dinners for a couple of weeks. Another reason, with the depressed spirits of winter, I'm less energized when I get home with no mood to prepare an elaborative dinner. I actually made this dish a while back, I took the picture and had even started writing a post on it, and then I had almost forgotten this recipe in the last few weeks.

I like eggs and they have a respectable place in my cooking :) They are universal and can be part of any menu -- from breakfast to dinner or desserts. Obviously there are numerous egg recipes in Indian cooking too, and I personally enjoy preparing egg dishes at home the Indian way. It's a time-saver whenever I run out of veggies in my fridge. With just a few regular ingredients, I can quickly put together a simple and glorious dish which can be enjoyed with any main dish like rice, rotis, idlis,dosas etc. Here's one recipe that I've grown up with. Omlettes infused with a spicy coconut gravy. Mom use to make this quite often and I still love it to this day. Though she makes quite a few egg curries, this one tops the list. I don't know where she got this recipe from, but this dish has been always there ever since I was a kid.

The fun part is making the mini omlettes. I can enjoy them just like that :) I make a few omlettes separately for my daughter without the chillies and she enjoys them too.

Ingredients:

For Omlettes:
  • Eggs: 4
  • Onion - 1 medium (finely chopped)
  • G.chillies - 3 small (finely chopped)
  • Corriander leaves - 2 tbsp (finely chopped)

For Gravy:

  • Onion - 1 medium
  • Garlic - 4 cloves (medium sized)
  • Tomato - 1 medium
  • Kulambu powder - 1.5 tbsp (you can substitute with 1 tsp chilli powder and 3 tsps of corriander powder)
  • Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
  • Fennel seeds - 2 tsp
  • Shredded Coconut (fresh/frozen) - 1/2 cup
  • Cashews - 1 tbsp
  • Poppy seeds (kasakasa) - 1 tsp
  • Tamarind juice - 1 cup (or Tamarind paste - 1 tbsp)
  • Curry leaves and Corriander leaves - as required.

Procedure:

  • Soak the cashews and poppy seeds in water for 5 mins.
  • Beat the eggs in a bowl with a pinch of salt until the eggs lose shape and the salt is well mixed.
  • Heat 2 tsps of oil in a pan, add the finely chopped onions, green chillies, corriander leaves and salt, fry until the onions turn transparent.
  • Add this mixture to the beaten eggs. Now make mini omlettes from this egg mixture. I use my paniyaram pan which has cup shaped dents, so I can make mini omlette balls. If you don't have this pan, you can make mini flat omlettes in a regular pan.
  • Cook the omlettes by turning over both sides until they are well cooked. Set them aside.
  • Make a smooth paste of the following - Coconut, 1 tsp fennel seeds, soaked cashews and poppy seeds, 1 clove garlic. Set aside.
  • Heat oil in a pan, season with mustard seeds , 1 tsp of fennel seeds. When they splutter, add the chopped onion, chopped garlic and curry leaves. Fry for 2-3 mins.
  • Add chopped tomatoes, kulambu powder and salt, and saute until tomatoes lose shape.
  • Add 3 cups of water and pressure cook the mixture for about 1 whistle. You can also cover and cook in the pan itself for about 12-15 mins until the raw spice smell goes away.
  • Now add the coconut paste and tamarind juice. Let it boil for 5 mins.
  • Finally add the omlettes and boil in low heat for 5 more mins.
  • Garnish with corriander leaves.
  • Let it rest for atleast 30 mins before serving.

Enjoy with steaming white rice!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Onion Pakoras - Onions at its best!

I would say street cooks are magicians. With just a few basic cooking essentials like a griddle and a deep-fryer they come-up with delicious meals or snacks! Its interesting to me when I watch them assemble their mobile kitchens, and within a few mins they are all set for making some of the best street foods. Street foods give identity to any place. My home town Madurai is also famous for street foods as I had mentioned in this post.

No one wants to get sick, but avoiding street food means denying yourself an essential part of the food experience :) Onions Pakoras are one of those street-side snacks that I enjoy anytime. While I was working in India, there used to be a few road side tea-stalls closer to my office. Many evenings we used to take a walk to those stalls to hang out with friends and enjoy these hot & crispy onion pakoras with a glass of tea. Sometimes I take masala vadas, but mostly would stick on to onion pakoras. They are served in banana-leaf over a plate with coconut chutney on the side. Hmm, yummy! Especially on a rainy day! Those are some of the nice-to-remember days, athough now I can't believe that I never fell sick eating those street side foods that often!

With that said, ironically, I rarely try making onion pakoras (though I make onion bhajjis often) at home until recently, when I thought I will give this a try. I searched for the recipe through various sources and finally came up with this recipe from mixing different steps from different recipes for onion pakoras. It was perfect and came out very close to those road-side pakodas. So easy and simple!

Ingredients:
  • Sliced red onions - 2 cups
  • Grated ginger - 1 tbsp
  • Soaked cashews (soak for 5 mins) - 2 tbsp
  • Chopped curry leaves - 1 tbsp
  • Finely chopped cilantro - 2 tbsp
  • Lemon juice - 1 tsp (optional)
  • Gram flour/Besan - 1 cup
  • Rice flour - 1/2 cup
  • Baking soda - 1 tsp
  • Oil - 1 tbsp
  • Oil - to deep fry
Procedure:
  • Mix the sliced onions, ginger, cashews, lemon juice, a little bit of salt, chopped curry leaves and corriander leaves in a bowl. Set aside.
  • In another bowl, mix the gram flour, rice flour, chilli powder, baking powder, the remaining salt and 1 tbsp oil.
  • This recipe hardly requires any water to mix, as the onions release a lot of moisture when mixed with salt in the first step, and also because we are adding some oil in the second step.
  • Now add the onion mixture to the flour mixture and sprinkle little bit of water to make the mixture to a binding consistency. The consistency should be in such a way that the mixture can bind and stay together if we make balls. This is different than bhajji consistency.
  • Take a portion of the mixture and drop it bit by bit in the oil - don't have to make them in round shape.
  • Drain them and place them in a paper napkin.

Serve hot with green chutney or sweet chutney!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Kadai Matar - Spicy Green Peas Curry


Happy New Year!

Hope you all had a great New Year! Sorry for being so slack with the posting. Time passes by me super fast these days, and other things have taken more priority too. We were out of town for the holidays and I took my own sweet time to get back to routine. It’s been a cold and snowy winter so far around our area, and I just prefer to cuddle on my couch during the weekends. This weekend for a change, I had the urge to be active in the kitchen and ended up with some new dishes.

This is one of those recipes I tried just in the spur of the moment. I was just flipping through some green-peas recipes a few hours ago, since a friend of mine had just then called up and had asked for a recipe primarily with green peas. She wanted to make use of a few packets of frozen peas stuck in her freezer. Green peas is one such vegetable that usually gets tossed in along with a bunch of other vegetables, and honestly I hardly make such a dish just with green peas. Of all the recipes I stumbled on, I liked this delicious looking recipe in a Punjabi cookbook I had purchased quite a while back. I decided to pass this on to my friend right away. It looked super-simple with hardly any chopping, with an elegantly styled photo along with the recipe. I was totally motivated and wanted to try my hand at this recipe, before passing it on to my friend, as it was dinner time anyway.

I think it makes a great dish - certainly better than pairing it up with another heavy feeling ingredient like paneer or potatoes. I should thank my friend in giving me a chance to try this new and yummy dish! Certain recipes are all about assembling the right ingredients together with right proportions, and this is one of them. Hope you all enjoy it as well!

Ingredients:
  • Frozen Peas - 2 cups
  • Ginger/Garlic Paste - 1 tbsp
  • Tomatoes - 2 medium (ripen)
  • Fenugreek seeds - 1/2 tsp
  • Red Chillies - 2
  • Lemon Juice - 1 tsp (optional)
  • Sugar - 1/4 tsp
  • Milk - 3 tbsp
  • Garam Masala - 3/4 tsp
  • Chilli Powder - 3/4 tsp
  • Corriander Powder - 1.5 tsp
  • Cardamom 2 - crushed
  • Kasoori Methi - 1 tbsp (crushed)
  • Corriander leaves - a hand full
Procedure:
  • Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a pan and season with fenugreek seeds and red chillies.
  • Add ginger/garlic paste and saute for about 2 mins.
  • Add garam masala, chilli powder and corriander powder one by one and saute in medium heat. (Have enough oil to fry these powders. If using less oil, be cautious in frying the powders as they may get burnt without oil.)
  • Add Lemon juice and tomatoes and saute for about 5 - 7 mins until tomatoes get well blended and soft.
  • Add the washed peas and mix well. Add milk, sugar and salt and cover and cook for 5 mins or until the peas is completely cooked.
  • Finally add crushed cardamom, Kasoori methi and corriander leaves and mix well. Let it boil for a min and remove from heat.
Enjoy it with chapathis and [whispering] I actually enjoyed it with curd rice much better :)