Pathrado…Stuffed Greens

Pathrado

Stuffed Greens  ha… Forgive Me, but I could'nt think of any other description. You know what these are. Patra in gujarati, alu wadi in Marathi and pathrado in konkani. Well, that just about ends my vocabulary regarding these.

So, how do you go about stuffing greens? By layering them, of course. Layer them and then roll them like you would a Swiss roll and voila….stuffed greens.

Before we move on to making these, let me clarify. These are traditionally made with colocasia leaves. However, these are not available in my part of the world. I made do without them for quite a while and then a little thing called "pregnancy-craving" kicked in. I just had to have them. On an inspired and desperate shopping expedition, I visited my local grocery store and came out with the greens with the biggest leaves. My find, Collard Greens. I made these with them and they tasted really good. And after binging on fries and pizza in the name of pregnancy-cravings, I felt really healthy after having them. After the whole pregnancy thing passed me by, I made these with collard greens again. Just to make sure, it was not the pregnancy playing tricks on me. And yep, they tasted just as good. And at 99 cents per pound, they are more affordable than the actual taro leaves that I get from my occasional trip to NJ. I have continued making these with collard greens, just as I have today.

I made the traditional konkani stuffing/paste, that is applied on the leaves, as follows,

2 cups Whole Green Moong,soaked overnight

1/2 cup Coconut Gratings

a fistful of Roasted Dry Red Chillies

1/2 tsp tamarind

1/2 tsp Asafoetida

salt

Yes, you read right. A fistful of chillies. You would'nt believe how much bland a bunch of greens and green moong Dal could be. You could substitute the red chillies with fresh green chillies, again a fistful. You could substitute the 2 cups of green moong Dal with 1 cup rice + 1 cup green moong Dal or  just 2 cups rice. Grind the coconut gratings, chillies and tamarind together coarsely using very little water. Add the other ingredients and grind together into a fine paste. Use water very sparingly. Taste it. It should taste more saltier and more spicier than you like. That's when it would be perfect when rolled together with the leaves.

So, lets roll. :) oh, I kill myself with my humor. Sorry. Back to business. I use one bunch of leaves for one roll, about 10 leaves. First prep the leaves. Clean the leaves as you would any greens and then wipe each one dry. Cut the thick veins on the leaves, by folding them and cutting them off. Like so.

Collard Green

The trick to a perfectly rolled pathrado is to not get all the thick veins on top of each other. That makes the rolling that much more difficult. So you alternate it. Start with one leaf. Apply a thin layer of the paste on it. And oh, you always apply the paste on the side that is lighter in color. That's the side that the paste can adhere to. The other side rolls off the water, remember. Now, layer 2 more leaves on that first leaf, as below.

Pathrado First Step Pathrado Second step

Apply the paste. You have got a good base now. Keep layering the rest of the leaves taking care to see that you have equal layers on all side and that you are not putting the veins right on top of each other. Keep doing it till you have used all the leaves. Now, roll it up like you would a burrito. Fold the sides in first, then the bottom. Apply paste on each part that is does not have it yet. Then keep rolling, tucking the sides in with every roll till you reach the end and end up with a Swiss roll of sorts. Tuck some paste in from the sides after you finish rolling.

Fold the sides and bottomRolled togetherFrom the side

Cut them carefully, preferably with a bread knife without pressing the roll. Let the knife do the cutting. Cut them into 4 pieces and steam them till it smells like pathrado. If you don't know what its supposed to smell like, just steam it for about 12-15 mins. Don't open the steamer yet. Let it stay as is for another 10 mins. 

There is another way to cook it. Heat a 12 inch cast iron pan.(Yes, a cast iron pan. A non-stick pan would do in its absence, I guess). Heat Oil, add mustard seeds. When they sputter, add a pinch of asafoetida pwd. Place each cross section of the roll on the hot oil. You should hear a searing sound. That's the sound of good things. You want to sear a side of it like you would a piece of meat. Place all four pieces in the pan, pour water (about 1/2 cup) from around the pieces into the pan. Avoid putting the water over the rolls. Cover and cook on medium heat for about 15 mins. Remove from flame and keep covered for another 10 mins.

Slice into thin slices, about 1/2" thick, before serving. We serve them with a few drops of coconut oil poured on it and the piece with the seared side is the prize cut in our home. Delicious.

Phanna Poha … Seasoned Flattened Rice

IMG_0086

One of negatives of trying all these new recipes and new ingredients is that you put on the backburner some of the things you grew up eating. I spend so much time and energy trying to simplify those intricate dishes that I forget the ones that are already simple and easy and oh so comforting. I decided to reprise one of these recipes that I grew up eating. Its called phana poha in konkani, meaning seasoned poha. Such a simple dish and so few ingredients and just good eats. They don't overwhelm your taste buds. You are not waiting for your taste buds to break into a song or go "bam" into your mouth. You don't have to brace for the explosion of flavors in your mouth. Not that there is anything wrong with that. It's just that, some days, you don't want all of those things. Somedays, you just want to lay back, have a morsel of food that comforts you, lulls you to a place long left behind like your childhood. Somedays, you just want to give your tastebuds some rest. Thats when I go back down memory lane and dig up dishes like these.

There are lots of ways to do this, but my family loves it this way and this is the way I do it.

So here goes,

2 cups poha -thin variety

1 cup coconut gratings

5 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp ghee

some mustard seeds and curry leaves

2 dried red chillies

A pinch of salt

Place a single layer of newspaper in the microwave. I always use the  newspaper, but I guess wax paper should be fine. Spread the poha on it in a thin, single layer. Turn off the "turn table setting" on your microwave. Microwave on 1 minute interval till the poha crisps up. They are crisped up when it crumbles or at least breaks when you  lightly press one between your thumb and forefinger. Cool completely.

Heat up a tbsp of ghee, add mustard seeds. When they sputter, add curry leaves and the dried red chillies. Pour it on the poha and mix well, coating the poha with the seasoned ghee.

Mix coconut gratings, sugar and salt. Just before serving, add this coconut mixture to the poha. Enjoy.

As you can see, the possibilities are endless. Add green chillies, dalia, peanuts etc. to the seasonings. Add chopped onion and coriander to the toppings. Shilpa of Aayi's Recipes has blogged a very nice way of doing it. But, today my goal was simplicity and this served my purposes just fine.

Naivedya…Malai Modak

 

Both my kids were born on Tuesdays. Now, in the US , they say that the tuesday kid is full of grace.The old and the wise (read that as the elders in our family) say that tuesday kids are stubborn and bull-headed. I dont know about the first but my son is definitely showing signs of the later. But, now that I think about it, he does have a certain grace about his stubborness. There is a 'certain grace' with which he will plop on the floor and throw his legs about when he wants something he is not supposed to have and there is a 'certain grace' with which his voice reaches tempos, that most opera singers can only dream about, within a nanosecond of something going against his wishes or if he is at his pediatricians'. Oh yes, my little dude does have 'grace'. I wonder ,though, why his pediatrician can't see it. :). My daughter is too young (2 months as I type this) to show signs of this. However, she observes everything that her brother does very intently, so that can't be far behind.

The point, you ask. In hindu mythology, tuesday is the day of Shri Ganesha. Yes, the elephant-headed god Himself. I have always had a special affinity towards this deity. You can't be part of Bombay and not feel so. Ganeshotsav is always a big part of Bombay. This festival celebrates the diety's birthday and it is done with great pomp and splendour. To have both my kids born on His day has only made it that much more special for me. Every Month, the fourth day of the second fortnight(Krishnapaksha) is considered Sankasthi chaturthi. Thats the day after the new moon. They (again, the old and wise) say that fasting on this day gets rid of all the sankat (hardships, troubles) coming your way. Fasting includes not eating regular food, eating only satvik foods till the moon rise. Pray to Shri Ganesha, pay homage to the moon, offer naivedya to both and only then eat regular food. Satvik food is pure and fresh vegetarian food that is prepared without the influence of onion and garlic, and with very little spices. The category is further shortened when your regular grains and cereals are also supposed to be avoided. So no rice or wheat. Basically, you are supposed to avoid food that generates too much heat in your body.  Naivedya is an offering to God (Niveda is sanskrit for offering hence Naivedya items).

I observe a fast on this day.

Don't ask me why. I am not gullible enough to believe that fasting for a day, every month would really make life all smooth and full of rose-tints. I do it, however, because it gives me a feeling of control with regards to something that I actually do not have any control over. It makes me feel that I am doing something to protect my family. Its all a part of being a parent, all part of trying to make life perfect for the kids. Deep within you, you know there is no such thing as a perfect world, you know that they are going to have to overcome their own share of hardships to make a good life for themselves, you know there are going to be pitfalls before they reach the peak of success and more importantly, you know that there is not a darn thing you can do about it except tend to their bruises and wounds. Thats where the prayers come in. Its funny how being a parent humbles you.

You would think that depriving youself of food for a whole day would be tough, but its not. There is an entire different set of recipes that are just so filling and delicious that you almost forget that you are fasting. Almost. There is an equally delicious set of recipes that are used as naivedya. Since I do this every month, I am now starting a series of monthly posts recording foods I prepare for fasts and naivedya.

So,  join me for delicious food , snippets on hindu mythology and a prayer.

I made Malai Modak as naivedya today. Modak is a steamed dumpling stuffed with coconut and jaggery and is supposedly Shri Ganesha's favorite. I decided to make these non-stuffed modaks the way I make malai pedas, just shaped like modaks. I make these with ricotta cheese. If you are one of those purists who consider that blasphemy, you are most welcome to make khoya in the time honored way of heating up a gallon of milk in a heavy bottomed vessel and then reducing it on low flame constantly stirring it. In about 3 to 4 hours, you should have khoya. Me, I have a pact with God. The only allowance I make, seeing that this is naivedya, is that I buy organic ricotta cheese with no preservatives.

The recipe…

16oz Whole Milk Ricotta Cheese

1 cup Heavy Cream

1/2 tsp Cardamom Powder

3-4 Strands Saffron

1/2 cup Sugar

2 tbsp Ghee (Clarified Butter)

 

Heat the ricotta cheese in a wide mouthed pan on medium heat for 6-7 mins. Stir quite frequently. The cheese would first melt and then regain its texture. Add the cream, saffron and cardamom powder and keep stirring all together till all the liquid dries up. Crush the saffron strands between your fingers before adding them, this way they will bring in more color and taste. Keep cooking till the mixture regains the texture of ricotta cheese, about 10-12 mins. Add the sugar and cook on high flame till the mixture forms a ball. Remove from flame, add the ghee and mix well. Allow to cool a little and shape into modaks or pedas.

To shape into modaks, take 1 tbsp of mixture and make a smooth ball. Now, using the all your fingers pull a little bit of a mixture ,elongating it. Press the other side of the ball on the counter or the plate. To shape into pedas, take a tsp of the mixture, shape into a ball and flatten it a little between your palms.

This recipe will make 21 modaks/pedas, exactly the number for the naivedya.

Buns…Deep-Fried Banana-Flour Bread

Buns!!!…You mean the hamburger buns?

NO.

You mean the buns that we used to get in India…maska bun?

NO.

You mean those sweet breads that we used to get at the local baker in India?

NO.

These are Mangalore Buns.They are a sort of a spongy poori made of maida kneaded with mashed bananas ..kinda sweet from the banana and kind of a mild kick from the black pepper.

In case you are wondering,that is not a typo error. I really mean Mangalore.Mangalore is small town in Karnataka and yes, it is a completely different entity than Bangalore.As far as I am concerned,this city is the center of all things Konkani.There might be many to disagree with me. But hey, my blog, my rant. S and I stayed in Mangalore for a couple of months immediately after we were married.Though I mentally prepared myself for the change it would be for a city-bred-Mumbai-snob that I was (and still am to some extent),I just wasnt prepared for the culture shock that I was in for. Mind you, growing up with my Bapama (Paternal Grandma), I knew all the traditions, rituals etc.that is Konkani. It wasn't the traditions or the small town, it was just the sheer number of amchigeles(as we like to call ourselves,loosely means "our people") around.In the vast diversity of mumbai, I had never been in such close quarters with amchis that were not my relatives. Its a feeling I couldn't shake as I left the city to head towards the new world, so to speak. But, I digress.

These buns are generally a breakfast item in Mangalore, but my bapama used to make them as an evening snack, too. Its a great way to use up an overripe banana. In fact,my mother-in-law keeps aside a banana to let overripe so that she can make these.

Now that you know what they are and whence they cometh from (I am into Shakespeare these days),you might as well know how to make them.

Mangalore Buns…

Maida or Regular flour 2 cups

1 overripe Banana

1/2 buttermilk or (yogurt + water beaten together)

3 tbsp sugar

1/4 tsp black pepper

1/8 tsp Baking soda

salt

Oil + ghee for deep frying

Peel the banana and mash them with a fork in a large vessel.Add the buttermilk. If you are using yogurt, beat it and dilute with enough water to make 1/2 a cup.Add in the sugar,salt, pepper and baking soda. Mix together. Add the flour and keep forking it till it all comes together and forms a dough. You might have to add more flour or water depending upon the consistency of the buttermilk you are using. If its thick, may require extra water or if its too watery, may require more flour. Knead for a minute or so (isn't that great?). Apply a tbsp of oil all over the dough,cover and keep in a cool place (I keep it in my non-hot oven) for at least 4 hours.

Heat oil, add 2 tbsp of ghee to it. You don't want to fry this in just oil, they wont taste as good.Shape ball sized dough pieces into round shapes about 3-4 inches in diameter and a little thicker than a poori.Use extra flour to help roll them. Sprinkle some on the counter and rub some on the rolling pin. Use sparingly or you will be left with a gross black sediment in your oil rendering it un-reusable.Been there , done that.You might also want to roll and fry one at a time instead of roll all pooris and then deep fry. This being a maida dough, you will be left with a 2 inch diameter thick rolled poori. Not good.

Deep fry on medium heat. As soon as you put the dough in oil,keep poking at it with the slotted spoon and pressing it into the oil till it puffs up. At this point, I would like to say that the oil is HOT, be careful and please don't sue me if you meet with an accident. You deep fry at your own risk!! :) . Now that you have read the disclaimer, we can move ahead. Once it puffs up, turn over and let the other side fry up. Remove from oil and drain on paper towels. They are not going to be as crispy as a poori would be , they are not supposed to be.When you bite into them, they are going to be crispy and spongy all at the same time.If they are,you have just made a perfect Mangalore Bun!!!.

Pasta Fusion…Elbow Macaroni in a Eggplant-Spinach sauce.

Pasta Upma

Necessity is the mother of invention, they say. This Recipe came out of the dire necessity to empty my pantry. Going to India for a couple of months , you see.(Yay for me!!!).

Opened the pantry,have some elbow macaroni but no cheese, so cant go for the Mac n' Cheese.Peek into the freezer, do have some Parmesan cheese and frozen spinach that have to be consumed . Peek into the refrigerator, some tomatoes and eggplant that have to used pretty soon or else have to be dumped. Decided to put everything into one dish and see what comes up. And, Lo and behold, a pasta dish that can easily become a staple in our everyday food. But only if I can remember what I put into it.Which is why , I am typing as I eat my pasta fusion.Pardon any sauce splatters and typo errors….

Lets see,

Heated some oil in a pan,threw in onion and garlic, sauteed till soft. Hmmm..opened the spice cabinet (yes , I have a cabinet full of spices.Whole spices, powdered spices, ready-made spice mixes, homemade spice mixes, dried herbs..the whole lot. will do a post on them some time),some red chilli powder, some goda masala,some fennel seeds. Stir.Added veggies, tomato puree.  In goes Italian Seasoning,salt, pepper and the pasta. Topped with Parmesan. Ah..good .I remember everything. Now, to quantify the ingredients and write a proper recipe.

Pasta Fusion….

1 cup elbow macaroni (or any pasta you prefer)

1/2 cup frozen spinach defrosted (or 8-10 spinach leaves, chopped)

1/2 cup chopped eggplant

1 medium tomato chopped

1 medium onion chopped

4 tbsp tomato puree

2 cloves garlic chopped finely

1 tsp red chilli powder

1/2 tsp goda masala (or garam masala or any other spice mix you prefer)

1/8 tsp fennel seeds

1/4 tsp Italian seasoning

2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

salt, pepper to taste

Boil water.After it comes to a boil, add salt (make the water as salty as sea water) and pasta. Meanwhile,heat oil in a pan, add onion and garlic and cook till translucent.Add red chilli powder, goda masala and fennel seeds.saute for a minute.Add tomatoes, eggplant and spinach. Add a little of the water in which the pasta is cooking and cook till the eggplant is cooked through and the spinach has wilted. Drain the pasta, reserve the water. Add the pasta,Italian seasoning, pepper and Parmesan cheese. Mix till it all blends together and check for salt. If the salt seems less, add the water reserved from boiling the pasta. I do this for 2 reasons. First, we have already added a little of the salty water for cooking the veggies + tomato puree has salt to some extent and Parmesan cheese is salty. Second, it just seems a waste to put all that salt in the water and throw it away. If the salt seems more, add more tomato puree or boil some more pasta and put it in. I don't like my pasta drowning in tomato sauce, that's why i used just 4 tbsp of tomato puree. You can use more depending on taste.

Ta..da…delicious pasta is ready.