Butter Matar

For me, peas are always on the grocery list, right after tomatoes, onion and potatoes. At any given time, I have at least 2 packets in the freezer. However, while trying to come up with a menu, it is the last thing that comes to mind. It is constantly neglected and, as is true for all things that are as taken for granted as the peas are, their presence is sorely missed in its absence. Making the heart grow fonder and all that. When I say neglected, I don’t mean that it is just left freezing in the icebox, not at all. It makes it’s appearance in all sorts of dishes. A dash here, a dash there, a whole lot elsewhere. However, it is more of “I think some peas would be good in that” than “I want to eat peas tonight” thing. And it is quite unfair.

Unfair because fresh tender peas, with its sweetness, is an amazing star in its own right. It doesn’t take much to coax it to come into its own. A dollop of butter helps, but then what wouldn’t taste good with some butter in/on it?

Which is why I say, second to potatoes, the most under-valued vegetable has to be peas (Matar/Watana/Watano). Think about it. When was the last time your inventory didn’t have the requisite packet of frozen peas in them or when was the last time you used that packet? Can’t really have been that long, if you cook Indian on a regular basis. And yet, quite like the potato, it is never given it’s due. Of course, the potato stopped getting any sympathy from me the day it decided to forge an alliance with a certain someone whose name rhymes with Aloo. Don’t get me wrong. In these times of brand development and media-franchising, I understand potato’s need for some PR-giri. “Jab tak rahega samose mein aloo, tab tak rahega Bihar mein Laloo” is the wrong way to get it, though. The right way would be to hire Amitabh Bachchan as your Brand ambassador. If I were the Peas’ PR, I would have Amitabh Bachchan saying,
“Matar mein hai dum, kyunki calories in mein hai kam!”.

Pssst, hot news today, Maya Pips Mulayam.

Meanwhile, back to the erstwhile peas, enjoy with soft rotis or Dal-Chaawal while I sit back and congratulate myself for not falling to the obvious Butter-Mutter-Matar wordplay trap.
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Matar Butter

Grind, using a blender or a mortar/pestle adding water as needed

Garlic, 2 cloves
Ginger, 1″ piece
Green Chillies, 4-5
Cilantro/Coriander leaves, from 4-5 sprigs

In a skillet/kadhai, heat

Butter, 1 tbsp

Add,

Jeera/Cumin Seeds, 4-5

When they change color, add

Garlic-Ginger-Green-chillies-cilantro paste from above
Peas, 1 cup defrosted, if using frozen or cooked till soft, if using fresh
Salt to taste, keeping in mind salt from the butter

Mix and cook on a low flame till it all comes together, and peas turn fragrant with the paste about 3-4 minutes. Finish with

1 tbsp butter

Yum!

Chalta Hai…Diwali Hai

Finally, My kids decided to sleep at the same time, giving me some time to cook up those diwali goodies that I wanted to make. I went for the simple ones first, the ones that I had made before and hence did not require much thinking. By thinking, I mean Improvising when things go wrong. Hey, its the thought that counts. Besides, I don’t think I have ever met a combination of ghee and sugar that I haven’t liked. In fact, I love eating ghee mixed with sugar or should I say Sugar mixed with ghee.Yummmmm…As for the dreaded “C” word,Chalta Hai…Diwali Hai!!

So first, I went for besan Ladoos. My husband loves Besan ladoos. They are right up in his list of fave things right after Cars, Cricket and Crab. Those are his “C” words. Then, its besan ladoos. Before you all go pitying us, we are talking about material things here. The “F” word is on the top of the list. Family, people? What did you think the “F” word was?

So, anyway here is a fool proof recipe for Besan ladoos. I just follow it blindly. this recipe makes about 30 Ladoos.

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3 cups besan/Chickpea flour
1 1/2 cups Ghee
3 cups powdered sugar
2 green Cardmoms pods, peeled and powdered

Sieve the besan to get rid of any lumps.

Heat the ghee in a heavy bottomed pot on medium heat. Yes, all one and half cups of it. Don’t think, just do it. Don’t use oil. Don’t use the Store bought ghee. Try fresh home made ghee. I made a fesh batch of ghee in the morning. Do it. Go the extra mile. Chalta hai…Diwali Hai. Its worth it.

Add the besan, and keep stirring and stirring and stirring and stirring. It will kind of seize into a tight ball first, making it a bit tough to stir. But after a few minutes, it will actually become the consistency of “pakoda batter” making the stirring simpler. So, keep stirring and stirring and stirring. Until the besan goes from sunny yellow color to a burnt orange. The color ‘burnt orange’ not ‘burnt’ besan. Oh, No!!
Kind of like going from sunny yellow of the summer to the oranges of autumn, isnt it?. How symbolic!!! Yes, I am going nuts. Chalta hai…Diwali Hai

Just keep stirring it and dont even think about looking away for a second. The second you look away, will be the time it will decide to change color. And it can go from deliciously roasted to yucky toasted in a jiffy. The best way to know its done, is the amazing nutty smell that starts permiating through your home. My friend once told me how her mom would just shout out from the kitchen “does it smell like ladoos, yet?” to know if they were done. When the besan is done, believe me, you will know and those zombies sitting in front of your television will know, too.

Take it off the heat, and let it cool completely. It will be a little liquidy(If thats a word, you know what i mean).Thats ok, thats the way it should be. While it cools, pound regular sugar into powder in your blender. Don’t go for the powdered sugar in the market. They have cornstarch in them, which has its place, but not in besan ladoos.

When completely cool, add the sugar, cardamom powder and raisins and chopped almonds/ cashews(If using) and mix till incorporated. Shape into golf ball size rounds. Yummy besan ladoos are ready.

With the besan ladoos done and the kids still down, I decided to go for another staple at our home during diwali. They are called “tukdi” and they are crisp, savoury and a perfect antithesis to the sweet ladoos. Very simple ingredients, but can be quite a chore because they have to cut into diamond shapes and then deep fried. But, I cannot imagine diwali without these.

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First we make the dough

3 cups regular atta/ wheat flour
1 tbsp Chilli powder
1/4 tsp Hing/asafetida
salt to taste (abt 1/2 tbsp)
1 tbsp Ghee
Water, enough to make a malliable dough

Mix all the dry ingredients together in a wide bowl. Heat up the ghee and add it to the bowl. Take a fork and mix the ghee with the flour. The flour will change color. Mix thoroughly, with a fork at first and then fingers after the ghee has cooled enough, until all of the flour has changed color. Then, add water, little by little, until the dough is soft enough to roll out but still tougher than a regular roti dough. Let it rest for 10 mins.

Heat oil in a kadhai. The kadhai should hold the oil at least 2 inches deep. Take balls of dough and roll them out like you would a roti. Don’t use flour to prevent it from sticking, use some of the hot oil from the kadhai.Cut into diamond shapes. I use a pizza cutter to do the job.

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Deep fry in hot oil. Keep the oil at smoking point.The pieces will hit the bottom and rise up immediately. Turn them over. And after the other side cooks up, remove onto dry paper towels. Keep doing that until you have used up all of the dough. Store the cooled tukdis in an airtight container.

And thus, finally, I have at least 2 diwali goodies cooked up. My Mother makes five and I think it is kind of a tradition to cook up five. Well, I am not even half way there. But, hey, at least I have made a start. Between the roasted besan and Deep frying, at least the house smells like diwali. So what, if it is 2 in the morning and I hear Anoushka up and demanding her mommy. Chalta hai…Diwali hai

Of ‘Maa ka Pyar’ and Gaajar ka Halwa ( And Beetroot, too)

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Two brothers; One a cop, the other on the wrong side of the law. Both brought up in poverty by their hard-working widowed Mother.

The cop tries to convince the other brother to surrender to the law while the gangster tries to convince the cop to join the other side.

Says the gangster to the cop : “Aaj mere paas gaadi hai, Bangla hai, Rupya hai. Tumhare paas kya hai?”
( Today, I have Cars and Bungalows and Money. What do you have?)

Says the Cop to the gangster (Drumroll, Please) : “Mere paas Maa hain aur maa ke haath ka bana gajar ka halwa hai”.
( I have Mother on my side and the Carrot pudding she makes)

For the uniniated, this is the scene from the movie “Deewar” which defines Bollywood, the hindi-language film industry of India. Of course, the carrot pudding part was my addition. The cop doesn’t say that in the actual movie. But hey, he just might have. See, the movie ends with the gangster dying, in the arms of his mother, reminiscing about her gajjar ka halwa (If i remember right. Or was it some other movie where Amitabh dies in the end?). See, every Hindi film protaganist talks about the love for his mother and her “gajjar ka halwa”. At least they did in the 70’s and the 80’s. Almost all movies, introduce the mothers character with her son walking into her kitchen with demands for that delicacy. I had always wondered why gajar ka halwa? Why not anything else? Now, I have a theory.

See, carrots are really cheap in India. So even the more poorer homes can afford to grate some carrots, add some sugar and make this dish. Secondly, most mothers probably thought,” Ok If this is what it takes for them to eat something healthy, then why not?. Eat on, bete(Son)”.Of course, its more healthier counterpart, Beetroot halwa, doesn’t really work. Because, you see, it just looks too healthy. All that fabulous color and you know that, that thing is good for you. How can something that healthy be your favorite food?. Besides, Can you imagine someone saying ,”Maa, tumhare shakunder ke halwe ki yaad aayi”. So, gaajar ka halwa, it was?

Do you agree? Or have you got any other theories? Lemme know…

Don’t discount the beetroot halwa, though. Its amazing served warm with a scoop of ice cold vanilla Icecream on top. Hmmmmmm……Hmmmmmm…Good!!!

For now, heres the recipe

2 cups grated Carrots/Beetroots, Whichever you choose to make.
4 cups Whole Milk
2 cups Sugar
A pinch green cardamom powder
1 tbsp Ghee
Chopped nuts of your choice

I cheat on the sugar part sometime. Add less of the sugar. But, 1:2:1 ratio of Carrots:Milk:Sugar is the ratio my Mom uses for all her veggie Halwas.

Put the carrots and the milk in a large pot and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer and stir and simmer and stir and simmer and stir and simmer. Until the milk dries up. Basically, you are making khoya (Milk dried into its solids), but its gonna have all the delicious carrot/beetroot flavor in it. This takes about an hour. Once done, add the sugar, cardamom powder and keep stiring and cooking, till the sugar melts and reaches softball stage. Basically, the halwa starts spewing like a volcano spitting lava. Do I have to remind you to watch your hands while you are stirring this? Once it reaches this stage, add the ghee, stir once and take it off the flame. Serve warm. Stays good in the fridge for about a week, but mine never lasts that long.

This is my entry to Revathi’s FMR-Comfort Foods and ARF/ 5-a-day Tuesday at Sweetnicks

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Sunday Brunch..Chole Batura

Of all the american things that I have adopted in my day-to-day life, the one thing that I have accepted with open arms is the “Sunday Brunch” Tradition. What an excellent excuse for sleeping late into mid-morning. Wake up, make lunch that is neither here nor there and call it “Brunch”. One of the things that has become quite common,at my home, for brunch is Chole Batura, the quintessential Punjabi Dish. Chole would be curried Garbonzos while Baturas are deep fried breads made with regular flour and yogurt.

My friend, who is a punj (Of course!), once told me that traditionally,chole-batura is an breakfast item served along with sweet lassi. Can you imagine that? “I would probably skip lunch and Dinner with that kind of breakfast!!!!…”, I told her. Of course, this was me in my college days, when chatting up friends over the phone and buying new clothes seemed to fill me up pretty good. Where as, today, I eat this same combination for brunch and end up feeling hungry at 4 pm. I blame it all squarely on the huge hormone fluctuations during pregnancies.Forget the fact that I delivered over 6 months ago and my obstretician told me 2 days ago that all is normal in Vee-land. Well, Doc, you wouldn’t say that if you saw the amount of food I can still gobble up. And what about those pair of jeans that look at me forlornly, whenever I open my closet?

Anyway, all that frustration didn’t stop me from enjoying Chole-Bature with Mango Lassi on my patio today. Good Combination. Highly recommended.

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To Make Baturas

Make a dough using

2 cups regular flour
1/4 cup Yogurt
1 small potato, boiled and mashed
2 tbsp ghee/oil
1/2 tsp baking powder
salt to taste

Add warm water or flour, as required. Knead into a soft pliable dough. Keep aside for about an hour.

When ready to make, roll out golf ball sized dough balls into about 2 mm thick rounds and deep fry as described in the recipe for Mangalore Bun.

To make Chole,

Pressure cook or boil until tender using about 3 cups water

1 cup Chickpeas/Garbanzos soaked overnight

with

1 Black Cardamon/Badi Elaichi
1 Bay Leaf.

Meanwhile, heat up

3 tbsp Corn Oil/Vegetable Oil/Peanut Oil

in wide pan.

Add

2 medium Onions, sliced thinly

Cook on high heat stirring frequently till the onion browns. Add

1 medium Tomato,chopped finely

Continue cooking on high heat stirring frequently till the tomatoes break down and the mixture starts leaving oil. Transfer to a food processor and blend into a paste. Transfer back to the Pan.You can make the paste first and then brown it. But I prefer to do it this way. Don’t ask me why. I am weird that way. Ok, I will tell you. Its just that I think this process browns the onion faster.

Add

1 tsp Red chilli Powder
1 tsp Black Pepper Powder
1 tsp Garam Masala Powder

Stir and cook for a minute. Add

cooked Chickpeas/Garbanzos along with the water.
1/4 tsp Anardana Powder
1/4 tsp Amchur Powder
Salt to taste

Add more water, if necessary or decant some from the beans before adding, if it is more. Bring to a boil. Smash some of the beans by pressing them against the sides of the pan with the ladle. This helps thicken the sauce. Cover and cook for about 5-7 minutes on medium to low heat to allow all the flavors to meld together. Remove from flame. Finish by adding,

1 tsp roasted Jeera/Cumin powder.

To Make tamarind Chutney
Soak

1/4 cup Tamarind
1/2 cup Dates

in

1/2 cup water

for about an 2-3 hours.

Blend into a smooth paste adding

1/4 tsp roasted cumin/jeera powder(optional)
a pinch of salt

To serve

Serve 2 ladlefuls of chole topped with 1 tbsp of Tamarind Chutney and 1 tsp finely chopped onion in a bowl per person with 2 baturas and a glass of chilled Mango Lassi.

Batata Song (Potato with Red Chillies and Tamarind)

Konkani Curries are mostly a blend of fresh grated Coconut,roasted Red chillies and Tamarind. However, there are those side dishes that skip the coconut part and concentrate just on Red Chillies and Tamarind, hmmmmmmmmmmm…my favorite kind . The heat from the chillies is toned down by the sourness of the tamarind. A little bit of roasted coriander seeds to cool down the palate is added ,however that is strictly optional. 

Traditionally, Coconut Oil is used in konkani cooking. But , You have to use the good variety. (Kind of like extra virgin olive oil). If you cant find the good one ( aka…one that doesnt smell of rancid coconuts), you might as well use any other oil. The red chillies are roasted in a little bit of coconut oil. Normally, in any konkani kitchen, you will find a week longs supply of whole red chillies roasted and kept aside as there is nary a konkani dish that doesnt use it. Any other spice that requires roasting is done as and when required. As for the tamarind, I use the bottled variety.

The recipe below is my bapama's recipes. Hence, I dont have any specific measurements.
Everthing is just eyeballed. However, I have tried to give approximate quantities.
Here are a couple of dishes. Consider yourself warned, you are entering the hot zone.

Batata Song (Potato in a chilli-tamarind gravy)

Before you ask me, let me tell you, I have no idea why this dish is called a song. I dont know if the word song has any other meaning in konkani. All I know is that this simple onion and potato curry zinged with the chilly+tamarind conoctation, makes my taste buds sing.

Onion 2 medium size chopped finely.
Potato 3 medium size boiled and chopped into bite size pieces.

Whole Red Chillies 8-10
Tamarind Paste 1/2 tsp
Coriander seeds 1/2 tsp
Oil, Salt.

Roast Red Chillies and coriander seeds in a little bit of oil. Grind together with tamarind paste and little bit of water if required. Cook onion in a little bit of oil. After it has softened, add the ground paste, salt and potatoes. Add enough water to bring it the consistency of a semi-dry curry. Cook till everthing blends together. Batata song is ready.

The same curry can be made with mushrooms instead of potatoes. The ones used traditionally are small button size ones, the ones that I only find canned here. Baby portabellos most resemble the taste of the mushrooms I have had in India. I have also used the normal white mushrooms that you find in grocery stores here,they work out great too.