Naivedya: Sweet Appe

Nothing shouts coastal cuisine than an abundance of coconut in it. Other than seafood, that is. But we are still in the festive mood and so lets just stick to the coconut part. If I had any doubts regarding the role coconut plays in our life, they are crushed to smitterens every time I ask my mom for a traditional recipe. And it was replayed again when I asked for the recipe of Goud(Sweet) Appe (dumplings?). These appe are the traditional naivedyam offered to Ganpati during the Chavathi festival. They are made of, among other things, coconut and jaggery which seems to be a recurring theme in all the forms of prasad that is offered to this diety. Of course, growing up they were not my favorite things but as is the case with things, once they were no longer present I missed them. I asked my mom for the recipe so that I could recreate it this year. Now we are all familiar with the way moms tend to dispense recipe nuggets. However, with traditional recipes like these which are made once a year, my mom has exact proportions for all the ingredients except they are in coastal cuisine lingo.

Do you all remember basic geometry theorems? You have one-line theorems that you have to prove using other one-line theorems that could be proved using the current theorem you are trying to prove? You do? Good. Because deciphering the recipe is almost the same. Of course, there are some basic assumptions.

First, the ingredient list.

“Ekka Narla-ka, ek Kilo Goud aNi ek Kilo Rawa”

Translation:

For one coconut, one kilo jaggery and one kilo rawa.

Assumptions:

1) One coconut = gratings of one coconut.
2) Size of said Coconut = medium.
3) Any konkani worth his/her salt would know what a medium coconut is. (Have I not taught you anything, O clueless child of mine?)

Procedure Part 1.

Narla Vatooche, goud ghalnu melNu yevve tai vatooche. Kadeke rawa ghalnu ek pati ghundache

Translation:

Grind coconut, add jaggery and grind till everything is mixed. Finally add rawa and blend once to mix.

Assumptions:

1) 1 kilo Jaggery = 1 kilo jaggery grated.
2) Cardamom not mentioned is cardamom included.
3) Grind coconut = grind coconut till just enough.
4) Any konkani worth his/her salt would know how much is just enough. (Have I not taught you anything, O clueless child of mine?)

Procedure Part 2.

Don ghante puNi bareen kaNu dAvarche. Maagiri hoguru Ujjari toLNu kadche.

Translation:

Keep aside for at least two hours and deep-fry on a low flame.

Assumptions:

1) Deepfrying Fat = Ghee.

The last one is the best because she manages to give the most important tips for the recipe in one sentence. One, to let the mixture rest and two, to deep fry on a slow flame. How do you know when it is cooked? Any Cook worth his/her ……

—-Sorry Mom—–

Goud Appe

The biggest challenge after deciphering the recipe was to convert it into cup measures. Even though I have access to a coconut, the necessary implements for grating it and the enthu to grate it, the output from those proportions would still take us weeks to finish off. The second problem was the deepfrying the mixture. There is essentially no binder ingredient (like flour) in this mixture and it depends on the rawa absorbing all the liquid from the coconut and jaggery to help keep it together. The resting period goes a long way in achieving that. I have cribbed about my bender before and I do it again. In my kitchen, it is doing a job it is not engineered to do. Extra liquids go a long way in achieving this. More liquids means more trouble for the mixture to bind together. So, I decided to forgo the deepfrying to actually making them like appe. Which means access an Aebleskiver pan or the japanese takoyaki pan or the appam pan is essential.

Recipe :

Grind in a blender/ mixie, till the gratings seem like an homogenous mixture and not separate grains

2 cups Coconut gratings

using water, only as required. Once done, add

2 1/2 cups of jaggery, grated

and blend till the jaggery disintegrates. Add

1/2 tsp Cardamom/Elaichi powder, fresh always good.
1 cup Rawa/Sooji

and blend once just to mix everything together. Remove to a bowl and set aside to rest for at least 2 hours. I kept it for 4 hours.

Heat the appam pan. Lower flame to medium-low. Pour

1 tsp melted ghee, in each depression

When the ghee heats up, add

2 tbsp of the mixture, in each depression

This needs to be done very gently, be careful of the splattering ghee. Cook uncovered till the mixture on top changes color. Gently turn the appe over. You might have to slightly scrape the sides of each depression to do that. I use a small knife for the scraping and a spoon to turn it over. Cook until the other side browns up. Remove and drain on paper towels.

This recipe yields 32 appe. This post also joins the Festive cooking series: Ganesh Chaturthi at The Yum Blog.

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Aloo Broccoli

Once in a while. you want to try something different. Steer away from the everyday and jazz things up a little. Change the routine and surprise yourself. Take a detour from the simple foods that you have no recipe for, the ones where you just put a few things together subconsciously. Then there are the times where you just want to clear out the fridge.

Aloo-Gobi (Cauliflower) is a no-brainer for anyone who cooks Indian – any region. I am sure that every one of us has tried a variation of this with broccoli. My first attempt at this, I realised that I (& the family) prefer broccoli that is lightly spiced. For all its similarity in looks to the cauliflower, the broccoli has a more pronounced flavor, chlorophyll will do that to you. IMO, less is more where this pretty vegetable is concerned. My second attempt at Aloo-Broccoli was one based on the upkari-vegetables cooked konkani style with mustard seeds and a sole dry Red chilli-I changed the spices a liitle bit. It worked great and is our most favored way to eat broccoli. When more pressed for time or when trying to add healthy sides in our lunch boxes, I microwave-steam the broccoli florets with salt in a covered plate for about 3 minutes. Toss with a little bit of olive oil to coat. Pack it and feel like a domestic goddess for the rest of the day for giving a side in the lunch boxes, healthy one to boot. I give baby carrots this treatment too.

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Recipe

In a 10″ frying pan, take

2 tbsp of Peanut oil

warmed till the oil forms ripples, add-in quick succession-

Turmeric/tumeric/haldi-a pinch
Red Chilli Flakes – to taste, I prefer to be generous here
2 Medium potatoes, cubed

Stir to coat, cover and lower heat to medium low to cook till the potatoes are halfway cooked, about 4-5 minutes. Shake the covered pan in between to make sure they don’t stick. As soon as the potatoes are halfway cooked, add

1 cup of broccoli florets, trimmed
Black Pepper, ground, to taste
Salt, to taste

Normally, I mention salt to taste and leave it at that. But here, I would like to specify that when working with minimal flavors such as in this case, take care not to under-salt it. It also goes along without saying that you shouldn’t over-salt it. Stir gently to mix, cover and cook for another 2-3 minutes till the broccoli softens just enough. Serve with rotis or as a side with rice and Bendi/dal/curry.

Aloo Matar

It’s been a year of massive changes. I remember sitting with my 6 week old daughter on my lap, my then 19 month old running around wondering ‘who is that new creature in mom’s lap’ and devising ways of getting rid of the distraction including telling my mom she can take her to India with her. I remember feeling completely overwhelmed, drowning in the sea of diapers and colored poop. Much as I love my kids, I knew I needed an outlet, something that would take me beyond baby talk, Barneys and Elmo’s. Blogging came to mind. I do not remember the first time I read a blog but I remember being fascinated by it. As soon as thought of it, I did it. I completely enjoyed the 30 minutes or so I spent each day coming up with content for my blog and catching up with other blogs. Those 30 minutes refreshed my mind, putting me in better frame of mind and renewing my patience threshold.

A year from then, here I am. A working mom, three blogs, and a writing stint on Dining Hall, I am suddenly stretched all over the place. Not complaining, though. I am enjoying it all. One year of blogging, 56 posts-a little over a post a week, I am feeling very satisfied. And yes, nowadays, I definitely spend more than 30 minutes blog-hopping. Ah, so many blogs, so little time….

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Aloo Matar

There is nothing complicated about Aloo Matar. Potatoes and Peas, dry or smothered in gravy, there is a variation in every cuisine in India. Everybody has their own recipe for doing it, they are all equally good. It is very hard to mess this one up. I was running low on groceries on a day we had a few unexpected guests. Aloo Matar is definitely on the menu in such times. However, I wanted to zing it up a bit and added some extra ingredients making it into rich curry. We all enjoyed every last drop of it. I have made a couple times more, with different medleys of vegetables, it is the gravy that makes it super.

Deep-fry/Shallow-fry/Oven Roast

2 Medium sized Potatoes chopped into bitesize cubes

I have tried each of the above methods. Deep fry is quick, good (when is it not) but oily. Shallow fry takes a lot of time and effort. Oven roasting gives it a wonderful taste. Remember to salt it and give a light coating of oil before roasting. Roasting takes time, too but gives a subtle nuance to the taste. Try it.
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Heat

1 tbsp Peanut Oil

in a wok/kadhai/pan on medium-hot flame. Add

½ tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds.

When they start sputtering, stand back, brace yourself and add

3 tbsp of Basic Onion-Tomato Gravy

And immediately cover the pan. There will a lot of sputtering and spewing. Adding liquids to hot oil will do that. Lowering the flame will slow down the release of the oil/ghee in the paste. You end up having to fry it as you would for onions and tomatoes. So what? Arre, the whole point of the paste is to save you time. You can make fresh gravy using the same recipe linked above. I won’t be impressed, but I Promise, I won’t hold it against you. 🙂 When the sputtering stops, remove the lid and stir the paste around till the oil comes out. Add

Potatoes, prepared as above,
1 cup frozen peas,
1 cup water,
Salt to taste

Adjust salt, if you have added salt to potatoes while roasting. Mix and bring to a boil. There is nothing to cook here. The potatoes are already cooked, the frozen peas cook in a jiffy. All you want is for everything to get together. Once it boils, remove from flame and add

2 tbsp Ricotta Cheese

You can substitute with cream. The ricotta cheese melts into the gravy giving it a nice sheen and different texture. Try it. Even cottage cheese is good, however, it will add more of a tang that will need accounting for. Mix, place back on a low heat and let the flavors all fuse together.
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Serve with Rotis/Parathas and a salad.

Avre Bendi (Navy Beans in a Coconut, Chilly and Tamarind curry)

Avre Bendi

Avre = Navy Beans

Bendi = a spicy coconut, chilly and tamarind concoction.

and thus, Avre Bendi.

The beauty about so many of konkani curries are the fact that they use just these 3 ingredients, but just by varying the quantity of each or grounding it coarsely or finely, they change the taste and the texture of the curry. The second thing I love about these curries is that there is not much of sauteing or bhunoing involved. You cook the beans in the pressure cooking for upto 3 whistles and while that is happening you grind up the coconut, chillies and tamarind. Add the paste to the cooked beans with salt and bring to boil. Season. Thats it. I mean, all of this doesn’t take more than 10 mins. On the days that I make an authentic konkani meal, I finish all of the cooking– a curry, rice and a side dish in 20 minutes. Using all four burners at the same time, of course. Heck, I could give Rachel Ray a run for her money. 🙂

Beans are the biggest source of protein in many predominantly vegetarian cuisine. While, konkani cuisine is famous for its seafood preparations, it is not part of the everyday food. Except, by choice, that is. So, mostly,the daily food is rice, beans and a vegetable together with buttermilk. A complete meal. As I said before, the curries are defined by the quantities used and the texture into which it is ground. In the case of bendi, less of the coconut, more of the chillies and tamarind and ground into a fine paste. Bendi’s are seasoned with garlic. 

The recipe…

1 cup navy beans soaked over night and cooked till soft

1/4 cup grated coconut

8-10 dried red chillies

1/2 tsp tamarind paste / marble sized piece of tamarind , if using actual pods

3-4 garlic cloves

salt

oil for seasoning and roasting chillies

Roast the chillies in a little bit of oil on a low flame. You know they are roasted when they loose the wrinkly look and puff up. Cool them a little bit and then grind them up with coconut and tamarind into a fine paste. This takes some work , if you are using american blenders. Heat up the cooked beans till they start boiling, add the paste , salt and mix. The broth will start foaming and then settle down. The paste is cooked when all of the foam has died down. Remove from flame. Heat up oil and garlic together in a small pan. Never put garlic in hot oil. Always put it in the oil and then heat up the oil. This way the garlic cooks just enough and doesnt burn. Also, the oil gets infused with the garlic juices better. Add this tempering to the bendi and immediately cover up the pot. Mix the seasoning in before serving.

Today,I had these with boiled rice (parboiled rice in the US is just not the same). I used the ones I have from India. Most people in Mangalore still eat this rice as their daily rice. The younger generation, however, seem to prefer white rice. As for people like me, born and brought up in Bombay,white rice is daily rice and eating boiled rice is something that ups the exotic quotient.

Alambe Buthi(Mushrooms in a semi-dry coconut gravy)

I disliked mushrooms. There,I said it. But as you can see, its past tense.

Growing up, we didn't eat much mushrooms at home. See, in the days of yore, what was cooked at home was what was growing in the back yards. Mushrooms , though not cultivated , would grow on their own and were cooked whenever it made an appearance.It was ,subsequently , discovered that all mushrooms were not edible . In fact, quite a lot of them were downright poisonous.My grandmother, who grew up in this era, never trusted a mushroom that she herself had not harvested. And since she moved to Bombay upon marriage….(You get the gist of it.). My tryst with mushrooms in restaurants just left me with the feeling of eating rubber. So, it was on my tried-but-not-liked list.

Then , of course, I got married. Marriage brings forth lots of changes, its said. That certainly was the case with me and mushrooms.A couple of weeks after marriage, we were on a train journey to our native place (mangalore) to seek the blessings of our kuldevta. My mother-in-law had packed food for all of us to get us through the 20 hr train ride. It was to be chapatis and Alambe Buthi (Alambe is konkani for Mushroom and buthi is the semi-dry gravy). Now, I didn't like mushrooms and it was my firm opinion that konkani dishes taste good only with rice. I don't know what it was, the acquiescence of newly-found bahu-dom or the fact that the other choice was to eat Indian Railways food, I quietly ate the whole thing that was served to me. And voila, instant mushroom convert.

I learnt quite a few things that day , about new relationships, change, marriage and food. It is the food part that is more appropriate for this blog and that is what I am going to talk about. It became quite apparent to me that any new ingredient,when cooked like the food that you grew up with , went over much well than when cooked in some other method, however popular. Its a trick I have used with much of the veggies that are found here in the US that are not inherent to India. I am happy to report that all such experiments have been successes, some less than more, but successes nonetheless. Wow, too many ss's in that last sentence. try saying that 10 times in a row.

Anyway,have introduced my family to new veggies in such manner and once we have all become accustomed to its taste, moved on to its more popular versions. And , of course, being the mushroom convert that I am thanks to my dear mother-in-law, my refrigerator always has at least one of the varieties of mushroom in it at any given time. I cook mushrooms a lot of ways, but this has to be the first recipe that I share with you. So here goes. I cook these using the white mushrooms that are found in all grocery stores here.

Alambe Buthi …

1 cup mushrooms ,quartered

1 onion, finely chopped

Ginger 1' piece finely chopped

1 cup fresh grated coconut

8 roasted dry red chillies

1/2 tsp tamarind paste

2 tsp coriander seeds

2 tbsp coconut oil

salt to taste.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan. Cook the mushrooms with onion and ginger till the water dries out. While it is cooking , grind together grated coconut, chillies, tamarind and coriander seeds coarsely in a blender. Add water only if required . Once the water from the mushrooms has dried out, add the ground masala and salt. Stir and cook till it all blends together and any water that has been added to the masala dries up. Remove from flame and pour the other tbsp of raw oil over the cooked mushrooms.Serve with chapatis or as a side dish with rice and dal.