The Patholi Pictorial.

This summer I finally did what I had been planning for a long time. I pushed some fresh turmeric root into a pot of soil and prayed. In a classic manifestation of “ask and ye shall receive”, I received. Each of the root turned into a beautiful plant, having at least 10 leaves each. Though the leaves were nowhere near the size that one would get in an Indian market during this season, it didn’t matter because I had the leaves and that means that I could finally make some Paan Patholi.

Patholi is essentially Coconut+Jaggery mixture in rice+coconut paste steamed in turmeric leaves. It is a Konkani specialty and is usually made during Nagpanchami which is when I made these. The magic in this comes from the leaves. It is all about the leaves in fact. They are not just the pot holder here. They impart a very subtle taste to the rice paste during the steaming process that cannot be replicated by any alternative. Well, Banana leaves can be used but it would be a different taste. Good, but not the same. And the aroma, Oh the aroma, to die for. Not before eating a steaming hot patholi, though.

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Turmeric Plants in my patio Garden

For the past four years, I made the patholi in parchment papers in the absence of the turmeric leaves. Shilpa has a great post on that.

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Leaves washed and wiped clean

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Trimmed and lined for the magic

And the magic happens so.

For the rice paste,

Soak

1 cup raw rice

for 1-2 hours. Grind the rice with

1 cup poha/flattened rice
2-3 tbsp of grated fresh coconut
1/2 tsp of Jaggery, grated
salt, a pinch

with as little water as possible,till it forms a smooth paste. With my blender the way it is, I had to add more water and ended up making it more watery than it is upposed to be. It didn’t hurt the end product, but it was messy applying it to the leaf. This paste needs to be not runny at all. You should be able to scoop it up with your fingers and smear it on the leaf, in the leaf’s shape without the paste running over. Once done, keep aside.

For the stuffing,

Mix, slightly crushing it to release the coconut and jaggery juices,

1 cup Fresh coconut gratings
3/4 cup Jaggery gratings
2-3 Cardamom Pods, crushed and powdered

Let the stuffing begin. Line the leaves on a clean table/counter top. Hold the tip of the leaf with your left hand, scoop some of the paste with your right hand and apply the rice paste, starting at the mid vein of the leaf. Start working outwards to follow the shape of the leaves. The hand instructions reverse if you are left-handed, of course. The paste should be applied in as thin a layer as possible without the green of the leaf coming through.Repeat for all leaves.

Wash hands. Have the steamer ready with the water boiling. Scoop the stuffing and put it on the mid-vein of the leaf in a thin line. This is so that when the leaf is folded over, the stuffing is exactly in the middle and the thin line makes sure that the stuffing does not overflow. When the jaggery melts during the steaming, it will start spreading towards a wider surface area.

Fold one side of the leaf over the other length-wise. Press ever so lightly around the periphery of the leaf, so that paste sticks together. Steam for 10-12 minutes till the kitchen smells of all things wonderful. You will know, you will just know.

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Paste applied and stuffing layered on the leaf.

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The leaves folded over the stuffing and ready for steaming

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The patholis steaming away to glory in a traditonal steamer. This is called the ‘peDavaNa’ and was a gift from my mother. A more traditional steamer would have been made of ‘pithili’ (brass, I think).

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A Patholi uncovered and ready to be devoured.

Believe what I say and don’t believe my camera. The photograph does not do justice to the magic that is patholi.

My entry to JFI-Rice, over at Sharmi’s Neivedyam, and RCI-Karnataka at Asha’a Foodies Hope.

Turns out to be a excellent entry to Green Blog project-Summer 2007 over at Deepz, too.

UPDATE Aug 31 :

Just wanted to clarify that you do not eat the actual leaf. You peel the leaf off a steamed patholi, and just eat whats inside. At this point, the leaf has already given all of its magic to the patholi. The actual dish is the steamed rice + coconut paste with the sweet stuffing inside.

The different names for this sweet in various regional cuisines,

Konkani – Patholi
Kannadiga – Genesale
? – Paangi

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Phodis

There is no dearth of deep-fried goodness in konkani food. There is an seemlingly endless variety of bajjo-s, phodi-s and ambado-s , just to name a few.

This is what I understand is the difference between each.

Bajjo : They are different veggies that are dipped in batter and deep fried. They are best hot off the oil and tend to become oily when cool. They are served as part of a meal or as a snack with some hot coffee. Essentially, Bajjo is konkani-speak for pakoda. Eg : piava(Onion) Bajjo, Goola(Green Brinjal) Bajjo etc.

Ambado : is a mixture of vegetables/herbs and spices, with potato/legumes/besan used as binder. They can also be seasoned mashed vegetables/tubers dipped in a batter and deep fried. Ambado is konkani speak for vada/vade Eg: Batate (Potato) ambado, Biscoot (Seasoned Urad Dal) Ambado etc.

Phodi : They are deep-fried veggies, too. However, there is no batter involved. They are marinated with a dryish paste of (red chillies+hing+salt and rice,soaked in water). The veggies used for phodi’s tend to be vegetables which have a low content of water in them. Root Vegetables like Suran (Indian yam), Sweet Potato etc. work best. Heat levels (as in Scoville) are higher in phodis than your average bajjo.They are sliced very thin and fried on medium heat for quite a bit longer than bajjos, making them crisp and chewy. They are great at room temperature, too. eg: see below . But they really come into their own when made with cross sections of fish like mackeral or pomfret. Yummm…..

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Clockwise from top : Karate Phodi, Surana phodi, Kadge Phodi, Ghointa Phodi

This post talks phodi. As explained above, they are marinated with the spicy paste. We call the spicy paste ‘Goolli’ and the whole process of applying the paste to the Vegetables/fish is called “Goolli Lavche” or applying the paste. However, the english translation comes nowhere to describe the importance of its konkani counterpart. Especially, if seafood is involved. It is not that you dunk the paste and the veggies together in a bowl and swish them all around. You take each slice and apply the paste to it and set aside. It takes a lot of time, but such kind of attention to detail results in properly seasoned fish or vegetable that are just amazing. It is all about details.

The phodis are , most often than not, part of the festive meal or a very large meal. Each vegetable that is to be fried has a special shape in which it will cut for the phodi. Traditionally, five types of phodi are made for any festive meal. I could get hold of only four. The one’s I made for Sansar Padwa and their traditional shape are

1. Suran-a Phodi : Indian yam. They are usually cut into 1 mm thick/thin quadrilatrals of about 1″ * 1″. I used the frozen suran availabe in Indian store, and they are available pre-cut into cubes.

2. Kadge Phodi : Raw Jackfruit. 1 1/2 mm thick wedges . The actual width would depend upon the radius of the Jackfruit. Again, my only choice was the canned variety. I cut each piece into two cross-sectionally.

3. Ghoint-a Phodi : Parwal. Each parwal is cut into three or four pieces depending upon its thickness length-wise. My favorite.

4. Karate Phodi : Bitter gourd. They are cut into thin rounds (As thin as you can make them) and fried crisp, almost like chips. It kind of takes the edge away from the bitterness, yet maintaining it’s integrity. Even haters of this vegetable eat thid deep fried version of them.

Certain rules that are followed.

1. Each type of the vegetable should be cut in approximately the same thickness, length and breadth. They all cook at the same time that way.

2. All vegetables except karate (bittergourd, because of the bitterness) can kept in the same bowl once the “goolli” is applied.

3. Irrespective of whether the vegetables have been mixed together or not, when deep-frying fry like vegetables together. Again, different cooking times for different vegetables.

4. Always fry the bittergourd the last as changes the taste of the oil.

5. You know the veggies are crisp enough when the oil around them stops bubbling.

6. All safety rules for deep frying apply. 🙂

Recipe for “goolli”:

1 cup un-cooked rice, soaked for about an hour or two.
A fistful of dried red chillies (about 10-12)
1 tsp of hing powder
Salt to taste.

Grind together in a blender, using as little water as possible, to a smooth paste. Absolutely no water used when my mom makes it. But then, she has the magic mixer, too. However, my recent acquisition, the cuisinart coffee grinder, with the detachable grinder, works great for this as well for most chutneys. At $29.99 (at Bed, Bath and Beyond), it is not as hard on the pocket as some other ones. 🙂

Apply to the sliced/cut vegetables and keep aside for about an hour. Deep fry. Best served with Rice and Daalitoy.

Psst,Dear Behena, Pudding recipe coming soon….Dheeraj Rakh…

Update : ‘karate’ to be read as Kaa-raa-tey’. Thanks to the ever-vigilant Coffee’s comment below.

Thanksgiving with Pumpkin Pie

“Its time we jumped on to the Thanksgiving Bandwagon.”

You know the feeling. The feeling of coming home from work knowing what follows is a looooooooonng weekend and since we don’t celebrate thanksgiving, just lazing around and maybe ctaching a thing or two at the black friday sale, if we feel like getting up. You know the feeling. Just as I was reacqauinting myself to that feeling curled up with a cup of chai, the spouse uttered those words. I fought it , of course pretending not to hear it, hoping the idea would die its natural death, at least for the year. And, thats when he would utter those fateful wordss, the words that would seal my fate for today.

” As a food blogger, you should really be into this..”

Boy, the man knew how to push my buttons , didn’t he?…Next thing , I know I am at the grocery store looking at 20 pound turkeys. Now, spurred on by a challenge, I decided to take on thanksgiving. But, I was not so blind that I would take on a 20 pound bird on such short notice. Since, smaller ones were not available, we decided to get a chicken. I chalked out the following menu for our “neither-here-nor-there” thanksgiving. Thats because We are not that innured to the American palate, to do it the traditional way and I didn’t want to ruin thanks giving by slathering everything in sight with all the masalas in my cupboard. it was to be,

Roast Chicken with Gravy

Roasted Veggies Onion, Carrots and Potatoes

Stuffed Brussel Sprouts

Cranberry Chutney

Pumpkin Pie

No stuffing. Didn’t go there. Maybe next year, when I might grow an appreciation for it. For now, my inexperienced palate just can’t fathom how bread soaked in chicken juices would be good eats.

Early, this morning prepped the bird and started work on the pie. And the pie, considering that its my first attempt, looks good. Very simple, too, if you use canned pureed pumpkin. I used a recipe from the back of a can, with some super suggestions from the lady who was shopping in the same aisle as me. She just looked like the person who would make excellent Pumpkin pies for her family. I asked her, if the recipe on the can would make a good pie. She looked at it, and gave me a list and quantity of spices that I should put in it instead of a pumpkin pie spice mix, which the recipe suggested. I talked to her for the longest time and forgot to ask her name. Dear kind-lady-from-the-grocery-store, not that you would even need to look through food blogs , but if you do, thank you so much for some great tips!!!. And let me tell you, it smells amazing and even the husband(& me), not a great pumpkin fan, is looking forward to diving into it. Right now, a small cavity in the pie stands mute testimony to the fact that we didn’t wait for the meal.

Pumpkin pie ( Recipe Source: Back of a can and the kind-Lady-at-the- grocery-store)

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You Need :

1 unbaked 9-inch Deep Dish Pie shell ( I used pillsbury frozen)

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

For the filling :

Beat

Two Large Eggs

in a medium bowl. Add

1 can Pureed Pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
3/4 cup Sugar
1/2 tsp Salt
1 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground Ginger
1/4 tsp ground Cloves

Whisk together to make a smooth paste. Make sure the spice is not in a big lump anywhere. Add

1 1/2 cups of half and half

little by little till it all comes together in a smooth paste. Kind-Lady-at-the-grocery-store suggested substituting the 1 can evaporated milk with half and half for a more richer pie. I think she was right.

Pour the mixture into the forzen pie shell. Bake at 425 for 15 mins . Lower the temprature to 350, and bake for about 30-40 mins, depending upon your oven, till knife entered in the center comes out clean. Took the whole 40 mins at 350 for me. Cool before serving. The can says, refrigerating is fine, freezing is not. DO NOT FREEZE.

Peanut Baje

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Last night, after I made these, I had no energy to do a write-up, let alone just type the recipe. So, remeding it today.

Of all the countless variety of dishes and cuisines that India has, if there is a single type of dish that can qualify as trail mix, this is it. All those wonderful nuts, coated in batter and deep fried to perfection. Normally, I would make these with cashews. But, I couldn’t find whole cashews at the Indian store. I think everybody is stocking up for the festive season and I really didn’t want to make another trip to the regular grocery store. So, I made do with peanuts. Where Cashews would make it more royal and festive, don’t underestimate these glorious peanuts.

‘Baje’ is Konkani-speak for Pakoda.

My son loves these and hence, I used less chilli powder. Don’t be afraid to ante up on the heat, the peanuts can stand upto it.

1 cup Peanuts, shelled and peeled.

For the Batter
1/4 cup Besan/Chickpea Flour
1 1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/8 tsp Hing/asafetida
Salt to taste abt 1 tsp

For Deep-Frying
Peanut/Corn Oil

When I say Peanuts, shelled and peeled, I don’t necessarily mean do it yourself. I buy the ones that are already so. Wash them in a colander and let the water drain out. Meanwhile, mix all the batter ingredients and make a thick paste using water. Add the peanuts, they will be wet and thats ok. Just not dripping water. Mix everything together, making sure all of the peanuts are completely covered. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Deep-fry in Peanut Oil a handful at a time. Cool and enjoy. I am told , it will last a couple of weeks stored in an air-tight container. Mine never last that long, so I can’t promise.

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

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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.

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.