Tambdi Bhajji- My Red Greens!

I am ambivalent about beets. Some things I just love, some things-not so much. Walk into a grocery store, there are some things I pick up the moment I see them. Then there are some that I give a wide berth to, even though the good marketing people of the store have placed it right in front of the door so that a customer cannot go in without checking them out. With beets, I am somewhere in between. I look at the beets and keep staring at them wondering. Should I or Shouldn’t I? After the third scorching look from the lady who seems to be waiting to buy the beets, I move ahead to buy the rest of the things I definitely want. “When was the last time I ate them? I think it was the time I made Beet Halwa. Maybe I should pick some carrots and make Gajar ka Halwa. Which reminds me I need to pick up a good bollywood movie. With a lots of song and dance. What is it with those movies that do not have songs anymore? How is someone like Salman Khan supposed to survive without songs that he could dance to as if he was crushing mushrooms under his feet? Speaking of which, I need to get some Mushrooms. Where are they? Oh, there they are, right besides the beets. Oh Beets, hmmm, Should I or shouldn’t I?” A quick look back ascertains the lady actually wanted to buy the leeks below the beets. “I definitely do not need leeks this week. But, the Bok Choy looks good. Maybe a chinese stir-fry this weekend. When was the last time I cooked Chinese? …”

Last week, I actually went ahead and bought them, not because of the roots themselves, but for the lush greens that were attached to them. They were beautiful and this time I didn’t have to think before I picked them up. I had an idea how I was going to cook them. My mom made this koddel using Red Amaranth leaves which we call Tambdi Bhajji effectively Red Greens. My brother, then a toddler, fell in love with this koddel, most probably attracted to it by its color. Somewhere down the line, the leaves that were available in the market lost their ability to generate the bright red that my brother loved and my mom, endowed with the wisdom that parents have, to make sure kids do not stop eating stuff that are actually healthy, started adding beets to it. Result,bright red curry and brother still loves it. I do not get the Red Amaranth leaves in my neck of the woods. So I substitute them with the beet greens and add chopped beets to it. Red, Red Koddel that my son was very excited about and gulped down without a fuss. The apple(or is it the beet 🙂 ) doesn’t fall far from the tree, it seems.

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Tambdi Bhajji

Cook (I pressure cook them, can be cooked in a partially covered 2 quart pot on the stove top)

*1 medium sized Beet,peeled, chopped into bite-sized cubes
*corresponding Beet Stalks, chopped into about 2 inches pieces
*One Bunch Beet Greens,washed, drained and chopped
*Salt, to taste

If not pressure cooking, then partially cook the beets and stalks before adding the greens and the salt in.
Meanwhile, grind into a smooth paste

*1/2 cup unsweetened, fresh grated coconut
*4-5 Dried Red Chillies, roasted in a little bit of oil, till it plumps up
*Tamarind, size of a marble or 1/4 tsp Tamarind Concentrate
*Water, as required

Smooth Paste would be till it is a homogenous mixture and the grated coconut does not feel grated anymore.
Once the Beets and the Greens have cooked through-the beets should disintegrate when pressed-, lower the flame to medium-low and add the

*Coconut+Chillies+Tamarind Paste

Let it come to a boil and cook till the coconut foam on top subsides about 5 minutes.
Finish with a garlic phanna (tadka) .

Heat on a low flame

*1 tsp Coconut Oil
*3-4 Garlic Cloves, crushed with their skins on

Heat the garlic and oil together and cook till the skins on the garlic turn golden. Add to the koddel and immediately cover. Mix in before serving.

Serve with Rice, cooked Plain and a Upkari, maybe chilled buttermilk on the side.
Looks like a good ‘red’ entry to JFI-Greens. Also, I nickname it ‘Laal Bhajji’ and send it across to A to Z of Indian Vegetables-Letter ‘L’.
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Note : The leaves of the Red Amaranth available in India are completely red and not striped as seen in the site linked to above. I remember my mom complaining that they are just not that red anymore and can only guess that maybe a variety between the striped and the red one came into the market.

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Toast to the Coconut with Tomato Coconut Rice

Coconut has long been maligned as a non-healthy food,”full of saturated fat and a potential risk to the heart. Its bad for your cholestrol levels and other such.” The cuisine that I have been raised on, however,includes coconut in some form or the other in almost 90% of its recipes. And this is my everyday food!!! I take heart (no pun intended), in the fact that no one in my circle of family or friends has showed anymore likelihood of being afflicted by heart disease than ones who have avoided coconuts their whole life. And with that thought, I present to thee another reason to gorge on this magnificent piece of my culinary life, the coconut.

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It takes all of 15 minutes to put together and the results are extremely good. The tanginess of the tomatoes is off-set by the sweetness of Coconut Milk, making for a delicious balance of flavors in every spoonful. Be sure to use fresh tomatoes and not the canned ones and definitely not concentrated pastes. It would, just not be the same.

Ingredients
2 1/2 cups basmati rice, washed and set aside for 30 mins
5 medium tomatoes,pureed
1 large onion,thinly sliced
1tbsp ginger+ garlic+green chilly paste,
cloves 2-3,
cinnamon stick 1/2″inch,
bay leaf 1 pc.
1 medium carrot,diced,
1/2 cup green peas
2 cups thick coconut milk + 3 cup water,mixed together
coconut oil, 4-5 tbsp

Method
Heat oil in a heavy bottomed pan, ona medium to high flame.Add bay leaf & whole garam masala.Stir for 1 minute.Add onions, fry till pink and add the paste. Fry for 1-2 minutes. Sprinkle water, if required. Add the tomatoes ,fry on high till the paste leaves oil. Add the veggies except peas. fry for another minute and add the soaked rice. Mix well . Add the milk & water mixture. and let it come to a boil. Add peas and salt. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook on low flame till done (about 10 minutes). Transfer to serving bowl. If you wish to make it fancy or are serving this at a party, top with sliced tomatoes and coriander. Serve with mixed raita.

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

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.

Mum’s the word…Hearty Tomato Soup

You know Mom's cooking the best. You can live anywhere in the world, learn all sorts of cooking techniques and cuisines. You can be a professional cook , for god's sake. But at the end of it all, you want to come home and have Mom cook you that wonderful stuff and transport you to those golden days. There are those days when I really miss Mom's food (I miss mom, period). Of course, there are those days when you just miss somebody else cooking for you, but thats another post :). It is on the days of the first variety , that I end up making either or both of the following recipes . 

Mom makes a mean Tomato soup that has spoiled our taste buds to the extent that we never like any other tomato soup. It is such a simple recipe , the secret lies in fresh juicy tomatoes and only tomatoes. She doesnt add any other veggies or spice and there in lies the taste. On those chilly winter nights , I often make this soup served with grilled cheese sandwiches and reminisce about the past.

Very simple. Pressure cook about a kilo (about 2 pounds) of ripe juicy tomatoes. Crush in the blender and sieve in a fine siever to remove seeds and skin.
Pour into a pot and bring to a boil .Skim the white stuff that gathers on top. Add salt, sugar, pepper to taste. Mix 1 tbsp butter(room temperature) with 1 tbsp cornflour(Use a fork, its simpler) and add to the soup. Bring to a boil once more stirring continously. Remove from flame and add 1/2 cup milk. (I add about 4 tbsp cream). Delicious soup is ready.

Drop in a few homemade croutons, a dollop of butter and it is ready to be consumed!!

Thanks, MOM!