Stuffed Chillies.

I have had mind-boggling two weeks which along with the weather hasn’t helped my disposition at all.

Really groggy weather in my neck of the woods right now. It is not raining but it seems likes it would rain any minute now and its been like that for the past three days without a drop of rain. The greenery seems to be going brown without going through the customary color change and that is just sad. For fall is not fall until the colors come in. Three weeks into september and I am already missing summer. The weird weather is to blame. There is slight chill in the air. Not much but enough to send the kids into the customary change of season cold. I am already dreading the winter this season.

The weather, though, has had me craving for deep-fried stuff all week. I am resolutely ignoring it. Thinking ahead, I am saving myself for Diwali, you see. Maybe if I abstain for the next month, I can gorge away the diwali goodies guilt-free. One can always hope. Sedentary lifestyles make you plan ahead for these things. But I digress. I was talking about the last two weeks.

Early on, as soon as I posted about the sweet appe, my blender died on me. Serves me right for cribbing about it in the last two posts. I had a good GE model with a coffee grinder attachment which had served me well the past 4 years. With the kind of use I have made of it, I am surprised it took so long for it to give up on me. But, the whole thing was disappointing. I always thought that the day it dies on me would be the day I have a dozen people for dinner. There I would be trying to grind up a heavenly curry paste and it would blast out, make horrible sounds, keep sputtering and the red light that signifies the machine is on would fade away slowly, kind of like the eye of the terminator at the end of each movie. And that I would see my dream of an Indianised Martha Stewartesque meal fading away with that light. O, the horror! O, the pain! If nothing so melodramatic, I thought that it would at least do me the favor of dying a spectacular death with the top flying away and the stuff that I was trying to grind hitting the roof and coming down in a shower. You know, a shower of strawberry smoothie early in the morning would be a spectacular way to start a day, wouldn’t it? But alas, no such luck. It just sputtered and ground itself to halt, never to make a peep again. Why? Because.

So anyway, I am having the biggest internal debate. I have decided to take this oppurtunity to invest in either an Indian mixer/grinder or the wet grinder. I can’t decide between the two. So I have decided to make it a democratic decision. I invite my readers to please vote for either so that I can finally decide. Yes, the word decide is on my mind too much these days. The Libran moon is up, my friends.

While you guys are voting on that, you could also comment on how one should deal with a 3 year old when you trying to talk to him about a certain not-good-boy thing he did and he replies,

“I don’t want to talk about it”.

To say, I was flabbergasted would be putting it mildly. I was completely dumb-founded and had no idea how to proceed. I stood there mute, actually feeling the sting of the ‘chaata‘ I would have got from my parents in such scenarios. They same ‘chaata‘ that they never got a chance to dispense, btw. He hasn’t repeated the action, but I would still like to be more prepared for statements like that one in case they make an appearance again. I still haven’t thought of a good retort. Yep, amazing two weeks I have had.

I decided to stuff my misery, my undecisiveness and my complete lack of ability to overcome a 3 year old among other stuff into some Anahiem Peppers and have a good dinner, instead. This decision was the easy part.

Stuffed Chillies

Recipe:

1)

Prep the chillies. Make a small horizontal cut,parallel to the stem about 1 cm below it. Make a vertical slit perpendicular to the first slit to the tip of the pepper. OPen up the pepper gently and remove all the seeds inside. I don’t remove the ribs. Sprinkle some salt on the peppers and keep it aside while you prepare the stuffing. The salting is an optional step. I do it because it softens the peppers just enough to allow it to cook quicker.

2) For the Stuffing. Mix

1/2 cup Besan/Chickpea Flour
1/4 cup Fresh Coconut gratings
1/4 cup Peanut powder
1 tsp Coriander Powder/Dhaniya
1/4 tsp Turmeric/Haldi
1 tsp Peanut Oil
a pinch Asafetida/Hing
Salt to taste
Juice from One lemon

together to almost form a dough. This stuffing is enough for 6 medium length peppers.

3) Gently stuff the dough into the chillies.

4) In a 8′ pan, heat a tsp of oil and spread it all over the pan’s surface . Add

a pinch of hing

Place the peppers on pan so that they are not overlapping. Immediately lower the flame, cover and cook for about ten minutes on each side. The time taken to cook would depend upon the amount of stuffing in your chillies. The steam and juices from the pepper should go through the stuffing right to its center. Make a cut on one of the chillies to make sure it has cooked all the way through. There is nothing good about uncooked besan. Enjoy.

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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.

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

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.

The Sinful Malai Kofta, at last…

You know you have made some sort of a presence in the blogging world when you have your readers giving you a good earful for not posting regularly.

Now,it is one thing for my sister to bite my head off during one of our regular phone calls or send threatening emails for not posting the caramel pudding recipe yet. After all, peskiness and younger sisters tend to come as a package. Her, I just ignore out of sheer habit. I have been doing that to her all her life. No reason, you know, just because. It’s fun to see her get worked up (Plus, it is heart warming to keep hearing her say that she misses those cooking experiments we did together, but we are not going to tell her that).

However, it is quite something else when readers who know me only through my writings reprimand me for not posting enough. I mean, you actually go through the trouble of writing a comment just to nudge me to post. That is humbling and humble doesn’t come naturally to me. I am the kind of person who knows what works for me and what doesn’t and I don’t let modesty stop me from acknowledging it. So, chances are if you come to me and say, “You look nice today” or “you really worked hard on that project”, I would just say, “I know”. You can take it anyway to like. But, there is no “I know” regarding y’all missing my writings. I am all humbled and flustered and “Thank you” and all that. You know what I am saying. You Know.

One particular reader, though she doesn’t know it yet, managed to push all the right buttons to get me typing. She left a innocent comment chiding me for not posting, all in Konkani. Took me right back to my childhood. I could almost hear my Bapama (Paternal Grandmother)’s voice chiding me for whatever was my crime-of-the-moment. She always seemed to do that and it just might be my fault. :D We had been inured as kids to jump up to her bidding when she went into that mode. And we loved it when she went into that mode. When we moved to the US, I missed it so much that I would call her up and ask her to chide me just for the heck of it. Yeah, Crazy, I know. She is sorely missed.

From demanding readers to high-expectation level grandmas, temperamental seems to the word of the moment in the food world. First we had that British Chef from Hell’s Kitchen, spewing his anger at all and sundry in his restaurant. Then, Amitabh Bachchan in his chef-turn decided to go nuts about good ol’ Hyderabadi Zafarani Pulao. Now it is I-don’t-know-what-a-kitchen-is Catherine Zeta-Jones turn to go maniacal about some rare steak. Really. It used to be that chefs had this image of being these introverts who would stick themselves in the kitchen and create food magic. It used to be people would come to those restaurants, taste the food, close their eyes to savor it and smile and really that would be enough to get the message across. Now, we have chefs who have the “you better like what I put on the plate or else you have no taste” chip on their shoulder. I think all this came about when cooking became an “art” as opposed to a tasty way to shut up that growling stomach. It scares me because when a painter becomes an artist is when his paintings (oops sorry, art) stops making sense to me. I dread the day food stops making sense to me. Me, I cook because eating it is the only time my kids are quiet. :)

And Pel, if you read this long enough, you will get eight and more random facts about me. Talk about doing it all in one post, the meme plus a recipe. You guys are just lucky, lucky people, you know that??

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To the recipe at hand, I present the Malai Kofta. It became really popular in the late 80′s and early nineties on the restaurant menu. One would be hard pressed to walk into an Indian restaurant and not find it in the menu. I doubt there many, even now, that don’t feature it on the menu. When done right, it is an amazing journey into food texture and taste, what with a smooth gravy and koftas full of dry fruits and milk every which way, but the non-fat way. This is no every-day dish, of that you can be sure. You better have a very good reason to celebrate, when you are planning to make this dish.

Malai Kofta 2

Recipe :

To Make the kofta:

Mix together evenly

*1 Medium-sized Potato, boiled and mashed
*2 tbsp Paneer, mashed/grated
*2 tbsp Khoya, grated
OR
2 tbsp Whole Milk Powder
OR
2 tbsp Baked Ricotta Cheese
*1 tbsp Heavy Cream/ Malai
*8-10 Brown Raisins, chopped
*5-6 Cashewnuts, chopped
*2-3 Green Chillies, finely chopped
*1/8 tsp Garam Masala Powder
*Salt to taste

Shape into golf-size balls and deep-fry in hot

Peanut Oil

Add a tbsp or two of ghee to the oil used for deep frying. It adds a little something-something to the koftas. This is quick deep-frying in hot oil because there is nothing to cook here. All you are looking for is a crisp exterior. Alternatively, you can bake them in the oven or pan-fry them in oil. In my opinion, pan-frying often results in more oil-soaking than the actual deep-frying. I deep-fry them. This is the Sinful Malai Kofta, you know.

I have, on occasions, made the kofta upto a day in advance in without any issues. It’s always good when you are entertaining with this dish.

To make the gravy:

Blend to a paste

*2 medium onions,chopped
*3 garlic pods
*1″ ginger
*2 tsp powdered poppy seeds, dry-roasted

Fry this paste, on high flame, constantly stirring in

*3 tbsp of Peanut oil

with

*1 dry bay leaf

till the oil separates. The poppy seeds may result in some sticking at the bottom of the pan and hence constant stirring and attention is needed for this part. Once the oil separates, add

*3 large tomatoes,pureed
OR
6 tbsp of Tomato Puree + 6 tbsp Water

Stir and add,

*1 tsp red-chilli powder
*1/2 tsp garam masala powder
*1/2 tsp dhania(corainder) powder
*1/2 tsp cumin powder

Cook for 5 mins on a medium low flame till the tomatoes and the spices are cooked through. Meanwhile, ground into a fine paste

*1/2 tsp sugar
*1 1/2 tbsp Heavy Cream
*3-4 Cashewnuts, soaked in water for about 10 mins

To the cooking gravy, add the Cream-Cashewnut paste. Bring to a boil and remove from flame. When ready to serve, warm up the gravy,add the koftas, top with cilantro/dhaniya and serve immediately. Never heat the gravy with the koftas in it. This will cause the koftas to disintegrate. Serve with rice cooked with whole spices and Naan. Do not make any after-meals plans unless they are to have a nice siesta.