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.

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!

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.

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.