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. 😀 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.

Oven-Baked Chicken Curry

Yes, I called it a curry and refuse to call it anything else. A generic mix of spices for the general region of the Indian subcontinent all cooked together genericly goes by the name of curry in the western world. So when I cook something that satisfies that definition, in my western kitchen, I will call it a curry. [Defiant]. Besides, my blog, my rant. So there.

My love affair with the chicken began some 7 years ago. Before that I absolutely refused to eat it. Don’t ask me why.I have no idea. The thing with ingredients that make an entry into your life after your food habits have formed is,it takes quite a lot of thinking to decide how it will be cooked. It doesn’t come naturally to me. See, I look at beet greens, which I have never cooked with before and red amaranth comes to me. I look at zucchini and ridgegourd comes to mind. I look at a chicken and all I see is a mass of pink muscle. I have to go through my recipe book to decide which way I want to prepare it. This frustration with chicken is largely due to the fact that I have never really been successful in making a simple chicken curry. [ shutting my ears among the echoes of *gasp*, *and you are a food blogger?* ]

It’s true. Dinner with friends, potlucks and there it is. The ubiquitous ‘simple’ chicken curry,right there, mocking me. Each time, I go to the creator of this bane of my culinary existance and I try to stir the conversation ever so diplomatically to how it is made. I start with complimenting the dish and then finish with “you know there is something so very different from all the normal chicken curries in this. Koi special ingredient ?” Somewhere in between those two praticed lines, I get my answer.

Arre, nothing yaar! Hot oil, jeera, khadha masala, pyaz,tamatar, haldi, mirchi, dhaniya-jeera, garam masala, chicken, namak. Fir pani daala, aur 2 seethi nikali. Bas..“.

I am not going to bother translating that because it doesn’t help. Do you hear me?? IT DOESN’T HELP! I put all sorts of masala in the pressure-cooker with the chicken and it still tastes like something the local Indian restaurant serves at the buffet. A pseudo-Indian americanised curry that even non-indians have trouble eating. At this point, I am doing the mental version of pulling my hair out. But the lady in question is not done yet because the clincher comes in.

Sabke Haath ka bhi farak hota hai. That’s why it tastes different”.

I will translate this. This essentially means “My hands turn simple, everyday ingredients into magic. You, on the other hand[no pun intended] are a nincompoop!”. Aaaaargh!!

So, to take the smirk off her face,I go home and try it out. Nothing. Nada. Bland, insipid mess. It is the chicken, I tell you. These chicken have too much water in them. Besides,there is no smirk, is there? She just wants to get away from this non-chicken curry-making cook as far as possible. “Doesn’t know how to make chicken curry? Don’t know what kind of food the kids are being raised on? Bechare

As I burn in this hell of chicken-curry-failures, once in a while, something works. Only it is not add-some-of-this-some-of-that-and-pressure-cook-to-2-whistles kind of thing, it is somewhere in between. I chalk it all up to this game God plays so that I don’t give up completely on my simple-chicken-curry hope.Bhagwan, how you test me? Bachche ko rulaoege kya?”.

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Oven Baked Chicken Curry

This is the curry I make for the weekday dinner guests. It is a no mess, no fuss kind of thing, 10 minutes of prep and cooks in the oven keeping the stove top free.

Make a paste using a blender or mortar-pestle the following

*3 green chillies/Thai peppers
*4 cloves Garlic
*1 inch piece Ginger

Mix together to make a marinade,

*1 cup dahi/curd/yogurt
*1 tsp Red Chilli Powder or 1/2 tsp red Chilli Flakes
*1 tsp Black Pepper Powder
*the paste made above
*1 tsp Garam Masala
* 1/4 tsp Saunf/Fennel seeds Powder
* 1/8 tsp Star Anise powder (Available in Korean Stores)
*Salt to taste

Add to the marinade

1 lb bone-in chicken thighs, chopped into bite-size cubes

Mix well.Set aside for as long as you can. I normally do this in the morning and cook it for dinner. When ready to cook,add

1/2 Red Onion. sliced
3 tbsp peanut oil

to the chicken mix.Pour everything in a baking dish. Into the oven it goes at 350 deg. Put it, Shut it, forget it for the next 40 minutes. Finish with a tadka/chaunk.

Heat

1 tsp Ghee

Add

1 Badi Elaichi/Black Cardamom
3 cloves
1″ Cinnamon

Pour over the chicken, sprinkle some coriander leaves/cilantro and serve. Goes well with Jeera Rice and Crispy Papad on the side.

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Completely irrelevant to the recipe : I cannot help but mention the carnage at Virginia Tech.It was appalling, what happened. It has been even more appalling, watching the media coverage. Monday evening, a whole lot of emphasis on the killer being Asian. Tuesday evening, a big attempt to blame the VT administration for not seeing into the future and predicting this might happen. Wednesday, repeated playings of the killers videos. It’s been amazing to see virginians stand strongly by their alma-matar. Rare is the person who spoke against the university on camera or off. Several people cancelled interviews with the media in protest against the emphasis on the killer and not on the killed. Thursday evening saw a marked difference in media coverage with the focus more on those killed, the loss and grief of their near and dear ones. The hokie spirit is everywhere I go, especially today being decreed a National Day of Mourning in memory of those killed.

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.

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.

Basic Onion-Tomato Gravy 101

In those glorious days when I was a full-time mom, I never planned a meal in advance. No,the 24 hour prep cycle for idli’s or most dosa’s doesn’t count. Menu was always decided maybe 30 mins before I went in to cook and almost always had a particular farmaish from the miya-ji.Most of the time the dinner plate reflected my disposition for the day. Tired, just roti-sabzi or dal-rice-pickle , Enthused- a full and I mean a full plate etc. In the transition from being a full-time mom to a full-time working mom, my cooking has lost that spur-of-the-moment magic. I have menu’s planned for the whole week. Thus, I have a grocery list of items I need from the grocery store. So, grocery shopping has lost its sense of discovery, too.

Not to put down on the planned menu thing, it’s actually a boon. I have a definite idea on the way home about what we are having for dinner and not wasting a lot of time in trying to decide what to cook. That time is then well spent with the kids. It ensures a home made meal everyday as opposed to I-am-too-tired-to-think-let-alone-cook,lets-order-some-takeout routine. Since, I prefer to use up all my fresh veggies and fruits within a week, planning a meal and then buying just those fresh ingredients really acheives that goal. Not to mention cutting the grocery bill in half. I mean, seriously, going to the grocery store without a list was eating up a lot into my household budget. That money is now used up much more wisely, like those pair of shoes that I just needed to have last week. 🙂 , just kidding. But, you know what I mean. So, really, after a couple of months of planned meals, I am really at a phase where I wonder how on earth I managed without it.

So, while I am not at all ready to let go planning weekly menus, I have started missing out the impromtu-ness of cooking. You know the feeling. It’s raining, lets deep fry something with hot chai or its cold, I want something robust that would fill me up and keep me warm. It was on the day of the later kind that I strayed from the menu and decided to cook up something indian , would fill us up good and warm us from the inside out. It’s a natural instinct for me to think north Indian food when I am in a mood like this. One of the reasons is the fact that it’s the only part of India that officially experiences cold weather in temperatures that we experience in Virginia (No, its really not that cold here as in say canada). So, a lot of there food is actually geared to warming you up. For example, the spices that they use like Cloves, cinnamon etc. or even their extensive use of onion go a long way in achieving that. Also, those creamy, thick gravies. Oh, yum. Now, that I had a general idea what I was craving for, you see the conundrum that I was in, don’t you. How does shopping according to a menu plan lets you adjust to a meal not on the menu? First of all, a well-stocked pantry. Second of all, well use of ingredients in hand. And finally, a well-stocked freezer. Oh, yes. My freezer is a dungeon full of ziploc bags labeled in a script that only I can understand, a mish-mash of frozen veggies and fruits and stuff that I make and freeze for the days like this when deviations happen. I decided to make a aloo-matar. Always, always have potatoes and frozen peas in hand. Also, some frozen homemade basic onion-tomato gravy paste. But, of course, it was not to be the usual aloo-matar. This was to be aloo-matar for the american-desi using ingredients that I had on hand and the desperate craving for a thick, rich, cream-laced gravy.

Freezable Onion-tomato gravy paste

After a long trial and error phase, I have narrowed down to a recipe for the basic gravy paste that works for me enough to blog about it. Just a few things to keep in mind, before you decide to follow this recipe to go the freezing way.

1. There is going to be a change in taste. Do not believe anyone who says there isn’t. This recipe narrows down that change in taste to a level where it is OK for me. Having said that, it is still a work in progress and if I hit upon some other way that minimizes it, I will post it.

2. I freeze this paste in an ice-cube tray and then store the frozen cubes in a ziploc Bag. I label and date it, note the specific ingredients I added to it. While this recipe is the basic gravy paste I use for many North-Indian dishes, some changes here and there turn it into paste used for more specific prepartions like dal makhanis or rajmas. It usually is just a change in the quantities of certain ingredients. But, once frozen, they end up looking the same. So, label includes specific information that would help me differentiate between them.

3. My general rule of thumb when freezing this myself is not let it go for more than 6 weeks. I end up using mine way before that time.

4. The one way I could minimize the change in taste that occured after freezing it was by increasing the amount of fat ( oil and ghee) in it. So, it is a toss-up between convenience and calories. Works for me. I am sure it still falls short on the calories level when compared to ready-made pastes. The recipe could use significantly less fat if it is to be used immediately. However, the final dish won’t require as much oil/Ghee because its already used here.

5. The biggest point to remember is to remove all moisture content from the onion and the tomatoes (Using more Ghee/oil helps there). As far as freezing is concerned, moisture is bad. so, remember to fry them till the oil separates.

6. Cool the masala completely before freezing. The condensed steam from the hot paste in the freezer results in water and icicles. Not good.

On to the recipe,now.

Slice and fry

3 medium-sized Onions

in a pre-heated mixture of

2 tbsp of ghee
2 tbsp of Peanut Oil (any other light flavored oil is good enough)

on medium heat, till the onions soften and wilt and golden spots/bubbles appear on them. Takes some amount of time and needs intermediate attention and stirring. You see the oil disappearing when you first add the onions and then re-appearing at about this stage. Add

6 cloves of Garlic, chopped coarsely
3 inch piece of Ginger, chopped coarsely

Fry for a few minutes, till the garlic and ginger turn golden in color. Keep watching, doesn’t take long. Add

6 plum Tomatoes OR 3 beefsteak Tomatoes, chopped coarsely
3 tbsp Tomato puree OR 1 1/2 tsp Tomato Paste

Again, needs time and attention and frequent stirring. The oil disappears and starts appearing again. Look closely to differentiate between the moisture of the tomatoes and the oil. You might have to fry it a little while longer even after the oil starts separating to completely eliminate moisture. One of the ways to tell there is no more moisture is that the onion starts changing color and getting brown as opposed to golden. In some cases, this is good and we will let it go till it reaches a good brown color (like say chana masala). In this case, we want it to be more golden than brown and hence will stop.

Remove from flame. Cool a little bit before blending it into a paste. Might require a little help in the form of water. Use the least you can and still make a smooth paste.

Heat

1 tbsp Ghee
1 tbsp Peanut Oil

on medium flame. Add

the paste blended as above, would be still warm

Fry till the oil separates, won’t take long. Add

1/2 tsp Turmeric/Haldi Powder
7-8 tsp Red Chilli /Laal Mirch Powder
5 tsp Coriander /Dhaniya Powder
3 tsp Cumin/Jeera Powder

Fry till the oil separates again. Add

1 1/2 tsp Garam Masala

Mix thoroughly. Cool completely. Clean and dry the ice tray. Pour 2 tbsp on the prepared paste in cube. Freeze. Next day(12-14 hrs later), remove from tray and store in freezable ziploc bags, back into the freezer.

Thought Process

1. I use less onion and more tomato and this recipe reflects that. Just the way my taste buds roll. Very much open to change, though.

2. I use a combination of fresh tomatoes and tomato paste or puree. I prefer the tanginess of the fresh tomatoes that is noticably absent in the puree or paste. However, the puree or paste act as a thickener for the gravy and results in a smoother, thicker gravy.

3. I prefer to fry the sliced onion and chopped tomato and then make a puree of it as opposed to making a paste and then frying in oil. I just find the bhunoing part in the first one is far less than in the second one. By following this method, I fry, make paste and then fry again for a little while. Might seem like a lot of oil, but remember, if you make a paste first before frying, you have to start with double the quantity of oil to begin with. Otherwise, you end up with onion paste that is kind of steamed/braised instead of fried. That’s because it will cook in its own liquid dropping the temperature of the oil and not fry in the hot oil which dries up its liquid almost immediately. It will still be edible, but not conducive to good freezing as it would still have moisture in it. Remember, Moisture bad for freezing. Either way fat content remains the same.

4. Resist the temptation to replace the ghee in the recipe with oil. Ghee lends a lot of flavor to the paste as opposed to just oil. If you are counting your calories, reduce it and replace with oil but try not to completely eliminate it. If you do eliminate it, when preparing the final dish, use a little ghee. But, use ghee somewhere, for crying out loud.

5. If you were using the above recipe to use immediately, you would add salt with the tomatoes to help the tomatoes release their moisture. However, when I plan to freeze it, I avoid adding any salt to it. Salt would be added while making the final dish.

Making up with Mirchi ka Salan

The first weeks of November saw me go back to the world of 9 to 5 and my son going into deep disillusionment. He had believed that his mommy was going to be there ‘always, always’. Turns out mommy just goes out all day, comes back only in the evening and spends just a couple of hours a day with him. His solution, make for lost time on weekends. So, the last two weekends saw me juggling to do the things that need to be done around the house with a 2 year old attached to the hip, literally. All of this has , of course, taken a toll on the kitchen. It was feeling real neglected.As I entered into the world of planned meals and easy to cook recipes, the past two weeks had seen me sticking with the basic food and really not venturing too far from the roti-dal-sabzi menu. The kitchen was not happy. Yes, disillusionment was just around the corner. Having trouble dealing with one kid who had already decided it was time to force the issue, I decided that making up with my kitchen was the smart thing to do. So, when Aayush, finally trusted me enough to get a shut eye (I guess, he just thought, I would disappear again if he slept), I decided to venture into the world of Hyderabadi food with its much touted Mirchi ka Salan.

MirchiKaSalanNow, I dont claim to be a connosieur of andhra food. In fact, the first time I heard about Mirchi ka Salan was through an Andhra-ite friend of mine. When ‘M’ described it to me, I knew I was going to like it. I mean, fried peppers in a peanut sauce, How can you go wrong!!! It was time to give it a taste. So, armed with a recipe, I forged into the world of Hyderabadi Cuisine.

I went with jalapeno peppers for this dish, though, she had suggested using anaheim. Let me tell you, I should have gone with the Anaheim. Wowee!! Cleared up all our sinuses for sure! Leftovers a couple days later were just too hot for consumption. The next time I would probably remove the innards of the chillis if I decide to stick with jalapeno. Phew!! The gravy is simply fabulous. Not just simply fabulous, but simple and fabulous. My husband suggested putting chicken pieces in the gravy along with the peppers next time. I like the idea and will try it soon, though, ‘M’ thought it was blasphemy to meddle with the perfect Mirchi ka Salan. Sorry, Dear. 🙂

For those of you who haven’t tried this dish, I would certainly recommend it. Try it once. Go for the milder peppers before you venture into the more hots ones. The gravy is a keeper for sure!!

Here’s the recipe as I tried it and as ‘M’ makes it.

Ingredients

Deep/Shallow fry

4 Jalapenos/Anaheim Peppers (Deseeded, if you don’t like things too hot

in

Ghee/Peanut or Corn Oil

Keep aside. I removed the outer skin of the jalapenos even though ‘M’ doesn’t. Just a personal preference. Wrap the deep fried Jalapenos in a paper towel till cool enough to handle to completely cover. Then just wipe the skin off. The steam does most of the job that way.

Make the salan paste. Grind to a fine paste

¼ cup Roasted Peanuts
¼ cup Dessicated Coconut
1” Fresh Ginger, chopped
1 tsp Sesame Seeds

Add to the paste

1 tsp Asafoetida

Heat

2-3 tbsp Ghee/Peanut or Corn Oil

Add the salan paste and cook it till the oil leaves the paste. This takes quite a while and you need to keep stirring it as the peanuts have the tendency to stick. Very important to cook it that long to keep the peanuts from tasting raw. Take the time. Juggle the kid to the other hip(Of course, he is up by now). Sing him a song and take a few seconds away to keep stirring it.
Add a few drops of water, if it starts sticking too much. I did this in a cast iron skillet set on medium/medium-low heat, took about 15 minutes and 2 splashes of water.Once the paste starts leaving the oil (you will actually see the layer of oil separate and its quite gratifying), add

½ cup yogurt, whisked smooth
Tumeric/Haldi, a pinch
Salt, to taste

According to ‘M’, thats the proportion. The peanuts,coconut and yogurt go in a 1:1:2 ratio to make the ‘perfect’ salan. The rest can be eye balled. Keep stirring until the oil separated again. A lot quicker this time. Add

2 tbsp Tamarind paste
Water, enough to make it a sauce consistency

Cook for a couple of minutes till the water and tamarind blend with the paste to make a smooth sauce. Add the fried peppers. Bring to a boil and remove from flame. Garnish with

2 tsp coriander leaves, chopped finely

Mirchi ka salan is ready. I served it with hot chapatis and rice, though traditionally, it is served with Hyderabadi Biryani. That, though, is another post. 🙂

Gatte ki Sabzi

I am so late for the JFI-Flour event, its ridiculous. But, as a fellow blogger just told me (I was late for her event,too), Life Interferes…I couldn’t just not post, so I am posting a recipe that was meant for that event, but could’nt make it in time.

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Gatte ki sabzi is an rajasthani dish that I used to have at my friends place when in college. I don’t remember any meal at her home that did not have this dish. This a totally desert dish, as in Rajasthan–Desert of India. There are no vegetables used, just besan dumplings(Gatte) that are used in its place, simmered in a curd sauce. Its tasted just amazing. I had tried a lot to replicate the flavors, but did not succeed until I found these two forums that gave a detailed description of how it should be made. Namely; eGullet and Another Subcontinent.

Though this dish is not the first name that comes to mind, whenever I am thinking of what to cook; Its right at the top of the I-want-something-different-today list. So without much ado, I present “Gatte ki Sabzi”…

For the Gatte

1 cup Besan/Chickpea Flour
1 tbsp Kasuri Methi
1 tsp Chilli Powder
1 tsp Dhaniya Powder/Coriander
a pinch Hing/Asafetida
a pinch Haldi/turmeric
salt to taste

Mix everything together and form a tough dough using

1 tbsp Buttermilk at a time

Shouldn’t need more than 2 tbsp.

Knead for minute and roll it into a 1″ thick rope. Like so

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Besan Rope before boiling

Take

3 cups water

in a medium sized pot. Bring to a boil. Put the coiled Dough rope into the boiling water carefully. Putting it in boiling water is important or else it will stick to the bottom of the Pot. Continue boiling till the rope rises to the top. Drain reserving a cup of the water. Cool.

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Dough rope after boiling

Cut across the rope to form 1/2″ circles. I sliced at an angle. (I have been watching too much Food Network).

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Sliced Gattes

Heat

3 tbsp Vegetable Oil/Peanut Oil/Canola Oil

in a wide pan. Add the Gattes in a single layer and brown on both sides.

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Pan-fried Gattes

Gattes are Ready.

Gravy

In a bowl, add

1 cup curds
1 tsp Red chilli Powder
1 tsp Dhaniya Powder/Coriander
1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1/2 tsp Amchur Powder
Salt to taste
1 tbsp Besan
1 cup of the reserved water from boiling the gattes

Mix thoroughly. Strain, if the besan forms lumps.

Heat in a wide pan, preferably the same pan you fried the gattes in,

2 tsbp Vegetable/Canola/Peanut Oil (Remaining from the frying)

Add, one after the other,

1/4 tsp Rai/Black Mustard Seeds
1/4 tsp Jeera/Cumin Seeds
4-5 Curry Leaves
a pinch Hing/Asafetida
2 tbsp tomato paste

Fry till the mixture leaves oil. Add the curd mixture and the gattes and bring to a boil. Lower flame and simmer till the gravy thickens to desired consistency. Thicker, if serving with rotis/chapatis; thinner if serving with rice.

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Recipe source :
eGullet has a nice step-by-step recipe with photos.
Sangeeta from Another Subcontinent gives detailed explanation to prepare this dish.