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.


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’.

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.


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.


Deep/Shallow fry

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


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


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. 🙂

Avre Bendi (Navy Beans in a Coconut, Chilly and Tamarind curry)

Avre Bendi

Avre = Navy Beans

Bendi = a spicy coconut, chilly and tamarind concoction.

and thus, Avre Bendi.

The beauty about so many of konkani curries are the fact that they use just these 3 ingredients, but just by varying the quantity of each or grounding it coarsely or finely, they change the taste and the texture of the curry. The second thing I love about these curries is that there is not much of sauteing or bhunoing involved. You cook the beans in the pressure cooking for upto 3 whistles and while that is happening you grind up the coconut, chillies and tamarind. Add the paste to the cooked beans with salt and bring to boil. Season. Thats it. I mean, all of this doesn’t take more than 10 mins. On the days that I make an authentic konkani meal, I finish all of the cooking– a curry, rice and a side dish in 20 minutes. Using all four burners at the same time, of course. Heck, I could give Rachel Ray a run for her money. 🙂

Beans are the biggest source of protein in many predominantly vegetarian cuisine. While, konkani cuisine is famous for its seafood preparations, it is not part of the everyday food. Except, by choice, that is. So, mostly,the daily food is rice, beans and a vegetable together with buttermilk. A complete meal. As I said before, the curries are defined by the quantities used and the texture into which it is ground. In the case of bendi, less of the coconut, more of the chillies and tamarind and ground into a fine paste. Bendi’s are seasoned with garlic. 

The recipe…

1 cup navy beans soaked over night and cooked till soft

1/4 cup grated coconut

8-10 dried red chillies

1/2 tsp tamarind paste / marble sized piece of tamarind , if using actual pods

3-4 garlic cloves


oil for seasoning and roasting chillies

Roast the chillies in a little bit of oil on a low flame. You know they are roasted when they loose the wrinkly look and puff up. Cool them a little bit and then grind them up with coconut and tamarind into a fine paste. This takes some work , if you are using american blenders. Heat up the cooked beans till they start boiling, add the paste , salt and mix. The broth will start foaming and then settle down. The paste is cooked when all of the foam has died down. Remove from flame. Heat up oil and garlic together in a small pan. Never put garlic in hot oil. Always put it in the oil and then heat up the oil. This way the garlic cooks just enough and doesnt burn. Also, the oil gets infused with the garlic juices better. Add this tempering to the bendi and immediately cover up the pot. Mix the seasoning in before serving.

Today,I had these with boiled rice (parboiled rice in the US is just not the same). I used the ones I have from India. Most people in Mangalore still eat this rice as their daily rice. The younger generation, however, seem to prefer white rice. As for people like me, born and brought up in Bombay,white rice is daily rice and eating boiled rice is something that ups the exotic quotient.

Alambe Buthi(Mushrooms in a semi-dry coconut gravy)

I disliked mushrooms. There,I said it. But as you can see, its past tense.

Growing up, we didn't eat much mushrooms at home. See, in the days of yore, what was cooked at home was what was growing in the back yards. Mushrooms , though not cultivated , would grow on their own and were cooked whenever it made an appearance.It was ,subsequently , discovered that all mushrooms were not edible . In fact, quite a lot of them were downright poisonous.My grandmother, who grew up in this era, never trusted a mushroom that she herself had not harvested. And since she moved to Bombay upon marriage….(You get the gist of it.). My tryst with mushrooms in restaurants just left me with the feeling of eating rubber. So, it was on my tried-but-not-liked list.

Then , of course, I got married. Marriage brings forth lots of changes, its said. That certainly was the case with me and mushrooms.A couple of weeks after marriage, we were on a train journey to our native place (mangalore) to seek the blessings of our kuldevta. My mother-in-law had packed food for all of us to get us through the 20 hr train ride. It was to be chapatis and Alambe Buthi (Alambe is konkani for Mushroom and buthi is the semi-dry gravy). Now, I didn't like mushrooms and it was my firm opinion that konkani dishes taste good only with rice. I don't know what it was, the acquiescence of newly-found bahu-dom or the fact that the other choice was to eat Indian Railways food, I quietly ate the whole thing that was served to me. And voila, instant mushroom convert.

I learnt quite a few things that day , about new relationships, change, marriage and food. It is the food part that is more appropriate for this blog and that is what I am going to talk about. It became quite apparent to me that any new ingredient,when cooked like the food that you grew up with , went over much well than when cooked in some other method, however popular. Its a trick I have used with much of the veggies that are found here in the US that are not inherent to India. I am happy to report that all such experiments have been successes, some less than more, but successes nonetheless. Wow, too many ss's in that last sentence. try saying that 10 times in a row.

Anyway,have introduced my family to new veggies in such manner and once we have all become accustomed to its taste, moved on to its more popular versions. And , of course, being the mushroom convert that I am thanks to my dear mother-in-law, my refrigerator always has at least one of the varieties of mushroom in it at any given time. I cook mushrooms a lot of ways, but this has to be the first recipe that I share with you. So here goes. I cook these using the white mushrooms that are found in all grocery stores here.

Alambe Buthi …

1 cup mushrooms ,quartered

1 onion, finely chopped

Ginger 1' piece finely chopped

1 cup fresh grated coconut

8 roasted dry red chillies

1/2 tsp tamarind paste

2 tsp coriander seeds

2 tbsp coconut oil

salt to taste.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan. Cook the mushrooms with onion and ginger till the water dries out. While it is cooking , grind together grated coconut, chillies, tamarind and coriander seeds coarsely in a blender. Add water only if required . Once the water from the mushrooms has dried out, add the ground masala and salt. Stir and cook till it all blends together and any water that has been added to the masala dries up. Remove from flame and pour the other tbsp of raw oil over the cooked mushrooms.Serve with chapatis or as a side dish with rice and dal.