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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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.

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!

Pucker up to some Cranberry-Apple Chutney!

Its the season for cranberries. Its one of the main things that I look forward to as thanksgiving approaches and it is also something I buy only during thanksgiving and never before. In any form. No cranberry juice all around the year for me. This is the only time of the year that it seems right. Though, I experimented with cranberries (dried ones in cranberry muffin, juice in a cranberry martini etc), I never went Indian with them. Until this year for thanksgiving, I made some cranberry chutney and I could’nt resist putting in some of this and some of that and a whole lot of jaggery to make it family friendly. I like the tartness but my husband is not so much a fan. I mean, it is a chutney , you know!. The chutney is really good , especially with some hot parathas.

Cran Apple Chutney

Heat , in a medium size sauce pot

1 tsp of ghee

Add,

1/4 tsp Black mustard seeds

When that sputters add,

2 Cloves
5 Green chillies (slit length-wise or chopped finely)
4-5 Kadipatta (Curry Leaves)
a pinch hing (Asafoetida)
2 Apples , chopped into cubes size of cranberries
1 12 oz bag of Fresh cranberries
Salt to Taste

Mix everything together and cover and cook for about 10-15 minutes on medium heat. The cranberries pop, the apples melt and results in a wonderful dark pink concoction. If you taste it now, you will get, other than a burnt tongue, a really really tart taste. Its time to sweeten things up.

Add

1 cups of Jaggery
1/4 cup Orange juice

Cook, covered on medium heat till the jaggery melts and remove from flame. Add

1 tsp Red Chilli powder

to finish off a wonderful-tart-yet-sweet-and-with-a-hint-of-heat chutney. This was a part of my neither-here-nor-there-Thanksgiving dinner and we have enough leftovers to have with parathas. My son loves them in his PB & J Sandwich. I get the feeling that his palate is becoming neither-here-nor-there, too. But, of course, I would prefer it to be called “Well-Rounded” Palate!

This is my contribution to Jihva-Jaggery hosted by Kay of Towards a Better Tomorrow and also
to Festive Fair hosted by Anna of Morsel’s and Musings

Making the Weekday Special with Chilli Chicken

Aayush has decided that he likes to bite into things and chew his food rather than having it mashed and gulping it down. Finally! I almost had visions of feeding him mashed food into old age.

“Kha re, deva. Hoddu jatalo!!”.. “Eat it, my lord. Make you a big boy!” .

Amazing how he can set his tooth grinders on when he is eating a chakuli (murruku) or tukdi or even potato chips. But, a roti or rice, god forbid if he would chew through them. After a lot of explaining, showing him how dad (and all ‘big boys’) eat, trying to enforce the rule by refusing to mash his food and finally, breaking down and just praying to god for salvation, the bugger decides to eat like a grown up. So what pushes him to do it ? Not peer pressure, not shame, not wanting to be a ‘big boy’ nor any of my culinary creations. Oh no!! It was the blasted Chick-Fil-A Chicken Nuggets. Not that I have anything against them. Rather them than the ones at MacDonalds, I say. It is the sheer perverse-ness of it that frustrates me. After going through a lot of struggle to avoid getting him on the fast food bandwagon (struggle, not only because of the sheer amount of outlets and Ads , but because we have had to avoid it, too), the one food that drives him to take that next very important step in his development comes straight out of a fast food chain. Ugggggghhhhhhhhhhhhhh!!

Thats kids for you. So, how does the a two year old with parents trying hard not to expose him to fast food, come across a Chick-Fil-A Chicken nugget? Ah, see , thats a whole other can of worms. Of late, there have been discontent in the family about the food that coming out my kitchen during week days. Discontent that they were just not as exciting as before. Discontent that began erupting with mild comments, mild comments that turned into mutterings when food was served, mutterings that turned into snide comments, and snide comments that finally became loud complaints. When even those didn’t have the desired effect, they decided to hit it where it really hurts! The ego. Oh yes, the hubby coming home with one of the drive-thru specials was becoming a regular feature and signs of a full blown mutiny were apparent. I was not ready to give in, though, and a full blown war was about to start, when Aayush decided, he liked fast food.

And, peace was sketched out between the waring factions (read, the parents) in the interest of the innocent people (read, the kids) whose life was blown apart by the silent war (though I am sure, Aayush doesn’t look at it that way). It was decided that something “exciting” (in terms of food!) will be made mid-week, the day hubby comes home at the same time as me, and that he would help in any way he can, begining with staying out of the kitchen and making sure the kids stay away, too. He was very happy with that suggestion. Poor guy, has no idea the tornado that is going to hit him in the form of two kids who have missed their parents the whole day. *snicker, snicker*

So, the good news is, Aayush likes chicken and that means a quick route to good proteins for him and another reason for us ( S and me) to gorge on chickens and hubby takes care of the kids for one WHOLE evening. Not a bad deal. I began the healing process with some darn good, Indo-Chinese concoction that I guess would be known as fast-food in India, but since I make it at home, is alright ;).

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Cube into bite size pieces

3 Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast

Make a paste of the following and marinate the chicken in it for about an hour.

1 tbsp Red Chilli Powder
1 tbsp Soya Sauce (Dark or lite, I prefer the dark)
1 tsp Black Pepper
1 tbsp Cornflour

In a large frying pan, heat up

a couple tbsp of Peanut Oil

Shallow-fry the chicken cubes in the oil. If you have used a large enough pan, you will be able to do this in two rounds. Follow the usual rules. Don’t over crowd the pan, don’t try moving the chicken around for a couple minutes until a shake to the pan has it dancing in the pan. Usually, with chicken pieces this small, you know you are ready to turn them when the side on top if white with small pink center on top. Drain on paper towels when cooked through. Cool. This part you can do ahead of time. I have to warn you though that the family might think they are chicken pakoda and finish them off.

Raise the heat on the remaining oil (there should be about 2 tbsp oil, if there isn’t add more), add

2 whole dried red chillies (optional)
1/2 cup sliced Green Onions
(usually a bunch. only the white part, save the green for garnish)
1 tbsp chopped Garlic
4-5 chillies slit length-wise

Stir fry for 2 minutes. Add

2 tbsp Soya Sauce
2 tbsp Chilli-Garlic Sauce (you get these in most grocery stores)

Add salt, depending on taste. Usually, with that amount of soya sauce, its not necessary. Mix to coat all the chicken with the sauce. Stir-fry for another 2 minutes. Remove from flame and top with

chopped greens from the green onions
(That sounds very knowledgeable,doesn’t it?)

I served this with dal and rice. But, it works as an excellent finger-food,too.

And All was as should should be and peace reigned the kingdom again. With the mutiny squashed, the queen was joyous. The king was happy with the time he was getting with the kids and the prince and the princess were just happy with the attention. The chicken nuggets got to stay in the outlets where the bad grown ups (us) can go and pig out without the kids knowing about it. Everyone gobbled down on the ‘exciting’ home-made food, and they lived happily ever after

…………………………………………………………….until the next meal.

Kadgi Sukke…Raw Jackfruit Curry

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So sorry Guys! I uploaded the photos thinking I will type in the post soon and poof, the modem conks out. Just had the “modem guy” come in and straighten things out. And, So the post comes in.

Raw jackfruit is a quintessential konkani ingredient. It is used as a star of the recipe like in this dish or as a subtle ingredient in a beans curry dish. Either way, it is found in every konkani kitchen. However, in my part of the world, the fresh ones are not available. I make do with the canned ones. I use the ones that preserved in water and salt only. No artificial preservatives. My rule of thumb for any canned veggies. The good thing about using them canned is you don’t have to struggle with cutting an actual raw jackfruit which is full off a sticky sap that no ordinary soap can get rid off. Plus, they are cooked half way through which makes it a snap to make dishes like these ones. Just rinse them REALLY good.

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1 10 oz can of raw jackfruit, cut into bite sized pieces
1/2 tsp Brown sugar or 1/2 golf ball size Piece of jaggery
Salt to taste

To be ground together, with water as required, into a coarse paste

3/4 cup Shredded coconut
2-3 Red Chillies, roasted in a little bit of oil
1/2 tsp Tamarind Paste
1 tsp Coriander Seeds, roasted in a little oil (maybe with the chillies)

Seasoning/Tadka

1/2 tsp Mustard Seeds
6-7 Curry Leaves
2 tbsp Good Quality Coconut Oil

Cook the Jackfruit in a cup of water, covered, till cooked through. A good indicator is, if it is mashed when pressed by the ladle, its cooked. Doesn’t take more than 3-4 minutes. Add the ground paste, Jaggery, salt to taste. Mix and cook till any liquid present is boiled away. In a seasoning pan, heat the oil, add mustard seeds. When they get crackling, add the curry leaves. Step away from the pan as they are going to sputter. When the sputtering stops, add it to the curry and immediately cover it. Mix the seasoning in before serving. Serve with rice and dal or with rotis. Enjoy.

Cauliflower Upkari (Cauliflower cooked with mustard seeds and whole chillies)

Cauliflower Upkari

When you are eating something as spicy and in-your-face (or should I say in-your-tongue) as Avre Bendi, the side dish has to be suitably subtle. Else, you risk having too many flavors, to enjoy any one of them. Too much of a good thing is not a good thing. Enter the upkari, the great konkani stir-fry.

This is just vegetables tempered with mustard seeds and dried red chillies cooked in a little water till done. Salt, of course and garnished with coconut gratings. If you have been following this blog, then you know by now that no konkani dish is finished without the addition of coconut gratings. After all, it is a coastal cuisine. Sugar or jaggery is added depending upon how bland or bitter the vegetable used is. However, with cauliflower, none is needed.

So on to the upkari….

1 cauliflower chopped into florets

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

2 dried whole chillies or a pinch of chilli flakes

salt

1 tbsp Coconut Gratings

Heat up oil in a pan, add mustard seeds. After they sputter, add the chillies/flakes and the cauliflower florets. Add salt, a little water. Cover and cook till the florets soften and water dries out.

Very simple and very delicious. Just a few things to be careful about. Add very little water since cauliflower cooks very fast and releases water during cooking. Don't overcook the vegetables. Just soften them enough and they are good to go. They go wonderfully with any spicy curry. In konkani cuisine, they are usually made to go with curry using beans or legumes and there, you have a complete meal….