Sunday, 27 June 2010

Aloo Paratha

In school, I had a couple of North Indian friends. Lunch sharing was quite common and we quite enjoyed that. My favorite was the stuffed parathas my north Indian friends use to bring. I use to love it so much that I spent some time learning from one of the mothers who made it. It is a shame I never practised it and forgot. Everytime I use to make official trips to Delhi, I would make sure I get a lot of parathas there. Once I remember I went to the extent of going to someone’s house only to have parathas for breakfast. I packed one paratha that was leftover and shamelessly had it for lunch while the rest of my team was munching on the canteen food. Ah, who cares, parathas are worth it. My better half is quite the opposite. He does not like parathas and quite obviously I do not make it very frequently as I am not prepared to make different items for each one. Recently my husband fancied Chinese food and as he was missing Wang’s kitchen (which is actually in Chennai and not China), he asked me to make vegetable claypot. I was not keen on rice for meal so decided to make paratha for me. I had boiled potatoes in my fridge and soon parathas took shape! Here is how I did

2 medium sized boiled potatoes

2 small green chillies (finely chopped)

½ teaspoon dhania powder

½ teaspoon jeera powder

2-3 tablespoon freshly and finely chopped coriander leaves

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

Regular chapatti dough to make the parathas

Optional ingredients – ginger garlic paste/ginger paste, Amchur powder, bread crumbs

Grate the potatoes. Try to use refrigerated boiled potatoes as they have lesser moisture than freshly boiled ones.

Mix all ingredients except the dough. If the mixture is a bit sticky or very moist, add some breadcrumbs. Otherwise, the parathas will be hard to make.

Take a lemon sized piece of dough. Round it in your hands and make a chapatti out of it.

Make a ball of the potato mixture and place in the centre of the chapatti and wrap it by folding the dough over it.

Try to press this with your hand as much as possible. To help with rest, use the rolling pin. Be careful not to let the stuffing come out.

Put it on a hot pan and wait until bubbles begin to appear. Then turn the paratha and wait for it to just start to rise. Turn again and now gently press the paratha to encourage it to rise. Add a wee bit of ghee once taken off the flame.

Here are few tips and options –

You could put all ingredients in a food processor rather than grate and chop. If using the optional ingredients, just mix it with potatoes and other ingredients.

For chapatti dough, take a cup of wheat flour, pinch of salt, half cup hot water. Mix to form smooth dough and knead well. When possible, allow the dough to rest for couple of hours.

Try not to cook them on low flame as they will turn hard. For nice soft parathas, cook on medium to high flame.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Chickpea Cutlet (Channa/Garbanzo Cutlet)

Chickpea/Channa/Garbanzo bean cutlet

There was this day when I thought I was not getting many exciting things in my kitchen and wanted to raise the bar. I saw another blogger mentioning Sanjeev Kapoor and that did ring a bell, a loud one! I remember I used to watch it on the TV, I think it was Zee TV until it became a paid channel. To think of it, I was always interested in cookery shows. Anyway, I looked up for Sanjeev Kapoor on Google and came across a few interesting sites and sat down to see videos of some recipes. One such interesting recipe was the Shammi Kebab he made using black channa and some channa dal. As much as I rant about healthy eating etc. I somehow am not a fan of black channa though it is undoubtedly more nutritious. And that is why I changed the recipe to suit my taste. If you look at my profile, I would have promised I will share my success and failure in the kitchen and this is one such example. The taste and texture of this dish were very good and so were the flavours. Aesthetically however, I couldn’t quite get it to retain its shape. Find out how you can avoid that at the end of the recipe.

½ cup channa (dry)

1 red onion

2-3 green chillies

Handful of fresh coriander leaves

½ teaspoon each - coriander powder, chilly powder and cumin powder

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

¼ teaspoon garam masala (feel free to increase based on preference)

1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste

Cooking oil

Mozzarella cheese about ¼-1/2 cup

2-3 tablespoons breadcrumbs

Salt to taste

Soak chickpeas in water for about 8-12 hours and pressure cook with ginger garlic paste. Drain the chickpeas and try to keep them as dry as possible.

In a food processor add the chickpeas, green chillies, coriander, spice powders, salt and bread crumbs. Blend so you get a smooth thick batter. If it is not very thick, add some more breadcrumbs. The consistency should be like that for vada wherein you can shape it in your hands.

Make lime sized balls out of this. Flatten each ball in your hand and put some mozzarella cheese in the centre and roll into a ball again. Again, flatten it in your hand.

Add enough oil to just about cover a pan’s surface (remember we are not deep frying). Once the oil is hot, put the cutlets into the oil and fry both sides until golden brown.

Here is the mistake I made – was a bit too generous with the cheese so some cutlets had cheese oozing out while cooking (which I should say made it all the more tempting). Secondly, I did not help them retain their shape. I suggest that the cheese filled cutlets be placed on a plate and covered with cling film and refrigerated for about an hour. This will help them retain their shape while frying.

Am sure it tastes good with tomato ketchup but I finished them just by itself!

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Charred Aubergine/Brinjal/Eggplant Raita (Pachadi)

I need no excuse to cook eggplant as I just Love it. But it was interesting to find that the plant is native to India. Also interestingly its name has originated from Sanskrit. It is such a beautiful looking and cooking vegetable. I could just keep rambling about it but it is suffice to say I very much miss the variety of brinjals that I could get in India. We get only the Spanish ones here and the wee ones can be found in Indian stores if lucky. My mother-in-law used to tell me that she was warned not to eat brinjals while pregnant as they thought it could make the baby’s skin dark. She being a nutritionist, decided it was not quite possible and that if anything, the iron content in brinjal will be helpful. And guess what, my husband is not dark.

This particular recipe I am sharing is one of my favourites. It is quite simple and quick to make. My grandmother used to make it often for me. She used to make it with the green brinjals. I had to be happy with the big Spanish brinjal but the dish was still yummy. Ithink this is one of the many recipes that shows that Indian cooking is not always about using a number of different spices, but just few simple ingredients can come a long way. Here is the how to make it part...

1 aubergine or more depending on variety you are using

1teaspoon mustard seeds

2-3 green chillies

1 sprig curry leaves (optional)

Asafoetida (optional)

1.5 cups yogurt, slightly beaten

Salt to taste

Wash and wipe the brinjal. On the stovetop char the aubergine on direct flame. As the aubergine gets cooked, fluids will ooze out of it and it will cave in when done.

Put it in a cup of water, preferably cold, so you can peel the skin off. Transfer to a bowl and mash it with a fork. It is not very nice to have it smooth so keep it a bit chunky.

In a small pan or kadai, add less than a teaspoon of oil. Once hot, add the mustard seeds and after it splutters, add the chopped green chillies, asafoetida, curry leaves.

Add this tempering to the brinjal and mix with yogurt. Wonderful charred brinjal raita ready!

You could add some urd dal to the tempering. If you like you can also add turmeric powder to it to get the yellow colour.

Sunday, 20 June 2010

Mixed Bean Rice

This is probably not the first time you hear about my spin on how vegetarian diet is not known for its protein content. As there is hardly any vegetable or bean or any legume that is complete withal essential amino acids (protein required by body), it is worth taking extra time thinking of ways to improve protein intake. Consuming a wide variety of crops like pulses, lentils, legumes and if you are eggatarian, eggs, can help you provide required protein. For this reason I try to take some dal everyday. And it is again for the same reason that I tried bean rice. I came across different recipes and tried few but was not pleased with any of them. I finally managed to figure out what I was looking for and came up with this recipe so that the otherwise bland beans could get great flavours, taste and aroma. Here is my simple recipe...

1 cup rice

1 bay leaf and cinnamon stick

1 red onion

1 garlic

3 cloves

2 cardamom pods

2-3 cups cooked beans (I used Channa aka chickpea, Pinto beans, Red kidney beans, Broad beans)

2-3 potatoes boiled and cubed

1 cup tomato puree (I just used my hand mixie to puree fresh tomatoes)

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

3-4 dry red chillies (increase or decrease as per taste)

2 teaspoons coconut powder or grated coconut

Salt to taste

Cooking oil and some ghee

In a skillet or wok, add little over 1teaspoon of ghee (can be replaced with oil). Add the whole spices (cardamom, cloves, bay leaf, cinnamon). While the spices heat up, rinse the rice and drain the water. Add the rice to the spices and fry the rice until all moisture is absorbed. Usually the rice turns bright white at this stage. Be careful not to break the grains, try using wooden spatula.

Cook this rice the way you prefer. I pressure cooked with equal amount of water. Allow the rice to cool later as this will help the grains separate.

In the meantime, grind the garlic, red chillies and coconut powder and make a paste out of it.

In the wok, add a tablespoon oil and add thinly sliced onions and fry.

Add the tomato puree and turmeric powder. Cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the cooked beans (I used frozen broad beans to introduce something green. I boiled it in water for 5 minutes or so. For other beans, follow usual method of soaking for 8-12 hours and cooking)

Add the ground paste,potatoes and simmer.Season with salt.

Cook until it thickens to ensure it does not make the rice watery when mixed.

Add rice and mix well, again be careful not to break the grains.

Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve.

As I always say, when using beans that need to be soaked, rinse few times thoroughly before soaking. Also do not cook the beans in same water it soaked in. I added potatoes just to make the dish more attractive as I know potatoes are so loved. As we are having the rice cook with the whole spices, the flavours and aroma comes out great. You may notice that I have used one whole garlic so it is garlicky! Feel free to reduce the quantity if you wish.

Friday, 18 June 2010

Sun Dried Tomato Pickle

Sun Dried Tomato Pickle

Pickle is almost mandatory in every household in Tamilnadu and am guessing in North India as well. I am such a lover of hot food and needless to say really enjoy pickles. I normally dislike curd rice unlike most tamil Brahmins, but if there is a good pickle, I will just gobble it happily. As I have said in my profile, my ancestral origin is from Kumbakonam in southern India and people from there are very meticulous when it comes to cooking. My paternal grandmother was an excellent cook and nothing can ever beat her pickles. She would make avakkai (mango) pickle with channa dal in it. I really wish I could have written down her recipes. She is my benchmark when it comes to pickles!

Coming to tomato pickle, I have my own standard recipe that I follow and will post it soon. I just wanted to do something different. I remember a neighbour of my grandparents made a tomato pickle and I gathered only part of the recipe (I was probably 12-13 years old then). I knew she used tamarind and she had sun dried the tomatoes. If you know about British summer, you may appreciate my difficulty getting even clothes dried in the sun leave alone tomato. Even if I attempt, there is every chance that it will unexpectedly rain and I will bin everything. So decided to keep things simple. Bought a packet of sub dried tomatoes, which I thought were pricey. And here is what I did with it...

½ packet sun dried tomatoes

¼ tablespoon tamarind paste

1 teaspoon fenugreek powder (if you do not like its flavour skip or reduce quantity)

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

½ teaspoon chilly powder (adjust according to your taste)

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

¼-1/2 teaspoon asafoetida

Salt to taste

Cooking oil (preferably groundnut oil)

Tear up some sun dried tomatoes using your kitchen scissors. Try not to make them too small. Add the tamarind paste to water (about a cup) and soak these tomatoes in it for 30-60 minutes.

In a wok or skillet or any heavy bottomed vessel, add a tablespoon of oil. Once it heats, add the mustard seeds. After it splutters, add the fenugreek powder, asafoetida and turmeric powder. Cook for a minute taking care they do not burn.

Add the soaked tomatoes along with half the quantity of water. Simmer. Keep adding the left over tamarind water so you can avoid adding too much oil.

Allow it to reduce well. Add chilly powder. Add salt as well but be careful not to add too much as the sundried tomatoes themselves are coated with salt. If you are making a big batch or will keep the pickle for long, then you may have to put slightly more salt.

Simmer well, the longer it simmers, the better the flavours. Add a teaspoon of oil just before you take it off the flames.

Pickle is ready! Enjoy with rice or any bread.

Crispy Channa Dal Fry

Crispy Channa Dal Fry

In my school days I used to love having a cup of coffee but as a child I was not really allowed to do so. I would usually get up in the morning and be nice to my dad and get permission for one cup and bingo, I would be sipping it happily. I should also mention I was choosy about where the coffee powder was bought as there was one particular store that I would insist the powder is bought. It would taste so much like authentic Kumbakonam degree coffee. The shop would also sell a whole load of snacks like finger chips, finger rings etc. One such was the fried channa dal. Not that it was not available elsewhere but it was very tempting to pick it when you were in the shop anyway. My dad would buy it for me and I kept munching. It used to be so good that I would always save some for later but there will be nothing when I return. They used to taste particularly yummy on rainy days on also when I am studying for my exams! Anyway, sitting in North of Scotland I cannot quite expect anything like that and it is upto myself to replicate all good taste. Increased health awareness meant I cannot quite afford deep frying. Thats why I tried this lovely snack on the microwave and here is how I did it...

¾ cup channa dal (not cast in stone, feel free to go 1 cup or slightly more)

½ teaspoon chilly powder

Asafoetida (optional)


1 teaspoon cooking oil

Rinse and soak the dal in water for about 6-8 hours. Spread a white tea towel and spread the dal on it so it can air dry. The weather was not favourable for me so it took almost one night to dry.

In a microwave safe dish (preferably shallow one with lot of surface area), add the dal and oil and mix.

Microwave high for about 10 minutes. Keep stirring every two mixes otherwise the dal will be unevenly cooked. There is a good chance it will be ready in 8 minutes depending on your microwave, so be more watchful after the 6 minutes mark.

Add required salt, asafoetida and chilly powder and enjoy !!

Some people add fried garlic and/or curry leaves. I was happy munching it just like that!

Saturday, 12 June 2010

Vegetable Stew

Vegetable Stew

Vegetable stew is a great dish for many reasons. It can have a variety of veggies thereby providing a lot of the daily nutrition needed. It is a great combination with not just rice but also chapatti, dosa, adai. Most importantly, this recipe is so easy and quick to make.

The first time I wanted to make vegetable stew was using coconut milk. I was pregnant then and hence did not want to use the coconut milk powder (was trying to avoid overly processed food) and sent my husband on a mission to get coconut milk. Unfortunately almost all brands had some additive or the other and hence he didn’t buy any. I then had to adapt the recipe using coconut cream. Much later than that I found how I could make yummy stew without the coconut milk and here is how it is...

2-3 cups of mixed vegetables like carrot, beans, peas, potatoes, cauliflower

2-3 tablespoons coconut powder (or use a packet of coconut cream)

2 green chillies

1 teapsoon mustard seed

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

1 red onion sliced

Asafoetida (optional)

1 sprig curry leaves (optional)

1 teaspoon each Coriander and Cumin powder (optional)

1 inch ginger piece grated

In a wok or skillet add oil and once hot, add mustard seeds. After it crackles, add green chillies, turmeric powder, onions, asafoetida, curry leaves.

Boil the vegetables separately. Add them to the onions and add about half cup water.

Add coriander and cumin powder if desired.

Add the coconut powder. Also, to achieve a nice consistency, mash few potato pieces so the water thickens.

Allow to boil for 5 minutes or so. Season with salt and serve.

If you find the stew a little thick, add some hot water to it.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Dahi Bhindi/Yogurty Okra

There are very few vegetables I remember liking from my toddlerhood to now without change in preference. Undoubtedly Ladies finger aka okra (and also ladies finger) is one of them. I have always loved this vegetable. Usually my mother will make sambar or poriyal out of this. Some of my north Indian friends in school use to bring a dish made with okra as side dish for chapatti and since then I started liking that combination as well. Luckily my husband loves okra as well but he does not appreciate dry side dish for chapatti and prefers gravy. And that was why I had to try this recipe. I looked at a recipe for this in Tarla Dalal’s website and read it half asleep. I did not make a note of this in my notebook and hence it was not very handy. Few days later, I could not be bothered picking up the computer and browsing again so decided to try it from memory and my own creativity. Here is how I made this delicious dish

2 packets okra (175g each) cut into inch long pieces

1 big red onion thinly sliced

3 firm tomatoes cut into bite size chunks

3 green chillies slit

1 inch long ginger cut into long strips

1 cup yogurt

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon chilly powder

1 teaspoon garam masala powder

1 teaspoon jeera powder (cumin powder)

1 teaspoon dhania powder (coriander powder)

¼ teaspoon turmeric powder

Salt to taste

2-3 teaspoons oil

In a deep bottomed dish add about a teaspoon of oil. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and wait till they start turning dark.

Add the onion, green chillies, ginger and turmeric powder

Once the onions are cooked, add the ladies finger and tomatoes.

Once the okra is almost cooked, add the spice powders and cook further. Add salt and stir.

Once you get a nice aroma, add yogurt slowly and keep stirring. Cook for couple of minutes.Adjust quantity of yogurt based on desired consistency.

Serve hot with rice or chapatti.