Friday, May 29, 2009

Fish (Cod) Bhajjis -Batter Fried Fish

I like to be on time wherever I go but I seem to be falling regularly into the 2 minute late trap. For most occasions 2 minutes late should not be a big deal but in the morning rush the 2 minutes begins to take a life of its own. If DD is 2 minutes late for her bus I have to drive her to a bus stop that is about 5 minutes away or chase the bus to the next one a bit further away and in the end might as well drive her to school. So far we have not missed the bus but for once, thanks to another extremely nice parent who makes sure the bus waits if she sees our car driving towards the stop.

If DD2 is minutes late past the car pool time, I have to get out and park the car and walk her to the class room and give the teacher a slightly embarrassed smile instead of sitting comfortably in the car and driving away the minute DD2 jumps out of the car into the care of a school employee. These minor conveniences do make life simple. Getting out of the car involves being dressed properly(?) and lose the anonymity of sitting cozily in the car.

Late for classes, to soccer practise, to the tutoring session makes me feel truly shoddy. All I can say in my defense is its not all my fault, some or part of the fault falls on the other members of the family including the minors.

Mother's Day Gift!

So no I am on a trial period to get to wherever I want to go on time. Usually a 5 minute head start gives ample time to be on time. Just need to make a habit of it.

Do you get tripped by being a few minutes late for appointments?

Remember Delhi auntie? She was back for a visit. The tiredness of walking around in the National Zoo could not stop me from trying out the yummy fish bajjis the recipe for which came from my brother's friend Dr.Arun. I have been sitting on this recipe for almost a month and could not waste the long weekend by not giving this a try. Though bajjis are quite common using vegetables, a fish bajji is a novel idea. I successfully thwarted Delhi auntie's repeated requests for cooking Poori Aloo however tempting that sounded. Everybody totally enjoyed these bhajjis.

The recipe called for Tilapia which would have been perfect for the bhajjis but I only had frozen Cod. The fillets were about an inch thick whereas Tilapia is less thicker about 1/2 an inch. Any light thinly sliced fish would work just as well.


I was busy frying up the fish so the setting, photography and arrangement are all courtesy of the family (DH,DD,DD2)


Serves: 6
Fish Bajji - Batter Fried Fish

1. 7 Cod fillets (frozens) cut into 2 x 1 inch pieces (wash and dry and set it aside)
2. Canola Oil for deep frying (2 cups)

For the batter:
1. 3/4 cup of besan flour
2. 1 tbsp chili powder (or to taste)
3. 2 eggs (recipe called for egg whites, I added the whole egg)
4. a pinch of asfoetida
5. a pinch of baking soda
6. 1 tsp turmeric powder
7. 4 cloves garlic crushed and chopped
8. 1 cup of water

Whisk all the ingredients (1-7) together except egg. Add the water and make a thick batter (consistency should be that of pancake batter so that it sticks to the fish and does not run). Add the eggs and whisk into the mixture.

1. In a frying pan, heat the oil.
2. Dip the fish piece in the batter and drop it gently in the oil. Let it fry on one side, flip and fry on the other side. Remove when the outside turns golden brown. Drain on a paper towel.

Serve and enjoy with chili garlic sauce.

Made some onion pakoras with the left over batter. Slice the onions thin lengthwise. Mix in with the batter and drop them gently into the oil scattered. Remove when they turn golden brown.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Brinjal and Potatoes in a peanut sauce - inspired by Rhengan Reveya

Notice: "Children who are not water safe should be supervised by an adult and be within arms reach at all times."

The above text is posted in our county swimming pool which I happened to notice just today in spite of visiting the pool for the past 4 years(or may be I want to make a big deal of it just today for purposes of the blog ;). Asked DD to read it and tell me what it means. She read "water safe" and had this expression on her face which can be best explained by the phrase "huh". This text clearly symbolizes exactly what is wrong with stuff in USA. I bet a lawyer helped come up with that. Short of asking the county employees who work there I don't know what the phrase means exactly and I will be hard pressed to find a county employee who knows exactly what it means leave alone another patron. My understanding of "water safe" is children who do not know how to swim. But what is wrong with saying "children who do not swim" and I am raking my brains to figure out which group of people that phrase might offend. Please be kind enough to put me out of this misery I will be very grateful.

This clearly exemplifies our political correctness run amok. Totally understand the usage of "physically challenged" for a person with disabilities, but some of the others are just over the top. I particularly like the word "ethically challenged" which in plain speak would be 'a corrupt politician'. Even though we are talking about a corrupt politician we can't hurt his feelings can we? Are they any "challenged" phrases that gets your hide, please do share it, I love getting worked up!

I saw the same recipe featured in 2 beautiful blogs here and here could not wait to try it. Did not have the small purple brinjals, all I had was 2 medium sized white brinjals and big white potates. Didn't hurt the dish tasted just as tasty. The white brinjal had a sweet soft flesh and went well with the potatoes.


Cubed brinjals and potatoes in a peanut sauce

1. 4 Medium sized Potatoes peeled and cubed (3 cups)
2. 2 long medium sized white brinjals cubed (1 1/2 cups)
3. seasonings: cumin, curry leaves,asfoetida
4. 2 tsp amchur powder
5. 1 tsp turmeric powder
6. 1/2 tbsp grated ginger
7. 2 tsp oil
8. salt to taste

For the spice blend
1. 1/4 cup roasted peanuts
2. 3/4 tbsp coriander seeds
3. 2 tsp cumin seeds
4. 5 red chilies

Roast 2-4 and along with the peanuts blend to a powder

1. In a pan heat oil and add the seasonings
2. Add the cubed brinjals, saute for a few minutes and then add the cubed potatoes
3. Add the grated ginger and turmeric and mix well
4. Add the spice blend and 1 1/2 cups of water, amchur powder, salt, place the lid on the pan and let them cook till the potatoes are completely cooked.

Serve with rice or chapatis.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Raw Peanuts and Mango Curry

I heard this interview with the author of the book "Fingerprints of God" on the Diane Rehm show on the local NPR affiliate WAMU. It got me thinking about God in my life. I will confess I am not even remotely religious but we try to visit the temple at least once a month. I feel a sense of calm and burst of energy after every visit. I am not sure if seeing the deities and following the poojai brings on the calm or the socializing that does it. It just might be a combination of all of the above. In the same breath I am also wary of people who are overtly religious, their zeal scares the God out of me. It bothers me that more wars have been fought and continue to be fought in the name of religion and God than almost anything else. Visiting the temple or even saying a small prayer gives a peace of mind like nothing else can.

What got me into this line of thought is during the interview her statement "people who believe in God are healthier/happier than those who do not". This might very well be true but I strongly believe living a healthy life is also part of keeping God in you by which I mean eating right, exercising regularly and doing physical activity that stimulates both the mind and body. Enjoyed physical activity, cooking, gardening or even spending time with the kids brings happiness and also keeps one healthy. How can I forget the water, especially rivers, have the calming effect that I can never completely describe. Spending time cleaning up the pond gave me immense satisfaction and it continues to please whenever I think about it. May be therin lies what I need to do in the future. I know people spend a lifetime in the quest for happiness but everybody has certain activities they do to bring on a collective calm in their day to day life. For me the activities that bring on the calm are mostly physical than spiritual like swimming, taking a walk in the early morning cool hours or cooking leisurely. What brings on the Zen for you? Is it praying or other every day activities?

Recently I have started stocking up on raw peanuts regularly so much that I forget I have one sitting in the pantry and go and buy another. But no worries, they get used up pretty easily usually in the form of a sundal like this one on Akshayapaatram minus the turmeric powder. I also added chopped green mangoes and it is definitely a very tasty snack. But this time I wanted to use the peanuts and the mango and make a curry out of it. It turned out to be good. Peanuts and green mango, can anything go wrong really?


Raw Peanuts and Mango Curry
1. 1 1/2 Cups Raw Peanuts soaked overnight
2. 1 Raw Mango Chopped into bit sized pieces
3. 1/2 tbsp sambhar powder (substitute with coriander,cumin and chili powder)
4. 3/4 tbsp tomato paste (or pureed 2 medium sized tomatoes, reduce the amount of water if using puree)
5. 1/2 onion chopped
6. 2 garlic cloves (optional, I forgot to add them)
7. 1/2 inch ginger grated
8. salt to taste
9. 1 tsp oil
10. seasonings: mustard,cumin, curry leaves

1. Pressure cook the peanuts, drain the water and set aside.
2. Now in a pan heat the oil and add the seasonings
3. add the onions and saute till translucent, add the garlic and grated ginger
4. add the mango pieces and saute for a few minutes.
5. Add the tomato paste and a 1/2 cup of water and let them cook for about 5 minutes.
6. Add the drained peanuts and 1/4 cup more water if required and let it cook till the mango becomes soft.

Tastes great with rice. We also had them with chapatis.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Broadbeans Stir fry (Avarakkai Poriyal)

Green Earth - Composting:
I had been completely awed by composting till we actually started doing it. Last year our county had a recycle fair where they gave out free composters. Nothing fancy about a 4 X 3 feet of rectangular plastic with circular holes running along the sides which can be rolled into a cylinder and sunk into the ground. Mix a bit of dirt and start adding compostable material and you are good to go. DH has the responsibility of turning it around occasionally to speed up the decomposition and the rains have helped keep it moist.

Ever since we started composting the amount of trash we carry to the curb has reduced and the nasty smell in the garage from all the decaying organic matter has also completely disappeared. The kitchen trash liner (usually a grocery bag) does not have to be replaced that often now that organic stuff that decay and smell don't land there. Going from what happened in our household removing the organic matter from household trash (kitchen waste, yard waste) will drastically reduce the amount of trash that has to be taken to a landfill. Dairy products, oil, meat or fish are all stuff that should be kept out of the compost bin.

When you are in need of compost for you home garden you have it right there.

Composting is not for everybody but if you have a yard and a 5x5 feet area that can be set aside you can try your had at composting too.

Want to know more about composting? Click Here.

Picture of the Compost Bin? Click Here.

Visit to determine how safe, healthy and green are the products that you buy and use daily. I checked the scores for some of the everyday products that we use in our house and realized there are comparitively priced better alternatives available. If you want to know the scores on some of my everyday products they were dismal.

Do you compost?

Everybody knows a stir fry or poriyal as it called in my parts you say. Bear with me while I expalin my grandma's method of cooking which I have finally come to realize is the best method for a stir fry. How the vegetable is cooked determines if it looks bright and tastes crunchy or looks limp with no crunch. I usually season the oil, saute the onions and then add the cut vegetables to the pan, sprinkle some water and let it cook. And then amma showed me how here amma used to make stir fries. It is much faster and tastes and feels a lot better. Ammayee cooks the vegetables first before adding seasonings and that is the trick to a tasty stir fry. This is for vegetables like green beans, any type of beans, snake gourd, carrots, beets, peas - all that require a bit of cooking time. Whereas for vegetables like brinjal, squash or okra to which we normally do not add water for cooking this is not the recommended method.


Broad Beans Stir Fry (Avarakkai Poriyal)
1. Broad Beans string removed and cut
2. 1/2 Medium Red onion chopped
3. 1 tsp turmeric powder
4. 1/2 tbsp sambhar powder (or 3 red chilies split in 2)
5. seasonings: curry leaves, 2 tsp urad dal, mustard seeds, cumin
6. 1 tbsp freshly grated coconut (I used frozen and thawed coconut)
7. salt to taste
8. 1 tsp oil

1. In a sauce pan or kadai add the cut beans, turmeric and a tsp of the sambhar powder and 3 tsp of water, cover with the lid and cook on medium low heat for 5-6 minutes. Do not overcook. Set aside
2. Add the oil to the kadai and when hot add the seasonings and red chili if using
3. Add the cooked beans, salt and the rest of the sambhar powder (if using)
4. Let cook for a minute or two, add the coconut and switch of the heat.

Ready to serve.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Chicken in Poppy Seed Gravy

There are several structures in the English language that just does not make sense. It is indeed "a strange language" like the teacher who trained us to be tutors liked to say. Its idiosyncrasies are not very obvious for people who have been speaking and writing with the language for a long time. But for someone newly learning the language it is indeed very complicated and lot of times plain frustrating. For example consider the usage of the verb 'has' or 'have' which is determined by the subject.

1. I have a book.
2. She has a book.
3. He has a book.
4. We have a book.
5. They have a book.

Condone/Condole a pair of words which make me stop and think for a second before I realize which one is being used. The intricacies of the English language is nothing new but I am just starting to fully understand how strange the language really is, now that I am teaching the language to someone whose language I don't speak.

If we consider recipe speak 'few' and 'little' are two words that are very commonly used. Using 'a few' or 'a little' carries a different meaning compared to 'few' or 'little'.

Consider the following two sentences,
The sauce tastes even better with the addition of a few chilies.
The sauce tastes even better with the addition of few chilies.

The first sentence means adding a few (may be 1 or 2)chilies gives the sauce a better taste whereas the second suggests not to add any chilies to give the sauce a better taste. Usually reading through the complete recipe would give a good idea of what the cook/writer is suggesting but just going with that sentence you'd be doing the wrong thing. An English teacher of mine in middle school talked about it one day in class otherwise I'd be none the wiser. Wanted to bring this up as further proof of the strangeness of the English language.


As for the chicken curry nothing strange about it just delicious that's all. I had intended the dish to last for lunch and dinner but it got polished off by lunch. I'd like to think it shows how delicious it was. We had gone to dinner at a friend's and she made a very very tasty chicken biryani. This curry is made based on her recipe. The poppy seed gives it a creamy texture. I used a combination of chicken drumettes(chicken wings cut like drumstick) and thighs with bones. Once the curry is completed in the cooker the fat from the skin can be be skimmed of. I used canned tomatoes which gave it a nice reddish color. The orange color of most restaurant gravies turns me off but I strive for the deep red color and the canned tomatoes make it possible.


Serves: 5-6
1. 2 lbs Chicken thighs with bones cut into bites sized pieces
2. 8 drumettes
3. 1 Medium size red onion chopped fine
4. 1/4 Cup canned chopped tomatoes with juice (no salt added) minced
5. handful mint leaves
6. 1 tbsp chili powder _ 1/2 tbsp chicken masala or coriander powder
7. 2 tsp pepper powder
8. seasonings: 3-4 cloves, a small stick of cinnamon, 1tsp fennel seeds (any other whole spice you prefer), curry leaves
9. 1-2 tsp canola oil
10. salt to taste
11. coriander leaves for garnish

For the paste
1. 3/4 tbsp poppy seeds soaked in water for 30 minutes
2. 6-8 garlic cloves
3. 1 tbsp of ginger
4. 3-4 red chilies (I used kashmiri chilies for the bright color)
blend the above to a smooth paste

1. In a pressure add oil and when hot add the seasonings, let them try slightly brown
2. Add the onions and saute till they are translucent
3. Add the ground masala paste and fry till the smell of raw garlic is gone.
4. Add the mint leaves and saute
5. Now add the chicken and saute for about 5-8 minutes
6. Add the minced tomatoes and mix well
7. Add the chili and pepper powders
8. Add salt, close the lid and pressure cook for 1 whistle. (If not using pressure cooker close the lid and cook for about 10-12 minutes till the chicken is completely cooked.

Serve with chapatis or over rice.

This chicken dish goes to Viki's kitchen for her 'The Potluck - Chicken' event.

Monday, May 11, 2009

A "Green" Pizza

Hope all the mothers out there had a great Mother's Day. We are not much into the Hallmark holidays and other than the hand drawn/made gifts that DDs bring from school there is usually no gift giving. DH is of the belief that the bank account is joint so it is easy to buy ourselves the things we need rather than an elaborate gift exchange. This eases the pressure on me and I have bought into this cool idea big time. Very romantic household don't you think?


Things changed a little bit this Mother's Day. There was a lot of activity and secrecy Saturday evening and on Sunday the little darlings gave me the wrapped gift. Beautiful platters and bowl for my blog. There will be on display in this space very soon. I have been asked several times already if I am cooking something that can be plated on the new crockery. Now I am under pressure to come through for Father's Day hmmm.


During the day we went of on a picnic with a large group of friends. while we (the adults) were busy socializing and playing volleyball DD2 spend the whole day under the sun playing in the sand building castles and making mud cakes thoroughly enjoying herself. She did not drink water and I was too busy to remind her and the result, when we came home DD2 was burning up with fever. She started sleeping right after we came home and woke up around midnight and I lay awake unable to fall sleep thinking of the three letter word that has so scared us the past few weeks - FLU. The temperature is down this morning and fortunately I have eliminated the most obvious symptoms. The mommy police must be tsk tsking about not being on my toes as a parent all the time and thus ended our Mother's Day.

The gift sure sealed the deal that the family would continue to see dishes like this "Green Pizza" on the table. On the weekends while breakfast and lunches are easy the dinner is usually not an easy affair. This is perfect for a relaxed Saturday dinner.

The name attribution goes to Vani of Mysoorean from her comment on the Tibetan Flatbread and it suited the Pizza perfectly. As I had mentioned in the post this bread made a perfect pizza base. I doubled the recipe to make a slightly thicker crust.


Thick Crust Pepper and Mushroom Pizza
For the base: Based on the Tibetan Flat Bread
1. 2 Cups Whole Wheat flour (I used chapati flour)
2. 1 Cup All Purpose Flour
3. 2 tsp baking powder
4. 1 tsp salt
5. 2 tbsp olive oil
6. 2 1/2 Cups + 3 tbsp Water (I should have used slightly more water for the dough)

For the topping:
1. 1 Orange Bell Pepper
2. 1 Large Banana Pepper
3. 1 pack Baby Bella Mushrooms
4. Shredded Mozzarella cheese
5. 1 tsp chili powder + salt

Slice the veggies and set aside.

For the sauce:
1. 4 Roma tomatoes chopped fine
2. 2 tsp chili powder

1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt with water to form a gooey dough. I should have added a bit more water because of the WW flour.
2. To a 12" slightly deep cold saute pan add the olive oil and then the dough and spread it around. Dip a rubber spatula in the oil and use it pat the dough around (my dough was slightly less gooey because of less water another 1/4 cup should have been enough)
3. Add the 2 tbsp of water around the dough to create steam. Cover the pan.
4. In medium high heat cook for 10 minutes.
5. Flip the bread over and cook for 5 more minutes.

6. While cooking the bread, in a pan saute the pepper first followed by the mushrooms. Sprinkle with the chili powder and salt and set aside.

7. Along side in a pan cook the tomatoes with some chili powder and salt to the desired consistency.

8. The bread should be done at this point, add the sauce, the veggies and the cheese. Put the lid back on, reduce the heat to below medium till the cheese melts.
Let it sit for a few minutes, cut and serve.

The kids showered praises like "this is the best pizza I ever tasted". The crust on this one was thick and solid. Adjust the crust thickness as per taste

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Tibetan Flatbread on the Stove Top

Donations and Gifts
Who doesn't love getting parcels in the mail. Members of my household certainly do. The kids rush to check out who has sent a gift. The reactions on receiving these parcels from friends or family range from happiness to bliss.


There are other parcels which causes the exact opposite reaction. I have a serious problem with parcels that come pretty regularly carrying within them beautiful printed labels with cute pictures but names misspelled and the Mr called Mrs and the Mrs called a Mr and all we can do is toss them in the trash. These are usually solicitations for a charity making me feel guilty for having tossed somebody's donation into the trash. One of the foremost children's cancer research hospital does something similar. Every donation made automatically triggers a gift to be sent like lapel pin or a necktie with name of the charity printed on it. Most often these useless objects either collect dust or land in the trash. It must not be that hard to add a checkbox to indicate if a gift would be preferred or not, would it? I'd rather have the money going for the cause I am donating than a useless gift. There are other non profits like my local radio station WAMU which makes it easy to forego the gift.


Jacques Pépin might easily be one of my favorite chefs on TV his shows are crisp and to the point. The episode from 'More Fast Food My Way' was on a couple of weeks ago and it had this Tibetan flat bread that can be cooked on the stovetop. Yes on the stovetop. Catch the episode here. The Recipe Seemed so easy but it took a couple of weeks to give it a try and what a day it was. We went for an early morning swim and since it should take less than 20 minutes decided to cook it after getting back. Boy! was that a mistake or what and we ended up close to scratching and setting each other's nerves on edge. But it did not take all that long and the minute the bread came out of the pan, there was a silence. The bread was delicious and the best part is it cook less than 20 minutes and no powering up the oven.


Recipe Source: More Fast Food My Way by Jacques Pépin

Tibetan Flatbread
1. 1 Cup Whole Wheat flour (I used chapati flour)
2. 1/2 Cup All Purpose Flour
3. 1 tsp baking powder
4. 1/4 tsp salt
5. 1 tbsp olive oil
6. 1 Cup + 2 tbsp Water (I should have used slightly more water for the dough)

1. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt with water to form a gooey dough. I should have added a bit more water because of the WW flour.
2. To a 12" cold saute pan add the olive oil and then the dough and spread it around. Dip a rubber spatula in the oil and use it pat the dough around (my dough was slightly less gooey because of less water another 1/4 cup should have been enough)
3. Add the 2 tbsp of water around the dough to create steam. Cover the pan.
4. In medium high heat cook for 10 minutes.
5. Flip the bread over and cook for 5 more minutes.
6. Let it cool in the skillet, cut and serve.

We had ours with butter and some jelly. It is perfect for a quick breakfast, as a base for pizza perhaps. The choices are endless and best of all no oven to heat.