Monday, February 28, 2011

Spiced Yogurt (Buttermilk)

As a blogger you get gratification when the family starts to feel bad that the blog addict was not able to post regularly because of work. They took care of themselves for the last couple of weekends and even managed to cook some very tasty recipes.

The difference between mine and DH's attitude in the kitchen regarding the kids is that he lets them do everything and they in turn take great pride in coming up with ideas and trying out recipes they can make on their own.

This recipe was executed, plated and and pictures taken by DD2. A very refreshing drink after a heavy meal. We had them after a dinner of chicken balls and pasta.

Spiced buttermilk
1. 2 Cups of curd or yogurt (bring to room temperature if chilled)
2. 1/2 tbsp of crushed chopped ginger (peeled or not)
3. 1 tsp of cumin powder
4. 2 tsp of cayenne pepper powder
5. 2 sprigs of curry leaves crushed to release their oils
6. salt to taste
7. 2 Cups of water(depends on how thin you want the buttermilk to be)

1. Pour in the water into the yogurt and whisk it till it is nice and smooth
2. Add in the cumin, pepper and salt and mix it in and whisk a couple of time
3. Add the ginger and the crushed curry leaves

Enjoy as a refreshing light drink.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Andhra style Pepper Chicken curry

My little brother has gone astray. We grew up in the same house breathing the same air, eating the same food, surrounded by the same things and disciplined the same way. One went astray and I am despondent.

OK enough of the melodrama. What exactly did he do? The Horrors! He is skeptical that Global Warming is the reason for Climate Change. The first time I heard him say it I was a bit taken aback. My baby brother? Really? Anyway it easy for me to listen to his reasoning than a conservative talking head on TV at whom I want to fling a really blunt heavy object.

Though I am willing to listen to his reasoning a bit (a tiny little bit) I am still not convinced that carbon emissions and other pollution by way of industrialization are somehow not responsible if not directly but indirectly. As people move farther and farther away from the sources of food and what sustains life they are unaware of how global warming is affecting them directly.

People of the industrialized western world and increasingly now the developing world are moving away from their roots and literally feeling and touching the earth. Even 20-30 years ago most children had some connection to a farm and in a way knew intimately how the vagaries of climate affected livelihood. Today a farmer is a distant figure toiling away in obscurity fighting not only with increasingly severe weather but also with giant food companies ready to do anything to see a profit and enslave the global food system to their modified seeds and scientific methods of modifying living things.

Large coastal areas are going under the sea while vast areas of Africa is reeling under severe drought. So when I saw this article in NY Times - Zambia BurningI forwarded the article to him . And here is what he had to say about it.

"This article illustrates precisely how the global warming fear mongering has reached ridiculous proportions. I am actually pleasantly surprised that so many readers of the titan of mainstream liberal media - NY Times, have actually pointed this out.

Fertile forests and grasslands turning into desert has happened throughout history. Thar desert in Rajasthan was apparently once green with streams and rivers. Even Sahara desert and Egypt were once covered with forests. Was industrialization and global warming responsible for this 2000 years ago?

And then to top it off, the favorite liberal pastime - blame the West and blame America for everything that happens in every corner of the world. First of all, cycles of severe drought and rain are a constant feature in sub-Saharan Africa - the main reason why no major civilization ever thrived there. In recent times, Zambians like people of most poor countries are clearing away forests to create agricultural land and for mining, and this further leads to failure of rain and drought. Not to mention the corruption of African governments that do not care at all about their people and resources.

Of course, why hold them responsible for their own land, blame the West and blame America. Let us see what this "honeymooning" couple will give up to reduce the so called global warming!"

I can't completely disagree with his reasoning either. I am slowly learning to look at issues impartially without being taken over by emotion.

The next in the lunch room recipe series comes this tasty and absolutely delicious pepper chicken. After tasting this in the lunch room had to try it out.

Andhra style Pepper Chicken Curry
1. 2 lbs of chicken thighs cut into bite sized pieces
2. 1 1/2 cups of finely chopped red onions or shallots
3. 6 garlic cloves
4 2 inch piece of ginger
5. 1 tbsp coriander seeds
6. 1 tbsp pepper corn
7. 1 tsp cumin seeds
8. 2 tbsp coconut
9. 1/2 cup tomatoes
10. 1 tbsp chicken masala powder or (1/2 inch piece of cinnamon, 3 cloves, 2 red chilies all roasted and powdered)
11. 1/2 tbsp lemon juice (optional)
12. 1-2 tsp chili powder
13. 2-3 tsp turmeric powder
11. salt to taste
12. 2-3 tsp of oil
13. seasonings: curry leaves and cumin seeds /fennel seedes
1. Wash and pat dry the chicken and marinate it with the turmeric powder, chili powder and lemon juice for about an hour
2. In a small saute pan add a few drops of oil, saute the garlic and ginger, add in the tomatoes and let it get soft. Add the coconut and saute for a minute more. Cool and blend to a paste with very little water
3. Dry roast the coriander seeds, pepper corn and cumin and make a powder
4. Heat a heavy bottomed pan heat the oil and in high heat saute the chicken till they turn brown for about 8-10 minutes. Most of the water would have evaporated at this point. Set aside
5. In the same pan add a bit more oil if required, add the cumin/fennel seeds and curry leaves
6. Add in the onions and saute till they turn brown
7. Add in the sauteed chicken and the powdered coriander/pepper powder, chicken masala powder and give a good mix
8. Add the blended paste, salt and 1 1/2 cups of water and let them cook together after the mixture comes to a boil for 8-10 minutes. Turn off heat

Serve with rice or any type of bread.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Thattapayar Rasam (Black Eyed Peas Rasam)

The school DD was in her in her early elementary years had something called 'DEAR' time everyday. Acronym for Drop Everything and Read. It was done to encourage kids to read and they could pick any book that was in the classroom collection.

Just like the DEAR time at her old school, at home we have fallen into a pattern of following 'DEAJ' time. Drop Everything AND watch Jeopardy. It is one program all of us seem to agree on from the youngest to the oldest.

If you are Jeopardy fan you might already know this. It is a very interesting week on Jeopardy starring IBM's computer called Watson competing against two jeopardy champions. Yesterday the program started with Alex Trebek giving a tour of Watson's computer systems and interviews with engineers who worked on the algorithms that help Watson wade through all that information it stores to figure out the correct answer. I am rooting for the humans though!

Any other Jeopardy fans out there?

I have 2 recipes that I turn to for using Black Eyed Peas.
1. Arisim Paruppu Saatham (Rice and split cow peas lentils)
2. Thattapayar Kathirikkai Kuzhambu (Whole Black Eyed Peas with Brinjal)
I was immediately interested when my friend from Andhra mentioned the black eyed peas rasam that she cooks. Didn't I tell you my work lunch room is a treasure trove of recipe ideas?

Making rasam with black eyed peas sounded great especially on a weekday evening with an empty refrigerator. Essentially any rasam recipe will work for this.

Thattapayar Rasam
1. 1 cup split black eyed peas (or whole)
2. 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
3. 1 cup tamarind pulp from a small lime sized tamarind
4. 2 tbsp chopped shallots or onions
5. 2-3 garlic cloves crushed
6. 4 red chilies split
7. 1/2 tbsp pepper corn + 1 tsp cumin + 1 tsp coriander seeds crushed or powdered or 1 tbsp rasam powder
8. 1 tsp red chili powder (optional)
8. seasonings: curry leaves, mustard seeds
9. salt to taste
10. 1 tsp oil or ghee

1. Pressure cook the peas with twice the amount of water and tomatoes till they are soft (i just mashed them with the back of a spoon) and blend till smooth
2. In a pan heat the ghee and add the seasonings, red chilies and when it turns slightly black add the onions and garlic and saute for a couple of minutes
3. Add the tamarind pulp and let it come to a boil
4. Add in the pepper+cumin+coriander powder and the blended lentil paste
5. Add salt and if required red chili powder and let the mixture come to a boil and turn off the heat

Serve with rice. Tastes great as a soup as well.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Rhubarb and Apple Quick Bread

I pride myself on being a careful shopper especially grocery shopping. It is required to have a clear and alert mind when buying vegetables, fruits,meat, fish and diary products. On the other hand,

I kind of take it easy while buying beans and picking up an attractive pack of beans wherever because I have not had any bad experiences with them. All that is in the past now. Having to be hyper alert while grocery shopping is downright depressing. The alternative is what follows in the story below.

A while ago I switched to buying organic chickpeas when the chickpeas I was buying in the supermarkets and Indian grocery stores looked like they were on steroids. When cooked they easily reached 1 inch which was downright scary. But besides that there were ok.

There are a numerous international super markets springing up where we live. While the exotic fruits, vegetables, spices and hard to find ingredients are enticing and gets me all excited and leads to me to do purchases that I normally would not. All of these stores also have good sized Indian grocery section and carry most groceries sometimes at much more reasonable prices. Who does not like reasonable prices? It was one of those times when I picked up a bag of red kidney beans.

Fast forward to a couple of week's ago. I soak the beans in the morning and in the evening I come home and get down to business of cooking. I had soaked some extra quantity so the curry can be frozen(yes I am a convert) to be used later in the week. After the beans were cooked I put one in the mouth. It felt like there was something weird about the taste. In the hurry of getting everything done I ignored and continued.

We sit down to eat and as soon as everyone takes a taste all of our faces register frowns to a strong metallic taste along with an ammonia smell. I could do nothing else but dump the whole batch in the drain. Just to confirm if it was indeed the beans we soaked another batch and sure enough there it was the same unmistakable smell. If you are curious the brand is called Durbar and is distributed by a company called Kohinoor Foods out of Edison, NJ. The even weirder part is it says it is a product of Thailand.

Henceforth am sticking to companies I know like Swad and Deep which are US based.

Here is a quick guide to pesticides for food shoppers.

I had bought some fresh rhubarb last Spring in the hopes of making this quick bread but it took me another 8 months before actually getting to doing it. I cut up the rhubarb and they lay in the freezer. I did not have enough rhubarb and so added an apple to make up for the required quantity.

I found this amazingly easy recipe on the King Arthur Flour website for Walnut-Strawberry(Rhubarb) quick bread.

1. 1 1/2 cups of unbleached all purpose flour
2. 1 cup sugar
3. 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
4. 2 eggs
5. 1 1/4 cups of rhubarb and apple cooked to a sauce (I used a cup of rhubarb + 1 apple)
6. 1/4 tsp salt
7. 1 tsp of baking soda
8. 1/2 cup of oil
9. 1 tbsp of butter (or substitute with lemon oil)
10. 1 tsp of lemon juice

1. In a sauce pan cook chopped rhubarb, peeled and cored chopped apple along with the lemon juice to a smooth sauce
2. Preheat the oven to 350F, grease a loaf pan and set aside
3. In a bowl whisk together flour, sugar, salt, baking soda and chopped walnuts
4. In a different bowl whisk together the eggs, oil and the rhubarb apple sauce
5. Mix the dry and wet ingredients together and pour the batter into the pan
6.Bake for 60 minutes till a skewer inserted comes out clean. Mine could have done with another 15 minutes. Check if done carefully before removing
7. Cool and remove the bread from the pan and let it rest for another half hour before slicing

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Chicken Fry (Kozhi varuval)

Which group do you fall into - the half full or the half empty kind?
Couple of months ago I was speeding driving to get back home on time to drop off DD at the bus stop. Why? Some of you who read this space regularly have read about the crazy bus driver. It always helps to be on time and not get into a spat with her which leaves me fuming the rest of the day.

Anyway that early in the morning there is not much traffic which makes driving a little bit no actually a lot faster fairly unnoticeable. As I was driving that day I get this high beam directed right into the car almost blinding me. I change lanes and the high beam car behind also changes lanes, so I adjust the rear view mirror to night vision so avoid the bright light. I pay no more attention but as I come to a stop at the traffic light the offending car pulls right next to mine in the adjacent lane and the person rolls down the window and yells "slow down". I realize only then it was a cop trying to catch my attention.

I mumble an inaudible thanks roll up the window, thank my lucky stars and get the hell out of there well within speed limit of course and still do on that stretch of road.

What would you take away from that kind of encounter? This is about luck and how these tiny things make or break your day.
1. Thank your lucky stars for having gotten away with just a verbal warning and take it as a sign that it is your lucky day for taking risks? 2. Thank your lucky stars and make a mental note to be extra careful and not take any risks? 3. Think nothing at all about it?

What is your attitude towards life? 1, 2 or 3?

As for this recipe there are no bad breaks only good tasty one. It is one of the most favorite chicken preparations around my home. Make it as spicy as you want or as dry as you want. It works as a side for rice or any kind of bread.

Chicken Fry
1. 2 lbs of chicken thighs cut into slightly bigger than bite sized pieces
2. 2 medium sized red onions (or shallots)
3. 2 tbsp yogurt
4. 2 fairly tart tomatoes chopped fine
5. Whole Spice: 1 tbsp coriander seeds + 1 inch piece of cinnamon + few cloves + 1 tsp fennel seeds + 1 tsp pepper corns
6. 4-5 red chilies (or as per heat tolerance)
7. 6 garlic cloves
8. 2 inch piece of ginger
9. 2 tsp turmeric powder
10. half slice of lemon
11. 2-3 sprigs of curry leaves
12. 1 tsp cumin seeds
13. 1/2 tbsp red chili powder
14. 1 tsp of oil + salt to taste

1. Clean the chicken and marinate it with the yogurt, turmeric powder, chili powder and a half of the lemon juice.
2. Saute half the onions about 3/4 cup, garlic, ginger and red chilies with a bit of oil and blend without adding any water
3. Dry roast all the whole spices and make a powder
3. In a wide mouthed pan heat the oil, add the cumin seeds and curry leaves followed by the onions and when they are brown add the chicken and let it cook till the outside starts to turn white
4. Add the chopped tomatoes and salt and let them cook and become soft about 5-6 minutes. Cover with a lid
5.Now add that powdered spices and mix it in well
6. Add the onion paste and continue to saute till you see oil separate
7. Add more curry leave and saute till the chicken is dry

I stopped at this point or you can continue till it turns nice and crispy.

Serve with rice.