Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Slow cooked Rajma - Red Beans Spicy Curry

What a destructive force hurricane Sandy has been. It was scary and loud when it blew through last night. Luckily no major damages that I can see in the vicinity. We had some leaks in the basement because of blowing rain and water seeping through cracks and holes. Will get to those in time. Compared to the he water damage up and down the eastern seaboard this is nothing.

Luckily for us through the whole ordeal we had power. I was more scared during the Derecho storm in the summer which was considered a rare occurrence with intense lightening, tremendous wind and rain. The destruction in the DC area was severe. I was scared stiff while I sat in the basement - the only place where the lightening was not visible. Hurricane Sandy dubbed the Frankenstorm is also supposed to be a rare event with the hurricane colliding with a nor'easter. Fingers crossed for those without power and loss/damage to property. Looks like more and more of these rare storms are blowing through which means they are not that rare?.

I forgot to bring my laptop home on Friday. I decided to take an impromptu day off for the weather event. When I have nothing else to do I end up doing stuff in the kitchen. Usually while cooking red kidney beans I follow the quick and easy Pressure Cooker method. Since I had some time decided to follow the longer cooking method. The taste is noticeably better.

This recipe is based off the recipe on Chakali.

Slow Cooked Rajma

  1. 1 1/2 cups of Red Kidney Beans soaked overnight
  2. 1 onion (about 1 1/2 cups chopped very fine or use the food processor)
  3. 4 garlic cloves minced
  4. 1 heaping tbsp of ginger grated
  5. 2 tomatoes pureed about 1 1/2 cups
  6. 2 tsp turmeric powder
  7. 1/2 tbsp of red chili powder
  8. 1/2 tbsp of curry powder (any brand or type is fine)
  9. seasonings: 2 cloves, 2 bay leaves, 1/2 tsp cumin seeds and a small piece of cinnamon
  10. 2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
  11. salt to taste
  12. wedges of lemon
  13. 2 tsp of oil

  1. Wash the soaked beans in 3-4 changes of water and pressure cook with a tsp of salt for a whistle. see Note.
  2. In a Pressure Cooker or a wide mouthed pan heat oil and add the seasonings.
  3. Add in the minced onions and saute till the onions are nice and brown.
  4. Add the minced garlic and grated ginger and saute for a minute more.
  5. Add in the powders and mix it into the onion mixture. Add the chopped cilantro, save a few for the end.
  6. Add the pureed tomato and let it cook till the raw smell is gone completely and the gravy thickens about 15 minutes.
  7. Add the beans and the cooking liquid and in medium low heat let it cook till the water evaporates and the gravy reaches a thick consistency (about 25 minutes). Add salt towards the end. Add the coriander leaves and turn off the heat.

Serve with chapathis or rice. Squeeze the lemon just before serving.
Note: 1. Take care not to overcook the beans. If using the pressure cooker cook the beans on high heat for one whistle or on a stove top till just cooked.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Voting for a third party candidate ...

My home state Tamil Nadu, India is notorious where its politics is concerned. It has two main political parties(DMK and ADMK) which come to power alternatively. India has a parliamentary democracy, unlike the US people do not vote for an individual like the President or the Governor rather the leader of whichever party wins the majority of seats in the legislature becomes the Chief Minister of the state (akin to a governor in the US). He also runs for election in a constituency and is the member of the legislature.

Occasionally these two parties make alliance with either of the two national parties (Congress and BJP) or other regional parties(mostly popular in the district level or among a certain community) to form the government. There might be a dozen or more of these smaller regional parties which by themselves cannot challenge the supremacy of the two big ones.

One party is not better than the other but one of them is sure to win as there is no viable alternative who can match up in money and power to mount a serious challenge to their supremacy. Tamil Nadu also has another deadly curse, only cinema actors can garner enough votes to win elections. The last 3-4 decades has been dominated by a guy who once was a reigning matinee idol now dead (MGR), his leading lady the current Chief Minister (Jayalalitha) and a movie screen writer who also wrote movies for the afore mentioned matinee idol and now the ex chief minister (Karunanidhi) and very old. They challenge each other not only to win elections but also to win corruption awards the likes of which cannot even be imagined. Karunanidhi though takes the crown, he and his extended family have amassed enough wealth to buy out all of Tamil Nadu if not India. Larry Ellison's purchase of the pineapple island in Hawaii will pale in comparison.

Do you see similarities between the situation in TamilNadu and the US Presidential elections? Simple math if there are only two major parties a candidate from one of the parties has to win. At least in India any other candidate belonging to any other party can run making it difficult for the frontrunners. Here no one has heard of the third party candidate and he is not even be on the ballot in all of the states.

Look at the two major parties in the US today, in the last couple of decades though they have opened a vast gulf between them on social issues they are pretty much indistinguishable from each other on other issues. Special interest and monied groups get all the attention. Oh! how I hate the word Middle Class when uttered by politicians like they really care. There is stiff competition to win this group of voters who will promptly get forgotten and whose economic prospects have never been dimmer.

I am pretty disgusted with the politics of Obama and his party. The other party is even more scarier. They of the kind who are dying to walk women back to the stone ages and Talibanize America.

The candidate from their party, Mitt Romney has changed his position so much that I have no idea what he stands only that he will be willing to change when the situation demands. His healthcare reform in Massachusetts is the model for ObamaCare but he does everything in his power to disparage it like he has nothing to do with it and willing his association with it will simply disappear.

And the other quirk of the US electoral process is the electoral college. In America just because you vote don't assume that your vote is equal to the voter from one of the battleground states namely Ohio, Iowa, Pennsylvania or Virginia. Voters here are wined, dined, non-stop advertised and campaigned to. I have never heard anyone being called in my home state of Maryland because this is considered a very safe Democratic state. Obama is confident he will win even if he or his campaign does not lift a finger. Mitt Romney will not win even if he turns heaven and earth. Majority of the states than those mentioned above fall into being a safe Democratic state or Republican state.

If you watched the two candidates and the issues they covered and if you have never heard of the US you'd think it is another country fighting the two wars we are engaged in right how. Both candidates studiously avoided mentioning the word war. Not even a peep about Global Warming but plenty about drilling and pride about natural gas production but who cares if the ground underneath is shifting and nobody knows if fracking has anything to do with it.

How much ever you drill oil prices are controlled in the global market and being self sufficient does not automatically bring down the price of gas. Ask our neighbors to the north who have been energy sufficient for a long time. Nothing at all about financial reform. If only jobs grew in trees Romney would pluck 12 million of them. Both of them competed with each in providing non specifics. Moreover I want both of them and the government out of my personal life. How about true healthcare reform? Delink the employer from health coverage. Why can't pay into a pool and who I work for not affect my health insurance coverage.

There are soldiers fighting in 2 wars and it is shameful that both of them did not find it important to talk about them. How about the vast gulf between the rich and poor. If we vote for either of these candidates it is like voting for 2 black boxes whose details are clear to no one.

In this scenario What choice do I have? Perhaps none. I bet the majority of voters in this country fall into the same category. Why don't we grab the electoral process back to the people where it belongs? If everyone of us votes for the 3rd candidate on the ballot, I am sure somebody will notice!!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Masala Paneer Bhurji aka Podimas (scramble)

On the ballot this election besides voting for the President, Congressman, Senator and a bunch of local positions we also have questions or in other words referendums which require a Yes or No and we have 7 of them. By far the most popular and one which has had a lot of money and airtime spent on it is question 7. This is a question about allowing gambling in the state of Maryland. A record 50 million dollars have been spent on ads for and against the question. Every politician in the state has been on TV exhorting people to vote for it and how the tax dollars generated from gambling profits would go towards funding education. Politician never do what they say so if the money would surely go to education is itself a million dollar question.

Besides being convoluted reasoning to support gambling it seems to me to be totally immoral(for lack of a better word) to use the money from gambling for education. I am against gambling for the simple reason it is an addiction just like smoking or drinking. It also disproportionately affects people with limited means. There are studies that show people very close to where the casinos are built are by far more likely to be affected by gambling (duh!). Why would politicians want people to gamble? Anyway I had made up my mind to vote No.

This was until I saw ads from casino operators from our neighboring state who also want the initiative to fail. Not because they are concerned about addiction and its ill effects on the citizens of Maryland but because they do not want competition taking away gamblers from their slot machines. They have been using all the right reasons to argue against voting Yes - how it will affect seniors, people of limited means, the ill effects of gambling etc., This is from the same people who are running casinos in the neighboring state.

I am in a dilemma I do not want to be pushed around by the wrong people saying the right things. So should I vote my conscience or my brain?

With that out of the way lets move on to the recipe for the day. Paneer is a popular item in our house. The kids love it and are ready eat it any form. The ready to eat meals that we store for a pinch are all one form of paneer or the other. It was not my favorite for a long time and now I have started to appreciate. It is full of fat and taste. What is to not like?

Scrambled paneer is one of those quick to make recipes if you have store bought paneer on hand. When one of the DDs accompany me to the Indian grocery store, we always come back with a block. The recipe is adapted from this recipe on you tube.

I did not have any bell pepper but a lot of green tomatoes so added those instead. I also added some frozen peas (fresh should work as well). I chopped the paneer into small pieces but usually paneer is grated for this recipe.

Masala Paneer Podimas(Bhurji) Ingredients
  1. 14 oz paneer grated or chopped into tiny cubes
  2. 1 cup of onion chopped fine
  3. 1/2 cup of green and red tomatoes chopped fine
  4. 6 garlic cloves chopped fine
  5. 1 tbsp ginger grated
  6. 1 cup of fresh or frozen green peas
  7. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
  8. 2 tsp of curry masala powder OR 1/2 tsp of garam masala powder + 1 tsp of cumin powder
  9. 5 Thai green chillies chopped into thin rounds
  10. 1 lemon
  11. salt to taste
  12. 1-2 tsp of oil
  13. seasonings - cumin seeds
  14. 2 tbsp of finely chopped coriander leaves and a bit of kasuri methi(I did not add)

  1. Heat oil in a kadai or a wide mouthed pan and when hot add the cumin seeds
  2. Add the garlic and saute for a minuted. Add the onions and green chilies and saute till the onions are translucent.
  3. Add the ginger and saute for another minute.
  4. Add the turmeric powder,masala powder and mix it into the onions.
  5. Now add the chopped tomatoes and salt and let it cook till the tomatoes are soft.
  6. Add in the peas and let it cook for 3-4 minutes.
  7. Add in the paneer and gently mix it in and cook for 3-4 minutes along with a squeeze of half a lemon.
  8. Sprinkle coriander leaves and kasuri methi if using on top
Serve with chapathis or parathas.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Potatoes and Peas Pulao

Weekday meals have to be quick and if the vegetables and rice can all go in one pot even better. I end up cooking one pot meals at least once a week which means a handy couple of recipes is a good thing. Not too hard but something that takes less than 20 minutes of prep time.

This is one of those recipes that was conjured on the spur of the moment when I wanted to use potatoes and mint leaves.

Potatoes and Peas Pulao
  1. 4 Medium size potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
  2. 1 cup of peas
  3. 2 cups of Basmati rice wash and soak for about 20 minutes
  4. 1 cup red onions sliced thin
  5. half a tomato chopped fine (about 2 tbsp)
  6. 4 green chilies
  7. 1/2 cup of mint leaves chopped
  8. 6 garlic cloves
  9. 2 inch piece of ginger
  10. 2 tbsp of cocount
  11. 2 red chilies
  12. 1 tsp of turmeric powder
  13. 1 tsp of chicken masala powder(any masala powder will work) or use a small piece of cinnamon and few cloves
  14. 2 tsp of oil
  1. In a pressure cooker heat about 1/4 tsp of oil when hot, saute the garlic and ginger for a minute or two. Remove to a blender and blend to a paste with the red chilies and coconut to a smooth paste.
  2. Add the remaining of the oil add the onions and green chilies and saute the onions till the onions are translucent and just about to start to brown.
  3. Add in the potatoes and fry them for 3-4 minutes till they start to brown a bit.
  4. Add the mint leaves and saute till the leaves are wilted.
  5. Add the turmeric and masala powder and saute for a minute.
  6. Add the tomatoes and salt and let the tomatoes cook till they are soft.
  7. Now add the rice and saute for another 3-4 minutes. Add the peas and enough water for the rice to cook.
  8. Let the water come to a boil and rice be about half cooked. Close the lid, add the weight and in medium heat cook for about 8 minutes. Remove from the heat.
  9. When coll gently fluff the rice.
Serve with yogurt or raita on the side.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Why I will not be voting for ...

This is a purely political blog post from a politics junkie. Feel free to skip it if you are not into it.

On that unusually cold day (for the DC area) we made our way to the National Mall to celebrate the swearing in of the first black president in American history. The schools in the area were all closed so the kids could take part in the historical event. The previous night we wrote tags with phone numbers and addresses and pinned them to the inside of the DDs jackets. Innumerable crowds the likes of which DC had never seen before was expected and people with little kids were advised to take precautions. The next day dawned chilly and cold and DD was feeling under the weather but lost interest when we said we might not get anywhere near to seeing anybody, we dropped them off at our friends house and proceeded along with hundreds of thousands of others to the nation's capital.

I was not an enthusiastic supporter of Barack Obama by any means. During the campaign there were two things that left me with a bitter taste, one was him his campaign calling of President Clinton a racist and second was his refusal to accept public financing. No one knew what he would do besides blind hope because there was nothing that people knew about him other than the speech at the 2004 Democratic convention. He was an extremely careful politician while he served in both the Illinois senate and US senate in the way he voted. The press had taken on a voluntary gag order afraid to ask even the most obvious questions and everyone was left in the dark where he as politician stood. Is this how Manchurian candidates are made?

For me the high point of his presidency started and ended with his inauguration. The national mall was filled with emotion, hope and yearning for a better tomorrow. Every African American near me had moist eyes and to see so much pent up emotion up close gave me goose bumps. I guess that was the last time they had tears of joy in their eyes in the next four years.

I am a genXer and in this election what matters to me is not entitlement reform, immigration reform or foreign affairs. What is done with Medicare and Social Security is not my priority because I do not expect either of those entitlement programs to be around for my retirement years. Immigration reform, President Bush did more than him and this president is good at symbolism rather than real action. Foreign affairs - America and American Presidents do what is primarily important for the country be it supporting dictators or toppling them. Yes there are those presidents who get the country into unwanted wars and dig a deep hole.

Obama came into the White House with lot of people thinking if he can't fix the problems ailing America no one will (well I did). A lot of young people had so much faith in him. This perhaps in my mind his biggest crime, turning off a generation of youngsters to politics. He used them effectively to get elected and did little else for that constituency. Sad! He came to power with a lot of political capital but he chooses to squander his good will on the Health Care reform. This healthcare reform had small slices of give outs for each constituency be it insurance providers, hospitals or who ever, no wonder there was no big opposition from them. I bet you will be hard pressed to find a handful of people who know what is in the health care reform law. This unpopular fight left no good will for his bigger fights. If he had tackled financial reform instead there would have been no Republican opposition, at the height of the financial debacle to pick fights on financial reform would have been political suicide for them. Will he do it in his second term? Wells of cash from the financial industry confirms that it will not happen.

Obama promised to reform Wall Street but did absolutely nothing about it. He had everything going for him and had once in a lifetime opportunity to bring financial reform and it is criminal that he chose to do nothing. Healthcare reform could have waited, only he knows why he took that one on. To show Hillary Clinton he could do where she failed? Judging by the people he chose to give him advice on financial matters, William Daley from JP Morgan (not to mention the corrupt Chicago political machinery that he comes from,never mind that Obama came from the same place), Timothy Gaithner an ex New York Stock Exchange head and Lawrence Summers, the less said about him the better. The last but not the least was his appointment of Eric Holder as Attorney General, he coming from a law firm whose clients include many of the same financial firms. No wonder he is more into Fast and Furious. Once his term is over where does he go back ...?

During President W.Bush's term for all his faults, those who did criminal activities were prosecuted, remember Enron?. What does that tell about Obama's values? His heart bleeds for the voiceless poor and the middle class? You bet?.

The press more than anybody has a lot to blame to take. Obama and his team learned early on that crying racism will make the liberal press back off. Where is the press which is happy revealing every minute detail about Romney's life including his family dog that took a trip on the hood of the car has simply gone silent where Obama is concerned. Well with Obama do you know anything about his college life? How he got into college or what did there?. We were also fed this line about him being a great orator. It simple astonishes me though because I haven't seen proof of that great oratory. No wonder I am still undecided!! Teleprompter anyone? Well in his real test without a teleprompter even the liberal media gave him failing grades!.

If you are political and mystery thriller junkie like me I have a book recommendation for you.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Chilli garlic Manchurian Style Fish

How much do you trust Wikipedia? Do you blindly take whatever is on Wikipedia to be truth and nothing but the truth?

I do learn a lot of stuff from Wikipedia but I do not use to it quote any facts. I always try to get confirmation from a couple of others sources.

In Middle School DD was explicitly told not to use Wikipedia as a the source for any of her research articles or projects. I try to follow the same rule on this blog. I do not deny that if you are in fact you are getting your information from the Wiki it is good to quote them than not.

I was listening to this program on NPR. It is informative to learn the process of how information is gathered/edited/kept out of Wikipedia. If you are interested the link to the article is here.

Moving on to the recipe,

When we were in college oh about couple of decades ago the only foreign cuisine available in most places back then in India was Chinese. This is were most of us got our first introduction to noodles, soups, stir fried chicken, fried rice etc., No one can forget the American Chopsuey which no American has ever heard of. Chinese food was of course very popular among most people going out to eat. This was also a time when most people did not go to restaurants for just simply eating out other than the college going crowd.

Little did we know that the Chinese food we were eating had nothing to do China the country, the cooks were mostly from Nepal/Tibet and Indian spices had greatly influenced the recipes. No wonder it was so popular. It is commonly known in the rest of the World as Indo Chinese food. You can imagine my shock when I first tasted Chinese food after I came to the US.

The recipe today is influenced from the Manchurian dishes that are very common in Indo Chinese cuisine. Usually the vegetable/chicken/fish is coated with corn starch, deep fried and then dropped into a sauce and eaten as an appetizer or side dish for fried rice.

Here is my take on fish manchurian,

Chili - Chilli garlic Manchurian Style Fish


  1. 4-5 filets of firm white fish ( I used Mahi Mahi) washed and sliced into 2 inch pieces
  2. 1/2 tbsp corn starch
  3. 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
  4. 1 1/2 cups of sliced onions (reduce as per taste)
  5. 8 cloves of garlic minced
  6. 1 tbsp grated ginger
  7. 1 tsp chili paste (optional, I added for color)
  8. 6 Thai green chilies chopped
  9. 1 tsp pepper powder
  10. 1/2 tsp red chili powder
  11. 1 tsp soy sauce (optional, I did not add it)
  12. 2 tbsp of tomato ketchup
  13. 3 tbsp of lemon juice
  14. salt to taste
  15. 1 tbsp + 2 tsp of oil
  1. Add corn starch, turmeric powder, chili powder and a tiny bit of salt to the fish pieces, mix it well so all the fish pieces are all well coated.Set aside.
  2. In a flat bottomed pan heat oil (1 tbsp) and when hot place the fish pieces, do not crowd or place pieces on top of each other. Cook on one side, flip and cook on the other side.Set aside. The fish should be fully cooked.
  3. In a saute pan or wok heat the 2 tsp of oil and when hot add the green chilies and let it cook for 2 minutes, add the onions and saute till the onions start to turn brown.
  4. Add the garlic and ginger and saute for another 2-3 minutes.
  5. Now add the chili sauce, pepper, soy sauce if using, tomato ketchup and cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add lemon juice, salt if required and let it cook for another 2 minutes. Also add tiny bits of the lemon juice if at any stage the spices start sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  7. Add the fish pieces and gently toss so they are all well coated. Let heat through for another 2 minutes.
  8. Let sit for 10 minutes or so before serving. Goes well with steamed rice.
  1. The fish can be deep fried instead of shallow frying.
  2. Also take care not to break the fish while shallow frying.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Kongu Foods - An Essay

Sailaja of Sailu's Kitchen needs no introduction. Lady with amazing array of talents and her food blog is got to be one of the most popular Indian food blogs out there.

She contacted me to write about Kongu Cuisine for her India Food Trail food series. A series which show cases regional cuisines and specialties.

Everyday Lunch (anti clockwise) - cabbage poriyal, puli kuzhambu, rasam, uppu paruppu, curd and rice

Please head on over to Sailu's Kitchen to