Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Peppered Ghee Rice with Fresh Green Peas - Pressure Cooker Method (with stove top instructions)

When in college our weekend treats where at Annapoorna a vegetarian restaurant. The restaurant is still around, always crowded and the food more or less tastes exactly the same from back then. Anyway at the time they were just starting to introduce Indo Chinese items on their menu.

Indo Chinese fried rice unlike its Chinese counterpart does not have any soy sauce in it. It looks almost white in color. The flavoring comes from black pepper.

Spices - clockwise from bottom, marathi moggu (capeberry), star anise, cinnamon, cloves in the middles - amount not indicative of what was used in the recipe.

Once I harvested the peas for the season as I was pondering what to make it with it, facebook readers gave me plenty of ideas but in my mind this peppered fresh peas kept coming back to the top.

Eating fresh and even shelling them is a treat and mostly possible only if you grow them or find them at farmers markets. This season I had a fairly substantial harvest. Like everybody knows frozen peas are nothing compared to fresh ones.

The recipe is made with minimal spices to let the flavor and taste of peas to come through. No need for a ton of spices just the minimal but with a bold flavor. This is like a hybrid of Indo Chinese Fried Rice and the Indian Ghee Rice.

Peppered Rice with Fresh Green Peas - Pressure Cooker Method
Preparation Time:10 minutes
Cooking Time:25 minutes
  1. 1 cups of Basmati Rice
  2. 2 cups of fresh peas or frozen
  3. 1 cup of sliced onions
  4. 2 sliced green chilies
  5. 1 tbsp of black pepper
  6. whole spices - cinnamon 1/2 inch, 2 cloves, a piece of star anise, a small tiny piece of marathi moggu (or capeberry)
  7. salt to taste
  8. 1 tbsp of ghee
  1. Wash and soak the Basmati rice for about 20 minutes or so. In the meantime heat the ghee, do not overheat and add the whole spices. After about a minute add the sliced onions and slit green chillies and saute till the onions just start to brown. Do not let it get black.
  2. Add in the black pepper and saute for about 1/2 a minute. Now add the drained rice, salt and saute for about 6-8 minutes till the ghee is absorbed and the rice is looking shiny.
  3. Add the required amount of water and let it come to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium and let the rice be 3/4th cooked and the water almost absorbed. Add in the fresh peas, give a mix and close the pressure cooker. (If not using pressure cooker reduce the heat further and let all the water get absorbed and turn off the heat).
  4. Reduce the heat to a tad below medium and let cook for exactly 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and move the pressure cooker from the stove.
  5. Let rest and fluff with a fork.
Serve with a raita of choice.

Monday, June 24, 2013

'Not so famous' Berries - foraged and home grown!

Blueberries, Raspberries, Strawberries - all of them popular and available in the grocery stores and farmers market throughout the year. Nothing special about them. This is not a post about those berries but some of the other berries which are not quite so popular.

Mulberries, Wild Black Raspberries and Gooseberries - all what you will not find in stores. They are either foraged or grown in backyard gardens.

Mulberries - foraged on the side of the road
I have written about mulberries before found on the side of the road near our house where we go for walks. Back then nobody even paid any attention to the fruits that littered the side walk. Fast forward a few years the tree always has visitors stopping by to taste. Some even carry small Ziploc bags to collect and take home.

Gooseberries on the other hand are usually grown in people's backyard. I have not seen them in stores or even farmer's markets. My neighbor was the one who introduced and shared with us his goose berries one year. I planted a couple of plants and they are starting to produce fruit now. These are different from the Indian variety, other than the puckering sour taste when they are young these ripen into sweet berries.

Ripening Gooseberries
When young they can be easily used as substitute for tamarind. I did just that the other day when making kara kuzhambu with field beans (mochai) and needless to say they were a perfect substitute.

Black Raspberries - foraged on the side of the road
Black Raspberries were another find along the same road. DD2 is the one who is very excited about these berries and is always ready to come along for the walk just to collect and taste them. After watching them for a while now they have just started to ripen. Slightly sour but with a sweet after taste and a lot smaller than the store bought red ones. We carried a few in the palm of our hands to photograph the rest were eaten right near the plant and on the way.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Banana Chocolate Popsicle or Ice Cream

Have you had this happen to you? You go out and buy bananas (now remind me why there should always be bananas at home?) Oh Yes! DH and kids eat them and I avoid them. Then why do you buy them you ask? Good Question! DH who stops by the grocery store for something else also grabs a bunch of bananas. So now you have bunches of bananas all ripening at the same time. There is only so much smoothie you can drink. While I am perfectly OK with bananas in smoothies and ice creams and such eating straight up is what gives me the heebie jeebies.

I chance upon this recipe for Banana Nutella Fudgesicles and suddenly there is a tasty solution for the large amount of over ripe bananas.

I have mixed feelings now verging on avoidance over Nutella. It is marketed as a healthy wholesome breakfast alternative but the truth is it has a whopping amount of sugar and fat. Reading from the label, sugar and modified palm oil are top ingredients in Nutella - not hazel nuts or skim milk :(. Anyway sugar was not the reason why I stopped buying Nutella every week - yes a 13 oz jar was disappearing every week before I woke up. The kids spread it on toast, pancakes, croissants(oh they are yummy on slightly toasted croissants) and eaten by the spoonfuls just like that. Anyway what scared me first was the palm oil in it. Palm oil I knew was not a good thing and I read that people in India especially the poor who use it primarily for cooking were dying increasingly of heart disease, the article was in regards to Malaysia dumping palm oil into India markets. So while Nutella maybe an occasional snack or treat it definitely is not breakfast material. I know there are a lot of people who will dispute that assertion but...

Nutella it seems is reigning king of spreads going by its popularity on blogs and the gushing praise it receives from almost everybody writing about it. The reason I avoided dishing it for the longest time. Just wanted to avoid a food war on these pages. Do share where Nutella stands in your home, dear readers.

That is my convoluted explanation for not using Nutella. I almost feel my food blogger credentials will be taken away if I do not gush about Nutella. This kind of unpaid marketing must be a coup for the company. That does not mean I will never buy it. Just like any other junk food I will buy it rarely but to my chagrin watch it disappear almost immediately.

I do not blame you if grocery shopping has become a minefield to be navigated with utmost care and precision. Take one wrong step and you fall into hydrogenated, saturated, food coloring, GMO, imitation fake soy meat products, additives, the list is endless hell that is hard to wade out of. So many products have become off limits that I always worry I am going fall of this wagon sometime.

If you do not want to use Nutella there are plenty of other options. I used semi sweet chocolate chips and sweetened condensed milk which I happened to have on hand for making fudge. Melted chocolate bars or chocolate chips melted with some olive oil or butter will all work.

These were the creamiest popsicles without cream that we ever tasted.

Banana Chocolate Popsicle
Preparation Time:5 minutes
Cooking Time:10 minutes
Freezing Time:8 hours
  1. 3 very ripe bananas
  2. 4 tbsp of chocolate chips
  3. 4 tbsp of sweetened condensed milk (optional)
  4. 2 tsp of butter (optional)
  1. Blend the bananas till smooth
  2. In a double boiler melt the chocolate if not using condensed milk and butter.
  3. If using condensed milk, add the chocolate chips, condensed milk and butter and in a low flame keep stirring till they melt. Let Cool.
  4. Add the cooled melted chocolate to the blender and give it one more spin.
  5. Pour into Popsicle molds or small servable cups or in a large container and freeze for at least 8 hours.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Zucchini and Spinach Savory Pancakes with Harissa

Zucchini and summer time go together. It seems easy to grow and I have read and heard stories of people running away from their neighbors and friends because of the generosity that comes when you have a bumper crop.

For the rest of us who do not have Zucchini wealthy neighbors we can always buy fresh ones from the grocery stores or farmers market especially this time of the year. The good thing is Zucchini can be grated and they are perfect added to pancake batter for some savory pancakes. For those of you who are not pancake fans add them to dosai batter and they are really tasty in them too.

I make pancakes a couple of times a week. While the rest of the family enjoys them with maple syrup, apple sauce or jams, I eat them with idli podi - for each his/her own. Anyway this recipe was to satisfy my savory tooth and also to use up the zucchini I had around.

I added harissa which works well with pancake but if you do not have it red chilli powder or pepper powder would be good alternatives. I used pre made pancake mix. I usually Red Mill Whole Wheat/Buck Wheat pancake mix mostly because it has ingredients that I recognize.
Zucchini and Spinach Savory Pancakes with Harissa
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:25 minutes
  1. 2 cup of pancake mix
  2. 2 cups of packed spinach leaves chopped fine
  3. 1 -2 cups of grated zucchini
  4. 1/2 cup of milk + 1 1/2 cups of water more or less
  5. a pinch of salt
  6. 1-2 tbsp of harissa
  7. oil for cooking the pancakes
  1. Mix the grated zucchini and the spinach leaves with the pancake flour. Add the milk, water, salt and harrisa and mix it into pourable consistency but slightly thicker than the usual pancake batter.
  2. Heat a griddle or a wide mouthed saute pan, spray with oil and then pour a laddle of batter. Cook on one side and then the other side. Also check to see if the insides are cooked with a knife or tooth pick.
  3. Note:
  4. Do not make the pancake batter too watery, the insides will be moist and feel uncooked.
Serve with some flavored cream cheese or just plain butter.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Raspberry Limeade with honey

DC summer weather is predictably hot, humid and icky. When the mercury hits 90F there are public service announcements to drink water and not to stay in the sun for too long. What a pampered lot I thought when I first came here. Apparently people do forget to drink water and end up being dehydrated and lots of bad things happen.

But spring months are another matter altogether. It is the time of the year when it is warm enough and on lucky days not too humid so you can actually enjoy being outside without being hot and bothered. It can also mean stifling hot and humid days. Never know what you get. Don't get me wrong, I grew up in a place where even the peak winter night time temperatures do not go below 68F so hot is better than cold. Since we grew up knowing that drinking water is required when it is hot and humid we are generally OK.

Anyway yesterday was a hot humid day with intermittent thunder storms all through the day. The rain did some good though it brought down the temp. and it is actually quite pleasant and cool today. As I type this I am enjoying some cool spring breeze wafting through the windows.

Drinking something cool and refreshing preferably home made makes these hot humid days bearable. It also gives the kids a chance to enjoy the product of their own handiwork rather than drink the sugared up store bought drinks. It is an excuse I give to avoid buying them.

DD2 picked up a box of raspberries and also lime declaring that she is going to make limeade. I suggested adding the leftover raspberries to the limeade. Oh! what a pretty color that made. Don't have raspberries try with strawberries, blueberries, blackberries or even mulberries - if you are lucky enough to have a tree close by.

Raspberry Limeade with honey
Preparation Time:5 minutes
Cooking Time:10 minutes
  1. 1/4 cup of raspberries
  2. 2 limes or lemon
  3. 4 tsp of sugar + 1/2 tbsp of honey
  4. 6 cups of water
  5. Ice cubes
  1. Add the washed raspberries to a blender with 2 cups of water. Puree. You can filter out the seeds but you can leave them be.
  2. Squeeze the lime/lemon into the puree and add the rest of the water, sugar and honey and stir till the sugar is dissolved.
  3. Refrigerate and serve or serve with ice cubes.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Red Kidney Beans with Paneer flavored rice - Rajma Paneer Biryani - Pressure Cooker Method

Occasionally I get the urge to eat some fancy food. Not the restaurant kind but home made and done quickly. At these times a pulao or a biryani fits the bill perfectly. It is my go to fancy meal. I always have mint in stock, either growing everywhere in the summer or frozen mint other times. Now is the time to preserve mint if you have them growing, wait a month more they will start to flower and the leaves become smaller. If you have mint handy the rest of the ingredients that go into a biryani are usually pantry staples. Don't despair if you do not have mint just leave it out.

I had soaked red kidney beans overnight and also had a block of paneer(Indian Cheese, very similar to Cottage cheese but with the whey removed) ready to be used which is what lead to this Rajama Paneer Biryani. This fancy meal can be a quick weeknight meal and they are great lunch box fare the next day.

The problem with beans for a lot of people is the flatulence that seems to go with the territory. This can be avoided with a few very simple steps. Soak the beans overnight and then wash the beans in several changes of water just before using them. Also add some pounded ginger while cooking the beans and discard the cooking water. Usually I cook the beans part way and they finish cooking them in the rice or curry. This way they maintain their shape and the gassy problems vanish as well.

This also goes to My Legume Love Affair (MLLA) the 60th edition and hosted over at One Hot Stove.
Red Kidney Beans with Paneer flavored rice - Rajma Paneer Biryani
Preparation Time:15 minutes with overnight soaking time
Cooking Time:20-25 minutes
  1. 1 1/2 - 2 cups of red kidney beans - Rajma soaked overnight
  2. 2 cups of Basmati rice or any rice you prefer - adjust water accordingly
  3. 1 1/2 cup of sliced onions
  4. 4 garlic cloves minced
  5. 2 tbsp grated ginger
  6. 1/2 cup of finely cut tomatoes
  7. 2 cups of loosely packed mint leaves chopped or as much as you would like
  8. half a bunch of coriander leaves chopped
  9. 1 tsp of masala powder (skip if you don't need it)
  10. 3/4 - 1 tbsp red chili powder
  11. 3 slit green chilies
  12. salt to taste
  13. half a block of paneer about 1/2 cup cubed, (for a vegan version use cubed bread instead)
  14. 2 tsp of oil
  15. 1 tsp of ghee
  16. seasonings: 4 cloves, 1/2 inch cinnamon piece, small piece of star anise broken, a few curry leaves
  1. Wash the soaked kidney in 2-3 changes of water and cook them in a sauce till they are about half way cooked. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a pressure cooker heat oil and add the whole spices in the seasonings followed by the curry leaves.
  3. Add the sliced onions and sliced green chilies and let them saute till the onions start to get translucent. Add in the garlic and saute for a couple of minutes and then add the ginger and saute for a minutes.
  4. Add in the mint leaves and coriander leaves and saute till the leaves are completely wilted. Add in the masala powder and chilli powder and mix it in followed by the chopped tomatoes and saute till they are mushy about 4 minutes or so.
  5. Add in the rice and salt and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the required amount of water (for Basmati the ratio is for 1 cup of rice 1 1/2 cup of water). Let it come to a boil. At this point add in the red kidney beans and mix.
  6. Once the water starts boiling, check for salt, reduce the heat to medium and let it simmer till most of the water has evaporated and the rice is almost cooked.
  7. Close the lid, place the weight, reduce the heat to slightly below medium and cook for 7-8 minutes.
  8. While the rice is cooking, in a saute pan heat the ghee and brown the paneer on all sides. If using bread do the same thing, or crisp them in the oven and then saute in olive oil.
  9. Once the cooker is cool enough to open, mix in the paneer gently into the rice and close the lid and let sit for another 10 minutes or so before serving.
Accompany with some carrot raita, mix grated carrot into salted whisked yogurt.
Note:Follow this method of cooking rice in a cooker and you are guaranteed separate fluffy grains of rice.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Roasted Bitter Gourd with chili fried fish - nethili meen pavarkai varuval

On my occasional visits to the Srilankan store I stock my pantry with dried and fried fish products that serve as a nice crunchy addition to some of the stir fries and roasted vegetables. I decided at the last minute to add them to the bitter gourd roast and it turned out to be a good one. The fried fish cut out some of the bitterness actually most of the bitterness and I did not need to add any jaggery which is what I usually do.

The Pique provided me with some much needed souring agent. Don't have pique? Use this recipe and make some else use regular distilled white vinegar or lemon/lime juice.

The funny thing was once the fried fish was added the kids ate them without any complaints which is usually common whenever this vegetable is cooked. The recipe does not call for much other than some sambhar powder for the heat or just plain red chilli powder should work too.

Roasted bitter Gourd with chili fried fish - nethili meen pavarkai varuval
Preparation Time:10 minutes
Cooking Time:35-40 minutes
  1. 3-4 bitter gourds - cut in half scoop the seeds out with a spoon and slice into thin rounds
  2. 1 big onion sliced lengthwise into thin pieces
  3. 3-4 slit green chillies
  4. garlic cloves sliced thin (optional)
  5. fried chili fish as desired I added maybe 4 tbsp
  6. 2 tbsp sambhar powder or 3/4 tbsp red chilli powder
  7. salt to taste
  8. 2 tbsp pique vinegar or distilled white vinegar or lime/lemon juice
  9. 2-3 tsp oil
  1. In a wide mouthed pan heat the oil and when hot add the sliced bitter gourd. Let it saute for about 8-10 minutes.
  2. Add in the sliced onions and continue to saute together with the bitter gourd till the bitter gourd started to get browned - another 10 minutes or so.
  3. Add the sambhar powder or chilli powder and mix well and now add the vinegar and continue to saute for another 5 minutes or so till the bitter gourd is completely cooked.
  4. Add salt and the fried chilli fish and saute for a couple of minutes more and turn off the heat.
Note:Substitute fried fish with fried/dried shrimp for a slightly different taste.

Serve with rice and dal.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Tiny potatoes Masala roast - chinna urulai kizhangu masala varuval

I had seen these tiny tiny potatoes a long time ago in a lunch box when we all used to eat lunch under trees. I must have been in the sixth/seventh grade maybe. These were the tiniest potatoes I had ever seen. I initially thought they were peas or chickpeas but these were slightly larger than peas. On closer inspection and inquiry they were potatoes!

It took me a while to find them but the ones I found were slightly bigger. These are not that unattainable anyway they are found more or less all the time at Whole Foods. Sometimes they are really small other times a tiny bit bigger.

The tiny size that I want probably have to grow them myself. The sprouted potatoes I planted this time did not fare well so have to wait till next year for that experiment.

I wanted to oven roast the potatoes as per idea on FB but with soaring temperatures did not want to fire up the oven so settled on a trusty old recipe that my mother uses.Readers from FB had a lot of ideas. I have them on the list the next time I buy these potatoes.

Tiny Potatoes Masala Roast - Chinna Urulai Kizhangu masala varuval
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:20 minutes
  1. 1 lb small potatoes
  2. 1/4 cup red onion or shallots roughly chopped + 1 tbsp finely chopped
  3. 5 garlic cloves
  4. 6 red chilies
  5. 1 inch piece of ginger
  6. 1 tomato roughly chopped
  7. 1 tbsp oil
  8. 1/2 tbsp coriander powder or kuzhambu thool or any curry powder
  9. salt to taste
  1. In a saute add a tsp of oil and saute the onions, ginger and garlic till the onion starts to turn brown. Add in the chilies and saute for a couple of minutes, followed by the tomatoes. Saute till the tomatoes are nice and mushy. Add in the masala powder give a good mix and transfer to a blender and blend to a smooth paste without adding water.
  2. Scrub the potatoes (we are not going to peel the skin so make sure it is clean) and boil them for about 10-12 minutes till they are just part way cooked.
  3. In a wide mouthed pan heat 1/2 a tbsp of oil and saute the finely chopped onions and then add in the potatoes and saute for 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add the masala paste and saute along with the potatoes on medium heat for another 10 minutes or so adding a bit of oil if it sticks too much. Add salt part way through.
Serve as a side for rice dishes or for chapathis.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Roasted Snow Peas or Sugar Snap Peas in a soy chilli sauce - Indo Chinese style

We are all quite fond of Chinese food but the problem is once we finish eating it the stomach feels kind of uncomfortable and end up with an oily smell all over the face. Not that that is stops from enjoying the occasional Chinese meal every now and then. Making it at home relieves you from all that discomfort.

Chinese food is not very hard to put together so for a quick weeknight dinner rustling something up like a fried rice or a stir fry is not that hard especially when you have some leftover rice or vegetables that you need to cook up before they hit the compost.

Snow peas are a sought after food in our house and we usually cook them for a snack like this pan roasted snow peas. So it is very surprising a packet of it was lying in the fridge for a couple of weeks and it reached a point when it had to be cooked immediately.

With DD off yesterday and both of us adults working at home a quick stir fry during the lunch break (don't tell my boss that!) was not all that hard. All you need is soy sauce and Sriracha or another kind of hot sauce or chilli sauce and some garlic. Beautiful sauce that goes well with rice is ready in no time.

The idea for this dish came from a comment left by a friend on this roasted snow peas post.

Roasted Snow Peas in a chilli sauce
Preparation Time:5 minutes
Cooking Time:20 minutes
  1. Snow Peas - 2 cups or so
  2. 4 - garlic cloves smashed and chopped
  3. 1 tsp grated ginger
  4. 1 tbsp soy sauce (low sodium preferably)
  5. 1/2 tbsp red chilli sauce
  6. 1 tsp of fish sauce (totally optional)
  7. salt to taste
  8. 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  9. 2 tbsp sliced and slightly toasted almonds
  10. 1 tsp of vinegar or lemon juice (I added the vinegar from the pique
  1. In a saute pan heat oil and add the chopped garlic. Don't let it brown, add the snow peas and saute on high heat till it starts getting black spots on it and is shiny. Add in the ginger and saute for a minute or two.
  2. Add the soy sauce, chili sauce, fish sauce and the vinegar/lemon juice and let it boil on high heat for 4-5 minutes.
  3. Sprinkle sliced slightly toasted almonds on top before serving.
Serve with steamed rice.