Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Quick and Easy Bottle Gourd (Sorakkai) Sambhar (no tamarind or tomatoes)

The deal is grinding idli batter is not one of my most enjoyable activities but I do it every week anyway. If I don't, weeknight dinners on days that I just don't want to think get kind of hard. So I bite my tongue and grind the batter. I usually soak the rice and lentils the previous night normally Friday or Saturday and grind the batter first thing in the morning. The work is out of the way before the family wakes up and by evening the batter is fermented in summers. Winter time it usually takes overnight for the fermentation to be done.

I can't sleep past 5:30/6:00 usually and while breakfast is getting done this job also gets done. If you are interested in why I am talking about making batter is because this recipe if perfect as a side for ildli or dosai and also pairs great with rice. If all else fails it is also perfect as is. If you are interested in making idli batter click here.

The other great thing it is one of those recipes that you can do with your eyes closed with ingredients that are on hand and I always wonder how just a few ingredients in their right proportions make everything taste good. Give this a try and you will know what I am talking about.

I usually cook this in the pressure cooker but stove top is fine too but takes a little bit longer, still easy but not quick.

Roast the moong dal and get the vegetables ready.
Combine the lentils, onions, vegetables, green chilies and turmeric powder and the sesame oil and let pressure cook for 2 whistles.
Season oil with cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves and add it to the cooked lentils on low heat along with salt. Mix and turn off the heat.

Quick and Easy Bottle Gourd (Sorakkai) Sambhar
Preparation Time:5 minutes
Cooking Time:25 minutes
Serves : 4-6
  1. 1/2 cup of split green moong dal or split yellow moong
  2. 1/2 cup of toor dal
  3. 1 bottle gourd peeled, seeds removed and diced into small pieces (ridge gourd, snake gourd, chard leaves, green beans, spinach all work well in this recipe)
  4. 5-6 green chilies slit and shake to remove the seeds
  5. 1/4 cup of onions
  6. seasonings: cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves
  7. salt to taste
  8. 2 tsp turmeric powder
  9. 1 tsp of oil + 1 tsp of sesame oil

  1. If using moong dal, dry roast the dal till it gets slightly browned. This is optional of course but roasting gives it a good aroma and taste.
  2. Wash the lentils and add to the pressure along with the sesame oil, turmeric powder, onions, bottle gourd and green chiles and 3 cups of water. (I like it to be a little watery but if you want it thick reduce the water quantity.)
  3. Place the weight on the cooker and cook in medium heat for 2 whistles.
  4. Let the heat subside, open the cooker keep the flame on low and add salt.
  5. For the seasoning, take a small sauce pan, add oil add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves and when the mustard starts to pop add to the lentils in the pressure cooker, mix and turn off the heat.
  6. Serve as a side with dosai or idli. Goes well with rice also.

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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fresh Maize (Makka Cholam) Paniyaram - Minced Fresh Corn Danish style Pancakes

Have lots of fresh sweet corn and tired of eating them on the cob grilled or boiled? They are in season now and available fresh in farmers markets and grocery stores. These fresh sweet corn can be put to good use in a breakfast dish. If you have some left over sour idli batter look no further. Or the batter can be made from scratch if you prefer.

The slight sweetness these sweet corn impart to the paniyarams makes them a special treat. The recipe for how to make idli batter is here.

Separate the corn kernels, blend and add to the idli batter.
Take the onions, cumin seeds and curry leaves and blend to a coarse paste.
Add the onion paste to the corn-idli batter and mix it in.
Make the paniyarams in the paniyaram pan.

Fresh Maize (Makka Cholam) Paniyaram - Minced Fresh Corn Danish style pancakes
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:30 minutes
Serves : 4-6
  1. 3 cups of idli batter
  2. 3 fresh sweet corn kernels removed
  3. 1/4 red onion
  4. a sprig of curry leaves
  5. a tsp of cumin seeds
  6. oil for cooking the paniyaram

  1. Using a knife slice corn kernels from the cob. In a grinder or blender grind to a fairly smooth without adding too much water.
  2. Mix the corn paste to the idli batter.
  3. In a blender take the onions, curry leaves and cumin seeds and blend to a coarse paste and mix into the batter.
  4. Put the paniyaram pan on the stove and add a bit of oil to each hole and add the batter. Let cook on one side(about 2-3 minutes). Cover with a lid if required to cook faster.
  5. Flip cook on the other side. Repeat.
  6. Serve with coconut chutney.
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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Blackberry frozen yogurt

DD2 picked a bucket full of wild blackberries from the farm. The wild blackberry plant as opposed to the farmed one has a lot of thorns. Even with getting pricking all over she did not stop. The taste of the wild blackberries are much more intense than the farmed ones and also slightly smaller.

She made jelly and then still had some blackberries left and decided to make some frozen yogurt. She used Greek Yogurt but any strained yogurt is sufficient. I found this recipe which had the bare minimum ingredients from and decided to go with that.

Wash and blend the blackberries.
Strain the blackberries and set the pulp aside.
Strain the yogurt and mix it into the blackberry pulp along with the honey.
Whisk the yogurt and the blackberry pulp to a smooth consistency and freeze for 4-6 hours or churn in an icecream maker.

Blackberry Frozen Yogurt
Preparation Time:15 minutes + 4-6 hours freezing time
Cooking Time:30 minutes
Serves : 4-6
  1. 2 cups of plain Greek Yogurt or (3 cups of plain yogurt)
  2. 2 cups of blackberries (any berry will work)
  3. 2 tbsp of honey
  1. Wash and run the blackberries in the blender. Do not add water. Using a sieve strain the blackberry pulp and set aside. (see note:)
  2. Through a cheese cloth strain the Greek yogurt and remove as much of the liquid as possible.
  3. Add the strained yogurt to the blackberry pulp along with the honey.
  4. Use a whisk and whisk the yogurt and berries pulp to a smooth consistency.
  5. Transfer to an ice creamer and churn for 10-15 minutes. If you do not have an ice creamer just freeze the mixture for 4-6 hours till use.
  6. Note:Wild berries have bigger seeded so has to be strained. If using blueberries or other berries which does not have as many seeds no straining is required.

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Afghan Style Red Kidney Beans Masala - Lobia Masala

This summer since we are not visiting India and not planning on any major trips we decided to use the time judiciously and do a few college visits. When my mom mentioned this to my dad he was totally confused. He did not understand why a high schooler would go visiting colleges. Normally in India we visit a college only when we are admitted and that too only the day before college starts if you were going to stay at the college. You are not required to stay at the college like some universities her require of first year students. You could be a day scholar.

Anyway on our way back from one such college visit after being taken on a tour and walking around campus we were dying of hunger and were ready to pretty much eat anything. We stopped at an Afghani restaurant. We did not have high expectations, the restaurant being in a college town and all and moreover we were simply not very discriminating. We chose the buffet. Even though there were only just a few items in the buffet each one of them was excellent. Don't ask me if hunger had anything to do with it. I would think not because the DDs ordered kabobs and they were excellent too.

In a pressure heat oil, add cumin seeds. Add the onions and green chilies and saute till the onions are translucent. Add the mint leaves and saute till the leaves are wilted.
Add all the powders, followed by the tomatoes.
Once the tomatoes are soft add a cup of water.
Pressure cook for 2 whistles and once pressure is released open and gentle mash with the laddle or use a hand blender for a smoother gravy.
Add the cooked red beans and let it simmer for 10 minutes.

Anyway the one that impressed me most was the Rajma. I wanted to give this a try, so I searched for Afghani Rajma and did not find many recipes. I found one on a recipe I found on Afghan Kitchen Recipes. I based mine on this recipe. It is very similar to our own Rajma Masala but with a taste of mint.

Afghan Style Red Kidney Beans Masala - Lobia Masala
Preparation Time:15 minutes + overnight soaking
Cooking Time:30 minutes
Serves : 4-6
  1. 2 cups of dried red kidney beans
  2. 1 red onion or about a cup of finely chopped onions
  3. 1 large tomato or about a cup of finely chopped tomatoes
  4. a handful of fresh mint leaves chopped
  5. 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  6. 4 garlic cloves grated
  7. 1/2 tbsp coriander powder
  8. 2 tsp turmeric powder
  9. 2 green chilies slit
  10. 2 tsp red chili powder or to taste
  11. salt to taste
  12. 1 tsp oil

  1. Pressure cook the kidney beans till soft and set aside.
  2. In a pressure cooker heat oil and add the cumin seeds followed by the onions and green chilies, saute till translucent.
  3. Add in the mint leaves and saute till they start to wilt. Add the turmeric, chili powder, salt and coriander powder. Give a good mix.
  4. Add the tomatoes and saute for 2-3 minutes and add a cup of water.
  5. Close the lid and cook for 2 whistles. Alternatively cook on the stove top.
  6. When the pressure subsides open the lid and mash it with the back of a spoon. You could also blend this with a hand blender for a smoother gravy. (I did not do it.)
  7. Add the drained beans and let it simmer in medium heat for about 8-10 minutes.
Serve with rice or bread.

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Friday, July 25, 2014

Grain of the Week - 30 - Sweet Brown Rice

I am simply amazed at the number of different types of rice that are out there. Each with their own quirks, tastes and textures. Some are sticky, some are soft, some are glutinous, some smelly, some fragrant, some sweet - some not, some lend themselves to making idlis, most don't and some others are colorful and are packed with nutrition while the others are just filled with carbohydrates.

This sweet brown rice like the name suggests is sweet when cooked and is sticky. It is also supposed to be glutinous and used for making mochi and sushi. Glutinous does not mean gluten.

It is quite interesting when we look at the preferences of rice among Asians. While Asia is predominantly a rice eating continent each country prefers the texture of rice in a certain way. While Indians like their rice to be cooked soft and separate, the Thais and Chinese like their rice to be slightly sticking to each other. The Japanese like their rice quite sticky that it lends itself to be used in sushi and mochi. I had the pleasure of tasting mochi and they were delicious.

Most brown rice is unmilled retaining the bran and the kernel giving it a chewy nutty texture. Since the bran is left in place and has more oils than the cleaned out white rice it tends to go rancid quicker.

Sweet Brown Rice is grown in California to make Japanese products like Sushi and Mochi. Also called CalRose this California rice variety is popular in Asian countries as an exotic rice variety. Source.

You'd all agree that there is big wonderful world out there that is filled with exciting new varieties of rice that we have not seen before. Make every effort to try finding new varieties of rice and grains that would keep these varieties alive and in cultivation.

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