Thursday, July 30, 2015

Mutton and Potatoes in a Pressure Cooker (with fresh coriander leaves)

I don't seem to have time to do commentary on the world happenings these days. Not that there is nothing going on in the world, just that there has been too much going on in my life that there is not enough time to comment :) You can count laziness in that list. With the Presidential race heating up and all kinds of weirdos coming out of the wood work just following their antics will make our summer go faster and with much entertainment as long as you are not too invested in one candidate. Well I have come to the happy realization that i am in neither the right or the left aisle and that gives me a ring side view of all hilarity that goes on on all sides.

One thing I have been very proud of this summer is DD's cooking skills as she went off to spend the summer by herself. All the trouble of putting fresh cooked food on the table every day seems to have paid off. Don't think this is in any way altruistic done for the sake of children. I like to eat fresh cooked food as well ;) She prefers to cook on her own, need I say Indian style food fresh everyday so much so that she turned down the offer from my cousin's wife to cook food for her for a week. My cousin told me that DD told him that she likes cooking daily and eating fresh. Besides teaching how to make an omelet, cook noodles and occasionally cook rice I was not able to teach her much else. But osmosis seems to have worked were direct teaching failed. This blog also helped and of course there is telephone, skype and myriad other technologies to aid in the long distance cooking help department. One thing I am extremely happy about is for packing along a pressure cooker.

Speaking of pressure cookers I am of the firm opinion any cook starting to try Indian recipes should be armed with a pressure cooker for sure. A pressure cooker makes this recipe a quick meal and the taste will make everybody think that you had slaved over the stove for hours. The truth is, the pressure cooker makes the cooking a breeze and the fresh coriander gives that special taste and you will be very happy that you added that to the mix of spices. The addition of the potatoes thicken the gravy naturally.

Saute the ingredients for the paste and set aside. In a pressure cooker add oil and saute the seasonings followed by the mutton.
Add in the potatoes followed by the masala powders.
Add the blended paste,salt and water, cover and let for 3 whistles.
Open the lid once the steam subsides, give a good mix and add more salt if needed.

Mutton and Potatoes in a Pressure Cooker (with fresh coriander leaves)
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:30 minutes
  1. 1 lb of mutton cut into bite sized cubes
  2. 3 tsp of turmeric powder
  3. 2 medium sized potatoes peeled and cut into chunks or fairly big cubes
  4. 1/4 cup of chopped onions
  5. 1-2 tomatoes chopped
  6. Whole spices - 1/4 inch piece cinnamon, few cloves, marathi moggu, star anise,curry leaves, fennel seeds
  7. 1 tbsp kuzhambu thool or any masala powder
  8. 1/2 tbsp of red chili powder (or as per taste)
  9. salt to taste
  10. 2-3 tsp of oil
  11. For the Paste
  12. 1/2 cup of chopped red onions
  13. 4-6 garlic cloves
  14. 2 inch piece of ginger peeled and chopped
  15. 6-8 red chilies
  16. a big bunch of coriander leaves (about 2 cups loosely packed)

  1. Wash the mutton with turmeric powder and set it aside.
  2. For the paste, in a saute pan heat a tsp of oil and when hot add the chopped onions, garlic and ginger and saute for 6-8 minutes till the onions start to turn brown, add the red chilies and saute for a couple of minutes. Add the coriander leaves and saute for 30 seconds or so and turn off the heat.
  3. Let cool and blend to a paste.
  4. In a pressure cooker heat oil, add the whole spices (or if preferred use 1/2 tsp of garam masala instead) and finally the curry leaves.
  5. Add in the mutton pieces and saute for about 4-5 minutes. Add in the tomatoes and saute for another 3-4 minutes till the tomatoes disintegrate and get mushy.
  6. Add in the chopped potatoes and saute for another couple of minutes. Add the powders chili and masala powder. Mix.
  7. Add the blended paste ,salt, give it a good mix and add about 1 cup of water (depending on how thick or thin you want it to be).
  8. Close the lid and let cook for 5 whistles. Let the pressure subside on its own.
  9. Serve with rice or parathas/

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

Coriander leaves Rice - Kothamalli Sadham

Have you tried growing coriander leaves? If you have I am sure you'd know what I am talking about. The aroma and taste of fresh herbs is unmistakable. I was lucky to have some fresh grown coriander leaves. This recipe for coriander rice is what came to my mind immediately. Everything the leaves touch comes out with an amazing aroma. I am not fond of raw coriander leaves so I do not sprinkle them on top of everything. I like the leaves to be cooked.

Coriander rice can be made in a couple of ways. One way is to make the spiced coriander paste and mix it with cooked rice. The other way is to cook the rice in the spice paste. Though both methods are almost the same amount of time I personally prefer the second method.

Roast the dals and red chilies and take them to a blender. Next saute the onions, green chilies, coriander leaves and tamarind. Powder the dal first and then add the coriander onion mixture and blend to a paste.
In a pressure cooker add oil and the seasoning, saute the onions till it is brown.
Add the blended coriander paste saute for a couple of minutes. Add the soaked rice and mix it in.
Add the required amount of water, salt and cook the rice for 3 whistles till it is completely cooked.

Coriander Leaves Rice - Kothamalli Sadham
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:15 minutes
  1. 1 1/2 cups of Ponni Rice (use Basmati rice if you prefer but the cooking time will vary)
  2. 3 cups of packed coriander leaves
  3. For the spice Paste
  4. 1/2 tbsp Bengal Gram (kadalai paruppu)
  5. 1 tsp split urad dal (ulundham paruppu)
  6. 2 red chilies
  7. 4 green chilies chopped
  8. 1/4 cup of roughly chopped onions
  9. a small piece of tamarind
  10. For seasonings
  11. 1 tbsp finely chopped onions
  12. 1/4 tsp mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves
  13. 1/2 tbsp chopped cashew nuts + 1/2 tsp of ghee (use oil for vegan)
  14. salt to taste

  15. 2-3 tsp of oil

  1. Wash and soak the rice for at least 20 minutes or so.
  2. In a saute pan heat about 1/2 tsp of oil and when hot add the Bengal gram and saute till it turns color, add the urad dal and let it saute till that also starts to turn light brown and then add the red chilies and saute for about 1/2 minute. Remove to a blender.
  3. Now to the same pan add a bit more oil and saute the onions till they are translucent, add in the green chiles saute for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the tamarind piece and the coriander leaves and saute till the leaves are wilted.
  5. Run the blender with the dal and chilies till they are powdered a bit. Now transfer the onion and coriander mixture and a tbsp of water and blend to a smooth paste. Set aside.
  6. In a pressure cooker heat a tsp of oil. Add the seasonings, cumin seeds and mustard seeds and when the mustard seeds start to pop then add the curry leaves.
  7. Add the onions and saute till they start to turn brown, add the coriander paste and saute for a couple of minutes.
  8. Drain the water from the rice and add to the coriander paste and mix it well.
  9. Add the required amount of water (see Note:). Add salt and let it come to a boil. Close the lid and cook for 3 whistles. [This time is if you are a rice that requires more water and longer cooking time than Basmati rice. For Basmati rice after the lid is closed lower the heat to medium and cook for 7 minutes and turn off the heat]
  10. Roast the cashews in either ghee or oil and add on top of the rice before serving.
  11. Note: When adding water to cook rice for rice dishes, if the rice is pre-soaked reduce the required amount of water by 1/2 cup. This will ensure that the rice is cooked separate and not mushy.
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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Tapioca - Yuca - Roast - Maravalli/Kuchi kilangu varuval

Tapioca, Cassava, Yuca - this is a tuber with many names. In Tamil it is called Kuchi Kilangu or Maravalli Kilangu. In our neck of the woods it was commonly referred to as Kuchi Kilangu. Whichever name you know it by they are delicious and easy to cook though the peeling of the skin and cutting might take longer than the actual cooking.

Tapioca chips or kuchi kilangu chips as they are called in Tamil was a favorite snack item when we were kids. The thick cut and crunchy chips with spicy seasoning but a sweetness of its own was a lot different than eating the ubiquitous potato chips and they were not as common as the potato chips. To confess I had not eaten boiled tapioca or cooked fresh tapioca before I came here to the US, unless I ate some without knowing what it was.

I used to be so fond of it that it was regular on my weekly grocery list. Then as with everything else it completely stopped. A couple of weeks ago I picked it up to roast it and now I am hooked again.

Tapioca Roast - Kuchi Kilangu Varuval
Preparation Time:10 minutes
Cooking Time:25 minutes
  1. 2 medium size tapioca, peeled and cubed 1" pieces - about 4 cups
  2. 1 tbsp sambhar powder or 1/2 tbsp red chili powder
  3. salt to taste
  4. seasonings: cumin seeds
  5. 1/2 tbsp oil

  1. Boil a pot of water and add the cubed tapioca and let it cook for about 6-8 minutes. Check often because you don't want this to be mushy. It should be fully cooked but not falling apart. Drain and set aside.
  2. In a heavy bottomed pan add oil and when hot add the cumin seeds.
  3. Add in the drained tapioca pieces and stir fry for about 6-8 minutes. Toss at regular intervals and do not let it stick to the bottom.
  4. Add salt and the sambhar or chili powder and continue to saute for another 6-8 minutes till it gets crispy and the spice powder is well coated. You can saute it longer if you want to get it even more crispier.

Serve as a side for rice or as an appetizer.
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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Spicy Okra Masala

Okra is a favorite vegetable for a lot of people, cooked okra I mean. That does not necessarily mean a lot of people with it regularly. Like it's other name lady's finger, the tender pods are the tastiest. While nothing more than a simple stir fry is enough or paired with a tuber like potato or taro makes them even more tasty. I will be remiss if I don't mention my most favorite preparation of all the tamarind gravy or pulikulambu.

While the recipes mentioned above are the ones I fall back to whenever I cook with okra, the recipes with okra are by no means confined to that. Like most people I do not cook okra all that often because I am afraid of the slime. Unless the okra is fresh the slime tends to overtake and I need to change cooking vessels a couple of times before I am done. Last year I found a farmer's stand that sold fresh okra. This year I did the next best thing and decided to grow okra myself. What a difference fresh okra makes.

Don't get me wrong fresh okra has slime but it does not tend to stick to everything that comes in its way. I am reluctant to make North Indian or more precisely Punjabi style vegetables with onion and tomatoes that are a perfect side dish for chapatis or rotis mostly because the dish tends to become slimy. So when I got my hands on some super fresh okra this is the dish I wanted to give a try. I am so glad I did, the slightly tangy masala with the crisp but fully cooked okra with some super soft chapthi were a delight.

Wash and dry the okra and chop them into 1/4 inch pieces.
Add oil to a saute pan and saute the okra till it starts to turn color, set aside. Add more oil to the same pan, add seasonings and saute the onions till it starts to change color. Add the spice powders.
Add chopped tomatoes and cook till they turn mushy. Add tamarind pulp and cover and cook for 6-8 minutes.
Add the sauteed okra and cook for another 5 minutes or so till the masala becomes thick.

I used sambhar powder in this recipe, so it cannot be called Punjabi by any stretch of the imagination. So with that in mind let's checkout the recipe,

Spicy Okra Masala
Preparation Time:15 minutes
Cooking Time:25 minutes
  1. About 2 cups of chopped okra
  2. 1/2 onion diced fine
  3. 2 juicy tomatoes (preferably tart) chopped fine
  4. 1/2 cup of tamarind water from about a small grape size piece of tamarind
  5. 2 tsp of sambhar powder
  6. 2 tsp of turmeric powder
  7. 2 tsp of red chili powder
  8. salt to taste
  9. seasonings: mustard, cumin seeds and curry leaves
  10. 2 tsp of oil
  11. Wash the okra or lady's finger about a couple of hours or even the previous night and spread it on a kitchen towel to dry so the moisture is completely gone.

  1. Wash and pat dry the okra and let it air dry (see note:) and dice the okra into about 1/4 inch length.
  2. In a saute pan add a tsp of oil and saute the okra till they start to turn brown on the outside. Set aside.
  3. Wash the pan if it is dirty or else in the same pan add the rest of the oil and when hot add the seasonings.
  4. When the mustard starts to pop add the onions and saute till it starts to turn brown on the edges.
  5. Now add the powders, turmeric, chili and sambhar powder, give a good mix and add the tomatoes. Saute for a couple of minutes and add the tamarind pulp.
  6. Mix, add salt and cover and cook for 5-8 minutes till the mixture is mushy.
  7. Add the sauteed okra pieces and cook for 5 more minutes till the mixture thickens. Check and add more salt if required.

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Friday, July 10, 2015

Potates and Fresh Peas Curry - Aloo Matar Sabzi - Using a Presure cooker

There is something about farm fresh that is hard to beat. Peas is one of those vegetables, especially if you live in the US you never bother/can't to find fresh. Frozen peas are plentiful and cheap and it is hard to find fresh peas even if you went looking for it. But during a short period in Spring if you are lucky you will find fresh shelling peas in farmer's market or if you grew them. We hit a jackpot last week and harvested a decent quantity of fresh peas. It is even fun to shell the peas if you get the kids involved in it.

When you cook with fresh peas, they don't get mushy and collapse in wrinkles like the frozen ones do. I wanted to make a simple curry dish with a classic pairing of potatoes and peas. It sounds much better when said in Hindi - Aloo Matar Sabzi. I am not a Hindi speaker but the word sabzi is perfect to describe vegetables with a bit of gravy in them. When I am planning to make some soft chapathis, these sabzis make great side dishes for them.

I wanted a smooth gravy so pureed the onions but a even more simpler version of this, just saute very finely diced onions and tomatoes in a pressure cooker. A variation with coconut also tastes great. Here is that recipe if you are interested - Aloo Matar Gravy.

Today lets go with a quick and simple recipe that is done in under 30 minutes and you can make some quick Indian breads to go with it.

I had bought a packet of Singhara flour on my last Indian grocery store visit. Singhara flour is flour made from water chestnuts. On a whim while preparing dough for chapathis I replaced half the wheat flour with singhara flour and the end result was some amazingly soft chapathis. The singhara flour becomes sticky when water is added, adding water a little at a time will help in bringing it together. So persist with it and you will be rewarded with some delicious soft chapathis. Rolling it once the dough is made is not all that hard.

Get the potatoes, tomatoes, ginger and garlic ready.
Chop the potatoes and keep the peas ready.
Saute the onions, ginger, garlic and cook the tomatoes along with the spices. Add the potatoes and peas and cook in the pressure cooker for 2 whistles.
Once the pressure subsides give a good mix and serve.

Here is the recipe for some quick but tasty curry,
Most people get a little taken aback when blending and gravy is involved. You don't have to be. Nothing can be simpler than this one.

Potates and Fresh Peas Curry - Aloo Matar Sabzi
Preparation Time:10 minutes
Cooking Time:25 minutes
  1. 2 cups of fresh shelled peas (frozen peas works just as well)
  2. 3 medium sized potatoes peeled and cubed
  3. 1 onion roughly chopped
  4. 3 medium sized tomatoes
  5. 1 tbsp grated ginger + garlic (optional)
  6. 1 tbsp masala powder
  7. 2 tsp chili powder
  8. 3 tsp turmeric powder
  9. salt to taste
  10. 1 handful of chopped coriander leaves
  11. seasonings: cumin seeds
  12. 2-3 tsp oil

  1. In a sauce add the chopped onions and about 1/4 cup of water and parboil for 4-5 minutes. Drain water completely and blend to a smooth paste.
  2. In a pressure cooker add the oil and season with cumin seeds. Add the blended onion paste and saute till it starts to brown. Takes about 6-8 minutes. One good thing about parboiling the onions is that it does not stick that much but still make sure to saute at regular intervals.
  3. While the onions are sauteing blanch the tomatoes and blend to a smooth puree.
  4. If you are adding the garlic and ginger add it right after the onions are sauteed, and saute for 2-3 minutes till the raw smell disappears. This requires constant stirring.
  5. Now add the masala powder, turmeric powder and chili powder, give a quick stir and add the tomato puree. Let cook for about 2-3 minutes.
  6. Add in the peas and potatoes, mix, add salt and chopped coriander leaves. Close the lid of the pressure cooker and cook for 2 whistles.
  7. Serve with bread of choice or rice.

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