Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Aval Podi Upma - Spicy Flattened Rice Stir Fry

Breakfast is the most complicated meal in my opinion. You need something that is filling but not too heavy. You need something that is easy and quick to make but not filled with sugar or fat. The reason being, a good breakfast starts off the day on a good footing. I am pretty surprised at people who start the day with no breakfast. Hats off to their stomachs. Mine on the other hand growls and I feel lethargic and unable to carry on with the day. Also low sugar means more moodiness and outbursts. Nobody likes that. Whenever I run into a person who is grumpy and blames it on not having their morning cuppa. I think to myself that coffee is only going to make it worse. All that person needs is a good breakfast.

To know a few quick and easy recipes is a good thing. This upma falls into that category. 20-30 minutes tops. This upma is made with every day pantry items you have on hand. I always have idli podi on hand. If you do not, just use chili powder. I use red aval (poha) which is thicker than the white aval. You can also use the thicker white aval for making this upma to prevent it from becoming soggy.

The only decision that has to be made is for the right kind of flattened rice to be chosen. Make sure you do not buy flattened rice that has had contact with oil. Yes check the ingredients even for buying aval. The quickest way something will go rancid is when it is processed with oil.

Soak the aval (flattened rice) for about 10 minutes or so. Get the onions and green chilies chopped.
In a wide mouthed pan, add oil and the seasonings followed by the onions and green chilies. Saute till onions are translucent.
Add in the peanuts if using. Add in the soaked flattened rice.
Add the idli podi or red chili powder, sugar and the sesame oil. Mix everything together and turn off heat in 3-4 minutes.

That is easy isn't? Give it a try.

Aval Podi Upma
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
  1. 2 cups of flattened rice / aval /poha
  2. 1/4 cup of chopped red onions or shallots
  3. 5-6 green chilies chopped
  4. 2 tbsp idli podi or 1/2 tbsp red chili powder
  5. 1/2 tbsp sugar
  6. 1/4 cup roasted peanuts (skip for nut free)
  7. seasonings: cumin seeds, mustard seeds, split white lentils(ulundham paruppu/ urad dal), curry leaves
  8. 1 tbsp sesame oil (or any oil)
  9. 1/2 lemon (optional)
  10. Salt to taste

  1. Take the flattened rice in a sauce pan. Completely immerse in water. After a minute pour it through a colander and let it sit for 10 minutes while you get the rest of the ingredients together.
  2. In a wide mouthed pan, heat 2 tsp of oil. Add in the white lentils and let it start turning color, add in the cumin and mustard seeds. When mustard starts to pop add in the curry leaves, onions and green chilies.
  3. Saute the onions till they turn translucent.
  4. Add in the peanuts, the soaked aval, salt, idli podi, sugar and the rest of the oil and mix well. Turn off the heat in 3-4 minutes.
  5. If using red chili powder, squeeze in the lemon juice for sure and optional if using idli podi.

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Monday, April 9, 2018

Kulfi Frozen Nut Delight (Indian Ice Cream with Mixed Nuts)

I am sick of this winter weather. It is April and I as I sit looking out the window I am seeing flurries! When will this cold go away really? April is colder than February ever was. The thing is in February you are resigned to deal with winter but in April when you want to start packing up your winter clothes, old man winter is throwing a tantrum and just won't leave. Well my protest is to post this frozen kulfi nut delight!

Kulfi, that Indian of ice creams (with origins in Persia?) lends itself to a lot of variations. Kulfi is made with thickened milk, addition of a small quantity of powdered nuts, cardamom and sugar like this Almond-Pista Kulfi.

Made a slight variation to this and decided to add milk and nuts in equal quantities. The result was a frozen pudding like nutty texture that was enjoyed more than kulfi itself. Heat the milk and condensed milk and add in the powdered nuts and freeze for till it sets.

Here is the delicious process in pictures. At each stage you just want to grab a cup of it, find a quiet spot and savor! I persisted till the end and the results were of course delicious.

Heat the milk in heavy bottomed pan. Take the cardamom and sugar in a coffee grinder and make a smooth powder.
Once the milk reduces to almost half add the powdered cardamom powder to the milk.
Coarsely powder the nuts and set aside.
Pour in the condensed milk and let it cook for another 10 or so minutes.Once the milk is reduced add the powdered nuts.
Mix in the nut powder, turn off the heat and transfer to a container to freeze.

Kulfi Frozen Nut Delight
Preparation Time: 45 minutes
Freezing Time: 4-8 hours
  1. 1 1/2 cups of full fat or 2% milk
  2. 14 oz can of condensed milk
  3. 1 tsp cardamom seeds + 1/2 tbsp sugar
  4. 1 1/2 cup of powdered nuts (roasted almond + pistachio)

  1. In a wide mouthed thick bottomed pan, set the milk to heat.
  2. Take the cardamom seeds and sugar in a grinder and make a smooth powder.
  3. Coarsely powder the roasted nuts and set aside.
  4. Let the milk continue to reduce till it thickens nicely and reduces to about 1/2 the original volume. Takes about 20-25 minutes with constant stirring.
  5. Add in the powdered cardamom powder and mix well.
  6. To this add the condensed milk and continue to cook for another 10 -15 minutes.
  7. Now add and mix the powdered nuts. Turn off the heat.
  8. Let the mixture cool and pour into a container to freeze. Freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight.

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Sunday, March 25, 2018

Indian Kitchen Utensils - Flat Bottomed Saute Pans and Stock Pots

The Indian saute pan or vada satti in Tamil or Kadai in Hindi from back then, is not exactly flat bottomed and the one I had was hard to seat on the stove. It dances around while sauteing and works best when held with one hand for stability and doing the sauteing with the other hand. Not very comfortable. These pans were showcased in the Kitchen Utensils - Saute Pans. You might say that I have been late to the game on this because flat bottomed ones easy to seat on a stove have been available for a while now.

Heavy iron saute pans

I agree. I don't normally like to throw away usable pots and pans once I have developed an attachment with them. But now that they have outlived their usefulness and starting to develop stains which are almost impossible to remove I have no choice but to replace them. I have had those aluminum saute pans for a while but after nearly 20 years they are starting to show their age.

Stainless Steel saute pans

On my recent trip to India I wanted 2 iron saute pans with a flat bottom so they can sit on my stove without wobbling around. I found one that I liked but it was pretty heavy. So I decided to buy another stainless steel one which was slightly lighter than the iron one. If my luggage went beyond the limit one of them would have been left behind. Lucky for us both made their transatlantic trip. I like both of them as they get used for different purposes.

Clear Stock Pot

Along with the saute pans, I was also looking for a slightly larger (5 qt) stock pot since I had to discard a few of my pressure cookers which had lived passed their prime.

All 3 of them get used repeatedly in my kitchen. The stock pot gets used for making a lot of curries, pasta, upma and many other which requires a deep cooking pot. It is my go to cooking utensil for a lot of recipes.

On the stove

Slowly but surely I have removed almost all my non-stick wares out of the kitchen. Dry roasting takes a little bit more careful watching without the non-stick but have simply gotten used to it. And my trusty old cast iron pan is the one that gets a work out for sauteing a lot of long sauteed food.

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Monday, February 26, 2018

Bitter Gourd with Gongura leaves and fried fish

Bitter gourd is one of those vegetables whose taste needs getting used to. It is supposed to have all these good qualities to enhance health and wellness but a bitterness to match all the goodness. I know a lot of people who eat bitter gourd for its curing properties for diabetes. I have a colleague who eats it sliced like a cucumber. More power to her! I simply only like the bitter taste of it when it is mixed with sour and sweet. In the typical way that I know of, bitter gourd is cooked is with the addition of tamarind for the sourness and jaggery for the sweetness.

But this time I switched out the tamarind and used gongura leaves for the sourness. The fruity sourness of tamarind replaced by the leafy gongura sourness. The gongura leaves are cooked and then blended to a paste and then used here.

Now on to the recipe in pictures,

Saute the green chilies with gongura leaves.
Blend the gongura leaves to a paste.
In a cast iron pan add the bitter gourd, onions and tomatoes and saute till the onions are browned and tomatoes are mushed.
Add in the gongura paste and let it cook till the bitter gourd becomes nice and roasted.
Add in the fried chili fish, saute for a few more minutes.

Bitter Gourd with Gongura Leaves and dried fish
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 - 40 minutes
  1. 6-8 medium sized bitter gourd split in half, seeds removed and sliced thin
  2. 1/2 cup red onion chopped
  3. 1/2 cup tomatoes chopped
  4. 8-10 green chilies
  5. 4 garlic cloves chopped (optional)
  6. 2 cups of packed Gongura leaves
  7. 1 cup (or more) chili fried fish
  8. 1/2 tbsp red chili powder (or to taste)
  9. salt to taste
  10. 1 tbsp jaggery or brown sugar
  11. 2 tbsp oil

  1. In a saute pan add a tsp of oil, saute the green chilies followed by the gongura leaves. Cool and blend to a paste. Set aside.
  2. In a cast iron pan or a heavy bottom pan add about a tbsp of oil. Let it get hot.
  3. Add in the onions, tomatoes and the bitter gourd. Let them cook, stirring them continuously so they stick to the pan. Continue to cook for about 15-20 minutes.
  4. The onions should be browned by now and the tomatoes broken down, add in the blended gongura paste, chili powder, salt and the jaggery, cook for another 10 minutes or so.
  5. The bitter gourd should be fried stage by now, add the chili fried fish and mix it in. Cook for 5 minutes more and turn off the heat.

  6. Serve as a side with rice.

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