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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Monday, February 19, 2018

Spicy Goat (Lamb) Liver Stir Fry (Pirattal )

I turned on the TV like I always do while cooking and saw the now familiar sight on TV kids running with their hands in the air. Yes! I flung something against the kitchen sink in frustration and then muttered a few choice words in my head that I would say to Marco Rubio and politicians like him with their empty words if I ever saw them in person and then felt a chill up and down my spine with the sad acceptance that nothing is going to be done by these guys in Congress who value their money from the NRA and corporations more than anything else.

But the cynic in me took a short take when I saw how the students of the high school are just not giving up and taking the empty words from these pols. Let's stand with these kids with our support and prayers. Read this article Calling B.S. in Parkland, Florida.

Enough of my outrage, now on to the recipe,

Liver is good for people who have anemia I knew from reading. I visited the doctor a few years ago to check my sudden feelings of tiredness sometimes right in the morning after a good nights sleep and a good breakfast. Some tests later the doctor advised me to get myself some iron tablets and some more iron in the diet. Iron tablets make me hungry and uncontrollable eating of junk food follows. So to avoid this I looked to add iron in the diet. Red Meat, Spinach, lentils, black turtle beans, liver, dates, chickpeas are all foods that are good sources of iron.

While eating red meat everyday is not my cup of tea, literally because I don't drink tea either, eating liver every other week seemed like a good compromise. I have also heard that eating too much liver is not good either. Do not use any of what I am saying here as substitute for doctor's advice please. These are things that work for me and they might not be the right ones for you or your health.

Well anyway, while chicken liver is easier to find than goat liver, goat liver does not fall apart while cooking and a bit more tastier methinks. They are cooked with the right amount of spices to season the liver and that is it. It has to be hot to cut through all the fat though.

Saute the onions, garlic and ginger along with the spices and tomatoes.
Add in the washed liver and saute on medium flame till the desired consistency is reached.

Spicy Goat Liver Stir Fry
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
  1. 1 lb of goat liver
  2. 1/2 cup of shallots or red onions chopped
  3. 6 garlic cloves minced
  4. 8-10 green chilies slit
  5. 1 tomato chopped fine (optional)
  6. 1 tbsp ginger grated
  7. 1 tsp red chili powder or pepper powder to taste
  8. 1/2 tsp cumin + 1/2 tsp coriander powder or 1 tsp curry powder
  9. 1 tsp oil
  10. seasonings: mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fennel seeds and curry leaves
  11. salt to taste

  1. Wash the liver and drain the water completely and set aside. If you want sprinkle some turmeric powder and set aside.
  2. In a wide mouthed pan, heat oil and add the seasonings and curry leaves.
  3. Add the onions and saute till they start to brown. Add in the garlic and ginger and saute for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add in the chili, cumin and coriander powders and mix it in.
  5. Add tomatoes and salt and saute till they become mushy and completely broken down.
  6. Add in the liver and cook for 6-10 minutes by mixing gently. Turn off the heat when the required consistency has been reached.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Vellarikkai Thayir Curry- Cucumber Yogurt Curry

In summer I grew Indian variety cucumbers, the thin sweet ones with the thin skin that needs no peeling, that is if they are harvested on time else they tend to grow to a really big size real soon. A couple of days is all that is required. At this point they are too hard to eat raw so had to device something that they could be used in.

The main problem was I let the vine sprawl on the ground rather than train them on a trellis which would have made it easy to spot them. So on the ground they remained hidden until they are too big. DH let them ripen and started making juice out of them and eating it with cane sugar. Tastes pretty good. I don't like it as much as he does though.

I ended up using the over grown big but not ripe ones to make a few curries. My favorite is this Kerala style cucumber yogurt curry. If you do not have cucumbers - ash gourd, bottle gourd or snake gourd can be used but the vegetables all have to be cooked. Here is a Kongu style Thayir kuzhambu recipe made with ash gourd.

I also like the white color of the curry so skipped the turmeric powder.

Recipe in pictures:
Peel and chop the cucumber.
In a wide mouthed pan add the seasonings followed by the onions and saute till translucent. Add in the cucumber pieces and let it cook.
Blend the coconut along with green chilies, coriander leaves, cumin, red chilies and pepper to a smooth paste.
Add the blended paste to the cucumber and let it cook for 6-8 minutes.
Whisk the yogurt and add it to the cooked cucumber.

Vellarikkai Thayir Kuzhambu - Cucumber Yogurt Curry
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
  1. 1 large cucumber, peeled and cut into cubes (deseed if needed)
  2. 2 tbsp onions
  3. seasonings: curry leaves, mustard and cumin
  4. 1 tsp oil
  5. 1 tsp turmeric powder (optional)
  6. salt to taste
  7. 2 cups of whisked yogurt
  8. For the Paste
  9. 1/2 cup coconut
  10. 4-5 green chilies + 2 red chilies
  11. few sprigs of coriander leaves
  12. 1 tsp pepper corn + 1/4 tsp cumin seeds

  1. In a wide mouthed pan, heat oil add the seasonings (you can skip this step and do it in the end too) followed by the onions and saute for a few minutes.
  2. Add the cucumber and let it cook for 2-3 minutes in low heat. It does not have to be cooked too much just to soften a little bit. If adding turmeric add it now.
  3. While that is happening blend the For Paste ingredients to a smooth paste using about 1/2 cup of water.
  4. Whisk the yogurt and set it aside.
  5. Add the blended paste to the cucumbers and mix well and let it cook for about 6-8 minutes in low heat. Add salt.
  6. Now reduce the heat completely or remove the vessel from the stove, add the yogurt slowly while stirring. This is to avoid curdling.
  7. In low medium heat cook for a couple more minutes to heat through. Turn off the heat.

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Thursday, February 8, 2018

Samba Ravai Paysasam - Broken Wheat Pudding

Around the Kongu Nadu region of Tamil Nadu the wheat product of choice was samba ravai or broken wheat not wheat flour. Before making chapathi became popular, this broken wheat product had a special place in the Kongu kitchens. I doubt if I had eaten white ravai upma that often. Upma as a breakfast item was not a favorite among the younger set and the white upma was even more disliked than the samba ravai upma.

Unlike the almost pasty white ravai - the cream of wheat or white ravai which is made from the wheat kernel where the bran and the germ are substantially removed - not so good. Samba revai in contrast is made from whole wheat kernels - good for you.

Take a look at this pictorial which shows the different parts of the wheat kernel.

Courtesy: Great Harvest of Thousand Oaks, California.

As we all know using the whole grain is better than just loading up on the endosperm or the starchy portions of the grain. Samba ravai comes up with its own benefits. While samba ravai upma is the more popular recipe made from samba ravai, believe it or not it is perfect for making dessert. While its white counterpart is not my favorites for making payasam, the samba ravai has a texture that is suitable for making payasam. Quick, easy and delicious and ready in less than 20 minutes.

Have you heard of sara paruppu or charoli in Hindi? Called Buchanania lanzan in English, these are tiny nuts with a mild taste of almonds and are often found as garnish in sweets. These are perfect for this payasam.

Samba Ravai Payasam
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
  1. 1 cup of Samba Ravai / broken wheat
  2. 2 1/2 cups of milk
  3. 1/2 - 3/4 cups of sugar - used raw sugar
  4. 2 tbsp raisins
  5. 1/4 cups of cashews + Sara Paruppu (Charoli in Hindi)
  6. 2 tsp ghee
  7. cardamom powder
  8. saffron threads a few
  1. In a thick bottomed pan heat milk, till it comes to a boil. Lower the heat and let it simmer for another 5-8 minutes in medium heat.
  2. Add the samba ravai and let it cook for another 8 minutes or so while continuously stirring to avoid getting burned or stuck in the bottom.
  3. Add sugar part way through the cooking process.
  4. While the wheat is cooking, heat a pan and add ghee, roast the nuts cashews and charoli, when they slightly turn color add the raisins and saute for a minute. Turn off the heat.
  5. Add the roasted nuts and raisins, to the cooked wheat. Sprinkle saffron threads if using and turn off the heat.

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Saturday, February 3, 2018

Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarian Protein Rich Recipes

There are a lot of us who want to cut carbohydrates and by extension sugar from our diet for a variety of reasons. For medical reasons, being borderline diabetic, being diabetic and having to cut down on carbohydrates and glucose rich foods , just wanting to take control of weight or just wanting to eat nutritiously good protein rich food.

The Indian diet be it South Indian which is rich in rice or North Indian which is rich in wheat by extension makes it carbohydrate heavy. We all grew up eating rice/wheat breads as a staple mixing with vegetable or meat based curries. The end result is the consumption of a large amount of carbohydrates.

Eating meat based proteins might be the easiest thing you might think but lots of us are not used to eating meat every single day and it is not probably common in the Indian diet. I know I know the Paleo diet aficionados might not be very pleased.

So here is my attempt to collect some recipes that might fit in the category. The recipe collection is also available on the Recipes page.

Problem with Beans - How to solve it?
While a simple question might why not eat beans. Beans while rich in protein also have the infamous flatulent properties. This can be reduced to a large extent by rinsing a couple of times after they have soaked overnight. Also while cooking add some grated or scraped ginger which can be taken out later if needed. Add powdered ajwain (omam in Tamil) to the dish. If it is a salad just sprinkle a tiny bit.

Recipe 1: Corn and Peanut Salad

Recipe 2 : Guacamole - Avocado,onion and tomato salad

Recipe 3: Zucchini Puttanesca

Recipe 4: Chickpeas, peanuts, green mango and apple - A Salad

Recipe 5: Kadai Paneer

Recipe 6: Masala Paneer Burji

Recipe 7: Button Mushrooms Fry

Recipe 8: Pan Roasted Tandoori Paneer

Recipe 9: Quiche in a Pan

Recipe 10: Besan(Chick pea flour) Chilla or Vegetarian Omelet or Vegetable Pancake

Hope you find this useful. I will try to a round up of recipes every month.

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