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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Lemon Poha

Event: Blogging Marathon #42
Theme: Easy Tiffins

A simple and quick recipe when you are looking a for a light breakfast option or to beat those hunger pangs in between meals.

Ingredients:(3 servings)
3 cups thick poha
2 tbsp oil
2 tbsp peanuts
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp chana dal / split chickpeas
1 tsp urad dal / split black gram
2 - 3 green chillies, finely chopped
Few curry leaves
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
A couple of pinches of asafoetida powder
Salt to taste
1 tsp lemon juice

* Wash poha in a colander and drain. Leave the poha aside for about 5 minutes in the colander itself.
* Heat oil in a pan. Add peanuts, mustard seeds, chana dal and urad dal. When the peanuts and dals turn golden brown, add chillies, curry leaves, turmeric and asafoetida powder. Fry chillies for a few seconds.
* Next add poha and salt. Mix well, cover and cook for about 5 - 7 minutes on low flame. Add lemon juice to poha, mix well and serve warm.


Friday, July 18, 2014

Spinach - Cheese Sandwich

Event: Blogging Marathon #42
Theme: Easy Tiffins 

This spinach - cheese sandwich is a light yet filling snack for evenings or a quick breakfast / lunch box option.

Ingredients: (3 servings)
6 brown bread slices
1 to 2 tbsp butter
1 cup or about 5 oz frozen spinach or a little more quantity if using fresh spinach
A handful of corn (I used frozen one.)
A pinch of salt (optional since the cheese slices contain salt.)
Crushed black pepper to taste
6 cheese slices

* Thaw the frozen spinach in the microwave. Heat butter in a pan and add spinach and corn. Saute until the spinach is cooked and add pepper and salt if using. Fry for few seconds and turn off the stove.
* Place 3 bread slices on a baking sheet. Place one cheese slice on each of them. Spoon the cooked spinach mixture equally among the three bread slices such that the mixture is equally spread on the cheese slices. Cover each of them again with a cheese slice and a slice of bread. 
Finally the arrangement should be in this order - A bread slice, cheese, spinach mixture, cheese and another bread slice. Or you can use both cheese slices on the bottom bread slice itself. 
* Turn on the oven at 180 deg C / 350 deg F. There is no need to wait until the oven preheats. Place the baking sheet in the oven. There is no need to preheat the oven. Bake until the cheese melts and turn off the oven.
* Serve warm.

* I used cheddar cheese slices. However you can add white cheese as well and add directly to the spinach mixture while cooking. Just spoon the mixture between two bread slices and toast.
* I used the convection oven but a toaster oven / toaster can be used or the bread can be directly toasted on a griddle.


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Cracked Wheat Upma

Event: Blogging Marathon #42
Theme: Easy Evening Tiffins

Cracked wheat upma gets frequently made at my home as it is the quickest and easiest of upmas besides being healthy and delicious. Neither cracked wheat needs any prior roasting nor this upma needs onion to make it more tastier. The simple, the better. I usually go with the fine variety cracked wheat which gets cooked in a jiffy and makes it a perfect filling dish during time crunches or when one is feeling lazy. And besides one more advantage of cracked wheat over semolina is that it doesn't clump up even if you don't stir while adding it to the hot water. You can just dump the cracked wheat into the water and then stir. It makes it easier even for novices to cook a lump-free upma. 
Addition of vegetables is optional and you can add extra veggies like potatoes and beans if you prefer. If adding onions, add them along with chillies and fry them until translucent. Frozen vegetables can be substituted for fresh ones for a quicker option.

1 cup cracked wheat 
1 tbsp oil (I used canola oil.)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp chana dal / split chickpeas
1 tsp urad dal / split black gram
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp cashews / peanuts
2 green chillies - finely chopped
Few curry leaves
1 small carrot - finely chopped
2 tbsp green peas
2 cups water
Salt to taste

* Heat oil in a pan and add chana dal, urad dal, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and cashews in that order. When dals turn reddish and mustard seeds start to pop, add green chillies, carrot, peas and curry leaves. saute for 2-3 minutes.
* Next add water to the pan and bring it to a rolling boil.
* Lower the heat. Add salt and cracked wheat to the water and stir well. Cover and cook until done. 
* Serve warm with a chutney / pickle.


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Manapparai Murukku

For this month's Indian Cooking Challenge, we are traveling towards Tamilnadu. To be specific, towards a town called Manapparai in Tiruchi district. The town's name has somewhat become synonymous with their signature snack - The Manapparai Murukku. A man named Mani Iyer who used to run a vegetarian refreshment stall at the railway station had introduced these murukkus to the train passengers during 1920's. His murukku were so famous that passengers were drawn out of their compartments to buy them. Later these were sold in brown paper bags that were easily identified. Nowadays, murukku making has become a cottage industry in that town and they are available everywhere and are even exported to other countries.

Iyer used to mix butter to the rice flour and fry chaklis in coconut oil. The unique feature of these chaklis are that they are fried twice unlike the regular chaklis that are fried only once. I haven't personally seen or tasted these specific murukkus and going by the reference we had, I am sure that Mr.Iyer's recipe is safely locked somewhere in a vault. :))

The recipe we got for trial had a kilogram of rice flour with a dash of urad flour. Any seasoned chakli maker would tell you that the recipe is nothing but a disaster. Going against my instincts, I tried a small portion, following the recipe to the T, hoping to prove myself wrong and the result was hard to bite chaklis. Then I increased the urad dal quantity and got the good variety ones though the chakli dough somewhat is similar to thenkuzhal/thentharlu one. I fried them until they attained a lighter hue though I am not sure whether they should attain a light / dark golden hue.

And coming to the flours. Usually it is a practice to prepare the flours from scratch in India while preparing chaklis. I always use the store bought ones and they work just fine as the freshly prepared flours. Besides they cut down the work.

2 cups rice flour
1/2 cup urad flour / Black gram flour
1 tbsp butter / hot oil
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp carom seeds / ajwain (I didn't add any.)
Salt to taste
Oil to fry (I used canola oil.)

1. Combine everything in a mixing bowl. Add water gradually and make a firm dough.
2. Meanwhile, heat oil in a wok / wide frying pan. Drop a bit of dough into the hot oil. When it sizzles and comes to surface, then the oil is hot enough for frying. If the dough doesn't rise to surface, heat oil for a couple of minutes more. However there is no need to bring the oil to a smoking point.
3. Fit a single star disc / 5 holed disc to the chakli press, fill the dough into the nozzle and press the dough circle on the back of a ladle. I did it on the backside of a greased, stainless steel plate. Allow the shaped dough circles to rest for about 5 minutes.
4. Drop the dough circles into the hot oil. Fit as many as the frying pan can hold without overcrowding. Fry them in hot oil for about 3 - 4 minutes, flipping in between. (Chaklis are only partially fried at this point.) Remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent towels to cool them a bit.
5. Now repeat the steps as above and partially fry another batch of chaklis. Remove them as well and drain on plates covered with absorbent towels.
6. Now drop the partially fried first batch of chaklis (from the step 4) into hot oil again and fry until they turn crisp. I kept them light hued but one can fry until they attain a dark golden hue.
7. Now fry the partially fried second batch chaklis from step 5 until they are completely done.
8. Repeat the steps of double frying the chaklis with the remaining dough.
9. Let cool and store them in an airtight container. 


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Keerai Kootu

Event: Blogging Marathon #42
Theme: South Indian meals 
Choice of state: Tamilnadu

Kootu, a comforting side dish from Tamilian kitchens is lentil and vegetable / greens based. This particular kootu is mild and tasty and needs no prior planning or preparation. It is simple in terms of preparation and is quick to put together. This keerai kootu is based on moong dal and spinach and was inspired from here.

1/4 cup moong dal
2 cups chopped greens (I used spinach.)
1/8 tsp turmeric powder
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp urad dal / skinned, split black gram
2 green chillies, finely chopped
A pinch of asafoetida powder
1 onion, chopped fine
1 tomato, chopped fine
1/4 cup shredded, fresh coconut
1 tsp rice flour
Salt to taste
Clockwise from left to right: Kootu, Eggplant curry, Mixed veggie sambhar, Rasam, Yogurt and Chayote curry

* Pressure cook moong dal adding spinach, turmeric and about 1/2 cup water. When the valve pressure is gone, remove the dal and mash it well with the backside of a ladle.
* Grind coconut and rice flour adding a little water.
* Meanwhile, heat oil in a pan and add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and black gram. When mustard seeds start to pop, add green chillies and asafoetida. Fry for about 20-30 seconds. 
* Next add onion and fry until translucent. And then add tomatoes and cook until they turn mushy.
* Now add the cooked dal, ground coconut paste and salt to the onion mixture. Bring the mixture to a rolling boil, lower the heat and simmer for a couple of minutes. Turn off the stove and serve warm with rice.