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Monday, April 30, 2007

Methi - Aloo Sevai

I have been in love with green leafy vegetables ever since I was able to distinguish between vegetables. Be it the ocassionally visible, glorious gongura, the adorable amaranth (thota koora), the fragrant fenugreek greens (methi / menthi koora) or the scrumptious spinach (palak /pala koora). Anything my mom prepared with them, I used to enjoy. Here, our only Indian acquaintances have been fenugreek leaves and spinach. Several years back, occasionally I could lay my hands on gongura and thotakoora. Not any more. The only times, I see them now are on the wonderful Indian food blogs.
For this month's Jihva, I pushed till the end to see if I could get some gongura or thotakoora. I went on several futile, shopping trips till yesterday and I had to rely on my old favorite methi for good. Coming to methi leaves, they are a bunch of special kind. Those pretty, aromatic leaves can add special zing to any dish, they are a part of. The signature fragrance, when cooked could never go unnoticed.
Apart from the pappu I prepare, I make use of them in preparing a nutritious and wonderful dish, Methi - Aloo Bhath. It is a simple, fulfilling meal any time, any day. For a change, I have used rice vermicelli / sevai instead of rice, in my regular recipe.

Ingredients used:
Rice vermicelli is sold at Indian grocers or Asian food aisles in supermarkets. I am recently buying (Thailand product), Erawan brand rice vermicelli which comes in one pound package. It contains 3 coils of vermicelli strands. I used half of one of those coils.

Sevai / Rice vermicelli - See above
Methi (fenugreek) leaves - 2 cups or a big bunch
Potatoes, peeled & chopped into small cubes - 1 cup
Green peas - 1/4 cup
Vangibhath Powder (homemade or use MTR brand) - 2 Tbsp
Salt- accordingly
Oil - 4 Tbsp
Cashews - 1 Tbsp (Optional)
Chana dal - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - few
Lemon Juice (Optional)


I always use fresh methi leaves. Don't be tempted to use the frozen variety when it comes to methi leaves. In sheer greediness to earn money, the companies which sell these leaves are adding the stems too, which makes the dish bitter. Pluck the leaves from methi stems. Throw away the stems. Wash the leaves and chop them roughly.

Cook the rice vermicelli according to the directions on the package. Drain all the water and keep it aside. If you have boiling water ready, the cooking part will take less than five minutes. You can just break the long strands of vermicelli with a spoon after they are cooked, if you don't wish to eat the long strands of vermicelli.
Heat oil in a pan. Add chanadal, urad dal and mustard seeds. When the dals start turning red and mustard seeds start popping, add cashews if using and curry leaves. Saute for a few seconds, add potato cubes and methi leaves, stir and close the lid. Turn down the heat to lowest setting and cook them till potatoes are tender. By the time, methi leaves would have wilted and would have released their wonderful aroma. Now add vangibhath powder and salt. Fry for a minute and add the cooked sevai. Stir the mixture until the vermicelli is uniformly coated with vangibhath powder.
Squeeze a bit of lemon juice before serving. (Optional)


My entry for Mahanandi's JFI - Greens and Saffron Trail's WBB, hosted together by Indira of Mahanandi.

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Saturday, April 28, 2007

Nuggekayi Palya (Drumsticks Curry)

This is my 'N' entry for Nupur's A-Z vegetabes event. 'Nuggekayi' is the Kannada name for drumsticks. It is 'Munagakaya Koora' in Telugu. After weeks of mulling over Navratan and Nawabi dishes, even preparing Nuggekayi Sambhar, I cooked drumsticks curry today. I had eaten this only once, decades ago at one of my aunt's place. Using drumsticks for sambhar in our households is common but curry/sabji preparation is not.
The vegetable which is usually used to prepare sambhars in Southern India, resembles the musical drumsticks. It is a green skinned, hard, stick like vegetable with soft flesh inside. The foot (or more) long vegetable is cut into 1 to 2 inch pieces and then cooked with water. When cooked, the skin should not break and remain intact to enable eating the flesh part. The pale greenish flesh embedding small pods is sweet, fragrant and is the delicious edible part. While eating, the (cylindrical) drumstick piece is opened with fingers, flesh is scraped from the green skins of the vegetable using one's teeth. The green skins are then discarded.
The fleshy part is only miniscule compared to the skins. To prepare a sabji, onions and tomatoes are added for substance. I mostly use frozen variety cut drumsticks which come in handy and cheaper compared to fresh ones which are sold at around $8 per pound.

Ingredients needed:
Cut drumstick pieces - 20
Chopped Onion -1 Cup
Tomatoes - 2
Chillie powder - 1.5 tsp
Salt
Oil - 1 Tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Asafoetida - a few pinches

The cooking part:
Heat oil in a pan. Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds and asafoetida. When mustard seeds start to pop, cumin seeds start turning brown, add onion pieces, stir once. Cover the lid, turn down the heat and cook onions till they turn translucent with in between stirring. Then add tomatoes to the pan and let them cook.
Mean while cook drumsticks with water seperately in a pot or in a microwave. The skins of the drumsticks should be intact as said above.
Add drumsticks to onion - tomato mixture. Add salt and chillie powder. Saute for a couple of minutes. Turn off the stove.
Serve hot with rice.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Oothappam / Uthappam

LakshmiK has come up with this wonderful idea of 'Celebrating the Regional Cuisines of India' (RCI), a monthly event. She is hosting this month’s event and her choice is obviously Tamil cuisine, :-). As the name suggests,Tamil cuisine belongs to Tamilnadu, the southern state of India whose long history and cultural traditions are among the oldest in the world. Personally, whenever I think of the wonderful state, the things which pass by in my vision are the magnificent temples, women (not the modern ones) wearing nine yard sarees with vermilion on their foreheads and jasmines in their hair, bharatnatyam dancers, carnatic music and of course, the delicious food. Though most of the food prepared in the four southern states of India are common (& known by regional names of course), still each state is known for its own delicacies. To learn more about Tamilnadu, visit here.
My entry for the Tamil Cuisine is going to be a break fast dish, Oothappam. Oothappams are rice and lentil based pancakes with vegetable toppings, usually prepared with sour, left over dosa (Indian version of pancakes) batter.
Neither I end up with a lot of leftover batter nor I like the sour one. I therefore usually prepare oothappams with fresh, fermented dosa batter rather than leftover sour batter. Some use idli batter too, which I personally don't prefer.

Ingredients required to make oothappam:

Dosa batter - As required
Medium sized onions, chopped fine - 2
Medium sized tomatoes, chopped fine - 2
Green chillies, chopped fine - 2
Cilantro, finely chopped - 2 Tbsp
For dosa batter, recipe is
here. Reduce the quantity according to your needs.

Dosa batter with vegetable toppings being cooked

Oothappams with chutney

Chop onions and tomatoes very finely to avoid the rawness of the veggies while eating dosas. Mix all the chopped items in a bowl and keep aside. Mean while heat a dosa tawa or griddle. When you sprinkle a few drops of water on the griddle, the water should sizzle and evaporate. This means the griddle is ready. Pour a ladle full of batter on the griddle and spread it into a thick circle with the help of the backside of the ladle. Oothappams are supposed to be thick unlike crispy dosas. Sprinkle the chopped veggies over the batter using your fingers or a spoon. Take ½ tsp of oil and spread around the edges of the circle / oothappam and also on the veggies, if you prefer. Slow down the heat a little bit and let the bottom side cook as well. Flip the oothappam and again spread some oil around it and let it sit for a minute or less so that it is cooked on the other side too. Remove the oothappam with a spatula. Repeat the process with the remaining batter.
Serve hot with chutney and or sambhar.

Note: Instead of sprinkling, you can add veggies directly to the batter and make oothappams. My mom usually prepares oothappams that way.

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Mirapakaya - Aloo Koora (Peppers - Potato Curry)

Cubanelle / Banana Peppers

After my recent stint with jalapeno peppers to prepare Mirchi Ka Salan, I am trying to get myself acquainted with more varieties of peppers. Since, I am still at initial stages of knowing them, I am going with milder varieties. We bought some Cubanelle or Banana peppers, the long tapered ones to prepare bajjis. They are very mild, when it comes to the hotness level. Not at all hot, to be precise. I cooked the remaining peppers with potatoes, tomatoes and onions, sprinkled some sambhar powder to make it spicier and prepared delicious peppers - potato curry, to go with rotis.
Any variety of chillie / pepper go by the name of mirapakaya (Plural -mirapakayalu) in Telugu, my mother tongue. Mirapakaya - Aloo Koora (Peppers - Potato Curry), my 'M' entry of Nupur's A-Z event.

Peppers - Potato curry
Ingredients:
Cubanelle (Banana) Peppers - 4
Potatoes - 2
Tomatoes - 2
Medium sized onions - 2
Sambhar Powder (like MTR brand or homemade) - 1 Tbsp
Chillie powder - 2 tsp or accordingly
Salt - Accordingly
Oil - 2 Tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - A few
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp

Preparation:
Cut all the vegetables into small bits.
Heat the oil in a deep sized pan (karhai). Add mustard seeds and cumin seeds. When mustard seeds start to crackle, add turmeric powder and curry leaves. Saute for a few seconds and add onion. Lower the heat and fry onions till they turn light golden brown. Then add peppers, potatoes and tomatoes. Add a cup of water and cover the pan with a lid. Cook the mixture till all the vegetables are done. Adjust the quantity of water, if needed (to form the gravy). Add sambhar powder, salt and chillie powder. Let it simmer for a few minutes. Turn off the stove.
Serve hot with rotis.

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Monday, April 9, 2007

Lauki Ka Halwa ~ Sorakaya Halwa

The light greenish, bottle shaped gourd known as lauki or doodhi in Hindi or sorakaya in Telugu is used in Indian kitchens to make dals (cooked with legumes), subjis and desserts.
This gourd which has a cooling effect on body, is used to make this delicious halwa. This is a very easy recipe and hard to mess up, if you use a non stick pot. It doesn't demand your attention till the final stages. So, cook on a low flame and attend to other things meanwhile. Just come and stir once a while, till all the water evaporates.


Ingredients:
Grated lauki / bottle gourd - 6 cups
Sugar - 2 cups
Ghee - 2 Tbsp & 1 tsp
Raisins & Cashews - 1 Tbsp
Cardamom powder - 1/4 tsp
Saffron - Few strands



Choose tender gourds. Peel the skins, remove the seeds and grate the bottle gourds. I used two bottle gourds and I got 6 cups of grated gourd.
Heat a pan and add bottle gourd and sugar to it. Let it cook on a low to medium flame. The sugar - gourd mixture releases more water. Let it be cooked till it becomes transparent and all the water evaporates. The mixture becomes one big mass. Add the ghee and fry for a few minutes more, till all the ghee is incorporated into the mixture.
Heat a tsp of ghee in a small pan and add raisins and cashews. Toast them till the cashews turn golden brown and raisins turn plump. Turn off the heat.
Add cashews, raisins, cardamom powder, saffron to the lauki mixture and stir properly.
Remove and serve warm or chilled
.

Lauki Ka Halwa - My 'L' entry for Nupur's A - Z event.

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Saturday, April 7, 2007

Kosumbari


Srirama navami, which is said to be the birthday of Lord Sri Rama and also the day on which he married Seetha is celebrated by Hindus on the ninth day (navami) of Chaitra maasam (Hindu month). The day falls on a typical summer day and to beat the scorching heat and to quench the thirst, prasadams like panaka(m), vadapappu /pannaram, buttermilk are offered / distributed at temples. These food items, which have a cooling effect on body are also prepared at homes and shared. People in Andhra also distribute hand held bamboo fans.
Panakam is a healthy drink made up of jaggery, ginger and cardamom. Whereas, vadapappu or pannaram is soaked moongdal (in telugu). In the neighboring state Karnataka, moongdal is jazzed up with addition of coconut and a little bit of spices. Sometimes, chopped cucumber is added as well. The end result, Kosumbari is a mouthwatering salad, which can be easily prepared and fulfilling on any day.

Kosumbari - 'K' entry for Nupur's A- Z event.

Ingredients:
A big cucumber - 1
Moong dal - 1/4 cup
Fresh coconut, grated - 1/4 cup
Mustard Seeds - 1 tsp
Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp
Green chillies, finely chopped - 2
Salt - Accordingly
Cilantro chopped finely - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - A few
Oil - 1 tsp
Lemon juice - (optional)

Soak the moongdal in water for about 30 minutes. By the time, they would be tender and when you try to break them with your fingers, each bean splits into two.
Peel and cut the cucumber lenghtwise into quarters. Remove the seeds. Chop cucumber into fine bits. Add moongdal, coconut, salt, green chillies, cilantro to the cucumber pieces.
Heat oil in a small pan. Add mustard seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida. When mustard seeds start to crackle, turn off the stove and pour it on cucumber mixture.
Drizzle some lemon juice, if you are using.
Mix well and serve.

Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Koththimira Annam ~ Cilantro Rice


Cilantro / fresh coriander leaves with that lovely, magical fragrance play a dominant role in our Indian kitchens. They are used to garnish every possible dish. Most of the North Indian snacks would be a dull deal without the famous green chutney, prepared using fresh, green cilantro leaves. In Andhra, we have an equal counterpart to green chutney, koththimira karam which goes well with rice.(Koththimira, the Telugu word for the cilantro and karam means hot).
I was familiar with all those things said above, but not in a rice dish, that too, as a primary ingredient. Recently, I heard about this cilantro rice dish and got the recipe from my husband's niece. I was hesitant because of the quantity of cilantro used in the dish, though I love the leaves and use it liberally in my kitchen. My SIL who had tasted it earlier convinced me that it's worth trying. She was not wrong. An easy, delicious dish which is going to be a crowd pleaser, for sure.

Ingredients:
Rice (preferably sona masuri) - 1 cup
Bunches of cilantro (medium sized ones) - 2
Cloves - 6
Red Chillies - 6
Ginger grated - 1 tsp
Dry, grated coconut - 4 Tbsp
Cinnamon pieces (approximately one inch) - 6
Cashews (Optional)
Salt - Accordingly
Oil

Method:
Cook the rice.
Remove and collect the leaves from cilantro stalks.
Heat 2 Tbsp of oil in a pan and fry the cilantro leaves for a couple of minutes till they are wilted.
Heat 1 or 2 tsp of oil and fry cashews till they turn golden brown. Remove them with a slotted spoon and add ginger to the same oil and fry till it starts to turn golden brown. Then add cloves, cinnamon and chillies to it and fry them for a few seconds. Turn off the stove and let them cool.
Grind the fried cilantro leaves, coconut, cloves, cinnamon, chillies, ginger into a smooth paste.
I had to use a little quantity of water for grinding. So, I heated a tbsp of oil in a pan and fried this ground mixture for a few minutes (less than 5 minutes). Turn off the stove. Add the cooked rice, salt and fried cashews to the above cilantro mixture and stir so that the rice is coated well with the mixture.
Serve hot with some papads and yogurt.
This is my entry to Indira's JFI - Greens and Nandita's WBB, hosted by Indira of Mahanandi.

Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Tomato Poori

Tomato is a mini fable which teaches us the marvellous qualities of assimilating, supplementing and complimenting, vital to a social being. It is one healthy vegetable which imparts its color and flavor to every dish it touches, humble enough to readily mingle and jingle with any companions. It's presence in most of the Indian (spicy) dishes is a must. It is one of the two key vegetables without which North Indian sabji making would be not the same.
When RP announced, tomato as the ingredient for this month's jihva, I thought of making something with rice, which is my staple food as a South Indian. But again it occurred to me that there would be at least a few delicious entries in the form of tomato rice and bhaths. So, my focus shifted to wheat. I thought when parathas can be prepared with every vegetable you can think of , why not with tomatoes? Somehow the idea of tomato parathas did not remain so appealing when really the time came to prepare them. So, I opted for pooris. For my tomato ketchup loving and tomato hating kids, I always add this lycopene rich vegetable pureed in most of the dals. This method seemed perfect for the tomato pooris.
I tried them yesterday for our lunch and they were like as they should be. Soft, all puffed up, with a slight hint of the red fruit's flavor. My SIL's spicy eggplant chutney was the perfect accompaniment for the pooris instead of my curry. My kids asked for more and did not even care that they were made out of tomatoes. That was a sure sign of success.

Ingredients:
Wheat flour - 1 cup
Big Tomato - 1
Salt - 1/4 tsp
Oil - 1 tbsp
Sesame seeds - 2 tsp
Red chillie powder - 1 tsp
Oil for frying

Chop tomato into four quarters. Remove the seeds from each quarter and puree them in a blender with chillie powder.
Mix wheat flour, salt and sesame seeds in a big bowl. Pour the oil and just rub in the mixture.
Now add the tomato puree and form a soft dough. If the dough appears too soft, add some more flour to get the right consistency. It should not be very hard or sticky. Note that no water is required to form the dough.
Knead the dough for a couple of minutes, cover it and let it rest for at least 30 minutes. I always follow this trick learnt from my mom, though she kneads the dough for 10 minutes, when making rotis.
Make equal sized, small balls out of the dough. Then roll out into thin, small circles of approximately 3 - 4 inches. You can roll them in batches and fry. Or roll out the circles and cover them so that they wont get dry and result in not so fluffy pooris.
Mean while, heat the oil in a Karhai / small sized wok on medium flame, until very hot. The temperature of the oil is perfect to make pooris, if a pinch of the dough added to the oil, sizzles and comes to the surface immediately. If the dough stays at the bottom, then the oil is not hot enough. If it browns, the oil is too hot.
When the oil is hot enough, fry each circle till both sides puff up and turn golden brown. Drain on a kitchen towel.
Serve them hot with a curry.

Tomato poori - My entry to Jihva for tomatoes.

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