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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Yogurt With Snake Gourd ~ Potlakaya Perugu Pachchadi

When I go grocery shopping, I always pickup at least 6 gallons of milk. I had strangers asking me curiously what I do with that much of milk or people with a smile on their face commenting 'that's a lot'.
As far as I know, majority of the Indians enjoy their share of dairy products. It may be milk, yogurt, buttermilk, cream, butter/ghee or paneer (Indian cheese). What ever it is, every body loves one or the other form. Growing up, I don't recall any magazine or television telling us how important milk is or having a particular number of servings would make you thinner. We also didn't have mesmerising ads for smoothies or fruit on the bottom kind of yogurts. Still we did have our daily share of dairy. With out the knowledge of food pyramids, calories and other nutritional data, majority of Indian moms always try to imbibe the kids with this fact that how milk can make them 'taakatwar' or stronger. One which makes you stronger must be good, that's all we knew when we were little. Science classes later taught that milk is a good source of calcium which is important for bones. I enjoyed and still do when it comes to dairy products. Yogurt, being my favorite.
Naturally fermented yogurt / dahi/ perugu has been part of the Indian food from the earliest times. It is a norm in South Indian families to finish their meal with yogurt (and cooked rice) since it aids digestion and has a cooling effect after a spicy meal. In India, apart from the culinary usage, yogurt is eaten as it is, made into delicious lassis, khadis, raitas and more.
We don't throw away even our sour yogurt, :) Either it goes into majjiga pulusu (Andhra Kadhi) or perugu pachchadi (Can be called raita but made with sour yogurt). A roasted / cooked vegetable is added to the spiced up sour yogurt. The popular choices of veggies added are eggplant, snake gourd and bottle gourd. This is some what similar to my earlier post 'Vankaya Perugu Pachchadi' (Baingan raitha). In Andhra homes, usually it is eaten with rice and muddha pappu (toor dal cooked to a thicker consistency and salt added). Rice and dal are mixed well with a generous amount of ghee and then each 'muddha' (morsel) is dipped in this pachchadi and eaten. (Mu in muddha pronounced as in 'Municipal' and 'ddha' as in 'that' with a stress). It can be also eaten with rotis.

Ingredients :Snake gourd chopped into circles - 1/2 cupYogurt (preferably sour) - 1 cupSmall piece of ginger
2 or 3 Green chillies
Oil - 1 Tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
A little asafoetida
A few curry leaves
Cilantro to garnish
Salt
Preparation:
Heat oil in a small pan and add mustard seeds, asafoetida and curry leaves. When mustard seeds start to splutter, add snake gourd and turmeric powder. Cover and cook on low flame till the snake gourds are done.
Mean while, grind the green chillies and ginger into a paste. If it is difficult to grind add a little yogurt to facilitate grinding.
Whisk or beat the yogurt with a spoon for a few seconds to reach a smooth, uniform consistency. Add salt, ginger - chillie paste, snake gourd mixture to the yogurt and mix well.
Garnish with cilantro and serve with rice & dal combo or rotis.

This goes to Nupur's A-Z vegetable series for the 'Y' entry.
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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Xperimenting with Xacuti Masala


Xacuti Masala Rice

Xacuti did not get my attention when I first saw the title in a cook book. It was a chicken dish, I read the introduction and left it there. When Nupur announced A-Z event, 'X' entry seemed the difficult one. I tried to think, Google, look thru cook books but there were no X dishes to try except the Xacuti stuff. This blogging thing has made me do things which would have been regarded as obnoxious in my pre -blogging life. I now even go thru recipes of non veg dishes to see if I can fit in 'that' recipe in my veg cooking.
I gathered - xacuti is derived from the word 'sakuti '. Xacuti is a Goan speciality, makes use of 11 types of roasted spices to make an opulent sauce. Like a true Indian, spices are welcome at my home and I thought why not use the spice powder to make two vegetarian dishes with my style and here they are.


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Xacuti Masala Powder

Ingredients for Xacuti masala powder: (Makes about 1 & 1/2 Cups)
Poppy seeds - 3 Tbsp
Peanuts - 2 Tbsp
Dry, grated coconut - 1/2 cup
Coriander seeds - 2 Tbsp
Cloves - 12
One inch Cinnamon pieces - 6
Fenugreek seeds - 1/4 tsp
Nutmeg powder - 1/2 tsp
Red chillies - 12
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Fennel seeds - 1 tsp

How I did it:
Dry fry peanuts on low flame till the skins start to turn black. Cool and remove the skins by rubbing between your palms. Keep aside.
Heat a small pan and add the poppy seeds, coriander seeds, mustard seeds, cloves, cinnamon, fennel, red chillies, fenugreek in that order. Dry roast till the poppy seeds and coriander seeds turn light brown. Or dry roast each ingredient individually. Let them cool.
Grind peanuts, other fried spices along with the coconut in a blender to a fine powder. Use as required.

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Xacuti - Vegetarian
Style


Vegetable Xacuti

Heat 2 Tbsp of oil in a pan. Add a tsp each of cumin seeds and grated ginger to the oil. When cumin seeds start to turn brown, add 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder and about 1/2 cup of chopped onion(one big onion or 2 small onions) to it. Fry the onions till they turn light brown and add then add 1/2 cup of chopped tomato(or one big sized tomato) to it. Saute for a couple of minutes. then add 2 cups of chopped, mixed vegetables of your choice and water. I have used potatoes, French beans, Carrot and green peas.
Cover the pan and let the vegetables cook on medium flame.
When vegetables are done, add salt, 2 tbsp of xacuti masala ( & 1/2 tsp of chillie powder if you wish). Adjust the amount of water if needed. Let it simmer for a couple of minutes before turning off the stove.
Serve hot with rotis.


Note: For an authentic version of xacuti, add tamarind juice and garlic to the above recipe.


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Xacuti Masala Rice

The inspiration for this recipe came from my 'Masale bhath' post. If you enjoy spicy rice dishes, here is one more to add to your list. Prepare the powder ahead and you will have a dish ready within no time.

Ingredients:
Rice - one cup
Mixed vegetables, chopped - 2 cups (I have used potatoes, green beans, carrots and green peas)
Salt
Xacuti masala - 4 - 6 Tbsp
Cashews - 1 Tbsp
Oil - 4 Tbsp
Cook the rice according to the directions. I used sona masuri rice and cooked it with less than 2 cups of water.
Heat oil in a wide pan and add cashews. When they start to brown, add chopped veggies and fry them on low flame till they are done. Alternatively, you can steam the veggies and add them to the oil. Add salt and xacuti masala powder to the oil and saute for a minute till the vegetables are nicely coated with the spice powder.
Now add the cooked rice and stir the whole mixture properly till the rice is mixed well with spices and veggies. Turn off the stove.
Serve the spicy rice with some yogurt and chips.


I also tried to X-plore a new veggie and even made yummy parathas using them. Unfortunately, before copying the final pictures, I deleted them from my camera. More about them in future.

This one goes to lovely Nupur of One hot Stove for the "X" dish in the A-Z vegetable series.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Pandu Mirapakaya Pachchadi - Fresh Red Chillie Pickle

No Indian palate is accustomed to bland food. We need chillies to pep up any savory dish. Be it in the form of chillies-fresh/ripe or the chillie powder which go into our daily fare of curries / dals / pickles, it needs to be just there. Recently, our own chillie, 'Bhut Jolokia' has been honored as the hottest chillie on earth by Guinness Book of World Records. For the JFI event, Nandita of Saffrontrail has aptly chosen chillies - the ingredient without which our Indian cooking would be at loss.

I instantly knew what I was going to prepare when JFI - chillies was announced. Being an andhrite, pickle of course. Spicy pickles are an integral part of Andhra cuisine. Instead of being sidelined, they are given prominence as a part of the main meal, which is rice centered. Especially in Telugu Brahmin house holds, a traditional meal always start with rice being eaten with pickles / chutneys (pachchadi) with generous sprinkling of ghee. Rice is eaten with pickles (pachchadi), cooked and spiced vegetable / curry (koora), spicy Dal (pappu / pulusu), rasam (charu), yogurt (perugu) - always in this order. A menu on a festive ocassion may include more curries, rice dishes (like pulihora), other sweet and savory dishes.

It is therefore a common practice to prepare and store pickles for year long usage. Avakaya, Maagaya, Mukka pachchadi (pickles made with mango), Gongura, Chintakaya (made with raw tamarind) are to name a few. Among the long list of Andhra pickles, here is one, Pandu Mirapakaya Pachchadi / Pandu Mirapakaya Karam. As the name suggests, the main ingredient that goes into this pickle are fresh red chillies, the chillies which are allowed to ripen before picking.

Making this pickle is an easier task compared to the other ones. You don't need any elaborate preparations to make this. You can have this in a jiffy just by grinding the required ingredients. Take care to use dry utensils and ingredients for pickle's long shelf life. This pickle stays fresh for at least six months with the kind of fresh red chillies available in Andhra. If you are substituting with other varieties, it is better to refrigerate.

Note: The closest substitute for fresh red chillies I could find in my grocery shop were chicara. The quantities of other ingredients may slightly vary depending upon the chillies you choose. The following ingredients give you a cup of pickle. You can increase/decrease the quantities in same proportions for more / less quantity of the pickle. Also the ingredients should be ground into a coarser paste for an authentic version. I could not do it because of my blender. Don't be skeptical to try this because of the color and the chillies used. The fresh red chillies are mild compared to the green ones. If you want to try this, I would recommend you to go ahead without any hesitation. If you try it, I am sure that you are going to love it..

Ingredients:
Fresh red chillies - 10
Tamarind - A small lime size (Hint: if you make a ball out of tamarind, it should fit into a Tbsp size spoon)
Salt - 1 tsp
Oil - 2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida - little (around a 1/8 tsp)

How to make the pickle:
Wash the red chillies and let them air dry or wipe them dry. Chillies should have no trace of moisture. Remove the stalks.
Mean while, heat oil in a small pan and add mustard seeds and asafoetida. When mustard seeds start to pop, turn off the stove. Let the mustard seeds cool.
Take care that the mixer / blender which you are going to use is completely dry. Grind the chillies, tamarind and salt into a coarse paste WITHOUT water.
Add the mustard seeds - asafoetida mixture to it. Stir well and store it in a glass / ceramic jar.
Always use a DRY spoon when handling the pickle.
Traditionally, this is eaten with rice & ghee. It also can be served as a side dish / dip.

'Pandu Mirapakaya Pachchadi' - My entry to JFI - Chillies hosted by saffron trail's Nandita. Indira of Mahanandi is the person behind JFI.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Instant Bitter Gourd Pickle ~ Kakarakaya Pachchadi

Before moving on to today's recipe, let me tell you the name of the green vegetable that I asked you to guess in my previous post. Capsicum got the most votes and keeping JFI - chillies in view, some even suggested green chillies. Only Suganya and anonymous (I know it is you, Deepthi) mentioned the veggie along with their other choices of guesswork. Lakshmi went with the Chinese one.
The answer is Indian Bitter Gourd / Kakarakaya / Karela. The idea of playing the guessing game occured to me after seeing the picture and when even my husband guessed the veggie as ridgegourd. It didn't look like karela (except when you paid attention to certain pieces) at any angle and to prove that I didn't scrape the ridges, here are the chopped karela in a bowl, which I used to make this pickle.
Here is a recipe for all bitter gourd lovers and diabetics. It is really a simple preparation and tasted good really the next day.
So far tested shelf life of this pickle is a week, refrigerated.

You need:
Finely chopped Indian bitter gourd, seeds removed - 1/2 cup
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt - 1&1/2 tsp
Green chillies - 3 or 4 (Can be chopped fine or slit lengthwise)
Juice extracted from two small limes (Or lemons)
Oil - 2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Asafoetida - Few pinches

Preparing the pickle:
Heat oil in a small pan and add mustard seeds and asafoetida. When mustard seeds start to splutter, turn off the stove. Let the mustard seeds cool.
To a bowl add chopped bittergourd, salt, green chillies, turmeric powder and lemon / lime juice. Add the mustard seed mixture. Mix well and let it sit for a couple of hours before serving.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Guessing Game


Can you guess the green veggie in the bowl?

Update: Answer here

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Thursday, July 12, 2007

In Quest of Quenchers: Watermelon Juice



Before going to the recipe, some watermelon facts from wiki and here.
  • Watermelon is native to South Africa and records show that it was cultivated in Nile valley as early as 2nd millennium BC. Numerous watermelon seeds were recovered from the tomb of Pharaoh Tutankhmun.
  • Over 1,200 varieties of watermelons are grown worldwide in 96 countries now.In Japan, farmers found a way to grow cubic watermelons, by growing the fruits in glass boxes and letting them naturally assume the shape of the receptacle.
  • The flesh of the fruit is red / yellow /orange. Water melon is a good source of vitamins A & C. Watermelon is 92 percent water by weight, the highest percentage of any fruit.
  • It's seeds are rich in fat and protein, and are widely eaten as a snack, added to other dishes, or used as an oilseed.
  • Their rinds are also edible, and sometimes used as a vegetable. In China, they are stir-fried, stewed, or more often pickled. Pickled watermelon rind is also widespread in Russia, Ukraine, and Romania. The first cookbook published in the U.S. in 1776 contained a recipe for watermelon rind pickles.
  • Watermelons have higher concentrations of lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable.
  • The largest watermelon ever grown was 262 pounds according to the Guinness book of world records.

Here is a refreshing drink for these sultry, summer days. Grab a blender / juicer and few chunks of watermelon and you are ready for the simple job. I used the seedless variety and hence directly blended the watermelon with a little quantity of water until smooth. For a cup of chopped melon, you will probably need a tbsp or two of water. Using chilled water is much more better. There is no need to add sugar unless you prefer a very sweet drink. I didn't intend to dilute my juice with ice cubes and hence went ahead with some crushed watermelon ice that I had prepared earlier.
For watermelon ice, just pour the above juice in ice cube trays at least a couple of hours before serving the juice. Remove and use them when needed.

This is for AFAM - Watermelon hosted by Jugalbandi's Bee & Jai . The person behind the fruit event is Maheswari of Beyond the usual.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Aloo - Soya Korma

Soybean products are undoubtedly, the most efficient source of vegetable protein in the food world. They are good meat substitutes as well. It is therefore beneficial for vegetarians / non vegetarians alike to include them in their meal plan on a regular basis.
A few months back, for a change I bought a box of textured soya protein instead of my regular soy chunks from my local Indian grocer. To people who have not heard the term, Textured soya protein (TSP) is made from defatted soy flour. It is high in protein (50%), low in fat and sodium. It is also a good source of of fibre and isoflavones. They are flaky as seen in the picture. These flakes are quick to cook and need hydration before usage. They are almost neutral in taste and can therefore be added to any dish. (Info from WIKI)
I replaced soya chunks with TSP in korma. TSP flakes give texture to this dish and the final product was a hit in my family. I am going to include this more in my diet. Here is a nutritious side dish, rich in protein, calcium and vitamins.

Textured Soya Protein with veggies

Ingredients:
Baby white potatoes, peeled - 12
Textured soya protein (TSP) - Heaped 1/4 cup
One big sized tomato or 1/4 cup tomato paste
One big onion, chopped fine
Frozen peas - 1/4 cup
Ginger (grated/finely chopped) - 1 tsp
Coriander leaves, finely chopped - 1 Tbsp
Sesame seeds - 1 Tbsp
Poppy seeds - 1 Tbsp
Coriander seeds - 1 tsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Cloves - 4
Cardamom seeds from two pods
One inch pieces of Cinnamon - 2
Chillie powder & Salt - Accordingly
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Yogurt - 3/4 cup
Evaporated milk - 1/4 cup (I had to use my evaporated milk. It can be substituted with cream)
Oil - 2 Tbsp
(Garlic can be added to the above recipe)

Method:

  • Soak TSP in hot water for about 15 - 20 minutes. By the time, they would be more than doubled. Squeeze all the water out of it and keep the TSP aside.
  • If not using tomato paste, put the tomato with little water in a microwave and cook it. Let it cool and then grind it into a puree. Save it.
  • Add sesame seeds, poppy seeds, coriander, cumin, clove, cardamom, cinnamon to a small pan and dry fry them on low heat till they turn light brown. Remove from flame and let them cool a bit. Then grind them into a fine powder.
  • Add the ground spices, chillie powder and salt to the yogurt and whisk it till smooth.
  • Mean while, heat oil in a pan and add ginger and onion to it. Fry the onions on low flame, till they turn brown, add the soaked TSP and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add the yogurt mixture, potatoes and add any water if needed. Let it cook on low to medium flame till the potatoes are fork tender. Alternatively, You can add this mixture to a pressure cooker and cook it till you hear one whistle.
  • Then add tomato paste, frozen peas and the evaporated milk to the potato - TSP mixture. Adjust the amounts of salt and chili powder now, if needed. Simmer it for about five minutes. Turn off the stove.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro.
  • Serve with rotis / tortillas.
Recipe idea from the cookbook 'Indian flavor'

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Saturday, July 7, 2007

Carrot Koora

Carrot -the crunchy, juicy root vegetable adorned with a fabulous color is truly one of the gifts of nature. The carrots are rich in dietary fibre, antioxidants, minerals and the beta - carotene from where it gets it's characteristic color.
Here is one of the ways to incorporate Vitamin - A rich carrots into the diet. This is my mom's version of preparing carrot koora (sabji). It is quick and easy even for a beginner. Using coconut is optional.

The cooking part:
The following quantity yields four decent servings.
Peel, chop the ends and grate carrots. I used six large, juicy carrots and ended up with three cups of grated stuff.
Heat 2 - 3 Tbsp of oil in a wide based pan. Add one tsp each of chana dal, urad dal, mustard seeds, cumin seeds, 1/4 tsp of turmeric powder and a few curry leaves to the oil in that order.
When the dals turn red, add the grated carrot and stir once. Cover with a lid and let it cook on low flame. The carrot would be cooked within ten minutes. Stir once or twice in between to avoid the carrot sticking to the pan.
Then add 1/4 cup of fresh, grated coconut, a tsp each of salt and chili powder to the carrot mixture. Stir properly with a spatula so that the carrot and coconut mixture is well coated with salt and chili powder. Let it cook for a couple of minutes on low flame and then turn off the stove.
Serve with rice / rotis / tortillas.

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Thursday, July 5, 2007

Ravishing Rice Dishes ~ Green Peas Rice

During time crunches, simple dishes, which can be meals by themselves or one pot dishes can be life savers. Particularly in Indian cooking, there are plenty of rice dishes, which fall in above categories and green peas rice is one such dish. Serve this with a cup of raita or plain yogurt and an enjoyable meal is ready for you on plate. If you already have cooked rice, then this dish hardly takes 10 minutes to go from stove to plate.
I took the basic idea of my cilantro rice and cooked this dish today and I think it can be one of the fabulous choices for quick, simple and delicious party dishes.

Ingredients that went into the green peas rice:
Sona masuri / Basmati rice - 1 cup
Frozen Green peas - 1 cup (Fresh ones will do)
Fresh grated coconut - 1 cup (if using frozen coconut, thaw it before)
Cashews - 1 Tbsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Grated ginger - 1 tsp (Just to give an idea. No need to grate ginger)
Cloves - 4-6 (depending upon the spiciness you prefer)
One inch Cinnamon pieces - 3 or 4
Green chillies - 2 (I used jalapeno. If using small, Indian variety, probably 3-4 will do)
Salt - 2 tsp
Few Curry leaves (Optional)
Oil - 2 tbsp

Preparation:
Cook the rice (with 2 cups of water if using a cooker).
Grind coconut, ginger, chillies, cloves and cinnamon into a paste using a little water if needed.
Heat oil in a pan and add cumin seed, cashews and curry leaves. When cashews and cumin seeds start to turn brown, add the ground paste to the mixture. Fry for about five minutes on low -medium flame. By the time, the raw smell of the paste would be gone and the mixture would be relatively dry (if water has been used for grinding).
Next, add peas and saute for a few seconds. Turn off the stove.
Then add rice and salt to the pan and stir properly till all the rice is coated well with the spice mixture.
Serve hot with some raita / yogurt.

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Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Tomato Pickle, The Simpler Way

My parents and husband come from different parts of the same state. I therefore have a couple (sometimes more) of versions/recipes to follow, when I am planning to prepare a dish. Sometimes, the same dish has different names too. Tomato pachchadi / ooragaya is also prepared differently in our families. My mom has a version of tomato nilva pachchadi which can be stored year long without any refrigeration. My mom's version uses sun dried tomatoes. I cannot afford that much of sunshine in Chicago and so, I went by my SIL's directions and prepared this tomato pachchadi which can also stay fresh for at least six months, if refrigerated. That is another thing whether you will have any thing left to refrigerate, once you taste it. Two cups of pachchadi was gone in less than a week at my place and we don't live in a hostel. And yes, the number of adults in our home is only two. The preparation is simpler compared to my mom's version. Though, it is going to take around an hour to prepare this, there is no need to show your love and attention through out the process. Plan to prepare this pachchadi, when you are cooking a meal in the kitchen. Just stir the mixture once in a while to avoid it sticking to the bottom of the pan. You can cook the mixture with occasional stirring on low -medium flame, for most of the part (80% of the cooking). The final stages need to be cooked on low flame with almost constant stirring. The final product should look like the one in the picture (almost as thick as homemade puliyogare gojju). It goes well with rice and a tsp of ghee or as a side dish with any Indian breakfasts.

Ingredients: Chopped tomatoes - 5 cups Thick tamarind extract - 1 cup Chili powder - 1/2 cup Salt - Accordingly Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp Oil - 8 Tbsp Mustard seeds - 1 tsp And a deep bottomed, non stick pan Wash the tomatoes thoroughly and chop them in to medium sized pieces. Heat a tbsp of oil in a pan and add tomatoes to it. Fry on medium flame for about five minutes. Remove them from heat. Let them cool a little bit and puree them in a blender. Again add remaining oil, tomato puree,tamarind, turmeric powder, asafoetida to the pan and keep cooking on medium flame. Since the mixture tends to splatter, cover the pan with the lid. You can cook on medium flame and keep stirring once in a while in the initial stages of cooking. Later turn down the heat to avoid the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan. Cook till the mixture reaches almost solid stage as in the picture. Then add chili powder and salt and let it simmer for about five minutes. Heat a tsp of oil in a small pan and add mustard seeds. When mustard seeds start to pop, remove and add it to the tomato chutney. Let it cool and store it in a glass jar and refrigerate it.
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