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Monday, January 26, 2015

Palak Chaat

Most of the popular and mouthwatering chaats from the Indian subcontinent involve a fried base - like puffy pooris, crispy papdis, stuffed kachori or samosas, yummy potato patties and so on. Pure indulgence, some may argue but still these remain popular in spite of novel twists the health conscious people keep coming up with. Today's recipe is a similar kind which involves fried fritters made with tender, spinach leaves. The leaves are lightly coated with a spicy chickpea flour batter and then deep fried. These yummy fritters are the center attraction of today's lip smacking chaat. This chaat was inspired from a recipe I saw in a cookbook sometime back.
The chaat can be served individually as one bite snacks or regularly as shown in the image below. I got the one bite snack idea after seeing how my husband assembled the chaat for himself. It would have been a cute presentation if I did in a similar fashion. But by that time, I already plated, pictured and even consumed my chaat portion. I was in no mood to grab his plate and start clicking again. :)
Ingredients for making spinach fritters / palak pakode:
3/4 cup gram flour / garbanzo flour / besan
2 tbsp. rice flour
1/2 tsp carom seeds / cumin seeds
Red chili powder to taste
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp. baking soda
15 tender spinach leaves
Oil for frying

* Wash the spinach leaves and gently pat them dry.
* Combine all the above ingredients except spinach leaves and oil in a mixing bowl. Add water and make a batter of dropping 
* Heat oil for deep frying in a small kadai / frying pan.
* Dip a spinach leaf in the besan batter so that the leaf is lightly coated with batter on both sides.
* Gently drop the batter dipped spinach leaf in to the hot oil. Add as many spinach leaves as the pan can fit without overcrowding.
* Fry them on low medium flame setting until they turn light golden brown on both sides, flipping them intermittently. When done, remove them with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.
* Repeat the steps with the remaining leaves and the batter.

Ingredients for the palak chaat:
15 Palak pakode from above recipe
1 cup peeled and cubed potatoes, cooked until tender
Green chutney as needed
Sweet chutney as needed
1 cup lightly whisked fresh yogurt
Salt to taste
Red chili powder to taste
Roasted cumin powder to taste
Thin sev to garnish
Minced cilantro leaves to garnish
* Combine potatoes and salt in a mixing bowl.
* If planning to serve each piece individually, place fritters on a serving platter. Place about 2 tsp. boiled potatoes on each spinach fritter. Pour about 1 tsp. green chutney, 1 tsp. sweet chutney and 2 tbsp. yogurt over each fritter and gently mix. Next sprinkle a pinch of chili powder and cumin powder on each fritter. Finally garnish with sev and cilantro. Add some more quantity of chutneys if desired.
* Or place 2 - 3 fritters on a serving plate. If the pakode are bigger in size then break each one into two pieces. And add the other ingredients and assemble the chaat as required.

This goes to BM #48, under "Chaats" theme. Check here to see what my fellow marathoners are cooking during Blogging Marath on #48.


Sunday, January 25, 2015

Aloo - Chana Chaat

The next one in the 'Chaat' series is going to be this lip-smacking aloo chana chaat that can be a wholesome meal on it's own. This can be turned into an oil-free dish if you skip the garnishing of sev and puri / papdi. Some planning is ready if you are planning to make this dish from scratch since this chaat's star ingredient is cooked garbanzo beans. In case if you have some cooked beans handy or a can of garbanzo beans lying in your pantry then it can be prepared quickly. The below recipe can just be used as a reference point. One can omit or add ingredients as per their choice. And of course the seasonings and chutneys that go into the dish depends upon one's taste buds and so use them accordingly. 

1.5 to 2 cups cooked garbanzo beans / Kabuli chana
1 potato / aloo
1 tomato (optional)
1 onion (preferably red onion.)
Salt to taste
1/4 tsp chaat masala
Black salt to taste (optional)
1 tsp lemon juice
Green chutney to taste
Sweet chutney to taste
4 to 6 crushed papdi / poories
2 to 3 tbsp. minced cilantro to garnish
Fine sev to garnish

1. Soak chana / garbanzo beans overnight and boil until tender. Drain and keep it aside. (Indians usually cook the beans in a pressure cooker to quicken the process.) Drain and rinse the beans thoroughly if using canned beans.
2. I peel the potato, cut into small cubes and cook it in the microwave adding a little water. It takes around 5 - 7 minutes to cook potato in the microwave depending upon it's strength. One can cook the potato in a pressure cooker or in a sauce pan on stove top too. Just cook until fork tender.
3. Finely chop onion. Usually red onion is used for chaats as that is the commonly available onion variety in India. However white onion can be used if you don't have red ones handy.  
4. Finely chop tomato and keep it aside. Mince cilantro finely.
5. If you are preparing chutneys, papdi/pooris and sev at home then keep them ready before assembling the chaat. Store-bought sev, papdi / pooris and chutneys can be lifesavers during time crunches. I used the store bought sev, sweet chutney and ready to fry pooris for this recipe. I haven't posted the green chutney recipe yet. I grind cilantro leaves, mint leaves, green chillies, salt and lemon juice.
Click the links below if you are looking for these recipes.
Date-Tamarind chutney 

Assembling the Chaat:
* Combine garbanzo beans, potato, onion, tomato, salt, chaat masala, black salt if using and lemon juice in a mixing bowl.
* Add green chutney and sweet chutney as per taste and mix gently.
* Divide the mixture in individual serving bowls.
* Garnish each bowl with crushed papdis / pooris, minced cilantro and sev. Add some more sweet chutney and green chutney if desired.
* This can be served as a starter at parties, an evening snack or as dinner.

This goes to BM #48, under "Chaats" theme. Check here to see what my fellow marathoners are cooking during Blogging Marath on #48.


Saturday, January 24, 2015

Biscuit - Corn Chaat

This recipe is inspired from a 'Khana Khazana' episode, aired long ago. The idea of using a non fried base like these salty crackers makes this chaat more attractive and guilt free. The crackers add a nice, crispy texture to this chaat and this chaat variation make great one bite snacks. These can be assembled in a jiffy, if you have chutneys and sev ready beforehand or using store-bought stuff.

15 round salty biscuits (I used Ritz crackers.)
1 boiled and mashed potato
1/4 blanched corn kernels
1 onion, finely chopped (Preferably red onion but I used white onion here.)
Salt to taste
Chaat masala as required
2 tsp. red garlic chutney (I didn't use any.)
3 to 4 tsp. green chutney (Keep it on thicker side.)
2 to 3 Tbsp. date -tamarind chutney
1/4 cup chopped raw mango
1/4 to 1/2 cup fine sev
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
Minced cilantro to garnish
* Mix mashed potato, corn, onion, salt and chaat masala. (I added red chili powder also in this step.)
* Arrange biscuits / crackers in a single layer on a serving platter. Place about a tbsp.of potato mixture and 1 tsp. of mango pieces over each biscuit / cracker. 
* Next, spoon a little quantity of three chutneys over the mixture. (The quantity of chutneys used depends upon one's preference.) Finally garnish with sev, red chili powder (if it was not used in the first step) and cilantro.
* Serve immediately. 

Click the links below for the recipes.
Date-Tamarind Chutney'
Sev (Omit carom seeds from the recipe.)

This goes to BM #48, under "Chaats" theme. Check here to see what my fellow marathoners are cooking during Blogging Marath on #48.


Monday, January 19, 2015

Umm Ali

Umm Ali is one of the cherished desserts in the Middle East, that was supposedly originated in Egypt. This delicious bread pudding uses puff pastry or phyllo pastry or some stale bread, milk, nuts and coconut. One can use / omit whatever nuts they prefer in this recipe. The creamy bread pudding, crunchy nuts and sweetened cream - milk base, make this an irresistible treat. I came across this lighter version using croissants at Nestle website and had prepared it some time back, scaling down the ingredients to serve two. 

Umm Ali literally means mother of Ali and I came across a couple of legendary stories behind the origin of this delicious dessert. One refers to a woman named, Umm Ali who happened to be the first wife of a Sultan named Aybek. His second wife Shajar al-Durr prevented him from seeing his first wife and son and the king happily obliged. However when he got ready to marry another woman, the second wife got so jealous and raving mad that she killed him and proved that he died in his sleep. The first wife who already had a dispute with Umm Ali, got her brutally killed by Shajar's own servants. And then, she celebrated her victory by preparing this pudding and distributing it among the people of the land.

The second one, a less violent version is that it was invented during the reign of Ottoman Turks. A sultan who was on a hunting trip got hungry and stopped by a small village. Umm Ali, the best cook of the village, filled a pan with the ingredients she had - dried wheat flakes (probably leftovers from some stale bread), nuts, sultanas and coconut. She covered it with milk and sugar, put in the community oven and cooked something akin to this pudding.
Ingredients for 2 servings:
3 croissants (I used small size ones.)
1 cup water
1/4 cup condensed milk
1/4 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup whipped cream
1 tbsp. each - coconut, pistachios, almonds and raisins

* Preheat the oven to 200 deg C / 400 deg F.
* Combine croissant pieces, coconut, pistachio, almonds and raisins in a ovenproof dish. Or divide the mixture among 2 oven proof bowls if you are planning to serve two, individually. 
* Bring condensed milk, water and vanilla to a boil in a sauce pan. Pour it over the croissant mixture and set it aside for five minutes or until the croissant mixture absorbs the maximum of the liquid.
* Place whipping cream in a piping bag and pipe the cream over the mixture. (I didn't use a piping bag and just spooned the cream into the bowls.)

* Place the baking dish in the preheated oven using the grilling part of the oven and grill for 5 minutes or until the cream topping is golden in color. (I turned off the oven and forgot to remove the bowls immediately and hence the darker hue of the cream.)
* Serve it immediately.
This goes to BM #48 for under "1 Cuisine - 3 Dishes" - Arabian Cuisine theme. Check here to see what my fellow marathoners are cooking during Blogging Marath on #48.


Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mujaddara ~ Arabian Lentil - Rice Pilaf

Mujaddara was on my 'to do' list when I participated in 'Around the World' themed blogging marathon last September. However some other tempting dishes took precedence and this humble treat had to wait up until now. Don't judge this simple yet flavorful Arabian pilaf by my presentation above there. I was hungry and there was zero sunlight when I captured that image. :)

Mujaddara is the Arabian version of rice-lentil pilaf sans vegetables and is generously garnished with crisp fried onion slices. It is alternatively also called as mudardara (Lebanon) and majadra (Israel). Some regions keep the dish to the basic minimum using just rice, lentils, onion and salt, while some flavor the dish with cumin and pepper. This simple one pot meal is very popular in Arabian countries and I now completely understand why. It is delicious, healthy and a filling meal on it's own. It is one of those dishes that prove that you can create magic even using the ingredients from a humble pantry. 

The first recorded meat version of this recipe was found in an Iraqi book, during 13th century. The basic vegetarian version was mostly considered a poor man's food since it is a frugal meal. Mujaddara is equally popular among Arab Christian and Jewish communities. Traditionally, Jewish ate this dish twice a week while it is eaten during Lent by Christians. (From wiki.) Mujaddara is served along with yogurt and plain cucumber salad or as a part of an Arabic feast.

Ingredients: (3 servings)
2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp cumin powder 
1/4 cup brown lentils / green lentils (I used brown lentils)
1/2 cup long grain rice
Freshly cracked pepper to taste
Salt to taste

1. Heat oil in a pan and add onion slices. Stir onion slices to coat them well with the oil. Spread the onion slices evenly in the pan and keep stirring them intermittently until they brown. (I cooked them on medium flame). Don't allow the onions to burn. If they appear dry, sprinkle some salt or add a little oil / water and continue. Remove the fried onions with a slotted spoon and keep aside.
2. To the same pan, add cumin seeds. (If there is no oil left in the pan, add a tsp of oil and heat it before adding cumin seeds.) When cumin seeds start to brown, add cumin powder and pepper powder to the pan and stir. Then add rinsed rice and lentil mixture, half of the fried onion mixture and about 1 cup water + 2 tbsp water (I used the same measuring cups used for the dry ingredients and didn't add the fried onions in this step).
3. Cover and let cook on low medium flame until done. (I poured the mixture into a steel container and steamed in the pressure cooker without the whistle on. The brown lentils were turning mushy when cooked in the pressure cooker even for 1 whistle and so I choose to just steam it without using the whistle. One can transfer the contents to the rice cooker as well and cook. When properly done, the rice must be cooked well and the lentils should still hold the shape.)
4. Add salt to the cooked mujaddara and just stir to mix. Garnish with fried onions and serve with plain yogurt if desired.

This goes to BM #48 for under "1 Cuisine - 3 Dishes" - Arabian Cuisine theme. Check here to see what my fellow marathoners are cooking during Blogging Marath on #48.


Saturday, January 17, 2015

Ezogelin Soup ~ Turkish Red Lentil Soup

This red lentil soup happens to be one of the traditional and common soups in Turkish cuisine and goes by the name Ezogelin soup. The origin of the soup is attributed to Ezo, a legendary beauty and an unhappy bride from Gaziantep in the Southeastern Turkey region, while the word 'gelin' means bride in Turkish. This soup is supposedly one of her favorite dishes and she lovingly used to cook it for her family. Irrespective of whether the Ezo story is true or not, this is one simple, home style dish that everyone in the family going to love. I served this delicious and hearty soup with some bread croutons.

Ingredients: (2 servings)
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 small tomato, finely chopped
About 6 cups vegetable stock / water
1/4 cup red lentils (Masoor Dal)
2 Tbsp. rice (I used brown rice.)
2 tbsp. fine bulgur
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/2 tsp Crushed red pepper flakes 
Salt &  pepper to taste
1 tsp dried mint
Lemon wedges to serve
* Heat oil in a medium sized pot, preferably a non stick one. Add onion and fry until it softens. Next add garlic and cook for about a couple of minutes. Then add tomatoes and cook until it turns mushy. Ad tomato paste and saute for few seconds.
* Now add about 3 cups of vegetable stock / water, lentils, rice and bulgur and cook on low medium flame until rice and lentils are cooked well, stirring intermittently. The liquid tends to get absorbed by the grains while cooking and the grains may stick to the bottom of the pan and burn if attention is not paid. Keep adding extra liquid as needed. (I added about 3 cups more.)
* Add mint and seasonings to the pot. Mix well, taste and adjust the seasonings if needed. Cook until the soup reaches a creamy consistency or coarsely puree in a blender. It took me around 30 minutes to cook the lentils and grains.
* Divide the mixture in two soup bowls and serve with lemon wedges.

This goes to BM #48 for 'Arabian Cuisine' under "1 Cuisine - 3 Dishes" theme. Check here to see what my fellow marathoners are cooking during Blogging Marathon #48.


Monday, January 12, 2015

Batata Poha / Beaten Rice Flakes with Potato

I am ending this week's marathon with a favorite dish of ours, batata poha. This simple and quick dish is one of the staple breakfast dishes from Maharashtrian kitchens and can be served for breakfast, brunch or as an evening snack.

Ingredients: (For 3 servings)
3 cups of beaten rice flakes / poha (Use thick variety.)
1 Tbsp. to 2 Tbsp. oil
1 tbsp. peanuts
1 tsp. mustard seeds
1 tsp. cumin seeds
2 green chillies, finely chopped (adjust the quantity as needed.)
1/4 tsp. turmeric powder
Few curry leaves
1 big or 2 small onions, finely chopped
1 potato, peeled and cubed
Salt to taste
1 tsp sugar (optional. I don't usually use it.)
Minced cilantro to garnish
Lemon juice to taste
* Add poha to a colander and rinse well. Drain and leave the poha aside in the colander.
* Heat oil in a kadai / saute pan. Add peanuts, mustard and cumin seeds.When peanuts start turning golden brown, add green chillies and saute for few seconds. Then add onion, curry leaves and turmeric powder.
* Cover and cook until onions turn translucent, stirring intermittently. In the mean time, potato cubes can be cooked in the microwave adding a little water. If not, then add potatoes to the pan, sprinkle some water and cover the pan. Cook until the potatoes are done.
* Next add the soaked poha, salt and sugar if using. Mix well,cover and cook for about 8 - 10 minutes until the poha is done. Add cilantro and lemon juice as needed. Mix once and serve warm.

1. Use thick variety poha to prepare this. Thin variety poha is good for snacks like chivda and not suitable for this dish. It turns mushy if soaked in water.
2. Lemon juice and sugar are optional. Leave them out if you don't prefer those flavors in poha.
3. Skipping potatoes from the recipe would give you the plain poha recipe. To make the dish more wholesome, you can add other vegetables like finely chopped carrots, green beans and carrots along with potatoes.
4. Even some fresh, shredded coconut can be added to this poha. Add along with poha at the final stages of the cooking. 

Check here to see what my fellow marathoners are cooking during Blogging Marathon #48.


Sunday, January 11, 2015

Podi Idli

It is snowing outside my window as I am writing this post. In fact, we woke up to a temperature of about negative 30 deg C, the day I made these idlis. The weather we have right now is not the kind that is conducive for idli and dosa batter fermentation. The subzero temperatures and wind chills are not however stopping me from trying out these south Indian signature dishes in my kitchen. A warm oven and longer hours of fermentation (than usual) are yielding me somewhat "close to perfect" kind of batters in this harsh climate. And so I am here with a 'idli' based evening snack for this week's blogging marathon with the theme of Indian Tiffin dishes.

Usually I prepare a large batch of idlis and freeze them to use later during time constraints, either as a breakfast or to prepare an evening snack. Recently I had some leftover mini idlis and used them to prepare this podi idli. Podi idli is a dish inspired from Tamilian kitchens and uses leftover idlis and milagai podi to create a quick and yummy snack. It tastes altogether different from it's base dish 'idli' and hence provides a variety to taste buds for those who are tired of eating idlis.

Button Idlis / Mini Idlis (About 25)
1 tbsp oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp. Idli milagai podi
Salt to taste
Minced cilantro to garnish

* Heat oil and add mustard and cumin seeds. When mustard seeds start to crackle, add onion and fry them until translucent.
* Add the mini idlis, salt, milagai powder and chili powder if using and mix well until all the idlis are coated well with the powder.
* Turn off the stove, garnish with cilantro and serve immediately.

* I used this idli milagai podi, that also had some grated dry coconut added to it.
* Regular sized idlis can be substituted instead of mini ones. Cube them and use as needed.
* To make the dish wholesome, vegetables can be added in this recipe. After onions are fried, add finely chopped vegetables and saute them.
* Add about 1/2 tsp chili powder if you want the dish to be more spicier or reduce the quantity of milagai powder if serving kids.

This 'podi idli' is going to be a part of this week's BM theme of  'Tiffin / Nasta'. Check here to see what my fellow marathoners are cooking during Blogging Marathon #48.


Saturday, January 10, 2015

Milagu Sevai / Pepper Flavored Rice Noodles

Before proceeding towards today's post, I would like to wish all my readers a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. I know I am a little late in conveying my wishes, but I guess better late than never. For those who are wondering where I disappeared in the midst of last month's blogging marathon, I am hale and hearty. It was though not the same in the case of my laptop and I was forced to take a short break from blogging.

It is going to be Indian Tiffin / Nasta time this week here, during this month's blogging marathon. The terms 'Tiffin' and 'Nasta' are colloquial terms in the Indian context, usually referring to the breakfast time. The dishes I am going to post this week are easy and quick to prepare besides being filling. They can be served either as a breakfast or as an evening snack or even eaten as a light meal. The first one in the series is going to be this quick option of sevai, flavored with pepper and cumin that can be put together in around 10 minutes.  

Ingredients: (2 servings)
2 cups cooked sevai / thin rice noodles
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp oil
1 tsp urad dal / skinned, split black gram
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp cashew halves (Peanuts can be substituted.)
1 stalk of curry leaves
Salt to taste
* Cook the rice noodles / sevai according to the package directions. Transfer the cooked noodles to a colander, drain and wash with cold water to prevent it from further cooking. Drain completely and keep it aside. (Break the noodles into about one inched sized bits if using long strands of noodles to avoid the mess later.)
* Meanwhile, coarsely grind peppercorns and cumin seeds in a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.
* Heat oil in a saute pan and add mustard seeds and black gram. When mustard seeds start to crackle, add cashews and curry leaves. When cashews turn golden brown, add pepper-cumin powder and stir. (If using any coconut then add it now). Turn off the stove. 
* Add the cooked sevai / noodles and salt to the pan and mix well. Taste and add more pepper powder if needed. Warm if necessary and serve immediately.
* Leftover sevai can be refrigerated. Just warm it before serving.

1. Use 1/2 tsp extra peppercorns if more heat is preferred.
2. Add about 1/2 cup fresh, shredded coconut before adding sevai, if preferred.

Check here to see what my fellow marathoners are cooking during Blogging Marathon #48.