Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Aloo matar paratha (Potatoes and peas paratha)

I have grown up having parathas for breakfast. It was not considered unhealthy and we never gained weight eating it. And then with all the diet consciousness increasing we started hearing all these important tips about eating breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper. I was really happy with that as I have always had breakfast like a king. The only problem is that I like to eat lunch and dinner too like a king!

This was a quick Sunday brunch as I had some boiled potatoes and frozen peas that I wanted to use. I paired it with a salad of onions and mangoes seasoned with salt and red chilli powder and buttermilk that was spiced with ginger and cilantro.

3 boiled and mashed potatoes
1 cup crushed peas
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1 green chilli finely chopped
2 tsp grated ginger
11/2 tbsp dry mango powder
salt to taste

Prepare the mixture for filling by mixing all the above ingredients. Sometimes I add a pinch of garam masala or chaat masala to the potato filling. Mix everything well and form into balls to fill in the dough. The dough for the parathas should be salted. Make the parathas by rolling out the dough a little to fill the potatoes and peas mixture in it, enclose the filling and make sure it is well sealed. Roll out the parathas carefully and cook them on the tava on one side Smear some oil and cook on the other side till well done.  Serve topped with some butter and a spicy pickle.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Sev usal

I love this dish made out of dried  peas that are soaked overnight and then cooked with a lot of spices, onion, garlic, tomatoes and served garnished with sev and chutney. Sev usal used to be a popular snack in my college days (and I am sure still is) served in every restaurant or college canteen. It would be really hot and spicy with oil  floating on top of the katori (bowl), topped with raw onions and sev served with a slice of bread to sop up all the heavenly gravy. Again when I make this at home I cannot dare to make it as oily as that even though that did taste good. I feel it is difficult to go wrong with this dish as the peas have a unique taste and with all the spices and flavors that go into it, it has to be good.

I cup dried peas (soaked overnight)
1 medium onion (finely chopped)
2 1/2 tbsp ginger garlic green chillies and curry patta paste
1 tomato (finely chopped)
1tsp turmeric powder
1 heaped tbsp coriander cumin powder
1 tsp red chilli powder
1tsp garam masala
salt to taste
1 lemon
2 tbsp oil
For garnishing
Sev  (gram flour noodles) preferably the thick ones
chopped onion and cilantro
tamarind chutney

Take the soaked peas and put them in a pressure cooker along with at least 3 cups water and salt (the peas would have doubled overnight). Cook for 10 minutes or 3-4 whistles. The peas should become soft but not mushy.
Heat oil in a pan and add the chopped onions. Fry till the edges start getting brown. Add the ginger, garlic, chilli, and curry patta paste. Stir well and let it cook for a few minutes. Now add all the dry masalas along with a tablespoon of water. Throw in the tomatoes and cook till the tomatoes break down. Add the boiled peas and mix well. Taste for seasonings and cover the pan with a lid and let it simmer for a few more minutes. Once it is done add the juice of one lemon.
For serving, take the peas in a bowl and top it with chopped cilantro, onion and tamarind chutney. I like to serve it with some kind of bread. Garlic rolls or bread sticks taste good with it.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Lychee icecream

With temperatures soaring I have been craving for cool drinks and icecream. I enjoy making icecream and frozen yogurt at home. I usually make it the traditional way by reducing milk by boiling it and then adding the flavoring ingredients like fruits or nuts. In India I remember going out to eat street ice cream at night with friends and/or family from road side icecream vendors.

We had a popular vendor called Rajasthan kulfiwala who had all imaginable flavors of ice cream. I loved the fruit flavored ones, especially Sitafal ice cream. His place used to be crowded and our scooters would become chairs to sit and enjoy the treat. These places are like drive-ins, except there are no organized lanes. Everyone parks right in front of the stall, sits on their own vehicles and enjoys the food. It is so chaotic but still the transactions are smooth with no confusion. Everyone gets their right order as quick as it can get.

I had recently bought some lychee fruit. It is so juicy, fragrant and sweet and tastes different from any other fruit. I decided to make ice cream with it. I had bookmarked an ice cream recipe from a wonderful cookbook by Laxmi Hiremat. This is  adapted from her kulfi recipe. (The quantity of condensed milk can be reduced a little bit if desired as lychee is really sweet).
The ice cream turned out absolutely wonderful and delicious. It can be made the traditional way too by boiling milk, adding sugar or condensed milk and after it cools adding the fruit to it.
This version is rich and full of calories but requires no cooking and is delicious, just like our roadside ice cream.

1 14 oz can condensed milk (can use a little less depending on the sweetness of fruit)
1 12 oz can evaporated milk
1 cup cream
1 1/2 cups lychee peeled and pitted

Put all the ingredients in a blender and pulse a few times. Lychee should be chopped but not pureed. Now pour the mixture in an ice cream maker and churn it till done or pour it in molds or any container and freeze it.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Dalia laddu

 This is another of my Nani’s (Grandmother) recipe. She never has to use measurements for anything and yet everything tastes perfect. As a kid I may have never counted the number of laddus I was eating! Now when I make it myself I know how much ghee and sugar goes into it and I can only wish I didn’t have to count or that I had the same metabolism to enjoy these without any guilt and consequences related to the waistline. 

 I have tweaked the original recipe a little bit. I used dalia (broken roasted chana) instead of whole roasted chana and confectioners' sugar instead of powdered jaggery. Roasted chana is rich in protein so this dessert does have nutritional value to it. It is very easy to make, requires absolutely no cooking and melts in the mouth.
4 cups dalia (broken roasted chana)
½ cup cashews
2 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tsp cardamom powder
1 ¾ cups ghee (or as required for binding)

Grind the dalia (roasted chana) to a fine powder and sieve it. Grind the cashews coarsely (this is optional). Sometimes I use only dalia if I want a very smooth texture. Now mix the sugar with the dalia powder. Pour the ghee in batches and mix well. I use the stand mixer first and then you have to use your hands to bind the dalia and ghee well. Ghee can be adjusted depending on how well the laddus take shape. Once you are able to mixture retains the shape in your fist, starting forming round balls for laddus. Decorate each with sliced pistachios.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Sweet potato kheer

A few years ago I had my very own vegetable garden in the backyard. The first year I started small and then when the vegetables kept coming I felt brave to try and expand the range of herbs, vegetables and fruits. I started reading about backyard gardening and planted strawberries, figs, mint, patty squash, okra, corn, cauliflower, melons, pumpkin, beans, tomatoes, cucumber, karela to name some. I did not have a fenced backyard and we did have deer in the neighborhood, but somehow my vegetable garden was never touched and it thrived. It was a great feeling to pick my own vegetables and cook dinner with it. I had to distribute the extras to friends. Now when I think back I feel that I was able to do all that because I had the space and also the time that is needed to take care of the plants.
We have moved since then and although I have a fenced backyard with space for a vegetable garden I have not been successful here. I only plant that has survived is a fig tree. The rest have been eaten mercilessly by deer who apparently are very good at high jumps and other nocturnal creatures I don’t know about. But they have grazed to the ground whatever I have planted with my all my heart. That includes my roses, hostas, hydrangeas, and my vegetable saplings. I planted some hot peppers and onion to ward them off but they chewed that up too.
Betel leaf (pan) plant
  So this year I have nothing, except a tomato plant in my sun-room, struggling to get the sun and survive and a small betel-leaf (pan) plant that was given to me as a gift and I love it. Looking back I wish I had tried my hand at some other vegetables too like sweet potatoes in my previous garden where I seemed to have a green thumb and some luck:)

Here is a recipe for sweet potato kheer.  I often make this kheer to make some picky eaters eat the vegetable.

Saffron, pistachios, slivered almonds
2 sweet potatoes boiled, peeled and mashed
1 can condensed milk
2 cups milk
Slivered pistachios and almonds
1 tsp. cardamom
A pinch of saffron soaked in 2 tbsp. milk


Boil the 2 cups of milk till it begins to reduce then add the mashed sweet potatoes. Boil for another 10 minutes. Now pour the condensed milk and keep stirring. Let it simmer for  another 10-15 minutes. That’s it! Once it cools add the saffron and the chopped pistachios and almonds.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Coleslaw and baked beans

With summer setting in I have been trying make salad based meals more often. Last week I made a quick and easy salad with a healthy dressing. I used the store bought pack of coleslaw (shredded cabbage and carrots) made a yogurt dressing to go with it. I paired it with some baked beans and grilled pita bread.

1 bag store bought coleslaw (or 1 medium shredded cabbage)
1 apple (thinly sliced)
1 cup thick yogurt (Greek yogurt or regular yogurt drained)
1/4 cup silken tofu
2 tsp lemon juice
1 tbsp honey or agave nectar
1 clove garlic (optional)
handful of chopped cilantro
 black pepper and salt to taste

Empty the coleslaw in a mixing bowl. Add the sliced apples.  Mix the yogurt, honey, salt, silken tofu in a bowl and whisk well. Now grate the garlic and add it in the prepared mixture along with the cilantro. Adjust the seasonings according to taste. Sometimes I like to add a dash of red pepper flakes to make it spicier. 
Now pour this dressing over the coleslaw and mix well. Refrigerate it for an hour to let the flavors blend it.
For the baked beans I caramelized one onion with green chilies and added a can of vegetarian baked beans in it along with a tablespoon of ketchup. Serve the coleslaw and baked beans with some grilled pita bread for a complete meal.