Wednesday, 29 February 2012

SUMMER IN INDIA (CHILLED ROCK MELON AND BLUEBERRY SOUP -AN APPETIZER)

Colours have often fascinated me. I associate summer with a very delicate Indian summer fruit that looks very much like the blueberries called PHALSA in Hindi. We even have a colour named after this fruit.
I have lovely memories of summer (holiday) afternoons when my mother, grandmother or my maternal aunt would serve us with a spicy preparation of this fruit.
I can say that I have been absolutely deprived of this fruit for more than half my life. Blueberries seemed to be the right place to start looking for a substitute. Another summer colour is the pale green of the rock melon.
In this dish I have combined the two to create a summery soup served chilled, bringing in my interpretation of summer holidays in the deserts of India.
This soup is so refreshing and it simply transports me to my grandmother's beautiful home.



 
chilled rock melon and blueberry soup
SUMMER IN INDIA:
CHILLED ROCK MELON AND BLUEBERRY SOUP- AN APPETIZER:
serves 2
Ingredients:
.Rock melon...........................200 gm. peeled, de-seeded and cubed
.Rock melon...........................12 gm. finely chopped
.Fresh mint leaves....................1 tsp. finely chopped +2 for garnish
.Lemon juice............................1/4th tsp.
.Salt.........................................a pinch

.Blue berries............................20 gm.
.Salt........................................1 smidgen *or 1/2 a pinch
.Sugar......................................1 smidgen
.Red chili powder......................1/2 a smidgen
.Black salt................................1 smidgen
.Roasted cumin seed powder.....1 smidgen

Method:
.Puree the rock melon pieces finely.
.Add to it the finely chopped mint leaves mixed with lemon juice.
.Add the salt and mix well.
.Chill.
.Chill 2 Martini glasses.
.Chop very finely 12 gm of rock melon and chill.
.Gently mash or rather just break the blueberries with the back of a teaspoon.
.Add sugar, salt, red chili powder, black salt and roasted cumin seed powder.
.Mix well and chill.

How to proceed:
.Take a chilled Martini glass.
.Pour the rock melon puree in the glass.
.Place half the chopped rock melon gently in the center taking care to see that it does not fall to the bottom of
 the glass.

chilled rock melon and blueberry soup

.Place the blueberry mixture on top of the rock melon, again taking care that it floats.
.Garnish with one mint leaf.

.Serve immediately.



Roasted cumin seed powder:
.Take 1/4th cup of cumin seeds.
.Dry roast them on a hot skillet till fragrant, about 1 minute.
.Take care to remove from heat as it changes to a light brown colour. It continues to cook and the colour
 deepens into a darker brown.
.Powder it using a mortar and pestel.
.Store in an airtight container.
.For maximum flavour, do not keep for too long. Or make it freshly.

Note:
.A smidgen is 1/24th of a tsp.
.Rock melons, I found are mostly peach coloured though occassionally the green ones are available.
.Substitute the rock melon with honeydew melon to get the green colour.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

PAV BHAJI.....THE INDIAN STREET FOOD

Chatting early in the morning with my friend of more than 30 years, I just got transported into those carefree days of collegehood when money was always scarce and every once in a while we had to go shopping for our fabric or dyes or embroidery threads and so on and we would come across this street vendor selling his exotic smelling, mouth watering Pav Bhaji. It had that magnetic, mesmerising quality that could pull you and the money out of your wallet towards it and soon you would find this piping hot street food in your hands.

Pav Bhaji -- An Indian Street Food.

pav bhaji

This has to be eaten on the street hot off the griddle with a lot of butter, freshly chopped onions, lemon juice drizzled and lots of coriander leaves chopped and sprinkled on it.
The bread buns have to be loaded with butter and toasted on the griddle preferably taking in some of the tastes of the mixed vegetable preparation that is on the griddle.
Indian street food just like any other street food is oozing with taste. It is fast to get and fast to go down your gullet as you just gobble it up. This food is never eaten, it is simply gobbled and you've never had enough.


To make it healthy you just need to add less butter but who cares. I'd rather walk up the steps to my home a number of times just to burn the calories.
But this I must have.

This dish is a combination of vegetables we have in the refrigerator almost always.
The Pav Bhaji masala is something I suggest every kitchen must have. It is so flavourful and I add it to a variety of dishes apart from the PAV BHAJI that is was originally created for.
Pav means bread especially the small buns.
Bhaji means the vegetable preparation.
I always find it amazing how new food preparations are created and how they become comfort food.
This one is one of my comfort foods....oh yes I have many.

Here is a way of getting it into your kitchens and making it your comfort food.


PAV BHAJI
Ingredients:
serves 4
.Potato..............................300 gm., finely chopped
.French beans....................100 gm., finely chopped
.Carrot...............................100 gm., finely chopped
.Peas..................................100 gm.
.Green bell pepper...............200 gm., finely chopped
.Eggplant(optional)...............100 gm., finely chopped
.Onion..................................110 gm., finely chopped
.Garlic...................................3 cloves, finely chopped
.Ginger..................................10 gm., grated
.Green chili............................1, finely chopped
.Tomato................................100gm., finely chopped
.Tomato puree.......................4 to 5 Tbsp.
.Pav Bhaji masala...................1 Tbsp.
.Turmeric powder...................1/4th tsp.
.Red chili powder....................1/2 tsp.
.Salt.........................................to taste
.Coriander leaves......................2 Tbsp., finely chopped for garnish
.Onion......................................1 small to medium, finely chopped for garnish
.Lemon juice.............................1 Tbsp.
.Butter.......................................50 gm.
.Oil............................................2 tsp.
.Plain buns/pavs(unsweetened)...4

Method:
.Cut all vegetables as required in the recipe.
.In a pressure cooker add the potato, french beans, carrot and peas with 1/4th cup of water and salt to taste
 and pressure cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside.
.Meanwhile heat 2 tsp. oil in a pan. Add the chopped onions and saute for 2 minutes with a little salt
.Add ginger, green chilies, garlic and saute till onion is cooked.
.Add the chopped egg plant and saute for 5 to 7 minutes.
.Add the pav bhaji masala, red chili powder, turmeric powder and saute for 1 minute.
.Add the chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and further cook for 3 minutes.
.Using a potato masher lightly mash the cooked vegetables in the pressure cooker.
.Add the mashed vegetables to the tomato and onion mixture and mix well.
.Adjust the salt.
.Add 1/2 cup water and cook on a low heat for 8 to 10 minutes.
.Add the chopped bell pepper and mix well.
.Remove from heat and serve hot garnished with a dollop of butter, freshly chopped onions, coriander leaves and drizzle a litlle lemon juice.

To prepare the bread buns
.Cut the buns into half and apply butter. Heat a griddle and put the buns cut side down.
.When lightly toasted approx. 45 seconds flip over and cook for another 30 seconds.
.Serve hot alongside the vegetable preparation.

Note:
.Adding eggplant to this dish gives it a lovely flavour.
.Use only the green bell peppers for this preparartion for the flavour and colour.
.Pav Bhaji masala can be bought in an Indian grocery store, if not, just get it from an Indian friend of yours.
.If pavs are not available just get plain bread slices.

CORNY PANCAKES IN YOGURT SAUCE



The thought of corn and I see myself in a corn field. Plants taller than me and the corn silk just like an old woman's hair tickling me as I brush past. This is a scene from my chldhood, holidays spent in my grandma's beautiful home in the lake city of Udaipur. There was a nest of a spotted bird we called Titaheri, who laid spotted eggs and attacked us every time we walked past. This corn field was part of the kitchen garden and in the evenings we kids were ordered to pluck some corn and then these were barbequed on coal and brushed with lemon juice mixed with salt and pepper. We used to hop around on the lawn and play with the tortoise we had picked up from the roadside on our way to drop grandfather at the airport, while digging our tiny teeth into the corn.

Barbequed corn on the cob is a very romantic dish that you get all over India freshly barbequed on hand-carts, on the beaches and at hill-stations and couples eating them together walking hand-in-hand. So from childhood to a romantic adulthood barbequed corn is a must eat.


corny pancakes in yogurt sauce
Well I have used the corn thus barbequed to create a dish for one of my parties.
This makes a lovely side dish and can also be served as an appetizer or at a tea party.

Corn is low in saturated fats and very low in sodium and cholesterol.
Corn is rich in minerals such as copper, zinc, manganese, phosphorus, magnesium, iron selenium and small amounts of potassium and Vitamins such as Vitamin B and traces of A and E. It contains insoluble dietary fiber.
It is a cereal and just like other cereals needs to be combined with another protein food such as pulses, lentils, milk products to compliment the protein to give a more complete protein source and improve the quality of protein.
100gm of corn gives about 342 calories.

corny pancakes

CORNY PANCAKES IN YOGURT SAUCE
makes approx 10


Ingredients:
for the batter
.Corn kernels...........................125gm.
.Ginger paste...........................1 tsp.
.Green chilies...........................16gm.
.Chickpea flour........................1/2 cup
.Salt.........................................to taste
.Semolina.................................2 Tbsp.*
.Yogurt.....................................2 Tbsp.
.Soda-bi-carbonate...................1/2 tsp.
.Oil...........................................2 Tbsp.
.Water.....................................1/4th cup or as required to make a thick batter


for the filling:
.Corn kernels...........................125gm.
.Onion......................................1/2 medium , finely chopped
.Green chilies...........................1tsp., finely chopped
.Coriander leaves......................1/4th cup, finely chopped
.Salt...........................................to taste

for the yogurt sauce:
.Yogurt......................................1 1/2 cup
.Cream......................................1/4th cup
.Salt...........................................to taste
.Black salt.................................1 pinch
.Roasted cumin powder............1/2 tsp.
.Red chili powder......................1/2 tsp.
.Honey......................................1 tsp.
.Spicy coriander dip..................2 tsp.
.Tamarind dip............................2 tsp.
.Coriander leaves......................for garnishing

Method:
for the batter
.Blitz together corn kernels, ginger paste, green chili to make a smooth paste.
.Mix together in a bowl the corn paste, chickpea flour, salt, semolina, yogurt, soda-bi-carbonate to
 form a smooth paste.
for the filling
.Barbeque the corn on the cob.
.Cut it off the cob.
.Alternatively used canned corn kernels.
.If using canned corn kernels, drain and toast them in a pan.
.Put the corn in a chopper for a minute and blitz till the corn is just broken into 4 to 5 pieces.
.Chop onions, green chili, coriander leaves finely.
.Mix together with corn in a bowl. Add salt and mix well.
for the yogurt sauce:
.Mix together yogurt, cream, salt, honey, and black salt and set aside.
how to proceed:
.Heat a griddle. Brush it with a little oil. Spread 2 Tbsp. of the batter into roundels. Spread as many as 
 will fit, vey quickly.
.Immediately spread 1Tbsp of the filling on each roundel.
.Quickly cover it with 2 Tbsp. of the batter. It should cover the filling completely.
.Leave to cook for 1 minute or until cooked on one side.
.Flip the pancake carefully and drizzle a little oil to shallow fry the pancake and cook till golden.
.Make as many as you an get.
.Arrange in a serving platter.
.Pour the yogurt sauce on top.
.Garnish with roasted cumin seed powder, red chili powder and coriander leaves, a little spicy
 coriander dip (recipe in my blog) and tamarind dip(optional - can be bought from Indian stores ).

Roasted cumin powder
.To make roasted cumin seed powder, heat a griddle. Add 1/4th cup  cumin seeds and toast them till
 fragrant and change colour to a light brown. Immediately remove in a plate or flat container  to
 cool and will burn it as it continues to cook after taking off the heat.
.Powder it using a mortar and pestle or grind to a coarse powder in a grinder.
.When cool store in a glass jar for further use.
.I always have it available as I use this powder in a variety of dishes sometimes as a garnish and
 sometimes as a spice.

Note:
*Semolina can be substituted by yellow or blue corn grits.
.Adjust the green chili according to the heat required.

Monday, 27 February 2012

QUICK POTATO FLAT BREAD

Hi Friends,

  It is Monday morning again.  Mine was not just any Monday. It was one super tough Monday.
Luckily I was smart and had prepared in advance for some silly thing happening to turn my dream of a super laid back monday morning into one on a super fast track. It just rained cats and dogs, elephants and what not.
Let me not bore you with what happened after that but instead let me show you how you can prepare for some such morning ahead and just win that Monday morning battle. This works great on all days of the week but especially on M's.

Yesterday, I had boiled some potatoes for my Stuffed Bottle Gourd. I just boiled some extra potatoes.

And this is what I did.

QUICK POTATO FLAT BREAD
This  makes a good filling breakfast, lunch or dinner and can be made into a wrap with any left-over vegetable preparation and put in the lunch boxes of the very hungry, ever hungry kids.
It can also be baked in an oven at 180 degree C till cooked.
Slather with homemade white butter or unsalted butter and enjoy with yogurt, spicy Indian mango pickle, or coriander chatni.
makes 12

Ingredients:
.Potato.....................................450gm, boiled and mashed
.Garlic......................................1 tsp. grated
.Gnger......................................1 tsp. grated
.Fresh red chili..........................1 tsp. finely chopped
.Salt..........................................to taste
.Carom seeds(ajwain)...............1 tsp.
.Fennel seeds............................1 tsp.
.Dry mango powder...................2 tsp.
.Red chili powder.......................1 tsp.
.Garam masala powder...............1/2 tsp.
.Coriander leaves........................1/4th cup, finely chopped
.Wheat flour................................2 cups
.Water........................................1/4th cup, approximately
.Onion.........................................1 small, finely chopped (optional)
.Lemon juice................................1 tsp.
.Oil...............................................for shallow frying


quick potato flat bread

Method:
.Mix all the ingredients, except water, well.
.Add the water slowly, while mixing the flour mixture and water to form a firm dough of medium 
 softness. Drizzle 1 tsp. of oil on the dough. Cover.
.Set aside for 15 minutes. Do not knead.
.Divide the dough equally into 12 balls.
.Make round balls rolling the dough between the palms.
.Apply a little dry flour on both the sides and flatten each ball into a 6 inch diameter circle using a rolling pin.
.You may need to apply dry flour often to prevent it from sticking to the rolling pin and to the rolling surface.
.Heat a griddle and put the flat bread on it.
.Cook on a low heat.
.Flip side when you see little bumps coming up and it appears to change colour.
.Cook  on a medium heat till lightly cooked on the 2nd side.
.Apply a little oil on the top surface. It should cover the entire surface especially the edges.
.Flip again and press down using a spatula to cook it further for 1/2 a minute or until the side touching the
 griddle gets beautifully coloured  brown spots all over the surface.
.Apply 1/2 tsp. oil on the surface facing you in the same manner as earlier. Flip and press with  spatula  and cook for 1/2 a minute until the brown spots appear.
.Remove and serve hot.


Note: You can freeze the extra
Here's how:
.This recipe makes 12. You can make as many as you need for the moment and half-cook the rest.
.Do not apply oil. Just cook each one lightly on both sides. Cool on a wire rack and store between
 freezer-safe plastic sheets and in a ziplock freezer-safe bag in a freezer. This can last upto 30 days.

How to cook them once they are out of the freezer?
.Just heat a griddle. Remove the flat bread from the freezer and directly put it on the griddle. Immediately  apply oil on the top surface and flip it. Press down with the spatula for30 seconds or less.
.Apply oil on the 2nd side  till well cooked.
.Serve hot.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

STUFFED BOTTLE GOURD

 I came across some people and somehow got into a conversation about vegetables we would rather not eat. Amazingly one vegetable seemed to be the topmost on all the lists as the most no-no vegetable.

Funnily, it is one vegetable that Ayurvedic medicine rates amongst the healthier and is present in the to-have list due to it's medicinal qualities and all Indian mothers give their young children often as it is light on the stomach, has diuretic benefits and is rich in many important minerals and some vitamins, is low in calorie content and has a good amount of dietary fiber.
But inspite of knowing the benefits the same adults do not like this vegetable as they associate it with the ill.
They believe that it should be eaten by people with weak constitution.

Juice of this vegetable taken on an empty stomach is known to be beneficial in reducing cholesterol, though care needs to be taken to see that the vegetable is not bitter tasting. If bitter, the vegetable is extremely harmful and should not be consumed. Recent studies have shown that it should not be mixed with other vegetables for juicing purposes.

Here is a recipe especially for all those friends of mine who dislike Bottle Gourd.

This recipe will take a little longer to prepare but it will be worth the effort. It will take approximately 45 minutes to an hour. But if you plan for it ahead and do a bit of the preparation earlier it can take as little as 20 minutes or less.

STUFFED BOTTLE GOURD

Things you can do ahead :

Make paneer
Boil and mash potatoes.
Grind cashewnuts coarsely.
Steam the bottle gourd and scoop the seeds out.

Ingredients:
.Oil..................................2 tsp.
.Cherry tomato.................10
.Cashewnuts.....................10
.Bottle gourd.....................1 piece of approximately 600gm.
.Salt...................................3 tsp
.Water...............................to steam the bottle gourd in.

For Paneer/Cottage cheese @ home
.Milk................................1 1/2 cup
.White vinegar..................1 tsp.
.Cheese cloth

Filling:
.Potato..............................450gm, boiled, peeled and mashed roughly.
.Paneer..............................60gm or 1/2 cup grated.
.Cashewnuts......................1/2 cup , coarsely powdered
.Fresh red chili...................2 tsp. finely chopped
.Ginger...............................1 tsp. grated
.Garlic.................................1 tsp. finely chopped
.Coriander leaves.................1/4th cup
.Bread crumbs.....................3 Tbsp.
.Yogurt................................1 Tbsp.
.Salt.....................................to taste
.Red chili powder.................1 1/2 tsp.
.Coriander powder................2 tsp.
.Turmeric powder.................1/4th tsp.
.Garam masala powder..........1 tsp.
.Dry mango powder...............2 tsp.
.Lemon juice..........................2 tsp. +1 tsp to drizzle


Method:
For the bottle gourd:
.Peel the bottle gourd.
.Trim off the two ends.
.Cut into 2 pieces( cross section) and rub salt.
.Steam the bottle gourd in a pressure cooker for 5 minutes or till just done.
.Scoop out the seeds using a sharp knife and a spoon, taking care not to split the bottle gourd.
.Rinse off the excess salt.
.Set aside.

For Paneer/Cottage cheese @ home
.Bring the milk to a boil on medium heat.
.Reduce heat further and add the vinegar.
.The milk will slowly curdle.
.Once all the milk has curdled, you will see a greenish liquid and the milk solids forming separate layers,
 sieve it through the cheese cloth. The milk solids will collect in the cheese cloth.
.Wash the paneer gently through the cheese cloth.
.Drain out all the liquid by hanging it over the kitchen sink..will take about 5 to 10 minutes.
.This will give 1/2 cup of fresh paneer.
         or
you can skip this step and grate 1/2 cup ready-made shop-bought paneer or cottage cheese.


Filling:
.Mix all the ingredients well.

How to proceed:
.Stuff this filling into the cavity in the bottle gourd tightly.
.Cut the cherry tomatoes into half and scoop out the seeds. Fill the filling in the cavity.
.At this point you can wrap it in the cling film and refrigerate for later use. Use within 24 hours.
.Cut into 3/4th inch discs.
.Heat 2 tsp oil in a skillet.
.Fry the cashewnuts in this oil and set aside.
.Gently put the bottle gourd discs flat into the same skillet and grill them on both sides till the filling is crisp
 and browned. This will take about 3 to 4 minutes.
.Put in the cherry tomatoes filling side down and cook till filling is browned about 1 minute.
.Gently place the discs and tomatoes in a serving platter and drizzle a little lemon juice.
.Garnish with the fried cashewnuts.
.Eat it while it is piping hot.

Note:
.Butter two slices of bread.
.Put  some iceberg lettuce on one slice of bread.
.Put one disc of the stuffed bottle gourd.
.Cover it with a cheese slice.
.Cover it with the 2nd slice.
.Grill it.
.Cut it into two diagonally.
.Put the diagonal side into your mouth and take a big bite.
.Yes you have just bitten into the tastiest and juiciest burger.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

MIXED LENTIL SOUP

Yesterday, I was reading in the newspaper about the increase in the incidence of  Diabetes amongst the Singaporeans.
That inspired me to create a dish rich in nutrients that help fight against diabetes. Preventive measure is definitely better than cure.

All we need to do is eat a well balanced meal and exercise.
A diet rich in fiber combined with complex carbohydrates can do the trick of keeping that dreadful insulin injection at bay.

Use brown rice instead of white rice.

Today there are so many varieties of brown rice available in the market. Even the flavourful Basmati Rice is available in it's brown unpolished form.

When rice is polished as in white rice the B Complex vitamins , the bran and the germ are lost and what we get is simply the starchy endosperm.
I cook brown rice with a little salt and a bay leaf.
It is extremely tasty and pops in the mouth. My family loves it.
Lentils are a great source of dietary fiber, folate, a wide variety of vitamins and minerals and are an alternative source of protein.

Leafy vegetables add to the dietary fiber, and are rich in various vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, omega-3 fatty acids etc.
For more on Brown Rice check out my post Peppery Cabbage and Corn Brown Rice.

mixed lentil soup
Eat this high fiber dish with brown rice or chapatis or just as a soup.

 MIXED LENTIL SOUP

Ingredients:
.Split mungdaal (yellow lentils)...........1/3rd cup
.Split masoordaal(red lentils)..............1/3rd cup
.Udad daal........................................1/3rd cup
.Water..............................................4 cups
.Salt..................................................to taste
.Turmeric powder..............................1/2 tsp.

.Spinach leaves..................................3 cups tightly packed, roughly chopped
.Coriander leaves...............................1/4th cup
.Oil.....................................................1 tsp. +1tsp.
.Cumin seeds......................................1 tsp.
.Red onion.........................................1 medium sized, finely chopped
.Salt....................................................1/2 tsp.
.Ginger...............................................1 tsp, grated
.Garlic................................................1 clove, finely chopped
.Red chili fresh....................................1 to 2 tsp finely chopped
.Coriander powder..............................3 tsp.
.Red chili powder................................1/2 to 1 tsp.
.Turmeric powder................................1/2 tsp.
.Garam masala powder........................1/2 to 1 tsp.
.Tomato...............................................1 large, thickly sliced
.Yogurt................................................1/8th cup (optional)

Method:
.Place all the lentils together in a bowl and wash all them 3 to 4 times.
.Soak them in 4 cups of water for 15 minutes.
.Meanwhile wash the spinach and chop roughly.
.Prepare all the ingredients as required in the recipe and set aside.
.Put the lentils along with the water, salt to taste and 1/2  tsp turmeric powder in a pressure cooker  and
 cook for 10 minutes or upto 5 whistle sounds, till just cooked.
.Alternatively cook in a covered pan
.Heat 1 tsp oil in a deep pan or a dutch cooker.
.Add cumin seeds.
.Add the onion when the cumin seeds crackle. stir for 1/2 a minute.
.Add ginger, garlic, fresh red chili and salt.
.Saute till the onion gets glazed, stirring continuously.
.Add the dry spices. At this point the mixture will go very dry.
.Immediately add the tomato slices. Mix well.
.Add 1 tsp. oil. Mix well.
.Add the chopped spinach and coriander leaves.
.Mix well.
.Cook for 5 minutes stirring occassionally.
.Add the cooked lentils to the spinach mixture.
.Cook gently for 5 more minutes.
.At this point you can add 1/8th cup of beaten yogurt. This step is optional.
.Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve.

Note: I use very little oil in this recipe.
.The yogurt adds to the creaminess and gives it a mild taste.
.You can use the lesser quantities of the chilies and garam masala as per your taste(as given in the
 recipe). I like it a little pungent.

Friday, 24 February 2012

THE UNBAKED MACARONI WITH VEGETABLES

the unbaked macaroni with vegetables
Another one from my childhood. This one was my mom's simple recipe.

It is so difficult today to imagine life without an oven. Just like the computers today in the study and offices, an oven is essential in a well equipped kitchen.

This dish came along in our kitchen very simply and slowly without notice stayed ever since in my heart. These are vegetables cooked in milk and the juices from the vegetables just blend with the milk and the taste is so amazing and is light on the stomach. The macaroni takes the flavour of the vegetables and milk as they are all cooked together.
For many years I did not make it as I thought my kids may not appreciate it the way I do, and that, I would not like. But one day I decided to give it a go. And LO! My children just loved it. So now we share the same childhood memories, only in different time zones.

I love to eat this with white bread slices slathered with butter, broken into pieces with hand, soaking in the juices and gathering the vegetables with them, gobbling it in the most unsophisticated manner.

You can give it an oomph by toasting croutons in the oven and sprinkling them on your plate and using a spoon instead, but I promise you the taste lies in the unsophisticated style.
This one can be prepared in under 15 minutes from the scratch.
Serves 4

THE UNBAKED MACARONI WITH VEGETABLES

Ingredients:
.Potato........................1/2 cup
.French beans..............1/2 cup
.Carrot........................1/2 cup
.Peas...........................1/2 cup
.Snow peas..................1/2 cup
.Ridge gourd................1/2 cup
.Bottle gourd................1/2 cup
.Cauliflower..................1/2 cup
.Elbow macaroni..........1/2 cup(uncooked)
.Milk............................1 cup
.Water..........................1 cup
.Salt..............................to taste
.Cheddar cheese...........1/4th cup, grated
.Black pepper powder..1/2 tsp./ to taste


Method:
.Peel potatoes and dice them into 1/2 inch cubes. Wash and set aside.
.Wash and de-string snow peas and french beans and cut them into 1 inch pieces.
.Peel the bottle gourd and ridge gourd and cut them into 1/2 inch cubes.
.Peel and dice carrots into 1 cm cubes.
.Wash the peas. Frozen peas can be used.
.In a pressure cooker put together all the vegetables, elbow macaroni, milk, water, salt, pepper and half the
 cheese.
.Pressure cook them for 5 minutes, after the pressure has built in the cooker. (2 whistle sounds should be
 sufficient to cook the macaroni to al dente.)
.Remove from the pressure cooker into a serving dish or individually into soup bowls. Garnish with the
 remaining cheddar cheese and some black pepper powder.
.Serve piping hot with buttered bread slices.


Note: The gourds in the dish give it a unique flavour.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

EGGPLANT WITH OKRA (LADY'S FINGER)

One day I was all alone in my home with my husband travelling and my kids at their friends' homes for a sleepover. I had 15 minutes before my favourite tv programme started , a very hungry stomach and nothing but 2 Japanese eggplants, 15 lady fingers, an onion and half a tomato. All stock in my refrigerator had depleted.
I set my kitchen timer at 14 minutes...well, one minute grace period just in case I needed it. I finished it in 13 minutes flat. By the end of 15 minutes I was sitting in front of my tv grinning ear to ear and ready to attack my food. Though this preparation is good enough for 4 persons I ate it all by myself.


 Though I know some who don't like Okra because of the seeds and remove them painfully out of every little piece of the vegetable, it is loved by most Indian adults and children. Low in calories, contains no saturated fats, is a rich source of dietary fiber, vitamins C, K, A , vitamin B-complex group,  minerals and many other nutrients. The slimy substance in the vegetable helps in smooth peristalsis of the digested food and helps in relieving constipation.

I have met numerous people who dislike eggplant. Some say it does not have any nutrients so why go through the trouble of cooking and eating it, they believe it is the name beygun which means without any good. And many such reasons for not eating it. Some don't eat it because their friends don't eat it.The best one though was 'it is like fish growing on a plant'.

I would like to dispel such beliefs. Eggplants are a good source of Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Manganese, Folic acid, dietary fiber and is low in cholesterol.
And are extremely tasty. I would eat them even if it didn't have any nutritive value.

It is amazing how this vegetable has it's origins in India and has travelled all the way to Italy and is now a staple vegetable there and in the entire Mediterranean Region.

This one I promise will become part of your bi-weekly menu right away and then move in on the weekly menu and soon will be in the list of your comfort foods just as it is in mine.
Here's what I did.

EGGPLANT WITH OKRA

Ingredients:
.Japanese eggplant......................2*
.Okra.........................................15
.Onion........................................1 medium, sliced
.Garlic........................................1 clove, chopped finely
.Fresh red chili............................1/2, chopped finely
.Fresh curry leaves......................5 to 6
.Ginger.......................................1/2 inch piece, grated
.Cumin seeds..............................1 tsp.
.Asafoetida powder(optional)......a small pinch
.Coriander powder.....................3 tsp.
.Turmeric powder.......................1/2 tsp.
.Red chili powder........................1 tsp.
.Salt ...........................................to taste
.Tomato......................................1 small, chopped
.Tomato puree.............................2 Tbsp.
.Water.........................................2 Tbsp.
.Oil.............................................for frying
.Oil.............................................1 tsp.

Method:
.Heat oil for frying (blanching in hot oil)* in a wok.
.Meanwhile  trim and cut the eggplant into a vertical 1/2 and then into 1 1/2 inch thick slices breadthwise.
.Trim the tops off the okra (optional) and cut into 1/2.
.When oil is hot slide in the eggplant pieces with the skin-side in the oil first. This will seal the colour. Turn
 after 1 minute and fry on the cut side for 1 minute. Remove and set aside on an absorbent kitchen towel.
.Add the okra to the oil and fry for 1 minute or till the colour brightens. Remove and set aside along with the 
 eggplant.
.Heat 1 tsp. oil in a skillet.
.Add cumin seeds. When they splutter add the curry leaves, ginger, garlic, fresh red chili and saute for 30
 seconds.
.Add onions thinly sliced and a little salt. Saute till light pink.
.Add coriander powder, red chili powder, turmeric powder and a little salt.
.Add the chopped tomato and tomato puree. Mix well.
.Add 2 Tbsp. of water and mix well.
.Add the fried eggplant and okra.
.Mix gently till all vegetables are coated with the gravy.
.Check for salt. Add more if required and mix gently.
.Cook on a slow fire for 5 to 6 minutes.
.Serve hot with Rice or Chapatis.

Note: *Blanching in hot oil seals the flavour of the vegetables as well as their colour.
*Japanese eggplants are deep purple in colour and small in size and look very similar to the Holland eggplant.
  A medium sized round eggplant can also be used. Or the long purple one too but I like the taste of the
  Japanese eggplant.



back to Spring in a bowl

Monday, 20 February 2012

CHILI MUSHROOM

Been missing a few days.

Oh!! I was just being a good wife and taking care of my husband who is nursing a sore throat and a high fever. A little pampering is what he needs along with a doctor's prescription. So I was giving him both.
Since my weekend chef husband is thus weakened I had to be the weekend (Chinese) chef and served my kids Olive fried rice with Chili Mushroom.
This one is the family and friends' favourite. We all had it the first time at a restaurant that serves great vegetarian chinese cuisine. I kept trying to get the right taste of this dish and after many-a-failed-attempt I now seem to have perfected it.
This one is especially for all my friends who are now studying at colleges far away from home.
Dried Shiitake mushrooms have more flavour and also have a higher protein content than fresh mushrooms and if grown outdoors they also have a high content of vitamin D as compared to ones grown indoors.
Dried Shiitake mushrooms can be reconstituted by soaking in water.

CHILI MUSHROOM
  This is a very quick dish. To make it faster I blanche, trim and cut the mushrooms whenever I find time and store them in the refrigerator in an airtight glass bottle and use them within two days.

Serves 4 persons.
Ingredients:

.Shiitake mushroom......................................250gm.
.Corn flour...................................................4 Tbsp.
.Salt.............................................................to taste
.Oil...............................................................for frying

.Oil...............................................................2 tsp.
.Garlic.........................................................1 clove, chopped finely
.Fresh red chili............................................1, finely chopped
.Green bell pepper.......................................1 medium-sized, cut into 1 inch dice
.Chinese celery.............................................3 sprigs, cut into 1 inch pieces
.Spring onion greens.....................................1/2 cup, cut into 1 inch pieces
.Light Soy sauce............................................5 Tbsp.
.White vinegar...............................................4 tsp.
.Honey...........................................................4 to 5 tsp.
.Black pepper................................................a twist or two of the pepper mill*
.Cashew nuts.................................................1/2 cup
.Dry red chili.................................................1/4th cup, cut into 1 inch pieces
.Boiling water................................................as required for deepwater blanching
.Salt................................................................2 Tbsp.

Chili Mushroom

Method:
.Rinse the mushrooms and blanche them for 3 to 4 minutes in a deep pan full of boiling water(a rolling
 boil is required)* along with 2 Tbsp salt.
.Drain and rinse with cold water.
.Pat dry on a clean kitchen towel.
.Cut the stems off as close to the cap as possible.
.Cut each mushroom into 3 large slices(lengthwise).
.Mix together in a large  bowl corn flour and salt.
.Toss in the cut slices of mushroom till well coated.
.Heat oil for frying.
.Deep fry the mushrooms till crisp and lightly coloured.
.Drain on a kitchen paper towel. Set aside.
.Deep fry the cashew nuts tll golden brown on medium heat.
.Drain on a kitchen paper towel. Set aside.

.Heat 2 tsp. oil in a wok.
.Add the garlic and fresh red chili and saute for 30 seconds.
.Add the dry red chili and saute for 30 seconds or till lightly coloured and fragrant.
.Add the soy sauce, vinegar, honey, black pepper* and salt to taste(if required)*.
.Add the fried mushrooms, mix well and cook for 5 minutes.
.Add the cashew nuts, reserving 6 for garnish.
.Add the bell peppers and cook further for 2 to 3 minutes.
.Add the spring onion greens, chinese celery and coriander leaves, reserving some for garnishing.
.Mix well. Serve hot garnished with the reserved cashew nuts, and all the greens.
.Enjoy with Blushed Fried Rice or Olive rice.

Note:
*Blanche vegetables in deep rolling boiling water so that the water comes back to a rolling boil quickly after the addition of the vegetable, and the vegetable does not overcook while blanching.
* When using soy sauce add additional salt if required. You may need a small pinch.
*I prefer black pepper to white pepper in this dish. But you can try it with white pepper if you like.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

BLUSHED FRIED RICE

Hi friends,

Chinese food is usually a hot favourite with most people around the world. So it is in my home too.

Usually it is a weekend fare in my home...reason being the chef, that is, me is on holiday and we have a replacement chef on the weekends....my husband. But one of the days when my husband was travelling I made the blunder of asking my kids what they wanted to eat and pat came the reply "Chinese" and I was stuck with having to cut numerous vegetables. So I decided to play a trick on my kids and served them Blushed Rice. They loved the colour and forgot to comment and compare it with my husband's cooking, which is outstanding.

Sometimes I add 1/4th cup of firm tofu cut in cubes stir fried or deep fried, just before adding the mixture of sauces. I like the deep fried version.
Or sauteed shitake mushrooms. I love them so I add 1/2 cup of these lovely mushrooms, blanched in hot water, de-stemmed and cut into halves, then sauteed.
If using tofu I serve it with a chili mushroom.
If using shitake mushrooms I make a brinjal and tofu dish as an accompaniment, so that there is some form of protein in the meal.

blushed fried rice with chili mushroom
 BLUSHED FRIED RICE
 
Ingredients:
.Rice...................................2 cups, cooked long grain rice
.Oil......................................1 tsp.
.Garlic..................................1 clove, crushed &chopped finely
.Ginger.................................1 inch, grated
.Fresh red chili......................2tsp, finely chopped
.Red onion............................1 small, thinly sliced
.Cabbage..............................1/2 cup, thinly sliced
.French beans........................1/4th cup, thinly diagonally sliced
.Carrot..................................1/4th cup, thinly julienned, diagonally
.Red bell pepper....................1/8th cup, thinly sliced
.Yellow bell pepper................1/8th cup, thinly sliced
.Spring onion whites...............3, thinly sliced
.Spring onion greens...............1/4th cup cut into 1 inch pieces
.Light soy sauce......................2 tsp
.White vinegar.........................1 tsp
.Tomato ketchup.....................2 Tbsp
.Tomato puree.........................1/4th cup
.Chili sauce.............................1 tsp
.Salt........................................to taste
.Black pepper powder.............1/2 tsp
.Sesame oil..............................1 tsp
.Chinese celery........................2 Tbsp, roughly chopped
.Coriander Leaves...................2 Tbsp, roughly chopped
.Sesame seeds.........................1 tsp, toasted

blushed rice

Method:
.Cut French beans, carrot, red and yellow bell peppers,cabbage and spring onion greens into 2 inch long
 pieces as advised above.
.Prepare the remaining ingredients.
.Heat oil in a wok.
.Add garlic, ginger and fresh red chili and saute for 30 seconds.
.Add onion and saute for 2 minutes.
.Add spring onion whites and saute further for 1 minute on high heat.
.Add cabbage and the bell peppers and saute for 1 minute.
.Mix together in a bowl soy sauce, vinegar,chili sauce,tomato ketchup,tomato puree,black pepper and salt.
.Add the cooked rice and mix well till glazed.*
.Add the chinese celery, coriander leaves and the spring onion greens.
.Drizzle with sesame oil.
.Remove in a serving dish and garnish with toasted sesame seeds.


note: glazing of rice: Mix rice and all the vegetables till well mixed. Continue to mix with a light hand but firmly and swiftly to get the glazed look.
You will be surprised to find rice that glazed without addition of extra oil.
.Chinese celery leaves look like coriander leaves only bigger.

Tofu is made by curdling of the soy milk. Soya bean is a vegetable source of protein with 52 gm. of protein for every 100gm. of soya, the highest amongst vegetable sources. It is also rich in Iron, Calcium,vitamin B-complex except vitamin B12 and is a good source of dietary fibre. When using soyabean always heat them to deactivate the trypsin inhibiting factor, an enzyme required for protein digestion in our body. Just as everything in life, even this (soyabean) should be eaten in moderation.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

NUTTY PEPPERY TOASTS

Hi friends,
I am blessed with the best of friends.
During childhood, college and adulthood, the trend continues.Yesterday my friend and I went out to lunch at another friend's place and had a very delicious home-cooked  meal and a fabulous time.
I decided to surprise my friend with these toasts that are packed with nutrients and has a peppery kick to it.
I have used walnuts, cashewnuts, pistachio and loads of pepper.
Have these with tea in place of a fat loaded cookie.
Walnuts, pistachios and cashewnuts are packed with nutrients we need to combat cancers, heart diseases, help in metabolism, prevent ageing, most importantly help to  lower LDL cholesterol and increase HDL cholesterol.


NUTTY PEPPERY TOASTS

Ingredients:
.Egg whites............................2
.Brown sugar.........................1/3rd cup
.Cashewnuts...........................40gm.
.Walnuts.................................60gm.
.Pistachios..............................55gm.
.Black pepper corns................3tsp. lightly crushed
.Ginger powder.......................1/4th tsp.
.Cinnamon powder..................1/4th tsp.
.Nutmeg powder......................a pinch
.Plain flour..............................3/4th cup

nutty peppery toasts
Method:
.Preheat oven to 180 degree C/350 degree F/Gas mark 4).
.Grease a  4x10 inch bar tin.
.Lightly crush the peppercorns and set aside.
.Sift together flour, ginger powder, cinnamon powder, and nutmeg powder.
.Mix together the flour, nuts and the pepper lighlty.
.Beat the egg whites and brown sugar till the mixture turns white and thickens.
.Gently fold the flour and nut mixture into the egg mixture.
.Spread the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 35 to 40 mins.
.Cool in the tin for a minimum of 2 hours.
.Turn onto a cutting board and cut 2mm thick slices using a bread knife.
.Lay the slices in a single layer on a baking tray and bake at 150 degree C/300 degree F/Gas mark 2
 for 15 minutes.
.Turn the sides and bake for another 10 minutes or until the slices are crisp and dry.
.Cool completely and store in an air tight jar.
.Enjoy with a hot cup of my favourite African Ruby tea or any of your favourite teas.


*note:You can use a parchment paper before spreading the mixture in the bar tin.
 Just grease the tin and layer the bottom and sides with the parchment paper to enable ease of releasing the cooked bread from the tin.

Monday, 13 February 2012

BABY POTATOES IN SPINACH CHUTNEY

Monday morning!!

Somehow monday mornings seem to be so busy. And that too after having organised everything the previous evening to handle the morning rush. I think everybody just tends to stay in bed a few precious seconds more that turn to minutes. And then suddenly, the morning scene is one from a cartoon film that has been fast-forwarded. Every week saturday and sunday chase the discipline out of our lives.

But now I have found a way to combat that laziness I feel on monday mornings.
I have my Spinach Chutney cubed up in my freezer ready for use.
Today I am going to share this spinach chutney in combination with baby potatoes.
I pack this in the lunch boxes that my two children and husband carry along.
Any leftovers can be put in between bread slices and grilled or made into Toasties or mashed into flour to make a dough, or made into a healthy Wrap.
Though usually there are no left-overs.

BABY POTATOES IN SPINACH CHUTNEY

Serves 4 if eaten as an accompaniment to naan, chapatis or rice.
Ingredients:
.Baby potatoes............................25 (approx. 325 gm.)
.Cherry tomato............................12(approx. 85 gm.)
.Spinach chutney.........................1 and 1/2 cup
.Green chili.................................1 and 1/2 tsp
.Ginger........................................1/2 tsp, grated
.Coriander leaves........................1 tsp, finely chopped
.Cumin seeds...............................1 and 1/2 tsp
.Salt.............................................to taste
.Olive oil....................................1Tbsp(3 tsp)
.Bay leaf......................................1
.Nutmeg powder..........................a pinch
.Cinnamon stick...........................1/2 stick
.Water..........................................1/4th cup


baby potatoes served on a bed of spinach chutney


Method:
.Wash the potatoes and poke them with a fork.
.Boil them in salted water till just done.
.Drain and cut them into halves. Set aside.
.Heat 2tsp. oil in a flat pan(preferably non-stick).
.Add cumin seeds and when they splutter add the potatoes. 
.Put the potatoes face down i.e. the cut side down in the pan. Add salt.
.Let it brown crisp on medium heat.
.Turn to brown from the other side.
.Cut the tomatoes in halves and put them face down in the same pan with the potatoes.
.Cook till tomatoes are caramalised approx. 1 minute.
.Remove from pan and set aside.
.In the same pan add the green chili, ginger, bay leaf,cinnamon stick and saute for 1 minute in the
 remaining oil.
.Add the thawed spinach chutney*, a pinch of nutmeg, 1/4th cup water and cook for 2 minutes or till it
 comes to a boil.
.Add the potatoes and mix well.
.Add the tomatoes and coriander leaves and mix gently.
.Serve hot with naan or chapati or hot steaming rice or pulav. 

baby potatoes in spinach chutney


*note:
.If in cube form it thaws quickly. But if you have
 been feeling lazy or don't have an empty ice tray for
 the cubing of the chutney and  have a chunk instead,
 don't fret just defrost it in the refrigerator overnight.
 

Sunday, 12 February 2012

SPINACH CHUTNEY

Hi friends,

Yesterday I had some friends over for dinner. I decided to make some easy dishes packed with nutrients.
My most popular one uses spinach.
I make cubes of this spinach chutney and always have it in the freezer. It remains equally fresh. Though, of course freshly ground chutney is always, well, FRESH.
This chutney is very versatile. I use it in various dishes as it adds the green colour along with the nutrients when I need a gravied dish, or add it to the rice to get green rice or add it to some classic dish just to give it that twist and adds flavour and punch to the recipe, or add it to the bread dough or chapati dough, make savoury pancakes, pizza sauce and much more.

And kids love it.

Ingredients:
.Spinach leaves.........................3 cups tightly packed, finely chopped
.Coriander leaves......................1 cup tightly packed, finely chopped
.Green chili................................3 large ones, finely chopped
.Ginger.......................................half inch piece, finely chopped
.Garlic.......................................1 large clove (optional), finely chopped
.Cumin seeds.............................1 and half tsp
.Lemon juice..............................1Tbsp
.Salt...........................................to taste(approx 1 tsp)
.Water........................................1/4th cup


Method:
.Discard the spinach stems and wash the leaves thoroughly.*
.Chop finely.
.Discard the roots and use the leaves along with the tender stems. Wash thoroughly and chop finely.
.Add all the ingredients together in a blender and grind into a fine paste.
.Gives 1 and 1/2 cup of the chutney.

spinach chutney
*note:
.Always wash and then cut leafy vegetables.
.Do not cut and wash them as they lose all the water soluble vitamins.

.At this point it can be stored in the freezer in the form of cubes or in a bottle in the refrigerator.
.If storing in the freezer, make 1Tbsp cubes in an ice tray. 1 cup =14 cubes.
 This makes it easy to thaw them for further cooking and  you can use as much as required. 
.When hardened they can be removed and stored in a freezer bag.
.Use within 2 days if storing in the refrigerator, to use all the nutrients effectively.

Spinach is extremely rich in antioxidants, vitamin A, vitamin B6, vitamin B2, vitamin E, vitamin K, folic acid, minerals, dietary fiber and iron.

Friday, 10 February 2012

MUSHROOM ON TOAST

Hi friends,

College was most beautiful time of my life.
A life without responsibilities, absolutely carefree, full of laughter and fun which made the long hours so much easy. Life revolved around friends and project and file submissions, infinite dreams and lots of romantic novels read through the night while unsuspecting parents thought their poor child was hard at work.
I was a day scholar so got fresh home cooked meals everyday, cooked by mom, dad or the helper.

A few of my college going friends who live away from home, on their own, with parents comfortably tucked away in bed across the globe while they are rushing to their classes, wanted me to give them some more 'easy to make, healthy breakfast recipes' as they now seem to be done with the unhealthy food that they had been grabbing on the run.

 So here is something especially for them.

Another one of my favourites...MUSHROOMS
They are low in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol and a good source of dietary fibre, protein,iron, zinc,vitamin B complex, vitamin C and many more minerals.
1 cup of mushrooms make one serving.
More information on nutrition in mushrooms on my posts
Chili Mushroom and Grilled Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms in Capsicum Coulis


MUSHROOM ON TOAST

Ingredients:
.Butter..................................1/2 tsp
.Olive oil.............................1/2 tsp
.Shitake mushroom...............1 cup, diced
.Onion..................................1/3rd cup, diced
.Red chili (fresh)..................1 tsp, finely chopped
.Ginger.................................1 tsp, grated
.Dried oregano leaves..........1/8th tsp
.Dried thyme leaves..............1/8th tsp
.Black pepper powder..........3/4th to 1 tsp (depends on your spice tolerance)
.Salt......................................to taste
.Lemon juice.........................1/2 tsp
.Coriander leaves.................1 tsp, finely chopped
.Parmesan cheese shavings...a little
.Toast................................... 2 slices

Method:
.Rinse* and trim the stems of the mushrooms.
.Heat the oil in a flat non-stick pan.
.Add the onions and a pinch of salt*. Do not stir for a minute.
.Add the ginger and mushroom, dried herbs and add some more salt. Mix well.
.Let it cook in its own liquid (which will be released from the mushrooms and onion due to the salt) on
 low heat.
.When dry add the butter, red chili, and black pepper powder and saute till the onions and mushrooms
 get crisp and change colour.
.Check for seasoning. Remove from heat.
.Add the lemon juice and chopped coriander leaves and mix well.
.Serve hot garnished with parmesan cheese shavings and toast .
.You can be as generous or as stingy with the use of cheese as you feel that morning.

mushroom on toast


*This dish works well as breakfast, afternoon snack or a starter.
* Put on a lightly toasted bread slice as a topping and grill till cheese melts.
*A mix of shitake, oyster and button mushroom makes it tastier and visually more interesting.
*This method of cooking with salt uses less oil thus making it healthier.
*You can choose to clean the mushrooms using a brush. I prefer to wash them as I just cannot get myself
  to not wash them.