Vegetarian Concoctions

April 24, 2007

Yelai Vadam

Filed under: Microwave, RCI, Rice, Snacks and Appetizers, South Indian, Tamilnadu — Hema @ 9:52 am

Yelai is leaf in tamil and vadams are rice crisps. The name is yelai vadam, because they are traditionally made using banana leaves. Basically vadams are like rice dosas that are dried and can be stored for a long time. Every time you feel the need to accessorise your menu or simply munch something, fry them or even microwave them to instantly satisfy your taste-buds. This is my entry for the first RCI – Tamilnadu hosted by LakshmiK at Veggie cuisine.

My amma used to make a huge stock of vadams for the year and she dedicated a couple days in a year to fill up the big box in her pantry. My brother and I always made sure we were around when she made vadams. The best part of the process was eating the freshly steamed vadam right out of the leaf. My mom used to let us eat the vadams that tore out while talking them off the leaf and both of us used to greedily sit there waiting for vadams to tear up.

I always bring these vadams from India, but by the time we reach our destination, they crumble up into tiny pieces during the transit. Though they are almost weightless, they occupy a lot of space in the luggage. Making these vadams is a time consuming process and only half of what you make ends up on the drying plate – the other half consumed as soon as they are made.

Last year we used up the last of our vadam stock and I had put it up on the list of things to be brought from India during our next trip. Then, one day my mother-in-law, who was visiting us, dressed the dining table with these beautiful, white, fried vadams and we were surprised as to how she got them! She had made vadams while we were at work and secretly dried them. What a pleasent surprise it was! So, the next thing on my agenda was to learn how she made them and then make them myself. Here is what I learnt:

Soak 1 cup rice overnight and grind it into a very fine paste. The best way to do it is to soak an extra cup when you grind rice for dosa. Add a little bit of salt (about 1/2 tsp) and keep it covered for 3-4 days. Open the lid and if someone in the living room says ‘where is that sour smell coming from?’ it is enough indication that the batter is ready to be steamed. Without disturbing the liquid inside, carefully pour out the top yellow layer into the drain. Add a pinch of hing, Salt to taste (remember, you have already added some 4 days back!) and 1 1/2 tsp jeera. Also, add a tbsp of sago soaked for about 2 hours. 

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Get 3 stainless steel plates out of your cabinet and rub some ghee on each of them. (the plates we use as lids are perfect). Oh! did I mention, we will be making thattu(plate in tamil) vadams instead? yeah. I can never find banana leaves here and this works just as well. Infact, MIL says she will continue making them in plates when she gets back to India. Ok, to start with, you will need a steaming set-up. Here’s mine.  A pan filled with water to about an inch depth. A circular rim placed in the pan to hold the plates at height and a glass lid that covers the whole pan. Make sure the water is boiling before you start steaming vadams.

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Pour a spoonfull of batter onto plate 1 and with a circular/spiral motion spread out the batter as thin as possible – just as you would make a dosa.

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Place plate-1 in the pan and close the lid. Steam for about 2-3 minutes till the batter is cooked and gets transparent. In the meanwhile spread out some batter onto plate-2. Remove plate-1, place plate-2 in the pan and spread batter on plate-3.

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Let plate-1 stay out for a while to cool down. Use a knife to peel off one edge and using both hands peel the vadam from the plate. Repeat this process with the 3 plates. After 2 -3 cycles you get into the rhythm.

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This is the stage where you make an important decision. You could either pop it into your mouth or place it on a flat surface for drying. I recommend tasting the first one for salt. For drying, I usually spread a thick plastic sheet in my patio and place the vadams as close as possible to accomodate as many as I can. Do not overlap. I do not have an open deck and never get direct sunlight. So, if you are like me, worry not! The vadams do not require direct sunlight or too much heat. Even your dining table or a spare room is fine. make sure it gets some breeze to dry itself up. It may take about 4-5 days to completely dry in such cases. For those of you who have decks/terrace and lots of sunlight, you’ll will be ready to fry them in a day or two! Store the dry vadams in an airtight container.

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They go well with all the rice preparations – pulihorai, tomato rice, mint rice…you get the idea. They taste best when deep fried, but for the health conscious – rub a few drops of oil on the dry vadam and microwave on high for about 30-40 seconds.

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Here’s my fried yalai vadam with celery thokku rice. Celery thokku?….did you ask??? Yeah and that’s coming up next for JFI-Greens!!

April 11, 2007

Black Forest Cake

A peek at the cake I baked for H’s birthday last weekend!

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I got the recipe for the icing and filling from here:
Few changes I made:

1. I used the Betty Crocker german chocolate cake mix and baked according to package instructions. The mix called for 1 1/3 cups of water. I used 1 cup of cherry syrup and 1/3rd cup of water instead.

2. I could not find bing cherries. So, i just substituted them with he cherries I got at my local grocery store.

3. Used cherry syrup that comes with the cherries instead of Kirshwasser for sprinkling on the cake, the filling and the icing.

4. Added chopped cherries in the filling.

5. Added 2 tsp of Milk Powder while whipping the cream (A tip from the reviews on the cake).

6. Used Hershey’s milk chocolate for the garnish.

VACATION TIME!!! Will be back right in time for a tamilnadu entry.

April 5, 2007

Doodhi Kofta

Filed under: Doodhi / Lauki, Main meals, Mughalai, Paneer, Punjabi — Hema @ 1:52 pm

As a kid, I don’t remember ordering anything other than malai kofta when we went out to eat at restaurants. I love koftas – any kind. When I first saw meatballs in spaghetti at a subway in the US, they reminded me of the Indian kofta. That is something I want to try some day – vegetarian ‘meatballs’ – Italian style. Then I chanced to see another version of kofta at a mediterranian restaurant here. Again, just ‘see’ because I couldn’t eat them being vegetarian. It was interesting to see new variations of my old favourite. New variations? Apparently not! Indian koftas’ Middle Eastern counterparts are the originals.

Originally Persian, Kofta, köfte, kafta, kufta or kafteh are quite a tradition throughout the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. I presume it travelled to India with the Mughals.

Interesting facts listed at wikipedia:

In Arab countries, kufta’ (كفته) is usually shaped into cigar-shaped cylinders.
In Turkey, köfte is a very popular food item. According to recent research done by a private food company, there were 291 different kinds of köfte in the country. phew!
In Bulgaria, they are called kyufteta (кюфтета)
In Greece, they are called keftedes.
In Romania, they are called chiftele
In Armenia, they are called kyufta
In Albania, they are called qoftë

I think I will stick to calling my version a kofta. I made this one with doodhi (Lauki).

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What you need:

For the kofta:

Doodhi grated – 3 cups

Ginger (grated) – 1 tbsp

Green chillies – 2-3 nos

Ajwain (omam) – 1/4 tsp

Besan (Chick-pea flour) – 3/4 cup

Baking soda – a small pinch

Salt to taste

Oil for frying

For the gravy:

Onions – 3 medium sized

Garlic – 2 cloves

Ginger – 1/2 inch piece

Tomatoes – 1 large

Cashew nuts – 1/4 cup

Khus Khus – 2 tbsp

Crumbled Paneer / Ricotta cheese – 1/4 cup

Bayleaves – 2 nos

Cinnamon stick – 1 medium

Cloves – 2-3 nos

Jeera – 1 tsp

Jeera pwd – 2 tsp

Nutmeg pwd – 1/8 tsp

Atta – 1 tbsp

Turmeric – 1 tsp

Red chilli powder – 1 tbsp or according to taste

Oil – 2 tbsp

Salt to taste

Cilantro to garnish

I guess that is it. The list is quite long, but most ingredients are always available in your pantry.

Grate the doodhi, sprinkle some salt on it and let it rest for 10-15 minutes. Now, squeeze out all the water, add rest of the ingredients for the kofta and make a dough soft enough to shape the koftas. Remember, the doodhi will still have some water content, so add water if required only after mixing the ingredients. Shape the koftas as desired and fry them in oil till golden brown. Set aside on paper towels to drain excess oil.

For the gravy, Heat up the pan and dry roast the atta till the raw smell goes. Set aside. Heat up 1 tbsp of oil and add jeera, cinnamon sticks and cloves. Add coarsely chopped onions and saute till transparent. add the garlic and ginger and saute for another 2-3 minutes. Swith off the stove and let cool. Grind this with the tomato, cashewnut and khus khus with minimum water. Now, heat up the remaining 1 tbsp oil and add the bay leaves. Add the gravy, turmeric, jeera pwd, nutmeg pwd, salt and chilli pwd. Let this cook for about 15 – 20 minutes till the masala is cooked and you see tiny spots of oil on the surface. Not too much oil will float since the input was minimal. For a more restaurant style look, increase the amount of oil. Once cooked, add the paneer or ricotta cheese. Curd could also be substituted. Add the koftas and garnish with cilanto and cream (optional). Serve hot with naan, parathas or rotis.

Now I pack this off to Meeta for this month’s Monthly Mingle.
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I was not sure if this recipe was appropriate for the Middle Eastern theme. Though koftas are originally Middle Eastern, my recipe is quite Indian. Meeta has generously accepted my entry. Thanks Meeta for letting me in and thanks Asha for suggesting that I send it to the event.

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