Vegetarian Concoctions

February 4, 2008

Chettinad chutney

Today’s story joins hands with Lakshmi’s request (made sometime in October last year!) to narrate how alert, attentive, observant and aware I am of my activites in the kitchen when burning cooking food and maybe you could learn a few tricks of the trade from a true professional by the end of this saga. When I first started cooking as a student, I could count the number of times I had cooked during the month by just looking at my hands….by the number of burn marks or cuts. It was inevitable and I had one everytime I cooked.

For the absent-minded person that I am, it amazes me that I have not encountered any major kitchen disaster like hot oil spills or pressure cooker bursting (this happened to my mother once and she escaped without a scratch) Yet! Small ones do keep happening every now and then.

Back in school days, one episode stands out. My roommates and I had invited a bunch of seniors for dinner that day. I came up with the idea of making masala dosa with chutney and sambhar. Sounded great, but dosa was an unknown territory for all of us. I picked up the samaithu paar book(the only cookbook in the cabinet) and hurriedly looked for dosai. Rice and Udad dal…how difficult can that be? We also had a blender now. The soaking time said ‘overnight’ and we had just about 4-5 hours. We could soak the rice and dal, go grocery shopping, make the chutney and sambhar and then grind the dosa batter. That should be enough time I thought. Then a brilliant idea struck yours truly. I boiled water in a huge pot, switched off the flame, added 18 cups of raw rice into it and covered it with a lid. Ah there! That ought to speed up the soaking process. Off we went to the store to buy huge bags of potatoes and onions for the masala filling. At the back of my mind, I could not help feeling pleased and proud of myself. ‘Next time,’ I said to myself ‘when I talk to amma, I have give her this handy tip!’.

2 hours later. My roomies had their hands full preparing the accompaniments and I opened the lid to see how well the rice was soaked. Horror of horrors! Half cooked rice had filled up to the brim, looking for space to grow even more! Now what? N was quick to recover. She ran to the Indian store to get Dosa mix and saved the day. I learnt my lesson that day. I stick to what the elders and cookbooks say with traditional recipes and never try anything new when I have guests over. BTW, we managed to finish the rice over the next week and also successfully made dosais the following week.

To go with the dosais I usually make Maheshwari’s Hotel sambhar and my SIL, Priya’s Chettinadu chutney. Here’s her recipe copy pasted right out of the email she sent me:

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Onions-2 (medium sized)

Tomato-2 (if sour or 3 if not sour)

chana dal-2 teaspoons

red and green chillies taken in equal quantities according to taste

salt to taste

Take 2 teaspoons of oil and fry the chana dal to golden brown and then add the onions once the onions become transparent add the tomatoes and the chillies and fry them all till soft and done. Then cool them and add salt and grind them into a fine paste in the mixie and season with mustard seeds and curry leaves.

My friend Ranjini gave a quick and easy recipe for this chutney that I make quite often too. It has a few extra ingredients, but just as simple and delicious:

Onions – 1 medium

Tomato – 2 medium

Ginger – ½ cm piece

Chana dal – 3 tsp

Udad dal – 1 tsp

Mustard seeds – 1/ 2tsp

Turmeric – a pinch

Coriander/cilantro – 1 tbsp chopped

Mint leaves – 1 tbsp chopped (optional)

Red chillies – 1

Green chilli – 1

Heat up 2 tsp of oil and add mustard seeds, red chilli, udad and chana dal. Once the dals brown add onion and cook. Then add rest of the ingredients and cook until the tomatoes are soft and cooked. Grind everything with little water with required amount of salt. YUM!

January 17, 2008

Baingan Bharta

Filed under: Brinjal (Eggplant), Main meals, Punjabi — Hema @ 12:04 pm

Today I keep two promises. One that I made to myself at the start of this new year, that I will not ignore my blog any more and will try to post something at least once or twice a month. The other I had promised my friends that I would narrate my story one day.

A tale that begins in my home back in India, where the kitchen was my mom’s territory that I occasionally visited when my stomach growled. The kitchen counter being my favorite place to sit while amma cooked tirelessly for her ever hungry family(read kids). I helped her in quality control – tasting for salt and spice. Actually, I was not even good at that. I knew something was missing, but could never figure out what. I never even bothered to look at the ingredients that went into her pots and pans.

By the time I finished college, the only commendable jobs I could perform in the kitchen were making dosais (this does not include making the batter) and perfectly round chappatis/phulkas that would puff up almost every time (and this does not include preparing the dough). I could not make tea or even cook rice to save my life. I learnt basic survival subjis, curries and dals just before I left home and moved all the way across the globe.

When I landed in the US and met my roommates, I figured I was definitely in between both N and S who couldn’t light a match and J who could cook sambhar and rasam without looking at cookbooks and recreate dishes from any printed recipe without hesitation. N and S gave me a superiority complex for the first time in my life. Our cooking turns inspired me to look for recipes everywhere and come up with something new every week. The phone of course, was my lifeline. I don’t remember the number of calls I must have made to ask Amma ‘what dal goes into kootu’ or ‘moong dal? Is that the little yellow one or the little red one?. Amma was getting used to receiving SOS calls at 3 or 4 in the morning IST. One such call was for the recipe for baingan bharta.

It was such a big hit, and the one that elevated me to the category of being a good cook who could make exotic dishes*, and that accolade was not given to J yet! She was a wonderful cook, but made only south Indian food. Needless to say, I was on cloud nine and all pumped up for my next cooking turn which almost cost me my newly acquired title. That story comes up next time, but for now, I present to you my recipe of success.

*Any two word North indian dish is exotic for a South Indian. Any dish that both tastes and sounds close to a restaurant menu is exotic for a bunch of poor students. Anything edible is exotic if you are a bad cook/do not cook. Take your pick!

Ingredients:

Baingan (Eggplant) – 1 large

White Onions – 2 medium (chopped lengthwise)

Tomatoes – 4 medium (chopped)

Garlic – 1 or 2 cloves (optional)

Green chillies – 3 or according to spice level

Ginger – 1 cm x 1 cm piece grated

Red chilli pwd – 1 tsp

Jeera pwd – 1 tbsp

Cumin (Jeera) – 2 tsp

Garam masala (optional) – 1 tsp

Turmeric – ¼ tsp

Oil – 2 tbsp

Salt to taste

Cilantro to garnish

Rub some oil on the Baingan and roast it directly on the fire until the skin chars and the flesh is completely cooked. This works best when you have a gas stove. It also works if you have the electric coil. For those with smooth tops, like me, open the oven and broil it on high. Keep checking and turning when required. Once cooked, place it in a cold water bath and peel the skins off. It should come off easily. Now, just run your knife over the baingan randomly and cut it into small bits.

Heat up the oil and add the jeera. Add the ginger and chillies. Then add the onions and garlic. Once the onions are transluscent, add tomatoes. After the tomatoes are cooked, add the jeera, chilli, turmeric and garam masala pwds. Add the chopped baingan and required salt. Let it cook together for another 4-5 minutes. Remove from heat, garnish with cilantro and serve with hot phulkas! YUM!

October 22, 2007

Navarathri Golu

Filed under: Festivals and occasions, JFI, Navarathri, South Indian — Hema @ 1:57 pm

It has been a busy 10 days with lots of people coming home for Golu and lots of visits to other poeple’s golus. The Garba celebrated in a modest way at the temple filled me with nostalgia transporting me to my college days at Baroda when my friends and I used to have the time of our lives dancing garba and raas way past midnight. I wanted to post this earlier and invite you all home for golu, but I still want you to be a part of it. This time I tried to recreate a barn for my daughter who loves old McDonald and his farm animals. To read more about the significance and tradition of golu read this and this.

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This goes to Vee who is hosting this special edition JFS:Dassera

September 24, 2007

Chitranna – White, Yellow and Brown!!!

Filed under: Karnataka, Kootu, Lemon, RCI, Rice, Tamarind, White pumpkin (Pooshinikkai) — Hema @ 11:59 am

Rice, Chawal, Arissi, Bhiyam, Ari or Akki, once boiled, has the greatest ability to look elegent in any combination of flavor or color. With little effort, the plain white grains can be transformed into a colorful explosion of reds and yellows and browns and greens. A staple diet in South India and many other regions across the world, the rice has endless ways of pleasing the most refined palate. Keeping in mind the theme for the month dedicated to Karnataka cuisine, here are my entries served with pooshinikkai morkootu.

Nimbehannu Chitranna:

Long-grained Rice)- 3 cups cooked

Turmeric – 1 1/2 tsp

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

Chana dal – 2 tsp

Udad dal – 1 tsp

Peanuts – a handfull

Methi powder – 1/2 tsp

Hing – 1/4 tsp

Lemon – 1 1/2 tbsp or to taste

Salt – to taste

Green chillies – 4 or 5

Curry leaves – 6 or 7

oil – 1 tbsp

til/gingerly oil – 1 tbsp

lime zest – 1 tsp

Red chillies – 1 or 2

Boil rice and let it cool down for a while, add the til oil and mix it with the rice so that all the grains seperate easily. Make a small pit in the center and spoon in the turmeric and the zest. Heat up half the oil and roast the peanuts well. Set aside. To the other half add mustard seeds, chana dal, udad dal, hing, methi pwd, red chillies and let it roast up. Then add the green chillies and curry leaves. Pour this directly into the pit on the turmeric and add required salt. Once cool, add peanuts and lemon juice and mix well. The lemon zest gives it an extra flavor (a tip from my aunt).

Kayi-Sasive chitranna:

Rice – 3 cups

Grated Coconut – 1/2 cup fresh or shredded

Red chillies – 2 + 1

Tamarind – 1 tsp

Jaggery(optional) – 1 tsp

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp + 1/2 tsp

Chana dal – 2 tsp

Udad dal – 1 tsp

Hing – 1/4 tsp

Fenugreek seeds – 1/2 tsp

Coconut oil – 1 tbsp

Vegetable oil – 1 tbsp

Turmeric – 1/2 tsp

Curry leaves – 6 or 7

Grind the coconut, 1 tsp mustard seeds, tamarind, turmeric, jaggery and red chillies with minimum water. Spread the cooked rice and mix it with the coconut oil. Heat up the oil and add 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, chana dal, udad dal, 1 red chilli, hing and curry leaves. Add the ground paste and roast till the raw smell of tamarind goes. Add salt and mix this with the rice. I like my rice white and not-sweet, so left out the jaggery and turmeric.

Puliyogare:

This is my aunt’s innovation for making instant puliyagare. It tastes just as good without the hardwork of making the pulikachal / gojju.

Tamarind concentrate – 1 medium heaped spoon

Cooked rice – 3 cups

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

Chana dal – 1 tbsp

Udad dal – 1 tsp

Peanuts – a handful

Methi kuria – 2 tsp

Gingerlly oil – 1 tbsp + 1 tbsp

Red Chillies – 4

hing – 1/4 tsp

Black pepper pwd – 1 tsp

Dhania pwd – 2 tsp

Turmeric – a pinch

Jaggery – 1 tsp (optional)

Curry leaves – 7-8

Salt to taste

Prepare the rice and mix it with 1 tbsp of til oil and methi kuria. Methi kuria is a spice powder prepared in Gujarat using fenugreek that is coarsely ground, red chilli powder and til oil. In the USA, it is available in Indian stores and in India, you may find it in khadi udyog. If, unavailable, roast 2 tsp of fenugreek seeds and dry grind into a fine pwd. This can be substituted for the same amount of methi kuria. Heat up the rest of the oil and first roast the peanuts and set aside. Then to the same oil add mustard seeds, chana dal, udad dal, hing, red chillies and curry leaves. Once the dals have browned, dissolve the tamarind paste in very little water and add it to the spices. add turmeric, roasted peanuts, jaggery and salt and let this boil till the raw smell goes and the paste has thickened up. Now add the dhania and pepper powder and pour into the prepared rice. Mix well and enjoy!

I am packing these off to Asha for RCI-Karnataka!

July 26, 2007

Red Cabbage Morkootu

Filed under: Curd/Yogurt, Kootu, Red cabbage, Salads and Raita, South Indian, Tamilnadu — Hema @ 11:41 am

I am not an adventurous shopper when it comes to vegetables. My grocery list never features vegetables that I have not tasted. Bad! you may say for a food blogger…and I agree. I had not tried a new vegetable for almost 2 years after coming to the US and my husband on the other hand had stories to tell me on his cooking adventures as a bachelor. Anyone who knows him would have definitely heard this story least a few times.

During his first few weeks in the US, hubby spots Brussels sprouts in the grocrey store and they look like miniature cabbages. He buys a few, gets them home, steams them, adds salt and pepper and tastes. They are good! He loves them. So, now on he decides they will be a regular in his grocery list. Now, the story gets exciting. The next visit to the store, he spots Habanero peppers. Ah! cute little bell peppers, he thinks, ‘will be great for sambhar’. He buys about 30 and heads home to concoct the sambhar he will remember for a lifetime! And the fact that surprised me most was that he made it a point to finish all that sambhar in the next 4-5 days. I have to mention this here….he makes the best sambhar and he was my sambhar guru after we got married. But this definitely does not justify his courageous act.

I guess I just play it safe when it comes to food:) Anyway, I had been eyeing the red cabbage for a while and never actually bought them. Reason – hubby tried them once and said they tasted bitter to him. From a few shows on food network and a few recipies blogged by friends here I gathered enough courage to get a veggie-never-tried-before. What’s the big deal, you may think, but you see…I hate wasting or thowing away food in any form. So, I like to make sure we consume what we buy. This is what I ended up making with it two times within a week. It just tasted so good!

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Red cabbage – 1/2

Curd – 2 cups

Turmeric – a pinch

Salt to taste

For Grinding:

Black pepper – 1/2 tsp

Dry red chilli – 1

Green chillies – 2

Jeera / cumin – 1 tsp

Coconut (shredded) – 2 tbsp

Curry leaves – 6-7

Tur dal soaked for 1/2 hr (optional) – 1 tsp

For garnishing:

Mustard seeds – 1/2 tsp

Tur dal – 1 tsp

Hing – a pinch

Curry leaves – a few

Oil – 2 tsp

Shread the cabbage and boil it with salt, in enough water to cover it. Grind the ‘for grinding’ ingredients above with minimum water. Once the cabbage is cooked, add the ground paste. Cook for a few minutes and reduce the heat. Beat the curds with the turmeric and add it to the pot. Let this heat through, but do not let it boil. Garnish.
Mor kootu is almost like avial. It goes very well with kalanda sadam (mixed rice like pulihorai, mint rice, coconut rice, lemon rice etc)

July 12, 2007

Kandathippili sathumudu (rasam)

Filed under: Arisithippili, Home remedies, Kandathippili, Main meals, Rasam, Tamilnadu — Hema @ 11:38 am

With astounding developments in science and medicine, there are so many quick cures to everyday ailments a man from suffers time and again. Diseases like small pox have been eradicated and life expectancy has gone up both in developed and developing nations. Having said this, there are so many new diseases infesting the human race. AIDS for example, was non-existant half a century ago and is now the most dreaded disease. There are drugs available for depression, restless legs and weight loss. Are these diseases? Can they not be dealt with without drugs?

My daughter’s pediatrician had prescribed Elidel for her eczema and after a month or so asked us to stop using it as it had a black box warning. Several drugs are withdrawn from the market after they start showing signs of side effects in the long run. How do I know if the second presciption ointment is safe for my child? Now, will you blame me if I turn to the trusted home remedies that our grandmas suggested for simple headaches, rashes and colds? I think not!

I saw this interesting titbit online and had to save it for this post:

“I have a sore throat.”

2000 BC : “eat this root”

1200 AD : “That root is heathen, say this prayer.”

1500 AD : “That prayer is superstition, drink this elixir.”

1800 AD : “That elixir is snake oil, Take this pill.”

1900 AD : “That pill is ineffective, Take this antibiotic.”

2000 AD : “That antibiotic is artificial, Here why dont you eat this root.”

And eat the root we will! Well make that bark. Kandathippili is available as 2-3 inch long sticks in herbal stores in the south. Does anyone know what the scientific name is or if it has another name? I have not been able to find it. Arisithippili (long pepper) is a relative of the black pepper (see picture right down below)This rasam (iyengars call rasam, sathumudu) is ideal for body aches and for the ‘not-feeling-that-great’ days. It is frequently made for postpartum meals in our custom.

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What you need:

Kandathippili – 5-6 sticks

Arisithippili – 4-5 grains

Sukku/soonth/dry ginger (see picture below) – 1 tsp powdered

Black pepper – 1 tsp

Jeera/cumin – 1 tsp

Red chillies – 2 nos

Hing – a pinch

Few curry leaves

Turmeric – a pinch

Tamarind – paste from 1 lemon sized ball

Ghee, curry leaves, Jeera and mustard for tadka

Heat up a small pan and roast the kandathippili and arisithippili till they brown and the kitchen is evidently fragrant. Add sukku, black pepper, jeera, hing, curry leaves and red chillies and roast for a few more minutes. Dry grind. (This powder can be made in excess and kept for a few days in an airtight container). Boil 3 cups of water with tamarind paste, turmeric and salt for 10 minutes or until the raw smell of the tamarind goes. Add the ground powder. Temper with rai, jeera and curry leaves in ghee.

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Sukku
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Arisithippili

July 5, 2007

Khasta Kachori

I have’nt been blogging for over a month now. No particular reason. I did make some interesting crunchies and munchies, but did not bother to take photographs. My husband even asked me if I was feeling well when I let him eat the spring rolls without capturing some shots for records. Photographing the food, for me, takes more time than cooking it. I do have a good camera, with the macro mode(which is quite a feature for photographing food!) capability, but my kitchen is not open to natural light. I have to take pictures during the day, with the lights on. Most times, I just cannot manage a decent shot indoors.

My typical photography sessions are filled with activity. I carry the food, the garnish, a cloth to spread on the ground and the camera to the patio. A pair of curious eyes watches me with interest. I spread the cloth and place the serving bowl on it. A pair of energetic legs jumps into action. I wipe the bowl for any unwanted traces of food, garnish it and switch on the camera. A pair of meddling hands is what I see through the viewer. Then I do a little pleading and screaming. More often than not, this just increases the levels of curiosity and activity. I threaten a ‘time out’ session and that doesn’t work either. I wonder how the father manages this dialogue so effectively. Finally, I turn to my saviour – ‘Barney’. He has came to my rescue more times than I can count. Works like a charm. With the little monkey safely watching the dino, I get back to work. After a couple shots I can see the head turn towards me again. I quickly take another shot and clear everything out before hurricane Ananya decides to change path.

Now you see why I am not really fond of the picture displaying part of the recipe writing process. Anyway, this is a picture sequence I had taken a few months ago and completely forgotton about. When I chanced to see it in my camera waiting to be uploaded, I didnt lose much time compiling this post.

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Khasta kachori is a recipe I learnt from a friend’s mom. She made the most amazing kachoris. This is what you need.

All-purpose flour (maida) – 2 cups

Ghee/butter – 1/3 cup

Moong dal – 3/4 cup

Saunf(fennel seeds) – 2 tsp

Dhania (Corriander seeds) – 1 tbsp

Jeera (Cumin seeds) – 2 tsp

Red chilli pwd – 2 tsp (or less)

Turmeric – 1/2 tsp

Hing – a pinch

Garam masala – 1/2 tsp

Oil for deep frying

Soak the moong dal overnight or for at least 3-4 hours. Mix the maida and ghee with hand to a crumbly texture. Add water little by little to make a stiff dough. Let rest for 1/2 hr. Dry grind the jeera, saunf and dhaniya. Add oil to a pan and add the soaked moong dal.(Alternatively you can grind the soaked moong dal coarsely with minimum water and then roast it in a little oil till the water evaporates and it forms a crumb-like texture. Add the masalas and the dry powders and saute for a few minutes. Let this cool. Fill it in the dough (do not overfill) and flatten it out a bit. Deep fry till golden brown and serve with chutney or ketchup.

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May 1, 2007

Celery thokku

Filed under: Celery, Chutneys and Thughayals, JFI, Tamilnadu — Hema @ 9:43 am

My Mother-in-law is one of the most enthusiastic cooks I have seen…not to mention one of the best! She manages to cook up a ‘Kalyana virundu’ (Marriage feast) everyday. The minimum she prepares is a sambhar, a rasam, a kootu, two curries, a pachaddi (raita), a salad and a pickle…all within a matter of two hours. The list would have featured a sweet as well if not for the diabetes that runs in my husband’s family. Sweet preparations are limited to special days now. Not only is the food prepared, the kitchen is left spic and span within that time-frame. Her policy is to wash every dish as soon as it finds its way into the sink. ‘This way you will not feel the extra work of cleaning the dishes at the end’, she says. She was never inclined to use the dishwasher during her stay with us. She very rightly never trusted it to work as well as the hands.

She used to eagerly wait for our flea market trips during the weekend. That was her ultimate idea of entertainment…..picking up vegetables for the week. The India-like climatic conditions in Florida yields all the vegetables that we find back in India. MIL was surprised to find veggies that were not available even in Delhi where they live. Not only was I introduced to her old-time traditional favourite recipes, but was also taught new ways of making everyday veggies. Celery thokku is one of her innovations too. She first made them with some left-over celery I had used for making my usual soup. Now-a-days, I make soup from the left-over celery that I buy for making thokku. This tastes so good mixed with rice and a dash of til oil or just with curd rice too. Here’s my contribution to JFI-Greens at Indira’s.

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What you need:

Celery – about 5 stalks

Green chillies – 4-5 nos

Hing – 1/4 tsp

Methi – 1 tsp

Cilantro – 1/2 cup chopped

Ginger – 1/2 inch cube

Mustard: 1 tsp

Turmeric – 1/2 tsp

Salt to taste

Gingerly oil (til oil) – 1/4 cup

Chop up the celery and saute it with cilantro in about 1-2 tbsp of til oil for 4-5 minutes. Set aside. Next heat up another tbsp of oil and add methi, chopped chillies, hing and ginger. Let this cook for 5 minutes. Put this and the celery in the blender and grind to a fine paste. Heat up about 6-7 tbsp of the oil. Add mustard seeds and once they splutter, add the paste. Add salt and turmeric and keep cooking till the oil leaves the sides of the pan. This step takes a while. The thokku should have a thick paste like consistancy. Add more oil if required. Serve with hot rice and appalam or vadam.

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 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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