Vegetarian Concoctions

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!

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

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.

January 22, 2007

Pudina (Mint leaves) Vatral kuzhambu

Filed under: Indian, Main meals, Mint leaves, Tamilnadu — Hema @ 3:17 pm

Vatral kuzhambu or more commonly called vetha kuzhambu is a sambhar-like preparation made without the use of any cooked dal. It is a spicy concoction made with lots of tamarind, typically one vegetable and of course some spices. Though traditionally, dried vegetables (vatral) like sundakkai and manathakalikkai were used to make this kuzhambu (hence its name), baby onions, egg plant, potatoes, carrot, radish or any other fresh vegetable or even  a combination of vegetables can be used. Venkaya (baby onion) vethakozhambu happens to be my and almost everyone else’s favourite. Pudina (mint leaves) and vendiyam (methi/fenugreek leaves) come a close second for me.

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Here’s what you need:

Mint leaves – A big bunch

Tamarind – 1/2 cup thick extract

Turmeric – 1/2 tsp

Sambhar pwd – 3 tbsp

For tempering:

Sesame oil – 2 tbsp

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

Hing – 1/3 tsp

Red chillies – 2-3 nos

Tur dal – 3 tsp

Chana dal – 2 tsp

Methi/ fenugreek seeds – 2 tsp

Curry leaves – about 10

Salt to taste.

Always use sesame oil for vethakuzhambu. It just tastes a whole lot better. Heat up the oil. Add Mustard seeds and let them splutter. Add the dals, red chillies, methi and the hing. [The block hing (the one sold as a block-not the powdered one) tastes better. Powder it coarsely before adding it to the oil.] Once the dals turn brown, add the curry leaves and the sambhar pwd. Saute for just about 5 seconds and add the mint leaves. Saute for a minute or so till the mint leaves turn dark green and reduce in volume. Add the turmeric,tamarind extract and salt. Tamarind concentrate does not taste as good in this recipe. Add some water and let this boil up for about 15-20 minutes. Add more water later if needed. If the kuzhambu gets very watery, just dissolve some rice pwd in water and add the paste. Boil until it thickens up to the required consistency.

Vethakuzhambu easily keeps for about 15 days in the refrigerator. In fact it tastes even better as it gets older. So, make sure you have made enough to last at least a couple days! Mix it with rice and a drizzle of sesame oil or eat it with curd rice – but eat with your hand and not the spoon, for, the hand smells divine long after the meal is digested.

 

October 3, 2006

Mysore Sambhar

Filed under: Cookbooks, Indian, Karnataka, Main meals, Mixed Veggies, South Indian — Hema @ 1:21 pm

One of my favourite cookbooks DAKSHIN, by Chandra Padmanabhan had been lying on the counter- top without being used for a long time. I got this as a gift from my MIL 2 years back and have tried various recipes from this book with wonderful results each time.  This recipe for Mysore sambhar always caught my attention, since this was a new recipe to me. The only reason I had not tested this was because there was no tamarind in the list of ingredients and sambhar sans tamarind……hmmm? Yesterday, however I decided to go for it. I couldn’t help but add a little bit of tamarind never-the-less. I was quite impressed with the outcome. Though, the tamarind did add that little bit of taste that I like, I am pretty sure the recipe would have been as good if not better even without it.

Tur Dal  – 3/4 cup uncooked

Water – 3 cups

Beans – 1 2/3 cups

Potato – 1 medium

Green peas – 1 tbsp

Tamarind – 1/2 lime sized ball

Turmeric – 1/2 tsp

Salt to taste

For the paste:

Dhania  – 1 tbsp

Grated coconut  – 6 tbsp

Hing –  1/2 tsp

Methi (fenugreek) seeds – 1 tsp

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

Raw rice (soaked) – 1 tbsp

Red chillies – 6 nos

For tempering:

Mustard seeds – 1 tsp

Cumin – 1 tsp

Red chilli – 1

Curry leaves – 5-6 nos.

Cook the dal and soak the rice in water for about 15 minutes. Cut vegetables to about 1 inch size and boil in water. Add the tamarind and salt when the vegetables are half cooked and let it boil up together till the vegetables are fully cooked. Make a fine paste of all the ingredients listed with minimum water. The original recipe did not have methi (fenugreek) seeds, but I decided to add some for the flavour. Add turmeric and the paste to the veggies and let it simmer up for about 5 minutes on medium flame. Next add the dal and cook the sambhar for another 3-4 minutes. Temper with Mustard, cumin, red chilli and curry leaves and serve hot with rice.

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