June 16, 2010

Kothmir-Pudina Zhunka/Pithla, Jowar Bhakri, Chana Dal-Carrot MW Dal, Besan-Semolina Laddoos

Happy Father's day on the 20th to all adorable daddies!
I would like you to watch something fun to make you all smile for dad's day! Have you heard few of Allan Sherman's hilarious songs "One Hippopotami" and a popular Camp song "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" before? He has more like these on YouTube to watch.
Enjoy them while I take a Summer blog break for few weeks! :)

Kothmir-Pudina Zhunka or Pithla/Cilantro-Mint Besan Chutney, my style! :)
Most of you know this recipe for Besan Chutney called "Zhunka (drier chutney) or Pithla (when it has some gravy)", a Maharashtrian delicacy which tastes fabulous with Jowar or Bajri, or mix of flours Bhakris or Pithla even tastes great with Pooris as I have found out. I had surplus of Cilantro leaves and Mint, so I thought I will smother this PithlaZhunka with Cilantro and enjoy it. It was really tasty with strong Cilantro flavor (I love Cilantro!) and hint of Mint, loved with Bhakri. Here is an video of Marathi lady making authentic Pithla and Bhakri.

Here is how I made Kothmir-Pudina Zhunka/Pithla:
1. Roast 1/4 cup Besan/Chickpea flour until it heats thru' or place it on wide plate and Microwave one minute at at time until it heats and cool. Add 1 cup thin Buttemilk or plain water if you don't like to use Buttermilk, 1/2 tsp salt to Besan, beat well until you get a smooth mix without lumps. Keep aside.
2. Heat 1tbsp ghee,1 tsp oil in a non-stick pan, add 1/2 tsp mustard seeds, 1/2 tsp Cumin seeds, pinch of Hing. Add 1/2 cup thinly sliced onion, 1-2 green chilli minced, 1-2 garlic minced, saute well until onion is reddish, add 1 tsp grated ginger, 1/4 tsp chilli pd, stir fry for a few seconds.
3. Add 1/2 Turmeric, 1 cup packed chopped Cilantro, 1/4 cup minced Mint leaves, stir for few seconds until wilt.
4. Add Besan and Buttermilk mixture, simmer until it cooks, raw smells disappears and Zhunka thickens. Adjust the salt and heat, take off the heat. It gets thicker as it cools. Add more water and heat if it becomes too thick.
5. If you have used just plain water instead of Buttermilk with Besan, add 1-2 tsp of lemon juice to Pithla/Zhunka and mix well.

Jowar Bhakris:
This delicious Cilantro-Besan chutney can be paired with my Rajgaro flour -Wheat flour Bhakri, or just using Jowar flour like this Jowar Bhakri and this link in Marathi as shown in these video links or as shown below are made with the same method as this Bajra Bhakri I have made and posted before. Look at this roti making video, what a fabulous skill!!

To make Jowar Bhakri:You can also make Bhakri the easy way. Mix a cup or 2 of Jowar flour or Bajri flour or Ragi flour or mix of flours, 1/2 cup Wheat flour (Atta is optional addition for binding since these Bajri or Jowar flour don't have much gluten to bind and roll out easily to make circles. Adding wheat flour makes it easy to roll but not authentic Bhakri recipe which slapped by open palms into shape! :D), enough salt and very hot water to mix and make 6" rounds on a oiled aluminum foil and cook both sides on hot Tava/Griddle.

Microwaved Chana dal-Carrot Dal:

I made this yummy dal following the same recipe from Divya's "Dil Se" blog's "Kadalai Paruppu Kuzhambu" post except added some Carrots and a Tomato to Chana dal and did the whole cooking in the Microwave. This will go to Champa who is hosting "Tried and Tasted-Dilse" event which is the brain child of Zlamushka. Thanks to all of you girls! :)

To Microwave the dal:
1. Add 1/2 cup soaked Chana dal to a big bowl with water with 2 tsp ghee and Microwave first until dal is almost cooked.
2. Then add a cup of sliced Carrots (I had a pack of already sliced) and all the other ingredients as Divya says in her post except seasoning ingredients into dal, mix and microwave until Carrots are soft and cooked well but not mashed. Add salt and Cilantro.
3. Heat another small bowl with 1 tbsp oil, Microwave for 3 mins on high. Add all the other seasoning ingredients as Divya's post lists, keep MWing and mixing until the onions are reddish. Add to the cooked Carrot dal and mix.
Serve dal with plain rice, a raita and with that Besan chutney on the side with a Bhakri. Delicious dinner is ready! :)

I am also sending this Microwaved Chana dal-Carrot dal to this month's host PJ, to an event started by Silpa called "Vegetable Marathon-Carrots" and again sending this to Kamalika who is hosting "MEC-Dals", an event started by Srivalli. Enjoy hosting the events friends.

Besan-Rava Laddoos, a dessert to finish off the meal:
My kids usually love any dessert with Vanilla or Chocolate flavors. Since I don't like sweets generally (except Jamuns and Tiramasu!), I try not to cook too many sweets at home. Whenever kids want any dessert like cakes and cookies, most of the time I just buy it for them at the store. However, Besan Laddoos are one of the few Indian sweets my daughter likes. As soon as she came back home from college after finishing the freshman year, she wanted these so I had made them for her. I made very few laddoos using just 1 cup of Besan and few tbsp of Rava/Semolina.

To make these Besan Laddoos:
1. Heat a non-stick pan, add 4 tbsp ghee. Add 2-3 tbsp fine grained Semolina (Chiroti Rava), roast until slightly reddish but not too much.
2. Turn down the heat. Add 1 cup Besan (Gram flour available in Indian stores, make sure it's fresh. I store it in the fridge in an airtight glass jar) and roast until the raw smell of Besan disappears and Besan roasts to a golden color while constantly stirring the flour.
Note: This process of roasting Besan on medium heat takes about 10-15mins, very imp to get the Besan aromatic and well roasted. If not well roasted, Laddoos taste slightly bitter. So make sure you roast it well. You can also Microwave Besan-Ghee mix on a wide plate, take care not to burn the Besan, keep checking after every 1-2 mins.
3. Add 3/4 cup (or more to your taste) of fine grained light brown sugar to the roasted flour, 3 tbsp finely crushed Almonds, mix well. Mix in 1/2 tsp Cardamom powder.
4. As soon as the sugar melts, flour is thickish, take the pan out of the heat. Mix well, let it cool for 4-5 mins and add 1 tsp of milk to it just to make it wet (add 1 tsp more milk if you find the Besan flour too dry but don't add too much milk) mix well, scoop 2 tbsp of flour and make small balls by squeezing gently with your palm to round shapes.
5. Let them cool, they get firmer. Enjoy.

Movies I watched:
We watched "The Gods must be crazy II", a second movie of the same name on Sunday night. It was hilarious as well but I prefer the the first movie. These 1-2 movies come in one box as "The Gods must be crazy 1 and II". I am not planning to buy any more of these movie series, these 2 are good enough!

"Invictus", on DVD, a movie based on the politics of South Africa and around Rugby World Cup in 1995, which was hosted by South Africa during and right after their internal national conflict and dissolving Apartheid, which united all South Africans as "one team, one country" for the love of the game with new hope for the country with Nelson Mandela as their president.
This movie is directed by Clint Eastwood and with actor Matt Damon and Morgan Freeman as Nelson Mandela, all are my favorite guys. Usually I don't watch any movie based on sports but this movie had all that I wanted even though a bit long for my liking (134mins), an interesting movie to watch about inside politics of South Africa even if you are not into game of Rugby. South Africa won the Rugby World cup that year, not without a controversy though! Here is a glimpse of that 1995 game on YouTube video and final highlights. "Invictus" means "Unconquered or undefeated" in Latin.

Books I plan to read this Summer:
"Half of a Yellow Sun" by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
This book is quoted as "A masterly, haunting new novel from a writer heralded by The Washington Post Book World as "the 21st-century daughter of Chinua Achebe," Half of a Yellow Sun recreates a seminal moment in modern African history: Biafra's impassioned struggle to establish an independent republic in Nigeria, and the chilling violence that followed" here in this website. This interesting book was recommended to me by sra. Thanks my friend!:)

"The Bathhouse" by Farnoosh Moshiri.A story about how a Iranian teenage girl who was arrested and kept in an old Bathhouse endured the brutal hardship, narrowly escaped death and survived during the Iranian fundamentalist revolution.

Blog Break!!
That's all for this month. I am taking a blog break from 18th of June to plan and enjoy a Summer vacation with kids. I will be back to blogging around mid July or later. Have a wonderful time until then, take care and keep cool, see you all as soon as possible. Hugs to all you! :))

June 09, 2010

Matar-Paneer Makhani/Butter Masala, Layered Wheat flour and Flax Seeds Powder Parathas, Multi Dal Masala Vada, Mango-Ricotta Kalakand

We had the hottest 2 days of Spring season last weekend, blazing Sun with 94F and humid. We spent time in the Mall most of the time and then went to grocery shopping at 8pm after it cooled down a bit, we have never done that before even in Summer! Then it rained a bit on Sunday night, temp went down and we are breathing easy this week with lower 80F. But I read that it reached 110F in India in some states, so what am I complaining about, right? Hope you guys are well hydrated there in India. I think Indian kids are back in school while our kids will start the Summer holidays this week, time for me to plan for vacation soon and to take a short Summer blog break too.
Yes! I deep fried again last week. Somebody STOP me!!! ;D
But I did make very small amount of everything deep fried these days unlike before which used to last for 2 days, so it's not that bad. Just few something crunchy to snack on in the evening once a week on the weekend is okay I think.

Matar-Paneer Makhani(Greenpeas and Cheese in Butter masala):

I had bought a pack of Paneer last month, here is the second dish I made with leftover Paneer after I used it to make Paneer Omelet last time. Since it is a Makhnai/with butter dish, you have to add some butter, can't skip that. Although I like frozen Greenpeas for convenience and add a cup to Pulav etc, I prefer dried green or Yellow Peas to make side dishes with gravy, soaked and pressure cooked lightly which gives a whole different taste and texture than frozen Greenpeas. Makhani tastes great served with Parathas, Kulchas or Pooris. Here are Dal Maharani and Dal Bhukhara dishes I have posted before, I have posted Paneer Makhani too with slightly different recipe. This recipe is influenced slightly by Nita Mehta's "Amritsari Khaana" book with my own changes. Enjoy.

Prepare these first:
1. Soak 1 1/2 cup of dry green or Yellow Greenpeas overnight, drain the water, add 2 cups water, 1/2 tsp salt, gently pressure cook until Peas are cooked but mashed. Keep aside. Slice Paneer into 1" cubes to fill 1 cup or more (I don't fry or saute Paneer in oil usually, just add directly to the gravy few minutes before I turn off the heat), set aside.
2. Grind 1 tbsp each of roasted and cooled Cashews, Walnuts and Almonds with some hot milk to smooth paste. Make this Garam Masala or roast and powder 1/2 Cardamom seeds, 1" Cinnamon, 3 Cloves, 2 tsp Cumin seeds and 1 tbsp Coriander seeds for a simple Garam masala mix you can use all of this for Makhani gravy.
To Make:
1. Heat 1 tbsp Butter+1 tbsp oil, add 1-2 Bay leaves, 2 tbsp Ginger-garlic paste, saute. Add 1 cup finely minced onions, 1/4 tsp Turmeric and 1/2 tsp Sharwood brand Tandoori spice masala if you have it (optional) saute until soft.
2. Add 1/2 cup Tomato sauce, salt, 1 tsp sugar and enough Paprika or Kashmiri chili powder, stir on medium heat until butter shows up on top. Turn down the heat, add few tbsp of cold water.
3. Add in 1 cup fat free Half and half, simmer gently. Add cooked Greenpeas with it's water, simmer again until it bubbles, adjust the salt and chilli pd.
4. Add the ground Nut paste, 1 cup Paneer cubes, 2 tsp crushed Kasoori Methi, and 2 tsp Garam masala, mix gently and heat thru' for few more mins. Take the dish off the heat.
5. Sprinkle Cilantro and 1 tbsp Butter, let it melt on top before serving, tastes better the next day. You can reheat Makhani in the microwave.

Paneer-Matar Makhani
goes to Diana of "A little of Spain in Iowa" blog who is hosting "MLLA-24th helping" event this month which is started by Susan.
This dish also goes to Sara of "Sara's Corner"
and Sunita's event "Think Spice...Think-Garam Masala". Thanks to all of you for taking time.

Layered whole Wheat flour and Flax seeds powder Parathas:

Here is another way to fold Parathas. I always keep looking for new ways to fold the layered Parathas because they make Parathas so soft and it's fun to make them as well. Last month I found a pack powdered Flax seeds at the store, so I keep adding about 2-3 tbsps to Whole wheat/atta to make Parathas or to bread, makes them healthy. I love Flax seeds chutney powder and Flax seeds Parathas made with it too.

To knead:
1. Take 2 cups of Whole Wheat flour, 2-3tbsps of Flax seeds powder, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar, 1 tbsp oil in a bowl, mix well. Add warm water to knead and make a soft dough but not sticky dough.
2. Brush some oil on the dough, cover the bowl and let it rest for 2 hours. Make layered Parathas.
3. Heat a Tava/Griddle and bake Parathas. Brush some ghee on top when you take them out.

How to fold:

1. Divide the dough into 8-10 portions, make balls. Roll each one out to about 6-7" circles, brush with oil lightly, sprinkle some flour on top.
2. Follow the step by step pics to fold the parathas as shown in the collage to make them. Click on the photo to make it bigger. Roll out again to 6" circle and cook on Tava.
3. Enjoy them with any gravy dish.

Multi Dal Masala Vada:
Here they are, the dreaded(:D) deep fried multi-dal (ala Adai) masala vadas I loved! I used 4 kinds of dals together with other spices and used a American style food chopper grinder to make a very coarse paste like the size of Bulgar Wheat (did not use Indian grinder Sumeet this time which grinds to a very fine paste) to get a very crunchy texture and mixed the thick batter with some Besan later to hold them together into round shapes, something different than I usually make like this flat Chana dal-Dill vadas.

To make Multi-Dal Masala Vada:
Soak 2 tbsp each of Chana dal, Urad dal, Moong dal and Tuar dal for few hours, drain and add to the food processor, grind until you get a coarse textured mixture. Take out in a bowl.
2. Add 1/4 cup minced Onions, 2 tsp grated Ginger, 1/2 tsp dry red Chilli flakes, 2 green chillies minced, 1/4 tsp Ajwain, 1/2 tsp crushed Aniseeds, 2 tsp crushed Coriander seeds, minced Cilantro, minced curry leaves, 1tbsp or more if needed Besan/Gram flour just to bind them together, not too much, salt and few pinches of Baking soda and mix well.
3. Don't add water, dough should be thick enough to make balls. Heat oil to 375F, drop in medium sized balls of Vada dough and fry until golden and crunchy.
4. Serve with coconut chutney or just as they are with coffee.

Ricotta Mango Kalakand:

Looking at the (Indian) blogs these days with all those mango dishes they are posting making me feel like jumping on the plane and fly to India just to have few juicy Mangoes! Aroma of ripe Mangoes brings back lot of childhood memories for most of us who grew up in India.
But unfortunately Spanish Mangoes I get here are no match for what we are used to in India, best I can get close to that taste is canned Alphonso Mango Pulp.
I had made Mango Lassi weeks ago, had some Mango pulp leftover and when I saw the tub of Ricotta (bought it to make Rasmalai which never happened) in the fridge, I made this easy and delicious sweet called Kalakand which is made of thickened sweetened milk traditionally, a very popular dessert in North Karnataka but I used thick Ricotta cheese, added Mango pulp to it for easy Kalakand. My kids enjoyed these more since it involved Ricotta Cheese!! ;D

To make easy Ricotta-Mango Kalakand:
Get all these ingredients first and add to non-stick wide mouthed pan:
1. Place 2 tbsp ghee, 15oz tub of low fat Ricotta cheese, 1/4 cup or more Brown sugar as per your taste, 1 cup canned Alphonso Mango pulp, 1/2 tsp Powdered Cardamom, pinch of salt, Pinch of saffron threads, 2 tbsp slightly toasted, crushed Almond slivers or Pistachios.
2. Heat the mixture until bubbly, turn down the heat to medium low and keep on stirring until it's thick and creamy.
3. When it stars to leave the sides of the pan, add to a lightly buttered plate, let it cool and cut into pieces. Kalakand will be soft and moist, sometimes scoopable with a spoon if it's softer which is excellent to serve topped with a little whipped Cream. Enjoy.

Colorful Ricotta-Mango Kalakand goes to Srivalli of "Spice your life" blog's "Kid's delight-Natural colors" event.

We watched an old movie called "Mackenna's Gold" again which I had watched as a teenager, loved it. I have been planning to watch one old movie as a family every Sunday evening, so my kids can remember these times when they are all grown and middle aged! Haha!! With most handsome Gregory Peck, Telly Savalas, Omar Sheriff, this movie was so good to watch on the new digitally remastered DVD. All of these actors have passed away now but they live forever in our hearts and memories! :)

Watched "Shutter Island" on DVD yesterday. Movie is based on a novel by Dennis Lehane who is also the author of "Mystic River", which was also made into movie directed by Clint Eastwood, won an Oscar for actor Sean Penn few years ago.
Shutter Island is not such a bad movie over all, visually good, little weird plotwise, didn't make much money when it was released but good acting by Ben Kingsley and Leo DiCaprio. Okay to watch once I guess.

I have been listening to Maya Angelou's CD books "Still I Rise" and "Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer". Her life, thoughts, poetry and her voice are all really inspiring.

Have a wonderful weekend my friends! :)

June 02, 2010

Mysore Masala Bonda with Dal Powder-Tomato Sambhar, Egg Theeyal Kootu, Spicy Masala Eggs

Hello everyone! It's that time of the week again and so soon too! I always think "once a week with multiple dishes" post is easy for me but every week I am huffing and puffing to catch up like a last person running in a Marathon! Haha!
Memorial weekend was so busy and fun too that I didn't have anything written for my post today. I just had these photos posted and haven't typed a word until yesterday afternoon! Anyway glad I caught up at last and here are some of the dishes I had cooked. Yes!! I deep fried again after those Baturas, enjoyed these Bondas after more than a year. That's some will power for a compulsive craver of savory snacks like me, let me tell ya ! ;D

Mysore Masala Bondas:
Most of you Indian foodies know about these Bondas of course. Some get confused between Mangalore Bondas/Bajjis (Goli Baje) which are made of Plain flour with these Mysore Bondas which are made with thick Urad dal batter. Mysore Bondas are the same as doughnut shaped Urad dal Vadas or Medhu vadas, only made of or rather batter dropped to oil in round balls without making the shapes, definitely much easier than making shaped ones if you ask me!
You can make these plain without adding any onion masala to the batter to make Mosaru Vade or Dahi Vadas soaked in spiced Yogurt or add masala to have them with spicy coconut chutney or dunked in spicy Sambhar.

Perfect timing to send some of these to two events which are just announced with Onions and Peppercorns too! I am sending Mysore Masala Bondas, Dal Sambhar and Egg Theeyal Kootu to Priya's and Siri's "Healing Foods-Onions" event and also to Padma who is hosting "Cooking with seeds-Peppercorns" which is started by Priya. Thanks to both of you! :)

To Make Mysore Bondas:

1. Soak 1 cup Urad dal in water for 4 hrs. Wash and drain water. Grind dal as thick as possible in a grinder to a smooth batter until fluffy (should float if a small amount dropped in water) with adding as less water as possible. Since we are dropping the batter in balls, it's okay if you have to make the batter little thinner than the Doughnut shaped Vadas but still keep the batter as thick as possible to make rounds.
Heat oil to 375F to deep fry. Get a big strainer, line it up with paper towels to place fried Bondas to keep them crisp draining as much oil as possible.
2. Take out the thick batter in a bowl, add the following masala to it, mix well.
Masala to add: 1/4 cup finely chopped Onions, 1 tsp Cumin seeds, 1 tsp grated Ginger, finely chopped 2 green chillies, 1 tsp crushed Peppercorns, chopped Cilantro, chopped Curry leaves, 2 tbsp Grated or slivers of fresh or dry Coconut, pinch of Hing,adding enough salt to taste and 1/4 tsp baking soda last, just before frying.
3. Drop round balls to hot oil, keep moving the Bondas in oil so they cook evenly until golden and crisp. Drain on paper towel and serve with chutney or dunk them in thin spicy Sambhar.

Dal Powder and Tomato Sambhar:

As some of you know, I have a gazillion cookbooks of all kinds in my collection and bought more Kannada cookbooks from Bangalore last year when I was there. I found this unique Sambhar recipe made of powdered Dals in one of the books, decided to try and LOVED it. Simple, spicy, thinner gravy than the usual Sambhar and delicious to serve with these Bondas or even with Dill Vadas or Chana Dal Masala Vadas.

To make, fry/Roast dals and spices first:
Dal Powder:
Heat 1 tsp in a pan on a medium heat. Add 1 tbsp each of Tuar dal, Channa dal and Moong dal together or separately and fry/roast these until they are reddish, raw smell of dals disappear and completely cooked from inside out. Do not burn the dals. Take your time with this frying/roasting process, otherwise Sambhar will smell like raw dals. Cool completely and powder finely. Mix well with 1/4 cup water to avoid lumps and keep aside.
Spice powder:
Heat a pan without oil, add 1 1/2 tbsp Coriander seeds, 1 tsp Peppercorns and 2 or more dry red chillies, cool and powder separately, keep aside.
To make Sambhar:
1. Heat 2 tsp oil and 1 tsp Ghee. Add 1 tsp mustard seeds, few curry leaves, 1/2 tsp Cumin seeds, pinch of Hing and 1 dry red chillies.
2. Add 1/2 cup finely chopped onions, 1/4 tsp Turmeric, pinch of salt, saute until soft. Add 1/4 cup Tomato sauce, boil and then turn the heat down to simmer until thick.
3. Add 3-4 cups water, 1 tsp sugar or Jaggery to reduce the acidity of Tomato, powdered spices, salt and simmer for 10mins.
4. Add dal powder mixed with water to the Sambhar, mix well, simmer for 2 mins. If Sambhar is too thick, add more water. But once you add dals, don't boil too much.
5. Garnish with 2 tbsp finely chopped Cilantro and serve. Tastes even better the next day.

Egg Theeyal Kootu:
As I have said before, first dish I make whenever we come home from vacation is some spicy Pearl Onion Theeyal! I get very desperate to have some of this after eating bland food for a week or so! :D
Well..this time I made the smooth onion Theeyal gravy/Kootu style and added few hard boiled Eggs, kids loved it. This recipe may not have authentic Theeyal ingredients but tastes great, I must have written down from a magazine some years ago, don't really remember. You have to serve this some plain white rice, some ghee and a yogurt cucumber raita on the side for a perfect meal!

To make:
Hard boil 6 Eggs, shell them and slit the Eggs half way but don't split them in half, keep them whole. Set aside.
Ground masala: Fry each of these separately in few tsps of oil, cool them and make a smooth paste of these:
1 cup of Shallots, 2-3 Garlic, 1" Ginger, 2 tbsp Coriander seeds, 2 cloves and 1" Cinnamon, 2-3 red chillies, 1/4 cup fresh coconut and 1/2 to 1 tsp Peppercorns.
To make Theeyal:
1. Heat 2 tsp ghee and 1 tsp oil. Add 1/2 tsp Mustard seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, few curry leaves.
2. Turn down the heat, add ground coconut masala paste, 1/4 tsp Turmeric, 1/4 tsp thick Tamarind pulp, 1 cup or more water depending on the thickness you want, simmer gently for 10mins. Add chopped Cilantro.
3. Add Eggs. Tastes so much better the next day.

Spicy (Chana Masala) Eggs:

Want some yummy spicy Eggs to snack on, or to top a cool salad or for quick Sandwich stuffers for lunch? Here they are! I just hard boiled about 6-7 Eggs, shelled and cooled them, sliced each into half, and sauteed them with my own Chana masala powder I made last week, you can add any masala you have.

To make these:
1. Heat a wide mouthed non-stick pan, add 1 tbsp butter to coat the pan. Place halved Eggs in single layer, sprinkle salt, homemade Chana Masala or any masala powder you like, and fresh Pepper powder or red chilli powder.
2. Gently roast the Eggs on medium heat. Don't let the masala burn. When they are golden, flip them and sprinkle more masala and more Butter if you like until they are well roasted and coated with masala.
3. Serve on a salad or make Sandwiches or serve these just as snacks/appetizers. YUM!!

We went to "Prince of Persia" on Memorial day Monday, loved it. This movie is based on a Video game, so I wasn't that thrilled to go but Jake Gyllenhaal is one of fave actor. He definitely didn't disappoint me, movie very well made and he is so charming just like a (a street urchin really!) Prince Dastan should be and a perfect looking Princess called Tamina to boot! Movie is very entertaining, non-stop action, visually beautiful. As bonus, got to see a super Obese (from Hindu Kush region, now Afghanistan) Maharaja riding an Elephant, munching on Walnuts and few giggling Indian Princesses too! :D

On DVD, kids and I watched "Alice in Wonderland", new one with Johnny Depp. Weirdly funny movie but again, it was supposed to be that way, different than normal, so it was enjoyable and entertaining, waited to see this movie on DVD though.
Another very talented actor, we love Johnny Depp's movies like "Sweeney Todd" and "Pirates of The Caribbean" movies, but not so much his kiddie movies like this one and as "Willie Wonka....". I bet younger kids will enjoy these kid movies in theaters better, of course Johnny Depp is always great in any movie, loved him as Sweeney Todd!

That's all for now, enjoy the short week and the weekend! :)

May 26, 2010

Savory Scottish Baps, Chicken Tetrazzini, Paneer-Potato Omelet

Hi everyone, hope your weekend was went well and had fun.
It's been raining heavy here for days. It's a welcome change although it also turned very humid, feels like we are living in New Orleans now! :)

I decided to bake some bread this week, made it savory instead just bland bread, they turned out very well. Here are the dishes I made last week to post today. Kids are at home, so there will more non-veg dishes prepared these days. Usually I am happier cooking vegetarian dishes if kids aren't home for lunch, I don't feel the need to cook meat dishes but got to please the meat lovin' kids!! :D
Savory Scottish Baps,
Chicken Tetrazzini,

Paneer-Potato Omelet/Omlette.

Savory Scottish Baps, my style!!

A traditional breakfast in Scotland, these soft and simple Heavenly little Breads are a delight to have any time of the day. Always made without sugar or spices traditionally, these buttery breads are excellent with just some honey, a dab of butter and Marmalade in the morning. But you know me!! I have got to add some spices to the dough to make them savory!! :P
If you skip spices and add some sugar to the basic recipe, you will have a sweet bread in your hand to enjoy breakfast even more. Basic recipe for Baps is from one of the "Bread" books by Williams-Sonoma series.

Flaky inside:
You can divide the dough as small or as big a portions as you want, it probably give you a about 10 or 12 palm size breads. If you find that this recipe is too much for your small family, you can divide the dough into 2 portions and freeze one portion in a zip lock bag for the next time or bake the breads and then freeze to just reheat for the next time.

To bake these, here is the basic recipe, you can add sugar or spices as you like:
1. Sift 3 cups Plain flour or Bread flour, 1 tsp salt and 1 pack (2 1/4tsp) quick-rise or regular Yeast together and put it in a bowl. (Can use 1/2 cup more flour if needed to knead later)
2. Heat 1 cup Milk (2% or half fat is okay) and 1/4 cup (4 tbsp) Butter until butter melts and stir until mixture is 110F, not too warm or too cold.
(Add 1 tbsp dry spices of your choice or 4 tbsp Sugar to the dough at this stage depending on sweet or savory bread or just use the basic recipe without any spice or sugar)
3. Add Milk to the flour mix and knead by hand or in the machine with dough hook, adding 1/2 cup more flour if needed until dough is soft, but not sticky.
4. brush some oil, cover and let it rise until double for about an hour. Punch down, divide to 10-12 portions.
4. Knead each ball, to flatten slightly to 1/2" round or oval shape, sprinkle and brush some flour on top, arrange them on thick baking sheets, cover and let them rise again for 20mins.

Preheat the oven 400F.
Uncover the bread, press the center of each bread with your index finger once or twice to make slight indentations. Bake the Baps for 15-18mins or until golden. Don't bake for a long time. Cool them well on a rack before storing in a zip lock bag. Freeze half of the bread if you like.

Chicken Tetrazzine:

Kids are home, so there will be more Meat dishes now at home than just vegetarian dishes these days. here is a delicious Noodle dish, smothered in yummy chicken Alfredo sauce baked with a crunchy and aromatic herb topping. You can replace the chicken in this dish with cubed Paneer or mixed vegetables to make vegetarian. Got he idea for this recipe from Giada but with some of my own improvisations to suit our taste. It's a long recipe but I will try and make it easy for you as I made it. Enjoy! :)

To bake Chicken Tetrazzine:
1. Cook about half lb of Linguine or Spaghetti or any Noodles in salted water and 1 tsp oil until soft. Drain the water and add the Noodles to a wide and deep casserole dish.
2. Heat a pan, add 1 tsp butter, add 2 cups cubed Chicken breast, sat and pepper and saute until pink is gone and chicken is almost cooked. Add chicken on top of the Noodles or add to the sauce.
To make sauce:
1. Heat 1 tbsp butter, add 1/4 cup diced Onion, 3 fresh garlic minced, saute until soft, don't let it color. You can add Mushrooms and Greenpeas at this stage to saute but I didn't add them.
2. Add 3 tbsp plain flour, stir well until raw smell goes. Add 1/2 tsp dry Thyme, Basil or any fresh or dry herb of your choice.
3. Add 4 cups of milk, gently simmer for 10mins or until slightly thickens or creamish. Add salt and pepper as needed, add 1/4 cream if you like for better taste. Add 3 tbsp Parmesan cheese, mix, grate 1/4 tsp Nutmeg over it, add 1 tsp dry spices and herbs of your choice now.
4. Add this sauce on top of the Noodles and chicken evenly, sauce should be covering the whole Noodles. Make sure Noodles are covered in sauce.
5. Sprinkle 1/4 cup each Italian Bread crumbs, finely grated Cheddar cheese, 1/2 tbsp fresh or 1/2 tsp dry mixed herbs on top.

Preheat oven to 400F.
Place the
Casserole dish in the oven and bake for about 15-20mins until Tetrazzine bubbles. Don't let the top burn. Let it cool as the sauce thickens. Serve with a salad.

A delicious Paneer and Potato Omelet, just a quick Lunch!

Nothing special, something I made one day for lunch since kids are home and I am cooking for 3 at home for lunch now. I had tried Finla's ( of "happy Cook") Potato Omelet recipe once, we all loved it so much that I make it often. This time I added cubed Paneer along with some grated Potatoes and spices in the Omelet. It was absolutely delicious. Thanks for the idea Finla.

Golden flipped side, doesn't that look gorgeous?
1. Beat about 4 eggs well, add 1/4 cup diced onion, 1 minced Garlic, 1/4 cup raw grated Potatoes, salt, 1 tsp dry herbs and spices, 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese, pepper, 1 tbsp finely chopped Cilantro.
2. Keep 1/2 cup cubed Paneer (Indian cheese or you use cubes of Spanish Queso Blanco) ready on the side.
3. Heat a non-stick wide mouthed pan on a medium heat, add 1-2 tsp butter. When it melts, swirl it around the pan. Add beaten Egg mixture.
4. When the Omelet is halfway done, sprinkle Paneer cubes on top and let it cook without burning the bottom on medium heat.
5. Shake the pan gently to release the bottom, slide the whole Omelet on a flat faced plate. Invert the pan over the plate and flip the whole Omelet upside down to cook the other side.
6. When done, cut Omelet in to wedges and serve with Toast.

Watched "It's complicated", "Dear John" and "The Road" on DVD, pretty good movies to watch once.

I watched an old hilarious movie I must tell you about! It's called "The Gods must be crazy" by a South African director Jamie Uys. I had watched it many years ago but got the chance to watch again on DVD last week. It's about a tribe in Kalahari who were never touched by any kind of western culture ever before, never fought with each other, never hit or even raised their voices against the children, no jealousy among women or disharmony of any kind but then.....
One day a pilot who was flying over Kalahari desert just discards a Coke bottle from his plane and flies off. When that Coca Cola bottle hits the ground, it was found by one of tribal guy who didn't know what it was, takes it to his tribe. What that bottle starts, the problems it creates and changes that bottle brings in that whole tribal behaviors is something you need to see or watch in this movie. Absoultely amazing!! Oh, the humanity!! ;D
After the unexpected super duper success of this movie and the buzz it caused after it was released, there were many movies followed in the same name as sequels but none of them are as interesting as this first movie.
Here is a YouTube link which do have few trailers of this movie on the right side. Enjoy! :)

Planning to watch "Prince of Persia" this weekend.

Currently listening to Russian author, Playwright Anton Chekhov's "Tales of Chekhov Vol-1", love his stories. His numerous short stories and Plays have been translated in English, a great treasure to collect atleast some of his short stories book and Plays in your personal library. Here is WIKIPEDIA info about his life.

It's almost June already, can't believe how time flies! Enjoy rest of the week and the weekend.

May 19, 2010

Chana masala with homemade Chana masala powder, Yogurt-Semolina Batura, Aloo-Matar Chana Masala Bhaji

Hey, hope you are all doing well. Nothing much to write this week except that it's raining Cats and Dogs here for the past 2 days which we needed desperately after months of relentless heat. Lawn is green and temperature has gone down too, it's all good here. Finally enjoying Spring as it should be with relatively less Pollen in the air!
I even deep fried for the first time in almost 6 months! I successfully avoided deep frying the whole Winter, most part of Spring and decided it's about time I deep fried something. Usually I tend to deep fry more in Winter than any other season, specially Vadas and Pakodas, didn't do it last Winter! :D

here is another round of Chana masala and Butura at my kitchen again! Probably blogging this combo for the 5th time in my blog with some variations every time! This time I adapted the Chana masala recipe with homemade Chana masala powder with some changes of my own to suit our taste from a book called "Vegetarian Nirvana" by Santosh Jain. It's a great book with very simple traditional recipes. I enjoyed the taste of this Chana masala with freshly ground masala which makes it really delicious. Also making the Batura dough from this book is little different from what I usually do, comes out very well, give it a try. We loved the combo. Since my kids like Potato dishes, I added the same Chana masala powder to make Aloo-Matar Bhaji as well.

Chana masala with homemade Chana masala powder:

I used canned Organic Chickpeas but you can soak and cook the dry Chickpeas in a pressure cooker. Gravy for this Chana masala is little thinner than the usual Chana masala I make but you can add 1 tsp Cornstarch to make it thicker or you can mash some of the chickpeas to give a thicker texture. Another thing I do when gravy is thinner is to add 1 tbsp of unflavored dry Potato flakes from the box we get to make mashed Potatoes, as it cooks gravy gets thicker. Another tip is once you make the dish on the stove top, transfer it to the Microwavable dish, heat it at 100% for 5-6mins until the the gravy is thicker.

You need:
2 Cans of (8oz each) Organic Chickpeas/Garbanzo/White Chana, drained and rinsed. If you use dry Chickpeas, soak overnight, drain the water and cook with enough fresh water until soft. Set aside.
2 Bay leaves.
1 onion, grated or ground,
Grate or grind 2" fresh ginger to paste.
2 Green Chilles, slit into two.
1 tsp sweet Paprika for color.
1/2 cup Tomato sauce.(My addition for the reddish color, book says to use Tamarind paste)
1-2 tbsp homemade Chana masala powder.
Chopped Cilantro for garnish.
To make Chana Masala:
1. Heat 1tbsp butter and 2 tsp oil. Add Bay leaves, green chillies, saute. Add in grated or ground onion, stir fry for 2-3 mins until soft but not brown.
2. Then add ground Ginger, stir for 2 minutes, add tomato sauce and Paprika. Cook until raw smell of Tomato goes away and thickens to leave the sides of the pan.
3. Add cooked Chana with 1 cup of water, 1 tbsp or more homemade Chana masala powder, salt, simmer until oil shows up on top or you can do this faster in the Microwave.
4. When sauce thickens fairly, garnish with Cilantro. Tastes better if you keep this for a day or so in the fridge.

Homemade Chana Masala Powder:

I made freshly ground Chana masala for the first time to make Chana masala, usually I use MDH Chana Masala which is not bad at all but nothing beats the aroma and fresh flavor of homemade spices. I loved it, made double the amount and stored in a jar in the fridge for next time. I add Paprika for bright red color.

Chana Masala Powder:
Roast all these well without oil, cool, add Paprika, Ginger powder and then powder everything in a coffee grinder.
(Use only as much as powder you need, store the rest in airtight glass jar in the fridge. Double or triple the amount if you want)

3 tbsp Coriander seeds,
1 tbsp + 1 tsp Cumin seeds,
1 tsp Peppercorns,
2-3 dry Red chillies,
10 Cloves,
2" Cinnamon stick,(Dalchini)
1/2 tsp Cardamom seeds,
a small piece of Mace.
Mix the above powder with 2 tsp store bought dry Ginger powder and store in a airtight jar.

Chana masala with spicy gravy:

Another look. Most Indian side dishes with gravy always taste better the next day. I make the side dishes with gravy day before and keep it in the fridge. Beans get a chance to soak in spicy gravy and helps it to get really tasty the next day.

Yogurt-Semolina Batura:
This is a slightly different recipe than the usual Batura I have made before. You add fine Semolina to hot water and soak it for an hour and then add to plain flour and Yeast mixture to knead. If you don't like Yeast, just skip it, but texture is better with Yeast. This is the first time I added Yeast to Batura dough, liked it. Yeast gives it nice texture when fried but can skip it I guess. Don't fry the Baturas until it's reddish, keep the whitish color, take them out before they start to brown.

You need:
1/2 cup fine Semolina+1/4 cup water+1/4 tsp salt.
1 tsp Yeast+1/4 tsp sugar+ 2 tbsp warm water.
1 1/2 cup Plain flour,
1/4 cup Yogurt,
1 tsp salt.

Water as needed to make the dough.

To make Baturas:
(make the batura dough not more than 3 hrs before you need to make Baturas)
1. Mix fine Semolina, warm water and salt, keep aside for 1 hour. After an hour, soak Yeast in warm water and sugar, let it froth.
2. Mix Plain flour, salt, then add in Yogurt and add Semolina mixture, mix well. Add Yeast mixture, mix and knead everything very well adding extra water only if necessary to make a semi-soft but not sticky dough or very firm dough.
3. Divide into slightly bigger than a golf ball size portions, brush some oil on them, cover and set aside for 2 hours.
4. Heat oil to 380F. Roll out the Batura bit thicker than Pooris about 1/8" thickness and deep fry until cooked. Don't let it brown on top, keep the Baturas light colored. Drain on a paper towel and serve hot with Chana masala or Aloo-Matar Bhaji and onion relish.

Onion relish:
Slice 1-2 onion thinly, soak them in icy water for 1/2 an hour. Drain and squeeze the water out. Add 1/8 tsp of salt, Juice of Lemon juice, paprika for color, mix well and serve on the side with Chana and Batura.

Spicy Potato-Greenpeas Bhaji:
As I said earlier my kids love Potatoes, so I experimented with freshly made Chana masala powder in Potatoes and frozen Greenpeas. Frozen Peas tends to get mashed up when cooked. I think I will use dry, soaked and cooked Peas next time. Tasted great with Baturas, hope you try.

To make Aloo-Matar Bhaji:
Microwave or cook 3-4 medium sized Red Potatoes until almost cooked, peel and cube. Set Aside. Take 1 cup of frozen Greenpeas, keep it ready.

1. Heat 2 tsp Butter/ghee and 2 tsp Oil in a pan. Add 1 tsp Mustard seeds, 1 tsp Cumin seeds.
2. When they splutter, add 1/2 cup cubed onion, saute until soft. Then add 1 tbsp grated or ground Ginger, saute for a minute. Turn down the heat. Add 1 tbsp water, 1/4tsp Turmeric, 1/4 tsp Cayenne powder. Stir.
3. Add 1 tsp Cumin seeds powder, 2 tsp Coriander seeds powder, 2 tsp or more Chana masala powder to taste, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 cup of water.
4. Add Potato cubes, Greenpeas, 1 tbsp Sour Cream or 1/4 tsp Tamarind paste, mix well and simmer.
5. Adjust the salt, masala powder etc and add 3 tbsp finely chopped Cilantro. Serve.

I didn't watch any new movies. Since daughter is home, she has been borrowing lot of old Western Gun slinging movies from the library. We watched "3:10 to Yuma"(good one to watch once, Russel Crowe is great in this movie), "The Good, The Bad and The Ugly", "for a few Dollars more" and "Blazing Saddles" and few more movies of John Wayne and Van Cleef. Daughter has gone crazy over Spaghetti Western movies this Summer holidays! :D
I love "Blazing saddles" , a classic movie (1974) by Mel Brooks, it's so hilarious! It never gets too old to watch it again and again. The main character and the situation there reminds me of President Obama!! A new African American Sheriff arrives in a small western town which shocks the heck out of white population who were expecting a White Sheriff as usual! Can you even imagine the chaos? Watch how the new sheriff handles it all efficiently with humor to endear himself to the town people and I promise, you will die laughing!!
Of course, Clint Eastwood is as handsome as ever in all his old movies and new, loved his "Gran Torino" too. He reminds me of our own Dev Anand of Bollywood, young forever! :)

"Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes" by Maya Angelou. Interesting book to read with heart warming stories with great southern recipes. I haven't tried the recipes yet but I am familiar with very southern dishes like "Smothered Chicken", "Chicken and dumplings" etc.
I specially LOVE her angelic voice reading her own books on CD books and her books like "The complete collection of Poems", "I know why the caged bird sings".

That's about it for this week, enjoy! :)

May 12, 2010

Sweet and Soft Dinner Rolls, Spicy Rolls/Khara buns, Light Southern Banana Pudding

Hope you all had a wonderful Mom's day last Sunday. After months and months of relentless heat, we have been having a cooler weather since Sunday, perfect mild weather for mom's day here. We still need some rain though, helps a lot to keep down Pollen but no such luck so far except few sprinkles now and then.
I baked some sweet rolls and using almost the same dough recipe with some variations, I improvised adding some spices, Onion flakes, garlic powder etc to bake some spicy buns too. They came out well. You can keep them for 2-3 days outside the fridge and for a week in the fridge in an airtight bag. For dessert, I made some banana Pudding using just the Graham Cracker crumbs with it to make it light. Here they are, Enjoy.

Sweet and Soft Dinner Rolls:

Who wouldn't love the sweet and soft dinner rolls? But stopping yourself with just eating one or two would be a huge problem! Haha. I found this recipe in one of the Jewish Bread-making book borrowed from the library. Recipe sounded great to me when I read it although I made some adjustments ie adding a bit less sugar than recommended in the recipe.
If you don't want 15-18 rolls, cut the recipe into half to bake less than a dozen rolls. You can also make full recipe dough, cut the dough into half and freeze half the dough for later use. All you have to do is thaw the dough completely, knead a little, divide into rolls and let it rise until it doubles and bake.

For sweet rolls, you need:
1 tbsp active dry Yeast,
4 tbsp Sugar,
1 cup + 2 tbsp Warm Milk between 90F to 110F(2% milk will do nicely),
1 tsp Salt,
1 Egg to add to the dough (optional, skip it if you like but gives a nice color if you add it)
2 tbsp Butter,
3 1/2 to 4 cups Plain flour or mix Wheat and White flour,
1 egg beaten for glazing/brushing the rolls (Optional, but gives rolls a gorgeous reddish color if you Egg glaze) or you can use melted Butter or milk to brush. on top.

To bake these:
1. Mix the Yeast, 1 tsp Sugar (out of 4 tbsp sugar), 2 tbsp warm milk (90F to 110F), let it froth for 5-10min.
2. Heat 1 cup of milk, rest for the sugar with butter until butter melts in the milk and keep aside until it cools down just "warm to touch" temperature. Add 1 egg (optional) and beat well.
3. Sift 3 1/2 cups Plain flour with Salt. Make a well in the center, add Yeast mix, mix. Add the milk mixture, mix, knead it well until you get a soft dough, not sticky. Add more flour if you want if you find the dough sticky or use the mixer with kneader and adjust the flour.
4. Cover the dough and let it rise until double. Then transfer it to fridge. (This is optional if you have time. If short of time, just punch down the dough, add any dry fruit you like at this point, knead and proceeds to make balls, cover and keep them for second rising)
5. Keep the dough wrapped in the fridge to let it rest and relax for 1 hour. Take it out and divide the dough into 15 balls. Place them on a lightly oil or butter sprayed cookie sheet as shown, cover with a clean towel, let it double in size for 1-2hrs.
6. Preheat the oven at 425F. Uncover the rolls, brush it with beaten Egg glaze for the best dark reddish color or with melted butter if you want and then place the cookie sheet in the middle rack.
7. Bake for 12-16mins or until they are puffed up and baked, depending on your oven efficiency. Do not overbake, they are soft when they are a bit undercooked. Take them out quickly, cool them on a rack. Once cooled, you can store them in a huge Zip lock bag and enjoy them any time.

Ready for Jam or Jelly!!

Khara or spicy Buns:
I love these Buns, remind me of Indian Bakery goodies. They are not as good as Bangalore Bakery ones but not bad to bake them at home and enjoy. I don't have the choice of going to the bakery and pick them up anyway! :D
Only difference in the recipe from above are the amount of Sugar and salt (more salt and less sugar for spicy buns) and addition of spices and herbs.

Ingredients are the same as above for these spicy buns except add 2 tsp salt and just 1/2 tbsp of sugar and add 1/2 tbsp mixed spices, 1/4 cup grated Carrots and 1 tbsp herbs of your choice to the dough and knead before you refrigerate the dough.
Brush the Buns with butter or beaten Egg after they are plumped/raised, sprinkle some chilli powder/paprika on top to make them attractive.
Bake as above and cool them.

Serve these as they are or with cream cheese.

My style "light" Southern Banana Pudding:
Well...my Banana pudding, (pudding also called custard in UK), is not exactly a traditional Banana Pudding as they make in Southern US. Look at the video and the site I have linked to see how the traditional banana pudding made. I love to eat Banana Pudding but I don't like too much sugar in it or all the egg whites whipping and baking etc, which absolutely tastes great of course, but I made a quick dessert my way. Only hard work here is making Vanilla Pudding on stove top. It has all the flavors, no baking but chilled in the fridge for few hrs or overnight but very easy to make and also you can adjust the sugar as per your taste. Hope you like my style "light" Banana pudding! :)

You need: (to make 4 servings)
4 Bananas, 2 cups sweet Graham cracker crumbs (available in stores which I used here) in a box or you can use (Nilla brand is the best, very traditional to use in this pudding) Vanilla Wafers or any sweet Biscuits like Marie in India or Oreo cookies too if you like Chocolate flavored dessert like my kids do and grind them to a very coarse textured crumbs. You need Four dessert serving bowls for individual servings or make in a big bowl and scoop to bowls.

For making Vanilla Pudding:

1. Mix 1/4 cup sugar (more or less, as you like), 3 tbsp plain flour and 1/8 tsp salt well, keep aside.
2. Whisk 2 cups of 2% milk, 1 tsp Vanilla essence, 2 Eggs very well. Add to flour mix above 1/2 cup at a time and beat everything very well until there are no lumps.
3. Now put a non-stick pan on medium low heat (very imp, do not let the pudding boil!), add 2tsp butter, melt. Add all the mixture to the pan, keep whisking or stir with a wooden spoon.

4. Let it come to simmer slowly and keep stirring. Takes time, have patience, do not keep the heat high. It will be a scrambled egg mess instead of smooth pudding if you do!
5. When it starts to thicken and coats the back of the spoon, take off the heat and let it cool.
If it's too thick, you can add some more milk and gently heat again.
To make Banana Pudding:
1. Divide Cracker crumbs into 8 portions (1/4 cup each), add 1 portion each into the bottom of the bowl, top with 1/2 of sliced Banana (cut into 1/8" rounds) on top of each bowl.
2. Add cooled pudding into all bowls equally divided. Add the rest of the Banana slices and rest of the Graham cracker crumbs.
3. Chill in the fridge for 4hrs or overnight and serve.

Here is the "back of the Nilla wafer's box recipe" original Banana Pudding.
Here is a video of how to make a traditional Southern Banana breading.

Mother's day Sunday:
My son wrote me 3 Poems for me in a handmade Heart Origami and kept it on the oven top so I can find it first thing in the morning which reduced me to tears. So sweet of him! Daughter bought me a Nikon "point and shoot" camera which I really could use since my old one was all scratched up. We went out to lunch and then to "Iron man 2" movie. Movie was okay, not much story to remember forever but much more fun for kids than adults (or rather, not much fun for adults like me with different taste in movies!:D) and cool effects of all those Ironman's suits was remarkable. Liked Gwyneth Paltrow's character of "Pepper Potts" better than anybody else in the movie.
Book I am listening to:
I am currently listening to a CD book called "The Bluest Eyes" by Toni Morrison. Listening to Audio books are much easier than reading for me right now, saves me from lot of eye strain. I get some of the audio books from the library since CD books can be very expensive to buy and download to my iTunes to listen to whenever I have some free, quiet time, specially after 8pm.
Free Audio books to download and listen at your leisure:
If you are interested in MP3 or iTunes downloading the Audio books for free, here are few sites called "Librivox" and "Booksshouldbefree". You will have download a program called "winRAR.zip" and then add to iTunes or directly to iTunes to listen in iPod Itouch. My son (I am not Tech savvy at all!) installed Zip program which is also free on the web and showed me how to download the stories to iTunes and then to my iTouch. I love to listen to classic stories by Leo Tolstoy instead of reading the big books. Most readers at these sites are good, as these are Public domain books and different volunteers read the different books. Some are terrible readers, so listen to samples first to see if you like the reader's voice at "booksshouldbefree" site and then download the books. My faves are Thomas Hardy books, studied one of his books "Far from the Madding crowd" for PUC English long time ago, been a fan of his books since then! Ah....sweet memories! :)

Free books to read on the web!
If you want to read the short stories or classics on your PC or Laptop screen for free, here is a site called "Short Stories@Classic reader". Just login to become a member or click on the link to start reading the stories. Most of them are unabridged classic books ie full uncut stories for adult, kids and young adults. You are free to print them out to read them on the beach or lazy Summer evenings on the deck or porch as well. What a great service by these people! Have fun.

Have a wonderful week and weekend my friends! :)

May 05, 2010

Matar with Amritsari Aloo Kulcha Chaat, Soft Poha Idlis with restaurant style Sambhar

Happy Mother's day to all moms, enjoy your day on Sunday!
Just a quick note to all of you if you are wondering why you didn't see me in your blogs or see any new post in my blog for the last few months.
I had trouble opening my "edit posts" since 5th of March, had lost most of my 4 years worth of comments (which are back now) and had trouble commenting in other blogs as well right after I got own domain!
(http://www.foodieshope.org) It was a blogger problem which affected many of us, so I took a break while they fixed it at their own pace.
Anyway, unusually HOT Summary dry weather here in NC with highest pollen count ever this year in the air has made my Spring allergy worse and my allergy woes continue until June like every year, so I may not be blog surfing much, may be limit 1-1/2 hour a day. Not much fun staring at the PC, blogging with itchy, watery eyes, sniffling and sneezing all the time, is it?
I did listen to CD books novels a lot during the break and enjoyed the school Spring break with kids, so no regrets. Now I am back with an old post which was ready to go last march but could edit only last week. Some of the events I was going to send these dishes are most probably over now but I loved both of these dishes.

Matar with Amritsari Aloo Kulcha Chaat:

You all know how much I love Chaats but I have never heard this Chaat combo of Matar-Kulcha before, shame on me! As soon as I saw this Chaat at Raaga of "The singing Chef"'s post on "Matar Kulcha", I ran to the kitchen to soak the dried white/Yellow Greenpeas and next day it was on the table along with some hot Potato stuffed Amritsari Kulchas. Raaga says this chaat combo is "the famous street food of Delhi: Matar Kulcha." Thanks Raaga, it was the most aromatic, flavorful and easiest Matar chaat I have ever tasted!

I used dried White Greenpeas to make this Matar Chaat. It has amazing taste and so simple to make. We loved it. You can serve this with toasted slices of Bread or stuffed inside the Burger buns as well, makes perfect weekend Brunch too.

To make Matar:
1. Soak 1 cup dried white/yellow Greenpeas overnight, drain all the water and pressure cook them with 1 tsp salt, and with 1 cup water for very short time ie turn off the heat after 1 whistle. You must not over cook Greenpeas, just until they are cooked, still hold the shape and not get mushy.
2. As soon as you get the lid open, mix all the ingredients shown below to the hot cooked Greenpeas, mix well to serve!

Get these ready to mix with Peas:
Chop 1 small onion finely, 2 green chillies minced, enough salt to taste, 1 tsp Punjabi Garam Masala, 1 tsp Chaat masala, 1/2" grated Ginger, 1/8 tsp Black salt, 1 small chopped Tomato and 2 tbsp chopped Cilantro.
I didn't have the fresh Tomato to add, so I heated up 1/4 cup Tomato sauce with 1 tsp sugar in the microwave for 2 mins or until the raw smell goes, cooled it and added to the cooked Peas. Hence the reddish color of the dish, not needed if you have fresh Tomato.
To Serve:
Sprinkle with chopped sweet Videlia onion, chopped Cilantro on top, a slice of lemon and Kulcha on the side.

Grilled Amritsari Aloo Kulcha:

Authentic Amritsari aloo Kulche are supposed to have two layers of dough stuffed with Potato mixture and then cooked or baked. I didn't make 2 kinds of dough as shown here in this wonderful Kulcha video which I am sure makes them thick and flaky. I just took the easy way making them with just one kind of dough. They taste great served hot off the tava.
I used foil to place the rolled out Kulchas and grilled two Kulchas at a time to save time. You can also heat your oven to maximum temp and bake these as well or you can cook them on the stove top with some oil and then brush spicy herbed butter on top. They taste best right out of the oven. Once you mix and knead the dough, do not let it rest more than 1 to 2 hours. They get flaky if you grill them after an hour of resting but Kulchas get flat and bit harder if you let the dough rests longer than 2 hours.

For Amritsari Aloo Kulcha, you need:
Sift or mix 2 cups plain flour, Maida or Bread flour, 1 tsp Baking powder, 1/2 tsp Baking Soda, 1 tsp Salt, 1 tsp Sugar first and then add 2-3 tbsp Oil, 3 tbsp Yogurt, enough warm Milk or water to make a soft but not sticky dough. Divide to 6-8 portions, cover and let it rest for an hour before rolling and grilling/baking the Kulchas.

To brush on top of Kulcha:
4 tbsp melted Butter or oil or mixed, 3 tbsp chopped Cilantro, 1 tsp Garlic chopped or Garlic powder, 1/4 tsp Salt and 1/4 tsp chilli powder or Chilli flakes. Keep aside in a bowl.

Make stuffed Aloo Kulchas:
Take each dough, roll 4" circle, place a ball of aloo masala (recipe below), cover with dough and roll out again gently to about 5-6" circle, keep it thicker than Parathas. Place each Kulcha (I grilled 2 at a time) on a foil and brush with spicy herbed butter or oil mixture on top.

To grill or Bake Kulchas:
Start the grill 5-7 mins before grilling so the oven heats up to the maximum. Keep a cookie sheet or Pizza stone under the grill to heat it up.
Tip: Keep the grille rack about 10" below the grill heating elements, not too close to the top. Kulchas are thick, they need some time to cook and puff up. Keeping the Kulchas right under the heating elements burn the top before they cook properly inside.

Now; slide the foil with Kulchas on the hot cookie/baking sheet under the grill for 5 to 6 mins and watch carefully so they don't get burnt. Flip the Kulchas if needed to grill the other side too, but not necessary if the cookie sheet or Pizza stone is hot before you put the Kulchas or cook on the Tava on the stove top, much easier.

To Bake: These were baked at highest oven temperature which is 550F in my oven for 6-7 mins on a baking sheet, can use Pizza stone too.
Serve Kulchas hot with Matar and Lemon slices.

Aloo masala exposed inside the crispy, flaky, hot Kulcha!!

Aloo/Potato Masala:
2-3 large red Potatoes, boiled. peeled and mashed to smooth mass without lumps.

To make Aloo masala:
Heat 1 tbsp oil, add 1 tsp cumin seeds, a small Onion, chopped, 1-2 minced Green chilly, cook until soft. Add 1/4 tsp Red chilli powder, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp each Cumin and Coriander seeds pd, 1 tsp Amchoor/Mango powder or tangy Chaat masala, 2 tbsp minced Fresh coriander leaves, salt, mashed Potatoes, mix well and cool the masala. Divide the masala to 6-8 portions and stuff inside each Kulcha.

One more crispy Aloo Kulcha look:

Over and out!! :))

Everybody's favorite soft Poha Idlis-"Hotel' Sambhar combo!
I always on the look out for new recipes of tasty Sambhars or Rasams and how to make softest Idlis. Well...most Indians know how to make Idlis but for me it was always a tricky thing to steam perfectly soft Idlis, depends on the proportions of the ingredients and perfect fermenting. Since I had lot of time last few week, thanks to blogspot people and my blogging troubles, I was going thru' my old cookbooks. I found this recipe for softest Idlis in an old yellowing Prestige Pressure cooker cookbook which came with my first pressure cooker I had bought in 1986 few days after my wedding! Since then this book has traveled to 2 countries, has been an NRI over 22yrs along with me! Hahaha! Lot of memories attached to this old book as it has my mother's handwriting in it to guide me thru' cooking when I was a novice cook just starting my "real" life as a young bride! :))

Softest Poha Idlis with restaurant style "Hotel" Sambhar:
I immediately wanted to try the Poha Idli recipe but soaked only one cup of rice just to try out the recipe first. They came out wonderfully soft and very tasty, these proportions worked for me at last. Since we add Poha/Avalakki/Flattened rice, (I used thick kind of Poha) they are little sticky when taking out of the Idli mould but if you use non-stick Idli stand or spray some no-stick oil before you add the batter, they will be fine.

Soft Poha Idlis:
1. Soak 1 cup any long grain rice or Ponni rice or Idli rice, 1/4 cup thick textured Poha/Avalakki overnight with just enough to cover the rice and thick Poha. Wash twice and soak 1/4 cup Urad dal, 1 tsp Methi seeds/Fenugreek seeds separately overnight as well.
If you use thin Poha/flaatened rice, you can just soak it in the morning for 5 mins in hot water and drain all the water to grind with rice.
2. Next day, drain the most of water from Urad dal/Methi seeds, grind to a smooth thick paste adding just enough water. Take it out in a big bowl.
3. Add drained rice and poha to the same mixie bowl, add just enough water to grind these coarsely like Rava/Semolina and take it out into the Urad dal paste and mix both well. Batter should be thick, pourable consistency, not thin. Sprinkle 2 tsp sea salt on top.
4. Cover and let it ferment in a warm place for atleast 12-18hrs or until it looks fluffy. Don't let ferment too much.
5. Spray some no-stick oil on the Idli mould and pour batter 3/4 full and steam for 13-15mins. Let them cool a bit and take them out of the moulds.

"Hotel" Sambhar with Pearl Onions:
This recipe for "hotel" Sambhar comes from the same author of "Daskshin Bhog" which I had mentioned in my last post. Restaurants are called "hotels" and hotels are called "lodgings" in India, so this Sambhar which tastes just like the one served in restaurants is called "Hotel" Sambhar in this cookbook. It does taste like that, loved it, hope you try it too.

1. Cook 1/2 cup Tuar dal in a pressure cooker with 1 1/2 cups of water, 2 slit green chillies, 1/4 tsp Turmeric. Keep aside.
2. Heat 1 tbsp oil, saute 2 cups Pearl Onions until reddish and then add 2 chopped Tomatoes or 1/4 cup canned Tomato sauce. saute for a while until soft. Add 1 cup of Tamarind juice or 1/2 tsp Tamarind paste mixed with 1 cup of water, salt and boil until Pearl onions are cooked.
3. Add ground masala powder, simmer. Add cooked Tuar dal, cilantro, 2 tsp ghee to it, adjust the salt and chilli pd and the thickness of the Sambhar as well. Simmer again, take the pot off the heat. Season the Sambhar.
Season: Heat 2 tsp oil, add 1tsp Mustard seeds, 1-2 red chillies and few curry leaves, 1/4 tsp Hing and add to the Sambhar.
Roast these and powder:
2 tbsp Coriander seeds, 1 tsp Cumin seeds, 2 tsp Poppy seeds, 1 tsp Peppercorns, 2 tsp Channa dal, 2-3 dry red chillies.

Movies I watched in March and April:
"The Hurt Locker" which I have reviewed in my old post has won the Oscar for the best movie of the year, with a first woman director Kathryn Bigelow in Oscar history as well! She took that Oscar from James Cameron's (her ex-husband) "Avatar" which everybody thought will win the Oscar, great achievement for her indeed!
Both of these movies were Oscar nominated for this year. Mo'nique who plays Precious's mom in the movie won the "best actress" Oscar award.

"Precious" and "Up in the air", loved both of them.
Both movies are based on the books "Push" by Sapphire and "Up in the air" by Walter Kirn. Books are more interesting to read than watching the movies, but both are great movies. Please click on the links for the reviews of the movies and books.

Also watched "the Blind Side", "Julie and Julia"
on DVD, loved both.

Also watched DVDs of Michael Moore's "Sicko" and "Capitalism: A love story". Amazing and shocking political documentaries, specially "sicko" about health care in this country compared to other countries. A must watch if you are interested to know what went on in the past and what's happening behind the doors these days which affects our lives directly today!!

That's all for this week, enjoy the weather while I stay indoors safely! :D
Hopefully I can post without any glitch from now on, fingers crossed.