Sunday, July 25, 2010

Simple home food...

It is really sad that people don't cook at home these days. It has become a trend to go out and discover new restaurants rather than cook at home. Cooking is an art and if you keep the recipes simple, you can discover the joy of cooking great food- Try out this north Indian dish called Rajmah chawal- really tastes great for dinner with friends- Rajmah is nothing but red kidney beans cooked in a rich gravy which can be eaten with naan/roti or steaming hot rice. I love Rajmah with rice (chawal). The only effort that goes in this dish is cooking the kidney beans- You have to soak it overnight and cook it in a pressure cooker/steamer till it softens and melts in your mouth- If pressed for time, simply grab a tin of ready to use kidney beans (that has already been cooked). 

Rajmah Chawal

Ingredients to cook Rajmah (Red kidney beans)

2 cups red ked kidney beans (soak it in water overnight)
1 big tomatoe - chopped
2 onions - chopped
1 spoon ginger grated
1 red chilli
2 garlic pieces crushed and chopped
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 big spoon corriander powder
salt according to taste
Bay leaf
Cardamom seeds- crushed
Cinnamon stick (small piece)
dash of black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika powder or red chilli powder
Let's get cooking Rajmah- 

First cook the soaked kidney beans in a pressure cooker or steamer for 30 to 40 minutes till they soften - The test is once they are cooked try crushing them with your thumb- the kidney bean should crush without any effort. In a wok, heat some oil. Once the oil is hot, put in the cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, garlic, ginger and chopped red chillies. Now throw in the onions and cook them till they become golden brown. Add the chopped tomatoes and keep blending the ingredients till they become a thick paste. Now comes the spices- Add corriander powder, crushed cardamom seeds, pepper, salt, paprika powder. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes until the oil separates from the mixture and it becomes a thick gravy. Add the cooked kidney beans with 2 cups of water and allow the beans to blend well with the gravy. Close the wok with a lid and allow the beans to cook with the gravy for 10 to 12 minutes on a low flame. After 10 minutes, remove the lid and lightly smash the kidney beans while mixing. Add a spoon of butter and mix the kidney beans thoroughly so that it takes the essence of butter. Garnish with chopped corriander leaves- Cook some basmati rice and enjoy your kidney beans!

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Vegetable dumpling...

I loved going to a small market in Alaknanda, Delhi which was famous for its road side food! I used to wait for this vendor on a cycle who would come every evening after 5 or 6 pm with a box of hot vegetable dumplings. Those were the best I have ever eaten. Tired of cooking Indian food, I tried my hands with the vegetable dumplings- turned out pretty good! simple and healthy food for lunch-

2 cups of all purpose flour.
small cabbage shredded
2 onions chopped
1 tablespoon of grated ginger or ginger paste
1 tablespoon of crushed and chopped garlic/garlic paste
 crumpled Tofu or paneer (1 cup)
 red chillies (3-4) or chili flakes


Dough- Prepare a smooth dough with the flour , salt and water. Put the dough in a air tight container and keep it aside till you make the filling.
Filling- In a frying pan- saute onions, garlic, ginger and once they become translucent, mix the cabbage- People generally mix some soya sauce to this vegetable stir fry. I am not such a huge fan of soya sauce and omitted it - You can add more vegetables like boiled potatoes or shredded carrots (you can be really creative with your filling). Add the chopped chillies, salt and keep stirring the vegetables till they are tender and cooked. Roll out the dough in a circle and place about a spoon of filling in middle. Close this dough with the filling in middle so that it resembles a small pouch- You can be really creative with the shapes-


Prepare all the dumplings and steam them for about 10-15 minutes till they are swollen- Serve them with Garlic chilli sauce!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Summer Barbeque

Being a vegetarian is pretty tough (especially when you have people eating meat all around you). The entire process of barbeque is always focussed on meat- Being vegetarian doesn't have to be boring and here is the proof-  I grilled vegetables with herbs and it turned out really cool- Grab bell peppers, zucchini, tofu or paneer (cottage cheese), cherry tomatoes, mushrooms- cut them in blocks or chunks. Dab the vegetables with herbs (oregano, rosemary, basil)- olive oil and salt- put them on a skewer and grill on.... I also dabbed a bit of butter and salt on some corn cob and grilled them with the vegetables- Yum!                                     

The best part is these grilled vegetables make a great sandwich! Put them on a toasted bread and enjoy a different kind of sandwich. And it doesn't take much time to make either! 

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Fusion cooking!

Having born to a south Indian orthodox family, I spent major chunk of my life up in North India- I am fully aware of all the cuisines in both the regions and let me assure you that they are vibrantly different! There comes a time when you tend to make a south indian dish and give it a north Indian twist and vice versa. I love fusion cooking- as it brings the best flavors to your dish. So, my dish is a simple palak dal (north Indian dish) completely cooked with flavors of a south Indian sambhar dish. If you are wondering what in the world will it taste like- go ahead and try it :)

Ingredients- Palak (Spinach) about 500 gms , Moong dal (split yellow bean/lentils) about 1 cup, sambar powder, 1 small teaspoon of tamarind paste, salt, 1 tomato diced, 1 cup of cashew nuts and 3 green cardamom pieces.

Preparation- Wash the Spinach leaves and boil them in water till they become tender and shrink in size. Allow it to cool and grind it to a paste. In a wok, boil the lentils with two cups of water. After half an hour of boiling, the lentil becomes soft and thick in volume. (don't forget to keep stirring to avoid it from sticking to your wok/pan). Once the lentils are cooked, add the spinach paste and keep stirring for five minutes till the lentils completely takes in the flavor of spinach.

Now comes the spices- add in the sambar powder, tamarind paste, diced tomato and salt to the mixture. Sambar powder is a spicy south Indian powder readily available in any Indian store- Allow the mixture to boil for a good 10 minutes so that the spinach takes in the spices- I will add around 1 big teaspoon of sambar powder to get a strong flavor. Now comes the finishing touch- grind the cashew nuts with cardamom pieces to a fine powder and mix this powder to the palak dal to give it a rich taste. In a separate frying pan, heat a bit of oil. Once the oil is warm toss in some cumin seeds and 2 pieces of dry red chillies. Once the cumin seeds start sputtering, remove the pan from fire and pour this oil in to the palak dal. As usual don't forget to blend in some chopped corriander leaves to enjoy Palak dal with rice.

Check out a variation of this spinach dish with almost the same ingredients (with coconut minus spices)-                         

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Yoghurt dip

Saturday evening and a good match on telly...You fancy eating chips but unfortunately you don't have sauce to dip it in- try out this quick fix yoghurt dip-

Ingredients- Yoghurt (thick and rich- 500 gms), one onion (finely chopped), green chilli (finely chopped), crushed pepper, finely chopped corriander leaves, salt- 

In a bowl put in the chopped onion, chopped chillies, crushed pepper, salt give it a good toss- Now add the thick yoghurt on top of this mixture and keep blending the ingredients well- Before serving, put in the chopped corriander and serve it in a fancy bowl for people to dip it with the chips. This is a different dip and will definitely catch the attention of your audience- Please remember-  corriander leaves, onion and chilli have to be finely chopped. If the pieces are big then it doesn't go well when you dip your chips in. You can improvise the dip with italian herbs and chilli flakes!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Mushroom Pulav

You can do so much with rice-  I have lost count of the varieties that I keep making.... You can mix and match different spices, vegetables and come up with something special- I got way too many mushrooms on sale  and my fridge was literally bursting with them :(

The problem with mushrooms is they don't have shelf life and you have to use them as soon as possible- So, I cooked rice with mushrooms, bell peppers, peas, corn with spices. Try it out for a good lunch time!

Ingredients- Mushroom (diced), Bell peppers (red and yellow variety- use green if you have), peas, sweet corn, uncooked rice (washed and soaked in water for half an hour)-

Spices- corriander seeds (1/2 teaspoon), cumin seeds (1/2 teaspoon), green cardamom (3 pieces), dash of Ajwain seeds- crush them and keep it aside-

Apart from that keep crushed garlic, bay leaf, chopped ginger, cinnamon stick, dash of nutmeg ready!

Preparation- We need to cook the rice first- In a wok, add liberal dose of oil. Once the oil is hot,  add cumin seeds, cinnamon stick, one bay leaf, green chillies, crushed garlic and ginger. Allow the oil to absorb the garlic and ginger. Toss in the rice with two cups of water and allow the rice to cook (for one  cup of rice you need two cups of water). You need to cook the rice first on a high flame and as the water starts evaporating reduce the flame. Allow the rice to cook on a low flame for five minutes.

In a separate wok, pour in oil and stir fry mushrooms with bell peppers, corn and peas. Add the crushed spices, salt and stir fry the vegetables till they become tender and not mushy. Add the stir fried mushrooms to the cooked rice. Garnish it with fried cashew nuts and chopped coriander leaves to enjoy a good meal! Serve it with papads and raita for a great experience :)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Two second flavored milk...

What do you do with a forgotten bottle of strawberry jam lying in the fridge? Make some flavored milk...All you need is a bit of milk and icecubes- In a blender, scoop in a liberal dose of the strawberry jam, ice cubes and chilled milk. Give it a quick blend and viola, enjoy the chilled milk for a sunny afternoon- Generally you make a milkshake with icecream and milk- why not try it with Jam and milk instead? Generally all jams contain sugar so you don't even need to add sugar! Just blend it and top it with chopped nuts...Yum :)                                                  

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Spinach cooked with cottage cheese...

I love Paneer (cottage cheese) and any recipe tastes great with it! Especially if you are not a huge fan of spinach, then try making it with paneer and boy you will love it. This recipe is very popular in northern India. Here is my take on palak paneer- Enjoyyyyyyy

Ingredients- Spinach (about 500 gms), cottage cheese (cubed- about one big cup)
For the Gravy- you need 2 onions (finely chopped), garlic (3-4 cloves-crushed and chopped), grated ginger (about a small tablespoon), medium sized tomatoe (finely chopped)- the spices that go in are- cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, bay leaves, a little bit of ajwain (carom seeds), garam masala, corriander powder, amchoor powder (dried mango powder), dried red chillies (2 pieces) and of course my favorite chopped corriander leaves!   

Preparation is simple- We need to wash the spinach leaves, and boil them a bit in water till they become soft- once they are soft blend them in a mixer to a paste and keep it aside- Now get the gravy ready- In a wok, pour oil (liberal dose), and once it becomes hot add the cumin seeds, garlic, ginger, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, a bit of ajwain or carom seeds-When the garlic is golden brown add the chopped onions, dried red chillies and roast them till they are golden brown. Toss in the chopped tomatoes and keep mixing the ingredients till the tomatoes blend with onions and becomes a paste. 

Now comes the spices- Put in the garam masala, corriander powder(about a big tablespoon each) and amchur powder (just a dash of it). Cook the ingredients till the masala blends and the mixture starts to become a thick consistency of a gravy. Add salt according to taste. 

Add in the blended spinach to the gravy and cook till spinach loses its raw taste and takes in the spices. Add the bowl of cottage cheese towards the end and cook it on a low flame for around 5 minutes. Before removing it from fire, add a big tablespoon of butter and blend in till the butter melts. Garnish it with chopped corriander! There is a slight variation in this recipe- Usually, the cottage cheese is deep fried (separately) in oil before mixing it with spinach. I simply love to keep the flavor of cottage cheese and mix it without frying it in oil. 

Serve it with hot rotis- yum!

Friday, July 2, 2010

Spice up your world....

I wanted to highlight some of the spices used in Indian cooking- 

Garam masala- (hot masala powder)- well, the recipe differs from region to region and I am pretty much sure that you will get a decent brand from your local market- Garam Masala is a culmination of various spices like- cumin seeds, shahi jeera or black cumin, cinnamon, black pepper, cardamom (Green, black and brown varities), nutmeg, coriander seeds, fennel seeds (may contain traces of garlic powder, ginger powder, turmeric powder, red chilli powder- depending upon the brand). Using Garam masala will add good authentic Indian flavor to your food.

Another powder which I most commonly use is the hot curry masala powder. This is similar to garam masala but has a different and strong flavor than Garam masala- This masala not only contains similar spices to that of Garam masala but also asafoetida, mustard seeds, caraway, coriander seeds and brings in a little bit of color to your food (because of turmeric).

Corriander powder- I love using this one and tend to add it to almost all my cusine because of the exotic flavor it brings to the food.

Turmeric powder- Bring that lovely color to your food with turmeric powder- it is really good for health! 
To get a tangy taste to your recipe you can even use amchur powder (made from dried, ground mangoes)- A dash of this powder in vegetables wouldn't hurt and gives a nice tangy flavor-

Bay leaves gives you an exotic aroma to any gravy or rice and I do use it a lot along with green cardamom-

I love adding a bit of Ajwain seeds (Carom seeds) for medical reasons- It helps reliving gas from your stomach- 

There are many more masalas that can be used to bring a good flavor- I have often seen that sticking to the basic ones really helps and you can keep trying out different ones till you feel a particular combination gets your taste buds tingling! There is no hard and fast rule for the masalas- My mom always used to tell me- Keep it simple for the real flavor to come through :)


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