Friday, October 29, 2010

Brown Rice Fried Rice

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Here it is, as promised in my last post - my version of Brown rice fried rice. Its simple, quick and healthy -  everything that I ever want in a recipe.

Here are some of the secrets to Cooking the best Fried rice ( shortlisted from here ).I never realized that fried rice could be an object of so much research and analysis.
  • A day-old rice makes the best fried rice. Hot, steaming freshly cooked rice would end up in a mushy,sticky fried rice. An absolute no-no.  Refer to my earlier post on getting the perfectly cooked brown rice.
  • Wok Time. I learned this term from Jaden Hair ( from Steamy Kitchen). The rice and the veggies need their time in the wok. So instead of constant stirring and mixing, leave it alone for sometime and you will be rewarded.
  • Temperature - A hot wok/kadai is an absolute must. Wait patiently while the wok heats up so that you get your veggies crunchy.The trick as Jaden puts it - " The high heat ensures that each grain of rice gets hot to the core"

Brown Rice Fried Rice
( Inspired from this post )

1 C of uncooked short grain fried rice ( cooked as per the this post)
2 tbsp of ginger-garlic sauce (or sricha sauce or any other hot sauce)
2-3 cloves of finely minced garlic.
4-5 tbsp of oil
1C you choice of veggies - (peas,carrots, bell pepper any color,cabbage,corn,green beans)
If frozen thaw the veggies in hot water and then use.
salt to taste
2 tbsp of soy sauce
2-3 eggs scrambled (optional)
Spring Onions (for garnish, I did not have any though)
A wok to comfortably hold all of the rice and veggies.

  • Add the oil  and the garlic to the wok/kadhai. Let the oil get infused with the garlic and get smoking hot.
  • Then add the veggies and mix. Leave alone for 1 min or so. We want the veggies to stay crunchy.
  • Then add the sauces.Mix.
  • Then add the rice. Mix with the vegetable mixture. Spread it in the wok and let it SIT.The rice will start to sizzle.After about 1-2 min. Stir everything. Taste and add salt(if required).
  • You can add more sauce if the rice is too dry.
  • Optionally add scrambled egg.
Dig in ...
We enjoyed bowls of rice with a side of crunchy green beans. 

Its Halloween this weekend.  My little one will be trick or treating with mommy and her neighbourhood friends. Want to see him in his halloween costume ? Come back next week for some pics.

Have great weekend everyone !

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Perfectly Cooked Brown Rice

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All of us at home are big fans of rice. I L.O.V.E khichadis, biryanis and most things made of rice. If rice would not have been so carb-laden I would have happily spent my life eating just that.

While white rice is staple in most households irrespective of cuisine,brown rice is not so popular. Its rich in fiber and magnesium. So a small helping can keep you full for quite sometime.

Brown rice (or "hulled rice") is unmilled or partly milled rice, a kind of whole, natural grain. It has a mild nutty flavor, is chewier and more nutritious than white rice (Source Wikipidea)
More about why brown rice is healthier here.

There are several varieties of brown rice - short grain , long grain, medium grain,aromatic. Brown rice versions are also found in the popular varieties like Jasmine rice, arborio rice, basmati etc. I have used brown  basmati rice and short grain brown rice so far.

Selecting and Storing Brown rice

Brown rice gets rancid faster than white rice. I generally get a pound at a time since we have it once a week for lunch/dinner. Our current stock is the short grain brown rice from Whole Foods. Its a dollar more than the one at Walmart but so worth it. Also I can buy in smaller quantities without paying a dime for packaging. I store it in a plastic jar in a dry place along with the lentils etc. Keep away from moisture and it should last well.

Cooking brown rice
There are several ways to do this. I attempted 2-3 of them and have finally settled down on the following one. This method has never failed me, specially when I used it to make the rice for fried rice. 

1 C brown rice
4 C of water ( Yes, it in 1:4 ratio)
salt to taste
1 tbsp olive oil (optional)

  • Wash the rice several time with water. Place it into a big pot / rice cooker with the salt and olive oil. 
  • I do mine in a electric rice cooker.
  • Let it come to a boil. This will take around 20-25min.
  • Check to see if its tender and cooked. If not give it another 5-10 min.
  • Else drain the whole thing into a colander. 
  • Then put the rice back into the cooker and cover with a tight lid.Switch off the cooker.
  • Leave it alone for 10min or more. Fluff with fork and use.

Apparently this method is very versatile and would work for most brands and varieties of rice. No guesswork on how the rice would turn out. I used it to make the rice for my fried rice. You guessed it, that's coming up in the next post.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Aamrakhand From Scratch

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Dassera (Dussera) is one of the most auspicious days according to the Hindu Calender. I recall my aai making an elaborate lunch on that day - batata bhaij, pakoras, puris,.. the list was long. We girls contributed by making hot puffed puris. These would then be used to scoop some cool Amrakhand.
I made some Aamrakhand last weekend as a part of the puja meal.

This is a very easy to make dessert with not much scope for mistakes.

(Printable version of recipe here)

What's needed :-
1 32oz can of full fat yogurt ( I used readymade Dannon yogurt but homemade would work great too)
1/2 C or more of alphonso mango pulp
1 C sugar
1tsp cardamom powder
 walnuts or other chopped nuts to garnish
  • Scoop the yogurt into a muslin cloth and tie the ends. Then hang it up so that it drains out the water. I have seen friends hanging it to the handle of kitchen cabinet or to a chair (similar to hanging paneer). Just ensure that its high enough so that the whole thing does not sit in its own whey.Overnnight is the best but 7-8 hours would also work.
  • Transfer the thick yogurt into a bowl. Add the sugar,cardamom and the mango pulp. Mix until smooth and there are no lumps.Taste and adjust sweetness. If you use homemade yogurt that is slightly sour you might need more sugar.
  • Then decorate with nuts and serve !

It had been quite a while since I made a traditional maharashtrian dessert. So we enjoyed every spoonful to the fullest.

And what's up with the toddler these days ? Here have a look.....

Yes,he plundered mommy's purse..And BTW,someone else got to wear my sunglasses too...

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Achari Aloo

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The most versatile vegetable in my (or in most) household(s) is unmistakenly the chubby potato. Red or white potatoes always have their place in my crisper. They readily lend themselves during times when nothing else seem intresting. Dress them up in a rich curry or dress down into a simple stir fry they are perfect in every way. 
This weekend was one such instance when nothing much was planned on the kitchenfront. I poked the fridge and there they were - my potatoes, waiting patiently for their turn. 
A quick look at my bookmarks folder and I decided on making Meeta's Achari Aloo - a super simple bhaji to fit a  weekend lunch.

Here's how I made it :

Achari Aloo
(Inspired from this recipe at What's For Lunch Honey )
Printable version of recipe is here

3 medium sized potatoes cut in 1 inch wedges
2 medium sized tomatoes chopped
4-5 sticks of spring onions chopped (green and white parts) or 1 medium onion sliced
2-3 tbsp mango pickle ( I used Priya's Mango Thokku pickle )
salt to taste
squeeze of lime juice (optional)
2 tbsp of oil

  • Heat 2-3 tbsp of oil in a non-stick wok.
  • Add the onions and turmeric. Fry for a min or so.
  • Then add the tomatoes and fry till the whole mixture is mushy.
  • Then add the potatoes with a splash of water.Cover and cook till potatoes are tender but not mushy. I like my potatoes to be slightly cruncht rather than very soft.
  • Then mix in the mango pickle.Since the potatoes take on the flavor of the pickle ensure that you use a good quality pickle - something that you actually like. Homemade or the one "smuggled" from India would be perfect.
  • Add salt and pepper and give the whole thing a good stir.
  • Add a handful of cilantro (I did not have any) or some more of spring onions for garnish.
  • Serve warm.

We had ours with some fresh rotis.and a cucumber-yogurt salad. Both of us enjoyed this new twist. I for one enjoyed its simplicity. Would be perfect for a picnic with some parathas or as a sidedish for potlucks.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Sweet comforts....

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If you are a yogurt lover (like me) then read on....

I was actually a yogurt hater until I moved to US. I never liked the yogurt(curd) in India. My sister and myself detested the sour smell. We disliked all things made with it. So the neighborhood chaat-wala got strict instructions to make our sev-puri without it. And if by chance he forgot, the plate was promptly returned with "eeeee this has dahi.. make us another one..".

The yogurt tubs sold here are different though. They are thick and creamy devoid of the sour smell. So I liked it instantly. But I missed the sourness of homemade yogurt in my koshimbirs and kadhis. That was when I borrowed a yogurt culture from a friend and made my first homemade yogurt. Ever since I have churned batches of yogurt every other week.Its healthy, fresh and generates no plastic waste, and more importantly its way cheaper.
A few weeks back I read this post on this blog. The pictures got me drooling too. And finally I made us some  Mishti Doi(Sweet Yogurt). Its a very sweet and comforting dessert, perfect after a nice home-cooked meal.

The recipe is very simple and uses regular pantry ingredients and the results are outstanding.Its traditionally made in earthenware so that the gradual evaporation of water through the holes thickens the yogurt. But ramekins or any other container can also be used.

Mishti Doi 
( Inspired by this recipe )

What's needed :

2 1/2C Whole milk ( No 2%,1% please.It wont be as good)
1/4C+1/4C+2 tbsp white sugar (do not replace with brown sugar)
1 1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1 tbsp of yogurt culture
crushed pistachios to garnish (optional)

How to -
  • Start by heating the milk.
  • Once it warms up add the 1/4C of sugar and  the cardamom.Give it a good stir.Keep warm.
  • In another heavy bottomed pan add the 1/4C +2tbsp sugar. Bring the heat to high and stir so that sugar does not burn.
  • After a while the sugar will start browning and will turn into a syrup. Keep stirring till it gets a nice brown color, like caramel.Add 1tbsp of water and let the whole thing come to a rolling boil.
  • If at anytime the sugar solidifies boil the mixture for sometime and it will melt.
  • Add  this to the boiling milk and stir.Watch for spluttering though.
  • Cool the milk until a finger can easily withstand its heat. 
  • Mix in the yogurt culture.
  • Transfer to earthen pot or to individual ramekins.Cover with foil and set aside in a warm place. I put mine in the oven with the oven light on at night. Switched it off in the morning.
  • Move them to the fridge in the evening where the yogurt will continue to firm further.
  • Decorate with pistachios (or any other nuts) and enjoy.
It tasted best a day after it sets in fridge. Though we could not wait that long to taste it. Both Aamod and Vijay enjoyed it by the spoonfuls.
And finally.....
To all the readers celebrating Navratri, Happy Navratri !!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Crispy Chivda

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Come October - November and we begin planning talking about Diwali and about Diwali "faral"(sweets and snacks). Aai (mom in marathi) always talked to us about what and how she will be making the faral . "This time I will try out xxx recipe for chakali.." she would say. It did not mean much to me back then..However today those words resonate clearly in my ears.
Aai makes most of the traditional items on menu - ladu,chakli and the crispiest chivda in the neighbourhood. In fact its still the most-wanted item by many of the guests at our place.

Why this sudden talk about her ? Because she celebrates her birthday this week. I did wish her on phone but nothing beats that warm hug. So I spent the weekend reminiscing about her and making some crispy chivda.

Here's how I make it : -

6C of flattened thin poha (available in Indian grocery stores)
1C of puffed rice (murmura)

For the tempering :
4 green chillies chopped ( add more for a spicier version)
1 heaped tbsp ginger-garlic paste ( fresh is the best )
10  curry leaves
2 tbsp powdered sugar ( can be omitted, but I like my chivda to be sweet n spicy so I add it)
2 tsp chivda masala ( available in Indian store. Replace with a mix of 1 tbsp coriander powder + 1tbsp jeera powder)
6 tbsp dalia
6 tbsp or more of peanuts or cashewnuts
1/2 an onion cut into thin strips
1tsp fennel seeds
hing - a pinch
3 tsp  mustard seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste and 1/2 C vegetable or canola oil to fry

1. Add the poha and the puffed rice to a heavy bottomed pan and roast on low flame stirring every once in a while. Make sure the pohe does not burn else reduce the heat even further. We want the pohe to be warm and loose its moisture to get the desired level of crispiness. Keep warm till we make the tadka.
I have heard friends doing this in the oven but I prefer doing it on the stove top since its easier to manage the heat.  Also I do not need to open and close the oven every time I need to check on it.

2.  After about 15-20mins taste some of the above mixture. If it still feels a little chewy continue it for 10 more minutes. Stir gently so as not break the pohe. After about 30-40 min the mixture will taste crunchy. Keep warm.

3. In another pan heat oil to make a tadka. Add mustard seeds. When these splutter add the onions and ginger-garlic paste. Deep fry till brown. Now add the curry leaves and hing. Watch for spluttering again. Add the dalia, peanuts,green chillies and fry for about 2-3 min.

4. Now add the spice powders - turmeric,chivda masala, fennel seeds and fry for about 1 min and then switch off the stove. Let the masalas continue cooking for 1-2 minutes till they lose their raw smell.

 5. To the pohe and puffed rice mixture add the salt and sugar and mix gently.Add the tadka and again mix gently so that the pohe are covered with the tadka. Taste and adjust salt and sugar levels. Do not overmix, since it might break the pohe.

A crispy chiwda is ready to be savored. The above measurements here are approximate. Feel free to adjust them to your spice level. I would not recommend using olive oil here since it tends to imparts a fake stale smell to the fresh chivda. If the chivda seems dry add some more tadka this time with some turmeric only. Do not cover until completely cooled though.

My favorite way to have it is with some store-bought farsan or sev, with some finely chopped onion.tomato,lots of fresh cilantro and squeeze of lime. Store in air-tight container.Keeps for about 15-20 days.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Agnolotti with Roasted Red Peppers , Sundried tomato and almond sauce

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Winter made a short appearance here in Houston and went away. And the long summer refuses to end. I am so looking forward crisp, clean and light air. Would be a nice change from the high humidity and warm weather we have experienced so far.
A few weeks back I bookmarked this recipe on eCurry that seemed perfect for a cold winter night. So I pretended its winter and gave it a go.
We are not really a pasta-eating family. Most of the pasta recipes are less pasta and more cheese.
I had never tried any stuffed pasta earlier. So this recipe was new to me in many ways. The sauce itself is a combination of smoky charred red peppers and sweet, tangy sun-dried tomatoes. The almonds adding a nice crunch and adding to the thickness. The recipe used saffron but I did not use any.

The wild mushroom, cheese stuffing along with the roasted garlic pairs up very well with the chunky sauce. 

Now, onto the recipe : -

Agnolotti with Sun-dried tomatoes, Red Peppers and Almonds ( inspired from this recipe at eCurry)
Printable version of the recipe here

10-12 sun-dried tomatoes (ours come from the jar sold at Costco)
2 large roasted red bell peppers ( i roasted fresh peppers in oven for 30 min, cut side up. Then transfer to a bowl and cover tight. Once cooled, peel the skins and use)
10-12 almond coursely ground
4 garlic cloves

1 packet stuffed Agnolotti (preferrably Buitonni)
salt and pepper to taste
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 dry chillies crushed roughly
3-4 tbsp red wine ( omit if making for kids)
1 tbsp dry rosemary (optional)
1/2 onion chopped roughly

How to : -
  • Cook the pasta with lots of water and a tablespoon of olive oil for 4-6 min or as per packet instruction. Olive oil ensures that pasta does not stick together.
  •  To make the pasta sauce
  • In a blender blend the sun-dried tomatoes and roasted red-peppers along with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Add some water if mixture looks 2 dry. The sauce should be chunky rather than a smooth paste.Set aside.
  • In another  pan heat some olive oil. Add the garlic pieces. Once oil is garlicky fragrant, add the onions and saute till translucent.
  • Then add the wine(if using) and then the crushed dry chillies. Once the wine is cooked out, add the sauce and the almonds.  Saute for another 2-3 min.
  • Finally add the pasta and the rosemary. Do not cook for long else the pasta might break.
  • Serve warm with a salad and garlic bread.

When I saw the packet of pasta I was skeptical if it would be enough for 2 adult portions. But we found the pasta very filling. And I must say that leftovers were really tasty. We enjoed the pasta dinner and there were 3 happy faces at the end. No, the toddler did not get the pasta. He was happy with the garlic bread.:)

Sending this to Nupur's Blog Bites Event. This month's theme is One Pot Meals.