Saturday, January 29, 2011

Mushroom and Chickpea Pulao

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Our toddler has got a new activity these days... We call it the " the pouring activity" and needless to say that he is loving it.  Keeps him busy for quite sometime.

He does it with much concentration and enjoys it completely.. I am loving the way he picks each of the white peas and puts them into jar. They are so cute these days... :)

On the kitchen front I made this Mushroom and Chickpea Pulao. The recipe is from the cookbook "American Masala" by Suvir Saran. The book has recipes from around the world modified to suit the indian palette. 
 Honestly I am not a big fan of mushroom. I always thought it lacked taste and it never looked pretty to me. But this recipe is a sure winner.  No onions, no tomatoes and no ginger-garlic paste. Only whole  spices make the mushrooms delectable, to say the least. I got a thumbs up from Vijay too. 

Mushroom and Chickpea Pulao
(Adapted from "American Masala" by Suvir Saran)

What's needed :

For the rice:
1C of rice ( I used sona masoori rice. You can use basmati if you like )
1 inch stick of cinnamon
6 cardamom cloves
3 cloves 
5 peppercorns
4C of water

For the mushroom mixture :
8oz pack of button mushrooms sliced
3 dry red chillies
6 cardamoms (black or green)
3 tsp sambhar powder
5-6 pepper corn
2 cloves 
2 tsp coriander powder
1C slightly thick buttermilk
pinch of turmeric
3-4 tbsp olive oil or canola oil
1/2 C canned or cooked chickpeas (optional)

salt to taste
1/2 bunch of cilantro chopped ( dont skip this )

  • Combine the ingredients for the rice and allow it to come to a boil. Strain and set aside. Do not cook the rice completely. We want it half (or even less) cooked.
  • Over medium heat combine the oil, cloves,peppercorn and cardamom till fragrant.Then add the dry red chilles.
  • Once the chillies brown up add the turmeric, coriander and the sambar powder. Cook for 1-2 min. Take care not to burn.
  • Add the mushrooms. The mixture will now release a lot of moisture so stir on medium-high heat till it reduces a bit. 
  • Finally add the buttermilk and salt. There will still be a lot of liquid now. Cook for 5-7 min.
  • Taste and adjust the seasoning. The mushrooms should taste one level saltier and spicier than you want the final rice to be. At the end add the chickpeas.
  • For a biryani layer the rice and the mushrooms in a rice cooker or normal cooker and cook for 30min. If the water from the mushrooms is not enough you can add more. I did not need to add though.
  • If not cook in a heavy bottomed pan on high heat. Once the rice is cooked cover and simmer for 15min. I mixed both the rice and the mushroom mixture in a rice cooker for a pulao.
  • Serve with boondi raita.
The mushrooms are the star ingredient of this dish. Its almost like a chicken pulao but only vegetarian. We loved it for a quick and tasty weekday dinner.

For finger licking good boondi raita :
Combine :
1C yogurt (homemade is the best) beaten till smooth
1/4 tsp coursely crushed cumin seeds
pinch of coriander powder
pinch of chilli powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp chopped cilantro/mint or both (i used cilantro since i was out of mint)
Mix well and cool in fridge for an hour before serving.
Add boondi and serve. I add boondi at the end since we do not like soggy boondi. 

Aamod did not have the pulao. He feasted on boondi raita though...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Butternut Squash Stew

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"I love you dad because you make me feel warm,safe and snug. I love you dad for everything that you do for me.." - These were the words on a card made by a first grader for her dad who also happens to be a collegue at work. Soon after reading this, my mind wandered back to those days when baba(dad in marathi) dropped to us to school each and every day for close to 12 years. He would wait till we reach the gate and waved a goodbye. Aai(mom in marathi) gave us a warm hug and put us to sleep. We did not have everything in life but we had just enough to make us feel "warm and snug" .Its not about the house, the toys, the car etc its just how we make our kids feel. Isnt it ?

Now to more practical things in life - like the kitchen and the recipe for today. Its this steaming hot bowl of butternut squash stew.

 Butternut Squash - I have not cooked with it very often. However these winter months offer a limited choice of vegetables. So the squash got its turn in our kitchen.

The recipe is very simple and comes together in minutes.

Butternut Squash Stew

What's needed:-
2 cups of butternut squash diced ( I get the 8oz packet from Walmart. Its diced and washed )
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 onion chopped
1 can of diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
2 tsp cumin powder
2 tsp chilli powder
5-6 cloves of garlic minced
1 tsp crushed  red chillies
1/4 C cream or whole milk
salt to taste
5-6 tbsp of oil

How to :-
  • Preheat oven to 425 F.
  • In a pan cobine the cumin and oil over medium heat. Once the seeds sizzle add the garlic and saute for a couple of minutes. Do not brown.
  • Add the onion and cook it till soft. 
  • Then add the tomatoes and continue cooking till the oil separates and tomatoes are mushy.
  • Add the cumin powder, chilli powder, crushed red chillies, salt and the bay leaves.
  • Transfer the whole thing to an over proof dish. Add the squash pieces.
  • Cover with a foil and move to oven for 45-50 min.
  • After 45 min check if the squash is tender. The oil would have separated at the top and the stew will have a nice orange-red color.
  • Give it 5-10min if needed. Check for seasoning. Add in the cream or milk.
  • Serve hot with bread, rotis or even rice.
The stew almost cooks itself in the oven. Even though the stew looks fiery red its not very hot and spicy. It gets it sweetness from squash. 
Enjoy !

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Pita Pockets filled with fish, cabbage and mayo sauce

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A few days back while channel surfing I happened to watch the show 'Aarti Party' on food network. Hmm.. looked interesting. The host shared a recipe for fish tacos. Instead of making tacos I put the same filling into a whole wheat pita pocket.

I followed the recipe for the sauce. Ok let me warn you - The sauce is highly addicting. So make sure you have the ingredients to make enough. It can be made in advance and stored in the fridge.

Here is the recipe :-

Pita pockets with fish,cabbage and mayo sauce
(Inspired from this recipe on Aarti Party on Food Network)

For the sauce :-
1/2 C mayo
10 sprigs of mint chopped
2-3 garlic cloves mashed
salt to taste
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 tsp coarsely ground cumin

To stuff :-
1/2 head of cabbage shredded ( lettuce would work fine too )
1/2 an onion (optional, this was not in the recipe though )
pickled banana peppers
2-3 spring onions ( greens only ) chopped

Pita pockets ( I got the whole wheat ones at kroger in the baking section )

Marinade for the fish :-
5-6 tbsp of oil
salt to taste
1 tsp cinnamon powder
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp chilli powder
1tsp turmeric

4 pieces of tilapia ( or any other white fish )
  • Combine the ingredients for the sauce. Taste and adjust as required. Add some water if required to thin out the sauce. It should taste sour and slightly salty. 
  • Combine the ingredients for the marinade and apply on fish. If using frozen fish thaw and dry completely before marinating. 
  • In a hot pan place the fish pieces and cook till flaky. No more oil is required to fry the fish. Cut the fish into bite sized pieces.
  • Combine the shredded cabbage,onion and banana peppers with the 1/4C of the sauce. Somewhat like a coleslaw salad. 
  • Warm the pita pockets in a pan. This will soften the pockets. Else they will be hard like cardboard. ;)
  • Then fill the pita pockets with the cabbage mixture, top with fish pieces, banana pepper and spring onions. 
  • Serve warm. 
 These pockets look so cute. They are neater to eat than the tacos in my opinion. Vegetarians can easily replace the fish with paneer, potatoes or a combination of these. Would work well for a picnic too..

We enjoyed the pita pockets for a quick weeknight dinner. Warm pita pockets stuffed with spicy fish, cool sauce and crunchy cabbage. Delicious !

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Zarda Pulao ( Sweet saffron pilaf with nuts and currants)

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Wish you all a happy new year ! May this year bring lots of good food and good health to you and your loved ones !!
It was busy 2010 for me. Work, home and our precious toddler playing major roles. I revived this blog and have been at it till now. Your kind words , comments and encouragements have kept me going. Thank you !.
 We welcome every new year with a sweet something in the kitchen. It was a tradition started by my mom and I follow it too. 
This year I made this Zarda Pulao or Sweet Saffron pilaf with currants and nuts for lunch. Its not hefty as the name suggests. In fact its light, slightly sweet with a nice crunch from the nuts. A perfect side dish at a lunch/dinner or  a snack on its own.

Zarda Pulao ( Sweet saffron pilaf with currants and nuts )

1C basmati rice ( I used sona masuri rice since was out of basmati )
2C water
3/4C sugar ( I used turbinado sugar. You can use brown or white sugar )
1 2-inch stick cinnamon
10 cardamom (slightly crushed to open the pods)
1tbsp ginger, grated
 pinch of saffron
2 tbsp milk
15 almonds cut
3tbsp of golden raisins
3tbsp of black currants ( can substitute with more raisins )
2tbsp pistachios
2tbsp of ghee/oil

  • Microwave the saffron for 20s and crush with the back of the spoon. Add milk and set aside.
  • Wash the rice and allow to drain for 20min. Then dry roast the rice until the grains are crisp. Set aside.
  • In a heavy bottomed pan combine the cinnamon,cardamom.Allow the cinnamon to unfurl and release the aroma. 
  • Then add the ginger and the stir so that it does not burn.
  • Add the currants and the nuts and  then the rice. Add the water.
  • At this point I transferred the whole thing in a rice cooker and set it to cook.
  • When the rice was half cooked ( after around 10 min ) add the sugar,saffron and some water if the rice tends to burn. 
  • Serve warm .

This is another recipe from the Indian Home Cooking book by Suvir Saran. The author loved the way the saffron coats the rice unevenly. Well we loved it too.