Monday, March 26, 2012

Something sweet , something spicy

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We ushered in the marathi new year this last weekend. "Gudi Padwa" as it is locally called in the state of Maharashtra is of the most auspicious days in the Hindu Calender.
Wish you all a very happy gudi padwa !! May the coming year brings you lots of good times !!
Lets begin the new year on a sweet note, with a generous helping of shrikhand.
Last year or so I posted my recipe for Amrakhand. I got such lovely emails after that post that I could not not post the equally delicious"Shrikhand" . After several attempts I think i have finally learned to make soft, light and fluffy shrikhand.
I make my shrikhand from my scratch. There are 2 reasons - Firstly because there is no place that offers thick yogurt(no Chitales and Kaka Halwais here) .Greek yogurt is an option but that is Greek. And second, more importantly store bought yogurt does not have that slight sour taste that homemade one has.

On to the recipe :-

(Makes 6 generous servings)

3/4 G of Whole milk (preferably organic)
2 heaped tsp of cardamom powder
1 tsp nutmeg powder
hefty pinch of saffron mixed in 3-4 tbsp of warm milk
2 tbsp of yogurt culture to set yogurt (see *tip below)

Setting the yogurt :-
  • Pour the milk into 1 or more microwavable glass bowls.I use my pyrex or corning ware for this.
  • Microwave the milk until thick cream layer forms at the top. About 6 min with a break of 5 min after every 3 min.
  • Cool the milk until you can easily hold a finger in milk for 2-3sec. Mixture should be warm not boiling hot. High temperatures can kill the yogurt culture and if its cold they will not multiply.
  • Mix about 2 tbsp of live yogurt culture into the milk and mix gently.
  • Turn on the oven light and put the bowl in there, preferably overnight. In winter warm the oven to 180 deg C and then turn it off and then put the bowl in there.
  • In the morning switch off the light and move the bowl to the fridge where it will thicken further.
  • Tie the yogurt in a muslin cloth or a cotton napkin. Hang it as shown in this post so that water drains out. This thick yogurt will be the base of our "Shrikhand".
* Tip - The regular yogurt in American stores do not have live yogurt culture. Try to get it from an indian store or better still from a neighborhood indian friend who makes yogurt.

To make the shrikhand :-
  • In the thickened yogurt add about 1.5 C of sugar.
  • With a hand mixer beat the mixture for about 30s.If the mixture is too thick add a 2 tbsp of milk.
  • The sugar will dissolve and the mixture will loosen so do not add too much milk.
  • Add the cardamom,nutmeg and saffron and fold the mixture gently. Use a spatula if required.
  • Add coarsely crushed walnut, pistachios and serve chilled.
I used around 1.5C of white sugar. If you are using brown sugar that is coarse then run it in the food processor. That way it will dissolve faster.
We like our shrikhand a bit sour and sweet. Increase quantity of sugar by another 1/2 C for more sweeter shrikhand.
Though this recipe  appears time consuming its actually really simple provided you plan ahead. I start almost 4 days in advance and this is the way I plan it.
Day 1 - Set yogurt at night
Day 2 - In the morning transfer the bowls into refrigerator
Day 2 - At night hang the yogurt into a muslin cloth
Day 3 - Make shrikhand in the morning/evening.

Shrikhand can easily be refrigerated for almost a week. Traditionally its scooped up with fluffy pooris, a side of batata bhaji and crispy bhajis (Fritters).

This year I skipped the traditional side of Potato bhaji for this Palakwali Dal. The recipe is from Sanjeev Kapoor's book "How to Cook Indian". 

Palakwali Dal
( Recipe from Sanjeev Kapoor's "How to cook Indian ?")

2 handfuls of fresh spinach chopped
1/4 C + 1/8 C of mung dal washed and set aside
1 tsp turmeric powder
pinch of hing
salt to taste

For the tempering
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp of ginger paste
1 tsp garlic paste
1/2 medium onion chopped
2 green chillies slit in the centre
2 dry red chillies
1/2 tomato chopped

oil to saute
1 tbsp of lemon juice

  • Over medium heat combine mung dal with 3C of water. Add turmeric and salt. Allow to boil and then simmer for until dal is soft but not completely mashed. This takes around 20min.
  • In a saute pan, heat 4-5 tbps of oil/ghee. Add the red and green chillies, cumin, ginger - garlic paste, onion  and saute till onion is soft. Add the tomato and cook further.
  • Add this tempering to the dal. Check for salt and add more if required.
  • Allow to come to a boil.
  • To serve top with lemon juice and some more ghee.
  • Serve with rotis or with steamed rice.
Honestly I did not expect much from this recipe with very simple ingredients. But I was pleasantly surprised when I realized how soothing it was to the body and mind. Loved it all the way and now am waiting to try other recipes from the book. Will keep you posted !

Monday, March 19, 2012

Tikhat Sanja

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Its been almost 3 weeks since we commenced our gardening adventure in our backyard. It all started when I spotted a small habanero on one of the shrubs. Possibly planted by the previous owner it survived the slashing thunderstorms we had a few weeks back. Though we take no credit for its survival it gave us all the confidence and excitement to get started. So after a quick drive to the local nursery and after several evenings spent in the garden we are now proud owners of a tiny veggie patch. And we cant wait to plant more.This gardening thing is addictive. Who knew ???

On the kitchen front I have for you - "Tikhat Sanja".
  This dish reminds me of my roots ( no pun intended ), my home and the food that aai made with love.Its a breakfast we all enjoy.
Besides home there was another place that served delicious "Sanja". It was called "Janseva Dughdhalay" in the very heart of Pune. This place was famous for a menu of maximum 4 items, its straight faced waiters and above all terrific food. They never served tea/coffee instead flavored milk and even buttermilk was offered. Their "sanja" was mild , slightly sweet and sour. It was soft,almost melting in the mouth.

This is my version , very close to how "Janseva" makes it.

Tikhat Sanja

What's needed : -
3/4 C course semolina or rava
1/2 an onion finely chopped 
4-5 green chillies 
1 tsp ginger grated
2 tbsp peanuts
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp hing
8-10 curry leaves
1/4 C thick homemade yogurt ( preferably slightly sour)
1/2 juice of lemon
1 tsp sugar

salt to taste
cilantro and fresh coconut for garnish
oil as required
2 C hot boiling water (slightly more than twice the amount of semolina)

How to :-
  • Over medium heat combine the semolina with a tablespoon of oil. Saute over med-low heat till semolina turns light brown. Take care not to burn. If the rava is not roasted well then it will not fluff up. Set aside when done.
  • Over medium heat combine 5 tbsp of oil with cumin, mustard,curry leaves. 
  • When the mustard cracks add the green chillies,peanuts and saute for a minute.Then add the onion and wait till turns soft.Add the turmeric and hing (if using).
  • Smoothen the yogurt with a table spoon of water and set aside, 
  • Add the roasted semolina to the onion mixture and mix everything. Add the water and the yogurt. Add salt. Taste the water. It should be slightly more salty and spicy than you want the final product to be.
  • Add the sugar and simmer, cover the whole thing for 5 min.
  • Open the lid and mix. The mixture will absorb water and fluff up, almost twice the original quantity. 
  • Add a squeeze of lemon juice. Garnish with cilantro and coconut and serve hot.

I would strongly advice using sour homemade yohurt here. It helps make the sanja soft and slightly sour. Add a dollop of ghee if you like , it adds to a more homey touch.
Aai would press the sanja into moulds. As kids we would love helping her out with this activity. My favorite topping besides cilantro and coconut is crunchy sev and with some more yogurt on the side this makes a hearty weekend breakfast. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Black Eyed Peas Curry (Konkani Style)

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Every so often I get together with my friends ( who are co-incidentally moms) for a moms girls night out (without kids,ofcourse). Its our time to to dress up, chit-chat,to talk about the subjects close to our heart, to catch up what's going on in our lives. More than the meal we enjoy each others company and take pride in this support system. Almost always i find tips, ideas  and answers to tackle so many everyday questions lingering in my mind. One topic that almost inadvertently comes up is parenting. And when that starts a plethora of  other subjects come up - all related to kids. I have learned so much so fast from these conversations.

Cooking is also one of our dear subjects. And we always look forward to this casual recipe exchange.
The next time we meet I will surely rave about this recipe for black eyed peas.

 I love my legumes and I try to have at least 4 different ones on hand. One of them makes its appearance at least one day a week.
Legumes are like the little black dress. They need to be dressed up to look appealing. And that's what I did with this recipe. It needs  a spin in the blender but the result is awesome.

Here take a look :

Now onto the recipe :-

Black Eyed Peas Curry
( From this recipe on Aayis recipes )

1 C black eyed peas pressure cooked ( soak 1/2 C to yield 1C of black eyed peas )
1/2 onion chopped
small lemon sized ball of tamarind soaked and juice extracted
1 tbsp garam masala/kitchen king masala
1 tsp kashmiri chilli powder ( for color, optional )

Spice Paste :-
3 dry red chillies
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp dry/fresh grated coconut
2 tbsp of cooked black eyed peas

oil as required
salt to taste

  • In a table spoon of oil saute the ingredients for the spice paste except the cooked peas. Cool and blend with the black eyed peas. Add a tablespoon of water at a time if required.
  • Over medium heat saute the onions and then add the chilli powder if using. Add the cooked peas, spice paste and the tamaring extract.
  • Add salt and water to adjust the consistency of the curry.
  • Add the garam masala and garnish with cilantro.
  • Serve with rotis / rice. Tastes best the next day when the flavors have mingled.