Monday, May 31, 2010

Kurmura Chiwda - Spiced Puffed Rice

Kurmura also known as murmura or mumra is a type of puffed grain made from rice. This spicy garlic flavored Kurmura Chiwda makes a very light and tasty evening snack. My mom made this very often at home and I have many fond memories of enjoying this snack with her. It was a weekend ritual to sit at our apartment window munching on this savory mixture along with a cup of hot coffee and chatting away for hours together. The garlic, dried red chillies and curry leaves give a very nice flavor to the kurmura. What I love the most about this snack is it hardly takes any time to make it and is loved by adults and children alike. This chiwda also makes a very delicious Sukhi Bhel (Dry Bhel). All you need to do is add some finely chopped onions, tomatoes and lime juice to the chiwda and sprinkle some fine sev and chopped cilantro on it.

Ingredients -
5 cups kurmura
3 garlic cloves (crushed in the mortar pestle/ roughly chopped)
2 dried red chillies
5-6 curry leaves
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida/ hing
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp red chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tbsps oil
salt to taste

Method -
1. Heat oil in a kadhai and add mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, add cumin seeds.
2. The add the crushed garlic and fry until golden brown. Add asafoetida/ hing, turmeric powder, dried red chillies and curry leaves.
3. Now add the kurmura/ puffed rice and mix well.
4. Add salt, sugar, red chilli powder, cumin powder, coriander powder and roast the kurmura for 7-10 mins by ocassionally stirring to prevent the kurmuras from sticking to the bottom of the kadhai.

This goes to Niloufer's Twenty -20 Cooking Event.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Curry Leaves Pasta

I was introduced to Italian food some 10 years back when I first came to the US. Until then, the only Italian (or should I call it American?) food I knew ..ate was 'Macaroni N Cheese'. My mom made that quite often at home when my brother and I were in school and we absolutely loved it. At first Italian food was quite bland for me and it took quite a few visits to Italian restaurants to appeal my taste buds. On the other hand, D absolutely loves Italian food especially pasta. So, more than often I ended up making pasta meals at home to satisfy his cravings. I especially love making fusion dishes with pasta like adding a pinch of my favorite Indian spice powders to the pasta or flavoring olive oil with cumin seeds while sautéing the veggies. Last night I made this delicious Indianized Curry Leaves Pasta for dinner. The inspiration for this pasta comes from a cooking video I watched few months back. I deep fried some curry leaves and pounded them in my mortar and pestle into a coarse paste. This extremely flavorful curry leaves paste along with some minced garlic was used to flavor the sauce. I also added some red, yellow and green bell peppers along with my favorite grilled veggies like artichokes and corn which made it a very healthy meal. This dish was amazingly delicious with the aroma from the curry leaves and garlic! Do give it a try….I'm sure you will love it as much as we did.

Ingredients -
3 cups Penne pasta
1 cup curry leaves
2 tbsps chopped garlic
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 pinches black pepper powder (optional)
2 cups chopped bell peppers (combination of Red, Yellow and Green Peppers)
½ cup yellow corn
1 cup artichoke pieces/ 1 can artichokes
½ cup heavy cream/ half & half (may need little more than ½ cup)
½ cup grated cheese
2 tbsps oil + 1 tbsp for cooking pasta
½ tsp butter
Salt to taste

Method -
1. Fill a large pot with cold water and boil the water. Add some salt and oil to the boiling water.
2. Add uncooked pasta to the boiling water and stir occasionally to prevent the pasta from sticking together. Cook the pasta for about 10-15 mins till its 'al dente' –firm yet tender with a tiny core in the middle.
(Follow the directions on the package to cook the pasta)
3. Drizzle some oil on a hot skillet and grill the artichoke pieces first followed by the corn niblets. Set them aside.
4. Heat oil in a pan. Deep fry curry leaves in low –medium hot oil till they turn translucent.
5. Pound the fried curry leaves into a coarse paste in the mortar and pestle or in your blender.
6. Heat oil in a pan , add chopped garlic and fry till it turns slightly brown.
7. Add curry leaves paste and cook for a minute. Add red pepper flakes and mix well.
8. Toss the chopped bell peppers and cook for sometime.
9. Add in the cooked pasta, season with salt and cook for 5 -7 minutes.
10. Add some cream, grated cheese and black pepper powder and cook for some more time.
11. Add the grilled artichokes and corn at the very end just before serving.

NOTE – If canned articokes are used, drain all the water and squeeze out any extra water from the artichoke pieces before grilling them.

I'm sending this Curry Leaves Pasta dish to Presto Pasta Nights, the 165th week is hosted by Rachel The Crispy Cook.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Chincheche Saar - Tamarind Saar/ Soup

I use tamarind as a souring agent in quite a few traditional Maharashtrian and Konkani dishes. However, there are few dishes I know where tamarind is used as the main ingredient. The one I make frequently is the kajur imli chutney (dates & tamarind chutney) which I use in chaats and also as an accompaniment with various snack items like samosas, cutlets, bhajjias etc. Occasionally, I also make this Tamarind Saar/ Soup called 'Chincheche Saar' in marathi which I learnt from my mom. Basically fresh tamarind (preferably use the brown colored whole tamarind and not the canned pulp) is diluted in some water, sweetened with jaggery and seasoned with a flavorful tadka. This sweet, sour and spicy saar served with some moong dal khichdi and crunchy papads or bhajias makes an awesome meal.

Ingredients -
1/2 cup brown tamarind
1 tsp red chilli powder
5-6 tbsp jaggery (May need more if the tamarind used is very sour)
2 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
3-4 dried red chillies
8- 10 curry leaves
1/4 tsp asafoetida/ hing
2-3 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
salt to taste

Method -
1. Soak the tamarind in some hot water for half hour. Add 4 cups of water to this and mix it well to make tamarind juice.
2. In a vessel, heat some oil and add mustard seeds.
3. When the mustard seeds splutter, add the cumin seeds and asafoetida/ hing.
4. Add curry leaves and dried red chillies and fry for sometime.
5. Now add the tamarind juice, jaggery, salt and red chilli powder and mix well.
6. Let the saar simmer and boil for 8- 10 mins.
7. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

This goes to Think Spice- Tamarind event hosted by PJ for the month of May and started by Sunita.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Indian Cooking Challenge - Ras Malai

This is a very special post for me bcoz this is my first Indian Cooking Challenge and also my first entry in the dessert section on my blog. I'm really excited to be part of ICC started by Srivalli and look forward to learning many new challenging Indian dishes through this event.

Ras Malai is a delectable dessert and extremly popular throughtout India. In the past I have never made ras malai from scratch. I have always used store bought canned rasgullas and added them to home made rabdi/ basundi. So I was more than happy to take on this challenge and make it at home from scratch. The recipe was written in detail and therefore very easy to follow. The dish turned out truly exotic with the soft and spongy rasgullas and rich and creamy milk syrup/ rasa.

Ingredients -
For Paneer -
2 litres/ 8 1/2 cups milk
3- 5 tbsps vinegar
1 tsp maida
For Sugar Syrup -
3 cups water
8 tbsps sugar
For Milk Syrup/ Rasa -
1 litres/ 4 cups milk
8 tbsps sugar
1 pinch saffron
2-3 powdered cardamom
For Garnish -
5-6 slivered pistachios
3-4 slivered almonds
few saffron strands

Method -
For making Paneer - 
1. Boil the milk, let it cool and refrigerate it for 12 hrs/ overnight.
2. Remove the malai formed on the milk and save it for the milk syrup.
3. Boil the milk and add the vinegar.
4. After a couple of mins, the paneer will start floating on top. At this point turn off the stove.
5. Filter the paneer with the help of a muslin cloth and hold it under running tap water to wash off the vinegar.
6. Tie the paneer in the muslin cloth and hang it for an hour till all the water drops out.
7. Take the paneer out on a plate and knead it like chapati dough for 5- 10 mins till it becomes soft and you fell it doesnt have much moisture content in it.
8. Now add maida to the paneer and knead some more.
9. Make medium size balls of the paneer and drop them into the boiling sugar syrup. The paneer balls will double in size so make medium size balls.

Start preparing the milk syrup when you start preparing the sugar syrup.
For making Sugar Syrup -
1. In a wide- bottomed pressure cooker, add the water and sugar and boil it.
2. When it boils, add paneer balls into the cooker.
3. Let them pressure cook for 2 whistles.
4. Immediately hold the cooker under running tap water to release the steam.
5. The paneer balls would be double in size.
6. Press the paneer balls to squeeze out the excess sugar syrup and set them aside.

For making Milk Syrup/ Rasa -
1. Take the milk (approx 4 cups) in a non-stick kadhai/ pan and let the milk boil.
2. Continue to heat the milk till it gets reduced to half the quantity. The consistency should be like rabdi or basundi. The malai/ cream that is skimmed off of the milk while making paneer can be added to the milk syrup for more texture.
3. Add the sugar and mix well.
4. Powder the saffron in a mortar pestle and add it to the milk rasa.
5. Add cardamom powder and mix well.
6. Add the cooked paneer balls in the rasa and let the ras malai cool down.
7. Refrigerate and serve chilled.
8. Garnish with slivered almonds, pistachios and saffron strands.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Malai Methi Mutter

This is probably the most exotic way of using methi/ fenugreek leaves. The bold flavor of the methi leaves, sweetness from the green peas and the creamy richness of the sauce makes this a truly delightful dish. This is our all time favorite dish and it goes really well with naan or tandoori roti.

Ingredients -
2 cups finely chopped onions
2 cups finely chopped methi/ fenugreek leaves
1 cup frozen green peas
3-4 tbsp oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp garam masala powder
3 tsp ginger- garlic paste
3 tsp green chilli paste/ to taste
1/2 cup yogurt
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
salt to taste

Method -
1. Heat the oil in a kadhai and add the mustard seeds.
2. When the mustard seeds splutter, add the ginger- garlic paste and fry for sometime.
3. Add green chilli paste and turmeric powder.
4. Add the chopped onions and cook them for sometime until they turn translucent. Add fenugreek leaves and peas and mix well.
5. Then add salt and garam masala powder and mix well.
5. Add the yogurt and cook the gravy for 2-3 minutes by covering the kadhai.
6. Now add the milk, mix well and cook for some more time.
7. Mix in the heavy cream and turn off the stove.

Note - If fresh peas are used, cook them separately before adding to the gravy.

The green from the methi leaves and peas makes this a perfect candidate for Preeti Kashyap's Green Gourmet event. I am also sending this to Susan's 'My Legume Love Affair (MLLA)' event.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Healthy Laddoos for Mother's Day

Growing up I learnt several traditional dishes from my mom and also inherited the love and passion for cooking from her. She recently shared this laddoo recipe with me. Unlike the regular besan laddoos, these laddoos are made of wheat flour, semolina, nachni/ ragi flour and oats in addition to the besan flour which makes them healthy and nutritious. Since this is my mom's recipe, 'Mother's Day' was a perfect occasion to try these out. The laddoos turned out to be very delicious!

Makes @ 30 laddoos
Ingredients -
2 cups chickpea flour/ besan
1 cup semolina/ sooji/ rava
1 cup nachni/ ragi flour
1 cup wheat flour
1/2 cup oats
2 cups melted clarified butter/ ghee
1/4 cup warm milk
3 cups powdered sugar
2-3 tbsps chopped nuts (optional)
2 tsps cardamom powder
3 tbsps slivered almonds and pistachios for garnish

Method -
1. Roast the chickpea flour, wheat flour, ragi/ nachni flour and semolina separately on low flame by stirring them continuously. Also roast the oats for few minutes
2. Add melted ghee in a kadhai, add all the flours and mix well.
3. Cook this mixture until the color changes and then add oats and cook for sometime.
4. Turn off the stove and add the warm milk in it and stir it continuously till the mixture becomes dry.
5. Once the mixture turns warm, add the sugar, chopped roasted nuts and cardamom powder and mix well.
6. Now form ladoos and garnish with slivered nuts by dipping one side of the ladoo in melted ghee and then into the nuts.

Note - Lightly roast all the nuts on low flame in a pan. It is easier to chop and sliver the nuts while they are still warm. While forming the laddoos, if the mixture is dry, add some melted ghee and warm milk as needed and then form the laddoos.

This mini mandaline from India made slivering almonds and pistachios a super easy task.

My cutiepie gifted me a plant that she potted with the help of her teacher at the Daycare with her tiny hands. Also helped daddy make a delicious 'scrambled egg and toast' breakfast for mommy :-)

I am sending these to Jyoti's 'Mother's Day' event and Shabitha's 'Celebrating Mom' event

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Solun Harbaryachi Masala Amti - Sprouted Lentil Spiced Curry

Last weekend, D was craving some traditional coconut based amti ('Amti' is any dal preparation that can be served over rice) and requested that I prepare one of his childhood favorite 'Solun Harbaryachi Masala Amti' translated as 'Sprouted Lentil Spiced Curry'. I inherited some of these authentic family recipes from my MIL and always make one of these curries when D craves this food that he grew up eating. Although I did not have much liking for such coconut based masala amtis, over the last few years I have developed a taste for them and now I actually enjoy the flavors of such foods.

Basically, this is a coastal maharashtrian dish with sprouted and deskinned black chana (small chickpeas with brownish black skin) and hence requires some planning. The generous amount of cashewnuts and spicy coconut masala makes this spicy and tangy amti very delicious. This is typically served on white rice with a side of a vegetable and some fried papadums or fritters which are a perfect complement and make it a truly complete meal. However, it also goes very well with bhakris, so I made some rice flour bhakris to go along with the amti. A spoonful or two of desi ghee over this spicy amti makes this meal a delectable palate pleaser!

Ingredients -
2 cups kala chana
1 medium onion chopped
1 tbsp broken cashewnut pieces
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp garam masala/ goda masala
2 tsp tamarind paste/ to taste
1 tbsp grated jaggery/ to taste
¼ tsp asafetida/ hing
½ tsp mustard seeds
3-4 tbsp coconut masala paste (masalyache khobre)
1 tbsp oil
Salt to taste

Method -
1. Soak the kala chana in warm water overnight. Drain the water and transfer the chana to a clean muslin cloth. Cover them with the cloth loosely and keep the cloth moist. The chana will sprout within a day or two. Now soak the sprouted chana in warm water and de- skin them. 
2. Cook the deskinned chana with chopped onions, cashewnuts and some water in the pressure cooker.
3. Heat oil in a pan/ kadai. Add some mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, add the hing.
4. Now add the cooked kala channa, red chilli powder, garam/ goda masala and cook for sometime.
5. Add salt, tamarind paste and jaggery and mix together.
6. Add the coconut masala to this and let the sal simmer for 5-10 min.
7. Serve with rice, bhakri or chapatti.

This goes to Suma's 'Delicious Dals from India' event and Susan's 'My Legume Love Affair (MLLA)' event.

Goda Masala

This is an authentic Maharashtrian spice mixture. It adds a nice unique flavor to curries, dals and rice preparations and any Mahasrashtrian dish is incomplete without the addition of this masala. Luckily for me, my mom prepares this for me. I bring back a big batch to last me for atleast a year every time I go to India. It has pretty much all the regular spices and dried coconut which are slowly roasted in a pan and then pounded into a fine powder. The secret lies in the proportions and I'm sure every family has their own proportions and procedure of making this masala which gives a slightly different taste.

Ingredients -
1/2 kg coriander seeds
1/4 Kg dried coconut (@ 1/2 dried coconut)
2 tsp cloves
1 tsp asafoetida/ Hing
1/2 cup turmeric powder
1/2 cup red chilli powder (as per ur choice)
1 handful tej Patta/ tamal patra
1 cup white sesame seeds
1 handful dagad phool
1 tsp kesar
1/2 cup cumin seeds
4 tsp shahi jeera
6 -7 finger length of cinammom
3 tsp pepper black
1 tsp methi/ fenugreek seeds

Method -
1. Roast all the above ingredients in a kadai on low flame with very little oil.
2. Let the mixture become luke warm. Then grind the spices in a blender into a fine powder.

Masalyache Khobre - Coconut Masala Paste

This is a traditional coastal Maharashtrian masala paste which is used in many authentic veg and non- veg dishes. This masala can be stored in the freezer for more than a month.
Ingredients -
1 cup thinly sliced onions
1 cup dried grated coconut
6 -8 peppercorns
6-8 cloves
6-8 cinnamon pieces
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tbsp poppy seeds
1-2 tbsps oil

Method -
1. In a pan, heat 1 tbsp oil. Add the peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon and coriander seeds and roast it on very low heat for sometime till you starting getting a nice aroma of these spices.
2. Add poppy seeds and roast for sometime. Then add sliced onions and fry till the onions turn golden brown.
3. Add the dried coconut and roast till the coconut turns golden brown.
4. Cool the mixture and grind it into a smooth paste with very little water in your blender.
5. This masala can be stored in the freezer for more than a month .

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lemon Bundt Cake

My ultimate baking goal for 2009 was to bake a variety of delicious cakes for Swara's monthly birthdays and also gradually master the art of cake decorating. While I had successfully completed Wilton's course 1, I wanted to practice cake decorating using different tips before I registered for Course 2. I also wanted to spend some time trying out some traditional coffee cake recipes. While I was hunting for a cake recipe to bake for Swara's 8 th month B'day, I came across this lemon bundt cake recipe in my 'The Cook's Encyclopedia of Baking' book. This is a ring shaped coffee cake that’s baked in the traditional bundt pan. I was having a hard time finding a reasonably priced bundt pan. But after looking around for sometime, I finally found the best looking bundt pan at Marshalls and at less than $10, I think it was quite a bargain. Anyways, back to the cake.
This is certainly a laborious cake to make especially if you don’t have a kitchen aid and are relying on a hand blender. The cake requires beating the egg whites till they form hard peaks and is very time consuming. But it was worth the effort, as the cake turned out to be very delicious and moist. The lemon zest and lemon glaze gave it a very refreshing taste. This is a perfect cake to have with a cup of coffee.

Serves 12
Ingredients -
1 cup (2 sticks) butter, at room temperature
11/2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs, at room temperature, separated
2 tsps grated lemon rind
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
1 cup plain yogurt
2 cups flour
2 tsps baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup confectioners sugar
2 tbsps fresh lemon juice
3-4 tbsps plain yogurt
Method -
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease a 12 cup bundt or tube pan and dust with flour.
2. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and granulated sugar until light and fluffy. Add the egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition.
3. Add the lemon rind, juice and yogurt and stir to blend.
4. Sift together the flour, baking powder and baking soda. Set aside. In another bowl, beat the egg whites and salt until they hold stiff peaks.
5. Fold the dry ingredients into the butter mixture, the fold in a dollop of egg whites. Fold in the remaining whites until blended.
6. Pour into the pan and bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 50 mins. Let stand 15 mins, then unmold and transfer to a cooling rack.
7. For the glaze, sift the confectionary sugar into a bowl. Stir in the lemon juice and just enough yogurt to make a smooth glaze.
8. Set the cooled cake on a rack over a sheet of wax paper or a baking sheet. Pour over the glaze and let it drip down the sides. Allow the glaze to set before serving.

Mango Bread

It is almost summer and fresh mangoes have started to show up in the grocery stores. While I was browsing through my baking books, I came across this mango bread in the 'The Cook's Encyclopedia of Baking' book. In the past, I have baked several cakes from this book and they have all turned out delicious so I confidently went ahead and gave it a try. This is a simple quick bread where in some chopped mangoes, shredded coconut and raisins are gently folded in the batter. Some shredded coconut is also sprinkled on the top once the batter is transferred into the loaf pan. The bread turned out to be very moist and delicious. It was not too sweet and had a nice flavor of the mangoes and toasted coconut. A couple of slices of this bread would be perfect for a quick breakfast on weekdays

Ingredients -
2 cups flour
2 tsps baking soda
2 tsps ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup margarine, at room temperature
3 eggs, at room temperature
11/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 cups chopped ripe mangoes (about 2 mangoes)
3/4 cup shredded coconut
1/2 cup raisins

Method -
1. Preheat the oven to 350F. Line the bottom and sides of 2- 9 X 5 inch loaf pans with wax paper and grease. I used 1- loaf pan and 2 mini bundt pans.
2. Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Set aside.
3. With an electric mixer, cream the margarine until soft.
4. Beat in the eggs and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the oil.
5. Fold the dry ingredients into the creamed ingredients in 3 batches.
6. Fold in the mangoes, 1/2 cup of the coconut and the raisins.
7. Spoon the batter into the pans.
8. Sprinkle over the remaining coconut. Bake until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean, 50-60 minutes. Let stand for 10 minutes before transferring to a rack to cool completely.

This is my entry for BreadBakingDay #29 - Bread in Pots event started by Zorra.
I'm also sending this to Mango Mood event hosted by 'Food N More'.