Sunday, July 29, 2007

Sunshine, And A Bird

I didn’t really intend to post this dish, considering it was just a variation of this, but a few stray photos made me decide otherwise. The colour was so pleasing - all orange and yellow, just like the pictures and photos we see of sunshine - I couldn’t let it go.

Here’s how you make it:

Baby potatoes, scrubbed, halved – 200 gm
Curds/Yoghurt – 1 cup (and a little more, if you want)
Carrots (tiny, scrawny) – 5, cut into eighths
Ginger – garlic paste: 1 tbsp
Onion – 1 big, chopped
Tomato – 2 medium, quartered
Red chilli powder – 1 tsp
Turmeric – ½ a tsp
Salt – to taste
Bay leaves – 2
Garam masala/Curry powder – 1 -2 tsp
Coriander/cilantro – to garnish

Beat the curds. Mix potatoes, carrots, curds, salt, ginger-garlic paste, onion, chilli and turmeric. Let it keep for an hour.

Then, heat half a cup of water in the pressure cooker/pan. Add tomatoes and bay leaves. Cook till the tomatoes are soft.

Add the potato mixture, close the pressure cooker, and once the steam emerges from the vent, put the weight on it. After it hisses once, put it on simmer and cook for about 10 minutes.

*The cooker will hiss a couple of times but don’t switch it off in a hurry. (For those using pans, I would recommend a little more water and simmering the dish with a lid on.)

Once the steam escapes on its own (without you fiddling with the weight), remove the weight, check the consistency of the gravy and cook down till it’s as thick as you like.
*You can crush a few pieces of the potato in the gravy to thicken it.

Finally, add the curry powder. Check the seasoning and adjust it to your taste.

Finish off with a garnish of coriander leaves. Goes well with rice and breads.

This dish had a mildly sweetish taste, maybe from a combination of the fresh curds, the onion and the carrot. I didn’t intend it to, but there it was! Neither The Spouse nor The Cousin found any proof in it of them being guinea pigs in an oil-free experiment but simply lapped it up!

For the non-vegetarians, there’s a bonus in today’s post. It’s Herby Fried Chicken! You can use green chillies, coriander and mint or just the two herbs or just coriander without the green chillies, or just the mint, or … well, you get the drift.

Chicken, cut into medium-sized pieces – 1 kilo
Onions – 3 big, chopped
Coriander/cilantro – chopped, 1 cup
Ginger-garlic paste – 2 tbsp
Salt, to taste
Turmeric – 1 tsp
Chilli powder – 1-1/2 tsp
Garam masala/curry powder – 2 tsp
Oil – 2 tbsp

Smear the chicken pieces with the ginger-garlic paste, salt, chilli powder and 1 tsp of curry powder.

Place the chicken in a pan and boil it – you won’t need to add any water, but if you fear it will stick to the pan, you can add some.

Halfway through the boiling, start frying the onion in another pan, on a slow fire. Let them brown.

Add the chillies and some of the herbs now, if you’re using them.

Once the chicken’s boiled (it took about 15 minutes) and there’s no water left in it, transfer it to the other pan containing the onion. (Of course, the onion have to have fried well by now, and it’s still a slow fire.)

Mix the chicken and onion well, fry for a few minutes and leave it alone, just checking now and then to see that it doesn’t burn. The chicken gets darker and crispier the longer it stays.

Finish off with a sprinkling of the rest of the herbs, the rest of the curry powder, stir once more and take it off the heat. The crisped onions and herbs make a great mix with the rice but in one of those quirky twists of taste, The Spouse likes to savour this with tomato sauce!

I’m sending these dishes off to Kalyn’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Anna of Anna’s Cool Finds.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Garlicky Spuds a la Mode

There, the escape clause is in the French. Lazy me doesn’t know the principle nor the reasons why I need to bake them this way instead of directly, so she adds a smart phrase in the title to deflect the questions. Nor does lazy me adhere to quantities, but just throws in whatever she has, into whatever she has (large pan, small pan, whatever).

All I know is that I followed a recipe and the potatoes didn’t bake a whit. So I boiled some water, let the potatoes play around for 5-7 minutes, then transferred them to a greased bowl, put in a couple of spoons of butter, a couple of spoons of olive oil, some salt and fresh cracked pepper, studded some pods and cloves of garlic into them and baked them on 180 C for 20 minutes. Then when I noticed it was time to get going, I tossed them around with a ladle, increased the heat to 200 C and let them bake away till the most pleasant aroma filled the house. I then switched it off, popped as much garlic as I could out of its skin before I could stash it away for dinner, and went on my way.

This is a simple dish to make when you have some time, say about 40 minutes. If the potatoes are dirty, you need to scrub them, of course. But I find it worth the effort. I love them all wrinkled and soft when they are ready, the salt and the pepper not quite crust but somewhat crumbly when you sort of mop the bland spud against the seasoning that’s baked in the butter-oil mixture in the pan.

So here’s the recipe:

One lazy cook
Some baby potatoes, scrubbed, not peeled
Some garlic pods/cloves or both
Salt, to taste
Pepper, cracked, to taste
Butter, to grease baking dish + some more
Olive oil, a couple of spoons

Boil lots of water in a pan that's big enough.

Boil the potatoes for five minutes. They should be firm and hard, but not totally raw.

In greased baking dish, place potatoes and garlic. Add butter, oil, seasoning, mix well.

Bake in a pre-heated oven at 180 or 200 C, turning after 20 minutes.

Makes a nice snack. While the potatoes are quite bland, the garlic is lovely. It slides out of its skin in one fluid, clean movement, and goes down like velvet. Enjoy!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Tomato - A Rediscovery, & Egg Drop Curry

Does it happen with you that some dishes are so common, once so much a part of your life, so taken for granted that for stretches of time, years even, you go without them, preferring to spend that time and energy in making other things to eat?

It does, with me, and the tomato curry I have here, a childhood staple, happened by chance and not by design. This week has not been one of my best, what with inspiration for the blog not striking, my sofa covers not being delivered on time (“This is the 21st century, you know, Mr Draper, women don’t sit at home waiting for curtains and sofa covers, they go to work, how would you feel if I didn’t pay your bill for the next two weeks?”), the gas cylinder not being delivered on time (“Madam, you booked it on the 10th, it still has not come?” “No, Madam, I booked it only on the 15th and this is only the second reminder, but yes, it still has not come.”), and various other irritants small and smaller. But somehow, I was feeling sunny this Sunday morning — The Spouse had brought stuff for Sunday lunch, and we had planned various things and things were going along swimmingly when we couldn’t find the curry powder and things went rapidly downhill after that.

One of the dishes I had planned was tomato egg-drop curry but after methi dal, the hunt high and low for the garam masala, and the tomato gravy, I suddenly found myself devoid of the energy to crack a few eggs into it. Well, I had to go back from the kitchen to the fridge, open the door, collect the eggs and carry them gingerly back to the kitchen and crack them one by one into the gravy, didn’t I? Nah, too much energy to expend, and I had to go out and shop a bit for the next week, go to the library to see if there were any Harry Potter copies left over (fat chance, so perish the thought) and voila, the tomato curry became a moment of rediscovery!

Not that I hadn’t tried to whip up this on occasion, but I would only be faced with tired old tomato mush, the skins curling up and coming apart, more brownish than red, but today (and this past week, actually, when I had tried the egg-drop curry), I realised the trick to this curry is to add a lot of water, finely chopped onions, and cooking for a long time! (Read about another tomato-ey rediscovery here.)

This is a curry/gravy tailor made for puris and chapattis, tastes great with rice too, and can be the base for several curries. In my home, a favourite variation was to add peeled, diced potatoes to it.

This is an as-you-like-it curry, vary the proportions as per availability and taste, experiment till you arrive at the version you like. This recipe is just a guideline:

Tomatoes: ½ a kilo/ 7 medium, chopped
Onion: 1 small, minced
Ginger-garlic paste: 1 tsp
Cumin seed: 1 tsp
Turmeric: A pinch
Red chilli powder: 1 tsp
Salt: to taste
Curry powder: 1 tsp
Oil: ½ tsp
Water: (Please see recipe)
Curds/Yoghurt: 2 tbsp, beaten

A frying pan with a lid

1. Heat oil in a pan, add cumin seeds.

2. Add onion, saute till transparent.

3. Add the ginger-garlic paste, fry for two minutes.

4. Add the turmeric, chilli powder, salt and the curry powder. Mix well.

5. Now add the tomatoes, mix well with the spices.

6. Add some water, enough to cover the tomatoes.

7. Cover the pan and let the mixture cook on medium heat for more than five minutes. (Keep checking to see that it doesn’t dry out and stick to the pan.)

8. If it’s boiling well and has a nice and healthy volume, gently mash the tomatoes with the ladle. If they mash easily, the curry’s done. If you feel the volume isn’t enough, add a little more water, and simmer. Keep checking for the consistency of your choice – I like it thick.

9. Once you take it off the fire, add the curds to the curry. Do you see the several yellow specks in the curry? That’s the curds, which makes it all tangy and nice. Now fry some hot, calorific puris, dip them into this curry and taste heaven!

I'll post a picture later of the tomato egg-drop curry I made sometime ago, but here's how you make it.

For this, at Step 8, when you have a thick gravy, turn the heat down to simmer, crack a few eggs into it (as many as you think the gravy will hold), cover it and let them set. Resist the temptation to poke the eggs or ensure that the curry covers the eggs – if you are worried that the spices may not reach the top of the egg, sprinkle a little salt on the tops. (In that case, make sure you put in less salt in the gravy earlier.) Here's another variation.

I'm sending this off to Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by The Chocolate Lady of In Mol Araan.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Me, At Random


That’s me.


It was a certain boredom that drew me into cuisine’s fold. A break of several months between an MA and an M. Phil found me discovering a few cookbooks lying around the house and trying my hand at the recipes.
Seeing my enthusiasm, my father repaired an old oven that his sister had owned. I only made ‘high-class’ foods – cakes, puddings and such. Who was interested in rice and dal? Certainly not me!
The folks at home were anything but thrilled – my grandparents thought I was wasting my time but were reluctantly indulgent and my mother always feared the mess that would confront her later in the kitchen.
There were other successes but what stood out was a savarin that rose splendidly and soaked up the syrup brilliantly.


A friend told me I was considered a snob, and someone who didn’t offer acquaintances more than a reserved smile. I was overjoyed! For someone who is beset with doubts about whether she’s being over-friendly and eager to please, this was reassurance.


In Standard I, a classmate told my cousin and me the secret of making rubber. Here it is: Scribble something with a pencil on a piece of paper, then erase it really hard with an eraser. Gather those grey bits that come off the paper, mix them with wood shavings that come from sharpening pencils, put them into some milk and refrigerate overnight. The rubber will be ready in the morning. (No, I don’t know whether the milk was to be boiled or left raw.)
I still remember the light of the fridge underlining the disgusted look on my grandmother’s face as she opened it to put in not one but two cups of this formula!


Years ago, a friend insisted I taste the delicious tea at an Irani café deep in Secunderabad. Though I didn’t drink tea and wasn’t used to it, had no standards to judge it by, I acquiesced because her enthusiasm was infectious.
There we were finally, getting off my bike after a long ride through the city and going into this dingy little café with blue-green walls on a dark and cold evening, full of men staring at us as if we had come off an alien spaceship! I don’t remember the taste anymore, but my friend does. That was an adventure!


I am not good at repartee. My presence of mind is absent. So it was a notable victory when someone tried to do me out of the computer I routinely used for that hour of class. She refused to yield it to me. “I’ll continue to practise on this machine, but come, use this,” she said, patting the seat next to her, “it’s very good.” “If that is so good, why don’t you use it yourself?” I asked her, riled by her manner. Scowling, she picked up her stuff and huffed out and away. Petty, maybe, but I was oh so thrilled that I could retort as I had!


I had to attend a conference and report on the proceedings. At the end of it, I was depressed – I didn’t understand what the point of the meeting was. Why didn't I get it, had I chosen the right profession, should I consider doing something else, how would I handle bigger challenges?
Slowly, I picked myself out of my seat and made my way out. There were two very senior and accomplished colleagues there, one younger than the other.
The younger man asks, with a totally bewildered expression on his face, “But what was the conference about?” And the older man bursts into laughter … I’ve even forgotten his reply but gathered he didn’t think much of it either, but needless to say, that boosted my morale no end!

Thank you, Sunita and Sharmi, for tagging me. I read somewhere that one's required to say seven things about themselves and tag seven others. Most people I know have been tagged. I’m tagging Santhi of Writing on the Mirror, Pooja of My Creative Ideas, Sreelu of Sreelu's Tasty Travels, Prema of My Cookbook and Jyothi of Andhra Spicy for this meme. Only if you're interested, of course, but I'd love to know more about you.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Mixed Up Fare

This was a post written with a lot of reservations, hence that title! I thought the picture of the mutton curry looked too red and chunky, the picture of the vegetarian dish too undistinguishable, but put it down to addiction to blogging, and hey presto, it becomes a post, deserving or not!

The vegetarian dish further below was an attempt at cleaning out my pantry – it’s made of whole green gram/moong that is at least two years old. Miraculously, it didn’t attract any life forms so I used it to make something called ‘siriyali’ that I found in a Telugu cookbook written by Ms J. Kanthamani. More about that later, on to the curry.

Nigella is a spice I love and use mostly in Bengali dishes, but over the years, have begun using it in others too. In the mutton curry, I threw in a teaspoon of nigella on an impulse and it made all the difference to this dish which didn’t have curry powder or other whole spices beyond the basic tastemakers.

Here’s the recipe:

Mutton: 250 – 300 gm (less than 1 lb)
Potatoes, chopped: 2 big (about 1 lb)
Onion, chopped: 2
Ginger-garlic paste: 2 tsp/1 tsp of each
Chilli powder: 1 – 1-1/2 tsp / as per taste
Turmeric: 1 tsp
Salt: To taste
Nigella/kalonji: 1 tsp
Oil: 1 tbsp
Water: upto 3 cups

Coriander/cilantro: for garnish

Note: I made this in a pressure cooker, I’ve never cooked mutton/lamb otherwise because I’ve known it to take ages without one.

Heat oil, add nigella.

Now add the onions, fry till pink-brown.

Then add the ginger-garlic paste, fry well, till you notice some oil around the edges of the mixture.

Now add the meat, saute till well browned.

Add the turmeric, salt and chilli powder. Mix thoroughly.

Now add the potatoes. Saute well.

Add water to cover the contents and a little more.

Close the pressure cooker and wait for the steam to build up.

Once it comes out of the vent, close it with the weight.

Let it whistle once, turn down to simmer and cook for 15 minutes.

After the pressure drops on its own, check for doneness. If the meat isn’t soft enough, add some more water and cook for a little longer in the way described above.

Garnish with coriander.

Now on to the other dish. The original recipe called for hulled yellow moong dal so you could use that if you like, but I’ve no idea of how that would turn out.

Here’s how I adapted it:

Whole green gram/moong beans: 300 gm
Tamarind extract, watery: 4-5 tbsp
Urad dal/hulled black gram: 1 tsp
Dry red chillies: 2, broken
Curry leaf: 1 sprig
Chana dal: 1 tsp
Mustard seed: 1 tsp
Oil: 2 tsp
Turmeric: A pinch
Salt: to taste

Soak moong for 2-3 hours, wash well and grind it to a grainy mix.

Steam this in idli plates or in an ordinary vessel for 10-12 minutes. It will set, like a cake.

After it cools, cut it into small pieces, or just crumble it.

In a pan, heat oil, splutter mustard seeds, add black gram, red chillies, chana dal, curry leaf, tamarind extract, turmeric and salt.

Add the crumble/pieces and mix. If you’ve cut it into pieces, don’t mix too much as they can break up.

It’s somewhat like a coarse, green upma, not bad tasting at all! Curds/yoghurt went well with it; so did some lime pickle. Could do for breakfast!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Purple Passion

Monday, July 02, 2007

Value-Added Mix

I’ve mentioned Sambaar Kaaram a couple of times on the blog and also mentioned that it was different from Saambaar Podi. It’s used to flavour vegetable stir-fries and daals, sometimes I’ve used it with tamarind-based gravies and I once even used it with meat when I ran out of chilli powder.

Over the years, I’ve tried finding out why it’s called Sambaar Kaaram but nobody I know could come up with an explanation, only that it doesn’t have anything to do with Saambaar, something that I faithfully repeat every time I refer to it. I haven’t seen any reference to it on the Net either, well, beyond the first 50-60 results that Google threw up, anyway. I suspect this is what is called koora kaaram though the recipes vary in ingredients and proportions.

This kaaram featured in my previous post, where I showed off all my acquisitions from my recent trip home. It attracted the attention of Mathy, who wanted the recipe for this as well as some other kaarams mentioned there. I was able to provide a link to some of them but for this, had to ask my aunt.

It has a great aromatic smell, reminiscent of that of raw mango smeared with salt and chilli powder, which probably comes from the garlic (now figure that out if you can, that’s the irrational romantic in me speaking) but let me tell you this – its uses do not end with flavouring other dishes – it makes a great accompaniment to idlis with ghee! Let your imagination run riot!

Here’s the recipe:

Dry red chillies: 500 gm (remove the stalks)
Coriander seeds: 250 gm
Fenugreek/Methi seeds: 50 gm
Cumin/jeera seeds: 50 gm
Black gram/urad dal: A little less than 50 gm
Salt, to taste
Garlic: to taste

Dry roast the first five ingredients separately.

Let cool, whiz to a powder in the grinder.

Add salt.

Crush garlic roughly, add to the powder and whiz again. Not too much, though!

Store in an airtight container.