Tuesday, December 29, 2009

My Best This Year

At the top of the keyword list today is 'www.how to prepare cauliflower gurma.com'.

Another amusing one is 'soup counter in kolkata'.

Yet another is "not into electronic gadgets".

The best of 2009 was when I hit upon the idea of paying my blog's vital statistics more attention. This did not result in any improvement in the numbers visiting my blog, but became a source of amusement for me and later, my readers, when I began writing about how people landed on my blog.

Here's the post that started this series. It's been missing for a while, but I'll bring it back.

Some other mad moments came a few weeks earlier. I intended to fill uncertain silences with something like this, but didn't do it, somehow. I hope to do so in 2010.

Then there was some musing, which seemed to touch a chord.

A carrotty post in which I had a brainwave to use orange wherever carrot was mentioned. And a similar, pink post where I invented Beetermilk Soup, which had many of you wondering if I came out of the proverbial (well, not really) facility that also processes nuts and muttering 'What will she think of next?'

There was an eventful anniversary that was hailed as a good experiment. Only a few takers, but I'm still in love with myself for having the idea!

There was a short-lived baking binge and hopefully, a slimmer me!

This post is off to one of the best.

See you all in the new year - make the most of the rest of this one!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Bean There, Will Keep Doin' Dat!

Neither the Spouse nor I consume tea or coffee. Not stocking them has landed me in many a sheepish moment. I try to keep packets of instant coffee but mysteriously, they disappear just when my guests arrive. I've even had the guests looking at me very expectantly in the morning, only to be told that the darn things seem to have gone AWOL, and would they please adjust. For some, I've got coffee and tea from the pavement squatting stall outside my house. Finally, last year my mother arrived with a coffee filter, powder and the works when my aunt and her family came here to visit - after that, the bright steel of it lights up the dark interiors of the shelf it's been stored in. I periodically take it apart, reassure myself I know how to make it work, and put it back in.

I have gotten better at this over time, but this time, history repeated itself again with most of the packs doing a disappearing act by the time Uncle and Cousins halted at my place en route to their home. On the way back home from an outing, Cousin Sr reminded me that we needed more coffee for the next day and we stopped at one of our old haunts, a convenience store at a petrol bunk, to buy some.

This story is not about coffee or tea.

At the store, I saw some notices about 'farm-fresh' vegetables being sold there and could feel a cynical expression making its way across my face but suck itself back in at the sight of some shiny green broad beans. It was past 10 p.m. but they were still holding up pretty well, I thought, when I inspected them at close quarters, and decided to buy two packets.

Yesterday, I took the trouble to plough through my many cookbooks for a recipe and came up with this. It was a winner, all I need to do to keep making this is to find broad beans, or something like them, again and again and again.

Here's how you make it:
Broad beans/hyacinth beans/chikkudukayalu: 250 gm, stringed and chopped
Sesame seed: 1 cup/100 gm

Salt: To taste
Turmeric: A pinch

Dry red chilli: 5 (I used some red chilli flakes that I had.)
Mustard seed: 1/2 tsp
Skinned and hulled black gram/urad dal: 1 tsp
Gram/Channa dal: 2 tsp
Cumin seed: 1/4 tsp
Oil: 2-3 tbsp

Microwave (for 2-3 minutes) or parboil the beans with some salt and turmeric. Drain them of water.

Roast the sesame well, cool and powder.
*** I think cooling is important, to minimise the bitterness they can produce. I powdered them in one short burst at maximum speed for the same reason.

Heat the oil, add the mustard, red chilli and the rest of the ingredients under Tempering.

Add the beans, mix well, fry a couple of minutes, cover and cook till softer on low heat. You can add a little water if you're afraid of the pan getting scorched.

Now remove the lid, make sure there's no water left, add the sesame seed powder and mix well.

Goes great with curds.

Off this goes to MLLA-18, hosted by Srivalli this month for Susan.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Oranges & Lemons, Cakewise

Two cakes later, the cake-making bug seems to have departed as suddenly as it arrived. There will be at least one more cake before the flour runs out but the desire, it seems, is dead. Disabusing the baker of the confidence gained from previous 'experience', the second cake was no less time-consuming than the first. More protracted, in fact, because experienced baker decided to try her hand at icing.

I like this baker, she doesn't settle for beginner's lessons when she starts something. She forges ahead with much aplomb and little humility, sets her sights high. She is only a little worried about failure; it can always find refuge in willing colleagues or a trifle pudding, not just a dustbin. (Actually, this is the second time the baker is baking this cake, the first time was at least four years ago.)

Happily, however, this cake rose to the occasion. The icing - which, in a case of arrested development, stopped at glaze, that too with much persistence - improved it much. It masked the mild bitterness the cake exhibited when eaten bare.

When Cousin asked what cake this was on reaching home after a long, transcontinental journey at 2 a m, she was told it was 'Bitter Orange Cake' to preempt disappointment, but Cousin, whose tastes proved to be catholic and who disagreed that we are too fond of food for our own good and called food a work of art, proceeded to actively appreciate the art. (Cousin, if you discover this post and identify yourself, please note that your cousin-the-blogger is using the literary device of exaggeration.)

The cake travelled home to family with Cousins and Uncle the next day, where it was much appreciated. Aunt Jr wants the recipe. Aunt Sr returned the container despite the baker hoping she had seen the last of it (it would help her in Mission De-clutter), saying her hope was that it would return with more cake. Till such time, here's the recipe.

Whole Orange Cake With Citrus Icing - taken from here:

Whole oranges: 240 gm (2 in my case)
Butter: 200 gm, melted
Eggs: 3, beaten lightly
Caster sugar: 1 cup/220 gm (I powdered ordinary sugar in my blender.)
Self-raising flour: 225 gm (For each cup of all-purpose flour, add 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/2 teaspoon of salt - this is what I did.)

Citrus Icing
Lime: 2
Orange: 1, small
Icing sugar: 1 cup
Boiling water: 1 tsp

Preheat the oven to moderate (180°C/160°C fan-forced). Grease a deep 20cm cake pan, line base with baking paper. (I greased a diamond-shaped pan that I had, and I didn't have baking paper.)

Wash and dry the oranges; quarter and remove seeds. Process in a small food processor until pulpy.

Transfer orange to a medium bowl, stir in butter, eggs, sugar and sifted flour until smooth. Pour mixture into the pan. Bake in a moderate oven for about 50 minutes or until cooked when tested with knife, skewer or tester. Stand for 10 minutes before turning onto a wire rack to cool.

Icing: Using a zester, remove bits of rind from lime and orange - two teaspoons of each.

Squeeze juice from fruit - two teaspoons each orange juice and lemon juice.

Sift icing sugar into a bowl; stir in juices and enough water to make a smooth paste. Stir in rind.

Pour icing immediately over cake; stand until set.

Original recipe says: "Un-iced cake suitable to freeze. Butter suitable to microwave."

This is off to Divya's Show Me Your Cake event.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Making Grey Colourful

It's a mystifying name to an person like me with no special knowledge of a language's etymology. Vankai Bajji is mashed brinjal, in a language where 'bajji'usually denotes a vegetable coated in batter and deep-fried. Perhaps it borrows from 'bhaji', which means a vegetable preparation? What it actually is, is a 'bharta', but a rather unorthodox one, influenced by idle musings on Mediterranean cuisine, a need to put two fat brinjals to use and not have to use much oil in the process.

The brinjal is roasted. The rest of it is all raw. The traditional bajji is made by adding tamarind extract, jaggery and chopped green chillies to the peeled and mashed brinjal (after due checks for any worms that might have suffocated to death). You can temper it if you like.

I didn't intend mine to have any tamarind, I was curious to see how it would taste with lime juice and the old, hard limes drying in the refrigerator came in handy. The knob on my grinder was set to maximum from a previous whizzing, and my mash turned into a homogeneous paste. To give it texture, I added some raw onion (also a component of its traditional cousin) and some red capsicum/pepper, just to be contrary.

I almost didn't want to taste it myself after that step, but I told myself not to be a coward, and went ahead, and I couldn't stop. The red capsicum added not only some crunch but a crisp, fresh, taste, and with the onion, a hint of sweetness. I even smeared it on a khakhra and had it for a snack.

Here's how you go about it:

'Giant' brinjals/aubergine/eggplant: 2 (to make about 2-2.5 cups of pulp)
Garlic: 6-8 cloves, peeled
Green chillies: 4-5, slit
Lime juice: 2-3 tsp
Red capsicum/pepper: 1, chopped
Onion: 1/2-3/4 cup, chopped
Oil: 2 tsp - to smear the brinjal, roast the green chillies and to temper
Mustard seed: 1 tsp
Cumin: 1/2 tsp
Split and hulled urad dal: 1-2 tsp
Salt: To taste
Coriander: To garnish liberally

Coat the brinjals with just a little oil and roast them on the burner till they are charred all over. (I have some kind of a perforated plate on which I place the brinjals so that the skin doesn't clog the holes on the burner. Alternatively, you can grill them too.)

Let them cool down and peel them or put them under the tap - the skin will come away easily. Discard the skin.

Roast the green chillies in some of the oil.

Check for worms and if you find some, decide whether you feel like continuing with the whole thing. If you're not gonna let some spoilsport worms get the better of you, continue reading.

Put the brinjal flesh, salt, green chillies and garlic in the grinder and whiz to a smooth paste.

Add the lime juice, red capsicum and raw onion.

Heat the remaining oil and temper the mustard seed, cumin and urad dal in it, in that order. When the dal begins to turn brown, turn off the fire.

Use it as dip, chutney, mix it with curds, or like I did, main meal out of a bowl!

I am sending this off to Kalyn's Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Haalo.

Monday, December 07, 2009

My Legume Love Affair-17 - The Round-Up

A good feast takes days to prepare. Savour this.

If you hit any sour notes, you know where to appeal to me.

Thanks for participating. Bon appetit!

(PS: This is being re-posted.)


"I remember finishing 3 cups/katoris full; had no space in my tummy for dinner that night. I got the complicated recipe from him and tweaked it a tad to make it simpler."

"Yes, I cooked exactly a year ago when I found those fresh cranberries. I cooked with dhal, clicked, downloaded in my hard drive and saved carefully under “unblogged” file. And forgot forever until I saw some fresh berries."

"We had ours with some steamed brown rice. This may be served over noodles too."

"As far as I'm concerned, a sunny afternoon in my conservatory sipping on some chilled white wine and shelling a bag of peas is an afternoon well-spent."

"With this post I commemorate a recipe that has become a favorite in the last year or two. It just came together one day when I needed a quick and satisfying solo meal."

"The estimate serves two or one depending on your greed ;).Oh, ok, a little part also goes to MLLA #17."

"Though I get loads of varieties at the farmers market and the fact that it is very inexpensive,I wanted to make them at home for a change."

"Each time I go there,I can see the lady at the tofu stand look at me. Sometimes I think she is just looking at me as I am the only 'foreigner lady' in that locality, sometimes I would feel she is looking at me amused ..."

"A long time back, I used to be a part of Indian food discussion forum, then called forumhub. One of the active members there had a recipe called 'Methiwale kabuli chole - Rajasthani style'..."

"I used brown rice tortilla which is gluten-free and whole grain, and used kidney bean, onions, green pepper and some firm tomatoes. This is just not a snack, but is a very kid-friendly lunch box dish."

"Enjoy this guilt free snack any time of the day!"

"I'm sending off a big helping of this delicious sausage and beans to ..."

"Ever since I read the recipe three weeks ago, I have been tweaking it and trying it out every few days. What I have not done is stop eating them."

"These are so popular there that in Bangalore a place where these are sold abundantly is called 'Avarekalu square'. You can see many women sitting there separating the beans from the pods and selling them on the roadside.

"I harvested many of them - using gauntlets - and I used them for these fritters."

"Paired with some mildly sweet Gujarati Khadi and potato chips, this made for an amazing dinner."

"Masoor dal is know for its quick cooking, whereas turai for its slow cooking ... and a combo of these two will be perfect to relish..."

"When we were at granny’s place during winter vacation, hot and spicy food used to top the menu card for the days. ... Simple, creamy and delectable medley of dal with onion and ginger-garlic paste gives an aromatic flavour to the recipe."

"I really liked it a lot, it can be served as a main entrance or as a salad. Pay attention to cooking time, very fast to keep vegetables fresh and crispy."

"As I chatted with mom on the phone about the recipe she informed that my Nani would add a little yoghurt while cooking and I could imagine how that would be good. Who knows what else she omitted to tell me!"

"Cook pre-soaked Navy Beans in water with three or four smashed garlic cloves, a bay leaf and salt, until tender. Drain off any water and cool ..."

Winter squash soups are a healthy and economical way to comfort and nourish the body and soul during the long cold months ahead. Serve with a whole grain for a complete and wholesome vegetarian meal.

"I know, greens when deep fried lose all their good qualities but forgive me for this occasional indulgence."

"There is such a variety of dishes in the book. I have made a few recipes and every time loved it. And this is one of those recipes from the book."

"This curry 'misal' is very famous in Maharashtra. It is 'layman's' food."

"The nutty beans and the soft squash, you have to experience it. The trick though is not to overcook the beans. But that is never a problem with cow peas."

"She is a very happy person when we get her a bag of fresh peanuts. She enjoys eating them even now, 'coz it's her childhood days she cherishes every time she pops one."

"Do not buy shelled mochai from vegetable market as it may not be fresh; buy mochai pods and shell it at home even if it takes some time to do it."

"Mysore bonda is famous in the recipe list of Karnataka special dishes, especially of Mysore. The traditional recipe uses a blend of split black lentils and spices."

"This chutney is heavily influenced by Maharashtrian cuisine and it uses peanuts as its main ingredient instead of coconut."

"In the past I have tried different varieties trying to come out with the perfect masala for the curry and finally I have come to realise that the best masala is the store-bought."

"I believe my Maa makes the best one in this world. She always gets it perfectly boiled … soft but every grain separate from each other."

"If someone were to roam in the busy streets of Bhendi Bazaar in Bombay, they are sure to find several small stalls selling chana bateta."

"Every bite of this tasty curry made me wish my parents were here with us to share this simple yet absolutely and delightfully tasty curry."

"I love chickpeas. When I saw Sarah Naveen’s kadala curry, I was tempted to try it and my family finished it up for dinner yesterday. I made a few changes according to my family's tastebuds."

"This is a famous tiffin in Andhra Pradesh. A crispy thick pancake ... These rottis don't need any fermentation."

"Three types of lentils: puy, brown and green lentils in soak with garlic and bay leaf. The lentils look quite pretty like polished pebbles."

"This bhaath asks for cooking the vegetable (palya) separately first with extra oil, masala and salt and then mixing it with the rice."

"Her curries used to be hot and had that rustic taste. She would make me stand next to her and ask me to watch while she made the masala. When I decided to make these broad beans, I was reminded of how Alka used to make the masala."

"The only place for those spring onions was the bin and the beans weren't enough to cook as one dish."

The yellow coloured moongdal is the skinned and split moong bean. It's one of the quickest-cooking beans and needs no pre-soaking or a pressure cooker."

"Not sure what directed my thoughts towards lenticchie while considering solutions for my day-after dilemma, but once that happened, I did not stop until the pairing of the little legumes with my leftovers was a reality held in a bowl."

"I rarely muster courage to ask for the recipe. The one time I do, all I get is the most vague response ..."

"People who loves oats or hate coconut in their gravies can try out this combination for making kootus or curries."

"After a month of Indian daals, spinach soup and tofu salad, I had to find innovative new ways to cook these for my food lust."

"Quick laddoos with simple ingredients which taste fantastic for snacks or for festivals ...I enjoyed preparing these delicious laddoos."

"I wanted to try making kebabs and started out with the ingredients needed for a veggie-nut-kebab. Then it struck me that I didn't have the iron kebab skewers and that we ran out of bamboo skewers also ..."

"Two months back, I froze some white channa, rajma,black-eyed peas, black beans,double beans,kala channa,dry green peas, ... cutlets with raw banana"

"Like malt vinegar, mushy peas remind me of fish and chips. When my friend made this Mushy Fava (Broad) Beans dish, fish and chips just came to mind."

"Smoked hocks are my favourite, simmered in stews to impart a sensuously deep and lingering kiss."

"I fast on Tuesdays and it's one meal in the evening. So whatever I cook on Tuesday evenings for prasad/naivedya has to be sattvic food."

"This recipe is from a recent issue of Vegetarian Times. Here's how I made it ..."

"With pleasant weather and an urge to make one among the many of my comfort foods, I set about doing just that ..."

"One hot, humid day, I forgot to grind my soaked moong dal rice mix and it sat on the counter the whole day. The next day I found my whole moong was sprouting tiny buds."

"This soup is deceptively hearty. It looks and even tastes a little like a butternut squash bisque."

"These are to be finished fast after they are cooked as they turn very chewy otherwise."

"Go to any traditional celebration like a wedding or an upanayanam in Chennai - you are bound to be greeted by the famous paruppusili, staring at you from the vaazha yelai (banana leaf)."

"If you're looking for something that'll wake up your taste buds and give your gastric juices a kick, then this is what you need."

"I’ve been keeping Mac ‘n Cheese with Chili a secret from you for some time. Mainly because it’s so so simple that I was embarrassed to share it with you. And it involves a box and a can."

"Cholar Dal is the dal with uber arrogance. It is a bit of a snob, not the kind you would like to come home to every day but the kind you would like to glamorize your dining table with when you have company."

"It is called Kadala Curry, meaning Lentil Curry, which is a big misnomer."

"I stumbled upon one lone packet of shelled peas while marketing for Thanksgiving produce. Among the rutabagas, yams, and green beans, they looked like foundlings in need of a good home. So I adopted them."

"Fall is my favorite season of the year. One reason is that the colder temperatures make me want to make a lot of soups and stews."

"Now add the chenna dhal, salt and a cup of water and bring it to a boil."

And finally, my post - Lendills, here.

The winner is Muskaan of A2ZVegetarian Cuisine. Congratulations! I used an online random integer generator - screenshot below.

Srivalli is hosting MLLA-18 for December.