Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Pyaj ke pakore / Onion fritters

 "Saar! stop. Stop!"
We were cruising down the wide and almost empty road one late afternoon.
Being Sunday, there was hardly any traffic.
We had some errands to finish. And then decided to have a look around since we were inside the city anyway.
That's when we heard the urgent call. 
We stopped and a policeman walks up to us, signals us to roll down the windows and asks for the licence.
B shows it to him.  Hmmm ... has a long look at it. 
"Road taxaa saar." He says matter of factly.
Road tax?! Why?
"Outside state car saar".
I could see he was a very young man ...with a thin, simple face. 
And immediately realised his motive.
A lonely road on a quiet afternoon. Trying his luck.
Hard luck. This fish was not for his bait.

"Road taxaa saar".
Road tax, to be collected by a traffic constable, was hilarious enough.
I hurriedly hide behind my purse and start to cough vigorously ... desperately trying
to gulp down the laughter
forcing its way up my throat. 
Then B says, with deadpan face, "Touristaa saar".
( B has a knack of picking up languages ... with their accents real quick.  )

 Now he looks flummoxed.
The man and B were looking at each other, both smiling. Yet warring.
Waiting for the other to speak.
Two bikes zoom by. The man turns and has a look.
But decides we are the fatter catch.
After a while, I decide it is best not to antagonise the kid any more.
So pick up the two tickets we had bought for a visit to Tipu Sultan's summer palace close by
... and hand it to him.
He actually scratches his head , looking at them.
And waves us on. 
And I feel sorry for him.
B insists on keeping those two tickets on the dashboard ... just in case another traffic police
 decides to collect road tax again!!
"There is no time or date stamp ... see!"
I don't have the heart to tell him that we will have to be in the vicinity of Tipu Sultan's home to be safe.
 We have always loved to travel and explore new places.
But encounters on a daily basis like these are so new to us that we actually are savouring them.
Especially when we have become language handicapped.

Like, when I asked my help to clean the window sills when cleaning rooms.
And she kept repeating "Daaeeeleee??"
She does not know Hindi. "A little English only."
It was long after she had left that it suddenly struck me ... daily!!!!!

Switching back ...
Among the hosts of things that I miss, after we moved, is the glorious sunlight on my dining table.
These snaps were taken months ago ...
when I was clicking but not posting.
Pulled them out today.
And while I cooked a special mangshor jhol and mishti bhaat lunch for myself,
am posting these for you.
Wonderfully crispy pyaaj ke pakore.

 Nothing much to to to make these golden delights.
I had some left over dal .. who doesn't? ... so used it to make these.

Need :
Left over dal ... if you don't have any,  just use water
Onions - chopped
Green chillies - chopped
Fresh coriander leaves - chopped
Red chilli powder
Oil to deep fry

How to :
Mix everything together, except the oil to make a thick paste.
Heat oil.
Scoop out small balls and deep fry on low heat, till golden brown.

Remove and serve hot with ketchup or chutney.
I love these with a hot cup of adrakwali chai.
And you?

Enjoy! :-)

Sunday, 24 February 2013

Rice & mutton stew / Mutton Pish pash

 Life is on a fast forward mode these days.
A day starts and ends even before I can blink or say 'Yahoo!' ... or so it seems.
Why I'd want to say Yahoo! I don't know ... especially when there's nothing of much import to cheer. 
And neither am I a big fan of the same.
But yes ... flying by the days are.
And the erratic weather keeps me on my toes.
What with the temperatures swinging like a clock's pendulum,
a sniffle here and
 a hynaaaacccho there prevails.
Had the sniffles a few weeks ago and craved some wholesome and hot, spicy yet bland food.
Home cooked hot food .. the perfect soothe for a troubled soul ...
a soul especially tormented by the unpredictable weather of a new place.

 Ever since I've started getting good ... very good mutton, I've been wanting to try out the Anglo Indian dish called Mutton Pish pash.
It is made of rice and lentils along with chicken or mutton pieces stewed together.
Just like a non veg khichuri or khichadi. 
Very light, very healthy.
The sniffles was a perfect sounding board to this wholesome dish.
I admit the mind did picture a bowl of steaming hot and very very spicy Mangshor jhol,
but sense prevailed.
The idea of cooking it from scratch was not exciting enough ....  not then at least.
This dish was so so easy to make.
And absolutely awesome in flavours and taste.
Just the kind of food and cooking I love ... simple yet flavourful ... and very quick to make.

I did not add coriander or mint as the recipe suggests. 
 I had just one lonely piece of whole red chilli  lying in the paanch phoron bottle.
Fished it out and hung on to it tenderly...
they are my photographs'
saving grace , you see.
And used chilli flakes. A good amount of chilli flakes.

And after I had tucked into two whole platefuls of this steaming manna, I knew I was so right
 in not making that mangsho'r jhol.
And the next time I get mutton, I know I am going to make this with half of it.
The rest half will of course belong to that jhol. :-)

 Need :

Garlic - chopped 
Ginger - grated
Salt - to taste
Slices of lemon
Whole black peppercorns
Sliced onion

How to  ( or how I made it ) :

Put the mutton in a big sized pressure cooker along with the onion, black peppercorns,
grated ginger and salt.
Cook on low heat for 2 whistles.
Cool and remove cover.
Add the rice and adjust salt.
Cover and cook for 3 more whistles.
Cool, remove cover and serve hot ... garnished with fried garlic.

To fry the garlic
Heat a little oil and add the garlic and fry till brown.
Keep stirring and add the chilli flakes after the garlic has browned 
and heat has been turned off ... 
or else 
they'll burn real quick.

Do ladle out a good amount of the oil on the stew too ... adds a beautiful flavour.
Have it with a good amount of fresh lemon juice squeezed on it.
I did ... but forgot to add the same to the picture.

I had made a Liver stir fry too ... so had it on the side.
A perfect meal.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Peyaj Koli bhaja / Stir fried onion stalks

 "Maa .. can I have one more cigarette fry?"
"Kakima ... I want some more cigarette fry."
And so on.
Followed by giggles and wink wink smiles and suppressed laughter.
The dining table would be filled with us children of all ages. 
Ma, Kakima, Jethima pottered around ... feeding, supervising, serving food.  
"Mmmhhmmm." One of them would growl.
Another would make big eyes at us ... a sign of "I am angry .. you are about to get a scolding".
We were supposed to be afraid of that look.
But no ...
It was that look and scolding that we looked forward to. 
Proof that we had successfully done something forbidden.

Another round of request. Followed by more giggles. 
"Omon bolte neyi." They would admonish.
"Tora eto beyaadob hoyechis ... Dadu shunte paaben ... chup kor".
Yes ... we would be totally beyaadob ... disrespectful.
And I till date have no idea if Dadu heard us or not.
Considering his room was just in front of the huge dining room ... am sure he did.
 And must have chuckled to himself ... as he always did ... at his grand children's impudence.
And that is the kind of power we felt when we cousins were together.
Do or say something forbidden and enjoy seeing the elders cringe. 

And I guess ... just for that forbidden fun ... we would want more helpings of the veggie ... 
that too one that did not come with fish or chicken wrapped around it.
Have no memory of eating it  up all, too. 

But that is irrelevant.
What I am talking of here is the Peyaj koli bhaja.
Peyaj koli is Onion buds.
The stalks with the buds at the tip are called the Peyaj koli.
And because it holds so much of water, it stays stiff even after stir frying.
So we kids would pick up a piece and pretend it is a cigarette ...
 blowing through the hollow middle, giggling.

Winter brings this fresh vegetable along with it  ... lasts only for around a month 
and then poof ... gone from the markets.
Stir fried with potatoes ... they make a simple but flavourful dish.
To be enjoyed with rotis on winter nights.
Or rice if made for lunch.

Winter nights were biting cold where I have grown up.
And to that I associate the smell of hot rotis off the tawa,
 peyaj koli bhaja 
and hot milk on the side.
Jethima or any one Kakima would have the duty of feeding us dozing kids ... tired after a whole day of pranks and fun.

Like most people, I had to make do with the Spring onions stalks to make any peyaj koli dish.
But this time, I got the real ... real peyaj koli!
So  went overboard with my photography.
As did I by cooking a lot of dishes with this.
Right now, it will be the bhaja.
The rest will come up soon.

To make this simple bhaja, all you need is some Peyaj koli and aloo.
And some very fine ground black pepper.
Yes ... that is my favourite addition to dry bhajas.
Gives such a wonderful flavour ... very rustic. Very back to roots.
And I always fry in cast iron kadahi.
Of course any other vessel will do.
But the cast iron kadahi imparts a special taste ... as does the mustard oil.

Need :

Peyaj Koli / Onion stalks - washed and cut as in the photo
Aloo - cut the same length as the peyaj koli
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Fine black pepper powder - a sprinkle
Salt - to taste
Mustard oil - to stir fry

How to :

Heat the oil. You can use any white oil too.
Let in the potatoes ... while on high flame.
Stir for a while.
Add salt and cover and cook till the potatoes are done.
Remove cover.
Add the Peyaj koli and keep stirring and tossing.
Check seasoning ... add some more salt if needed.
The peyaj koli is naturally sweet ... so do not try to balance them with salt ... you will end up with a very salty dish. And they would still taste sweet.

And they hold a lot of moisture ... so will release a lot of water.
Do not cover ... keep the heat on high and fry well.
Lastly, sprinkle the black pepper powder and fry in high for some more time.
Remove and serve hot ... if possible, immediately.
Goes great on the side with rotis or rice.
Enjoy the winter ... while the peyaj koli lasts. :-)

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Methi ke Pakore / Fried dumplings with Fenugreek leaves

 "Hi! I live in the next building.", said the lady when I opened the door to the bell.
I welcomed her in.
She said her husband used to work in the same office as mine.
We had just moved into our new house and I was yet to make friends.
And people already knew about us! Must be the maid.
Anyway I was relieved I need not make any first attempt at introductions ... am very bad at striking up conversations.
And this one looked friendly.
And friendly she did turn out to be.
We chatted over tea for a good hour.
Then she got up to leave and as an after thought turned back and said ...
"I am having a small party the day after. Please do come for lunch."
I asked what was the occassion. ... wondering if I should take something along.
"It is nothing ... we ladies get together for lunch every month. So please do join us."

Yikes! One of those ladies get togethers ... cribbing,bitching,gossiping ... 
All the horrors I had always heard of came dancing before my eyes.
Tongue tied. No answer.
The head never works when you need a quick lie.
But wait.
There is a god.
"Please remember to come on time ... 2'o clock sharp."
"And bring a plate and a katori for yourself."

A double take. A triple take. I stood there at the door non plussed.
I could hear the lift reach the ground floor ... opened and shut again.
And I still stood there ...
still trying to get to the root of what she just said!
I couldn't believe what just happened ... or was said to me.
And then, I collapsed into laughter.
Helpless laughter.

I had no idea why she said that ... then.
I had met many kinds of people after leaving home and stepping into the big bad world.
But the world of housewives ... well ... I was just invited into one.

This lady turned out to be a Gujarati. And a huge help when it came to learning new stuff in the kitchen.
She was the one who had introduced me to this pakora ... the Methi ka Pakora.
Made it from scratch one evening ... just so I could learn.
And we sat with a plateful with a hot cup of tea ... while the monsoon drizzled lightly outside.

Just like any other Gujarati dish, this pakora is slightly sweet ...
the sweetness comes from the addition of jaggery.
Complements the lightly bitter methi.

Need :
Methi leaves - cleaned,washed and chopped very finely
Whole black pepper
Red chilli powder
A pinch of turmeric
Oil to deep fry

How to :

Mix everything, except the oil, with water to make a thickish paste.
Heat oil.
Scoop small balls into it and deep fry on low heat till brown.

Remove and drain on a kitchen towel or paper napkin.
Serve hot.

Perfect for winter or monsoon evenings.
But I had it with lunch. 
What with? Wait and watch. 
Till then .... 

Monday, 11 February 2013

Peanuts and Kokum Amti

It is a windy day. While the wind howls outside, threatening to blow away my freshly done laundry ... 
that I have entrusted so to the sun ... it is quiet inside the house.
Yes, finally ... even if it is  for a few hours.
I have the kitchen and Jagjit Singh all to myself.
Oh .. I do have Follet all to myself too.
But am multitasking ... and wouldn't want the guy to feel neglected.
So right now ... just my kitchen and Jaggu Singh it will be.

And my thoughts.
Recently I have been a little too rough on people.
But on only those who take me for granted.
I detest insincere people. And those who speak to please me ... I stay away from.
I mean there is a limit to repeating the same things over and over again ... when you don't mean to then why speak wind? 
Since I never expect anything from anybody, I detest anything that comes to my life free of cost.
And I am known for my knack for burning bridges.
Does not take me a moment to know just how well off would I be ... or just how clutter free my life would be ...  in the absence of a particular person or moment or thing.
And switch I off.

People have a knack of becoming friends first, get into your life second and then
tick you off when you do not react to their expectations
 in a predictable way.
And I am a sucker for people crying 'sad','lonely','hurt' ... etc etc. 
Recently a friend's wife left her marital home of one year, called me innumerable times to cry,
 to abuse the husband and his family, to basically lighten herself.
And I am left with the strain of calming her, explaining to her and hoping that she sees light.
All the while keeping in mind that the husband is our friend.
Suddenly ... all quiet.
Last heard ... she is back with the husband and is expecting a baby.
And that explained the husband refusing to return our calls.
Go figure! 

And I refuse to learn.
I still believe in people.
I still welcome them with warmth in my life. 
Soon left to wonder at the 'attitude' or the cold shoulder just recieved.
Soon become a trash can for their woes ... conviniently dumped on me as they walk ahead in life. 
And I am left with this bane of a good memory ... storing every bit of data ... returning to fill me with gloom once in a while.
How I wish at those times my feet reached my backside ... with a good force.

Anyway ... that explains my deleting people from my life.
People don't like it ... can't do anything.
Have to think of my peace of mind first.
Jagjit Singh is still crooning "Dhoop mein niklo, ghataon mein naha kar dekho ...".How true.
But am not in the mood for lectures right now.Got a post to make.

I have a good number of photographs that are waiting to see the light of the day.
But the hitch that comes is I never remember how I cooked that what.
So while I sit staring at the dish, trying to rake my brains to what went into it and how,
 the dish sits and look back at me helplessly.
Amongst them, there are a few ones that I had posted on the notes section of my fb page.
Picked up one today to post.

 I have always liked this aamti that is usually served with simple 'Vrat'  or 'Upwaas' fares.
This is also a part of the Mahaprasad served at the ISCKON temple.
But I had no idea what went into it.

So when Preeti of ISingcakes & More wrote on FB  that she had this amti as part of her lunch one day, I asked for the recipe.
She promptly gave it to me.
And here it is ... what a beautifully flavoured aamti this is.
The blend of fresh green chillies with the kokum gives it fresh as well as tangy flavour.
I have been making this over and over again for a while now.
Thanks Preeti!

Need :
Peanuts/ Groundnuts - half a small cup ( dry roasted and skinned )
Kokum - 3 - 4 pieces
Green chillies - 2
Ghee - half a teaspoon
Cumin seeds / jeera - a small pinch
Salt to taste
Water - a cupful

How to:
Grind the peanuts in a mixie ( I just half crushed them as I like the small bits in a spoonful)
Make a paste of the kokum and green chillies.
(Preeti grinds them together with the peanuts ... I did not ... which is why my aamti lacks the colour hers has)

Heat ghee in a pan. Add the cumin seeds. When they start to splutter add the peanuts and the kokum paste.
Add water and salt.
Bring to a boil and simmer for around 5 minutes.
Check consistency .. if needed add more water and bring to a simmer again. 

Serve hot with sabudana khichdi.
It is a great side with these beautiful Sabudana vadas too.
Makes a vrat worth looking forward to.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Mutton liver stir fry in garlic chilli sauce

 The last week went by in a blur.
A blur of colours, fun and festive.
And even before I realise, we are into the end of the first week of Feb.
The festivity was created by the wonderful people I have in my life.
Thanks to my blog. And thanks to my fate.
The good ... and crazy ... souls actually created a huge stir and celebrated my b'day online.
Cooking wonderful dishes and creating a much loved air.
Making me glow with warmth. :-)
Then the man came up with a trip to the coast.
I have been missing the sea, the beach and the salty air terribly.
For ages now.
So whisked me off to a coast for a funfilled weekend.
Full three days of sun, sand and the soothing balmy air.

 Take a whiff. See what I mean! :-)
 Glorious sun rise!

 There's the coastline for you ... from the rope way ... called the Dolphin's nose.

There were some glorious dishes that I got to sample in those 3 days.
Fresh sea food platters. Good mutton.
Even an authentic South Indian thali.
Some different kinds of coffee and tea thrown in.
And a wonderful pizza and pasta party on the last day at our friend and host's place.
Some kebabs and kathi rolls and samosa thrown in too.
Was indeed in  foodie's heaven.

The Kingfisher Fashion show was on in the hotel that we had stayed in.
Got to rub shoulders with some chirpy and fun-to-be-with girls.
Couldn't help notice how down to earth they are.
Just another bunch of normal,young girls ... having fun and trying out food and the pool with equal enthu.
And working hard in the evening.
Costumes, makeup, ramp walk ... all under the eyes of numerous strangers.
All with a smile.
Braving the stares and the mosquitoes with equal ease.

Discovered a new respect for this occupation ... that looks so much fun but is as hard work as any other.

Coming back to today's dish, it is a simple stir fry.
Stir fried mutton liver.
My very first attempt at cooking mutton liver.
Now that I know how to buy mutton, chicken has been off my table for months now.
Mutton liver cooks very quickly ... almost a no hassle thing to make.
So I settled for a stir as I already had a one pot meal ready.
What is it? Coming up on the next post.
So hold your horses. :-)

 I got the man at the counter selling mutton chop up the liver into small to medium pieces.
Make sure the pieces stay similar in size ... else the cooking time won't apply to the whole lot.
And the result will be unevenly cooked liver.

A shout on FB guided me on how long to cook liver.
Almost everybody said it should not take long ... not more than 7 mins.
And no need for a pressure cooker.
Heard them. Believed and followed them.
And got my perfect stir fried mutton liver.
Not too tough. Not very soft.
Very, very perfect!

Need :

Mutton liver - chopped into small pieces
Ginger + garlic paste
Onion - sliced lengthwise
Garlic Chilli sauce ( I used Ching's)
Salt - to taste
Sugar - a pinch or more if you like it slightly sweet
Oil - to cook
Red chilli powder - a pinch

How to :

Toss the cleaned and washed liver pieces in the ginger garlic paste.
Heat oil in a pan or kadahi.
Add the sliced onions and fry on low heat for a while. 
When the moisture starts to dry, sprinkle the sugar and keep stirring.
Now add the liver pieces and keep stirring.
Add salt. Cover and cook for a while.
Remove cover after a while and check if the liver is done ... 
it should be firm ... neither tough or soft.
If cut with the spatula, it should not leak juices.

Add the chilli sauce and keep stirring for some more time.
Remove when the sides start to stick to the pan...
that will be due to the sugar caramelising.

Serve hot.
Goes great with rotis or parathas.