Monday, 26 September 2016

Tomato and Garlic chutney ... a spicy, tangy and peppy dip

Tomato garlic chutney

 Life is a mad rush right now. I had thought I could fit in two more posts this month easily but that is not to happen I guess. A hectic weekend and now a Monday that has passed by like a gust on a winter evening.
I know, I know I sound repetitive. But that is how it is .... almost every week.
Anyway .... with Durga Puja just around the corner and the rains playing spoilsport, my mind is not at all in the right place these days.
It has rained steadily for the last fortnight or more and the days and nights are extremely foggy, damp and cold.
I keep looking out for the slightest break in the clouds and a glimpse of sunlight ... no matter how thin.
But no such luck.

I am praying really hard that we get sunny days by Mahalaya.
Fingers crossed.

I do not have much to write tonight.
No, actually I do have but am real pressed for time. With loads  of things to do, I have added two more knitting projects to my daily schedule. And the only time I get to work on them is at night.

So have been sitting up late into nights and knitting, like there is no tomorrow.
And am loving it ... this change in my routine of going to sleep at ten in the night.

Tomato Garlic chutney

 Kind of takes me back to my long gone days when I was just a girl and loved to stay up late into the nights to read or to embroider or knit. I loved the quiet of the nights and the lovely breeze blowing in from our garden .... especially in the summers.

My little doggie would be fast asleep near my feet. And I would be so engrossed that I would have no idea how late it was.
Until Ma came and gave me a final warning to wind up and go to sleep.
Only then I would keep my things aside and go to my bedroom, the sleepy little one at my feet.
As I would climb in and lie down, I could hear her settle down under my bed with a sigh ... which I guess would be of relief.

There ... I am digressing.
Let me now quickly give you the recipe of this super quick Tomato and garlic chutney that I make and store very often.
Packs the punch of garlic and the tartness of the tomatoes.
Needs very less ingredients and is extremely good as a side or a dip.

I love garlic and have used a lot in this chutney. You can go easy on it if you are not much of a fan ... but let me tell you it is the garlic that makes this chutney so lovable.

Need :

Tomatoes - 6, big sized, chopped
Garlic - around 15 or 20 cloves
Onions - 1 medium, roughly chopped
Fresh green  chillies - around 4
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Curry leaves - 1 sprig
Cooking oil - 2 tbsp
Salt - to taste
Sugar - a pinch 

Garlic chutney
How  to :

Heat 1 tbsp of cooking oil in a kadahi or wok.

Fry the onions till translucent.

Cool and grind in a mixie along with the garlic + green chilli + tomatoes.

In an open pan pour this mix and let it boil till the rawness goes away and it starts to thicken.

Add salt + sugar + a little red chilli powder and stir well.

In an other kadahi, heat 1 tbsp cooking oil.
Add the mustard seeds and once they start to splutter, add the curry leaves.

Pour this tempering on the tomato mix and let it boil till the chutney thickens well.

Remove from heat and cool.

Tomato garlic chutney
Store in an air tight glass bottle in the fridge.

This is great on the side with  handvo, idlis or vadas of any kind or any kind of parathas.
A spoonful on  hot rice is absolutely heavenly.
Spread it on a dosa or an uttapam and you won't need anything else for a meal.
And yes, I do spread it on bread too.


Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Egg fried rice

Egg fried rice
On the weekend, B and I were at one of our favourite places to grab a bite ... the Yogi Tree at Koregaon park. This place has been our go to when we need a good meal or a light breakfast.
Or spend a quiet evening, chatting over a cuppa.

Earlier, this place used to be very quiet and serene. People, mostly the ones from abroad, sit around with something to eat or drink and with a paper or a book. Away from the noisy main road, the mornings are especially beautiful here ... with the  morning sun streaming in through the few casurinas that dot the courtyard.

Of late, as more and more people came to know about this, it is not as serene anymore. People come in droves, shout and laugh and talk loudly, yell at the servers and demand numerous changes to their menus, etc. etc.
It is because of this noisy crowd that we have almost stopped going there in the mornings. But when in need of a quick homely dinner, we do go down and take a table inside. The fluffy hot rotis, the beautiful dal and very light on spices sabzi satisfies us hugely. And lulls us to a quiet peace .... makes us ready to face another mad week the next day.

This weekend, as we sat waiting for our lunch to arrive, I noticed a group of young men in a table outside. There must have been around 8 or 9 of them .... all well dressed in casuals except two who were in formals. Chatting and laughing a lot.
A couple more joined them later and there was a lot of handshakes, hugs and back slapping and laughing. They arranged chairs and adjusted their seating.

Quick egg fried rice
"Must be meeting after a long time", I thought.
I was watching their bonhomie and thought of my college days and my friends .... almost all of whom are now settled in different cities.

And as I sat there watching them, something struck me odd.
And then I knew what it was!
There was no noise or sound coming from them.
All that laughing and talking would have surely created a cacophony by now .... yet, it was very quiet everywhere.
I did notice that they were moving their hands a lot when talking but all that gesticulating did not strike odd to me until I realised that they could not speak or hear!!
They were talking through their hands!

I watched them, totally mersmerised now. Luckily they were outside in the sun, and hence could not see me gawking rudely at them.
The server came and took their orders. They communicated with a lot of smiles.
Then they went back to chatting again.

And I watched them .... with just a little hint of jealousy.
Nobody could know what they were talking or joking about.
They were so happy in their own world.
And somewhere deep inside me, I secretly wished I could be a part of their quiet, peaceful world.

Egg fried rice
Today's recipe is quick, stir fried rice that I rustled up one day for lunch. I usually make Chinese dishes for dinner, which is why I cannot click any photos and hence hardly get to make a post on them here.
But since this was for lunch, I quickly clicked a few photos.

There is not much to making this fried rice. I follow Kylie Kwong when it comes to Chinese cuisine.
I love her simple, quick dishes with light and fresh ingredients.
I make this fried the same way she had made once on her show.

She had used just spring onions and eggs but I do throw in lots of vegetables to make this a complete,  one pot meal.  Some left over cooked rice from the fridge, a couple of eggs and some of your favourite vegetables ... and you are good to go.

 Need :

Leftover cooked rice - 1 cup
Eggs - 2
Chopped ginger - 1 tsp
Chopped garlic - 1 tsp
Chopped vegetables - I used baby corn, red capsicum, onions, green chillies, green peas, etc.
Chilli vinegar - 2 tsp
Fresh ground pepper - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Sugar - a pinch
Cooking oil - 2 tsp

How to :

Beat the eggs with salt + a little chilli vinegar.

Heat oil.
Add eggs and scramble.
Remove while still soft.

Add chopped garlic + ginger + baby corn+ red capsicum + onions to the oil.
Toss well on high heat.

Add left over rice + salt + a pinch of sugar.
Add the eggs.
Toss well on high heat.

Do not lower heat and keep tossing well.

I add a dash of chilli vinegar and soy too. You may or may not.
Add freshly crushed black pepper.

Sprinkle green chillies and serve hot.
Egg fried rice

Quick and easy.


Sunday, 11 September 2016

Maah Chole ki dal or Langarwali dal

Maah chole di dal
 We are into the sixth day of Ganeshotsav in Maharashtra.
Ganesh puja officially means the start of the festive season in India and also the countdown to Durga Puja for Bengalis.
It is celebrated with much fervour in Maharashtra ... for ten whole days.
And for us, the common citizens, it means staying shut in the house, not being able to venture into the old city side for chores or errands, erratic traffic on the roads due to pandals dug up everywhere ... that stretch into the middle of the road and worse of all .... having to put up with loud speakers blaring out the most inane songs of Bollywood.

I dread these few days like the plague and mentally will them to move farther and farther away.
But that does not work.
On the first day we woke early, to an ear splitting "Main nagin to sapera ...." and " dushman ki jo vaat lauli ...." from the slum nearby.
Combined with the dhol beating.
Nothing cultural or rythmic about it .... just a few kids beating the dhol right and left to create a noise that is meant to go beyond the loud songs playing.

The torture has started.

I immediately had a vision of what was happening in Kailash at that moment.
A tearful little Ganeshji hiding behind Parvati, bawling " I don't want to go; please don't make me go ...." while a very worried Shiva and Parvati wonder how to save him from the forthcoming ten days.

The following days see us in different levels of discomfort.
From trying to play the tv to drown the noise from outside .... very very bad idea ...., to looking up places outside the city to go and spend the rest of the week .... not at all feasible.
So all we can do is to soothe ourselves by counting the number of days left to Anant chaturdashi ... the bidding of goodbye to Ganesha and immersion.
And wait when the clock will strike 10:00 in the night .... the permissible time limit for the blaring loudspeakers.
Maah chole ki dal

But that is not to be.
Saw the papers this morning .... the pandals have got an extension to the permissible time .... it will be 12:30 in the night before they turn off the music / noise.

I wait with hope that there will be a miracle.

Meanwhile let me share with you this very rustic dal from the land of Punjab.
I did not eat it in Punjab the first time, but much before that ... in Rajasthan. We have enjoyed this with some rustic open air baked batis  during our extensive trips all over Rajasthan.
It is also made regularly at my in laws' place.
Since Mum in law does not eat garlic, she often makes it with onions and ginger ... I am yet to try that version.

Thick, heavy and packed with flavours, this Maah ki dal is very different from the Punjabi Dal makhni.
While both are slow cooked dals, this Maah chole di dal is made from split Urid dal and is paired with the Bengal gram or the Chana dal.
This dal is served regularly in langars or sit down meals in Gurudwaras and hence has got the name of Langarwali dal.
I remember the flavour of this dal at the langar in the Golden temple in Amritsar ... very basic  tempering and has that beautiful flavour of slow cooked dal.

I do not add tomatoes .... if you are a long follower of this blog, you will know how little I use them .... or any garam masala powder.
The garlic and ginger give it that punch that is so typical of Punjabi dals.
For best results, do soak the dals overnight and cook in an open, deep pan.
You can use a pressure cooker too ... but you have to be careful not to cook them to a mush.

 Here is how I make it. 
Langarwali dal

 Need :

Split Urid dal - 1 cup
Chana dal or Bengal gram dal - ½ cup
Garlic - 10 fat cloves, chopped
Ginger - size of a thumb, sliced thinly
Fresh green chillies - 3 to 4, chopped 
Turmeric / Haldi powder - a pinch ... not too much
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Jeera / Cumin seeds - 1 tsp
Ghee - 1 tsp ( you can use cooking oil too )
Salt - to taste
Water - around 3 cups

How to :

Wash both dals separately and soak for around 4 hours.
For convenience, I soak them overnight.

Cook in a pressure cooker with a little haldi powder + salt for 1 whistle on low heat.
If the dals are not soaked, then cook them for 2 whistles on low heat.
Wait till pressure releases on its own.

Remove cover and stir the dal around a little with a spatula.
Set aside.

Heat a heavy pan or a kadahi.

Add the jeera.
When it starts to sizzle, add the chopped garlic + ginger + green chillies.

Fry on low heat till the raw smell goes away and the garlic starts to brown.

Add the cooked dal, red chilli powder + salt + water.
Adjust salt if needed.

Bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and let it simmer for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves and cover. 

Langarwali dal
Serve hot with rotis.
This goes very well with steaming hot rice with an extra dollop of ghee on it too.
Takes the meaning of 'dal chawal' to another level completely.

I had paired this with rotis along with some tindaa and kale chane ki sabzi for a vegetarian lunch that day.


Monday, 5 September 2016

Pan fried Sabudana vada

" Koto deri hoye geyche! I need to make that sabu for b'fast! And it is already 9:30!", I exclaimed.

We were sitting ... no piling up on one another on the bed in the first guest room .... chatting and remicising, the cups of our morning tea and the biscuit jars still sitting on the tray.
I sat snuggled to Jethima. My cousin, her younger daughter, had already taken up my Ma's lap.
Another cousin stands near the bed, threatening and jostling with us for space.
Kakima sat in her usual pose with her legs straight in front of her, leaning on the head rest.
She was already onto her second paan.
Shejo kaku and Ranga kaku half sat, half laid at the other  end of the bed. Jethumoni was the only one who sat properly in a chair by the window.

Our talks were all about memories, of the long gone days at Dadu's house and our childhood stories. Small bits and pieces of memories came up spread a warm blanket all over us.
A lot of what we were talking of does not exist anymore. Neither Dadu, nor Thamma, the house and our recent loss of Bapi and then Didi.
All gone.
Leaving us with memories; just happy memories.

And then I realized how late it was and jumped up to go to the kitchen to make breakfast of the Sabudana Khichdi.
And hearing me exclaim, Ranga kaku jumped up too.

"Kar jor holo abar? Boudi tomar? "

I laughed.
Sabu or tapioca pearls means two things to a Bengali ... illness or a fast.
If you have fever, you have sabu cooked in milk. If you have an upset tummy you have sabu cooked in water with a little salt and lemon juice.
Every Bengali's 'ugh' memories of childhood will definitely have this ghost of boiled sabu.
And if there was a puja in the house and the ladies are fasting, they would make a mash of soaked sabudana with fruits and milk or curd.

I assured kaku that nobody is ill and I was just going to cook sabudana for breakfast.
"Eyi na na, ami oi sabu tabu khabo na!" , Kaku was truly worried by now.

I had planned to make the Sabudana khichadi and prayed that he liked it.

While writing about this, I was wondering what recipe to publish as I have already posted the Sabudana khichadi.
And then  I came across a few photographs of the Sabudana vadas that I had made once.

These vadas are not deep fried, as the traditional ones are.
Instead I have brushed them with a little ghee and toasted them on a pan.
They are very crisp on the outside and very soft inside.
Perfect melt in the mouth texture.
And guilt free too.

Need :

Sabudana or Tapioca pearls - 1 cup, soaked overnight in enough water
Boiled potatoes - 1, medium
Roasted and crushed groundnuts - 5 to 6 tbsp
Fresh green chillies - chopped
Red chilli powder
Salt - to taste
Sugar - to taste
Ghee - to brush the vadas with

How to :

Mash everything, except the ghee, together.

Shape into small flat tikkis.
The traditional ones are shaped round because they are deep fried.
We need to shape these flat so that they cook well on a flat surface.

Heat a flat pan or a tawa .... ( they should be well seasoned ).
Brush it with a little ghee and place the vadas on it.
You can cover them for a while too.

When one side turns brown, turn them over and brush them with some more ghee.
Let them cook till the outside is crisp and brown.
Serve hot with tea.

These vadas are very high in calories and hence very filling too.
A couple of them will take you through a good part of the day or evening easily.

They go great with this beautiful Amti on the side. A complete meal when you are doing a vrat or fasting.


And oh, the family loved the Sabudana khichadi.
Which is why I am going to make these vadas for tea time next.

Take care all.
See you again soon.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Chicken stew with vegetables
Hi all!
I am back, bang on the very first, as promised. While the past month flew by in a whoosh, with huge loads of mixed emotions and situations thrown in, I had my moments when I missed Kichu Khonn, writing, interacting with you all and most importantly, cooking.
But right now I am back in my kitchen, in Pune, and the weather that I love so much.

Outside, the rain clouds are slowly bidding adieu. Slowly but surely they are flying by .... sometimes giving glimpses of that blue sky that we have not seen in the past couple of months.
A few linger back .... trying to hide the sun for a while, giving the impression of raining down any moment. But then they too pass by. I am waiting for the bright sunshine that we soon shall get for the rest of the year ..... until it is time for the monsoons again.

Inside, the house is full of people. The family is here for another sad occassion. But right now both I and B are trying to keep them as much occupied and happy as possible.
I am cooking regularly and taking in their feed back happily. Jethumoni, Jethima, Kakima and both my Kakus had never got a chance to see me cook before. So every meal that I make results in a lot of conversations on the table.
I watch them banter and miss Bapi ... who would happily munch on a burnt roti made by me with a serene face .... all over again.
View from my balcony
They are fascinated by Pune's monsoon too. All the sneezing and coughing does not deter them from sitting in my balcony swing or just stand there and watch the clouds pass by.
Now that it is not raining any more, every time there is a round of tea, almost all of them pull up chairs and sit in the balcony.
Jethumoni and both my kakus squabble with each other about their turn on the swing.
I watch them with affection .... it is like, in their age, they have turned children once again. Two losses back to back .... completing one year of both ... has taken its toll on them too.
I wish I could hold them here forever. Let them go to sleep at night without a worry on their brows for the next day.

Right now I have snatched a few moments to make this post. I can see the natives getting restless and want to open the door to the balcony. But I have said no going out in the cold and damp morning breeze before 9:00. Jethima is making tea in the kitchen .... so there will be no holding them back from stepping out soon. I need to complete this post before I join them there.
This chicken stew that Ma used to make at home used to be one of my favourites in winter.
But since Pune's monsoon allows us to have hot soups and stews regularly, I make this often for lunch and eat the leftover for dinner too. 

I used to call this the 'shaada shaada stew' because of its white colour. But don't go by that bland or delicate colour .... this stew packs a punch of flavours. A great way to get some vegetables into you too.
It is very warm and comforting and extremely light on the tummy.

I keep my chicken pieces whole in this. If you want to, you can shred them too.

Need :

Chicken pieces - 250 gms
Vegetables - I used carrots, sweet corn, potato,  cabbage, etc. , chopped
Onion - 1, sliced thinly
Garlic - 4 fat cloves, sliced thinly
Ginger - small sized, sliced thinly
Butter - 1 cube
Black cardamom - 1
Whole black pepper - 6 to 8
Milk - half cup
Maida - 2 tbsp
Salt and sugar to taste
Water - around 2 cups or a little more
How to :

Warm the butter in a pressure cooker on low heat.
Do not burn.

Add the peppercorns + cardamom + onions + garlic.
Fry till translucent.

Add the ginger slices and the chicken.
Stir for a good while but on low heat.

Add the vegetables and fry till the raw smell goes away.

Now add water and raise heat.

Add salt and sugar.

Close lid and cook for 3 whistles on low heat.
(The cooking time will depend on the quality of your chicken. Give an extra whistle than usual for the chicken to be real soft. )

Cool and let the steam release on its own.
Remove cover and set on simmer.
Do a taste test and adjust seasoning accordingly.

Mix the maida in the milk .... make sure there are no lumps.
Add it to the simmering stew and cover.
Let it simmer for 5 more minutes.
Serve hot with a dollop of butter and fresh black pepper powder sprinkled on it.
Butter is good for health ... so go ahead and indulge.
I sometimes add some dry crushed Italian herbs and some chilli flakes too.

Great with bread or rotis on the side.
I love to eat it as is.
A bowlful of this piping hot goodness is all you need to drive the cold outside as well as the melancholy inside far, far away.

Ps: Updating the post with a photograph of the vegetarian version of this stew that I made for B, after a talk on my page on fb.
The flavours are exactly the same and there is no difference in the recipe except the chicken.