Saturday, 25 June 2016

Pyaz ki sabzi

 Pyaz ki sabzi
Another week gone in a wink.
Not much done though.
Most of the time has been spent on winding up unfinished projects. Like completing painting the balcony swing, finally sewing up the sweater I had been making for B, finishing off the border for my shawl/throw and, of course, cooking and clicking photos.
( I know, I know I am being a little repetitive here. But I am finally done with these projects ... humming in my mind as I went through them that never, ever am I going to put my fingers in so many pies I cannot deal within 3 months. Honest. )

Cooking I have been doing a lot.
Our eating out has been cut down drastically and we are turning more and more to home cooked, light meals.
I make a combination of sabzis on different days .... some from Rajasthan and some from Bengal or Odisha. Cuts the monotony as well as ensures we have our quota of vegetables as well.
I do turn to Rajma or Chole or the very favourite Ghugni at times .... they are a refreshing change from boring vegetables.

This Tuesday, when got our weekly load of fresh vegetables, we found some unusually fresh onions and bought more than we actually needed. B had mentioned his family favourite Onion ki sabzi and I made sure that I picked up a lot that were the same in size.

The first time I had eaten this sabzi was when B's aunt and uncle came visiting us years back.
We were just married; trying to set up a home. I did not know much cooking or how to buy groceries. Depended on Maggi a lot.
It was late evening and we were about to sit down with our bowls of boiled Maggi when the bell rang. Kaka and Kaki stood in front of our door. Just like that ... all of a sudden.

Kaki, like all Rajasthani ladies, did a survery of the kitchen first and wanted to send Kaka to buy vegetables immediately. But since it was late, she finally decided to make do with whatever was in my pantry.
Which was next to nothing, of course. Barring a few onions and some milk in the fridge. And a bowlful of rice ... which obviously she did not care for much.

Pyaz ki sabzi
So off went Kaka to the nearby kirana store and got a big packet of ghee. And atta.
And Kaki made this sabzi and some hot rotis to go with.

I almost had a heart attack at the quantity of ghee that she needed to cook this. But was sensible enough to hold my tongue. Later whenever I have made this sabzi, I have made it with plain cooking oil but added a little ghee for the flavour ... it is needed.
Do remember that the spice in this is necessary to complement the sweetness of the onions.

So here is the very simple recipe for this rustic Rajsthani favourite.

Need :

Onions - 6 to 8 , preferably of the same size
Dhaniya powder - 1 tbsp
Jeera powder - 1 tsp
Haldi powder - 1 tsp
Mirchi powder - 1 tsp
Amchur powder -  a little less than 1 tsp
Garam masala powder - a little
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1 to 2 tbsp
Ghee - 1 tsp
Pyaz ki sabzi

How to :

Peel the onions and cut both ends.
Make slits only halfway into them.

Pyaz ki sabzi

Mix the masalas + salt together with a little oil and water.
Stuff the onions carefully .... try not to break them.

Pyaz ki sabzi

In a heavy kadahi or flat pan, heat the oil and ghee.

Place the onions in it and pour the rest of the marinade masala.
Cover and cook for around 10 minutes.

Remove cover and turn the onions once.

Sprinkle garam masala and check for salt.

Cover and simmer for around five minutes more. 

Pyaz ki sabzi
 Serve hot with rotis.

I had made some Bajre ka rotla .... thick rotis made from Bajra (Millet) flour and slow cooked on an earthen  tawa.
And this was our very rustic Rajasthani lunch on a dark, gloomy, cold and windy day.

Pyaz ki sabzi


Monday, 20 June 2016

Maacher Mudo diye Bhaja Muger Dal / Fish head cooked with roasted Moong dal
 After days of staying glum, the skies relented today.
We have not seen the sun for the past three days or more. Dark clouds had blown in slowly and the sky was soon overcast and stayed that way.  The sun could not even peek through.
But boy! was it windy! And cold!
We stayed in denial for the first few days. After all, it won't be cold unless it starts to rain.
But no. Last evening we finally had to admit that it is indeed too cold, when we could not sit in the balcony for more than five minutes.
Shivering, we finally beat a retreat and shut the door and the windows.
And watched the trees going bonkers in the wild, wild wind from indoors.

And this evening, it finally rained.
Back home, Thamma would nod her head and say " Aaj snan purnima; brishti hobei hobe."
Snan purnima ... that full moon day when Lord Jagannath and his family have their ritualistic bath, which is a precursor to their falling ill and staying indoors for a fortnight.
After which they go to visit their aunt. This journey is the famous Ratha yatra.
Our older generation had such days to refer to when predicting changes in the weather.
Their words ring in my ears but I have major difficulty in predicting as correctly as they did.
Must be the change in weather globally. Or the difference in the weather conditions from that of my home state.

Macher muro diye bhaja muger dal
 I did feel confused with the weather patterns when I landed in Pune years ago. While the weather was wonderful all year through, I did feel confused at certain times.
Like, there would be instances when a summer evening would feel and smell just like an August evening back home. Or the days just after the rains would feel like early winter.
I used to go ballistic during February and March especially; the weather then would be exactly like those that usher in Durga puja, i.e late September or early October.
And the fact that we get our very favourite Shiuli flower, that blooms only during Durga puja back home,  anytime of the year, especially the monsoons, did not make it any easier for me.

It was only the winters that were the closest to what we get in our little hilly town back home.
Crisp air, clear and bluest of blues skies and the all enveloping fog.
I loved to stand on the steps of our pg, throw my head back and breath deeply to take in the evening air redolent with the smoke of wood fire ... taking me back home to winter evenings when the house help would start the wood fire oven for the night's cooking, supervised by Thamma.
My friends used to laugh at me. "She smells the air to see if winter is here."

Pune has changed immeasurably ever since.
The weather has changed. The city has changed. The traffic has changed.
But the evenings have stayed the same.
Especially monsoon and winter evenings.
Beautiful, cold and refreshing.
Which makes me feel like running back home; every evening.
Which is why I still feel at home; here.

Well, if only wishes were horses ....

If I can't go home, I bring home to me.
To my kitchen; my dining table.
And it soothes my homesickness a little.
Bhaja muger dal diye macher mudo

Like this Mudi ghonto I made a few days back.
Rohu fish head cooked with roasted Moong dal.
Light, fragrant and very soothing in every mouthful, when mixed with plain cooked rice.
It is one of those fish dishes that does not need the heaviness of onion or garlic and is happy with the beautiful, fragrant roasted moong dal blending with the fish head and creating a flavour of its own

I make the other kind of Muri ghonto with rice and that does not have onions or garlic too.
And then, there is my Ma's Cholar Dal er Muri ghonto too.

 Need :

Yellow Moong dal - 1 cupful
Rohu fish head - 1, marinated with salt+ turmeric and fried
Tej pata / Bay leaf - 2
Dry red chillies - 2, broken
Grated ginger - 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds - 1 tsp 
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Jeera powder - 1 tsp
Roasted jeera powder - 1 tsp 
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Ghee - 1 tsp
Mustard oil - 1 bsp

How to :

In a heavy kadahi or pan, dry roast the dal till reddish brown and aromatic.
Take care not to burn.
Wash well.
Cook in water with salt and turmeric powder till just done.
Do not over cook or make it mushy.

In another kadahi or pan, heat oil.
Add the bay leaf, dry red chillies and grated ginger.

Mix all the powders in a little water and add.
Fry well till oil starts to leave the sides.

Add the fish head and mix well.

Now add the cooked dal and bring to a boil.

Add salt, cover and simmer for around five minutes.

Remove cover, add ghee and the roasted jeera powder.
The dal should be thick in consistency and not runny.

Cover, switch off heat and let it stand for five minutes.

You may add garam masala powder to it too ... I do not.

Mudi ghonto
Serve hot with plain rice.
Signing off with a shot of my lunch plate.


Monday, 13 June 2016

Pui shaak bhaja and some thoughts on how to freeze food when planning ahead

Pui shak bhaja

After my last post on prepping and cooking food ahead to save time, here is my post on how to use the freezer and how to store Indian food in the freezer, as requested by Kuntala.

I have jotted down everything that I do and everything that helps me go through the days with my injured hand and shoulder that have a tendency to act up at times.
A little planning ahead helps me sail through such days.

**  When using the freezer compartment to store food, do remember to set it at a good temperature.
Also do take into account if there are frequent power cuts in your area. Do not freeze things for a long time if you have frequent and long power cuts.
Your food should freeze well to be able to stay well till you are ready to use it.
**  Buy a good number of ice trays. I buy the ones with a cover so that it is easy to sit one above the other. Also the smell does not spread all through the freezer compartment.

** Make lemonade and freeze.
Just add chilled water when you are back home and you have a wonderful glass ready! Just sit back and rest  awhile with this on a hot day.

**  Wet ground masalas like grated ginger ( plain ginger when ground into a paste will turn bitter very fast ), garlic paste, mustard paste, tomato paste, posto paste stay very well when frozen.
** Cook a batch of gravy maslala (fry onion paste + ginger paste + garlic paste + turmeric + red chilli powder) in bulk and freeze.
Use a couple of cubes for your fish or chicken or mutton curries.
Or even a vegetarian dish like the Aloo dum too.
Quick cooking.

** If you have the inclination, you can buy green peas when in season, peel, blanch them and freeze too.

** Fry fish and store in different containers.
I have tried freezing them raw ... but have noticed a change in taste. So always fry them first.
Divide fish , chicken or mutton into batches ... different pieces for different kinds of dishes.

** Label the containers so that you need not open every one of them every time.
I use a marker to write.
This way you are planning a menu ahead and will help you save a lot of time.

** Boil dals with salt and turmeric and freeze in batches ... depending on the amount you will be needing.

** If you have a big quantity of grated coconut, then freeze it.
Use the frozen coconut in curries, dals, etc. where it will cook well.
If you want to use grated coconut fresh, then just refrigerate it in a tightly closed container.

** You can make rotis and parathas and freeze too. I personally have not tried doing this but have seen many of my friends do so.

** If you have shelves in your freezer, use them to store different kinds of flours.
I store maida, jowar flour, bajra flour, rice flour, besan etc.
Since these are not used daily, once a packet is open, chances of them getting spoiled increase.
The dry air in the freezer is perfect for the flours ... and no fear of them getting moisture or fungus and of course are safe from insects like ants, etc.

**  Freeze paneer or freshly made chenna. You can make parathas or bhurji out of it.

** I also freeze left over gravies from mutton or chicken curries. Use them later in dals or just boil eggs and add to them and you have a quick dish ready.

** You can freeze boiled noodles or macaroni too. Just remember to give them a good rub of oil so they don't stick together.
Thaw well before using.

** Curries and gravies freeze very well. Chana, chola, rajma, chicken, egg ... everything.

** You can freeze cooked rice too.
Just remember to thaw it well and steam it instead of using the microwave oven.
Fill a big pan with water, put the cooked and frozen rice in a sieve container ... not plastic ... and sit it on the pan. Cover it. When the water starts to boil, let it sit on low heat till the rice is heated well.

Remember -

 **Always freeze in batches.
** Never refreeze food after thawing. Do not store it in the fridge too.
Use it up.

Hope this will be of help.
I will try to update this post as much as possible.

Do check out my post on how to prep and store vegetables and tips on kitchen time management.

Pui shaag bhaja

Today's recipe is a simple stir fry made with the Pui shaak or the Malabar spinach. This is from the batch that I had picked up at Bangalore.
The shaak was so darned fresh that I made a stir fry out of it the first day. I used the tender leaves from the top of the stems and did not chop them up too.
Used some of the stems or daata too ... only the tender ones.

Need :

Pui shaak - cleaned and roughly chopped, 3 cups
Onion - 1, sliced
Nigella seeds / Kalo jeere - 1 tsp
Dry red chillies - 2, broken
Tumeric powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Grated ginger - 1 tsp
Salt - to taste
Sugar - to taste
Cooking oil - 1 tsp ( I use mustard oil )

How to :

Heat oil.

Add the nigella seeds + red chillies.

Add the sliced onions and fry till they turn translucent.

Now add the ginger and fry a little ... not too much.

Add the pui and the haldi and stir well.

Add salt and sugar.

Cover and cook till done.

Sprinkle the red chilli powder and give a good mix.

Remove from heat.

Serve hot with rice.
Pui shak bhaja

Wednesday, 8 June 2016

Soya Keema and some plans on time saving and cooking ahead

 Soya keema
 It has already been a week since I made my last post! When I had glanced at the number of posts for May, last, I was so satisfied that I had a smirk on my face just like the proverbial cat who got the cream.
Patted myself on the back for three days straight ... knowing that I will be making a post again soon.
And then, before I know it ... whooosh ... a whole week flies by.
Not good; not good at all.
So, inspite of today being my masala making day, here I am, sitting since morning, editing pics and writing to you.

I think I have already written about the beautiful, beautiful weather we are having here right now.
So won't go into that ... but may I make a passing remark about how cold the mornings have become and how I am just loving that cup of hot, ginger tea and my balcony these days? And did I mention the cold breeze too? I did?! Really?!
And the greenery shining bright all around? That too?

Then I must move on to serious stuff now. No point in rubbing the salt in.
Here's wishing you rains and beautiful weather too in your part of the world.

Just a few days back, a reader, Barnana, requested to make a post on how I planned and cooked ahead.
And coincidentally this same topic came up in one of the groups I am in on FB.
I had given some pointers that I follow religiously in my kitchen and life.
So when I saw Barnana's request, I clicked some photos too.

There were, of course, a lot of yeses and nos, regarding cooking ahead.
But I know how big a help it is if you plan ahead ; and cook ahead too.
If you are single, or working, or both, or a housewife with a small baby, whether you are a family of two or ten,  if you are ill and have difficulty spending long hours in the kitchen ...... planning ahead and cooking ahead is a huge help.
Soya keema recipe

I will not go into purists' criticism of eating food from the fridge.
I believe if you have technology, make it your friend. Especially the refrigerator.
Believe me, it is much better than calling in food from the restaurant ... where food is much older and stale than you can imagine.
Know which is the coldest shelf and which has slightly higher temperature.
And store your things accordingly.
Do keep a track if your area is prone to power cuts and store accordingly.
We do not have power cuts ... so can store things for more than two or three days without a problem.

Cut and store vegetables like lauki, karela, drumsticks, pumpkin, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, etc.
Place a paper napkin on the top and make sure you store them in an airtight box.
Don't cut and store potatoes, beets, brinjals, etc. Basically stuff that oxidise fast should not be cut before hand.

Knead atta for two days. I would not suggest to store it for more than two days.
Make rice for two or more days.
It can also be used later in numerous ways , if you don't want it plain any more.

Soak legumes and store.
This is my batch today - Rajma, White matar for my no masala quick ghugni, green moong dal for cheelas / pesarattu and rice for idli or dosa or handvo.

Soya kheema curry
Pick green, leafy vegetables like the palak/spinach, methi, dhaniya etc. and store in airtight containers with some paper napkins in.
All these can be done when you are sitting down ... like watching the tv.
Involve family members, if possible.  It takes out the monotony of the task as well as allows for time to spend together.
Mummy (mil) brings out her bunch of leafy vegetables when we sit down with our evening tea. All of us join in and it soon turns into a happy get together. Everybody gets drawn to that room and join in with the cosy banter. As well as with the work at hand.

Boil milk and store in the coldest part of your fridge.
Make paneer ... you can make bhurji or parathas with it. 
Boil potatoes and store , but not in airtight containers.

Make sprouts of green moong, kala chana, etc.
I always have a bowlful of fresh green sprouts in the fridge.

Moong sprouts

They make great salads, can add to muri or puffed rice for a snack or use in upmas, noodles or just make a stir fry when you run out of vegetables.
You can grind them up and make quick and healthy cheelas or pancakes too.

Soak rice and dal for idli batter.
I almost always make it in bulk and store in the fridge.
Other than the idli, you can make dosas, poda pitha, santlano pithe or the plain chakli pithe to eat with curries or bhajas.
Check out this link for a lot of other options.
Works great when you do not feel like making rotis or do not have kneaded atta.
Or when you have sudden guests.

Make dry masalas one day.
Keep a day of light cooking and use the time to make masalas. You can make a one pot meal on that day.
I make coriander powder, jeera powder, bhaja moshlas and some garam masalas at home.
Make in small batches and store in air tight bottles.

Make wet masals on another day.
Freezing pastes
Grind onions, ginger, garlic, green chillies, tomatoes etc. and store in ice trays.
I sometimes cook all of these together with turmeric + salt + chilli powder + a little garam masala ( kosha moshla) and store in ice trays. Just add a cube or two to vegetables or fish or chicken and you have a dish ready in minutes.

Grate coconut and refrigerate.
I cannot use a grater, so just cut into pieces and run in a mixer ... just one or two pulses will do.

Keep a paper and pen and you can jot down what you need to pick on your next grocery trip, or what to cook for the next day, etc. Menu planning is half the job done.
I have a slate to write down. Or sometimes write straight on the tiles. :)
As you can see, at any moment of time, I have at least two or three lists on my kitchen walls.

Kitchen management is all about time management.
A little planning ahead will help you to great lengths.
And you will have enough time in your hands to follow your hobbies or finish other chores.

Do check out my next post on how to prepare and freeze things for later use.

Hope this helps. 
I will keep updating this post as and when I come across anything new.
Good luck!!
Soya keema

Now to today's recipe.
A quick, spicy Soya curry.
I have been trying to get some protein into B, a pure vegetarian.
Soya granules are a good option as he refuses to touch the chunks.
These granules can be cooked in numerous ways other than this curry ... ideas that I have come up with to mask them and make B eat without knowing .... posts coming up soon.

This resembles the non vegetarian kheema that we usually make with chicken or mutton.
Slightly on the richer side, this makes for a great dinner when paired with parathas or luchis/puris.
Of course, goes great with the good old roti too.

Need :
Soya granules - 1 cup ( I use Nutrela )
Garam masala powder - 1 tbsp
Vinegar - 1 tbsp

Onion paste - 1 tbsp
Ginger paste - 1 tsp
Garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Tomato paste - 2 tbsp
Whole garam masala - cloves+cinnamon+black cardamom+bay leaf
Dry red chillies - 2, broken
Turmeric powder - 1 tsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tbsp
Coriander / Dhaniya powder - 1 tbsp
Cumin / Jeera powder - 1 tsp

Fresh coriander leaves - chopped
Salt - to taste
Sugar - to taste
Cooking oil - 2 tbsp ( I use mustard oil )

How to :

Soak the soya kheema in enough water for an hour.
Squeeze out the water well.
Take enough water in a big pan and add the soaked soya granules with  water + salt + vinegar + 1 tsp of garam masala powder.
This gets rid of that typical smell that dry soya has.

Heat oil in a deep kadahi or pan.
Add the whole garam masala and the red chillies.

Next, add the onion paste and fry a little.

Now add the ginger paste, garlic paste and fry well.

Add the turmeric + red chilli powder + dhania powder + jeera powder + salt.
Fry till dryish.

Now add the tomato paste and fry well.

Add the boiled soya keema, garam masala powder, salt and sugar.
Mix well.
Add a little water if needed.

Cover and simmer for around 20 minutes.

Remove cover and check consistency of your choice. I make it very dryish.
Check for salt.

Sprinkle chopped coriander leaves and cover and let it stand for a few minutes.
Serve hot with rotis or parathas or puris.

This is great on the side with plain rice or with the polau too, if you are making a vegetarian feast.