Thursday, 27 February 2014

Indian Spices: Jeera (Cumin)

India's most popular chef - Sanjeev Kapoor calls cumin his favourite spice. This all-rounder spice of the Indian kitchen packs a nutty and peppery aroma that tingles your taste buds and makes your mouth salivate.

Indian Spices: Cumin Seeds

Cumin seeds are most commonly used in Indian kitchens for tempering dals (lentil preparations), rice dishes and vegetables. Tempering is the first step of almost all savoury and main course dishes in Indian cuisine. It is done by heating a little oil and adding whole spices like cumin seeds, mustard seeds, whole dried red chillies, fenugreek seeds or herbs like curry leaves and allowing them to before adding raw, cut vegetables or boiled lentils for dal and dried spices to finish off the dish. 

Cumin powder is also popularly used as a dry spice powder in Indian cuisine. 

Indian Spices: Cumin Powder
Cumin powder is prepared by dry roasting cumin seeds on a low flame till they release a warm, nutty aroma (that spreads through the house and feels heavenly!). These are then dry ground in a grinder till they form a really fine powder. Cumin powder, like cumin seeds can be used to spice both dry vegetable dishes and gravy ones, dals (lentil preparations), rice dishes like pulaos and biryanis and even some forms of parathas (flatbreads). A dash of cumin powder can also be added to salads and cold buttermilk for that extra punch of earthy flavour!

Cumin seeds and cumin powder also form a part of various spice mixes used in Indian cuisine such as panch phoron (Bengali five-spice mix used for tempering), garam masala (Punjabi powdered spice mix), dhana-jeeru (everyday spice powder used in Gujarati kitchens made of corriander and cumin powders), goda masala (spice powder mix used in Maharashtrian kitchens) etc.

Cumin has a lot of health benefits. The most popularly known dadima ka nuskha (grandma's home remedy) is to munch on cumin or jeera goil (candy made from cumin) for aiding digestion. It provides relief from flatulence, nausea, stomach aches etc. Cumin is also had a lot during hot Indian summers for its cooling effects on the body. 

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Tuver No Bhaath Recipe (Fresh Pigeon Peas Pulao Recipe)

Today is my grandmother's (moti's) birth anniversary. This post (like every post I write here) is for her, whose passion for cooking I have inherited. She built my foundation in cooking and life- the foundation that has helped me become the cook and person that I am today.

It was a winter evening about six years ago. Tired of eating the same food my mother cooked, I decided to make something new. I opened my refrigerator and found green pigeon peas (fresh tuver) and a bunch of fresh corriander. Since I loved both, I decided to do something with them. I also wanted a hearty rice dish - it being a cool evening - so I thought why not be completely different? I thought I could flavour the rice with a chutney made out of corriander and use green pigeon peas instead of regular peas to make it like a pulao.

I made the dish and served it. My father had a bite of it and said, "I didn't know grandma had taught you how to make this dish... I would have asked you to make it earlier..." I had goosebumps when I heard it, because she hadn't really taught me how to make it. I had just thought about the idea of this dish. I guess my cooking style had become so similar to her style having learnt from her that my thoughts turned out to be like her dish.


Tuver no Bhaath (Fresh Pigeon Peas Pulao)


Tuver no bhaath (green pigeon peas or fresh pigeon peas pulao) is a one-dish meal that is made with the fresh pigeon peas that are in season in winter months. Gujaratis use tuver in a variety of dishes such as tuver ni kachori or undhiyu when it is in season. Tuver no bhaath was a particular favourite and specialty of my grandmother's kitchen. If you can't find pigeon peas, you can always substitute them with peas for a different version of your usual green peas pulao.


Tuver no Bhaath Up Close (Fresh Pigeon Peas Pulao)


Tuver no Bhaath Recipe (Fresh Pigeon Peas Pulao Recipe)

Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes

Serves: 4


Ingredients:

1/2 cup tightly packed fresh corriander leaves
1 green chilly
1/4 inch piece of ginger
6 cloves of garlic
2 tbsps oil (peanut or olive)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 inch cinnamon stick
2 dried bay leaves
2 pieces of star anise
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 cup fresh toor/ pigeon peas (can be substituted with regular peas)
2 cups soaked rice (preferably basmati)
Water as required for cooking
Salt to taste

Method

Blend together the corriander leaves, the green chilly, the ginger and the garlic to form a chutney-like smooth paste. Keep aside.

In a pressure cooker, heat the oil.

Temper with the cumin seeds, the cinnamon stick, the dried bay leaves and the star anise.

When the cumin starts to crackle, add in the onion and saute till they turn translucent.

Add in the pigeon peas and saute for about 30 seconds.

Remove the water from the soaked rice and add it in. Add in the prepared chutney and mix it well with the rice and pigeon peas.

Add water as needed for the type of rice you're making and salt.

Close the cooker and pressure cook for about 2 whistles on high flame and then on low flame for about 5 minutes after that till done.

Serve hot with Gujarati kadhi or yoghurt, pickles, papad or salad of your choice. There is really no limit to what all goes along with this dish!





Sunday, 23 February 2014

Ragda Patties (Indian Street Food/ Chaat) Recipe

Ragda patties is my second most favourite dish of Mumbai street food or chaat after pani puri. It is a very elaborate dish that has many components - soft potato patties, a spicy curry made of dried white peas (ragda), two tangy chutneys- the date-tamarind (khajur-imli) chutney and corriander and mint chutney and garnishing of chopped onions, chopped corriander and sev (very thin fried small noodles of chickpea flour).


The Components of Ragda Patties

Ragda pattice is a very filling and healthy dish. It has all the essential nutrients in one bowl - carbohydrates (and not much fats) from the shallow-fried potato patties, proteins from the dried white peas and various vitamins and minerals from the ingredients of the chutneys like dates and corriander and mint. It can make for a complete meal in itself and is one street food you can't fill guilty about indulging in!


Ragda Patties: The Final Dish

In this recipe, I will share  the recipes of each of the individual components - the potato patties, the ragda (dried white peas curry) and the date and tamarind chutney... I have already done a post on my attention stealing corriander and mint chutney and its recipe can be found here. Apart from this I will also give step-by-step instructions with pictures as to how to serve it in the traditional manner.

It is a long recipe, but worth every minute of the effort. So as the song goes, "Let's start at the very beginning, a very good place to start".


Ragda Patties Recipe (Indian Street Food/ Chaat)

Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

For the Patties

8-10 medium sized potatoes
2 green chillies
1/2 piece of ginger
3 tbsps cornflour/ potato starch powder
2-3 tbsps peanut or olive oil for shallow frying
Salt to taste

For the Ragda (Dried White Peas Curry)

2 cups dried white peas (soaked 7-8 hours)
6 cups water
2 tbsps peanut or olive oil
2 tsps cumin seeds
1/2 tsp asafoetida
1 medium or 2 small tomatoes finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsps red chilly powder
2 tsps garam masala powder
2 tsps corriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
Salt to taste

For the Date-Tamarind  Chutney

1 cup red/brown dates deseeded
1/2 cup water
3 tbsps tamarind pulp
1 tsp red chilly powder (optional)
Salt to taste

For Serving

2 medium onions finely chopped
1/2 cup loosely packed corriander leaves
1 cup sev



Method


The Patties


Potato Patties for Ragda Patties

Grind the green chillies and the ginger into a fine paste without any water.

Boil or pressure cook the potatoes and mash them.

Add the ginger-chilly paste and the salt and mix well with your fingers and hands.

Shape into rounds of around 2 inch diameter, flatten a little between both palms and coat with cornflour  or potato starch powder.

Heat the oil on a pan and shallow fry the patties till they turn golden brown on both sides. 


The Ragda (Dried White Peas Curry)


Ragda: Dried White Peas Curry


Pressure cook the soaked white peas with the water for 4 whistles on high flame and around 10 minutes on a low flame. This will ensure that the peas cook through completely.

In a deep frying pan, heat the oil and temper with the cumin seeds and asafoetida.

Turn the flame down to a medium high before adding in the tomatoes. Fry them for about two minutes. 

Now add the turmeric powder, the red chilly powder, the garam masala powder, the corriander powder and the cumin powder and fry with the tomatoes on a low flame for about 4-5 minutes till they start releasing the oil.

Now add the cooked white peas, the salt and some water (if needed to adjust consistency) and mix well.

Bring to a boil and then lower the flame and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes so that the spices blend well with the white peas and make a thick curry.


Date-Tamarind Chutney



Date-Tamarind Chutney

In a pressure, cook the dates with the water for one whistle.

Blend together the cooked dates (minus the water used for cooking if there is any left over), the tamarind, the salt and the red chilly powder (optional) till they form a smooth thick chutney.


For Serving

To serve, first take a deep dish or bowl and put in two of the potato patties.

Serving Ragda Patties Step 1

Pour about 3-4 serving spoons of ragda (dried white peas curry) on the patties to cover them.

Serving Ragda Patties Step 2

Next add the chutneys - the date-tamarind chutney and the mint-corriander chutney.

Serving Ragda Patties Step 3

Now garnish with the chopped onions, sev and finally the corriander leaves.

Serving Ragda Patties: The Final Dish

Enjoy some Mumbai chaat (street food) in the comfort of your home!



Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Indian Spices: Methi Dana (Fenugreek Seeds)

The Indian philosophy on food is that a meal should balance six 'rasas' or tastes - sweet, sour, pungent, salty, astringent and bitter. You will find this balance of different tastes in traditional meals across the length and breadth of the country - be it Gujarati food, Punjabi food, Bengali food, Maharashtrian food or South Indian food.

Though to someone new, it may seem that the bitter 'rasa' is the most difficult of all to add to a meal, however it is not so. All cuisines have their own ways in which they introduce it to the meal - a traditional Bengali meal begins with a bitter course with preparations such as 'shukto' (a mixed vegetable preparation) which has bitter gourd in it, whereas Gujaratis have dishes like 'thepla' (a spiced flatbread) that uses the slightly bitter fresh fenugreek leaves in it. Fenugreek seeds  or methi dana are a  a very common way in which the bitter 'rasa' is added to everyday meals.


Methi Dana: Fenugreek Seeds

In our kitchen, methi dana (fenugreek seeds) is a very essential spice, though it is used in small quantities. It is always at hand in our spice box that we use everyday. My mum and I add about 4 or 5 seeds of fenugreek in the tempering for the 'dal' (lentil preparation) we make everyday. It is also added to many spice mixes used in different cuisines everyday such as the 'panch phoron' (a mixture of five spices) in Bengali cuisine or the 'rasam' (spicy tomato and lentil soup) and 'sambhar' (lentil preparation had with idlis, dosas or rice) spice powders of the South. Broken methi dana (or methi na kuriya) are also used as a base for pickle spices.

Fenugreek sseds have a lot of health benefits. They are especially good for women during their periods or when they are pregnant or lactating. Adding fenugreek seeds to the daily diet is also recommended for diabetic patients. They can also be used in poultices (wrapped in a cloth and warmed) to relieve pains and inflammation. Fenugreek seeds are also very good for skin and hair - hair loss can be prevented by boiling fenugreek seed powder with coconut or olive oil, applying it to hair when it cools down and washing after and hour or so.


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Salt And Pepper With a Lot of Spice: A Lookback

Facebook lookback videos have become quite a trend. It is a brilliant concept that uses analytics to create a snapshot of your 'story' on Facebook. I have a Facebook page for this blog: Salt and Pepper With a Lot of Spice for which I wanted a lookback video... but Facebook hasn't put in that option. So I went ahead and made one myself!

Here is the lookback video... hope you enjoy it as much as I did making it!

video

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Oats Upma Recipe

Nowadays oats have become a cupboard staple in Indian homes. This trend includes me too - I always have a packet of oats at home for making quick and healthy breakfasts.

Oats: The New Cupboard Staple

Many people have heard of oats, their health benefits and have gone ahead and bought it into their homes. This has led to a frequently asked question on food forums that I am a part of - "What are some good recipes for oats?" 

Oats Upma

I am still discovering new recipes and ways in which to use oats in our Indian kitchens. 

Oats Upma

I have been thinking of making oats upma for quite some time now, but every time I think of upma, I think of the classic rawa (semolina) upma or masala upma, so this recipe has been on the back burner for quite some time. I woke up today morning thinking of the same classic upma, but plans changed when I found there was no rawa at home... and that is the story of how I finally tried my hand at making oats upma!


Oats Upma Finally!

Oats Upma Up Close


Oats Upma Recipe


Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 25 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

2 tbsps oil (peanut or olive)
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2/ tsp asafoetida 
10-15 curry leaves
2 green chillies cut into 3-4 pieces
1 1/2 tbsp udad dal
2 medium onions finely chopped
1 cup oats
1 1/2 -2 cups hot water
Salt to taste

Lemon wedges and corriander leaves to garnish and serve

Method

Heat oil in a pan. Temper with mustard seeds and when they start to crackle add in the asafoetida, the curry leaves and the green chillies.

Lower the flame to medium high and add in the udad dal. Fry till it turns reddish brown. 

Now add in the chopped onions and saute till they turn translucent.

Next go in the oats. Keeping the flame medium high, roast the oats in the prepared tempering till they turn reddish and let off a nutty aroma.

Pour in the hot water till it covers the oats. Add in the salt too. Turn the flame to high and cook for about 3 minutes till the oats cook and the water evaporates.

Serve hot with a dash of lemon juice and some corriander leaves! 


Monday, 10 February 2014

Waldorf Salad Recipe

Waldorf salad: an American classic that has been accepted very well and relished by the world. The salad is so named as it was first created in 1893 by the maitre d'hotel of the Waldorf hotel (currently Waldorf-Astoria hotel). 

It was a loved one's birthday very recently and I wanted to make something new, interesting, delicious and yet simple for the occassion. I was thinking of and chalking down ideas when I remembered that Waldorf salad is a particular favourite of this person; rather it is one of the very few salads they eat. Since it is the first time I had bought celery, I thought what better than this salad's surprise. 


Fresh and Crunchy Waldorf Salad

I had a trial run of half a bowl of this salad at around 8 p.m a day before, and it turned out okay-ish, so I put some back in the refrigerator, wondering what the hoopla about it really is! Since I had nothing to show for my efforts and I was still thinking about what to make, I couldn't sleep. So at night at around 11:00 a.m., I went back, took out the salad from the refrigerator and tasted it again to try and make some sense of it... and it was perfect then! The simple thing was to refrigerate it before serving because it makes the salad really crunchy and delicious to eat!


Waldorf Salad

And with this great salad served on fresh lettuce, I could say a very interesting and lovely Happy Birthday!


Crunchy Waldorf Salad Served on Fresh Lettuce

Waldorf Salad Recipe

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Refrigeration Time: 1 hour

Total Time:  1 hour 10 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

For the Salad

1 red apple chopped into 1/4 inch cubes
2 stalks celery finely chopped
10-15 walnuts roughly chopped

For the Dressing

2 tbsps mayonnaise 
1/2 tsp lemon juice

For Serving

4 fresh iceberg lettuce leaves

Method

Combine the chopped red apples, the chopped celery and the walnuts.

Mix well the mayonnaise and lemon juice for the dressing.

Add the dressing to the salad ingredients and toss well so that the dressing coats the salad well. You can mix and add more of the dressing if you wish.

Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Around 15 minutes before taking the salad out from the refrigerator to serve, take a large bowl of ice cold water. Dip the iceberg lettuce leaves in it. Arrange them in a bowl and serve the cold salad on top.

Enjoy it cold and crunchy! 




Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Indian Spices: Lal Mirch (Red Chilly)

Go to your kitchen... or any Indian kitchen. Open the spice box that is within your hand's reach and stores the spices you use everyday. What do you see? A rich red powder. One that you have been told since childhood not to touch. Or if you do, then wash your hands immediately before touching anything else, especially your eyes. If you aren't Indian, then this is the spice you are probably afraid of in Indian food. Yes, I am talking of red chilly.

People often say that Indian food is spicy. The 'spice' that is often referred to in this statement is the pungency of the red chilly (especially dried red chilly powder) that gives Indian food much of its characteristic flavour.

Red chillies are available in both fresh and dried forms. Fresh red chilly is seasonal, and is used to make pickles and chutneys that can be stored for around the year. The most commonly used form of red chilly in the every day Indian kitchen is whole dried red chilly and dried red chilly powder. Whole dried  can be used for while tempering or to add to purees and gravies.

Kashmiri Whole Dried Red Chillies


Dried red chilly powder is used both for flavour as well as colour in Indian food. No Indian snack, curry, lentil or rice dish is complete without a dash of this spice. It is also added to some types of flatbreads such as parathas when making stuffed parathas or just spiced (masala) parathas.

Dried Red Chilly Powder (Kashmiri)


There are various kinds of chillies depending on their pungency and colouring power - for e.g. Kashmiri red chillies are the ones used at my house because of their mild pungency and the deep red colour it lends to food. We also use cherry red chillies (called boriya marcha - boriya meaning berry because of its shape) for some types of tempering like that of kadhis. Spice mixes that use chillies can often have more than one kind of chilly to bring about a balance of flavour, pungency and colour effects.

Simply to sum it up, we Indians love chilly and simply cannot do without it! Indian cuisine wouldn't be 'Indian' without a dash of this spice!





Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Pumpkin Soup with a Mirepoix Base

I am a big soup person. Which means that the short so-called winter in Mumbai is not really my good friend. When I had made this soup about a week back, there was still some semblance of winter in the air, but now it is already summer in Mumbai. And I already miss the 'cold' weather. Anyways, people around the world who are still enjoying winters can always make and enjoy this soup! And I can for health reasons!

Pumpkin soup with a mirepoix base: the reason why I tried this recipe was I had celery to use up from my recent shopping trip at the Crawford Market about which I have already written in quite some detail. And I am so glad I had that to do that! It gave me the push I needed to try using mirepoix at least once as a base for some soup!

Pumpkin Soup with a Mirepoix Base


Mirepoix or a mixture of onions, carrots and celery in the ratio of 2:1:1 is a traditional base used for soups, stocks, stews and sauces. While I have always read about it, I have never tried using it in any of the soups I have made till date. This time I thought, why not? Also, after my success with making pumpkin parathas, I have fallen in love with the vegetable, and have wanted to use it more often and I thought what better way to display the true flavours of a vegetable than making soup out of it.

Pumpkin Soup

This pumpkin soup is a rich, creamy, lightly spiced, delicious concoction is low on calories and high on nutrients. It can be eaten by itself as a meal with just some bread and a bean salad for some proteins and there is your balanced meal. Or it can form a great appetizer to start a meal in a smaller quantity.

Pumpkin Soup


So, here is my recipe of pumpkin soup using mirepoix  as a base.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Total Time:  30 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

2 tbsps olive oil
100 gms onions finely chopped
50 gms carrots finely chopped
50 gms celery finely chopped
2 bay leaves
500 gms red pumpkin diced
400 ml water
1/2 cup milk
1 tsp black pepper powder
Salt to taste

Method

In a pressure cooker heat the oil.

Add in the onions, carrots, celery and bay leaves and saute till the onions turn translucent.

Now add in the pumpkin and saute for around 3-4 minutes.

Pour in the water till it covers all the mixture, close the pressure cooker and cook for about 8 minutes till the pumpkins are tender and cooked through.

Fish out the bay leaves and then blend the mixture using a hand blender till it forms a thick soup.

Put the soup back on the heat. Add in the milk, salt and black pepper and bring to a boil.

Enjoy steaming hot!

Monday, 3 February 2014

Thai Green Curry

The first time I was introduced to the Thai green curry was in 2010. My best friend had just returned from England after her post-graduation. We had gone to get our quota of some good, intellectual movie or a mindless one (I can't remember which one it was, but yeah, we watch both kinds!) and the mall had a Thai restaurant. My friend turned to me and squealed in her characteristic way that it had been so long since she had had some Thai food. Well, what was to be done? We went in.

I trusted her to order, not having eaten much of Thai food back then. She ordered the green curry as it was her favourite. And I fell in love with it too! I have been cooking for so long, and I have made Thai Red Curry often at home, but this has been a recipe I have not felt confident enough to attempt somehow. I tried it recently and it turned out to be as good as the restaurant one, so here is my recipe of this green soothing
goodness!

Thai Green Curry from Scratch



Thai Green Curry

Thai Green Curry


Preparation Time: 20 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Total Time: 35 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients

For the Green Curry Paste

1/2 cup tightly packed Thai basil leaves
1 cup tightly packed fresh corriander leaves
1 lemongrass stalk thinly sliced
3 kaffir lime leaves thinly shredded
1 inch piece of galangal or 1/2 inch piece of ginger
4 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion sliced
2 green chillies
1 tsp soya sauce
1 tsp corriander powder
1/2 cumin powder

For the Thai Green Curry

2 tbsps oil (peanut or olive)
1 medium green bell pepper diced into 1 inch cubes
1 medium red bell pepper diced into 1 inch cubes
1 medium yellow bell pepper diced into 1 inch cubes
5 baby corns cut into 3-4 pieces each
6-8 button mushrooms cut into half lengthwise (optional)
6-8 broccoli florets (optional)
6-7 Thai brinjals cut into half (optional)
3 tbsps Thai Green Curry paste
400 ml fresh coconut milk (thick)
Salt to taste

Method

Grind together the green curry paste ingredients with about 1-2 tsps water in a mixer/ food processor till a smooth paste is formed. And that is your green curry paste that people buy in stores!

To make the curry, heat oil in a pan.

Add in all the vegetables - the bell peppers, the baby corns, the mushrooms, the broccoli florets, and the Thai brinjals and saute till the vegetables are cooked.

Now put in the Thai Green Curry paste and mix well with the sauteed vegetables.

Finally add in the coconut milk and stir. Bring the curry to a boil while you keep stirring.

Add in salt. Be careful, Thai brinjals add a salty flavour to the curry, so taste and then add based on how much salt you'll need.

Serve with steamed rice. No, it doesn't taste good with any form of bread. It is to be had only with rice or noodles.

Thai Green Curry with Steamed Rice (the ONLY way to eat it!)



Saturday, 1 February 2014

Salt Pepper and Spice Tip#3

For all lemon lovers like me... how to get more juice out of them in an easier manner!