Big Bong

IMG_0331A happy New Year people hope everyone had wonderful holiday season and are getting back to their busy lives and chores.

Yes have been cooking a little less these days thanks to attending a  lot of weddings this season but now finally all that is done and back home trying to switch back to a healthy diet and home cooked food.

I love Lentils. They are very important part of our Indian Cuisine very healthy high on protein, fiber, and vitamin B. Every Region in India has its own version of a staple lentil as we call it Dal. As Region changes the variety of lentils used change too. North Indian love their Tadka Dal or Dal Makhani and as one travels towards Gujarat the pallet changes with a lighter sweeter Gujrati Dal or Kadhi.

Dal is served with all meals with a variety of bread or could be eaten with plain or brown rice. This particular dal recipe is from the region of West Bengal. It is called Chollar Dal. Bengalis are very passionate about their food, their staples consist of Fish and Meat Curry delicately spiced mustard, chilies etc cooked in mustard oil. The Cuisine also has a lot of vegetarian options Vegetarian curries in coconut gravy, Aloo poshto and brilliant variety of sweets. I love Bengali sweets be it the soft and juicy Rosogullas or the creamy Bhapa Doi they are just brilliant in flavor, texture and so light.

Chollar Dal is a usually made on special occasions like puja or wedding ceremonies etc. Eaten traditionally with deep-fried Puris and fresh green chilies this dal is a wonderful combination cooked with aromatic spices and the additions of sweet raisins and the toasted coconut makes it very rich in flavor.

CHOLLAR DAL

(Recipe adapted from Anjum Anand’s Indian Food made easy)

  • 1 liters water
  • 250 gms chana dal (also called Bengal gram lentils), thoroughly cleaned
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground coriander powder
  • 1 teaspoon garam masala
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons sugar
  • Salt to taste

For Tempering

  • 2 tablespoons mustard oil /unsalted butter or ghee (clarified butter) 5 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds(jeera)
  • 1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 5cloves
  • 1 to 2 dried red chiles
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 (1/2-inch) piece cinnamon stick 
  • 1 tsp Raisins
  • 3 heaping tablespoons flaked or desiccated coconut or 1/4 small fresh coconut, flesh chopped into small cubes.
  • (I have used dried grated coconut )

METHOD

Heat the water, lentils, and turmeric in a saucepan, and bring to the boil. Simmer the mixture for about 1 hour, or until soft. If necessary, add a bit of extra water.

Or You can also Pressure Cook the Dal. Wash and soak the dal for 1-2 hours and then pressure cook it with 750 ml of water for 4-5 whistles.

Once the dal is soft and cooked, stir in the coriander powder, garam masala, sugar, and salt, to taste.

Cook until the lentils are completely soft and beginning to break up.

Tempering:- Heat the oil or butter in a small pan. Fry the cardamom pods, cumin, mustard seeds, cloves, chilies, bay leaves, and cinnamon for 30 seconds. Be careful as the seeds may pop a bit.

Add the coconut, and stir until it turns golden brown. Add raisins.

Stir the spice mixture into the lentils and divide among 4 serving plates.

Serve hot with Puffed Puri or Bread and Fresh green chilies on the side.

Enjoy

Peas in a Pod

Back to blogging after a really long time but life is such… when other thing took over, writing surely had taken a back seat for me. But now am back again and will do a detailed blog post on things which I tried cooking or eating out over the last couple of weeks!!

So this blog post is pretty special, I got a chance to make few recipes using ingredients from Shop for Change Fair Trade, an NGO that was founded in 2009 with a mission to harness the power of Indian markets to improve the livelihoods of poor farmers across India via trade, not aid.

Shop for Change is India’s first and only Fair Trade label. Cotton is the first fair trade certified product where they have partnered with leading brands such as Color Plus (Raymond), Shoppers Stop, Mother Earth, Anita Dongre and innovative brands like No Nasties, Do U Speak Green etc…They are doing some commendable work in this field.

They also have a range of exclusive food products such as chocolate cashew, organic vanilla powder, Chamomile tea, various Herb blends, wild forest honey – all sourced directly from small farmer groups. With festive season around these products are wonderful gifting options. One of the gifting ideas is one can club these various spices and make special box or a hamper. They have a variety of herb blends, mace, all spice mix, oregano etc which can be combined into a lovely spice box.

This week I got cooking with these amazing products hence am going to do a series of Three recipes which are perfect to be served for Diwali party or any occasion using these products.

For my first recipe am going to use the black peppercorns from fair trade. These peppercorns are sourced from Varanashi Organic. They are wonderfully aromatic and very good quality. So I decided to make a green peas soup garnished with crispy cottage cheese and freshly ground pepper from Fair Trade which can be served as a perfect starter.

This recipe is easy to make one pot soup, its has wonderful flavors of the Indian spices the pepper here provides the perfect kick and the lovely green color is very inviting also kind of comfort food… A healthy option as it has no added cream,Etc. Serve warm with choice of any assorted bread and herb butter.

GREEN PEAS SOUP

3 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
4-5 cloves of garlic crushed
2 green chilies, chopped
1/4 teaspoon cumin powder
3 tablespoons sunflower oil/butter
2 bay leaves
1 medium onion, chopped
4 1/2 cups vegetable stock or water
3 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
sea salt to taste
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice
handful of fresh mint leaves, chopped

Freshly ground pepper

Pan-fried paneer for garnish

Puree the ginger, garlic, chilies, cumin with some water into a paste. Set aside.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add the oil/butter. When hot, add the bay leaves and sauté for a couple of seconds. Add the onion and cook for a few minutes, until it pink in color, Then Add the garlic-ginger paste, and cook for another minute. Add the stock, stir well, and bring to a boil. Then add the peas. Simmer until cooked through maybe for 8-10 mins.

Once off the heat let is cool. Remove the bay leaves, add salt, and puree well with a hand blender. Check the seasoning and consistency and if you require thinning it one can add more stock. Top it with lemon juice, some cumin, mint leaves, and pan-fried paneer or cheese of your choice.

Serve hot

(Adapted from 101 cookbooks.com)

STREET FOOD : JHAL- MURI

The list of my favorite street food is quite extensive and it ranges from the humble-vada pav of Mumbai to the Paneer kathi roll from Kathi roll company NYC but i have a soft spot for Jhal Muri.

Jhal –Muri is one of the most popular street foods of Calcutta, India.  So what is this ubiquitous street food all about?? Well It’s made with puffed rice, potato, onions, fresh coconut, chilies, fresh coriander and salted peanuts…drizzled with the aromatic mustard oil tossed with a  special spice mix which includes red chili powder, cumin powder, clove powder etc served in a humble paper cone. A very simple dish but when eaten one experiences burst of different flavors. Its tangy, salty and crunchy all at once.

I was introduced to this snack by my bhabhi (sister-in-law) and have fond memories which go all the way back to my school days when I had heaps of work and assignments to finish and she would make it loving each and every time I craved for something fun to eat . A perfect snack for hot and humid weather or when you’re just in mood to cook up something quick.

Have made a simple version as it can be quickly made with basic ingredients found in one’s pantry.

When I saw the  Monthly Mingle event a brilliant concept by Meeta from What’s for Lunch Honey.

This month it’s hosted by one of my favorite bloggers Zizi from Zizi’s Adventures I knew I had to include this one.

Jhal-Muri

Ingredients

200 gms puffed rice or muri

3 Tbsp sev (Bengal gram vermicelli)

2 Tbsp salted peanuts

1 boiled potato chopped

1 onion finely chopped

2Tbsp chopped raw mango

2 Green Chilies finely chopped

2-3 Tbsp fresh coconut grated or chopped

3 tbsp Spice Mix

Juice of half a lemon

2 Tbsp Olive oil

Salt to taste

Some crushed crispy papdi (optional)

For The Spice Mix

Dry Roast 1 tsp cumin, 1 tsp clove and 4-5 peppercorns and grind them in a grinder or with help of mortar and pestle then mix 1 tsp red chili powder. This mix can also be made in a larger quantity and stored in an air tight container.

Method:

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl.

Add the spice mix.

Lastly drizzle the oil and lemon juice and serve immediately

Enjoy.

Chili Mili

The title literally means that “I found chilies” which happened the other day when I went grocery shopping and I got home these wonderful green chilies.

Well I love spicy food and have tasted a variety of chilies and experimented with them while cooking, No wonder I like Mexican cuisine as it has very bold and fresh flavors and the use of chili and spices is quite liberal which is quite similar to our Indian cuisine.

In India chili is an very important ingredient in flavoring curries,  there are various varieties of chilies available red or green either in fresh or powdered form actually each region or state has their own distinct produce of chilies ranging from the darkest emerald green to the roaring red ones . The spice levels of chilies also vary, my mum always told me the darker and thinner the chili the spicier it is.

So the other day when I found this amazing variety of chilies with my vegetable vendor…It straight away reminded me of Chili Relleno which I had during one of my visits to NY.

Chili Relleno is an authentic Mexican dish which means stuffed chilies. Consist of roasted Poblano Peppers. This is roasted and stuffed with a filling of cheese and meat, nuts and raisins covered in egg batter and deep fried. There are many different versions of Chili Rellenos, the one’s I ate in NYC were very different filled with a lot of cheese and served with fresh tomato salsa on the side.

As I was little unwell with cold and cough, (yes being sick makes me really cranky) thought this Mexican meal would definitely help cheer me up also was in a mood to have something different.

Made a Vegetarian Healthy version where I have avoided the deep frying and used a little different technique .Was worried how they would turn out also took a little time to prep and make it.But had fun making them leaving me happy with the end result.

Must try recipe.

I served it with homemade tomato salsa, tomatillo salsa, Sour cream and some Mexican pepper rice on the side.

Enjoy.

Chili Relleno

Ingredients

8 Poblano peppers (2 per person) you can also use any other mild pepper or even try with fresh jalapenos.

1 medium sized onion

½ cup boiled corn

1 cup black beans (boiled and slightly mashed)

3-4 cloves of garlic

2 tbsp olive oil

2-3 tsp red chili powder

1 1/2 tsp cumin powder

Juice of a lime

Salt to taste

1 cup grated cheese of one’s choice (cheddar/fontina/or pepper jack –anything mild)

Method:-

Roast and clean peppers

  • Slit and deseed the peppers but make sure to keep the stems on
  • Line these peppers on a baking sheet and grill it in a pre-heated oven and roast them on 230C for 20-25 minutes keep an check on them and turn them after every few minutes so they get charred evenly on all sides
  • Once the peppers are roasted transfer them in a clean dry bowl and cover with plastic wrap and let it steam for ten minutes. This process helps peeling the peppers quite easily. Peel the skin and keep them ready to be filled with the bean and cheese mix.

Make the filling

  • Heat Oil in a pan, Add onions and sauté till they are soft .Add the garlic and cook it for another 2 minutes.
  • Add the boiled beans, corn and season with cumin powder, chilli powder and salt.
  • Add the corn and the lemon juice .Get it off the heat and transfer in a mixing bowl and let it cool for some time.
  • Once at room temperature mix ¾ of the cheese.

Fill the peppers with this bean, corn and cheese mix and line them on a pre-greased Baking Dish

Top it with the remaining cheese, put it back in the oven and bake on 230C for another 15 minutes until cheese melts to a lovely golden color.

Serve with the salsa of your choice, sour cream and Mexican Pepper Rice on the side.

NOTE:-

If you want to deep fry this chilies than after they are stuffed with the filling make a simple batter using flour, salt, egg yolks and water (you can also use beer instead of water to make the batter, the beer will help make the batter very light and give its own unique taste) and then dip the chilies in this batter and deep fry them in canola or any nut oil.

Make sure when you put the chilies in this hot oil put the seam side down as that will seal the chili close.

This Deep fried version can be served as a filling in soft taco or can be had as it is with the choice of your favorite salsa.

I found a variety of local chilies in India as it’s hard to source fresh Poblano peppers so one can use anything like maybe jalapenos or even make stuffed peppers using the same filling and topping them with cheese and bake them.

Shravan and Celebration

Shravan is here so is the fasting season. The other morning I read this tweet by Rujuta Divekar who is a very renowned nutritionist “Eat Sabudana Khichdi once a week during shravan this keeps one’s system cool, skin fresh, scalp healthy and stomach light”.

Now I wasn’t aware of all these additional benefits sabudana had but the khichdi is my favorite. My mom made the best one actually (well, yes nothing can beat mom’s cooking) It was a snack once I got home from school or was served for breakfast. The fluffy texture of the khichdi could make anyone’s mouth water and combined with green chilies and potatoes +peanuts it’s a meal in its self .

This can be had hot or cold and even when we travelled it was a great picnic food, very filling and easy to carry along. Easy to make but difficult to get it made right yes a couple of times even I had a made terrible khichdi but gradually learnt it.

Now two questions popped in my head why people fast during shravan? And what exactly are the benefits of sabudana or tapioca pearls? Well I am a Jain and our fasting months and rituals are different. Had to ask couple of friend’s about shravan and its importance.

Shravan is one of the most auspicious month according to the Hindu calendar. It is 5th month of Hindu calendar. These shravan fast have a huge significance. The devotees of Lord Shiva keep this fast, people perform rituals and pooja. They Fast from sunrise to sunset though there are people who keep a very strict fast while others follow partial one and consume very light food. They avoid whole grains, and follow strict vegetarianism.

They say by fasting during shravaan one’s prayers are answered and unmarried girls keep this fast for the perfect life partner (Wish we found that perfect man just by fasting). There is also a scientific reason to fasting..Monsoon is at its peak in India which weakens our digestive system so this fasting helps in a lot of ways and also detoxifies the system.

During fast people eat simple meals maybe one time during the day which is called faral, comprising of Fruits, Milk, Milk Products, Fruits and certain Vegetables are allowed during these fast like bottle gourd, potatoes, tapioca, sweet potato etc. They can have basic spices like green chilies, cumin, pepper, rock salt and sugar. Nuts, coconut, and Dry fruits can be consumed. Over the time the faral food has become very fancy and even restaurants add these dishes to their menu.

Now the answer to my second question what are these tapioca pearls or sabudana and their benefits?

Now here little insight was provided by my dad. The Tapioca pearls are made from raw Tapioca roots. It’s like an underground potato variety. Making of tapioca pearls is a factory process now .Also looked up on various sources bout the nutrition value which basically is carbohydrates which gives you a quick boost of energy, is very easy to digest, has a cooling effect on the system and quite low in fat and protein. It does not have any minerals or iron. Hence one makes up for this by adding other ingredient such as milk, peanut, potatoes etc.

The prep time is more as one needs time to soak the sabudana/pearls for at least 4-5 hours.

SABUDANA KHICHDI.

Ingredients:-

2 cups sabudana/Tapioca Pearls

3 Potatoes

3 Tsp Crushed Green Chilies + Ginger paste.

1-2 Green chilies whole

3 Potatoes diced

2 Tbsp lemon juice

3-4 Tbsp peanuts crushed (I used mortar and pestle to crush)

1 ½ Tbsp sugar

2 Tbsp clarified butter or Ghee

1 Tsp Cumin seeds/Zeera

Fresh Coriander chopped

5-8 Curry Leaves

Salt to taste(Use Rock Salt if your Fasting )

Method:-

Wash sabudana /tapioca pearls thoroughly and soak them for 4-5 hours at least till they puff up double in size and the water is completely absorbed (water while soaking should be very less just covering the pearls)

In a pan add ghee, Add cumin seeds and let it crackle then add whole green chilies, diced potatoes, curry leaves and cook till the potatoes are a little tender and change color.

Add crushed peanuts and ginger + chili paste and sauté for 2 mins.

Then add the sabudana and cook on a medium heat stir continuously so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pan.

Cook till the sabudana is translucent and then season it with salt, sugar and lemon juice.

Cover and cook it for 3-4 mins on a medium flame.

Garnish with coriander and serve hot or cold with yogurt

NOTE:-

The key to good khichdi is the water from sabudana should be completely soaked otherwise slight moisture and it will become mushy.

Also one should keep tossing the Khichdi or else it will stick to the pan.

Instead of sabudana/Tapioca pearls one can also use orzo pasta makes a great snack with a little Indian twist  …But can’t be consumed during fast.

Enjoy.

Cheers to the good times!!

Cheers!!

I think Cooking and feeding people brings nourishment not only to our bodies but happiness to our spirits. Cooking for people is a way of showing your love towards them..Brings people together and it’s just magic!!

Yes Magic did happen that night!! As they say Friends do bring out the best in each other and when we meet hell ya… we do have a blast.So the other day a very impromptu thing happened. We girls were chatting up and decided to meet, it had been a while we met each other as all had been travelling, busy with our social commitments and catching up was long due .So the my partners in crime Niketa(she designs the most amazing fabric also into ready-wear!! Yes most of my wardrobe is by her),Shrishti(she designs boxes and packaging for special occasions) and Me decided to have a house party.

Usually we go out but I rather like the idea of having house party where you’re just relaxed, no pressure of time, be yourself and just feel at home. Finally the venue for our party was Gaurav and Shrishti’s house since his parents were away and instead of ordering food from outside we girls decided to cook …’pot-luck’ it was. Initially we thought of cooking Thai but at Gaurav’s request we changed to Mexican…Yes he was going to be the bar-tender so how could we not listen to him and just like that things were in place..Menu &Venue all was set.

Our Host who made the best drinks for us!

So the menu was:

  • Shrishti :- Chips with salsa ,guacamole and sour cream  and Quesadilla with a filling of corn ,red yellow peppers and cheddar cheese (she made the tortillas at home )
  • Niketa: – Potato skins with a filling of broccoli and mozzarella and a bake of grilled zucchini and egg plant.
  • And Me:- Roasted pumpkin dip, Grilled Corn salad with a chili and lime mayo and Spicy Creol rice.

Tomato Salsa,Guacamole and Sour Cream.

Yes too much food with lots of cheese but for one day our diet was given rest and we just wanted to enjoy and indulge ourselves. Gaurav made the best margarita’s and they just paired perfectly with the starters .

Potato Skins filled with Broccoli and Cheese by Niketa

The potatoes with broccoli and cheese just melted away we did top them with sour crème ,tobasco for that extra kick of flavor.

Roasted Pumpkin Dip with Cream Cheese and Parsley.

The velvety texture of pumpkin dip complimented the chips and salsa, some of us even topped the potatoes with pumpkin dip and corn salad.

Niketa with her margarita.

After a brief break for our drinks and conversations it was time for mains..shrishti’s Quesadilla’s were just sinful and delicious. The home-made tortillas were crisp and just perfect with that filling of cheese, peppers and corn.

Nike’s bake of grilled egg-plant and zucchini was just rightly spiced. The cheese melted away with the soft egg-plant slightly charred off the grill and that garlic and tomato sauce brought in the required sharpness.

Niketa’s Eggplant and Zucchini Bake and Quesadilla’s by Shrishti

The Spicy Creol rice was fiery and spicy and complimented the rest of the dishes. (Bummer couldn’t take the picture of rice we were so hungry none of us had patience to wait).

Me ,Shrishti and Aaryav (shrishti’s adorable son)

Good friends don’t have to be doing anything to enjoy each other’s company, just the fact that they are together makes it special…They are sort of glue that hold our life and faith together  and no matter how dull the day has been going they just bring the instant sunshine .None of us wanted the night to end ..A Toast to us, our wonderful friend ship and to more such mad and wonderful times together …Love them a lot.

Grilled Corn Salad with Chili and Lime Mayo.

Grilled Corn salad with a chili and lime mayo.

Ingredients:

1 cup roasted corn kernels.

2 Tbs chopped capsicum.

3-4 Tbsp mayonnaise

1 Tsp finely chopped jalapeños (fresh or pickled).

1 Tsp sweet paprika or Red Kashmir chili powder.

2-3 Tsp lemon juice.

2Tbsp Olive oil.

Salt and Pepper to Taste.

Method:

Grill the corn on the flame and keep turning the corn so all sides are charred, for about 6-10 minutes.

Let it cool and remove the kernels with help of a knife.

In a bowl mix the ingredients for the dressing i.e. mayonnaise, jalapeños, salt, pepper, lemon juice, Olive oil and paprika powder.

To serve: Mix the corn kernels, chopped capsicum, jalapeños and add the dressing .Serve hot or cold.

Tip : One can also directly apply this dressing on grilled corn on cob.

Enjoy.

Spicy Korean Style Cucumber Salad

I truly enjoy eating salads, on a hot day or any day and if it’s a little spicy even better as it replaces my craving of any spicy junk food that I would normally end up eating otherwise. The recipe which I am posting today it’s a quick and easy one and can be made with simple ingredients from one‘s pantry.

This salad can also double up and make a wonderful filling for any sandwich or also can work as a side for barbecue dish or burgers.

It is quite similar to a kimchi but it’s not fermented and can be used quite fresh. One can use any kind of cucumbers which has a crisp and firm texture preferably one with small seeds works better.

The Korean spice gochugaru (very similar to dry red chili flakes) can be used if one has access to it but for now I have used normal red chili flakes.

Takes minutes to prepare and can be served hot or cold.

Enjoy!!

 Spicy Korean Style Cucumber Salad 

Ingredients

2 Tsp rice wine vinegar

1-2 Tsp dry red chili flakes /gochugaru

1 Tsp toasted sesame oil

1 Tsp toasted sesame seeds

½ Tsp salt

½ Tsp sugar

½ Tsp soy sauce

1 scallion finely chopped

2 Cucumbers thin slices

The Dressing

Method

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl except the cucumber’s and mix well.

Taste and adjust the seasoning if required.

Add the sliced cucumber and toss.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.