Traditional South Indian Rice Dishes – Heralding in Sravana Maasam

The coming Sunday signals the start of Sravana Maasam (the month of Sravan according to the Hindu Calendar) in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. This is perhaps the most auspicious of all months and signals the start of the Chaturmasyam (4-month auspicious period). Almost every day of Sravana Maasam is significant for some reason and the Chaturmas  is dotted with festivals.

Festivals mean poojas; and poojas, but of course, are incomplete without food. Rice plays a very important part in all the naivedyam/prasadam and so I thought I would post a round-up of some of the popular rice dishes that are made during festival days.

I am limiting this post to the savoury rice dishes. Sweets made with rice are reserved for another round up!

Methi Matar Malai (Fresh Fenugreek Leaves and Peas in a Creamy Gravy) – The Spicy Version

Methi Matar Malai

Methi Matar Malai

Methi Matar Malai is one those dishes that you will find on the menu of every “Mughlai” or “Punjabi” restaurant. In days of yore, there were two restaurants famous for Punjabi food in South-Central Mumbai; Pritam Da Dhaba in Dadar and Yogi in Chembur. My first memory of eating Methi Matar Malai was at Yogi.

I was fascinated by the rich creamy sweet ‘n’ spicy gravy that was served. I have tried in many places ever since and I have found that the taste varies from sweet to spicy. This is the spicy version simple because my family is not too fond of sweet gravies.

What I like about this dish is that it combines two ingredients that I would not normally consider putting together; bitter fenugreek and peas. Then there is the creamy gravy.

Traditional, Methi Matar Malai uses fresh cream in the gravy. I made the low calorie version that uses no cream and only milk to get the rich creamy taste.

Serves: 4

Time:  45 Mins

Ingredients

  1. Fresh Fenugreek Leaves – 2 Packed Cups
  2. Peas – 1 Cup
  3. Milk – 1.5 Cups
  4. Cashews – 10-12
  5. Ginger – 1/2″ piece
  6. Garlic Cloves – 3
  7. Green Chillies – 3
  8. Cinnamon – 1/2″ piece
  9. Cloves – 2
  10. Cumin Seeds - 1/2 tsp
  11. Pepper Corns – 4
  12. Green Cardamom – 1
  13. Oil – 1 tbsp
  14. Fresh Cream – 2 tbsp (optional)
  15. Salt to Taste

 

Method

  1. Over medium heat, in a kadhai or wok, dry roast the cinnamon, cloves, pepper, cumin, and cardamom seeds for a couple of minutes.
  2. Let the spices cool and grind to a fine powder.
  3. Set aside.
  4. In the same grinder (if possible), grind the cashews, ginger, garlic, and green chillies to a smooth, thick paste using about 2 tbsp of water.
  5. Set aside.
  6. In the work used for roasting the spices, heat the oil.
  7. Add the fenugreek leaves and stir-fry till the leaves wilt.
  8. Add the green peas and about 1/4 cup of water.
  9. Cook covered till the peas soften.
  10. Now add the cashew paste and stir-fry for a couple of minutes.
  11. Add the dry roasted spice powder and salt.
  12. Stir-fry for a minute.
  13. Add the milk and mix well.
  14. Bring to a gentle simmer and turn off the heat.
  15. Add the fresh cream (if you are using it) and mix well.
  16. Serve warm with rotis or pulkas.

Tips

  • Add about 1/2 tsp of sugar if you like a touch of sweetness.
  • I have found that you do not need any cream because the cashew paste and milk give it the required richness.
  • If you don’t like to use too much cashew, substitute with 1/2 a sweet onion. Be sure to roast the sweet onion in a little oil before grinding.
  • I don’t boil the peas because they become mushy.
  • If you don’t mind a hint of bitterness, chop the fenugreek roughly (but not too fine) to release the bitterness.

Boiled Peanuts – Mumbai Street Food – The Quick and Easy Way

Boiled Peanuts

Boiled Peanuts

 

Mumbai is a metropolis that is for the working man and by the working man. Till the early 80s, Mumbai was a place where all kinds of mills and manufacturing industries thrived. These factories were often manned by men who came alone to this great city, leaving families behind, to eke out a living.

It is this working populace that gave rise to an assorted range of oddities that are so peculiarly Mumbai. The chawl system, one room tenements with shared sanitation facilities, were built to accommodate this migrant population.  Another is the eclectic Mumbai street food. If you observe almost all of Mumbai’s street food is healthy and filling; be it Pav Bhaji, Tava PulaoMisal Pav, Vada Pav, Sandwich, or Anda Bhurji. While these dishes are primarily used as lunch or dinner, Mumbai also has a vast range of dishes that can be classified as snacks.

The snacks that you commonly find on Mumbai’s streets range from filling Ragda Patties to the light Bhel to boiled & spiced green chickpeas (hara chana) to simple roasted peanuts.

One snack that has almost disappeared from Mumbai streets is the humble boiled peanut. There is no greater pleasure on a rainy evening than warm, salty boiled peanuts with some hot adrakwali chai. Boiled peanuts used to be freely available in Mumbai, but over the past few years it has become difficult to find any. As a result, when I saw peanuts in their shell the other day in the market, I jumped at the chance to make some at home.

Serves: 4

Time: 2 hrs

Ingredients

  1. Peanuts in Shell – 1/2 Kg
  2. Water – 3 Litres
  3. Salt – 1/2 Cup

Method

  1. Gently scrub the shells and hold under running water to get rid of any dirt.
  2. In a pressure cooker, add the water, salt and peanuts in the shells.
  3. Cook for 6 whistles (6 releases of pressure).
  4. Keep the pressure cooker closed for another 30 minutes.
  5. Drain the water.
  6. Shell the peanuts and enjoy with some hot masala tea.

Tips

  • Do not fret about the amount of salt. You need that much (or even a bit more) if the salty taste has to penetrate the shell and make it to the peanuts.
  • You know the peanuts are done if you bite into a shelled peanut and find that it is soft yet firm and just a tad bit salty. If the peanut is squishy you have overcooked it; if peanut is still hard then you have to cook it somewhere.
Boiled Peanuts

Boiled Peanuts

 

 

A Roundup of Baby Brinjal Recipes

As I looked through the recipes I have written about, I see that I have a lot that feature brinjal (aka aubergine or eggplant). My family loves brinjals of all shapes and sizes. Given that the biryani-pulao roundup I did a few days ago was well-received, I thought I would do one that features brinjals.

This post features only those recipes which use baby brinjals or gutti vankaya as call them in Telugu.

So here goes:

  • Dahiwale Achari Baingan was new for me as well and I was bowled over by the combination of spices and the spicy taste.
  • Vankaya Kothimeera Kharam uses a simple masala made from coriander, green chillies, and ginger to spice up some fried baby brinjals.
  • Vankaya Vepudu or Brinjal Stir Fry is one of the simplest dishes you can make with brinjals of any shape or size.
  • Gutti Vankaya Koora. This is a famous Andhra recipe where baby brinjals are stuffed with a special spice powder known as menthi podi that has fenugreek as the main flavour.
  • Gutti Vankaya Ulli Kharam is another popular stuffed brinjal recipe from Andhra Pradesh that uses a spicy onion-chilli masala.
  • Bharli Vangi is a famous recipe from Maharashtra that has baby brinjals cooked with a flavorful peanut-sesame-coconut masala.

I do hope you try some of the recipes. I will post another roundup of recipes that involve other kinds of brinjals soon!

A Yummy Paneer Paratha with a Twist (Hint: Has Papad)

Paneer Paratha with a Twist

Paneer Paratha with a Twist

I learnt this recipe from Asha, the girl who helps me with cooking at home. :-) Asha helps in 3 other households with cooking and often shares recipes for innovative dishes she learns. Inhabitants of one other home she works at seem to be as much of foodies as we are and this recipe comes from that home.

This recipe uses a lot of ingredients (I could not believe that we added fresh roasted papad) and I was not sure how it would taste. Asha, however, cajoled me into trying it once and boy am I not glad that she did!

This version of paneer paratha is absolutely delicious; minty and spicy and surprisingly, not heavy on the stomach at all.

Serves: 4

Time: 45 Minutes

Ingredients for the Filling

  1. Paneer – 200 gms
  2. Cabbage - 100 gms
  3. Capsicum – 1 Small
  4. Cucumber – 1 Small
  5. Fresh Mint Leaves – A Handful
  6. Fresh Coriander Leaves – A Handful
  7. Green Chillies – 3 or 4
  8. Ginger – 1″
  9. Frankie Masala – 1 tsp (Alternative, Garam Masala)
  10. Amchur – 1 tsp
  11. Udad Papad – 3 Large
  12. Salt to Taste

Ingredients for the Paratha

  1. Wheat Flour – 2 Cups
  2. Salt – 1/2 tsp
  3. Water –  As required
  4. Oil – 1 tsp

Other Ingredients

  • Ghee or Oil for the cooking parathas
  • Wheat Flour for rolling the parathas

Method to Make the Filling

  1. Peel and chop the cucumber into very fine pieces. Do not grate the cucumber because that will make the filling watery.
  2. Chop the cabbage and capsicum into really fine pieces.
  3. Break up the paneer into crumbs.
  4. Chop the mint and coriander into fine pieces.
  5. Grind the green chillies and ginger into a coarse paste.
  6. Mix the cabbage, cucumber, capsicum, paneer, ginger-chilli paste, amchur, frankie masala, mint, coriander, and salt.
  7. Just before making the parathas,roasttheudadpapad.
    1. Roast the udad papad.
    2. Crush the roasted the udad papad into fine pieces.
    3. Add to the paratha.

Method to Make Paratha Dough

  1. Add salt to the wheat flour.
  2. Add a little water at a time and knead into a firm dough.
  3. When the dough is ready, add the oil and knead for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Cover with a damp cotton cloth and set aside for 10 minutes.

Method to Make the Paratha

  1. Divide the dough into 8 equal portions.
  2. Divide the filling into 8 equal portions.
  3. Roll each portion of the dough into a ball.
  4. Using a dusted surface, roll the dough into a 4″ circle.
  5. Place one portion of filling in the centre of the circle.
  6. Fold the dough over the filling and roll into a ball.
  7. Using a dusted surface, roll the dough ball into a 6″ circle.
  8. Set aside the paratha on a plate.
  9. Repeat steps 4 to 8 to make the other parathas.

Method to Cook the Parathas

  1. Heat a tava or a girdle.
  2. Add about 1/4 tsp of oil or ghee and spread evenly.
  3. Place one paratha on the tava.
  4. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes till the side touching the tava starts to develop brown spots.
  5. Flip the paratha over.
  6. Drizzle a few drops of oil or ghee along the edges.
  7. Cook over medium heat for 2-3 minutes till the side touching the tava starts to develop brown spots.
  8. Repeat steps 3 to 7 for cook the other parathas.
  9. Serve hot with some chilled yogurt.

Tips

  • Don’t be intimidated by the length of the recipe. The result is absolutely worth it.
  • Use ghee while cooking the parathas. It adds another level of oomph to the paratha. :-)
  • Don’t add the papads till just before you are ready to cook the parathas. Otherwise, the papad bits become soggy.

Danyachi Amti or Shengdanyachi Amti (A Peanut-based Gravy) – Ashadi Ekadashi Special

Danyachi Amti

We Indians tend to fast for religious reasons on various auspicious days through the year. One of these is Ekadashi, the 11th day of the waxing or the waning moon. On Ekadashi, ideally Hindus have only fruits, vegetables and milk, and … Continue reading

Dahiwale Achari Baingan (Aubergines in a Spicy Yogurt Gravy)

Dahiwale Achari Baingan

Dahiwale Achari Baingan

This recipe has been an eye-opener as far as the taste of “achari” dishes goes. Achar means pickle in Hindi (by extension achari is anything “pickle-y”, if there is any such word.) And I’m now officially in love with Kalonji or Nigella seeds. This is the first time I have used this spice and look forward to exploring its various facets. Last week, we were debating what to make for dinner when my brother had this urge to eat something spicy. Given that we were in the middle of a “clean out the refrigerator”, our limitations were pretty limited. All we had was the large Brinjals (aubergines). When I suggested that we make Bharta, I was roundly and soundly rebuffed. Given that these where Bharta Baingan, I could not make Bharli Vangi. Baigun Bhaja was discussed and discarded. Doi Sorshe Baigun did not seem to appeal either. As I am wont to do in these situations, I turned to the internet and so came upon this Achari Baingan recipe by Tarla Dalal. Believe you me, this is a recipe you want to try; and as soon as possible. It is spicy, it is tangy and the gravy lends itself of a variety of vegetables. If you don’t like aubergines, substitute them with fried potatoes, paneer, or even lady finger. I will be trying other variations of this recipe soon! Serves: 4 Time: 45 Minutes Ingredients

  1. Baingan or Aubergines – 250 gms
  2. Onions – 2 Large
  3. Dahi, Curd or Yogurt – 1 Cup
  4. Ginger-Garlic Paste - 1 tbsp
  5. Chilli Powder – 1 tsp
  6. Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
  7. Saunf or Fennel Seeds – 1 tsp
  8. Jeera or Cumin Seeds – 1/2 tsp
  9. Kalonji or Nigella Seeds – 1 tsp
  10. Rai or Mustard Seeds – 1/2 tsp
  11. Methi or Fenugreek Seeds – 1/2 tsp
  12. Green Chillies – 2
  13. Garam Masala – 1/2 tsp
  14. Amchur or Dried Mango Powder – 1/2 tsp
  15. Hing or Asafoetida – A Large Pinch
  16. Oil – 2 tbsp + 1 tsp
  17. Salt to Taste

Method

  1. In a large vessel, create a marinade by mixing ginger-garlic paste, chilli powder, turmeric powder, 1/2 tsp salt and 1 tsp oil.
  2. Cut the aubergines into 1/2″ pieces.
  3. Mix the aubergines pieces well with the marinade.
  4. Set aside for 10 minutes.
  5. Peel and slice the onions into thin long pieces.
  6. In a wok or kadhai, heat 1 tbsp oil.
  7. Add the marinated aubergine pieces and stir-fry till the aubergine just starts to turn soft.
  8. Take out the aubergines and set aside.
  9. To the same wok, add the remaining oil.
  10. Add mustard, fennel, nigella, cumin, and fenugreek seeds.
  11. Stir-fry for a minute or till the seeds start to pop.
  12. Add the sliced onions and slit green chillies.
  13. Stir-fry till the onions are transparent.
  14. Turn off the heat.
  15. Add asafoetida, garam masala and amchur powder.
  16. Mix well.
  17. Beat the yogurt to a smooth paste.
  18. Add the yogurt to the fried onions.
  19. Mix well.
  20. Add the fried aubergine pieces and salt.
  21. Mix with a gentle hand.
  22. Serve with hot rotis.

Jeera Aloo (Potato with Cumin)

Jeera Aloo - Potatoes with Cumin

Jeera Aloo – Potatoes with Cumin

While we are all foodies at home and love to try new recipes, there are days when we just want some comfort food. Nothing offers more comfort than potato. While we favour Potato Fry with rice and Alu Rasdar with rotis, the other day we made Jeera Aloo.

Jeera Aloo is a dish that few Indians need introduction to. This simple dish combines potato with cumin and is just fantastic with hot rotis or then as a side for simple dal-rice.

Serves: 4

Time: 45 Minutes

Ingredients

  1. Potatoes – 6 Large
  2. Cumin – 2 tsp
  3. Green Chillies – 2 or 3
  4. Fresh Coriander – A Handful
  5. Turmeric – 1/2 tsp
  6. Oil – 1 tbsp
  7. Salt to Taste

Method

  1. Parboil the potatoes.
  2. Peel and cut into 1/2″ cubes.
  3. Chop the coriander into fine pieces.
  4. Slice the green chillies along the length.
  5. Heat the oil.
  6. Add the cumin seeds and wait till the cumin seeds start to plop.
  7. Add turmeric and slit green chillies.
  8. Mix well.
  9. Add the potato pieces and saute for 5 to 7 minutes.
  10. Turn off the heat.
  11. Add salt and finely chopped coriander leaves.
  12. Mix well.
  13. Serve warm with warm rotis.

 

 

Biryani-Pulao Roundup

As I was thinking of what to make for dinner tonight, I was mentally going through the various one-dish meals that I could make. I then started to browse through my own recipes to see what I could “recycle” and so came about the idea of doing a quick round-up of some of the rice dishes I have written about.

So here are a few:

Shahi Dhingri Mutter (Mushrooms and Peas in a Rich Gravy)

Shahi Dhingri Mutter

Shahi Dhingri Mutter

Shahi Dhingri Mutter is a mushroom and peas curry in a rich yogurt and cashew-based gravy that is absolutely delicious with rotis or then just by itself. :-) I had not had mushrooms in ages and when I spotted some fresh ones in the market, I could not but help buy them. I also had some Khoya or Mava at home and so decided to try this recipe from Sanjeev Kapoor.

Based on: Sanjeev Kapoor‘s Shahi Dhingri Mutter Paneer

Serves: 2

Time: 45 Minutes

Ingredients

  1. Button Mushrooms – 10
  2. Peas – 1 Cup
  3. Onion – 3 Large
  4. Yogurt – 3/4 Cup
  5. Mava or Khoya (Dried Whole Milk Solids) – 1/4 Cup
  6. Red Chilli Powder – 1.5 tsp
  7. Turmeric – 1/3 tsp
  8. Coriander Powder – 1 tsp
  9. Cumin Powder – 1/2 tsp
  10. Garam Masala Powder – 1/2 tsp
  11. Cashew – 10
  12. Cloves – 4
  13. Cinnamon – 1/2″ quill
  14. Pepper – 8
  15. Green Cardamom – 3
  16. Black Cardamom – 1
  17. Bay Leaf – 1
  18. Ghee – 1 tbsp
  19. Oil – 1 tbsp
  20. Salt to Taste

Method

  1. If you are using fresh peas, parboil them till soft. If you are using frozen peas, omit this step.
  2. Peel and slice the onion.
  3. Heat 1 tbsp oil.
  4. Add the onion slices and 1/2 tsp salt.
  5. Stir-fry till the onion is brown.
  6. Set aside to cool.
  7. Grind the fried onion into a smooth paste.
  8. Grind the cashews with about 2 tbsp water into a smooth paste.
  9. Cut the mushrooms in half.
  10. Beat the yogurt to a smooth paste.
  11. Crush the green and black cardamom roughly.
  12. In a wok or kadai, heat the ghee.
  13. Add the crushed cardamom, cloves, pepper, cinnamon, and bay leaf.
  14. Stir-fry till the cloves start to pop.
  15. Add the mushrooms and stir-fry for about 5 minutes.
  16. Add the boiled or frozen peas and stir-fry for about 5 minutes.
  17. Add the mava and stir-fry for a minute.
  18. Add the onion paste, red chilli powder, coriander powder, cumin powder, and turmeric.
  19. Stir-fry for 3-5 minutes.
  20. Add the cashew paste and stir-fry for a couple of minutes.
  21. Add the beaten yogurt and mix well.
  22. Add the garam masala and mix well.
  23. Add salt and water, if required. Do not add too much water as the gravy has to be thick.
  24. Simmer for 3 to 5 minutes.
  25. Serve hot with rotis.

Tips

  • Frozen peas cook much faster than fresh peas, so you need not boil them.
  • I always put then cut mushroom pieces in water till I am ready to use them; otherwise they tend to turn black.