Monday, June 29, 2009

Ragda Patties

Dear foodies,

Isn't chaat the best form of food ? They should make it one of the essential food groups. One bhel puri or ragda or one plate pani puri everyday :) That will be a diet plan I'll religiously stick too :D Specially in the summers, a spicy bhel or golgappa cooled down by a dahi poori or sugarcane juice is pure bliss. It's the best way to get your mind off the blistering sun of the Indian summer. Which brings up a very interesting question. Ever wondered why the hottest peppers come from the countries close to the equator. The cuisines of these countries (India, Thailand, Malaysia etc) also tend to be really spicy. You would think that people freezing in the cold would appreciate a hot pepper, but no, they are happy gulping down scotch/whiskey, and its the ones living in the tropics biting into hot chilli peppers.

Eating local and using what the land gives could be one reason. Most of the spices like chilli peppers, peppercorn, cloves etc prefer the hot humid climate and thrive is these regions. But that might still not answer why you would torture yourself by eating something that makes you feel hotter. Most chilli peppers have a chemical called Capsaicin which is an irritant and also gives them the spicy punch. It is known to act on the central nervous system and pump up the blood circulation, bringing more of the warm blood to the skin's surface causing us to sweat profusely. And since sweating is our body's natural way to cool us down, the spice aids this process. So though you might feel like your skin is burning up and you need a fire extinguisher asap, your body might actually be cooling itself! But this is good only as long as the level of Capsaicin is bareable, too high and you might really need a Doc. I also read in an article that your appetite tends to weaken as the mercury level rises. All you want is a light fruit salad or fruit juice or that cool, tall glass of buttermilk to cool you down. But that's surely not enough fodder for the body and so eating spicy food helps to bring back the appetite. (as long as you continue chomping down that spicy hot pav bhaji, you won't feel the heat :D)

Another theory draws on the unique properties that all of the spices possess- as an antiseptic (turmeric), anthelmintic (cloves), diuretic (coriander), carminative (coriander, pepper, ginger) to name a few. Apart from these they all have anti-bacterial properties in varying extents. So by using one or a combination of these spices, you are adding preservatives, preventing food poisoning from contamination by harmful microbial. This makes sense as modern day means of refrigeration are relatively new and the methods to store cooked food were limited. Now I also read a theory that since food tends to go bad very quickly in hot climates, the hot spices masked their rotten flavors! This, I am not willing to accept, nooooo, never....eoowww. But if you ate a really hot dish and want to put out the fire, instead of reaching for the glass of water or coke, eat a piece of bread. It does a better job at soaking up the capsaicin and gives relief. Milk and alcoholic beverages also help dilute the capsaicin molecules in the mouth.

Getting right back to our lovely chaats, I made some chatpata ragda patties when my friends came over last weekend. I now have chana, kala chana, pinto beans, yellow and green vatana in my pantry that I pre-soak and use when needed. I used yellow vatana to make the ragda and the patties are very easy to put together. I used store bought tamarind chutney and sev, the rest I made at home. Each component is extremely simple, quick and uncomplicated, which is the true essence of chaat - Fresh, flavorful, simple ingredients put together with the right balance of sweet/spice/sour/tangy to entice our tastebuds.
Ragda Patties

for the patties or aloo tikki - makes upto 10-12 2" round tikkis
  • 4 nos - Potatoes, medium sized -cubed and boiled in salted water
  • 1/2 tsp - chopped ginger
  • 2-3 nos - Green chillies, minced
  • 1/2 tsp - Amchur (dry mango powder)
  • 2 Tbsp - Cilantro, chopped
  • 2 nos - Bread slices/ 2 Tbsp - Maida/AP flour or 2 Tbsp - bread crumbs
  • Oil for pan frying
  • Salt to taste
for green chutney
  • 1 cup - Mint leaves
  • 3/4 cup - Coriander leaves
  • 1/4 cup - Onion, roughly chopped
  • 2-3 - Green chillies (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp - Amchur
  • Salt to taste
for ragda
  • 2 cups - Yellow vatana/peas, pre-soaked for 8-10hrs
  • 1/2 cup - white Onions, diced
  • 1 tsp - minced ginger-garlic
  • 1/2 tsp - turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp - roasted Cumin/jeera powder
  • 3/4 tsp - roasted Coriander/dhania powder
  • 1/2 tsp - Red chilli powder (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp - Garam masala
  • pinch of sugar and amchur
  • 1 Tbsp - Oil
  • Salt to taste
Tamarind chutney, beaten curds/yogurt, coriander leaves, chopped onions and sev for garnish.

  1. For the ragda - Pressure cook the vatana with salt for just 1 whistle, (any longer turned them to mush in mine :( ), if not cook them on the stove top or microwave.
  2. In a pan, heat the oil on medium heat and add the minced ginger-garlic. Cook for 30secs and add the diced onions, turmeric. When the onions turn translucent add cooked vatane, a cup of water, and the spice powders. Bring to a boil and simmer for 8-10 mins. Add the sugar and amchur powder and, mash a few of the beans with the back of your spoon to slightly thicken the gravy. Taste and adjust the spices to balance the flavors, add more water as needed.
  3. The green chutney is the easiest, toss everything into a blender and give it a blitz adding spoonfuls of water as you go along.
  4. For the aloo patties, mash the potatoes (I did not peel them) and add the rest of the ingredients. If using bread slices, dip them in water for a few seconds. Give them a tight squeeze to remove excess water, crumble and add it to the potatoes. Mash everything together to form a light dough. Pinch off a key lime sized ball of the mixture, roll it into a round and press to form 1/2" thick discs. Heat a few drops of oil in a shallow pan and fry the patties until they turn golden brown with a crisp outer layer.
  5. While serving, place 2-3 patties on a plate, pour a ladleful of the piping hot ragda on top, drizzle green chutney, tamarind chutney and beaten curds on top. Sprinkle some onions, cilantro and a generous amount of sev. Serve immediately.
* Swap the aloo patties with crumbled Samosa/Kachori/Papdi to make - ragda samosa, ragda kachori or ragda papdi, as the case may be.
Boy O boy! this was a spectacular treat for the tastebuds. Having your mouth full with the hot peas and tikki, crunchy onions and sev, fresh cilantro, tangy chutnies and the coooool yogurt, all at the same time, is an experience you have to savor, atleast once. And after that its a perfect case of 'no one can eat just once' :D There is no rivaling the sheer genius of chaats, and your taste buds will love the rollercoaster ride. The yellow vatane have a very mild yet slightly spicy, chilli like flavor to them, unlike the ...err..bland (?) chickpeas, and so a mild gravy is enough to make a flavorful dish. All the flavors come together forming an elegant balance without any single element overpowering the rest. Since I like sev in my chaat I added that to the dish, but you can surely skip it. (can you ? will you ?)

Each one can also customize their plates with a lil more of the khatta-meeta chutney or green chutney or sev or all the above :D Its filling and its healthy. The green chutney can be made and stored in the fridge, extra peas can be frozen, a pack of sev should last you awhile. And so, once you have all the components on hand, putting the dish together is a snap.

This goes to the Sunday Snacks - Spill the beans event hosted by yours truly this month :) I took over from Pallavi this month. This being a bi-monthly event, you have time until the last Sunday of July to cook up some fabulous snacks.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Lemon cucumber dal - Budamakaya pappu

Dear foodies,

A bowl of pappu/dal, no matter how plainly made, is always enticing to the taste buds. It either has to do with the way our mind perceives this simple food, or the earthy flavor of cooked lentils or its both of them together, resonating comfort. I guess its also one of the first few solid foods that we get fed as child and right there it gets into the comfort food category. After a long trip away from home, or long day outside, a busy week or anything else that troubles us or disrupts are routine, gets us craving for some simple dal/pappu and rice. It can be creamy & luscious on its own with just a pinch of salt, some warm rice topped with ghee and a pickle or stir fry on the side. Or it could be partnered with different veggies like tomatoes, spinach, gongura (sorrel leaves), mango, dosakaya and many more variations that are just as good. Pappu is also a fail-safe dish in my opinion, any unfamiliar veggie gets tossed into a dal for starters, because you know nothing can taste bad with dal, right ?

A few weekends back when I had friends visiting we drove to the Pittsburgh temple, feasted on some yummy prasadham and stopped by an Indian store close by. I bought a bag of fresh peanuts in the pod to boil and snack on that evening and 3 plump budamakaya's (dosakaya/lemon cucumber). I made this pappu with one, that week, and again last night. While chopping it up y'day, I almost contemplated turning it into my fav budamakaya avakaya but the the idea of settling down to another delicious meal of pappu in the near future far outweighed the pickle plan. And the fact that I have a huge pack of fresh andhra avakaya (mango pickle), made with this season's mangoes, by my aunt did not have any influence, promise. :)

Budamakaya/Dosakaya Pappu - Lemon Cucumber Dal

  • 1 nos - Lemon cucumber (dosakaya/budamakaya)
  • 1 1/2 cups - cooked Toor dal (along with a pinch of turmeric)
  • -- I usually have some cooked dal in the freezer
  • 3 nos - Green chillies, slit lengthwise (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 cup - quartered & sliced Onions (I'm still in the vidalia onion craze)
  • 1/2 tsp - Mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp - Cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp - Channa dal
  • *1/4 tsp - Methi powder
  • 1/4 tsp - Turmeric
  • 1 tsp - finely minced fresh Ginger
  • 6-8 - Curry leaves
  • 2 tsp - Oil
  • Salt to taste
  • poppu/tadka - 1 tsp ghee, a pinch of mustard & cumin seeds, minced ginger, 1/2 slit green chilli & 2 roughly chopped curry leaves.
  1. Peel the outer thick skin of the cucumber, halve it and scoop out all the seeds. Make slices lengthwise and proceed to cube them. I got approximately a cup and a half of cubed cucumber from one whole.
  2. In a microwave safe bowl, toss the cuke, a pinch of turmeric, one minced green chilli, salt and water enough to cover the pieces and cook for 6mins.
  3. In the meantime, heat oil in a deep pan on medium heat. Add the mustard seeds, cumin and chana dal. Once they start to pop and the dal changes to a deep orange add roughly chopped curry leaves and a slit green chilli.
  4. As the curry leaves start to curl up, add the minced ginger. Saute for a few seconds and add the sliced onions. Sprinkle some salt on the onions to help soften them sooner. Cook for a 2-3 mins.
  5. Add the cooked cucumber along with the water and simmer together for a 3-4mins. Mash the dal well and add it to the rest of the ingredients. Check for salt and add some more water if the consistency is too thick. Cover and simmer on very low heat for 8-10mins till all the flavors combine.
  6. For the poppu/tadka: heat ghee, splutter a pinch of mustard and cumin seeds, add the chillies, ginger and curry leaves. Take off the heat when the leaves start to curl up and crispen. Pour it over the hot dal and serve immediately with hot rice, a dollop smidgen of ghee and fresh andhra avakaya.
Alternate method: If you don't have pre-cooked toor dal, you can cook all the ingredients together. Combine 3/4 cup toor dal, cubed cucumber, onions, salt, green chillies and ginger in a pressure cooker and cook till done. When the pressure is released, add the tadka and simmer for a while before serving.
I personally prefer cooking them separate though, which is what I did this time. The flavors seem to be better and I can also cook extra dal to reserve for later use. *You can also use beerakaya/ridgegourd instead of dosakaya.
Simmering the dal on low heat makes it utlra creamy and rich. I could just have bowlfuls of this without any other accompaniments...but well, hey, I couldn't possibly say no to rice and avakaya though :) Ginger is a main flavoring in this pappu and it pairs deliciously with budamakaya. Its usually not used much in other dals that I make, but with the mild cucumber for company it does wonders to the dal. The lemon cucumber, as the name suggests has a lemony, tart flavor but is still mild. The combination of lemon-ginger-chillies in this pappu is similar to my most favorite allam-nimmapandu chaaru and so this pappu is in the fav list too. The different spicy tones from the ginger & chillies and the refreshing lemony edge is addictive. The hot ghee in the tadka adds to the creamy richness of the dal and elevates it to a whole new level, a must have. And the pappu gets better as it rests for a few hours as the flavors meld into each other with time.

I found these weird twirls of green sitting in a basket atop all the other greens and herbs at the store last weekend. They looked funny and when I looked at the label, it said garlic scapes. The curious me, immediately grabbed a handful and headed to the check out counter. The guy manning the station looked at the curly stuff and then gave me a look that had 'weird' written all over it :)) Garlic scapes, are the tender stalks of the garlic plant and hold a mild flavor of garlic in them, not as pungent as the garlic pods, but surely with a distinct garlicky bite in them. Sort of like the texture of asparagus but with garlic flavor perhaps ? You can use them raw in salads, or add them to stir frys, dals, curry's or any other place you would like a mild garlic flavor. Now why am I telling you all this, you ask. Because when I made the pappu last night, I added some chopped garlic scapes along with the onions ... and it was fabulous. You could easily substitute it with sliced garlic though. Even I won't find them in the couple of weeks cos they are a spring time delicacy, and a slightly expensive one at that.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Barley & Roasted veggies salad

Dear foodies,

With the temperatures slowly raising and the days getting longer, salads are finding their way back into the kitchen. Most weekends, my day starts pretty late. I wake up and make myself a nice hot cup of coffee, preferably madras style filter kaapi, the perfect start to any weekend. Along with a few biscuits to dunk in the goodness, I am set for a few hours. Every week, I dream of making myself a good breakfast over the weekend, but that has almost never happened. Armed with my coffee, I go around doing random chores, making phone calls, or just browsing the net until I hear my tummy growl. It's usually 1 or 2 in the afternoon by then, and I am ravenous by the time I enter the kitchen. All my plans of making a nice leisurely breakfast/brunch fly out the window, and just as is the case over the weekdays...I rush to cook something quick, sigh.

Last weekend was no different, but I forced myself to snack on some fruit so I could buy time to cook the barley. The barley that I picked up from the bulk bins a few weeks (or months!) back and thought it was finally time to atleast try it out. I was in no mood of elaborate lunches and definitely not something piping hot. Since it was my first time cooking with barley, I googled for cooking times. 45-60mins! I was already hungry by then and 60mins sounded ridiculous at that moment :D I brought out the machine guns, err pressure cooker and after 15mins and 2 whistles, the barley was cooked and I was happy :) In the meantime I roasted some beets, asparagus and cauliflower, toasted some chickpeas from my frozen stash, blanched some green beans, and a fantastic summer salad came together :) ok ok, you will say that cauliflowers are not really in season and turning the oven ON in summer is crazy, but hey, look at the color of the salad.... summery right ?

Roasted veggies and barley salad

  • 2 cups - pearled barley
  • 1 nos - Beetroot, medium sized (~ 1.25 cups, diced)
  • 15-20 nos - Cauliflower florets
  • 6-8 nos - Asparagus spears
  • handful of fresh green beans
  • 1/2 cup - Chickpeas, pre-soaked & cooked
  • 1/2 tsp - Chilli garlic sauce
  • 2 tsp - toasted sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp - low sodium Tamari
  • juice of half a lemon
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tbsp - Olive oil
  • crumbled Feta cheese - optional
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 400F. Wash and pressure cook the barley, with a little salt, in twice its amount of water for 15mins or 2 whistles (one less than that for rice in my cooker). Once cooked, drain and set aside.
  2. Peel and cube the beetroot. (This is a veggie that will stain everything it touches, and since I have a wooden cutting board, I covered the board with foil and plastic wrap.) Microwave the cubed beets for 4mins in salted water, drain and spread on a foiled lined, baking sheet.
  3. Drown the cauliflower florets in vinegar+water for a few minutes to get rid of the grime and other outsiders :D Drain & microwave them in salted water for 3 mins, drain and spread on the same baking sheet. Make room for the asparagus spears in there too. Keep them separate though or the beets will complete stain the other veggies.
  4. Drizzle some olive oil to coat all the veggies, sprinkle salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 15mins.
  5. The asparagus are usually done by now, remove then from the sheet and cut into 2" lengths. Check to see if the beets are tender. Set the oven on broil for 2 mins to brown the rest of veggies.
  6. In the meantime, string the beans and cut them in 2" lengths. Blanch them in salted water, I microwaved them for 3-4mins.
  7. Heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a pan and roast the chickpeas. It takes around 6-8mins on medium heat to slightly crisp them.
  8. Now toss all the ingredients together (preferably with the barley still warm) with the chilli garlic sauce, salt, pepper and a final squeeze of lemon juice. Sprinkle some crumbled feta cheese on top and serve warm or cold.
Looking at the method, you might think its a looot of work, but its many small tasks which can be done simultaneously, so no worries :) I ate half the roasted veggies even before they made is to the salad, yummmm..., the crisp chickpeas were a delight too. Roasted asparagus has such a nice flavor and its a frequent snack for me in the evenings, so I made a double batch of them. You could also add toasted nuts like walnuts, pecans or almonds for some extra crunch. Fresh herbs from your garden would be perfect in this too. If you want the cauliflower to retain its color, toss it right at the end after mixing in all the other ingredients.

This salad is very filling, a bowl of it and along with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice was my brunch that day. The barley was cooked well, and was chewy and tender at the same time. I thought pressure cooking it was the best way to soften the grains in a short period of time. Is that how you cook barley ? How else do I use the grain ?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Bagels and chit chat

Dear foodies,

There still isn't cable at home and I have now moved to watching videos online. With a s-video cable in tow, I synced my laptop to the TV. Apart from watching comedy shows on Hulu and Youtube I also watched a few interesting documentaries and short films online. I vaguely remember having read about a guy who ate at McD's for 30-days to show how harmful it could be to a person's health. Morgan Spurlock, an independant filmmaker, put himself through through this 30-day diet, where all his 3 meals for the day would come from McD's. He would not order out of the menu (no customizations). He will super size it if asked to do so, but never on his own. And he won't work out excessively to burn it off, instead he will, based on stats for a typical American, take 5000 steps/day. Spurlock documented his challenge in the form of a movie called, Super Size Me. Three doctors watch his progress over the 30-day period and our astonished by the results. The nutritionist says his fitness levels are above average at the start of the diet, and over the next 30 days he sees his weight, cholesterol, blood pressure shoot up and his liver function deteriorate due to the high-fat diet. The doctors admit to not foreseeing the extent and speed of liver deterioration in him. What a high alcohol intake could do to the liver, a high fat diet can do, in much shorter time span.

The rules of the challenge do seem ridiculous upfront. No one eats every single meal from a fast food place. It is an exaggeration. But one that may not be entirely far fetched and, probably one that needs to made in order to get people to realize how bad it could be. Fast food chains offer a filling and cheap meal option, albeit, at the cost of your health. The video talks about the salad options having the same amount of calories as a huge cheese burger due the cheese topping and fatty dressings. Its not to target just one fast food giant, all these huge chains have made fast food synonymous with bad health.

spread - low fat sour cream, diced carrot, coriander leaves and salt.
They are a business and making money is the end game, so its wrong to expect them to be the health police here. A few years back the House of Representatives passed a bill called the 'Cheeseburger bill' which protects the food industry from being sued for obesity. The consumer needs to realize and take blame for jeopardizing their health by making wrong food choices. I agree with this legality, but the right options should also be just as easily accessible. The marketing for fast food is very heavily funded and they make cooking at home sound like an avoidable chore, uncool or wasteful. A 2000 cal diet is what is recommended for the average person, but look at the nutritional info of these popular restaurant menu items. 2500+ calories in a single entree! And the amount of sodium - 2400mg is is the recommended intake for a day and a few of those have more than 4000mg in them! That could get you on the cardiologists table in no time. And its not even 'fast food', its slow food... restaurant food.

Its true that we go to the restaurants to indulge. I wouldn't be happy eating a bland whole wheat pasta with steamed veggies or a plain dal when I go out. So its okay to cave in to the cravings, but what we eat and how much of it needs to be controlled. Few studies show how the portions sizes have increased gradually leading to more than 65% of Americans falling under the overweight category. It could be a marketing ploy to make us think they are giving us more value for money. In a seminar at work, the nutritionist mentioned that the amount of protein from meat on our plate needs to be the size of the fist. The restaurants seem to offer 4 times that quantity. Fast food also disguises itself as easy frozen entrees and meals too. Reading the labels on things we buy and being a conscious consumer is really important. There are many more valid points brought up in the film and the articles. I could go on n on with my rant here, but I will stop :D

my entry for Click - Stacks
Have you CLICKED yet ? I was invited to be a of the judge this month by the Jugalbandits and and I cannot tell you how thrilled I am :) I made these bagels for my breakfasts this week. I've tried my hand at making them a couple of times before, but I always ended up using too little salt, so this time I was careful. I topped them with sesame/nigella/black poppy seeds.

Enjoy your weekend :)

Saturday, June 13, 2009

through my lens....

Dear foodies,

Here are a few gems I found on a mini trek through the Cuyahoga Valley National Park.

Brandywine falls revisited
Brandywine Falls


color blind ?

yello there :-)

ferns, unfurling.

and can you spot a the bridge in this one ? Can you guess which famous one it is ?
how about in this ?

Click here for a closer view :) Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Matar Paneer

Dear foodies,

I did it again! I killed the second basil plant I brought home :( I had really high hopes for the second one, and it looked like it was thriving too. But I was away for the 4-day long weekend and when I got back, no amount of coaxing it back to life helped. I have now officially given up on my patio garden for this year. I am going to stick to the more robust herbs and see how far they go. The mint, thyme and rosemary don't seem to miss me at all, they went about doing their business - sprouting new leaves and growing longer and bushier. Good for them! So the basil pesto and pizza ideas are now on an indefinite hold. Just like my cable subscription. The apartment community that I live in changed their rules, no more permanent mounting of dishes on the deck. They gave us a 3 week time period to find an alternative. I had 3 different technicians come to take a look at it and none had a solution. The dish is now lying on the deck facing nowhere in particular and the TV is reduced to a black box. I am used to having the TV playing in the background from the moment I step into the house in the evening. I need the noise pollution to keep me sane, the silence freaks me out completely :( Do any of you share the feeling ?

Okay, getting back to cooking. I've been buying fresh English peas and fava beans and ramps and garlic greens and asparagus whenever I can spot them in the grocery store aisle. Thanks to the blog hopping I do, I now look for these so-far unfamiliar goods, nestled between the usual suspects in the store. The berries haven't yet arrived in full splendor, but that does not stop me from buying the strawberries. I can slowly, yet steadily taste the sweetness and the burst of flavor increasing in each batch that I buy. When at home in India, my father would buy a lot of peas in the pod from the market when in season. Once we, er he shelled them, my mom would take over and add them to every dish she possibly could - vegetable curries, sambar, mixed rice, upma etc etc I liked them, but not enough to enjoy it in everything! But just like everything else, I've come like them too and now look forward to the fresh peas in the store. The fresh ones have a bite to them and hold up to short cooking times without turning into a mush. Apart from salads, I made this quintessential desi restaurant menu item - Matar Paneer (or mutter paneer).

Matar Paneer - Indian cottage cheese with Peas
  • 2 cups - vine ripe Tomatoes, diced
  • 3/4 cup - Onions, minced ( I am currently in the 'I-love-vidalia-onions' phase :D)
  • 3/4 cup - Green peas, shelled
  • 3/4 cup - Paneer cubes, thinly sliced
  • 1 Tbsp - Oil
  • 1 tsp - Cumin seeds/Jeera
  • 2 nos - small Bay leaves ~ an inch long
  • 3 nos - Cloves/laung
  • 1/2 tsp - Ginger, minced
  • 1/2 tsp - Garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp - Green chilli, minced
  • 1/4 tsp - Turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp - Tomato paste
  • 1 tsp - Garam masala powder
  • 1 tsp - Red chilli powder (optional)
  • 2 tsp - Kasuri methi, crushed
  • 5-6 nos - whole cashews, soaked in warm water OR 1 Tbsp - sour cream
  • Salt to taste
  • For garnishing - Coriander leaves, sliced onions and lemon wedges
prepping the paneer : If using fresh paneer, dice it into cubes, and broil to get a golden crust OR cut long slabs and pan fry it in a non-stick pan. Drain and cut into cubes. OR if using frozen cubes, soak them in warm water for 5-10 mins and broil for 2-3mins if you desire.

  1. In a deep pan, heat the oil on medium heat. Add the cumin seeds, cloves and bay leaves. Once fragrant and toasted, add the minced onions and ginger, garlic and chillies. Sprinkle some salt and cook till the onions are softened and translucent.
  2. Add turmeric, tomato paste and cook for a minute. (The tomato paste adds a nice color and tartness) The minced tomatoes go in next along with the garam masala powder. Cook this on medium heat until the tomatoes fall apart and the oil starts to separate from the edges. Stir every few minutes so the gravy does not burn.
  3. At this point, you can fish out the bay leaves, transfer the whole gravy to a blender with the soaked cashews and blend to a smooth paste. ( let it cool before blending or leave room for the hot steam to vent while grinding) Transfer it back to the pan, add the bay leaves and bring it back to medium heat with the crushed kasuri methi and peas added. Check for salt.
  4. If you are not in a mood to use the blender, start with finely minced onions & tomatoes and use a masher at this stage to turn it to pulp. Stir in a spoon of sour cream, proceed with the kasuri methi and peas, and simmer for a few minutes on low heat.
  5. Add the paneer cubes, heat it through, and add a little water if needed. Take off the heat, garnish with coriander leaves and lemon wedges on the side. Serve with pulao/jeera rice or Indian breads like naan and rotis.
*Boiled (in salted water) and cubed potatoes could be used instead of paneer to make this Aloo matar. Add it to the cooked gravy in step 4 before adding the peas, simmer for 6-7mins allowing the potatoes to soak up the flavors.
I made a quick, microwave jeera rice to go along with the curry. The bowl that you see is the one I cooked the rice in, just a cup of it. I melted a thin slice of butter in the microwave, 30secs. Add a tsp of cumin seeds and heated it for another 30secs until it sizzles. I then added the washed rice and required amount of water and microwaved it for 8 mins, and then two more minutes with the bowl covered. Let it cool, fluff it up with a spoon and jeera rice is done :)

The gravy tasted fabulous, if I say so myself. I made it twice in the last 3 weeks, the first time was the lazy me, not touching the blender and using low-fat sour cream for the creaminess. The fresh home grown tomatoes I found at the store were bursting with juices and added a nice tang. The peas held their shape and tasted really good in the gravy. I could not take the photos as soon as the curry was done, and so the peas seem to have lost the bright green they had. I consciously stayed away from using heavy spices in this curry because I wanted to taste the peas and keep it simple/mild. The kasuri methi in the end enhances the flavor of the gravy and gives it a very nice flavor. The second time I made it was this weekend, when I had friends visiting. This time I brought out the blender and used cashews to add richness to the gravy. It tasted great both ways and I don't think I can pick one over the other, it comes down to your convenience.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Spill the beans - Sunday snacks

Dear foodies,

I've told you guys how much I enjoyed hosting the IAVW event a couple of months back, so when Pallavi needed help finding guest hosts I had no doubts I wanted to be part of it. I was lucky to be first in line and its going to be snack time for the next TWO months here! yeah, two months of nom nom nom, munch, munch munch here since Pallavi hosted it as a bi-monthly event. Most of you are already familiar with the Sunday Snacks event that she's been hosting the last few months. The event was started by Hima of SnackORama before Pallavi took the reins from her.

Pallavi now has a much better task at hand though, she's getting ready to welcome two dear angels, identical twin girls in the next few months! How exciting is that! So while she's taking care of herself, I'll be taking care of your snack attacks :) So get ready to 'Spill the beans!' yes, all your little snacking habits need to be out this month.

Beans are a protein powerhouse without much fat, rich sources of vitamins and nutrients and very inexpensive. You can use them in a million different ways and with the huge variety that are available, including them in you diet isn't tough either. They are really filling and with a little prep work they can turn into exciting dishes. Only a few posts back I told you how I was incorporating beans in my diet and it would be great to get recipe ideas from you. I urge you to use this event to get the canned stuff out of your pantry and give the dried beans a fair chance, if you haven't already :-) the results will be so much more rewarding.

I don't think you need an elaborate introduction for beans, so lets jump to the event guidelines directly.
Sunday Snacks-Spill the beans ~ Guidelines
  • Cook up a snack/appetizer using beans - chickpeas, kidney beans, fava beans, black eyed peas, cannelloni beans, urad, moth, mung beans, lentils, cowpeas, pigeon peas, list some. But there are plenty of other varieties out there.
  • I request that all entries be vegetarian and use dried beans instead of canned if possible.
  • Make a post of the same on your blog and link it up to this event announcement.
  • Any number of entries are welcome, but I would really appreciate new entries for this event and not from the archives. (You could surely add links to other recipes on your blog in your entry post)
  • Feel free to use the event logo on your blog/post to spread the word.
  • Deadline is the last Sunday of July, i.e July 25th.
  • Bloggers, send your entries to akshayapaatram at gmail dot com, using the subject line 'Spill the beans'
  • Non-bloggers, go ahead, cook up a storm and send me the recipe along with the pictures to the above email. It would be nice to know a little about you :) I will post the recipes here with due credits before the round-up.

  • Also include in your emails
  • Your name:
  • Blog name:
  • Name of the dish:
  • Post permalink:
  • Photo of the dish - no size restrictions.
Beans encompass a really huge variety of cuisines and dishes. Just within the Indian subcontinent with a large vegetarian population, beans are an essential part of a daily meal and find their way in many many dishes. You could make a simple salad, sprout them, make a sundal, a tangy chaat, crispy crunchy vada's, mysore bajji's or falafels, hummus dips, mini-burgers, breads and even cakes! So pick one or two or more and send them over.

Here are previous editions of the snacking series:
Sunday Snacks - Grab n Go
Sunday Snacks - Hot n Spicy
Sunday Snacks - Fix It
Sunday Snacks - Fry It
Sunday Snacks - Bake It

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