Categories
Appetizers/Snacks Indian Streetfood Indo Chinese Side Dishes Vegetarian

Chilli Gobhi(Cauliflower)



Sinfully Spicy: Chilli Gobhi (Cauliflower) #indochineseThe week that went by was such a mixed bag. It started when many of my spice jars came tumbling down on the counter while clumsy moi was trying to fetch something from at the back of the rack. Few of them, brought from Kerala (indian state known for its premium spices),travelled with mum last year and I was almost in tears looking at my counter.Hah, actually not! Thankfully, the jars didn’t break and as of now I am sitting on two or three cupfuls of forced homemade spice mixture of sorts which I need to put to use in future.

Sinfully Spicy: Chilli Gobhi (Cauliflower) #indochineseThen, my tripod started behaving weird.Out and out.The socket to grip the camera & lens got free and the next day the extension arm won’t stay in place.Before clicking next set of pictures, I have to get a new one now.We will see when that happens because tomorrow we are leaving for a family trip after more than a couple of years since I was pregnant. You can tag along on Instagram in case you want.It has been a long stay at home and I am really looking forward to some time away from cleaning & cooking & solo baby watching.!.Couple of trips got booked in between and got cancelled for some reason or the other, so until I set my toe on that plane, fingers crossed lovelies! Right now,while I am sitting surrounded by ziploc stuffed with cherrios & m&ms,scattered diapers,half packed bags and un ironed clothes,don’t ask me why I am writing a blog post instead. Just don’t.

Sinfully Spicy: Chilli Gobhi (Cauliflower) #indochineseMy mum confirmed that she would be visiting us in December this year and I can hardly wait! Then, the weather in the Valley came dropping down. I am loving it since winters are my more favorite of the seasons. I pulled out those leg warmers and those furry, fuzzy coats. Happppy!Then, as always the cold weather succeeded in  pushing me towards heavy deep-fried, robust food and earlier this week, I prepared this super spicy chill gobhi with warm tones of ginger, a strong garlic flavor and kick from chillies for our meatless monday dinner.

Sinfully Spicy: Chilli Gobhi (Cauliflower) #indochineseI have written about indo-chinese a couple of times in my previous posts. I often make indo-chinese in our house since there is not much to order from restaurants here. When making vegetarian dishes,though paneer is more popular in India, I find cauliflower as good an option too.This firm vegetable, usually cornered as bland, when coated in spicy batter, deep-fried and with hot sauce tastes meaty and satisfying. And then, technically you are eating a vegetable,so little less guilt.The dish has got some bold, saucy flavors.

Sinfully Spicy: Chilli Gobhi (Cauliflower) #indochineseThere is not much chinese about this recipe or for that matter any indo-chinese recipe except the use of garlic, soy sauce & vinegar.But certainly it is not a curry and an amazing fusion dish with lots going on- cripsy, spicy, tangy, hints of sweet.Pair this recipe with plain rice, indian fried rice or serve as an appetizer or snack with drinks if you like.

Sinfully Spicy: Chilli Gobhi (Cauliflower) #indochinese

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

For the Sauce 

  • Kashmiri dry chillies (these give a beautiful color and good amount of heat but use any mild or hot chill variety you like)
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1.5 tsp cornstarch +3 tbsp cold water
  • 4 tbsp canola oil (or vegetable or grapeseed oil)
  • 2 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 fat garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1-2 Thai bird chillies, finely chopped (adjust quantity of taste, de seed if you like less hot)
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped onions
  • 2-3 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dark soy sauce (I use Ching’s brand)
  • 2 tsp tomato chili sauce (I use Maggi Hot & sweet,see notes)
  • 1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil ((optional, this is a really strong flavoring, do not use if you haven’t tasted it before,skip or substitute with untoasted sesame oil for a mellow taste))
  • salt to taste
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala powder
  • 1/4 tsp honey (use agave for vegan to taste, see notes)
  • 1 tbsp distilled white vinegar (or to taste, see notes)
  • Chopped Cilantro, chopped fresh ginger, chopped green chillies for garnish

For Deep Frying 

  • 1 medium cauliflower
  •  1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp besan (chickpea flour)
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 1 serrano chilli, finely chopped (de seed if you like less hot)
  • 1/2 tsp dark soy sauce (I use Ching’s brand)
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 -1/3 cup water (or as required to make the batter)
  • Canola Oil for frying (or vegetable oil)

Method

Making the Sauce

Soak the red chillies in warm water for 5-7  minutes. Using your mortar and pestle, make a smooth paste of the soaked chillies and garlic using with 1-2 tbsp of soaking water. You can de seed the chillies if you like less hot. Set aside.

Mix cornstarch with cold water. Set aside

In a wok/wide mouthed pan,heat up the oil to smoking hot. Add chopped garlic & ginger,green chillies and cook for 1 minute or till you smell the aroma. Do not let burn. Next add the onions & scallion.Cook for 2-3 minutes or till light brown in color. Add the chilli-garlic paste that we made earlier and saute till the raw smell is gone, about a minute or so. At any point you feel that the mix is drying or sticking to bottom of the pan, add a splash of water. Add soy sauce next along with tomato chill sauce and sesame oil. Saute for 1-2 minutes.Next, add the cornstarch mix to the wok. Reduce the heat to low and let everything simmer for another 2-4 minutes till the sauce thickens to desired consistency.

Next, taste & adjust the salt. Sprinkle the garam masala, add honey & vinegar and stir everything well. (If you want a thinner sauce add some water right now).Let simmer for another 1 minutes. Put off the heat and let sit while you fry up the cauliflower (recipe below).

Deep Frying the Cauliflower

Cut the cauliflower florets into halves.Do not cut very small else the florets will turn mushy while frying and not hold up in the sauce. Wash thoroughly under running water & let the water drain.Pat the florets completely dry.

In your fryer or in a heavy bottomed wide pan/wok let the 2-3 inches of canola oil heat up. In a bowl, throughly mix all the ingredients listed to make a smooth and thick batter.Dip the gobhi florets one by one in the batter and deep fry on low-medium heat till golden brown.Drain on paper towel.

Note – I do not boil the cauliflower before frying. I want the cauliflower to have a bite after deep-frying. However, do not fry the florets on very high heat either else they will be raw from inside.

Warm up the sauce prepared earlier if it gets cold. Gently add the fried cauliflower florets to the sauce and toss. Garnish with chopped ginger, chillies and cilantro if you like. Serve immediately!

Notes :-

  1. I usually make the sauce first and then fry up the cauliflower.This makes sure that the cauliflower stays crisp.If you are making the fritters first, let them stay warm in a 200 degree F oven while you make the sauce)
  2. You can use little tomato paste and sriracha in this recipe if you do not have tomato-chilli sauce.Adjust quantity to liking. Go light on vinegar at the end since the tomato paste is quite acidic.
  3. Adding tomato – chilli sauce adds sweetness too, you can adjust the level of sweet in this recipe either by adding ketchup or honey/agave/sugar.
Categories
Appetizers/Snacks Brunch Easy Recipes Gluten Free one pot meals Salads Side Dishes Snacks Vegetarian

Warm Chickpea Chaat (Indian Salad)

Sinfully Spicy- Warm Chickpea Chaat/Indian Salad 001

Last weekend was eventful.We celebrated our little munchkin’s first birthday. I made her a smash cake and we also got an adult cake. Her reaction towards both the cakes was the same – she cried. I think the flickering candle frightened her. It’s so funny that they react completely different to how you think they might.

Sinfully Spicy- Ingredients, Warm Chickpea Chaat/Indian Salad 002

Sinfully Spicy- Tamarind(imli Chutney) Chaat

Taking advantage of fading winters, I made this warm chaat this weekend. The weather out here is not yet hot for a crisp cold salad & a bit too warm for soups, this chaat drizzled with imli (tamarind) chutney & tossed with fresh mint leaves perfectly fitted the onset of spring mood.We are huge fan of  textures and multiple flavors in food and that is what this chaat is full of.

Sinfully Spicy- Warm Chickpea Chaat/Indian Salad 002

In India, chaat is a savory preparation which can be categorized as street food. There are few base ingredients which essentially form part of chaat– chopped onions or grated radish/cucumber for crunch,chaat masala (tangy spice powder) for the pungency & heat, tamarind chutney adds that saucy, tart layer while the green chutney & cilantro (or any herb)add the much needed freshness.The yogurt adds the acidity as well as cools down the palate.These are usually the toppings without which a bowl of chaat is incomplete. However, you can pick or drop any as per your taste.Chaat could be layering of fried dough or diced up fruits cut up and mixed together.If you are looking for really heavy options then kachoris (stuffed fried breads) or aloo(potato) tikki are your choices.

Sinfully Spicy - Mint

I like how healthy and filling this recipe turned out. You can also use black chickpeas(kala chana) or mung sprouts in this recipe and it works fine. It can be served as a perfect appetizer as well as a side dish. All the prep work like boiling chickpeas, potatoes, making the chutney, chopping toppings etc can be done a day before and then its just tossing everything together. Sinfully Spicy- Warm Chickpea Chaat/Indian Salad 003

I soak raw chickpeas overnight and then pressure cook them in enough water with little salt and a tsp of oil. Drain the chickpeas and reserve liquid for use as stock.

Ingredients (Serve 2)

  • 1 cup boiled chickpeas (or use canned)
  • 1 medium potato, boiled, peeled & diced into bite size pieces
  • 2 tsp oil, any neutral oil of choice
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • generous pinch of hing (asofetida)
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1/4 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice (or to taste)

Other ingredients/toppings

  • Chopped onions – about 1/3 cup
  • Chopped tomatoes/ Grape tomatoes
  • 2 Thai green chillies (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint leaves
  • Black Salt/Kala Namak ( to taste)
  • Chaat Masala (to taste) (available online or at indian grocery stores)
  • Imli/Tamarind Chutney – 2 tbsp or to taste (recipe below)
  • Roasted Cumin Powder- to taste
  • Red Chilli Powder – to taste

You can add cucumber, grated radish, pomegranate seeds, sev, crushed papris etc to add more texture and crunch.

Method 

In a pan, heat up the oil. Add the cumin seeds and once they sizzle add the hing. Once you smell the aroma, add the chickpeas & potatoes. Also add the garam masala, cumin powder and salt. Toss around for 3-5 minutes till the chickpeas look shiny.Remove from heat & add the lemon juice. Mix well.

Transfer to a large enough bowl and add the listed toppings as per taste. Toss well and serve immediately.

Imli/Tamarind Chutney

I soak raw tamarind in warm water for 4-5 hours and then mash it until pulp is separated.Sieve the pulp into a bowl and discard the seeds and thick fibers. You can also use store bought but just keep in mind that its very salty & slightly acidic so adjust seasonings accordingly. 

Ingredients (Makes about 1.5 cups)

  • 1/2 cup thick,tamarind pulp(store bought or homemade)
  • 3/4 cup – 1 cup jaggery powder/granulated sugar (adjust quantity to your sweetness)
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • pinch of hing (asafoetida)
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to tolerance)
  • 1/2 tsp roasted cumin seed powder
  • 1/2 tsp kala namak/black salt [available in indian stores, else replace with normal salt, adjust to taste]
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • salt to taste
  • Up to 1/2 cup water ( you may or may not need it, usually not needed when using sugar instead of jaggery)

Method

In a small sauce pan, heat the oil.Once heated add the cumin seeds, as soon as the cumin starts to crackle, add all the ingredients listed above to the pan except water.Simmer the  for atleast 20 minutes till it starts to thicken. You can adjust water once the chutney has simmered. It will thicken more on cooling. Remove from heat, let cool, transfer to a container.

Let cool completely. This can sit for unto 3 weeks in a refrigerator.

Enjoy and Thanks for stopping by!

Categories
Appetizers/Snacks Brunch Easy Recipes Indian Curry Non vegetarian Seafood Side Dishes

Amritsari Tawa Macchi – Pan Fried Fish

Sinfully Spicy : Amritsari Tawa Macchi, Pan Fried Spicy Fish 001

The pungent smell of the mustard oil was engrained in the walls of the shop.Over the years, a gleaming fluorescent tube had replaced the flickering bulb above the rusty shutter and a bunch of green chilies & lemon needled in a thread hung below it,the same way as it did years back, grabbing your attention more due to its location even though tactfully  situated to be hidden.Its the same dusty clock at the center of the column that I saw years back, looks like no one cared to wipe it, I told myself, waiting.

It was biting cold outside but the inside was surprisingly warm,for it was cramped with people who wanted that crispy fillet, one that just popped out of the bubbling oil in the kadhai.

Sinfully Spicy : Amritsari Tawa Macchi, Pan Fried Spicy Fish 002

He sat behind the counter, fluffing thick, spicy besan batter, side by side keeping an eye on the smoky oil and dealing with customers, all at the same time.He looked a lot older than what I could remember. The hair had turned grey and the skin was tanned sitting in oily vapor for years. You could not help but notice the facial expressions which also remained the same – calm & peaceful. Few things are best if they don’t change, I told myself again.

If you ask him the recipe, he would just smile. Maybe he didn’t have any, it was just the magic of hands. This is the taste of fish which stays with you for days – you want to go back and have some more and then more. The kind you want to talk about, spread around the word about and write stories about.

Sinfully Spicy : Amritsari Tawa Macchi, Pan Fried Spicy Fish 003

Saying that the fried fish he made sold like hot pancakes would be an understatement. He ran out of the stuff within an hour or so of starting the trade.Wrapped in soiled pieces of newspaper, topped with thin onions rings seasoned with a generous dash of chaat masala and a lime wedge to squirt, the fried fish was better than the best I have ever had in my life.

Sinfully Spicy : Amritsari Tawa Macchi, Pan Fried Spicy Fish 004

Ingredients

  • 1 lb minced lamb/beef/chicken (I use 80% lean)
  • 2 medium potatoes, cubed
  • 3 tbsp mustard oil (substitute with canola/vegetable)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 green cardamom pods , cracked open
  • 1 ” cinnamon stick
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2″ fresh ginger shoot, finely chopped
  • 3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
  • 2 tsp kashmiri chili powder (adjust to tolerance)
  • 3 tbsp plain yogurt
  • salt to taste
  • To garnish – chopped cilantro

Coarsely grind together:-

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1.5 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns (adjust to tolerance)
  • 4 cloves
  • 1/4 tsp fennel seeds

Method

  • In a cooking pot with lid,on high, heat up the oil till you see ripples on the surface and it smokes slightly.
  • Reduce the heat to medium.Temper the oil with bay leaf ,cinnamon stick and green cardamom pods. Add the onions next.Cook the onions till they turn light brown.About 3-5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic & ginger next and saute for about 1 minute till you smell the aroma.
  • Next, add the coarsely ground spices to the pot.Toast the spices for another minute.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes next along with turmeric and red chilli powder.Cook for 3-5 minutes or till you see oil separating on sides of the pan.Add the potatoes next, mix together, reduce heat to low and cover the pot.Let cook covered for 8-10 minutes till the potatoes are almost 70% cooked. Remove the lid.
  • Turn heat to high and add minced lamb to the pot & and work it with a spoon for about 8-10 minutes on medium heat.The meat will start separating,changing color, sweating and becoming watery.Do not worry, everything is going as per plan.
  • Next, add yogurt, 1/4 cup water and salt to the pot. Mix well.Turn the heat to the lowest possible on your burner, cover the pot with lid and let simmer on low heat for about 22-28 minutes.You ll need to stir and check periodically to ensure that lamb is not sticking to the bottom. Add more water if needed
Note : The cooking time will vary if you are using beef or chicken. Also, do not add too much water at the beginning because ground meats leave moisture as they cook.Add water at intervals as per the consistency you want.At the end of about 20 minutes of cooking you will see that oil separating from and change in color of the ground meat. Check that the potatoes are cooked through at this point. 
  • Remove the lid,check the salt and cook on high again for 5 minutes till everything comes together.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve warm with flatbreads & salad.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Categories
Appetizers/Snacks Breakfast Easy Recipes Snacks Vegetarian

Beetroot Tikki


Root vegetables with a soothing,earthy taste are one of my favorite. I m not talking potatoes here – everybody likes them without a doubt. I want to point towards taro, sweet potatoes, turnips, radishes & ofcourse – beets. The array of colors and textures inspire me to try out different ways to enjoy them.When beets are involved, I normally start dreaming of all kinds of pink hued curries, especially my dad’s version.It takes me back to all those special meals he cooked.

I did not enjoy beets much in salads or slaws much, I have grown to enjoy them in many other ways. Being the only one at house who likes them, I have the freedom to mend & devise my own uncomplicated ways to cook them. After gulping down lots of juice glasses over the week (yup, at this age too, I dream of rosy cheeks (sigh)),I was left with a last batch of this pink bounty to be turned into these thin, crispy, pan-fried cutlets.

There is always a feeling of accomplishment & satisfaction when I am able to come up with ways to prepare vegetables without cooking them much.I dont think I can describe it.It just needs to be felt.The beets were overly sweet, I did not roast them.Finding a way to balance out the sweetness was when spices jumped into the picture. Inspired by the ever so popular potato tikkis – tangy chaat masala , green chillies, ginger, garlic & cilantro – I found myself  shaping these babies within few minutes. To start with, I was slightly nervous about the taste but after I tasted the mix, the excitement took over- for that first bite.

Tikki, a popular north indian snack is nothing but small patties or croquettes, deep or shallow fried. They are served with an assortment of chutneys, ketchup, yogurt or just as it is with hot steaming masala chai or coffee. .

These are vaguely sweetish, utterly moist to bite with semolina coating adding a texture.The intent was to keep the beet taste as unadulterated as possible. Serve these with green chutney as appetizers, over lettuce leaves to make a yummy salad or even slide them inside the buns to make a vegetarian burgers Overall, I think I will be making these a lot many times.

Makes 6-8 tikkis

Ingredients

  • 2 cup finely grated beetroot
  • 3/4 cup finely grated par boiled potatoes (substitute with leftover rice)
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped red onion
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, minced
  • 1″ fresh ginger shoot, minced
  • 2-3 Thai green chillies, finely chopped (adjust to taste)
  • 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  • 3/4 tsp chaat masala (to taste, chaat masala is a tangy spice blend available in indian stores or online)
  • 1/8 tsp roasted cumin powder
  • 1/8 tsp asafoetida (hing)
  • 1 tsp white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp white poppy seeds
  • salt to taste
For Coating 
 
  • 2 tbsp semolina 
  • 2 tbsp cornmeal 
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp red chilli powder (or cayenne)
For Pan Cooking 
2-3 tbsp canola/vegetable/olive oil (or as required for even cooking)
 

Method

Press grated beetroot between your palms to squeeze out as much juice as you can.

Tip in the squeezed beetroot along with all ingredients except salt into a large bowl & mix lightly with a wooden spoon to combine everything.Dont overwork the mixture. Dont add the salt unless ready to cook.Refrigerate the mixture until then.

Mix the ingredients of the coating, tip into a shallow dish & set aside.

When ready to cook, heat up a heavy cast iron skillet/pan on medium. You dont want the pan to be searing hot. While the pan heats up, combine the salt with the beetroot mix. Make small patties of the mix, about 2 inch dia & 1/2 inch thick. Roll the patties in the semolina mix to cover both sides.

Lightly brush 1 tbsp oil on the heated pan. Place 2-3 patties on the pan and fry them on medium-low heat,adding 1 tsp oil at a time. Cook the patties for about 3-4 minutes on each side, flipping gently with a spatula & flattening them with it slightly as they cook and turn brownish.

Repeat till all patties are fried. Serve warm with green chutney, ketchup or salad greens.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!

Categories
Beverages Uncategorized Vegetarian

Jal Jeera – Indian Tamarind & Cumin Cooler

Whats your favorite beverage? I m not much of a beverage person, but am always up fresh fruit & vegetable juices as well as a couple of homemade coolers make it to my list.I distance myself from store-bought beverages, unconsciously.

He doesnt care much – his HUMONGOUS liking for beverages is oblivious of the concept of homemade or store bought.As I write this, our refrigerator is stocked with all sorts of flavored lemonades, coconut water, mango nectar & weird-looking smoothies. I m not joking. This is pretty much the same all round the year – he drinks more than he eats – I seldom tell him. Needless to say refrigerator space is one eternal bone of contention between us.

Jal Jeera is an essential north indian summer beverage, served as a refresher with meals.You will find a lot of street vendors serving chilled jal jeera stored in earthern pots sitting atop their decorated carts in India. It is another show stopper of indian street food scene. I just can’t imagine rounding up summers without it.

My mom makes a mean jal jeera from scratch. She does not use any pre made spice powders, its a a crisp concoction of fresh made tamarind pulp water (jal) & roasted cumin (jeera) flavored with mint, black salt, green chillies & ginger. Each ingredient plays a role – tamarind & mint have cooling properties, cumin & black salt aid in digestion & chillies provide the essential kick. Many people use fresh lemon juice instead of tamarind pulp in their preparation and skip sugar.

There is no written recipe, like most indian moms. It is even pointless to ask for one for all I will get is how many palm fulls and pinches. I have come up with this recipe from memories of taste of her jal jeera. Hers will always be the best though.

Indian Tamarind is quite sharp & fibrous in taste as compared to the Thai variety. You need to soak it for few hours in water & mash to separate seeds & fibre to extract the pulp.Tangy & smoky in taste, jal jeera is usually topped with boondi – puffed, crispy chickpea flour balls (available in indian stores) & crushed ice.

Printable Recipe

Ingredients (Makes 6-8 Servings)

  • 1 cup tamarind pulp (see notes)
  • 2 tbsp roasted jeera (cumin seeds)
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
  • 18-20 fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1/2 tbsp kala namak (black salt, substitute with table salt)
  • 1 serrano chilli (de- seeded , if desired)
  • 2 tbsp red chilli flakes (adjust to tolerance)
  • 3″ fresh ginger shoot, peeled & roughly chopped
  • 5 tbsp granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • Table salt (to adjust)
  • 5 cups water, cold
  • To Garnish – crushed ice, boondi, mint leaves (optional)

Method :-

Tip everything except table salt & water into your blender. Blend on low for 2-3 minutes until you get a semi smooth mixture. Dont make a very smooth paste.

Place a colander over a large bowl & sieve the paste through it. Note – I sieve the paste a couple of times to obtain a clear(er) drink. Place the collected paste into a jug, top with 5 cups of water. Adjust the salt.Chill till ready to serve.

Before serving, stir thoroughly, pour into glasses, garnish & serve.

Jal Jeera keeps fresh for 3-4 days, refrigerated. It can also be served as pani for indian street food- pani puri. 

Notes :-

  1. To see how to extract tamarind pulp at home, click here.
  2. Store bought tamarind paste can also be used in this recipe. The paste is more concentrated and way salty compared to home extracted version.Adjust the quantity to your liking.
  3. You can substitute tamarind pulp with fresh lime/ lemon juice. The taste differs from traditional recipe but still good.
  4. Place cumin seeds in a sauce pan and roast over medium heat.
Categories
Appetizers/Snacks Brunch Salads Side Dishes Vegetarian

Bharwaan Tamatar-Indian Style Stuffed Tomatoes

Living in Las Vegas is so much fun.I call it my second home.A city,I personally feel everyone should see once in their lifetime for it’s a different ball game altogether when it comes to defying the meaning of entertainment.The first time I went to the strip,the only thing I was doing for initial one hour was to swing my head in all directions possible to catch the glimpse of the glitz while sipping on the yard long glasses which were the additional wonder of that day.You walk into a casino and there’s this sudden thrash of loud music,gaudy yet ornate decor and lots and lots of people.I call it the MAD crowd…mad about enjoying life, about letting their hair down and experimenting with their fortune.Walking into a casino is a great stress buster on the other hand, every time I have walked in with a cluttered mind, feeling low,I seem to forget my worries for some time, its like a magic wand erasing all the tensions for a while when you see everyone around letting down with a common mission-to enjoy!

P always says that the downside of being a local is that we wont be able to enjoy the stay in luxurious hotels here.It is our secret wish to lock our house for 2 days sometime, take a cab, grab few clothes and stay over at one of the casino resorts and experience the king size life for few days out there.But did I tell you that locals enjoy discount rates at casinos and shows?I love the pace and quality of life in this city.Love the landscape which is all about tall,lush palm trees and succulents but still a drive through the valley is bound to leave you asking for more.I do not miss sky scrapers here; I like the homely feel of apartment homes and condos.The weather is extremely hot & dry,I have humidifiers in the house and battling the scorpions during summer months becomes a challange.The ONLY thing I miss a lot is the rains!With almost 340 days of full sun, I strive hard to save my little home garden from the gusty winds and aridity.Sometimes it just feels so dry that I have a hidden fear of not getting enough water to drink.

 

Tomatoes remind me of all those summer evenings at home when mom used to quarter them,sprinkle some salt and gave us a bowl each before dinner.Let me confess I do not like raw tomatoes all on their own. I need bread,cheese or some other veggie paired along to eat them raw.Another point of stark contrast from P who pops them into his mouth like a candy.This is one of my summer favorites, stuffed tomato recipe which my mom used to make during the times when abundant tomato produce hit the market.You can put any kind of stuffing – this is my indian way of doing it.Normally, paneer [ indian cheese] is widely used for stuffing, I like the tang of cheddar more instead.I usually like to serve them as appetizers, you can make a gravy and serve them as a main dish.Pair great with cheese puffs or a dry side with lentils.Recipe below:-

Ingredients:[Serves 2-3]

Printable Recipe

  • 6 medium size, firm tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil mixed with 1/4 tsp salt & 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp white poppy seeds to sprinkle on top
Stuffing:
  • 3 medium size potatoes, boiled
  • 1/4 cup frozen peas
  • 1/4 cup frozen yellow corn
  • 1/4 cup mild cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 green chillies,chopped
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp red chilli flakes [adjust to taste]
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds,crushed
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1 /2 tsp dry mango powder [ amchoor]
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 tbsp golden raisins [optional]
  • Salt to taste
  • 3 tbsp olive oil

Method:-
Preparing the tomatoes:-
  • Wash the tomatoes, pat them dry and using a sharp knife cut off  a about 1″ thick slice on top of the tomatoes.Reserve the tops.Note :- Just check that all the tomatoes rest on their bases, if not cut a thin slice from bottom to balance them.
  • Run a sharp knife all around the edge of the tomatoes and using a melon baller or scoop,take out the seeds and pulp. Tip:-Do not discard the pulp, refrigerate/ freeze it,can be used in curries or gravies later.
  • Using a paper towel pat dry the inside of the tomatoes and rub them with seasoned olive oil inside and outside.Set aside in the fridge for 15 minutes.
Making the stuffing :-
  • Thaw the peas and corn if using frozen.Mash the boiled potatoes thoroughly so that only tiny bits remain.
  • In any heavy bottomed utensil, heat the oil on medium and add cumin seeds and green chillies to it, fry for 30 seconds.Add the ginger garlic paste and cook for 1 minute.Add the chopped onions next and cook until they turn golden brown.About 7 minutes.
  • Reduce the heat to low and add the turmeric powder, red chilli flakes and crushed coriander seeds.Cook for 2 minutes, taking care not to burn the spices.
  • Turn the heat high and add the mashed potatoes, peas ,corn and combine everything.Add salt and let cook for 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.The mixture should be ready when you can smell the aroma.
  • Remove from heat and add garam masala, grated cheddar cheese,raisins.Combine well.Let the stuffing cool down for 5-8 minutes.

Making the tomatoes:-
  • Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C.
  • Make balls out of the potatoes mixture and fill it into the refrigerated tomatoes.Do not press down.
  • Transfer the stuffed tomatoes to a greased baking dish or cast iron skillet,cover stuffed tomatoes with the tops and bake for 15-18 minutes or until the skins start to shrivel and the tomatoes are soft to touch.Towards the end of baking , sprinkle the poppy seeds and continue to bake till done.Note that for the last few minutes you need to keep a watch to avoid tomato skins from rupturing.
  • Serve warm.
Notes:
  • Instead of baking, you can cook the tomatoes on stove top covered over medium -low heat.You will need to separately toast poppy seeds and sprinkle before serving.
The composition of main dish pictures is inspired by White on Rice Couple.The beautiful setting in their pictures stuck in my memory for days.
Enjoy!
Categories
Easy Recipes one pot meals Soups Vegetarian

Indian Tomato Soup With Chilli Cheddar Puff Sticks

Indian Tomato Soup

What I need [Serves 2-3 ]

  • 4 cups roughly chopped tomatoes [any variety which is not very sour]
  • 3 tbsp yellow moong lentils [the secret ingredient]
  • 3 tbsp ghee [clarified butter] or unsalted butter (or olive oil for vegan)
  • 2 tbsp grated ginger
  • 1 fat garlic clove
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 ” stick cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp roasted cumin seeds [bhuna jeera]
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 5 cups of water/vegetable stock/chicken stock
  • 2 tsp red chilli powder [adjust to taste]
  • pinch of turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Fresh lime juice [to taste]
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped cilantro,butter/cream for garnish

How I did it : Boil the chopped tomatoes,moong dal and salt with of water/stock till cooked.Once boiled, transfer to a blender or food processor and blend to a smooth consistency.Strain the soup through a soup strainer to remove the tomato skins and seeds.In a medium  pot, melt the ghee and add chopped onions to it.Saute for 5 minutes, till onions are soft.Next, add the grated ginger and garlic and saute for 30 seconds more.Next add the strained soup mixture, cinnamon, bay leaves, turmeric,roasted cumin seeds,red chilli powder to the pot.Check the salt and add more water/stock depending on the consistency you want your soup.Let the soup come to a boil, lower the heat and simmer on low for 15 minutes.Once cooked, remove from heat and add the sugar & garam masala. Squirt a lemon wedge over the soup,garnish with cilantro and a dollop of butter and serve warm with chilli cheese puffs

or croutons or bread sticks.

Chilli Cheddar Puff Sticks

  • 1 sheet puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 tbsp red chilli powder [or paprika]
  • 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1 beaten egg, for brushing
  • 1 tsp salt to sprinkle
  • Flour for dusting

How I did it: Preheat the oven to 400F /200 C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.On a floured surface, unfold your puff pastry.Brush the puff pastry sheet with egg wash thoroughly.Spinkle red chilli powder and salt over the whole sheet.Now, spread the grated cheese on half of the puff pastry sheet leaving 1″ from the ends and press the cheese down so that it sticks to the surface.Re-brush the left out 1″ with egg wash thoroughly.Fold over the other half of the pastry sheet over the cheese and seal the edges.You can use a fork to pinch the edges.Take a rolling-pin and roll out the pastry slightly.Once rolled out, brush the top with egg wash again.Cut out 18-20 strips of the puff pastry of about 1/2″ width.Twist the strips holding them between your hands. Bake the sticks for 8-10 minutes or until light brown.

Enjoy!

Sending this to Hearth n Soul #35

Categories
Beverages Breakfast Brunch Easy Recipes Side Dishes Stir-fry Vegetarian

Indian Spiced Peas(Chuki Matar)& Masala Chai

 

 

 

 

Spiced Peas/Chuki Matar

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups fresh/frozen peas
  • 3/4 cup sliced onions
  • 3 tbsp fresh ginger julians
  • 2 green chillies. thinly cut (adjust to taste)
  • 1.5 tsp cumin seeds
  • 3/4 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 1/2 tsp garam masala
  • 3-4tbsp olive oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1-2 tbsp fresh lemon juice [adjust to taste ]

How I did it:

  • In a pan, heat up the oil on medium heat.
  • Once heated, temper the oil with cumin seeds and wait for them to crackle.
  • Add the sliced onions to the pan and let the onions saute till transculent.Dont brown them.
  • Next, add the chopped green chilies and ginger julians and cook for 3-4 minutes.
  • Add the peas, red chilli powder, cover the lid and let the peas steam till they are cooked but not mushy.
  • Once tender, open the lid,add salt and garam masala and stir fry on high heat for 5-7 minutes.
  • Remove from heat and add the fresh lime juice and serve warm with masala chai

Masala Chai

Ingredients

  • 1 tea bag per cup (or 1 tsp of black tea leaves/cup)
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • 1-2 fresh tulsi leaves [holy basil leaves if available] NOTE:Holy basil is totally different from Thai or Italian basil.
  • 1 cup of water
  • ½ cup of warm milk
  • ¼ tsp chai masala powder
  • sugar to taste

Masala/Spice Mix  [Makes 1 cup masala]

  • 1/4 cup cinnamon sticks, broken into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp cloves
  • 1/4 cups whole black peppercorns
  • 1/4 cups green cardamom
  • 4 twig mace, broken into small pieces
  • 1/2 piece nutmeg, grated
  • 1/2 tablespoon fennel seeds

How I did it

  • Fine grind all the ingredients under the head “Masala/Spice Mix”.Store this spice mix in an air tight container in a dry place.This lasts for 2-3 years.
  • To make the masala chai:In a saucepan, add the water along with ginger and tulsi leaves[if using] and let come to a boil.After 2-3 minutes, add tea bag or tea leaves. Let  brew for 2-3 minutes.Next, add “masala” and milk and let it again come to a boil.Reduce the heat to a low simmer. Simmer for 5 minutes.Strain and serve with sugar (or sweetener).

Enjoy!

 

Categories
Easy Recipes Indian Curry Side Dishes

Hara Baingan Bharta /Spicy Mashed Roasted Eggplant

This dish formed a quintessential part of the lunch served on Makar Sankrati [an Indian festival] in my grand mother’s house from as long as I can remember.The comfy platter with kaali urad dal khichdi [black lentils with rice],hara baingan ka bharta [roasted eggplant], dahi [yogurt], mooli [parsnips], homemade ghee [clarified butter] and achaar[pickle] are my best kept ways of remembering and celebrating Makar Sankranti till now.

As mentioned before in my previous post,my grandmother’s house has a big vegetable garden. Almost all the winter lunches were served there on a charpai [four legged cot]under the bright winter sun amid the home-grown decor of spinach, methi, cauliflower, garlic, onions,cabbage, radish, carrots etc. I have very fond memories of sitting on the charpai with lunch plate in my hand and picking up fresh leaves of garlic and onions and eating it with the meals. The taste of unwashed, organic stuff was unmatched under the warm rays of sun. I am a survivor of these homemade foods and authentic Indian dishes.A mention of winter lunches still takes me back to my granny’s vegetable garden and the food relished there during all my growing years.

In India,still the sil -batta [type of stone grinder] is used for grinding fresh spices for food, for making the chutneys and for other chores of the kitchens, I saw my mom using sil- batta to grind the herbs for making this dish.Those times were different with machines not being very popular and not widely used,hence the food preparations took more time and effort.You can see images of sil-batta here. Last week,her modern world grand-daughter prepared it in her American kitchen using a blender 🙂 Of course, its difficult to recreate that sil- batta texture even by using a 12 speed blender but I guess that’s what moving and adapting with times is all about!Afterall,its the era of fast and easy food 🙂

Okay coming back to the recipe,this hara baingan bharta was made only once a year on makar sankranti.If you ask me,I do not know why. Maybe because it paired the best with the meal served on that day or maybe its got something to do with nip in the air.Talking. of which , I can really relate to the fact that the best cilantro,mint and other herbs are available in India during winters and since this recipe requires these herbs,may be that’s the reason! I wanted to make this bharta for a long time but was waiting for the temperatures to fall down. As a kid eating these recipes ,I never thought that I would be recreating them some 2000 miles away from home, in a new country, with modern age equipments and serving them to someone who came into my life[aka my husband] much later than I learnt all these things.There are so many times I miss while making all this, the company, the family, the laughs, the warmth, the festivals, home but I guess life takes on its course,for good. I m doing what I am doing right now for some reason! Thts my karmaoh sorry I am deviating … so I should stop now.

Coming back to food,in hindi green color is hara ; eggplant is baingan and bharta is a word used for any sort of mash. So this is green colored mashed eggplant …how easy is that!!!Now you need a lot of fresh cilantro/coriander leaves for this dish.If you are not a cilantro person, use parsley but frankly I havent tried it so I can’t comment on how it will taste.Another shining and irreplaceable ingredient is raw mustard oil which gives the bharta a pungent taste.If you find the taste of raw mustard oil very strong , just cook it slightly beforehand but for the authentic flavor, I recommend raw mustard oil, that’s where the actual bharta taste lies! If you want to use olive oil or sesame oil , go ahead and use it and just don’t call it a bharta then…call it a dip or relish ! The whole point is using a slightly pungent and strong flavored oil.Please refrain from using canola or vegetable oil…it will not work in this recipe.Also, I like my bharta on the spicy side so you will have to cut down the green chillies from what I have mentioned in the recipes if you like less hot.The recipe is darn easy with minimal basic ingredients.

What I need :

  • 1 eggplant, big and fat
  • 1.5 cups of  fresh cilantro leaves [about 1 bunch][clean the leaves properly to remove all dirt and grit]
  • 3-5  green chillies [adjust to taste]
  • 1 ” shoot of fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 tsp dry mango powder [anchoor] [can be subsituted with fresh lime juice]
  • 1/2 cup red onions , finely chopped
  • 1-2 tbsp raw mustard oil for drizzle
  • 1 tbsp mustard oil for tempering
  • Salt to taste

How I did it :

Roasting the Eggplant: Do any one of the following

  • In Microwave : Micro the eggplant in a microwave-safe dish for about 7-10 minutes till the eggplant is tender and spongy to touch.
  • In Oven : Preheat your oven at 400 F. Put the eggplant on a cookie sheet or any oven safe dish and bake for about 40-45 minutes.
  • In Broiler : Heat the broiler to 425 F and broil the eggplant till the skin is charred.You will need to rotate the eggplant in between for even cooking on all sides
  • On Stove Top [This is what I do]:Line the dripping pan of your burner with foil or the aluminium foil drip pans available in stores.Roast the eggplant on high flame on all sides till its soft and the skin is charred.

Making the Bharta :

  • Once cooked ,let the eggplant cool a bit. Once cool to handle, peel off  and discard the skin. Transfer the skinless eggplant to a bowl and using a fork or potato masher , just mash the eggplant thoroughly. [please do not use blender]. Set aside
  • In the blender add the cilantro leaves,green chillies, salt , dry mango powder and make a smooth paste with minimal amount of water [if needed].
  • Next, mix this cilantro paste with the mashed roasted eggplant, 2 tbsp of raw mustard oil  and set aside.
  • In a small pan , heat the 1 tbsp oil on high till it starts smoking slightly.
  • For tempering :Once hot enough, add the chopped garlic and ginger and saute for 1-2 minutes till they start browning. Next add the chopped onions and cook till the onions are dark brown in color but not burnt.
  • Just when you are ready to serve,to the mashed eggplant add the tempering and mix well.
  • Serve warm immediately with chapatis or parathas [flatbreads]

Notes:

  1. The taste and flavor of raw mustard oil is really strong, so adjust the amount of mustard oil as per your palate.
  2. To add more texture, you can add raw chopped onions, bell peppers, cucumbers etc to the mash and use it as a dip/relish.

Enjoy!
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