Sep 28, 2007

Dress makes personality in food?

I have been watching a reality show called Top Chef and it led to a realisation that in the western world Presentation takes the center stage. Whether it comes to one's own dressing or their food's. Whatever the taste maybe first impression wows (pun intended)! I was trying to figure out the same about our Indian food. Do we Indians look for visual appeal in Indian food? When was the last time you took a good look at the Bisibelebath served in a bowl before spooning some on to your plate and gobbling it up? When was the last time you dint toss aside the measly coriander leaf which looked wasted on a bowl of vegetable pulav? In Bangalore where the hotels which make maximum profit are the fast food kinds, who even cares for presentation? Neither the cook nor the customer has the time for it. Somehow the casually put together subway sandwich also looks appealing here! I wonder how many different ways one can present a masala dosa without losing authenticity. Where am I going with this post? Well, for starters I take a look at the wonderful people out there blogging about Indian food. The first thing that strikes me are the photos of the finished product, presented and photographed beautifully. I have gone to many restaurants where the food looks great but tastes average or below whereas in a "Sagar" (I dont know why but it has become a norm in Bangalore to end the name of any hotel with that word if a fast food joint, almost like xerox) there is no time for presentation but the taste is just perfect. Which would we pick if there is no place with an ideal marriage between presentation and taste? Presentation is important but is it more important than the taste? Taste is important but would you eat something if it looks crazy?

Sep 25, 2007

Kadlekayi Mithai (Groundnut Sweet)

Kadlekayi Mithai always reminds me of Gokulashtami at home. The smells in my mom's kitchen are fantabulous in those days. Many kinds of sweets and savouries are made to keep as Prasad for Lord Krishna. As kids we used to eye the Prasad plate greedily and hungrily, till my dad finished his elaborate Puja in the evening, making underhand deals about who was going to eat what out of the plate (even though there was much more in the huge boxes). Gokulashtami was always fun and tested our creativity in terms of decorating the Mandap where Krishna Idols would be placed. We have a huge age old Mandap at home and it used to be like a comedy trying to tie fruits and decorating it with flowers. Lot of family time and a lot of teasing, laughter and ofcourse huffs. I am getting nostalgic and before I start dreaming let me give you the recipe to the Mithai.

What you need to make Kadlekayi Mithai
  • Kadlekayi (Groundnuts) - 1 cup
  • Jaggery - 1 cup
  • Dry coconut - 1/2 cup
  • Water - 1/2 cup
  • Elaichi (Cardamom) - 1/2 tsp

(Please use the same measure, when I say cup, for all the ingredients)

Preparation for making Kadlekayi Mithai
  • Dry roast the groundnuts in a heavy bottomed vessel till a little browner.
  • Spread it out on a large plate to cool down.
  • Once cool, run a roller pin lightly over the groundnuts to separate the skin from the nut and also to slice the nut in half. Alternatively you could just mash them very lightly in your hands.
  • Grease a plate with ghee and keep aside.
Method to make Kadlekayi Mithai
  • Put water in a heavy bottomed vessel and add the jaggery to it. Keep the flame at medium low.
  • Allow the jaggery to dissolve in the water.
  • As it boils it reaches the consistency of a syrup (chocolate syrup).
  • The way to check if its done is to take a small drop of the syrup and drop it into a cup filled with water. If the syrup doesnt spread and sticks then its done! Further, you should be able to scoop the syrup from the water as a lump.

  • Once the right consistency is reached add the dry coconut and groundnuts to it.
  • Allow it to boil together on a lower flame for some time.
  • You know its done when the syrup becomes frothy.
  • Pour the contents into the greased plate and spread it quickly before it thickens.
  • After around two minutes of thickening run a knife through it to cut into squares.
  • Keep it to cool.
  • Once it cools you can just get the pieces of kadlekayi mithai out of the plate (use a little reverse plate banging against a spread out paper)

Sep 20, 2007

Pudina Pulav (Mint Pulav)

Dinner is ready! This was up for grabs yesterday night and everyone of my folks enjoyed it.

What you need to make Pudina Pulav

Spices to be used

  • Refer to the same named section under Vegetable Pulav under the category Rice Dishes on my blog
Rest of the ingredients

  • Rice - 250 gms
  • Onion - 1 big
  • Pudina leaves - 200 gms
  • Peas (optional) - a few maybe 25 gms - 50 gms
  • Coriander - 5-6 strands
  • Salt to taste
  • Oil - 3 tsp
  • Water - double the measure of rice

Preparation for making Pudina Pulav

  • Wash the rice (I do it 3 times).
  • Cut onion into big slices. You want to be able to get the onion in your mouth and experience its taste when you eat the pulav
  • Wash and chop the coriander into very small confetti.
  • Wash and coarsely chop the pudina leaves (not too small)
  • Grind all the spices together.
Method to make Pudina Pulav

  • Heat a pressure cooker and put the oil into it.
  • Add the onion to the oil and allow it to fry till soft.
  • Now add the coriander in and allow it to fry a little. Gives it a nice taste. You could optionally put it in just before closing the lid of the cooker.
  • Add the pudina leaves and fry it a little.
  • Now drop in the peas.
  • Put the rice in and the ground spices and stir everything together and allow it all to shallow fry.
  • After around 5 minutes add the water.
  • Add salt as much as required (yeah you got to taste if you cant do it just by seeing).
  • As soon as it starts boiling close the lid of the cooker and let it all steam up.
  • Your Pudina Pulav will be ready :)

My fundas
  • Well there are no fundas except I somehow like chips with this Pulav rather than a Raita. Wonder why?

Matar Paneer Aluwale

There is nothing like catering to a hungry stomach. So when I got a message from T saying "I'm very hungry" I sprung into action and made him a meal he would love. This is my own recipe and it isnt exactly rocket science but was very yummy!

What you need to make Matar Paneer Aluwale
  • Paneer (Cottage Cheese) - 50 gms
  • Alu (Potato) - 2 small
  • Matar (Peas) - 50 gms
  • Onions - 2 small
  • Tomatoes - 2 small
  • Coriander - 5-6 strands
  • Jeera (Cumin seeds) - 2 tsp
  • Mustard - 2 tsp
  • Ginger - 1 inch piece
  • Garlic - 5 - 6 pods
  • Red Chillies / Green Chillies - 3 big
  • Turmeric - 1/4 tsp
  • Oil - 2 tsp
Preparation for making Matar Paneer Aluwale
  • Cut all the onions and potatoes into small pieces.
  • Cut the paneer into cubes (I like smaller pieces because they absorb the taste of the gravy faster).
  • Puree the tomatoes.
  • Chop the coriander into very small confetti.
  • Cook the potatoes in boiling water with a little salt added to it.
  • Cook the peas in boiling water with a little salt added to it.
  • Grate the ginger. Mash the garlic pods and make a paste out of these two.
Method to make Matar Paneer Aluwale
  • Heat a heavy bottomed vessel and add the oil to it.
  • Add mustard and cumin seeds to the heated oil.
  • When the mustard starts to splutter add the red chillies to it and also the turmeric.
  • Add the onions to this and allow it to cook till it becomes soft.
  • Now add the ginger garlic paste and so also the tomato puree. Mix well.
  • When it comes to a boil, add the cooked potatoes and peas to it.
  • Mix well.
  • Now add the paneer to this whole mixture.
  • The key to making a dish with paneer is to really allow it to blend with the gravy so its important to keep it cooking for sometime. Ofcourse simmer the flame and allow the whole mixture to cook together.
  • Garnish with coriander and serve hot.

My fundas
  • Eat hot with chapati like we did and you will appreciate it a lot.

I havent mastered the art of making round chapatis as you can see :)

Sep 13, 2007


What you need to make Ambode
  • Kadlebele (Channa Dal)- 1 cup
  • Onion - 1/2 cup - 3/4 cup
  • Coriander - 3 strands (optional)
  • Green chillies / Red Chillies - 3 (more if you like it spicier)
  • Salt
  • Asafoetida - 1/4 tsp
Preparation for making Ambode
  • Soak Kadlebele for 5-6 hours to make it soft
  • Coarse grind the kadlebele along with coriander and chillies. Do not make it a very fine paste.
  • Cut the onions into really small pieces. You could grind it along with the bele but I like it when I encounter onion pieces in my mouth :)
Method to make Ambode
  • Take the ground mixture and add salt as required and also add asafoetida. Mix well like you would dough.
  • Adding water to the dough is optional because the soaked lentils itself gives out some water when ground.
  • The consistency should be good enough to make loose balls in our hand. (Do not imagine it will be smooth or solid like jamun balls)
  • Heat oil in a frying pan.
  • Roll the dough into a ball and lightly flatten the top of the ball. Do not press too hard. (It should be saucer shaped). Put this into the oil and deep fry.
You know its done when it turns to a darker brown just like in the picture below :

My fundas
Its great to eat Ambode with coconut chutney but its good just by itself.
A variation to Ambode is to put Pudina (Mint) leaves while grinding it. Gives it a fresh tangy flavour.
Eat hot :)

Benne (Butter) Biscuit

I did use the Oven and it did manage to scare me!
I was very excited when I found a Benne Biscuit recipe on Asha's Foodie's Hope and today I took the plunge to try it out.
I went as per the recipe and everything was working to order. The trouble started when I switched on the great american oven for some pre heating. It immediately began to smell like something was burning inside. Dint concern me very much till a lot of smoke started accumalating above the stove and to my horror the fire alarm started blaring. There was also an electronic anti septic voice which kept saying "Fire fire" as if announcing the weather forecast on Doordarshan. Deadpan. I panicked. I started hallucinating that everyone would rush out of their houses and rush to see what happened in our house. That there would be a fire engine squealing its way to our front door. That I would get a good scolding from all at home. But what really happened was that T who was on a call with the boss calmly opened the front door, switched on the exhaust fan and joked with his boss about fire alarms and Indians cooking chapatis. I, in the meanwhile, totally unaware of what I am required to do next waited behind T following him like a poodle as he walked to and fro while continuing to talk on the phone. When he finally got off, I learnt from him that its very common for the smoke alarm to go off with Indian cooking which generated a lot of smoke. I did not understand however what was Indian about the oven. And that too on a pre-heat! I went ahead with his assurance that nothing was going to blow up and baked my biscuits and they came out in a beautiful golden brown hue. The greatest compliment that I got for it was when my m-i-l who is an arch enemy of sweets ate two of my biscuits voluntarily!
If you are lazy to visit Asha's blog whose link I have given above then the recipe is here for you :

1. Sift 1 cup plain/all purpose/Maida flour, 1/4 tsp baking soda, 1/2 tsp baking powder,1/4 tsp of salt.2. Cream 1/2 cup softened Butter or margarine (my friend uses a mix of butter and Dalda,a Indian product which probably make a lot of difference in the texture) and 1/3 cup white Sugar until creamy and fluffy. (Adding 1 tsp of Vanilla essence is optional,she never used it, I don't use it either)3. Add in the flour mix little by little to make a soft dough, not sticky. Turn on the oven to 350F.4. Make about 12-14 balls lightly rolling on your palm,flatten a bit on top. Do not press too hard.Place them on a non-stick baking sheet 2" apart,sprinkle little flour on top for a thin coating,not too much (to get that floury coating bakeries have). Keep in the fridge at least for 5 mins until the oven is preheated.5. Place the sheet in the oven and bake for 10-15mins or until very slightly golden but they must remain almost white when done.6. Cool on a rack, and enjoy with a hot cup of Mysore coffee!Savory Biscuits: Instead of Sugar, you add very finely chopped green chillies,curry leaves,Cilantro and crushed Cumin seeds.Adjust the salt, make and bake as above. YUM!

P.S :- Asha, I havent altered any word :)

This is how mine turned out

Update (2/26/2013) - Today was a whiteout following Winter Storm Rocky in the Midwest. I made this today as a small token of "Thank You" to our neighbours who helped with not only the shovels and brushes to clear off the snow during the last two storms but also helped clear around our parking lot. Selfless souls like them deserve a dollop of heaven.

 The photos in the post also got an upgrade!

Sep 11, 2007

The great American Oven

What I notice the most in Western cooking in contrast with Indian is the usage of the oven. Almost everything is grilled or baked. There is very little cooking in the pot that goes on. For that matter there is the most minimal amount of grinding too. There is a world beyond salt jars and pepper mills that the westerners havent figured out. But what I appreciate a lot is the variety of herbs and other non-spice ingredients that go into their dishes. And also I like the way they learn to distinguish the different smells of each ingredient. They know the smell of cinnamon from cumin seeds, and this after the dish is cooked. My nose hasnt caught on to this fine art and I am always at a loss for words when I am expected to identify every ingrdient which has gone inside a gravy that was served in an Indian restaurant in a foreign setting and with non Indians for company!
I have a huge oven in my kitchen right now which I havent been brave enough to start using. I am wondering if I should take a couple of recipes from the Food channel and try them out. Ofcourse it does need more patience than going out and ordering your food. So am still toying with the idea. One of the first rules in any art is to understand the audience. And my audience is the rice-rasam variety. Will I get any leeway? The lasagne, breads and cakes are all tearing me away from the regular fare. Do I dare? Watch this space and I will let you know :)
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