Thursday, December 31, 2009

Bye bye 2009... with Panipuri & SPDP

It is already the end of 2009. This time most of our friends are out of town, so there was no potluck and we sure did miss that. After being out of town for five days and eating quite a few take outs, I wanted to make something that I absolutely love. About a month back, I had bought a couple of packets of puris to make Panipuri, but did not get time to make them. Back in India my cousin K and I used to eat out at our favorite panipuri joint at least once a week. On couple of year end celebrations, we have had chaat nights, panipuri being the featuring dish and have enjoyed it very much. Considering the chaat fan that I am, I feel lucky if I get even one packet of puris when required. Ours is a small town with only two stores carrying Indian snacks and groceries, so I usually stock a couple of packets :)

Making panipuri takes a considerable amount of time. But if you keep paani (which is made by adding some tamarind paste and spices to water) readily available it is very easy to make. I usually make a large batch of paani and keep it in the fridge in glass jars. It stays fresh for as long as 1-1.5 months without going bad and that way we can have panipuris absolutely instantly. Paani is the most important preparation in making panipuri. This is how I make it. I have followed this method for years and absolutely love the outcome.

1/4 cup tamarind
1/4 cup dates (optional)
1 inch fresh ginger
3/4 green chillies
Handful of fresh mint
Juice of half lime/lemon
1-1.5 cups jaggery
6 cups water
1 tsp salt
2 tbsp panipuri masala

Soak the tamarind in water for some time. In a grinder take the soaked tamarind(including water), dates, ginger, green chillies, lime juice and mint, and grind it into a fine paste. Take out this paste in a bowl, add salt, water and jaggery. Start by adding about a cup of jaggery and increase the amount as needed(depending on how you like your paani). Mix well until the jaggery is completely dissolved and strain this watery mix.


To make panipuri you need boiled potato (mashed) and moong beans(soaked and then pressure cooked). Take a puri and make a hole in the center. Fill the puri with potato, moong beans and paani and enjoy. If you like panipuri on a slightly sweeter side, you can add sweet tamarind-date chutney.

Shev Potato Dahi Puri a.k.a SPDP
If you have panipuri preparations on hand, you can make SPDP right away. Fill the puri with some potato, sweet chutney (optional) and paani. Sprinkle some salt and red chilli powder. Top it off with shev, yogurt and finely chopped onion. I generally add some sugar to the yogurt before using it in SPDP.

It will be 2010 in a couple of hours, so here is wishing you all a very happy and a prosperous new year.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Kacchi Dabeli

Living in the US, street food is something that I really miss. Especially during summer when we go for long walks or may be sometimes when we are sitting in the park, I always say to myself "Ah...I wish there was a chaat vendor or a dabeli vendor". The cravings are so strong that within the next two days some chaat dish is in the making in my kitchen. Two days back while cleaning the freezer I noticed a bottle of dabeli masala. Last time I remember making dabeli was probably 2 years back. I was thinking... has it really been two years? Wow...that's a really long time. So I had to make this now. Of course I bought a new packet of masala :)

Kacchi dabeli is one of the popular street foods in Maharashtra. In Pune, there is practically one dabeli vendor at the corner of every main street or in every residential area. Dabeli is made by stuffing potato mixture inside bread (such as dinner rolls or hamburger buns) and lightly toasting both sides in butter. Here is how to make it.

(Serves 4-6)

3 medium potatoes (boiled and mashed)
1 medium chopped onion
1.5 tsp dabeli masala (more or less as needed)
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
Salt to taste
Handful of pomegranate arils
2-3 tbsp tutti-frutti(optional)
12 Dinner rolls or hamburger buns
Handful of salted/ masala peanuts (optional)
Tamarind-date chutney (sweet)
Thin shev (optional)
1 small onion - finely chopped
3-4 tbsp Butter/ vegetable spread
For tempering:
2 tsp oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
A pinch of asafoetida and turmeric
1. First step in the making of dabeli is to make potato stuffing. Make the tempering and add to it chopped onion. Saute until tender.
2. Add mashed potato, salt, red chilli powder and dabeli masala; and mix well.

3. Take a dinner roll and split it open. Slather the inside with sweet tamarind-date chutney.
4. Add some potato stuffing, peanuts, pomegranate arils, tutti frutti and finely chopped onion.
5. Heat the pan, add some butter and lightly toast the bread (both sides).
6. Sprinke some thin shev if you like and serve hot.

Sweet Tamarind-Date Chutney:
Take tamarind and dates (I use pitted dates) in the ratio of 1/2:2. Add some water to it and microwave for about a minute (this will make both tamarind and dates soft and easy to squish). Squish it and strain the pulp. Add some jaggery (taste for sweetness) and a pinch of salt. Also add cumin powder if you like. Sweet chutney is ready.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Whole wheat banana bread - A quick update

Last week I made Banana bread using whole wheat flour. I used the exact same recipe as before, but used regular chapati flour (which is a whole wheat flour) instead of all purpose flour. I was slightly worried as to how it would taste, but still decided to give it a shot. To my surprise it tasted even better with whole wheat flour. I am so glad because now I have another healthy snack to make, and I pretty much see myself doing it very often.

Kanda Bhaji a.k.a. Onion Pakoda

For me, onion pakodas are associated with the rainy days. Just as it starts to rain, the very first thing that comes to my mind is kanda bhaji a.k.a. onion pakodas. There is nothing like being at home, sitting by the window with a plate of pakodas and simply watch the rain, when it is pouring outside. It is so much fun to watch people and vehicles pass by, and kids play in the rain. When the weather is cloudy and gloomy, pakodas is the perfect dish to have. In fact onion pakodas are so tasty that you would want to eat them any time. But since it's a fried food, I just look for opportunities to make it (without feeling guilty about it :P). And this weekend's heavy snow just gave me the reason I was looking for :D. Pakodas are just like fritters. Onion pakoda is pretty simple to make. You need the following -

(Serves 2)

3 small onions
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1-1.5 tsp red chilli powder (as per your taste)
A pinch of turmeric
salt to taste
1/2 cup chickpea flour (more or less as needed)
Oil for frying

1. Thinly slice the onions and separate the layers.
2. In a bowl, take the sliced onions, add salt, turmeric, cumin, coriander and red chilli powders, mix well and leave for about 15-20 minutes. This will soften the onions releasing the juices.

3. Add chickpea flour (as needed) to the onions and start mixing until you have thick batter.
4. Heat oil and drop the batter into the oil and fry until golden brown.
5. Take the pakodas out on a paper towel (to drain the excess oil) and serve hot.

You can also serve them with tamrind chutney or any other condiment of your choice.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Dadpe Pohe

Pohe is pressed rice. It is probably the most popular Maharashtrian dish often served for breakfast or as an evening snack. There are different methods Pohe can be made. Dadpe-pohe are made using thin pohe. As a kid I remember eating them numerous times since my brother and I both loved these rather than regular Pohe which were often eaten for breakfast. It was the most demanded evening snack in my house.

From what I gathered from my mom, this dish is from Konkan region of Maharashtra. It was made using thick pohe. Coconut water was added to raw pohe to make them soft and they were firmly pressed. Then, some weight was put on to them. The act of pressing and putting weight is called 'dadapne' in Marathi and so the name 'Dadpe-pohe'. Today most of the people use thin pohe to make this dish. The dish tastes delicious and is really simple to make without any cooking involved.

(Serves 2)

2 cups thin pohe
1 medium onion (chopped)
1/2 cup freshly grated coconut (can use frozen)
1 tsp grated ginger root
1 tbsp sugar
Handful of roasted unsalted peanuts
Handful of cilantro (finely chopped)
Juice of 1 lemon/lime
salt to taste
For tempering:
2 tbsp oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp asafoetida
4-5 green chillies (more or less as per taste)

Before you start, make tempering and keep it aside to cool. To make pohe start by taking pohe in a large bowl. This makes mixing easier. To pohe add onion, coconut, peanuts, cilantro, sugar, salt and lemon juice. Mix very well, occasionally squishing the pohe. Add tempering and mix well again. Dadpe-pohe are ready. You can top it off with some more coconut and cilantro. Tomatoes can also be used in this recipe along with the onions.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Weekend savior Dal-Dhokli

Does it ever happen to you on a weekend that you want to have a home cooked meal and there is nothing left in the house...not a single veggie or a packet of pasta or even Maggie noodles? You just don't want to eat any take out food or even get out of the house for that matter. Well, we experience this quite a few times. Sometimes after a long busy week, all we want on a weekend is to be at home...watching movies, documentaries etc or simply sleep for long hours in the afternoon. On days like this Dal-Dhokli is a real savior. I always have the required ingredients on hand and can have a wholesome meal without much efforts.

Make dal the way you like and add dhokli, which basically is a dumpling made of whole wheat flour. To make it further nutritious, try filling it with some sauteed greens. Take a small piece of dough, roll it out and put the sauteed greens in the center. Roll out another piece and place it on top, press all sides firmly - like a ravioli(so that greens don't come out when dropped in dal). Then drop these dumplings in dal.

Since I am a Maharashtrian, my dal is a typical maharashtrian curry (called Amtee) to which I add a couple more spices. To this, add dhoklis and let the dal boil. Dhoklis will get cooked in dal.

Ingredients for Dal:
(Serves 2)

1/2 cup Toor dal (cooked until soft and mashed - Pressure cook in 1/2 cup water, add a pinch of turmeric and asafoetida while cooking)
2-3 green chillies (cut into couple of pieces)
5-6 curry leaves
1/2 tsp goda masala (a maharashtrian style masala made up of different indian spices)
1/4 tsp garam masala (optional)
2 tbsp tamrind puree (or less depending on how you like your curry)
1.5 tbsp jaggery
salt to taste
For tempering-
1 tsp oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp fenugreek seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp grated ginger root

Ingredients for Dhokli (dumplings):

2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red chilli powder (more or less as per taste)
1/4 tsp carom seeds (optional)

To make dough for dhoklis, mix all these ingredients and form a firm dough (not too tight). Add about a teaspoon of oil and knead the dough properly.

For dal (curry), make the tempering. Add to it green chillies, curry leaves, dal, spices and all the remaining ingredients. Let it simmer for a while. While dal is cooking, start making the dumplings. Grab a piece of dough and roll it out. Cut it into small squares. Follow the same procedure for the remaining dough. Now, drop these in dal and crank the heat up. Let the dal boil for about 10 minutes while the dumplings cook. Dal-dhokli is ready to eat.

Top it of with some ghee, chopped onion and tomato ( can add just some ghee or eat without any toppings, which I normally do on such "empty-fridge" weekends), and sprinkle some sev if you like. Serve hot.

Please note- If you don't have green chillies or curry leaves, you can totally skip them, and add red chilli powder instead.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Healthy Spinach Paratha

Importance of spinach cannot be emphasized enough. It is such a nutritious veggie. I really enjoy cooking different types of parathas and of course eating them too :) Spinach paratha is one of my favorites. Making spinach puree and seasoning it with the spices is the most common method used by many of my friends. However, I have never made parathas using spinach puree. I always finely chop the spinach, add spices to it and form a dough by adding whole wheat flour. Here is the recipe.
1 pkt spinach - finely chopped
About 2 cups whole wheat flour or as needed
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
salt to taste
For tempering-
2 tsp oil
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
To make the dough for parathas, make tempering and add to it chopped spinach. After it wilts down, add red chilli, coriander and cumin powders and cook for about a minute. Turn the heat off. Add salt and whole wheat flour until it forms a dough. Add some oil and knead the dough. Take some dough, roll it out and cook both sides on a tawa. Your paratha is ready to eat.

It tastes equally good whether served hot or at room temperature. Serve it with butter, ketchup, yogurt or sour cream.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Anniversary special Pav-bhaji and Fruit salad

We celebrated our wedding anniversary last week. The menu was pav-bhaji and fruit salad. 'A' is a big fan of pav-bhaji and I had not made it in a long long time. Needless to say his pick was pav-bhaji. I had two cans of evaporated milk sitting in my pantry for about a year :P and their expiration date wasn't that far. Luckily I had plenty of fruits and also a can of mango pulp, so the obvious choice for a dessert was fruit salad.

I generally use only six veggies - Potatoes, onions, tomatoes, cauliflower, green peas and peppers. Most of the times I use bell peppers, but I love the flavor of pablano peppers. Whenever I use pablanos, I roast them in the oven and take the skin off, and then finely chop them. I also add some tomato sauce/paste (basically some tomato puree).

To make bhaji simply follow these steps -
1. Peel potatoes and cut them into big chunks. Cut cauliflower and bell peppers. Put everything together along with green peas, cook until they become soft and then mash them.

2. In a pot add a couple of tablespoons of butter and about a teaspoon or two of regular cooking oil.

3. Add ginger-garlic paste and pav-bhaji masala (I use everest brand).

4. Add chopped onions, tomatoes and some tomato sauce, and let cook until tender. Add remaining veggies, salt, red chilli powder and mix well. Cook for another 10 minutes.

5. Top it off with finely chopped onion and cilantro. Add some fresh lemon juice if you like and serve with any bread of your choice.

I used the following ingredients to make bhaji (serves 4).
3 medium potatoes
2 cups cauliflower florets
1/2 cup green peas
2 pablano peppers (roasted, peeled and finely chopped)
2 medium onions
2 medium tomatoes
8 oz can of tomato sauce
1 Tsp ginger-garlic paste
1 Tsp red chilli powder
3 Tbsp pav-bhaji masala
We were in a mood for a chewy bread, so I served it with french bread. You can simply toast it in the oven or butter the bread and lightly toast it in a skillet until golden brown.

Fruit Salad
Fruit salad is probably the simplest dessert you can ever make. All you need to do is peel and cut fruits and drop them in the milk. I used the following ingredients.
2 cans of Nestle evaporated milk (12 oz cans)
1 cup half and half
3 cups Alphonso mango pulp
3 bananas
1 apple
2 cups grapes (each cut into half)
1 cup pomegranate arils
1 orange
1/2 cup sugar (or as needed)

Start by mixing evaporated milk, half and half, mango pulp and sugar. Then add the fruits, mix well and keep it in the fridge for about an hour. Serve cold.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Comforting Kadhi and Khichdi

It was one of those evenings after a long day of being done with the loads of pending "to do things". I was so tired after all this work, I did not have any energy left. A has a sore throat after eating super-spicy food at an Indian restaurant earlier this week, so I wanted to keep it simple. I immediately thought of Kadhi-khichdi, it's a comfort food after all. There are different versions of khichdi all over India.

Kadhi brings back some childhood memories. I still can't forget when we were on a vacation in Himachal and reached our destination pretty late. We were supposed to be there by 9pm and reached there after midnight. It was very cold and everyone was extremely hungry. Since it was an arranged tour, their cooks immediately started cooking, and served us a steamy khichdi and screaming hot kadhi. The chillies in kadhi looked just like cherries. My brother got a couple of them in his kadhi and started teasing me that he alone was going to eat all the cherries. To his horror they were extremely hot chillies :P He started screaming and I burst out laughing :)

For kadhi you need-
1 cup plain yogurt
2 Tsp besan (gram flour)
1 Tsp grated ginger
2 Tsp sugar
Salt to taste
1-1.5 cups water (or as desired - if you want your kadhi on a thicker side, add less)

For tempering-

2 Tsp Ghee (clarified butter)
1/2 Tsp cumin seeds
1/4 Tsp asafoetida
1/4 Tsp turmeric
3/4 Dry red chillies
6-8 Curry leaves
Take yogurt in a bowl. Add to it besan, ginger, sugar and salt. Add water as needed. Whisk it, making sure that there are no lumps of besan. Heat some ghee and add to it cumin, asafoetida, turmeric, chillies and curry leaves. Add the yogurt mixture and stir well. Turn the heat off when kadhi starts boiling.

Ingredients for khichdi-

1 cup rice
1/2 cup moong dal
2 medium potatoes cut into cubes or any combination of veggies you like (optional)
1/2 Tsp red chilli powder
1 Tsp masala (one that you use for daily cooking)
1 Tbsp jaggery
Salt to taste
3 cups hot water

For tempering-

1 Tbsp oil
1/2 Tsp mustard and cumin seeds
1/4 Tsp asafoetida
1/4 Tsp turmeric
6-8 curry leaves
Before you start, rinse rice and dal, drain all water. Make some tempering (heat oil and add mustard,cumin, asafoetida, turmeric, curry leaves). Add diced potatoes or other veggies and little salt. Let it cook for a while. Now add rice, lentils, hot water, salt, red chilli powder, masala and jaggery. Stir well, put the lid on and let it cook. If you like, you can add about 1/4 tsp cumin powder and 1 tbsp unsweetened coconut flakes. Top it off with a dollop of ghee and serve with hot kadhi.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Banana -Date-Walnut Bread

I got this really amazing book- The Encyclopedia of Creative Cooking from the library. It has tons of recipes from appetizers to desserts. It happens quite a lot of times that we end up with really ripe bananas. And it feels bad to just dump them in trash. So of the times I have them, nearly half the time I end up making Sheera just so that I don't have to throw them away. I always thought of making banana bread instead, but never actually made it because sometimes I did not have eggs and other times some other ingredient. Anyway... to cut the story short, while I was reading this book, I came across a recipe for banana bread and immediately thought of two ripe bananas that were sitting in the kitchen. So here is how I made it.

1 and 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
1/2 Tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 eggs
1 cup mashed bananas
1/2 cup chopped dates (optional)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Before your start, preheat oven to 350 F. Mix well all purpose flour, salt and baking powder in a bowl. In another bowl mix butter, sugar and eggs and beat until light and frothy. Next, add mashed bananas, dates and walnuts and mix well. Add the previously mixed dry ingredients slowly and in batches so that it doesn't form lumps. Mix until you get a smooth mixture. Grease a loaf pan and pour in the mixture. Bake for about 50-60 minutes until you have a golden brown and firm bread. Take out and let it sit for about 10 mins and then cool on a cooling rack before cutting. I followed the recipe from the book, but used butter instead of shortening.

I made this for the first time and it turned out great. I just wish I had added little more dates. But anyway it tastes great. May be next time I will try using whole wheat flour and see how it turns out.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

These are a few of my favorite things...

There are certain kitchen gadgets we all home cooks use extensively. I am sure everyone has a favorite gadget that is a must have in their kitchens. There are a few things I just can't do without. Here are some of my favorites.

1. Mixer-Grinder:
This one is probably the most commonly used gadget in Indian kitchens. When I came to US, I did not have one, and often felt so helpless without it. The first purchase I made in my India trip was this one. Ever since, I have been using it at least 3/4 times a week. I use it to grind dals and rice for making idli, dosa and wada batters and also use it extensively to make chutneys and milkshakes.

2. Salad spinner:
This one is my absolute favorite. It becomes so easy to dry your veggies, especially lettuce and greens. Sometimes, I also use it as a double duty sprout maker :)

3. Food processor:
Almost every household has a food processor. Though I normally use my mixer-grinder for making batters, food processor makes work a lot easier. It is such a savior when I need large quantities of dough to make purees and rotis. Of course, how can I forget shredding the carrots for carrot halwa.