Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rich and Creamy Naaral Wadi (Coconut fudge)

Back in India, there is a huge coconut tree in our garden. My grandparents planted this tree in the early 60s and it is still standing strong. It always had a massive yield and still does today. We probably never had to buy coconuts. My grandmother had a sweet tooth... a real big one :) and she always made naaral wadi. It is such a delicious sweet. Naaral wadi or coconut fudge is made by boiling a mixture of coconut, sugar and milk. The mixture is then poured on to a cookie sheet and squares are cut once it cools down.

(makes about 15-20 squares of 2"x2")

1 cup shredded coconut (frozen or fresh)
1 cup half and half/ whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
A few strands of saffron (optional)

To make naaral wadi, mix coconut, milk and sugar. You need to stir the mixture almost constantly until it cooks. As the mixture heats up, milk will start boiling. If you want to add saffron add it once the milk starts to boil. Saffron gives it a nice flavor and color. Keep stirring until the mixture becomes thicker. As the milk starts to condense, the mixture becomes creamier. Just a heads up: As the milk starts to boil and mixture starts to thicken, it will start splattering vigorously.

Now turn the heat off , let the mixture cool down a little, and add powdered sugar and cardamom powder, and mix well. This will thicken the mix further. Grease the cookie sheet or place a plastic wrap on the sheet and pour the mixture. Roll it out or press it with your fingers to a desired uniform thickness and then cut into squares.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Street Food: Bhel

Bhel, often called Bhelpuri, is a popular street food in India made with puffed rice and namkeen. Namkeen is a salty snack made of gram flour and is usually fried (not a healthy one I must say). In the US, Haldiram is one namkeen brand that you can find in most Indian grocery stores. Sometimes namkeen also comes in packets with names like punjabi mix or bombay mix. You can also get bhel mix which basically is a mix of puffed rice and namkeen. There are different varieties of Namkeen all over India. Besides these two, you also need some more ingredients.

(serves 2)

2 cups puffed rice
1 cup namkeen
1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped raw mango (optional)
Mint-green chilli chutney (as per taste)
Tamarind-date chutney (see link at the end of the post)
Handful of chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

To make mint chutney grind a handful of mint leaves and 4/5 green chillies into a fine paste. Add water as needed. You can also add some cilantro when you grind it. To the tamarind chutney add about a quarter teaspoon each of cumin powder, coriander powder and red chilli powder. In a large bowl mix puffed rice, namkeen, onions, tomatoes, raw mango, mint chutney and salt. Add tamarind chutney and mix really well. Top it off with some finely chopped cilantro, shev and serve.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Matar Usal (Green Peas Curry)

Matar usal is another dish made with green peas that I totally love. It is a Maharashtrian style curry... A quick and easy to make dish mostly served with bread. Freshly ground masala of coconut, green chillies, ginger, garlic and cilantro gives it a nice taste. I totally follow my mom's recipe without even a slightest moidification as I simply love her dish. When I made it the first time I was so not happy. I was trying to find the taste of her dish but it did not taste the same. Now after making it so many times I am really happy the way it turns out.
(Serves 2)

2 cups green peas
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 cups water (or as needed)
1 tbsp sugar
Salt to taste
1 tbsp tempering
For masala:
1/2 cup grated coconut
1 tsp ginger-garlic paste
3/4 green chillies (more or less depending on taste)
Handful of cilantro

Before you start grind all the ingredients of masala to a fine paste and set aside. To make the curry start by making tempering. Add to it chopped onions and saute until tender. Add green peas, freshly ground masala, salt, sugar, water and mix well. Let it cook for about 10-15 minutes. This curry should be liquid enough so that you can dunk the bread in and enjoy the flavors. Squeeze in some fresh lemon/lime juice right before you serve it. Serve hot with the bread of your choice.

Back to Basics :Tempering

Most of the recipes involving Indian food start with making tadka or tempering. Every time I wrote recipes involving tadka I thought of writing a post on how to make tempering.

Generally the base for tempering is oil, but sometimes ghee (clarified butter) is also used. There are different ways tempering can be made. Some use mustard seeds, some use cumin seeds, some use both. This is how a simple tempering is made - Heat some oil. Once the oil is hot enough, add mustard seeds, asafoetida and turmeric powder.

Other ingredients or spices such as curry leaves, green chillies, red chillies, ginger, garlic are added while making the tempering depending on the recipe.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Happy Makar Sankrant!

It is Makar Sankrant today. Sankrant as it is commonly called, is a harvest festival celebrated on January 14 every year. Til (sesame seeds) and gul (jaggery) are the star ingredients of this day. In Maharashtra, tilgul (sesame seeds and jaggery fudge) and gulpoli (jaggery filling stuffed inside whole wheat dough and then rolled out) are the two main preparations made on this day. We were lucky to always receive tilgul packets from India as some of our friends happened to be in India during December-January. This year there was no home delivery of Tilgul (pronounced: teel-gool) :( so I decided to make it myself.

(makes about 20-25 squares of 1"x1")

1 cup sesame seeds
1/4 cup coarsely ground peanuts (optional)
1 cup jaggery
2 tsp ghee (clarified butter)

Before you start, please note a couple of things. If you decide to use sesame seeds and peanuts the total mixture would be about 1 heaping cup. In this case use 1 cup flat of jaggery. You can totally skip the peanuts and use sesame seeds alone. In this case, use a heaping cup of sesame seeds and use exact one cup jaggery.

1. Toast sesame seeds in a pan and set aside.
2. Start melting the jaggery in a pan. Let it melt until it is of the consistency of thick sugar syrup.
3. Add ghee and stir well. Turn the heat off.
4. Mix in sesame seeds and peanuts.
5. Take out on a cookie sheet and roll out about a quarter to half of an inch thick.
6. Immediately cut it into squares while still hot, and then let the squares cool.

A couple more things to note: Put some ghee on the cookie sheet before pouring the mixture so that it will not stick. If you cover the mixture with a plastic wrap it will be easy to roll it out.

Happy Sankrant to everyone. "Tilgul ghya god bola" :) For those of you who celebrate Pongal... Happy Pongal!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


I had never combined spinach with peas or corn. Last month, when I visited my friend M, she made this tasty sabzi using spinach and peas. Since A doesn't like paneer, I usually don't make palak paneer. So it was a good idea to combine corn or peas with spinach. Thank you M for this wonderful dish.

(Serves 4)

1 pkt spinach (10 0z pkt- chopped)
1 cup green peas
1/2 cup corn kernels
1 small tomato
1 small onion
1/2 tsp grated ginger root
1 tsp garam maasala
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chilli powder
A pinch of ground cloves (optional)
A pinch of cinnamon (optional)
2 tsp oil
Salt to taste
3-4 tbsp half & half or heavy cream (optional)

Before you start, cut tomato and onion into big chunks. Grind them into a paste. Take oil in a pan. Add cumin seeds, turmeric, ginger, tomato-onion paste, garam masala, red chilli powder, ground cloves and cinnamon . Let sear for a minute and add spinach. After spinach wilts down, add peas, corn, salt and milk/cream. Let them cook for some time. The sabzi is now ready. Top it off with some cream (optional) and serve.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Potatoes for Fasting

Fasting is such a common thing among Indians. Though fasting means voluntarily not eating food for varying lengths of time, fasting can be a feast. There are various reasons for fasting most of them being religious. In India, on a fasting day some people would not eat or drink at all, some will only drink water and some will only eat specific kind of food. For my grandmother fasting was a weekly thing and for us kids it was a weekly feast :) Foods that are typically eaten on fasting include sago, potatoes, sweet potatoes, shingada, fruits and nuts mainly peanuts. Ghee is used instead of oil in such preparations. Sabudana khichadi and shingada thalipeeth were the two dishes that my granny made often. Then there was this potato dish that we kids simply loved and always demanded. In Marathi it is called 'Upasachi Batata Bhaji'. Today I had two large boiled potatoes leftover from previous day and 'A' demanded :p this upasachi bhaji. So here is the recipe.

(Serves 2)

2 large potatoes (boiled and diced)
1/4 cup coarsely ground peanuts
5-6 green chillies (cut into pieces)
2 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp sugar
Salt to taste

Making these potatoes is a simple two step process. First, heat ghee and add cumin seeds and green chillies. Then add potatoes, peanuts, salt and sugar. Mix well and let it cook for about a minute or so. Top it off with cilantro and serve.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Veggie Pasta

For us pasta is a quick fix meal on any weeknight. I normally have some pasta sauce in my pantry. So whenever there is a need for a quick meal, this comes in handy. 98% of the times I make pasta using a store bought pasta sauce. Very few times I have made pasta using something other than the store bought sauces. I was watching a food show on Zee Marathi (Amhi Saare Khavayye) in which a pasta recipe was shown. It was a simple and a healthy recipe. The recipe calls for ingredients that we normally have on hand. I followed the recipe with a slight modification. This is how I made it.

(Serves 2)

2 cups pasta
1 tbsp butter
2 cups veggies (chopped)
2 cloves of garlic (minced or grated)
6 tbsp tomato ketchup
1 tsp hot sauce
Mozzarella cheese
8-10 fresh mint leaves
1-2 pinches of oregano
Salt to taste

Cook the pasta, drain it and keep it aside. In a pan take butter and add garlic to it. Add veggies of your choice. I used onions, tomatoes, bell pepper, corn, and carrots. Add some salt and let them cook for a while. Add tomato ketchup and hot sauce and let them cook some more. You can substitute hot sauce with crushed pepper flakes or red chilli powder. Now add mint, oregano (or herbs of your choice) and cooked pasta. Mix well and add some cheese on top. Put the lid on and let the cheese melt. Top it off with fresh mint leaves if you like. Serve hot.