Monday, September 28, 2015

Keerai thoran - Red amaranth stir fry

Sometimes, the most mundane of things can help bring forth the most pleasant memories. Very often, it is not the thing itself that we crave, but the fond memories associated with it that the heart yearns for.
I recently learned this profound truth when I spotted red amaranth leaves in the local farmers' market. While I have always loved the simple, earthy taste of a stir fry made with these leaves, it is only now, in the wake of having recently lost my grandmother, that I have realized how closely tied in this leaf is to my memories of her.

Some of my earliest memories as a child include her, impeccably dressed in her nine yards madisar podavai, walking to our front yard with a plate filled with tiny black seedlings. I would assist her in scattering these seeds around our coconut trees and then sprinkling water over them. I would check and water the seeds in the days to follow,my entire child's being thrilled to see the tiny shoots sprouting out of the ground. A few weeks down the line, my grandmother would harvest her crop of red keerai (red amaranth/malabar spinach) and hand them over to my mother to be cleaned and chopped. Once that was done, she would put her cheena chatti (wok) on the stove, heat some coconut oil in it, put in a simple seasoning of broken red chilli, urad dal and mustard seeds and then the chopped spinach leaves. These would cook remarkably quickly  in their own steam on a low flame. A garnish of grated coconut ground with green chillies was the final touch she added to the dish and then, knowing that this was my favourite way of eating it, she would mix it up with hot rice and ghee on a plate and hand it to me.
I now know that it is not the dish alone that I am so fond of, but the heaping helping of love with which it was made and served that I long for.

What you need:
Amaranth leaves/malabar spinach - 1 bunch (Any variety of leafy greens can be used but I am partial to the red amaranth leaves that grow particularly well in Kerala)
Oil - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Broken red chilli - 2
Grated coconut - 1/4 cup ground coarsely with 1 green chilli

Wash the leaves well and chop finely. Heat oil in a pan. Season with dal, mustard and red chilli. When the seeds start to pop, reduce the flame to low and stir in the chopped leaves and salt. Cover and let it cook in its own steam until wilted. Add in the ground coconut. Stir well and heat uncovered until the moisture evaporates.
Serve with hot rice and ghee.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Cabbage pakoda/Crunchy, crisp cabbage fritters

These are easily some of the best pakodas that I've made. Easy to make, these deep fried delights stay crisp and crunchy for a really long time. The only major chore involved is chopping cabbage, which I am usually not too fond of, but the recent addition of a chopper to my kitchen makes this snack a breeze to make.

What you need :
Cabbage - a small one, chopped thin and long (I measured and got approximately 4 heaped cups of cabbage)
Gram flour/besan - 1 cup (approx)
Rice flour - 2-3 tbsp
Red chilli powder - to taste
Salt - to taste
Onion - 1/4 cup, chopped fine
Ajwain/carom seeds - 1 tsp (optional. I am fond of the flavor and tend to throw this in wherever I can)
Oil - for deep frying

Take the chopped cabbage in a bowl. Sprinkle salt over it and leave aside for 10 minutes. The cabbage would have released quite a bit of water in this time. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well to form a thick dough. You will not need to add any extra water, but if you feel that your dough is too dry and crumbly, sprinkle a tiny bit of water and mix until it reaches a thick, just moistened consistency.
Heat oil in a kadai. Pinch out small bits of the dough and deep fry on medium heat until well browned and crisp. Drain on to a paper towel.
Serve with ketchup or chutney.

This is my second entry to Week 3 or Blogging Marathon #53 under the theme Fritters.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM

Pavakka pakoda / Bittergourd fritters

  I have spoken previously on the blog of my love for bittergourd. The husband and daughter share this love of mine for a vegetable that unfairly often gets a bad rap. Today, I have tried to come up with a deep fried dish using this veggie, where the bitterness is only slightly evident.

What you need:

Bittergourd - 2
Gram flour - 3/4 cup (approx)
Rice flour - 1/2 cup (approx)
Red chilli powder - 1 tbsp (adjust to taste)
Oil - for deep frying

Wash and dry the bittergourd. Discard both the thin ends. Chop into thin, even discs. If the seeds are too thick and tough, you can remove them. Otherwise, you can leave them in, like I did. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Sprinkle water a little at a time to get a thick dough.
Heat oil in a kadai. On a medium flame, fry the bittergourds, a few at a time until they are crisp and brown. Do not hurry this step or attempt to do it on a high flame.
Drain on to a paper towel. Enjoy as is or as a side with rice and curry.

This is my first entry to Week 3 of Blogging Marathon #53 under the theme fritters.
 Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Potato podimas

Potato is an almost universal favourite among vegetables. Chips, fries, a simple potato roast or this equally simple podimas - it sure is one vegetable that is hard to resist. A podimas is a simple stir fry of mashed potatoes tempered with some spices and topped with a dash of lemon juice. Anyone who has grown up in a Kerala Iyer household will be able to attest to the fact that this, with rasam and pappadam, is a much loved meal.

What you need:
Potato - 2 large baking potatoes or 4 medium sized, boiled, peeled and mashed
Oil - 2 tsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Green chilli - 2, minced
Ginger - 1 tbsp, julienned
Curry leaves - a few
Juice of half a lemon

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the oil and add the mustard seeds, urad dal and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds pop, reduce the heat and add the chilli and ginger. Saute for a minute and add the mashed potato, salt and turmeric powder. Mix well and heat for at least 5 minutes. Switch off heat. Add lemon juice and stir to mix well.

Variation : Leave out the lemon juice and add 2 tbsp of freshly grated coconut to the podimas.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spaghetti with no meat veggie balls in tomato sauce

I have often heard people talk about how good spaghetti and meat balls are together. Being a vegetarian, i decided to avoid the meat and cook vegetable balls to create Spaghetti and veggie balls. The vegetable balls are cooked in an aebelskiver/appam/paniyaram pan, thereby minimizing the use of oil.

What you need :
Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain and run cold water over it and set aside.

To make the vggie balls :

Potato - 1, peeled and diced
Carrot - 1, diced
Cauliflower florets - 1/2 cup
Onion - 1, chopped fine
Bread slices - 4
Oil - a few tsp

Steam cook the potatoes, carrot and cauliflower and then mash well. Heat a tsp of oil and saute onions in it. Add the mashed veggies and saute until moisture is absorbed. Add soaked and squeezed bread slices and mix well. Shape into balls. Heat an appam/paniyaram pan with a few drops of oil in each depression. On a low flame, cook the balls, turning over once in a while until all sides are browned evenly.

For tomato sauce:
Tomato - large, juicy, ripe - 4
Onion - a small one, chopped fine
Salt - to taste

Heat a teaspoon of oil in a pan. Saute onions till pink. Add the pureed tomatoes and salt. Cook on low flame until at least half of the moisture is evaporated and the sauce starts to thicken.

To serve :
Arrange some pasta on a serving plate. Place two veggie balls on it and top generously with sauce. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Cheppankizhangu/Arbi/Colcasia roast

Sometimes, a simple stir fry can make all the difference to a meal. It can elevate the otherwise regular meal and make people reach out for second and even third helpings. This arbi/colocasia roast does exactly that.

What you need :
Arbi - 6 or 7, medium sized, cooked, peeled and diced
Red chilli powder - 1.5 tsp (adjust to taste)
Rice flour - 2 tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - 3 tbsp
Mustard seeds - 1 tsp
Urad dal - 1/2 tsp

Take the cooked, peeled and diced colcasia in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle flour, red chilli powder and salt over it and mix well. Keep aside for 10 minutes.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy bottomed pan. Add the mustard seeds and urad dal. When the seeds pop, add the colocasia, stir well and then let it get roasted on a low flame. Do not stir too much. Let each side brown for at least ten minutes, adding the remaining oil, a tablespoon at a time, every time you turn the arbi around. To be well roasted with a nice brown and crunchy crust, the arbi takes about 45 minutes on a  low flame. Serve with rice and sambar. I paired this with my ulli (pearl onion) sambar for a wonderfully satisfying meal.

Thursday, March 05, 2015

Pita bread

I have always assumed that pita bread is difficult to make. Don't ask me why.....I just always thought that it wasn't something that could easily be made at home. Until now, that is. Blogging Marathon #50 has made me tread hitherto untested waters and I must say that not only is it not difficult to make pita at home, but it is also lighter and tastier than the store bought, preservative laden version.
Pita bread, hummus and falafel  - a complete meal

What you need:
Flour - 3 cups *(see note)
Instant yeast - 2 tsp
Salt - 1.5 tsp
Sugar - 1 tsp
Oil - 1 tbsp
Lukewarm water - 1 to 1.5 cups

In a large mixing bowl, bring together the flour, yeast, salt and sugar. Add water, a little at a time, until it forms a sticky mass. Add in the oil and transfer to your counter top. Knead well for at least ten minutes and for up to 12 minutes. By then, you will notice that the dough has become smooth, non sticky and pliable. Transfer to an oiled bowl and keep aside covered for 2 hours. The dough will puff up nicely even though it may not double. Punch the dough down, divide it into eight equal balls, cover and keep aside for half an hour. During this time, pre heat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
Roll the dough into a circle of roughly 6-7 inches and arrange as many of the circles as you can on the back of a cookie sheet. Bake for 4 minutes. The pita should puff up beautifully somewhere between 3 and 4 minutes. Even if it doesn't, don't fret too much about it, because it will still taste just as good.
Pita - hot off the oven

 Remove from the oven and serve warm with hummus and falafel to make a complete meal.

*Note : I have use a combination of 2 cups of wheat flour and 1 cup of all purpose flour. You may choose to use only APF, only Wheat flour, or any ratio that adds up to a total of 3 cups.
Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM 

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Flour tortillas and vegetable fajitas

One of our favourite things to order at a Mexican restaurant nearby is their vegetable fajita. Fresh grilled vegetables, Spanish rice, refried beans,sour cream, guacamole and salsa are served with soft, freshly made tortillas and can be, based upon the individual's taste, be assembled at the table to make a wrap.
In my home made version, I have skipped the beans, guacamole and rice because I didn't have the ingredients for them on hand, but these fajitas were just as good the way we had them.
Until recently, I thought that all tortillas were made with corn flour. Only while looking for flat breads to make for the Blogging Marathon did I find out that in certain parts of Spain they make flour tortillas using All purpose flour. I have made mine with equal parts of all purpose flour and whole wheat flour. The authentic tortilla uses lard or shortening, which I have skipped and used a teaspoon of oil instead.

What you need:

 For the tortilla :
All purpose flour - 1 cup
Whole wheat flour - 1 cup
Salt - to taste
Oil - 1 tsp
Warm water - as needed

In a large mixing bowl, take the flours and salt. Add water, a little at a time, and knead into a pliable, smooth dough. Mix in the oil and knead. Cover and set aside for an hour.

To make tortillas :
Pinch out golf ball sized balls of dough and roll into a circle. Cook on a hot griddle until the bottom starts to brown. Turn over and cook until the tortilla puffs up a little and the other side also gets brown flecks. Store in a tortilla warmer or wrapped in a clean kitchen towel.

For the vegetable mix :
Mixed diced vegetables - 1 cup (I used green bell pepper, yellow and orange sweet peppers, carrot, beans, peas and corn)
Onion - a small one, diced
Garlic - 2 cloves, minced
Butter or oil - 1 tbsp
Lemon juice (optional)

Heat butter or oil in a sauce pan. Add the garlic and onion. Saute over high heat until slightly browned. Add in the rest of the vegetables and salt to taste. Stir well over high heat for a minute or two. Transfer to an oven safe dish. Grill at 450 degree Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes or until the vegetables look slightly charred and develop a smoky flavor. Squeeze some lemon juice over this if desired and set aside.

For the fajita :
Vegetable mix
Sour cream

To assemble the fajita :
 Heap some of the mixed vegetables onto a tortilla. Spread a generous helping of sour cream and salsa over it. Roll up and enjoy!

Check out the Blogging Marathon page for the other Blogging Marathoners doing this BM