Sunday, June 29, 2014

Baingan Bharta - Smoked Eggplant curry

Looks like we shoppers are all suckers for what is labelled "natural". The word natural makes us all feel good about our food purchases no matter how processed it is. About $377 billions worth. While the word itself does not mean much, it tricks us into believing that the ingredients used are wholesome. But the proof is on the contrary. Just one example of how misleading the label is the "natural" flavored yogurt. Reading from the label, there is absolutely nothing natural about some of the ingredients that goes into making it.

While avoiding some of the products with long, hard to read ingredient list is itself an arduous task, completely eliminating them is going to be impossible so I have not tried in
earnest. If you want to know what succors we have been for these specialized food labels read this article.

How do you all treat products named "Natural"?

Now on to the recipe,
Baingan Bharta is not something I cook often. I make this Roasted Eggplant Curry - Sutta Kathrikkai Kuzhambu. Baingan Bharta is a constant in most restaurant menus but there is usually more tomatoes than eggplants and the eggplant is also mushed to beyond recognition and I am not really fond of that. But I am fond of eggplants and cooking them at home to my liking is what I did.

Recipe in Pictures
Roast the eggplants in the fire turning them all around, so that blisters appears on all sides. Keep them wrapped in a kitchen towel till they are ready to be peeled.
Heat oil in a pot, season with cumin seeds. Add the onions and green chilies and let the onion get translucent followed by the ginger and garlic and saute for another minute or so. Add the coriander, chili and masala powders and mix it in.
Add in the tomatoes and saute till they get mushy. Now add the coriander leaves and saute till the leaves are wilted.
Once the eggplants are cool enough to touch, peel the skin off, clean and set aside.
Add the peas, diced eggplants, salt and if required 2 tbsp of water, cover and let cook till it gets soft.

Baingan Bharta - Smoked Eggplant Curry
Preparation Time:20 minutes
Cooking Time:30 minutes
Serves : 4-6
  1. 3 eggplants (the medium sized ones)
  2. 7 green chilies slit
  3. 5 cloves of garlic chopped fine
  4. 1/4 cup finely chopped onions
  5. 2 inches ginger grated
  6. 1 tomato finely diced
  7. 1/2 cup coriander leaves
  8. 1 1/2 cup of frozen or fresh peas (slightly more but reduce as per taste)
  9. 2 tsp coriander powder
  10. 1-2 tsp of chili powder
  11. 1 tsp garam masala powder (I used curry masala powder
  12. salt to taste
  13. 2 tsp of oil
  14. seasonings: cumin seeds

  1. Place the eggplant directly on the burner and let it roast till the skin blisters. Turn around and let all sides roast so the skin comes of easily. By now the eggplant should be mostly cooked and the insides soft.
  2. Place it in a kitchen towel and let it cool. The skin will come off easily after it sweats a bit.
  3. Repeat for all eggplants
  4. In a saute pan heat oil add the cumin seeds and after 30 seconds or so add in the onions and green chilies and let it saute till the onions are translucent.
  5. Add the ginger and garlic and saute for a minute or so and then add the tomatoes and cook till they are mushy.
  6. Add the coriander leaves and saute till the leaves wilt.
  7. While this is cooking get the eggplants ready. Peel the skin off completely (I run the peeled eggplants under water so all the charred skin is cleaned but a wet paper towel will work also.) and make small dices.
  8. Add the coriander, chili and masala powder and give a good mix. Add the peas and the chopped eggplant and salt. If required sprinkle about 1-2 tbsp of water.
  9. Cook covered till the eggplants get completely soft.
  10. Note: I added a bit more peas so reduce the quantity to your liking.
  11. Goes well with chapatis or even rice.
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Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Grain of the Week - 26 - Bhutan Red Rice

I had no idea that there were so many different varieties of rice till I embarked on this Grain of the week project. Rice is a staple in my diet but sadly only the white rice gets top billing while there is many of these colorful rice varieties which get ignored as something exotic.

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Even when I have many of these varieties around I found it hard to give up the white rice which is so much more readily and cheaply available. I have a lot of recipes that I want to try with these newer varieties of rice that I am hoping to get to before the year is out.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Watermelon Juice with Basil Seeds (Tukmaria seeds) - Summer Cooler

If I happen to go to the grocery with DD2 I cannot get back without carrying a big load on my shoulder - yes a watermelon. Around here watermelon is available all year around but usually at a much higher price during the winter months. Summer months watermelons are cheaper and I can satiate DD2's unfulfillable love of watermelons.

While eating them sliced is perfect, juicing them and drinking ice cold is even better. Adding a tsp or a couple of basil or chia seeds depending on how much you like those seeds adds a welcome crunch.

While making water melon juice does not require a recipe here it is anyway.

Watermelon Juice with Basil Seeds (Tumkmaria seeds)
Preparation Time:5 minutes
Cooking Time:5 minutes
Serves : 2
Ingredients and Method
  1. 3 cups of peeled chopped watermelon
  2. 2 tsp of Basil Seeds (or Chia seeds)
  3. ice cubes as needed
  4. Blend the chopped watermelon pieces (strain out the solid watermelon pieces if you need a clear juice). Freeze the drained watermelon pieces to enjoy at a later time.
  5. Either soak the basil/chia seeds in some water or add it directly the juice in a glass, add some ice cubes.
  6. Ready to be enjoyed on a hot hot day.

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Sunday, June 22, 2014

Mutton Biryani 2 - Pressure Cooker method

Biryani is one of those things that was never a regular thing while growing up. For a special occasion perhaps but not as often as I make them. The reason I like biryanis is because it is quick, easy and a tasty meal is ready in just about half an hour.

Everybody at home enjoys it a lot and the next day it tastes even better and is perfect for the lunch box. I do not pack non-veg items for the kids if it is cooked the previous day whereas it is perfect for the adults who have microwaves in their office kitchen.

While chicken biryanis are good and I make them often enough, the best of biryanis is a goat biryani. Nothing can beat the taste of a well made goat biryani.I usually cook the mutton first and then saute the onions and everything else and add the rice in and cook like this recipe for Mutton Biryani. I usually follow this method during winter time as the water that the mutton is cooked in perfect for a soup and that is another favorite in the house.

This method on the other hand starts off with sauteing the biryani ingredients and the mutton is cooked in the sauce and the rice is added to the gravy. You can watch this episode of Samayal Dharbar for Dhamu's Mutton Biryani which uses this method.

Any non-veg biryani must have onion pachadi on the side. Do not serve with any other kind.

Mince the ginger and garlic in a food processor. Soak the rice.
Heat oil in a pressure cooker, add in the whole spices, saute for a minute and add in the onions and green chilies and saute till the onions are translucent.
Add the minced garlic and ginger and saute for a couple of minutes. Add in the tomatoes and cook till it gets mushy.
Add in the mint and coriander leaves and let them get wilted. Add the chili and coriander powder.
Add the mutton pieces, mix it into the tomato mixture, saute for a minutes and then add 1 cup of water.
Close the pressure cooker, put the weight on and let it cook for 6 whistles.Let it cool. Once cool open the lid and add the rice.
Whisk the yogurt and add water to it so it makes about 2 cups of water total. (1 cup was already added while cooking the mutton).
Let the water come to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and let it cook till most of the water is absorbed.
Close the lid (with the weight on) reduce the heat to just below medium and cook for 8 minutes. Let rest for 20 minutes, open the lid fluff up the rice and serve with onion pachadi.

Mutton Biryani - Pressure Cooked Method
Preparation Time:20 minutes
Cooking Time:30 minutes
Serves : 4-6
  1. 1 1/2 lb (1 kg) mutton
  2. 3 cups of Basmati Rice (washed and soaked for 20 minutes)
  3. 3 cups of water (Basmati requires 1 1/2 cups of water for a cup of rice, if soaked only 1 cup of water is required)
  4. 2 cups of thinly lengthwise sliced red onions
  5. 8 garlic cloves + 2 inches of ginger - minced
  6. 8 green chilies sliced
  7. 2 tomatoes (about 3/4 cup) diced fine
  8. 1 cup packed mint leaves (the more the better) chopped
  9. 1/2 - 1 cup coriander leaves chopped
  10. 1 cup of yogurt whisked
  11. 1/2 tbsp coriander powder
  12. 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  13. Whole Spices: cloves 6, cinnamon 1 inch piece -2 , marathi moggu -2, star anise -1
  14. salt to taste
  15. 1/2 tbsp oil

  1. Wash the mutton with turmeric and set it aside.
  2. In a pressure cooker heat oil and when hot add the whole spices and let it heat and infuse the perfume to the oil for 1/2 minute.
  3. Add the sliced onions and slit green chilies and let it saute till the onions are translucent (3-4 minutes).
  4. Add in the minced ginger and garlic and saute till the garlic is cooked. Take care not to burn the garlic, lower the heat if required.
  5. Add in the tomatoes and let it cook for about 3-4 minutes till it gets mushy.
  6. Add in the chili and coriander powders and give a good mix.
  7. Add in the mutton pieces and give a good mix. Add in 1 cup of water, close the lid, place the weight and let it cook. I usually let it go for 6 whistles in medium heat which ensures that the mutton is cooked. The mutton does not cook much after the rice is added. So the meat has to be fully cooked here.
  8. Once the cooker cools and lid is opened, add in the rice and mix it into the rice and lower the heat till the water is added.
  9. Whisk in the yogurt and add just enough water to make it 2 cups of water (see Note:), add into the rice, check for salt and let it come to a boil.
  10. Reduce the heat and let cook for about 4-5 minutes till most of the water is absorbed.
  11. Close the lid, insert the weight and in heat that is a notch low than medium cook for 6-8 minutes. The upper limit if there is more water remaining. Turn off the heat and let it sit till it cool enough to open.
  12. Once cool open the lid and fluff.
  13. Note:
  14. Though I added the tomatoes first, generally it is better to add the coriander and mint leaves and saute till they wilt and then add the tomatoes.
  15. 3 cup of Basmati normally requires 4.5 cups of water. Basmati rice generally requires 1 1/2 cups of water. But if the rice is soaked just 1 cup of water is sufficient. So for 3 cups of rice just 3 cups of water is required.
  16. Onion pachadi is a must for mutton biryani. Do not skip making it.
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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Minced Turkey and Macaroni

Hope all of you are enjoying the summer! The days are longer but I hardly seem to have any time. On days like that all of us know that pasta comes quite handy for a quick dinner. The only problem being that pasta gets blah pretty soon. Ok anyway for me. So I need something that gives it an extra something.

Red Pepper Pasta Sauce

Saute the minced onions and garlic. Add in the red pepper sauce and saute for a few more minutes.
Add in the minced turkey and saute till turkey is cooked and is separate. Add in the chili powder, cumin and pepper powder.
Add in the tomatoes, mix it in and cook for a few minutes and add the corn and let cook for another 4-5 minutes.
Cook the pasta, drain and add it to the turkey mixture, cook for another 2-3 minutes, add shredded cheese mix it in and turn off the heat.

I saw this recipe for Hamburger and Macaroni and it seemed like a prefect recipe with the minced turkey I had on hand. Minced chicken, lamb or beef can all work for this recipe. We like this slightly spicy as is the case with all meat based dishes but the amount of heat is totally upto you.

Minced Turkey and Macaroni
Preparation Time:10 minutes
Cooking Time:25-30 minutes
Serves : 4-6
  1. 1 lb minced turkey
  2. 14 oz pack of whole wheat macaroni or elbow pasta
  3. 1 cup of finely diced tomatoes, I used canned diced tomatoes
  4. 1 tbsp of pepper garlic sauce (store bought, had garlic, red pepper and parsley in olive oil but was not spicy)-substitute with minced red pepper and parsley (or just leave it out)
  5. 1 cup of finely diced onions
  6. 2 tsp red chili powder
  7. 2 tsp of black pepper
  8. 1/4 tsp of cumin powder
  9. 1 cup of corn kernels (i used frozen) (optional)
  10. salt to taste
  11. 1 tsp of olive oil (or more, the pepper garlic sauce had a lot of oil)
  12. 1/4 cup of shredded cheese (any cheese of choice) (more for serving)
  1. In a wide mouthed pan heat oil and add the onion and saute till translucent.
  2. Add in the garlic saute for a minute more and add in the pepper garlic sauce for about 2 minutes.
  3. Now add the minced turkey and let it cook till for about 4-5 minutes.
  4. Now add the chili powder,cumin and black pepper and mix it in. Let the turkey be completely cooked and the pieces are nice and separate.
  5. Set the pasta to cook as per cooking directions. Do not drain just yet.
  6. To the turkey add the tomatoes,salt and cook for about 4-5 minutes. Now add in the corn kernels and let them cook for another 4-5 minutes.
  7. Add the drained pasta mix it in to the tomatoes and minced turkey. Add the shredded cheese give a good mix. About 3-4 minutes. Turn off the heat.
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