Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Raw Mango in salt and chili powder - a childhood favorite

If you went to school in India you will know immediately what I am talking about. I am not sure about kids these days but back then we either took the town bus (public transportation) or vans and autos which were jam packed. Anyway when school let off we swarmed to the shops outside which were on open carts, or just supported on bicycles selling all kinds of delicacies. Made more delicious by the hundreds of flies swarming over them I bet! The exact reason why most parents forbade them outright.

These things did not cost much and you always had a buck here or there to buy those. Sorry to confess I was never a very obedient child. Moreover as long as I removed all traces of evidence... I think my mom always knew but then she was also a wise woman. Somebody had already informed her before Anthony Robbins came along not to sweat the small stuff I figure.

All that introduction was to talk about these sliced raw mangoes which were in jars soaking in a chili powder and salt solution. I kid you not that stuff was delicious! I would admit it would be almost impossible to recreate that exact taste at home. Fresh sliced mangoes were added everyday perhaps but I doubt the soaking liquid was ever thrown. That is what gave those mangoes or gooseberries that delicious taste.

kili mooku (parrot beak) mango

The mangoes that were used for this were the parrot beak or the kili mooku as it is called in Tamil (Wikipedia tells me they are called Totapuri in the rest of India). The small gooseberries also called star gooseberries or the much bigger amla gooseberries, the pictures of which you can see in this link, is also soaked in the salt, chili powder solution to delicious results.

Well here in the US, we get raw mangoes but the mangoes are neither sour and even when they are raw they are slightly sweet so I have to make some improvisations to get them to taste similar. While I can bet that vinegar was not used by those road side vendors that is the ingredient I turn to, to get the sour taste which is what gives the soaked raw mangoes their taste.

Dice the mangoes and chilies and add to the bottle.
Sprinkle the chili powder and salt on to the diced mangoes, put lid and place near a sunny window.

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Raw Mango in salt and chili powder
Preparation Time:10 minutes
Soaking Time:Couple of hours or Best 2 days or more
  1. 1-2 raw mangoes
  2. 2-3 green chilies cut into rounds and seeds removed (optional)
  3. 2 tsp salt
  4. 1/2 tbsp chili powder
  5. 1 tbsp white vinegar

  1. Dice the mangoes (as small or as big as you want). Dice the chilies and shake out the seeds.
  2. Take a clean, dry glass or ceramic jar with lid and add the mangoes and the sliced chilies to the glass jar.
  3. Add in the salt, chili powder and vinegar. Place the lid and shake so the mangoes are well mixed with the salt and chili powder.
  4. Let sit on a sunny window for about 2 days or more for best results.
  5. As the mango soaks it will start to let out water and shrink in size. It is ready at this stage.

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Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Early Spring - Some Pictures - Earth Day 2015

Early Spring is the prettiest time of the year. The trees are just starting to sprout and flowering trees are ablaze with blooms. The prettiest time of the year, as if everything has been cleaned and spruced.
Today is Earth Day, the event held to honor and protect the earth's resources. Is just one day enough to think about the earth and its resources? Better yet might be to modify our lifestyles a little bit to do our part to keep the earth rejuvenated for future generations.
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Monday, April 20, 2015

Kadai Mushroom with Potatoes and Methi

This past week my favorite section in the Washington Post, carried this headline "Can Vegetable Biryani Satisfy Mr. Meat and Potatoes?" no prodding is necessary to read the Food Section but this heading piqued my curiosity. There were a few Indian Recipes and the Kadai Musroom recipe was one that I wanted to try immediately. Mushrooms bought here have too much water and so the simple stir fry with just chilli powder and salt that my mother does in India does not taste all that good. The 2 packets of mushroom were not sufficient so added a few potatoes, also added fresh Methi leaves with the tender stems which gave it the special taste and aroma. If you have enough mushrooms leave out the potatoes.

  1. Cremini Mushrooms 2 Packets cleaned and sliced (about 3 cups)
  2. 6 garlic cloves minced or grated
  3. 5 Green Chillies (deseeded) and chopped fine
  4. 1 1/2 inch ginger piece grated
  5. 1/4 cup of fresh Methi leaves chopped or frozen (use more or less)
  6. 5 Roma tomatoes (I added one big tomato and one roma tomato) (or chopped/crushed canned tomatoes)
  7. 3 Medium sized Red potatoes cut into lengthwise strips (optional)
  8. handful of corriander leaves chopped
  9. 1/2 tbsp kassor methi crushed coarsely
  10. 2 tsp of any masala powder or 1/2 tsp garam masala powder
  11. 2 tsp Red chilli powder
  12. 1 tbsp coriander powder
  13. 1 tbsp of oil
  1. In a Kadai add a little the oil and when it is hot add the mushroom and stir fry till all the water is evaporated, transfer to a bowl.
  2. Clean the kadai add some more oil and stir fry the potatoes if using till they are 3/4 cooked and set aside.
  3. Add the remaining oil and when it is hot add the garlic and ginger and let them cook till they turn color, don't let the garlic burn, adjust the heat to a little below medium.
  4. Now add the methi and coriander leaves and chilli powder and saute till are wilted.
  5. Add the green chillies and fry for a minute.
  6. Now add the tomatoes and cook till they are soft and mushed.
  7. Add masala and coriander powders and mix well.
  8. Add the the mushrooms and Potatoes, salt mix well, cover with a lid and let it cook for 6-8 minutes till the potatoes are cooked through.
  9. Now add the kasoor methi and after a minute switch off the heat.
Serve with Rice, roti or any Indian Bread

Recipe Source: From chef Nilesh Singhvi (article in the Washington Post)
From the archives. Originally posted 4/22/07

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Garlic and Curry leaves flavored Roasted Lotus Seeds or Fox Nuts (Phool Makhana)

Louts Seeds or Phool Makhana as they are commonly called, are exactly what they sound like - exotic! I have never tasted them before, have just heard of them. This has been on my to try list for the longest time. When I finally made the purchase, it sat in my pantry for a good 3-4 months. During that time I came to understand that Phool Makhana though often referred to as lotus seeds are not exactly louts seeds but seeds of the Makhana plant or Euryale ferox. When they are roasted they become just like popcorn. While curries, kheers and several other recipes can be made with them, I want to try roasting them first. They are nuts after all ;) Sorry guys! That was a bad joke!!

Keeping this recipe that is used for making kara pori I decided to use the fox nuts a try.

Garlic and Curry leaves flavored Roasted Lotus Seeds (Phool Makhana)
Preparation Time:5 minutes
Cooking Time:15 minutes
  1. a pack of phool makhana
  2. 6 garlic cloves thin slices
  3. curry leaves 2 sprigs
  4. 1 -2 tsp of chili powder
  5. 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder
  6. salt to taste
  7. 1 tsp ghee or any oil (for a vegan version)

  1. Heat the ghee or oil in a wide mouthed pan or kadai.
  2. When hot add the garlic and saute for a minute, don't let it get burnt. Add in the curry leaves.
  3. Now add the salt, chili powder and turmeric powder, saute for a few seconds and add in the lotus seeds.
  4. Saute for about 5-8 minutes stirring continuously till the spice powders are well coated.
  5. These are perfect for a snack any time of the day.

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Thursday, April 16, 2015

Store brought Indian Breads?

I admire people who bake fresh bread for their family. This is something I will like to do but perhaps never will on a regular basis. Nothing like the smell of freshly baked bread to make a house feel like a home eh? By bread here I mean sliced bread.

Bread was not part of a common meal back in India when I was growing up. Usually you carried a loaf of bread when you go to visit someone who is sick or is in the hospital. Yes that and a bottle of Horlicks. I think that was then and now is different I figure, bread seem to enjoy a renaissance like no other. It is made into toasts, sandwiches with several different toppings or upma which are perfect as breakfast or after school snack.

While here in the US no grocery shopping is complete without at least a couple of loaves of bread. Breakfast seriously depends on it and the kids lunch also is very dependent on bread. But the loaf bread is not what I wanted to talk about here. While it is a given that it is usually store bought, Indian breads on the other hand; by which I mean chapathis, rotis, naans, parathas and the like are not usually store bought. While I prefer making Indian breads at home and about 95% of the time do so I also have a few varieties of the store bought kind in the fridge/freezer always.

These store bought Indian breads are perfect for a quick weeknight meal when there is no time and dinner is quickly needed. Make a side dish and quickly heat up the breads and the dinner is ready in no time. They may not be the best nutritionally to eat regularly but once in a while or in a pinch they are better than fast food.

The StonefiRe brand naans available in Costco, the roti paratha available in Indian grocery stores and the Pita Bread ready available in most grocery stores are all the ones that I usually have handy. Costco started selling these small sized naans that are so very convenient.

Besides weekdays we have these as special treats on weekends when we have a spicy chicken curry or any tasty curry that needs some good bread to go with it and nobody can wait for it to be cooked from scratch. The Pita Bread are great for making quick and easy filled sandwiches.

While most of these breads can be heated in a toaster or microwave, they work best when heated on a griddle/tava.

Besides these breads which we use mostly for a meal, I also buy a couple of varieties of stuffed frozen parathas which are very convenient for snacking. They do not require a side dish. The kids eat them as an evening snack when they are back from school.

Disclaimer: I am not endorsing or advertising any of these products. Just saying.

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Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Spring Gardening - How and when to start seeds?

This blog post will be timely for those in the Eastern US above the Mason-Dixon Line. One thing before you start seeds is to look up the last frost date in your area. Around here(Maryland, Zone 7) it is usually around Mother's Day or if you want to be safe Memorial Day. It is after this last day of frost that you put your seedlings out. Use this, Last Frost Date Check or the Old Farmer's Almanac to check out the last froze date for your area. If you not interested in buying seedlings from your nearest garden store you could always start seeds indoors.

While it is recommended not to start seeds on the windows sill. It is all you have sometimes. It has mostly worked for me but the plants grow to be spindly and they are not as strong. There are several type of "Grow Lights" that can be purchased which might work best but for most window light is all that is available.

The other items you need for seed starting are small pots and seed starting mix. I usually use the peat pots which are biodegradable. The process is fairly simple.

Get the pots ready

Fill the pots half or three fourths full with soil

Pour water to wet the soil

Drop the seeds

Cover the seeds with more soil

Sprinkle with more water

Prepare all the pots

A backyard greenhouse might work. I am trying these out for the first time. Will have to see how they work.

Depending on the type of seed, they have to be started 4-6 weeks before they are ready to be planted outside.

The rules are

  • Check the last frost date for your area.

  • Start your seeds indoors ready to be transplanted, 4-6 weeks before last frost depending on the type of seed and how many days are required for germination.

  • Harden the plants by leaving them in their seed starting containers outside for a couple of days before transplanting.

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    Saturday, April 11, 2015

    Southern Style Spoon Bread - Chipotle spiced

    I always have corn meal at home. But always doing corn bread makes it kind of boring. While searching for other recipes to try out with corn meal I chanced upon this recipe for Corn Meal Spoon Bread. It seemed perfect for a hot breakfast to impress the family and especially the kids who complain about eating the same stuff. The recipe just by itself seems a little bland so I decided to spice it up a little bit. I had some chipotle peppers in adobo handy. I also thought of using some pickled jalapenos but that would have made it too spicy. If you do not have chipotle peppers use any pepper of choice or leave out the spicy stuff and add sugar for a tasty dessert.

    What is Spoon Bread?
    Spoon Bread is common baked dish made in Southern United States. Though it is called a bread it resembles a souffle because of the beaten eggs. It is usually creamy and soft.

    Whisk together corn meal, oil and milk and cook on medium heat till bubbles appear. Beat the eggs till nice and fluffy. Add more milk to the cooked corn meal and add it to the eggs.
    Add the cheese, baking soda, chipotle chilies to the corn meal mixture.
    Pour into prepared baking dishes and bake for 20-25 minutes till a skewer inserted comes out clean or it starts to brown on top.

    Some versions of spoon bread may have cheese and chopped peppers. Looks like the combination I came up with is not absolutely new or anything. It takes about 10 minutes to put everything together and another 20-25 minutes to bake it. DD who helped me whip the eggs up was surprised at how easy it was.

    Recipe Source: Indian Head White Corn Meal Recipes - (with some modifications)
    Southern Style Spoon Bread
    Preparation Time:10 minutes
    Baking Time:20 - 25minutes
    1. 1 cup Yellow Corn Meal
    2. 1/4 cup White Corn Meal (see Note:)
    3. 3 cups Milk
    4. 1 cup grated Asiago Cheese (any cheese works)
    5. 2 Chiptole Peppers in Adobo Sauce (about 2 tsp of the sauce) seeds removed and chopped
    6. 3 Eggs
    7. 2 tbsp olive oil
    8. 3 tsp of baking powder
    9. Note: Either yellow or white corn meal can be used.

    1. Preheat oven to 450F
    2. Whisk together 1 cup of milk,oil and the corn meal without any lumps and cook on medium heat while whisking till the mixture just starts to bubble (about 3-4 minutes).
    3. Beat the eggs together till they are nice and fluffy.
    4. Now add the other 2 cups of milk to the cooked corn meal and whisk together.
    5. Add the corn meal mixture, baking powder, grated cheese and the chopped chipotle peppers and mix together without any lumps.
    6. Prepare a baking pan or individual ramekins by greasing them.
    7. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins till they are 3/4th full or pour into the baking dish.
    8. Bake in a 450F preheated oven for 20 minutes, when a skewer or toothpick inserted comes out clean or the outsides starts to brown a bit.
    9. Note: The baking time is anywhere between 15-25 minutes. But your nose will know before you look that it is time to remove from the heat. Browning on the outside is an indication that it is done.
    10. Serve hot.
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