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Its been a long separation from food ~ A recipe for Burmese Khow Suey

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This blog has seen more restaurant reviews in the last 6 months than in all the 8 years that I have been writing it. I think it is safe to say that I have lost my cooking / writing mojo. My blog always gave me joy. A space to document what I cook at home and save some of the recipes for posterity because I cook on impulse and rarely stick to a recipe. Increasingly I have come here, opened up a new post and closed it with a few unfinished sentences, buried as a draft.

I realise this has been happening a lot and try as I might I am unable to shake it off. Usually it is a week or a few days maximum and I can shake myself back into my “good moods”. This time I am unable to. I am unwilling to give up the blog or shut it down either.

I haven’t picked up my camera in months. I browse through the photographs on my phone and realise how boring they are, and yes I am brave enough to admit that. I wonder if I am turning into more of a social hermit. I do spend a large amount of time online, but increasingly have less patience with it or people.

Anyway. The only exciting aspect of my cooking / kitchen these days is my 6 month old black board. In april this year, when my brother’s family was visiting, my niece and I painted a wall in my tiny kitchen with blackboard paint. I use it to make shopping lists, to do lists and meal plans. I have been doing some sort of meal planning for the past few years. Since the beginning of the year, I hand wrote it on paper and put it on the fridge with magnets. It has simplified my cooking and helped me use ingredients more efficiently than I had imagined.

This weeks meal plan

I graduated to the black board in April and cannot recommend it more. None of those fake black board apps for me. I am someone who needs something to be in my face to be able to take action! And yes we do eat a lot of Idli and dosa. My meal plans are pretty standard. K and I prefer south Indian breakfast, I grind a huge batch of idli/ dosa batter at the start of the week to last me 5-6 uses. For lunch it is mostly roti, with two vegetable dishes or one dal and one vegetable. This is except on the weekend when we eat at home and not carry our dabba and hence eat rice for the mid day meal. We try and eat a light dinner, usually soup, stir fries or sometimes again a breakfast item. I even have designated leftover days to clean up the fridge.

Anyways, I think I should do a post on meal planning and the black board soon (if I ever get down to it). It is a joke these days, for K to point out the board to anyone visiting us and tell them, “macha (term of endearment between two guy friends) check what’s for dinner da (term of endearment again), that’s all we’re going to get, no deviations from the daily meal planner”. When Amma is here, K and she will gang up and force me to write “order food” or “food truck” on it and break into peals of laughter.

Why am I writing this? I don’t know, but I feel like telling you the story.

But this is a recipe blog, and a recipe I shall give you. Khow Suey is a Burmese broth eaten with noodles. The broth is very accomodative and one can add any vegetables that are at hand. I’ve used sweet potatoes, yellow pumpkin, coloured peppers and usual vegetables one adds to a stir fry and loved it every time. I teach this same recipe in my Gourmet Soups and Salads class and the students love it.

Burmese Khow Suey with garnishes and noodles

Burmese Khow Suey with garnishes and noodles

Khow Suey (Serves 4)

Grind to a smooth paste the following:

2 inch stalk of lemongrass, crushed lightly or 2 teaspoons of dried Lemongrass

1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced

2 pods Garlic peeled

½ teaspoon Turmeric

½ medium Onion, sliced

For the Curry:

2 cups Vegetables of choice, cut into similar sizes (mushroom, carrot, zucchini, broccoli, cauliflower, beans, yellow pumpkin, sweet potato, spinach, bok choy etc)

2 cups Cooked noodles of choice (soba, glass, egg, rice noodles) – cooked according to the instructions on the pack

1 tablespoon Vegetable oil

200 ml Coconut milk

1 teaspoon Sugar

Salt and pepper to taste

1-2 lime leaves, torn

1 cup water

1 tablespoon gram flour / besan

For the garnish: To be added while serving the soup

Basil, mint and coriander leaves – a few sprigs

1/4 cup Fried onion

roasted and coarsely powdered peanuts

fried garlic chips

Lemon Wedges to serve

red chilli flakes

Boiled eggs, cut into quarters

Method:

Steam the hard vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, carrots and beans for 3-4 minutes, drain and set aside.

In a pan, heat the oil and add the curry paste, cook stirring for 3-4 minutes till the raw smell disappears.

Add all the vegetables (including the steamed ones) except the spinach/ bok choy if using and the lime leaves and ½ cup water and cook for 4-5 minutes till the vegetables are tender but not overcooked.

Add the coconut milk, salt, pepper  and sugar, stir and adjust any seasoning if needed.

Dissolve the gram flour in the remaining 1/2 cup of water and add to the curry. Stir and cook for 2-3 minutes, add the bok choy / spinach at this point.

Adjust the thickness of the gravy, this will be your main soup so adjust as much as you prefer. Turn off the heat.

To serve the soup, spoon out some cooked noodles into a bowl, top with the curry sauce, garnish with fried onion, garlic, crushed peanuts, basil, mint, coriander leaves, boiled egg and a wedge of lemon.

The curry and the noodles should be refrigerated separately if storing. Assemble before serving. Keeps for 2-3 days in the fridge.

Note: you can add 1 cup of boiled chicken / prawns while cooking the vegetable curry for a non veg option.

Puri and Potato Masala Recipe

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The temperature in Hyderabad is a beautiful 18 C in the early mornings and hovers around the 20’s at least till 9 AM. This is K’s favourite season and sometimes its tough to make out where he starts and the dog ends on the bed. Despite a thick furry coat, one can find Sage snuggled under the blankets with K post his early morning walks.

We planned to spend the weekend with K’s parent’s who live close by. But Sage by dinner time on Saturday, had decided he wanted to go back to ‘his’ house and the non-stop fuss was too much to take. All of us were disappointed, especially me, because I was so looking forward to some total cooking free R&R. Sunday breakfast was supposed to be Puri and Aloo Bhaji and all of us were disappointed we could not go as per plans.

This morning, when we woke up, we spoke again of the missed chance of eating puri and aloo. Anyone who knows me, will tell you that they cannot remember when I voluntarily filled a pan with oil to deep fry anything! Even this blog has very few deep-fried treats. But the beautiful winter morning called out for some indulgence and I set about making an elaborate (for me) breakfast.

Puri (Makes 10-12)

11/2 Cup                     Whole Wheat Flour (I used Ashirwaad Atta)

1/4 teaspoon            Salt

1 teaspoon                 oil

Oil for deep-frying

Water to make the dough

Add about 1/2 cup water to the flour and mix with your fingers, add water a little at a time as required to bring the dough together to make a firm yet soft dough. Apply the oil and knead for a minute. Cover and set aside for at least 15 minutes.

Divide the dough into 10 equal parts, roll into a smooth ball between your palms, flatten and roll out dusting with dry flour into a 4 inch disc. Ensure the puri is not too thin, else it will break / burst while frying.

Heat oil in a kadai, gently lower the rolled out puri and fry on medium high heat till it puffs up, turn over and fry on the other side. The puri should be lightly golden. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper before serving while still hot.

Note: Adding a tablespoon of semolina while making the dough results in crisper puris, I didn’t add this since I forgot.

Aloo Bhaji (Serves 3-4)

1 medium Onion, Sliced

4 medium Potatoes, boiled and peeled

1 green chilli, slit

1/2 inch piece Ginger, grated

1/2 teaspoon Red Chilli Powder

1/4 teaspoon Turmeric / Haldi powder

1 teaspoon Mustard Seeds

1 teaspoon Urad Dal (Black Gram, husked)

1 tablespoon Chickpea Flour (Besan / Senagapindi)

2 Tablespoons Milk / water

10-12 Curry Leaves

2 tablespoons Fresh Coriander Leaves

Salt to taste

1 Teaspoon Lemon Juice + More to serve

1 Tablespoon Oil

In a pan, heat the oil and splutter the mustard seeds. Add the urad dal and fry till it is turning golden. Add the green chilli, grated ginger, curry leaves and sliced onions. Fry till the onions are turning translucent, about 1 minute.

Add the turmeric powder and red chilli powder fry for a half a minute.

Peel and chop the boiled potatoes into chunks. Add them to the pan, reduce the heat to low and mix well till they are coated with the rest of the ingredients.

Add 1/2 cup of water, salt to taste and cover and cook on low heat for 5 minutes. Stirring a couple of times.

Remove the lid off the pan and stir the curry. Add 1/4 cup water if you want more gravy, test for salt and spices and adjust as needed.

Mix the chickpea flour with the milk/ water and gently pour it into the curry while stirring, continue to cook for a minute till the curry gets thickened.

Take off the heat and cool for 5 minutes. Garnish with chopped fresh coriander and lemon juice, stir to mix and serve hot with puris.

{Vegan MoFo 2013} Kerala Style Vegetable Ishtu Recipe

Kerala Style Vegetable Ishtu

Kerala Style Vegetable Ishtu

Kerala Style Vegetable Ishtu is the perfect accompaniment to Paalappam. It is a classic breakfast dish. The vegetable ishtu is a medley of vegetables simmered in the naturally sweet coconut milk. There is no holy grail in recipes and each one does what they like best. I have blogged a recipe for Ishtu earlier when I wrote the recipe for another favourite of mine, Idiappam or String Hoppers. Here is the current favourite version of ishtu, the addition of caramelized onion on the top, adds a nice depth to the flavour of this dish.

Kerala Style Vegetable Ishtu

Kerala Style Vegetable Ishtu

Kerala Style Vegetable Ishtu (Serves 4)

Mixed vegetables – 2 ½ cups, cut into small square pieces (carrot, potato, cauliflower, beans, peas)

Onion – 2 medium, 1 to be chopped roughly, the other to be sliced in semi circles and set aside.

Green chilli – 1, slit lengthwise

Oil – 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon

Whole Garam Masala – 1 star anise, 2 one inch sticks of cinnamon, 2 cloves, 4-5 pepper corns, 1 cardamom split open

Curry leaves – 1 sprig

Salt to taste

Coconut Milk (Thick) – 1 cup ( I used coconut milk from a carton)

1 tsp finely chopped / julienned fresh ginger

½ tsp sugar

Coconut Oil – 1/2 te

Method:

In a pan heat the oil and fry the sliced onions till golden brown on a gentle heat. Remove the onions onto a plate and set aside. Continue to add the star anise, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and pepper corns in the same oil, after a few seconds add the julienned ginger, chopped onion and green chilly.

When the onions turn transparent, add the vegetables, ½ a cup of water, salt and cover and steam for about 7-8 minutes till the vegetables are tender, cooked but not mushy.

Add the coconut milk, ½ cup of water (or adjust according to the consistency of gravy desired), simmer for a minute.  turn off the heat and let it stand for atleast 10 minutes before serving.

Heat the vegetable oil and coconut oil together, add curry leaves and allow them to sizzle, add the caramelized onion to this and take off the heat. pour this over the ishtu just before serving.  Serve with Idiappam or Paalappam

Masala Vada Curry ~ Paruppu Vadai Curry

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Vada Curry

Spicy curry of coconut and tomatoes, with lentil dumplings

This one is a firm favorite when we eat out at Tamizh or Chettinadu places (I know they are not interchangeable words, but I am trying to keep it simple here)

I always thought it was impossibly laborious to first make the vadais and then the curry. A few weeks ago, my MIL sent us some paruppu vadais that she made on some occasion. Being a mother, things like diet and restraint fall on deaf ears and she sent us a cartload of these. After setting aside a few to eat as snacks, I made this curry for lunch the next day.

Not all of you may be as lucky, so you will have to make the vadais first. The recipe is as follows.

Masala Vada Curry (Serves 4)

 

For the Masala Vadas

Chana Dal                                           – 1 cup (soak for 1 hr)

Green Chillis                                     – 2 (paste or chopped finely)

Curry leaves                                     – a few

a big pinch of asafetida

Salt and chilli powder as per taste

oil for frying

Grind the soaked channa dal with very little water to a coarse paste. Add the chopped green chillies,  asafetida, chopped curry leaves, salt and red chilli powder to taste and mix well.

  1. With wet hands, make into small balls and flatten them.
  2. Heat the oil and deep fry till golden brown.
  3. Remove and drain on paper towels.

For the Curry

Grated fresh coconut                          – 2 tablespoons

Whole Cumin Seeds                            – ¼ teaspoon

Whole black pepper                            – ½ teaspoon

Onion                                                        – 1 large, sliced

Green chillies                                         – 1

Ginger Garlic Paste                             – 1 teaspoon

Coconut Milk                                         1/3 cup

Tomatoes                                                 – 2

Tamarind extract                                 – ½ cup

Oil                                                               – 1 tablespoon

Curry leaves a few

Coriander leaves for garnishing

  1. Grind to a fine paste with a little water, the coconut, whole cumin, whole black pepper and green chilli.
  2. Heat the oil, add the curry leaves and onions and ginger garlic paste and fry till the onions are pink.
  3. Add the ground masala and sauté till it is beginning to stick to the pan.
  4. Add the tomatoes and cook covered till it turns soft. Add ½ cup water and the tamarind extract and bring to a boil.
  5. Add the masala vadas and simmer for 5 minutes. Add salt to taste and mix to taste. Add the coconut milk, simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring.
  6. Check for seasoning and adjust. Serve hot with plain steamed rice.

Baingan Ka Bharta

Baingan Ka Bharta

This is one of those recipes I didn’t eat leave alone try to make for a very long time. Apart from the fact that I avoid multi step cooking like the plague, I am not particularly fond of dishes with too many layers of flavour. Somehow the idea of a smoked charred vegetable double cooked did not appeal much to me. Until I actually ate it one day. You know that feeling when you resist something for the longest time,, only to give in by choice or chance just once, and are then a convert for life? This was one such time.

Like every recipe, there are hundreds of versions of Baingan Ka Bharta, I use this one and it serves me very well.

Baingan Ka Bharta

Baingan Ka Bharta (Serves 3-4)

Ingredients :

1 large bharta variety Brinjal

1 Large Onion, chopped finely

2 Tomatoes, chopped finely

2 green chillies (adjust according to taste)

2 big tomatoes peeled and finally chopped

1 teaspoon Red Chilli Powder

1 teaspoon Coriander Powder

1/2 teaspoon Cumin powder

1 teaspoon Ginger Garlic Paste

salt to taste

1 teaspoon Whole Cumin Seeds

2 tablespoons oil

Fresh Coriander leaves for the garnish

Method:

Wash and pat dry the eggplant/ brinjal and apply a thin film of oil to it. On a medium flame, roast it directly on the gas or place it in a really hot oven (about 200 degrees F for 2 minutes) and char it completely on all sides.

Set aside to cool. Peel off the skin and remove the stalk of the charred eggplant. Chop the flesh roughly. Its like guacamole, you choose to keep it chunky or smooth. I like it in between.

Heat a pan and add the remaining oil to it. When really hot, add the cumin seeds and splutter them. Add the chopped onions and fry for a few minutes till it is beginning to change colour.

Add the green chillies, ginger and garlic paste and saute till the raw smell disappears (about 1 minute).

Add the dry powdered spices -red chilli powder, cumin and coriander powders and saute for a few seconds.

Add the tomatoes and cover and cook on a medium – low heat till the tomatoes turn mushy.

Add the chopped charred eggplant flesh and stir well. Add salt and taste, adjust the spices. Cook for 2-3 minutes till everything comes together. Add the chopped fresh coriander leaves to garnish and remove to a bowl.

Serve hot with hot off the pan phulkas or rotis.

Beat the Heat Series ~ Insalata Caprese with Basil Pesto

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So the summer in hyderabad is fully upon us on its way out (which must tell you how long this post sat in drafts) and as always, I have a reputation to keep and whining to do… remarkably this year tho, I handled the heat much better than the Kman… he was  whining more than me, and mine are some really big boots to fill…

Anyhow, this is a salad I almost always order when we eat at an Italian restaurant and that in Hyderabad means many many restaurants! every five star hotel worth its salt needs to have an italian restaurant plus the many stand alone ones… I marveled at the simplicity and freshness of this salad, where the few ingredients stand out and flavour and texture is everything…

I lamented (there is a pattern here, I am not cantankerous for nothing!) that there is no good buffalo mozarella to be had outside of pricey restaurants….that was till I found out this Punjab made fresh mozarella in water… at I ate most of it as it was… saving the rest to make this salad… at 230 rupees a box its a little pricey, but thats the most expensive component of the salad. Make this and feel like a domestic God/ Goddess!

While the temperature still is higher than we’d like, serve this and enjoy it as a nice quick appetizer

Insalata Caprese – Serves 3

3 Large Ripe tomatoes (choose the sweet variety, I used bangalore/ salad tomatoes)

100 grams of fresh buffalo mozarella

20 fresh Basil leaves, washed and drained on paper towels

2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1/4 cup basil pesto (recipe follows)

For the Pesto

1 cup of fresh basil leaves, picked, washed and drained

1/5th cup of roasted pine nuts (replace with almonds or walnuts if you dont have pine nuts)

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup parmesan cheese grated

a pinch of salt and pepper

1 garlic clove, peeled

Making the Pesto

Put all the ingredients except the olive oil and basil into a food processor and pulse till the nuts and cheese are pulsed evenly. Then add the washed basil leaves and pulse a few more times. Scrape down the sides of the jar and add the olive oil and pulse some more until you get a nice creamy pesto. I do this in 5-6 short pulses to get a fairly creamy pesto. Some people prefer some texture in their pesto, so check midway between pulsing the ingredients and stop when you like the consistency.

This makes 3/4 cup of pesto and can be used immediately. If you want to freeze the pesto, do not add the parmesan cheese. when you defrost the pesto and are ready to use it, mix in finely grated parmesan cheese.

To Assemble the Caprese Salad

Layer the sliced tomato and mozarella cheese. Add a freshly washed leaf of basil. Assemble over a plate till you use up all the sliced tomatoes and mozarella. Sprinkle freshly ground pepper over it scantly (optional, I did not do this). Drizzle over with Extra Virgin Olive Oil. Spoon over the pesto and enjoy it fresh.

Alternatively, make small stacks of the tomato, mozarella, basil leaves, season with scant salt and pepper, drizzle over some EVOO and spoon over the pesto.

Peanut and Tomato Chutney

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I dont know how or why, but I have unwittingly eliminated fresh coconut from my pantry for the last few months. We stopped adding it to the araichavittu sambhar and the assorted poriyals. but what i miss most is to dip my idli or dosa into some nice tangy spicy chutney. there is only so much of kaaram podi / milagai podi i can eat. So a few days ago, taking advantage of the extra tomatoes at home, I made this chutney. Its delicious and worth the effort of roasting all the ingredients before grinding.

Peanut and Tomato Chutney (makes 5 generous servings)

1/2 cup peanuts, roasted without oil till the colour changes

1 cup chopped tomatoes ( i used the local variety)

3 green chillies, slit

2 tablespoon curry leaves

2 tablespoons coriander leaves

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

1/2 teaspoon cumin (whole)

a few grains of whole fenugreek seeds

a small marble of tamarind

salt to taste

1/2 cup water

2 teaspoons oil ( i used gingely oil)

for the tadka

a few curry leaves

1/2 teaspoon whole mustard seeds

1-2 dried red chillies

1/2 teaspoon urad / black gram dal

in a pan, dry roast the peanuts and set aside. heat one teaspoon of oil, add the whole cumin seeds and fenugreek seeds and fry a few seconds.  add the onions and green chillies and fry till the onions are beginning to change colour. add the tomatoes and fry till they begin to shrink. set it aside and cool it completely.

In the jar of the blender, add the peanuts, cooked onion and tomato, tamarind, curry leaves, coriander leaves, water, salt. Pulse till you get a smooth paste. remove to a serving bowl. in a small pan, heat the remaining teaspoon of oil. fry the urad/ black gram dal till it is pale golden, add the dried red chillies and wait for a few seconds till they begin to change colour. add the mustard seeds and allow them to splutter, finally add the curry leaves and turn off the heat. Pour this over the ground chutney. Mix and serve with idli or dosa. This can be stored in the fridge for upto 3 days.

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